Today's Czech papers offer a wide variety of main stories - in international news the dailies continue to monitor the situation surrounding Iraq and the continuing possibility of US military action, while in the US architectural firms have unveiled nine new possible designs for rebuilding the World Trade Center site in New York. On the home scene all of the dailies cover Christmas preparations with the usual photo of Christmas carp and the caption "Will he end up on a plate?" More than likely, unless someone buys him with the intention of setting him free in the Vltava river. That's a mistake made by many people every year, thinking they can grant their carp a reprieve. In truth the fish have little chance of survival - the change of environment is simply too great a shock.

Well, shock is a sentiment that may soon be felt by some tenants after the Association for Property Owners on Wednesday recommended landlords raise their rents to reflect the real market value - a month or so after Czech courts ruled the current rent system was unconstitutional. And today's LIDOVE NOVINY suggests most landlords will be within their rights, since they cannot wait for legislation forever. Writes the daily: [governments] had years to address the question of reforms in the housing sector but turned a blind eye. Now, without legislation in place and the government once again dragging its feet, the situation between tenants and landlords can only grow worse. Says LIDOVE NOVINY: a proposal needs to be put forward as soon as possible.

And then there were four - candidates that is - entering their bids for the Czech presidency. Klaus, Pithart, Krizenecky, Bures: all four are pictured looking statesmanlike in today's MLADA FRONTA DNES. According to the paper's summary: Mr Krizencky, the Communists' candidate, has no chance; Mr Klaus, the Civic Democrat's choice should make it to the second round, Senate chairman Petr Pithart has got a chance, while the Social Democrat's Jaroslav Bures doesn't have the full support of the party, but may still surprise. The paper notes: these will be the first presidential elections since 1918 that have no clear frontrunner. There is even a possibility that parliament voting may produce no winner at all.

Turning to today's PRAVO and warnings of a shakedown in the Czech military: the daily reports that on Wednesday Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik spoke emotionally to some 3,000 army officials at Prague's Congress Centre, threatening that any military officers who failed to meet strict physical requirements, as well as foreign-language requirements, would be fired. Mr Tvrdik also said that any signs of theft, alcohol abuse, corruption, or neo-Nazi sympathies would also mean immediate discharge. Zero tolerance: that's the new doctrine, says the paper. Mr Tvrdik is aiming to fully professionalise the Czech Armed forces by 2006 - when military service will no longer be mandatory for Czech males at the age of eighteen. Speaking of eighteen years, eighteen years in prison is what now awaits one-time influential businessman Ivan Jonak, aged 46. PRAVO writes that on Wednesday Mr Jonak was sentenced for ordering the murder of his wife in 1994, as well as planning to murder her lover. Jonak made his final appeal Wednesday saying he wasn't Jekyll and Hyde - three judges found him guilty nonetheless, stressing he killed the mother of two for economic gain: to inherit a majority stake in his sex club.

And now a topic for next year: things aren't looking good for viewers loyal to the public broadcaster Czech Television: Thursday's HOSPODARSKE NOVINY writes that next year Czech TV will premiere fewer new programmes and will air a higher percentage of re-runs. The reason? Poor management in the past has left the station with a large deficit and in order to balance its budget for 2003 the station will have to produce less programming. Of all of next year's programming only 43 percent will be new. The paper writes that the station will also save money because next year it will not have to pay to broadcast expensive programming like the Olympics and the Football World Cup.

Finally, I hate to be the one to break it, but if you're dreaming of a white Christmas in Prague, than you'll have to pray for snow. MLADA FRONTA DNES writes that the 24th will be overcast with a chance of showers... There is some glimmer of hope that there may be some snowfall with that rain, but then, that will probably melt anyway. Want a better guarantee? There is a 70 percent chance of snow in mountains, so if you have a friend with a chalet - what are you waiting for? Go north!