12-12-2000

All the papers today are full of the results of the EU summit in Nice this weekend and what the Czechs will get out of it. LIDOVE NOVINY, for instance, calls it the longest and toughest summit in the history of the Union, and claims that the Czech Republic and other small states both inside and outside the EU will have greater influence than expected. And throughout all of the haggling that went on at the summit, the paper says, the deal for the Czechs just got better and better, starting off with ten votes in the new expanded Union, and ending up with twelve.

From Nice to nice now, and MLADA FRONTA DNES today says that Christmas has come early for teachers, doctors and nurses. The Social Democrat government approved a plan on Monday to increase their salaries for 2001 by around fifteen percent. This is a great boon for these workers, as other state employees will receive a raise of under five percent. The government says the higher increases are to bring teachers' and doctors' salaries in line with those of the rest of the public sector. But the civil service union is far from happy. With inflation expected to reach about five percent next year, union representatives say this will reduce the spending power of civil servants.

Speaking of Christmas, CESKE SLOVO today features an article on the blues of the festive season. Although for most people Christmas is a time of joy and peace, the paper says, there are those who suffer from terrible depression at this time of year, for whom Christmas itself is a psychological nightmare, especially people who spend the festive season alone. Czech psychiatrists have responded to this problem by declaring Wednesday Anti-Depression Day, and have set up a help line to provide support for those who can't face carp and potato salad.

PRAVO features an interesting side effect of the recapture on Friday of Jiri Kajinek, one of the country's most notorious criminals, whose daring escape from a maximum-security prison in October hit the headlines for several weeks. Up until his capture, PRAVO says, every boy in the country idolised Kajinek, and in playground games they all wanted to play him rather than the police. As Jiri Kajinek was recaptured minus his underpants, the paper notes, the boys all want to play the rapid action squad that caught him, and it is an unfortunate boy indeed who has to play Kajinek, and cry out, "but I haven't got my underpants on."

From underpants to understaffed now, and ZEMSKE NOVINY reports today that the East Bohemian town of Lanskroun is a rarity. While the nation-wide unemployment rate is about eight percent and the rate throughout North Bohemia is even higher, Lanskroun is desperately seeking extra workers. The town has seen an influx of investment over the past year, and there are now not enough local workers to fill all the newly created jobs. Some companies have become so desperate that they have had to bus workers in from far and wide to meet demand. This, the paper notes, is in stark contrast to the nearby town of Kraliky, where there are an average of thirty-three applicants for every available job.

Back to PRAVO, and the paper celebrates the discovery of an asteroid that is caught in the Earth's orbit around the sun. It is an Athens-type asteroid, whatever that means, measures around sixty metres across, and is about 3 million kilometres from Earth, which is about seven times the distance to the moon. The asteroid is the first of its kind to be spotted from the Czech Republic, and has been given the somewhat lacklustre name of 2000 UR16.

And finally, LIDOVE NOVINY features ten handy but rather obvious and bizarre hints for how not to ruin your career at a company Christmas party. The list includes drinking with moderation, dressing nicely and avoiding talking about other employees in the toilets, as you never know who's in there, which are all fair enough. The list goes on to say that one should avoid boasting about smoking marijuana, confessing love for one's colleagues and making fun of colleagues who have social problems or are less intelligent than oneself. Strange advice indeed, but why don't I ever get invited to parties like that?

12-12-2000