Press Review

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Some papers today focus on the current situation of the Czech armed forces. LIDOVE NOVINY looks at the military agreement signed on Wednesday by Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy and America's ambassador to Prague, John Shattuck. Although there's nothing wrong with pacts of this type--and who in Central Europe wouldn't want to tap the experience of a stronger ally--the fact is that the defence deal will give the American partner a deeper insight into the Czech armed forces, and more leverage to U.S. firms vying for lucrative defence contracts.

PRAVO warns of the impending havoc new telecommunications regulations are likely to wreak on Czech telephone networks. During one night in September 2002, virtually all telephones, both mobile and fixed lines, will receive new numbers. The paper quotes experts as saying this may be an even tougher nut to crack than preparing computer networks for the Millennium Bug. The new numbers, the paper notes, will have nine digits plus new area codes. This will render most people's diaries, whether electronic or conventional, virtually useless overnight.

Cheap denims and corduroys may soon disappear from popular marketplaces, reports today's ZEMSKE NOVINY. That's because the government plans to introduce minimum price lists for selected imported goods, in order to prevent unfair competition. The paper says many Asian importers based in the Czech Republic have learned how to dodge customs regulations and make huge profits on under-declared goods, mostly clothing that they sell in open-air markets.

On to computer piracy now. As HOSPODARSKE NOVINY notes today, around 60 percent of computer software circulated in the Czech Republic is still counterfeited. A new phenomenon has emerged, it writes, in the form of underage computer piracy: schoolchildren routinely form groups to download free music from the Internet and make illicit copies using their parents' CD burner, which they then sell on for profit.

All Souls Day is coming and ZEMSKE NOVINY warns against yet another type of crime. It's much less sophisticated but every bit as unethical. Wreaths, flowers and decorations are being stolen en mass from graves around the Czech Republic. The situation is so serious that police in the Moravian town of Jihlava have decided to patrol cemeteries 24 hours a day. Truly, a graveyard shift at its best.

And finally, pst!!! Interested in a sitting statue of Lenin? CESKE SLOVO reports that one can be obtained for a trifle, 470,000 crowns, or just over 11,000 dollars, but the price is negotiable. The bronze statue of Lenin, located in Pardubice in eastern Bohemia, is said to be quite rare in that it shows the great proletariat leader sitting rather than standing and sermonising. There are only two known sitting Lenins the world over. This one was created way back in 1976 and until early 1990 the statue graced a plaza outside the city's theatre. The town hall wanted to melt it down and use the bronze to make a statue of Czechoslovakia's first president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, but its author refused to give his approval for the plan. The sitting dictator weighs in at two tons and is over two metres tall.