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Polish law banning communist symbols causes uproar

WARSAW, Poland — Poles heading out to do last-minute Christmas shopping should give any Che Guevara T-shirts a wide berth as a new Polish law threatens anyone who produces or propagates communist symbols with two years in prison. The legislation has caused outrage among Poland's ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) party, which plans to challenge the law's constitutionality before the end of the year. But it is worrying everyone from collectors of communist memorabilia to restaurateurs with increasingly popular themed eateries recalling Poland's communist past.

Poles wary of Nord Stream pact

WARSAW, Poland — History suggests that when Russia and Germany announce a deal that is slightly too sweet, Poland has reason to be wary. Which is why the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, acidly dubbed a plan to build an underwater natural gas pipeline from Russia’s Siberian gas fields to Germany’s Baltic coast “the Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline,” a reference to the pact between the Nazis and the Soviets to carve up Poland on the eve of World War II.

Poland resists secularization

WARSAW, Poland — Earlier this month Poland's parliament voted to express "concern" over a ruling by the European Human Rights Tribunal that crosses hung in classrooms could violate the rights of parents. Then, Poland's highest court decided that grades in religion class should be included on Polish students' transcripts. Together the vote and the decision show that this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country is, officially at least, resisting the general European trend toward secularization.

Poland's internal swine flu fight

WARSAW, Poland — Poland is standing alone against the swine flu, as one of the only European Union member states to refuse to place orders for the H1N1 virus vaccine because of the health minister's concerns about its safety. But now the country’s human rights ombudsman is threatening the health minister, Ewa Kopacz, with prosecution unless she moves on the vaccine.

Germany and France remain non-commital on Afghanistan

BRUSSELS, Belgium — For months, European allies have said they wanted to hear U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans for Afghanistan before they made any new commitments of troops to the eight-year-old war, now led by NATO. "I think most countries are waiting for the American decisions," Dutch Defense Minister Eimert Van Middelkoop said in October at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Bratislava.

How Donald Tusk came to dominate Polish politics

WARSAW, Poland — Donald Tusk, a balding and physically unimposing man, doesn’t at first glance look like a political colossus. But Poland’s prime minister has become by far his country’s dominant political figure, which he re-emphasized last week in celebrations marking two years of his government. “We have become a great, proud country,” a triumphant Tusk, 52, said at the start of a two-day conference to observe the anniversary.

How a Pole could hurt Britain's Conservatives

WARSAW, Poland — Michal Kaminski has become one of the best-known Poles in Britain, but that isn’t something Poles are enormously pleased about. The reason? Kaminski has become the target of a sustained political attack by the British Labour party ahead of U.K. elections as Labour seeks to damage its Conservative rivals. His impolitic statements about an anti-Jewish pogrom in wartime Poland as well as condescending remarks about homosexuals left him a sitting duck.

Opinion: The day after the Wall fell

NEW YORK — As the attention of the world's media turns to Berlin, where 20 years ago East Germans freely crossed the Berlin Wall for the first time, few have paid attention to what happened the day after. Back then no one could envision that the period of limbo between Nov. 10, 1989 and Oct. 3, 1990, when German was reunified, would go as smoothly as it did. Germans, their neighbors, friends and rivals all had their fears. What were they, and did they come to pass?

Crossing the border, 1990

NEW YORK — We hunched in the tall saw grass, Christian and I, he wielding a Nikon, me clutching a reporter’s notebook. With us was a Romanian smuggler named Iordan, a “sherpa” of sorts making a good living smuggling eastern European migrants into what would soon become the territory of the European Union.

What feta and reindeer meat have in common

NIS, Serbia — In early autumn in southern Serbia markets are ablaze with the new crop of peppers and minds turn to the arduous task of making ajvar, a garlic-infused red pepper paste that is a beloved culinary treasure. This year, however, there was a shadow hanging over the ritual roasting, peeling and packing of the peppers. Rumors were rife that Serbia’s Balkan neighbors were seeking to claim ajvar as their own.
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