Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gray plans to take up voting rights issue with the White House

Gray plans White House,
WASHINGTON - D.C. Democratic Mayoral nominee, and presumptive mayor-elect, Vince Gray says he wants to start a dialogue with the White House once he's in office.
Gray says he wants to discuss D.C. voting rights and several other issues.

"I'd like to know where the President stands on statehood for the city, and what he would be prepared to do to facilitate that," said Gray on Friday's The Politics Program with Mark Plotkin.

Gray called the failure to get congressional approval of voting rights for the city a "bitter disappointments," and what's the city to have more autonomy over its budget.

"Why should we still have to ask the United States Congress how to spend our own money?"

Under current law, Congress has to sign off on the city's spending plans.

Gray said he received a call from the White House after defeating current Mayor Adrian Fenty in Tuesday's Democratic primary.


Michelle Obama turns on the glamour in stunning scarlet at Washington DC

Michelle Obama stunning scarlet at Washington DC,
Michelle Obama ditched her functional wardrobe for full-on glamour last night when she wore a stunning floor-length red frock to an official dinner last night.

The American first lady was accompanying her husband to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards in Washington, DC - where President Barack Obama later gave a keynote speech.
Mother-of-two Michelle, 46, accessorised the ruched scarlet sleeveless dress - which showed off her as ever enviably sculpted arms - with dangly earrings, an up do, and a rather dashing tuxedo-clad husband at the city's Convention Center.
President Barack Obama leads wife Michelle onto the dance floor
President Barack Obama leads wife Michelle onto the dance floor at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington DC last night

Scarlet lady: The President and the first lady were the first on the dance floor
Today, Michelle was spotted wearing her more usual attire of shift dress, smart jacket and kitten heels as she and her husband accompanied daughters Malia and Sasha to St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington for a church service.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama
Eva so sexy: Miss Mendes shows off her sizzling curves old fashioned Hollywood style at Toronto Film Festival
President? I'd give it a shot: Sarah Palin's clearest indication that she intends to run for office
At the awards dinner last night meanwhile, President Obama implored black voters to restoke the passion they felt when he won the presidency two years ago and fight Republicans who are ready to 'turn back the clock'.
In a fiery speech, Obama warned that Republicans hoping to seize control of Congress want 'to do what's right politically, instead of what's right - period.'

Shall we dance?: Michelle applauds her husband at the dinner as the band play on
President Obama said: 'It's not surprising given the hardships that we're seeing across the land that a lot of people may not be feeling very energized, very engaged right now.
'A lot of folks may be feeling like politics is something that they get involved with every four years when there's a presidential election, but they don't see why they should bother the rest of the time.'
Barack and Michelle Obama
Stepping out: President Obama and family walking across LaFayette Park to St John's Episcopal Church in Washington DC today, with Michelle l looking elegant as ever in a floral shift dress and smaart jacket

Church-going: The Obama family leave after a church service in Washington
But he insisted: 'We have to finish the plan you elected me to put in place...It's not the man, it's the plan.'
Obama was treated to several standing ovations during his rallying speech in the cavernous Convention Center.
But the hall grew quiet as he warned: 'Remember, the other side has a plan too. It's a plan to turn back the clock on every bit of progress we've made...
'The other side want to take us backward. We want to move America forward.'
Barack Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia
With polls showing his party facing a wide 'enthusiasm gap' with the Republican Party ahead of November's midterm elections, Obama has spent a week trying to rally support.
Control over Congress is at stake in the upcoming elections as unemployment and the deteriorating economic situation in the U.s. has turned voters away from Democrats.

Democrats worry a low turnout would prove costly as 435 seats in the US House of Representatives as well as 37 of 100 Senate seats are at stake during the midterms.
Barack Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia
The midterm elections, where 35 of 50 states choose their governors, are scheduled for 2 November 2.

The vote is held two years after the presidential elections and is generally regarded as the acid test of how well the governing party is performing.


Voters summit in Washington, D.C.

Summit in Washington, D.C.,
At FRESNO, Calif. Members of several conservative organizations gathered Saturday night in Washington D.C. for a "Values Voters" summit.

But there is increasing friction from within the Republican Party between tea party activists and establishment politicians.

There was an enormous show of force by the tea party movement at this weekend's Values Voters summit in Washington, D.C.

The gathering heard from republican politicians like Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachman who called on the audience to embrace the tea party's message to take the country down a more conservative path.

But some politicians aren't happy with the tea party's influence in the Republican Party. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was defeated by tea party member Joe Miller, defiantly announced that in November she'll be a write in candidate.

"They tell me this can't be done, that this is a futile effort. Well, perhaps its one time that they met one Republican woman who won't quit on Alaska," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) Alaska said.

Those comments -- a subtle swipe at former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has offered high profile endorsements for several tea party candidates including one for Murkowski's opponent Miller.

At a republican dinner in Iowa Friday night Palin praised non-traditional candidates for sending a message to the republican establishment.

"We can't wait until 2012 to get our country back on the right track, we need to start now by electing strong leaders who aren't afraid to shake it up," former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said.

One of those is tea party candidate Christine O'Donnell who defeated a GOP establishment candidate in the Delaware primary for U.S. senate.

She received a warm response at the D.C. summit when she defended her fellow political insurgents.

"They call us wacky, they call us wing nuts, we call us we the people," GOP senate candidate Christine O'Donnell said.


Washington D.C. Twitter

Blog: Brizard's Name Floated for Washington D.C. Schools Post

The bloggers in Washington D.C. are speculating on who will replace Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor. Rhee hasn’t officially resigned, but most believe the city’s new mayor will not keep her around. (Thank you to Flower City Parents Network for finding the posts.)

Rochester School Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard’s name has popped up as a possible successor. TBD calls him a “rising star."

Brizard has shuttered under-performing schools in Rochester and wants to tie teacher pay to their pupils’ performance. He says he’s happy in Rochester, where mayoral control of the schools is being considered, and said he’s looking forward to seeing his work take hold — but he stopped short of committing to staying at his post.
“I’ve learned in life never to say never,” Brizard says. “Because you never know where life takes you.”

Brizard is a big fan of Rhee. Doesn't that hurt his chances, if the new mayor is all about rejecting her way of doing things?

The Washington Post picked up Brizard’s name from TBD. The Post and TBD also mention former Rochester superintendent Cliff Janey as a possible replacement for Rhee. Janey was forced out of Rochester and headed up D.C. schools before being fired by the mayor who hired Rhee. Janey was recently let go as chief of the Newark school system.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freedom Honor Flight heads to Washington, D.C., today

Freedom Flight Washington, D.C., today

About 105 veterans will head from La Crosse to Washington, D.C., today on the Freedom Honor Flight's sixth trip for World War II veterans.
It is the third Freedom Honor Flight this year. The first flight was in October 2008.
About 162 people will be on today's flight, including volunteer guardians and a medical crew. The veterans fly for free, but volunteer guardians pay their own way.
Anyone who wants to help send the veterans off should head to the Colgan Air Services area at the La Crosse Municipal Airport; the jet is expected to depart between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m.
The public also is invited to help welcome the veterans home when the jet returns about 10 to 10:30 p.m.
Donations fund the chartered jet airplane trips to Washington, where veterans see the National World War II Memorial and other monuments. To make a donation, get an application form to be on a flight or for more information, go to

The dark, dark world of illegal Segway tours of Washington, D.C

Illegal walking in Washington, D.C,
In Washington, D.C., it is illegal to talk about the monuments or the history of the city if a person pays you to take them around town. That is, unless you pay the government $200 and pass a 100 question multiple-choice exam.
The District requires that all tour guides get a tour operator’s license, which can be obtained by paying an application fee, a license fee and an exam fee, all of which total $200, and taking the exam. The penalty for failing to do so is up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $300.

