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November 15 2013

Polish Right-Wing Nationalists Hijack Country's Independence Day

Nationalists at Rozdroze Square, picture posted on Twitter by @PolandTalks

Nationalists at Rozdroze Square; image posted by @PolandTalks, used with permission

Poland's National Independence Day, traditionally celebrated on November 11, ended in violence this year. Young right-wing Poles torched cars, threw stones at police and even attacked and set fire to the Russian Embassy in Warsaw during a march organized by a nationalist movement. Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades, then detained around a dozen individuals from a group of a few hundred mostly masked men who began the march.

Over the last few years, Warsaw's inhabitants anticipate Independence Day with mixed feelings of fear and disgust. Usually a festive day that is supposed to unite Polish citizens in a joyful celebration of independence regained in 1918 after more than 100 years of foreign rule, this one turned out to be quite the opposite. Political discourse over the issue of patriotism and ways of expressing one's national pride was dominated by the definitions and viewpoints of right-wing nationalist and neo-fascist groups.

Twitter user @p_ministra tweeted a comment from her grandmother that perfectly depicted the day:

My grandma called me today (with a teary voice): Anuszka, how did you survive this independence yesterday?!

- p_ministra (@p_ministra), November 12, 2013

This tendency has recently been highly supported by the media, which have been looking for controversial content to improve their ratings. It has become clear that only the few “true Poles” will be defining what it actually means to be a patriot. It has also become obvious that the definitions of patriotism provided by these few are tremendously narrow and based on the drastic exclusion of many groups identified as “alien elements”.

And so the spiral began towards the violent events of November 11, 2013 during a ring-wing march organized by All-Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska) in Warsaw. During this march, a group of masked men attacked two squats in downtown of Warsaw and set fire to artistic installation [pl, photos] “The Rainbow” – a representation supporting LGBT rights, located in the most popular nightlife area of the city – then proceeded to attack the Russian Embassy. Poland Talks, a blog that follows social struggles in Poland, tweeted:

Poland seems to be painfully helpless in this matter, not for lack of trying to find a solution though. In the past few years, some attempts to block marches like this one were quite successful, but many now believe that they just escalated the violence instead of reducing it. So a decision was made this year to, instead of banning their march, organize an alternative march on a different day for those who refuse to support the exclusive definition of belonging by these ring-wing groups and believe in a broader one. 

The meme says:

The meme says: “Poland / USA – why are we able to copy Haloween, but a shared national party – not really? picture posted on demotywatory.pl

This alternative march was organised on November 9, 2013 by a coalition of organisations dubbed Together Against Nationalism, and it had a significant turnout.

A statement by coalition organisers said:

We turn to you on the 75th anniversary Kristallnacht in Germany when hordes of Nazis, with the support of the state apparatus, intensified the persecution of the Jewish minority. Europe today is reminiscent of the times of the Great Depression. As a result of social exclusion there is increased support for the violence embedded in nationalist, racist and fascist ideas.[...]

The most effective way to combat these sick ideas is with social self-organisation. In Poland local groups of antifascists have brought about the cancellation of many events organised by the nationalists. We have also blocked the attempt by the National Movement to make inroads into the academic world. We will allow neither the tragic events of the past nor the present incidents to pass unnoticed.

Immediately after the riots started, many questioned why the city's authorities were not prepared for the expected violence. Since authorities were never very fond of the squats, it is suspected by some that the police were somehow instructed to do nothing during the attack and let the hooligans do the job that the city isn't allowed to. A statement published by the inhabitants of Squat Syrena [pl] said:

Today, on Independence Day, the police maintained constant patrol over the streets Skorupki and Wilcza where the autonomous spaces Syrena and Przychodnia are located.

About 3:30 PM, the nationalist March of Independence moved through the city center. The police troops standing guard near Skorupki street dispersed and disappeared.

Simultaneously, a several dozen-strong group of neo-Nazi demonstrators arrived. They broke the chains at the gate and entered the site. Armed with machetes, bottles, and clubs, they proceded to attack the people inside. At the moment, Syrena’s quarters held eight children aged 3 to 14, among other persons.

The greatest damage was done to Przychodnia – with cars burned and destroyed, people injured, and windowpanes knocked out. For about thirty minutes – due to the police forces’ retreating – we were forced to defend ourselves on our own. Had it not been for our firm response, the scene would have ended in tragedy: the neo-Nazi attackers were ready to kill.

This is what your ‘patriotism’ looks like today. Every single person taking part in the Independence March shares the responsibility for the attacks on homes of evicted families, of the elderly, of people with disabilities and all those who cannot afford neither their rent nor a 30-year bank loan.

This is reality in Warsaw today – those in power evict, the fascists strike.

We will endure both.

Rainbow - an artistic instalation by Julita Wójcik, built in the centre of Warsaw as a symbol of tolerance, was burnt. Picture Posted by @PolandTalks

Rainbow – an artistic installation by Julita Wójcik, built in the centre of Warsaw as a symbol of tolerance, was burnt. Photo posted by @PolandTalks

The following day, many Warsaw citizens showed their solidarity with the values under attack by decorating the burnt rainbow and creating Facebook groups demanding that the guilty parties rebuild it themselves.

Picture posted by @</a><a href=czapskipawel, drawn by a famous blogging cartoonist AndrzejRysuje.pl. The girl says " class="size-medium wp-image-442190" height="400" src="http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/BY87-reCEAA5lby.jpg-large-332x400.jpeg" width="332" />

Cartoon posted by @czapskipawel, drawn by famed cartoonist AndrzejRysuje.pl. The girl says “People are decorating the burnt rainbow with flowers, on Friday there is a flash mob organised – people will be kissing under the burnt rainbow and the nationalists are supposed to pay for its reconstruction…”

“Rainbow in Poland” – satirical picture posted by @p_ministra

There were many, who highlighted the right of citizens to march under any circumstances, blaming organisational skills of the march leaders rather than the general attitude of it's participants:

It's true – the Independence March was not perfect. But it was better than a year ago. And Poland with this March is better then on without it!

- Krzysztof Bosak (@krzysztofbosak), 12 November 2013

Hanna Kozłowska, a Polish blogger writing for Foreign Policy Blog highlighted the influence of the change in political moods over the last years on the events of November 11, 2013:

While the nationalist hooligans make up a fringe group, their actions reflect a larger shift in Polish society. With the once vigorous economic growth falling from 4.5 percent in 2011 to 1.8 in 2012, the unemployment rate high at 13%, Poles are increasingly dissatisfied with their government, the European Union and their lives. Polls indicate that the main conservative party, Law and Justice which has been out of power since 2007, is now gaining support over the centrist, pro-European Civic Platform, idle and incompetent in the eyes of many.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

June 13 2012

Poland: Football Fans Clash Ahead of Poland-Russia Game

Over 180 people were detained due to clashes that broke out between rival Russian and Polish football fans in Warsaw on June 12. Unrest started during the march organised to mark the Russian National Day, attended by thousands of visiting Russian fans ahead of the Poland-Russia Euro 2012 game at the National Stadium.

Concern about possible tensions had been expressed by several newspapers and public figures prior to the march, given the troubled history of the two countries. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, the Mayor of Warsaw, recognised the problem, but stated that “the Russian fans' delegation promised that there wouldn't be any political exclamations on their part.”

Gronkiewicz-Waltz called the day of the march “the main challenge for the city during the Euro 2012 championship.”

Clashes in the centre of Warsaw. Photo by Nikodem Szymański, used with permission.

Clashes in the centre of Warsaw. Photo by Nikodem Szymański, used with permission.

The idea of holding the march had also caused quite some buzz among the Polish netizens. A few days before the march, Salon24 user szkielkooko wrote [pl]:

Clashes during the Euro are inevitable. […] Polish hooligans will definitely oppose the march, and organise some spectacular fights to “repay the Russians” for the years of communism, partitions and the bloody supressions of the Polish uprisings in the 19th century. This kind of behaviour is almost openly encouraged by the right-wing journalists.

Salon24 user rybitzky also pointed out [pl] the stance that the mainstream media took in this situation:

The mainstream media suddenly started to act as if they were completely crazy. Maybe the journalists got so sucked into the atmosphere of the Euro that they forgot their usual strategy of promoting the Polish-Russian reconciliation?

@polococto wrote [pl]:

If the Mayor allowed a march of two rival Polish football teams through the city center, would anyone be surprised by the clashes?

@jakmarcin called for the reasonable evaluation of the unrest [pl]:

The German media describe the clashes objectively, as a minor outburst of aggression on the both sides

Clashes in the centre of Warsaw. Photo by Nikodem Szymański, used with permission.

Clashes in the centre of Warsaw. Photo by Nikodem Szymański, used with permission.

Some people are interpreting the riots as part of the political game between the ruling party and the opposition.

@DziadekWaldemar wrote [pl]:

There is only one political party in Poland that can gain from those clashes, and it's the right-wing [PIS] and its supporters, they have links with the hooligans […]

Salon24 user mojsiewicz wrote [pl]:

The ruling party is ready to burn down half of Warsaw only to stay in power. These clashes are the only thing that can draw attention of the public away from almost 3 million Poles living in poverty.

Some people point out that the hooligan clashes in Warsaw gained much more attention in the interational press than the “March of the Millions” - a massive protest rally organised on the same day in Moscow by the opposition.

@OlgaAlehno wrote:

WELL DONE PUTIN! A march of 200,000 opposing him, held in Moscow, was outdone by some minor clashes in Warsaw. […]

February 15 2012

Poland and ACTA: Gossip Portal Accuses Mainstream Media of Ignorance

“In what kind of country are we living and how pathetic are the media here, if an article like this had to be written by an internet portal with a poodle in their logo? - in these humble words a popular Polish gossip portal “Pudelek” decided [pl] to join the ACTA discussion with a post on February 10, accusing the Polish mainstream media and the local celebrities of missing the point and of ignorance in the debate about the controversial legislation. Meanwhile, on February 11, ACTA protesters took the streets in many European countries, including Poland.

