MP leaves Social Democrat parliamentary party

Social Democrat MP Milos Melcak has said he plans to leave the party's faction to sit as an independent, a move that could tip the balance of power in a hung parliament. Mr Melcak told the news server that he had been facing a lot of pressure in recent days. He did not rule out he might vote for the new government of PM Mirek Topolanek regardless of his party's stance. Mr Melcak would be the second Social Democrat deputy to leave the party faction. In October, MP Michal Pohanka left the faction after a television report linked him with people charged with fraud.

President begins African trip

President Vaclav Klaus has begun a weeklong visit to Africa. On Thursday, he arrived in Nigeria to meet President Olusegun Obasanjo. President Klaus is travelling with his wife Livia and a delegation of Czech businessmen and officials from the foreign, defence and industry ministries. One of the topics to be discussed in Nigeria will be the sale of a fleet of Czech-made L-159 light combat aircraft. On Saturday, President Klaus is due to visit South Africa.

Health Minister: Foreigners to make up for lacking Czech medical staff

The Health Ministry is considering inviting citizens of the new EU countries to fill vacancies in the Czech Republic's health sector. Health Minister Tomas Julinek said that another chance of making up for the lacking staff would be a re-training of employees. Czech medical facilities already employ many nurses and doctors from Slovakia and countries in Eastern Europe. Czech doctors and nurses often head for Britain and Germany in search of higher incomes.

Government earmarks 50 million for blocking cell phone calls in prisons

The government has earmarked 50 million crowns for blocking mobile phone communications in some tight security prisons in order to reduce the risk of planned escapes by inmates and to prevent them from controlling their illegal activities using mobile phones. The two-year project will be launched at the beginning of 2007. However, T-Mobile, one of the three operators active in the Czech Republic, argues that blocking mobile phone communications is against Czech law. In 2005, the prison authority seized 436 telephones smuggled into prisons across the country.

High Court abolishes Kulinsky's acquittal

The High Court in Prague has abolished the verdict that acquitted the former head of the children's choir Bambini di Praga Bohumil Kulinsky of sexual abuse of two underage female members of the choir. The case is to be re-appraised by a lower-level court in Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia. Mr Kulinsky is suspected of sexual abuse of a total of 49 girls from his choir. The Hradec Kralove court dealt with only two of the cases. The remaining 47 have been handled by a court in Prague. Bohumil Kulinsky maintains he is innocent.

Descendants of former owners likely to claim UNESCO-listed Tugendhat villa

The descendants of the Tugendhat family who owned the UNESCO-listed functionalist villa in the city Brno will probably apply for its restitution, Brno City Museum director Pavel Ciprian said on Thursday. According to unofficial information, the family's lawyers have already negotiated with the Culture Ministry as well as with representatives of the Brno city hall that owns the villa. The owners' descendants will probably apply for the return of the villa under the law mitigating property injustices committed during the Holocaust. The villa was designed by the world-famous German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1928. Its original owners, Greta and Fritz Tugendhat, lived in the house until 1938 when they Czechoslovakia and moved to Venezuela. The Gestapo confiscated the villa after the occupation of the Czech lands.

Government raises minimum wage by 45 crowns to 8,000

The government has decided to raise the minimum wage by 45 crowns to 8,000 crowns per month as of next year. Labour Minister Petr Necas says the decision was a compromise between the demands of the trade unions that called for an increase to 8,500 crowns, and the employers who insisted on the minimum wage being frozen at its current level. Mr Necas said that higher minimum wages would reduce employment opportunities for people with a low qualification. Trade union representatives say the current government's policy will result in further deepening of the gap between low- and high-income groups.


The next few days should be partly cloudy with scattered showers and temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius.