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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Taiwan president omits one-China policy in first speech

May 20, 2016

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — New Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has omitted mentioning the one-China policy in her inaugural address, a move likely to anger Beijing. Tsai said In her speech Friday that she respected the "joint acknowledgements and understandings" reached between the sides at a landmark 1992 meeting seen by China as underpinning all subsequent contacts and agreements.

However, Tsai made no explicit mention of the concept that Taiwan is a part of China that Beijing says is crucial to the entire relationship. Tsai said she wants all current contacts to continue and will work to maintain peace and stability between the sides.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened to invade the island if it formally breaks from the mainland. The sides split amid civil war in 1949.

Taiwan plans missile deployment in disputed islands

Taipei (AFP)
Oct 13, 2011

Taiwan's defense minister has backed a plan to deploy advanced missiles in the South China Sea over concerns that rival claimants to disputed islands are building up their arms, a legislator said Thursday.

Kao Hua-chu endorsed a proposal passed by the country's defense committee Wednesday demanding coastguard units in Taiping and the Pratas islands -- claimed by China -- be armed with Chaparral or Tien Chien I missiles.

"Minister Kao made it clear that he supports the proposal," he was quoted as saying in a statement released by Lin Yu-fang, the legislator from the ruling Kuomintang who pushed for the deployment.

Apparently mindful of rising regional tensions, Kao said the Taiwanese coastguards may need advanced weaponry rather than the Chaparral which Taiwan first acquired in the 1980s.

"Perhaps Tien Chien I or more advanced air defense missile systems should be given priority since the Chaparral is pretty old," Kao said.

The plan came following a report in July which found that Taiwan's coastguards in the contested waters were vulnerable amid mounting tensions.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim all or part of the Spratlys, which could lie on top of large oil reserves.

The Taiwanese coastguard currently has a 130-strong garrison on Taiping, the biggest island in the Spratlys archipelago.

Lin said the proposed ground-to-air missile deployment would be legitimate, citing the ministry's recent report on the military buildups by Vietnam and other neighboring countries in the area.

Vietnam has deployed thousands of marines in the zone, backed Russia-made Su-27SK and Su-30MK2 fighter jets, Lin cited the report as saying.

"In stark contrast, the Taiwanese coastguards are only equipped with 20-mm air defense guns," he said in a statement.

The defense ministry added that in case of military conflicts, Taiwanese coastguards could hardly defend themselves against the Philippine forces equipped with naval gunboats, Lin added.

Source: Sino Daily.
Link: http://www.sinodaily.com/reports/Taiwan_plans_missile_deployment_in_disputed_islands_999.html.

Japan's ruling coalition wins election, promises revival

July 10, 2016

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's ruling coalition was a clear winner in Sunday's parliamentary elections, preliminary results and Japanese media exit polls indicated, paving the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to push ahead with his economic revival policies, but also possibly changing the nation's postwar pacifist constitution.

Half of the seats of the less powerful upper house were up for grabs. There had been no possibility for a change of power because the ruling coalition, headed by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, already controls the more powerful lower house, but the balloting was a key gauge of how much support Abe's coalition has among the public. The opposition had called on voters to show their rejection of Abe's position to have a more assertive military role for Japan.

According to the exit polls, the Liberal Democrats won 57 to 59 seats among the 121 that were contested. Its coalition partner Komeito won about 14 seats. Combined with other conservative politicians, the coalition may win a two-thirds majority in the upper house, which would be critical to propose a referendum needed to change the constitution. Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the Liberal Democrats may clinch the majority on their own.

Final results of the balloting aren't expected until early Monday. Abe showed up before TV cameras at party headquarters, all smiles, to pin red flowers, indicating confirmed wins, next to his candidates' names written on a big board.

"I am honestly so relieved," he told NHK, promising new government spending to help wrest the economy out of the doldrums in a "total and aggressive" way. He declined to give the amount for the spending. He also said discussions should start on changing the constitution to work out details.

With their pro-business policies, the Liberal Democrats have ruled Japan almost continuously since World War II, and until recently enjoyed solid support from rural areas. The few years the opposition held power coincided with the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that devastated northeastern Japan. The opposition, however, fell out of favor after being heavily criticized for its reconstruction efforts.

