Anthrax - the existence of which few people were aware of just a few weeks ago has suddenly become a nightmare. "Anthrax spreads panic around the globe" reads the front page headline in Lidove noviny. " Living in a zone of fear" echoes Prazske slovo. "Over thirty suspect mail deliveries in a single day" says Mlada fronta Dnes referring to the Czech Republic alone.
With every new confirmed case of anthrax in the United States the panic in Europe gets worse, writes Slovo. If the terrorists' aim was to spread panic they've certainly achieved their goal. People are now afraid to open their mail, they panic at the sight of an abandoned bag, bottle or scattered powder. They look upon dark skinned foreigners with suspicion and some have started stocking up on bottled water and basic necessities, the paper says.
Commentators say they are aware that media reports are partly to blame for the growing panic and Mlada fronta Dnes speculates about whether the media should devote so much attention to every suspicious find and feature shock-value headlines. Terrorists are banking on this response and in a way we are helping them to achieve their goal, says Mlada fronta Dnes, on the other hand, in a democratic state people have the right to information and they want to know the worst - including details about the disease itself and the chances of recovery.
Pravo agrees and Slovo obviously does too -judging by its full page report about anthrax . According to the report the Czech Republic currently has CIPRO antibiotics for 100,000 people and although the paper says that a vaccine against anthrax does exist it is believed to have serious side effects. In fact, the paper claims that the side effects produced by this vaccine may have been partly responsible for the health problems suffered by some Gulf War veterans.
The Forum 2000 Conference - a meeting of intellectuals held under the auspices of President Havel - has received plenty of attention and many of the papers quote what leading intellectuals, former presidents, and political analysts have to say about the global terrorist threat.
The former US president Bill Clinton is widely quoted as saying that the developed nations of the world bear some responsibility for this crisis. "We have to rid the poor of their hatred and ourselves of short-term selfishness" Mr. Clinton is quoted as telling the assembly.
Lidove noviny reports that the present crisis has led some Czech politicians to consider NATO's role at the beginning of the third millenium. The most radical statement of all has come from the Prime Minister Milos Zeman who expressed the view that in the present day NATO's chief enemy is not Russia or any individual state but international terrorism and that under the circumstances the alliance should open its doors to Russia and any other state which has embraced the same values. The idea of letting Russia join NATO has evoked a sharp negative response from President Havel and right wing politicians and the paper features a few quotes which show that although there's a new enemy on the horizon the country's old foe has not been forgotten.