Press Review

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Those papers which normally carry their weekend supplements on Friday carry them today, one day ahead of the Czech national holiday--the eleventh anniversary of the so-called Velvet Revolution which spelled the end of communism in the former Czechoslovakia. And most papers wonder if communism isn't coming back with a vengeance.

PRAVO notes that the bitter defeat of the ruling Social Democrats in last Sunday's first round of Senate by-elections and elections to new regional parliaments could make the party lift the self-imposed ban on collaboration with the Communists--not only on local and regional levels but also in national politics. Senior Social Democrats are strongly divided on the issue but the Communists' latest electoral gains could easily stimulate rapprochement between the two left-wing parties.

ZEMSKE NOVINY notes that virtually all parties bury their heads in the sand when dealing with the outcast Communists. The Civic Democrats cry thief and emphasise the need to keep the Communists isolated. But they don't seem to be very concerned about their power-sharing Social Democrat partners' ever more frequent overtures to the largely-unreformed Communists.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY says that 11 years after the collapse of communism in former Czechoslovakia, the vocal minority--as opposed to the silent majority--still don't know how to go about the rights and liberties ushered in by the Velvet Revolution. The paper thinks many good opportunities have been squandered in those 11 years, and many good ideas have been discredited. Thus, liberalism has lost its mass appeal because of the antics of its would-be messengers, the right-wing Civic Democrats. And now, the Social Democrats are trying every trick in the book to discredit in public eyes the noble ideas of social justice and the welfare state.

Eleven years after the demise of totalitarianism, bullying in the barracks is still a sad reality, notes MLADA FRONTA DNES. On Wednesday, President Havel made a personal appearance in the Castle Guard quarters, alarmed by reports about widespread bullying in the unit which, amongst other assignments, is also supposed to protect the head of state and represent the Czech armed forces and their best traditions. The paper notes that the presidential visit was cloaked in utmost secrecy and was to have been a previously unannounced spot check. It appears, however, that soldiers serving with the Castle Guard knew about the presidential blitz hours before it struck. The soldiers were quick to deny that younger conscripts were being harassed or subjected to various forms of pressure, intimidation and both physical and psychological terror. The paper quoted Mr Havel as saying the apparent problem of hazing shouldn't be viewed in black and white, but that the culprits would be tracked down and disciplined in due course.

CESKE SLOVO notes that churches have called for a frank nationwide debate on the state of society. In the paper's opinion, one cannot help feeling deja vu; Czechs have had their share of similar appeals in the past and President Havel has been calling for such deeper reflections for years, and to no avail. There have lately been several initiatives to redefine the nation's frame of mind, including last year's Impulse 99 and the students' initiative, Thank You Now Leave, aimed against political elitism. Invariably, the paper says, these efforts are well meant but rather out of focus in an environment where political parties simply ignore any attempts at public debate. Similarly, the church call appears to be a stillborn, quixotic endeavour.

And finally, Adam and Eve probably never saw one another and may have missed each other by tens of thousands of years, reports today's MLADA FRONTA DNES. The paper quotes scientists from California's Stanford University as saying that, as shown by DNA extrapolations and further research involving a sample of over 1,000 men from various geographical zones, men and women have different molecular clocks. Genetic mutations of Chromosome Y, which exists only in male humans, have shown that the youngest common predecessors of today's male population lived 60,000 years ago in Africa. In contrast, tests of mitochondria present exclusively in female DNA have revealed that the genetic Eve lived nearly 150,000 years ago. Well, it seems that the episode which reportedly happened in the Garden of Eden needs a serious review.