The State of the Union address by US President George Bush is the only foreign news making headlines in the papers today. MLADA FRONTA DNES also features a photograph of US Senator and candidate for the Democrat presidential nomination John Kerry. Mr Kerry, who is celebrating after unexpectedly winning the Iowa caucus, has roots in the Czech Republic, the paper writes. Domestically, it's the price hike expected in restaurants as of May 1, and the arrest of two Czech nationals in New Zealand, accused of smuggling protected plants that dominate the dailies.
As of May 1, most restaurants in the Czech Republic will raise the prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks, write LIDOVE NOVINY and the country's main business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY. The papers report on the EU's rejection on Tuesday of a proposal by France to allow restaurants to be taxed at the lower VAT rate of five percent. The Czech Republic joins the EU on May 1, and restaurants will have to decide whether to raise prices to compensate for the VAT increase to twenty-two percent. Unlike Poland and Hungary, the papers note, Czech representatives failed to push for a transitional period during accession talks.
The two men arrested in New Zealand, charged with attempting to smuggle rare orchids out of the country are reported to be the Dean of Medicine at Olomouc's Palacky University, and an official from the Czech Environment Inspection Agency in the Moravian capital of Brno.
For the first time in the history of New Zealand, writes PRAVO, the country's Wildlife Enforcement Group has managed to record the suspects on video stealing protected and rare plants at a national park. Deputy Environment Minister Ladislav Miko tells MLADA FRONTA DNES that the dean from Olomouc was caught with 115 orchids, while the Environment Inspection officer had fifteen. The Dean's wife rejects the accusations, telling the paper that her husband is innocent.
PRAVO writes that the Association of Public Relations Agencies, APRA, has offered a 100,000 Czech crown reward to anyone who can provide information on who was behind the attack on a Czech journalist this weekend. Tomas Nemecek, Respekt weekly magazine's editor-in-chief, had to be rushed to hospital after he was badly beaten by two assailants outside his home. A police investigator tells the paper that the reward is interfering with the work of the police, adding that the police are already under great pressure as the case is receiving widespread media attention.