That is a risk that Tonia Edwards and Bill Main take daily. The two operate Segs in the City, a tour company that conducts people around the city on Segways. Neither they nor their employees have the required license. And, they have no intention of getting one: On Thursday, Edwards and Main, with the help of Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, filed suit against the city.

For Main, Edwards, and IJ, it is an issue of free speech: “The Constitution does not allow the government to be in the business of deciding who is — and who is not — allowed to speak about various topics.” Standing at the U.S. Navy Memorial, across the street from the National Archives where the U.S. Constitution is housed, Robert McNamara, staff attorney at IJ, declared: “That is un-American, that is unconstitutional and we will put a stop to it.”

The regulation has actually been around for about 100 years, though it has for the most part gone unenforced. But in July, the District new regulations took effect that specified that tours conducted on “self-balancing personal transport vehicles,” a.k.a. Segways, are subject to the licensing regulation. There are only three Segway tour companies in the District, so the threat was pretty clear. Instead of waiting around for the District to begin enforcing the law, Main and Edwards decided to sue.

Not only does the regulation require a license, but it prohibits anyone without one from “[using] the words “sightseeing,” “tours,” “guide” or any combination of these words, to advertise the availability of sightseeing tour services.”

Institute for Justice points out that many people’s jobs are to talk, such as broadcast journalists or comedians, and there is no licensing fee for them to do so. Moreover, the regulation has unintended broad-reaching consequences: “If … a person hires a D.C. taxi for a sightseeing tour (at a cost of $25 per hour), and the driver talks about the prospects of the Washington Redskins, no law has been broken. But if, during that same ride, the driver says “Hey, that’s the Washington Monument,” the driver can be fined $300 or even thrown into jail for three months.”

Operating tours is a seasonal business, and a lot of Tonia and Bill’s employees are students on break from school, or people who just graduated and need something to pay the bills while they look for a full-time job. It’s not exactly a demographic that can afford to pay $200 for the luxury of having a summer job, so none of Segs in the City’s tour guides are licensed.

If you’ve ever been unemployed, it’s hard not to see Bill and Tonia as sympathetic figures. The two happily hire people who are looking for full-time jobs, putting them into the schedule for about 20 hours per week so that they can make money, but still have time to job hunt. If these people first had to pay $200 for a license to give tours, it’s likely they would have moved on to another job before they’d even managed to break even.


Robert Gates just flew in from D.C., and, man, are his arms tired

Robert Gates really,
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tells really corny jokes when he's on the road. Hokey anti-Washington gibes that "sound as though they were cribbed from an old issue of Reader's Digest," writes our colleague Greg Jaffe. Sample:
"It's always a treat to be someplace other than Washington, D.C.," Gates said. "The only place where, as I like to say, you can see a prominent person walking down Lover's Lane holding his own hand."
Yeah. Well, when he told that joke to a group in Kansas, he killed. Also, go vote for your favorite bad Washington joke -- the one about the difference between a congressman and a prostitute is way out in front currently

Christine o’Donnell 2010 Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. Speech

Voter Summit in Washington D.C,

Christine o’Donnell 2010 Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. Speech – Christine O’Donnell may be tea party celebrity after winning the Delaware primary, but that does not mean that she is immune to criticism. She was attacked by members of the GOP who said that she does not give the party its best chance at beating their democratic opponent because she leans so far to the right on most issues. She had been backed by Sarah Palin and other members of the Republican’s Tea Party sect, but was still not expected to pull off her upset victory over Mike Castle.
Now, after a 17 minute speech before the Family Research Council’s summit, she has said that she wants to help invigorate the nation and return it to its original values that apparently have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

She said that the conservative movement has been stagnant, and that the Tea Party has been able to revive it. She defeated Castle by a 6 point margin despite the fact that most of the GOP was not in favor of her winning the primary.

