Press Review

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Despite a relatively quiet weekend on the domestic scene a strongly-worded public appeal from the Prague Jewish community has made for explosive front page headlines. "Stop the neo-Nazis!" reads a prominent headline on the cover page of Lidove Noviny. " Don't tolerate fascists" echoes the popular Mlada Fronta Dnes.

Milan Daniel of Lidove Noviny reminds readers of the most recent attack on a Romany man which happened in the town of Cheb, immediately after the Czech Republic's victory in the World Ice Hockey Championships. Caught up in the enthusiasm a Romany yelled "We're the best! Go for it Czechs!" and was beaten up.

As usual though there aren't enough witnesses to confirm what happened and once again it seems that the case will not be judged as a racially-motivated attack, but merely a brawl. Milan Daniel notes that without witnesses there is little the police can do - and the element of fear is still strong. When questioned Roma witnesses are often evasive and frequently change their testimony which plays into the hands of the attackers, who usually have more than one witness to testify in their favour and a good lawyer into the bargain.

Traditionally, the weekend with its numerous political debates on radio and television, is a time when politicians wash their dirty linen in public and engage in petty political skirmishes. And this weekend was no exception. The papers report on another fallout between the President and the right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats, after Mr. Havel accused its leaders of being "sour-faced and arrogant", while the Social Democrat Party leadership complains that since resigning as party leader Prime Minister Milos Zeman has stopped attending party meetings and basically ignores the views of the party leadership.

Readers who open Monday's Lidove Noviny will find it hard not to agree with US-based economic expert Jan Svejnar, who says Czech politicians need to be 're-educated'. The existing political parties are not very capable of action, Svejnar says, and the Czech Republic is not living up to its full potential.

Professor Svejnar, who is executive director of the William Davidson Institute at Michigan University, will surprise many a reader by rejecting claims that he plans to head an emerging party of leading Czech intellectuals. Public disillusionment with political life does create space for a new political entity -but in my opinion it would be far more effective for the present set of politicians to change their ways, Mr. Svejnar told the paper.

Although more money is being spent on environmental protection and air and water pollution levels have been reduced in most parts of the country, an increasing number of Czechs suffer from allergies. One in four Czechs are allergic to something or other, and according to a recently published medical study an estimated quarter of a million Czechs suffer from mild asthma without being aware of it.

There is now a campaign underway to find the 250,000 undetected patients and get them to start treatment early. Most asthma sufferers were found to have been diagnosed one to three years after the first symptoms appeared.

And finally all the papers carry extensive reports about the Prague Marathon which attracted thousands of people to the Czech capital over the weekend. Although some contestants treated it as a personal challenge and gave it their absolute best, for most of the crowd the event turned into a huge carnival with bands setting the tone along every stretch of the 41 km route, says Mlada Fronta Dnes.