The government is discussing extending the stay of Czech military police in Iraq by one more year. The Defence Ministry says the Czech contingent would continue to train Iraqi police, and would remain at its present size of around 90 officers. Under their current mandate, the Czech soldiers would return home at the end of February.
Four years after the introduction of the institution of ombudsman in the Czech Republic, two thirds of Czechs can say who the ombudsman is, while half the population trusts the institution, according to a poll by the CVVM agency just released. Otakar Motejl, who has occupied the post since it was created, said he was pleased by the poll results.
The Czech government is to release another half a million US dollars in
immediate aid for Southeast Asia, on top of the 650,000 dollars already
approved. It made the announcement at a United Nations donor conference in
Geneva on Tuesday.
Almost nine million dollars has also been earmarked for long-term reconstruction projects. Meanwhile, the Czech public has donated nearly 9.5 million US dollars towards relief in the devastated region.
The number of Czechs still missing in Southeast Asia now stands at 11, with seven of them believed to have died. Only one Czech casualty has been confirmed so far.
Czechs are to be given new identification numbers to replace the currently used 'rodne cislo' (birth number), under a new plan put forward by the Information Technology Ministry, the daily Hospodarske noviny reported on Wednesday. Unlike the birth number, the new ID - which will be introduced in around ten years' time - will not reflect the bearer's age or gender.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross acknowledged on Tuesday that several special police teams reported directly to him during his tenure as Czech interior minister, but denied suggestions in the media that he formed or exploited the teams for political gain. The daily Hospodarske noviny reported that one such police team, known as "Mlyn," or "the Mill," operated for two years in absolute secrecy and reported only to Mr Gross. Formed ahead of the 2002 general elections, the Mill team collected information about people close to former TV Nova director Vladimir Zelezny, for example, and to those handling finances for the national railways operator, Ceske drahy. Prime Minister Gross said that any suggestion he had used police teams to gather compromising information on rival politicians was "absolute nonsense."
Police investigators have filed additional charges against the choirmaster of the Bambini di Praga children's choir, for allegedly sexually abusing dozens of girls, all of whom are current or former members of the internationally known group. Choirmaster Bohumil Kulinsky, who was arrested in November, has been charged with 25 counts of having sexual relations with underage girls. Police have so far questioned over 100 former choir girls; the most recent charges relate to former members who are now adult women.
Czech humanitarian organisations so far have collected over 200 million crowns in public drives to aid survivors of the deadly Tsunami that hit Southeast Asia three weeks ago. A representative from the People in Need foundation said they were receiving more and more donations now from large businesses, which, due to internal approval processes, had been slower react than individuals and smaller organisations. Czech-run charities are now mainly focussing on helping orphans, supplying hospitals and rebuilding fishing villages in the devastated region. Over 150,000 people died in the Tsunami; one Czech woman died; 12 others remain unaccounted for.
The ranks of the unemployed in the Czech Republic grew by 24,000 people last month; data released this week showed that as of December, nearly some 542,000 people were out of work, or 9.5 percent of the working age population. That is the highest monthly rate of unemployment in six months. In related news, the number of people running small private businesses, including medical clinics and farms, dropped by 53,000 last year; analysts say a change in the tax code requiring advance payment of a set rate of taxes had led to the decline in entrepreneurship.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, the acting head of the Social Democrats, over the weekend won the support of three regional party branches in his bid to become party chairman. The Social Democrats are due to elect a new leadership at the party's national conference in late March. Prime Minister Gross' main rival for the nomination is Zdenek Skromach, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister, who garnered little support at the weekend vote.