News

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NATO centre opens at Vyskov

A NATO centre specializing in weapons of mass destruction opened in the Czech town of Vyskov on Thursday. The joint chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense centre will employ 50 international military experts to provide consultancy services, work on security doctrines, train soldiers and organize simulation exercises. There are 16 similar NATO centers in different parts of the world, each with a different specialisation. Like the others this centre will be under direct NATO command.

Young Czechs Europe’s biggest marihuana smokers

Marihuana is the most popular soft drug on the continent and according to a report just published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Abuse there are more young marihuana smokers in the Czech Republic than anywhere else in Europe. In an anonymous survey, 28 percent of Czechs under 24 admitted to smoking marihuana from time to time, as compared to 19 percent of young people in Spain who rank second. Young Czechs also use the party drug ecstasy more often than other Europeans. Twelve percent of respondents said they boosted their stamina with it at dance parties.

Baby girl swap to happen on New Year’s Day

The parents of two baby girls accidentally swapped in hospital a year ago say they will exchange their daughters on New Year’s Day. The parents learnt of the accidental swap in October after one of the fathers secretly ordered a DNA test, fearing that his daughter was not his biological child. When the mother’s subsequent tests came out negative as well, the hospital admitted its mistake. Both sets of parents said they were shattered by the revelation and in particular the mothers are having immense difficulties coming to terms with the fact that they will have to swap their children. Two earlier dates for the swap –the babies’ birthdays and Christmas day – were scrapped in order to give both the babies and adults time to get used to each other.

Report analyzing country’s recent UN failure leaked to the press

The Czech Republic's failure to win a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in October is being attributed to a lacklustre campaign, political instability following the last general elections and President Klaus’ controversial views on climate change. According to the CTK news agency those are the conclusions of an independent analysis commissioned by the Czech Foreign Ministry which the agency acquired from what it described as unofficial sources. The analysis was reportedly discussed at Wednesday’s cabinet session but it has not been officially made available to the press.

Social Democrats slam Defense Ministry

The opposition Social Democrats say the Defense Ministry has violated the law by arranging to purchase four armoured vehicles without a public tender. The ministry said it had decided to arrange the purchase directly, because it urgently needed the armoured vehicles for Czech soldiers operating in Afghanistan. Shadow defense minister Petr Hulinsky said Defense Minister Parkanova should annul the 100 million crown contract with Iveco, or face suspicion of breach of trust. He said that making the purchase without a public tender was unethical, uneconomical and illegal.

Minister Julinek promises better times for the health sector

An additional 13 billion crowns should be available for medical treatment in 2008 thanks to the new regulations which will come into effect next year, Health Minister Tomas Julinek told reporters on Thursday. Heath care insurers will release more money for treatment and doctors and hospitals should gain further money – approximately 4 billion crowns – from patients’ cash payments, Julinek said. The health minister has promised that doctors will be better paid and patients better taken care of but there is still considerable opposition to his planned reforms from both doctors and patients. Doctors are opposed to the idea of having to collect cash in person and critics say that some people will simply not be able to afford the care they need.

Czech Republic lacks facilities for the elderly

The Czech Republic is not sufficiently prepared for the aging of its population, Jitka Hoplickova, the head of a foundation that builds houses for the elderly, told journalists today. She pointed out that facilities for the elderly are lacking and the state has done little to remedy the situation. Many former facilities were lost due to restitution of property after 1989, and replacements were never found. Capacity was reduced by 6,000 beds in this manner but social workers say that 10,000 beds are now lacking and the need will grow as the population ages.

Czechs brace for 2008 price hikes

Czechs are gearing up for a dramatic increase in energy costs as of January 2008. Electricity, gas and heating costs are expected to go up by as much as 10 percent. The hike has been triggered by higher production costs, a higher VAT tax and a newly-introduced environmental tax.

Heineken seeking to acquire Drinks Union

Dutch-based global beer giant, Heineken is seeking to acquire the Czech Republic's biggest locally owned brewery in private hands, Drinks Union, the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Thursday, citing two independent sources. The paper said the deal was close to being signed. Drinks Union has refused to comment on the report. Heineken announced the acquisition of the local Krusovice brewery for an undisclosed sum in June, a move making it the third biggest brewery on the Czech market.

Weather

The next few days are expected to be partly cloudy with scattered rain or snow showers and day temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.