Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New name for Auschwitz concentration camp

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, debating in New Zealand, decided to change the name of the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau facilities.

From now on the name of the camp is 'Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi concentration and holocaust camp 1940–1945'.

The committee thus accepted the proposal presented by the Polish government and submitted by the Department of Polish Culture.

The issue of a need to change of the previous name was raised last year, in reaction to the frequent distortions appearing especially in the foreign media, insinuating or event blatantly calling the former Nazi concentration camps 'Polish death camps'.

The spokesman for the ministry if culture stressed that UNESCO’s decision is a very important step on the way to historical truth and will give Poland more power to fight the lies about Auschwitz. (mo)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nurses go on hunger strike

Three of the four nurses occupying the PM’s Chancellery have gone on hunger strike.

The protest has gone on for seven days. The tent camp outside the PM’s office with its 400-500 strong population of nurses accompanied by miners, teachers and doctors is still expanding.

Information of hunger strike electrified the crowd of nurses gathering outside the Chancellery. The protesters seemed dejected upon the news that was broken by Krystyna Ciemniak from the Polish Trade Union of Nurses and Midwives (OZZPiP).

Longina Kaczmarska, Iwona Borchulska and Janina Zaraś are the names of the three nurses who have commenced the hunger protest.

The Radio Information Agency (IAR) has found out that the fourth nurse, Dorota Gardias has decided not to go on hunger strike for health reasons - she suffers from diabetes.

The form of the protest is becoming more radical. Krystyna Ciemniak ensures that trade union representatives will soon meet to decide on its further course.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ex-communist Europe's medical staff protest low pay, or head West

Staff in the cash-strapped health services of the EU's ex-communist member states are taking their protests to the streets, or voting with their feet to seek jobs further west.

In Poland, the largest of the 10 former communist bloc countries to join the EU since 2004, hundreds of nurses seeking pay hikes have for days been camping out in front of the seat of the government, ringed by riot police.

The Polish government is also facing down hospital doctors who have been on a go-slow since late May, refusing to provide all but emergency medical services and warning they will launch a hunger strike next week.

Poland's state-employed medical workers are notoriously underpaid and overworked, like their counterparts across the region.

Polish nurse Anna Niewczas told AFP that she makes the equivalent of 290 euros (388 dollars) a month, adding: "I can't feed my children."

The average monthly salary of a Polish hospital doctor, meanwhile, is around 380 euros.

In Hungary, the average doctor's pay packet is 420 euros, including bonuses and overtime.

In the Baltic states, Lithuanian doctors make 580-725 euros, while their Estonian colleagues, who backed off from striking in January, earn 1,000 euros on average.

Doctors in Slovakia have a similar pay packet to their Estonian counterparts after winning increases following a two-month strike last year.

But they work 350-400 hours a month, often in back-to-back shifts. Shorter working hours in line with EU rules may soon bite into their pay, and the Slovak medical association has warned of further industrial action.

Doctors in the Czech Republic are better off, earning around 1,420 euros a month including bonuses, according to their association.

In Bulgaria, which entered the EU in January this year, 2,000 medical workers marched in the capital, Sofia, on Thursday, protesting monthly take-home pay of 250-500 euros for doctors and 90-125 euros for nurses.

"We only want what we deserve. We want real salaries and not minimum ones," paediatrician Plamen Georgiev told AFP.

Medical unions across the region say financial woes are prompting many in the profession to seek jobs elsewhere in the EU where health services are hunting for staff, particularly Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany,

In Britain, for example, a newly-qualified nurse takes home around 1,500 euros a month, and highly sought-after specialists can make many times more.

Taking advantage of budget airlines, some Polish doctors shuttle regularly to Britain, where they can earn 2,000 euros in two days by doing night shifts.

Others move abroad permanently.

The Polish chamber of physicians estimates that six percent of Poland's 100,000-strong medical corps have left since 2004 -- including 17 percent of the country's anaesthetists.

Around 400 doctors quit the Czech Republic every year, according to Milan Kubek of the country's medical association, which recently organised an ironic protest on a boat in Prague under the banner: "We're casting off!"

Hungary's association said around 66 percent of medical students want to emigrate, although only 10 percent are actively looking.

Katrin Rehemaa, secretary general of the Estonian medical association, said: "More and more young doctors are thinking of working abroad."

"Once they've settled down in Sweden or Britain, they take a mortgage, have other connections, and are likely to be lost for Estonia," Rehemaa told AFP.

In Bulgaria, union leader Stanka Markova said around 4,000 Bulgarian nurses now work in Britain.

Emigration and low morale means a looming lack of medical professionals at home.

A study in Lithuania forecast that the number of health care specialists will shrink by 15 percent by 2015, creating a shortfall of 3,000 doctors.

Financial problems also drive corruption -- an ingrained feature of the region's medical sector before the fall of the communist bloc in 1989-1991 which remains widespread today -- in a form of under-the-table privatisation.

In Poland, for example, maternity hospitals regularly charge for "extras" such as a cesarean or for a father to attend the birth.

In Hungary, there is a sliding scale for surgery from 100-1,000 euros.

In Bulgaria, it is common for doctors to refuse to treat a patient without payment, leaving little choice but to cough up.

According to a survey in Lithuania, the medical sector is the most corrupt -- after the traffic police.

Across the region, gifts in cash or kind are also common after treatment.

The issue was spotlighted in Latvia recently when Valdis Zatlers, a renowned surgeon who takes over as president in July, acknowledged taking "gratitude" payments.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nurses refuse to meet PM outside his office

Protesting nurses have rejected government’s suggestion – they announced they will not accept Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński’s invitation and will not attend a meeting in the Centre for Social Dialogue.