It has been almost three weeks since January 24, when Polish netizens started their protest - which soon turned Europe-wide - against the international agreement that, according to them, presents a threat to internet freedom. Numerous internet initiatives [pl] and massive live protests on the streets of many Polish cities induced a debate [pl] about the “generation acta” and their motivations.

While major information services published political analyses and focused on the events that shaped the debate (e.g., Anonymous attacks [pl] and deputies of a certain party wearing [pl] Guy Fawkes masks in the parliament), the most popular Polish gossip portal decided to speak up [pl] on the “real motives of the raging young people” in an article called, “ACTA: How celebrities lost contact with reality.”

The biggest Polish gossip portal decided to speak up for young people. Screenshot of http://pudelek.pl

So let's write about what is not being spoken out - about what is the real reason for the protest and anger that suddenly surprises everybody now: the Internet “piracy” for private use is today the only way for millions of young Poles to live at least a bit like their collegues from Western Europe. To have access to culture, entertainment, to be able to watch a movie on the computer with the girlfriend. This is actually not only a Polish problem. This is a problem of the whole young population in Europe that doesn't have any chance to do a career like their parents did and buy the same apartments they once bought. Everyone who went lately to Italy, Spain, Portugal or even France or Great Britain and took a look at something more than monuments, knows that. In Poland, where almost everything is more expensive than in the West and salaries are three times lower, it is especially visible, like looking through a magnifying glass. But for some people it is apparently not clear enough, even after massive demonstrations with -10°C cold.

The portal criticises some celebrities for their statements about the protests and for defending radical copyright and calling file-sharing a “theft” - while being so well off with money. The authors also ask [pl] why the media coverage of the movement isn't big enough considering such a massive scale of the protests:

Why aren't TV stations shouting about it? 30,000 people chanting, jumping on frost in Krakow! What happened in the last years that, according to them, was more important than this?

The portal recalls [pl] a couple of YouTube videos showing the recent protests, stressing that these are just a few examples out of many, many more. Here is an example showing 30,000 protesters in Krakow, uploaded on YouTube by skitowiec on January 26, 2012:

These are just a couple of videos. Do they make you reflect? If somebody doesn't appreciate this, belittles it, it means that he's completely not up-to-date and doesn't understand what actually happened here. What does this civilisation offer to young people if it takes cheap culture and entertainment away from them? Does it offer a good job? Perspectives? You got to be kidding me.

The reaction to the post was enormous: the article has reached nearly 7,000 supporting comments and 8,000 shares on Facebook. The compelling post caused also an immediate reaction from the mainstream media. A journalist of Gazeta.pl [pl], Pawel Wronski, published a mocking article titled, “On the barricades with a poodle” [pl], in which he stressed the tabloid character of the medium and its attempt to comment on a serious matter. The reaction of the readers in the newspaper's forum was devastating [pl] for the journalist. Also Pudelek itself answered [pl] with another post:

It's hard to accept the truth, especially when it comes from a pink gossip portal. But what does it have to do with anything? It's just about millions of people who can read it now. Because it's not our own opinions we wrote down here. We wrote down what you [readers] have been sending to us in thousands of emails. […] The problem is that we wrote the very thing that you [the media] were afraid to write […]. How can you be sure that you're expressing somebody's voice, that you can look down on millions of our readers with distaste and that you are an authority for anybody? Do you think that smart people don't read gossip?

Aleksandra Jabloonska supports [pl] Pudelek's post on Facebook and talks about her experience:

I'm impressed that somebody finally had the courage to write it - it's just a pity (no offense) that it had to be the editors of “Pudelek” and not “the free TV and facts for people.” I will give a real-life example: I'm studiyng film and theater. We are required to know all the film history. If I had to watch legally all these movies that they need me to know, I would have to spend [too much money]. But that's not a problem for the state or the university as long as I have internet access - because they assume that I can afford it. I wonder how they imagine such education after implementing ACTA, if the university is not able to make these materials available and the state doesn't give a damn. It's sad, really sad.

Young Poles protest against ACTA but also against the everyday reality. Image by Alexey Sidorenko, used with permission.

Karolina, for whom the article was the first she read on a gossip portal, comments [pl] under the post:

For the first time I've read an article on “Pudelek.” A wise and balanced text. A text describing the world of celebrities whose only contact with poverty is limited to attending a charity gala. It's a weird country, Poland.

Martyna Tina comments [pl] on Facebook:

I was very happy to see that you took our opinions under consideration and wrote about the ACTA problem. Because although this doesn't concern only young people, the older didn't make the effort to read even a bit. They watch TV and there of course the cameramen film in a way to show the least people (seriously!) and they don't say: Poles went on the streets - but they say: somehow not so many people showed up for the protest. They marginalise the problem, labelling it to youth, to the internet, to pirates, to thieves. Thieves are the big corporations, bankers and dishonest politicians.

Blogger niekontent doesn't believe in charitable intentions of the gossip portal and reminds [pl] them that the mainsteram media actually provided a pretty big coverage on ACTA:

Here is the news: with all my respect for the talented editors, but “Pudelek” doesn't touch upon such topics as ACTA unless they become relevant (meaning “interesting,” meaning “clickable”) for the street. This is the logic behind a service that achieved a huge success based on this simple mechanism.

A truth hard to deny, but still, the immense reaction to the post on a portal that normally writes about movie stars' break-ups and best Grammy outfits, should make the media reflect on their overall condition. Are they mirroring the voice of the young generation, are they able to listen? To some extent, young Poles consider the protest an occassion to express their anger against the political elites and the reality they have to live in day by day.

Blogger niekontent finds [pl] the discussion somewhat sad:

It's sad how much Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the most important representatives of the so-called “old media,” stopped to understand the young generations of Poles, those who grew up with the internet. What is worse, sometimes I'm afraid that Gazeta Wyborcza (generally speaking, not individual people) stopped to understand what internet is about. […] It's sad that one of the most aggresive and uncompromising tabloids, which “Pudelek” is, became an authority for a mass of young Poles. […] What is also sad is that the voice of “Pudelek” in this debate sounds just stronger, more honest.

January 25 2012

Poland: Government Will Sign ACTA Despite Massive Protest

“The Acta agreement in no way changes Polish laws or the rights of internet users and internet usage.” - despite a massive Internet protest and controversies around the secret manner of negotiations, Minister of Administration and Digitisation Michal Boni admitted after the meeting with PM Donald Tusk that the government would sign the anti-piracy agreement ACTA on January 26, as planned.

In an interview with a radio station, Boni said [pl] that it was impossible not to sign the agreement, because it was too late: Poland joined the negotiation process in 2008 and all the other European countries have already signed it. He added that Poland “should attach a clause to the treaty that would show how we interpret these articles”. Boni promised [pl] broad public consultations during the European ratification process. Several Polish NGOs expressed [pl] their disappointment with the government's stance on ACTA and appealed to change the decision.

Since January 21, online hackers calling themselves Anonymous have been attacking and shuting down government websites almost constantly, in a chaotic protest against the plans to sign the international treaty on Thursday.

TANGO DOWN: User @Anonymouswiki owns up to the web attacks on the websites of the prime minister, the parliament and other government entities. Screenshot: Twitter @Anonymouswiki

Although the hackers still enjoy a strong support among netizens, and the attacks were one of the reasons the mainstream media picked up the topic of ACTA, the group also faces a lot of criticism from the major Polish tech-bloggers. Maciej Gajewski from Spiderweb calls them [pl] “crying kids worried for their mp3″ and regrets that they became the face of the protest giving the government officials an argument against the movement:

Critics, mistrust and suspicion is one thing, but panic, mumbling and spreading disinformation is another thing. Looking at some finds on the biggest Polish social news platforms, looking at the comments of some readers, I get the impression that the lion's share of the protesters have no idea what ACTA is about. They've made up fantastic stories and are passing them on. The mass is getting crazy “Impale PM”, “Let's burn the Minister on the stake!”, “They will all lock us down in prisons!”. And then also Anonymous, who just make the whole protest look ridiculous in the eyes of mature older voters.

Over 900 Polish websites went dark on January 24

As opposed to the web attacks on government websites, Antyweb called [pl] on his blog on January 23 for a protest “in a cultured way, namely, a blackout” and provided a script and an instruction on how to do it. In response, more than 900 websites decided to “go dark” and display an anti-ACTA message. Allegro, the Polish equivalent of Ebay, placed an “anti-ACTA” banner next to the company's logo. The list of the websites taking part in the protest is available here.

"This is what the Internet might look like very soon. NO to ACTA" - over 900 Polish websites decided to go dark on January 24 in protest against the treaty. Screenshot: http://spiderweb.pl

The opposition party, the Democratic Left Alliance, also said the government should not sign the agreement and blackouted its website [pl] in solidarity.

While the global media, with a few exceptions, keep silent about the Polish protest, national information services race to publish dozens of opinions, analyses and the latest reports on the ACTA case. In the meantime, the protest movement seems to be getting bigger and bigger: the anti-ACTA protest event on Facebook Nie dla ACTA has reached over 400,000 fans. A real-life protest in Warsaw gathered [pl] around 1,000 people on Tuesday, and another one is being planned for Wednesday, January 25.

"Screw corporations, long live the people": many Polish protesters went on the streets on January 24. Photo by Alexey Sidorenko, used with permission.

Vagla, a popular Polish digital rights blogger, shared this hope [pl] on Twitter on January 24:

I guess that slowly people start to understand that this is not a discussion about “piracy” and “thieves” but about the direction in which our civilisation is heading.

