Press Review

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The upcoming national census is certainly getting a poor reception from both the media and the general public. It appears on front pages with increasing frequency and almost always in a negative light. Lidove Noviny, which has repeatedly criticized the Czech Statistical Office for the enormous amount of private data that it wants people to reveal as well as its insistence on getting full names, addresses and citizens' ID numbers, calls the census "an info-striptease to which citizens are being subjected".

There are ways of conducting a census without checking out the contents of people's wallets and invading the privacy of their bedrooms, the paper says. Census gatherers have a fair idea of the kind of reception they'll get -and 1,400 of them have opted to forgo the extra cash and not make themselves a target of public hostility. Replacing them at the last minute is not easy, the paper notes, since census gatherers deal with private data they must undergo some form of credibility screening.

Mlada Fronta Dnes has praise for the way in which the Czech government is now handling the controversy with neighboring states over the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Our government has finally stopped muscle-flexing and taken a realistic approach, the daily says. And in response, the Austrian government too has adopted a more conciliatory tone and is advising Austrian anti-nuclear activists against effecting further border blockades. There is no doubt as to whose words will carry greater weight with them and one can only conclude that it is a pity that this reasonable approach was not effected from the outset, the paper concludes.

"Czechs take IBM to court for helping the Nazis" says an attention-grabbing headline in Lidove Noviny. Actually it is one US citizen, one Ukrainian and two Czechs who have jointly filed a complaint against IBM for allegedly helping the Nazis to gather and process information on Jews. Lidove Noviny carries an old snapshot in which a former IBM chief is seen sitting next to Hitler at a business meeting. A book on the SWW by historian Edwin Black also appears to confirm this link. Nazi war veterans are demanding that IBM make its archive materials from this period available and that they be made to pay 10 million US dollars in compensation which would be used to finance education programmes about the Holocaust.

Now let's return to the present day - and a more cheerful topic. St. Valentines day is less than a decade old in the Czech Republic but it has already grown strong roots. The young generation has embraced it with enormous enthusiasm and of course businesses have pulled all the stops to encourage a wild shopping spree. Flowers, chocolates, ladies underwear and jewelry are the most sought after commodities and their prices have sky rocketed for the day.

In this connection it is interesting to note an ostensibly unrelated report in the papers about Czech police having confiscated 1,400 pairs of women's knickers from a driver who was attempting to smuggle them into the Czech Republic. Reportedly the whole car - including the doors and dashboard were stuffed with panties. It makes one sad to think of how many ladies will be disappointed today....

Another hilarious story is to be found on the front page of Zemske Noviny where a farmer complains that he is being hassled by local police officers to get lights for his horse drawn carriage. According to a new traffic law, every vehicle on the road must use lights day and night during the winter months. Mr. Dolezal who recently bought his horse and was looking forward to country life says he has no intention of wiring up his horse with battery operated lights - telling the paper that this was "an act against nature". Mr. Dolezal is willing to compromise and carry a gas lamp but the local police chief is insistent - the law is binding for all - and the horse drawn carriage will have to be modernized. A scooter or a Mercedes - he says - anything on the road must have front and rear lights.