Feb 27, 2009

"East Europe's Spam Economy Threatened"

Spam Crackdown Threatens Koy4Goff's Penis Enlarger, Free iPod Industry

Sure it's satire, but The Onion remains America's finest news source.

Feb 26, 2009

To get out of crisis

you'd better marry a Prince.

At least that's the new recovery plan for Belarus. A Belarussian scientist, Ruslan Novitsky, has recommended that businessmen invest in frog breeding in order to speed economic recovery. Apparently frogs, are a little mentioned Belarussian natural resource.

Perhaps it is small minded to question whether frog breeding would truly bring in the bags of money Novitsky claims the Belarussian government could expect from this program. Not surprisingly, many Belarussian businessmen seem to share my skepticism that kissing this frog would save them from financial difficulties.

The Holodomor Debate Continues

Yahoo: Russia issued a DVD and a thick book of historical documents on Wednesday to dispute claims that the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s amounted to genocide.

Russian archivists and historians are claiming that the Stalin-era famine — which killed millions of people — was a common tragedy across Soviet farmlands, countering efforts by Ukrainian President Yushchenko to convince the world that Ukrainians were targeted for starvation.

"Not a single document exists that even indirectly shows that the strategy and tactics chosen for Ukraine differed from those applied to other regions, not to mention tactics or strategy with the aim of genocide," said Vladimir Kozlov, head of Russia's Federal Archive Agency.

I gotta get my hands on this DVD...

Feb 25, 2009

The Myths About Russia

Our good friends at Rossiyskaya Gazeta have paid for another insert in the Washington Post. Some awesome highlights:

--Medvedev thinks its time to protect journalists in Russia (right after he transforms the country into a nation of laws, we assume).

--Putin wants “Solutions and Ideas, not the Blame Game” over the economic collapse. And yes, before you ask, this is the very same crisis which Putin insists on calling the “American economic crisis” everytime he speaks in public.

--Finally, the editors offer a lovely interview with Vladimir Medinsky who just authored a new book dispelling the "Myths About Russia." In his book, Medinsky argues that Westerners falsely believe:
"Everything in Russia is either bad or wrong – dreadful roads, endemic alcoholism, and idleness, corruption and pilfering, mud and poor sanitation, and an inherent lack of democratic culture…”
Instead, Medinsky argues that everything which I, and many of the contributors to ER have seen, lived and experienced first hand in Russia are all myths created to perpetuate “the Russian threat.” Medinsky is especially concerned by the myths of a “savage Russia” which emerged around the time that Stalin murdered 40 million people and imprisoned one eighth of the country's population.

To be fair, I have always suspected that Russia’s poor roads, heartbreaking alcoholism, open corruption, poor sanitation, disregard for the law (ever seen a person murdered by placing their head in the door jam of a Mercedes M class?), and the inherent lack of democratic culture were all part of a vast international conspiracy to discredit Russia.

But thanks to Medinsky, it is all perfectly clear.

Feb 24, 2009

Bulgarian grandmaster breaks chess marathon record

Eastern Europeans, when will you break this stereotype of being chess geniuses?

Yahoo: Yesterday, Bulgarian grandmaster Kiril Georgiev managed to break the world record for the largest number of simultaneous chess games played. Georgiev played a total of 360 games simultaneously and wrapped up his chess marathon within 14 hours and 8 minutes.

He registered only six losses and some 70 draws, winning the rest of the games. My favorite part: his opponents ranged from children to pensioners.

Feb 23, 2009

So Russia-China relations might not be as good as we thought...

This makes zero sense to me.

New York Times: A senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official said Friday that Russia had an unacceptable response after 1 of its warships sank a Chinese cargo vessel last Saturday. The warship fired 500 rounds at the vessel, sinking it in stormy Russian waters near the eastern port city of Vladivostok. 7 sailors are still missing (AKA dead).

Li Hui, the deputy foreign minister, has expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the way Russia has handled the episode, and has accused Russia of not making strong enough efforts to save the drowning sailors.

On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the captain of the Chinese ship was to blame for the sinking and that the ship had earlier been chased by two Russian Coast Guard vessels, but refused to stop despite being fired upon.

Neither the Chinese nor Russian governments have fully explained why Russian ships were pursuing the Chinese vessel.


