Sure it's satire, but The Onion remains America's finest news source.
Feb 27, 2009
Feb 26, 2009
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.
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
"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…”
Feb 24, 2009
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
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.
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
"It is quite embarrassing to see that the [police database ] has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities."
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?
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
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....
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
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
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?
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
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
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.
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
..., 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
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.
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
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.
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
Glory days, aw he ain't never had
Glory days, glory days...
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!
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.
...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
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Feb 2, 2009
“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."
I guess that means, I should try to be more "objective." Yeah, that will never happen.
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!