The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, on an official visit to Brazil, has met with the country's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Mr Paroubek and President Lula met on Friday, discussing economic issues as well as domestic and foreign policy - with Mr Paroubek revealing plans for the Brazilian president to visit Prague in the coming months. The Czech prime minister stressed support for Brazil's effort to gain permanent member status in the United Nations Security Council, saying he expected that Brazil would show similar support for the Czech Republic, aspiring to become a Security Council elected member.
The Communist Party has officially launched its campaign towards this
year's national election to be held in June, criticising the country's
largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats,
currently leading in opinion polls. Party head Vojtech Filip indicated
that the current government coalition leaders, the left-of-centre
Social Democrats, have far more in common on policy issues, and there
are indications the Communist Party would be willing to support a
future minority Social Democrat government following elections in June.
All the same, this week saw former Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek clash with his successor Mr Filip, whom he criticised for being too soft on the Social Democratic Party - in government now for two successive terms. The Communist Party officially announced its campaign on Saturday at Prague's Congress centre but its former chairman Miroslav Grebenicek was notably absent.
Specialists on Friday were called in to lay protective floating barriers around an oil slick discovered on the Elbe River. The slick has raised environmental concerns in both the Czech Republic and neighbouring Germany. 500 litres and 15 kilometres long, the slick was discovered on Friday morning near the north Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem, near the Czech-German border. The Ministry of Environment and Agriculture in the eastern German state of Saxony said it had been informed by the Czechs' steps to contain the spill. Exact causes of the contamination are not yet known, but it is possible the leak came either from a damaged pipeline or a freighter or truck accident. It is also possible the source of the slick was a leak from any of a number of chemical plants on the Elbe River.
In NHL action on Friday Czech player Ales Hemsky, a member of the Czechs' recent Bronze-medal team at the Turin Winter Olympics, was instrumental in helping his team, the Edmonton Oilers bury the San Jose Sharks. Hemsky scored the decisive goal with 1:07 left in the third period, cheekily sidestepping defenseman Josh Gorges and scoring artfully on San Jose's goalie, by sliding the puck between his pads. The Oilers' 3-2 win snaps a four-game losing streak, leaving the team momentarily in position to clinch an eighth and final play-off spot in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, trust in public institutions has increased, suggests a poll carried out by the CVVM agency last month. Three-quarters of respondents said they trusted the president, up five percent on the beginning of the year. Some 44 percent said they had faith in the government, an increase of three percent.
The Czech Olympic Committee is suing three companies for alleged copyright infringement. It says energy drink maker Tecfood broke the law by featuring the Olympic rings on its cans without authorisation. The Czech Olympic Committee is also taking the brewery Litovel to court for breach of copyright, and is planning to sue another brewery, Budejovicky Budvar, in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee.
Czech ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr has now notched up 1,400 points in the NHL, the highest number ever for a European player. He made one assist and scored two goals in the New York Rangers 6:1 defeat of Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. Meanwhile, Jagr has questioned the Czech team's preparations for the Turin Winter Olympics; he said insufficient back-up for the players was one reason he had quit international hockey.
A dispute has arisen between Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and President Vaclav Klaus over the protocol of a visit to Prague by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Just before Mr Putin arrived this week, Mr Paroubek said cabinet ministers would not sign a treaty with Russia at the president's office at Prague Castle; he insisted that the ceremony take place at the Office of the Government a day later. In the end, however, the prime minister backed down and the signing took place at the Castle. The president's office has accused Mr Paroubek of attempting blackmail, while he said it had behaved incorrectly.
A Czech farmers group has called for a ban on the transport of poultry within the European Union. The South Moravian Agrarian Chamber also wants the state to make so-called "intervention purchases" of Czech poultry, and says the importing of cheap poultry into the Czech Republic could pose a health risk. A spokesperson for the ministry of agriculture said its priority was to support sales by reassuring customers that Czech poultry was safe. No cases of bird flu have been recorded in the Czech Republic, but it has been detected in some neighbouring states.
Czech scientists have developed a vaccine which could reduce middle ear infection. Researchers from the University of Defence in Hradec Kralove said the vaccine they tested against middle ear infection reduced cases of illness by about 30 percent in babies who had been vaccinated in the first six months of life. The university has developed the drug for the company GlaxoSmithKline.
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