News

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Prime Minister wants officers who beat up man punished

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says three police officers who were caught on tape beating a young man cannot go unpunished. Speaking in a TV discussion programme on Sunday, Mr Paroubek criticised an Interior Ministry investigation, which concluded that the police officers had not broken the law. A video tape shows how the officers beat and kick a defenceless man lying on the ground at last July's CzechTek music festival.

Mr Paroubek says the young man would surely win his case if he turned to the state prosecution for help. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalusek, also criticised the investigation, saying the system that monitors police action is inefficient because it is controlled by the Interior Ministry.

OECD report: Czechs among nations with lowest hourly wages

Of the 30 nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Czech Republic has one of the lowest hourly wages. On average Czechs make 3.41 euros an hour, the internet server Mesec.cz reported on Sunday. The only countries with lower wages than that are Poland, Slovakia, and Mexico. This is because Czechs work longer hours, the server says - an average of 164.3 hours a month, while the only OECD country that tops that is Korea with 199.2 hours a month. With an average salary of 28 euros an hour, Denmark tops the list.

Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl visits Iraq

Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl is on an official two-day visit to Iraq. Mr Kuhnl held talks with the head of the Multi National Division in the South East, Major General Jonathan Riley, visited the 100-strong Czech military police contingent at Shaiba base, and also met with the six-member medical team that is working with the contingent. The Czech military police have been training Iraqi police in southern Iraq since 2003. The contingent's mandate was to end at the beginning of 2005 but was prolonged until the end of the year.

Electronic road toll system could bring in up to 20 billion crowns a year

Transport Minister Milan Simonovsky says an electronic road toll system, which is to be introduced in 2007, could bring in up to 20 billion Czech crowns (a little under 860 million US dollars). If only lorries above 12 tonnes are tolled, the Czech state would make around 10,5 billion crowns a year but if vehicles above 3,5 tonnes are included in the toll system then the country could get up to 20 billion crowns, Mr Simonovsky said on Sunday.

At the moment, the state makes around 1 billion crowns off special coupons that drivers have to buy to use the country's motor-ways. The new electronic toll system is to be provided by the Austrian company Kapsch.

Professor says EU could lose up to 2 percent of its population in case of flu pandemic

Up to two percent of the European Union's population could die if a flu pandemic were to break out, according to the grimmest prognosis made at a WHO conference in Prague on Sunday. In an interview for the CTK news agency, Professor Albert Osterhaus from the Rotterdam university medical centre Erasmus MC warned the EU has prepared little for a possible flu pandemic, despite the fact that the lives of up to five million people are at risk. Professor Osterhaus says an action plan ought to be drawn up in Brussels for all EU member states to follow in the case of a pandemic.

Bethlehem light of peace now in Czech Republic

The Bethlehem light, a light which symbolises hope and peace every Christmas, is now in the Czech Republic. Every year, a child collects the light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born. It is then flown to Vienna and distributed to scouts from across Europe who take it back to their own countries. The first time the light was distributed to the Czech Republic was in December 1989. As has become tradition, the light also shines in the lobby of the Czech Radio building, from which people can light their own candles.

Pop Idol Aneta Langerova clinches best female singer title from Lucie Bila

Leading Czech artists gathered at Prague's State Opera on Saturday to attend the Cesky Slavik - Czech Nightingale - music awards. Not surprising to the audience, Czech singer Karel Gott won for the 31st time. Lucie Bila, however, who has clinched the title of best female singer for over a decade, lost it to the winner of the country's first Pop Idol show Aneta Langerova. Chinaski won the best group award.

Silver was won by Lucie Bila, Daniel Landa, and Kabat. Helena Vondrackova, Petr Kolar, and the group Divokej Bill received bronze awards.

Weather

The next few days will have overcast skies with occasional showers. Daytime temperatures are expected to rise gradually to reach five degrees Celsius by the middle of the week.