Parts of Northern Moravia were hit by strong gales on Thursday night, resulting in fallen trees and downed power lines. Some 25,000 homes in and around Cesky Tesin were left without power for several hours. Electricity was renewed at all homes by around 11 pm. Some sites in mountain areas, meanwhile, recorded winds of 100 or more kilometres per hour.
The newly-appointed government led by Mirek Topolanek has indicated it intends to send additional military personnel to serve in a field hospital mission at Kabul airport, Afghanistan. The rotating mission is to last one year with around seventy personnel taking part. Previously, members of the elite 6th field hospital provided treatment for the wounded and ill in both Afghanistan and Iraq. If the plan is approved, members will join other Czech personnel in Afghanistan already serving under NATO both at Kabul airport as well as in northern parts of the country.
Czech officials including the minister for industry and trade have begun talks with German-Austrian-Italian company TAL which operates the Ingolstadt pipeline. According to Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman the talks are being held with a view to negotiating an alternative oil provider in the event of a crisis with Russian provider Druzba. The move follows developments between Belarus and Russia this week. At the same time, it is only the beginning of negotiations: an eventual deal could take several months.
The CTK news agency has reported that some Social Democrat MPs have
admitted unofficially they would prefer their party to go into
opposition, favouring a negotiated agreement with the right-of-centre
Civic Democrats. Such an agreement would allow the right-of-centre
party to govern for the next four years. The CTK cited an unnamed
source within the Social Democratic Party, who said, by the same token
the apparent "dissenters" would not support or tolerate the coalition
government in next Friday's confidence vote, and would follow the
Social Democrats deputy group's recommendation. Party leader Jiri
Paroubek and others including deputies' group leader Martin Hasek have
repeatedly ruled out tolerance for Mr Topolanek's government.
In a written letter on Thursday Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek appealed to individual Social Democrats to back his cabinet: he and others have continued to express optimism the government will pass its confidence vote.
Milos Forman, the Czech-born film director famous for films like Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The People vs. Larry Flynt, has arrived in the Czech capital to begin pre-production on a jazz musical titled "A Well-Paid Walk", written by Jiri Suchy and Jiri Slitr. The work will premiere in the second half of April. While in Prague Mr Forman will also take part in the local premiere of his new film "Goya's Ghosts" on January 31st. Invited guests will reportedly include actress Natalie Portman as well as screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere.
Police have now completed a search of over thirty church schools in Prague following an anonymous bomb threat on Thursday. On the day, police received an anonymous letter, its author threatening to target school premises. A senior official at the Interior Ministry labelled the situation as "very serious" and heightened security measures were implemented with a number of schools warning parents to keep their children home on Friday. Specialists have now completed searches of the schools and found no signs of a bomb or any tampering, but the anti-terrorism unit will remain on full alert. At a press conference on Friday the police president made it clear that heightened security will remain in force over the next few days.
Pavla Topolankova the wife of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has told journalists at a press conference she is not seeking to divorce her husband but will continue in her role as the prime minister's wife. There had been considerable speculation over the Topolanek's marriage in the Czech media recently, with the prime minister admitting this week that he was living with Lucie Talmanova, his girlfriend but also colleague from the Civic Democratic Party.
Diplomatic sources have told CTK - the Czech news agency - that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will aim to focus largely on the issue of European integration in an upcoming Prague visit. The visit is to take place in a fortnight and has been cited as an important one not least because Germany currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Germany has proposed to draw up a plan for getting the EU constitution approved. During her visit Mrs Merkel will meet with President Vaclav Klaus - an outspoken critic of the EU - as well as Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and other officials.
A new report released by Eurostat - the European Union's statistical office - has shown that growth in spending in research and development in the sciences in the Czech Republic was among the fastest in recent years, especially compared to other new EU countries which joined the EU in 2004. According to the report, Czech R&D spending grew by 8.3 percent in the years 2001 to 2005. In 2005, for example, the country invested 1.42 percent of the GDP (the equivalent of around 1.4 billion euros) in the R&D sector, while the amount spent in some other eastern and central European countries was a percentage point less. But, the Czech Republic is still said to lag far behind countries like Sweden, Germany, and Finland when it comes to funding the sciences. More than half the amount spent on science R & D in the Czech Republic comes from private sources, namely private companies.
A police spokeswoman has revealed that an anonymous caller claimed to police on Friday that he had planted a bomb in the home of Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, warning it would go off on Friday afternoon. According to the information released, the caller had an elderly voice and spoke with a Slovak accent. Officials in charge of Mr Paroubek's security were immediately informed. According to the police, the bomb threat was made via a public phone and investigators are now checking footage from local security cameras.
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