Thursday, May 31, 2007

Szczypińska not satisfied with Ryanair’s apology

MP Jolanta Szczypińska is still threatening to sue if further apology is not offered.

A few days ago the airline used an advert for low cost flights showing a picture of the two sitting together under the headline: "Are they planning a honeymoon trip?"

After seeing the ad MP Jolanta Szczypińska took legal action against Ryanair demanding apologies.

A few days ago, an announcement appeared in press, in which the carrier apologises to the MP and the Prime Minister for using the expression ‘honeymoon trip’ in the ad and promised to donate 25,000 zlotys to charity.

Tomasz Kułakowski, the carrier's sales and marketing executive for Central Europe assures that by means of the announcement the company wanted to apologise to the MP and the PM.

Jolanta Szczypińska, however, talking to Radio Gdańsk said that she is not satisfied with such apologies. According to her, the company failed to fulfil the demands of her lawyers.

The MP expressed hope that Ryanair will comply with her demands. If not, she doesn’t exclude a trial, which she still would like to avoid, in order not to provide the carrier with free publicity.

Ms Szczypińska demands a press release at Ryanair’s expense in wording prepared earlier by her legal advisers.

Speculation of a romance between Szczypińska and the PM has been a regular staple of the tabloids and magazines for many months now. (jm)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Poles happier to stay in UK

One in three central European immigrants intend to stay for good in the UK, says new survey.

The study by the Rowntree Foundation asked 600 people from Poland, the Czech Republic and other new EU countries how long they intended to stay in the UK.

In 2002 only six percent said they wanted to stay for a long time. That figure has now risen to 29 percent.

The survey also found that:

*A quarter of migrants spent no time with British people, finding them "polite but distant".

*Only a third of migrants had taken English classes.

*Women immigrants and those with higher than average wages were more likely to opt for permanent stay.

*Two-thirds of the sample did not know how to register with a doctor. Over half a million Poles are thought to be in the UK. The growing number of Poles intending to stay for lengthy periods will not please the Polish government, which has led a campaign to get emigrants to return home, as many sectors of the labour market are experiencing shortages.

Monday, May 28, 2007

60 percent of schools and kindergartens on strike

Some 20 000 institutions, around 60 percent of Polish schools took part in a 2-hours-long nationwide warning strike today, Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) estimates.

The warning strike is to take place during the first two hours of classes. ZNP appeals to parents not to take their children to schools and kindergartens at that time.

During the strike some schools will be completely closed, in some only childcare activities will take place but no classes. Teachers can also express their support for the strike by wearing black t-shirts or black bows.

According to ZNP chairman Sławomir Broniarz, due to various hours of work the strike can beginn at 6,7 or 8 a.m. “At 10 o’clock the institutions should work normally,” he said.

“We talked to parents and explained them why we are going to protest. The talks revealed that they understand us” Anna Gajer from one of kindergartens in Warsaw said.

“We are aware of the fact that not everyone can leave their children with somebody in the morning, that is why every child brought into our kindergarten before 8 a.m. will find care,” she added.

ZNP demends an increase in education expenditures, 20 percent pay rises for teachers, maintaining the possibility of teachers’ early retirement on hitherto prevailing conditions untill 2011, embracing teachers born after 1969 by the bridging pension scheme and conducting a dialogue with the government not only under strike threat.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Swiss help Polish corruption probe

Switzerland will disclose to the Polish law enforcement agencies, the list of Swiss bank accounts belonging to Polish politicians.

Justice Minister, Zbigniew Ziobro has launched an investigation into a number of possible cases of corruption by prominent politicians of Poland's former post-communist government.

Some of the politicians suspected of illegal dealings are still prominent figures on the left of the Polish political scene. The disclosure of their deposits on Swiss bank accounts may be a shock to the Polish political scene, said the ruling Law and Justice party MP Jacek Kurski. According to Kurski, these accounts may contain money obtained from corruption and other abuses. That may prove that Poland was in fact robbed by the previously ruling post-communist, said Jacek Kurski.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Polish March To Counter Gay Parade Fizzles

A march through Warsaw organized by a Catholic group to protest Saturday's first legalized gay pride parade in the city failed to attract the thousands of people organizers predicted.

About 800 people took part in the counter march, called a parade for "family values". It was a far cry from the estimated five-thousand gay pride marchers a day earlier. (story)

Many of those marching on Sunday carried signs denouncing LGBT civil rights in Poland. Some of the placards read "Man and Woman Family". Other marchers carried small Polish flags.

Among the marchers was Education Minister Roman Giertych. Last week Giertych unveiled draft legislation that would make it a criminal offence to "promote homosexual propaganda" in schools. (story).

He told the PAP news agency on Sunday he was marching to to protest Saturday’s gay pride march and support family values.

"I think that one has to oppose what happened here yesterday," Giertych said, referring to the gay parade, and calling the LGBT marchers child abusers.

"Revolting pederasts came here from many countries and tried to impose their propaganda on us.’’

If passed Giertych's bill would essentially censor all discussion of homosexuality in schools and other academic institutions. LGBT organizations would be barred from schools and "teachers who reveal their homosexuality will be fired from work."

Giertych's draft legislation, however, does not say exactly would constitute promoting homosexuality.

Giertych last week defined it as "every action that is dependent on the public presentation of a certain belief with the intention of convincing others to that viewpoint." But critics say it is so vague it could lead to witch hunts.

Saturday's gay parade was the first legally sanctioned LGBT pride march in the Polish capital. Conservative groups had called on Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz Walz to ban the parade. Friday she told Polish radio that she had no grounds for rejecting a parade permit application.