O’Donnell said that she is willing to ensure months of criticism and attacks for her beliefs because she believes that she is doing what is right for the country and went as far as to compare her confused party to the people of Israel saying:

I think it’s a little like the chosen people of Israel and the Hebrew scriptures, who cycle through periods of blessing and suffering and then return to the divine principles in their darker days. It’s almost as if we’re in a season of constitutional repentance. When our country’s on the wrong track, we search back to our first covenant, our founding documents, and the bold and inspired values on which they were based. Those American values enshrined in the Declaration provide the real answer.

It is strange to see a big Tea Party win divide the GOP right down the middle.
Many GOP politicians have been reluctant to align themselves with the Tea Party after facing accusations of condoning racism during the debate revolving around Health Care.


Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert ape Glenn Beck with 'Rally to restore sanity

Jon Stewart and 
Stephen Colbert,
Comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are about to attempt the impossible: satirising the rightwing TV personality Glenn Beck wth a "Rally to restore sanity" in Washington DC – inspired by a single headline on the social news website Reddit.
Add caption
In an obvious poke at the stage-managed sanctimony of Beck's "Rally to restore America" earlier this month, Stewart and Colbert will hold duelling rallies on the National Mall on 30 October – just three days before the US congressional midterm elections.

During his Daily Show apearance on Thursday, Stewart announced his plans for a "million moderate march", saying: "Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement."

Not to be outdone, Colbert on his show announced a "March to keep fear alive". In his persona as a parody of a rightwing talkshow host and foil to Stewart, Colbert explained:

"America, the greatest country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear – that someone might take our freedom and liberty."

"They want to replace our fear with reason. But never forget 'reason' is just one letter away from 'treason,'" said Colbert.

In case anyone thought this was all one big joke, in one respect at least the plan is deadly serious. The National Park Service confirmed that it had received an application from Comedy Central – the cable network behind the Daily Show and Colbert Report – for a permit for a "special event" near the Washington Monument on 30 October.

The impetus for the rally was born online, through the social news aggregator Reddit, a hugely influential US site where users, known as Redditors, submit, vote and comment on links to news items, photos and almost anything of interest online.

But in the wake of Beck's successful rally on 12 September, featuring the likes of Sarah Palin, a Redditor entered a post on the site simply headlined: "I've had a vision and I can't shake it: Stephen Colbert needs to hold a satirical rally in DC."

Mike Schiraldi, a Reddit administrator, explains how the campaign then took off:

One of the neat things about Reddit is that it can serve as a sort of "idea laboratory"
– anyone can post something there, and if it strikes a chord with enough people, it'll rocket to the top of the site.

Most submissions don't, but on 31 August, a redditor named MrSamMercer [real name: Joe Laughlin] suggested the idea of a Stephen Colbert rally and it immediately set off a flurry of interest.

It's hard to pinpoint when precisely things started to get real. Everyone had started spontaneously brainstorming, someone registered, and others were creating graphics. Back at Reddit HQ, we thought it was a neat project, but we wanted to stay hands-off and let the activity continue unmolested; we try to be as hands-off as possible. Meanwhile, The Colbert Report was on hiatus all week, so everything was operating in a vacuum, but still snowballing.

Then Colbert mentioned the idea and the website on his 7 September episode of the Colbert Report, which set off a fresh wave of enthusiasm, says Schiraldi:

Between the mention on the show, and the mention on our blog, it just sort of took off like a rocket that night; I would say this was the point where I became more or less certain that there was going to be some kind of rally. Perhaps not on the National Mall, perhaps not with the man himself, but something.

Then Joe [aka MrSamMercer] had his second stroke of genius: in order to show that this was more than your average internet petition, we would harness the movement and turn it into a charity drive. He found DonorsChoose, which turned out to be not just an organisation with Stephen Colbert on its board but also one that operated under an innovative social model.

