Press Review

Well we've had Harry Potter fever, now it's the turn of the Lord of the Rings to be hyped to death by the world's media. The first instalment of the trilogy premiered in Prague at midnight on Wednesday, and among the crowd of eager Tolkein fans was the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Lidove noviny features a front-page photo of Mr Zeman with his wife Ivana, waiting for the three-hour epic to begin.

Lidove noviny counts the human cost of Tuesday evening's fire at a casino in the city of Brno. Two firemen died while trying in vain to rescue a croupier from the blaze, says the paper, adding that one of the men - the senior fireman on duty - leaves a wife and three children.

"The room where the two were looking for the casino employee was thick with smoke, and the younger man lost his bearings," Brno Fire Chief Rudolf Valasek explains to the paper. "The senior officer continued searching the whole casino, and eventually found the man. But as he was coming back out to call for reinforcements, there was a sudden surge in the blaze. And then it was too late to save them," he tells Lidove noviny.

And the emergency services were also kept busy on the D1 motorway between Prague and Brno, says Mlada fronta Dnes today. The D1 saw the winter's biggest series of pile-ups on Tuesday, and all of them occurred on the busiest stretch near the town of Humpolec. The accidents came in three waves, starting shortly before 6am, and involved a total of 20 vehicles. No-one was killed, says Mlada fronta Dnes, but several people were seriously injured.

Pravo leads with the bizarre headline "Courts Say Dogs More Important Than Humans", explaining that a veterinary clinic was forced to pay more than 1,000,000 crowns in compensation after causing the death of a Chihuahua called Ondra. Ondra, says the paper, was the smallest dog in the world, and recorded as such in the Guinness Book of Records.

But Pravo points out that while the owners of the tiny dog are 1,000,000 crowns richer, courts pay out much less when it comes to human beings who've died after mistakes on the operating table. Most compensation payments for death from medical negligence are far, far lower - and the highest payment was 800,000 crowns, for a man accidentally infected with AIDS.

But there'll be no compensation for a 700-kilo bull shot dead by police on Tuesday, unless he's got a good lawyer that is. Pravo reports that an elite police unit was called out to a slaughterhouse near the town of Marianske Lazne, after the raging bull broke out of its enclosure and started attacking its captors. "The animal went crazy. He was kicking the fence so hard the latch to the enclosure flew open. He started attacking everything in sight, and we couldn't even get near him," a slaughterhouse vet told the paper.

Employees said they had little choice but to call the police, who sent an elite armed response team to the abattoir. "I chose a good marksman, so the animal wouldn't suffer," says local police chief Lubomir Kucera. "Originally I wanted to use a machine gun, but we decided it was too risky. So in the end one of my men brought him down with a 9mm pistol." The bull, writes Pravo, was obviously distressed by the atmosphere at the slaughterhouse. Now I'm no expert in animal psychology, but can you blame him?