From the Weeklies

There's an old Czech saying to the effect that the darkest place in a gaslit room is right under the gas lamp. That would be the typical Czech response to the news that the police are getting away with crimes they themselves are paid to uncover. There are no exclusively male clubs in this country but some Czech men have found their own hideaway. And what are the most valuable Czech trademarks? The jury's still out on that one, but Tyden gives readers a reliable estimate.

It may have been the news that the number of police officers involved in criminal activities has doubled as compared to last year, or, then again, it could be pure coincidence that both Tyden and Mlady Svet have zeroed in on the sins of the Czech police force this week. In an article entitled "Pirates in Uniform", Tyden reports that twenty percent of the software used by the Czech police force is pirated. Police stations are the last place on earth where you'd look for pirated software, Tyden says, but our men of the law have the same problems as everyone else. So while they go out to fight software piracy some of the stuff used in their own offices has probably, well, fallen off the back of a lorry. Jiri Dastych, who heads a software crime squad, admits that this is indeed the case but refuses to say who is responsible.

Former police president Stanislav Novotny says that in view of planned EU membership, not to mention the emphasis the Union has placed on fighting software piracy, both the hardware and software the Czech police now use is pathetic. Most of them have very old hardware and work with the prehistoric T602 word processor which is totally outdated, Novotny says. Outside the larger cities you'll find them tapping away on old typewriters and there have even been cases of lawyers being asked to bring their own paper for their copy of an official statement. Many departments which have computers lack Internet connections. As a result everything is a laborious process. For instance the lack of an Internet connection caused problems when the police were alerted to a case of child pornography on the web. Most recently, the high price of petrol has made it difficult for police officers to patrol the streets as often as necessary. If the police are not given the necessary equipment to work with how on earth can we expect them to do their job well? the weekly asks.

Mlady Svet has an equally startling police tale to tell. In 1994 the automaker Skoda produced three thousand vehicles for export to Turkey that didn't have catalytic converters. However the deal fell through, and since all cars used in the Czech Republic must meet this particular requirement, Skoda sold them to the only buyer who could get away with it: the Czech police force. Of course the cash-strapped police force bought them on the cheap and promptly acquired a five-year exemption from the law. When the five years ran out they were to be dismantled and sold for spare parts, if at all.

However someone at the police force had the bright idea of selling a number of them to a used-car dealer with false MOT certificates. As a result Mr. Vanek--and many like him--who acquired a secondhand Skoda, was dismayed when during the first police patrol check he was told the car was unusable in this country. "I was told it was my fault for not checking out its origins," Vanek says, "but what on earth was there to check out with a regular MOT certificate stamped by the police? I paid 98,000 crowns for it," he adds. He and others plan to fight the case in court. In the meantime they can go back to using their bikes...

Way back in 1933 the Czechoslovak armed forces decided to build an intricate network of military bunkers as part of the country's defense system. Over ten thousand of them were built by the time Nazi Germany had become a threat. The generals presumed the country would defend itself and the bunkers would be used to delay the advance of German troops, giving the army time to re-group and attack. However, things turned out differently, politicians accepted the Munich Agreement and the bunkers were never used as intended. Now they are left as remnants of a bygone era, their redundant gun turrets pointing towards the Czech Republic's NATO allies.

However, not all of them are empty and Pravo magazine reports on their new inhabitants in an article entitled "The Bunker Diagnosis". "It's not just a hobby, it's more of a craze. You could diagnose us," says Petr Charvat, who spends every minute of his spare time in a bunker with a group of friends. All of them are military enthusiasts. They invest all their spare time and money in the bunkers. They retire to their bunkers the way most Czechs go to their country cottages for the weekend. Over the past ten years they have restored the bunkers back to their former glory--everything works except the weapons. Electricity, furnishings, even toilets are to be found in their small underground world.

Today many resemble exclusively male clubs, Pravo notes. Do these guys' wives feel like their husbands are wasting their time playing soldier? "Our wives are not enthusiasts," Charvat says, "and many grind their teeth at the thought of the time and money we spend here. But they've accepted it. This is definitely off-limits territory for them," he adds. "They'd turn the place upside down in no time. Luckily there's no bath, not even a shower, so at most they turn up once a year just to check out what we're up to."

Well if you think about it, the popular Czech monarch Emperor Charles IV is said to have banned women from Karlstejn Castle for many years in order to give himself and his men a haven in which to relax and restore their energy. But that didn't last very long either--and legend has it that it was his own wife, Queen Blanche, who led the revolt. So let's wait and see how long the bunkers last...

And finally on an altogether different topic, Tyden reflects on famous Czech trademarks and why nobody in this country appears interested in their value on the market. Nowadays it is possible to calculate the value of a trademark with great precision and it is unthinkable for Western firms who own famous trademarks not to know their precise value, the weekly says. For instance Coca-Cola's is worth 73 billion US dollars, Microsoft Windows' 70 billion, IBM's 53 billion, Nokia's, the most valuable European trademark is worth 39 billion US dollars and so on.

Anyone interested in a particular trademark can look up its value on the Interbrand register. Since nothing like it has ever been compiled in the Czech Republic, Tyden magazine has attempted to put together its own list.

Undisputedly, the most valuable trademark of all is that of the automaker Skoda. Budweiser is thought to be the second most valuable, worth over 10.6 billion US dollars, according to an estimate made by Interbrand during Budweiser's court dispute with the US giant Anheuser Busch. Pilsner Urquel follows hard on its heels, then CSOB, the bank which recently swallowed the ailing IPB, Fernet Stock, the famous liqueur brand which dates back to 1927 and is increasingly popular around the world, Barum, synonymous for quality tires, Becher, a famous herbal liqueur dating back to 1807 which no visitor to the Czech Republic will fail to taste, Mattoni, the popular tonic water, and Eurotel.

Other trademarks frequently associated with the Czech Republic, such as Crystalex, the famous Bohemia crystal exporter which has delivered chandeliers and glassware to palaces the world over, is lower down the list, as are the Petrof piano maker, Jawa motocycles and Tatra and Liaz, the latter three now plagued by serious economic problems.

So why are famous Czech brand owners not interested in getting their trademarks evaluated? The press spokesman for Skoda Automobiles responded as follows: We know we are 'the family silver', getting a precise evaluation would only make sense if we ever wanted to sell the trademark. And there's certainly no question of that, he adds.