At 18 Filip Pytel is the youngest Czech to have swum across the channel La Manche separating the French and English coasts, the daily Pravo reports. He set his own personal record last Thursday swimming from England to France in 11 hours and 3 minutes. Last year 31-year old Czech swimmer Yvetta Hlavacova became the fastest woman to swim across the channel, covering the 36-kilometer distance in just 7 hours and 25 minutes. Hlavacova's time is very impressive since it is the fourth best achievement in swimming history ever. She was very close to beating the absolute (male) record of 7 hours and 3 minutes.
A three year old boy was badly hurt after falling into the monkey's enclosure on a visit to the zoo on Saturday. Eyewitnesses said the child leaned too far and toppled in before his mother could catch him. One of the monkeys attacked him and the child was badly bitten when the keeper got him out minutes later. He was rushed to hospital for treatment. Doctors said the injuries were serious but the child is said to be recovering well.
Cabinet minister Cyril Svoboda, who heads the government's legislative council, has proposed that all Catholics in the country should send one percent of their monthly income to the Czech Catholic Church which would help it to become independent from the state. The minister outlined the proposal in an interview for Saturday's edition of Mlada Fronta Dnes. It comes in reaction to drawn-out disputes about the restitution of church property that was confiscated by the Communists after 1948. Several church-restitution bills have been debated in Parliament since the early 1990's but none was approved. The restitution of church property and the role of the Church in the Czech Republic remains a sensitive issue.
An inspection team from the Brno State Attorney's Office has concluded that Jihlava state attorney Arif Salichov was right to halt a corruption investigation involving the deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek. Head of the office, Petr Coufal said that he had thoroughly reviewed the case and concluded that Salichov's decision was well-grounded and correct. He also questioned the credibility of the key witness, Cunek's former secretary, and said she may face charges of false testimony. The decision to halt the investigation involving the deputy prime minister immediately raised suspicion that the case was politically manipulated in Jiri Cunek's favour.
Around 800 young people are reported to be taking part in a techno party near Havirov in the eastern part of the country. Police are monitoring the weekend event and say that aside from isolated complaints about noise pollution there have been no problems. The party is taking place on private property.
Torrential rain which hit the Czech Republic late on Friday afternoon caused local flooding in many parts of the country. Some smaller roads were impassable and a passenger train got de-railed due to a mud-slide onto the tracks. No one was reported injured. Firefighters were out all night pumping water from gardens and cellars. And in many parts of the country volunteers are spending their weekend helping with the clean-up operation.
Police are investigating the theft of a money machine from a supermarket in Brno, Moravia. The machine was stolen during the night and was found empty, discarded by the roadside several hours later. The police say it must have been loaded onto a truck parked outside the supermarket and are looking for witnesses. The machine contained over half a million crowns. Lately there have been an increasing number of money machine thefts as well as cases where the thieves steal the whole till in a shop rather than wasting time breaking it open on the spot. Some shop keepers have taken their precaution of nailing their till to the shopping counter.
The three parties in the ruling coalition - the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens - are hammering out an agreement on proposed changes to the government's reform package. The package aims to reduce the deficit in public finances to below three percent of GDP and remains highly controversial despite the fact that it has already passed through its first reading in the lower house. The opposition Social Democrats and Communists are firmly opposed to it and given the ruling coalition's slim majority in the lower house, it is essential for the three governing parties to iron out their differences on the proposal. The Civic Democrats are pushing to further lower income tax, while the Christian Democrats and the Greens are not happy with proposed changes in the health sector. Parliament is to open debate on the proposed reforms next Tuesday.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has decided to close seven of its diplomatic missions, three embassies and four consulates. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said the ministry would release the names of the given countries only after these countries have been officially informed. The government has already approved the closures. According to the news server Aktualne.cz the missions to be closed include the Czech embassies in Zimbabwe and Uruguay, and consulates in Katowice, Poland and Cape Town, South Africa. The server writes that the missions to be closed are in countries that are visited only by a low number of Czech tourists and that do not have intensive trade relations with the Czech Republic.
A Russian pilot and fellow crew member emergency ejected following an incident on Thursday in which the pilot apparently lost control during training of a Czech-made L-39 Albatross. The accident happened near a base in Central Russia; both men landed safely. Russian officials have not revealed additional details. L-39s - made between the years 1971 to 1999 by Aero Vodochody - are flown in training in some thirty countries around the world. The Russian Air Force is said to rely heavily on the planes for training purposes. Accidents there in the past have usually been attributed to pilot errors or poor machine maintenance.
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