***

Update:

Later on January 24, PM Tusk confirmed officially [pl] at a press conference that Poland will sign ACTA on January 26. At the same time, he stressed that the government will not give in to blackmail, meaning the earlier web attacks. Poland strives for internet freedom, said Tusk.

January 22 2012

Poland: Netizens Protest Government's Plan To Sign ACTA Next Week

With the world still talking about the aftermath of the SOPA/PIPA Blackout Day, Polish netizens are confronted with another backstabbing development in the fight for free Internet.

On January 19, during a meeting with NGOs and business representatives, the Polish government announced [pl] that it would sign the controversial anti-piracy agreement ACTA on January 26. While the governement calls it a success [pl] of the Polish EU Presidency, netizens are outraged with the arbitrary decision and are calling to take action against the proposal.

Image by flickr user PateandoPiedrasweb under the CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.

ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a proposed plurilateral agreement for the purpose of establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. According to La Quadrature du Net and other globally active digital rights organisations, such as Electronic Frontier Foundation or European Digital Rights, ACTA would impose new criminal sanctions forcing Internet actors to monitor and censor online communications. Creating legal uncertainty for Internet companies, ACTA would become a major threat to freedom of expression online and another assault against the culture of sharing on the Internet.

The decision of the Polish government [pdf, pl] to sign the “European SOPA” worries [pl] blogger Maciej Gajewski from the tech website Spiderweb.pl:

Lately, one talks a lot about SOPA and PIPA bills and this is very good: in my opinion, these are the reprehensible bills and I think that the goal should never justify the means. For the Polish netizens the consequences of these two bills are negligible. If they were adopted, they would concern us only regarding the possibility to block our website for people in the USA. And that's actually it. But meanwhile, just in one week, our country, as a country subordinated to the European Union, will join the ACTA agreement. And this can hurt us. Very much.

An agreement negotiated behind the people's backs

But it's not only the content of the agreement proposal that upsets the netizens. The very secret character of the international ACTA negotiations and a stunning lack of public consultations and transparency in the negotiating process are clearly pointing to a democracy failure, according to [pl] Antyweb, a popular Polish tech-blogger:

They promised debates - nothing. They promised openness - nothing. Democracy is being destroyed, the deputies don't know what they are signing, and all this will lead to a situation when bloggers, scientists and entrepreneurs will be qualified as criminals. And if not, they will anyway walk on thin ice, paying attention not to step on a patent spot with an additinal R letter in a circle on the right side.

The digital rights blog Prawo.vagla.pl criticises [pl] the scandalous ignorance of the Polish government:

We found out that, of course, it's no longer possible to withdraw the decision about the signature of a Polish representative on the ACTA document, that this signature will be put and it will open the way to the ratification procedure. I asked the representatives of these ministries if they had any plan in case the European or the Polish Parliament would not not agree to the ratification. I heard that “it would put us to shame.” I wonder what is a bigger shame, and if it's not maybe the way of working on this kind of an international agreement where the public opinion couldn't get the public information it deserves.

In reaction to the netizens' protest, the Polish Minister of Administration and Digitalisation, Michal Boni [pl], asked [pl] the PM Donald Tusk to re-discuss the agreement before signing it. The meeting [pl] will take place on January 24.

ACTA has to be stopped

In the meantime the Polish Internet is fuming with anger. Facebook pages, such as Poland against ACTA & SOPA and NIE dla ACTA w Polsce, spring up like mushrooms and gather hundreds of thousands of netizens around the protest. On the wall of the Facebook event Nie dla ACTA, Rafal Mirski writes [pl]:

I am in favor of intellectual property protection but not with these methods! This is throwing the baby out with the bath water. You can't allow to subordinate the whole Internet to any group of interest. ACTA is forcing Internet providers to censorship! And it is in fact puzzling how fast, without any public debate, one tries to dictate some solutions. We definitely have to stop it!

Maciej Gajewski from Spiderweb doesn't like [pl] the perspective of being monitored all the time:

First of all: although I don't share anything illegal on the net, I don't feel comfortable knowing that somebody is registering my every step on the Internet. Even if it's an automatic machine. Secondly, these will cause huge costs for the providers. Our activity has to be monitored and archived. Let's prepare for a big raise of Internet prices.

Polish digital rights organisations sent an appeal [pdf, pl] to the PM, drawing his attention to the risks of ACTA. On Wykop, a Polish version of Digg, user katius posted a protest letter [pl] to the Members of the Parliament, encouraging other users to address their representatives with the issue. A series of live protest events [pl] in the biggest Polish cities are planned to take place.

A Polish Blackout?

Encouraged by the SOPA/PIPA protest success in the United States, blogger Antyweb calls on his blog [pl] for a Polish blackout:

We have to arrange a specific date (pretty fast) and switch off in the Polish web whatever we can while displaying information about ACTA and about damaging democracy. We need to draw peoples' attention to the fact that this is not the way to take decisions in a modern democratic state. Americans could make it, Poles can do it as well - especially the “internet”-ones. What about Monday, [January 23]? But which of the Polish websites will give up money in the name of defending democracy and free Internet?

Also, the Polish Wikipedia community is considering a blackout [pl] and is in the process of editing an anti-ACTA manifest [pl].

Last hope: European Parliament's veto right

The whole situation looks a bit less dramatic once we consider that the Polish signature alone doesn't change anything yet. The agreement needs to be ratified by the European Parliament. Antyweb writes [pl]:

If we want to fight ACTA, then we need to do it on the European Parliament level - it is there where ACTA will have its “to be or not to be.” The EP can dismiss ACTA completely and then the bill lands in trash. Amen. But it doesn't change the fact that it is worthy to take action on January 26.

As promising as it sounds, isn't it quite dissapointing that instead of counting on one's own government to protect civil and digital rights of its citizens, one has to rely on the reason of EU politicians? Twitter user @PrzemoBrozek sums it up [pl]:

On January 26 Poland will sign ACTA. According to the agreement, Internet providers will have to monitor all users' activities. 1984 MODE ON.

***

Update:

On January 21, around 7 PM, Anonymous hackers have blocked access to the websites of the Sejm, the lower Chamber of the Polish Parliament, the Chancellery of the PM, the President, and the Ministry of Culture. At the time of writing this article, the websites are still offline.

January 09 2012

COP17: Young Trackers Share Final Thoughts on Climate Change Talks

Adopt a Negotiator Project trackers updated their blogs daily during the two weeks of climate change talks at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP17, held from November 28 to December 9, 2011, in South Africa. Trackers followed negotiations from their regional perspectives, writing in languages like Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, French, Polish and English.

One of the major results of the conference was the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding international treaty to reduce green house emissions. However, the commitment was weak, as major polluters like Canada, US, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand refused to sign into this second period.

Climate activists and organizations of civil society were disappointed about the outcomes of the conference, especially because countries agreed to a new legal instrument that will replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2020, when urgent action is needed.

Here are were some of the most relevant conclusions written by the trackers:

South Africa tracker Alex Lenferna reports on the final events in the post “An Interim Disappointment at COP 17″:

I should be on a bus home now; instead I’m sitting in the ICC waiting for the proverbial white smoke to emerge as ministers try to bring COP17 to a close. Last night was supposed to be the closing night for COP 17, but there has been much disagreement among the global community around some very problematic texts that are being discussed around long-term cooperative action and the Kyoto Protocol…

Farrukh Zaman, following Pakistan, writes in “Decisions at COP17: Delayed or Derailed?”:

So while the delay has happened at COP17, let’s hope the negotiations don’t get derailed by postponing them till next year. But just one thing of caution, even though time has and is running out, we don’t need haste decisions; rather we want fair, ambitious and balanced package out of Durban. If that can’t happen here, then COP bis can be our last resort.

France tracker Sébastien Duyck in “Endless conference towards an agreement on never ending negotiations” concludes:

Regarding negotiations for a comprehensive agreement that would include legally binding targets for emissions reduction, the Presidency proposes yet another extension of the discussions. This approach convinces few among the observers still in the conference venue. It appears that we keep relaying on the same solutions (creating a new ad-hoc working group…), despite the fact that they have already been tested repeatedly in the past and have not delivered any successful outcome since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Daily Trackers meeting - COP17, Durban. Photo by Andrea Arzaba

In “Do białego rana. Noc kobiet” (”Until dawn. Women's Night”), Milosz Hordun, Poland's tracker, says:

Ta noc należy do kobiet. Po pierwsze jest Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, przewodnicząca obradom. Zdecydowanie zmęczona ostatnimi dwoma tygodniami. Stara się skutecznie prowadzić strony do celu, udowadniając że afrykański COP może być skuteczny i przełomowy. Często jednak się gubi w procedurach, musi prosić o wsparcie sekretariatu. Jest Conni Hedegaard, unijna komisarz. Także na jej twarzy maluje się zmęczenie. Widać, że trudno jest jej znosić ogromną presję psychiczną, związaną z rozbratem między oczekiwaniami wielu Europejczyków oraz środowisk ekologicznych na całym świecie a możliwościami negocjacyjnymi.

This night is a women's night. First of all, there is Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who chairs the session. She is definitively tired from the last two weeks. She does her best to lead the two sides towards a common goal, proving that the African COP may be successful and become a turning point. However, she gets lost in the proceedings quite often; she has to ask the secretary for help. There is also Connie Hedegaard - European Commissioner [for Climate Action]. Though tiredness is written all over her face, too. You can see how difficult it is for her to handle this enormous pressure as there is a gap between what many Europeans and environmentalist through the globe hope for and negotiating possibilities.

Priti Rajagopalan, from India, summarized the conference's accomplishments in the post “COP17-This is what happened“:

5.18am, International Convention Center, Durban

The verdict is out. What was accomplished at Durban.

