Thursday, February 2, 2012

News 2.2.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

By: Jan Richter

* The Czech central bank has cut its forecast for the country's
economic output.

* Around 400 people have gathered in Prague to protest against the
controversial ACTA internet treaty.

* Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas stated that the single European
currency will survive only if the euro zone becomes a federal economic

* Law school students in Plzen have protested against the authorities'
decision to close its undergraduate programme over persisting staffing

* A 52-year-old man in Prague has committed suicide by freezing to

Czech National Bank cuts growth forecast

The Czech Nation Bank on Thursday cut its forecast of the country's
economic output. The bank now expects the economy to stagnate in 2012;
in November, the central bank predicted a growth of 1.2 percent. The
bank's governor, Miroslav Singer, told reporters the latest forecast
was a compromise between the base and alternative scenarios the bank
came up with in November. The good news, Mr Singer added, was that the
current prognosis was more optimistic than November's alternative
scenario. For next year, the bank forecasts a growth of 1.9 percent.

Central bank leaves interest rates at record low

In related news, the Czech National Bank on Thursday left its benchmark
interest rates at record-low 0.75 percent for the 20th month running.
All present members of the bank's board voted to keep the rates
unchanged; the central bank's vice governor, Mojmir Hampl, was not
present. Most analysts believe the bank will keep the interest rates
unchanged for the rest of the year due to very weak domestic demand,
the government's restrictive fiscal policy and low salary growth.

Hundreds protest against ACTA treaty in Prague

Some 400 people gathered in central Prague on Thursday to protest
against the controversial ACTA treaty which the Czech Republic joined
last week. The protesters, who were joined by several members of
Parliament, called on the country's lawmakers not to ratify the treaty
which aims at harmonizing standards of copyright protections, and which
critics say could lead to restrictions of free internet.

PM Necas: euro zone can only survive if it becomes a federal economic

The single European currency will survive only if the euro zone becomes
"a federation", according to Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas. In his
opinion piece in Thursday's Czech daily Lidove noviny, Mr Necas
questions whether the Czech Republic should adopt the euro under the
current conditions and if so, when. The Czech Republic and the UK are
the only two countries that have not joined the fiscal pact agreed at
last week's EU summit. In Thursday's opinion piece, Mr Necas goes on to
criticize the compact by saying that while the agreed treaty was a
crucial step towards federalisation, it failed to solve current
problems. By joining, he said, countries gave up the right to vote on
their own budgets within the EU, thereby losing sovereignty.

Czech prime minister criticizes EU summit mechanism

In related news, the Czech prime minister has also criticized the
mechanism of last week's EU summit. In his opinion piece in Lidove
noviny, Mr Necas said that leaders of national governments were given
the final version of the fiscal treaty to immediately approve or reject
it, with no time to analyse the document or consult it with experts and
members of their government. Such practices are increasingly common at
EU summits, according to the Czech prime minister.

Government approves new rules for regional, municipal press

The Czech government has approved an amendment to the Czech Press Act
introducing new rules for periodical publications issued by
municipalities, regions and other administrative bodies. Under the new
legislation, these outlets will have to provide room for members of the
opposition. The amendment does not apply to town halls and regional
assemblies' websites. If approved by Parliament and signed into law by
the president, the legislation will take effect in September.

2011 saw 153 new HIV cases

One hundred and fifty-three new cases of HIV were registered in the
Czech Republic in 2011, according to figures released by the national
HIV/AIDS programme on Thursday. It is the third highest surge since
1985 when monitoring began. Doctors also recorded 20 people who
developed AIDS; nine people died of the disease last year. The
authorities said 87 percent of the new patients contracted the disease
from sexual intercourse. In total, 1675 people are known to have
contracted HIV in the Czech Republic; 341 of them have developed AIDS,
of which 253 died.

Lawmakers push for legalizing medical marijuana

A group of Czech MPs from all parties in the lower house of Parliament
have come up with a bill that would legalize medical marihuana. At a
news conference on Thursday, MPs said that under the proposed
legislation, cannabis would be supplied by licensed producers and would
be available to patients as a prescription drug free of charge.
Licences to grow the plant would be issued by the State Institute for
Drug Control; the national anti-drug coordinator said up to ten
companies could receive such licenses. The bill will now be discussed
by the government before it is put to vote in the Czech Parliament. If
approved, medical marijuana could be legalized by the end of August.

Plzen law school students protest against planned closure of master's

Around 300 law faculty students at the West Bohemian University in
Plzen protested on Thursday against the authorities' decision to cancel
the accreditation of its undergraduate programme. That would
effectively close down the school, and around 1,600 undergraduate
students would have to complete their studies elsewhere. On Wednesday,
the country's Accreditation Commission decided not to uphold
accreditation of the law school's undergraduate programme over
persisting staffing issues; last November, it also closed down the
doctoral programme at the Plzen law faculty.

Mumps epidemic breaks out in Pardubice region

An epidemic of mumps has broken out in the Pardubice region, in the
north-east of the country, the regional health authorities said on
Thursday. Some 170 cases of the disease were registered in the region
in January; however, doctors expressed concerns the real number might
be much higher. Some people contracted the disease despite having been
vaccinated against it. The head of the local anti-epidemic department
said doctors were now working to determine whether this was caused by
the virus having mutated or by the fact vaccines were no longer

Prague man commits suicide by freezing to death

A 52-year-old man in Prague has committed suicide by freezing to death.
Doctors said the man had been drunk; he took off his clothes and lay on
a park bench where he was found around Thursday noon. Six people have
died due to freezing conditions in the Czech Republic in recent days.
On Thursday morning, a 49-year-old homeless foreigner was found dead on
the outskirts of Prague while a 62-year-old man died in his caravan.
Another three people died of exposure earlier this week.

The extreme weather caused problems in railway traffic on Thursday,
particularly in the Central Bohemian region where trains on some routes
were delays by up to 30 minutes. In some places, temperatures dropped
to -30 degrees Celsius and freezing weather is expected continue for
days to come.


Cold but sunny conditions are to continue over the next several days,
with daytime highs ranging between -12 and -8 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Therapist: parental failure behind increasingly aggressive kids

Aggressive behavior in young children and adolescents is on the rise
and there are indications that parents are increasingly unable to deal
with it. Schoolteachers are ringing alarm bells and therapists are
warning of the dire consequences of failing to deal with the problem in

Scandal-plagued Plzen law faculty will have to close its doors

The scandal-plagued Plzen faculty of law appears to have come to the
end of the road. On Wednesday the Czech Accreditation Commission
announced that the West-Bohemian law faculty's undergraduate programme
had failed to pass muster and its accreditation would not be extended
past this autumn. On Thursday some 300 of the faculty's 2,000 students
gathered outside their school to protest against the decision and have
appealed to Education Minister Josef Dobes to intervene. However their
chances of success are meager, since under Czech law the minister is
not in a position to question the verdict of the accreditation
commission. We spoke to its chairwoman prof. Vladimira Dvorakova to
find out what was behind the commission's decision.

Wenceslas square's notorious sausage stands to be removed by end of year

For years, Prague councilors have been announcing the end of the
sausage stands on Wenceslas Square, which for some have become an
institution, albeit a greasy and noisy one. Now, City Hall officials
are set to serve eviction notices to all of the fast-food stands on the
city's main thoroughfare, ahead of a major makeover next year. In the
future, Wenceslas Square may be sausage-free - but not if Prague 1
mayor Oldrich Lomecky has his say.

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