Polish Nurses and Midwives Trade Union (OZZPiP) insists on a meeting with the PM only in his office.

The talks in the Centre for Social Dialogue are scheduled for Monday. At the same time the nurses were called to leave the PM’s Chancellery.

Government spokesman Jan Dziedziczak said that on Saturday secretary of state in Prime Minister’s Office Małgorzata Sadurska had given a letter with invitation for talks on Monday to head of OZZPiP Dorota Gardias.

Gardias is one of the four nurses who since Tuesday occupy one of the offices in the PM’s Chancellery.

For the talks onnMonday Jarosław Kaczyński invited also members of trade unions OPZZ and NSZZ Solidarność as well as representatives of the Polish Chamber of Physicians and Dentists and the Main Chamber of Nurses and Midwives.

The condition for the meeting to take place is – as the government spokesman reminded – “that the four nurses staying in the building of the PM’s Chancellery stop breaking the law”.
vThe nurses received a letter from the head of the PM’s office which said that they are breaking the law and that any time they can be removed from the building.

In the sixth day of the protest the number of picketers in front of the PM’s office instead of decreasing constantly rises. The protesting nurses were supported by doctors and miners. (jm)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Speaker Dorn: ‘there was no revolt in Afghanistan’

“There wasn’t a single case of refusal to obey an order to take part in a patrol,” Speaker of Poland’s Parliament Ludwik Dorn said after his return from Afghanistan.

“It is a fact that several soldiers applied by means of a report for dismissal from service in the Polish Military Contingent, giving a reason that, in their opinion, Humvee vehicles were badly equipped, when it comes to protection,” Speaker Dorn admitted.

However, he immediately added that in their reports soldiers pointed out that until the command takes any decisions they remain at its disposal.

According to the Speaker, who visited Polish soldiers in Afghanistan on Friday, there were no cases of insubordination or refusal to obey orders.

For the additional equipping of the military vehicles Ludwik Dorn promised to turn to the Americans. Currently Polish soldiers have Hummers of the level of armour 2, while the Americans drive Hummers with the armour level 5.

On Thursday Military Police spokesman Col. Edward Jaroszuk informed that the military police is investigating the case of several soldiers’ insubordination in one of the Afghan bases.

Consisting of 1100 people Polish contingent in Afghanistan serves within the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF

Thursday, June 21, 2007

RMF: ‘revolt’ in Polish units in Afghanistan

Only a week after achieving fighting efficiency in Afghanistan, six Polish soldiers will be sent back to the country, radio RMF informs.

Two soldiers refused to obey orders and tried to persuade others to follow. Officially, the remaining four return on their own request.

According to RMF FM, the two soldiers wouldn’t leave the base and encouraged others to refuse taking part in patrols. The cause they gave was weak armour of military vehicles Humvee, worse than the one used on US forces vehicles.

Reportedly, this ‘revolt’ took place in Sharana base in eastern Afghanistan.

Col. Edward Jaroszczuk confirms that by order of the contingent’s commander the military police is involved in the case of soldiers’ insubordination.

“The MP is seeing to it. I don’t know how many soldiers [were involved]. I only know that the commander has submitted a relevant document to the MP’s department in Afghanistan,” he said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Jarosław Rybak confirmed that the Minister decided to send the soldiers back to Poland; even those who yielded to persuasions and later said that this was only a moment of weakness.

For insubordination, failing to obey an order, incitement to disobedience one can be facing even up to three years of imprisonment.

Polish homosexuals flee persecution in exodus to UK

Polish gay rights groups say thousands of homosexuals have fled the country to the UK to escape increasing persecution.

Robert Biedron, a left wing party activist and head of the Polish Foundation Against Homophobia, said "huge numbers" of Polish gays had now fled the country following the rise to power of the current right-wing conservative government.

He said: "It is incredible. The Polish gay community has just moved away because of the climate of fear and persecution.

"Most of the people I know are now in England because of the current political situation. Not for economic reasons, but because of the persecution of homosexuals going on here.

"It’s impossible for gays to be themselves in Poland. Around two million Poles have left the country seeking work and thousands of gays are joining them.

"Many gays are approaching our foundation for help in emigrating to the UK."

Poland’s Catholic, conservative right-wing government has members who are openly anti-gay and the health ministry has created a special committee responsible for "curing" gays, according to local media.

Deputy health minister Marek Grafowski said the ministry was also planning to identify how many people in Poland were gay and work out a set of behavioural guides to assist parents and teachers in recognising warning signs of potential "gay" behaviour.

The police have also been compiling a database on gays and the gay community in Poland which although illegal under EU law, is apparently being done as part of a police investigation into a bomb threat two years ago by a gay man.

He had reportedly identified himself as a meber of the gay community angry when a gay rights march was banned in Warsaw.

"The Police are not allowed to catalogue ‘homosexual data’ but it’s enough to look into the police investigation associated with the bomb in order to establish a list of names and addresses," said Ewa Kulesza, a former personal data protection general inspector.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rzeczpospolita: Former president on the list of 500 secret services agents

According to the information obtained by the daily "Rzeczpospolita", the name of ex-president Aleksander Kwaśniewski, nicknamed “Alek”, is on the so-called “List of 500”.

The secret “List of 500”, drawn up by the Institute of National Remembrance, is a list of public figures and influential persons who allegedly collaborated with the communist secret services in the Peoples’ Republic of Poland (PRL) in the past.

