Press Review

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Senate chairman Petr Pithart's trip to Cuba and reactions to the election of a new leader of the Four-party coalition dominate the main headlines in today's Czech daily newspapers. On the international front, the papers report on the increasingly desperate hunt for survivors in the earthquake-ravaged province of Gujarat in India.

MLADA FRONTA DNES analyses the election of Cyril Svoboda from the Christian Democratic Party as the leader of the Four-party Coalition. The paper arrives at the conclusion that Svoboda was probably the best possible choice, because of election mathematics - voters of other parties within the coalition tend to support Christian Democrat politicians, but the rather conservative Christian Democrat electorate would hardly put up with a representative of one of the other parties as the leader. If that had happened, many of them would be likely to ignore the general election.

LIDOVE NOVINY reports on a decision by Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky, who wants to hold a fresh trial involving convicted murderer Jiri Kajinek, famous for his daring escape from the most strictly guarded prison in the Czech Republic. Rychetsky said his office studied Kajinek's file for three months and found serious flaws that suggest that the trial may have not been fair. The paper points out that Kajinek would not have achieved this if he had not escaped from prison and managed to attract the attention of the media.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY mentions government plans to provide more generous funding to scientific research. Currently, the percentage of GDP allocated from the Czech state budget for supporting scientific research, is about one third lower than the EU average. The newspaper quotes the outgoing chairman of the Czech Academy of Science, Rudolf Zahradnik, as saying that it is not only about money, but also prestige. He points out that a top Czech eye surgeon whose performance verges on miraculous, receives a salary of around the national average. Mr. Zahradnik sees such disrespect of science as evidence of a general decline of society as a whole.

ZEMSKE NOVINY claims that striking staff at Czech public television has been losing support from the general public. The crisis has been dragging on for more than a month. The newspaper writes that the general public no longer understands what the dispute is all about, as the controversial director has been removed and parliament swiftly passed a new law that is supposed to ensure the political independence of a new Czech Television board. At the same time, the rebels have undertaken several steps which are seen as lacking in common sense.

And finally, PRAVO reports on a spreading influenza epidemic in the Czech Republic. According to the newspaper, there are 300,000 thousand people ill in the country, out of a total population of ten million. The paper quotes doctors as saying the number of case has rocketed by 64 percent within a week. On the same page, the paper warns its readers that they can expect severe frosts in February, with temperatures plunging to as low as -15 degrees Celsius.