Saturday, October 27, 2007

Extradition for Pole who claims rape

A FUGITIVE who claims he was raped in prison because of his Romany roots is to be extradited to his homeland.

Forest Gate resident Jan Majewski, 42 - jailed for two-and-a-half years in Poland for two thefts and a burglary - must serve the rest of his sentence after allegedly breaching his licence.

The father-of-one, who came to the UK in August 2006, told City of Westminster Magistrates' Court he fled amid racist persecution both inside and outside Polish jail.

District Judge Caroline Tubbs ordered his extradition but stressed that authorities in Poland, which has signed the European Convention on Human Rights, must ensure he is not ill-treated.

Condemning his former country as "corrupt" he claimed he was raped by members of an organised criminal fraternity while behind bars. He said he was too scared to report it at the time but as soon as he was freed he reported to local police.

Majewski told the court through an interpreter: "I don't want to avoid my sentence, I just don't want to go through the same suffering as before.

"I've been in the UK for such a long time and this warrant has only just been issued.

"Poland is a country of corruption. I am Romany and a lot of Romany have left Poland because they are oppressed.

"My car was stolen from outside my house. I have my company here. I have settled down and I have my family here."

Majewski was jailed in February 2003. His early release came in 2005 but was revoked in May 2006.

Police arrested him near his home in Woodgrange Road on September 10 after he was seen acting suspiciously.

A European arrest warrant was discovered during their enquiries.

Judge Tubbs said that, in order to be discharged, he would have to show that Poland had an ongoing record of human rights abuses or failure to protect vulnerable groups in prison.

She said: "You have given evidence that when you were serving your prison sentence you were ill-treated by inmates at the prison and that you didn't report that treatment to the prison authorities at the time.

"On that basis this court would be unable to find that Poland is unable or unwilling as a state to abide by its convention responsibilities.

"Poland has signed the convention and it is required to ensure that you are not ill-treated.

"There is nothing that has been put before me that would amount to a strong case that your treatment would amount to a gross violation of the relevant right.

"I find that your extradition isn't incompatible with your convention rights, but I have asked the lawyer who represents Poland to convey to Polish authorities that I am making an order for your extradition on the basis that they will abide by their convention

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Polish senator who doubted Holocaust gets top role

A Polish senator who questioned the Nazi Holocaust has been given a top ceremonial role in parliament, drawing anger from the party that won Sunday's parliamentary election.

Senator Ryszard Bender was named by President Lech Kaczynski as "speaker senior", a post that will give him ceremonial duties at the re-opening of parliament on November 5. The president's office said Bender was named because he was the oldest senator.

Bender has said in the past that the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz was "not a death camp, it was a labor camp". More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed by German occupiers at the camp in southern Poland.

"Someone like this should not have any political functions," said Stefan Niesiolowski, a senior official of the centre-right Civic Platform, which defeated the ruling party of Kaczynski and his twin brother the prime minister in the election.

"We do not want to start with boycotts and fights, but this is a scandal," Niesiolowski told reporters.

Bender is an ultra-nationalist who entered the senate on the platform of the Kaczynskis' Law and Justice party. The president's office said Kaczynski had no choice but to name him as chairman for the first sitting of parliament.

"He is obliged to appoint the oldest senate member," a statement from the presidency said.

In 2000, Bender questioned whether the Nazis had gassed people at Auschwitz in remarks echoing those from far-right politicians and historians who deny the Holocaust.

"Auschwitz was not a death camp, it was a labor camp. Jews, Gypsies and others were annihilated there through hard labor. Actually, labor was not always hard and not always were they annihilated," he told right-wing Catholic Radio Marjya.

After an outcry followed the comments, Bender complained at the law banning denial of the Holocaust.

"Through the unfortunate law, Jewish fundamentalists seek to claim Auschwitz and Birkenau camps for their Holocaust, while those and other camps were the scene of the holocaust of Poles, too," he said.

Many of those killed at Auschwitz were gassed and burned. Most of them were women and children seen by the Nazis as unsuitable for hard work.

The president and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski have good relations with Jewish groups and Israel, but the prime minister's former coalition included a far-right party that was often accused of xenophobia.

Poland had the biggest Jewish population in Europe until World War Two. Millions were killed in the Holocaust and many survivors fled anti-Semitic propaganda by the communists, leaving only a few thousand in the country.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poland to get anti-corruption minister

Head of the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International-Polska in 2001-2005, Julia Pitera is to become a Minister without Portfolio in the new Polish government formed by Civic Platform (PO), after their win in the general election.

She is to be responsible for fighting corruption.

“We want to create a commission responsible for these aspects of fighting corruption that were not included it the Anti-Corruption Bureau act,” said the future minister.

“This will be a monitoring-analytic team dealing with all motions and information concerning irregularities in procedures,” explained Pitera.

“Of course we should prosecute criminals, but first of all we need to limit the possibilities to commit a crime, eliminate temptations and loopholes in the state’s structure,” Pitera said.

Apart from this the commission will be watching big tenders, such as those accompanying EURO 2012 organisation. Julia Pitera added that she intends to form a stable structure that would survive no matter what future elections results are. The new body will also suggest which law regulations are “corruption-prone” and should be changed. Pitera also plans to prepare regulations of legal protection for people who informed about corruption or administrative irregularities. “Such a person should be under protection of law, and we do not have proper reglations,” Pitera believes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Kaczynski blew it

Two weeks before polling day Jaroslaw Kaczynski was ahead in most opinion polls and looked like pulling off a miracle victory. And then it all went horribly wrong. What’s worse, it’s all his own fault.

I bet when Jaroslaw went home election night he gave the cat a good kicking. Not that the cat had anything to do with the conservative’s thumping by Polish voters. Kaczynski has nobody to blame but himself.

The crucial moment of the campaign came in the head-to-head debate with the eventual winner, Donald Tusk. Immediately after the broadcast many on this blog saw it as a significant gaff by the prime minister, and a good performance by his challenger. Mike Farris said it was the ‘political performance of Tusk’s life,’ and the first time he looked like he had the balls for a fight.

Maybe. But though Tusk looked better, he got lucky: throughout the debate Kaczynski looked like he couldn’t care less.

On Polish Radio this morning he admitted that it was a crucial turning point and he maybe he should have avoided the whole thing altogether. British prime ministers would have warned him – debates are there for sitting PMs to lose – challengers usually get the upper hand as they have no record to defend and so cannot look to be on the defensive. Kaczynski spent the whole debate on the back foot.

