The arctic weather which is holding the country in its grip has caused damages to the tune of millions of crowns, according to a survey conducted among local insurance companies. The frost is damaging water pipes and heating pipes around the country, as well as rail tracks and power networks. Buses and trucks are having problems with diesel fuel which freezes at certain temperatures and car batteries are failing in the frost. The country’s largest insurer Česká Spořitelna says that since the arctic weather hit is has received 700 claims worth tens of millions of crowns.
A study conducted by Equality, a UK national support organisation for the Roma, has shown that a number of Roma children who had previously been placed in special schools in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, were successfully completing primary and secondary education at integrated, mainstream schools in the United Kingdom. The average attainment of Roma pupils aged 9-15 in numeracy, literacy, and science at UK mainstream schools was just below average. Only a small percentage of the overall cohort of Roma pupils (2 to 4 percent) at schools surveyed were regarded as requiring special education needs because of learning difficulties or disabilities that made it more difficult for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age. For these Roma pupils, this extra help is given within the mainstream school. The Czech Republic is now in the process of integrating Roma children who had previously been placed in special schools into the mainstream. However the effort is meeting with considerable opposition from teachers who say that children who come from special schools will slow down the pace of education for the rest of the class.
Revelers have taken to the streets for a Mardi Gras carnival in Prague. Most of the events planned over the next few days will take place in the Lesser Town and on Prague’s old Town Square where people will be able to enjoy the performances of clowns, acrobats and revelers in masks and carnival dress. There will be concerts of baroque music and dancing and crazy competitions. Some restaurants in the city centre are offering special Mardi Gras menus.
A smog alert remains in place in several central Bohemian cities with dust particles in the air twice exceeding set norms. The towns of Mladá Boleslav, Beroun and Příbram are said to be the worst affected. The local authorizes have appealed to drivers to leave their cars at home and use public transport until the situation improves. Doctors have warned people suffering from heart problems or asthma to stay indoors as much as possible. Children and the elderly have also been warned about possible complications particularly in view of the continuing frosty weather.
Czechs will celebrate tax freedom day on June 19 this year, that is four days later than in 2011, according to the calculations of the financial company Patria Finance. According to the company’s chief economist David Marek the main reason for the slide is the raising of the lower VAT rate which has raised the tax quota from 34.7 to 35.1 percent of GDP. Tax freedom day is the first day of the year in which a nation as a whole has theoretically earned enough income to fund its annual tax burden.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday that his party would propose introducing a ceiling on bonuses for public officials. The move comes in reaction to several information leaks which revealed that ministry officials and government aides were receiving bonuses to the tune of hundreds of crowns. Mr. Sobotka said it was hypocritical of the prime minister to ask people to tighten their belts when government officials were receiving huge sums of money besides their regular wages. The Social Democrats are proposing an annual ceiling on bonuses amounting to a maximum six monthly wages.
According to a survey by the Median agency, published in Friday’s edition of the daily Mladá fronta dnes, former prime minister Jan Fischer would receive the most votes if direct presidential elections were held today. Roughly a third of respondents said they would cast their ballot for the former prime minister, who headed an interim government between April 2009 and July 2010. If elections were held today, economist Jan Švejnar would receive a sixth of the votes, while entrepreneur Tomio Okamura polled at ten percent. Only six percent of respondents said they would vote for candidate Karel Schwarzenberg, the current foreign minister. The Czech Senate approved an amendment to the constitution that paves the way for direct elections on Wednesday; Czechs will be able to vote for their president directly for the first time in March of 2013, when current president Václav Klaus’s second term expires.
Actor Marek Vasut has won a libel case against the tabloid Aha which wrote that the actor’s health was undermined by his highly promiscuous lifestyle and claimed that he was suffering from severe depressions. According to the internet news site Idnes which reported the news on Friday, the tabloid’s publisher has been ordered to pay the actor the sum of one million crowns –the highest sum ever awarded for libel in this country. The daily notes that the news has been greeted with satisfaction by Czech celebrities who see it as an important precedent.
A firm selling a miracle product for varicose veins has duped over 800 people. The firm’s salespeople allegedly targeted seniors on the street offering the product for free or the symbolic price of one crown on condition that they would give them their name and address and sign up to membership in a club which would offer them other low-cost products. In reality people were committing to pay the firm over 4,000 crowns within a period of 30 days. Police are investigating the case and have asked anyone else who fell for the trick to come forward.
On a visit to Germany, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday that the Czech Republic did not intend to build transformers in order to block electricity overflows from Germany. The Czech grid is occasionally overloaded by these flows in particular when the output of wind farms in northern Germany is high. In such cases, there is a danger of a blackout for the Czech grid. Prime Minister Necas said Prague has decided to take measures in favour of strengthening the country’s own transmission networks. At the same time, he said the Czech Republic expected Germany to move to solve the problem on its own territory.
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