According to materials provided by the Office of State Protection (UOP), the communist Security Service (SB) enrolled Aleksander Kwaśniewski as a secret collaborator on 23 June 1982. In 1983 he was given the nickname “Alek”. He was signed off on 7 September 1989.

"Rzeczpospolita" writes that analyses of the editorial team of the daily paper "Życie Warszawy" in mid 1980s indicate that the former president had the status of a “writing source”. Aleksander Kwaśniewski has ensured that he had never set his foot in the editorial office of that newspaper.

The Lustration Act, which came into force on 15 March 2007, obligates IPN to maintain a register of SB collaborators enrolled as sources of information.

"Indeed, such persons are on the list, too", Janusz Kurtyka, chairman of IPN told Polish Radio One yesterday.

A survey conducted by "Rzeczpospolita" reveals that more than 50% of Poles wants the secret “List of 500” to be disclosed to the public.

Polish riot police break up nurses' protest

Polish riot police have used batons to break up a protest by nurses in Warsaw, escalating an already bitter stand-off between the conservative government and health workers demanding better pay.

Hundreds of hospitals have been affected by strikes for six weeks. Strikers are also calling for reform of the creaking state health service and threaten to join the exodus of Polish workers to Western Europe if their demands are not met.

Police forced several dozen protesters, mostly women, off a street in front of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's office, where they had camped in tents overnight. A police spokesman said minimum force was used to clear the illegal protest.

"They treated us like hooligans in a stadium," said Izabella Szczepaniak, president of the Association of Nurses and Midwives. "They pressed us against the barriers so hard we could hardly breathe ... police should not treat health workers like criminals."

Protest leaders said several nurses had been roughed up.

Several thousand doctors and nurses marched through Warsaw, waving signs reading: "Protest of white slaves" and "We want a decent wage".

The prime minister, who met union representatives, has offered pay rises of 15 percent per year over the coming three years, but protesters say wages were low to start with and those for other professions are rising faster.

A wave of young Poles heading west since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 has already created bottlenecks in other professions and that could easily spill over to healthcare. Polish doctors and nurses earn salaries way below counterparts in Western Europe.

Kaczynski has said he is ready to negotiate but would not deviate from "economic realities". Polish wages rose almost 9 percent year-on-year in May, raising expectations that interest rates would go up again soon.

Opposition leaders said parliament should investigate the police action against the protesters.

"Sending police at nurses is not the way to solve this conflict," said Donald Tusk, comparing it with the way armed riot police dealt with protestors under the communist regime.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Poland’s government to appeal against Human Rights abuse verdict

Poland’s government decided to appeal against European Tribunal’s verdict in Alicja Tysiąc case, which ruled that Poland violated Human Rights and Basic Freedoms Convention by refusing the woman the right to abortion, deputy PM Roman Giertych informed.

This case is not only about 25 thousand Euro compensation. According to independent experts, the verdict’s coming into force would practically mean a necessity to amend the Anti-abortion Act. And the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), after recent problems with constitution changes is reluctant to come back to this touchy subject, news portal reports.

The whole case concerns the right to abortion. The mother of two, who had developed a serious vision defect after her 2nd pregnancy, was warned by eye doctors that her sight might further deteriorate should she choose to go on with her 3rd pregnancy.

She decided not to but was denied the right to abortion, which in the light of Polish law was admissible. After delivering her third child she became disabled by C-section in November 2000. Tysiąc was granted the 1st degree of physical impairment but decided to sue the country anyway.

In March the European Tribunal in Strasbourg ruled that if a country admits a possibility of abortion in specified situations, it should not hinder in using this possibility. It should also establish an independent institution to which a woman could appeal against the refusal to conduct an abortion.

“Such an organ can be created only by means of passing an act of law, former vice-president of one of the chambers in the European Commission of Human Rights Marek Nowicki says. “If we do not appeal, we will have to change the anti-abortion law”.

“This is a very difficult situation, because if the government does not appeal against the verdict, we will have to think how to establish a system of appeal,” Vice-minister of Health Bolesław Piecha explains.

The whole process of appeal can take as much as two years, informs. (jm)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rospuda Valley motorway construction to be continued

In an interview for Polish Radio One this morning, vice minister of transport Bogusław Kowalski announced that the construction of the motorway through the Rospuda Valley will be continued. Works are to commence in late autumn.

The vice minister explained that current works were ceased, among others, because of birds’ breeding season.

“It is necessary to respect various seasons connected with nature and because of that a temporary suspension of certain works has taken place; but when this season is over they will be continued,” he said.

Bogusław Kowalski pointed out that there is no possibility of retreating from the decision to build the motorway through Rospuda. Still, he admitted that it is likely that Poland will have to pay compensation, if the European Commission detects a violation of environmental protection regulations. However, the transport vice minister is convinced that there are no such violations.

The vice minister expects Poles to be able to feel a change on Polish roads no sooner than in 5-6 years. As he explained, the investment process takes that long.

Kowalski pointed out that the change will be a result of last and this year’s acceleration in road construction industry. According to the vice minister, bad condition of roads in Poland is an effect of negligence in previous years.

Vice minister Kowalski informed also that presently the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways carries out several hundred investments at various levels of advancement. Plans have been supplemented, among other, with roads connected with the EURO 2012 Finals, including the S8 expressway Wrocław-Poznań-Gdańsk. (jm)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

ORLEN investigation reactivation?

Coalition members have difficulties in reaching a consensus on a possible reactivation of ORLEN investigating commission.

