The Office for the Protection of Private Data has begun investigating
the activities of security guards at the US funded Radio Free Europe
(RFE). The office suspects that the guards have been breaking Czech law
by taking photographs and taping people who pass by the station's
headquarters in Prague's city centre. Collected information on
suspicious personalities is then sent on to the United States, a Czech
newspaper recently reported.
Considered a potential target for a terrorist attack, the building's security was stepped up after September 11, 2001.
Washington has officially requested that talks begin on placing a radar station on Czech territory that will be part of a new US anti-missile defence base. At a special press conference on Saturday, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the request was made on Friday evening. However, he has not revealed where in Europe the anti-missile base will be stationed.
Thousands of homes around the country are still without electricity
after gale-force winds cut the power supply to some one-million people
on Thursday night. Electricity giant CEZ says most reception points are
back in operation but it will take longer to repair the damages caused
in mountain areas or distant isolated places.
In related news, Prague Ruzyne airport's North 2 terminal, the roof of which was damaged by the wind on Thursday night, has been reopened and the airport is back in full operation.
Czech Olympic champion Katerina Neumannova came in second in the 15km mass start freestyle cross-country race in Rybinsk, Russia, on Saturday. Neumannova crossed the finish line in just over 39 minutes 20 seconds, which was 1.4 seconds behind winner Riitta Liisa Roponen of Finland. Only 28 athletes took part in the event, as many national teams preferred to save their strengths for the world championships in Sapporo, Japan, which is held in less than a month.
Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek would like the country to adopt a
law against political "defection". In the northern town of Liberec on
Saturday, Mr Paroubek said an example of what he has in mind is
legislation from pre-war Czechoslovakia when courts were able to
investigate whether a politician joined a different party sincerely or
because he was bribed, for example. A politician who left for the
latter reason could then have been stripped of his mandate.
Mr Paroubek was reacting to the result of Friday's confidence vote in the lower house. The centre-right coalition won the vote after two Social Democrats left the chamber to give the opposition a majority. Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka, though, have not "defected" as they are still members of the Social Democratic Party.
Police in Pilsen, west Bohemia, have arrested five men, in their early to late twenties, suspected of robbing homes in pensioner apartment blocs. The five are believed to have incurred damages of up to 8 million crowns, the equivalent of around 370,000 US dollars, stealing cash, bank cards, jewellery, and electronic items. Together, the suspects are thought to have hit more than one hundred apartments at facilities providing home care services throughout the country. Several dozen apartments were targeted in the Pilsen area alone. A court is to decide whether the suspects will be remanded in custody pending trial.
The country's recently-named centre-right government made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens, has won its vote of confidence in the lower house. As expected, all 100 coalition MPs voted in favour, while opposition MPs from amongst the Social Democrats and Communists voted against. The absence of two rebel Social Democrat MPs - Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka - was crucial in tipping the scales in the government's favour. Earlier this week, in a surprise development, both pledged to tolerate the country's recently-named government in order to help bring an end to seven months of political deadlock. The MPs negotiated a number of concessions in return, including a promise by the prime minister that the cabinet will negotiate all key reforms with the opposition.
On Thursday the strong wind caused blackouts across the country. Czech
Airlines cancelled around 20 flights, mainly to European destinations.
Similarly, other companies that have been tallying up damages from the
gale force wind on Thursday include both the county's energy giant CEZ
and power supplier E.ON. CEZ declared a state of emergency after
twenty-seven reception points - serving more than a million customers -
were left without power.
Other firms badly hit include the Czech forestry authority, which called the effects of Thursday's gale force wind "the worst natural disaster" to ever hit Czech forests. The seriousness of the situation is being assessed by the Agriculture Ministry.
Football netminder Petr Cech is now set to return for his side Chelsea in the English Premiership, following a decision by the English Football Association ruling the player can wear protective headgear in league matches. Last October the 24 year-old Cech suffered a horrific skull fracture in a game against Reading when he collided with Reading player Stephen Hunt. Although the fracture has fully healed and he has been given the "okay" by doctors, Petr Cech will still have to wear a protective helmet in training and competition in the coming months. Speaking to the newspaper The Sun, the keeper said he had gotten used to the gear, a helmet normally used in rugby. Cech told the newspaper that he had no worries about returning to the pitch.
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