She pointed to a ruling earlier this month by the European Court of Human Rights that Warsaw's former Mayor Lech Kaczynski - now Poland's President - acted illegally and discriminatory in banning previous gay pride marches.

When he was mayor Kaczynski rejected parade applications from 2004 to 2006.

In 2005 dozens of militant youths were waiting as the marchers arrived at the Parliament buildings and pelted the crowd with eggs. Police struggled to try to regain order, but were vastly outnumbered.

Last year, the State Prosecutor's office issued a letter to prosecutors in the municipalities of Legnica, Wroclaw, Walbryzch, Opole and Jelenia Gora ordering in sweeping terms investigations into the conduct of "homosexuals" on unspecified allegations of "pedophilia."

Man Cuts off Genitals

A POLISH MAN burst into a busy central London restaurant and chopped off his own penis with a knife in front of horrified diners, police have reported.

The man, a 35-year-old Polish national, ran into Zizzi, in the Strand, and promptly committed the surprising act.

"This guy came running in then charged into the kitchen, got a massive knife and started waving it about," a diner who was eating at the restaurant with his girlfriend said. Apparently, the man was dissatisfied that since he came to England he was unable to get a Polish girlfriend, who all seem to be going with black men.

"Everyone was screaming and running out as he jumped on a table, dropped his trousers and popped out his penis," the diner said. "Then he cut it off. I couldn't believe it." A Scotland Yard spokesperson said that a man aged between 30 and 40 was the only person hurt in the incident, and that his injuries were selfinflicted.

He was taken to hospital, where his condition was described as stable, after police had subdued him using CS gas, and recovered his severed penis, which surgeons have attempted to reattach.

It was not known whether the operation has been a success.

Polish Worker Killed Refinery Accident

One worker died and another was seriously injured Tuesday in an accident at a Polish-controlled oil refinery. Both workers were Polish, police said.

"A metal pipe fell on two workers, ages 55 and 51. One of them died, and the other was hospitalized. We are investigating the causes of the incident," Mindaugas Voldemaras, spokesman of the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery, said.

The fatal accident occurred two weeks after Lithuanian prosecutors accused two American executives running the refinery of negligence that led to a fire last October. The fire caused 131 litas ($38 million) in damages and caused oil handling to plunge.

CEO Paul Nelson English and his deputy, Barton Lee Luck, have been barred from leaving Lithuania for the duration of the investigation. They have reportedly denied the charges leveled against them.

Mazeikiu Nafta, Lithuania's largest corporation, was sold last year to Poland's PKN Orlen, Eastern Europe's largest gasoline retailer, for $2.3 billion.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

WARSAW, POLAND: Doctors go on strike

Doctors launched a nationwide open-ended strike Monday, demanding a pay raise amid complaints the Polish health system is underfunded and medical professionals are overworked.

More than 200 of the roughly 600 state hospitals were providing only emergency services, said the head of the All-Poland Doctors' Union.

Report: Late Polish author Kapuscinski wrote reports for communist-era spy agencies

Poland is planning new ways to screen public figures for links to the communist-era security services, an issue highlighted by a newsmagazine that said a prominent author wrote intelligence reports during travels abroad decades ago.

The report about Ryszard Kapuscinski, who died in January, comes as Poland continues to wrestle with its communist past, under a conservative government that has launched a renewed push to purge collaborators from jobs involving the public trust.

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Monday his Law and Justice party will present a new proposal "very soon" after the country's highest court gutted his controversial new law requiring that up to 700,000 Poles — including teachers and journalists — be screened for past collaboration.

Kaczynski is now taking a different approach to the problem: he wants to open the former secret police archives to the public, although some information — such as health histories and sex partners — could be blacked out to protect people's privacy.

Kaczynski has not spelled out what action would be taken if someone was found to have collaborated. The rejected law required people to make a declaration on whether they had collaborated, subject to a 10-year ban on work in their profession if they were later found to have lied.

Journalists and historians had some limited access to the files until the tribunal's decision, which blocked that. Lawmakers are also drawing up amendments to restore that access.

The Polish edition of Newsweek reported that Kapuscinski, who worked as a foreign correspondent for communist Poland's official state news agency PAP in the 1960s and 1970s, wrote analyses for the Polish intelligence service under the code name "Poet" and later "Vera Cruz" from 1967-1972.

The weekly bases its report on documents it says it found in the former secret police archives, held by the state-run Institute of National Remembrance.

During the communist period, Poles who wanted to travel abroad often had to agree to cooperate with the authorities as the price of permission to leave the country. The magazine quotes a secret police document from 1981 from Kapuscinski's file as saying the journalist "did not pass on any essential material the secret police was interested in."

Institute spokesman Andrzej Arseniuk confirmed that it had made the files available to Newsweek, but declined further comment. Kapuscinski's family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Poland's intelligence agencies tasked Kapuscinski with collecting information on American companies and citizens, as well as intelligence agencies of the U.S., Israel and West Germany, Newsweek says.

For instance, in 1970, Kapuscinski wrote a five-page report on the general situation in Latin America, with a focus on Cuban foreign policy and a three-page report on the political situation of Mexico, Newsweek says. He also wrote three character profiles of people he met while abroad.

In 1972, he returned to Poland and his file was closed, according to Newsweek.

Marek Zakowski, whose Czytelnik publishing house issued many of Kapuscinski's works, said he knew nothing of the writer's alleged ties to the intelligence agencies.

"He was always a wonderful man and a wonderful writer," said Zakowski, who knew Kapuscinski for more than 30 years. "It has absolutely no bearing on his work as an author."

