Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Polish convicts to build soccer stadiums?

Hard labour for convicts will return to Poland, if the new government gets its way.

Poland has to build six new stadiums before co-hosting with Ukraine the Euro 2012 football tournament. Problem is, many of its construction workers are in the UK and Ireland. Damn! How to make up the labour shortage?

Bus in the convicts. Brilliant, isn’t it?

But the idea doesn’t just have an economic rationale, I detect. Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski (photo...scary!) told RMF FM radio that he wants to restore a ‘sense of punishment’ to prisons which will be ‘visible’ to the general public.

Why does this all sound a

Prisoners would be bussed into public construction sites to get their pick axes and stuff out. Isn’t that a know…dangerous?

“I don’t mean all types of prisoners. Not murderers or paedophiles,” chuckled Cwiakalski, member of the liberal Civic Platform. Feeew! “There are some prisoners sentenced for unintentional crimes [running down grandma, while driving sober?]. Nothing stands in the way of them building the stadia,” he explained.

It’s basically community work for minor criminals, with pneumatic drill thrown in as an added bonus.

It’s also a way of dealing with the tens of thousands who the penal authorities can’t find places in prison for. The homeless ‘unintentional’ criminal and mates with time on their hands.

Getting prisoners – and would be prisoners - to break rocks and stuff for the new football stadiums is actually one of the ideas his predecessor Zbigniew Ziobro and the Law and Justice government were kicking around earlier this year.

But wait a minute. Didn’t Poland used to get convicts to do hard labour? When was that, then? Oh, yeah – it was one of the methods of justice under the People’s Republic of Poland – meaning, the communist era. My girlfriend remembers passing gangs of them on the streets. She said it was ‘scary’. Now she thinks it’s a good idea.

“It gives them something to do,” she explained, bemused why I found this a funny idea.

So why don’t they try and educate their cons and crims, get them to read books and stuff? Teach them a skill, or two.

“It does teach them skils. Construction skills...The problem is, the system doesn’t have enough money to do that,” now catching on this was one of those times when she was going to have to explain something about Poland very simply, as if talking to a confused, but well meaning person. Or child.

“It’s sensible. And they get money for sandwiches.”

The Justice Minister remembers back then, too, fondly, it appears.

“Paradoxically, punishment worked better, in those days,” Cwiakalski told RMF FM.

Polish liberals. Don’t you just love em?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Polish football corruption scandal continues

The corruption scandal in Polish football is far from over. The prosecutor’s office in Wroclaw is investigating how exactly Cracovia, football club from Krakow, got into the first league in the 2003/04 season. As it has recently turned out, at least six results were rigged in the process.

“Jacek P. set us up with someone in one of Krakow’s restaurant. We were approached by two or three beefy men who informed us they were only interested in Cracovia winning and nothing else”, testified one of the results-rigging referees, quoted by “Dziennik”.

The chief “rigger” was the international referee from Krakow, Jacek P., who also headed the security company employed at Cracovia’s stadium. Police have arrestd him in March this year, and he was subsequently presented with over 10 charges by the prosecutor’s office, some of which are not related with the Cracovia case, but Jacek P.’s role as an observer.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tusk drones on for three hours; Meanwhile Kaczynski, Gosiewski and Dorn lose consciousness, as did most of Poland.

It was agony. Like listening to paint dry. Donald Tusk, the new prime minister, delivered his ‘expose’ – or policy statement – outlining his government’s policy in parliament, this morning.

He went on and on and on and on…for three hours and five minutes.

At one point someone sent him a note: “It’s time to sit down..’. But he wasn’t finished yet.

The main points were that he would be reducing taxes but increasing wages for public workers[!].

He would be getting troops out of Iraq next year (as they probably would have been anyway) but staying in Afghanistan.

He will be more cooperative within the EU and will even be nicer to the Russians.

And there was some other stuff too, but I...fell asleep half way through.

Who does Tusk think he is, with these long, long speeches? Fidal Castro?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Polish deputy health minister resigns

Poland's new prime minister Thursday accepted the resignation of the deputy health minister amid allegations he might be involved in a corruption scheme.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who took over the office Nov. 11 following his parliamentary election victory last month, was informed about the resignation of Boleslaw Piecha as deputy health minister Wednesday, Polish Radio said Thursday.

