News of Radio Prague

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Czech fighter planes to resume flights

The Czech Air Force's MiG 21 and L-39 fighter planes have been cleared to return to the air on Friday, now that an army investigation has revealed that faulty altimeters were not responsible for a series of recent fighter plane accidents, including a crash of an L-39 near the southern town of Pelhrimov. All of the airforce's MiG 21s and L-39s were grounded at the end of November, as the Czech Airforce began investigations into the crashes. The findings of two independent studies commissioned by the Defence Ministry on the faulty altimeters should be available early next week.

Amendment to election law passed by Lower House

After months of deliberation the Czech Lower House of Parliament passed an amendment to the country's election law Thursday, dividing the Czech Republic into 14 election regions and extending voting to two days instead of one. The amendment does not include changes which the opposition Four Party Coalition had attempted to push through, which would have lowered the bar for the minimal number of mandates needed to be accepted in parliament, which currently stands at 5 percent per party, or in the case of the coalition, 20 percent. The amendment to the election law must still be approved by the Senate and confirmed by the president.

Austrian daily launches campaign against Temelin

The Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung has launched a campaign against the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin, with headlines on Thursday calling on the public to sign a petition against the station. The paper stressed that its protest was not connected with efforts by the far-right Freedom Party, which is organising its own petition in January. On Thursday the paper began drawing celebrities who will sign the petition, including motor racing champion Niki Lauda. Kronen Zeitung prints one million copies daily in a country of eight million, and claims to be read by almost 3 million people everyday.

Police block billion-crown transfer to Kozeny firm

Czech police have blocked a transfer of 1 billion Czech crowns, or around 27 million USD, that a Czech company called Harvard Industrial Holdings tried recently to transfer to a bank account in Cyprus. Investigators say the confiscated money, which was used to pay out shareholders, comes from criminal activities, and they have prepared charges against Viktor Kozeny, the former head of Harvard Funds. No stranger to financial scandal Mr Kozeny has been dubbed by critics as "the Pirate of Prague", and he is one of the current directors of the Daventree company, which is the holder of the Cyprus account.

Transport Minister: transformation of railways will not lead to mass lay-offs

The Czech Transport Minister Jaromir Schling has said the transformation of Czech Railways will not lead to mass lay-offs, saying no branch in the company would benefit from redundancies. Czech Railways is expected to be split into a joint-stock company and a state-owned company as early as next year, leaving some workers worried about the future of their jobs. Mr Schling discounted the possibility of mass lay-offs, pointing out that Czech Railways had already reduced staff by half in recent years, to the current 83,000 employees. Next year the Transport Ministry is expected to put aside 250 million crowns as part of a social programme for laid-off workers.

Terms set for new motorway D47

Almost all the terms have been set for construction to begin next May on the planned D47 motorway connecting eastern Moravia with the Czech-Polish border. While the Israeli consortium in charge of construction has still not set a final price tag for building and running the motorway, which will feature the country's first toll booths, the actual construction costs are expected to reach 40 billion crowns, or about 1 billion USD. The first part of the motorway is expected to be completed by 2006, with two more sections completed by 2009; in all the motorway will cover 80 kilometres. The Czech Republic will begin repaying the cost of the motorway in 2007, with payments lasting until the year 2032.

Weather conditions on Bruntal roads: calamitous

Road workers in the eastern town of Bruntal have been grappling with severe weather conditions, finding it impossible to clear three local roads of snow. Strong wind conditions have hampered efforts, leading the town to declare the roads impassable. Sections of the road have been filled by a meter and a half high snow drifts, making the routes impossible for drivers. Drivers have been warned that they should not get into their cars unless they are equipped with snow tires and snow chains.

Electricity to go up by as much as 12.2 percent in 2002

The average yearly cost of electricity for Czech families will go up between 9.5 and 12.2 percent next year - translated in monetary terms this means that families will pay an average 531 crowns more for electricity next year, with some families seeing a rise of as much as 2,000 crowns. Czech families that rely on water heating systems will see the highest rise in costs.

Translator Ludvik Kundera awarded at Leipzig book fair

Czech translator Ludvik Kundera and Serbian colleague Bora Cosic have received the award for "European Understanding" at the Leipzig book fair. Cosic, who belongs to the Yugolsav avant-garde and heavily criticised Slobodan Milosevic's regime in the past, will receive a prize of 10,000 Euros. Ludvik Kundera was awarded for life-time achievement, for his contributions in translation for Czech and German literature and will receive 5,000 Euros. The awards will be given in March 2002.

Czech Olympic Ice Hockey Team: 17 players named so far

Seventeen players have been named to the Czech Olympic Ice Hockey Team, which is aiming to defend its gold medal from Japan in next year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Eight new names which have been added to the roster include NHL goaltenders Roman Cechmanek and Roman Turek, defenders Roman Hamrlik, Tomas Kabrle, Pavel Kubina, and Richard Smehlik, and forwards Jiri Dopita, Robert Lang, and Rober Reichel. The latest naming leaves six final spots open on the Olympic team.

Weather

And finally a quick look at Friday's weather forecast for the Czech Republic. Today will be partly cloudy with light snow flurries. Daily temperatures are expected to reach only -6 degrees Celsius.