Methanol claimed its 26th victim on Tuesday despite the fact that for the past week doctors have been able to administer a Norwegian antidote to the poison to patients in critical condition. Despite the 12-day-long ban on spirits new patients turn up every day, most of them having opened spirits they’d had at home for some time and considered to be safe. A hospital in the eastern town of Havirov on Tuesday admitted another patient with methanol poisoning, the second in 24 hours. Both are reported to be on life support.
The term of the country’s first direct presidential elections is to be made public on Monday October 1st. Under the Czech Constitution this prerogative goes to Senate chairman Milan Stech. Senator Stech said earlier that he would choose either January 11-12th or the following weekend for the first round of voting. A second round would take place two weeks later.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has accused President Klaus of damaging the country by vetoing the government’s pension reform bill. Speaking in New York, where he is attending a session of the UN General Assembly, the Czech foreign minister said the pension reform should have been effected 15 years ago and delaying it further was putting an immense burden on the state budget. President Klaus on Monday vetoed the bill on the grounds that the government had failed to secure consensus on the reforms among experts, politicians and the broad public. The bill must now go back to the chamber of deputies where the governing coalition will need to secure 101 votes to override the president’s veto. Since the government no longer has a majority in the lower house this may prove highly problematic.
The prime minister has promised to introduce stricter control over methanol imports to the Czech Republic and has said the government would consider levying a higher tax on it. Methanol is not produced in the country and is only imported for industrial use. Prime Minister Necas said that moreover there was a suitable locally-made substitute for it. Investigators confirmed on Tuesday that the methanol which was mixed into bootleg liquor was imported.
A bus carrying forty-four passengers, many of them children, caught fire near a petrol station in Tabor, south Bohemia on Monday evening. Fortunately all of the passengers were evacuated safely and firefighters contained the blaze within minutes. Even so the bus was completely gutted. A preliminary investigation points to a technical fault in the engine.
German President Joachim Gauck will pay an official visit to the Czech Republic in October of this year, the ctk news agency reported on Tuesday. President Gauck will travel to the Czech Republic at the invitation of President Vaclav Klaus. He is scheduled to meet with the Czech prime minister and may visit the town of Lidice. In June of this year, the German president said he was "deeply saddened and ashamed" by the 1942 destruction of the towns of Lidice and Lezaky by the Nazis in retaliation for the killing of Nazi top official Reinhard Heydrich. Germany is aware of its historic responsibility, he said.
The West Bohemian University in Pilsen has had to suspend the testing of spirits for methanol free of charge after getting inundated by hundreds of requests from the public. The university made the offer on Monday and within an hour long queues of people had formed around the building all carrying liquor they had at home. The university says its laboratories are running at full capacity to service the public and it will take some time to process the requests received. The university made the offer in view of the fact that under normal circumstances the price of such a test would be far higher than the price of the alcohol itself.
The government is preparing to gradually ease the ban on spirits. Newly-produced spirits will be allowed on the market on condition they are marked with new tax stamps which have just been printed. Restaurant owners and salespeople are to be given sixty days to acquire certificates for alcohol they have in storage. Any alcohol without certification will have to be destroyed. These and other measures are to be discussed at Wednesday’s cabinet session and introduced within days.
Two people have been charged in connection with football violence after Sunday’s match between Dukla and Slavia. A dozen rowdies got into a fight in the Prague metro on Sunday night to which the police was called to restore order. Two Slavia fans have been charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm. Police said the attack had been exceptionally brutal with the attackers repeatedly returning to kick and punch the victims even after they lay on the ground helpless.
Coalition party TOP 09 has warned that the government will fall if the Civic Democrats fail to restore party discipline and support its key reform bills. The coalition government’s long-term austerity plans have been thwarted by six rebel deputies from the prime minister’s Civic Democratic Party. The rebels rejected a bill on tax hikes which aimed to bring the gap in public finances under 3 percent of the GDP in 2013 and indirectly got the bill on church restitutions shelved. The future of the pension reform bill, which has just been vetoed by the president, will also hinge on their support. The government has linked the bill on higher taxes to a vote of confidence in the Necas administration.
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