Kapuscinski gained international acclaim for his books chronicling wars, coups and revolutions in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

He was often mentioned as a likely contender for the Nobel Prize in literature. His most famous book, "The Emperor," chronicled the decline of Haile Selassie's regime in Ethiopia, but was widely interpreted by Polish readers as a criticism of Poland's communist regime.

Investigator to testify about murder of Polish police official

A millionaire businessman's attorney said Monday that he will call a key investigator and other witnesses to refute claims that his client was involved in the murder of a top Polish police official.

Edward A. Mazur, 60, of suburban Glenview, listened silently, clad in a bright orange prisoner's jumpsuit, as defense attorney Chris Gair argued for permission to call witnesses at his extradition hearing on Wednesday.

Chief Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys said he would allow Gair to call several witnesses despite federal prosecutors' claims they don't know anything that could help determine whether Poland's extradition request is in order.

Prosecutors want to send Mazur to Poland where authorities want to question him in the investigation of the 1998 shooting death of Marek Papala, the former commander of the Warsaw Department of Police.

Gair stressed that Mazur has not been charged with a crime in the United States or Poland. The extradition request from Poland does accuse him of offering $40,000 for the murder of Papala.

But Gair said he will call Mazur's son, Michael, to testify that his father was in the Cayman Islands on a family vacation at the time that the Polish documents say he offered the money.

He said the family has passports and other documents to prove that claim.

Federal prosecutor Mitchell A. Mars, head of the organized crime section of the U.S. attorney's office, said there was no certainty about the timing of the $40,000 offer and that whatever documents the Mazur family might be able to come up with could easily prove nothing.

Among the witnesses Gair plans to call is Col. Ryszard Bieczynski, a Polish police official. Gair said Bieczynski investigated the Papala killing.

Gair claimed that the Polish government "is trying to frame Mr. Mazur" and said that Bieczynski has a well placed informant with inside knowledge of Polish organized crime. That informant, Gair said, knows Mazur had nothing to do with the Papala slaying.

That brought a sarcastic retort from Mars.

"Calling Col. Bieczynski is kind of the equivalent of Mr. Gair calling Carnac the Magnificent," Mars said, referring to television talk show host Johnny Carson's comic mind-reading act. He suggested there was no way that Bieczynski and his informant could be sure of their information.

Mars also challenged Gair's statement that Bieczynski had headed the investigation of the Papala murder.

"Our information is that he did not," Mars said.

Keys, who will preside over the hearing, barred Gair from calling Justice Department lawyer Michael Dittoe as a witness for the defense.

The Washington-based Dittoe was at the hearing to help Mars with the government's efforts to extradite Mazur.

Gair said he understood the U.S. government had agreed to extradite Mazur as part of negotiations with the Polish government to secure the extradition of a suspect in a terrorism case who was arrested in Poland.

Dittoe said the Polish and American governments always talk about existing extradition cases and that the case Gair referred to was pending at the time they were negotiating for the extradition of Mazur. But, he said, the two cases were separate.

Keys said he planned to complete the extradition hearing no later than Thursday. He indicated that he was likely to take the matter under advisement and not make a decision on the spot whether to extradite Mazur.

If Keys does order Mazur extradited, the case could be tied up in appeals for considerable time before any final action is taken.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Biting man's ear may net 10-year jail term

A 27-year-old man bit his 45-year-old neighbor's ear off during a brawl at a village in southwestern Poland, a report said Monday.
The younger man, who apparently started the quarrel, could face 10 years in jail, Polish Radio said.

During the fight in Sciborzyce Wielkie, the younger man knocked the older man to the ground and bit off a chunk of his right ear before going after the left, the report said.

The injured man was rushed to a hospital but doctors could not do much since nobody brought the missing chunk of ear.

Police arrested the younger man on assault charges, the radio said.

The report did not say what started the fight.

Outing the fake mountain guides

Climbing Mont Blanc has become the ambition of many a visitor to Chamonix, and for two polish alpinists that was exactly what they planned to do. However, their recent attempt at the summit saw their dream in tatters as a result of the �mountain guide� they had hired to accompany them. Having searched for a guide on the internet, they found someone, also polish, and paid him nearly �1500 for his services. Unfortunately it turned out that their �guide� was nothing more than a con-man who ended up abandoning his two exhausted clients near the Refuge de Tete Rousse (3167m), leaving them to make their own way to the refuge in more than a metre of fresh snow! Luckily this story did not end in tragedy as the climbers were able to alert the rescue services from the refuge and were taken to safety.

It seems that there is a growing problem with the number of fake "mountain guides" that are operating the Mont Blanc Region. But it is very hard to track these people down. In the example above, if this guy had been professional with his clients from the beginning, who would ever have known that an unqualified guide had been working in the region? Invariably they blend into the community of genuine guides that work in the area and if questioned by the authorities, they can often justify their presence in France with a genuine contract of employment. However, current legislation states that only those in possession of a valid diploma are allowed to guide groups in the mountains and anyone who voluntarily acts as a guide can be held responsible for any accidents that occur in their group.

However, it�s important not to tar everyone with the same brush as there are many genuine businesses in the area that offer all inclusive packages or guiding services where you will be in the company of a fully qualified mountain professional. The problem seems to be stemming from parties that are not established locally, IE do not have specific accommodations advertised or booked and transport guests in their own personal vehicles. It�s understandable that the professional mountain guides in the area want something done about these impostors, as they spend years and considerable expense, training and being assessed to stringent skill and safety standards before they are awarded their guides medal. The PGHM is also angry at the increase in unqualified guides as they are the ones who pick up the pieces of expeditions that go wrong.