“We do not agree to reactivate the parliamentary commission to investigate PKN Orlen affair,” head of Law and Justice (PiS) club Marek Kuchciński said. According to Kuchciński, all political powers should be concentrated on the issue of the European Treaty.

“I confirm that during coalition talks these matters were discussed, but now there is no agreement form our side to re-summon the Orlen commission,” Kuchciński added.

Earlier, Deputy PM and Education Minister Roman Giertych said that the League of Polish Families (LPR) will table a motion to reactivate the investigating commission concerning PKN Orlen because it is “a moral obligation to clarify the case to the end”, and that this matter was to be negotiated during coalition talks.

LPR instantly reacted to PiS refusal towards the idea: “If Law and Justice withdraws from the re-summoning the commission, LPR support for PiS candidate for the head of Poland’s Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK) will be brought into question,” vice president of the party Wojciech Wierzejski said.

The commission to investigate the PKN Orlen affair was first summoned by Poland’s Parliament of the previous term in July 2004. Its direct goal was to investigate the circumstances of taking into custody the then president of Orlen Andrzej Modrzejewski in 2002.

During the works of the commission many threads emerged concerning for example oil industry and the so called ‘fuel affair’.

In the ending report the commission demanded putting in front of the Stare Tribunal, among others: former president Aleksander Kwaśniewski, PM Leszek Miller, ministers Wiesław Kaczmarek and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

Friday, June 15, 2007

More victims of Simon Mol

According to the findings of the prosecutor’s office, the number of women infected with HIV by the Cameroonian refugee Simon Mol has gone up to 14 and still growing, writes daily "Rzeczpospolita".

“It is a very unusual and delicate case. Interrogations are very difficult”, said Paweł Nowak, head of the District Prosecutor’s Office in Warszawa- Żoliborz.

The prosecutor’s office tracked down some of the women thanks to the information from their friends who knew that the women had had sexual relations with the Cameroonian.

Mol, the most famous political refugee in Poland, may lose his right to political asylum in Poland. Following a journalistic investigation conducted by the newspaper in Africa, Rzeczpospolita found out that Mol had made up his heroic biography and had never been jailed in Africa for political activism.

“As soon as the indictment is issued, we‘ll demand that Simon Mol be interrogated”, said Jan Węgrzyn, head of the Office for Repatriation and Aliens. Investigation in still under way to find out if Simon Mol’s political asylum had been illegally obtained.

Warsaw bank robber suspect detained

Policemen in Poland have detained a man suspected of at least 14 bank robberies in Warsaw over the last three months.

A police press spokesman has told the Radio Information Service that the man was detained last night before closure of one of the banks which the man appeared to be preparing to rob.

The police found in the man’s car a professional looking fake machine gun and a cap he was seen in previous robberies.

The man fits descriptions by witnesses of the robber during previous raids.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Drugs law changes proposed

A junior coalition partner has proposed sweeping changes to the anti-narcotics law, including a ban on symbols connected and promoting drug taking.

The first reading of the new bill took place in the Sejm, the Polish parliament last night.

League of Polish Families (LPR) wants to introduce changes into Polish Narcotics Act. LPR proposals include among others a ban on wearing T-shirts with a marihuana leaf.

According to LPR MPs, such ban would be an important element of anti-narcotics prevention.

“90 percent of people on a drying-out ward started from smoking marihuana,” the MPs cite late founder of Polish drug addicts aid NGO ‘Monar’ Marek Kotański.

And because of such “omnipresent symbols” as for example on T-shirts or caps, according to LPR MPs, we are witnessing drugs promotion everyday.

The proposed LPR project includes also a ban on hemp seeds trading, as well as introducing narcotests to the companies. The employers would have the right to check if their employees are under the influence of drugs.

LPR wants also to penalise restaurants owners who sell or turn a blind eye to narcotics distribution.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Useful phrases for Brits in Krakow?

A Polish tabloid is outraged at an Irish publisher including insulting phrases in guidebook mini-dictionary.

The tabloid Super Express is outraged by a phrase book written for British visitors on stag nights to Krakow and other Polish cities.

The tabloid writes:

“On the inside of the cover one can find, among others, such charming phrases as: “Please may I fondle your buttocks”, “I am your slave”, “It’s my liver” and a very rude swearword. According to the publisher, these kind of phrases are what every Brit needs to communicate in Poland.”

“Those people hurt our country in this way. A visit to Kraków can be spent differently than ‘Fondling chicks’ buttocks’”, says Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka (SLD) indignantly. “After reading this someone coming to Kraków may expect that this is a place where one can freely fondle buttocks,” she stresses.

All of the 33 embarrassing phrases are written phonetically, so that Brits visiting Kraków can show off the newly-learned phrases without difficulty: “Yes ty Zah-kon-neet-son?” (“Are you a nun?”), “Pull litr vod-key” (“A large of vodka”).

The man behind the guidebook comes form Ireland. It’s available on the internet, distributed in the UK, but also in Kraków. As yet it is not known who helped to prepare the mini-dictionary.

What’s Polish for: Can I fondle your buttocks?

"Prosze, czy moge pogladzic twoj miekki tyleczek"?

Just one of the lines in a small ‘tourist glossary’ thought up by an Irishman who is a frequent visitor to the weekend tourist hotspot of Krakow.

The phrases in the little dictionary are written out in English phonetics, so the above sentence I suppose would read:

‘Proshe, che moge pogwaghich tfoy mienki tewechek?

The phrase book also includes other chat up lines (all bound to fail, of course) such as: "Jestem twoim niewolnikiem". (I am your slave’).