But it finally gave Tusk some momentum and he took advantage of the gift Kaczynski had given him.

While liberals think that Kaczynski’s arch-conservative politics was the ultimate reason for the government’s downfall, many conservatives are claiming that he failed because he was not conservative enough!

For instance, columnist Pawel Milcarek told Polish Radio:

'The problem was that [Law and Justice] broke a kind of an agreement with conservative opinion. The so-called Fourth Republic was supposed to be built upon the values of ‘Civilization of Life’.

However, it turned out that when it came to the protection of life, pornography laws or coherent pro-family policy, Law and Justice contradicted its pre-election promises.

The second thing was that they tried to replace a real reform of the state with just the appearance of it. Conservative voters just have had enough.'
In other words, Law and Justice lost the election because they were too liberal.

But that argument just doesn’t work. More people voted Law and Justice in this election than in the ballot two years ago, which they subsequently won. So they mobilized more supporters this time around – problem for them was that Civic Platform mobilized even more of theirs.

Kaczynski also said this morning that he blames public television for his defeat. TVP ran a perfectly legitimate campaign to get young people out to the polling stations. In the last election only 40 percent bothered to vote at all, and the under 25 year olds were the most underrepresented back then.

The TVP ads said: ‘Get out to vote – go change Poland.’

Kaczynski said this morning on the radio: “The ‘go out to vote’ part was fine – but the ‘go change Poland’ thing was a clear suggestion that they should vote against the government.’

Try as he might, the blame for his defeat must lay with Jaroslaw himself and the boorish way he has spent two years in office. Blaming public media will not change that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Big blunder of Kaczynski brothers

The Kaczynski twin tandem, Europe's most bizarre ruling alliance, broke apart last Sunday, as the Law and Justice (PiS) party led by one of the brothers, Jaroslaw, announced it was turning to opposition after suffering a defeat in parliamentary elections.

The post of Polish prime minister is now most likely to go to Donald Tusk, a long time opponent of the Kaczynski brothers and leader of the center-right Civic Platform (PO) party, who narrowly lost the 2005 presidential election to the current president, Lech Kaczynski.

Paradoxically, in 2005 all the opinion polls pointed to a Tusk victory, and his defeat in the presidential run-off on October 23 was entirely unexpected. Analysts investigating the anomaly afterwards came to the conclusion that most Poles were simply reluctant to admit, even anonymously, that they planned to support a national chauvinist who declared half the world Poland's enemies, Europe and Russia included. In the light of this, forecasts for last Sunday's parliamentary elections were deliberately vague.

Yet despite such caution the pollsters were again proved wrong. The day before the vote, Civic Platform was expected to receive 5% less than Kaczynski's party, but in fact it outran PiS by 10%. The left-wing democrats led by former president Aleksander Kwasniewski came third, followed by the Polish Peasant Party (PSL). Kwasniewski might even strike a deal with Tusk and negotiate a government post, and PSL is also willing to help consolidate the ruling coalition.

There are several reasons behind Jaroslaw Kaczynski's high-profile fiasco. One of them is an unheard-of voter turnout, a record level of 55%, the highest since 1989. The Poles, especially younger voters, appear to have tired of the former Cabinet's nationalist rhetoric, which threatened to lead the country into complete political isolation.

Polish voters probably did not mind Kaczynski's consistent criticism of Moscow. It is certainly true that few Poles are ardent admirers of Russia. But even so, the former prime minister clearly overdid it. Suffice to mention the closure of the Russian display at the Auschwitz memorial, or the censure of Aleksander Kwasniewski for his decision to visit Moscow for the 60th Anniversary of Victory over the Nazis, or the demand that the Russian government repent its errors beginning with the division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century to the Soviet invasion.

Kaczynski did more than seek his own interpretation of "historic justice." He consistently torpedoed Russia-EU negotiations. Offended by Russia's ban on its meat imports, Poland alone voted against a strategic partnership between the EU and Russia. It also rejected any compromise on hosting the U.S. missile-defense system. A few days before the elections, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said quite openly that the U.S. 'missile shield' was designed to shoot down Russian missiles, not Iranian ones, thus indicating which nation Warsaw saw as its number one foe.

Still, Kaczynski's anti-Russian rhetoric was not his greatest fault. He was wrong, as he was trying to build what he referred to as "a fourth republic," to list the whole of Europe as Poland's enemies. His favorite policy was to threaten the European Union with blocking major agreements. It is a miracle Angela Merkel did not have a nervous breakdown during the German presidency of the EU after overnight talks in which 26 member states tried to convince one (Poland) to sign a fundamental agreement - in fact a European constitution. Last week, participants in a EU summit in Lisbon avoided a similar scandal by an inch, as Poland again refused to sign an important document unless it was granted certain privileges.

Kaczynski was no friend of the OSCE either. Warsaw did not even invite that organization's observers to monitor elections under the pretext that Switzerland was voting on the same day. He must have thought that Swiss democracy was in greater need of protection than the Polish model. The problem was solved at the last minute: on election day, Warsaw received a whole group of OSCE members, along with Russian CEC head Vladimir Churov. The latter came on an informal visit.

Donald Tusk, although repeatedly blamed by the Kaczynski brothers for accepting German financing to support his party, will obviously behave in a more moderate way at EU summits. He will never make the 26 EU leaders stay up all night to reach a decision, and will hardly allow himself explicit anti-Russian rhetoric like his predecessor.

Russia will still have to deal with the other twin until the 2010 presidential elections in Poland, as Lech Kaczynski remains president of that country. It is hard to tell now who will dominate Poland's foreign policy - the president or the prime minister.

But Tusk will certainly try and change the explicitly pro-American policies his country is currently pursuing. First, he has pledged to pull Polish forces out of Iraq early next year. Second, Warsaw will soon adopt a softer stance in the missile-defense talks. Although the would-be cabinet leader will not be able to abandon the plan, he has promised to insist that Washington make Poland's interests a priority.

Tusk will probably be more willing to compromise with Moscow on the extremely sensitive U.S. missile-defense issue. He probably will, given that Moscow offered some solutions for discussion.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Corruption tapes scandal

Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk has informed that Platform member Wojciech Picheta, named in a corruption scandal, has been evicted from the party.

