Former Czech president Vaclav Havel opposes plans to send a giant neon heart which temporarily adorned Prague Castle to the Afghan capital Kabul, warning that it might cause religious offence, the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. The heart, by artist Jiri David, became a highly visible landmark in the Czech capital at the end of Mr Havel's last term in 2002. The former president's secretary, Jakub Hladik, told the paper that there were indications that the heart could be viewed as a religious symbol and cause conflict. The heart had been bought by the World Development Organisation which came up with the idea of displaying it in Kabul.
Roads around the northern town of Liberec were blocked on Saturday morning as hundreds of tourists were leaving the Jizerske Mountains and new holidaymakers were arriving at the ski resorts. Local hotel managers say the past week was one of the busiest in the season as children from the Czech Republic as well as some neighbouring countries had come to spend their school break in the mountains.
A few dozen far-right activists staged a protest against drugs, a growing influence of communism and what they called "foreign crime" in the town of Bruntal in North Moravia on Saturday afternoon. Some twenty left-wing activists also arrived in the town but police managed to keep the two groups apart.
Border police in North Bohemia turned back a lorry carrying a load of communal waste from Germany in the early hours of Saturday. The driver claimed he had only crossed the border to buy diesel. The Czech Environment Inspection Authority estimates some 15,000 tonnes of rubbish have been imported from Germany in recent months and dumped illegally in the Czech Republic.
Health Minister David Rath has called on the pharmaceutical wholesaler Pharmos to submit evidence proving alleged corruption practices at the Health Ministry, otherwise the ministry will take legal action against it. Pharmos initially agreed to resume supplies of medicines to three indebted teaching hospitals after it had stopped deliveries along with three other distributors. The company has now finally decided to end supplies because of alleged corruption at the ministry.
Cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova has taken the Czech Republic's first gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Turin. She won the women's 30 km freestyle on Friday with an incredible surge just before the finish line, finally taking the Olympic gold medal that had eluded her so many times in the past. As Neumannova crossed the line she raised her arms aloft and screamed with joy before hugging her two-year-old daughter, who had been allowed onto the snow to greet her mother. Neumannova, taking part in her final Olympics also has a silver medal from Turin, in the 15 km pursuit.
The Prague embassies of a number of Arab countries have protested about a documentary on the life of Muslims in the Czech Republic shown on state broadcaster Czech Television, Hospodarske noviny reported. The film features material shot on a hidden camera and accompanies testimony by Muslims with footage of terrorist attacks. The Czech Broadcasting Council is assessing whether the documentary was in breach of broadcasting regulations.
Around 5,000 doctors and other health professionals protested against the policies of Health Minister David Rath on Prague's Old Town Square on Friday. They called for the sacking of Mr Rath, saying changes he wants to introduce would harm patients and return the Czech health care system to pre-1989 standards. The doctors say they fear the privatisation of their practices; they chose this date for their protest because it is the eve of the anniversary of the 1948 Communist takeover known as "victorious February".
Meanwhile, fire fighters say they uncovered serious problems concerning blocked escape routes while carrying out inspections of snow on the roofs of public buildings. Over 1,700 buildings were checked and a full one third of those did not have adequate fire escape routes, said a spokesperson for the Czech fire officers association.
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