Press Review

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All the front pages of the daily newspapers today feature a whooping Ales Valenta, after he made history on Tuesday with his Gold Medal in the Freestyle Skiing Aerial event. What a positive contrast to another dominant figure in the papers for the second straight day: Prime Minister Milos Zeman.

All the front pages of the daily newspapers today feature a whooping Ales Valenta, after he made history on Tuesday with his Gold Medal in the Freestyle Skiing Aerial event. What a positive contrast to another dominant figure in the papers for the second straight day: Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes writes that Mr Zeman is currently trying to put out the political fires caused by his inflammatory remarks from earlier in the week, when Mr Zeman compared Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Adolf Hitler.

Lidove noviny quotes the prime minister as saying it's all a misunderstanding due to his English. Mr Zeman is claiming that he misused a key English expression in his interview and that he was misquoted in his reference to Hitler.

Meanwhile the list of critics is growing, including Lidove noviny's Petr Fischer, who is caustic about the Czech opposition's inability to see the scandal in its enormity. Mr Fischer says that in any other country calls for Mr Zeman's resignation would have been immediately forthcoming. He adds it makes little difference whether the prime minister's gaff was the result of poor English, or poor thinking.

Mr Fischer also suggests that the lack of strong criticism from the Czech Republic's largest opposition party is the influence of the so-called "Opposition Agreement", which has held Mr Zeman's minority Social Democrats in power for the last four years. The commentator says if the opposition is unable to adequately react to such a scandal, "it isn't worth a damn"...

Moving on to other news now, Alois Grebenicek is once again making headlines: the former secret police official and father of the current Communist Party leader is awaiting a court hearing in hospital. The eighty-year-old Mr Grebenicek, charged with torturing political prisoners in the 1950s, believes he is so ill his case will "never reach trial".

In an interview conducted with Mlada fronta Dnes Mr Grebenicek says he is very sick indeed, and adds that "rather than charging him with crimes, the court should recognise his good deeds from the past". But just what deeds he has in mind, Mr Grebenicek refuses to specify. The court hearing is due to take place on Thursday.

And Pravo features an interesting story on new equipment Czech police will receive in preparation for Prague's NATO summit in November. The police have set aside 55 million crowns for equipment so far, an amount which is expected to rise to a quarter billion. Equipment that officers can expect to receive include new bullet-proof vests, shields, outfits popularly labelled as "Ninja suits", and flame-resistant boots. All this to protect officers against the expected wave of anti-globalisation protestors.

Now we turn to the financial daily Hospodarske noviny, which looks at serious claims that funds have been mysteriously disappearing from Czech hospitals. The charges are being made by David Rath, the president of the Czech Medical Chamber, who is planning to meet with prime minister Milos Zeman and health minister Bohumil Fiser on Thursday. Mr Rath says he has evidence of shady investments by several Czech hospitals, as well as evidence of the transfer of some hospital profits to private companies, in spite of outstanding debts. Mr Rath is calling for stronger controls against corruption, fraud and embezzlement in the health-care sector.

And to return to the Olympics, there's a big game ahead for the Czech ice hockey team which enters the quarter-final elimination round on Wednesday, with the Czechs facing-off against Russia in a repeat of the 1998 final. The game could be a slippery affair and Mlada fronta Dnes warns that "the Russians" are "demons in the offence".

While it's do-or-die, the paper is confident that the team can still rely on Dominik Hasek, although his goaltending so far has not been as impressive as four years ago. Will he have time to strike fear in his opponent's hearts? Tonight will definitely tell.