Heavy snowfall overnight is reported to have complicated traffic in many parts of the Czech Republic. A pile up on the highway from Prague to Brno caused long delays, trains packed with skiers heading for the Krkonose mountain resorts were delayed by almost two hours after a train got stuck in heavy snowdrifts early this morning and many mountain roads remained impassable for hours despite the fact that road maintenance crews worked around the clock. Meteorologists warn that a similar situation may arise on Sunday morning, since more snow showers and a strong wind are expected overnight. Drivers are warned not to head for the mountains without the respective gear - chains, sand and shovels.
Two more Czech victims of the Indian Ocean disaster have been identified in Thailand, bringing the number of confirmed Czech victims to three. Five more Czechs are missing in Thailand and Sri Lanka. It is believed that none of them survived the disaster. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on Friday visited the island of Puket which was devastated by the tsunami. He was acquainted with some of the charity projects funded from Czech donations, including the reconstruction of fishing villages and local schools. He praised the work of NGOs and handed over some medical equipment to the local hospital. Czechs have sent some 40 million crowns in public donations to the devastated region.
The Czech government plans to make a bid for the future European institute for equal opportunities for men and women to be based in Prague. Hungary and Slovenia have also expressed interest. The proposal for such an institute to be set up, preferably in one of the EU newcomer states, was made by the Czech Euro commissioner Vladimir Spidla. If it is approved by the European Parliament, the institute should start work in 2007.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed three new bills into law, relating to health care, health insurance and social benefits. The bill relating to health care will modify the requirement that physicians, dentists and pharmacists must have a clean criminal record. Doctors and medical staff will be allowed to seek work in their given field if their transgression is not related to their profession, for instance if they were found guilty of causing a traffic accident. The second bill, concerning health insurance, should help mainly diabetic patients, since it will give them the right to more free medical equipment needed for daily care.
A leading member of the opposition Civic Democrats, Vlastimil Tlusty, has taken out a newspaper advertisement refuting reports by Czech Television questioning the origin of property belonging to Mr Tlusty's wife's company. The advertisement in Friday's Mlada fronta Dnes accuses Czech TV of broadcasting "lies" about the company. Mr Tlusty himself appeared on TV recently with documents he said showed the purchase of his house had been above board.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has praised the work of non-governmental organisations taking part in relief and reconstruction work in Indonesia in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. Speaking in Banda Aceh on Friday, Mr Svoboda said the NGOs played a positive role, and it would not be a good decision if the Indonesian authorities barred foreigners from the region.
There was a boom in housing construction in the Czech Republic in 2004, with the highest number of new flats completed in over a decade, according to figures released Friday. Over 32,000 flats were completed last year, the highest number since 1992. The trend has been attributed to the easier availability of mortgages, a growth in home building savings and favourable interest rates.
Czech judges are considering setting up an independent council which would give them more independence from the state, following President Vaclav Klaus's refusal this week to appoint 32 judges because they were under the age of 30. There is a shortage of judges in the Czech Republic, and critics of Mr Klaus's decision say it means people will be denied the right to quick court proceedings. Most European countries have an independent judges' body.
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