08-02-2001

MLADA FRONTA DNES features a photo of President Havel receiving MP Ivan Pilip and former student activist Jan Bubenik, who returned to Prague from a Cuban prison on Tuesday evening. The two men admitted on Wednesday that they had been sent to Cuba by the American non-governmental organization Freedom House. "But I can assure you no espionage was involved," Ivan Pilip told the paper.

Mr Pilip explained that Freedom House had first contacted him two years ago, and shortly afterwards he travelled to Cuba. "But publicity was not the main objective of the mission. I never spoke about my journey to anybody, although I met a lot more people on the first trip than this latest one," Pilip told MLADA FRONTA DNES.

Last month the two Czechs went to Cuba to bring a portable computer, medicines and a small amount of money to Cuban dissidents, but the main purpose of their trip was to show moral support, reports MLADA FRONTA DNES.

PRAVO reports on the cabinet's attempt to trigger reform of the Czech education system by approving a new national programme on the further development of education - the so-called White Book. The Book has been submitted by the Minister of Education, Eduard Zeman, whose main plan is to abolish the 8-year "gymnasiums" - that's secondary schools for students between 12 and 19 years of age.

But, writes PRAVO, the cabinet had come under a barrage of criticism because all the opposition parties say this will only lower the chances of more talented students of getting jobs to match their abilities. The government is likely to approve Minister Zeman's proposal, but a fierce debate on the issue is expected in the Lower House, writes PRAVO.

LIDOVE NOVINY tells readers about the intention of Labour Minister Vladimir Spidla to abolish restrictions which bar women on maternity leave from earning money in addition to receiving child benefit from the state. If passed, the new law is likely to improve the social situation of young families. Spidla defends his proposal by saying that with each newborn child families often find themselves in economic dire straits. Now mothers will be allowed to earn as much money as possible, and receive child benefit as well, writes LIDOVE NOVINY.

"The Czech landscape is in sorry state," reads a headline in today's ZEMSKE NOVINY. The paper writes that not only big industrial plants, but also farmers have been damaging the landscape. But all this is to come to an end. In the near future, the Czech landscape might look similar to Germany or Austria - freshly-mown roadsides and meadows with no weeds.

The Ministry of Agriculture wants to pursue a "carrot and stick" policy - a policy of reward and punishment for how farmers treat the landscape. The fine for spreading weed to a neighbour's field could be as high as half a million crowns, the ministry spokesman told ZEMSKE NOVINY.

08-02-2001