Tusk's liberal pro-European Union Civic Platform defeated the conservative, nationalist Law and Justice party, or PiS, of former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the election Oct. 21.

Piecha, a member of PiS, resigned in the wake of media allegations he had held private meetings with officials of pharmaceutical companies discussing a list of state-subsidized medicines.

The Polish Dziennik daily Monday said Piecha added an expensive medicine to the list of state-subsidized drugs on the day he had the meeting with an official of that company that produces the medicine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Poland police detain man for family abuse

A 24-year-old Pole has been arrested on charges he was brutally mistreating his wife, 20, his 18-month-old daughter and 4-month old son, police said.

Krzysztof Piechaczek, police spokesman in the southern Polish town of Ruda Slaska near Krakow, said police usually do not detain people on family abuse claims but in this case they convinced a court judge the arrest was the only option, Polish Radio reported Thursday.

Piechaczek said police were often called to the apartment of the 24-year-old man and during the last family fight he hit the baby son against the wall and kicked him, the Polish Rzeczpospolita daily said.

The boy but was taken to a hospital and is now recovering.

The Ruda Slaska court Monday ordered the arrest of the man, charged with beatings and threats to kill his wife and the children.

If convicted the man faces five years in jail.

The town's social welfare service would provide financial assistance to the family.

Monday, November 19, 2007

War hero 'stole from Holocaust survivor'

A Jewish wartime hero who helped save more than a thousand other Jews has been charged with swindling a Holocaust survivor out of her Ј125,000 retirement fund.

Oxford don's wife 'sent war hero to his death'
In eastern Europe during the Second World War, Aron Bielski and his three brothers mounted what is widely regarded as the biggest armed rescue of Jews by other Jews.

The exploits of the four, who operated as partisans against the Nazi occupiers from the forests of what is now Belarus, have been chronicled in books, a documentary and a forthcoming Hollywood film.

The brothers’ encampment grew to include hundreds of armed fighters, families, children and elderly.

Historians say the Bielski brothers were different to other partisans in that they made it a priority to save Jews rather than to kill Germans.

No Jew was turned away and they ultimately rescued some 1,200 people.

Now however, Aron, aged 80 and the only surviving brother, has been arrested on charges of defrauding a 93-year-old Polish woman.

Prosecutors say Bielski – now called Bell – and his wife, Henryka, 58, befriended a neighbour, Janina Zaniewska, in Palm Beach, Florida.

They then allegedly tricked their victim, a Catholic who was herself imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, into giving them power of attorney and control of more than $250,000 held in various bank accounts.

Investigators say the couple then offered to take her on a holiday to her native Poland so she could visit old friends.

When they got there in May, they allegedly put her in a nursing home and returned to Palm Beach where they spent nearly all of her money.

Police were contacted in August by a bank manager who wondered why the Bells were withdrawing Ms Zaniewska’s money.

Police eventually found her at the nursing home.

“Thank God you found me,” she told authorities, according to police.

She returned to Florida last month.

Prosecutors have charged the couple with scheming to defraud Zaniewska, exploitation of the elderly and theft.

The charges against the couple carry up to 90 years in prison.

Steven Gomberg, Bell’s lawyer, has strongly denied the allegations and said the old woman was going senile.

He said the Bells were financially comfortable and were simply helping Ms Zaniewska with her finances as her mental capacity diminished.

“We have people here, elderly people, in their 90s who are losing their faculties and have financial assets that need to be preserved and unfortunately have nobody else,” he said.

He added: “There was nothing stolen. She’s not lost a penny.”

Relatives said they are shocked at the charges against him.

Zvi Bielski, a nephew, said: “I don’t believe it. It’s totally out of character.”

Staff at the nursing home in Poland said Ms Zaniewska “was aware of where she was, what was going on, who brought her here”.

Robert Montgomery, her lawyer, said she “has all her faculties” but fell victim to the Bells.

“They stole money from her, there’s no question about that, pretty much cleaned her out,” he said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two killed, 13 injured in Polish train crash

A passenger train crashed into a truck and derailed in central Poland, two people were killed and 13 injured.

The train, traveling from Gdynia on the Baltic Sea cost to Zielona Gora in the southwest, rammed into the truck north of Bydgoszcz, in central Poland, police spokeswoman Katarzyna Witkowska said on TVN24 television.

