Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Bill Bathurst, with a bulletin of the latest news. First the headlines:
The Mayor of the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem has expressed his outrage at President Vaclav Havel's amnesty for a Roma woman who was accused of slander. The town came under much criticism both internationally and at home, for building a wall in October, separating a Roma housing estate from a non-Roma housing estate. The woman appeared on television shortly after the wall was completed, and insulted the Czech nation. The President later said the television station had taken advantage of emotions which were running high, when it interviewed the woman. On Thursday, the town mayor said that as a result of the amnesty, many people will now think it is acceptable to call Czechs amongst other things, "Stupid Swine". He told journalists that an apology from the woman will be enough. The forty-four year old woman has said that she is grateful to the President for his amnesty and mentioned that she intends to write to Havel and ask him to help out with her electricity bill.
Czech Health Services say they are prepared and ready to deal with increased numbers of people suffering from alcohol poisoning and injuries on New Year's Eve. A spokesman for the Health Ministry said that all hospitals in the country all have a greater number of beds prepared and increased staff on the wards. He also assured journalists that all hospital computers are safe from the millennium bug.
The Usti nad Labem town Council said on Thursday that in spite of bomb threats it has been receiving lately, New Year's Eve celebrations will go ahead as planned. The local police confirmed reports of bomb threats but said that no demands had been placed by the man who made the anonymous phone calls earlier in the month.
Czech politicians are spending their New year's Eve in various ways. President Vaclav Havel will be out on the streets, with his wife Dagmar after midnight. Prime Minister Milos Zeman is spending the evening with his family away from the streets and the crowds at his country retreat. Chairman of Parliament and leader of the largest opposition party Vaclav Klaus has left for Austria for a brief holiday in the Alps. Both Klaus and Zeman will be back in Prague by Sunday. Head of the opposition Christian Democrats Jan Kasal is spending the evening with his family at home and caretaker Chairman of the Freedom Union Karel Kuhnl told journalists he is not sure yet where he will be or what he will be doing. Senator and businessman Vaclav Fischer says he is going to break a long term habit and instead of going to the Canary Islands for New Year's Eve, will stay in Prague. He said that his chain of travel agencies needs to be able to deal with any computer failures connected with the new millennium.
The public opinion research agency, STEM revealed on Thursday, that roughly half of Czechs consider the 1st January an incorrect date for the beginning of the new millennium, and would prefer the 1st January 2001. While a third of Czechs are also expecting a mass breakdown in electronic systems, almost 50% of people believe that the next century will bring catastrophes and a third say they expect that conditions will improve in the Czech republic.
The Czech Republic is sending humanitarian aid to France to help out in the aftermath of devastating storms last week. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, that three lorries are setting off for France on Friday, with electric generators to help survivors and rescue teams. This comes after the death toll in France has risen to 80 following the worst hurricane in decades.
Temperatures during Friday night are expected to range from -2 to -6 degrees Celsius. We are expecting a fair bit of wind and some snow. Skies during the day will be cloudy and overcast, with temperatures climbing to around zero.
I'm Bill Bathurst and that's the end of the news.
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