30-11-2000

President Havel's controversial appointment of a new governor of the central bank--made despite widespread opposition from the political elite--holds pride of place on this morning's front pages. "Government Declares Legal War On Havel," reads a headline in LIDOVE NOVINY. "Government Will Sue," announces MLADA FRONTA DNES, whilst the more highbrow business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY merely notes that the government has cast doubt on the credentials of the bank's new chief, Zdenek Tuma.

Staying with HOSPODARSKE NOVINY, the paper says the Czech Republic won't have to take out a loan to buy new supersonic jets for its cash-strapped air force. The paper bases the claim on a proposal made by one of the western aircraft companies bidding for the tender, although the paper doesn't say which one. Moreover, it writes, Czechs could pay for the planes in easy instalments, either in euros or in Czech crowns.

The paper reacts to the news that the government has decided to postpone the announcement of the tender till December 15. Prague's aim is to obtain either 24 or 36 advanced western jet fighters to replace its obsolete Russian-built fleet. The Czech Republic is willing to spend up to 100 billion crowns, or over two billion dollars, on the new planes, but could get back about 150 billion crowns in offset programs the victorious bidder would agree to invest in the country.

LIDOVE NOVINY gives out some advice to people scared of BSE, or Mad Cow Disease. Czech beef isn't tested properly, the paper warns, so the best advice is: don't eat it. But if you must, choose prime steak and other cuts with lots of muscle tissue, and avoid eating offal, brains and deli meats such as sausage and salami, because they contain a large proportion of beef. And if you suspect Czech farmers of feeding bone meal to their livestock, in violation of a blanket ban on such products, then don't even touch chickens, and go veggie.

Wednesday was a black day for Czech drivers. "Cars Explode and Burn, People Die on Prague-Plzen Motorway," reads a front-page headline in ZEMSKE NOVINY. The toll from several gruesome pileups near Prague in thick fog yesterday morning is massive. Two people were killed, between 60 and 80 cars and trucks were totalled, and traffic on the vital artery connecting two important Czech commercial hubs was blocked all day long. The number of people injured in the accidents has yet to be established, the paper writes, but it runs into dozens.

A skinhead received a suspended two-year jail sentence at a Prague court yesterday for promoting fascism and hooliganism in public. CESKE SLOVO believes such a lenient sentence is outrageous, given that racially motivated crime is spreading in the country. The 21-year-old man was one of a group of skinheads who last year attacked a Roma youth in central Prague. The skinhead was also seen raising his right arm in an imitation of the Nazi salute and verbally assaulting black tourists.

And finally, Czech Muslims are looking for an imam, reports today's LIDOVE NOVINY. At the start of the holy month of Rammadan, followers of Islam congregating at a mosque in Brno had no one to lead the prayers for them. The paper writes that an estimated 20,000 Muslims in the Czech Republic forgo sex, food and drink in daylight hours each time the holy month comes round. Most of them are immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and also the Balkans.

But Islam yet has to be registered as a recognised religion in the Czech Republic. This, according to chief Czech Islamic organiser Mohammed Ali Sedivy of Trebic, is probably why prayer leaders are so hard to find. He also complains to LIDOVE NOVINY that conservationists have prevented the Brno Muslims from attaching a dome and minaret to their mosque, a disused library, saying Brno's unique skyline must be protected.

30-11-2000