Police have begun an investigation into accusations that the lottery company Sazka defrauded T-Mobile customers of 230 million crowns. The telecommunications firm has yet to receive the money, which its customers spent on lottery terminals in the spring of last year, and claims that Sazka kept it. The largest betting company in the Czech Republic, Sazka was declared bankrupt last spring and its business activities have been taken over by the finance companies PPF and KKCG.
Supporters of the Occupy movement held a demonstration in Prague’s Lesser Quarter on Saturday; the group plans to stay on Klárov green until May 12. Several tents have been erected and discussions, lectures and other events are to take place. Speakers at the protest camp are pushing for political change and drawing attention to the part of banks and politicians in the global economic crisis. Some of the demonstrators also came out against the controversial ACTA treaty.
Former prime minister and presidential candidate Jan Fischer has opened his first election office in Prague’s Žižkov district, where he will meet with citizens and representatives of various organisations. A statistician, Mr Fischer was appointed to run an interim technocratic government in 2009; he has since led the polls in political popularity and has a strong lead over the other candidates for president, among them economist Jan Švejnar, former PM Miloš Zeman and TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg. The first direct election of the Czech president will take place in early 2013.
Prime Minister Nečas has told an ideological conference of his party that the government will concentrate primarily on pro-growth measures after the Chamber of Deputies renewed its mandate on Friday. The government’s top goal of balanced budgets could not be attained without a growing economy, he said. Analysts have voiced concern that the budgetary cuts the government approved in early April will decrease the performance of the economy. Mr Nečas said that for that reason the government will now concentrate on renewing economic growth.
A number of carbon monoxide poisonings were reported in Prague on Friday, as the sharp rise in temperature caused leaks from unsealed gas water heaters and flues. Nine people were reportedly injured, among them three minors. Rescue services say the problem is annual and is caused by low atmospheric pressure combined with high temperatures, but the number of people affected on Friday was extra-ordinary. People are advised to set up sensors to detect the gas, which is odourless.
Hackers using the moniker Anonymous shut down the governing parties’ websites on Saturday. The Civic Democratic Party and TOP 09 took their sites offline for security reasons after it became apparent that a strong attack was underway. The website of the Communist Party was also down Saturday afternoon, while the Public Affairs website was slow. Anonymous warned of the attack ahead of time as part of an initiative called “Together for Change! We Want Real Democracy!” The opposition Social Democrats said they did not condone the attack, but that they considered it an expression of a broad feeling of helplessness and dissatisfaction in society.
Temperatures broke records across the Czech Republic on Friday and Saturday, reaching 30° Celsius in places. The Clementinum in Prague, which has been noting temperatures since 1775, registered 27.7° on Saturday, which broke a 212-year-old record of 25,9°. The highest readings were made in the West Bohemian city of Plzeň where the temperature reached 30.1° C, nearly four degrees above the record. Meteorologists say the heat wave could last through Monday in the eastern part of the country. With 138 cm of snow still on the ground in some mountain areas, avalanche areas have been put on alert.
The country’s health ministry has warned that over the next few days there will be a heightened risk of contracting ticks as warm weather sets in. According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, the threat merits an “8” on a 9-point scale on Saturday and will rise to the top of the scale on Monday. The weekend is expected to see very warm temperatures, ideal for the external parasite which is capable of transmitting Lyme borreliosis and encephalitis. This year 378 cases of borreliosis have been registered so far – up by 69 from the same period last year. Two cases of tick-borne encephalitis have been registered – down from five over the same period last year. Anyone spending time in parks or the countryside at the weekend has been urged to use proper repellents to cut-down the risk.
Czech Radio will launch a new largely spoken-word station later in 2012 – merging three stations – Leonardo, Rádio Česko and Czech Radio 6 – in one. The move is in part reaction to a drop in listenership and will be accompanied by restructuring at Czech Radio that will also lead to layoffs. A projected 15 – 20 percent of employees (one fifth) will be let go over the next two years, the head of Czech Radio Peter Duhan confirmed. The new station, operatively being called Czech Radio 4, will be launched either on the first of November or December of this year. Along with the changes, on Thursday the Czech Radio Council also approved a 340,000 crown bonus for the head of Czech Radio in the 2Q, minus a reported 60,000 as Czech Radio has failed to corner 21 percent of the market. Czech Radio will also launch a tender for a new logo.
Motorists attempting to leave the capital ahead of the weekend on the D1 highway have run into heavy traffic. A ten-kilometre-long line on late Friday afternoon – caused by construction and a narrowing of lanes some 11 kilometres out – formed at Prague’s Chodov. Alternative routes are also heavily in use. Traffic on the D1 in the opposite direction is said to be moving normally.
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