Whilst controls in France have increased in recent years with the co-ordinated efforts of the police and work inspectors; monitoring the problem in an area as large as the Mont Blanc massif is an immense task, but certainly one that will be the centre of attention in the near future.

The polish �guide� from this report was apprehended by the authorities and is due to stand trial next month for fraudulently posing as a professional mountain guide.

Armed raid at petrol station

A gunman threatened a cashier and escaped with cash during a raid at a petrol station.

Police are appealing for witnesses after the alleged armed robbery in Banbury at 5.50pm on Wednesday.

A man entered the BP garage in Swan Close and threatened a woman cashier with a small black gun before stealing £200.

advertisementThe woman was not hurt, but was left shocked and shaken.

Police hope shoppers from nearby Morrison's supermarket and passing motorists may have seen the gunman acting suspiciously outside the garage.

The man is described as white, in his late 20s, skinny and around 5ft 5in wearing a blue hooded top and spoke with a Polish accent.

Anyone with information should contact police on 08458 505505 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

1:37pm Monday 21st

UN Concerned about CIA Secret Prisons in Poland

The UN Committee on Torture has asked Polish authorities to provide additional information on the alleged existence of US illegal prisons in that country to hold suspected terrorists.

According to reports quoting unidentified UN sources, there is serious concern about Poland's collaboration with the CIA-sponsored secret prison program.

The reports say that the UN panel, made up of ten experts, has asked Polish authorities for detailed information on an investigation carried out by that European country's parliament and which the government has used to reject those accusations.

International human rights agencies have denounced the existence of secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency in eastern European countries, including Poland and Romania.

Despite Warsaw's rejection of those accusations, the UN Committee on Torture insists on demanding additional information on confidential inquiries carried out by the Polish Parliament.

Last year, the US government admitted the existence of those secret prisons, where suspected terrorists are tortured and ill treated.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Holocaust-denier Irving expelled from Polish book fair

Convicted British Holocaust-denier David
Irving was Friday ordered to leave a book fair in Poland after turning up to publicise his controversial work, organisers said.

Meanwhile a French professor previously sentenced by French courts for Holocaust denial, was prevented from holding a talk at an Italian university for fear of causing a public disturbance.

"David Irving came to the stand (of the publisher Focal Point) to promote his books," said Grzegorz Guzowski, head of the company which runs the annual Warsaw International Book Fair. I asked him to leave immediately."

Focal Point is a British-based company which publishes what it calls "real history" -- with a catalogue almost exclusively made up of books by Irving.

Historian Irving, 69, is notorious for attempting to claim that Adolf Hitler was not party to the Nazis’ genocide of European Jews during World World II.

He spent 13 months in jail in Austria following a conviction there for
Holocaust denial before being expelled to Britain.

Guzowski told AFP Irving had protested vigorously on being told to leave, accusing Poland of violating human rights.

"But he finally gave in after we threatened to call the police," he said. Irving had not been invited by the fair, he added.

In 2000, Irving lost a libel case in Britain’s High Court court over claims that he was a Holocaust-denier, with a judge ruling that Irving had deliberately misrepresented historical evidence and portrayed Hitler in an unwarranted, favourable light.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Police target Polish subtitle archive

In a nice reminder from the entertainment industry that a lot more than just a motion picture itself is subject to copyright, German and Polish police have arrested several administrators and translators for a popular Polish site that offers user-generated subtitles. was the target of the Police raid and several computers were seized as part of the investigation.

The administrators have been charged with copyright infringement, even though apparently it was the site's users that did the translations. Under Polish law, translators need permission from content providers before working on copyright material. The head of claims that "the idea of the service is noncommercial" and may fall under some fair use rights.

There is good reason for Polish subtitles to be translated and offered like this; many official Polish translations don't become available until months after a major film has been released and some users simply don't want to have to wait that long. The downloaded subtitles can be played back when paired with a DVDRip which can of course come from a legitimate source but the movie industry will probably not acknowledge that fact.

The claim will soon be tested in court.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Youth demo against homophobia at Polish embassy

Young human rights activists including many Poles staged a demo outside the Polish embassy as part of yesterday's International Day Against Homophobia.

The demonstration, organised by the British Youth Council (BYC) was well attended with organisers saying that at least 70 people came for the two hour event.

Young activists including young gay Polish people who now live in Britain and activists from Scotland took part.

They were joined by Derek Lennard, the UK organiser of IDAHO.

"The Polish government has shown a complete disregard for human rights," said Mr Lennard.

Peter Tatchell of Outrage! and Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem MEP, also made speeches.

Peter Tatchell compared the way lesbian and gay people have been scapegoated in Poland with the way Jewish people were scapegoated in Poland during World War 2.

Lukasz Konieczka, 23, a gay man from Poland who now runs Mosaic Youth an LGBT group in Brent, said that new legislation in the Polish parliament was bad for everyone as it prevented teaching children about safe sex.

"STIs are likely to go up in the next few years. There will be no such thing as sex education," he said.

The event, while not a loud demo, (police in attendance had warned organisers to keep it quiet), did bring together a wide range of protesters, including several elderly people and a some activists with mohawks.

Maeve McGoldrick, 23, BYC Campaigns intern and organiser of the event was delighted by the turnout.

"It really sums up how we need to do something," she said.

Ms McGoldrick is from Ireland and said that the demo was being mirrored in Dublin with the Irish NUS protesting outside the Polish embassy there.

A clothes line of letters written by people in attendance at the demo was hung up outside the embassy on Portland Place.

Kidnappers are given prison terms

Three Polish men have been jailed for a total of eight years for kidnapping a fellow countryman in Dunloy in 2005.
The three were also charged with false imprisonment and wounding.

