The Trade and Industry Ministry says it plans to merge two state agencies: CzechInvest which is charged with attracting investment and CzechTrade which promotes Czech exports. A ministry spokesman said the two agencies employ some 270 people and have dozens of offices both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Shadow trade minister Milan Urban has criticised the plan saying it might prove harmful to Czech businesses as well as foreign investment.
The Czech Roman Catholic Church is to screen its priests for collaboration with the communist-era secret police. The country's senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, agreed on the setting up of a joint commission on the issue with Interior Minister Ivan Langer on Wednesday. Cardinal Vlk has called for a measured and objective approach to the issue.
The telecoms company Telefonica 02 says around 25 percent of public payphones accept euro coins as of February 1st. The company will equip the selected 6,200 payphones around the Czech Republic with a list of the particular euro coins they accept. Users will be able to combine euros and Czech crowns in these phones.
Meteorologists have confirmed that this January has been the warmest in 46 years in this country. They say the average temperature in the month was plus 3.5 degrees Celsius while the long term average is minus 1.7 degrees. Temperatures fell below freezing point only once, on January 26th. On the other hand, a number of temperature records were broken around the country.
Police divers have found a part of the bronze Hebrew lettering that was broken off by a vandal last weekend from one of the Baroque statues on Prague's Charles Bridge. A spokeswoman said they will continue searching the bottom of the Vltava River for the remaining bits of the artefact. The statue depicting the crucifixion of Christ dates from the mid-17th century. The Hebrew words were added to it in 1696, and paid for by a Jewish citizen of Prague, as a punishment for defaming Christianity.
Photographs of the dead body of composer Karel Svoboda were probably taken by a police officer, two Czech dailies reported on Thursday. After Mr Svoboda committed suicide last weekend, a photo showing his hand and a pistol appeared in the tabloid Blesk. A police spokesperson told the Mlada fronta Dnes daily that they knew the officer responsible.
The city of Prague has opened an unusual shelter for the homeless: a cargo boat converted into a hostel providing 250 beds. The boat, anchored on the Vltava River in the centre of Prague, opens for business to Prague's estimated 5,000-6,000 homeless on Thursday. The city authorities say it is the first homeless boat hostel of its kind in Europe. For 20 crowns (around a dollar) the homeless will be given a bunk bed, a cup of tea and access to sanitary facilities.
The recent outbreak of illnesses caused by the listeria bacteria can be traced to a single source, the country's chief public health officer Michael Vit said on Thursday. He did not disclose the name of the company but said it was a dairy factory and production has been halted there. Last year, 80 people were diagnosed with illnesses caused by the bacteria, five times more than in the previous year; thirteen of them died.
Director Milos Forman and star Natalie Portman were among the guests for the Czech premiere of Forman's new film Goya's Ghosts at a Prague centre mulitiplex on Wednesday night. Others ascending the red carpet included Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his partner Lucie Talmanova, renowned cameraman Miroslav Ondricek and singer Karel Gott.
The head of the Czech branch of Interpol, Pavol Mihal, collaborated with the communist-era StB secret police, Czech Television said on Wednesday. It said he began working with the StB in 1984, but said it was not clear what exactly he had done. Mr Mihal denies the allegations. Interior Minister Ivan Langer and police president Vladislav Husak are keen to investigate Mr Mihal's past as quickly as possible, Czech TV reported.
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