News of Radio Prague

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Government fails to pass education bill in Lower House

The Czech government has failed to push a new education bill through the lower house of parliament that would have reformed leaving exams at Czech secondary schools. The government proposal, which failed to win support from right-of-centre parties for the second time, outlined a system that would have divided secondary school leaving exams into two parts - with one part set by individual schools, and a compulsory part determined by the state. The bill also envisioned greater importance in final exam results for students applying for college and university studies. The Education Minister has called the failure to pass the bill a Pyrrhic victory for the opposition.

Clients of failed co-op savings banks in line to receive higher compensation

The Czech Senate has passed a bill amendment that will make it easier for the clients of failed co-operative savings banks in the country to retrieve their savings: until now clients could receive up to 80 percent of their savings, with 100,000 crowns at most, but could now receive as much as 90 percent, with up to 400, 000 crowns. The bill amendment, which was not supported by the opposition Civic Democrats and the Civic Democratic Alliance, must now be signed by the president.

Central Bank lowers interest rates in response to exporters' demands

The Czech Central Bank has lowered all three interest rates by half a percent, in response to calls from Czech exporters whose businesses are being affected by the strong crown. The key repo rate has dropped to 3.75 percent, the discount rate has dropped to 2.75, and the Lombard rate been lowered to 4.75 percent. The lowering of the rates was unexpected, and some analysts have criticised the move as unjustified. The Central Bank, however, says it will do whatever necessary to weaken the Czech crown to the Euro, even at the risk of adding volatility to the market. Following the moves the Czech crown weakened slightly by ten hellers, to 30 crowns 45 hellers to the Euro.

CSOB bank set to sue tabloid for 50 million crowns

The CSOB bank has decided to sue the Czech tabloid Super for 50 million crowns after the daily published a series of articles that questioned CSOB transactions, including the taking over of the failed IPB bank. CSOB spokesman Milan Tomanek said on Thursday that the articles were not based on fact but were aimed at discrediting the bank and to make it appear that CSOB had transgressed Czech law. Mr Tomanek added that CSOB was further weighing the possibility of taking legal action against individuals it says tried to discredit the bank for personal or business reasons.

First army hospital personnel arrive in Kabul

The first contingent of a Czech Army field hospital crew has arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, complete with terrain vehicles, technical equipment, and supplies, to take part in a six month mission. The first contingent, which includes 30 members, will prepare the site for the field hospital, which will staff some 150 Czech doctors and medical personnel expected to depart for Afghanistan at the beginning of May. The mission is expected to cost some 600 million crowns, although there is still uncertainty over how the mission will be funded.

President Vaclav Havel grants 12 pardons

President Vaclav Havel has issued 12 new pardons, bringing the total of cases so far this year to 32. Among the cases the president has pardoned: a man serving a ten year sentence since 1997 for a bank robbery, a woman on the run for theft, whose health problems in the past prevented her from being taken to court, and a man who left the Czech Republic in 1992, after going AWOL from army barracks and failing to complete compulsory military service.

"Package murderer" given 14 years prison sentence

A Prague court has found a 33-year-old man dubbed the "package murderer" by the Czech media guilty of murdering his girlfriend. The man was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. The case was particularly gruesome in that the man dismembered the victim's body and mailed it in packages to several non-existent addresses.

Weather

Finally a look at the weather. Thursday evening will be cloudy with a chance of scattered rain showers and temperatures dropping to lows of 6 degrees Celsius.