Snow and icy roads are once again complicating traffic around the country. Police along the D1 highway to Brno and the D8 highway to Germany are reporting traffic jams and pile ups. Drivers using the new by-pass around Prague have been warned to expect slow traffic. A number of smaller roads have had to be closed and road maintenance companies say they are manning all available vehicles at the present time. Another 20 to 30 centimeters of fresh snow is expected to fall overnight.
The police have detained a 42-year-old woman from Dečin who printed over 500 counterfeit banknotes in the past three years, causing damage to the tune of hundreds of thousands of crowns. A police spokeswoman said the banknotes were among the best counterfeits the police had ever come across and were so difficult to detect that many of them were still in circulation. The woman has owned up to the crime and may face a sentence of five to ten years in jail.
Six post communist EU nations, including the Czech Republic, have urged Brussels to push for a block-wide ban on denial of communist crimes. In a joint appeal sent to Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania, argue that the principle of justice should assure just treatment of the victims of every totalitarian regime, and the victims of communism are all too frequently forgotten. Holocaust denial is already banned in many EU states and the six nations petitioning the justice commissioner would like to see similar treatment applied to communist crimes.
President Klaus is to appoint judge Roman Fiala deputy head of the Supreme Court on Friday. The appointment was confirmed on Tuesday by the president’s office. He will replace Pavel Kučera, who was suspended from the post in November of this year, on suspicion of having influenced the investigation into a highly publicized court case involving a former deputy prime minister.
Czech insurance companies have joined forces to combat growing insurance fraud, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Tuesday. They are introducing new software which will detect potential irregularities such as repeated insurance claims and similar insurance claims filed by the same persons with different companies. The software detector should help uncover criminal gangs who make a living off insurance fraud, filing claims with companies around the country. On average insurance companies lose around 11 billion crowns annually in insurance fraud, with car insurance claims accounting for 60 to 70 percent of the losses.
Science and research is the only sphere which will be spared from next year’s budget cuts but the money earmarked for that purpose must be used more effectively, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said in an address to the Czech Academy of Sciences on Tuesday. The prime minister said that state expenditure towards science and research would even increase slightly from this year’s 25.4 billion crowns to 25.9 billion in 2011. However he said the money would go to those who used it most effectively, and the methods of evaluating results in the sphere of science and development would be revised without fail. The government is to set up a special commission for that purpose in the coming days.
The Czech government’s economic advisory board NERV has come up with fresh recommendations concerning a planned pension reform. The board said people who are under the age of 40 when the reform is launched should be obliged to join a private pension scheme. People’s contributions to the pay-as-you-go system would drop by 3 percent and they would be expected to pay that amount to a private pension fund. The economic advisors have also suggested the government should not have the authority to raise pensions at a higher rate than consumer price rises.
Fuel prices have continued to grow in the past week with the price of the top-selling petrol Natural 95 up by 1.10 crowns to 32.69 a litre, a five-year record high. The price of diesel oil increased by 97 halers to 31.83 a litre. Experts attribute the steady growth to growing oil prices on world markets. The weak rate of the Czech crown to the US dollar as well as higher VAT and excise duties are also contributing to the trend.
Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Tuesday that in the event of a mass exodus of Czech doctors the government would have to use its emergency reserve funds to keep hospitals in the big cities operational. In the course of the past fortnight hundreds of dissatisfied doctors have handed in their notice, with some hospitals now at risk of losing up to 70 percent of their staff in the New Year. The massive protest was triggered by doctors’ trade unions who urged physicians to seek better paid positions abroad if the government did not increase their salaries threefold. Four thousand doctors have signed a petition indicating their readiness to walk out, but hospitals are still hoping many of them will reconsider. Minister Heger on Tuesday admitted that the health sector could soon face a serious crisis, with some hospitals unable to perform even emergency surgery.
The Usti region in north Bohemia is to lose close to 500 police officers next year as a result of the government’s austerity measures, regional police chief Jiří Vorálek said on Tuesday. The police chief said that the planned cuts would affect both personnel and expenditures would inevitably impact the work of the force with fewer officers out in the streets and fewer to handle related administration. The use of police vehicles is to be significantly restricted, and the funds available will be used to maintain old equipment rather than to purchase new technology.
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