Press Review

Well, rather a depressing start in the press today but little to be done about it: "We killed more than we hoped" read the headlines of Lidove noviny in reference to the release of the Bin Laden video tape, providing pretty much irrefutable evidence of the Saudi-born terrorist's involvement in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. All of Friday's papers, without exception, reflect on the existence of the tape...

Mlada fronta Dnes features a related story which casts doubt on an earlier theory that one of the pilots in the suicide attacks, Mohammed Atta, met an Iraqi official in Prague earlier this year. The paper scorches Prime Minister Milos Zeman for his recent remarks in the face of the World Trade Centre tragedy, once again referring to the Prime Minister's blunder on CNN, when he claimed that Prague was aware of Atta's meetings with the Iraqi official, as well as earlier plans to attack the Radio Free Europe building in the Czech capital.

Mr Zeman had already been criticised for his statement, and because he lacked a single shred of proof he was forced to partially retract his words. If it now comes to light that Atta never met the Iraqi official, the prime minister will look even more foolish. The paper says that at the very least the situation should raise seriousness to a new level among the Czech political elite.

Turning now to other news, Friday's Prazske Slovo looks at the negative effects of Christmas as a time of depression and suicide, sigh... whatever happened to the Christmas spirit?

The paper writes that people are more and more terrified of Christmas, as a time when their health worsens, when many crack under the pressure, and some end up committing suicide. Prazske Slovo offers psychiatrists' tips such as: don't leave holiday cleaning, cooking, and shopping to the last minute, find the time to visit friends, and try not to be alone. It seems lately that the world has been getting sadder by the day... On the other hand all's well that end wells for a one-year-old little boy who recently played a part in the apprehension of some pickpockets in Prague, writes Pravo. The little boy's mother noticed four men operating in an Internet cafe and told the owners.

Her actions provoked one of the pickpockets, who was in the Czech Republic illegally, to attack the woman and her child with pepper spray. Luckily, a police officer intervened. The baby has been released from hospital with little more than an eye infection, but the perpetrator could face up to eight years in jail.

Those who are down may be heartened by an interview with Microsoft's Bill Gates in Hospodarske noviny: the software wizard says 'the cost of computers is going down so rapidly that really the only one who wins is the customer'.

In the interview Mr Gates outlines the future of personal computing, saying that for all of us keyboards will soon be a thing of the past, replaced by voice-activated response. Computers will even be able to read hand-written manuscripts. Now if I can just find a computer to think up the thing for me in the first place, I'll be happy...

And another bright spot on the horizon, if only the sporting horizon: for Czech hockey fans what could be more exciting than having to choose between three star goaltenders on their Olympic team, labelled the 'Three Kings' by Mlada fronta Dnes. Need I say more than the words Hasek, Turek, Cechmanek?

From now till the start of the games expect endless speculation over who will get the start between the pipes, even though trainer Josef Augusta has said that Hasek's number 1 spot is secure. Perhaps we could see a flash of brilliance from the other two minders in the early stages... but we'll have to wait and see.

Finally, Mlada fronta Dnes offers tips on how to properly set the Christmas table, with a large photo of blue and white porcelain plates, crystal glasses, and other decorations laid-out on a pearly white tablecloth. The paper notes that although many families in the Czech Republic inherit old porcelain and silver from grandparents and great- grandparents, not all of them remember the placement of some of the cutlery or other utensils.

If you have it, flaunt it, have a little fun at Christmas setting everything up. It's not just the Christmas tree that needs decorating... Above all, as Prazske Slovo reminds us, use the holidays to relax, not to get you down.