Press Review

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Czechs who have accounts in Komercni Pojistovna, a subsidiary of Komercni Banka, will probably have choked on their morning coffee after opening today's copy of Mlada Fronta Dnes. "Clients' Private Data Stolen. Bank Officials Tightlipped About How Much Data Has Gone" read the headlines.

The paper says that not only had the insurance company failed to protect the interests of its half a million clients, it also tried to cover up the loss, leaving clients unaware of the fact that their private data could be abused. The theft of the computer equipment reportedly took place in January of this year.

Karel Neuwirt, head of the Institute for the Protection of Private Data, has advised clients to take the insurance company to court. The Institute says it was not informed about the incident, and Mr. Neuwirt told the paper he was sending an inspection team over right away.

Meanwhile, Komercni Banka officials have said in their defence that what was stolen was computer equipment containing encrypted back-up copies of data that would be extremely hard to decipher, and that the director of the subsidiary as well as several other high placed officials had already been sacked for negligence.

Lidove Noviny reports that things are finally happening at the Defence Ministry. In an editorial called "Tvrdik's New Broom" Martin Schmarcz says that the new defence minister certainly can't be accused of dithering. Less than a fortnight after entering office he's replaced all three of his deputies and announced far-reaching cuts in personnel and property in preparation for the creation of a professional army.

Despite all-round praise for the new minister's efficiency drive, commentators say he arrived too late to prevent the highly respected commander of the Air Force Ladislav Klima from retiring. Despite the new minister's attempts to persuade him otherwise, and reportedly offering him the post of deputy chief of staff, General Klima has confirmed his retirement. Many commentators attribute his departure to too many nonsensical regulations and bureaucratic hurdles which were placed in the general's path.

The Cesky Krumlov Volkswagen rally starts this afternoon and while car rally enthusiasts are gathering in anticipation for the event, Zemske Noviny reports that villagers who are unlucky enough to have houses along the 600 km route are preparing for the worst: pulling down fencing and putting up barriers.

"They drive like madmen. For three days we can barely see for dust," says the owner of one roadside cottage. "Last year seven of them crashed into our fence and dozens of spectators trampled over our flower beds." The Duseks have cleared everything possible away and have replaced their new fence with an old one for the race. And they are preparing for a major clean-up operation once the dust has settled.

And finally Slovo reports that two promising Czech athletes have stripped off for ads to promote athletics, a discipline overshadowed by other more popular sports in the Czech Republic. 400 metre runner Jitka Burianova and sprinter Radek Zachoval posed nude with only a pair of running shoes slung over their shoulders, for photos which are an important part of a campaign aimed at attracting the younger generation to the sport.

"The Czech Athletics Union needs a new image," its chairman Karel Pilny told Slovo. We want to encourage more young people to try this sport and Burianova and Zachoval are perfect role models - beautiful, healthy and successful.