Everyone on Reddit totally ate it up – it was a match made in heaven. I think this would be a cool model for future protests: giving money to good causes until you get your way. Like a hunger strike, except it actually accomplishes something.

Stewart's rally will have firm rules banning portraits adorned with Adolf Hitler-style moustaches, unless on an actual photograph of Hitler or Charlie Chaplin.

"You may be asking yourself, but am I the right person to go to this rally?" Stewart said on his show. "The fact that you would even stop to ask yourself that question, as opposed to just jumping up, grabbing the nearest stack of burnable holy books, strapping on a diaper and pointing your car towards DC – that means I think you just might be right for it."

Colbert, meanwhile, advised "freedom-loving patriots" to bring five extra pairs of underwear to challenge Stewart's "dark, optimistic forces", saying the nation can't afford a rally to restore sanity in the midst of a recession.

Assuming the rallies go ahead – the permit has yet to be finally approved – the real question is whether it is possible to satirise Glenn Beck, a man who once spent half an hour on television explaining the hidden "communist" conspiracy behind the design of Rockefeller Plaza in New York


Michelle Rhee calls DC primary results ‘devastating DC primary results ‘devastating

Michelle Rhee calls,

WASHINGTON — D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is calling the results from the city’s mayoral primary "devastating."

Rhee made her comments Wednesday night at the Newseum — a day after D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray won the Democratic primary, making him the city’s presumptive next mayor.

Rhee says the election results were "devastating for the schoolchildren" of Washington. She says the reform community cannot retreat now and it’s time to lean forward and "be more aggressive and more adamant."

The schools chancellor did not directly criticize Gray, who has not said whether Rhee would stay on under his administration.

Mayor Adrian Fenty chose Rhee to head the public schools in 2007. Her approach has made her unpopular among some residents.


Monday, August 16, 2010

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

US business firms,US markets,US Economy advantage
Largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $46,400. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of........

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Obama and Biden strategy for Iraq faces big turning point

Obama and Biden strategy for Iraq faces big turning point

There's been so much focus on Afghanistan lately, it's been easy to forget about the war in Iraq -- but big things are about to happen there as well.
Sponsor:Click2.infoVice President Joe Biden's surprise trip to Baghdad this week was designed in part to brace the Iraqis for the end of the U.S. combat mission in their country, currently set for Aug. 31.
Biden also reminded the Iraqis that the U.S. will continue to provide assistance for the foreseeable future.
On "August 31st, we will change our military mission by drawing closer to all of you, not further apart," Biden said at an Independence Day reception with Iraqi guests. "Out commitment to you will not disappear on August 31st; it will grow stronger. As you continue to stand up and build your democracy, we'll be there with you economically, politically, socially, science, education."
Even with the end of combat operations, some 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq to train and advise the Iraqi military, and assist with counter-terrorism operations.
Biden, who has become Obama's point person on Iraq, has also been speaking with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and election challenger Iyad Allawi about forming a new Iraqi government.
During the reception, Biden told Iraqi leaders: "The concept of subordinating your individual interest is fundamental to the success of any nation ... So my plea to you is, finish what you started -- a truly legitimate and representative government that meets the needs and aspirations of all Iraqi people."
Biden also reminded the Iraqis that the United States had a fractious start 234 years ago.
"When our Founders did it, when they signed that Declaration (of Independence), many of them did not even like one another," Biden said. "You think I'm joking; I'm not -- I'm absolutely confident you will do it."
(Posted by David Jackson)
Source:US Today

Afghan war chief faces political, timeline challenges

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, and 
commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan U.S. Gen. David Petraeus talk 
during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 
Saturday, July 3, 2010. (AP / Massoud Hossaini) Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, and commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan U.S. Gen. David Petraeus talk during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, July 3, 2010. (AP / Massoud Hossaini)

