This Friday is a national holiday in the Czech Republic, marking the 87th anniversary of the founding of the first Czechoslovak state. The "Velvet Divorce" of January 1993 saw Czechoslovakia split into two separate states, the Czech Republic, which continues to celebrate the October 28 holiday, and Slovakia, which no longer does. To mark the occasion, the seated Czech president traditionally lays a wreath at the statue of the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas G Masaryk, and receives foreign diplomats at Prague Castle.
Meanwhile, in Prague, some seventy Czech neo-Nazis demonstrated outside the German embassy on Friday to demand the release of Ernst Zuendel, a far-right extremist who is in prison in Germany for the crime of denying the Holocaust. The Czech Jewish Communities' Federation, the Czech Council for Victims of Nazism and other civic groups earlier this week criticised Prague City Hall for granting permission for the neo-Nazi demonstration to go ahead. About twice as many people turned out for a counter protest at the embassy organised by the anti-racism group Tolerance, with the support of Czech politicians including MP Tatana Fischerova, and Senators Karel Schwarzenberg and Jaromir Stetina. Two neo-Nazi demonstrators were arrested, but police said the event passed without major incident.
Researchers at the International Agency for Cancer Research in Lyon, France, have said that adding cruciferous vegetables like cabbage to one's diet can help reduce of lung cancer. The French agency had compared some 2100 lung cancer patients with a similar number of healthy individuals from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and several other Eastern European countries where cabbage is a normal part of the diet. The French study found that eating vegetables from the cabbage family at least once a week cut cancer risk for people with inactive versions of certain genes, which are carried by two out of every three people worldwide.
And in the world of sport, the English football club Aston Villa are again without Czech international striker Milan Baros for Monday's Barclays Premiership away clash with Manchester City. Baros will miss his fifth successive match after aggravating his Achilles tendon problem while on playing for the Czech Republic in the World Cup qualifiers.
Czechoslovak statehood day in recent years has also been marked by rallies of the far-right and racist skinhead groups. Some 100 far-right extremists rallied in Ostrava, the third largest Czech city. Organised groups of skinheads from Brno, the regional capital of Moravia, and from neighbouring Slovakia were also present, police said. Anti-fascist groups took to the streets to counter demonstrate and several arrests were made.
An anonymous bomb threat was also called in to the Prague headquarters of US broadcaster Radio Free Europe at around 3pm on Friday. The building was evacuated as a precaution and police reportedly found a suspicious package on the grounds. RFE was forced to disrupt its transmission. Police have not said if the caller gave a motive, but the radio headquarters have been considered a likely target for a terrorist attack, and the building at the top of Wenceslas Square has been under armed guard since 2001.
The government has donated another 40 million crowns in humanitarian aid to the region of Pakistan devastated by a recent earthquake. This brings total aid for Pakistan to 110 million crowns (around 4.5 million dollars). Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said some funds would probably be made available for the treatment of Pakistani earthquake victims here in the Czech Republic.