Robert Dujarric, professor and director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University Japan in Tokyo, said the win reflected voters' disenchantment with the opposition, rather than their excitement about Abe's policies.

"The public is old. It doesn't want change," he said. "It doesn't want what Japan really needs — more structural reform, less money for the old and more funding for families and children." The Japanese constitution, written by the United States after Japan's defeat in World War II, limits its military to a self-defense role, although Japan has a well-equipped modern army, navy and air force that work closely with the U.S., Japan's most important ally. Many members of Japan's military don't anticipate becoming involved in overseas wars, expecting that their work will be limited to disaster relief.

But some Japanese agree with Abe's views on security because of growing fears about terrorism, the recent missile launches by North Korea and China's military assertiveness. Sunday's was the first major election since Japan lowered the voting age from 20 to 18, potentially adding 2.4 million voters. Although "manga" animation and other events were used to woo young voters, results from early and absentee voting pointed to a low turnout, highlighting how many young Japanese are disillusioned with mainstream politics.

Masses of people have come out against nuclear power since the March 2011 Fukushima catastrophe. But that has not weakened Abe in recent elections, although he has made clear that he is eager to restart reactors that were idled after the nuclear disaster, the worst since Chernobyl, and make atomic energy a Japanese export.

Abe had repeatedly stressed during his campaign that his "Abenomics" program, centered on easy lending and a cheap yen to encourage exports, is still unfinished, and that patience is needed for results.

"I voted hoping the economy of the country gets better," Jiro Yonehara, a "salaryman," as company employees are called, said after emerging from a voting booth. "I think the economy is still hitting bottom, and I hope it gets better even just a bit so that my life gets easier."

Tetsuro Kato, professor of politics at Waseda University, said the election showed an opposition in shambles. He said some members of the opposition may defect to the ruling coalition, as some agree with Abe's views. The opposition leadership will likely have to resign to take responsibility for the election defeat, as their platform failed to appeal to the public, he said.

Even so, Abe won't rush to change the constitution, hoping for better timing because the recent strengthening of the yen, a minus for exports, and concerns about global growth are weighing on the economy, according to Kato.

Yukio Edano, the legislator who ran the campaign for the main opposition Democratic Party, acknowledged that winning back people's trust has been difficult, but said the public agreed with his party's message that Abenomics wasn't working for regular people.

"But people felt we did not offer enough of an alternative," he told NHK TV.

China builds massive seaplane: state media

Beijing (AFP)
July 24, 2016

China has completed production of the world's largest amphibious aircraft, state media has said, the latest effort in the country's program to wean itself off dependence on foreign aviation firms.

The state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) unveiled the first of the new planes, dubbed the AG600, Saturday in the southern port city of Zhuhai, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The aircraft, which has a maximum range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles), is intended for fighting forest fires and performing marine rescues, it said.

At around the size of a Boeing 737, it is far larger than any other plane built for marine take off and landing, Xinhua quoted AVIC's deputy general manager Geng Ruguang as saying.

However, its wingspan is considerably smaller than that of the H-4 Hercules, known as the Spruce Goose, which was designed in the 1940s to carry Allied troops into battle. It is regarded as by far the largest seaplane ever built although it only ever made one flight, in 1947.

The Chinese plane, which is targeted at the domestic market, will be "very useful in developing and exploiting marine resources," the article said, adding that it could be used for "environmental monitoring, resource detection and transportation".

Beijing is currently locked in disputes with several of its neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, over the rights to develop economic resources in waters off its shores.

The AG600 could potentially extend the Asian giant's ability to conduct a variety of operations in the South China Sea, where it has built a series of artificial islands featuring air strips, among other infrastructure with the potential for either civilian or military use.

Xinhua said AVIC has received 17 orders for the plane so far.

China is seeking to develop its own aviation sector to reduce dependence on and even challenge foreign giants, such as European consortium Airbus and Boeing of the United States, though analysts say it could take years.

Despite a history of delays and problems, China's aviation industry has made rapid progress in the last year.

