Press Review

Most Czech papers today feature a photo of Miss America 1999, Nicole Johnson, who visited Prague's Motol hospital on Wednesday to cheer up young patients undergoing treatment for diabetes. Miss Johnson herself has been a diabetic for more than eight years, reports PRAVO.

On a more serious note, PRAVO reports on Tuesday's dinner between Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, which the paper describes as a breakthrough in discussions on returning church property to its original owners. Ten years after the first wave of restitution, the ruling Social Democrats might - together with the Four- Party Coalition - approve a new law, under which land attached to church buildings could be returned to the Church. An exception, writes the paper, would be woods and fields.

Although the other two parties in parliament - the Civic Democrats and the Communists - have expressed reservations, they don't have enough votes to overrule the draft legislation. The Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostal, has confirmed that the law could also see dozens of churches, monasteries and parsonages passed back into the hands of the Catholic church, writes PRAVO.

LIDOVE NOVINY returns to Tuesday's shooting incident in the town of Protivin, where two policemen were shot dead by a licensed gun-holder. The paper writes that people are now asking themselves whether the rules for carrying weapons in the Czech Republic are too lax.

Under the current legislation, says the paper, applicants have to take tests to establish both their knowledge of firearms and marksmanship skills, provide proof that they are medically fit and do not have a criminal record. But police psychologists warn that if the rules are not made stricter, tragedies similar to that in Protivin could happen again. What should certainly be introduced, concludes LIDOVE NOVINY, are psychological tests for license holders, an idea which has found support among many MPs as well.

ZEMSKE NOVINY writes that owners of older cars, such as Trabants and Wartburgs produced in the former East Germany, need not be afraid that their tin (and sometimes cardboard) treasures will be banned in the near future. The Ministry of the Environment says it has no intention of ordering them off the roads, even though they're too old to be fitted with catalytic converters and pollute the air with choking fumes.

The Ministry's Petr Novak says Trabant and Wartburg drivers should beware, because a new law is being prepared which will limit the use of the cars on Czech roads. The new law is to come into force next year, and it will be stricter in urban areas, whose mayors will even be able to ban the old cars when heavy smog occurs, for instance during winter.

And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES has an amazing story about a two month old baby girl who has no first name. The girl's parents wanted to give her two names, Yaa Rosalie, but they were prevented from doing so by the Czech authorities. And because the father refused to sign a birth certificate with no first name, he wasn't even allowed to sign a document confirming that he was the baby's father.

The paper explains that a law enabling parents to give their offspring two first names will only come into force in July, but even then they will have to comply with strict rules on using exotic names. All exotic names will have to be verified as far as their transcription and correctness are concerned. The new law will thus prevent children having names which could be diminutives or nicknames, concludes MLADA FRONTA DNES.