Bulgaria Goes Patriot Act on Us

I'm so proud. :_)

Sofia Weekly: The Members of the Bulgarian Parliament decided Thursday that Internet messages and phone conversations can be traced only if they are suspicions of serious crimes or computer crimes.

The MPs adopted the final changes and version of the Electronic Messages Act. They rejected the controversial text that allowed the Interior Ministry to trace email and phone conversation any time they deem such tracing necessary.

The article does not mention what constitutes suspicious behavior. I'm sure it will work out fine though.

Feb 20, 2009

Ireland "Captures" Country's Worst Driver: Mr. Prawo Jazdy

For years now, Irish cops have been looking for a "Mr. Prawo Jazdy." Presumably a Polish national, this person has broken just about every rule of the road, but never appeared to face the charges and always evaded capture. A criminal mastermind, you say? Not so much. "Prawo Jazdy" is Polish for "Driver's Licence."

"It is quite embarrassing to see that the [police database ] has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities."
Payback, we assume, for all those Polish jokes.
(Thanks Amichka, for the tip.)

Georgia's Secret Weapon


That's right, Putin, didn't see that coming did you? Foreign Policy Blog reports Georgia is entering the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest with a ridiculously obvious jab at Putin set to a disco beat. What do they say in the chorus? Glad you asked.

We don't wanna Putin/the negative move/is killing the groove

I'm a try to shoot him/some disco tonight/boogie with you.

Yeah this will go over well in Moscow, which happens to be where the contest is being held this year. Seriously, Georgia, this is so awful. Is this what you did with the $4.5 billion?

Extinction is not just for Siberian tigers anymore

Not funny or that pertinent, but pretty interesting...

According to UNESCO, 2500 languages are threatened with extinction. The world has lost Ubykh in Turkey and last year Alaska's last native speaker of Eyak, Marie Smith Jones, died, taking the aboriginal language with her. Yes, I consider Turkey part of the region, and why not include Alaska? It used to be Russia.

There are 199 languages in the world spoken by fewer than a dozen people, including Karaim which has 6 speakers in Ukraine. According to Wikipedia, The Karaim language is a Turkic language with Hebrew influences, in a similar manner to Yiddish or Ladino. And apparently even though there are only 6 speakers left, there are 3 dialects of the language. Really? 6 people can't agree on how to pronounce a language? Really?

Feb 19, 2009


Rank injustice has many names. In Russia, their names are Dzhabrail Makhmudov, Ibragim Makhmudov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov.

Yankee Go Home

As Ern notes, the Kyrgyz are drawing up eviction papers for the Manas Airbase. Alas, it appears that all the hard work from the U.S. Air Force's “Manas Air Base Outreach Society” to visit children at the Bishkek Institue of Cardiology didn’t warm as many hearts and minds as hoped. It turns out that buckets full of cash are more uselful at building soft-power than intentially loosing a game of checker's to a child recovering from heart surgury.

Go figure.

So in honor of everyone’s favorite (soon to be abandoned) Central Asian outpost, we give you a look-back at all the fun and hilarity spawned when you mix drunk Americans, Kyrgyz knife throwing champions, a war on terror, and the great game. Enjoy....

The Day the War on Terror Died

It's official, well almost: Today, Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted to close a key U.S. air base in the country — a move that could certainly hamper Obama's efforts to increase the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, assuming the hope hocker doesn't completely sell out and try to strike a deal with Uzbekistan, a country well known for its love of human rights (that's me being sarcastic).

Deputies voted 78-1 for the government-backed bill to cancel the lease agreement on the Manas air base, a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo each month to and from Afghanistan. Two deputies abstained. Whoever "1" is, he is totally badass or is pretty funny.

If President Bakiyev signs the bill and Kyrgyz authorities issue an eviction notice, the United States will have 180 days to vacate the base. That's 6 months. We have 6 months to eliminate terrorism and establish democracy in Afghanistan. 1-2-3 GO!

Feb 18, 2009

First They Cheat Their Way to Olympic Gymanstic Gold

Now they're funding the Russians. China just likes to push my buttons. Mostly, I'm still bitter about the Olympics...

Anyway, the Financial Times is reporting that Russia has won $25bn in loans from China in return for agreeing to supply oil from new fields in eastern Siberia for the next 20 years as Moscow seeks funds to see its oil industry through the financial crisis.

