Politicians and journalists may have tapped phone lines

The Minister of the Interior, Ivan Langer, revealed on Wednesday morning that the conversations of about twenty politicians and journalists are being bugged in connection with an investigation into the leak from an internal report by Jan Kubice, the head of the country's organized crime unit. Mr. Langer says that the police are likely listening in locations at the lower house of parliament, at the Ministry of the Interior, in the building of Czech Radio, and in some private locations. Politicians are reacting strongly to the news. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that once again, "governing politicians are victims of spying," while Jiri Paroubek, the Social Democratic leader and former prime minister said that Mr. Langer is lying.

The rules governing surveillance involving eavesdropping are set by the criminal code of the Czech Republic and the laws governing police conduct. Judges decide on the admission of tapes in cases where evidence is gathered without a person's knowledge.

Intelligence service chief recalled

On Wednesday the government recalled the director of the civil intelligence service, Karel Randak, from his post. The Office for Foreign Relations and Information, which Mr. Randak ran since 2004 works to gather intelligence abroad and falls under the jurisdiction of the interior ministry. Analysts say that Wednesday's decision is likely part of a larger plan to merge the Office for Foreign Relations and Information with the Czech Republic's main intelligence unit, BIS. Government ministers are preparing to propose a plan for the revamped intelligence service by October 31.

'Week of Czechs Living Abroad' continues

Some 200 people from all over the world who are of Czech origin are in Prague to attend the "Week of Czechs Living Abroad." They were welcomed by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra on Tuesday. The Week of Czechs Living Abroad centers around seminars and talks on relations between the Czech Republic and people with Czech ties abroad. It was first held in 1998 and is organized by the International Coordination Committee for Czechs Abroad, in cooperation with the Senate, Foreign Ministry, and Charles University and is held under the auspices of President Vaclav Klaus.

As part of the event, an award ceremony will take place on Friday to honour women of Czech origin for their outstanding achievement in art, science, sports, charity work, business, and public life. Among those nominated for the prize are Madeleine Albright and Ivana Trump. On the same day, a resolution will be made evaluating the Czech state's ties to problems faced by Czechs abroad. Accompanying programs include exhibitions, film screenings, and a tour of the National Archives.

Government approves increase for pensioners

In its Wednesday session, the lower house approved a proposal by the new Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Petr Necas, to raise pensions by an average of 500 crowns ($25 US) in 2007. The average monthly pension would thus rise from 8190 crowns to 8690 crowns. The same pension increase was already approved by the former Social Democratic government in August.

Petr Gandalovic to curb housing loans program

Young people planning to take out state loans towards the purchase of a home may soon find themselves up against more obstacles. The new Minister for Regional Development, Petr Gandalovic (a Civic Democrat), has announced that he intends to gradually halt a program introduced by the previous Social Democratic government. The program in question allows couples under 36 to borrow as much as 300 000 crowns towards the purchase of a home, and an additional 150 000 for renovations. A two percent annual interest rate is charged, and loans may be paid over the course of twenty years. The program began in December 2004 and thus far some 9000 applicants have been approved for the state loans. Mr. Gandalovic says that the country can not afford such a program, and that the expected rent deregulation in 2007 will help create a more favourable housing market for young people.

Masaryk University signs agreement with IBM

Masaryk University, located in the Moravian capital of Brno, has expanded classroom facilities to provide educational access to people with serious physical and mental disabilities. An agreement signed Wednesday between Masaryk University and IBM will make the increase in the university's student body possible, and open five new classrooms. IBM has agreed to provide technology and computer training in the amount of roughly 2.4 million crowns. Masaryk University decided to expand facilities for disabled students because the current number of students with disabilities registered totals 174, and numbers are expected to increase.

Czech javelin legend Jan Zelezny retires

Czech javelin legend Jan Zelezny (40) has ended his amazing career a few days earlier than originally planned. A painful Achilles has forced Zelezny to withdraw from what would have been his final ever meeting at Yokohama on Sunday. The three-time Olympic and world champion holds the world record of 98.48 meters in the Javelin. On Tuesday, Zelezny said good-bye to the sport he loves in his birthplace of Mlada Boleslav. "I began my career here and I always wanted to end it here," said Zelezny, speaking on the sidelines of an athletics exhibition event held in his honour in Mlada Boleslav. Zelezny made a final throw of 82.19m. A member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Zelezny is set to devote the rest of his career to coaching and is undertaking a training course in Prague.

Weather forecast

Partially cloudy skies and scattered showers are expected throughout the next couple of days, with daytime highs of about 22 degrees Celsius.