Press Review

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Well I hate to sound like my grandmother, but the papers seem to be full of nothing but bad news today - with war, death and destruction featuring prominently on the front pages of Thursday's dailies. "Czech Soldiers Leave For War Against Terror" reads the main headline in Mlada fronta Dnes, and there are variations on that theme in all the others.

But we start with a shocking story about a man who froze to death after being dumped in a field by two policemen. The two officers - from the town of Pelhrimov - came across the 57-year-old homeless man lying drunk and unconscious in the street, reports Lidove noviny. But instead of taking him away to dry out, they drove him out of town and left him in a field. The next day, says the paper, he was dead.

The policemen's Superiors say they're shocked and appalled by the incident. The two officers - both of whom have been in the force for several years - have been charged with exceeding their powers, but - remarkably - have not yet been suspended. Lidove noviny says the local drying-out station was recently closed down as part of local budget cuts, and suggests the officers might not have known where to take the man.

Czech drug users spend a total of 15 billion Czech crowns - that's around 400 million dollars - on feeding their habit each year, says Pravo today. After quoting this frankly unbelievable claim - provided by the Czech Statistics Office - the paper makes the pointless observation that for the same amount of money you could build and equip an ultra-modern hospital.

Pravo says drug use is a relatively new trend in the Czech Republic, and is growing rapidly. The Statistics Office claims that each year Czechs get through 25 tonnes of marijuana and hashish, five tonnes of heroin, 50 kilos of cocaine, 80,000 tabs of LSD, 300,000 Ecstasy pills and three and a half tonnes of Pervetine, a Czech-made amphetamine.

Mlada fronta Dnes is also on drugs today - the paper says the police have managed to push dealers out of the tourist spots in Prague 1. You'll no longer find dealers in such places as Obecni Dùm in Namesti Republiky, says the paper.

But the drugs trade has, of course, not disappeared: police have simply managed to push it out of Prague 1 and into Prague 2. Drugs are now freely available in Karlovo Namesti, Prague's main railway station and around IP Pavlova metro, says the paper. Which is gradually moving towards where I live. Lovely.

And finally first prize for most obscure picture caption also goes to Mlada fronta Dnes today. The picture shows a smiling Foreign Minister Jan Kavan surrounded by five people dressed in Santa Claus outfits. The caption reads as follows, and I quote: "Activists from environmental organisation The Bet dressed in Santa Claus outfits surround Foreign Minister Jan Kavan after an EU meeting in Brussels. The activists invited Mr Kavan to take part in a cycle tour of Europe." Make sense to you?