The former head of the National Security Office, Jan Mares, has admitted to mistakes made in office, including accepting a luxury watch as a Christmas present from a group involved with a well-known bankruptcy judge under investigation by police. Jan Mares stepped down as the head of the National Security Office last week under suspicion of corruption. On a TV discussion programme on Sunday he maintained his innocence, saying he had no idea that the watch was a luxury antique. He later returned the gift, but allegedly only after media reports surfaced over the Berka gang's alleged criminal activities.
President Vaclav Klaus has rejected a written request by the prime minister urging the president to sign a bill on same-sex partnerships, which has been passed in both houses of Parliament. Through a spokesman on Sunday Mr Klaus criticised the prime minister, indicating he would not allow himself to be dragged into what he called a 'pre-election campaign'. The bill on same-sex partnerships recognises gays and lesbians' right to inherit from their partner, and also allows access to medical information. But, the president has suggested the bill is a threat to traditional institutions - namely traditional marriage. Mr Klaus has until next Thursday to decide whether to sign the bill, to veto it, or to allow it to pass into law minus his signature.
Cross-country skier Katerina Neummanova finished second in the Women's 15 kilometre pursuit at the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Neumannova finished just two seconds behind the winner Kristina Smigun of Estonia. Neumannova's silver finish is the first medal for a Czech in the Olympics which kicked-off Friday. Despite the close finish, Ms Neummanova's trainer expressed disappointment. Ms Neumannova has four medals from previous Games, (three silver and one bronze), but has yet to win gold.
Friday evening saw a lavish and elaborate ceremony open the XX Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Czech supermodel Eva Herzigova took part in the ceremony, playing the key role in a live rendition of Botticelli's famous painting "The Birth of Venus". The Czech delegation in Torino counts 82 sportsmen and women. In Friday's ceremony they were led by speed skater Martina Sablikova, who carried the Czech flag.
Criminal police have been investigating the collapse of a sports stadium in the east Bohemian town of Humpolec on Friday evening. There have been indications so far showing that heavy snow amassed on the structure's roof was instrumental in the fall. No one was injured, but shortly before the collapse of the saddle-roofed building some thirty children - hockey juniors - had been training inside. An evacuation was enforced and fire brigades called in to secure on-site chemicals. Recent days have seen numerous cases in the Czech Republic where buildings collapsed under the weight of snow. The stadium in Humpolec had already been cleared as "safe" by a structural engineer. The town's mayor now says he expects the town will take legal action.
Specialists monitoring the country's Krkonose, or Giant Mountains, have raised the avalanche warning in the area to the 2nd highest degree, following additional snowfall, windy conditions, and poor visibility. The last four days have seen an additional 70 centimetres of new snow, leading to the formation of numerous unstable - and highly deadly - patches. Every year the Krkonose Mountains see numerous avalanches, at times resulting in fatalities. Last February two Polish rescue workers were the last to die in an avalanche in the area.
The Communist Party has outlined areas it considers key in its campaign
programme leading up to the national election this year. On Saturday
Deputy Chairman Jiri Dolejs told journalists that top priorities
included maintaining economic growth at a minimum 5 percent. The party
would also like to focus on the health sector, employment, as well as
education. The Communist Party, meanwhile, remains highly critical of
the Czech Republic's membership in the European Union, and has called
for the country's withdrawal from NATO.
In recent days, MPs from both the Communist party and the Social Democratic Party combined in Parliament to push through a number of key laws, including the new labour code. But, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the head of the left-of-centre Social Democrats, has repeatedly ruled out forming a future coalition counting the Communists as members.
Heavy snowfall in the Czech Republic this week has continued to hamper conditions throughout the country. In Southern Bohemia the Czech Army has been asked to step in to help with snow clearance. South-Eastern Moravia has seen a number of accidents related to heavy snow fall. An elderly man was found dead after having fallen from a roof he had been trying to clear of snow, while another, a 53-year-old man, suffered serious injury when he was hit by a frozen block of ice sliding from a building. This week more than twenty buildings - including storage sites - in the Czech Republic collapsed under the weight of snow. Snowfall in the Czech Republic, as in other parts of Central Europe, has been unusually high.
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