This follows yesterday’s publication by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, of tapes among others showing former Civic Platform deputy Beata Sawicka accepting a bribe from a Bureau officer, after telling him that she could help him buy very attractive seaside property for development. In another recording she spoke to Civic Platform deputy Wojciech Picheta. Wojciech Picheta did not deny that he had often talked to Beata Sawicka, but claims that he did not treat conversations with her seriously. Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk argued that the deputy had failed to react properly. He also said Beata Sawicka’s alleged connections within the party had been “myth-building”. Speaking for the press today, a tearful Beata Sawicka apologised to her party colleagues, said that she had been emotionally involved with the officer and made an emotional appeal to chief of the Bureau Mariusz Kaminski, saying that she was “fighting for her life”.

Meanwhile minister coordinator for the special services Zbigniew Wasserman commented it was the first time in Polish history that a parliamentarian had been caught red-handed in this way.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Right-wing Polish party accused of anti-Semitism for campaign ad

right-wing party ran a campaign ad Monday suggesting Polish lives have been put in danger in Iraq to serve Jewish and U.S. interests, and it immediately drew accusations of anti-Semitism.

The League of Polish Families' TV spot features footage of President Lech Kaczynski, first at a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush, and then with Orthodox Jews at Israel's Western Wall, where he dons a yarmulke. The words "Our allies," are flashed across the scene. "They put us in the line of attack."

A grim voiceover then warns: "It is our nation that is going to fall victim. Let the nation decide."

The advertisement — issued as part of campaigning for Sunday's general election — sparked a firestorm of criticism. Jacek Kurski, a lawmaker with the governing Law and Justice party, slammed it as "a pathetic masquerade" that was "seasoned with some anti-Semitism."

League of Polish Families leader Roman Giertych defended the spot, saying it was not anti-Semitic but insisting there is a connection between the war in Iraq and Israel.

"One can be against the war in Iraq without being an anti-Semite," Giertych said at a news conference.

"This ad shows the cooperation between Poland and the U.S., and Poland and Israel — we have a right to criticize it. The war in Iraq threatens our country and this is why the Polish troops should be pulled out from Iraq as soon as possible."

But Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, noted that the sequence of images was laid out in such a way as to provoke a negative feeling about Kaczynski being at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest place.

"You see the tanks, you feel bad, you see people being blown up, you feel bad, you see President Kaczynski at the Wall, you feel bad," he told the AP.

"Now the question is why should someone feel bad about President Kaczynski being at the Western Wall? What is negative about the president of the country visiting a holy site?"

Poland's "Stop War" movement, which opposes Polish involvement in Iraq, immediately distanced itself from the ad, saying it has "strong anti-Semitic connotations."

Poland contributed combat troops to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and still has 900 soldiers stationed there.

The League of Polish Families, which served as a coalition partner in the conservative government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski before being dismissed this summer, is fighting for its political survival.

Most opinion polls show it with between 2 and 4 percent support — below the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

It is not the first time the party has faced accusations of anti-Semitism.

Giertych's father and fellow party member Maciej Giertych, a European Union lawmaker, was reprimanded early this year by the European Parliament for publishing a brochure that described the Jewish people as a "tragic community" that tends to settle "among the rich" while still choosing to live "in apartheid from the surrounding communities."

The party is also closely linked to a youth movement, the All-Polish Youth — founded by Giertych in 1989 — which has attacked gay rights activists and used Nazi slogans and gestures.

Maciej Giertych in November dismissed his assistant after a newspaper published a photo of her giving a straight-armed Nazi salute at an All-Polish Youth rally with a burning swastika in the background.

Giertych in December said his party had severed all ties with the radical youth wing after the swastika burning scandal.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Opinion polls and political manipulation?

Since the debate between the prime minister and the main opposition party leader on Friday night, a handful of polls have shown a shift of support towards the Civic Platform party, led by Donald Tusk – all except one, that is.

The initial indicators of growing support over the weekend for the free market orientated Civic Platform were not convincing simply because they were those self selecting polls that people vote for on web sites or via telephone call to TV stations.

But two polls published this morning seem to reveal a genuine shift.

In a poll by OBOP in the "Dziennik" newspaper conducted a day after the Tusk – Kaczynski debate, Tusk’s party got a massive 46 per cent, which translates into 236 seats in parliament - five more than the minimum required to form a majority government.

I don’t find that poll believable at all.

Possibly the most believable is an opinion poll conducted by PBS, which indicates 38 per cent support for the Civic Platform (PO) and 37 per cent support for the Law and Justice (PiS). That means PO has gained five percentage points over the weekend, compared with a survey taken by the same pollster last week, while PiS lost one percent.

How much this has to do with Friday’s debate is unclear. According to a poll commissioned by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, only 5 per cent of Poles say they changed their minds after the debate between Donald Tusk (PO) and Jaroslaw Kaczynski (PiS).

Whatever, there does seem to have been some movement away from the government in the last few days.

But one poll, slipped out yesterday by the Polish public television station TVP, bucked the trend – it showed the governing Law and Justice in the lead by four points – just as it was last week and the week before.

A closer look at the poll, however – and something that TVP did not mention (oops!) when they published the poll initially – was that the survey was taken before Friday’s debate. On the ninth and tenth, in fact. The poll was published on one of those 'tickers' running along the bottom of the screen, but you would think that the most important thing about that particular poll was, when it was taken.

Critics are also pointing out that PGB is Law and Justice’s favourite pollsters, as it usually gives leads to the Kaczynskis when no other company does so.

So, is there some manipulation going on here?

Well, you certainly could say that of state television, TVP. But the opinion pollster PGB has since recorded a similar wild shift since the debate, as well.

PGB was the only pollster to pick the winner of the Tusk - Kaczynski presidential election in 2005 - so the Kaczynski's must be a little concerned.

But I really can't see support shifting so hugely from one debate. Tusk will bounce, but not like a helium balloon.

But keep your eye on PGB, and close them when TVP election polling news comes on the TV - just in case.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Polish president sues magazine

President Lech Kaczynski is going to sue Newsweek Poland for libel over an article, which claimed that the Polish head of state kept in regular contact with businessmen Ryszard Krauze, suspected of involvement in large scale corruption, says the Presidential Chancellery.

