News

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Deadly H5N1 bird flu strain found in Czech poultry

For the first time the bird flu virus has been detected in a Czech poultry flock. The State Veterinary Administration confirmed the type of virus found in a turkey flock at a farm in east Bohemia was the deadly H5N1 strain, which can be caught by humans. Local authorities have instated measures to prevent the possibility of the virus spreading to other local fowl, including a 3-km protection zone and a 10-km surveillance zone. All fowl in a ten kilometre radius will also be registered and checked by veterinarians.Of the birds on the farm around 2,000 died from the virus, the rest - an additional 4,000 specimens were culled on Thursday.

Bird flu was first detected in the Czech Republic in March 2006. 13 cases to date concerned wild birds, specifically swans. Some of the swans, tests showed, were also infected with the deadly H5N1 strain.

Vondra meets with Polish PM ahead of EU summit

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra has described as "very good" a meeting on Wednesday with Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The two men met ahead of the EU Summit. The two politicians discussed a possible compromise on Poland's position on voting rules proposed as part of a new draft European treaty, replacing the earlier EU Constitution which was set-back by referenda in France and the Netherlands. Poland has been threatening to veto a new treaty if negotiations on voting rights were not extended. According to the German press, Mr Vondra's proposal modifies EU voting rules slightly in Poland's favour, but the Czech deputy prime minister declined to comment his plan, saying negotiations were still underway.

Poll: majority of Czechs remain opposed to radar base

A new poll conducted by Factum Invenio for the Foreign Ministry has suggested that a majority of Czechs - 64 percent - continue to be opposed to the possible construction of a US missile defence radar on Czech soil; one third support the project. The information was released on Thursday. According to the agency, the poll was held shortly after a visit by US President George W. Bush early in June, when Mr Bush met with President Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, and others to boost support for the US project. The US would like to station its base in the Czech Republic as part of a broader missile defense system in Europe.

The poll also suggested that if the radar base were integrated within NATO, public opposition to the base would drop somewhat, to 55 percent.

Internet site: Mauerova allegedly abused both sons

The news internet site idnes.cz has reported that Klara Mauerova - in custody for the alleged abuse of her 7-year-old son Ondrej - also abused her other son, Jakub. The server cites information police have broadened charges against the mother. Mrs Mauerova has been in custody ever since it was discovered in May that she had locked her son Ondrej in a room in the basement, having bound him naked, hand and foot. He was reportedly forced to eat off the floor, and to use a bucket for bodily needs. It is believed he was kept repeatedly in gruesome conditions over a period of months. Mrs Mauerova could face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty in the case, while her sister Katerina, also suspected of involvement, could face up to 8 years behind bars.

Father of abused boy not given access

In directly related news, a court in Brno has ruled against giving Ondrej's father, Radek Coufal, an order allowing him to see his son as well as Ondrej's older brother Jakub. Both boys are being cared for at the Klokanek children's home. Mr Coufal requested a court order after he was not given permission to see the boys by the centre. Klokanek reportedly acted on a police recommendation, as police are continuing their investigation into the case for additional accomplices. The court refused to confirm the ruling on Thursday but the information was made public by Marie Vodickova, the head of the Children at Risk Fund.

Czech population mark surpasses 10.3 million for first time since 1997

The number of inhabitants of the Czech Republic rose by 19,500 in the first quarter of 2007, crossing the 10.3 million mark for the first time since 1997. The information was released by the Czech Statistical Office on Thursday. As of March 31st this year the Czech Republic had 10,306,700 inhabitants. The increase is mainly due to foreign migration - with the biggest numbers of people coming from Ukraine, Vietnam, and neighbouring Slovakia - but the country has also registered natural growth due to a rise in the fertility rate and a low death rate. The number of children is the highest since 1995, the office has revealed, and the Czech population has been rising for its fifth consecutive year.

Finance Ministry confirms record fine for Mittal Steel

The Finance Ministry has confirmed a record fine of 2.7 billion crowns for steelmaker Mittal steel. The manufacturer received the fine last December for overcharging for coke. Mittal Steel Ostrava, formerly Nova hut, is part of multinational giant Mittal Steel. The company appealed to the ministry, which raised the original fine of 2.4 billion to Thursday's record amount.

Education Ministry to test possibility of extended home schooling

The Education Ministry has extended the possibility of home schooling for Czech children: currently children can be taught at home at grades 1 through 5, but the ministry has decided to allow a project testing home schooling that would extend through grades 6 to 9. The project will be tested over the next four years in cooperation with five elementary schools: if it proves a success it could then be entered into legislation. Parents wishing to teach their children at home require a university education certificate; currently 350 children in the Czech Republic are taught at home.

Czech Culture Minister aims to reduce number of subsidised organisations

Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlicka has said he is considering merging or abolishing a number of subsidised organisations on the grounds that the government's draft state budget will provide the ministry with lower funds next year. The ministry now manages 32 subsidised organisations, and it may lower the number by up to one third, the Czech news agency CTK has reported. The institutions, which include 18 museums and galleries, would receive 3.3 billion crowns from the ministry - almost half of its budget last year. The minister stated that the first organisations that might be merged were the Theatre Institute and the National Information and Consultancy Centre for Culture. He also mentioned a long discussed possible merger between the National Theatre and the Prague State Opera.

Weather

Mostly cloudy conditions with brief showers are expected into Friday. Prague should see temperatures reaching highs of around 25 degrees Celsius.