The domestic and foreign news stories on today's front pages pale in the light of the drama surrounding Slovak President Rudolf Schuster. The president's health crisis - eerily similar to the one President Havel experienced some time ago - has captured the nation's attention and the papers are full of articles on his medical history and treatment. Slovo reports that Slovaks are shocked by the confusion and problems surrounding the president's transfer from one hospital to another - the fact that the president's own son was forced to bang on the gates of a hospital before someone arrived to find out what was going on and that he later spent hours on the phone in an effort to secure a certain type of antibiotic for his father abroad. If the president is treated in this way, what kind of treatment can an ordinary Slovak expect, the paper notes.
Meanwhile, Mlada Fronta Dnes says Slovaks now fear possible instability, for if the president were unable to remain in office for health reasons, it would almost certainly be ex-premier Vladimir Meciar who would win the presidency. There is not a rival on the Slovak political scene who could beat him in early elections, the daily notes, adding that after a period in which President Schuster and the country's right-of-centre coalition government took the country a long way along the road to the EU, Meciar's return could present a serious setback. This is something Czechs would hate to see, for they have many reasons to support Slovakia's admission into the union as early as possible - not wanting to become an EU buffer state is one, the existing customs union with Slovakia another.
The papers also devote considerable space to another problem relating to our eastern neighbour: the fact that - paradoxically enough - Slovak Roma are asking for asylum in the Czech Republic. Over three hundred Roma have asked for asylum in this country since the beginning of this year, 170 of them in the past week. Commentators note that the chances of their being granted asylum are slim and dwell on the paradox of Roma wanting to come here when Canada alleges that the Czech Republic poses a danger for the Roma minority. Clearly the problems surrounding the Roma transgress borders and require a huge international effort, Zemske Noviny says.
Mlada Fronta Dnes reports that ambulance personnel and emergency medical teams are demanding the right to carry a weapon for protection. "Our work is such that we face mentally disturbed patients, dangerous animals, aggressive drunks and drug addicts," one ambulance man told the paper. There are times when a weapon could save a life. Only last week we were called to help a boy who was being attacked by a stray dog. The police had not yet arrived on the scene and if it hadn't been for a neighbour who came to our aid with a stick, we could have just stood there and watched the dog eat the boy, the doctor complained.
And finally, the foreign news section of Slovo carries a brief report which few readers are likely to miss. Private TV stations fight for their share of viewers in any way they can, it says. Czech private TV Nova has a soft-porn weather report. Moscow's MI TV has gone further than that. It has attracted a huge audience by featuring a serious news bulletin with an attractive female anchorwoman who strips while reading the news from the teleprompter. She launches into the show in a very prim and proper manner but in a few minutes she'll run her hand through her hair and undo a button. By the time she's down to her underwear, she's the only person concentrating on the news stories, the paper says. The show has broken all records and the station now boasts a lion's share of the audience. "It's the contrast of the serious news and the sexy striptease that does it," boasts the author of the news programme. The name of the news-show is appropriately enough "The Naked Truth".