The train's conductor and a female passenger died in the crash, and the injured were rushed to hospitals in Bydgoszcz, Witkowska said.

Television footage showed the train's engine and four cars had rolled onto their sides after derailing, while the roof of a first-class carriage was ripped open.

"From initial information, we know that the driver of the truck drove onto an unmarked railroad crossing and the train hit the truck," Witkowska said. "But it's hard to say right now who is to blame for the accident."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Polish police force needs you!

Gazeta Wyborcza today reports that applicants who want to be a Polish cop are screened (by computer programs) for their intellectual capacities.

So far, so normal.

What’s different about the Polish police force is that what the devious psychologists at the Polish police force human resources department are on the look out for are not the dim, the half wit, the retarded; no, the psychologists are keeping an eye out for people thought to be too intelligent to be in the police force!

Yes, all those jokes Poles used to tell about how dim Polish cops are, were true!

(Polish cop joke from the 1980s: Old lady goes up to Polish cop. “Excuse me, officer, but have you got the time?

Cop looks at his new 1980s digital Casio watch. And stares, and stares..

Old Lady “So have you got the time?

Cop: “Give us a moment. It’s not so easy to divide 17:43, you know? “

A spokesperson for the police service said that the computer programmed aptitude and attitude tests are designed for the average person to pass. The personality profile must suit the average Kowalski. And anyway, intelligent people are ‘intellectuals’ and so would ‘not do their job properly.’

Um. So what are these people saying? That instead of patrolling the streets in search of criminals, and telling old ladies what the time is, the ‘intellectual’ copper would be sneaking down behind a hedge, or in the doorway of a disused shop, whipping out his copy of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations ?

Or, instead of asking for bribes – like those good old coppers used to/still do – our brainy cop would be asking the punters their opinions on the Neo-Kantian dualistic dimension of Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law?


A tourist in Warsaw asks a man in uniform, "Are you a policeman?"

"No, I am an undercover detective."

"So why are you in uniform?"

"Today is my day off."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Polish police target 'topsite'

Polish police have taken a so called "topsite" server offline, which allegedly was used to distributed music illegally before its street release date. An album typically achieves the bulk of its sales in the first few weeks of its release and the record industry claims that the widespread availability of its tracks on the internet beforehand can dramatically undermine those sales.

Police shut down the HPN server during a raid at Wroclaw Technical University. The police also visited the HPN administrator’s home and have, in total, confiscated six servers with 37 hard drives containing 12 terabytes of disk space. Two people have been arrested and they are helping the police with their inquiries.

The hosted more than 11,000 complete MP3 albums and promotional CDs on its server for users to download. Investigators at IFPI, the body that represents the recording industry worldwide, ZPAV, which represents the recording industry in Poland, and anti-piracy group FOTA gathered evidence and drew the secretive HPN server to the attention of the Economic Crime Division of the Wroclaw Police who have subsequently conducted the raids and begun to question suspects.

"People that post pre-release material onto the internet are without doubt harming the music industry; one posting on a topsite can see an album appear in thousands of different locations across the internet in a matter of hours. The industry is highly focused on the problem of pre-release piracy and these actions in Poland will not be the last of their kind," Jeremy Banks, Head of the Internet Anti-Piracy Unit at IFPI, said.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

7 Polish soldiers detained on suspicion of violating international law in Afghanistan

Polish military police detained seven soldiers who served in the country's military mission in Afghanistan on suspicion of violating international law, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

In a statement released Tuesday, Polish military prosecutors said the seven soldiers were detained on suspicion of "violating international law and norms, especially the Hague and Geneva Conventions" while serving as part of the 1,200-strong Polish division of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

No further details were immediately available, but prosecutors said they intended to press charges, and would release more information Wednesday.

The Geneva Convention regulates the protection of civilians during wartime.

Polish Defense Ministry spokesman Jaroslaw Rybak said the soldiers were detained in connection with an Aug. 16 incident in eastern Afghanistan.

Poland's Defense Ministry reported at that time that Afghan civilians were killed and injured when Polish troops engaged in a firefight with militants after a Polish armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The ministry has declined to release the number of civilians killed.

