The Czech authorities are stepping up measures to prevent the possible spread of bird flu into the Czech Republic. From Thursday commercial farmers will be banned from allowing birds to move freely outside, while poultry trade fairs and markets will be prohibited from the beginning of next month. The Ministry of Agriculture says there are around 700 large poultry farms in this country.
Czech customs officials seized 35 million US dollars in counterfeit banknotes in a container from Vietnam last April, a customs spokesperson said on Wednesday. The Czech National Bank this week said the counterfeit notes were of an extremely poor quality. The consignment was addressed to a Vietnamese citizen - he described it as paper for religious purposes. It has not yet been decided whether the police will investigate the matter.
The government has asked Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda to propose a meeting of European Union foreign ministers to formulate a common position on the controversy surrounding cartoons of Mohammad. The cabinet also expressed solidarity with Denmark, which has come under pressure from some Islamic countries over the caricatures, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper.
The Czech film director Jiri Menzel has announced plans to begin filming an adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal's novel I Served the King of England next month. He has been working on a screenplay for the film for several years. Forty years ago Mr Menzel filmed Hrabal's Closely Observed Trains, for which he won an Academy Award in 1967.
The minister of finance, Bohuslav Sobotka, has said he will file slander charges against Vlastimil Tlusty, finance spokesman for the opposition Civic Democrats. Mr Tlusty had earlier filed charges against the minister, who he accused of putting the interests of the bank CSOB before those of the state.
President Vaclav Klaus has opened an extensive exhibition of Czech Gothic art from the 14th and 15th centuries at Prague Castle. Organisers are expecting large numbers of visitors, and have limited viewing times to 90 minutes per person. Around 170,000 people visited the exhibition at its previous venue, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Health minister David Rath will have to consult any further reform measures with a special government commission, according to the economics daily Hospodarske Noviny. The ministers radical cost-cutting measures have antagonized many health workers associations and the prime minister told the daily that he would like the health minister to get stronger backing from the Cabinet. The paper however indicates that the real reason for the setting up of this commission may be that the health minister is loosing credit with the ruling Social Democratic Party. Doctors, pharmacists and dentists have called a demonstration against the health minister's reforms in Prague on February 24th.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda is seeking to rally EU support for Denmark which faces mounting pressure from Moslem countries following the publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad. Mr. Svoboda said that while he considers the caricatures in bad taste, the violent reaction to them is unacceptable. The Czech Foreign Minster would like to see the EU take a united stand in condemning the violence and he has suggested that the EU could provide some form of financial compensation to Denmark for the economic losses it has suffered in connection with the scandal.
Distributors have warned they will cut medicine supplies to three heavily indebted hospitals as of Wednesday. Two big hospitals in Prague - the Bulovka and Thomayer Teaching Hospital as well as one in south Moravia could soon face a serious crisis. Their current supplies are not expected to last longer than a week or two. The payment deadlines for other hospitals have been cut from the current 90 to 14 days. All three hospitals affected have said they will seek new distributors. Money problems have affected all spheres of the health sector where there is a serious backlog in payments.
The captain of the Czech hockey team at the Olympic Games in Turin is to be Robert Lang from the Detroit Red Wings. The national team's coach Alois Hadamczik said on Tuesday that Domink Hasek would be in the goalpost for the teams' first match against Germany on Wednesday, while Tomas Vokoun would take his place in the match against Switzerland. Only then will he decide on the lead goalie.
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