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Battle Of The Bulge: Half Of Czech Republic Soldiers Are Overweight

Facing surprisingly high obesity rates, the Czech military is forced to crack down on high-fat diets. Some, however, have pointed out that certain plump generals set a bad example for the troops on the ground.

A Czech soldier (Jametiks)
A Czech soldier (Jametiks)


The Czech Republic's top military brass is cracking down…on calories. After a recent report found that half of the 22,000 soldiers in the Czech army are overweight, orders have come down to halt the helpings of pork roast, dumplings and beer.

The military is also considering using appetite suppressants for soldiers who struggle with alimentary discipline. Czech Defense Ministry Chief of Staff Vlastimil Picek has ordered more fitness checks at all ranks, which comes after his predecessor Jirí Sedivy's pointed out that officers and the (particularly overweight) generals should be on the front line in the battle of the bulge.

"They ought to set the example for their subordinates," Sedivy said.

Experts attribute part of the problem to the changeover from a conscription to professional army, which saw the average age of soldiers rise significantly to 37, which inevitably means more struggling with weight problems.

The Ministry of Defense has requested that recruitment campaigns target younger men who stand a higher chance of having washboard abs.

Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra, who does not himself match the sought-after profile, came to the soldiers‘ defense, saying: "I've never seen anything other than slim, muscular soldiers at the barracks. Politicians, and journalists too, should take a good long look at themselves before casting aspersions."

One newspaper commentator harked back to the good old days when Czechs served in the Austro-Hungarian army. He recommended having the soldiers drilled mercilessly by somebody along the lines of 2nd Lieutenant Dub ("I'm nasty. I make everyone cry.") in Jaroslav Hašek's satirical novel Good Soldier Svejk.

That members of the Czech army would - like Svejk - also be subjected to enemas is, thus far at least, only a rumor.

Read the full story in German by Hans-Jörg Schmidt

Photo - Jametiks

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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