1) Something called the Durban railtrack or trackroad ..oh, wait…platform.
2) Empty second commitment period
3) Empty green climate fund
4) Sleepy people most of whom had left by the time the final verdict was given.
5) How manipulative, apparently transparent democratic , multilateral process works.
6) People are looking for CBDR and Bali. If someone finds it, please return it.
7) Unclear mitigation target.
8) Massive failure of a peaceful kind.

To read other final posts of trackers following the United States, Mexico, Australia, China, Canada and New Zealand, among many others,  visit Adopt a Negotiator Project webpage.

Andrea Arzaba participated in COP17 as a Young Tracker for Mexico [es].
Thanks to Krzysztof Pawliszak for translating Milosz Hordun's quote.

December 15 2011

Poland: Change to Drug Law, Change in Policy?

On Dec. 9, an important change [pl] was introduced to the Polish drug policy: an amendment to the law on illegal drug possession came into force, which would allow prosecutors to abandon initiation of the criminal procedure against those in possesion of drugs. It is to be possible under three conditions: when defendant is in possesion of only a small amount of drugs, when the drug is for personal use only, and when punishing a person in question would be pointless, due to harmless nature of the crime.

The Polish drug law is considered to be one of the most severe in Europe. Possesion of drugs still remains illegal, but from now on it is for a prosecutor in a specific case to decide, whether it is to be treated as an offence or as a misdemeanour. One of the parts of the new amendment, which is surely to be questioned, is the lack of a definition of what “a small amount of drugs” is.

Even though the change in law is small and its influence depends entirely on the prosecutor's interpretation of it, it is a step in the direction recommended by many influential politicians and experts around the world.

In June 2011, a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy called for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users. According to the report, anti-drug policy has failed to achieve its main goal - putting an end to or limiting organised crime. It has costed taxpayers millions of dollars and caused many people to die. In the report, the UN estimates are cited, which state that drug consumption increases every year.

The new law, passed by the parliment in March 2011, caused a heated debate, with 258 deputees in favour of the act and 159 opposing it. The blogosphere was also very fragmented in its evaluation of the parliment's decision.

Blogger mutant12 writes [pl]:

We shouldn't create a myth, claiming that all drugs are similarly dangerous. Decriminalising possesion of marijuana, or even legalising it, won't cause the Polish society to collapse. It won't cause widespread drug addiction. Possibly, more people would dare to use it, but would do so occasionally. I am against legalisation of drugs other than marijuana, though I strongly believe that drug-users should be offered health and treatment services insted of being sent to jail.

Blogger gugulskim doesn't approve of the new act, and being a supporter of the opposition party, blames the ruling one for passing it [pl]:

It all began in the [Sejm], in no time [the Senate ] will join in, and then the President would be given a chance as well [to overrule the act]. Less than a year after [the tragedy in Smolensk], thanks to the elimination of the threat of a veto from the late president [Lech Kaczyński], supporters of the drugs legalisation achieved their first big victory. Which MPs voted for the act, supporting the legalisation of the so-called “light drugs”? […] 100 percent of the opposition voted against it!

On the bangladeszcz blog, where news on the Polish drug policy are published, the editor writes [pl]:

A step towards normalcy! Sejm moderates the drug law!

A fragment of a graffiti dedicated to problems of the Polish drug policy. It depicts prof. Wiktor Osiatyński, a famous Polish lawer, supporter of the changes to the Polish drug law. The quote states: "Addicts are humans as well, only a bit more sensitive ones"

The most heated debates took place among those who commented on the official online news.

Lech from Boston, USA, writes:

Once again the [Civic Platform-Polish People's Party] coalition shows that it only undertakes legislative actions to harm Poland and the Poles. Don't you see, those back in the country, what these people are doing?!?! These are not innocent children!!! These are people who consequently destroy the Polish sovereignty with unbelievable speed!

Mandark replies [pl]:

This is the best change in the legislation that the ruling party has ever introduced. Unfortunately, we have to admit that those changes are really small. Depenalisation of drug users (as opposed to drug dealers) should be obligatory. A huge mistake was made by turning down the amendment proposed by MP Marek Balicki, which suggested establishing actual limits for the amount of a drug considered as “for personal use.”

LGPhantom adds [pl]:

This amendment doesn't change the situation at all, it doesn't change the Polish drug policy.

Many Twitter users, like @Liroy or @bartoszc, recommended [pl] a YouTube video, where a Harvard economy professor explains why some of the drugs should be decriminalised:

@MamyWas wrote:

[Law and Justice] says that drugs should be illegal, but what is more addictive - marijuana or Law and Justice membership?

It is more than certain that the debate would last for a long time, for the new law is unclear and leaves a lot of space for personal interpretation. But with a loss of about 80 milion zlotych a year [pl] (approx. $23 million; as calculated by the Institute of Public Affairs) on repressions against drug users, and faced with the global crisis, further changes in policy may be just around the corner.

December 12 2011

Poland: Netizens Debate Proposal to Re-Introduce Death Penalty

In late November, Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's largest opposition party Law and Justice, announced that he favored re-introduction of the death penalty for “the gravest crimes.” The amendment to the penal code is to be presented to the parliment later this year, he said.

Kaczyński is currently facing a serious schism in his own party [pl], and although a mere announcement of such a view on capital punishment may be treated as a way to win over some voters, a huge debate concerning the subject has started nevertheless. Being part of the EU, it is highly unlikely that Poland would change the 1997 law that banned death penalty, but - as it turns out - a large part of the Polish society agrees with Mr. Kaczyński. After his statement, many among Polish right-wing politicians announced [pl] that they privately supported the capital punishment, although they accepted the Polish law, which marked it as illegal.

A survey on the subject, conducted in May by CBOS (Center for Public Opinion Reaserch), stated that 61 percent of the Polish population thought that “the death penalty should be used as a punishment in case of the most serious crimes,” and 34 percent of the respondents opposed it. The latest survey, conducted by the website of the most popular Polish daily newspaper, gazeta.pl [pl], after the debate had started, also shows that the majority consider re-establishment of the capital punishment a good idea.

According to the latest online survey, 51 percent of the respondents favor re-establishment of the death penalty for the gravest crimes

As the public debate developed, the blogosphere also didn't remain silent for too long. Blogger remigiuszmielczarek [pl], who claims to be “Kaczyński's opposition in all other cases,” writes:

I am 100% sure that death as a punishment for a proved murder case, a premeditated killing, is positively deserved and justified. That is my perception of justice – when punishment is equal to the deed commited. When [Hammurabi] cut off hands of a thief he wasn't just, because his punishment was too severe. But it really boggles my mind that a brutal murderer is to be enjoying his life, even if imprisoned for life. Is it really just? In my opinion - it is not.

[…] These days it seems awkward to publicly admit to be a death penalty supporter – even though it is said that most of the people privately do support it. […] One thing is certain: in this case the whole idea of a democratic majority doesn't seem to work…

Another blogger, michal1000, who posts on one of Poland's largest blog portals, salon24, writes [pl]:

I don't fear death penalty […] because a judgement like that doesn't have to be passed, not one execution has to be performed. If no one murders another person with exceptional brutality, rapes and strangles a victim, beats to death an innocent child, a sentence like that won't come into existence. Not one of the above actions is obligatory in Poland, all of them are committed as an act of free will. You can either be innocent of those crimes and not fear the capital punishment, or commit them and face the consequences.

Blogger mojapolskadomowa speaks out [pl] against the death penalty:

The brutal fight for the approval of the right-wing electorate results in yet another competition between two groups originated from “Law and Justice” - Kaczyński's supporters and [Ziobro's]. Jarosław Kaczyński announced during the press conference that he would take steps to make the penal code more severe. Among other changes, he wants to re-establish the death penalty. Does Kaczyński want to steal the appearance of a sheriff away from Ziobro? […] This type of punishment brings neither relief, nor atonement. No to the death penalty.

Another blogger, nocri, claims to be a death penalty supporter, but doesn't approve of Kaczyński's actions [pl]:

Yes, my dear readers, I personally don't have anything against death penalty. […] But… I live in Poland. I accepted the decision that my country would become part of the EU. And by that I accepted the legal restrictions, forcing my country to abolish this kind of quite cruel repay. And because I did that, I have to accept the fact that re-establishing death penalty in Poland is legally impossible. That is the result of a compromise, which I have accepted.

That is why I cannot understand why some politicians are still trying to gain something by playing the “death penalty card.” I guess this is because it's quite easy to play with people's emotions. But this kind of a political game deserves only to be condemned. It is unrealistic, it is populism. I am ashamed of you, Mr. Kaczyński, not for the first time.

According to the social media research conducted by Social Media Kompas, most of the posts on the subject were submitted by Twitter users [pl]. One of them, @gkaczmarek, stated:

Just a few years ago more than 70% of the Poles were death penalty supporters, so today's 51% doesn't surprise me at all.

Another one, @nmaliszewski, wrote [pl]:

And to sum up - no wonder support for Law and Justice declines, Poles strive to earn a living and all Kaczyński thinks about is death penalty and marches

Comparing Kaczyński's statements on death penalty, @gregorius74 finds some of them contradictory [pl]:

Law and Justice is for death penalty, but only in Poland. When it comes to Belarus, it's no longer true. So patriotic :))

Although Pope Benedict XVI has clearly stated that the Church opposes death penalty and described it as cruel and unnecessary, Kaczyński, who considers himself a believer, doesn't see any conflict, mentioning “the long history of the Church's approval for the death penalty.” A few days ago, in reaction to Kaczyński's statement, Cardinal Archbishop of Warsaw Kazimierz Nycz noted that “only God may take one's life” [pl]. Blogger mylilefeluke comments on the situation [pl]:

It seems that lately some of the Catholics have gone nuts, they want the re-establishment of death penalty - in the name of Christ - as they say. They are all the first ones to yell “don't kill, each life is sacred,” they want to protect life, and then that bunch of hypocrites wants to bring back capital punishment. This type of thinking goes way back, and although it is from another era, it will always be here because people always make the same mistakes, they don't learn from the past.

