News Wednesday, AUGUST 16th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

Deputy Defence Minister sacked

The Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy sacked his deputy for recruitment policy Petr Tax late on Tuesday, citing his failure to meet the standards required for a senior official exposed to classified information. Mr. Tax was a former Social Democrat shadow minister of defence. An opposition leader has lately described him as the most senior political commissar of the former Communist Czechoslovak People's Army. However, the Defence Ministry Spokesman Milan Repka declined to confirm whether Mr. Tax actually flunked security screening procedures.

Austria interior minister meets EU membership hopefuls

The Austrian Interior Minister Ernst Strasser on Wednesday meets in Salzburg with his counterparts from the European Union candidate countries, to discuss topics including illegal immigration and drug crimes. Mr. Strasser has described the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary as very important allies in Austria's fight against international crime.

MP's begin probe into failed bank case

A parliamentary commission of inquiry will begin hearing testimonies on Wednesday in the case of the Czech IPB bank, which nearly collapsed in June and was subsequently taken over by its rival CSOB. The parliamentary probe will focus on the role of the State and the central bank in the case. IPB was placed under forced administration in mid-June but CSOB then bought the bank in a matter of days. The opposition parties have described the transaction as non-transparent and demanded immediate investigation.

Information costs a lot of money in the Czech Republic

The Education Ministry official, who demanded over 100,000 crowns or nearly 3,000 dollars for disclosing how much money schools have received from the state budget over the past three years, says his claim was legitimate and he will not resign. Zdenek Bernard from the ministry's economic section was sharply criticised by the opposition Senator Michael Zantovsky who said the official had violated laws concerning freedom of information and ought to step down immediately. However, Mr. Bernard said that for his office to be able to gather the information it would have to contact all the roughly 15 hundred Czech primary and high schools and go through their books.

Booze lowers Czech labour productivity -- expert

A leading World Health Organisation expert has warned that alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic is rising and its taking its toll of labour productivity and the country's ability to compete with advanced economies. Professor Karel Nespor from Prague's prestigious Bohnice Mental Hospital said on Tuesday that per-capita consumption in the country stood at 160 litres of beer a year. That's about a pint a day for every Czech including infants and senior citizens. Mr. Nespor, a leading expert on drinking problems, said the number of alcoholics who are incurable due to the effects of long-time drinking, was rising quite dramatically in the Czech Republic.

In a related development, a man in living near the South Moravian town of Zlin had a still confiscated by the police after years making alcohol illegally. The man confessed he had made over 100 litres of slivovice - a potent Czech plum brandy - using a vintage still passed on in his family from father to son. But he claimed all the alcohol had been distilled for his personal consumption and not for profit.

Czechs nominate athletes for Sydney Paralympics

Almost eighty handicapped athletes in six sports will compete for the Czech Republic at the ninth Paralympic Games due to take place in Sydney shortly after the Summer Olympics. The Czech participants will compete in track-and-field events, cycling, swimming, table tennis and, for the first time, also in boccia and archery.

Czech weather

Wednesday will be a very hot day, although temperatures will not be distributed evenly. Because of a cold front, afternoon highs in the western parts of the Czech Republic will be slightly under 30 degrees Celsius, but a notch or two higher in the east. Nighttime temperatures will drop to between 13 and 17 Celsius. The highs on Thursday and Friday will be between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius, the lows between 12 and 16 degrees.