Krauze left the country two months ago when it emerged that the Anti-Corruption Bureau wanted to question him about various matters, including his involvement in alleged corruption in the Agricultural Minister – an issue that led to the sacking of ministers from the government, including the now ex-PM Andrzej Lepper.

According to Newsweek, the president has been sharing information with Krauze about the special services' interest in his activities.

The Presidential Chancellery is denying Newsweek's allegations and has announced the President will seek justice in court.

Krauze was last seen by journalists in Zurich in Switzerland. The alleged corruption scandal led to the break up of the ruling coalition and the announcement of the election in Poland scheduled for October 21.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Polish political TV debates are like game shows

If your idea of a televised debate during an election campaign between the two main protagonists is of the formal, stiff, American variety, then the Polish version will come as a bit of a shock.

The Tusk-Kaczynski TV debate game show tonight – that the media billed as the key moment in the election campaign, when government could be won or lost – was a bizarre sight. The set looked like a game show. The three different referees, with white teeth, taking turns over the three rounds looked like game show hosts. The audience whooped and applauded their man, and booed and heckled his opponent. It reminded me of that old classic – The Price is Right.

The rules of the game show were that each politician had one minute, or more often thirty seconds, to either give an answer or ask a question of his opponent. At the end of the allotted time, a gong would go off. Bong! Like the Gong Show.

But, of course, the combatants - Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and leader of the largest opposition party, Donald Tusk – didn’t keep to the rules.

Instead of asking a question, they made a statement. When they ignored the gong going off, Bong!, after still not asking a question, the hapless referees - political journalists and one was the head of Polish Radio 3 - would bark, time and again: ‘Time for a question, time for a question..’, as the politicians droned on and on and on....

It was hilarious. Round One was on the economy – a bit predictable - but things started to get heated during Round Two – foreign policy.

Donald Tusk berates the Prime Minister for his Rottweiler style of diplomacy [cheers, boos,] Bong! Kaczynski infers that Tusk isn’t Polish, he’s German (he comes from Gdansk/Danzig) Boo ....Cheer....Bong!...and that if Tusk wins the election then he would lay down at the feet of Brussels, giving up all the vetoes and blocks that Kaczynski is trying to make sure stay in any new EU Reform/Constitution Treaty and [referee, ‘Time for a question, time for a question’]...Boo.....Hiss.....Cheer....Poland will consequently continue to be infected by ‘homosexualism and euthanasia’.....Boo....Hiss.....Cheer......Laugh.....Boo....Bong!

Audience: 'Don-ald Tusk, Don-ald Tusk....Ka-czyn-ski, Ka-czyn-ski....'

And so it went on. I watched open mouthed, waiting for a hook on the end of a long stick to emerge from the side of the stage and rap around one of their necks and haul them off the set.


Who won? Eighty five percent of viewers of the private TVN 24 said it was a crushing win by Tusk - but they are Tusk voters. Thing is – it wasn’t a game show. Nobody walked off with the cuddly toy and the fortnight in Ibiza. Supporters of Kaczynski will think he won; supporters of Tusk will say he did.

As for the ‘floating voter’, torn widely by the charisma and verve of the two main players in the Polish election, I really don’t think they have learned anything about these characters that they didn’t, unfortunately, know already.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Polish police arrest 55 suspected of spreading child pornography

Polish police have arrested 55 people on suspicion of spreading child pornography over the Internet, a police spokesman said Friday.

Seven of them have been charged with distributing child pornography, police spokesman Zbigniew Urbanski said. The others are still being questioned.

All 55 are Polish citizens suspected of circulating movies and photographs of naked children through the Internet, Urbanski said.

Police officers arrested the suspects at homes throughout the country in a 24-hour operation that began Wednesday morning, Urbanski said. Police searched more than 50 homes and seized more than 50 computers and thousands of CDs and DVDs.

He said Polish authorities launched the operation after receiving tips from Austrian and Dutch police.

In similar operations carried out over the last three months, Polish police have arrested about 115 people suspected of distributing child pornography, the Polish news agency PAP reported.

None of those people have yet faced trial, because the investigations take about seven months, Urbanski said.

Suspects face up to five years in prison for the possession of child pornography, and up to nine years in jail for distributing such material, if convicted.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Polish police end nun rebellion

Polish police have evicted a group of defrocked Roman Catholic nuns from a convent they were occupying in defiance of the Vatican.
Bailiffs used ladders to scale the walls of the convent in the eastern town of Kazimierz Dolny, and opened the gates to let in some 150 policemen.

The police found some 65 nuns, a baby and a Franciscan monk in the building.

The nuns resisted attempts to replace their mother superior, who claims to have seen visions of the Holy Spirit.

Last year, the Vatican expelled 10 of the nuns from their order - the Congregation of the Sisters of Bethany.

However the sisters remained and were later joined by a number of novices.

A Church spokesman has likened the group to a sect, and said the nuns had been subjected to mental manipulation.

A Polish court earlier this year approved a request from the Bethany order to evict them.

On Wednesday police in riot gear found the nuns and their mother superior inside the convent playing guitar and singing religious songs, a police spokesman said.

Police also found one woman with a baby, whom they later took to hospital.

The women were seen being escorted from the convent.

Franciscan monk Roman Komaryczko, the nuns' alleged spiritual leader, was led away in handcuffs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Polish PM pleads voters for time to root out corruption

Poland's prime minister on Monday appealed to voters to grant him more time to continue his government's fight to root out corruption, as a new poll showed his party keeping its edge over its main rival less than two weeks before snap elections.

Parliament dissolved itself last month after Premier Jaroslaw
Kaczynski's socially conservative Law and Justice party pushed for new elections as a way to end months of political instability.
«We are changing Poland for the better,» Kaczynski wrote in an editorial published Monday in the Fakt daily.

He argued that during its two years in power, Law and Justice proved in «concrete actions that it wants a transparent, honest and truly European Poland.

«If we win elections, we are going to have to dedicate a lot of work to finish this process of change,» he wrote.

Kaczynski has made rooting out corruption from public life the chief goal of his government and a key element of Law and Justice's campaign.

After trailing in polls in previous months, Kaczynski's Law and Justice has rallied in recent weeks to overtake its main rival, the pro-business Civic Platform.
According to a PBS DGA survey published Monday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, Law and Justice would win 36 percent of votes in the Oct. 21 elections, while Civic Platform would trail with 32 percent support, a result that is fairly consistent with many recent polls.

