Ambassadors from 50 nations sign letter supporting LGBTQ rights in Poland

Poland has become an increasingly unwelcoming place for the LGBTQ community. 50 diplomats hope to change that.

Ambassadors from 50 nations sign letter supporting LGBTQ rights in Poland

Signs from a gay pride parade in Warsaw in 2019. In many parts of Poland, this would be of dubious legality.

Credit: Sentemon/Shutterstock
  • An open letter, signed by 50 ambassadors and NGO leaders, asked the Polish government to respect LGBT rights.
  • The Polish Government responded by denying the implied discrimination exists.
  • Poland has been deemed the "worst place to be gay" in the EU in spite of this.

Of all the countries in Europe to have a right-wing, authoritarian turn over the last few years, one would have thought Poland to be one of the least likely candidates.

After enduring a brutal invasion by Nazi Germany, suffering under the military regime imposed on them, and seeing millions of their countrymen die, Poland experienced fifty years of soviet-style dictatorship which ended only with the revolutions of 1989. Few nations have endured so much in living memory.

Despite these hard-won lessons, Poland has taken a turn towards authoritarianism over the last few years. As with all such turns, an enemy is designated as the implausible source of potential national decline and a threat to a decent way of life. In this case, it is LGBT+ individuals.

The stigmatization of LGBT+ individuals in Poland has been increasingly vicious, with several provinces, covering nearly a third of the country, having declared themselves "LGBT Free Zones." While of dubious legality and mostly unenforceable, the declarations seek to limit things such as pride parades by declaring the polity in opposition to "LGBT ideology." Despite the limited legal ramifications of these declarations, life for LGBT people in these zones can be unpleasant.

In response to this, more than 50 signatories, consisting primarily of ambassadors to Poland, have endorsed an open letter speaking to the need for all people to be able to enjoy their rights and the duties of governments to protect them.

Strongly worded letters, the weapon of champions.

Organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Poland, the open letter was signed by the Ambassadors of 43 nations representing most of Europe and all of continental North America, as well as several countries from Asia, Africa, and South America. Representatives of various international organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also signed.

The letter pays tribute to those working for LGBT+ rights in Poland and affirms the dignity found in each person "as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It goes on to remind the reader that "respect for these fundamental rights, which are also enshrined in OSCE commitments and the obligations and standards of the Council of Europe and the European Union as communities of rights and values, obliges governments to protect all citizens from violence and discrimination and to ensure they enjoy equal opportunities."

It ends with the declaration, "Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBT+ persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment. This is something that everyone should support."

The American Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, retweeted the letter and added, "Human Rights are not an ideology - they are universal. 50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree."

The Response of the Polish Government

The Polish Government was less than pleased with the letter and its implications.

The Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, rejected the letter and its implications, saying "nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance."

This sort of rebuttal is nothing new; just last week, when American Presidential Candidate Joe Biden tweeted that "LGBT-free zones' have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world," the Polish Embassy in the United States was quick to say the tweet was based on inaccurate information, to reassure the world that there are no such zones, and to restate their belief there is no place for discrimination in society.

A quick fact check demonstrates otherwise. Several places in Poland have declared themselves to be "LGBT free zones," violence inspired by anti-LGBT+ propaganda has taken place, leading government figures have declared homosexuality to be a "threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state," and the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda has declared the LGBT movement to be more dangerous than Communism. Surveys show nearly a third of Poland's people believe in a grand conspiracy against them involving "gender ideology."

It is also worth repeating that Poland has been declared the worst place in the European Union for gay rights. Same-sex unions of any kind, including civil unions, are still illegal, and gay couples have no right to adopt children. Laws against hate crimes and conversion therapy are also notoriously lacking. Though to their credit, gay men and bisexuals can donate blood in Poland with greater ease then they can in the United States.

Despite having a first-hand understanding of the dangers of authoritarianism and intolerance than most nations, some in Poland continue to use the LGBT+ community as a boogeyman. While it is not the first time such things have been done, perhaps it will be one of the last.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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