The Czech swimmer Martin Kovar has won his third gold medal at the Paralympic Games now underway in Athens, after winning the 50-metre event. The Czech Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, was in Athens for part of the games and presented Mr Kovar with the medal. Czech athletes have so far won 25 medals at the games.
The Czech army has confirmed that this year it will begin building a high-tech electronic surveillance and passive monitoring centre. The new military centre, which will initially have its headquarters in Opava, north Moravia, will be tasked with detecting and monitor enemy targets. As many as 500 specialists would eventually man the monitoring station. The Czech-made "Vera" radar system, which is capable of detecting the U.S. Stealth fighters, will be an integral part of the centre. The Czech Republic, which within NATO has concentrated on providing elite anti-biological and chemical units, intends to offer the specialised surveillance unit to the military alliance in the coming years.
About a dozen Czech rock bands took to the stage on Sunday afternoon to play a benefit concert for the "We don't talk to Communists" group, which wants to prevent politicians from working with the unreformed party. Among the bands playing are the rap-metal group Cocotte Minute, the Romani band Gluo Car and the pop-rock combo Chinaski. Several avant-garde theatre groups including Divadlo Continuo and Teatr Novogo Fronta were also staging productions at the event, which took place in an abandoned factory in Prague's Karlin district. The first "We don't talk to communists" concert was first performed last year, on November 17, the anniversary of the intervention by communist police in 1989 against a peaceful students' demonstration in Prague, which led to the so-called Velvet Revolution.
Vladimir Zelezny failed to turn up for a televised debate on Sunday with his former party colleague and fellow Member of the European Parliament, Jana Bobosikova, who, after a very public row this month, split with the Independent Party he had founded. Ms Bobosikova has threatened to sue Mr Zelezny for slander if he didn't apologise for saying her decision to hire her husband to work for her in Brussels was, in essence, unethical.
The board of the Czech Doctors' Association, meeting on Saturday, has backed calls to prevent the privatisation of regional hospitals until a law on non-profit hospitals is passed. Association president David Rath said the board has no objections to private hospitals supplementing health care, but was against the "general" privatisation of existing state-run hospitals. In related news, representatives of a patients' rights association said over 77,000 people in Central Bohemia have signed on to a petition against privatising Czech hospitals.
Otto von Hapsburg, the son of Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I, was granted honorary citizen of the spa town of Frantiske Lazne on Saturday in recognition of his efforts to promote the peaceful unification of Europe. He was also on hand to unveil a statue of his ancestor, Emperor Franz Joseph I, who founded the spa town in 1793. Von Hapsburg, a former Member of the European Parliament from Bavaria, had gone against many in his party by objecting to preconditioning Czech membership in the European Union to the abolishment of the so-called Benes Decrees, which led to the post-WWII expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.
After talks with state ombudsman Otakar Motejl, Health Minister Milada Emmerova has agreed to establish a special commission to investigate fresh allegations that Romani women were sterilised without their consent in the past decade. The birth rate among the Roma is significantly higher than the general population and documented evidence shows that from 1959 to 1990 the former Czechoslovakia encouraged Romani women to undergo sterilisation by giving them cash payments, and in some cases doctors performed the operation without the women's consent. The practice was condemned by international human rights groups as racist and halted as official policy. Charges that sterilizations continued in recent years have been brought forth by the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre, along with two Czech civil society groups which are representing the legal interests of about 10 Romani women.
Two Czech test pilots have begun training on JAS-39 Gripen fighters in Sweden. The men will return home as pilot-instructors themselves in a few months time to begin training their Czech colleagues. The Czech government agreed to lease the Swedish jets for the next ten years. As of May 2005, the Czech air force will decommission the fleets Russian-made MIG-21s.
An MP who says the Civic Democrats tried to bribe him to bring down the government in a confidence vote passed a lie detector test during questioning by police on Thursday. Zdenek Koristka of the Freedom Union said last month he had been offered a bribe of 10 million crowns (around 300,000 euros), an allegation strenuously denied by the Civic Democrats. The two men Mr Koristka says approached him have declined to undergo a lie detector test, arguing that the results cannot be used as evidence in Czech courts.
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