The court heard how Adam Duda had been placed in the boot of a car, but managed to escape in Ballymoney, where police were called.

However, he was recaptured before officers arrived and a ransom demand of £16,000 was made to his wife. He was later rescued by police.

Speaking after the case at Ballymena Crown Court on Friday, Detective Chief Inspector Nick McCaw said it had been the result of a police investigation into the exploitation of Polish workers by a minority criminal element within the Polish community.

He said it highlighted the effectiveness of the PSNI's translation, community engagement and investigative systems.

"This case and its result prompts me to make two points to our migrant workers. First, if you are the perpetrator of a crime, you will be investigated by the police and brought before the courts in the same way as anyone else in Northern Ireland.

"Secondly, if you are a victim of crime that emanates from within your community, or anyone else, we would encourage you to follow the example of the Polish complainants in this case and report the crime to your local police station.

"We will support you and take the details of your report in your own language, aided by our translation services, and conduct an investigation to endeavour to bring the offenders to justice."

Polish bicyclist crashes into police car

May 18: Polish police said they arrested a heavily intoxicated 80-year-old man who tried to crash his bicycle into their patrol car.

Police officers were stunned by the man's blood alcohol level of 0.48 percent, which is extremely high for a person of any age, Polish Radio said Friday.

Laws in most European countries tolerate motorists having a 0.05 percent alcohol level.

Police files indicated the Polish man was renowned for his abuse of alcohol. The latest incident may send him to jail for 12 months, the radio said.

Former Junior Coalition Party Top Member Likely to Be Accused of Rape

Stanislaw Lyzwinski, former top politician of the populist Self Defense (Samoobrona) will probably be accused of rape and sexual harassment, unofficial sources say. Lyzwinski was one of the central figures in 2006 sex scandal in Samoobrona that nearly ended with the dissolution of the coalition. [Dziennik]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Polish premier's mum holds the purse strings

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski revealed on Thursday that he doesn't have a bank account and instead hands his salary over to his mother.

"I still don't have a bank account," the 57-year-old conservative premier said in an interview with the weekly news magazine, Wprost.

"I'm not joking. I keep my money in Mum's account," he said.

Kaczynski is unmarried and lives with his mother in Warsaw.

His identical twin, Lech Kaczynski, is president of Poland.

Their mother, Jadwiga Kaczynska, has previously said that Lech, who is married, telephones her twice a day.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski told Wprost that he had chosen not to open a bank account to avoid the risk that anyone trying to manufacture a scandal might transfer funds into it and then try to discredit him.

The Kaczynski brothers, who founded Poland's Law and Justice party, won the country's presidential and parliamentary elections in 2005 after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform. -- AFP

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Poland's terrible twins

Before Lech Kaczynski and his identical twin brother Jaroslaw became, respectively, president and prime minister of Poland in 2005, a mocked-up group photo of the future president standing in a row with the rest of Europe’s leaders did the email rounds among Poland’s intelligentsia. “Think before you vote!” read the caption. The head of the diminutive Lech reached, on average, elbow level of the other leaders.

Poland’s twin leadership have indeed stuck out like two sore thumbs in Europe from the moment they entered office. They squat like garden gnomes on Europe’s political landscape, a grumpy Tweedledum and Tweedledee whose high self-esteem and low physical stature makes them irresistible to tabloids throughout Europe.

The brothers’ credentials as pre-1989 anti-communist activists and their hard talk on corruption have earned them the benefit of the doubt among most western observers. But what may seem at worst a distant comedy from Britain feels like a living tragedy in Poland. The Kaczynskis, once freedom fighters, are bringing the habits of authoritarianism back to Poland.

The brothers earned their spurs in the 1980s as part of the anti-communist Solidarity trade union movement. They became marginalised following Solidarity’s mid-1990s bust-up, and have now returned harbouring a personal grudge. What’s more, it’s a grudge apparently shared by much of the populace. The Kaczynskis collect their electorate mostly in rural areas, among the elderly, unskilled and poorly educated; those who have most reason to feel they’ve been short-changed in the transition to capitalism. As one taxi driver put it to me, “Before, we had money and there was nothing in the shops. Now the shops have everything. But who’s got the money to buy it?”

The authoritarian tendency of the Kaczynskis' Law and Justice (PiS) party’s coalition government has had an impact in almost every area of public life. Its very first act, in autumn 2005, was to rush through parliament a bill giving it control over appointments on public radio and television. Meanwhile, the coalition has slammed the brakes on privatisation, with some members even talking of re-nationalisation.

The Kaczynskis are entirely open about their willingness to use public offices for political patronage. Poland’s state-owned firms have begun to resemble the towers of medieval Tuscan cities, as the government hurls out board members, replacing them with ill-qualified cronies. Scrapping civil service exams, the coalition has opened up thousands of jobs for the boys. And few expect Poland’s new central bank chief, Slawomir Skrzypek, to prove more than a Kaczynski puppet.

And the twins have co-opted much of the right wing of the church. Jaroslaw Kaczynski propounds an authoritarian social ethos combined with a Catholic “solidarity.” So while his government talks of laying out maternity inducements and pension privileges, Poland’s religious and sexual minorities are increasingly marginalised. Evolution will vanish from biology curriculums if the current minister of education has his way. The health ministry is promoting—exclusively—Catholic calendar methods of contraception in schools. Coalition members are calling for a total ban on abortion, even when the mother’s life is under threat. As mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski manipulated technicalities to block a gay rights demonstration.