The Polish Defense Ministry says seven soldiers serving with the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan have been detained for the killing of civilians in the eastern part of the country.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fortress Poland

On December 21, Poland will enter the Schengen zone, enabling passport free travel and no border controls through most of the EU.

One of the pleasures of traveling across much of Europe is that when you cross a border – say between Germany and France – you don’t really know that you have crossed a border, at all. I once drove through Belgium without even realising I was in

But then try and enter UK or Ireland, and you are suddenly reminded what it is like not to have signed the Schengen Agreement.

So it will make getting about the place for Poles all the easier. But what about Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, trying to get in to Poland?

Well, it is going to make things much, much more difficult. To get into Poland, Ukrainians will need a Schengen visa – costing 60 euro – a third of a months salary in much of Ukraine – and they will have to prove that they will come back, and keep to all kinds of restrictions set in Brussels, not Warsaw.

Thousands of Ukrainians work as nannies in Poland – you are a social leper in some circles of Warsaw if you haven’t got your very own shiny, low maintenance, Ukrainian home help.

And it is not as if it is easy to get into Poland from these countries as it is.

Iza from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow sent me an email yesterday:

I decided to write to you about our recent experience coming back into Poland from a study trip to Lviv and Kyiv.

In our group we have 1 Polish passport, 3 American passports, 1 Canadian passport, and 5 Norwegian passports. This means nothing to the Polish border patrol. We sat on a bus for over 14 hours at the border.

Typical time usually runs around 5-6 hours. But for some reason (some claim the combination of the end of the Italian strike, All-Saints' Day traffic, and a truck falling over) it took over 14 hours. And this was just standing in line. The actual checking of passports and baggage (where there were no lines, because only one bus was allowed at a time) took in all about 30 minutes.

We believe that the real reason is Polish border patrol being assholes (pardon my French). I don't know if this is an interesting topic at all, but we definitely don't see how Poland and Ukraine would ever be ready for the 2012 Euro Cup if a bunch of Polish/EU (almost EU) citizens can't get back into the country in an orderly fashion.
How are the two countries going to co-host the Euro 2012 Football Championships if fans, players, officials...and ticket touts, can’t move freely between Ukraine and Poland? And since when has the EU, with its freedom of movement to visit, live and work from within, turned into some kind of fortress, putting up the barriers, manned by asshole border guards?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Polish Ex-Deputy PM Charged in Sex Case

Polish prosecutors charged a former deputy prime minister Thursday with soliciting sex from two women who worked for his party, the latest development in a scandal that shook the outgoing government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Andrzej Lepper, 53, head of the agrarian and populist Self Defense party, was questioned for more than two hours by prosecutors in the central city of Lodz before he was charged with two counts of soliciting sex from employees in 2001 and 2002, said Krzysztof Kopania, a spokesman for prosecutors.

Lepper, who could face up to eight years in prison if convicted, has denied the charges, Kopania said. He was released on $20,000 bail.

The allegations against Lepper and another party leader, Stanislaw Lyzwinski, surfaced in December 2006, when a woman who worked for the party said in a newspaper interview that she had had sex with both men in exchange for a political job.

At the time of the interview, Lepper served as a deputy prime minister and agriculture minister in Kaczynski's government. He was, however, not yet in government at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.

Although Lepper was fired in the summer on unrelated corruption allegations, the sex scandal proved an embarrassment to the government and is seen as a factor that contributed to the coalition's eventual collapse and triggered early elections.

In that balloting, held Oct. 21, Kaczynski's nationalist Law and Justice party lost to pro-business Civic Platform party.

Self Defense was also ousted from parliament after failing to garner the required 5 percent of the vote.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Polish police institute criminal proceedings in connection with knife attack on Belarusian journalist

The Polish police have instituted criminal proceedings in connection with a knife attack on a Belarusian journalist linked to a child custody dispute with her ex-husband.

Volha Klaskowskaya, who was granted political asylum in Poland two years ago, suffered at least 10 stab wounds after being assaulted by an unidentified man in a Warsaw park on the night between November 7 and 8.

“One man attacked me. I had not met him before,” Ms. Klaskowskaya said in an interview with BelaPAN.

The woman said that she had suffered wounds to the left part of her body, mostly the chest and the left shoulder.

“The police have started investigating the case at once. As a policeman told me, this is the number one case at present,” she said.

