Press Review

Premiér Vladimír Špidla

Changes to the country's VAT system make headline in all the dailies today - Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla features on three front pages after chairing Sunday's cabinet talks. Also making news today: the crushing to death of 244 pilgrims on their way to Mecca, and threats by al Qaeda to unleash biological weapons on passenger jets.

Pilgrims to Mecca, photo: CTK
Mlada Fronta Dnes speaks to four parliamentary deputies who tried for a month to live on the minimum wage, instead of their handsome MP's salary. After paying rent and insurance, the MPs found themselves with a daily allowance of just 127 crowns, or around four US dollars. Which is what they usually spend on buy the morning papers and a few cups of coffee, writes the paper.

Three of the four MPs, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, said they couldn't even survive on the minimum wage. Only one found it possible, but extremely uncomfortable and ultimately unsustainable for more than a month. The deputies were forced to start walking to work, were unable to go the cinema or the swimming pool, and couldn't even afford to buy medicines. One MP even said the experiment would change the way she voted in the future.

Also in Mlada Fronta Dnes today, an amusing story about wanted fugitive Viktor Kozeny, the man accused of ripping off thousands of small share-holders in the 1990s, who now says he wants to stand as an MEP for the Czech Republic. Mr Kozeny, who lives in exile in the Bahamas, apparently copied the website of U.S. presidential hopeful Howard Dean.

The main graphics on Mr Kozeny's website, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, are identical to Howard Dean's. Only the photo and the flags are different. The paper was unable to contact Mr Kozeny for comment, but you can make your own mind up by checking out www.kozeny.cz and www.deanforamerica.com

Czech expediton to the Antartic, photo: CTK
Lidove Noviny has details of a new Czech expedition to the Antartic. A team of three intrepid explorers left Prague on Saturday bound for the South Pole. The three will begin preparations for the country's first ever permanent polar station. The three-man team will begin by exploring James Ross island to see whether it's a suitable location, says the paper.

Once the station is established, writes Lidove Noviny, a team of four Czech geologists and a botanist will begin examining the island's geological history as well as monitor climate changes and pollution in the Antartic atmosphere. The expedition aims to contribute to the debate over man's role in global warming, says the paper.

And finally a curious story in Pravo about a woman of Polish origin who's finally been granted Czech citizenship after a long battle with the authorities. Elzbieta Krystyna Horvathova came to Czechoslovakia from Poland in 1976, but it's taken her almost 30 years to gain Czech citizenship.

But the chief reason why she's so overjoyed at winning a Czech passport, says Pravo, is that she can now change her name. "Horvathova" is a typical Romany name, even though Elzbieta is white. For years she's had immense trouble with the authorities because they assume that she's from the Roma minority. Now she can finally begin living what the paper describes as "a dignified life".