Press Review

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Echoes of September 11th continue to make the Czech papers today, and news that U.S. agents claim to know the identity of the man who actually planned the attacks. Pictures of Kuwaiti Khalid Sheik Muhammad grace the front pages of all today's dailies, next to pictures of President Vaclav Havel receiving German counterpart Johannes Rau, and the latest suicide bombing in Israel.

Echoes of September 11th continue to make the Czech papers today, and news that U.S. agents claim to know the identity of the man who actually planned the attacks. Pictures of Kuwaiti Khalid Sheik Muhammad grace the front pages of all today's dailies, next to pictures of President Vaclav Havel receiving German counterpart Johannes Rau, and the latest suicide bombing in Israel.

It's just over a week to the elections here in the Czech Republic, and Mlada fronta Dnes has been giving politicians a good grilling on the issues that count. Why was Prime Minister Milos Zeman allowed to bring back valuable artwork from Vietnam without paying customs duty? Should Colonel Nahlik - a graduate of London's prestigious Royal Military Academy - be reinstated after his scandalous sacking from the Army? And just how do the politicians plan to combat 'Golden Rain' - the latest synthetic drug spreading like wildfire among the nation's youth?

Well, says Mlada fronta Dnes, the answers are what you would expect, eight days before the elections. "Mr Zeman must pay customs duty like any other citizen. He must be held accountable" says one. "Colonel Nahlik's departure is proof of the Defence Minister's incompetence," says another. "We must deal now with this terrible new drug," says a third. Interesting answers, because Mr Zeman has never been to Vietnam, there is no 'Colonel Nahlik' in the Czech Army (or a 'Royal Military Academy' in London, for that matter), and there's no such drug as "Golden Rain". The paper made them up.

And there's more political fun and games further on in Mlada fronta Dnes today. When Jan Kasl resigned as mayor of Prague and accused his colleagues in the Civic Democrat party of corruption, party leader Vaclav Klaus claimed that shadowy forces loyal to arch enemy President Vaclav Havel had been whispering in Mr Kasl's ear, stage- managing his exit in order to do maximum damage to the Civic Democrats. Mr Klaus's colleagues later named the people they believed were behind it.

Both Mr Kasl and the people accused of masterminding his departure were obviously tickled by the allegations - they're due to meet in public this afternoon at a cafe in Prague. "We're going to try and uncover who's behind this conspiracy that everyone's talking about," Mr Kasl told Mlada fronta Dnes, no doubt with a wry smile on his face. Among the so-called "conspirators" attending today's gathering will be former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, the former student leader Jan Bubenik, and musician Michael Kocab.

Staying with the elections, and Lidove noviny reports today that police are investigating a party political broadcast by the far-right National Democratic Party, formed recently by activists from various neo-Nazi groups. The broadcast shows footage of members of the Czech Republic's Roma minority during a commentary about crime. Police say the clip could be a violation of the country's race hate laws.

The leader of the National Democratic Party, Jan Kopal, is unrepentant. "Apparently the clip's racist because it shows pictures of gypsies when we're talking about crime. Everyone knows gypsies cause crime. It's a well known fact," says Kopal, adding that the party has nothing against "honest or hard-working gypsies".

And finally, it's crime of a different kind that makes the front page of Pravo today. Thieves in West Bohemia have sunk to a new low, writes the paper, stealing two Braille typewriters from a blind woman in the village of Druzec. Nadezda Doksanska, who writes articles for a local religious magazine, was burgled at the weekend.

"They'll probably throw them away somewhere when they realise that they're not normal typewriters," she told the paper, adding that they'd also made off with antiques, pictures, an electric organ and her radio. "The radio is such an important source of information to me. I teach music, and I use the tape recorder to record pieces of music for my lessons. I don't know how long it'll take to save up for another one," a very unhappy Nadezda Doksanska tells Pravo.