There have been many stories in the press about Brits on stag party weekends in Krakow, Wroclaw, etc getting stinking drunk and upsetting the delicate sensibilities of the oh, so cultured inhabitants of the city. This is just the latest of them.

The Super Express tabloid even reported in the oh so supiorior tone of the most snobbish of Krakovian – “The locals are disgusted’….’They [drunken British - Irish] deserve a punch in the nose…’. Blah, blah…

They seem to miss the point that the phrasebook is obviously a silly joke.

They also seem to forget that there are well over half a million Poles in Britain and Ireland and many of them are going out nighttime and getting completely hammered.

And long may they do so.

Being a half Brit/Irish myself, I find some of the antics of the British and Irish in Poland slightly embarrassing. But let’s get this in perspective: a few hundred lads having a good time in Krakow should be met with as much tolerance as a few hundred thousand Poles should be welcomed in the UK and Ireland.

The Super Express tabloid – which when reporting the story adopts a high condescending tone (in amongst pictures of topless women and other tabloid trash) is merely reproducing some of the rubbish journalism that has appeared in the British press about Poles since they arrived in high numbers three years ago.

Super Express deserves a punch on the nose.

Update: I can reveal (as the hacks would say) that the origin of this ‘phrase book’ is actually TWO YEARS OLD - that's before the cheap airlines started flying over the British stag parties. This dumb Polish tabloid story is not even fresh news! Dumb, gets dumber. Cheap journalism gets cheaper still. See online phrase book her

Monday, June 11, 2007

Walentynowicz: Lech Wałęsa was an agent and traitor

Even after Lech Wałęsa self published communist era secret services files about the ex-Solidarity leader, former collegues still accuse him of collaboration.

Wałęsa published 500 pages of documents from the communist secret police archives to stem accusations that he had worked closely with the authorities during the 1980s.

"I got sick and tired of the constant accusations, doubts and Insinuations being peddled by these people and decided to publish those details for all to see," he told Reuters yesterday.

But the online files have not stopped the accusations.

For Solidarity members Anna Walentynowicz, the Andrzej Gwiazda and Krzysztof Wyszkowski accuse Lecha Wałęsę of collaboration with the secret services.

"He is an agent and a traitor and there’s no other definition. I’m not going to comment on anything", Walentynowicz told Radio Gdańsk.

The sacking of Anna Walentynowicz from the Gdansk shipyard, where she worked a crane driver, was one of the incidents that triggered the 1980 Solidarity strikes.

"Lech Wałęsa is a shabby liar who hasn’t got the guts to publish the materials he had stolen from the archives of the Office of State Protection (UOP) and he is accusing innocent people in an attempt to keep his past collaboration secret", says Krzysztof Wyszkowski. (mj+)

LPR: 'Let gays and lesbians pay for their parades'

Junior coalition partner, League of Polish Families (LPR) proposes that gays and lesbians be allowed to organise parades in cities as long as they pay for those demonstrations themselves.

"Homosexuals who want to manifest their views in the streets will have to bear the cost of providing security during such demonstrations", proposes LPR.

"The expenses are high and they should be covered by the organisers of those demonstrations", Przemysław Andrejuk of LPR says.

Gays and lesbians maintain that their parades along the streets of Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan do not cause any losses or damages. In facy, the say, the parades bring money to the cities.

"Last year’s parade in Warsaw earned the city almost 1.2 million zloty in revenues", representatives of the Campaign Against Homophobia believe.

Lawyers add that even if homosexuals’ demonstrations are a significant cost in the state budget, organisers must not be charged for them. "It would be discriminating against minorities’ rights", Ryszard Piotrowski, a constitutional lawyer from Warsaw University told "Życie Warszawy".
Poles against death penaty, says poll

Attitudes to work changing in Poland

Poland highest FIFA ranking ever!

Warsaw contemporary music festival celebrates half a century

Seven wonders of Poland

International Relations
European Commission to stop subsidies for Father Rydzyk’s media school in Poland?

Polish gang trafficking women to Austrian brothels on trial

4th week of doctors’ strike begins

According to Krzysztof Bukiel, chairman of the National Doctors’ Union, 227 hospitals are now involved, with 46 hospitals from łódzkie voivodeship, central Poland, joining today.

The action of handing in mass resignation notices is being continued. “Today, over 100 doctors from a hospital in Słupsk are to resign form their jobs,” adds Krzysztof Bukiel.

The Chairman of the National Doctors’ Union stressed that union members expect substantial offers from the government. They want negotiations about pay demands and increasing spending on health care.

No breakthrough was reached during the meeting of the deputy prime minister and minister of finance with the health care trade unions’ representatives last Wednesday.

Zyta Gilowska stated that in the upcoming months pay rises for doctors and nurses are impossible.

The deputy prime minister assured that next year there will be additional 6 billion zloty for health care. She added that there are no legal impediments for the money being allocated for salary increases.
Poles against death penaty, says poll

Attitudes to work changing in Poland

Poland highest FIFA ranking ever!

Warsaw contemporary music festival celebrates half a century

Seven wonders of Poland

International Relations
European Commission to stop subsidies for Father Rydzyk’s media school in Poland?

Polish gang trafficking women to Austrian brothels on trial

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Polish police arrest 23 suspected mafiosi for illegal arms trading

Polish police have arrested 23 suspected members of an international crime ring for illegal weapons smuggling in central and southern Poland, a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry said Sunday.The people arrested during the night were suspected of working with the Italian mafia, the spokeswoman said.

Officers from the Central Investigation Bureau (CBS), which is responsible for fighting organized crime in Poland, led the investigation against the group.

The men are accused of illegal weapons trading and other crimes.

