The newly appointed commander in chief of the Czech Air Force Frantisek Padelek has said that safety concerns are a top priority. In recent years the Czech Air Force has been plagued by a series of fatal accidents. Since 1992 eighteen army pilots have died in fighter jet crashes or collisions. Ten more people died in helicopter accidents. Outdated machinery, poor maintenance and inadequate funds for pilot training are believed to be at the core of the problem. The newly appointed commander in chief is strongly in favour of acquiring a fleet of new modern fighter jets for the air-force, but the matter has yet to be decided by the Czech cabinet. NATO has warned the Czech Republic against incurring an expense which might leave it unable to face its other obligations within the alliance.
The leading Czech steel producer Nova Hut has said it plans to lay off 3,000 employees within the next 18 months. This is part of a streamlining and re- structuring process intended to prepare the plant for privatization and, in the long-term, for competition on the EU market. The plant's new general director Frantisek Chowaniec said the lay-offs would save Nova Hut a billion crowns a year in salaries. The planned layoffs will further complicate the social problems of a region already labouring under a 15% unemployment rate. Trade Unions are expected to take an official stand to the news on Monday.
Czech football fans are mourning the Czech Republic's unexpected 3:1 loss to Iceland in the World Cup Qualifying match on Saturday. National team coach Josef Chovanec described the team's performance as a disaster, complaining about a total lack of discipline, and expressing the view that prior victories had led the team to underestimate their opponent. Although at first the Czech team appeared to be in control things went badly wrong after midfielder Jan Koller lost his temper and was sent off in the 39th minute for spitting in the face of player Arnar Vidarsson. Neither Koller nor Pavel Nedved are to play in Wednesday's match against Malta. Koller has been suspended for unfair play, Nedved for two yellow cards in succession.
More homes have been flooded in north Bohemia following 48 hours of torrential rain. The Ceska Lipa district, where 15 homes are reported to have been flooded on Saturday night, remains on second degree flood alert and firemen have been helping with the clean up operation, pumping water from cellars. The locals say that due to an early warning from the authorities the floods caused only minor material damage. "The biggest problem is drying the walls now that the weather has turned cold it is difficult to keep the windows open day and night" one of the locals told the CTK news agency.
And finally a quick look at the weather forecast: meteorologists say that the rain showers which have been plaguing particularly the north-eastern part of the country should gradually subside, though we can still expect overcast skies and rain in places. Day temps on Monday between 18 and 22 degs C.
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