The lower house has decided to double maternity grants from 8,600 crowns to 17,500 crowns (730 dollars). Under the same bill, parents of most first-graders would receive 1,000 crowns from the state to buy school supplies. MPs have also approved an increase in parental allowance distributed to parents of children under the age of four. Both bills have yet to be signed by the president.
Scientists from Masaryk University in Brno have announced that the Czech-built Antarctic polar station on James Ross Island has been completed. The station, called after the 19th-century Brno-based geneticist and meteorologist Johan Gregor Mendel, will be ready to welcome the first expedition at the start of the polar summer in December. 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.
A Swedish court has found the adoptive mother of a Czech boy who died
earlier this year guilty of neglect. Three year-old Erik, who was sent
to the Swedish family in the town of Jonkoping last year, died of
untreated pneumonia and blood poisoning. His body was covered with over
150 bruises and festering wounds. His adoptive parents originally faced
up to six years in prison on charges of psychological and physical
abuse, resulting in death. The charges were reduced to neglect after an
expert on infectious diseases testified that the wounds may also have
been caused by a skin disease.
The court is now awaiting the result of the adoptive mother's psychiatric assessment. A verdict on the charges brought against Erik's father is expected at the end of the month.
The lower house of Parliament has also postponed a vote on the same-sex
registered partnership bill until Wednesday. The bill already passed
through both houses of Parliament but was vetoed by President Vaclav
Klaus and sent back to the lower house. A majority of 101 votes is
needed to override the president's veto. The Social Democrats pushed
through a proposal to postpone the vote as two of their deputies, who
support the bill, were unable to attend Tuesday's vote.
If approved, gays and lesbians would - among other things - have the right to enquire about their partner's state of health and inherit property from their partners.
MPs have approved a bill reducing the current 27 types of welfare benefits to three. The new system is supposed to motivate people to actively seek work and prevent welfare dependency and social exclusion. The chamber has also approved a bill under which sickness benefits in the first two weeks of illness will be paid for by the employer rather that the state which is the case now.
The lower house has passed a bill under which controlled rents will increase by an average 14.2 percent annually as of January 2007. Rents should be completely deregulated as of 2011. The bill has yet to be signed by the president. Around 750,000 flats are subject to rent control in the Czech Republic, which is about 1/5 of the country's housing market.
Three people were killed and two other injured in a fire which broke out early on Tuesday morning in a workers' hostel in the Prague district of Zlicin. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined. Another person died in a separate accident in the northern town of Liberec when the storage room of a petrol station caught fire on Tuesday morning.
Customs officers have confiscated what is probably the largest ever consignment of counterfeited goods in a warehouse in the south of Prague. A spokesman said the customs officers discovered hundreds of thousands of fake shoes of major brands worth hundreds of millions of crowns piled up to a height of six metres in the 640-square-metre warehouse. He added a Vietnamese citizen had been detained on Sunday in connection with the raid.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral has re-confirmed that
his country will open its doors to workers from the former communist EU
member states in May. During a trip to Prague on Monday, he said Czech
labourers will not be expected to sweep the streets but will rather take
up skilled jobs and enjoy the warm climate and the beach. Last year, some
16,000 Czech tourists visited Portugal; this calls for more Czech workers
in the tourist industry, he said.
In addition to Britain, Ireland, and Sweden, whose labour markets have been open to workers from the EU's ten newest members since enlargement two years ago, Finland, Portugal, and Spain will open theirs in May. Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark have also indicated that they will loosen their restrictions.
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