Weapons and explosives were secured by the police during the arrests and subsequent searches of the suspected gangsters' flats.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Poland denies existence of CIA prisons

Following the Council of Europe’s claims of ‘proof’ of CIA prisons in Poland between 2003-5, senior politicians deny the claims.

“I know nothing about any CIA prisons in Poland,” said President Lech Kaczynski yesterday.

His predecessor Aleksander Kwasniewski – president of Poland during the time that the CIA prisons were meant to be just outside the Szymany airstrip in northern Poland, said that, “I deny it. I’ve said as much several times.”

Jerzy Szmajdziński, head of the secret services in Poland during the SLD administration, called the claims ‘a fantasy. There were no CIA prisons in Poland.’

The Swiss MP, Dick Marty, who has lead the Council of Europe’s investigation into the claims originally made by Human Rights Watch a year and a half ago, said yesterday in his final report that there was a ‘spider’s web’ of CIA detention centers around Europe and elsewhere.

Marty claims that the detention centers housed victims of ‘extraordinary extradition’ by the CIA. He said that the prisons practiced techniques of interrogation, ‘which were tantamount to torture’.

He has also claimed that the centers were run by the CIA, not indigenous governments, such as in Poland and Romania.

But though they did not run the centers, ‘there must have been some knowledge of their activity at some level,’ claimed Marty.

US millionaire accused in murder of Polish police chief

Edward Mazur, now a suburban Chicago businessman is accused in the assassination of a
Polish law enforcement official
Killed by a hit man: National Police Chief Marek Papala (left) was found dead in 1998. Poland is now trying to extradite millionaire businessman Edward Mazur to stand trial for arranging Papala's death. It was a notorious crime that rocked a nation and has lain unsolved for nearly a decade.

But now, nearly half a world away, police seem to be finally moving towards unmasking the killer of Poland's national police chief.

Nearly a decade after Marek Papala, the Polish equivalent of the head of the FBI, was assassinated outside his Warsaw home, the investigation has led to a Chicago suburb 7,600 km away.

US agents descended on Glenview in a raid last year and arrested immigrant Polish businessman Edward Mazur at his luxury home over allegations he hired a hit man to kill Papala.

Today, the 60-year-old millionaire and American citizen sits in a Chicago jail, awaiting word on whether he will be extradited to his native Poland. A federal magistrate heard testimony last month and is expected to rule in the coming days.

Polish authorities have not offered a clear motive for the 1998 gangland-style slaying of Papala, who was killed with a bullet to the head.

But Polish lawmakers and analysts have speculated the 39-year-old was targeted because he threatened to disrupt trafficking in narcotics or guns.

Polish officials say Mazur led a double life - fostering a public image as a good-natured entrepreneur while secretly forging ties to gangsters-and hired the killer for $40,000.

There has not been a visible outpouring of support for Mazur in Chicago's enormous Polish community - the world's biggest outside Poland and said to contain as many as 800,000 members.

But friends of Mazur's said it is inconceivable he could have been mixed up in such dirty dealings. They describe a gentle, generous father of three who never even drank at his soccer club's frequent parties.

"No way," said Jozef Karkut, head of Chicago's Polish-American Wisla soccer club and Mazur's friend for more than 30 years. "Not a person like Edward could do that."

Until his arrest, Mazur seemed to be living the American dream. He moved to the US in the 1960s and earned a degree in engineering. He married and moved to Chicago's suburbs, where he engaged in philanthropy between business trips to Poland, where he associated with government ministers.

Mazur's attorney Chris Gair said that the two were acquaintances and Mazur arranged for Papala to take English courses at Chicago's Dominican University shortly before he was killed.

Mazur had also planned to fly with Papala to Illinois to bring him to the university, said another Mazur supporter, Chicago-based journalist Andrew Wasewicz.

"You wouldn't murder a guy who is supposed to go with you to the United States," he said. "It doesn't add up. From what I see, there is something fishy here."

At the time of his death in June 1998, Papala had recently resigned as national police chief and was about to start another job as Poland's police liaison to the European Union. His wife found his body as she went to walk the family dog.

Mazur has not been indicted, but US prosecutors say he faces solicitation-of-murder charges if he is flown to Poland. If convicted, he could get life in prison.

In 2002 testimony in Poland that relied heavily on one witness, Mazur emerged as a mastermind of a plot to kill Papala.

Artur Zirajewski, a gangster serving prison time in Poland in a separate case, described a meeting with Mazur two months before Papala's slaying. "There was conversation about the hit man - no one asked about his particulars, only if he was good," Zirajewski testified.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Proof of CIA prisons in Poland?

Dick Marty, who has led the investigation for the Council of Europe into alleged CIA prisons in Poland and Romania has said that he has ‘proof’ that the places existed.

"On the basis of information collected, we have proof of the existence of extrajudicial prisons in countries that worked closely with the United States, such as Poland,'' Mr Marty told the French daily Le Figaro.

"We have details of the program set up by the CIA. The plan, which has now been officially suspended in Europe, aimed to export the anti-terrorism fight beyond the borders of the United States in order to avoid the legal constraints imposed by American law,'' he said.

Poland has denied any knowledge of any secret prisons on its soil.

Investigations by the Council of Europe and the European Union have turned up little evidence to support the allegations first made by the NGO Human Rights Watch in late 2005.

The report by the Council of Europe says that secret prisons were run by the CIA in Poland and Romania from 2003 to 2005 to interrogate terror suspects.

