23-08-2001

The shock news of a second suspected case of BSE in the Czech Republic is the top story in just about all the papers. But at least some experts tell MLADA FRONTA DNES that they're not predicting a serious fall in beef sales as a result of the latest scare. Most people who are frightened about mad cow disease, they say, already stopped eating beef some time ago. The head of the Czech Agricultural Chamber tells LIDOVE NOVINY a different story, warning that the market for beef products threatens to collapse, and farmers tell ZEMSKE NOVINY that the new case is one of the last nails in their coffin.

Not surprisingly the Agricultural Minister, Jan Fencl, is trying to bolster confidence, but an editorial in MLADA FRONTA DNES accuses him of deceiving the consumer. The paper says that he is lying in saying that Czech beef is completely safe. No-one can be a hundred percent certain, and what Mr Fencl should be saying is that there is a risk to the consumer, even if it is only very small. That from MLADA FRONTA DNES.

In today's PRAVO the Deputy Prime Minister, Pavel Rychetsky, explains why he is against making all the files of the former secret police, the notorious StB, available to the public, as his fellow Senators are demanding. He argues that the StB material includes detailed records of the private lives of the people they were watching. The work of such nauseous peeping Toms, he says, should be destroyed and not made public. We need to distinguish between the victims and the perpetrators.

Peeping Toms of a post-communist variety are the subject of another article in today's PRAVO, entitled: "When are we going to see Klaus with his trousers off?" The article looks at the paparazzi topless shots of the politician Petra Buzkova, printed in the tabloid daily SUPER this week - shots which broke an unwritten taboo in the Czech media. The article writes that Ms Buzkova has become the victim of the kind of treatment that we read of in the feminist textbooks. Unable to find any political scandals or juicy affairs, the tabloids have resorted to stereotype: with schoolboy comments about her appearance. Recent insinuations about the way she is bringing up her young daughter, implying that she was a neglectful and abusive mother, were an example of another classic stereotype. The article concludes that it's now up to the tabloid SUPER to prove that it's not sexist - by printing naked pictures of one of our better-looking male politicians - how about the opposition leader Vaclav Klaus for example?

And finally back to MLADA FRONTA DNES with some bad news for young Czech men determined to avoid compulsory military service. At the moment all you have to do is to say that fighting is against your conscience, and that gives you the right to do alternative, so called "civil" service in the community. Not for long: if a bill being prepared by the government becomes law, there will soon be special commissions set up to check whether or not you really mean it. And things are set to get tougher even if you do get accepted for alternative service. Many employers have complained about the total lack of motivation of young men on alternative service, but soon there will be regular controls to make sure they really are doing their jobs and not just sitting around. Employers will also be subject to regular checks, because the government says that they too have often abused the system to save money by taking on young would-be soldiers as experts in a particular field. This is particularly the case in schools, where the young men quite often end up teaching computer science. By law, people on alternative service are only supposed to do non- qualified community work. From now on employers will face hefty fines of up to half a million crowns for breaking the regulations, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES.

23-08-2001