Between Mattress and Cushion

December 17, 2014
Secret Savings

Secret Savings

Poles are rather secretive about their financial life. Sociologists, psychologists and economists are trying to identify and examine the financial habits of Poles. Research shows that economic behaviour is driven by a variety of factors. Professor Dominika Maison in her book “The Pole in the World of Finance” claims that the worse off people around us are, the more satisfied we feel with our own financial situation. The studies show that contented people who feel in control of their lives and actively exercise the power to make things happen are more successful financially than those passive and reliant on fate or luck. What experts find particularly worrying is the attitude of Poles to saving. Statistically, the average Pole has only €3,400 put away, which places Poles near the bottom of the European rankings. Additionally, half of the total savings are owned by just 10% of the population, while 60% of the population have no savings at all. Economists generally agree that a household should have savings equivalent to at least three months income as a so-called financial cushion to buffer the effects of unforeseen events. Meanwhile, instead of securing this financial cushion many Polish people still prefer to keep their money under the mattress. One in five Poles do not have a bank account. Such financial exclusion results from a poor economic education and a significant share in the grey economy, which often implies avoiding banks. Many respondents admit that they do not manage their finances with due care or make long-term financial plans. The inability to plan the household budget is the primary source of difficulties in the timely payment of debts. The second most important reason for financial problems is job loss or other unforseen events. When pressed for cash, most Poles resort to borrowing. The majority of those who have savings say they would be able to live on their savings for two months.
Polityka

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Cracked Crystal

December 13, 2014
Gallium Nitride in Use

Gallium Nitride in Use

As a result of a rift between shareholders, an innovative Polish company faces the spectre of bankruptcy instead of conquering the global market. Two years ago Warsaw-based Ammono announced that thanks to its patented semiconductor materials from gallium nitride it would be able to throw down the gauntlet to the industry giants. However, plans to enter the global market have been stymied as a result of acrimony between the scientists who founded the company and Glencross Holdings fund, which bought a stake in Ammono in 2011 and was to help commercialise the innovative technology. Although the founders still hold a majority stake, the minority shareholder manages the business. As follows from the latest entries in the National Court Register, both parties have decided to take legal action to assert their claims. The court is supposed not only to resolve the dispute but also decide on the possible bankruptcy of the company. At an extraordinary general meeting in January the shareholders will vote on a resolution on the continued existence of the company and on granting consent for the company to conclude agreements which will allow it to complete projects in progress. In the meantime the management board will hold talks with entities interested in investing in the business. No information has been provided as to whose shares would be offered or whether investors would be invited to take up a new issue. If the conflict leads to the bankruptcy of Ammono, Polish technology will miss a great opportunity. According to the company’s estimates, the market of gallium nitride semiconductors will be worth $25 billion in 2015. The crystals grown in Poland, which are much better than the currently available materials, have attracted interest from the automotive sector, producers of electronics, research institutes, the arms industry and technical agencies, mainly from Asia and the USA. The Japanese are working on a competitor technology.
Puls Biznesu

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Obesity Pandemic

December 12, 2014
Watch What You Eat

Watch What You Eat

Poland is now facing not just an obesity epidemic but a pandemic, conclude specialists of the National Food and Nutrition Institute. According to the institute, efforts to combat obesity have failed, the growing trend in the prevalence for obesity has not been halted and for the time being Poland seems to be fighting a losing battle. 64% of men and 48% of women in Poland are overweight. In Europe, the UK, Hungary and Germany show even worse statistics with 64-67% of the male and 48-57% of the female population being overweight or obese. The Greeks and the Americans are the heaviest people in the world: 71% of men and 61% of women are overweight. Professor Jadwiga Charzewska of the National Food and Nutrition Institute believes that the actual numbers are likely to be much higher since people with too many kilograms tend to understate their weight in surveys. She also noted considerable differences in the prevalence of obesity across various regions in Poland. On average, 22.3% of Poles have a high BMI, but in the Łódź region it is 30% and in Mazovia it is as high as 32%. Silesia recorded the smallest share of overweight or obese people: 16.5%. It is particularly alarming that the percentage of overweight children is rapidly growing. Research on children aged 11-12 shows that 28% of boys and 22% of girls in Poland are overweight. This does not bode well for the future as obesity is responsible for numerous health problems later in life and it reduces life expectancy, especially if people are overweight during childhood. This is most commonly caused by a combination of eating too much and an unhealthy life style, notably lack of physical activity and insufficient sleep.
wyborcza.pl

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Dream Fountain Pens

December 11, 2014
For a Lifetime

For a Lifetime

The Polish fountain pen market is growing. The “Pen Show” held in Katowice, akin to similar events in western Europe, is already in its second year and has attracted both distributors and collectors from all over the world. The third such event is scheduled for April 2015. Wrocław, in turn, has its “Pen Salon Steinhaus”. Kings and politicians have always liked pens. Writers, unsurprisingly, have often found their writing instruments of extreme significance. It was, however, only in the late 19th century that Lewis Edison Waterman, an insurer in New York, invented the fountain pen after he lost a lucrative contract because of an ink blot. Some people collect vintage pens, frequently giving them a new lease of life, while others centre their interest on contemporary rare series and unique editions adorned with gold, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and even mammoth tusks. Collecting pens does not greatly differ from collecting paintings or drawings. Each pen has a number, is often decorated by hand, and the equipment used for its manufacture is destroyed to guarantee that there will be no more pens in a given series. And a series of pens can be very short. Visconti produced a limited series of 17 pens studded with diamonds which now fetch as much as PLN 80,000 apiece. To collect pens or invest in them you need not only a fat wallet, but also patience. The prices of contemporary limited editions typically start at a few thousand złoty, but there is no shortage of buyers and many limited editions are now sold out or can only be bought if you place a special order which might take months to be fulfilled. Then there are specialist auctions. Good fountain pens have guarantees for the life of their first owner. The first pen with a perpetual guarantee was the Scheaffer Lifetime model produced in 1920. Such durability does not mean, though, that pens do not require meticulous care. The pen should be well-suited to the hand, stored and cleaned  properly. Only then will it serve its owner for years without losing value.
pulsbiznesu.pb.pl