In June, the Chinese-made ARJ21 -- which stands for Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st century -- made its first commercial flight, when Chengdu Airlines flew one from its home base to Shanghai, and the country's military began using its homegrown Y-20 heavy transport plane earlier this month.

It rolled out the C919, China's first domestically developed narrow-body passenger plane, in November last year.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/China_builds_massive_seaplane_state_media_999.html.

Hong Kong protesters decry Beijing's detention of bookseller

June 17, 2016

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong pro-democracy groups rallied Friday against China's tightening grip on the semiautonomous city following electrifying revelations by a bookseller who spoke out about his months-long detention in the mainland.

Several dozen people marched to Beijing's liaison office to vent their anger after Lam Wing-kee's testimony about his harrowing ordeal. He's one of five people linked to a publisher specializing in salacious books on elite Chinese politics. They disappeared last year and later turned up in mainland police custody.

Lam said he was detained after crossing Hong Kong's border with mainland China, blindfolded for a 13-hour train ride to a city near Shanghai and confined for months to a room, where he was interrogated by mainland authorities.

He said his interrogators wanted details of the buyers and authors of his company's books, which were popular with Chinese visitors to Hong Kong but banned in the mainland. Protesters from Demosisto, a small political party run by young activists, tossed newspapers with stories about the case, a banned book and a petition letter over the liaison office's fence. They carried placards that said, "No cross-border abduction."

Lam "risked his life to tell the truth and he risked his life to protect the values of Hong Kong people," said Nathan Law, Demosisto's president. "He somehow united all the Hong Kong people and we realized that the dirty hand of the tyrants is getting closer and every one of us is at risk."

Two other pro-democracy parties held separate protests in front of the liaison office.

Iraqi Kurds advance near Islamic State-held city

August 14, 2016

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have retaken five villages east of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in an operation launched early Sunday. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces known as peshmerga aim to "clear several more villages" in "one of many shaping operations" that will increase pressure on the extremist group, the Kurdish region's Security Council said in a statement.

Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq described the operation outside Mosul as "ongoing." Rudaw, a local television network, showed footage of smoke rising from a village in the distance as armored vehicles pushed across a field.

The council's statement said the area cleared is about 50 square kilometers (20 square miles). It said the U.S.-led coalition is supporting the operation with airstrikes, one of which destroyed a car bomb.

Iraq's Health Ministry meanwhile said a fire which swept through the maternity ward of a hospital in Baghdad last week was a "crime" and not an accident, without providing further details. The blaze in the capital's Yarmouk hospital killed 13 people, according to the ministry's statement.

Also on Sunday, Iraqi President Fuad Masoum approved the death sentences of 36 men sentenced to hang over the June 2014 massacre of hundreds of military recruits based near the central city of Tikrit. The Islamic State group massacred the soldiers and buried them in mass graves during its lightning advance across Iraq that summer.

Iraqi forces have made steady progress against the extremists in recent months, and Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is the group's last remaining urban stronghold in the country.

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writer Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq contributed to this report.

Police search Istanbul courthouses as part of coup probe

August 15, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's state-run news agency says police teams are conducting operations at three Istanbul courthouses as part of an investigation into the July 15 abortive coup. Anadolu Agency said the Istanbul chief public prosecutor's office had issued a detention order for 173 personnel working at Istanbul's Caglayan, Bakirkoy and Gaziosmanpasa courthouses.

The moves are part of the government's ongoing investigation into the movement led by U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara alleges Gulen was responsible for the violent coup attempt that left over 270 people dead.

Gulen denies any involvement. Police entered the courthouses Monday morning to detain the suspects and conduct searches of their offices and computers, while other teams were searching their homes. Four courthouse personnel were detained last week as part of the same investigation.

Turkey says failed coup was decades in the making

August 15, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish investigators call it the ultimate long game. In 1986, the Turkish military expelled dozens of cadets suspected of loyalty to a young Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gulen, seen as a potential threat to the country's strict secular rule. Officials, a magazine reported at the time, said an alleged recruiter had told the students to work their way through the ranks and wait for instructions that would come in a few decades.