A 20 year plan, Russia? What happened to speeding up history and embracing your Soviet glory days? I expect a new 5 year plan on my desk by the afternoon.

The deal, the largest trade financing agreement between the 2 countries, alleviates the massive refinancing needs of Russia’s 2 state energy giants as they seek to weather the credit crisis with the country facing its first recession in 10 years.

I wonder if we could work out some sort of "let's get through the recession" dealie with Canada. What the heck are they doing up there anyway? When is ice hockey season over?

Thanks to Patrick Thomas over at Zzzeitgeist for directing me to the story.

Feb 17, 2009

Equal Opportunity Ugly

Daniel Tilles from Krakow, Poland raised an important point in this month's issue of The Economist which I think all Remont followers will feel strongly about. According to Daniel, photographs of East Europeans featured in The Economist have perpetuated stereotypical images of babas wrapped up on the streets rather than "the dentally challenged villager" demographic group (pictured above according to the author's information). I'm not sure if Daniel's defense of the dentally challenged is an objection to the media avoiding less attractive subjects to immortalize in print, which would indeed be an injustice unless I am reading the paper with a meal.

This editorial then goes on to helpfully suggest several other underrepresented demographics: "Roma using horse-drawn carts on main roads, elderly veterans in Soviet-style uniforms and furry hats and vodka-soaked vagrants would broaden the picture."Such pictures would surely go a long way towards destroying stereotypes about Eastern Europeans. Perhaps including pictures of bureaucrats taking bribes and angry youths with shaved heads chain-smoking should be added to his list?

Bad Human Material

The Sofia Weekly: Four retired Bulgarian women staged a protest for before the building of the Sofia Municipality Tuesday against the statement of the Mayor Borisov in Chicago last week claiming the country's main problem was its "bad human material" which includes the Roma, Turks, and pensioners.

The protesting retirees carried signs reading, "I Am from THE Material", and "I Am a Worthy Bulgarian."

I can only assume that the other 1,276,168 pensioners did not protest because they do believe they are bad material and unworthy Bulgarians, and Mayor Borisov did not help their low esteem any. So sad.

Feb 16, 2009

Reversal of Fortune

While Russia’s tentative middle class has suffered dearly amidst the economic downturn, our hearts really go out to the country’s hyper-rich. They’ve lost billions.

According to a 2009 list by the magazine Finans:

--Oleg Deripaska has lost 85 percent of his wealth – from $40 billion to $4.9 billion.
--Roman Abramovich has lost just under half of his fortune, from $23 billion to a mere $13.9
--Vladimir Lisin, who owns NLMK, is down 65 percent to $7.7 billion.
--Alexei Mordashov over at Severstal is down 81 percent to $4.1 billion.

However, not everyone was a looser last year. Mikhail Prokhorov has actually made money after he sold his stake in Norilsk Nickel (at the height of the commodities boom). Prokhorov’s personal fortune went from $14.1 billion to $21.5 billion. Maybe now he’ll be able to fund his dream-child, a magazine-social networking forum called Snob.

Although, at the rate things are going, he may be the only reader.

Feb 13, 2009

This is why we should be working together!

If this debris knocks out any important television stations...Let's start cooperating and stop fighting over bases in Central Asia, guys. No one wants to miss Big Love, okay.

YahooNews: Debris from this week's satellite collision could circle Earth for up to 10,000 years, threatening many other satellites in an already-crowded area, Russia's Mission Control chief said Friday.

Vladimir Solovyov said Tuesday's smashup of a derelict Russian military satellite and a working U.S. Iridium commercial satellite occurred some 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth — the busiest part of near-Earth space.


On February 11, I may have mentioned that crime pays.

It turns out the US and Russia have had enough. According to YahooNews, U.S. Navy and Russian warships arrested 26 suspected Somali pirates this week, while a maritime watchdog warned on Friday that pirates are stepping up attacks as weather improves in the waters off East Africa.

The latest arrests came Thursday, when an American helicopter from the USS Vella Gulf fired warning shots at gunmen in two skiffs that had opened fire and tried to board the Indian-flagged vessel Premdivya.

Separately, the Russian navy said Friday its nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser Peter The Great detained 10 Somali pirates closing in on an Iranian-flagged fishing trawler. Russian military prosecutors were questioning the men, who were caught on Thursday with rifles, grenade-launchers, illegal narcotics and a large sum of money, the navy said.

