Press Review

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Ludicrous as it appears, the long awaited compensation process for former Nazi prisoners and slave labourers in the Czech Republic, has been overshadowed by the 48 hour marathon celebrations of Vaclav Klaus' 60th birthday. Following a celebration organized by party members on Monday, the father of the Czech reform process embraced friends and foes at what some commentators laughingly call the "social event of the year" on Tuesday night .

Loved or loathed, Vaclav Klaus was in the limelight again - and obviously enjoying every single minute - as people queued up for over two hours to deliver their birthday message or gift in person, says LIDOVE NOVINY. MLADA FRONTA DNES carries a snapshot of Mr. Klaus cutting into a six-tier birthday cake, and its caption reads "To Teacher with Love".

PRAVO, a paper close to the governing Social Democrats, has snubbed Klaus - or The Professor - by putting an attractive blond model posing at Ascot on its front page instead. It's page two report on "the birthday party of the year" highlights the fact that Vaclav Klaus' biggest political rival, President Havel, called to excuse himself from the party but did not pass up the opportunity to present his arch rival with a birthday gift - the complete collection of the works of Vaclav Havel!

On a more serious note - the start of the compensation process for 10,000 former Nazi prisoners and slave labourers in this country has received a fairly cool reception from Czech commentators. Many call it "a pittance" and most describe the effort to atone for Nazi atrocities as "too little, too late". The papers note that of the 600,000 Czechs and Moravians forced to work for the Nazi War effort during WWII, only around 100,000 are still alive. So far only 10,000 have been sent compensation payments.

The fact that energy production and distribution trade unions remain on strike alert and are still threatening to effect blackouts of key institutions if the government does not meet their demands for socially sensitive privatization, has received plenty of attention.

A spokesman for the power utility CEZ says that the trade unions' threats to shut down the national electricity grid - the worst-case scenario - are not unrealistic. Meanwhile, lawyer Jiri Teryngl claims that the unions are bluffing since switching off power to key institutions would be a criminal offence and if they went so far as to black out the entire country the government would be forced to call a state of emergency and call in the army.

MLADA FRONTA DNES has published a preliminary assessment of a possible new cure for cancer tested on twelve terminally ill patients. The cure -called "de-vitalization" because it entails cutting off the blood supply to the cancerous growth - has not been as successful as hoped. Eight of the patients died, four are still fighting the illness.

But, according to a leading cancer specialist involved in the experiment, one of those four patients would most certainly have already died had he not undergone de-vitalization treatment. Professor Antos says the results might have been different had the treatment been applied during an earlier stage of the disease. It's certainly worth following this up, prof. Antos told MLADA FRONTA DNES.

And finally, bad news for linguists - according to a study published by the Washington Institute WorldWatch, half of the world's 6,800 languages will be lost by the end of this century. LIDOVE NOVINY carries a snapshot of the last person on Earth who speaks Ejak - 83 year old Marie Smith from Anchorage, Alaska. Even now half of the world's languages are spoken by small communities of no more than 2,500 people.