Some 150 of the country's finest music and theatre ensembles are performing at the Mezi Ploty, or Between Fences, cultural festival at Prague's Bohnice psychiatric hospital this week-end. Mezi Ploty is open to the public, with the aim of increasing awareness and understanding of mental illness, alcoholism and drug addiction. The festival is organised every year and has always enjoyed much popularity with some 20,000 visitors. Performers this year range from the underground Plastic People of the Universe to Czech Superstar (Czech Pop Idol) Aneta Langerova.
Forty-six companies, including Austria's Steyr-Daimler-Puch and
Finland's Patria, have applied to take part in a tender to produce
8-wheel armoured carriers for the Czech Army. The deal has been slated
as worth 25 billion crowns, or more than 1 billion US dollars. Friday
was the final deadline for registration. The tender - the most
expensive order by the Czech Army since the fall of communism in 1989 -
was approved by the government in April and will see the replacement of
the old OT-64s with 200 new vehicles. The OTs have been in use since
The Defence Ministry will then decide during the summer on who will make the tender's 2nd round. The winner is expected to be known by the end of 2005 or early 2006.
This Saturday 12 areas in the Czech Republic will mark the so-called Den Boubelky - the country's first-ever "Chubbies' Day" - aimed at increasing weight awareness and related health problems. The day has been organised by a club wishing to help overweight Czechs shed extra pounds. According to some experts between 22 percent of Czech men and 25 percent Czech women suffer from obesity and some studies show that Czechs rate the third highest in obesity in Europe.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has suggested President Vaclav Klaus should attend the next time the cabinet meets to discuss foreign policy. The prime minister and the president have been at odds recently over who legally has the right to present the country's foreign policy abroad, with Mr Paroubek saying it is clearly the responsibility of government. On Thursday the prime minister threatened to ban President Vaclav Klaus from travelling abroad if the president contradicted the government's foreign policy. Mr Klaus is well-known for his opposition, for example, to the EU constitution. On Friday the prime minister tempered his words somewhat by saying that trips would not be banned, just carefully weighed. The government approves all official trips by the president.
Customs officials have stated that in recent years a greater abundance of illegal drugs smuggled into the Czech Republic have come from the Netherlands. Illegal substances have included the drug pervetin, a methamphetamine. This year successful recoveries by customs officials included uncovering more than 2 kilograms of ecstasy as well as a quarter kilogram of heroin found on a bus from Amsterdam headed for the city of Brno. In 2004 customs officials uncovered 59 cases of drugs smuggling by car, and 37 by bus including a discovery of 25 kilograms of 100 percent pure heroin.
The Czech Justice Ministry has forwarded - to a Prague court - a Qatari request for the extradition of Prince Hamid bin Abdal Sani, standing trial in the Czech Republic for the alleged sexual abuse of underage girls. The Justice Ministry has vetted the document and said that by law the court should hand the case over to the judiciary in Mr Sani's home country. A verdict by the Prague court is expected Monday. Mr Sani is accused of having abused 16 girls all under the age of fifteen in his flat in the Czech capital.
Investigative reporter Sabina Slonkova has been given the Karel Havlicek Borovsky award for journalism. Ms Slonkova, who writes for the daily Hospordarske noviny, was herself in the news two years ago when the police foiled a plan to kill her by former Foreign Ministry official Karel Srba; he ordered a contract killing after she reported on some of his dubious dealings at the ministry.
Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros have become the first Czechs to play in the final of the football's biggest club competition, the Champions League. Smicer scored a fine goal for Liverpool and also converted the club's final penalty in a shoot out after the game against AC Milan ended 3:3. After six years at Liverpool, the 32-year-old is set to leave in the summer, while Milan Baros, who is 24, may also join a new club.
Meanwhile, ex-president Vaclav Havel has spoken in defence of former dissidents who protested against a statement by President Klaus; he warned of the dangers of unelected non-governmental organisations influencing public life. Mr Havel - who is himself the country's best known former dissident - said his old allies were seen by some as society's bad conscience. He said they were proof that it was possible to behave differently and not conform. The former president is currently in Washington, where he is just completing a two-month study stay.
Fares on public transport in Prague are to rise significantly from next month, the city's municipal authority has announced. The cost of a single non-transfer ticket will increase from 12 to 20 crowns (or from around 50 US cents to almost a dollar). Critics say the price rises could lead to more people using cars in the city.