Press review


Two American heroes liven up the front pages of today's papers which are otherwise heavy with financial concerns. They are Jessica Lynch, one of the US hostages in the war with Iraq who is to sell her story for a million dollars, according to Mlada Fronta Dnes, and Rudolf Guiliani, the former mayor of New York who appears on the front page of Pravo. Mr. Guiliani is the star at the European Union Days in Brno, the paper says and speculates as to whether the popular American will one day reside in the White House.

On the domestic front, it is the health minister Marie Souckova's plans for reform that command immediate attention. Pravo has highlighted the minister's claim that half of the hospitals in the country are superfluous and should be turned into rehabilitation clinics, while Mlada Fronta Dnes carries a price list for various medical services as proposed by the health minister.

The paper notes that although money is short and the Prime Minister welcomes any cuts in spending the proposed changes are so radically opposed to the Social Democrats election promises that they will be hard to push through in Parliament. Already Mrs. Souckova's party colleagues from parliament's committee for health matters have said they are affronted about not having been consulted in advance.

In an editorial column titled "The Iron Lady is on thin ice" Alexander Mitrofanov of Pravo says that the biggest fighter in Cabinet is looking neither right nor left in her determination to reform the health sector. She has managed to turn both camps against her: doctors and nurses because of the upheaval she will cause in hospitals, patients because she is asking them to pay for services rendered. But the fact is, says Mitrofanov, that we have little choice. The health sector is mired in debt and if we all refuse to contribute something now - we may not have a proper health service in the near future.

The other big domestic story on today's front pages is the appointment of the former defence minister Jaroslav Tvrdik as president of the executive board of directors of the national carrier Czech Airlines. This is bad news not only for the company, but for all of us, says Milos Cermak in the papers' editorial column, noting that Mr. Tvrdik's appointment was a political decision.

Both Mlada Fronta Dnes and Hospodarske Noviny agree, pointing out that there should have been a proper selection procedure for such an important post, with emphasis placed on qualification, managerial skills and experience. The appointment of a politician who needed a job to this key post is a scandal, says Mlada Fronta Dnes. Mr. Tvrdik should have found himself a new niche -instead he let his friends find him a cushy job.

Lidove Noviny reports that Prime Minister Spidla has a plan which would increase the prestige of Czech scientists. The PM wants to set up a smaller Czech version of the Nobel Prize for Science, the paper says. At present it is only a rough idea, which Mr. Spidla ran by the party leadership last week, but he is determined to bring it about and says that he would like to see a very lucrative financial reward attached to the main prizes, a consolation for the low wages which many scientists get.

News of the first snow in the mountain regions coincides with the good news that the price of electricity is expected to drop by an estimated 8 to 11 percent in different parts of the country. People living in Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic should save several hundred crowns a year, residents in Prague will hardly notice the difference, Lidove Noviny says.