News of Radio Prague

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Heated debates surround state budget proposal

Heated debates surrounded Wednesday's first reading of the government's state budget proposal for 2002. The fate of the proposal will be decided Thursday morning. The government's budget for 2002 outlines a deficit of 52.2 billion Czech crowns, with 700 million crowns in revenues, and 752.2 billion crowns in expenditures. The opposition, including the Civic Democrats, already says it will not support the proposal. The Social Democrats are a minority government that relies on the opposition Civic Democrats for political support. Three years ago the two parties signed the so-called opposition agreement, in which the Civic Democrat's agreed to support the minority Social Democrat government, in return for a number of concessions.

Still no final results on tests for anthrax in Liberec workers

Two office workers from the northern town of Liberec, admitted to hospital for 'preventative treatment' after handling a suspicious package on Tuesday, are still waiting for the final results on tests for anthrax. The results should be known within the next 48 hours, and will establish whether or not the deadly biological agent was present. So far, no evidence of anthrax has been found anywhere in the Czech Republic, though 172 packages have been investigated in recent days. The rise in suspicion has put a strain on the Czech Republic's fire brigades, which have been called out almost 200 times to deal with the problems.

Four found not guilty in Romany attack

A regional court in the eastern town Olomouc has pronounced a verdict of not guilty for four Czech youths charged with a racist attack on a Romany man in Jesenice two years ago. Two others were found guilty but were given suspended sentences of 18 and 20 months, respectively. The group was charged with causing grievous bodily harm, disorderly conduct, defamation of state, race, and religion, after allegedly attacking the man with baseball bats. He spent a week in hospital recovering from his injuries. The regional judge defended his decision, arguing that of the six charged, only two had a clear hand in the attack. He added that none of the testimonies at the trial indicated any intent on the part of the group, to either work together, or to single out Romany citizens for attack. Prosecutors said that they would file an official complaint at the Ministry of Justice.

University deans express support for student strike

The deans of five universities have expressed their support for planned protests against the Ministry of Education's proposed budget for 2002. The draft budget does not include two billion Czech crowns in funds, which the universities say was promised by Czech Education Minister Eduard Zeman. However not all university deans have said they will call openly for student strikes, saying that any such strikes are the responsibility of the students themselves and student unions. Last week 13,000 students went on strike for one day, protesting the lack of university funds.

Japanese philanthropist says Forum 2000 could continue

Yohei Sasakawa, the Japanese philanthropist, has said that the annual Forum 2000 international conference could continue next year. Sasakawa, one of the three founders of the conference, indicated that the future of Forum 2000 lay in smaller, less grandiose meetings. Sasakawa expressed the desire for discussions in the future to be more thorough, and reiterated President Havel's call on the world's religions to form a "spiritual coalition" to counter the negative effects of globalisation. Earlier speculation had indicated that this year's Forum 2000 would be the last, partly in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States.

British immigration officers resume checks at Prague Airport

British officials resumed controversial immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne Airport on Tuesday. Britain suspended the controls, which it calls 'pre-clearance measures' in September, saying that they could be reintroduced at any time. Britain first introduced the measures in July in response to increasing numbers of Czech citizens, mostly members of the Roma community, arriving in Britain to seek asylum. The measures were criticised by Roma groups and human rights organisations, who said they were discriminatory. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) intends to file a lawsuit against the measures this week.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather. Thursday will be rather cooler than recent days, with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 15 degrees Celsius. The weather will remain cloudy with fog in places. Temperatures at night will fall to lows of five degrees.