November 12 2011

Poland: Bloggers reactions to Tomasz Lis' announcement of “Polish Huffington Post”

Tomasz Lis, editor-in-chief of one of Poland's biggest weekly magazines, “Wprost”, and a host of a political talk show, announced the upcoming launch of a new journalistic platform in 2012 - unofficially called the “Polish Huffington Post” [pl]. His presentation generated lots of reactions, especially on Polish tech blogs, which criticized the idea. Among the critics are Maciej Budzich [pl] and Radek Zaleski [pl]. Lis suprised everyone by addressing allegations almost personally and publishing special answers to both Budzich [pl] and Zaleski [pl].

Poland: Bloggers React to the Death of Popular TV Show Character

Kominek [pl] summarizes bloggers' reactions to the death of Hanka Mostowiak [pl], a fictional character of one of the biggest TV hits ever in Poland, a soap opera called “M jak Miłość” (”L for Love”) [en]. In episode 862, Hanka dies in a car accident (as the actress who played her - Małgorzata Kożuchowska - had decided to leave the TV production). In the past months, the tabloid press has made quite an event out of Hanka's fate, leading bloggers to record one-minute videos called “A minute of silence for Hanka Mostowiak” to show that too much attention was given to this fictional event.

November 10 2011

Poland: Open Government Data Camp 2011 and the Future of Open Data

On Nov. 4, Anna Kuliberda of NetSquared posted a summary of the Open Government Data Camp 2011, which took place in Warsaw, Poland, on Oct. 21-22:

On 21-22 of October the capital of Poland hosted the biggest Open Government Data (OGD) event in the world this year. It was organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation with the cooperation of Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt Polska (link Polish only). There were more than 250 people from 41 countries. You could talk to techies, members of transparency-oriented NGOs, journalists, social activists, government officials, EU Commission representatives and so on. During two days of the main conference and almost a week of satellite events, there was a lot of time to review different approaches to open government data, especially in terms of new trends and the future of the movement. […]

Open Government Data Camp venue: 'Panorama of the former M25 underground electronica club in Warsaw industrial area, during the OGD Camp. Funky cyberpunk feeling.' (Photo by Flickr user RealIvanSanchez; CC BY-SA 2.0)

The previous Open Government Data Camp event was held in London last year, and, as Ramine Tinati pointed out,

The beginning of the day started with a certain level of surrealism. The location and setting of the conference building was different, very different. It was once a factory, but now transformed into a nightclub. Dark and cold was the order of the morning, with a kick off time of 9:45 (ish). Rufus Pollock opened Open Government Data Camp 2011 with a great keynote, giving a quick introduction into the progress of Open Data, then delivered a few key points which seemed to trend throughout the day:

• Data is useless without communities and tools
• Tools need to be open source
• The Open Data communities need to grow

David Eaves, in his blog post “The State of Open Data 2011,” named the successes of the past year:

[…] One of the things that has been amazing to witness in 2011 is the veritable explosion of Open Data portals around the world. Today there are well over 50 government data catalogs with more and more being added. The most notable of these was probably the Kenyan Open Data catalog which shows how far, and wide, the open data movement has grown. […]

He also wrote about the current state and challenges of the open data movement:

[…] I'm impressed by the hundreds and hundreds of people here at the Open Data Camp in Warsaw. It is fun to be able to recognize so many of the faces here, the problem is that I can recognize too many of them. We need to grow this movement. There is a risk that we will become complacent, that we'll enjoy the movement we've created and, more importantly, our roles within it. If that happens we are in trouble. Despite our successes we are far from reaching critical mass. […]

Open Knowledge Foundation published a series of videos from the event on Vimeo.com.

More coverage can be found here and on Twitter.

Reposted bymurdelta murdelta

November 09 2011

Czech Republic: Open Source Initiative to Visualize State Budget

KohoVolit's Michal Škop and Centrum Cyfrowe [pl] from Poland announced that the open source application Raw Salad [pl] used to hack the Polish state budget will also be used in the Czech Republic. Besides publishing the budget data using this new way, Czechs will also create a dedicated portal with visualisations of the selected data.

October 16 2011

Poland: Election Results Signal Imminent Generation Shift

No Budapest in Warsaw

On Oct. 9, the results of Poland's parliamentiary election seemed to be a relief to many and a surprise to everybody. The current PM Donald Tusk has become the first Polish prime minister since 1989 to be elected to a consecutive term, but the real dark horse of the election is the anticlerical and libertarian Janusz Palikot, whose party has gained 10 percent of the votes.

With 39 percent of the votes, the centre-right Civic Platform won over the biggest opposition party, the national-conservative Law and Justice, which took 30 percent of the votes. Its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski commented on the election outcome, saying that “the day will come when Warsaw will be like Budapest,” referring to [pl] the current Hungarian conservative PM Victor Orban.

Donald Tusk is the first Polish leader to be re-elected in a consecutive term. Photo by Flickr user PlatformaRP (CC BY-ND 2.0)

One election, two winners

The biggest surprise, however, was the result of the party “Ruch Palikota” (”Palikot's Movement”), which became the third power in the parliament, even though it was registered only four months ago by a philisophy graduate and entrepreneur Janusz Palikot. In his time as a member of the Civic Platform, Palikot was branded as a political clown and provocateur. His eccentric ways once showed during the infamous press conference, at which he waved a toy gun and a vibrator [pl] in order to draw attention to the case of a young woman who had been sexually abused at a police station. Another time, he brought a bleedingpig's head [pl] to a TV show, calling it a “mafia gift.”

Now, just a few years later, Palikot is not afraid to campaign for sensitive subjects, such as a secular state, civil unions for gay men and lesbians, legalisation of abortion and a more liberal drug policy. With this programme [pdf, pl], he has won the hearts of many young people across the country, especially those who felt that their demands weren't represented by any other party on the political scene.

Twitter user @szwalowski commented [pl] on Oct. 9:

The voice of Palikot is an expression of the same emotions that make people in Madrid or Tel Aviv go to the streets #wyborcza | Not really #wybory [election]

The same day another Twitter user @pawelbielecki tried to find [pl] the reason for Palikot's succes somewhere else:

Was it a good PR or maybe the voters' disgust with the Polish political scene that translated into such a good result for Palikot's Movement #wybory

Mateusz Drulis wrote [pl] on the Movement's Facebook wall:

I hope that I will live till these beautiful times when politicians understand that it's no longer about ignoring just one man, Janusz Palikot, but also 1.5 million young Poles who support him and his postulates.

A billboard from the press kit on the Movement's website http://www.ruchpoparciapalikota.pl/

Young people consider Palikot much more honest than other politicians and feel attracted to his anticlerical courage. A phrase by a TV journalist about the Generation JPII (Pope John Paul II) facing the Generation JP (Janusz Palikot) seemed to hit the point [pl]. Palikot’s party has also won [pl] in the primary election organized among high school students. Nearly 36 percent of the future voters were in favour of his party. Dave Schiemann commented [pl] on it on the Facebook wall of Palikot’s movement on Oct. 14:

I saw this coming. At a certain age, people already have their opinions formed and they won't change it. In addition, they are not that open for other things as young people are. Palikot's Movement is the party of the future, these 10% of support is just a beginning! Or at least I hope so :)

Blogger Nocri considers [pl] Palikot’s success as a sign of a clear need for change in the Polish society:

He became a new and interesting figure on the Polish political scene. The last election proved that there was a need for changes in the political system that has been manipulating us for 20 years already. He [Palikot] became a symbol of embarassment but also of courageous decisions. He became a symbol among young people - it's him who has won most of the votes among the electorate that all the parties were fighting for.

On Twitter on Oct. 9, @pawel_meteo noted [pl] that Palikot's success was a result of a populist game, comparing the politician and his postulate to legalize marijuana to another populist from the past, Andrzej Lepper.

Civil rights activists move into the Parliament

Thanks to Palikot's success, the first transsexual MP Anna Grodzka will enter the parliament, as well the first openly homosexual politician Robert Biedron and a feminist activist Wanda Nowicka [pl]. Just before the election day, the future MP Anna Grodzka stressed [pl] on her blog how much the campaign has changed her life:

During this campaign and during last years I've received so much good from people, I've received so much help and support from many friends that I haven't experienced in all my life. We fight together for a modern and just Poland. For Poland of different but equal people, for our good place on earth.

Tomasz Terlikowski, a Polish conservative journalist and a Catholic activist, reacted on his portal in a post [pl] titled “We go to war”:

[…] The Poles have made the third political power in Poland […] a man whose only merits are shameless attacks against the church, and his people include a guy who calls himself a woman, a woman who made a career on preaching about killing children and a man whose only merit is that he likes other men.

Whatever one may say about Poland's new politial reality, one thing is certain - the election has revealed a profound change that the Polish society has undergone in the past years. A change that all the parties except for Palikot's Movement have ignored. Will Palikot fight for the postulates that have brought him this impressive approval from the young Poles - or will he dissapoint his voters? Tomek Alfik Frontczak expressed [pl] his hope with a happy post on the Movement's Facebook wall on Oct, 10:

Thank you, Janusz! It's super great! Poland finally has a chance for a modern country, I sincerely thank you. I hope you won't dissapoint these Poles who supported your movement. I don't find words to describe our happiness. Take care and good luck!!!

October 08 2011

Poland: Facebook Initiative Puts Pressure on Politicians

“One cannot ignore tens of thousands of votes”

More than 63,000 netizens gathered on Facebook to express their ideas on how to improve the Polish legislation. Image courtesy of the "Appeal to Parliamentarians" organizers.