Afghan war chief faces political, timeline challenges

Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of 
U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, speaks during a ceremony in which 
he formally assumed the command in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, July 4, 
2010. (AP / Dusan Vranic) Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, speaks during a ceremony in which he formally assumed the command in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, July 4, 2010. (AP / Dusan Vranic)

Updated: Mon Jul. 05 2010 06:52:12 News Staff
The latest U.S. general to take the helm in the Afghan war is facing major political challenges and tight timelines in his latest posting, says a retired Canadian major-general.
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus formally took command of U.S. and NATO forces on the weekend, days after U.S. President Barack Obama turfed his predecessor -- U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- after he gave a controversial interview to Rolling Stone magazine.
Retired Canadian Forces major-general Lewis MacKenzie says Petraeus is being thrust into a combat theatre where his allies are losing their resolve to continue the mission and his commander-in-chief is keen to see real progress in the near future.
Petraeus is also tasked with working with Hamid Karzai, the controversial Afghan leader whose shaky relationship with the U.S. government has been recently rattled by Obama's renewed intention to withdraw American troops from the war-torn country as soon as next year.
"The relationship is important, but it is fragile these days because of the unfortunate statement by the president of the United States that they would look at starting to thin out in 2011," MacKenzie told CTV's Canada AM during an interview on Monday morning.
Obama has said a troop pullout decision would be based on improved security.
MacKenzie said the word on the ground is that American military leaders will now "take a look at the situation in 2011 and see whether in fact they can start to thin some American forces out."
Combined with the fact that the Canadians are set to end their combat role in Afghanistan next year, while the Dutch and U.K. forces are looking at drawing down their own forces in the near future, Karzai is facing "a very tenuous situation" as he works out how he will handle the aftermath of the eventual NATO pullout, said MacKenzie.
That means that the Americans are left with little time to get their mission back on track, as Obama watches the results following his change of command in Afghanistan.
"President Obama has got some challenges to put together a team that can get along, have a common strategy and common objectives and start to see some success," said MacKenzie.
"Right now, we're at a very, very serious tipping point in that entire conflict in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan."
CTV's South Asia Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer said Obama needs to have something he can point to as a measure of success, or at least progress, as he heads into mid-term elections later this year.
"Public opinion polls in the United States are showing that people are turning against the war and certainly the Obama administration wants to be able to see something decisive in this campaign by the end of the year," she told CTV's Canada AM by telephone from Kabul on Monday morning.
Support for the Afghan war has also dropped in Canada and the United Kingdom, as the conflict drags into its ninth year and casualties continue to mount.
"There are some 130,000 troops who are going to be on the ground here by the end of the summer and the insurgency seems to be getting stronger," said Mackey Frayer.
MacKenzie said Petraeus will likely follow the counterinsurgency strategy employed by McChrystal, which the incoming general helped to shape when he helmed the U.S. war in Iraq.
"I don't think anybody down the chain of command will notice a change in strategy," said MacKenzie, noting that some small changes in tactics could be possible.

Source:CTV ca

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mystery still surrounds cause of Polish air tragedy

POLISH INVESTIGATORS say they have uncovered no evidence that Polish president Lech Kaczynski demanded that his pilot make a fatal crash landing in fog last Saturday.

Russian authorities confirmed yesterday that they had identified the body of Polish first lady Maria Kaczynska, who died along with her husband and 94 others in the air crash near the western Russian town of Smolensk.

Her remains will be flown home today, a day after those of Mr Kaczynski. The deceased president will lie in state from today at the presidential palace in Warsaw ahead of a state funeral on Saturday.

Mystery persists about why the aircraft clipped trees and crashed in flames after Russian tests yesterday revealed no mechanical defects.

Polish authorities say the aircraft had been fitted recently with new electronic equipment and the engine had been overhauled. But diplomats familiar with the aircraft have questioned why Warsaw still used a Soviet-built Tupolev 154 “badly in need of replacement”.