Fast forward 30 years to July 15, when renegade officers staged a failed coup and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Gulen of orchestrating it. Gulen, now based in Pennsylvania, denies any involvement, but a rising tide of allegations challenges the moderate image promoted by his Islamist movement and casts it as a cover for secret designs on Turkish power that included efforts to infiltrate state institutions decades ago.

In the 1970s, when Turkey was run by a military-backed, secular government, the group seemed like a conventional religious movement that attracted young, middle-class recruits through a successful network of schools and dormitories.

Gulen, who had been associated with Islamic mysticism, promoted a message of tolerance and charity along with Turkish patriotism. His group — known as Hizmet, Turkish for "service" — raised money through donations from individuals and businesses. By the early 1990s, it was expanding into other countries with a network of schools, burnishing an international reputation as an advocate of interfaith harmony.

The movement's benevolent message initially enabled its followers to dodge the harshest persecution of Turkey's secular rulers. But as it grew in influence, the government began to view the movement with suspicion.

Authorities alleged its supervisors — known as "brothers" — helped followers cheat on exams to land government jobs. Once they were in place, according to Hanefi Avci, a former national police chief who investigated the group, they "acted in a coordinated effort to promote and protect one another and eliminate opponents."

The group enjoyed wide influence in schools, the news media and police forces in an expanding power base, and authorities began to crack down on pieces of the movement such as the 1986 purge of military cadets.

Authorities point to Gulen's own words as evidence of his designs. In comments recorded in the 1980s, Gulen referred to crackdowns on Islamists in Syria and Egypt and told a group of followers to bide their time, saying: "You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers."

Gulen, who later said those remarks were misinterpreted, moved to the United States in the late 1990s while facing trial on charges of plotting to overthrow Turkey's government. His movement continued to grow, and eventually helped to topple the staunchly secular leaders who had been so wary of it.

In 2002 elections, Gulen's followers supported the candidacy of the former Istanbul mayor, who himself had been jailed for several months by secular authorities and won with the backing of a pious Muslim class that had been sidelined to decades.

His name was Erdogan. Erdogan insists he put up with the Gulenists as a practical matter: He needed all the help he could get to defeat the secularists. "We tolerated them for the sake of the widespread aid, education and solidarity activities — inside and outside of the country — that they seemed to be conducting," he said this month. "We tolerated them because they said 'Allah.'"

The military leadership remained unconvinced. Ilker Basbug, who was Turkey's military chief from 2008 to 2010, said in a recent interview with CNN Turk television that he warned Erdogan about the threat from Gulen's backers in the military, which had stopped purging suspected Islamists.

"Today this threat is to us, tomorrow it's to you," he says he told Erdogan. According to Basbug, Erdogan responded: "My commander, you are exaggerating." After he retired, Basbug was jailed on charges of plotting to overthrow the state, one of hundreds of people associated with the old secular order who were targeted by alleged Gulen sympathizers in the police and judiciary. Avci, the former national police chief who had written a book about the alleged threat from Gulen's supporters, was also imprisoned.

Erdogan initially supported some of the investigations, but he eventually disowned them amid revelations of forged evidence and other irregularities. Meanwhile, the Turkish leader's alliance with Gulen was unraveling as he sought to dismantle what he described as a "parallel state" in the police and other institutions. In what Erdogan later described as an attempted coup, prosecutors believed to be loyal to Gulen launched a high-profile corruption probe in December 2013, embarrassing the government.

Tensions rose further in 2014, when Erdogan switched from prime minister to president in a move seen by critics as a bid to amass even more power. Finally, on July 15, elements of the military rose up. They occupied airports, bridges and military bases, took the military chief hostage and accused the government of eroding democracy and the rule of law. Rival forces clashed, and Erdogan supporters took to the streets in support of their president. Some protesters were cut down by gunfire from mutinous soldiers, but by morning it was clear that the coup had failed. In all, 272 people were dead.

Erdogan was quick to point the finger: He said the coup was the work of Gulenists. Gulen condemned the coup, although he conceded that some of his sympathizers might have been involved. "You can think about many motivations of people who staged this coup. They could be sympathizers of the opposition party. They could be sympathizers of the nationalist party. It could be anything," Gulen told reporters at his Pennsylvania compound the day after the coup.

