Police from a special squad to combat organised crime said on Tuesday that they had detained a man suspected of trying to blackmail the food producer Hamé. A man threatened the company with poisoning its products unless it paid a ransom of around 5 million crowns at the end of last year. The company passed details of the threat onto the police. The man could face a 12-year jail sentence if found guilty in court.
Health authorities in the eastern city of Ostrava have begun testing a sophisticated system aimed at mapping air pollution in the region. The system includes 36 mobile measuring facilities which will supplement the current three sited across the region. They will eventually be able to give a daily update of the situation regarding smog and, for the first time, the chemical composition of the air. The system costing around 30 million crowns will be tested this year and should be fully operational in 2011. The Ostrava region has recently suffered from smog caused in part by local heavy industry. The situation has been so bad that alerts have caused the shutdown of some factories.
The Czech Republic’s two biggest electricity distribution group, ČEZ Distribution and Eon Distribution, announced on Tuesday they will not give out any new authorisations for wind and solar power to be connected to its grid. The moves are a response to the call from the Czech high voltage grid operator ČEPS last week for no new clearances to be given to the two renewables. It maintains that the grid could be overloaded and blackouts result because of the massive number of solar projects in the pipeline. Projects have been encouraged by subsidised tariffs for renewable electricity which are amongst the highest in Europe. The lobby groups representing the wind and solar sectors say the dangers have been exaggerated and the solar power lobby is considering court action against state company ČEPS.
Czech cross-country skier Lukáš Bauer won bronze in the men’s 15 km
freestyle event at the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Monday. Bauer finished
1.5 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Marcus Hellner in a dramatic head to head
race over the last 700m.
The Czech will also be competing in this Saturday’s skiathlon event and in his strongest discipline, the 50 km classic, which will take place on February 28. Bauer had previously taken home silver in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. After Sunday’s gold for speed skater Martina Sáblíková, this Is the second medal for the Czech Republic at this year’s Olympics.
The Green Party on Tuesday announced its backing for single sex couples in so-called registered partnerships to be able to adopt children. Party leader Ondřej Liška said he backed such couples being allowed to adopt children from previous relationships and also adoption by individual partners. Minister for Human Rights and Minorities is currently working on a proposal allowing adoption for gay couples in certain circumstances. Mr. Liška said he did not understand the current situation where a single woman was allowed to adopt but two women living together were not. He aid the current law was a violation of the European convention on human rights and the Czech constitution.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer began a two-day tour to the US state of California on Tuesday. The first day includes a visit to the US high technology hub, Silicon Valley, where he is due to meet with investors and business leaders. The headquarters of the internet search company Google will be one of the stops. The Prime Minister is due later to speak at Stanford University and meet with former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who now lectures at the university. Wednesday’s programme in Los Angeles includes a visit to the Czech community in the city.
Archeologists began excavations Tuesday in a Prague church to find the remains of the 13th century Czech saint St. Agnes of Bohemia. The excavations are taking place at two locations near the altar of St Haštal’s Church where hopes have been raised that the remains could be found. A vault was discovered after part of the 19th century floor was removed at one point. The vault, however, appears to be from the Baroque period rather than the Middle Ages. St. Agnes, who was canonised a few days before the start of the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, was a noblewoman who renounced a life of wealth and comfort to found Franciscan Convent in Prague in 1232. Her remains are believed to have been hidden during the Hussite wars and were never rediscovered.
The Belgian tennis federation has named the four players to play the Czech Republic in the first round Davis Cup tie from March 5-7. The four strong squad is made up of brothers Olivier and Christophe Rochus, Xavier Malisse and Steve Darcis. Olivier Rochus is the highest placed player at 58 in the current ATP rankings. The tie will be the first test of the Czech team’s ambition to go one better than in the previous Davis Cup competition when they lost all five matches against Spain. The World Group tie will be held at Bree in Belgium.
The economic downturn has taught Czechs to haggle over the price of flats according to international estate agent King Sturge. Buyers have been able to knock down developers‘ initial prices by as much as 20 percent, according to a study released by the company on Tuesday. The study says the price of new flats dropped across the country last year by an average 7.1 percent and in the capital by 8.2 percent. Prices for older flats dropped by 9.4 percent nationwide and by 5.9 percent in the capital, it added. King Sturge predicts the downward pressure on prices will continue but they could stabilise and even start to rise by year end.
A group protesting ongoing repairs to Prague’s famous Charles Bridge called on Tuesday for the national monument to be taken from Prague city council and handed over to the state. The call was made by Martin Kadrman, vice-president of the Association of Groups for the Protection and Development of Cultural Heritage. The association maintains that ongoing repair work to the bridge have damaged it with some historic stones lost in the process. It argues that a transfer of the bridge is called for since the city is not apparently up to the job. The already two year old repairs to the bridge have sparked criticism with inspectors from the Ministry of Culture saying that more blocks were removed than necessary. The city council said the call was an insult to Prague citizens. The current reconstruction work is due to last until the middle of the year.