The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has said that unemployment has fallen to below 10 percent. A spokesman for the ministry said unemployment had dropped from 10.1 per cent in September to 9.9 per cent in October. The fall was greater than analysts had predicted, with just over half a million people now out of work. Economists said the floods of 2002 had undermined the Czech economy and that economic activity was displaying a comeback.
Meanwhile police in the northern town of Trutnov say the graves of 15 Jewish girls killed by the Nazis have been desecrated. Fifteen tombstones were overturned and damaged in the attack. Police are treating the incident as racially-motivated. The head of the Prague Jewish Community said the attack could be connected with the 65th anniversary of "Kristalnacht", when thousands of Jewish shops and synagogues across Germany were burned and looted by the Nazis. He said the number of attacks against Jewish monuments rose each November.
A bus driver being prosecuted over an accident in which 19 people were killed has failed to appear in court on the first day of his trial. Pavel Krbec, charged with causing the crash and also falsifying his driving licence, said he was too ill to attend proceedings. Prosecutors say Mr Krbec was driving too fast for the conditions at the time of the crash, and was not paying due attention to the road. He is also accused of falsifying his bus driver's licence, which had expired. He faces 10 years in prison if found guilty. Mr Krbec himself has filed charges against the father of one of the victims, who recently launched an Internet site describing him as a murderer.
Police in Prague have launched an investigation after a monument to victims of the Communist era was damaged in an explosion. No-one was injured in the blast, which is believed to have occurred early on Sunday morning. Police are now examining traces of the explosive. The monument, which uses life-sized human figures to represent Communist-era political prisoners, has already been vandalised once before: in August vandals covered the statues with adhesive tape spelling out abusive slogans.
The Czech Statistics Office said higher prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks pushed consumer prices slightly higher in October, reversing a recent trend. Prices, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), gained 0.1 per cent in October compared with September and rose 0.4 per cent from the level registered in October 2002.
Newspaper reports say Miroslav Kalousek, the newly-elected leader of the junior coalition Christian Democrats, will not become a minister in the centre-left government. Mr Kalousek defeated Cyril Svoboda, the foreign minister, in Saturday's leadership contest. He told Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper that he wanted to concentrate on leading the party to success in the 2006 parliamentary elections. Mr Svoboda will remain in his cabinet post, and will serve as one of the party's deputy chairmen.
The Czech Medical Chamber has for the first time expelled its member, gynaecologist Vaclav Jordan from the city of Brno. The man treated colon cancer in one of his patients although he did not have the required special post-graduate education for oncology. Besides wrongly diagnosing the diseases as more serious than it actually was, he kept invoicing a health insurance company for the expensive treatment even after the patient joined another doctor. He will not be allowed to pursue his profession and will only be able to join the Medical Chamber again in five years. He can challenge the verdict at the court. The police have charged Doctor Jordan with serious bodily harm and fraud.
Czech customs officers have seized over 20 tonnes of apparently fake brand products at a open-air market at the Hate border crossing in South Moravia. The goods included clothing and shoes as well as pirated CDs and DVDs, worth an estimated 25 million crowns. This was another in a series of raids on border markets aimed at stemming out trade with smuggled and fake brand products.
A delegation of US businessmen led by U.S. deputy trade secretary Joseph Bogosian visited Czech aircraft maker Aero Vodochody with the aim of helping the troubled company, in which US Boeing has a decisive influence, to find new markets. Bogosian said that growth is the only answer for Aero Vodochody and the Czech government and the US administration together with Boeing will cooperate to make Aero grow and to find new markets for L-159 planes. Aero Vodochody is already making supplies for Boeing's F-18 jet fighters. However, despite promises, the American investor has so far failed to find markets for Aero's own products, namely the sub-sonic L-159 multi-purpose combat aircraft.
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