Cloud rat, photo:

Killing your boss is no joke, another driver pays the price of taking a shortcut across Lipno lake and, the Prague Zoo helps save the cloud rat from extinction. Find out more in magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Photo: CTK
Electing the future head of state is no easy task – when the country’s 281 lawmakers convened at Prague Castle for a fatiguing and inconclusive two day election marathon last week they were well supplied with food. In the course of those two days deputies and senators wolfed down 5,000 sandwiches, over 1,000 hot meals, 300 deserts and close to 300 salads. And to stay awake they washed it all down with over 3000 coffees. Despite the huge caffeine boost the session failed to produce a future head of state.

You may occasionally want to kill your boss, but I advise you not to venture outside the realm of day-dreaming about it. Jan Lochmann, who works for an unnamed company active in the field of geology, thought it would be a good joke to commission his boss’ murder. He contacted a private agency about it explained how and when it should be done, making a down-payment of 50 thousand crowns and promising a million to follow when the deed was done. The agency promptly contacted the police and Mr. Lochman is now having to explain his actions in court. When asked why he had commissioned his boss’s murder he said it was his idea of a good joke and asked how far he had intended to let it go he replied that “for as long as it amused him.” In order to give the judge a better idea of what kind of jokes amused him he said that on one past occasion he had had a funeral notice printed announcing his friend’s death and inviting friends and relatives to the funeral. He then sent the funeral invite to the man’s address. On another occasion he parked the family car in a different parking lot than was customary and sent his wife to pick up something from the boot – savoring the moment when she rushed back, called the police and reported the car stolen. The judge was not amused and neither was the man’s boss. Witnesses said the two men were actually good friends and Mr. Lochman was the best paid man in the firm. Well – I don’t think he can expect any bonuses in the foreseeable future – and he’ll probably get a very hefty fine as well.

Rats are not usually perceived in the best of light – and usually man does his best to reduce their number. But the Prague Zoo is extremely proud of the fact that it helping to breed and thus save the cloud rat – a rare giant mouse that is on the brink of extinction. If the word rat makes you think “ugly, dirty disease- ridden” then try thinking along the lines of “well-mannered, clean and shy” which is how the cloud rat has been described by zoologists. Some have even called it pretty. Pretty or not, Prague’s Troja Zoo and New York’s Bronx are currently the only zoos in the world breeding the cloud rat. The Prague Zoo acquired two pairs of the rare rodents in October of last year and placed them in conditions similar to their natural forest habitat. As a result of what the zoo calls “intensive care” the first young cloud rat was born in January. And hopefully more are on the way. By the way a cloud rat is not a rodent you would overlook – it weighs two and a half kilos. Well, as long as they don’t make them any bigger…

Lipno lake usually freezes over in the winter and despite repeated warnings some people living in the vicinity use it as a shortcut to get home faster. Not just pedestrians and bikers but also drivers who take a big risk in crossing the lake over the ice rather than going the long way around by road. At least once a year the police are called upon to drag a car out of the lake but no matter how many drivers take a dip –when faced with the decision whether to drive another 20 kilometers around the lake or take the 300 meter shortcut over the ice some of the locals can’t resist the temptation. This week it was local entrepreneur Vladimír Šlegr who paid a high price for the few minutes saved. He was 30 meters out when the ice cracked and his car went under. He managed to jump out of the passenger window as the car filled with water and then crawled across the ice on all fours making it safely to shore. The local firemen who are used to getting emergency calls of this kind pulled the car out before it could contaminate the water and Mr. Šlégr faces a hefty fine. But from past experience the police know that people will continue taking a shortcut across the lake. They are not actually breaking the law – just putting their lives at risk, so there is not much the police can do about it. So many of the locals have now taken a winter dip in the lake they could establish a club. The oldest case is reported to have happened 12 years ago when a former army general went under with a tractor.

Kateřina Neumannová,  photo: CTK
The Nordic Ski World Cup to be held near Liberec, in northern Bohemia over the weekend has come in for a great deal of criticism and one-time sports idol gold-medalist Kateřina Neumannová who is its chief organizer is feeling the brunt of people’s anger. With a very mild winter and no snow in Liberec Neumannová had little hope of securing the event unless she resolved the problem fast. She did what she did earlier for the Tour de Ski up at Prague Castle – she got lorries to truck snow to Liberec from the Jizera Mountains. Unfortunately she took it from the Nature Reserve Area which is off limits to trucks. Environmentalists were outraged at the damage being done and skiers who were there on holiday equally so because the snow was being taken from public cross country trails – leaving them unusable. People pointed out that the whole idea was crazy – if you want to ski you go where there is snow, not get the snow brought down to you where it will melt in two days anyway. And they pointed out the stupidity of building a sporting facility in the low-lying Liberec area and expecting to host ski events there. The organizers of the Nordic Ski World Cup now face a hefty fine for violating the law – and Neumannová – the country’s one time ski-goddess – is fending off insults and ridicule; a very sudden and most unexpected change of fortune for the one-time sportswoman of the year.