The PiS-led coalition has two main bogeymen. First there are the “liberals,” traitors who want to allow foreign companies to exploit innocent Poland. They include “unpatriotic” intellectuals like the architect of Poland’s economic transition, former central bank chief Leszek Balcerowicz. “Liberals” want to poison Catholic Poland with the tolerance of western Europe, where gays and paedophiles walk unashamed, loose women have abortions for fun, and rampant atheism is relativising all concept of morality. The second, the “post-communist networks,” supposedly aim to belittle all the achievements of post-1989 Poland. These networks, the Kaczynskis insist, still secretly control Poland in collusion with the liberal wing of former Solidarity.

These two labels are so nebulous that one or the other can usually be pinned on anyone who gets in the way. And if neither sticks, then, in the best Soviet tradition, you can nab them on corruption. A classic case came up last autumn, when a private television channel, TVN, filmed a government member offering taxpayers’ money to pay off an MP’s legal debts. But the sting was the work of a conspiracy inspired by “post-communist networks,” ruling-party MPs announced. Before long, the government’s anti-corruption bureau announced it was examining claims that financial irregularities had accompanied TVN’s IPO on the Warsaw stock exchange two years before.

Despite all this, the twins have proved so quarrelsome and ineffective that many hope they’ll wrestle themselves off scene before too long. The government has done no more than any of its predecessors to end the muddled laws, capricious clerks and bureaucracy that mean the average Pole still wastes half his life trailing around government offices. And it has been no stranger to sleaze. Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s right-hand man, Przemyslaw Gosiewski, spent much of last year arranging for a national express train to stop at his hometown (population 47,000). When Poland’s labour minister grew peckish recently, she called for the police to bring her sandwiches. Most spectacularly, vice-prime minister Andrzej Lepper remains in office, despite being accused of beating a prostitute and trading public office in return for sexual services.

But the Kaczynskis have maintained their high ratings. One reason may be the appeal they still seem to hold for much of their own generation. In 2005’s presidential elections, 61 per cent of voters over 60 voted for Lech Kaczynski, compared to 54 per cent of the total electorate. My elderly neighbour, a former opera singer, recently confided, “I have the greatest respect for the Kaczynski.” “But why?” I protested. “They do nothing but pick fights!” “That’s so very true!” she rejoined, adding, after a thoughtful pause, “Yes, I have the greatest respect for the Kaczynski.”

The Kaczynskis' distrust of foreigners and emphasis on pre-war values chimes with Poles who lived through Nazi and Soviet occupation. There is also a sense that Poland needs to stand up to the west. This finds expression in an increasingly prevalent prickly patriotism. Last summer, when a German satirist compared Lech Kaczynski to a potato, it wasn’t just the president—who reacted by calling off a French-German-Polish summit—that took offence. The entire Polish press united in declaring that the satire was not funny.

The twins have taken care of their core electorate. Pensioners make up over a quarter of Poland’s 38m population, and their numbers are growing fast as postwar baby boomers join their ranks. Last year the government granted privileged pension terms and early retirement to miners, adding future billions to Poland’s already overloaded budget. Early retirement deals are also on the cards for dozens of other professional groups.

Meanwhile, young people are leaving the country. With total unemployment at around 14 per cent—double that among those under 25—taxable workers are few. But a crippling payroll tax means that those with jobs are being fleeced to support Poland’s swelling army of pensioners. “Work in Poland is taxed so hard, it’s become a luxury good. It’s not surprising that young Poles want out,” says Ryszard Petru, chief economist at BPH bank. Bartek Malinowski, aged 21, who takes home just PLN 4 (just under 80p) an hour from his job at Tesco in the southeastern town of Ostrowiec Swiętokrzyskie, agrees. He can’t afford to rent a flat, so Bartek lives with his parents. “I’m going to have to leave,” says Bartek, “I can’t go on like this.” According to Rafał Antczak, an economist at Poland’s Case Foundation, “After funding their parents and grandparents, Poles can’t afford to have children in Poland, which means that in the future, things are only going to get worse. There’s no demographic high coming up to support future pensions.”

But Poland lacks a credible alternative to the twins. Most Poles are so sick of their governments that they don’t bother to vote; turnout at the 2005 parliamentary elections was 41 per cent. Poland’s Socialist party is sunk in sleaze, while the indecisive economic liberal (PO) party irritates even its own young, urban, professional electorate.

Many Poles now treat politics as a running joke. Despised by the government, outvoted by the countryside, Poland’s disillusioned young now unload their desperation, just as they did in the communist People’s Republic, into a sparkling treasure trove of subversive humour. Quips, digs and caricatures of the Kaczynskis buzz around the country, creating, ironically, a warm, new, electronic solidarity.

One recent email reawakened a memory shared by many Poles: that the Kaczynski brothers’ first brush with fame was at the age of 13, when they starred as fair-haired innocents in the film The Two Who Stole the Moon. Footage showed the pair gazing longingly at the moon through their bedroom window, while definitions of the English “lunatic” whizzed by. As did the comment, “But did they have to take us all there with them?”

