Press Review

All the Czech newspapers today report on storms that passed over some regions on Sunday and left three dead. PRAVO writes that in the village of Sokolnice near the Czech Republic's second city of Brno people were watching a handball match when a huge poplar tree was blown over and buried two elderly people under its branches. A 76-year-old woman and 65-year-old man died almost immediately. The players escaped the disaster only thanks to the fact that they were all on the opposite side of the field at the crucial moment.

The third fatality was a 27-year-old man drowned when fishing on the Slapy dam south of Prague. He was with a friend on a fishing boat in the middle of the lake, when the storms came. The boat capsized and while his friend managed to swim to the bank, the young fisherman drowned despite the unsuccessful attempts of another man who witnessed the accident from the shore, reports PRAVO.

On its front page LIDOVE NOVINY carries a long article entitled "Kozeny wants to establish a new political party in the Czech Republic." The paper tells its readers that multi-billionaire Viktor Kozeny embezzled billions of Czech crowns that streamed into his Harvard Funds during the voucher privatization scheme in the early 1990s. People eager to buy shares in Czech enterprises kept sending money to Kozeny's fund after he had promised them high returns.

Mr. Kozeny's political ambitions, writes LIDOVE NOVINY, come as a surprise, only two days after Prime Minister Milos Zeman announced that an international arrest warrant for Kozeny had been issued. Kozeny says he is preparing a 'modern and democratic programme involving a small and professional state apparatus which would preside over a substantial improvement in social services'. But Mr. Kozeny's political aspirations may well be thwarted by Czech police and by the US judicial system. A court in Colorado recently froze his property assets because of suspected financial fraud, writes the paper.

"Spidla offers thousands for every newborn child," reads a headline in MLADA FRONTA DNES. The paper informs readers that the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla, intends to increase child benefits from the present 2,400 crowns per month to 3,300 and back up every newborn child with some 50 thousand crowns from a planned 'childcare fund.' But the idea of the fund has been strictly rejected by the opposition, who say these are populist moves aimed at boosting the Social Democrat cabinet's popularity before the upcoming general elections due next spring.

And finally, the newly established Prague edition of ZEMSKE NOVINY, PRAZSKE SLOVO writes that the number of youngsters who have experienced drugs has been growing steadily. It quotes statistics where in 1994 17 percent of 14-year-old children tried drugs, while last year the figure reached over 20 percent. Experts expect the percentage to rise even further this year.

The most appalling aspect of the issue is that while the number of school-age drug addicts has been on the rise, there are no drug detoxification centres in the Czech Republic that can help them. These children usually end up at intensive care units in hospitals or at anti-alcohol detoxification centres. Psychologists say a young person's encounter with adult alcoholics might be dangerous and that children need a special approach to tackle their problems, writes PRAZSKE SLOVO.