04-11-2006

The Prague Castle guard may soon be changing into new uniforms. Who has been complaining about them? And a thief in a dress shop poses as a figurine - but a sneeze gives him away! Find out more in magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Smokers, who lead a fairly happy and undisturbed existence in the Czech Republic, are in for a bad time. There are price hikes on the horizon and it is possible that the price of cigarettes could double within a matter of months. Parliament is now discussing an amendment to the consumer tax on cigarettes and health workers and some economists are lobbying for a rise which would take the average price of a packet of cigarettes from 50 to 100 crowns (100 crowns is four and a half US dollars). Cigarettes in the Czech Republic are cheap in comparison to other European states - in Britain they cost the equivalent of 210 crowns, in France the equivalent of 140 - but one must keep in mind that salaries in these states are on average five times higher. So the price-hike would be tough indeed on most Czech smokers and many have already declared they could not afford to go beyond 80 crowns a packet. The first price hike is expected in December, another in January and economists are expecting them to bring an additional 10 billion crowns to state coffers.

 

A policeman from Usti nad Labem has become a local hero after tracing a young woman in Prague who tried to commit suicide in time to save her life. He was on duty on Friday night when a young woman called the police begging them to find her friend from Prague because she had said in her mail that her life was over. The problem was that her friend was only a chat room acquaintance with whom she had exchanged several mails. Consequently she only knew her first name and the first letter of her surname - assuming she had used her real name. Luckily one of the older mails revealed the date of her birthday and the policeman went to work - compiling a list of possible candidates and narrowing them down until he got the right one. In less than an hour he had an ambulance outside her door - in time for doctors to pump her stomach and save her life.

 

Police officers are getting a lot of praise this week for vigilance. Two officers in Prague were walking past a dress shop after closing hours and one of them thought he saw a movement inside the store. What he caught sight of was a thief busy packing up the loot but he too was quick to act - in a shop full of figurines he immediately struck a pose and held it, hoping to pass the scrutiny. The officer stared and stared - until the thief sneezed. Within just a few minutes he was sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs.

 

Airbrush studios which decorate cars, motorcycles and even helmets using syntactic paint now fear losing their livelihood. In line with an environmental directive issued by the European Commission as of January 1st of 2007 they will no longer be able to buy the syntactic spray paint they use to create paintings or geometric patterns on metal surfaces. Syntactic paints which require organic paint-thinners are considered particularly harmful for the environment - but airbrush studios claim they are the only ones which will produce the required result - a perfect picture. So studios are buying up all the paint that their credit will allow - but it is only a question of time before it runs out. They say that unless someone invents something else fast- the days of car and motorcycle airbrushing will be well and truly over.

 

Czech strongman Rene Richter has decided to try to break nine world records between now and December as a way of celebrating his 32nd birthday. First he broke the existing world record in the heaviest burden that one can lift by one's little finger, currently held by Britain's Barry Anderson. Rene lifted a beer barrel weighing 91.1 kilograms, which is 1.5 kilos better than Anderson's record. This week he formed a human link between two trucks. He was tied by the arms and legs as an extension of the rope towing a vehicle weighing over seventeen and a half tons over a distance of 11 meters. The original record was fourteen and a half tons over a distance of eight meters. "I know exactly what it felt like to be on the rack," a triumphant Rene told the media later.

 

The Prague Castle guard may soon be changing into new uniforms. The current powder blue one laced with gold -which was introduced in 1990 - has raised the ire of the Czechoslovak Legionaries' Association. Although tourists seem to like it and are always posing next to the castle guards for holiday snapshots the legionaries describe the present uniforms as "a circus get-up" that does not reflect the country's history. Following numerous complaints to the president about this from World War II veterans the President's Office has now announced a planned change. The new uniforms should bear a marked resemblance to those used in the first half of the twentieth century - the 1920s, 30s or 40s - when the color of uniforms was green. The President's Office wants to make sure that the new uniform will be acceptable to everyone - and it has invited war veterans, historians and heraldic experts to join in the debate on what uniform would be ideal.

 

There's a hunt on for the new Skoda Fabia - the automaker's latest model which is to be officially unveiled in March of next year and should start selling shortly after. Although no official pictures of the new super-mini are available car-enthusiasts in the vicinity of the plant in Mlada Boleslav have been keeping their eyes open and their cameras and mobile phones ready for the car's trial runs outside the factory gates. And the new Fabia has been sighted and photographed on several occasions. The pictures are not ideal because Skoda took pains to camouflage it a bit - but the big picture of the mini-car is slowly emerging. The latest snapshot of the mystery Fabia, taken by night - appeared on the internet server auto.cz.

 

And finally, the town of Kromeriz has organized a very special exhibition against racism for the benefit of schoolchildren. It is called "Try what it feels like" and young visitors are taken through a series of simulated situations - such as sitting on a bus with hostile-looking figurines and having insults hurled at them from various sides over the loudspeakers. The insults target their skin colour, race, size, height or invalidity. In other situations children try what it is like to be blind or in a wheelchair without having anyone around to help them. Interest in it is reportedly huge and there are now plans to turn it into a traveling exhibition.

04-11-2006