“It’s hard to understand how we are involved in costly missions in Afghanistan and Iraq but are unable for years to equip our [leaders] with proper planes,” said Prof Roman Kuzniar, an international affairs analyst at Warsaw University.

That has all turned the spotlight back on Mr Kaczynski. Asked whether the pilot was pressurised to land by the president, Poland’s chief prosecutor, Andrzej Seremet, said yesterday: “At the current level of the investigation we have no such information.”

After flight recorders revealed nothing unusual, Russian investigators said yesterday they had moved on to the voice recorders.

Mindful of the continuing week of mourning, Polish media have not dared even raise the possibility that Mr Kaczynski had a role in the crash. But the Russian media have recalled how, in 2008, Mr Kaczynski demanded that a pilot land his aircraft in Tblisi in the middle of the Georgian war; the pilot refused and diverted.

A Russian flight expert suggested in the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that the crash was caused by “VIP passenger syndrome”. But this was dismissed by a colleague of Arkadiusz Protasiuk, the crash pilot.

“He was a tough man who wouldn’t let emotions prevail over common sense,” said Tomasz Pietrzak, another government pilot, on Polish radio. “He would certainly not risk passengers’ lives.”

The crash has also prompted reflection in political circles about whether the incident might have been the indirect consequence of years of competition between the president and Polish prime minister Donal Tusk.

Last Wednesday, Mr Tusk flew to Katyn for a memorial service with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Feeling snubbed at not being invited, Mr Kaczynski, from a competing party, organised a competing event on Saturday to remember the 22,000 Polish soldiers massacred at Katyn in 1940.

“As a consequence of the crash, this unfortunate situation may finally be at an end,” said Andrzej Maciejewski, political analyst of the Sobieski Institute think tank.

Mr Kaczynski’s office published his final, undelivered speech yesterday, in which he paid tribute to the Katyn soldiers and the families who kept their memory alive, and condemned the Soviet cover-up as “the founding lie of the [communist] People’s Republic of Poland”. But the president, known for his anti-Russian tirades, saved his final words to thank Moscow for its assistance ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.

The undelivered words carry additional poignancy now: “Let’s allow the Katyn wound to finally heal,” he planned to say. “We are already on the path; we should follow it to bring our nations closer and not stop or retreat.”

Mr Maciejewski of the Sobieski Institute said: “In future we will be able to distinguish between pre-April 10th Polish-Russian relations and post-April 10th.”

Source:Poland Twitter

In dark times Poland needs the sunlight of truth

In 1943 Poland’s wartime leader accused Moscow of ordering the Katyn massacre, the systematic murder of 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals. A few months later he was dead, the victim of an air crash. Was it murder? Almost certainly not, but Poland’s painful past, combined with official secrecy, created precisely the muggy and mysterious conditions in which conspiracy theory thrives.

In 2010 another Polish leader, President Lech Kaczynski, heads to Katyn to commemorate the appalling massacre that took place there. Within hours he too is dead, along with his wife and 94 other members of Poland’s elite, the victims of another air crash. Was this coincidence? Almost certainly, but a similar climate of suspicion ensures that the conspiracies are already sprouting, and spreading.

The thread connecting these events is secrecy, for it is concealment that turns a tragedy into a festering historical sore. Britain still has not released all the files on the death in 1943 of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government-in-exile. For decades Moscow declined to admit what had happened at Katyn, and Vladimir Putin still refuses to apologise.

In the confusion and grief following the Smolensk air crash on Saturday, the whispers, rumours and accusations have begun to circulate. The Polish president’s plane, it is noted darkly, was Russian-made, and recently serviced in Russia. The Russian Government heartily disliked President Kaczynski, who had criticised Russia’s “new imperialism”. Moscow declined to invite him to a ceremony at Katyn last Wednesday — so Kaczynski decided to hold a second memorial service, and was killed en route.

Initial reports have ruled out mechanical failure, so was the pilot pressurised to make the landing by his august passengers? Polish conspiracists are already blaming the Russian secret service, while others suggest that Russian hardliners may have sought to undermine Mr Putin by sabotaging the plane.