Nice. I can't wait for the A&E Reality TV Show: Smoke on the Water.

Feb 12, 2009

"Clean-shaven, mildly perfumed, prim, polite, delicate...

..., non-smoker, teetotaler, a good fellow and a family guy..." This is apparently what a Russian police officer must embody. I don't know how to put this politely, so I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't know one Russian man who fits this mold. Delicate? Teetotaler?

Last week, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev presented the “Professional ethics code for officials of the internal affairs agencies of the Russian Federation,” whic includes the aforementioned description.

The code is a comprehensive instruction for every aspect of a police officer’s life: from looks and posture, to not taking bribes, and even to loving his or her spouse. It will tell how to decorate your study (with modesty and a sense of proportion), how to communicate with foreigners (avoid discussion of politics and keep in mind the language barrier), and how to respect one’s uniform (go shopping or gambling in a casino only in plainclothes, unless your duty says otherwise).

Human rights activists branded the document senseless, because existing legislation was more than enough to improve the work of law enforcers. More to the point, the problem was never having substantial guidelines, but actually following the guidelines. Given the Russian inclination to disregard rules, maybe a better move would have been to make it a rule that policemen be hairy, smelly, unkempt, rough, chain-smoking alcoholics with multiple mistresses. Just a thought.

Thanks to Graham Dumas for directing me to this hilarious Russia Today story.

Feb 11, 2009

Freed Ukrainian Sailors Must Pay Phone Bill

It's a global recession, folks. Ship-owners can't be expected to pay for Ukrainian hostage phone bills, okay.

According to proUA.com, the owner of the ship "Fayina," which was famously held hostage from September 2008 to February 2009 by Somali Pirates, is making the now freed Ukrainian sailors pay for the phone calls Captain Viktor Nikolski made to officials during their captivity. These conversations add up to about $200. The sailors are not taking the news lying down. They are petitioning the International Transport Workers' Federation to protect their rights and savings.

The pirates themselves received a ransom of $3.2 million. Why they weren't just given $3,199,800 to cover these expenses remains unclear. It seems to me it would be reasonable to charge the pirates for expenses. In any case, what is as clear as vodka is that crime does in fact pay. Also, I see now why people get Stockholm Syndrome.

The Czech Republic is just a problem solver

So yesterday, we learned that the Czechs are geniuses at dealing with migrant workers. Today, we learn that they also know how take care of sex offenders. It turns out that the Czech Republic surgically castrates sex offenders. 94 prisoners so far are half the man they used to be.

Who could have a problem with that? Turns out, the Council of Europe. Who knew they cared about human rights abuses within the EU? The Council calls the procedure "invasive, irreversible and mutilating." In a report issued last week the Council called the punishment "degrading" and demanded it be scrapped immediately.

The Czech government insists the procedure is a medical issue, permanently reducing testosterone levels to lower an offender's sexual urges. And, even more disturbing, officials say it is only performed at the request of the prisoners themselves.

My thoughts? I hope the Czech EU presidency lasts forever. These entries write themselves.

Feb 10, 2009

Bitter Chocolate

We always knew there would be fall out, but the animosity between Russia and Ukraine has gone too far this time. The victim, romance.

In Kiev today, Lilya Mikhailova and Sasha Pushka were disqualified from their school's St. Valentine's day variety show for reciting poetry in "the wrong language." At least two other groups of performers were banned for the same reason. Apparently reciting poetry in the Russian language, even by the celebrated Aleksandr Pushkin, is a real turn off for the Ukrainian authorities. The message is clear. Ukraine wants to protect this extremely culturally significant holiday from impending Russification...Russia, Ukraine will NOT be your valentine.

The slighted Russian Foreign Ministry wondered if Shakespeare had also been crossed off Ukraine's Valentine's Day repertoire, but his dad has season tickets to NATO and the EU, so I think he'll be fine.

Czech Republic Solves the Migrant Issue while Boosting Airline Sales


NY Times: The Czech Republic will offer a free plane ticket and $649 to foreign workers who agree to return home after losing their jobs in the economic downturn, the government said Monday. Interior Minister Ivan Langer said many unemployed foreigners lacked cash to buy a ticket home because they had to pay exorbitant fees or bribes — up to $12,000 — to agencies that secured the jobs for them.

