The tragic fate of the crew on board the Russian submarine Kursk is back on front pages as the papers unveil the drama of the last hours of the lives of 23 sailors who survived the accident itself and moved from one endangered section of the submarine to another in the vain hope of being rescued. The papers all carry the contents of a letter found on one of the dead bodies: "there are twenty-three of us locked in here and there is no escape," it says.
On the domestic scene, most Czechs are likely to zero in on the news that they can expect to pay slightly lower income tax next year. Although a vote in Parliament is not expected until Friday, an agreement between the governing Social Democrats and their opposition allies of the Civic Democratic Party has practically secured the outcome of that vote. Opposition MPs who have been striving for a significant tax reduction have thus once more been defeated by the opposition pact, says Slovo.
The strong dollar and weak Euro naturally spell more trouble for Czech consumers. Hospodarske Noviny predicts another increase in fuel prices as a result, and, inevitably an increase in the price of many consumer goods as well. And, of course, it is bad news for those who are planning to go on exotic holidays . Although the price of package tours has not yet been affected by the strong dollar, people will certainly have to fork out more on pocket money, the paper notes.
On the other hand, Mlada Fronta Dnes carries a warning to those who plan to enjoy an end-of-the-year holiday in this country. A great many hotels have been found to cheat in their holiday brochures, giving themselves more stars than they have a right to. The paper says that an inspection of twenty-eight hotels revealed that 11 of them had added a few stars to their name in order to attract more affluent tourists. So check out your hotel properly or go for something that has been recommended by friends, is the paper's advice. However if you were planning on a holiday at a Czech mountain resort to see the new millenium in, forget it. All our mountain hotels and chalets report that they are fully booked; a great environment and relatively cheap prices obviously outweigh a couple of false stars.
The same paper reports that in the wake of several more cases of dangerous dogs attacking people, Parliament is finally ready to tighten legislation on dog ownership. At present MPs have agreed that owners of dangerous dogs should have to apply for a special permit, and prove that they are able to control their animal. A leash and muzzle anywhere outside the owner's private property should also be compulsory. The only 'fine point' which MPs are still racking their brains over is what breed is a dangerous breed?
And, finally Mlada Fronta Dnes reports on some unexpected praise ahead of the Senate elections for the leader of the Civic Democratic Party, Vaclav Klaus. The praise comes from Slovak ex-premier Vladimir Meciar, who has just published a book about his years in office. During his days of glory, Meciar's number-one partner in the Czech Republic was then prime minister Vaclav Klaus, and Meciar says that no matter how difficult negotiations with Prague got he could always rely on Klaus to be fair. "The man is a master of arrogance," Meciar says, "but at the end of the day he's a fair guy who never stooped to thrashing political capital at Slovakia's expense."