Some 200 people attended the funeral on Thursday of a Roma man who was killed in a local discotheque on Friday night. Eye-witnesses say Ota Absolon, a 30 year-old Roma man from the North Moravian town of Svitavy, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a far-right skinhead. The funeral was attended by several human rights activists including the Czech Republic's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab. The 22-year-old skinhead youth has been arrested and charged with racially motivated murder, and could face a prison sentence of up to 15 years if found guilty. The local Roma community have expressed fears that the murder could result in reprisals by Roma against local right-wing extremists, and some have said they will set up vigilante groups to protect themselves from similar attacks.
Some 20 right-wing extremists gathered in front of the Yugoslav embassy in Prague on Thursday in support of the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic. The chairman of the far-right National Socialist Block (NSB), Jan Kopal, told the crowd that he condemned international efforts to try Milosevic for crimes against humanity before the International Tribunal in The Hague. Mr. Kopal called Milosevic a "proud, indomitable man who had become a sacrificial lamb". The gathering was held under police supervision and lasted less than an hour.
The tobacco giant Philip Morris has issued an official apology for a study commissioned last month which claimed the Czech economy benefited from the premature deaths of smokers. The company's senior vice president, Steven Parrish, said that commissioning the study was a terrible mistake, adding that describing the study as "inappropriate" would be a severe understatement.
The Czech Council for the Victims of Nazism, which is responsible for the allocation of compensation for WWII forced labourers in Austria, has entrusted the Ceska Sporitelna Savings Bank with the payments. The money will be forwarded from mid-August to all of the bank's branches. The Austrian government has made half a billion Shillings, or some 305 million U.S. dollars, available for compensation to be divided amongst a total of 15 000 former forced labourers. Concrete details of the transfer, however, have not been disclosed. The payments for WWII forced labourers in Germany are currently being managed by the CSOB bank. 423 million German marks (c.190 million U.S. dollars) have been made available.
The Czech Republic will not be represented in the United States by an ambassador in the next few days. The current ambassador to Washington, Alexandr Vondra, is due to return to Prague at the weekend to start his new post as the Czech commissioner for preparations for next year's NATO summit. It is so far not yet known when his replacement, the current deputy Foreign Minister, Martin Palous will be arriving in Washington. The selection of Mr. Palous as new ambassador to the U.S., earlier this year, was not a smooth one as several Social Democrat Ministers had reservations about his appointment. Czech President Vaclav Havel, however, fully supported the appointment of the former dissident.
The People in Need Foundation opened a new primary school in Kosovo on Thursday. The Czech government contributed to the project by providing 4.2 million Czech crowns, or almost 110 000 U.S. dollars. 700,000 Czech crowns was also raised by the foundation through its SOS Kosovo project. The new school replaces one destroyed by Yugoslav troops in Spring 1999, since which time the 300 children have been studying in temporary facilities. The new school - expected to be attended by some 200 children - has five classrooms, a staff room, a headmaster's office, a library and a kitchen. It will be supplied with running water and be heated by solid fuel.
Police say they found the bodies of two Vietnamese nationals in a flat in Prague's Haje district. One of the victims - a 39-year-old man - is believed to have committed suicide by electrocuting himself. The other, a 29-year-old woman, is believed to have died from a wound to the head caused by a sharp object. The door to the flat was locked from the inside and the cause of the deaths is currently under investigation.
The Czech National Bank has decided to raise the key interest rates by quarter a percentage point as of Friday. The two-week repo rate will rise to 5,25 percent, the discount rate to 4,25, and the Lombard rate to 6,25 percent. Economic analysts did not expect this move until late in August. The Czech National Bank for the last time changed the interest rates in February this year when it cut all the three rates significantly.
And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. There'll be clear skies in the West and overcast skies in the eastern parts of the country with temperatures ranging between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius. Friday night is expected to be partially clear and with temperatures dropping to a minimum of 12 degrees Celsius. Saturday is forecast with scattered showers and with day-time temperatures between 25 and 29 degrees Celsius.
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