Only two other parties would surpass the 5 percent threshold for entering parliament according to the survey: the Left and Democrats, an alliance of ex-communists and center-right parties, with 15 percent support, while the Polish Peasants' Party has 7 percent.

Law and Justice won 2005 elections, but without the strength to govern alone. As a result, it has ruled either as a weak minority government or in coalition with populists and the far-right _ an alliance that has sparked some alarm abroad and alienated many Poles.

As a way out of unending crisis, parliament voted last month to dissolve itself, forcing the elections two years ahead of schedule.

The PGS DGA poll questioned 1,083 people Oct. 4-6. It gave no margin of error, but surveys with such a sampling size generally have an error margin of about plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Election debates and other spectator sports

With 12 days to go it is looking increasingly likely that the ruling Law and Justice will win the general election in Poland. But can the opposition put the skids under PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the televised debates remaining? (the photo above is actually Lech Kaczynski and not Jarosalw, but what the hell...same difference...)

Eight million people watched the first TV debate last Monday – which in these days of multi channel TV and internet, is a televisual blockbuster.

Kaczynski will now likely debate leader of the Civic Platform on Friday evening and there will probably be a three way debate on Monday between Kaczynski, Tusk and the ‘face’ of the Left and Democrats campaign, former president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

That the Left and Democrats have to put Kwasniewski into the ring for them – someone who is not even standing for parliament – is a rather pathetic sign of what a race of pygmies they have become.

Fact is, he is still their biggest personality, and TV debates are all about personalities.

In Britain, where I am from, prime ministers don’t do debates – why run the risk of making yourself look an idiot? (Risk is not on the menu for UK politicians – look at the mess Gordon Iron Jaw Brown has got himself into: people are shocked by his lack of guts, ignoring the fact that Brown has a long history of bottling it.).

Usually, prime ministers can only lose debates, opposition politicians might just win one. In last Monday’s debate both candidates managed not to lose any support. The more Kwasniewski taunted Kaczynski that he was making his country a laughing stock abroad (and there is no doubt he has) the more Kaczynski’s supporters cheered him on – they want his confrontational stance in the European Union and elsewhere.

On Friday it is Kaczynski versus Tusk. Tusk, being from Civic Platform, will do what the Democrats do in the US – they will try and appeal to reason and give lots of little policy initiatives that they think their supporters want.

Kaczynski will continue to act like a US Republican: give them one big message – ‘Poland is ruled by corrupt liberals and ex-communists’.

Kaczynski seems to understand campaigning much better than Tusk, who is getting the reputation as being a bit of a wuss - a wish-washy dullard, who lacks the balls for a fight (a Polish version of the UK’s hapless leader, perhaps).

The coming TV debates are likely to emphasize these differences. Kaczynski is giving his supporters - those in rural areas, the old, the poor, the ones who lost out in the transition to capitalism - what they want. Tusk is frustrating his. We have had two years of the weirdest government I have ever seen. If Tusk and Kwasniewski haven’t been able to nail Law and Justice by now then they will not be able to do it - no matter how many TV debates they have - in the remaining couple of weeks.

Get ready for a Kaczynski win. The only thing really in doubt now is whether he will get a big enough majority to rule alone.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Eviction looms as end to defiant Polish nuns' holdout

Police in Kazimierz Dolny, Poland, plan to carry out the eviction of a group of nuns on Wednesday morning, October 11, in what looms as the final confrontation in a long series of battles.

More than 100 police officers have been given the task of removing 9 former members of the Sisters of the Bethany Family, who have illegally occupied the convent for months.

The eviction-- which was ordered by a Polish court after the nuns refused a May order to vacate the premises-- is the latest development in a running battle that began when the Vatican ordered the removal of a mother superior. The ousted superior refused to accept that order, and took up residence in a convent in Kazimierz along with some members of the congregation. Since that time the women have continued to occupy the convent despite a series of judgments against them in both ecclesiastical and civil courts.

In February of this year, the Congregation for Religious issued a decree saying that the women were no longer members of the religious order. A year earlier, Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin-- in whose jurisdiction the convent is located-- had forbidden the administration of the sacraments in the disputed convent. While the former sisters have been offered temporary lodging at three local retreat houses, most are expected to return to their families.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nurses set up tent village in Poland

This summer, several thousand nurses from Poland's state hospitals camped out in tents in front of the prime minister's office for four weeks [1]. Their protest was aimed at raising their poor wages of 1,200 to 1,300 Zl (approx. 320 Euros) a month [2]. The tent action itself was triggered by police violence against participants of a large nurses' demo on June 19. Subsequently, several nurses from the leadership of the OZZPiP union [3] occupied a room in the pm's office for a week in order to force the pm to talk to them, while outside the building the "white town" quickly grew to about 150 tents in which an average of 300 inhabitants took shifts over the weeks. Most of them were OZZPiP activists who came on the free days, took holidays or union leave for the action. The nurses quit their camp without concrete results when the pm left for his holidays on Juli 15.

Everyone loves the nurses ...

The "public" received the protests very positively. A great majority in the country supported the action and agreed with the wage demands, according to polls. Many people came along spontaneously and brought food, blankets or sleeping bags. People were impressed with the women's determination and optimism. Many seemed to have been waiting for this movement which exemplified the concerns of a large part of society: Poland is modernising and turning into one of the EU's extended workbenches, but wages have remained low [4]. The nurses also made the connection to the current emigration move: "Stay healthy, we're leaving!" or "We want to work not emigrate".

Support came not only from almost all left-wing groups and grouplets [5] but - at least verbally - also from the neoliberal opposition who likes anything that gets the religious-right-wing government into trouble. PO [6] leader Tusk condemned the police brutality just like Warsaw's PO mayor, former central bank boss Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Stars and starlets from the cultural scene gave concerts and/or spent a night in a tent.

Even though other unions like left-wing Sierpie? 80 tried to get their foot into the door of the action, their influence remained limited to participation in the tent village's assemblies which discussed practical questions like protection from attacks. The OZZPiP seek their allies among neoliberals - for instance they asked the boss of the private employers' association, Bochniarz, to negotiate for them -, but politically their monopoly was never questioned.

... but what exactly was it about?

