News Saturday, NOVEMBER 21st, 1998

Welcome to Radio Prague. Those are the headlines, I'm Ray Furlong, and now the news in more detail.

Voting has begun in the second round of the Senate elections. A total of 54 candidates are competing for 27 seats in the upper chamber - we should know the winners and losers before the weekend is over. Turnout is expected to be low, and some observors have predicted it may be the lowest in Czech electoral history. Top politicians have urged voters to cast their ballots, but because the elections are only being held in a third of the Senate's constituencies only one leading political official has actually voted himself in this second round: President Vaclav Havel, who cast his vote shortly after the polling station opened.

The Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has left for Zagreb where he will attend a meeting of the Central European Initiative - or CEI, a loose grouping of 15 states. The meeting is expected to focus mainly on the situation in the troubled Yugoslav province of Kosovo, where reports say the situation faced by ethnic Albanian refugees is getting worse and fighting is again flaring up. But talks will also cover mutual cooperation and issues raised by European integration. It was this time last year that the former prime minister, Vaclav Klaus, learnt of the demise of his government from a CEI conference in Sarajevo. Premier Zeman will be taking on the one-year rotating presidency of the grouping at the end of this weekend's meeting.

The Czech telecommunications company SPT Telecom has announced that a special rate will be introduced for Internet users from next year. The announcement was made after talks with Internet activists who earlier this week held a protest at Telecom plans to raise the cost of local telephone calls - and therefore Internet use - by over 60 percent. This price increase remains, but will not apply to Internet users who said Telecom's pricing policy was threatening to stifle growth of the Net. A Telecom official said Internet costs would now fall by about six-and-a-half percent, but the definitive figure will be announced next week. Internet activist Ondrej Neff said it was now clear the dramatic price hike would not take place, but also he voiced doubts about the announced fall in prices.

An international seminar on violence against women, organised by the La Strada organisation, has heard that organised prostitution should not be fought with measures against the sex trade or migration - but by simply providing the women involved with the maximum of information. La Strada's Iveta Bartunkova told the seminar that women who opt to work as prostitutes abroad should be informed of the risks - and said her organisation had also produced a brochure for prostitutes with tips on safety, health, and dealing with the police.

And finally, the weekend weather. An area of high pressure moving in from the West will bring the mercury on thermometers down to zero degrees Celsius on Saturday and Sunday - with temperatures dropping to a shiver-inducing minus four to minus eight overnight. Skies will be overcast, with scattered snow showers.