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Polish MEP to keep post without going through lustration

A leading Polish member of the European Parliament who refused to submit a declaration that he did not cooperate with communist-era secret police will not have his mandate revoked, his political group said Saturday, after Poland's highest court struck down legislation requiring him to do so. Bronislaw Geremek, 75, a former dissident and foreign minister, faced losing his mandate after refusing to comply with the controversial law, which he said violated moral rules and threatened the freedom of speech. The warning by Polish officials that he could be stripped of his duties caused a stir in the EU assembly, and all major political groups stood by Geremek.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Polish lustration law struck down

A Polish court has struck down as unconstitutional a law requiring Communist-era informants to confess their sins. The country's constitutional court ruled that the law could not be applied collectively to the estimated 700,000 people considered to be "people filling a public function," and instead would have to be carried out only on a case-by-case basis. The BBC said Friday's ruling was seen as a setback for Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose government had proposed the expansion of the law, which had previously only applied to senior public officials. The government has made a priority of ferreting out informants who cooperated with the former regime's secret police. The expanded law would have applied to non-government occupations such as teachers and journalists.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Siemens investigated in Poland

Siemens AG, a global manufacturer of electronic solutions, including medical devices, is being investigated by Poland, Norway and France over possible antitrust violations with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a filing by the company.
Last month, the Polish competition authority began its investigation of Siemens Poland over antitrust violations regarding the maintenance of diagnostic medical equipment, as Katarzyna Frac from the Polish Office for Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has confirmed to Pharma Poland News. However, as the investigation is still underway, no further details can be revealed, Ms Frac said. If there are no complications, the investigation should be over within 2-3 months, but if suspicions that Siemens abused its dominant position on the Polish medical devices market are confirmed, it will obviously take longer.
Siemens claims to be cooperating with all three investigators.
These investigations are in addition to those probing claims of bribery and corruption to the tune of approx. €420m by investigators in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United States, along with antitrust probes by the European Commission and Japan’s Fair Trade Commission.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Did Poland's Prime Minister cooperate with Communist secret services?

Professor Norman Davies, famous for his chronicles of Polish history, comments that Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, according to the new lustration law, surely had to have cooperated with the secret services, Eastern European Review writes. According to Professor Davies, the law (is) so "absurd" that, if properly applied, Jaroslaw Kaczynski would lose his job.
"Jaroslaw was editor of the Solidarity movement newspaper in 1989-1990. Obviously he had to co-operate with the communist censors. Formally the new law means he should lose his job and is no longer prime minister."
President Lech Kaczynski said very loudly and clearly in his speach on Constitution Day that no one is above the law. As such he can surely be depended on to ensure that his brother, the Prime Minister, reads the law properly and files’ lustration statement if he could be deemed to have been a journalist. With people such as Solidarity heros ex-minister Bronislaw Geremek and ex-Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki refusing to submit lustration statements and being severely criticised by the Prime Minister and his party, will the Prime Minister lead by example and file a statement and report his activities as editor of the Solidarity newspaper?
The deadline for submission of a lustration statement for journalists is 15 May, 2007. If he does not file and it later turns out that he should have, he could be removed from office and barred from holding office for 10 years.
Polish Reformed Christians have criticised current preoccupations with the screening of possible former communist collaborators in their country in a process known locally as "lustration", and they urged an end to a system they say is more abusive than just, ENI reported.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Local Marine killed in Poland

Matthew Munsey thought the two Marines who pulled up in front of his Cape St. Claire home April 24 were there to recruit.

After all, his 16-year-old son Jacob planned to follow his older brother's footsteps and join the Marine Corps someday. It was going on 8 p.m., a little late for visitors, but Mr. Munsey couldn't think of any other reason they'd be there.

The men weren't interested in recruiting though. They told Mr. Munsey they needed to speak with him and his wife, Loretta Lawson-Munsey about something very important - and it involved their eldest son.

"I thought, what the hell, he's in Poland," Mr. Munsey said. "Is he AWOL or something? Has he gotten into any trouble?"

The parents weren't prepared for what they heard next: their 28-year-old son had been found dead outside a Warsaw night club three days earlier.

Aaron Corban Lawson, of Arnold, was found lying on theground outside the club around 9 a.m. April 21. He had a fatal blow to the left side of his head, and his pockets had been emptied.

The time of death and exactly what happened that night is unknown at this time.

But Polish authorities have deemed the death a homicide, and it is under joint investigation with the FBI and American Embassy. Polish police are talking to a woman who worked in the night club, who some say was acquainted with Mr. Lawson. They said they are trying to track down anyone who may have been with the man that night.

Mr. Lawson, a world traveler, had gone to Poland by himself.

The Marine reservist was a business partner with his friend Sam White, who he met in the Marine Corps. Their business SAMRON International Inc. - a combination of Sam and Aaron - is opening the Sunshine House Assisted Living Facility in Odenton this month. Mr. Lawson went to Poland to recruit anyone interested in working for his business, Mr. Munsey said.

"He wanted them (Polish workers) to come over for a positive experience," he said. "That's why he was there. And he went to this night club. It was a bad idea."

Mr. White told the family he will put total effort into running the business exactly as he and Mr. Lawson had planned. The assisted living facility was scheduled to open next week.

Marine life

Born and raised in Annapolis, Mr. Lawson always planned to join the U. S. Naval Academy.

But while in his teens, he changed his mind and instead, wanted to join the Marine Corps, his mother said.

Mr. Lawson served as an anti-tank/assaultman for the U. S. Marine Corps from 1997 to 2001.

The Broadneck High School graduate was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after serving four years on active duty with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Infantry and last year fulfilled his dream of becoming a sergeant with the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company 5th Marine Division.

"He wasn't any old Marine, he was an infantry Marine," Mrs. Lawson-Munsey said. "He was so proud."

Until his death, he was part of a Marine reserve unit in Alabama.

"He was going to get deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan sometime (between) June and January," Mr. Munsey said. "I think he was aware of his pending deployment and was really spending time doing stuff he wanted to do."

World traveler

Mr. Lawson loved to pick up and go, according to longtime best friend and roommate Andrew Chambless.

"We had this motto. It was 'do it, to it,' " Mr. Chambless said. "What we basically meant by that was to maximize every moment you can in life. That's something that I saw in Aaron. He tried to make the most of every moment - to live life to the fullest. I really think that he did."