Basically, it is like giving a Kleenex to a man who's been shot in the liver.

I believe the late great George Carlin called it NIMBY disease. NIMBY of course stands for "Not in my back yard." So migrants, if you're going to be poor and unemployed, please leave the Czech Republic's back yard.

Feb 9, 2009

Voronin's Glory Days get More Glorious

We're starting to suspect that Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin could be a secret Bruce Springsting fan. Certainly, his toes must start to tap whenever the Boss sings about "trying to recapture a little of the, glory of...." (Glory days pictured.)

This conclusion, and not creeping old age, is probably the best explination for why Voronin recently he told pro-Romanian Moldovans to "grow up." Communism, you see, transformed Moldova from a “rural province” of Romania into a modern state with a vibrant culture and economy.

Now, saying that communism transformed Moldovan culture, langage, and identity is like saying that Stalin transformed East Germany, since neither existed before the Red Army got involved. Then again, Voronin is an old man. He might have forgotten how "Moldovans" openly mocked their Soviet-created identity during the communist golden years.

Glory days, yeah goin' back
Glory days, aw he ain't never had
Glory days, glory days...

Putin Brand Miracle Cabbage with Mushrooms

So since you can't have a Barack Burger until 2013, maybe you'd like to try Putin Brand Miracle Cabbage with Mushrooms (shown above). Yes, this new product has just made its way on the shelves at Russian grocery stores. The manufacturers hope that due to the wide-spread support for the Russian PM, the meal would become very popular among consumers.

The canned meal is made in the food processing plant in the city of Astrakhan and is sold mostly in grocery stores in Siberian mining towns.

The author of an article on the subject, published in the Russian daily "Novaya Gazetta", however, seems unimpressed with the new food staple and advises consumers to combine the vegetable mix with vodka "Putinka" (also named after the former Russian President and current PM) so that they would be able to swallow it without noticing its taste. BURN!

Bulgarian Calf Named after Barack Obama

In the long line of ridiculous ways the Obama presidency has been marked comes a calf in the village of Tatarevo located in Haskovo District in Southeast Bulgaria. This calf has been named "Barack Obama," after the new US President, the TV channel bTV reported.

The male calf was born the morning of January 20, the US Presidential Inauguration Day, so its keeper decided to name it after the 44th American President. The keeper has promised that the calf would not be sent to the slaughterhouse for the duration of Obama's current term.

So, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. If you name a calf after an American President, you save him from being hamburger for at least 4 years.

Bulgaria is either really sick...

...or lies A LOT.

The Sofia Weekly: Bulgarian workers hold the lead in taking sick leave, according to a Mercer survey, which was published in The Economist.

Workers in Bulgaria took an average of 22 sick days in 2007. The Portuguese held second place, but with only 12 sick days per year, followed by the Czech Republic with 11 sick days. Employees in Turkey, America, and Britain are at the bottom of the list with an average of 6 days or less per year.

According to the research, twice as many firms noted a rise in the number of "sick days" taken by staff in recent years than those that had seen an improvement.

Not gonna lie, the most surprising stat from this survey for me is that Turks don't take that many sick days. Maybe they have more holidays and vacation days?

Feb 6, 2009

Is Putin an ABBA fan?

Igor writes, I don't know which part of this story is weirder: that Putin listened to ABBA "singing to him from behind a veil at a military-style compound" or the fact that an official spokesman had to deny it.

"I can tell you officially and for sure Vladimir Putin never took part in any concert of the kind. He wasn't there," said Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. But don't tell that to ABBA vocalist Aileen McLaughlin, "It was quite obvious where Mr Putin was sitting," she said, "I got a glimpse of his face in the lights."

Forget Santa, I'm Writing Medvedev

Santa's job is being outsourced to Russian politicians. Remember how that little girl wrote Putin asking for a New Years dress? Apparently, a 13 year old Nastya in Kalitvensky figured that she too could get a free guinea pig by writing to Medvedev.

Unfortunately, the little girls note was not taken in good part by local authorities in the Rostov Region. Not only was she called to the principal's office and told off, she was forced to write a public retraction apologizing for bothering the president. Angered by this treatment, the girls parents wrote another letter to Medvedev complaining about the local authorities mistreatment of their daughter.

