Press Review

The start of the new school year on Monday is the top story in most Czech dailies today. Many papers carry a photograph of President Havel visiting a public school in the outskirts of Prague, where he met children in the first and fourth grades.

Lidove noviny reports that when one of the girls in the fourth grade asked whether Mr. Havel had already started writing poetry when he was their age, the head of state recited a brief bit of his early literary efforts in which he had claimed that the capital of Syria was Beirut. None of the ten year olds noticed the error, so Havel told them it should have been Damascus.

Other top politicians visited schools in various parts of the country, reminding pupils of the importance of learning. Speaker of the House Vaclav Klaus even showed off his basketball skills in the gymnasium of the school he visited. Lidove noviny quote Mr Klaus as advising the kids to learn as much as they can during their nine years at school.

In its business section, Mlada fronta Dnes looks into the increase in the number of loans taken by individuals. The paper found out that Czechs are less and less afraid of borrowing money and that the number of loans increased by 15 percent in the first six months of this year, with mortgages up by 50 percent.

This is a recent phenomenon, Mlada fronta Dnes writes, and for banks, too, it is something quite new and mortgages tend to be difficult to obtain. The paper quotes experts who say that legislation protecting creditors is insufficient, so banks have to be careful to ensure that they won't be cheated out of the money they lend.

The business daily Hospodarske noviny welcomes a new law introducing the special labeling of genetically modified food in the Czech Republic as of next year. There have been fierce debates on whether to eat or not to eat food containing genetically modified organisms, the paper writes. Decision making is driven not only by health and environmental concerns but also economic realities, and the answer to that question is sure to be different in Europe than in developing countries. But whatever the truth about genetic manipulation, Hospodarske noviny says, every customer should be able to make a choice.

And finally, today's Pravo looks at the financial impact of the end of the holiday season, stating that the cost of package tours increased considerably this year as a consequence of the compulsory insurance policies travel agencies have had to adopt.

Pravo recalls that in the past, some of the smaller companies went bankrupt in the middle of the season, leaving customers stranded at their holiday resorts, or not even able to send them at all on the holidays that they had paid for. Now, travel agencies must include the cost of insurance against such events to the cost of the package tours and that, plus inflation and the resulting less favorable exchange rates, has led to a 9 to 12 percent increase in the cost of holidays.