Monday, September 17, 2012

News 9.17.2012

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

News Monday, September 17th, 2012

By: Christian Falvey

* The number of deaths from methanol poisoning has reached 21.

* Reports of methanol poisoning also emerged from Slovakia on Sunday.

* Health Minister Heger says 20 million bottles of spirits are lying in
storage following the ban on hard alcohol

* Facilities for the homeless are being used by nearly 11,500 people,
the Czech Statistical Office reports.

* The physical work of renaming the international airport in Prague
after the late president Havel began on Monday.

Methanol deaths reach 21

Methanol poisoning claimed another victim on Sunday evening, bringing
the number of deaths in the country to 21. A 47-year-old woman from the
eastern city of Cesky Tesin died after two days of hospitalisation.
More than 35 people remain in hospital in different parts of the
country, though most of the cases have occurred in Moravia. A Prague
hospital admitted a second person from the capital for methanol
poisoning on Sunday. More than 30,000 inspections have been carried out
in bars, restaurants and street stalls since Friday evening. Police
have charged 23 people around the country in connection with the

Slovakia reports four possible cases of methanol poisoning

Reports of methanol poisoning also emerged from Slovakia on Sunday,
with four people hospitalised in the eastern city of Presov. The
patients had reportedly been drinking hard alcohol produced in the
Czech Republic at a party. Six others who attended the party were
admitted to hospital with headaches, but have not been diagnosed with
methanol poisoning. In the meantime, Polish authorities have banned the
sale of spirits from the Czech Republic.

Heger: prohibition may lead to legal disputes

Health Minister Leos Heger addressed some of the legal ramifications of
the ban on spirits on Monday, allowing that the currently indefinite
prohibition may well give rise to legal battles. The crisis team
looking at the impact of the ban has not yet dealt with the question of
indemnity for alcohol producers. The health minister says 20 million
bottles of spirits are lying in storage following the ban, which took
effect last Friday. Mr Heger noted that exports have not been
restricted and the ban is wholly on retailers' sale to consumers. The
state is also negotiating with the Norwegian manufacturer of an
antidote, fomepizole, thirty doses of which have been donated. Heger
has said he hopes the ban will be lifted in less than a month, but has
not ruled out the possibility that it may take longer.

Schwarzenberg in Georgia to oversee election preparations

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg arrived in the Republic of Georgia
on Monday for a two-day trip to oversee preparations for the country's
parliamentary elections in October. Mr Schwarzenberg is joined by four
other EU foreign ministers - from Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and
Romania - all members of an informal Friends of Georgia group, which
will meet with their Georgian counterpart and offer objective support.
The Czech Foreign Minister told a press conference in Tbilisi that they
would be recording facts and hoped to remain unbiased, adding that the
best friend is one that talks about the problems he sees.

Facilities for the homeless being used by nearly 11,500 people

Facilities for the homeless are being used by nearly 11,500 people, the
Czech Statistical Office reports. This estimate showed the largest
number of homeless in the region of Moravia-Silesia (2,574) which more
than doubled that of Prague (1,254). According to the count, the
largest demographic group of homeless people were unmarried Czech males
aged 45 to 49 with minimal education. Less than 22% of the clients of
social facilities were women, the largest group of which were aged 20
to 24. The office notes that the actual number of homeless could
actually be up to three times higher, as many live on the streets or in

Presidential polls: Fischer gains from Svejnar, Franz builds 'protest'

The polling agency PPM Factum suggests that presidential candidate Jan
Fischer was most aided by the decision of economist Jan Svejnar not to
run. Former prime minister Fisher enjoyed a 5.7% rise in support after
Mr Svejnar's announcement in August, and is currently polling at 27.7%,
according to the agency. Former Social Democrat prime minister Milos
Zeman is in second place in the survey with 22.7% of the hypothetical
vote, followed at a large distance by his former party's candidate Jiri
Dienstbier, with 6.9%. Artist and tattoo aficionado Vladimir Franz,
which the pollsters call a protest candidate, has also gained strongly
to 6.6% - more than the results for the candidates of the two main
governing parties.

Cabinet members' popularity wanes amid controversies

The STEM agency, meanwhile, has released the results of its monitoring
of politicians' popularity. The poll suggests that recent problems
regarding vehicle registration, the dismissal of the police president
and discussed tax increases have impacted on several, primarily
cabinet, politicians. Prime Minister Petr Necas, Interior Minister Jan
Kubice and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek all reached their lowest
levels yet. The most favourable politicans were Social Democrat Jirim
Dienstbierem followed by former justice minister Jiri Pospisil, Social
Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka, and speaker of the lower house
Miroslava Nemcova.

Klaus vetoes bill aimed at relieving prison overcrowding

President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed an amendment to the criminal code
aimed at relieving overcrowded prisons. The president said that while
the effort to resolve the problem was commendable, provisions such as
allowing prison governors to grant early paroles were destructive of
the justice system. He also criticised a measure allowing child support
debtors to have their drivers' licences revoked instead of facing jail
time, which he said was nonsensical and counterproductive. Mr Klaus
said the problem of prison overcrowding should be resolved using
existing laws and by changing judicial practices.

Work begins on renaming Prague international airport

The physical work of renaming the international airport in Prague after
the late president Havel began on Monday. Large panels bearing the new
name Vaclav Havel Airport Prague (Letiste Vaclava Havla Praha in Czech)
were being mounted in the three main terminals and on the arrivals
runway. The official name change and accompanying ceremony is planned
for October 5, which would be Mr Havel's 76 birthday. The idea to
rename the airport after the last Czechoslovak and first Czech
president's was launched in the days following his death last December,
and was petitioned by tens of thousands of people.

Prague transit authority to discuss selection of new director

The heads of the Prague transit authority are to meet on Monday to
discuss the selection of the new director. The former head of the
Public Transport Company (DPP), Vladimir Lich, was unexpectedly sacked
in mid-August and was replaced by interim director Magdalena Ceskova.
Neither Lich nor Ceskova are expected to be reappointed. DPP is the
largest company controlled by Prague City Hall. The selection committee
for the new chief will be made up of city hall and company


Conditions are expected to remain mostly sunny over the coming days
with highs of 21 to 24o Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Paralympics champion Jiri Jezek - Part 1

In today's One on One my guest is 38-year-old Czech para-cyclist Jiri
Jezek, a gold and silver medal holder from the London Paralympics.
London was Jiri's fourth appearance at the Games and his medal finishes
there saw him become the most successful para-cyclist in history.
Sports News 17.9.2012

In Sports News this Monday: Czechs beat Argentina to reach Davis Cup
finals; in football, Plzen controversially beats Sparta Prague in
Gambrinus Liga; Czech hockey fans look forward to NHL stars coming home
to play during lockout; and in athletics, Olympic javelin champion
Barbora Spotakova returns to her roots and stets her new personal best
in heptathlon.
Alcohol prohibition seeks to stem methanol threat

Almost three days after a country-wide ban on sales of hard liquor was
put in place, the number of people hospitalized as well as deaths
resulting from methanol poisoning has not abated. The announcement
about the 21st victim dying in a hospital in Ostrava came early on
Monday morning. The Czech police claim to be making significant
progress in tracking down the sources of alcohol with excessive amounts
of methanol, but no clear picture of how the spate of poisonings became
so widespread has emerged yet.

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