News Wednesday, FEBRUARY 24th, 1999

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

Government report says we have reached 1990 level in GDP

A government report on the state of the Czech economy and society says that as far as GDP and living standard is concerned the country is now at 1990 levels. The report, which is to be discussed at Wednesday's Cabinet session, makes for bleak reading. It criticizes the state of reform, inadequacies in the judiciary, rise in economic and petty crime, racism and xenophobia. Special attention has been devoted to problems in the secret service and defense sector in the light of the country's imminent accession to NATO.

The report stresses the need to prioritize economic recovery : re- start growth, stabilize the micro-sphere and support viable banks.

British army general inspects unit which he will command

British army general Richard Smith on Tuesday inspected a Czech unit which will come under his command when the Czech Republic joins NATO. The talks with Czech army commanders at the headquarters of the Czech army's ground forces in Olomouc are said to have focused on various aspects of training which would enable the Czech Army's Fourth Rapid Deployment Force to make the transition smoothly and join the British First Division without reducing its action capability. Brigadier Smith said Czech and British army cooperation in Bosnia had been excellent and expressed the conviction that the two armies would achieve full compatibility in a relatively short space of time.

Roach flees Czech Republic

Czech police have requested an Interpol arrest warrant on US citizen Steven Roach who faces charges of child abuse in connection with the much publicized Moravian Academy case. Roach, who was out on a 200 thousand crown bail, appears to have fled the country with his wife Glenda who was also involved in the case. Roach and two other Czechs were charged with child abuse after police discovered that what was to have been a respectable academy was something in the way of a correction centre for wayward US teenagers. The children were kept locked in against their will and subjected to severe physical and mental abuse. Czech police authorities are cooperating with the FBI on the case.

Czechs die in avalanche

Two Czechs are reported to have died in an avalanche in Romania's Carpathian mountains. The two students, whose names have not been revealed, allegedly broke away from their group, planning to make their own way down the mountain. Skiers in most European mountain resorts have been warned that the avalanche alert will last until the end of the week.

Kinnock says EU money used well

EU commissioner for transport Neil Kinnock said at a press briefing in Prague Tuesday that EU funds for the construction of a railway corridor in Moravia - the first construction of its kind in the Czech Republic - had been most effectively used. The EU's financial support towards this construction is the second largest investment into a non- EU member state, and the EU's biggest investment here in the Czech Republic. Kinnock said that even though his mission to this country was not to inspect the books, he was truly impressed with what he had seen. He also expressed appreciation of the government's efforts to reform and revitalize Czech Railways.

Sleeping drug menace

The UN Commission for drugs-related problems /INCB/ says in its annual report that the Czech Republic has a problem with illegal trade in Rohypnol, a potent sleeping drug widely prescribed by GPs in this country, especially to older people with chronic sleep problems. The report says Rohypnol is frequently taken as a substitute by heroin addicts and the commission believes that it is being smuggled out of the country in large quantities. It claims that a delivery of 10.000 Rohypnol pills recently confiscated by Swedish police is very likely to have come from the Czech Republic. The UN Commission likewise reacted to an amendment to the Czech drugs legislation which makes possession of drugs in an amount "larger than small" a criminal offense. The head of the INCB Andreas Niklisch said at a press briefing in Prague Tuesday that the commission was more inclined to favour prevention over penalization and he pointed out that the vague formulation of the law could bring serious problems.

Czech Red Cross says "thank you"

The Czech Red Cross announced on Tuesday that it had collected over 700 thousand crowns in charity in aid of the victims of hurricane Mitch. A spokesperson for the Red Cross thanked all who have donated money to this cause and said the collection was now closed. Hurricane Mitch killed over 10.000 people in Honduras, Nicaragua, Salvador and Guatemala and left close to two and a half million people in dire need.

Finally, a look at the weather :

Wednesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered snowshowers and day temps hovering around the 0 degs. mark. Nighttime lows are expected to dip to minus 4.