According to Ms. Klaskowskaya, the assailant resembled the man who accompanied her ex-spouse to a court hearing held in Warsaw on November 6, at which the Belarusian justice ministry’s request for the return of the divorced couple’s daughter, Miraslava, to Belarus was considered.

The Belarusian ministry accuses Ms. Klaskowskaya of illegally bringing the daughter out of the country and keeping her in Poland.

“After I had already emigrated and obtained the status of refugee, a Belarusian court, aware of all circumstances, terminated my parental rights,” she said. “Apart from this, a Belarusian prosecutor’s office declared me, my mother and daughter missing and demanded that the Poles should provide information about my whereabouts, my address and phone number to Belarus.”
The woman’s former husband, Vital Naumovich, who arrived in Poland to attend the hearing was detained and questioned shortly after. He was released on the same day.

Ms. Klaskowskaya said that the man had been interviewed as a suspect in a case opened in connection with her complaint. In particular, he is accused of threatening violence against the ex-wife and attempting to take the six-year-old Miraslava to Belarus. “A prosecutor brought a charge against him. But no one knows now where my former husband is,” she noted.

The woman said that the daughter knew about the attack. “Of course, she has been frightened by all these events. But I’m happy with her mood and behavior. She even cheers me.”

Ms. Klaskowskaya said that she and Miraslava remained under police protection on Thursday. “I’m staying at home. And if we go somewhere, police escort us. They are indignant and, given all previous threats, are very much concerned,” she stressed.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reporters Without Borders call on Poland to change laws hampering journalism

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization dedicated to the freedom of press has called on Poland to change its laws which - as they say - criminalize journalism. According to the regulations, journalists can be imprisoned for up to 2 years for libel.

The appeal comes in the wake of a Polish court's decision to detain the editor-in-chief of the right wing Gazeta Polska weekly Tomasz Sakiewicz and journalist Katarzyna Hejke of the same newspaper for 48 hours to make sure that they present themselves before court at a trial on December 14th.

Sakiewicz and Hejke have been sued by the major liberal TVN television station for an article exposing the communist past of an important TVN official Milan Subotic. The television claims the article hurt their reputation.

The arrest of two journalists on the night before December 13th is received as symbolic, as this is the anniversary of the imposition of martial law by the communist regime in Poland 26 years ago, when thousands of opposition activists were taken in jail.

A rally is planned in Warsaw to express solidarity with the detained journalists and a group of mostly right-wing journalists have signed a letter of support to their colleagues.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Anti-corruption officers detain former MP

The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau has detained a former MP of the Civic Platform Beata Sawicka. Her mandate expired at midnight. The arrest was ordered by prosecutors, who justified the move by the seriousness of her crime. On Sunday, Beata Sawicka said she would turn up at the prosecutors’ office on Monday of her own will.

Sawicka had been detained by the bureau officers before. On October 1 she and the mayor of a small Baltic coastal town were caught red-handed, while receiving a bribe for fixing a tender for a plot of land in the area. Two weeks later, a documentary footage showing how Beata Sawicka was receiving the first installment of the bribe, was presented to the public amidst the ongoing parliamentary campaign.

Prosecution had issued an arrest warrant for Sawicka after she had been caught red-handed in a major corruption case by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Sawicka faces up to 10 years in prison for accepting a bribe in exchange for illegal assistance at high state administration levels.

Sawicka has admitted to the charges before the media, but the prosecution has not confirmed if she has done that before proper authorities as well.

The Civic Platform immediately removed Sawicka from its ranks. The woman claimed she was seduced and manipulated by a Central Anti-Corruption Bureau officer.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Police capture pedophile teacher in Poland

The police have arrested a physics teacher from Klodzk, Lower Silesia, privately a “connoisseur” of child pornography. Krzysztof P. has managed to collect tones of films and pictures, which, according to the police, explicitly confirm their assumption that the man is a pedophile.

Though considered a good teacher at the workplace, the man indulged in his sick hobby, while at home.

Police say the man transformed his house into a quasi-warehouse crammed with child pornography materials. He downloaded so many of them that, eventually, even foreign crime-prevention organizations became interested in him.

It was actually Interpol that informed the Polish police of the man’s dangerous activity. Ultimately, it was the teacher’s IP address that gave him away, thus enabling detention by the police.