He said some people have to follow a schedule, "but not with Aaron."

Mr. Lawson traveled so much, in fact, that he had to get another passport.

"There wasn't any more room for stamps," Mr. Munsey said.

Beau Breeden, a friend of Mr. Lawson for 18 years, said he didn't worry about his friend when he traveled.

"He traveled enough to know where he should have gone and where he shouldn't have gone," he said. "He would just travel, come back, and we'd get together for a beer. I'd hear stories of where he went. Honestly, I was more worried about him being a Marine than in Europe and traveling."

Family man

Although Mr. Lawson left a lot to travel and get away, he maintained a close relationship with his family and friends.

The eldest of six children, Mr. Lawson shared a special bond with his 13-year-old sister Madison.

"They were like two peas in a pod," Mrs. Lawson-Munsey said.

He was protective of his siblings, ages 26, 16, 13, and 8-year-old twins, and would always stand up for them.

"He was always there for them and looking out for them," Mr. Breeden said.

Mr. Lawson had an "undying love" for his parents, Mr. Chambless said.

And he tried to be a good father to his 2-year-old son Gabriel, who lives in the Netherlands with his mother.

"He always said how he was going to take care of Gabriel," Mrs. Lawson-Munsey said. "He wished and hoped it wouldn't have to be long-distance. That was very sad for him."

Mr. Lawson was an active member of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Annapolis. He even had a tattoo of one of the church's stained-glass windows on his leg.

He also had many friends in the Annapolis area, including several employees of Pusser's Annapolis Pub and Restaurant, where he worked as a doorman for several years. His brother and sister work at the restaurant now.

The family plans a celebration of Mr. Lawson's life at Pusser's Tuesday, following his funeral service.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The superloo where Polish migrants are fighting to spend the night for 20p

Polish immigrants are coming to blows for the privilege of sleeping in public lavatories at a cost of just 20p per night.

Cleaning staff and businesses near a new block of six conveniences have complained of fights among the labourers.

Residents have told how workers turn up each evening at the £246,000 octagonal building in Hackney, East London, carrying sleeping bags and building tools, to snatch a few hours' sleep before heading off to work again next morning.

Others lock themselves in for several hours during the day to catch up on sleep.

Cleaners, who have a master key to unlock the cubicles, have being confronted with occupants enjoying a morning lie-in and refusing to leave.

The fighting breaks out nightly over the two disabled cubicles which are more spacious than the standard ones.

At 6ft 8in by 4ft 10in, there is just enough room to stretch out on the tiled floor for the night.

The accommodation boasts a separate front door, central heating, a lavatory, basin, soap dispenser, mirror, peg, hand dryer and waste bin.

Those who fail to get into the disabled loos must must make do with a cramped standard cubicle, measuring 2ft 6in by 3ft 10ins.

With hundreds of thousands of eastern European migrants flocking to Britain in search of work, the unofficial use of public toilets as cheap dormitories is a stark illustration of the strain on local facilities and services.

Martin Edwards, manager of the Keycut Services shop opposite the toilets, said: "People are turning up with rucksacks and sleeping bags and they get nice accommodation fully maintained and with a bathroom for just 20p a night.

"They are all young guys. From about 10.30pm you can see people fighting over the best cubicles.

"You can see cardboard on the floor in the morning where they have been making their bed.

"Every morning the cleaners have to try and drag them out and this has been going on since the toilets were built three months ago.

"Some of them are clearly Polish builders who are using this as a base because you can see their tool bags with them."

Mr Edwards added: "I can see why they do it because it must be the cheapest accommodation in Hackney.

"Perhaps I should sell my own house and move in."

Anh Luong, of the nearby Lisa Star Nails shop, said: "Sometimes people who want to use the loos are so intimidated that they ask to use the one in my shop instead.

"This building is too big, it is like a house. You see queuing and fighting and it will probably get worse."

Paul Duffy, another resident, said some of the immigrants were men who had struggled to find work since arriving in Britain, and spoke little or no English.

He added: "They sometimes go to one of the halfway houses but if they can't get a bed they sleep in the toilets."

Hackney Council is not amused and is seeking what it calls a "technical solution" in the hope that redesigned locks will stop the WCs from being used as a low- cost dosshouse.

Official figures show more than 1,500 eastern Europeans have registered for work in Hackney since the EU expansion in 2004. This is likely to be a huge underestimate of the influx.

A Hackney Council spokesman said: "We do see this as a problem.

"They are stopping legitimate users from getting into the toilets and the cleaners can't do their job. We have around 2,000 bed spaces for homeless people in the borough, which should be adequate."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Polish ex-Prime Minister refuses to comply with lustration laws

The former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has refused to sign a legally required document declaring whether or not he collaborated with the Communist-era secret police, news agency ITAR-TASS reports.
Cimoszewicz has told about it in a written form to rectors of university in Bialystok and humanitarian academy in Pultusk where he lectures now. According to Law on Lustration, about 700,000 Polish citizens are obliged to certify that they had not been secret informers of Communist political police.
Former Prime Minister has said in his letter that the Law on Lustration violates the Constitution of Poland and " humiliates human dignity".
Last week other former Polish Prime Minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, refused to sign similar document. Poland's PAP news agency quoted country’s first post-Communist Prime Minister as saying the requirement is "an attempt to humilate people."
Poland previously demanded that government officials comply with so-called lustration laws. But under a law backed by President Lech Kaczynski that came into effect last month, the requirement extends to academics, journalists, lawyers, and many others. Anyone filing a false declaration risks being barred from their profession for 10 years.