Within hours of the second letter being sent, the local authorities were outside the door with two guinea pigs in a cage for Nastya. Hilariously, the local paper also felt sorry for her and bought her a guinea pig. It also turns out that Nastya already had a guinea pig, and just wanted a friend for her furry companion. Now she has four guinea pigs, which I can't understand because they are one of the most annoying animals on the planet. Be careful what you wish for I suppose.


For the first time in four years, the U.S. global approval beat Russia's. Although 43% of respondents viewed the U.S. negatively 40% viewed them positively, compared with Russia's only 30% positive and 42% negative. In your face!

Unfortunately this doesn't indicate that people like the U.S. that much more (the average positive rating went up from 35% to 40%), it just means that they hate Russia (and China) more than before. Still, we have to take our victories where we can.

I guess this means that if President Obama cannot fix our image abroad through positive foreign policy changes, we can still hope that Russia and China pick up the slack with aggressive foreign policy decisions!

Chechen Ex-Official Shot Dead in Moscow

You know, it might be more efficient to start listing everyday which Chechens haven't yet been shot dead. Just a thought, not a sermon.

NY Times: A former deputy mayor of Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, was shot and killed in Moscow early Thursday morning in the latest of several recent murders linked to the turbulent southern Russian republic. The body of the man, Gilani Shepiyev, was found around 1 a.m. outside his apartment building in western Moscow with three gunshot wounds to the head, the prosecutor general’s investigative wing said in a statement. Investigators said the murder appeared to be a contract killing.

Another thought: is contract killing the most stable job people can find during the global economic crisis? There seems to be more than a demand in Russia.

Russia Attacks Coca-Cola

So Putin is a Pepsi-cola fan?

According to the great people at English Russia (a truly awesome blog), there is a new anti-Coca-Cola calendar making the rounds in Russia. Each month has a Soviet inspired anti-coke design and message. The one pictured above says "not a drop," or something close to that.

No mention of what this calendar is trying to achieve. Maybe it's a Pepsi ploy. Maybe it's an anti-America campaign. Maybe the Russians are trying to preempt the child obesity problem we see in America and much of Europe. I don't know. I don't even know who made them. All I know, is I would like to frame some of these images. They're pretty awesome, and the Cyrillic letters actually make sense. I'm looking at you Saks Fifth Avenue.

Feb 5, 2009

Free at Last

Remember the Ukranian crew of the MV Faina, captured off the waters of Somalia with 33 Soviet tanks in the hold? They are now free. The ransom, however, cost $3.2 million. Still, this represents a deep discount from the pirates' original asking price of $20 million.

Tough economic times, it seems, are even hurting the pirate business.

But the crew is safe, and will now deliver thier T-72s and assorted weapons to the proper destnation: Sudan, er, "Kenya." Shipping weapons to Sudan would violate the U.N. arms embargo. That would be illegal.

Feb 4, 2009

Holy S*&%!

Dude, cannibalism was only acceptable in St. Petersburg during the Siege of Leningrad. And even then they started with horses. Way messed up. WAY messed up, man!

YahooNews: Two young men — one of them a butcher — have been arrested on suspicion of killing a 16-year-old girl and eating parts of her body, Russian prosecutors said Wednesday. Police arrested Yuri Mozhnov, a florist, and Maxim Golovatskikh, a street-market butcher and one-time psychiatric patient on Saturday

"The arrestees said they ate the girl's body parts because they were hungry," city prosecutor's spokesman Sergei Kapitonov said. They told investigators they baked some body parts with potatoes, he said.

No mention of chianti.

Now the U.S. will never catch Bin Laden

Thanks a lot, Kyrgyzstan!

Yahoo News: In a setback to the escalating U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, the president of Kyrgyzstan said Tuesday that his government will shut down the American air base in his country. U.S. officials say that the Manas Air Base is vital to plans to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, a linchpin of President Barack Obama's efforts to pacify the country.

Why doesn't Kyrgyzstan want U.S. money anymore? Well it seems Russia pays better:

The announcement by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came in Moscow...shortly after the Russian government reportedly agreed to lend Kyrgyzstan $2 billion, write off $180 million in debt, and add another $150 million in aid.

The Great Game, indeed.

