Agriculture Minister Zgarba will resign from office

Czech Agriculture Minister Petr Zgarba will resign from office next week, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek announced on Thursday. Mr Zgarba is the chairman of the Czech Land Fund which is responsible for the sale and management of state-owned land. The Fund's Board has been accused of corruption after it was discovered that it sold property to speculators that is now worth hundreds of times the asking price. Mr Zgarba plans to step down from his post as agriculture minister on Wednesday, November 16. Mr Zgarba will be succeeded by Social Democrat Member of Parliament Jan Mladek.

Country's biggest health insurer under forced administration

Health Minister David Rath has imposed forced administration on VZP, the largest state-owned Czech health insurance company. The minister said the company was not fulfilling its legal obligations and had been given enough time to try to resolve its problems. This chiefly relates to its steep debt which now stands at close to 14 billion crowns (just over 570 million US dollars).

The step has been criticised by the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who is on a state visit to India, issued a statement on Thursday calling the move unjustified and destabilising, expressing fears that the forced administration could worsen the VZP's financial situation.

Prague hosts Club de Madrid general assembly and conference

Some of the world's most renowned former presidents and government leaders are in Prague to attend the Club de Madrid's general assembly. The gathering will also include a discussion forum "Democracy in the Post Communist World: What has been learned and how can it be applied?" Among the several dozen participants will be former US president Bill Clinton, former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and former Brasilian President and current Club chairman Fernando Henrique Cardovo.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, his predecessor Vaclav Havel and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda attended the opening ceremony. The event comes to a close this Saturday.

Inventor of electron microscope awarded with Czech Brain prize

The government has decided to award the Czech Brain prize to Armin Delong, the founder of electron microscopy and initiator of the production of world-competitive electron microscopes. Together with the award Professor Delong will receive one million crowns (over 40,000 dollars). Armin Delong, 80, is best-known for his pioneering work in holography, emission electron microscopy and slow electron microscopy. Most recently he has focused on low-voltage scanning microscopy which is used in biology.

Prison management says guards did not help convicts escape

The two convicted murderers, who escaped from Pilsen's Bory prison on Tuesday, were not assisted by the facility's guards, prison management said on Thursday. One guard, however, has been suspended for neglecting his duties. Police are still determining how the men managed to escape undetected and believe they had at least two accomplices.

Sudeten German Landsmannschaft: Carlsbad Wafer recipe not Czech

The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft protested against a request made to the European Commission to limit the use of the famed "Karlovarske Oplatky" or Carlsbad Wafers name. The Czech Government would like the name to be recognised and protected as a geographic indication of the place of origin that cannot be used by manufacturers of wafers outside the west Bohemian region. According to the Landsmannschaft - an organisation representing ethnic Germans who were expelled from the Czechoslovak border area after WWII, the original recipe of the wafers came from baker families of Sudeten German origin.

Terry Gilliam attends Czech premiere of The Brothers Grimm in Prague

While in Prague for the Czech premiere of his film "The Brothers Grimm" this week, American film director Terry Gilliam said he expects to resume work on Don Quixote which was set to be the biggest European film ever made but was shelved five days into filming. Although rights to the script have been frozen for several years because of a conflict between the French producer and a German insurance company, a decision could come "before the end of the year", the AFP news agency quoted Mr Gilliam as saying.

Weather forecast

The next few days are expected to be overcast and rainy with day-time temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.