Press Review

"Constitution Defaced!" laments HOSPODARSKE NOVINY in the wake of the lower house's decision to overrule the president's veto and curb the powers of the central bank. The paper admits that some amendments are clearly necessary to the Constitution, which was put together in a hurry and whose spirit reflects the tumultuous early 1990s.

An amended bill concerning the Czech National Bank would have been a case in point if it hadn't been disfigured beyond recognition by legislative sharks from the main opposition Civic Democratic Party, it writes. In its new form, the law actually widens the gap between the country and standards normally recognised within the European Union. The paper says President Havel has every right to contest the mutilated legislation at the Constitutional Court.

CESKE SLOVO relates the story of Danish student Mads Traerup, who accused prison guards in a Czech detention centre of mistreatment, following his arrest during anti-globalisation protests in Prague in the course of September's World Bank/IMF summit.

The paper quotes Traerup as saying that he and fellow detainees were beaten, kicked and hosed down with ice-cold water. The eighteen-year-old, who was released on bail on Wednesday, has been charged with assaulting a policeman during the protests. He complained of cramped conditions in the detention centre where he was allowed only one hot bath a week. The Czech prison authority has described his testimony as nonsense, CESKE SLOVO notes.

Petrol is cheaper, reads a front-page headline in today's LIDOVE NOVINY. And why shouldn't it be, given that world oil prices have plummeted by as much as 20 percent. Czech petrol stations are in the process of cutting prices by as much as two crowns per litre and chances are that further price cuts may be in the offing early in January.

The paper thinks that Czechs are learning a lesson about the virtues of the global economy. Last month, a litre of the most commonly used unleaded Natural cost over 30 crowns, or about 90 cents, and today you can 'fill 'er up' much more cheaply. That's good news for the Christmas season, LIDOVE NOVINY says. But it warns that this may be only a seasonal variation, as the main motoring season next summer will certainly raise demand for petrol and prices will again go up.

Who's doing better at school, boys or girls? asks MLADA FRONTA DNES. It follows from an international survey of mathematical skills and science knowledge among 14-year-olds, that boys are significantly better than girls at this age, but annual school reports just don't corroborate these findings.

Here in the Czech Republic, the survey used a sample of 3,600 eighth-graders and 700 primary-school teachers. Boys did extremely well in both subjects, placing the Czech Republic on the top of the list of countries with notable differences between sexes. Czechs are in the same league with Israel, Iran and Tunisia.

However, girls proved to be more conscientious, their exercise books are neater, their homework is usually done at home and signed by their parents. Since most teachers in this country are women, they appreciate neatness and punctuality much more than imaginative thinking and original approaches. And it shows in annual reports, concludes MLADA FRONTA DNES.

PRAVO reports that all 38 cardiac centres operating in the Czech Republic now have to review their computer databases to track down patients with faulty pacemakers supplied by the Dutch firm Vitatron. An estimated 300 cardiac patients will be summoned for medical checks and a new pacemaker.

The Prague-based Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, or IKEM, told PRAVO that although not all patients were at risk, all pacemakers probably will have to replaced. Units produced between 1993 and 1996 are sensitive to electronic security systems used by big supermarkets and could stop working in such environments. Surely, some reason to skip a heartbeat...

And talking about health, want to shed some weight? Join a monastery! ZEMSKE NOVINY reports that 28-year-old Marek Gruntorad lost 10 kilos during the year he spent in a Russian Orthodox monastery in Hodonin south of Brno. Marek says he chose a cloistered life as a form of protest against consumer values worshipped by today's society.

The young man still weighs 162 kilograms, the paper says. But it quotes him as saying that back home in his native Sokolov he used to spend evening watching TV and munching on potato crisps or similar junk food. Today, he ridicules his former habits and offers caustic remarks on the state of the society which, as he put it, indulges in unbridled gluttony and dubious sexual practices.

The first few months in the monastery felt like being in a penal colony. The food was awful, says the man who adopted the church name Constantine. But still, the paper quips, with his 162 kilos, this must be the fattest Orthodox monk east of Russia.

Author: Libor Kubík
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