Despite all the positive public feedback hardly anyone knew what actually happened in detail. For instance, many declared their solidarity with the "nurses' strike" although the nurses did not strike at all [7]. There was no lack of strikes in Poland this year, however, like warning strikes for wage rises at Fiat in Tychy and Bielsko-Biala, at Opel in Gliwice or repeated wildcat strikes at the Cegielski machine factory in Poznan. The bus drivers in Kielce ...

The nurses' concrete demands were as little known as the fact that there was no strike. Somehow they're asking 30 per cent more, right? In reality, the OZZPiP did not demand a direct pay rise but demanded the extension of the law concerning the rise of subsidies to personell costs from 2006. After a doctors' strike in early 2006, this law made additional subsidies for the National Health Funds NFZ available in order to raise personell spendings by 30 per cent in the period from July 2006 to September 2007.

Polish hospitals are permanently skint [8] and regularly receive similar financial support. The public Polish health system is chronically underfinanced (Poland spends about 4 per cent of its GDP on its health system, compared to 10 per cent in Germany and 15 per cent in the USA). There are lobbies in all parties who would like to commercialise the health system in order to open up the potentially huge health business for clinics, private practices and the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries. However, nobody knows how to finance this. On the one hand, raising the current health insurance contributions of 11,45 per cent or making the employers pay (in Poland contributions are paid exclusively by workers) are seen as politically inacceptable. On the other hand, an official return to budget funding would effectively block the road to commercialisation. So further small steps are being made on this road, like the introduction of private supplementary insurances (so far only between 1 and 2 per cent of people in Poland have something like that) and the creation of legal possibilities for doctors to make money on the side (so far they take an estimated 1 to 3 billion Euros of bribes a year from patients [9]). At the same time, the current system is kept on its feet with temporary exceptional regulations.

The OZZPiP demands to extend the abovementioned law for several years after 1 October 2007. They want to raise health spendings - no matter if through subsidies or through rising contributions - i.e. they want to enlarge the cake and thereby also enlarge the total wage year by year. On the other hand, nobody has ever talked about a 30 per cent wage increase, neither in the future nor in the past. According to the OZZPiP, the 30 per cent cost increase through the 2006 law has resulted in an average 17 per cent wage increase. [10]

In the background: the doctors' strike

The fact that the 30 per cent cost increase was written into a law at all was due to a doctors' strike. And in 2007 they are fighting for their interest again. Because the biggest strike in 2007 - the longest and the one with the biggest participation - was the doctors' strike which started on 21 May. Current wages are very heterogeneous and some of them below 1,500 Zl. The doctors' union OZZL has made clear nationwide demands: They want three times the national statistical average wage for specialised doctors, double for the others. Thus doctors not only talk about concrete amounts but also mark the social distance they would like to keep. The union left the decision about strikes to local strike committees in individual hospitals - just like negotiations and agreements. According to the union, there were strikes in different forms in about 230 of Poland's 800 state hospitals. In some places planned operations were cancelled, in others there were only emergency services, still others boycotted the settlement of accounts with the NFZ. Additionally, about 3,500 of 120,000 doctors in the Polish Health Service gave notice of termination. By now (late August) most hospitals have signed different agreements - and many doctors have called off their notices of termination. OZZL leader Bukiel - also advisor of the ultra-neoliberal party UPR - used the attention created by the strike - and the nurses' protest - to keep reiterating his main demand: privatisation of the Health Service!

Unlike the nurses' the doctors haven't endeared themselves to the public. On 21 August patients even occupied a hospital in Radom to protest against the doctors' strike. The doctors have neither shown a lot of consideration for patients nor tried to struggle together with the nurses.

Similarly, the OZZPiP see themselves as a representation of certified nurses and keep their distance from other hospital workers (assistant nurses, ambulance drivers, cleaning workers etc.). Instead, they attach themselves to the doctors and their representatives who were frequent and welcome guests in the "white town". They still do not plan any strikes although their demands have not been met. In late August, the union put up some tents again in front of Parliament and talked to the press. They also promise continued protests in September.

And the nurses?

Although many nurses in Poland liked the action this does not necessarily mean that they share the union's view about doctors or about the privatisation of the health system. But they have not spoken out nor organised any actions of their own. The "white town" looked a lot more lively than the usual plastic-bag-dress union rituals in Germany but still the action was organised from above - even though it must have been great for the participating nurses to get out of their usual lives, get to know colleagues from other cities and bathe in the "public's" sympathy for a few weeks.

Maybe the nurses in the country simply reckon like this: The average 17 per cent wage increase they received in 2006 still mean low wages in absolute figures (about 200 Zl more) and compared to other occupational groups. But they are among Poland's highest percentual wage increases in the last years. Workers in the automobile industry got less: After years of almost no wage increases at all, this year the union (Solidarno??) felt obliged to stake a stand and organise warning strikes and then signed quick and poor agreements: For example, Solidarno?? at Opel in Gliwice had demanded 500 Zl more per month and then signed a single payment of 2,500 Zl (approx. 200 Zl per month) with an average monthly net wage of about 2,300 Zl. In the postal service a spectacular wave of wildcat strikes last year resulted in a disappointing increase of 110 Zl monthly [11]. Therefore the nurses may speculate that the union will get them a good result again. By attaching themselves to the doctors who receive all the anger, they do not even have to spoil their moral position with the "public" and the patients. It remains to be seen whether this speculation will work out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cops: Polish Hero Kidnapped Woman To Poland, Spent Her Savings

A Palm Beach couple befriended their 93-year-old neighbor, then kidnapped her to a nursing home in Poland while they spent her life savings, according to a police report.

Police arrested Aron Bell, 80, and Henryka Bell, 59, and charged them with kidnapping, elderly exploitation, grand theft from a person older than 65 years of age and organized scheme to defraud.

The story of how Aron Bell's three brothers helped save thousands of fellow jews is documented in a book and upcoming feature film.

Aron Bell grew up in Poland during World War II and survived the Holocaust by living in the woods after his parents were taken by the Nazis at the age of 11. The story of how Bell and his brothers helped save thousands of fellow Jews is the subject of the 1994 book, "Defiance: The Bielski Partisans," by Nechama Tec. A movie based on the book is currently in production, slated to star current James Bond actor Daniel Craig, WPBF reported.

According to a police report, the Bells befriended 93-year-old Janina Zaniewska and "systematically took over every aspect of her life," including redirecting phone calls and mail meant for her to themselves.

Police said the three lived in a condominium at 44 Coconut Row in Palm Beach, where they originally met and where the Bells began taking control of Zaniewska's finances.

