Today's topics include: hunting, highest mountain, Czech women's self confidence, time spent on sick leave. Listeners quoted: Sally Amis, Dr Paul Kail, Mat Blaszczyk, Elisabeth Arden, Karl Johanson.

We begin straight away with a response to one of our reports broadcast on the 25th of April on the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Hunters' Union.

Sally Amis wrote to us saying:

"The prevalence of hunting in their country is something which Czechs should be ashamed of, not something to boast about."

Dr Paul Kail also sent us an e-mail with a similar opinion:

"The truth is that people in a civilised society do not kill or maim other individuals for sadistic pleasure. If psychologists have anything at all to say on the matter it is to try to explain why some men feel so insecure that make others suffer so that they can feel more powerful themselves. Instead of honouring this anniversary you should have either ignored it or else marked it as a day of sadness. It is sad for the millions of animals who have been crippled for life or whose partners or offspring were killed by the thugs in this club."

Well, I think I can safely say that none of us here at Radio Prague support hunting. However, the hunter in the sense we are used to in English is known in Czech as the "lovec". However, the Czech Hunters Union represents a different sort of hunter the "myslivec". We actually make this distinction in the report concerned.

Yes, in it, the chairman of the union, Josef Hromas says that membership in the union first and foremost involves protecting the animals. He says, "the Czech word "myslivost" covers both hunting and forest management - something which does not exist in most other languages where they distinguish between the two. The term "myslivost" for us primarily means breeding of animals."

Mat Blaszczyk from Mississauga, Canada asks:

"Does the Czech Republic have high mountains? What's the highest peak in the country?"

Well, the Czech Republic does have mountains. But they are not that big, compared to the Alps or Rockies for example. The highest peak in the Czech Republic is Sneska which stands at 1602 m above sea level. Sneska, or snow mountain, is located in Northern Bohemia in the Krkonose mountains, which is translated into the 'giant mountains' in English. Some of the other mountain ranges in the Czech Republic are the Sumava mountain in Southern Bohemia and the Lustain Mountains, or Czech Switzerland, in Northwestern Bohemia.

Actually, the geography of the Czech Republic is quite interesting. The country is almost totally surrounded by mountain ranges, about 8 in all. During history this formed a natural barrier around the country. But as the saying goes, once the invaders got in, they never left.

Elisabeth Arden from Houston, Texas, in the USA asks:

"How come Czech women have so little self confidence. When I visited your country I noticed that they tend to accept a kind of second rate role both at home and in the work place?"

The answer to this question is actually related to the short comings of Czech schools that we talked about recently in one of our earlier editions of Mailbox. From the first grade it's taken for granted that boys and girls will play a different role in life. For example a first grade book, from which children learn to read has a poem about boys and girls. Girls are here to be mothers, it says, to always smile nicely and create a good atmosphere around them, they are here to look after their children one day and help them when they are ill, or have any problems.

And boys? They're here to make the world a nicer place, they overcome all storms and thunder, they're not afraid of ice and frost. Boys are here to make the world spin in the right direction. And the poem is illustrated with a drawing of a boy pulling a girl's braid, and the girl smiling and obviously enjoying it.

And, of course, in higher grades teachers tend to expect boys to do better in subjects like mathematics and physics, so they pay more attention to them, to their ability to employ their initiative in applying what they have learned, while girls do all right if they just memorize the information in their text books.

Karl Johanson from Goteborg, Sweden asks.

"Is it true that Czechs spend more time on sick leave than people in any other country?"

I don't know whether that goes for any country, but it certainly is true for Europe. In the European Union, out of 100 working days, people are on sick leave 4 days. Czechs are home on sick leave one whole week out of every 100 days.

That is a huge difference. But it doesn't mean that our state of health is that much worse.

Especially when you look at the age of those most often off - most of them are young employees, under the age of 20. That's because they tend to have the lowest salaries and for them it's worth while to take sick leave benefits - they're not much lower than their salary. In some cases they're even the same. That goes for anybody whose salary before taxes is only 14 000 crowns a month - his sick leave benefits will equal his actual take home money. So it's a real temptation to stay at home.

Then there are those who are afraid of being laid off from work, and while they are ill, they can not be made redundant.

And in most cases it's no problem to convince the doctor that there is something wrong with you.

The cabinet and the parliamentary committees that deal with these issues are discussing ways of changing the system, while not hurting those who are really ill on a long time basis.

So, obviously it's a topic we'll be coming back to in our other programs.