Czech wholesalers and retailers have been selling alcohol well below average price. Under Czech law they have until the end of the year to empty their stocks of spirits that are not labelled with a new tax stamps, or else face a heavy fine. Spirits with an alcohol content of 15% or higher have to be properly labelled and have the stamp. As of January 1 2006, any wholesaler or retailer who violates the law can face a fine of up to 5 million Czech crowns (over 200,000 US dollars).
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has denied "waging war" against the Czech media. In an article in Mlada fronta Dnes, Mr Paroubek said occasional disputes with journalists were normal, but only two papers - Mlada fronta and Lidove noviny - had created an impression of "war" between him and the media. The prime minister came in for some criticism recently when a Czech TV current affairs programme was axed after he complained it was biased.
The number of universities and students in the Czech Republic has been steadily rising over the last ten years, according to data released on Wednesday by the Institute for Information on Education. A decade ago there were 23 universities, but there are now 60, thanks to a law introduced in 1998 allowing the establishment of private universities. In the last academic year there were over 300,000 third level students in the Czech Republic; the most popular subjects are economics, technology and teaching.
The health minister, David Rath, says he wants to fill a growing shortage of dentists in the Czech Republic by attracting dentists from the neighbouring states of Slovakia and Poland. But the head of the Czech Dentists' Chamber, Jiri Pekarek, said he could not imagine why Slovak or Polish dentists would come here when they can make more money in Germany, Britain or Sweden.
Heavy snows and freezing temperatures have been causing problems on roads around the Czech Republic. Local authority workers have been working flat out trying to keep the country's roads open. The main Prague-Brno motorway was blocked for five hours on Wednesday after a collision involving three trucks. While in general the biggest difficulties have been recorded in mountain areas, motorists throughout the Czech Republic have been warned to drive carefully.
Since the country's mobile phone networks started in 1996, almost 19 million mobiles have been imported into the Czech Republic, which has a population of 10 million. Hospodarske noviny reported on Wednesday there are 106 SIM cards for every 100 Czechs, and that Czechs keep mobiles for less than two years on average before acquiring a new one.
People in the Czech Republic sent a record number of SMS text messages from their mobile phones on Christmas Eve. According to data supplied by mobile phone operators, Czechs sent 58.5 million SMS messages, which is a 15-percent increase compared to last year. Czechs also sent 250,000 MMS's which is twice as many as last Christmas Eve. Czechs also made some 37 million calls from their mobile phones, approximately the same as last year.
The Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need says it has collected 132 million crowns (5.5 million dollars) in aid for the survivors of last year's tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean. People in Need is now running a number of projects in Sri Lanka. Having started with immediate relief deliveries in the first days after the disaster, the organisation has been involved in the cleanup works and restoration of the country's power grid and is now building schools and houses.
Some 70 "otuzilci" ("hardy fellows") braved the cold water of the Vltava River in the centre of Prague in a traditional St Stephen's Day swim on Monday. Among the participants were 13 women and also swimmers from Belgium, Germany and Slovakia. Also taking part were Stanislav Bartusek, who swam the English Channel this year in ten hours seven minutes and a veteran of the St. Stephen's Day swim, 92-year old Ladislav Nicek. This year has been Mr Nicek's 56th time in the 59-year old history of the swim.
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