Around Slovakia

Police bust drug gang on Election Day
Election gambling
Poorer regions, fewer voters
Police investigating al-Zarqawi obituary notice
Workers give departing health minister failing grades
Slovak village receives gift from Czech city of same name

A man pulls two dead hens from water that flooded his courtyard in the village of Očkov in Nové Mesto nad Váhom. A strong thunderstorm that hit June 26-27 affected courtyards, gardens, cellars and garages at 11 houses. The water destroyed cars, furniture and technical appliances. Crops were damaged and poultry killed. Inhabitants said the last such flood was in 1953.
photo: TASR

Police bust drug gang on Election Day

SLOVAK police have broken up a gang of drug dealers operating in central and eastern Slovakia that had been manufacturing and selling methamphetamine.
The operation, code named ESO, was deliberately planned for election day to fool the gang into believing police already had their hands full maintaining order at polling stations and party headquarters, police VP Jaroslav Spišiak explained.
The bust yielded 24,510 doses of methamphetamine and a sufficient amount of ephedrine to make 900,000 more. The seized drugs have a street value of between Sk277 million and Sk462 million, SITA wrote.
Also discovered were a laboratory, illegal weapons and ammunition. Gang boss Tomáš M from Lučenec and main methamphetamine producer Roman V from Rožňava were among those arrested.
If convicted, the gang could spend up to twelve years behind bars. Spišiak said the operation was one of the biggest drug busts in the country's history.

Election gambling

BETWEEN May 9 and the day before the election, June 17, punters wagered a total of Sk1,034,180 in 1,055 individual bets placed with the country's largest bookmaker, Tipos, TASR wrote.
The highest bet was a Sk98,000 stake on Smer winning the election, but odds were very unfavourable, as the party had been at least 15 points ahead in opinion polls for weeks.
Therefore, the biggest winners were those who bet the Christian Democrats (KDH) would receive less than 10 percent support. The biggest losers had wagered the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) would gain more than 13 percent.
The highest amount won on a single bet was Sk100,940 (€2,647) and the most successful punter garnered Sk219,340 on 15 separate bets.
The topics most commonly bet on were which party would win the election, whether the Free Forum would make it into parliament, how many parties would be in parliament and what the overall voter turnout would be.

Košice, Prešov
Poorer regions, fewer voters

ELECTIONS should be an opportunity for people to choose who will alleviate the country's social and economic problems, but the recent parliamentary election proved many of those most in need don't vote, the daily SME reported.
Following in the footsteps of the 2002 election, this year's lowest voter turnout was recorded in the Košice and Prešov regions, which both came in more than 3 percentage points below the national average of 54.67 percent.
Sociologist Olga Gyarfášová from the Institute for Public Affairs believes that social deprivation has created "a feeling of helplessness and frustration" concerning politics. For some people, "the political opposition didn't represent a credible alternative and, thereby, failed to break their indifference".
Zuzana Kusá from the Slovak Academy of Sciences Sociology Institute follows the same logic, stating that the "urban reform winners" of the western regions were motivated by their interest in seeing "the continuation of intelligent reforms and their advantages".

Police investigating al-Zarqawi obituary notice

POLICE are investigating an obituary notice commemorating former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that was posted on Watson Street in Košice on June 18.
The notice was found pinned to a wooden board on a fence close to the Technical University. Police are treating it as a criminal act because it involves the support and promotion of a group that suppresses basic human rights, Košice police spokeswoman Jana Demjanovičová told TASR on June 20.
The Jordanian-born terrorist leader was the most wanted man in Iraq until he was killed on June 7 during an American air strike north of Baghdad.
Since 2003, al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda offshoot had been responsible for some of the most bloody attacks in Iraq, including the executions of several kidnapped foreigners. It is believed that al-Zarqawi personally beheaded at least two American hostages.
His followers have continued to target Iraq's Shia population, with the aim of provoking a sectarian war with the rival Sunni.
The US offered a $25-million reward for information leading to al-Zarqawi, the same amount offered for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Workers give departing health minister failing grades

HEALTH Minister Rudolf Zajac's "reforms and unjust, merciless behaviour toward health care workers" have gained him a "lifetime reserved on the dust heap of history," Juraj Čierny, a member of the strike committee at Bratislava's Faculty Hospital, said on June 16.
Čierny spoke while at a farewell party that representatives from the committee threw for Zajac in front of the Health Ministry during the June 17 parliamentary election.
The election is almost sure to result in a new health minister, as Zajac ran for a tiny party with negligible chances of making it to parliament.
Health care workers, on strike since April 6, arrived with several parting gifts.
"We are giving you back the axe you used against patients, health care workers and pharmacists. We are also giving you back the spade and money bag you left behind while digging a tunnel in one of the unnamed hospitals," Čierny said at the event, alluding to a term Slovaks often use to refer to asset stripping.
The third present was a stem from a locust tree, meant to symbolise the lonely health care worker, who resides on the bottom rung of the social and economic ladder.
Like a stick in a fence, but wrapped in barbed wire, this is a symbol of Zajac's completely isolated "dictatorship, which crushed democratic and human rights and violated societal principles, as well as those attached to academia and the status of Slovak health care," Čierny continued.
Health care workers and patients also prepared a report card for Zajac's 2002-06 tenure, Čierny said, adding that he personally would give the minister top marks with a star because, "as a politician, psychologist, economist and strategist, he fulfilled this government's every task".
Zajac did not meet with the workers, nor designate anyone to receive the presents on his behalf.

Slovak village receives gift from Czech city of same name

THE LOCAL authority office in the Slovak village of Praha, located near Lučenec in southern Slovakia, received its first PC recently as a donation from its far larger namesake: the Czech capital city of Prague, TASR wrote.
The word for Prague is "Praha" in both Czech and Slovak.
"It's a present from the mayor of Prague's VIII district, Josef Nosek," Praha mayor Ján Korman told the TASR news agency.
Korman said he will use the present to draw up the village's agenda and a detailed database of its 102 inhabitants.
The two locations have long shared a tight connection, especially since the people of Praha collected Sk30,000 (€786) in aid for Prague during the serious floods that hit it four years ago.

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