The Czech Republic's Social Democrat-led government has postponed discussions scheduled for Wednesday aimed at deciding the basis for much awaited fiscal reform; according to government spokeswoman Anna Starkova Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka submitted two versions of a proposal on reform, one strict, the other less so, but the proposal now remains to be studied by committee. The Finance Minister prepared the reforms after 2002 saw this year's budget proposal passed including a record deficit of 111 billion crowns. In the softer reform proposal put forth by Minister Sobotka the Czech state should try and save 60 billion crowns in expenses by 2006, while the stricter version calls for the state to save 80 billion crowns in expenses over the same period. So far, the proposal has been criticised by right-of-centre parties, both in the government and the opposition, and even by some Social Democrats. Right-of-centre parties are saying it is not restrictive enough, a view supported by the Central Bank's governor Zdenek Tuma, while Social Democrat Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Zdenek Skromach says if the proposal passed his party's programme would be unrealisable.
The Senate's mandate and immunity committee has postponed a hearing intended to decide whether or not Senator Vladimir Zelezny will lose parliamentary immunity in order to face criminal charges for fraud. The committee said they wanted to interview Mr Zelezny in person before proceeding further, and the hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday next week. Mr Zelezny is the controversial general manager of the popular commercial television station TV Nova. He is currently under investigation for a number of fraud charges connected to ownership of the station, all of which occurred before he was elected to the Senate in October.
Three skaters in their early twenties survived falling into icy water on the Pilsen Liticka dam Wednesday afternoon, after ice broke under one of the skater's feet. The other two tried to come to his rescue but also ended up in the water. The incident took place about 50 metres off shore: a helicopter had to assist rescuing two of the skaters while fire-fighters pulled out the third. All three are suffering from hypothermia but their conditions are stable. Meanwhile, emergency rescue workers are saying the incident would have had tragic results if a passer-by hand not immediately phoned for help using a cell phone.
After a weekend that saw the Elbe river burst its banks and the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem go on a state of alert, water levels are slowly returning to normal, having dropped a full metre since Monday. Experts say that Thursday should see the current level drop to 610 centimetres, which is still relatively high: the normal water level is some two metres. Meanwhile some streets have been reopened and local officials are saying public transport should return to normal soon. Usti was badly affected by the summer's flood catastrophe, when the worst flooding in five hundred years devastated large areas of the Czech Republic.
A 57-year-old man jailed 32 years ago by the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia is set to be released into a world he's never known: today's democratic and westernised Czech Republic. In a newspaper interview Wednesday prison officials said that the inmate, whose name has not released, has received help from psychologists and special instructors, to prepare him for life in the free world, which he will begin alone in an undisclosed village. Originally, the man was sentenced to seven years in prison for "promoting fascism" and trying to emigrate from Czechoslovakia - two crimes that were particular to Eastern European communism, commonly used to suppress opponents of the regime. Later the communists extended the man's stay by 25 years for the death of another inmate, the circumstances of which were never disclosed.
The American technology company Honeywell has announced plans to build a major research centre in Brno, in Moravia, to compliment a similar research centre in China. Director of the Honeywell Prague laboratory said on Wednesday that investments could go as high as 100 million crowns. Once built, the centre will concentrate on developing plant automisation technology and waste disposal systems. Later, the centre could get into the aerospace business; currently Honeywell already builds engines for the Czech-made L-159 fighter jet. The centre would also employ some 40 or so research engineers.
A court in the south-west Bohemian town of Pilsen has released a man who was charged with causing grievous bodily harm in a drunken incident which saw the defendant strike his father in the head with an axe. The older man survived the incident, but was partially paralysed; his vision was also damaged. On Wednesday the Pilsen court decided that the defendant was unaware of his actions on the evening of the incident because of alcohol, and ruled he was not responsible for his actions. During the trial the defendant said he had only minimal recollection of the event.
Thursday will see partly clear skies with a chance of snow flurries. Daytime temperatures should reach highs between - 6 and - 10 degrees Celsius.
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