26-11-2001

News that U.S. scientists have for the first time in history cloned a human embryo dominates the headlines today, but most papers also feature the sad end to the story of a brother and sister who went missing in late July. Police say two bodies discovered in bushes near a South Moravian village on Sunday almost certainly belong to Jan and Dagmar Vosmansky.

Mlada fronta Dnes carries front-page pictures of the children, accompanied by a map showing where they were found. A police spokeswoman told the paper that the sleeping bags, a tent and a camping stove all suggest the heavily decomposed bodies belong to the Vosmanskys. The bodies were found by a local man out looking for wood, four months after hundreds of police and soldiers combed the area in vain.

The question now, says Lidove noviny, is exactly how they met their deaths. The chief suspect is their Belgian brother-in-law Stephan Knaepen, who took them on a camping holiday on July 30th. Several days later the three were officially registered missing, and in mid-August police found first Knaepen's car and then his body. But Lidove noviny says there is still some confusion surrounding Knaepen's death: notes found in his car suggest he was suicidal, but an autopsy revealed he died of natural causes.

His death may have been natural, says Mlada fronta Dnes, but it seems Knaepen did try to kill his own wife and three young children shortly before taking Jan and Dagmar - his wife's brother and sister - on the camping holiday. The paper also reproduces a chilling extract from one of the notes found in his car - "I hope this night will be our last night alive, and we'll all be dead in the morning."

Moving onto a less morbid topic, and "Are Germans Buying Czech property?" asks Prazske Slovo today, in a front-page story about foreigners finding ways around laws that prevent them from buying land in the Czech Republic. Property near the German border is changing hands rapidly, says the paper, explaining that silent partnerships with Czech middlemen allow wealthy German farmers to snap up cottages and fields.

However the paper says people are divided as to whether foreign ownership is really such a bad thing. "What's important is that someone works the land," says MP Miroslav Kalousek. "It's irrelevant whether the farmer is German or Czech," he tells Prazske Slovo. But local farmers are outraged. "We have absolutely no chance of buying state-owned land," says one, "and there's no money to start farming or invest in equipment."

But Marie Kratka, who runs a small business in the western town of As, doesn't agree. "If the Czech border regions end up looking as nice as Bavaria, then I don't care if there's German money behind it." Hard to argue with that.

Former student leader Monika Pajerova tells Lidove noviny today that she and other student leaders were actually caught off guard by the November 1989 Velvet Revolution. A nation-wide student strike - designed to topple the Communist regime - was actually planned for January 1990. But Pajerova says the unusually brutal suppression of a minor demonstration in November 1989 produced a chain of events that ended in the collapse of the regime by Christmas.

And finally hold onto your wallets in the run up to this Christmas, says Mlada fronta Dnes today. Pickpockets are also getting ready for the festive season, and some of them will be working overtime to raise cash for the kiddies' presents. The crowds of Christmas shoppers are havens for pickpockets, says the paper, warning people to be on their guard.

Police have issued their traditional festive warning about the city's busiest tram - the infamous number 22. The 22 is packed like a tin of sardines at the best of times, but in the weeks before Christmas the extra load of shoppers and tourists provide rich pickings for Prague's pickpockets. Thieves will either try to create a distraction or simply pluck bulging wallets from open bags and pockets. Ho ho ho.

26-11-2001