News

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Senators modify bill on artificial fertilisation

The Senate has lifted a previous age restriction for artificial fertilisation in the case of married or common law couples wishing to have children. But, age restrictions will apply for example for anonymous egg or sperm donors, 35 and 40 years of age, respectively. The changes are part of the provision on artificial reproduction in legislation on embryonic cell research. Senators also decided that married couples would not have to undergo an expensive genetic examination procedure that would have complicated efforts in having a child, besides leading to additional expenses. The bill will now go back to the chamber of deputies for reconsideration.

Pharmacists, ministers, discuss two-tier profit margin system

Pharmacy owners meeting with Health Minister David Rath and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday reached agreement on a changing the profit margin system for medicines along two-tier lines. Until now, pharmacies and distributors have enjoyed a 29-percent margin profit on all medicines. Under the proposed system, the margin for cheaper medicines would be raised to 33 percent, but more expensive medicines would see a drop to just 6 - 10 percent. The health minister has indicated that specialists will meet to further discuss the issue next week.

Forced administration at VZP to continue

The board of directors and supervisory board of the General Health Insurance Company (the VZP) has failed to approve cost-saving measures for the health insurance plan for 2006, meaning forced administration at the insurer will continue. A member of the board of directors revealed the information on Friday. Both the Health Minister David Rath and the prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, had linked the approval of addtional cost-saving measures with the cancellation of forced administration. According to Minister Rath, the VZP will run its finances according to a stopgap budget which includes cost-saving measures. Mr Rath imposed forced administration on the VZP last November - to prevent the insurer from slipping into further debt.

Lower house strengthens bill on illegal importing of waste

The Chamber of Deputies has included provisions in a bill that should further deter the illegal importing of waste to the Czech Republic, raising the upper on fines to up to 50 million crowns - the equivalent of more than 2 million US dollars. The provisions will also allow police to check incoming transport trucks more effectively. The bill will now be discussed by the Senate and assessed by President Vaclav Klaus. According to Czech Environmental Inspection estimates, some 15,000 tonnes of waste were illegally imported from Germany into the Czech Republic in recent months.

Vyvadil named PM's honorary advisor

Jiri Vyvadil, who stepped down from his post as judge of the Supreme Court, after being suspended by the justice minister, has been named an honorary advisor by the Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. Cabinet spokeswoman Lucie Orgonikova said on Friday that Mr Vyvadil would advise the prime minister on issues of law, justice, and the court system, but would not receive a salary. The move came just hours after Mr Vyvadil was suspended, following a recommendation by court chairman Josef Baxa, who has said that Mr Vyvadil had threatened the independence of the judiciary by involving himself in political affairs and meeting secretly with controversial businessman Tomas Pitr - appealing an eight-year prison sentence for tax fraud.

Cihak gets suspended sentence for financial machinations

Vaclav Cihak, the former head of the finances department at the Czech embassy in Albania has received a three year suspended sentence for financial machinations with the embassy's funds. Cihak pleaded not-guilty but admitted to having moral responsibility for the loss of 1.8 million crowns from the embassy's funds in 2002. He said he had not used the money for his own private purposes and was merely guilty of mismanaging funds. He claims to have no idea where the money went.

Poll shows Green Party gaining ground

A new poll released by the STEM polling agency has suggested the Green Party - not in Parliament - has continued to gain ground ahead of general elections this year. The survey suggests that if elections were held tomorrow the Greens would get 9.4 percent of the vote - a marked jump from earlier polls which showed the party at around 5 or 6 percent. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats continue to top the poll at 26.7, followed by the left-of-centre Social Democrats at 21.8, and the Communists at 12.4.

According to the STEM poll the last party to cross Parliament's 5 percent threshold would be the Christian Democrats at 6.1 percent.

Acclaimed Japanese author chosen for prestigious Franz Kafka Award

Acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami - the author of such novels as "Kafka on the Shore", "Norwegian Wood", "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World", has been named as the winner of this year's Franz Kafka Prize, awarded by Prague's Franz Kafka Society. An international panel chose the author as the winner this week. Mr Murakami becomes the sixth author in all to receive the prize (worth 10,000 US dollars) following British playwright Harold Pinter last year. Mr Murakami will reportedly travel to Prague in October when the prize will officially be awarded.

Czech snowboarder clinches historic World Cup win

Czech snowboarder Michal Novotny has become the first Czech to win on the World Cup snowboardcross circuit. The 24-year-old racer triumphed in the final in Japan's Furano on Friday, edging past Swiss competitor Marco Huser and Canadian snowboarder Jasey Jay Anderson.

Tottenham to sign Pehkhart

Tottenham have won a three-way race to sign highly-rated Czech teenager Tomas Pekhart from Slavia Prague. The 16-year-old striker will move to London in July after signing a three-year contract with a further option of two years. Spurs sporting director Damien Comolli told the club's website that two other Premiership clubs had been interested in signing the player.

Weather

Saturday should see sunny intervals in Prague, with daytime temperatures rising to around 3 degrees Celsius.