The second Council of Europe report, unveiled by the Swiss senator Dick Marty, claims that the prison in northeastern Poland was part of a ‘global spider’s web’ of detentions and illegal transfers of suspects after the September 11 attacks.

A spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry has reiterated Poland’s denial of the existence of any secret prisons on the country’s territory. He said the Polish side would like to know what kind of materials are at Dick Marty’s disposal.

Senator Marty said that the CIA plan aimed to export the anti-terrorism fight beyond the borders of the United States in order to avoid the legal constrains imposed by American law.’

Council of Europe nails Kwasniewski and WSI as CIA stooges?

The report headed by Dick Marty (above) claims that CIA prisons in Poland were known about by the then president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and operated in collaboration with agents from the now disbanded Military Intelligence Agency (WSI).

The report’s main finding, I suppose, is that Poland and Romania both operated clandestine CIA prisons, but the one near Szymany airstrip in northern Poland was set up to hold so-called High Value Detainees (HVD) – in other words, the most dangerous of suspected al-Qaeda type terrorists. Poland was the site of the CIA’s most important and sensitive ‘prison’ in Europe.

The 9,000 word report – much of which I have waded through – paints a picture of the now disbanded Military Intelligence Service (WSI) as a ‘cartel’ operating on behalf of ‘self-interested elites’, and beyond the oversight of civil bodies, such as parliament, or even the prime minister’s office.

But not the president’s office. One ‘military intelligence source’ (the report is full of unnamed ‘sources’) told Dick Marty:

“Listen, Poland agreed top down…from the president, yes….to provide the CIA all it needed.”

The recruitment

CIA agents apparently identified ‘point men’ within the WSI – which the present PiS government, when giving reasons for disbanding it last year, described as operating as if it was a ‘state within a state’. The report seems to make the same allegations.

Once identified and recruited these ‘point men’ would be told things on a need to know basis, and that information stayed within this small circle of operatives.

The WSI had two functions, says the report, when aiding the CIA in the rendition program. It provided military security when prison transfers were taking place; and it infiltrated other state organs, such as the Air Navigation Services Agency, the Border Guards and Customs Office to make the smooth running of the transfers a very closed secret.

Top agent – Jerzy Kos?

One of the top agents was apparently Jerzy Kos, who was head of the Board of Mazury-Szczytno Airport Company. ‘He was our man,’ says one ‘source’.

Later Kos went to work for a private construction company (Wroclawska Jedynka – in which the public National Investment Fund has a stake, and which has received state loans in the past of over 1 million zloty to pay off redundant workers) which gained contracts in war torn Iraq. This Mr Kos is quite a guy.

The plot thickens

When, in June 2004, Kos became a kidnap victim in Baghdad, the American Special Forces staged a rare raid to free him (see Fox News report of rescue). The implication is that Kos is a very valuable guy to the CIA.

CIA sources said that they picked Poland initially, then Romania, as they believed that much of central and eastern Europe does not, yet, have trustworthy secret services.

But Poland, in particular, was different. One source told Marty:

“We have an extraordinary relationship with Poland. My experience is that if Poles can help us, they will.”

Poland negotiated its agreement with the CIA, says the report, in late 2002, early 2003.

“We have established that the first HVDs were transferred to Poland in the first half of 2003,” says the report’s author.

The most highly prized HVDs to have been detained in Poland were Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shekh Mohamed. Both were subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques...' These ‘techniques’ have been controversial, to say the least (and described here).

The evidence for all this comes from the many ‘unnamed sources’, and from flight logs (see here), which have detailed the landings and taking off of CIA planes – evidence, most of which identified by Human Rights Watch when it first made the allegations back in November 2005.

The ‘new evidence’ – or ‘proof’ as Marty has termed them - appears to come from the interviews with the unnamed sources.

So they are impossible to verify.

But the picture that the report paints is plausible. The government disbanded the WSI because it thought it was out of control, and was operating, just as the report says, as a state within a state, on behalf of ‘elites’ – the present government, of course, would refer to these elites as the infamous ‘uklad’.

So it is perfectly possible that renditioned prisoners were being held in Poland, before being flown off to even more darker places, under the noses of prime ministers and parliamentarians. Hence their genuine ignorance.

But the accusation that former president Aleksander Kwasniewski was in on all this is a dangerous one for him, just as he is making his ‘political comeback’.

Yesterday, Kwasniewski said: “I deny it. I have as much many times.”

Yes, Olek, but do we believe you, anymore?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Polish supermarket workers protest unsocial hours

Some supermarkets around Poland are on a so called ‘Italian strike’ on Thursday, the Christian Corpus Christi holiday.

The workers are to perform their duties very carefully and meticulously. This is not good news for thousands of the clients, reports.

Not all the supermarkets are taking part in the strike, however.

Trade unionists from various chain stores want to protest against working on Sundays and holidays as well as against working, as they put it, beyond human powers and for a very low salary.

Such chain-stores as ‘Biedronka’, ‘Auchan’ and ‘Galeria Centrum’ announced that their shops will be closed today.

The national branch of the Commercial Workers NSZZ “S” appealed to workers of ‘Real’ and ‘Carrefour’ supermarkets for active participation in the strike.

Director general of the Polish Organisation of Commerce and Distribution (POHiD) Maria Andrzej Faliński described the strike as an “inappropriate form of protest”.

He added that this is a form of putting political pressure on MPs, “to quicken their work over an act imposing a ban on trading on Sundays and during the 12 most important state and religious holidays”.

Trade unionist can count on the League of Polish Families (LPR), which already has announced their support for the workers.

