Ten people were injured, one seriously, when a locomotive ploughed into a passenger train in the eastern part of the Czech Republic on Wednesday morning. Paradoxically the locomotive was on its way to help the passenger train which had got stuck between the towns of Zator and Milotice, where the rails had become clogged with dead leaves. In heavy fog, and possibly due to the state of the tracks the locomotive failed to brake in time and collided head on with the passenger train. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Czech pharmacists' and dentists' associations are refusing to deal with David Rath, the recently appointed deputy health minister, while he remains head of the Czech Medical Chamber, an association of Czech doctors. Pharmacists and dentists claim that this violates the conflict of interest law and is a breach of professional ethics. President Klaus used the same argument last week when he refused to appoint David Rath to the post of health minister. Mr. Rath has said he would suspend his chairmanship of the Medical Chamber only if he is appointed health minister.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on Wednesday that he was deeply disappointed that the BBC World Service had decided to close down its Czech language service. Mr. Svoboda said he had discussed the matter on several occasions with his British counterpart Jack Straw and written letters to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a bid to save the Czech service, which now broadcasts around 5 hours a day. BBC World Service bosses announced the imminent closure of the station on Tuesday, along with nine other BBC foreign language services. The move is part of a radical re-structuring which includes the launch of an Arab-language television station.
The Lower House has postponed by a year a definitive decision on salary increases for policemen, customs officers and secret service agents. The amendment to the law passed by the Lower Chamber on Wednesday limits wage increases in the coming year and lowers the ceilings on allowances and severance pay. The opposition Civic Democrats have criticized the postponement, saying that the police force will now have to do for another year without a new service law that would open the way for its reform.
Some 27,000 people have signed a petition that calls for a detailed investigation into a police intervention in a techno party last July that left several ravers and police officers injured. The petition was presented to Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Tuesday, who has openly criticisd the amount of force used. A government report concludes that the police intervened in CzechTek rightfully. The head of the presidential office welcomed the petition, saying public pressure to force an investigation had died down and needed a fresh boost.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has called for a meeting with the heads of the country's two leading commercial TV stations Nova and Prima. Both stations commission opinion polls during TV discussion programmes to assess what participant is considered more trustworthy among the general public. Results of a poll on a discussion between Mr Paroubek and the leader of the opposition Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek last Sunday suggested that the prime minister only won over 36 percent of respondents. Mr Paroubek says a separate poll commissioned by his party, the Social Democrats, suggested over 50 percent of public support and accuses the TV stations of "a scandalous attempt to manipulate public opinion".
The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have called for a special meeting of the lower house of parliament to discuss its proposed restitution bill. Put forward in July, the bill pushes back the deadline by which people, who have a right to ask the state to return their property, make their claims. They currently only have until the end of the year. The Civic Democrats, who propose to push the deadline back to December 2009, argue the current law gives those affected little time to make their case and no chance to apply for compensation.
A court in Prague has ruled that St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle is church property. The Church and the state have been fighting over ownership rights for some thirteen years. A 1954 government resolution gives Prague Castle the authority to manage the cathedral and surrounding property but the judge who ruled in favour of the church reasoned that the transfer of management did not automatically imply a transfer of ownership. The state plans to appeal her verdict.
And staying with the media. The Czech section of the BBC World Service is to be closed down. The decision was made to cut costs and save money for a new project - the launch of an Arabic TV news station. Nine other foreign language services are to be discontinued. The Czech section started its broadcasts 66 years ago in 1939. It announced on Tuesday that it would close down by March 2006.
Former president of the Sparta Prague football club, Petr Mach, has been cleared of criminal charges by a Prague court. The prosecution had been trying to find Mr Mach guilty of fraud for failing to pay back a 160 million crown bank loan, but could not pin the charge on the defendant, found guilty in an earlier ruling later that was later struck down by the high court. The prosecution has appealed the ruling.
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