Yet he still had harsh words for Erdogan, whom he called an authoritarian figure, and his government. He said it has shown "no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organization that is not under their total control."

Torchia reported from Johannesburg. He was The Associated Press' bureau chief in Turkey from 2007-13, and covered the aftermath of the attempted coup last month.

Turkey to deploy surface-to-air missiles at airports

August 13, 2016

Turkey’s government has decided to deploy surface-to-air missiles at 11 civilian airports across the country, CNN Turk reported on Friday. The move comes after the failed coup last month and will be carried out by the ministry of transport, maritime affairs and communication in collaboration with the armed forces.

Radar and observation equipment for the army and air force is also going to be installed inside airport control towers. Such units will notify the armed forces of any hostile or unidentified aircraft and prompt an immediate military response.

On 29 June, Turkey’s largest airport, Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, was attacked by three suicide bombers who were, the government believes, affiliated to Daesh. Thirty-six civilians were killed in the arrivals terminal at the airport during the attack.

Ataturk International, along with Turkey’s other major airports, also witnessed dramatic incidents during the failed coup attempt on 15 July, when rebel tanks tried to take control of key installations.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160813-turkey-to-deploy-surface-to-air-missiles-at-airports/.

Scientists to unveil new Earth-like planet: report

Berlin (AFP)
Aug 12, 2016

Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighborhood which is "believed to be Earth-like" and orbits its star at a distance that could favour life, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday.

The exoplanet orbits a well-investigated star called Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system, the magazine said, quoting anonymous sources.

"The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface -- an important requirement for the emergence of life," said the magazine.

"Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by," it said, adding that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will announce the finding at the end of August.

The report gave no further details.

Contacted by AFP, ESO spokesman Richard Hook said he is aware of the report, but refused to confirm or deny it. "We are not making any comment," he said.

NASA has announced the discovery of new planets in the past, but most of those worlds were either too hot or too cold to host water in liquid form, or were made of gas, like our Jupiter and Neptune, rather than of rock, like Earth or Mars.

Last year, the US space agency unveiled an exoplanet that it described as Earth's "closest-twin".

Named Kepler 452b, the planet is about 60 percent larger than Earth and could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, twice as much gravity and a year that lasts 385 days.

But at a distance of 1,400 light-years away, humankind has little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.

In comparison, the exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri, if confirmed, is just 4.24 light-years away.

This is a mere stepping stone in relation to the scale of the Universe but still too far away for humans to reach in present-generation chemical rockets.

According to NASA's Godard Space Center's website, it lies 39,900,000,000,000 kilometers away, or 271,000 times the distance of Earth to the Sun.

Proxima Centauri, discovered in 1915, is one of three stars in the Alpha Centauri system, a constellation mainly visible from the southern hemisphere.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Scientists_to_unveil_new_Earth-like_planet_report_999.html.

Heavy rain causes Moscow river to overflow, floods streets

August 15, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — Heavy rain in Moscow caused a river to burst its banks and flooded streets on Monday, trapping people in cars and buses. Russian state news organizations said about 200 people had to be evacuated from stalled vehicles. No injuries were reported.

The weather service said from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 p.m. Monday more than 102 millimeters (4 inches) of rain had fallen in Moscow, which is well over the monthly average for August. It is also far above the previous daily record of 63 millimeters.

In the morning, drivers and pedestrians were struggling to navigate flooded streets and sidewalks across the city as the rain pelted down and drainage systems failed to cope. The worst flooding occurred in northeastern Moscow where the Yauza River burst its banks. The flooding closed streets and snarled traffic.

Polish horse auction sales much lower after government purge

August 14, 2016

JANOW PODLASKI, Poland (AP) — Sales at a famed horse auction on a remote state-run farm in eastern Poland on Sunday were much lower this year, with some potential buyers staying away after the country's right-wing government carried out a controversial political purge of managers in the respected Arabian horse breeding program.

An 11-year-old grey mare, Sefora, sold for 300,000 euros ($335,000) at the Pride of Poland auction, but many of the 31 horses in the sale at all found no buyers at all, failing to reach required minimum prices.

