A UNICEF report on the health and well being of the world's children indicates that Czech children are materially well off but suffer from emotional neglect. The Czech Republic ranked 11th in terms of material needs, 10th in terms of health care provided and 9th in terms of education. However broken homes, single parenthood and poor communication between children and parents put the Czech Republic 19th as far as emotional needs go and 17th according to the children's own subjective assessment. Overall the Czech Republic came 15th, ahead of countries such as Great Britain, France and the United States. 21 countries were covered in the survey.
Prague mayor Pavel Bem's plans to take two months of unpaid leave in order to climb Mount Everest have met with criticism from his Civic Democratic Party. Several high ranking party members, including deputy chairman Petr Necas, have publicly criticized Mr. Bem's plans, saying that as mayor of Prague he has a lot of responsibility and cannot walk away from the job for that length of time. Others have spoken out in the mayor's defence saying that his mountaineering expedition will attract a lot of publicity for Prague and arguing that this is part of the mayor's job.
Dozens - possibly hundreds - of Czech GPs and paediatricians went on a one-day strike on Wednesday in protest at new regulations, which have reduced the amount of money insurance companies give them per patient. Jan Jelinek, deputy chairman of the Czech association of general practitioners, told the Czech news agency that the financial restrictions are having an adverse effect on the quality of health care provided. Support for the strike was strongest in Moravia but in some regions where there's currently a flu epidemic doctors reduced the strike to a symbolic 15-minute protest.
Around twenty Austrian opponents of the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant blockaded the Czech-Austrian border crossing at Wullowitz and Dolni Dvoriste on Wednesday morning. The anti-nuclear activists from the Atomstopp organisation want to pressure their government into prosecuting the Czech Republic for failing to observe a Czech-Austrian treaty on nuclear safety. The controversial Temelín nuclear plant has been a sore point in Czech-Austrian relations since it began operating six years ago. Many in Austria claim that that the facility's Soviet design makes it more likely to experience a Chernobyl-style meltdown. Authorities say Wednesday's hour-long protest did not cause any major traffic problems as many drivers simply used nearby crossings at Halamky and Ceske Velenice.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia were received by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan on Wednesday. The president is an official four-day visit to Japan with Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.. Apart from strengthening ties with Japan, President Klaus wants to help change the Czech Republic's negative trade balance with that country. The president and Mr Schwarzenberg are being accompanied on the trip by representatives of 14 leading Czech companies.
A 27-year-old man died on Wednesday evening after jumping from Nusle Bridge in Prague. Police are investigating the incident. There is, as yet, no information on the man's identity or the reasons why he jumped. He is the second man this year to kill himself by jumping off the 40-m bridge. More than 200 people have committed suicide by jumping off the Nusle Bridge since it first opened in 1973. Unofficial figures, however, put the number of deaths closer to 300.
The Czech Minister of Justice has sacked a senior state prosecutor in Prague. The state prosecutor's office announced on Wednesday that Minister Jiri Pospisil had sacked Prague high state prosecutor Jiri Kulvejt. Press reports have indicated that supreme state attorney Renata Vesecka was not satisfied with the work of Mr Kulvejt's office. Mr Kulvejt has released a statement saying that he had his own opinion on the matter, but as a senior civil servant he did not think it was right for him to engage in polemics on the issue.
The Czech police say they have detained a highly organized gang of car thieves operating across several European states. 26 people from the Czech Republic and the former Soviet Union have been arrested in connection with the case. Two policemen from Olomouc have also been arrested for allegedly assisting the gang. If convicted the ring-leaders could face a sentence of up to nine years. Roughly 20,000 cars are stolen in the Czech Republic every year.
The Czech Interior Ministry Ivan Langer has announced that he wants to simplify access to the files of the Communist secret police, known as the StB. Mr Langer told journalists today that he wanted to allow the public to look into documents recounting the practices of the totalitarian regime, which have not yet been published. All StB-related documents will be filed in a single workplace, declassified and made accessible on the Internet in digital form, Langer said. The Interior Ministry currently administers 17 kilometres of records from the former StB.
A Prague court ruled on Tuesday that the City Hall was wrong to ban a protest march against the possible deployment of a US radar base in the Czech Republic at the end of January. The court said that the reasons cited by the City Hall - namely a possible disruption of traffic and concerns for the protesters' safety - were flimsy and inadequate. The march went ahead despite the ban; police had started investigating it as an illegally held event, but will now have to close the case. The City Hall's decision to ban the event was criticized by the opposition Social Democrats and the Communists.
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