The historic Czech Radio building, part of the broader Czech Radio complex found on Prague's Vinohradska and Rimska streets, has officially closed its doors for renovation. A special ceremony was held at the building shortly after 11 am on Friday. It was headed by the director of Czech Radio Vaclav Kasik and attended by several hundred on-lookers. Czech Radio's Vinohradska address witnessed some of the most important events in 20th century Czech history, including fighting at the end of World War II and resistance to invading Warsaw Pact troops in 1968. Renovation work at the radio building is expected to cost 500 million crowns and should be completed in two years' time.
Trade unions representing state sector employees failed to reach agreement on a wage increase for next year in talks on Friday, although negotiations are set to continue. Workers in the sector would like to see an increase of about six or seven percent, something opposed by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Pet Necas and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, who do not want to go beyond 1.5. Mr Necas has said a quicker pay increase is unacceptable for the government, aiming to tackle the public finance debt.
Police have revealed statistics showing that 206 people were killed on Czech roads over the summer months of July and August, a rise of one-third in the number of road deaths compared to the same period last year. According to road safety experts, last summer saw a drop in the number of fatalities on Czech roads as the result of new road safety legislation including a drivers' points system. The rise in accidents on Czech roads so far in 2007 cost traffic police chief Zdenek Bambas his post in July; his successor has promised improvements.
The head of the national football team, Karel Bruckner, has named Slavia Prague's Champions League qualification heroes, striker Stanislav Vlcek and goalkeeper Martin Vaniak, to the squad for upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against San Marino and Ireland. Vlcek scored a brace of goals against Ajax on Wednesday night, putting Slavia into the Champions League group stages for the first time. In the same game, Vaniak pulled off a string of spectacular saves. The Czechs play minnows San Marino away on September 8th and host qualification rivals Ireland four days later.
The Office for the Protection of Competition (UOHS) has handed the Czech defence ministry fines to the total of almost 550,000 crowns, the equivalent of around 27,000 US dollars. The fines concern mistakes made in military tenders on soldiers' outfits and uniforms. The defence ministry can still appeal most of the fines handed down, as most are not valid yet.
In related news, the Czech government has revealed it is planning to hire a public relations firm to run a public campaign on missile defense to try and win over a sceptical Czech public. Polls have consistently shown that about two-thirds of Czechs remain opposed to the idea of a US radar base on Czech territory. So far, attempts - including a visit by US President George W Bush in June - have failed to make a difference. According to defense issues spokesman Tomas Klvana, five firms are vying to head the radar campaign.
Czech soldiers serving as part of a provincial reconstruction team in the Afghan province of Badakhshan have taken part in operations aimed at strengthening cooperation between international ISAF forces and the Afghan army. The operations took place towards the end of August and focused on reinforcing safety in areas along the border with Pakistan, the defence ministry said on Friday. Control of areas and routes on the border are key to stability in the province as certain routes are used by insurgents and drug smugglers to illegally cross.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus has said it is necessary to achieve a certain national consensus on the building of an American radar base in central Bohemia. Speaking after talks with US congressman Trent Franks in Prague, Mr Klaus said if the base was approved by the slimmest of majorities in the lower house it would create room for potential problems in the future. The Czech Parliament is set to decide on the US base - part of a broader defense shield planned by the US in Europe - in the early part of 2008.
The National Theatre hopes to reopen talks with representatives of Vaclav Havel on the possibility of staging the playwright's first work in nearly two decades, one of its directors said on Thursday. He said the institution now proposed to stage the play Leaving at its Estates Theatre. It was reported recently that Mr Havel had decided to take the long-awaited piece to another theatre, after the National Theatre refused to allow his wife Dagmar to take part in the production. The former president said he had written a key part in Leaving for her.
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