According to the report, a bank manager told police that Henryka Bell brought Zaniewska to her office in April in order to open up an account in which the Bells would have access to. The bank manager allegedly told police that Zaniewska had been in her office two weeks before to open an account and had seemed fine, but when the 93-year-old came with Bell, she was confined to a wheelchair and seemed confused.

Investigators told WPBF that upon opening the second account, Henryka Bell demanded to have Zaniewska's Social Security payments redirected into the shared account. The bank manager said she refused to make the change, but that she later discovered that the couple had somehow been able to make the transaction anyway, according to the report.

Police said that Zaniewska had previously approached bank tellers in the bank and asked them not to give her money to the Bells, but while the couple was with the 93-year-old, they would not let her speak and kept her in a wheelchair.

According to the report, the Bells took Zaniewska to Poland on May 17 and returned without the 93-year-old on June 2. Police said that, with the help of the Polish-American Society Club in Lake Worth, officials located Zaniewska at a nursing home in a remote town in Poland. According to police, a detective called the nursing home and talked to Zaniewska, who told the officer, "Thank God, you found me."

Police said Zaniewska told the investigator that she had been tricked by the Bells and was placed in an "old lady home" against her will. Zaniewska told police that she believed the Bells were stealing her money and that she had thought that she was going on vacation to Poland and did not know she was going to be placed in a nursing home, Captain Elmer Gudger with the Palm Beach Police said.

"In the phone call that we made to her, when she realized it was the police department, she thanked us very much for finding her and made a comment that she thought she was going to die over there in the nursing home," Gudger told WPBF.

Gudger said that the Bells had withdrawn about $250,000 out of Zaniewska's bank accounts and were using the money to pay their own bills.

Authorities told WPBF that federal agents assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Poland attempted to speak with Zaniewska by telephone but were denied by nursing home staff because Henryka Bell had allegedly told the home not to allow the woman to speak with anyone. Police said agents eventually were able to contact the 93-year-old and bring her back to Palm Beach.

Aron and Henryka Bell were denied bail at their first appearance in a West Palm Beach court Tuesday morning. Zaniewska returned to the U.S. last week and is staying temporarily at a nursing home in Palm Beach County, police said.

Monday, October 08, 2007

''Can Elections Pull Poland's Politics Out of the Gutter?''

he Polish Sejm has voted to dissolve itself two years ahead of regularly scheduled elections, with new voting planned for October 21. The country has watched its leaders lurch from one crisis to the next, without a clear sense of purpose or attention to critical domestic issues. In recent months, the government has been racked by scandals, public embarrassments, foreign policy blunders, allegations of ties to criminal syndicates, debilitating personality clashes, and legislative gridlock -- resulting in a loss of its majority status and capacity to govern.

Early elections will provide the Sejm with the semblance of a fresh start, although key political figures are likely to remain unchanged. The European Union and United States will be watching as well, with major international agreements either postponed or potentially up for renegotiation.

Law and Justice: Background on the Ruling Party

Poland is in the unique position of being governed by twin brothers, President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, of the leading rightist Law and Justice Party. Since achieving a narrow victory in the Sejm in September 2006, the party has struggled to maintain a coalition; its latest coalition with the Self Defense Party and a radical nationalist party lasted only four months.

During previous elections, the party capitalized on a fear of rapid market reforms, labeled by the president during his campaign as a "dangerous liberal experiment." Their strongest supporters came from the countryside (gaining two-thirds of the vote there) and from Catholics who feared a dilution of traditional values. As mayor of Warsaw, President Kaczynski twice banned gay pride parades and spoke in support of reintroducing the death penalty.

The son of a freedom fighter, the president was a leading proponent of a state-of-the-art museum commemorating the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation, contributing to a sense of solidarity with the older generation. He has also strived to appear as the champion of the poor in a country with an official unemployment rate of 18 percent, promising to maintain welfare benefits and rejecting tax increases proposed by the opposition to spur economic development.

In the realm of foreign policy, the staunchly anti-communist party has focused on close ties to the United States, occasionally at the expense of relations with the European Union and Russia. Affairs with Germany have suffered the most, as the party and its coalition members have spotlighted minor quarrels with their neighbor to gain supporters domestically.

Scandal Stage One: Andrzej Lepper

Its struggle to maintain a majority coalition government pulled Law and Justice into a riptide of scandals. No single episode towered above the rest in public outrage; the cumulative effect was to turn the Sejm into a stage for political soap opera with daily dramas fueling the tabloids and public disenchantment. While many names and faces emerged in the press, a gravitational force seemed to spiral around two Members of Parliament: Andrzej Lepper and Janusz Kaczmarek.

Andrzej Lepper is the leader of the populist Self Defense Party. Through his party's coalition of necessity with Law and Justice, he was awarded two additional positions: agricultural minister and deputy prime minister (one of four such appointments). The uneasy coalition began to crack almost immediately, with Deputy Lepper's departure in 2006 after he was accused of "squabbling" by the prime minister. He returned by the end of the year in order to avoid early elections, only to resurface in the news attached to a sex scandal.

Together with Deputy Stanislaw Lyzwinski, he was accused of requiring female employees to trade sex for government employment. This led in turn to a paternity scandal for Mr. Lyzwinski, who later appeared to be cleared by DNA testing. The edgy coalition -- already damaged by the earlier fracture -- was now on shaky ground, as Lepper was believed to have embarrassed the ruling party and the prime minister who had campaigned on a moral values platform.

Surviving the sex scandal, Lepper was finally sacked in July by the prime minister for "sowing discord." Lepper, a former pig farmer and champion of rural rights, had voiced his opposition to the budget offered by the prime minister -- in particular the funds for continued troop deployment in Afghanistan. Lepper complained publicly that the prime minister did not consult him and refused to speak with him on the matter, but instead was "only interested in having people kneel before him." Worse than the charges of "sowing discord," Lepper was concurrently alleged to have profited from his position as agricultural minister by participating in a bribing scheme of millions of dollars to re-designate agricultural land for commercial use. As a result of the personal and political clash, Lepper lost his position and the party was expelled from the coalition.

