Press Review

LIDOVE NOVINY notes that the Czech welfare system provides little incentive to those who prefer working to staying on the dole. Loopholes in the system virtually invite abuse. The system itself is too costly for the state to maintain and the worst thing is, the paper points out, money almost never reaches those who need it most, such as handicapped people. A family of, say, six, receives close to 20,000 crowns a month, or the equivalent of two decent monthly wages for blue-collar workers, in tax-free allowances. The various benefits may add up to more than an uneducated worker can hope to earn in a factory. Another good trick is to negotiate a minimum--therefore tax-free--wage with an employer and then receive the balance in cash, again without taxation. The labour and social affairs minister, Vladimir Spidla, is adamant that the welfare system must not only stay but be expanded in the future, LIDOVE NOVINY complains.

Workaholics typically shy away from summer holidays in the naive hope that their superiors find them irreplaceable and that, in their absence, the company would most probably collapse. But as today's PRAVO cautions, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Not to mention a sick boy. Everyone is dispensable and those who find it impossible to stay away from work in the summer are most likely to come to grief, health-wise. In an interview with PRAVO, Deputy Health Minister Michal Pohanka warns that although each person is different, people typically need to recharge their batteries at least twice a year. Going on holiday and getting away from it all should be part of everybody's mental hygiene. Likewise, it is vitally important to learn how to forget about work the minute one leaves the office. Never talk shop after hours, he recommends, and do some exercise instead. What's more, people who think of work all the time tend to have little or no sex life and sooner or later become impossible to live with, the official warns. And Mr Pohanka should know, he's a sex therapist by trade.

Staying on the theme of reproduction, vegetarian women, ZEMSKE NOVINY reports today, stand a better chance of giving birth to daughters than those who eat meat. A team of experts from Nottingham University in Britain has monitored six thousand pregnant women and found out that women who eat a lot of vegetables and fruit and no meat at all are several times more likely to have daughters. In contrast, meat-eaters tend to have sons more often. As the paper notes, these findings could be the start of something one might call planned gender engineering.

And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES carries a joint commentary by President Clinton and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, written for several prestigious European papers today. In it, both leaders reflect on the progress Southeast Europe has achieved one year after they and the leaders of 40 other countries, including the Czech Republic, gathered in Sarajevo to announce the Stability Pact--a timetable for democratic change in the troubled region. The authors note a great deal of progress, such as the return of refugees to Kosovo and Bosnia, increasing cross-border cooperation, Bosnia's newly acquired habit of solving disputes at the polls, and the region's new tendency to build bridges to the rest of the world rather than walls of ethnic hatred. But the scene is marred by Europe's last surviving aggressive and dictatorial regime. The Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, in an effort to cling to power, has launched an attack on the Yugoslav constitution and is trying to undermine democratic change in Montenegro. The goal of an undivided Europe, in which another horrible war is unthinkable, is still some way off, both leaders warn in their op-ed published in today's MLADA FRONTA DNES.