Some 70 "otuzilci" ("hardy fellows") braved the cold water of the Vltava River in the centre of Prague in a traditional St Stephen's Day swim on Monday. Among the participants were 13 women and also swimmers from Belgium, Germany and Slovakia. Also taking part were Stanislav Bartusek, who swam the English Channel this year in ten hours seven minutes and a veteran of the St. Stephen's Day swim, 92-year old Ladislav Nicek. This year has been Mr Nicek's 56th time in the 59-year old history of the swim.
Police say that the number of illegal migrants detained on the eastern border with Slovakia has dropped this year. While in 2004, border police detained around 500 people, this year it has been fewer than a hundred. They were mostly Chechens, Mongolians and citizens of former Soviet countries. Police say that overall the number of migrants in Central Europe has decreased. Also after the Czech Republic joined the European Union, the routes of migration to Western Europe have changed.
A team of Czech experts have spent Christmas at a Czech-built polar station on James Ross Island between the Antarctic and the southernmost tip of South America. Building works on the site started a year ago and the station should be completely finished by April. It is expected to host climatologists, biologists and geologists who will study climate change and the origin of the so-called Antarctic "oases", areas where the glacier had receded and allowed some simple forms of life to inhabit the location.
People in the Czech Republic sent a record number of SMS text messages from their mobile phones on Christmas Eve. According to data supplied by mobile phone operators, Czechs sent 58.5 million SMS messages, which is a 15-percent increase compared to last year. Czechs also sent 250,000 MMS's which is twice as many as last Christmas Eve. Czechs also made some 37 million calls from their mobile phones, approximately the same as last year.
The Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need says it has collected 132 million crowns (5.5 million dollars) in aid for the survivors of last year's tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean. People in Need is now running a number of projects in Sri Lanka. Having started with immediate relief deliveries in the first days after the disaster, the organisation has been involved in the cleanup works and restoration of the country's power grid and is now building schools and houses.
Exports of Czech arms and military equipment have increased, says a Foreign Ministry report quoted by Lidove Noviny. Since joining the European Union the Czech Republic has significantly increased arms exports to other EU states, which are regarded as more demanding markets. Its main customers are India, Slovakia and Poland, the paper says.
The Czech-language service of the BBC broadcast its final programme on
Friday evening. After the BBC World Service announced it was axing it and
several other language services, the Czech BBC failed in a bid to continue
as part of BBC Worldwide with commercial backing.
The station, which had a small but influential audience, will broadcast news bulletins until the end of January.
Meanwhile the BBC World Service is hoping to win the agreement of the Czech Broadcasting Council to maintain its English broadcasting in the Czech Republic.
Prices of the traditional Czech Christmas food carp have fallen, as the
fish faces competition from other foods such as salmon and poultry.
Carp prices are about 5 percent lower than last year, a spokesperson
for the biggest Czech carp producer, Rybarstvi Trebon, told the AFP
Many Czechs take live carp home and keep them in the bath, killing the fish themselves shortly before consumption on Christmas Eve.
The number of babies born in the Czech Republic in the first nine
months of this year was around 4,000 higher than in the same period in
2004. Almost 80,000 babies were born, and though the number of deaths
exceeded the number of births, the gap became smaller this year, the
Czech Statistical Office said.
Meanwhile, almost 30,000 more people immigrated to the Czech Republic than moved abroad. The number of marriages up to the end of September was slightly up at 41,000, while 24,000 couples got divorced, marginally less than last year.
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