A vacant house in Říčany near Prague caught fire in the early hours of Friday. Two people, though to be homeless, were killed. Firefighters arrived at the house briefly after 2 a.m. and were able to get the situation under control quickly, but were unable to save the individuals. Police are investigating the cause of the tragedy.
Education Minister Petr Fiala recalled the head of the Centre for the Preparation of High School Leaving Exams, Pavel Zelený, from his post on Friday over problems with this year’s tests. The minister said that the state exams (which have been the source of continuing controversy) would be scrutinised in an audit, with a group of experts assessing both their presentation and quality. Teachers, students and experts alike have criticised the exams, including how they were marked, saying the methodology used was difficult to decipher and not objective. The EDUin organisation, meanwhile, pointed out that students had not been returned marked work, leaving them unable to contest their results. Pavel Zelený has been replaced at Cermat by Jiří Zíka, the minister said.
Traffic has slowed considerably on the D1 highway in both directions from Prague –Brno after a driver of a truck lost control of his vehicle in the afternoon and crashed through the safety fence before driving partly into the oncoming lane. The accident took place at the 27 kilometre mark. The traffic jam is was several kilometres long, idnes reported at around four p.m. Traffic has been routed into one lane in the area on both sides, slowing departure to and from the capital.
Lubomír Zaorálek, a prominent member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, slammed TOP 09 Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek on Friday for allegedly provoking confrontation through aggressive, destructive politics. The politician was referring to an incident a day earlier, when Mr Kalousek appeared before demonstrators at a rally in front of the ministry and attempted to speak but was drowned out by the crowd. He was also spat upon by an anti-government protestor. The finance minister labelled demonstrators “cowards afraid to debate issues”. The Social Democrats’ Lubomír Zaorálek criticised the finance minister for – in his words – trying to similarly ‘steamroll’ over the opposition in the lower house.
The lawyers of former Central Bohemian governor David Rath, who is charged with corruption, have announced that they are preparing to file a constitutional complaint. One of the MP’s lawyers said that there are several points in the case that have raised legal questions which need to be addressed by the Constitutional Court. In particular, Mr Rath’s lawyers believe that the way in which he was stripped of his immunity may have been at odds with Czech law. Previously, Mr Rath had filed a constitutional complaint regarding his case.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek was attacked by demonstrators at a protest in front of his ministry on Thursday. Several people spat at the minister and hit him. He had stepped out of the ministry to address protesters from the Stop the Government initiative. Some 200 people gathered there on Thursday afternoon for the last of a series of blockades in front of selected ministries. The demonstrators oppose the government’s reforms and austerity measures. Union members and other activists who have joined the initiative are calling on the government to resign.
Police are investigating a case in which a 49-year-old man attempted to kill his 83-year-old mother. The man tried to strangle his mother, who was sleeping but awoke from the severe pain he inflicted on her. The perpetrator’s girlfriend heard her cries for help and intervened. Neighbors called the police. The victim was afraid to tell police what had happened and did not do so for several days after the attack. If found guilty, the man could face a prison sentence of up to 18 years.
According to a new survey by the STEM agency, the majority of Czechs believe that the current social welfare system does not motivate unemployed persons to actively seek work. Respondents said that unemployment benefits should be reduced in order to create an incentive for employment seekers. Nearly 70 percent believe that the government should cut down on unemployment benefits, while nearly 60 percent said that the current system creates little to no motivation.
Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský has threatened to resign from his post unless the lower house acts on his suggested changes to the legislation. Among the points that he has criticized is a bill under which a repeat-offender who does not have permanent residence in a given municipality could be banned from that municipality for up to three months. In addition, he has asked Parliament to cancel a law under which unemployed persons have to regularly report at Czech post offices while they are seeking work, a measure meant to cut down on unemployment benefit fraud.
The Czech Trade Inspecting Authority has issued a warning regarding a green frog toy that is being sold on the Czech market. The toy, which is manufactured in China, has a sucker that infants may easily swallow and suffocate. A spokeswoman for the authority said that a ban had been issued on the sale of any such toys.
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