News Friday, SEPTEMBER 04th, 1998

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Radio Prague e-news Date: 4.9.1998 Written/read by: David Vaughan

Hello and a warm welcome to the programme. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.

And now the news in more detail.

Explosion

A man was seriously injured just before midnight on Thursday night, after an explosion in Legerova Street in the heart of Prague shook buildings and left windows shattered in the surrounding area. Police confirmed that the blast occurred in a rubbish bin, but explosives experts have yet to establish the precise cause. The injured man was passing by at the time, and is now in hospital with 30 to 40 percent burns.

Opposition Agreement Here to Stay

Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus has denied press rumours that cracks may be appearing in the opposition agreement, under which his right-wing Civic Democrats agreed to tolerate the minority Social Democrat government. After a two hour meeting with Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Mr Klaus said that his party has no intention of cancelling the agreement. He said that tensions between the two parties were natural, because they were direct political rivals.

Memory of Benes

The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the main opposition leader, Vaclav Klaus, both attended a ceremony on Thursday to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the second Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes. Both pointed to Benes's central role in building the Czechoslovak state and to his position as president at two moments in history when the country was confronted with force and totalitarianism - in 1938 and 1948. The way Benes responded to both crises has often been criticised, because on both occasions the country failed to resist the forces of tyranny, first with the Nazi occupation, and then with the Stalinist take-over. However, addressing the crowd who gathered at Benes's tomb in the town of Sezimovo Usti, Prime Minister Zeman said that although Benes failed to reverse the course of events, it was unfair and over-simplistic to condemn his actions outright.

Parliamentary Immunity Changes Win Support

The great majority of members of both houses of the Czech parliament have made it clear that they support the proposal approved by the government on Wednesday to reduce the extent of parliamentary immunity enjoyed by both deputies and senators. The largest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, have said that they have some reservations, because they would prefer more extensive constitutional changes, but they joined other parties from all sides of the political spectrum in saying that they would vote for the change. The legislation has been proposed after a number of deputies and senators have used their immunity to avoid facing charges - ranging from drunken driving to assault.

Police Deny Responsibility for Death

Prague police have firmly denied that they bear a share of the responsibility for the deat h of a young man during last Saturday's Prague demonstration against consumerism. The demonstration's organisers have criticised the police for simply looking on while the man lay dying on the street. They point to amateur video footage showing the man lying unconscious with a crowd around him including police officers, and no-one offering first aid. However police say that they acted immediately in calling for an ambulance, and say that they did not intervene personally because a woman claiming to be a doctor was present. The cause of the young man's death is still unclear, although alcohol poisoning is thought to be the most likely cause.

Union Agreement

Dissatisfied trade unions representing public sector workers have come to a pay rise agreement with the labour and social affairs minister, Vladimir Spidla. They agreed to a seventeen percent increase for the coming year. After two hours of talks both sides said that the rise was not ideal but was realistic given the current economic situation.

Sex Irrelevant, Says Poll

An opinion poll published by the Institute for Public Opinion Research, suggests that just over half of all Czechs do not feel strongly about the sex of their boss. However two fifths of respondants said that, given a choice, they would rather work under a man, and only one in six said they would prefer a woman as boss. But in comparison with a similar poll conducted seven years ago, the results suggest a trend towards sexual equality, with far fewer people today saying that they would prefer to take orders from a man.

Czech Students in Germany

In a gesture of regional cooperation, 15 Czech schoolchildren have begun studies at a bilingual Czech-German secondary school in the German town of Pirna, not far from the Czech border. They will spend their entire secondary education at the school - a full six years - and will then be able to go on to study at either Czech or German universities. Most of the teaching will be bilingual, but the children will continue to study science subjects in their native tongue. Over eighty Czech children from all over the country applied for the 15 places, and the project is being financed by the Czech and German education ministries with help from the European Union.

Education Ministry Priorities

And staying with the subject of education, the new Czech government has begun to outline its priorities for education reform. Deputy minister Ladislav Maly said that the government plans to put greater stress on encouraging young people to participate actively in sports. He went on to suggest that the neglect of sport as a government priority may been an important factor in the spread of teenage drug use. Some of the money now being invested in anti-drugs programmes, he said, could have been better spent earlier on programmes to encourage sport and other youth activities. Mr Maly said that he plans to present the government with a comprehensive sport policy programme by the end of the year.

Czech Philharmonic to Britain

Hot on the heals of its success at the International Music Festival in Salzburg, the Czech Philharmonic has left for a tour of Britain. On Friday and Saturday it is to give concerts in Edinburgh as part of the city's annual festival where it will be conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, and this will be followed by a Promenade Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, under the baton of Libor Pesek. The orchestra is also to give concerts in Birmingham and in the German city of Bonn.

Railway Boss Row

Two former transport ministers, Martin Riman and Petr Moos, have both called on the new government not to replace the current head of the loss-making Czech Railways, Vladimir Sosna. They argued that during his year in the post, Mr Sosna has succeeded in reversing the state-owned railways' spiral of debt. On Wednesday the government replaced nine of the thirteen members of the railways' administrative board, and the current minister, Antonin Peltram, recommended that the board make changes in Czech Railways' top management. The Social Democrat government has made it clear that it does not share the current railway chief's vision of how to reform and privatise the Czech Republic's decaying railway network.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather... And I'm afraid there's not much to look forward to - Friday looks set to be overcast with showers and thunderstorms and temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. And we can expect it to remain overcast with showers for most of the weekend, although on Saturday temperatures may reach 24 degrees.

And that's the end of the news.