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Baltic Soundscape Map

December 4, 2014
Baltic Backdrop

Baltic Backdrop

Research, scheduled to last until the end of the year, will provide data for drawing up a noise map of the Baltic Sea. Information is being gathered by 40 probes situated at various points in the Baltic Basin. “Since the end of WWII the level of noise in our seas and oceans has increased manifold. Meanwhile, the organisms living in our seas are extremely sensitive to noise, and sound propagates underwater much farther and with greater force than in the air,” says Jarosław Tęgowski of the Department of Marine Geology at the University of Gdańsk. Scientists from six countries, including Poland, intend to protect sea creatures from the effects of underwater noise pollution. Four to ten probes per country are placed along the coastline of Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Estonia and Finland. Poland has five. They are located at depths of ten and ninety metres and are positioned to collect as complete data as possible. The devices began working on 1 January and will remain active until 31 December, therefore the recorded data will show how noise levels change throughout the year. In parallel, the researchers are also collecting information on the type, size and speed of ships on the Baltic Sea since marine traffic is the principal source of underwater noise. The development of the map and software for the calculation of underwater noise levels will continue until mid-2016. The tools will then be used for environmental protection purposes. “It is important given that limited visibility in murky water caused numerous sea creatures to develop in the course of their evolution the ability to use sounds to locate objects, notably to find food. Manmade noise disorientates them, sometimes depriving them of food. The international project is called the Baltic Sea Information on Acoustic Soundscape (BIAS). It is co-financed by the European Union and in Poland also by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.
wyborcza.pl

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Dark Side of Zachęta

December 3, 2014
Zachęta Art

Zachęta Art

How did belief in progress, hygiene and the scientific approach strengthen the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century? These questions are considered at the Zachęta gallery in Warsaw, where a new exhibition, “Progress and Hygiene”, has just opened. The artworks presented there, which include paintings, installations, films and photographs, explore the complex and troubling relations between modernity and violence. The exhibition attempts to depict the pitfalls of progress, tracing how striving for scientific and social advancement underpinned and reinforced totalitarian states. The interplay between progress and violence is presented in the visual interpretation of contemporary Polish and foreign artists. They also show how they visualise violence at work nowadays, our tacit acceptance of and acquiescence to it, and even dressing it up in the rhetoric of humanism and ecology. The exhibition can be contemplated as a visual essay presenting some well-known images of the 20th and 21st centuries from a novel perspective. It seeks connections between the notion of modernity and such themes as genetic engineering, eugenics, social engineering, national identity, the problem of the ‘other’, exclusion and even cosmetic surgery. Visitors must set in motion their own train of associations, drawing on their own imagination and memories. A major difficulty of the exhibition and simultaneously its greatest merit is that its narration runs along two parallel tracks. Firstly, there is the path of documents and archives which need to be read as such. Secondly, there is the artistic path which calls for a different mode of perception because even if art might gain some semblance of a document, it is not one. The exhibition, which can be seen until 15 February 2015, provides food for thought also through its unconventional juxtapositions of the items on display.
wyborcza.pl

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Polish Street Art in Rome

December 1, 2014
Coffee Break in a Garbage Can

Coffee Break in a Garbage Can

Two Polish artists, Przemek Blejzyk and Mateusz Gapski, have painted a 32-metre-high mural on the wall of an 8-storey block of flats in Rome. It depicts a moustached man wearing a shirt emerging from a waste bin. There is a waste bin cover with a banana skin on top of it on his head and he is holding a steaming cup of coffee in his left hand. The mural appeared on the wall of a residential block of flats in the Tor Pignattara district of the Eternal City. It immediately drew the attention and praise of the Italian press, which noted its provocative message and unusual graphic expression. Newspapers report that the mural now attracts street art fans from all over Rome who want to see the new piece of art. The artists, known as Bezt and Sainer, are graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź. They are the co-founders of “Etam Cru” artistic group and have created large format murals in Polish cities like Bydgoszcz, Łódź, Warsaw and Szczecin, as well as in Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Portugal and the USA. One of their best known works is “Traveller with a Monkey and a Barrel Organ” at 72 Dzielna street in Warsaw. The artists explain that the idea of painting a giant figure drinking coffee occurred to them because when they came to Rome everybody offered them coffee. It took them a week to complete the mural. The daily “Il Fatto Quotidiano” notes that previously the Polish street artists provoked enthusiastic reactions in the USA and several European countries. The work was part of a project aimed at livening up the drab streets and districts on the outskirts of Rome which are dominated by council estates. According to the plan, Tor Pignattara district is set to become the centre of street art in the Italian capital. The curator of the project Marta Gargiulo says that it will boost the image of the district which is seen as a centre of criminal activity, grappling with numerous social problems.
wyborcza.pl

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