Press Review

The horror of the weekend suicide bombings in Jerusalem is splashed all over today's front pages. "Blood and tears in Jerusalem" reads the headline in Mlada fronta Dnes. The paper speculates about whether the Palestinian President Jassir Arafat has lost all control of the situation. It is highly improbable that he would secretly support these attacks since they put Palestinians in the worst possible light -alongside Bin Ladin's terrorists, the paper notes.

Closer to home the papers comment on the weekend victory in Slovakia's regional elections of the former authoritative prime minister Vladimir Meciar. Mr. Meciar has effected another come back, toning down his nationalist rhetoric, promising voters social securities and paying lip service to the EU and NATO, says the paper. All this despite the fact that both EU and NATO officials warned Slovakia that it would be unlikely to gain entry to western structures under Meciar's leadership. His victory in regional elections is a dress rehearsal for next year's general elections and a serious warning to the governing coalition about not sleeping on its laurels, the paper concludes.

On home ground, Lidove noviny reports that after all the back-patting on account of the Czech-Austrian agreement over Temelin the government will now have to sit down and think about what the promise to invest another 100 million crowns in additional safety measure will mean for the privatization of the plant's current owner and operator CEZ. The legally binding agreement signed in Brussels says that the cost of making Temelin safer will automatically pass onto the plant's new owner, the paper says.

On a different topic, Mlada fronta Dnes reports that it has evidence pointing to shady financing of the opposition Four Party Coalition. Regional party politicians in the towns of Olomouc, Èeské Budejovice and Pardubice have allegedly been rewarding sponsors with lucrative business contracts.

Slovo reports on a highly publicized bill currently being drafted by the government which is expected to effect almost every household in the Czech Republic. In order to reduce air-pollution, especially in the winter months, the government is proposing a law which will enable regional authorities to fine people who burn brown coal in areas where they could use gas heaters or other more environment-friendly forms of heating. Many families who switched to gas-heaters several years ago within a government sponsored environment project have now switched back to coal because of the high price of gas.

The paper notes that regional authorities have welcomed the possibility of imposing such fines since even small villages are seriously troubled by air pollution when the majority of inhabitants burn coal. Reactions from the public to the bill have been mixed because although people agree that increased air pollution is harmful to health - in particular children are more prone to allergies - they point out that if they can't afford the price of gas there's no choice but to burn coal until their financial situation improves.

And finally, on a lighter note the first advent weekend here in the Czech Republic was spent preparing for Xmas, but more importantly preparing for St. Nicolas who is due to arrive on Wednesday night with sweets and fruit for children. He comes accompanied by the devil and angel and there were plenty of dress rehearsals over the weekend. In Moravia there was even a "devil's meet" by which the organizers hoped to set a new world record in the number of devils assembled in one place. They failed to set a record but the mood was great, says Parvo. Ninety nine devils aged 5 to 50 got together and competed in how frightful they looked, how bad they smelled and how well they played poker.