14-08-2003

The record temperatures which hit the Czech Republic on Wednesday make the front pages of all Thursday's dailies. MLADA FRONTA DNES carries a photo of a meteorologist measuring the temperature at Prague's Klementinum, where they saw the highest August temperature since records began in 1775.

The same daily also reports on an incredible difference in temperature recorded at a weather station some 600 metres above sea level in the mountainous Podkrusnohori area of west Bohemia. While it was a very cool 0.2 degrees there in the morning, by the middle of the afternoon it was over 30 degrees hotter, at 33.2 Celsius.

An opinion piece in LIDOVE NOVINY reflects on the recently announced findings by the Supreme Audit Office regarding the misuse of state funds by the Office of the Government when Milos Zeman was prime minister. The issue is not the cigarettes or bottles of wine that were bought out of state funds, but principles and tendencies, writes LIDOVE NOVINY.

However, says the author, the Supreme Audit Office's findings never have political consequences. Furthermore, doubt is often cast on the office's findings. But even still, the state does need to change its ways, and behave more like a small company than a feudal monarch, the article concludes.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY carries an interesting piece on bribery. Last year some 153 cases were uncovered, a figure Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla says does not correspond with the real extent of corruption. For their part, the police say they just do not have the manpower to deal with the problem. We cannot have a police officer stationed every 20 metres, police chief Jiri Kolar tells the daily.

Mr Kolar does suggest one possible solution to the problem of bribery: as people often give bribes to speed up official processes, why not legalise the practice and allow people to simply pay a set charge to get various permits more quickly? An editorial in the daily, meanwhile, says it is necessary to keep repeating the mantra "corruption is not normal".

2003 will be remembered as a good year for Czech wine, writes PRAVO. The dry weather will mean a smaller harvest, but the abundance of sun has ensured that grapes have had a chance to ripen nicely. That said, as elsewhere in the country, rain would be welcome in the vineyards of south Moravia; grower Jan Hajda says every day of dry weather means a smaller harvest.

But it is not just the weather that vine growers have to contend with: grape thieves are another worry. Mr Hajda tells PRAVO that every year he has to hire security to protect his crops. Finding people interested in taking the job is not easy, and he generally turns to local pensioners.

14-08-2003