The Bethlehem light, a light which symbolises hope and peace every Christmas, is now in the Czech Republic. Every year, a child collects the light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born. It is then flown to Vienna and distributed to scouts from across Europe who take it back to their own countries. The first time the light was distributed to the Czech Republic was in December 1989. As has become tradition, the light also shines in the lobby of the Czech Radio building, from which people can light their own candles.
Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl is on an official two-day visit to Iraq. Mr Kuhnl held talks with the head of the Multi National Division in the South East, Major General Jonathan Riley, visited the 100-strong Czech military police contingent at Shaiba base, and also met with the six-member medical team that is working with the contingent. The Czech military police have been training Iraqi police in southern Iraq since 2003. The contingent's mandate was to end at the beginning of 2005 but was prolonged until the end of the year.
Up to two percent of the European Union's population could die if a flu pandemic were to break out, according to the grimmest prognosis made at a WHO conference in Prague on Sunday. In an interview for the CTK news agency, Professor Albert Osterhaus from the Rotterdam university medical centre Erasmus MC warned the EU has prepared little for a possible flu pandemic, despite the fact that the lives of up to five million people are at risk. Professor Osterhaus says an action plan ought to be drawn up in Brussels for all EU member states to follow in the case of a pandemic.
Of the 30 nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Czech Republic has one of the lowest hourly wages. On average Czechs make 3.41 euros an hour, the internet server Mesec.cz reported on Sunday. The only countries with lower wages than that are Poland, Slovakia, and Mexico. This is because Czechs work longer hours, the server says - an average of 164.3 hours a month, while the only OECD country that tops that is Korea with 199.2 hours a month. With an average salary of 28 euros an hour, Denmark tops the list.
Leading Czech artists gathered at Prague's State Opera on Saturday to
attend the Cesky Slavik - Czech Nightingale - music awards. Not
surprising to the audience, Czech singer Karel Gott won for the 31st
time. Lucie Bila, however, who has clinched the title of best female
singer for over a decade, lost it to the winner of the country's first
Pop Idol show Aneta Langerova. Chinaski won the best group award.
Silver was won by Lucie Bila, Daniel Landa, and Kabat. Helena Vondrackova, Petr Kolar, and the group Divokej Bill received bronze awards.
Transport Minister Milan Simonovsky says an electronic road toll
system, which is to be introduced in 2007, could bring in up to 20
billion Czech crowns (a little under 860 million US dollars). If only
lorries above 12 tonnes are tolled, the Czech state would make around
10,5 billion crowns a year but if vehicles above 3,5 tonnes are
included in the toll system then the country could get up to 20 billion
crowns, Mr Simonovsky said on Sunday.
At the moment, the state makes around 1 billion crowns off special coupons that drivers have to buy to use the country's motor-ways. The new electronic toll system is to be provided by the Austrian company Kapsch.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says three police officers who were caught on
tape beating a young man cannot go unpunished. Speaking in a TV discussion
programme on Sunday, Mr Paroubek criticised an Interior Ministry
investigation, which concluded that the police officers had not broken the
law. A video tape shows how the officers beat and kick a defenceless man
lying on the ground at last July's CzechTek music festival.
Mr Paroubek says the young man would surely win his case if he turned to the state prosecution for help. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalusek, also criticised the investigation, saying the system that monitors police action is inefficient because it is controlled by the Interior Ministry.
Some fifty extremists gathered in front of the Austrian embassy in Prague on Saturday to call for the release of British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving. A group of ten men and women, among them Nazi concentration camp survivors, protested against the legal extremists' gathering and were escorted away by the police. David Irving, who is barred from entering Germany, Austria, Canada, and Australia, was arrested in Vienna last month on a 1989 warrant.
The senior party in the ruling coalition government, the Social Democrats, will hold a one-day congress in May at which a new leader will be elected. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is currently the party's acting leader but the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek is expected to take up the post to lead the party into the upcoming elections. Results of opinion polls suggest that public support for the Social Democrats is growing steadily. Mr Paroubek is expecting to win over 30-35% of the electorate next year, vowing to step down if he fails.
Czech midfielder Karel Poborsky will finish the season with second
division Ceske Budejovice after Sparta Prague confirmed on Saturday
that he would not return to their squad, Reuters news agency reports.
Sparta kept the registration for 33-year old Poborsky when they kicked
him out of the squad in September for criticising the then coach
Jaroslav Hrebik. The most capped Czech player in history could appear
at next year's World Cup in Germany as a second division player.
Sparta are 11th in the Czech league, 17 points behind leaders Slovan Liberec, and finished bottom of their Champions League group with only two points.
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