Press Review

All of Tuesday's papers devote a lot of attention to two stories - the privatisation of Czech energy utilities and the trial of former Communist prime minister Lubomir Strougal. Mlada fronta Dnes says the energy sell-off has raised a lot of misgivings, while the more pro-government Pravo focuses on the postponement of the sale of the power company CEZ until January.

As for the trial of Lubomir Strougal, Lidove noviny compares him to the notorious 1920s mob boss Al Capone. Capone evaded justice for some time before being sent to prison for the least of his crimes - tax evasion. Now twelve years after the fall of the communist regime Strougal is only the second former bigwig to face charges of abuse of power. The author says that perhaps Strougal didn't pay duty on his BMW - suggesting that the former top communist may only ever be found guilty of a relatively minor crime.

A general election is coming up in the Czech Republic next June and the governing Social Democrats have a pre- election trump card, writes Lidove noviny - the government is considering making all medicines free to the over 70s. There are around a million people over the age of 70 in the Czech Republic.

The Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl has entered Czech hunting history, reports Mlada fronta Dnes. While hunting in September Mr. Fencl shot a deer at Hluboka nad Vltavou, south Bohemia. It turned out that the deer had the biggest antlers of any deer shot in the country since records began. The antlers measure 180 centimetres and weigh some 31.5 kilogrammes. The paper points out that Mr Fencl shot the deer on September 14, the official day of mourning for the victims of the September 11 attacks on the US.

Doing voluntary work is quite a new thing in the Czech Republic, but it's on the increase, writes Prazske Slovo. As for what kind of people do voluntary work, Jiri Tosner of the Hestia volunteers centre says that in small towns mostly young people offer their help, while in Prague older people and pensioners are also willing to work without pay. Czech business people however are less inclined to do voluntary work than their counterparts in other countries, says Mr Tosner.

One thing that amazed me when I first came to the Czech Republic was how early people start work. According to Mlada fronta Dnes, half of Czechs are at work by seven in the morning. Early starts are especially common in small towns and villages - three o'clock in the afternoon is rush hour and life pretty much ends at five on weekdays, writes the paper.

In its health section Lidove noviny offers advice on how to avoid putting on weight over the Christmas period. The paper includes several figure-friendly recipes and suggests readers burn off the calories by going on walks or dancing. C'mon Lidove noviny - surely it's OK to be lazy and indulge at least once a year!

Most of Tuesday's papers carry photos of tanks of carp. Tanks of carp have appeared on the streets of the Czech Republic in the last few days - people have started buying the fish for their Christmas dinners. By contrast, Mlada fronta Dnes has a photo of a boy with an owl. At the Christmas market in Melnik, central Bohemia, you can pay to have an owl or a hawk perch on your arm for a few minutes - makes a change from going around in a circle on the back of a donkey, I suppose.