News Karol Sidon to step down as chief Prague rabbi
The chief rabbi of Prague, Karol Sidon, has announced he will resign as of July 1st, after 22 years in the post. The 71-year-old Sidon will retain his position as the chief rabbi of the Czech Republic. The head of the Prague Jewish Community, Jan Munk, said the rabbi’s age as well as the fact that another rabbi had well adapted to serving the community, were the main reasons behind Karol Sidon’s decision. Karol Sidon, who converted to Judaism in 1978, was an anti-communist dissident, and in the 1980s left Czechoslovakia for Germany under pressure from the communist secret police. He has written several novels and theatre plays; most recently, he authored a best-selling novel under the pseudonym of Chaim Cigan.
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The unseasonably warm weather has been breaking temperature records around the country. The highest temperatures were recorded at weather stations in Lednice and Pohořelice in south Moravia where they reached 14.8 degrees Celsius. The weekend is expected to bring a cold spell with snow in altitudes 400 meters above sea level and a strong wind. Drivers have warned about snow drifts on less frequented roads.
According to a survey conducted by the CVVM polling agency public trust in Czech President Miloš Zeman has dropped further, to 34 percent compared to 37 percent in November. The president’s trust rating took a dive in October dropping by 21 percent in the wake of a number of controversial statements he made on a state visit to China and a radio interview peppered with vulgar language. Mr. Zeman had the trust of 61 percent of Czechs when he took office in March of 2013.
The Czech finance ministry wants to raise taxes on gambling to almost double the amount it collects from the industry at present. Companies currently pay the standard 19 percent corporate tax rate plus an additional sector tax of 20 percent of winnings. The finance ministry is proposing to raise the gambling tax to 40 percent as of 2016. The annual payment for one gaming machine will go up from the current 20,000 to 40,000 crowns.
An Ostrava court has sentenced two men involved in the 2012 methanol poisonings that killed close to fifty people to eight and ten years respectively. Jaromir Pánek allegedly provided the methanol to be used in bootleg spirits and Simon Kramarčík sold the deadly methanol-laced products to consumers even after the first deaths were reported. They were found directly responsible for the deaths of three people and the severe poisoning of four others.
The Brno city council has issued a blanket ban on gaming machines in the city as of next year. Gambling will be restricted to licensed casinos and only allowed in 8 of the city’s 29 districts. The ban was supported by 37 out of 55 councilors. Although several small towns have enforced similar bans, Brno is the only big city to have made the move.
The Czech Republic will get another chance to draw EU funds it had been allocated in the 2007 – 2013 period, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told Czech journalists at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday night. At the summit, the Czech Republic and Slovakia managed to push through a plan that the European Commission and member states should try to secure a maximum use of the funds that failed to get spent. The prime minister said Czech ministries would launch talks with the Commission on the issue without delay. The Czech Republic has failed to use approximately 20 billion crowns worth of EU money this year.
The Czech antitrust office UOHS has permitted petrochemical group Unipetrol to become exclusive owner of the oil refining company Česka rafinerská as the merger will not cause a fundamental breach of competition on markets, UOHS chairman Petr Rafaj told the ctk news agency on Friday. The share of the merging companies will not exceed 15 percent of the market for ex-refinery supplies of petrol, diesel oil, LPG, heating fuel and aviation fuel.
Doctors at the Prague Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine have has performed a simultaneous stomach, pancreas, liver and small intestine transplant on a patient in an operation that is unique in Europe.The small intestine transplant was the first ever performed in the Czech Republic. The surgery took ten hours and the patient is in stable condition.
Around 300 people gathered outside the Office of the Government on Thursday, calling for the Czech Republic to accept Syrian children and their families fleeing the civil war in their country. A similar demonstration was also held in Brno. Western countries have pledged to accept 100,000 refugees from war-stricken Syria, but the Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec recently said the Czech Republic was not ready for an influx of thousands of refugees due to security and technical reasons and would not accept any binding EU quota.
Czech biathlete Gabriela Soukalová won a 7.5 kilometre World Cup sprint in Pokljuka, Slovenia, on Thursday. The 25-year-old athlete did not miss a single target and finished 18 seconds ahead of Italy’s Dorothea Wierer. It was the first win for Gabriela Soukalová this season and eighth World Cup gold in her career.