News Monday, APRIL 10th, 2000

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Lord Geoffrey Howe expected in Prague

Former British Secretary Lord Geoffrey Howe is due to arrive in Prague shortly for a series of meetings on bilateral ties and European integration. As one of the first Western officials to support the dissident movement in former Czechoslovakia, Lord Howe has asked to meet with a number of former dissidents, among them bishop Vaclav Maly, Daniel Kroupa and Pavel Bratinka.

Zeman criticized for stifling democracy within his party

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has been severely criticized for allegedly stifling democracy within his own party. At a closed session of the Social Democratic Party's executive committee, Michal Kraus slammed his party leader for having been blinded by power and considering himself to be omnipotent. He said that increasingly the principles of party democracy were being violated at the Prime Minister's orders, that he censured press and television appearances and used and discarded people to suit his own ends. " The Prime Minister has become obsessed with his own power. He is ailing and I advise him to get help –if he does not want to throw away everything that his party and he himself has achieved" Kraus concluded. He was rewarded by strong applause. Surrounded by TV and radio journalists, Mr. Zeman later swept aside the criticism saying Michal Kraus was a man with hang-ups who wanted to get attention at any cost. There has been a change of guard in the party leadership, with Stanislav Gross and Jitka Kupcova replacing deputy chairman Zdenek Skromach and deputy chairwoman Petra Buzkova. The latter resigned her post in protest of the opposition deal between the Social and Civic Democrats.

Occupation strike continues

The occupation strike at the Kohinoor coal mine continues and the 47 miners below ground say they are determined to remain there until they see a signed sales contract. They have now spent 10 days underground and three of them have been forced to seek medical attention. Meanwhile, above ground, negotiations on the mine's sale are to continue on Monday and there is hope that a deal can be reached within the next 48 hours. Mining-experts and psychologists have urged the mine's management to speed up the talks since there is now a real danger of the miners' sustaining permanent health damage – or worse , the danger of an explosion underground.

National Alliance ready to go to court

The ultra right National Alliance has announced it will appeal former interior minister Vaclav Grulich's decision to ban the grouping on the grounds that it had repeatedly violated the law. It has already filed charges of abuse of power against the former interior minister. The leader of the National Alliance is currently in jail awaiting trial, having been charged with inciting racial hatred. His supporters attempted to draw attention to his plight on Saturday by gathering near the equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas , but as the demonstration had not been approved by the city hall, it was dispersed by police within a matter of minutes.

Writers Festival underway

The mayor of Prague Jan Kasl on Sunday opened the 10th annual Writers' Festival in the Czech capital. The festival is a six-day event of public readings, debates and autograph sessions with prominent writers. This year the organizers have placed particular emphasis on outstanding Greek writers, but there is little doubt that the star of this year's festival will be American novelist William Styron , whose novel "Sophy's choise" is exceedingly popular in this country. The festival also comprises a 72-hour marathon of public readings from the works of Czech writers Josef Skvorecky and Zdena Salivarova. The couple have flown in from Canada to attend the event.

President to launch Bible-project

President Vaclav Havel is to be the first of some ten thousand people who will undertake the joint task of copying out the Bible by hand. According to church dignitaries this national campaign is intended to increase religious awareness and interest in the Bible. "We want more people to realize that the Bible does have a relevance to the present day world" one of the organizers said. The campaign, which originated in Norway, is to be launched on April 13th.

Anti-globalization protest scheduled for next weekend

Anti-globalization activists are planning to demonstrate against the autumn session of the IMF and the World Bank here in Prague. The first of a series of protests is to be held on the Old Town Square next Saturday, April 15th. The city Hall has not approved the protest action on the grounds that Old Town Square will traditionally be the site of an Easter market and packed with tourists but activists say they' ll go ahead with their plans.

Miss Czech Republic 2000

A 17 year old brunette from Moravia has become the country's new beauty queen – winner of the Miss Czech Republic 2000 Contest. The secondary school student has won numerous prizes including a flat in Prague and says she plans to avail herself of every opportunity the title presents. Her ultimate goal is to work for a fashion magazine in Britain or Switzerland.

And finally, a look at the weather:

Monday is expected to bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with day temperatures between 8 and 12 degs C. There may be some drizzle and more persistent rain in the southern parts of the country. Nighttime lows 3 to minus 1 degs C.