Polish Toledo

This blog is associated with www.polishtoledo.com

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Epiphany Makes a Comeback

A campaign to restore celebration of the Epiphany as a national holiday in Poland has drawn support from more than half a million citizens. Mayor Jerzy Kropiwnicki of Lodz has announced that he has collected over 550,000 signatures on a petition to restore the holiday on January 6.

The petitions have been presented to the speaker of Poland's parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski. January 6 was a national holiday in Poland until 1960, when the holiday was abolished by the country's former Communist government.

Coal will save your dupa

Polish and American scientists are to cooperate on clean coal technologies. Poland's Chief Mining Institute (GIG) and the Coal Chemical Processing Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory have signed a memorandum to work together to advance clean coal technologies (CCT).

According to professor Józef Dubiński, the director of GIG, accepting Poland as a partner in this field is a significant achievement, taking into consideration that the U.S. has been working on this kind of projects for almost 20 years.

Both Silesian institutes, among Polish leaders in clean coal technologies research, are making efforts to transform Silesia into a European clean coal R&D center.

Polish and American scientists have planned to launch their cooperation in October. The cooperation will take place through jointly funded research and development projects considering technological, environmental and economic aspects of CCT, information and personnel exchanges.

The focus will be on gasification methods (including underground gasification technologies) , modern carbon dioxide capture and storage and coal-to-liquid fuel technology. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Its mission is to enhance energy security of the United States. NETL implements a broad spectrum of energy research and development (R&D) programs in the field of clean energy production using fossil fuel resources. Even though the USA did not ratify the Kyoto protocol one of the main targets of the federally owned and operated Laboratory is to reduce carbon dioxide emission. (PAP)

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Shipyards: Another Breath of Life

The government has managed to withhold a drastic EC decision on returning public aid by Polish shipyards, but the phantom of bankruptcy continues looming over them.

Slawek Szefs reports from Polskie Radio

The government in Warsaw, especially treasury minister Aleksander Grad and his team of experts, took to heart a strong worded statement by European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes who set a non- extendable Thursday midnight deadline for supplementing necessary information on the state of the privatization process of three major Polish shipyards: 'Using football terms, the time is indeed over. It's extra time, so to say, penalty time. Minister Grad got, again, extra time and we told him that he has to fill in the condition list, which we presented a long time ago.'

The mentioned terms were effective restructuring guaranteeing the Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin yards long term profitability of operations coupled with a reduction of production potential. Should the Polish government fail to come up with substantial proof of actions aimed at achieving these targets the European Commission threatened to order the return of public aid received by the three shipyards. The sum in question amounts to 5 billion zloties (roughly 1.5 billion euros) so this would surely entail their automatic bankruptcy.

Minister Aleksander Grad was hopeful the last minute documents sent to Brussels would be satisfactory for the European Commission to review the case favorably. At a press conference late Thursday afternoon, he said a positive decision of the EC would enable the Polish government to start working on the much awaited privatization agreements with potential investors: 'There is a list of investors.

We have relevant restructuring programs expected by the Commission, concerning the Szczecin yard and a joint project for Gdansk and Gdynia. Also the introduction of production limits, adequate individual investor share in company capital, investment outlays. It's all contained in these programs.'

The Polish treasury minister also assured that the terms of the shipyard privatization contracts signed would be made public.

It now remains to be seen whether the optimism of the Polish government is shared by the European Commission. Its spokesman Jonathan Todd did not present any concrete schedule for the evaluation of the projects, but conditioned it on the content of the documents received from Warsaw: 'Timing of our decision will depend on what we receive. If the Commission sees immediately that the plans are insufficient, then a negative decision could be taken within a matter of weeks. If, on the other hand, the plans are substantive and the Commission considers them to be viable, then the Commission will probably take a little longer to reach its decision.'

For the time being the EC clock continues ticking for Polish shipyards. The longer, the better...

Biggest Jewish Fest in World

The Jewish Culture Festival has become one of the most important cultural events opening the summer season in Krakow.

From a small and local event held 20 years ago it became to be the best recognized Jewish Culture event in the world. Starting from an audience of some 300 people who were squeezed into a small cinema the festival now attract hundreds of thousands of spectators who come from all over the world to take part in the 9 days of the event showing Jewish culture, music and tradition.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Polish Sisters - Tennis Stars

Urszula Radwanska in capturing the Wimbledon girls' title last year, just like her elder sister Agnieszka had done two years earlier, signalled a new sister act had arrived in town. Now, Poland's answer to the Maleevas of Bulgaria, the Bondarenkos of Ukraine, and, of course, the Williams sisters of the United States, the Krakow kin threaten to turn Poland into a bona fide "tennis nation".

Since her own junior triumph at the All England Club in 2005, Agnieszka has made the transition to the senior ranks with style, grace and confidence. The elder Radwanska has collected four Tour titles on her way to her current ranking of 11, including Eastbourne just last week. And, by defeating Elena Dementieva in the final at Istanbul in May, she passed another kind of milestone: the million dollar mark in prize-money.

