Health officials have confirmed that parts of the country have seen sharp rises in flu, qualifying as an epidemic. Just this week the number of cases has risen by 21 percent. In parts of south Moravia it has been estimated that there are more than 3,000 cases per 100,000 in the population. The current flu has been described as particularly aggressive – leading to sudden high fevers, tiredness and breathing difficulties.
Leaders from the European Parliament and lawmakers from EU countries met in Prague on Friday to discuss approaches to international conflicts, including the situation in the Gaza Strip. The speaker of the Czech lower house Miloslav Vlček stressed that the EU had a good reputation in areas like Gaza, but indicated that it needed to be used more effectively in diplomacy. On Friday he proposed a number of steps concerning the situation in Gaza, appealing for Israel to stop its blockade and for Palestinian representatives to return to the negotiating table.
American pop singer Madonna has announced plans on her website to perform in Prague in August. The appearance will be her first since she twice played the Czech capital in 2006. Her appearance is part of her tour promoting her last CD Sweet & Sticky. Along with Prague, the popular singer/dancer will perform in 15 other European cities, it has been announced.
Czech businessman Bohumír Ďuričko is to face trial for murder and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The suspect is charged with the murder of Václav Kočka, jr - the son of a close former aide to opposition party leader Jiří Paroubek. Mr Kočka was shot at close range at a Prague restaurant last October, the site of a book launch by Mr Paroubek. The incident took place in the evening hours, after the launch had ended; the Social Democrat leader and others had already departed. Mr Ďuričko has maintained he was defending his girlfriend, then pregnant, in the incident.
The president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, has said the EU will not see further enlargement unless the Lisbon treaty is ratified. He made the statement in Prague on Friday after a meeting with representatives from France, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Spain (the four countries consecutively holding the EU presidency as of last year until 2010). Mr Poettering did allow that Croatia's admission could be an exception. He stressed that EU countries which failed to ratify the treaty would have to accept responsibility for preventing newer countries from becoming members. The Irish rejected the treaty in a referendum last June, while the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency, has not voted on the document yet. The lower house is to discuss the treaty during an extraordinary session next week.
The Education Ministry is putting together material aimed specifically at helping teachers tackle 20th century Czech history, not least the 2nd half which Czechoslovakia spent largely under totalitarianism. Education Minister Ondřej Liška revealed on Friday that the ministry’s aim was to interconnect history with different disciplines, including literature, offering students a more complex picture of the times. While admitting that the teaching of history in many cases was “not up to par”, he rejected challenges by the Communist Party over how the communist period has been taught. The minister said that it was under communism that history lessons lacked objectivity and were “butchered” by Communist teachers.
A court has ordered the Třebíč hospital to pay a total of 3.3 million crowns in damages to two families of baby girls accidentally switched at birth. The families had been asking asked for almost four times that amount. The hospital, meanwhile, had offered the families a payment of 600,000 crowns. Baby girls Veronika and Nikola were mistakenly switched after they were born in 2006, but the mix-up was only uncovered ten months later, after one of the couples underwent DNA testing. The children were then eventually switched back to their biological parents. The damages have not been divided equally between the couples, but on the basis of individual trauma (as assessed by psychological testing). One couple will receive 1.2 million, the other, 2.1. In his ruling, the judge called the original offer made by the hospital “inadequately low” given the mistakes that had been made.
The European Union has agreed with China to hold a joint-summit in Prague during the Czech EU presidency. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek made the announcement on Friday after meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. He stressed that although no definite date had been set, May was most likely. The summit is expected to follow the G20 summit in London a month earlier. Prior to meeting with Mr Topolánek in Brussels on Friday, the Chinese prime minister also met with the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Topics discussed included closer cooperation between China and the 27-member bloc. Other topics included Tibet and human rights.
The coalition government, trade union representatives as well as key employers have agreed on a way forward to boost the Czech economy, according to reports. The announcement came after a meeting on Thursday between representatives of all three “branches”. Among the key conclusions reached by the trio was that banks must be encouraged to loan money and that exports remain key to the Czech economy. Further, the trio also agreed that the government should attempt to assist companies in endeavours likely to create jobs or prevent employees from being dismissed. The purpose of such regular meetings is to ensure smooth relations with both the labour and business communities.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is to visit Prague, the ČTK news agency reported on Thursday. The visit is scheduled for February 2nd and is in response to an invitation issued by the Czech president Václav Klaus. Mr Abbas will be greeted at Prague Castle at 10am with military honours, before engaging in a series of negotiations related to the current strife in Gaza and ongoing efforts towards the “two-state solution.” The visit comes against the backdrop of the Czech EU presidency, in which the Czech government, primarily Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have played an active role in recent efforts to mediate Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
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