27-08-2003

The first ever trial of a left-wing radical commands a great deal of attention since a regional court in North Moravia is now expected to set an important precedent - can people be jailed for propagating communism?

Twenty four year-old David Pecha, who basically called for an armed coup to bring back the old order, now stands accused of "spreading intolerance and hatred leading to the suppression of basic rights and freedoms". The trial has sparked a heated debate on freedom of speech, with Lidove Noviny printing arguments both in favour and against the proceedings.

The other big story on today's front pages is the rapid growth of wages in the Czech Republic, with the average wage now at just over 17,000 crowns /or 570 US dollars/. Hospodarske Noviny notes that many civil servants in the state sector are now making more than entrepreneurs in the private sector, where wage growth is firmly linked to productivity. Many Czechs are living beyond their means, and the sorry state of public finances reflects that, the paper says.

In a closely related story, the paper says that the battle over the distribution of funds in next years state budget is to break out next week, when the Cabinet meets for its first session after the summer holidays. Altogether, individual ministers are demanding an extra 39 billion crowns to tide them over - demands which finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka is refusing to meet, the paper says.

As it is, Prime Minister Spidla will not find it easy to convince all of the coalition's deputies to vote in favour of next year's budget Hospodarske Noviny points out. The Freedom Union has said it would like to see next years' budget deficit drop from the proposed 118 billion to less than 100 billion crowns, practically an impossible feat under the present circumstances. And both of the opposition parties - the centre right Civic Democrats and the Communists are highly dissatisfied with the proposed draft budget. The vote on next year's budget will be a trial by fire for the fragile governing coalition, the paper predicts.

The start of the new school year has received plenty of attention. There is speculation as to how many schools will join the planned one day strike on September 1st and whether or not schools should be responsible for at least minding youngsters during the day.

Mlada Fronta Dnes reports that exceptionally talented children may finally get a school of their own- one which would take into account their strengths and weaknesses. At present there is no such institution in the Czech Republic and gifted children go to regular schools, where they have serious learning problems. Mostly they are way ahead in the subjects they are gifted at, which stunts their growth, and behind in others, which gives them hang ups.

According to Mlada Fronta Dnes a group of parents have now got together and decided that they will establish a special school for gifted children, where their offspring will get special care and individual teaching programmes. The paper cites the case of 7 year old David who is doing secondary school maths and loves computer programming, but is way behind in reading and writing.

And finally, all the papers report that people are queuing up at observatories for a glimpse of Mars. The planet Mars is reportedly "just 56 million kilometres away" the closest it has come to the Earth in 60,000 years. So there's no point in putting it off for next time.

27-08-2003