18-12-2002

It's all smiles on the front pages today - MLADA FRONTA DNES features a grinning Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who saw his record deficit budget passed in the first reading on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile it's a laughing Mirek Topolanek who graces the front page of LIDOVE NOVINY - the newly elected Civic Democrat leader celebrated his unexpected victory with senators on Tuesday.

One man who didn't share Mr Topolanek's enthusiasm was his predecessor - former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. The tabloid BLESK somehow managed to take a photo of Mr Klaus writing a text message on his mobile phone shortly after Mr Topolanek's election. Mr Klaus was seen writing the words "the completely empty and phoney Topolanek". BLESK printed the photo.

But now, reports PRAVO, the paper could be in trouble. The party has filed criminal charges against two BLESK photographers as well as the editor who printed the photo. The police are taking the case seriously, says PRAVO, adding that the three could be found guilty of invasion of privacy.

Christmas is coming and the goose - sorry, the carp - is getting fat, but the Czech custom of bludgeoning to death and dismembering the fish on the street is not to everyone's tastes, says MLADA FRONTA DNES. When British tourist Robert Campbell first saw a carp vendor kill and gut the fish in full view of passers-by, he was shocked.

I'd never seen anything like it before, he says. It struck me as rather morbid, the beginning of Christmas being marked by blood running down the pavement. But after a while, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, horror turned to fascination, and he began to think how the custom could be adopted in his native Birmingham.

I see huge cages on the streets, filled with turkeys. Every few minutes a man takes out one of the birds and chops its head off. The housewife puts the bloody carcass in a plastic bag and takes it home. Now that would be a truly unusual start to Christmas, he says.

Meanwhile Christmas spending is reaching dizzier and dizzier heights, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES. Czechs spent a staggering 600 billion crowns in the run-up to Christmas last year, up ten percent on the previous year. Analysts believe the figure will be even higher in 2002. "Consumer spending is becoming more and more important to the Czech economy," says expert Jan Svejnar.

Staying with spending, and LIDOVE NOVINY reports that the European Union is celebrating after clinching a bargain deal on enlargement. The claims, which first appeared in the International Herald Tribune on Monday, revolve around highly complicated budget calculations. But put simply, the EU is actually going to spend just 10 billion euros on enlargement, rather than the 40 billion widely reported in the media. The EU, says LIDOVE NOVINY, is clearly being stingy.

And finally back to MLADA FRONTA DNES, and news of yet another attack by an unleashed rottweiler. A woman from the village of Felbabek in West Bohemia is considering court action after a rottweiler ripped her small bishon dog to pieces before launching a savage attack on her. The woman suffered a broken arm and severe bruising.

"The owner didn't life a finger to help me, even though he saw I was injured," she told MLADA FRONTA DNES. The attack happened on a forest path, and the owner simply fled, leaving the woman to fight off the dog. The rottweiler's owner is still proving elusive - he has no telephone, and no-one is answering the door.

18-12-2002