Feb 3, 2009

All Pipelines Lead to Russia

For years, Europeans have been arguing that the key to their energy security is diversifying supply. As a result, many EU member-states have advocated long and hard for the construction of alternative pipelines that would not be owned or supplied by Russia. The NABUCCO pipeline was destined to be one such pipeline, which would carry Central Asian gas (and maybe Middle Eastern too) directly to Europe. After the latest Ukrainian-Russian gas crisis, the pressure to secure this energy independence seemed to grow even more considerable.

Despite all of these strategic concerns and, I don't know, the underlying premise of the entire NABUCCO project, French Member of the European Parliament Anne Laperrouze recently proposed that Russia be invited to take part. She suggested that the project would have more chance of success if Russia became involved. Well...yes, I'm sure Russian opposition and rival projects would fade away if they were given precisely what they wanted, continued dominance over the European energy market... but isn't that totally beside the point?!?! Why don't we just not have the NABUCCO project at all while we're at it? Get with it France.

Leningrad, Then and Now

Absolutely amazing.

Someone has invested a lot of love to photoshop Leningrad, during the war and today.

Flying Under the Influence

As if flying wasn't scary enough these days. About 100 Aeroflot passengers rebelled against their flightstaff in late December, when the stewardesses and pilot refused to admit that the plane's captain was drunk out of his mind. The first hint for the passengers was their complete inability to understand the pilot's opening announcement, not sure at first if it was truly in Russian, in which he failed three times to say "duration of flight."

Although, the plane's staff refused at first to admit anything was wrong, as one passenger said "I don't think there's anyone in Russia who doesn't know what a drunk person looks like." A compelling point.

Aeroflot officials have announced that the pilot suffered a stroke shortly before the announcement and was not inebriated. However, the fact that 100 passengers, including the famous Ksenia Sobchak, had to rebel in order to stop an incapacitated man from piloting doesn't make me feel much safer.

Serbia's Parliament "On Strike" Over Australian Open

Serbia's lawmakers went on strike last week, after state television dropped its coverage of a parliamenty debate to show the Australian Open semifinal. For some reason, the Australian Open had higher ratings. How odd.

Everyone can relax, however, since parliament is now back to business. At the top of the agenda, the first sitting of "members of the Sub-Committee on issues concerning the improvement of the position of Roma and implementation of the Decade of Roma." Apparently, the committe "elected the Sub-Committee Chairman and Deputy Chairman," and will report that the "Roma Strategy is in its final drafting stage, and that this year’s Conference on the Decade of Roma Inclusion will be dedicated to the process of education of the Roma population."


Who wants to watch the Australian Open when this kind of high politica drama is unfolding?

Feb 2, 2009

Russian Protesters: "Trying to Escape from the Asylum"

This weekend, protests against the Kremlin sprouted throughout Russia -- many of which were illegal. In a new twist, however, it seems that everyone has something to say: democracy and human rights groups, communists, retired army officers, and neo-fascists.

While riot police managed to get National Bolshevik party head Eduard Limonov into a van before he could speak, the FT interviewed a journalist at an unrelated rally who said it best:
“I’m like the mental patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, trying to escape from the asylum. I know it won’t do anything but I try all the same."
For the record, the only documented escape from a Russian asylum involved nudity, pigs, deals with highly-suspect professors of black magic and a taking cat who was a dead shot with a browining automatic.

More Russians Get Their News from Eternal Remont than Any Other News Outlet

Well, not really. But great news for those providing news on the Tubes. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russians are increasingly choosing the Internet over other media outlets in their pursuit of "objective" news, a reflection both of their judgments about the quality of reporting, and their dwindling ability to purchase increasingly expensive newspapers and magazines during the current economic crisis.

I guess that means, I should try to be more "objective." Yeah, that will never happen.

The EU Hates Eastern Europeans with Jobs


WashingtonPost: Hundreds of British energy workers walked off the job Friday to protest the use of foreign labor on British job sites, the latest sign of an increasing backlash against foreign workers amid the global recession.

Workers carrying placards that said "British jobs for British workers" staged demonstrations at more than a dozen refineries and power stations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And who has these jobs? Apparently, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians and other newer members of the European Union are stealing jobs from Brits.

My beef: What the hell was the point of including new states in the EU, if you really don't want to be all that inclusive? It's not like all these people are in your country illegally. And Britain is not the only offender. I'm looking at you, Ireland and Benelux!