03-04-2001

Most of the papers today carry more pictures of a smiling Salman Rushdie, who's currently in the Czech capital to attend the Prague Writers' Festival. LIDOVE NOVINY says Mr Rushdie is being protected by as many as eight bodyguards during his visit to Prague, and remains unrepentant over the book that got him into all the trouble in the first place: 'I wouldn't change a single word of the Satanic Verses' he tells PRAVO.

Moving away from Salman Rushdie, and LIDOVE NOVINY says that large financial donations are starting to flow back into the country's political parties, following a dry patch caused by a number of high-profile funding scandals. Vaclav Klaus's right-of-centre Civic Democrats were well ahead of the rest - the party says it had received 23.3 million crowns in donations in the year 2000, up from 6.5 million in 1999.

The ruling Social Democrats are way behind in the money stakes, says LIDOVE NOVINY, receiving just 3.7 million from generous benefactors. Still, it was an improvement on 1999 - when the party was given only a meagre 1.7 million crowns. And finally the Communist Party actually got less in 2000 than they did in 1999, receiving just half a million crowns. And just to put things in perspective, that's around 13,500 U.S. dollars. All property is theft, it seems. Well, almost.

And staying with money, or rather the removal of it, ZEMSKE NOVINY leads with a report that organised gangs are robbing passengers on international express trains from Poland and Slovakia. The latest case was on Sunday, writes the paper. Police in Ostrava say a 42-year-old woman was relieved of 65,000 crowns' worth of camera equipment by a gang working the Laborec Express from Slovakia to Prague.

Police say the robbery was the work of a highly-organised Slovak gang, who use mobile telephones to send advance information to colleagues at the other end of the train. One scout walks up and down the corridors, says ZEMSKE NOVINY, casually peering into the compartments. He then phones his colleague a few carriages down the train, tipping him off about particularly vulnerable passengers or juicy pickings to be had.

Well the controversy over the Temelin nuclear power plant is never far from the pages of the Czech press, and today is no exception. MLADA FRONTA DNES carries a story about a group of anti-nuclear activists, who have been ordered to apologise in public to the Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr for a rather amusing publicity stunt.

The group placed a pink bust of Mr Gregr in a Ceské Budejovice housing estate, accompanied by a pseudo-Communist slogan extolling the virtues of nuclear power. Mr Gregr, under whose watchful eye Temelin eventually went into test operation last year, failed to see the funny side, and took them to court.

Mr Gregr's lawyer pointed out that his client was not responsible for starting the Temelin project - that was down to the Communists in the late 1970s. The Trade and Industry Ministry, he said, merely oversaw the Czech government's decision to complete the controversial plant, reminding MLADA FRONTA DNES that Mr Gregr had himself been persecuted during the Communist regime.

And staying with Temelin, PRAVO claims the rather scary U.S. lawyer Ed Fagan held secret talks on Monday with the head of the Czech Nuclear Safety Authority. Mr Fagan, recruited by Austrian anti-nuclear activists to get Temelin shut down, refused to comment when confronted by the paper outside the building afterwards.

The woman Mr Fagan was there to see, Czech Nuclear Safety Authority director Dana Drabova, was only slightly more forthcoming about the meeting. 'Discussions were open and direct," she told PRAVO, while declining to give any more details. The plot thickens...

And finally a word of warning from PRAVO on the current solar eruptions: not only could they disturb your TV reception, but they could also be hazardous to human health. Asthmatics and people with heart conditions should expect problems this week as massive eruptions continue on the sun's surface. The largest sunspot group in over a decade may be shrinking, but it has still managed to let off another gigantic flare on Sunday.

03-04-2001