For the past two months, a Facebook initiative called “Appeal to parliamentarians” [pl], with more than 60,000 fans, has been crowd-sourcing ideas to improve the Polish legislation. Ahead of the upcoming Oct. 9 parliamentary elections, the organizers presented ideas to political parties and promised to endorse those who would support the most popular of the netizens’ proposals.

The initiative arose from a campaign that the same group of people had started in order to change one of the most restrictive drug laws in the EU. With a proper videospot [pl], with a celebrity as the campaign face and, in the end, with over 60,000 facebook fans who didn’t agree with the perspective of going to jail for three years for smoking one joint. Eventually, the Polish Parliament adopted the new drug law [pl], and the Facebook initiative celebrated it as its victory, although many netizens described the amendment as irrelevant.

On the group's Facebook wall, one the the followers, Alex Raczynski, criticized the achievement but noted the relevance of the change as such on May 26:

Born in pain, incomplete, lousy, not changing much. But anyway the content of the articles doesn’t really matter here. What is important is the fact that old parliamentarian geezers bended under the pressure of society. Bravo my dears. Very slowly but consequently we head towards a civil society.

Encouraged by the success of the campaign, the organizers decided to widen horizons and transform the campaign into a tool for young people to put pressure on politicians. Especially in the context of the upcoming parliamentary election. They wrote on their Facebook wall:

Just think: which party would ignore at least tens of thousands of potential votes? Let’s invite friends, let’s get media attention and let’s put pressure on the politicias. Maybe they will finally start to listen to us?

“To the blackboard!”

A new campaign and videospot, posted on Sep. 15 by Apelujemy on Vimeo, encouraged Polish netizens to post their ideas in the Facebook group:

In the press release, the organizers stress their political neutrality and describe the action as the voice of young people who feel ignored or betrayed by political parties.

Michal Juda, one of the organizers, says [pl]:

The election is approaching and we don’t have anybody to vote for. We are reading the parties' agendas and we can’t find anything that really interests us. That’s why we have created this initiative, “To the blackboard!”. With the help of Facebook, we want to engage young people and create our own list of postulates. Then we'll show them to the politicians [running in the upcoming election] and ask for their positions on each one of them.

The new project elicited different responses among the fans of the group. On July 15, Pan Kapica encouraged [pl] the organizers to continue with the citizen initiative:

I will support every, even the smallest change of the Polish “anti-drug” law. Appeal to the parliamentarians has become a very strong, concrete citizen initiative – and Poland needs this. If we have achieved something like this, why not go further?

Damazy Podsiadło stressed the importance [pl] of the initiative but was sceptical about its actual impact:

The idea is good, it’s good to remind our deputies that they are representatives chosen by citizens in order to act in the people’s best interest. The mandate to govern comes from us (theoretically, but, more importantly, also legally), so we have the right to do such actions and we should organize them. I personally think that the parliamentarians are so cynical by now that they forgot it. So – it’s good that we have such initiatives but I still have doubts if we are really going to manage to achieve anything in the long term with their help only.

Kamil Fikou expressed [pl] the same concern in a more pointed way on the group's Facebook wall on Aug. 8:

Cool that this initiative is taking place, but the truth is that the government doesn’t give a shit about it.

Iza Forys supported [pl] the initiative on July 17:

I’m for many changes in the Polish law because this country is impossible to live in. And it’s enough to take a short look at other countries to see a diametric difference (and to be perfectly clear, I’m not talking only about the marijuana case). Everyday probably each one of us faces lots of absurdities and we all just shut our eyes to it, one has to function somehow in these conditions. But the question is – do we really have to or is it just because we are lazy? I will support every initiative that unifies people and tries to change something.

El Ogurro doesn’t believe [pl] in the power of Internet activism and pleads for real actions:

Or maybe it’s time to realize that the world isn’t changing on Facebook but on the streets with a Molotov in the hand.

And Sebastian Chmura complained about slacktivism:

It’s easy to click on “like” - but then nobody wants to go to vote

Despite scepticism, once the Facebook “blackboard” opened, thousands of people have answered questions and posted ideas about changes in the Polish legislation. The postulates touched upon such topics as employment, family politics and relations with church, and caused many discussions. One of the biggest concerns of the young people remained the drug law – thousands of netizens postulated decriminalisation of marijuana.

The action has received some media coverage [pl], but – more importantly - also some actual reactions from politicians who answered netizens’ questions in short video recordings [pl], available on YouTube (here, here, here and here). The peak of the campaign was the debate [pl] at the University of Warsaw with representatives of most political parties. Among these major parties the only party missing was the national-conservative party Law and Justice, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

On Sunday, October 9, the Polish election day, young netizens can decide who has passed the test and answered the “blackboard” questions correctly - and who has failed their expectations. Is this online debate a beginning of a new quality in the political culture in Poland? Alex Raczynski is optimistic in his Sept. 20 post:

I’m full of hope for a genuine bottom-up citizen debate about real things. Just look at what we’ve achieved starting with the drugs politics. […]

August 15 2011

Poland: Parties Not So Eager to Obey New Gender Quota Act

With the announcement of the date of the Polish parliamentary elections – to be held on October 9 – a discussion has started on whether the Polish political parties would follow the new rules introduced by the Gender Quota Act, which was passed earlier this year. According to the new legislation, each party running for parliament should have at least 35 percent of women on its candidate list. Although this is not the most demanding obligation, the parties seem to be finding it surprisingly hard to fulfill their duty.

A research conducted by TOKFM [pl], a popular radio station and internet portal, reveals the true nature of gender politics in the main Polish parties. The data collected shows that in the parliamentary elections of 2007, out of over 6,000 candidates only 23 percent were women. Of the three parties that had the highest number of women on their tickets, none managed to enter the parliament. Only one out of five Polish MPs is a woman. The most shocking figure shows that out of 107 city mayors only four are women.

At the end of last week, most parties revealed their complete candidate lists. Blogger Goetz, who covers the Polish social and political situation on Lewica.pl, a Polish left-wing portal, wrote this [pl] on Aug. 10:

[…] Today, we have a chance to observe the implementation of the quota act. And what do we see? On the horizon, we can watch the grim fruition of the common saying “A Pole can.” Because it is true that Poles have mastered the art of evading the law, including the quota act that has just joined a bunch of other acts existing only on paper.

It seems to have become a habit for the majority of parties to put women on lower places on the tickets, which practically eliminates their chances to be elected. On the so-called “guaranteed places” women are scarce, no to mention [the top positions on the candidate lists]. Women have become - and we shoud have seen it coming - the ticket's “fillers”, put there only to fulfill the demands of the Quota Act. In some cases they were given higher positions just to pull the wool over our eyes - it was mostly done by the parties that don't stand much of a chance in this year's elections anyway. […]

Another post on Lewica.pl portal, written by prekiel, states [pl]:

The party of Grzegorz Napieralski [SLD, a left-wing party], which was the first to demand the implementation of parities on the tickets, decided to change its mind. And even though we cannot complain about the lack of women on the tickets, it's obvious that they were not given any important positions. Out of 41 tickets composed by SLD, only on four a woman was placed on the first position - which accounts for only 10%. Nepotism seems to be more important than the promises made earlier, not to mention the abilities of women.

Blogger koziolekweb clearly states that he was against the passing of the act from the very beginning. In his post titled “The number of the breasts must be right,” he writes [pl]:

Every day we are getting closer and closer to the parlimentary elections. This time it will be held under the abnormal rule of the Quota Act ensuring 35 percent of the seats for the gender minority. The stupidity of this solution is overwhelming, but after the recent events, it's even more obvious. The parties didn't bother to put any effort into composing of the tickets. Both PiS [Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's right-wing party] and PO [Civic Platform, the ruling party] put breasts on the ticktes. I have to admit that in both of these parties there are female members who are professionals (most of them are members of PiS), but they are not enough to fulfill the obligation of 35 percent. So the parties fill the gaps with ladies whose capacities are more than visible when it comes to the neckline. At least PO is not making a show out of this the way PiS is doing when it is promoting their leader using the breasts of some political tweenie.

As the implementation of the Quota Act isn't going too smoothly, we should perhaps take a closer look at the Act itself, for it has caused a huge debate even before it was passed by the vote. The bill, created by The Congress of Women - “Poland’s largest non-political civic movement, founded in 2009, aiming at equality of rights, opportunities, and potential of women and men in both the private and the public spheres” - even now is a cause for a heated debate.

The logo of the Congress of Women - 'Women for Poland, Poland for Women'

The logo of the Congress of Women - 'Women for Poland, Poland for Women'

Many Polish bloggers openly oppose the Act and criticize politicians for having implemented it. Blogger Stefanb wrote [pl] two weeks ago:

In this situation it is all about the tickets for the upcoming elections, but when speaking of “gender equality” they [feminists] also speak of “equality in professional career, equal access to promotion” or even of “equal relations in the family.” These are also the spheres where “femi-nazis” and the “politically-correcting” would love to have parity, no matter what. They would love to have parity in washing the dishes, cleaning, taking care of the babies - half of the time a woman would be taking care of this, and the other half - a man. Unfortunately, I fear that this crazy politics would be a 'success', and by that I mean there would be an even bigger mess in this country compared to what we have now.

It's not only men who speak out against the Quota Act. For example, blogger Evcom writes [pl]:

I think that the idea of parity in politics is not at all about administering justice or implementing equality. It's obvious - and we don't need to discuss parities to come to that - that work is more effective when the people in the workplace are diverse. The question is whether women really want to join politics?

