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Tens of thousands attend pro-democracy rally in Poland

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WARSAW — Tens of thousands of Poles have rallied across the country to protest the country’s new right-wing government and its tightening grip on power.

The central rally in Warsaw was interrupted early due to a bomb threat.

Former presidents Bronislaw Komorowski and Aleksander Kwasniewski led the crowd — of around 50,000 people according to protesters or 10,000 according to police — as they chanted “Freedom! Equality! Democracy!” and waved EU and Polish flags.

“I’m against this government. I didn’t vote for it. I believe they’re breaking laws,” said Dorota Leszkowicz, a 61-year-old retired psychologist who turned up dressed in the EU member state’s red and white colours.

Poles also massed in several other cities to mark the semi-free elections on June 4, 1989 — Poland’s first dose of democracy that heralded the peaceful demise of communist rule.

The rallies were organised by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a movement that sprung up in opposition to the policies adopted by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that came into power in November.

The reforms, which give the Government more control over the media and other institutions while weakening the constitutional court, have alarmed critics at home and abroad.

“Basically, it’s the PiS takeover of everything,” said Bethann Hubert, a 52-year-old American living in Warsaw and a member of the KOD expat group.

“It’s scary to watch.”

The Government reforms have also drawn concern from the European Union, which on Wednesday issued an unprecedented warning to the ruling party to roll back its overhaul of the top Polish court or risk sanctions.

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Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski downplayed the EU warning, calling it “a suggestion, which doesn’t oblige us to do anything”.

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a party congress on Saturday that “Poles have a right to change”.

“They have the right to build [the country] anew and make it better, more advantageous for the clear majority of Poles,” he said.

In January the European Commission, the EU executive arm, launched a probe into whether Poland’s reforms violate EU democracy rules and merit punitive measures according to the “rule of law” mechanism Brussels introduced in 2014.

AFP

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Over 70% of deep-sea fish of Atlantic Ocean have ingested plastic : Study

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Fragments of plastic are found throughout the world, from nearly every continent to nearly every body of water. But, researchers recently have found 73 percent of Northwest Atlantic deep-sea fish are also eating it — the highest reported frequency of plastic-eating fish in the world.

Plastic particles were found in some of the most remote parts of the Atlantic Ocean with almost three quarters of a sample of more than 230 deep-water fish collected by NUI Galway scientists having ingested plastic particles.

The contamination level among the fish species, located in the northwest Atlantic thousands of kilometres from land and 600m down in the ocean, is one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish worldwide, according to the study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

The NUIG scientists, as part of the study, participated in a transatlantic crossing onboard the marine institute’s Celtic Explorer vessel.

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PhD candidate and lead author Alina Wieczorek said, “Deep-water fish migrate to the surface at night to feed on plankton [microscopic animals] and this is likely when they are exposed to the microplastics.”

During this research cruise they took dead deep-sea fish from midwater trawls such as the spotted lanternfish, rakery beaconlamp, stout saw-palate and scaly dragonfish.

Microplastics are small plastic fragments that commonly originate from the breakdown of larger plastic items entering the ocean. Other sources may be waste water effluents carrying plastic fibres from clothing and microbeads from personal care products. Due to their low density, most of these microplastics float at the sea surface.

The fish ranged in size from the smallest species the Glacier Lantern at 3.5cm to the largest species, the stout saw-palate at 59cm.

Agencies

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