Organizers raised about 1.3 million euros ($1.45 million), far below the 2-2.5 million they had sought, money critical to the survival of the enterprise. At last year's auction, one mare, Pepita, sold for 1.4 million euros alone and the sale raised 4.6 million euros — though that was a highly unusual result and not the norm.

Slawomir Pietrzak, the stud farm's new director, said he didn't consider this year's auction a failure and said you can't have a record year every year. The farm at Janow Podlaski is set amid lush meadows near the border with Belarus and has for decades drawn film directors and rock stars, Arab sheikhs and other millionaires seeking some of the world's finest Arabian horses.

The firing of three managers came as the ruling Law and Justice party has brought other widespread changes to the country, including a weakening of the judiciary that has brought international concern over the state of Poland's democracy, and the fate of the prized Arabian breeding program had come to stand as a symbol of those deep changes.

An auctioneer struggled to urge prices higher, praising the beauty of the mares — "they don't get any more beautiful than that and she's only 6 years old!" he said of a grey mare, Wabia, that sold for 100,000 euros — but ultimately had to send many back to the stables without buyers.

Nobody expected this year's auction to raise nearly as much as last year's, but the results appeared to be hurt by major buyers of past years from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East who stayed home due to problems with the new management.

One notable person absent this year after more than two decades of buying horses from Janow Podlaski is British breeder Shirley Watts, wife of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Two mares that she had loaned to the farm died after the management changes earlier this year, causing her to bring home two other mares on loan early and ending her years of cooperation with the stud.

In a sign of how Pietrzak is trying to clean up the stud farm's image, he said Friday that he had apologized to Shirley Watts and hoped to restore good ties with such an important client. Pietrzak, a horse expert and university professor, took over in June, replacing a short-lived manager who had no previous experience with horses, but said on his appointment he hoped to make horses his new hobby.

Poland's government accused the fired managers of financial wrongdoing. The three insist they are innocent and are the victims of a personal vendetta. They were among scores of civil servants who were fired after Law and Justice took power last November. It's a usual practice in Poland when power changes hands, but this purge was deeper and faster than most, leading critics to accuse the government of a willingness to harm the country's vital interests for in political expediency.

Before the auction, potential buyers of 30 mares and one stallion had mixed opinions on the horses, which were presented at a show and were also available for inspection in the classical 19th-century stables on the farm's grounds.

Some raved that the horses seemed as graceful as ever. "The event is brilliant and the horses look very nice," said Amy Dutkowski Southworth, a breeder from Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire, England. Faisad Al o Taibe, an owner and breeder from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said that this year the quality of the organization, food and everything else was much better than in the past, "but the quality of the horses at the auction has dropped."

Fahad Al-Zaydi, a breeder from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, said "the quality of the broodmares seems to be the same. But I suppose we will see in five or 10 years if there is a difference or not." The Polish visitors were also deeply divided about the changes. "These are bad changes in Poland. The horses are still great but we don't know if this will last," said Michal Janicki, 35, from Ostrow Wielkopolski.

But Daniel Milewski, a 27-year-old lawyer from Warsaw, was more sympathetic to the political changes that have reached into the breeding program, saying there are reasons to suspect the long-time managers of impropriety and insisting that all political parties change the top people at state enterprises when they take power.

"The organization this year was great and even if we had had the previous management I think the prices would have been the same," Milewski said. The farm's attraction comes from the fine horses it breeds, but it also enjoys a romantic allure because of its storied history.

Russian Czar Alexander I started the breeding operation in 1817, a time when a large swath of eastern Poland was under Russian control, because Russia needed to replenish a cavalry force depleted by the Napoleonic wars.

The farm then suffered through a tumultuous history of uprisings and war, with World War II almost finishing the farm off. The Nazis took some Arabians back to Germany with them, but most of the horses were killed in fighting.

After the war, stable owners managed to rebuild by leasing Polish Arabian stallions around the world for breeding. Despite the communists' hatred of aristocracy, they worked to rebuild the bloodlines of these horses. Even in the communist era the auction drew the rich and famous, with film director Mike Nichols a notable buyer in decades past.