Now it's Urszula's turn to hold up her side of the bargain. So far, moving up has been a challenge. Now 17, this year she has fallen in the qualifying rounds at Hobart, the Australian Open and, more recently, Prague, the French Open and Eastbourne. Nonetheless, she has improved by
about 60 places in the rankings, and by virtue of her exploits at SW19 last year, the world number 190 was granted a wild card at these Championships. She certainly made the most of the opportunity in the first round, beating Czech Klara Zakopalova, 6-1, 6-4, for her first main draw win.

The reward for that effort is a chance to strut her stuff against eight-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, on Centre Court no less.

The younger Radwanska has a reputation for being rather more fiery than Agnieszka, and she will need to channel that energy in just the right way to stand any chance against the world number six. The drop shot is Radwanska's favourite ploy, so Williams can expect to scramble now and then, and her forehand also has the potential to cause damage.

Given the gulf in experience, it is probably too early to talk of an upset. But Radwanska is a fighter, and it is only natural she be keen to steal some of her sister's limelight. A good showing today would more than do the trick.

Adam Lincoln

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Liberal Anti Catholic Party

The new leader of the post-communist Polish Democratic Left Alliance party (SLD), Grzegorz Napieralski, has issued a challenge to the country's powerful Catholic Church. He has called for the removal of the crucifix from Poland's national parliament, the dismissal of military chaplains, the end of religion classes in public schools, and a ban on presidential participation in televised Catholic Masses.

He has also hinted that he would get rid of the notorious concordat with the Church. Now the Polish media is hailing him as the country's very own answer to Zapatero (the modernizing Prime Minister who has challenged Church privilege in Spain). It is not clear yet what kind of public support Napieralski will get for his populist and anti-clerical stance, but his bold start has irritated the Church leaders who are already trying to downplay and trash his ambitions.

A good dose of Liberalism. Open mouth, pinch nose, swallow.

Coming Clean on Katyn?

Is settlement on Katyn coming anytime soon? Nothing symbolizes the Soviet attitude to truth more than the World War II Katyn massacre: having shot 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in cold blood, the Kremlin then blamed it on the Nazis.

Recently a Russian court declined to hear a case on two issues: the declassification of documents about Katyn and the judicial rehabilitation of the victims. That would be like having a German court telling Holocaust survivors that Auschwitz files were top secret.

Relatives are pressing to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but must exhaust other legal avenues first.

Russian higher courts might see the case differently. Sensitive to world public opinion Vladimir Putin is currently calling Katyn a "political crime" in interviews, and suggests that the Russians are changing their attitude.

One risk for Russia is a defeat at Strasbourg. Another is the effect on public opinion of a new film, "Katyn", by Andrzej Wajda, Poland's best-known director, that is filling cinemas in the West and in Russia.

If Russia's new leadership wants to distance itself from the revisionist Soviet nostalgia of recent times, coming clean about Katyn would be a good start.

Gleaned from: The Economist

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Teen's pregnancy fuels Poland's abortion debate

The pregnancy of a 14-year old girl from Lublin has generated a tense public debate about abortion in Poland. It is unclear whether the girl's pregnancy is the result of rape. The girl has been indecisive about whether she wants to give birth to her unborn child or abort him.

The father of the child is a classmate from school. The girl's mother has insisted that her daughter abort the baby and has had her daughter transferred to another school. The mother has also requested the assistance of the Polish branch of Planned Parenthood, the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning.

Movie Defiance Coming this Fall

Defiance is about three Jewish brothers who escape from Poland in WWII and attempt to survive in the Belarussian forest with an entire village of people while defending them from German attacks.

View the movie trailer above.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Poles Job Finished in Iraq

Polish forces will be out of Iraq by the middle of October and will hand over to the Iraqis responsibility for the whole province of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad.

The last Polish soldier will exit Iraq in mid-October.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who came to power in October 2007, pledged a quick withdrawal from Iraq during his election campaign. Twenty-two Polish soldiers have died in Iraq since 2003, when Poland's then left-wing/former Communist president Aleksander Kwaśniewski deployed a force of 2,600 troops to Diwaniyah region in support of the US-led invasion that year.

The move drew harsh criticism in Europe, especially from Germany and France, both of which vehemently opposed the invasion. They accused Poland, which was poised to join the European Union in 2004, of betraying the bloc.

1,600 Polish troops are also deployed in Afghanistan, serving with NATO battling a Taliban-led insurgency. The Afghanistan mission is almost as unpopular as that in Iraq, but Tusk's government has not signalled any moves to pull out.

The Polish command in Iraq also had troops from a dozen other coalition of the willing countries under its command structure. The tours of duty in Iraq and Afganistan made Polish troops "battle tested" and better prepared in an uncertain world.

Soon, Poland like the U.S. will have an all volunteer force.

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