A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thoughts for the day

1. The disaster that is Poland's public health system enters a new chapter

Warsaw Business Journal:
Minister calls for NFZ officials to resign

The conflict between two state institutions managing the health sector seems to have reached a climax, as Health Minister Marek Balicki is demanding the dismissal of the president of the National Health Fund (NFZ) Jerzy Miller. "I will not comment on this now. I will call a press conference before the meeting of the Fund's council," announced Balicki. Miller also declined from commenting on the situation. The decision whether he should keep his job is now up the the NFZ council, which according to unofficial information supports its boss. The direct cause of the conflict between the institutions is the NFZ's money. According to Balicki, the Fund has over zł.400 million of surplus cash which it plans to spend right after the parliamentary elections so that the public would acknowledge an immediate improvement of the situation of the health care system. "The funds should spend the money on treating people now, patients cannot wait," Balicki warns.

The health system crisis is the most important issue facing Poland, and none of the politicians are touching it before the elections.

2. It is now clear that 3 Poles died in the London bombings of 7/7.

3. GM has released more bad news. A loss of over $286 million despite rising sales and gaining market share. Gustav's prediction: GM will move most of its manufacturing to Alabama and other southern states, as well as Mexico, as soon as its contracts with the unions allow. Michigan's economy will tank.

Free Press story

New York Times story

3. Poland's economic ties with Iran are growing:
Poland joins Iran’s ardent gas customers

WARSAW (Reuters) -- Poland's natural gas monopoly PGNiG is in talks to help build a pipeline that would bring gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to the European Union, seeking an alternative to Russian energy supplies, its CEO said this week.

Marek Kossowski said PGNiG -- the last major central European gas firm still in state hands -- was in talks with a consortium of energy companies seeking to extend the Nabucco pipeline to carry gas from central Asia via Turkey to Austria.

"We are living in such times that all diversification of supplies is very beneficial, especially in light of terror threats," Kossowski said in an interview. "We are interested in the Nabucco pipeline and are already in talks with the consortium that is building it. We are ready to join this project financially and as a client, which can guarantee stable demand for gas from the pipeline."
read the rest

4. Poland and the US' defense relationship gets stranger:
Radio Polonia:
Poland to receive $100 million aid

Polish and American defence ministers met in Washington to discuss the details of US military aid. The promised 100 million US dollars will be used for modernization of Polish army – among others training of Polish fighter pilots and purchase of Hummer armed vehicles. The meeting was the final part of Polish Minister’s visit, Jerzy Szmajdzinski visited also the naval base Norfolk, Virginia, National Defence University and met a group of senators in Washington. Mr Szmajdzinski refused to comment on information that Polish soldiers could be sent to Gaza strip as a part of peace-keeping mission.

Excuse me, but holy shit! When did the Poles sign up for this? Could it just be an ugly rumor?

This $100 million in aid comes despite this controversy:
Warsaw Business Journal:
US media questions Bumar's Iraqi contracts

Arms manufacturer Bumar has so far managed to sign 35 contracts with Iraq for the delivery of military supplies, worth a total of $400 million. This result might have given grounds for the company to give itself a pat on the back, but instead have led to critical remarks in the American media. US-based newspapers belonging to Knight Ridder Newspapers, one of the largest press distributors, declared that the former Iraqi government signed unbeneficial contracts and lost as much as $300 million on them. The reasons for the losses were also due to alleged corrupt propositions from Bumar. A group of Iraqi inspectors came to Poland in order to check a fleet they ordered, which was to be renovated, and cost the government $100 million. What they found were 24 thirty-year old helicopters from the soviet era. The disappointed team refused to accept the fleet and returned home empty handed, writes the American press. "We have signed a contract for the delivery of 24 used helicopters Mi-17. The contract said that these can be manufactured between 1974-92. The Iraqi inspectors initially highly evaluated the equipment and informed us that they do not have the rights to sign the protocol to collect them," announced Bumar president, Roman Baczyński.

5. The Pistons are hiring Flip Saunders to replace Brown. Fine. All I know about him is what I've read today, but I trust Joe Dumars' judgement.

ESPN.com story

6. Prince Bandahar is retiring as Saudi ambassador to the US. He'll be replaced by the current Saudi ambassador to Britain. Here's what was written in the NY Times about Prince Turki:
"Yes, he knew members of Al Qaeda," an American official said. "Yes, he talked to the Taliban. At times he delivered messages to us and from us regarding Osama bin Laden and others. Yes, he had links that in this day and age would be considered problematic, but at the time we used those links." The official said that Prince Turki seemed to have "gotten out of that business" since 2001 and that "he understands that times have changed."

But really, Prince Bandahar looks like an Ewok, doesn't he?

6. From CNN today:
Ex-officers: CIA leak may have harmed U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eleven former intelligence officers say the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity may have damaged national security and the government's ability to gather intelligence.

The former officers made their views known in a three-page statement to congressional leaders.

They said the Republican National Committee has circulated suggestions for officials to deal with the Plame case by focusing on the idea that Plame was not working undercover and legally merited no protection.

Thousands of U.S. intelligence officers work at desks in the Washington area every day whose identities are shielded, as Plame's was when her identity was leaked by Bush administration officials, the 11 former officers said.

I'm still not convinced it was Rove who actually leaked the name to reporters, but whoever did put US security in jeopardy, and ought to be punished. That Plame was in Washington is no excuse, because an experienced field agent is now unable to perform duties in the field should she be required to do so, and her former contacts may be in danger. If you had been one of her contacts, how eager would you be to continue cooperation with the CIA? Not too eager, I imagine.


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