Poland has a deeply emotional, almost mystical relationship with the story of tragedy, rebellion, courage and repression that is Polish history. The present is permanently refracted through the past. “The place is cursed,” declared Aleksander Kwasniewski, the former President, after the latest tragedy associated with Katyn.

Lech Walesa’s remark was even more telling: “This is the second Katyn tragedy; the first time they tried to cut our head off, and now again the elite of our country has perished.” Implicit is the assumption that “they”, unnamed enemies, must also lie behind Poland’s latest national calamity.

The only way to ensure against wild conspiracy theories is to conduct the crash investigation in the disinfecting sunlight; to eschew the secrecy that is Moscow’s natural instinct; and to ensure that the historical verdict on this episode is provided, or at least believed, by Poles. To do, in short, everything that Britain failed to do when investigating the death of another Polish leader, 67 years ago.

On July 4, 1943, General Sikorski, the Polish commander-in-chief of land under Nazi occupation, took off from Gibraltar in a converted RAF Liberator bomber, bound for England. A few minutes later the plane plummeted into the harbour, killing 16 passengers on board including Sikorski’s daughter, Zofia. The Czech pilot was the sole survivor.

A British court of inquiry conducted a swift and secret investigation, which ruled out sabotage but failed to establish the cause of the crash. The pilot said his controls had jammed.

The conspiracy theories erupted almost immediately, and have continued ever since. One held that the Nazis had orchestrated the crash, determined to remove a popular Polish figurehead. Even greater suspicion fell on Stalin, who had most to gain from eliminating the troublesome general. Three months earlier Sikorski had called for a Red Cross investigation into the Katyn massacres, prompting a furious Stalin to break off relations with the Polish Government-in-exile.

Alternative theories claimed that the assassination was the work of a Polish faction, or the British, keen to remove an impediment to good relations with its Soviet ally. Soldiers, a 1968 play by the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, even suggested that Winston Churchill had played a role in the supposed assassination plot.

Many British documents relating to the crash remain classified, and for nearly seven decades the conspiracists have been allowed virtually free rein. Kim Philby, then head of MI6 counterintelligence for the Iberian Peninsula, was said to have had a hand in organising Sikorski’s death on behalf of his Moscow spymasters. Sikorski’s daughter was allegedly spotted in a Soviet gulag many years later. Sikorski himself was variously said to have been poisoned, strangled, suffocated or shot before being loaded on to the doomed plane.

Last year Polish forensic scientists exhumed the general’s corpse from a crypt in Cracow and concluded that he had died in the air crash after all. But, as Polish historians pointed out at the time, until or unless all the British and Soviet archives are released, the fate of Poland’s wartime leader will continue to be a source of friction and fantasy.

Sikorski’s plane probably crashed because someone accidentally placed luggage on the steering mechanism. An equally simple explanation — most likely pilot error — may lie behind the accident that deprived Poland of so much of its leadership last weekend.

If so, it is essential that the Polish people themselves see the truth being revealed. So far, Russia has made the right noises, promising an open investigation and agreeing to leave the aircraft at the scene.

But so long as Mr Putin heads the commission investigating the crash, Poles will wonder about the truth of its findings. Russia should invite Polish experts to take part in, and witness, every aspect of the investigation. Mr Putin has gone some way towards building a historical consensus about Katyn, even making a personal appearance at the service last week. This is another opportunity for him to demonstrate that history, as it unfolds, can bring old enemies together, as well as force them apart.

Like the Katyn massacre and the death of General Sikorski, the Smolensk crash will come to represent another tragic milestone in Poland’s history. The horror of Katyn was hidden for half a century behind Soviet lies; the fate of Sikorski was obscured, for far too long, by British secrecy. This time Poland itself should have the right to decide what really happened.

Source:Poland Twitter