13-11-2001

The Czech papers are naturally dominated by Monday's plane crash in New York with almost all of the dailies carrying the exact same photo of the terrible fires in the city's Queens district.

Mlada fronta Dnes carries a story on the investigation into widespread corruption concerning what are known as blue books - medical certificates that exempt holders from compulsory military service. Young men have been able to buy these certificates from corrupt doctors, says the paper, in a report which won't come as any surprise to Czechs.

When he was industry minister, the leader of the Four-Party Coalition Karel Kuehnl was partly responsible for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant. Now he is in opposition however, Keuhnl - who is the coalition's candidate for prime minister - seems to have made something of a U-turn, calling on Austrian TV for a phasing-out of nuclear power in the Czech Republic, writes Lidove noviny.

Hospodarske noviny features an opinion piece on Czech cultural centres abroad. Under new legislation these centres may lose much of their independence and flexibility or may be closed down altogether. The commentator says however, that Czech centres are indispensable and their powers should actually be increased as they play a key role in promoting Czech culture and companies abroad.

There are two very different articles about Prime Minister Milos Zeman in today's Lidove noviny. The first reports that the New York Times has - like several Czech commentators - cast doubt on Zeman's claim that suspected ringleader of the September attacks on the US, Mohammed Atta, planned to attack the Radio Free Europe building in Prague.

The second article is somewhat lighter and concerns Zeman's favourite tipple, the liquer Becherovka. Accepting a bottle as a gift in Ostrava, north Moravia, Zeman said he hoped it wouldn't look like a bribe. "I don't regard this bottle as corruption," said the prime minister.

Interviewed in Lidove noviny, football player Tomas Repka was unrepentant about his sending off in Saturday's crucial World Cup qualifier against Belgium, which the Czechs lost. Repka said he had nothing to apologise for and that reading press criticism of his behaviour was beneath him. The player said maybe the best thing would be for him to quit the national side for good - many Czech fans might say the same thing.

13-11-2001