On September 3, another blow was dealt to Lepper's career when the man responsible for crafting his public image was detained as part of a joint police-Interpol action against a child pornography ring. Piotr Tymochowicz, one of the best known media advisors and PR specialists in the country, is one of the 38 persons already detained in what is expected to be an expanding net of arrests. Lepper has struck back, asserting that he is completely innocent of wrong doing in all regards, and that the series of scandals is designed to defame him. Read the full story...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Polish premier doesn't have a driving licence

After announcing he doesn't have a bank account and hands his salary over to his mother, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski Tuesday had another revelation: he doesn't hold a driving licence.

"I admit that I don't have a licence, which I regret," the 58-year-old premier told reporters who were accompanying him on the election campaign trail.

Asked if he planned to learn to drive, Kaczynski replied: "In life, nothing is impossible."

"Maybe I'll do it one day but, to tell the truth, I haven't thought about it," he said.

Kaczynski's comments came as he was quizzed about his conservative government's record on road construction, which has become a campaign issue ahead of Poland's October 21 snap parliamentary elections.

Poland currently lacks a national motorway network, and there are growing jitters over the chances of having one in place in time for the 2012 European football championships, which Poland is due to co-host with Ukraine.

In May, Kaczynski who is unmarried and lives with his mother, revealed that he had never opened a bank account and that she held the purse-strings.

Kaczynski said he had chosen not to open an account to avoid the risk that anyone trying to conjure up a scandal might transfer funds into it and then try to discredit him.

Kaczynski's married identical twin, Lech Kaczynski, is president of Poland.

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

PiS has revived the anti-graft message in the latest election battle, which began after parliament was dissolved following the collapse of Jaroslaw Kaczynski's coalition government in August.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Polish prospective senator arrested after ‘sting’ operation

Poland’s Central Anti-corruption Bureau (CBA) have arrested Beata Sawicka of the opposition Civic Platform (PO) along with the mayor of the seaside town of Hel on corruption charges.

Sawicka was released after 5 hours questioning.

As Tomasz Fratczak of CBA informed, Sawicka and Mayor Miroslaw Wadolowski were caught red handed while taking a bribe in a ‘sting’ operation prepared by the CBA. The MP was arrested, Tuesday, in a hotel in Gdansk, and the mayor in a restaurant in Gdynia, northern Poland.

As a reaction to the arrest PO sacked Sawicka from the party and forced her to withdraw her candidacy for Senator in the coming elections.

She was to run as PO candidate in Legnica, western Poland.

Civic Platform’s Secretary General Grezgorz Schetyna explained that this decision is not prejudging Sawicka’s guilt. He said he hopes that the case will be unraveled by the relevant authorities.

PO’s Leader Donald Tusk, in turn, said that Sawicka was excluded because she failed to resolve doubts connected with her involvement in the crime.

Poland’s Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski denied that the arrest had anything to do with the ongoing election campaign in Poland. Kaczynski pointed out that the whole case proves that corruption is a problem relating to all political parties.

According to the CBA, the arrested took a bribe of 250,000 zlotys for setting up a tender for a 2 hectare property in Hel. It was to be used for a construction of a large hotel and leisure complex.

Sawicka was elected in the 2005 election as an MP for Civic Platform in the Legnica district.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Polish Neo-Nazi Arrested With Plans

Police arrested a municipal employee in central Poland after a raid turned up neo-Nazi materials that included anti-Semitic propaganda and detailed instructions for terrorist bomb and arson attacks on refugees, homosexuals and Jews.

Authorities would identify the arrested man only as Adam P., who they described as a city worker in Bialobrzegi in his thirties, according to Agence France-Presse. But they said the man was linked to the racist group Blood and Honour and added that they found "instructions for neo-Nazi groups in Poland." These included detailed methods of intimidation and a listing of targets for bombs and arson.

Last year, Blood and Honour, an international skinhead group, called on its members to supply information on anti-racists and others considered enemies. It then posted this information on a website called "Redwatch," resulting, authorities said, in the stabbing of a man in Warsaw. The site, which was based on a computer server in Arizona, was blocked by the FBI in July 2006 after a joint investigation with the Polish police. Three Poles linked to the website were arrested in Poland.

About a month after the June arrest of the neo-Nazi Bialobrzegi worker, a national furor erupted over the anti-Semitic remarks of a Catholic priest who has built a nationalist media empire in Poland. Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, speaking in a private lecture to the journalism college he started, attacked right-wing premier Lech Kaczynski, saying he was a "swindler" who had succumbed to Jewish pressure to compensate Holocaust victims who lost their property during World War II.

"You know that it's about giving $65 billion" to the Jews, he said, according to a tape recording obtained by the weekly magazine Wprost. "They will come to you and say, 'Give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes.'"

Poland had the largest population of Jews in the world before the war, more than 3 million people. Most were murdered or starved to death by the Nazis, with just an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 surviving. Jews were not welcomed back to Poland after the war, and today the Polish Jewish community is infinitesimal.

Father Rydzyk, who also runs a television station, a newspaper and a major radio station called Radio Maryja, went on to call the premier's wife a "witch" who should kill herself because she has supported limited abortion rights. But Kaczynski declined to counterattack Rydzyk, who had been a major political supporter.

More than 600 Polish Catholic intellectuals, journalists and others signed a letter protesting Rydzyk's "scornful and anti-Semitic remarks." In the U.S., the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the priest as a "Josef Goebbels in a collar."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Poland: thieves in apple orchards due to high prices

Because of high – for Poland – prices of apples used for processing, Polish growers have recently many problems with thieves in orchards. They can steal between 100 kg up to 5 thousand MT per night from one orchard in Mazovia region. The police from Grojec (the major town in the largest apple growing region in Poland) arrests several thieves every day.

According to the Press Office of The Polish Police Headquarters in Radom, “expensive apples are the main reason of thefts. But because of good cooperation with growers we are able to effectively fight crime. Only during few days of last week police stopped 4 men trying to steal apples or sell stolen fruit.”

In the village of Stara Wies the police arrested two men of age 30 and 51. Both gathered 450 kg of apples (worth approximately ? 132) ready to be moved out of the orchard. In the village of Wola Worowska, the orchard owner stopped a 21-year old man who already picked apples worth ? 318 and tried to sell them. In another case the owner of processing apple buying office informed the police about the suspicious transaction. The arrested man testified that he stole more than 100 kg of fruit only few hours before.

This year the processing apples prices in Poland are approximately 4-fold higher than in 2006 and the average price per kilogram was ? 0,25-0,29 during last few days.