Severe frosts awoke the bats from their slumber. Under the weight of a new blanket of snow, a total of twenty roofs collapsed across the country. Health Minister David Rath departed for Saudi Arabia to attract wealthy Saudi citizens to Czech spas. Three cars were set on fire in the House of Deputies’ parking garage. Sportsmen departed for Torino for the winter Olympics. “Sheen of Czech medals will light up Italy,” announced a special supplement of Lidové noviny. The new European Commissioner for Business, Peter Mandelson, visited Prague. The management of the Association of Large Distributors of Medicine informed the Health Ministry that they would stop supplying medicine to the big Czech state hospital unless they pay off their debts of roughly half a billion crowns within three weeks.
Austrian police arrested two Czechs as they were pilfering a church in Linz. Protests and demonstrations by Muslims across the world continued against the printing of a caricature of the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, and Czech diplomatic chief Cyril Svoboda called on the European Union to express its strong support for Denmark, whose embassies in the Arab world have been set on fire following raids by fundamentalists. The international police headquarters of Interpol warned the European public against twenty-three dangerous members of the Al Qaeda network who managed to escape from a prison in Sada, Yemen. Prague judge Petr Novák told TV Nova that domestic intelligence agents exerted pressure on him last December to issue a warrant for businessman Tomáš Pitr, whom Prime Minister Paroubek had called an “enemy of the state” (because his fellow party members had accused him of corruption) and who had just been sentenced to eight years in prison for an eleven-year-old case of fraud; the secret service said the warrant for Pitr was necessary because the businessman allegedly intended to flee the country to avoid conviction. “They pressured me, but I was unyielding; it was only when they produced a letter from the director of intelligence did I sign the warrant, but I said I would still want some evidence – they never gave it to me. The whole thing was peculiar,” Novák told Mladá fronta DNES. The small civic association Tolerance Most announced that Buddhist monks from Ladak would come to Ostrava for the ProTibet 2006 festival in March and would create a rare sand mandala there. Due to suspicious contact with people accused of fraud, National Security Chief Jan Mareš had to step down from his post. A delegation of Czech politicians attended the funeral of former German president Johannes Rau in Dusseldorf. Robert Čásenský replaced Pavel Šafr as editor-in-chief of Mladá fronta DNES, and the editorial staff promised readers its paper would be better than before. Eighty-five years passed since the death of the first Czech filmmaker Jan Křiženecký. Despite opposition from the other parties, Social Democratic and Communist deputies pushed through a law of establishing non-profit hospitals which will be the only ones entitled to enter into contracts with insurers; patients will have to pay for treatment in the others. Writer Joanne Rowling announced she would come to the Czech Republic to personally advocate a ban on caged beds, where mentally retarded children are still locked up in domestic institutions. “I still don’t see any children in cages here – and if Mrs. Rowling wants to increase her popularity – which is already high enough – I certainly can’t applaud it,” Czech President Václav Klaus said in response to the announcement by the author of Harry Potter. A unique collection of weapons probably buried during a funeral ritual by passing-through Germanic warriors sometime around the year 200 A.D. was found near the Krušna Mountain settlement Hrádečná by a local treasure hunter. The House of Deputies passed a law banning men over the age of forty from serving as sperm donors for artificial insemination purposes. “It’s something like a lost paradise,” the media cited members of an international team of scientists who discovered an area in Papua’s Foja mountain range where no human foot has ever stepped and which, thanks to that, is inhabited by numerous animal and plant species that have either never been seen elsewhere or have been thought long extinct. The environmental group Hnutí Duha offered a 50,000-crown reward for information leading to the apprehension of a poacher who has been shooting wolves and linx in the Beskyd Mountains. Ivo Svoboda, the former finance minister from the Zeman Administration who is serving a five-year sentence in Všehrdy Prison for fraud, joined a drama group in the prison.