Another blogger, krzysztofsiuda, has some doubts on whether such an act could be democratically justifiable, but admits nevertheless:

From many opinions I've heard it follows that for a woman to achieve a rightful place in politics means much more of an effort than for a man, because they come across many more problems. I think there's something to it. Maybe through this “fake law” we would finally be able to achieve normality? If this happens, after a few years we won't need this fake imposition and everything will be in place - everyone will be equally capable of participating in politics, regardless of the gender. We'll see, time will show…

July 31 2011

Poland: Smolensk Report Blames Both Polish and Russian Sides

On July 29, Poland presented its final report (available for download in Polish, English and Russian) on the 2010 Smolensk plane crash, in which 96 people died, including the then president of Poland Lech Kaczynski. While putting the major blame on the Polish pilot's error, the report also pointed at the fault of the defective lighting at Smolensk airport and the Russian air controllers, who misinformed the crew about the altitude. Poland's Defence Minister Bogdan Klich stepped down [pl] in the wake of the report.

The Polish president and his wife, together with many leading political and military officials, were on their way to a memorial for the victims of the Katyn massacre when their plane crashed as it was trying to land in heavy fog on April 10, 2010.

The Russian report [.pdf], released in January, placed the full blame on Poland, which caused many controversies in the Polish political and civic circles. Back then Poland, while accepting some of the fundamental findings, said [pl] that the report was “incomplete” and started its own investigation. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative opposition party PiS and the twin brother of Lech Kaczynski, had previously accused PM Donald Tusk's government of being soft on Russia [pl]. Now, after the Polish report, Kaczynski critised Tusk [pl] again, saying Tusk didn't have the courage and honour to take responsibility for the crash and tried to shift the fault to his helpers.

Smolensk report caused many controversies among netizens. Photo by Flickr user bylemwidzialem (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The report has generated an avalanche of various opinions not only in the international press [pl], but also in the Polish blogosphere. Bloggers were focusing both on the report's conclusions about the fatal condition [pl] of the Polish air forces and the difficult relations with Russia.

Blogger Lukasz Foltyn thinks [pl] that the investigators - the so-called Miller's commission [pl] - were trying to find a diplomatic way out of the uncomfortable situation:

Miller's report gives the major blame for the catastrophe in Smolensk to the pilots and therefore to the military training system. And that's how Miller's commision found the “Solomon's solution” for who to blame in order not to blame the government on the one hand and not to charge Russia on the other, so the relation with this country won't be demaged as the current coalition wants to improve it…

Maia14 is positively surprised [pl] that the report doesn't give the blame to the president and the psychological pressure he might have applied on the pilots:

Yesterday the report was presented […]. A lot of deficiencies on the Polish and Russian sides were pointed out. Briefly: the eternal Polish improvisation overlapped with the Russian mess. In my opinion the report is reliable and identifies the most important issues […]. What is surprising - I have the impression that especially for the opposition - is that the report doesn't talk about blaming the then head of the state, about applying pressure on the aircraft's crew. On the contrary, it remarks that it was the crew indeed who - from the beginning to the end - made all the decisions and the main passenger let them decide freely what to do.

Kajetan Skalski writes this in his post titled “Trash, mess and recklessness”:

This situation [mess] is one of the costs of populism, which is the cost of democracy. You can find it everywhere, but in our country it is excesivelly high […]. It is little comfort that the Russians are even worse. Trash, mess, recklessness. The boorishness of the Russian report consisted of omitting the Russian share of responsibility for the crash. In the [Polish] Miller's report, it is included.

On her blog mojapolskadomowa, the blogger is indignant [pl] at the opposition's critics about the report:

Well, first they demanded the truth, now they talk about honour, and actually it is all about resignation of Donald Tusk from the PM post. I don't understand this position. Does the one and only truth always have to give evidence that the Poles are always right, don't make any mistakes and are always innocent? […] Let's be proud of the best that we have, but let's be able to admit our own mistakes. Avoiding the truth to defend honour is pathetic. In this very case it is less important that we win over Russia. It's not going to make a superpower out of us. What is much more important is to learn from our own failures and to make conclusions that will protect us from making the same mistakes in the future.

Further, the blogger complains [pl] about the surfeit of the Smolensk topic in the media:

Actually, I feel tired of this topic. For the past 15 months, PiS [the opposition party] has been playing the Smolensk card so much that it led to a total surfeit. […] To inflame emotions, they will surely expose the pictures of Maria and Lech Kaczynski or other killed politicians of this party many more times. The Smolensk fraction in PiS will have its five media minutes.

Indeed, the oppositon party released a very emotional election campaign spot with the presidential couple, titled “They are waiting for the truth”, uploaded on YouTube on July 29, 2011, by gazetapl [pl]:

[/p]

A blogger going by the name niekatolik is outraged [pl] about the spot and calls it “scandalous”:

Of course, it is a contestation of the report's authenticity. In the spot it is said that Lech and Maria Kaczynski were living in a world of betrayal, among people without honour, people taking care of their own interests only. For me it is scandalous to lie through one's teeth like this, to use the death of the nearest persons for political games, to use the emotions of ordinary people. This is disgusting!

According to a survey [pl] ordered by the television channel TVN24, 24 percent of the Poles think that the report explains unambiguously the reasons of the Smolensk catastrophe, while 49 percent still think that the reasons remain unclear.

July 28 2011

Poland: The State of Reading

A few weeks ago, a new social campaign - Reading in Poland - was launched by one of Poland's largest daily newspapers, Gazeta Wyborcza, due to the fact that reading rates in Poland are very low: a report published by the Polish National Library states that 56 percent of the Polish people don't read books at all - and are also incapable of reading texts longer than 3 pages. A huge debate has started on the reading culture in Poland and the reasons for the crisis it is facing.

Public figures across the country got deeply involved in the project, urging the society to start reading. A series of articles [pl] was published on the lack of reading passion and steps that could be taken to change the situation. In one of them [pl], a Polish writer and essayist Janusz Rudnicki puts the blame on the list of obligatory reading for primary and high school students, created by the Ministry of Education. He writes:

W szkole straszy. Jeśli porównać ją do opery, to jej upiorem są lektury. Ich liczba jest makabryczna. A co najmniej połowa, licząc już od szkoły podstawowej, absolutnie zbędna. Czytanie ich wszystkich to droga przez mękę. Niech sczezną. A razem z nimi odpowiedzialne za ten jeżący włosy na głowie repertuar MEN. I nauczyciele.

Schools are haunted. If you compare a school to the opera, the fantom will definitely be called “a list of obligatory reading.” The amount of items on it is completely horrifying. At least half of them, without taking primary school into account, is unnecessary. Reading them is a torture. They should be burned. And with them, we should also burn our Ministry of Education and all of the teachers who are responsible for creating this list.

The results of the research are especially alarming when compared to similar reports on reading habits conducted in other European countries. For instance, reports based on a research conducted in the Czech Republic and France state that 83 percent of the Czech people and 69 percent of French citizens have read at least one book in the past year, whereas in Poland the figures are dramatically lower: only 44 percent of the Poles have had any contact with books at all (including cook books, albums and dictionaries!). The most shocking figures show that 20 percent of the Poles with higher education (among them lecturters and teachers) haven't read a single book in the last few years.

Polish bloggers have also joined the conversation. One of them, known as Metzliszcze, comments on the results presented in the report:

Zacznijmy od tego, że w moim domu lektury zawsze były obecne, a moi rodzice nie potrzebowali akcji społecznych żeby wiedzieć, że dzieciom należy czytać książki. Z tego też powodu niewyobrażalne jest dla mnie, jak można w ciągu 365 dni nie znaleźć chwili czasu na to, żeby sięgnąć po przynajmniej jedną książkę. A tutaj proszę, 56% spośród badanych taki wysiłek już zdecydowanie przerósł.

Let's begin with a remark that at my home books were always present, and my parents didn't need any social campaign to know that kids shoud be read to. This is the reason why I find it very hard to believe that for some it is impossible to find a single moment during the 365 days to reach out for at least one book. But here we go: 56 percent of the society found this “effort” to be too much.

He also writes:

Czy pozostaje coś jeszcze do dodania? Może konstatacja, że od 1992 roku (czyli momentu od kiedy zaczęto systematycznie to obserwować) poziom czytelnictwa sukcesywnie u nas spada, a lada moment staniemy się narodem wtórnych analfabetów.

Is there anything else to add? Maybe one should state that since 1992 (the year marking the beggining of regular research on the matter), the number of Poles who read systematically has dropped, and we are going to turn into a nation of re-born illiterates sometime soon

Varia, whose blog contains mainly the reviews of the books she has read, wonders what the reasons behind the situation are:

Z czego to wynika? Moim zdaniem, niestety, z lenistwa intelektualnego. Ono przejawia się nie tylko w niskich wynikach czytelnictwa, ale także w tym, że w godzinach największej oglądalności w telewizji można obejrzeć tylko kolorowe seriale albo krzyczące teleturnieje albo w tym, że multipleksy nie wyświetlają tak zwanych ambitnych filmów. Zbyt wiele osób pozwala sobie na intelektualne lenistwo, na karmienie mózgu wysoko przetworzoną papką, która szybko się wchłania i nie każe się nad sobą zastanawiać. A czytanie książek, nawet takich rozrywkowych, wymaga jednak jakiegoś wysiłku intelektualnego i skupienia przez dłuższy czas. Ale to są wzorce, które wynosi się z domu i ze szkoły.

Why did this happen? In my opinion, it is mainly the intellectual laziness that is at fault. This laziness shows not only in the low reading rates, but also - for instance - in the type of popular series or prime-time TV contests. It is also very hard to find “challenging” movies at the cinema. Too many of us allow ourselves to be intelectually lazy, to feed our brains with meaningless stuff that doesn't require any self-reflection. And reading books is demanding, it requires some effort and the abillity to concentrate for a while on one thing. But these are the things we are taught at school and at home.

