Press Review

Today's front pages carry a wider variety of stories than usual, though both Lidove noviny and Mlada fronta Dnes lead with the ongoing story about bank card copying. Mlada fronta Dnes quotes computers expert Vladimir Smejkal as saying that the banks themselves were to blame for not introducing cards containing computer chips sooner.

Pravo reports on a dispute over a Health Ministry proposal which could see practitioners of alternative medicine put out of business. Aromatherapist Tomas Sychra said the ministry's proposal was in breach of the country's charter of rights and freedoms, while former defence minister Antonin Baudys, who is now - of all things - an astrologer, told the daily that people went to "healers" because conventional medicine had let them down.

Health Minister Bohumil Fiser was evasive about whether the proposed bill would affect alternative medicine, though he would say that only medicine based on "scientific principles" would be acceptable. Doctors' association leader David Rath echoed the sentiments of all the doctors interviewed by Pravo when he said that if people want to spend their money on an illusion then good luck to them.

The police have called for charges to be brought against Prime Minister Milos Zeman's controversial chief adviser, Miroslav Slouf, Mlada fronta Dnes reports. Slouf and Zdenek Munzar, an advisor to regional development minister Petr Lachnit, are being investigated over fraud involving the company Hawle Armatury, says the paper.

When Munzar worked at Hawle he allegedly paid Slouf - who is a former top communist functionary - large fees for work which was never done. Munzar is also accused of embezzling some 25 million Czech crowns - almost 700,000 US dollars - from the company.

Lidove noviny comments on the decision of the Czech National Social Party - which has no seats in parliament - to feature a clenched fist - along with the slogan "Enough!" - in its posters ahead of next year's elections. The daily points out that the symbol of the fist has often been used in totalitarian propaganda in the past, though the party's leader Jan Sula said that the fist was not a symbol of communism - merely a symbol of strength.

The Czechs are already known as a nation which likes a drink, but while alcohol consumption is dropping in the neighbouring Poland and Slovakia - according to Prazske Slovo - drinking is actually on the rise in the Czech Republic.

It's crazy, says doctor Karel Nespor, when beer costs less than soft drinks. The average Czech drinks an unbelievable ten litres of pure alcohol a year, or the equivalent of almost 400 beers. What's more, there has been a marked increase in drinking among women and young people, says Prazske Slovo.