On Wednesday LPR announced that they “will use any available political measures”, to impose a ban on Sunday trade.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Famous Polish private-eye sentenced in Belgium

Polish detective Krzysztof Rutkowski has been sentenced by the court in Antwerp, Belgium for 1.5 years in prison in connection with his capturing a wanted Pole on the streets of Antwerp two years ago, Belgian press agency reports.

Together with Rutkowski also his three associates were sentenced. Each of them received a punishment of 14 months imprisonment.

In June 2005 Rutkowski accompanied by his ‘crew’, masked and in bullet-proof vests, captured in Antwerp 35-year-old Piotr K. They forced him into a car and transported to a local police station. The whole action was filmed by television.

Wanted by the police by the warrant of arrest Piotr K. was linked to criminal groups form Lubusz Voivodship (western Poland) operating also on Belgian territory. He allegedly was dealing with blackmail and racketeering.

“Piotr K.’s detention was the first case when private persons captured and escorted to the Belgian police a person wanted by a warrant of arrest. If it were not for the engagement of ‘Rutkowski’ bureau of investigation, activities of the Belgian police would not have brought the expected results,” the detective announced then in a press release.

Public prosecutor’s office found, however, that Rutkowski entered into competences reserved in Belgium only for workers of the police. The court agreed with this argumentation and sentenced the detective and his co-workers basing on an act of law, which rigidly forbids private paramilitary troops (militia).

Neither Rutkowski nor his associates were present in the court on Monday. The judgment is not valid.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pole wakes from 19-year coma in democratic country

A 65-year-old railwayman who fell into a coma following an accident in communist Poland regained consciousness 19 years later to find democracy and a market economy, Polish media reported on Saturday.

Wheelchair-bound Jan Grzebski, whom doctors had given only two or three years to live following his 1988 accident, credited his caring wife Gertruda with his revival.

"It was Gertruda that saved me, and I'll never forget it," Grzebski told news channel TVN24.

"For 19 years Mrs Grzebska did the job of an experienced intensive care team, changing her comatose husband's position every hour to prevent bed-sore infections," Super Express reported Dr Boguslaw Poniatowski as saying.

"When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere," Grzebski told TVN24, describing his recollections of the communist system's economic collapse.

"Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin."

Grzebski awoke to find his four children had all married and produced 11 grandchildren during his years in hospital.

He said he vaguely recalled the family gatherings he was taken to while in a coma and his wife and children trying to communicate with him.

NOTE: Do not believe a single word of this -ed.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Neo-fascists were preparing terrorist attacks in Poland

Terrorist attacks instructions for Nazi groups in Poland have been intercepted by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) officers near Radom, eastern Poland. A local official was detained in the proceedings.

Terrorists wanted to plant bombs in refugee centres and places where the Jews or homosexuals meet. They also planned a series of arson.

The ABW struck in several places around the country. The agents searched flats of people suspected of connections with the neo-fascist organisation “Blood and Honour”. One of the persons, a local official residing in Białobrzegi near Kraków, 30-year-old Adam P. had the attack instructions on him.

“At his place, among other things, ABW found materials with anti-Semitic content as well as instructions for Nazi groups operating in Poland. They included detailed information on, for example, methods of intimidation, arson and bomb attacks,” the Agency reports.

The bombs were to explode in refugee centres and places where the Jews or homosexuals meet.

“The instructions did not specify however in which particular places the terrorists wanted to strike,” ABW spokesman in Radom Ewa Kujawiak explained.

The detained official, apart from plans for attacks possessed fascist brochures, posters and books, as well as a uniform with fascist emblems.

According to the ABW, Adam P. was running an enterprise which was distributing books, magazines and CDs produced both in Poland and abroad (USA and Germany) which he sold through the Internet.

“Their contents promoted fascism, encouraged racial hatred and undertaking destructive action against the state,” ABW reported. (jm)
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Education Minister Giertych’s new school reading list

More Pope, less literature...

This is the latest great idea from the Roman Giertych Education Think Tank (which is about as subtle as a ‘tank’, but with very little ‘think’).

Giertych said yesterday on the radio that ‘teachers all around the country have sent in suggestions for what should be on compulsory reading lists for school students.' He said that more about John Paul II should be put on the list but…

Gombrowicz, Witkacy, Conrad, Kafka, Goethe, Dostoyevsky...

...should be taken off.

These are, of course, some of the most significant names in literature in the last century, or so.

The secretary of the late Witold Gombrowicz, Rita, for instance, told a newspaper this week that her former boss would have got the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1969, I think) if he had lived a little longer. Unfortunately he died that year and the prize went to …Samuel Beckett.

So if Gombrowicz is good enough for a Nobel Prize then why shouldn’t he be good enough for Polish school kids’ reading lists?

I am not sure that teachers all over Poland really have been writing in pleading for Gombrowicz et al to be – like gays – banned from Polish schools.

So what has Giertych himself got against these writers, one wonders?

Friday, June 01, 2007

School reading list changes proposals, not decisions

Education Secretary Roman Giertych has denied the reading list for school pupils will certainly be without works by classic writers such as Franz Kafka.

He told Polish Radio today that claims by Gazeta Wyborcza on Thursday that the education ministry will remove such leading writers as Gombrowicz, Goethe and Dostoyevsky from the reading list are untrue.

Minister Giertych said that the new list is just a proposal of changes, which will now be consulted with the public.

The changes were originally proposed by teachers from all over Poland, he claimed.

But Minister Giertych stipulated that the list should feature books by and about Pope John Paul II. Lack of knowledge about the Polish-born Pope among young Poles would give them ‘a distortion view of history’.