Another blogger, whose nickname - Kindlemaniac - reveals his true passion, has created a survey, asking his followers to anwser several questions concerning their reading habits. The results are remarkable: over a half of his readers claim to be reading more than 10 books a year, with 17 percent reading over 50! He writes:

Bardzo mnie cieszy fakt, że wśród odwiedzających bloga jest tylu regularnych czytelników książek. Myślę, że ma to też swoje uzasadnienie pragmatyczne. Właśnie osoby, które decydują się na zakup czytnika zazwyczaj na co dzień czytają dużo a czytnik ma im jedynie ułatwić oddawanie się ‘nałogowi'. Co ciekawe nie rzadko świeżo upieczeni właściciele Kindle'a stwierdzają, że odkąd posiadają czytnik przeczytali więcej książek w danym czasie niż normalnie by się im to przydarzyło.

I'm very pleased by the fact that among the visitors of my blog there are so many people who read on a regular basis. I think that there could be a very pragmatic explanation for that. It is often the people who buy themselves an e-book reader that tend to read a lot, and e-readers simply allow them to indulge in the addiction even more. What's interesting is that it seems to be quite common for the new Kindle users to discover that since they started using [the device], they read even more than before.

Kindlemaniac concludes with a statement:

Można powiedzieć, że grupa czytelników bloga reprezentuje wręcz odwrotne tendencje niż główny nurt.

We can easily say that this blog's readers demonstrate reverse tendencies than the mainstream ones.

But is that so for the rest of the Polish blogging society?

It seems to be at least not as bad as some may imagine. Nobooks writes:

Serwisy literackie odwiedzają setki tysięcy internautów, którzy tworzą wirtualne biblioteczki, oznaczając między innymi, co chcą przeczytać. W Empikach setki książek i komiksów są po prostu „zaczytywane”, na co narzekają ich wydawcy. Targi książki biją rekordy popularności.

Online literature websites are visited by hundreds of thousands of surfers, who create their virtual libraries, ticking books they would like to read. At Empiks [a Polish bookstore chain], hundreds of books and comic books are being read over and over again (publishers are not very happy with it). Book markets are gaining more and more popularity each year.

According to the Polish bloggers, the Polish “reading horizon” may seem clouded, but there is hope. The happy news - especially for those who see the internet as a new platform for sharing knowledge and thoughts – is that due to the Polish blogosphere survey, over 3 million Poles (who are older than 15) claim to be reading blogs every day. What's more, over 300,000 of the Polish children read blogs on a regular basis, 180,000 write their own internet diaries, and nearly 160,000 leave comments on things they read about online.

July 05 2011

Poland: Citizen Initiative For Complete Abortion Ban

Some 600,000 people have signed a petition in support of the draft amendment [pl; .pdf] to Poland's abortion law intending to ban abortion in Poland without exceptions – even when the life of a woman is threatened. On July 1, 2011, against a motion of the Democratic Left Alliance Party to dismiss the proposal after the first reading, the Polish Parliament (the Sejm) voted in favour of the draft and passed it to further discussion in the parliamentary committee.

Currently, Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, a result of a compromise between political parties. According to the current legislation, abortion is banned except under the following three circumstances: when a woman's life or health is endangered; when pregnancy is the result of a criminal act; or when the fetus is seriously malformed. Pregnant women are not subject to penalty, but everyone else involved is: this might be a doctor who carried out the abortion, or a person who persuaded the woman to abort.

The draft amendment was submitted by the Citizen Legislative Committee created by PRO–Right to Life Foundation [pl]. It is officially supported by the clergy [pl] and has caused many protests. According to a a survey [pl] ordered by PRO–Right to Life Foundation, 65 percent of the Poles are for protecting life from the moment of conception.

On Facebook [pl], PRO-Right to Life Foundation's page states:

We believe that abortion is a murder committed on an innocent person. We believe that at this moment the phenomenon takes features of a genocide. We believe that abortion in a civilised world is a scandal. That it why we take action.

Some 600,000 Poles have signed a petition in support of the draft amendment to ban abortion without exceptions. Photo by Flickr user bartheq (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The proposal created a lot of controversies among Polish netizens. A male blogger going by the name Feminista007 is outraged [pl]:

What is scandalous about this debate is that one totally omits women and nobody from the “defenders” [of life] speaks a word about their lives. Many women in Poland died only because of bad medical treatment (or not being treated at all), because the doctors had a sensible conscience. This conscience often doesn't work in a private consulting room. The only thing that works there are market rules. The draft amendment won't protect life, it may only cause death of many women and strengthen the underground abortion business. […] One of the arguments of the initiative's supporters is that the project has indeed been signed by many people, around 500,000. But I would say that even if they had collected 25 million citizens' signatures, non of these persons would have had a moral right to tell a woman whose life is in danger what she is supposed to do, regardless of whether he wears a cassock, trousers or a skirt.

On June 29, a Polish ethics professor and feminist Anna Środa wrote this [pl] on the Polish microblogging platform Blip:

I’m glad that this anti-feminine trash landed in the Parliament. It will start a debate about liberalization of the abortion law.

Środa also linked to a newspaper interview [pl], in which she claimed that many persons who have signed the petition were not really conscious of what they were doing:

I think that if they found themselves in a situation of rape, unwanted pregnancy or a choice between their own health and the life of their child or if it was their child who was pregnant, they would decide to abort.

Tomasz Terlikowski, a conservative Polish journalist and philosopher, defends [pl] the initiative on his blog:

There can be no compromise that leads to killing people. In 2009, it was 549 persons, and from one year to another the amount of the killed is rising. We have to ask ourselves what is more important - human life or compromise? The killed ones or peace and quiet?

Many bloggers, as well as the mainstream media, discussed the issue as a natural part of the upcoming 2011 election campaign.

Feminista007 criticised [pl] the governing party Civic Platform, many of whose members didn’t show up for the voting and those who did - surprisingly many - voted in favor of the draft:

A huge, huge mistake! Not so long ago PM Donald Tusk declared that the Civic Platform would not kneel before a priest. You can't kneel if you're lying with your face on the ground! It is a pathological situation indeed when members of the parliament quail before the episcopate. Somehow it is understandable, because the election is coming up and, as always, the apolitical church will not point to the candidates but will pronounce for values. A question emerges: who is governing Poland?

While many voices focus on the excessive influence of the church in the debate, reakcjonistka argues [pl] on her blog:

Today nobody wants to have discussions with abortion opponents. It is enough to associate their beliefs with Catholic religion and here you go, you can reject their demands without any problems. […] Even if at the source of the opposition to abortion there is the Catholic worldview, that doesn't mean that there are no arguments behind it.

In the context of the debate, a number of feminist online portals, such as www.seksulanosc-kobiet.pl [pl], drew attention to a 2009 documentary called ‘Underground Women's State' [pl]. On the website and in the movie, the authors are trying to show the helplessness of the Polish pro-choice movement in the face of political bargains. The film features activists of the movement, from different generations, as well as eight women who had had illegal abortions and were talking about their experiences for the first time.

According to the description on YouTube, no distributor has risked buying and introducing the documentary to cinemas and no public or commercial television station aired it. Below you can watch a teaser, uploaded on YouTube by EntuzjastkiGF [pl] on September 17, 2009, with the English subtitles. (You can watch the entire movie, in Polish, on YouTube, here.

The Democratic Left Alliance Party decided to use the debate to emphasize their own perspective. On July 4, they presented [pl] a bill to liberalize the abortion law. The party wants to introduce refundable legal abortion till the 12th week of pregnancy, funding for contraceptives and sexual education in schools. Rbik53 concluded [pl]:

…What a pity that the election campaign passes so quickly…

June 27 2011

Video: Celebrating the Solstice

Lanterns, dances, flowers and bonfires were some of the elements used in celebrations all over the world in observance of the Summer and Winter Solstices. Lets tour around the world to check out the different celebrations: Solstice at Stonehenge, Feast of Saint John's bonfires in Spain, Inti Raymi in Peru, we tripantu in Chile and Kupala Day in Russia or Midsummer's night in Poland.

sun rises over stonehenge on the summer solstice
Solstice Dawn by Taro Taylor, CCBY


At Stonehenge in England, the crowds met around the stone circle to receive the longest day of the year under a cover of clouds, uncertainly cheering since it was very hard to tell when the sun made its appearance. As a3HeadedMonkey, who uploaded this video humorously dubbed: “Good ol' British summer at its finest.”

In Coruña, Spain, bonfires, drinking and parades marked the Bonfires of Saint John's festivities. It is traditional for teens and children to jump over the bonfires an allotted number of times for good luck: sadly, this year's celebrations were marred by the death of two people, one of which died when he tripped while trying to jump over one of the biggest bonfires, perishing in the middle of the fire to unsuccessful attempts to rescue him by onlookers.

In front of the temple of Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco, Peru every year they recreate the traditional Inti Raymi celebration which marks the beginning of the Incan new year. The last Inti Raymi celebrated by the Incas took place in 1535 after which the Catholic Church and the Spanish Conquest put a stop to it, until 1944, when it was brought back following the descriptions of the historian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. YouTube user gzoraca has recorded many videos of cultural dances and events in Cuzco which can be seen on his channel, including the following two of this year's Inti Raymi showing the entrance of the Inca and then the entrance of the Colla, his spouse:

We Tripantu [es] is a Mapuche indian celebration to recognize the start of a new year at the Winter Solstice. The next video shows school children in Chile dancing in a celebration of this indigenous festivity:

In the town of Maloyaroslavets in Russia they celebrate Ivan Kupala day, and in this midsummer festivity. tradition is kept alive with girls wearing flowers in their hair, community bonfires and dancing:

And last, but not least, a record-breaking celebration in Poland, where thousands of paper lanterns were lit and released to float in the night sky. The magical videos speak for themselves (via Neatorama):

Did you celebrate the solstice? Please tell us how in the comments!

March 14 2011

Japan: Earthquake, “how to protect yourself” in 30 languages

Written by Scilla Alecci

TUFS students launched a website with advices on risk management translated in more than 30 languages.
The website provides “a basic guide in several languages to what to do when you have to evacuate because of the earthquake.”

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