Oct 29, 2009


So according to RFE/RL, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN or the "nerdiest organization ever") will vote tomorrow on whether or not to allow non-Latin letters in Web site addresses. As we all know, currently, only Latin letters are used in addresses because Al Gore invented the Internet, and Al Gore is an English-speaking American. But for the last two years, ICANN has been considering expanding the Internet and allowing other scripts in Web addresses including Cyrillic and Asian characters. This could get complicated, because no matter what, punctuation symbols will still be used, and apparently the Latin "." is differnet from the Cyrillic "."

Not confusing at all...I say we go back to binary.

01100101 01110100 01100101 01110010 01101110 01100001 01101100 01110010 01100101 01101101 01101111 01101110 01110100 00101110 01100010 01101100 01101111 01100111 01110011 01110000 01101111 01110100 00101110 01100011 01101111 01101101

Communist-Era Storefronts

American photographer David Hlynsky has compiled an impressive collection of Communist-era storefronts. It’s an amazing trip back in time.

Belgrade, 1989

Moscow, 1990

Krakow, 1988

Even then, Eternal Remont.

The Berlin Wall: Epic Fail

The 20th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall's epic fail is fast approaching.

Twenty years is a long time, but not long enough to settle the feud between journalists Riccardo Ehrman and Peter Brinkmann over who -- exactly -- flustered Party Press Minister Günter Schabowski into making his infamous mistake.

WSJ: "Later that evening [Günter Schabowski ] skim-read the executive order, stuffed it in his briefcase, and headed off to meet the world's media...When did it come into force? Did it apply to West Berlin? Did people need a passport?"

Ehrman or Brinkmann, sometimes it helps to read the fine print.

Oh, what's that David Hassalhoff?

"I find it a bit sad that there is no photo of me hanging on the walls in the Berlin Museum at Checkpoint Charlie."

Let it go, pops. We know that you're the real victim of history. Without "I'm Talking About Freedom," the reunification of Germany never would have happened.

We'd offer you a drink, but....

Oct 28, 2009

Take it to the Mattresses

It's that same old story. A loving couple from Novosibirsk work hard for their whole lives, have a millionaire son who dies young and leaves them his money, go a visit to the big city (Moscow) and get robbed.

The cruel robbers made off with $6 million and 7 million euros in cash from a rented flat in "an ordinary residential area of southeast Moscow." Now the bereaved couple are only left with the $200 million and 200 million Euros they left at the bank (probably couldn't carry it all in cash, and really anything over $14 million in cash is just not safe to take in suitcases on the Moscow metro). It'll be tough, but somehow they will make that cash stretch when they get back to Western Siberia.

All I really want to know is this: how many suitcases did it take to hold $6 million and 7 million euros in cash and how in the world did they fit it into an "ordinary" Moscow apartment?

Oct 27, 2009

The Delightful Pleasures of the Nouveau Riche

Thanks to some excellent reporting by the gumshoes at Vedomosti, we know that Russia’s political elite are spending a lot of money on bling – more money, in fact, then some offically make each year.

For example, Moscow Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin (head of the city’s notorious construction office) sports this $1,030,000 DeWitt La Pressy Grande Complication. The manufacture claims it "can be admired through a transparent back protected by a sapphire crystal."

Or maybe you would prefer Chechen President Kadyrov's $300,000 Bovet. We needn't mention that he claims to make $118,000 a year and has two assets: a Grozny apartment and his Lada.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin keeps track of the trains with his $74,800 Patek Philippe.

And Saint Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko is sure to never miss the bridges with her $26,600 Harry Winston. Curiously, Matviyenko only claims to make $58,777 a year. The poor woman must have saved every kopek.

Relative to his official income, President Medvedev taste's are curiously frugal judging by his $32,200 Breguet.

So what does Putin wear? Vedomosti didn't mention it, but we have it on good authority that the PM keeps it real with his prized Hello Kitty digital collection. Suggested retail: $9.99.

What the Kids are Doing: "Russian Road Roulette"

If there was ever a doubt that you take your life in your hands while driving in Bulgaria, we offer you "Russian road roulette" -- the latest craze among twenty-something Bulgarians.

"To win at Russian road roulette, the driver must jump red lights at busy crossroads at full speed and not collide with another vehicle, pedestrian or leave the road. If he hits an object, he loses the bet. Onlookers also take part by gambling on the outcome."
The Telegraph reports that at least five people have been killed since the summer. Bets are limited to $8,000.

Note to War Criminals: Take the Plea and Go to Sweeden

That's the lesson we've learned from former Bosnian Serb President Biljana “the Iron Lady” Plavsic.

Back in 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal accused Biljana of "genocide, extermination and murder." But, like every first time offender, Biljana pled guilty to a lesser charge, had her lawyers get her transferred to Sweden, and wrote a tell-all.

Oddly, Sweden isn't home to genocidal war criminals. So, local laws allow for early release on good behavior "notwithstanding the gravity of her crimes."

If only Charles Manson had Biljana's legal team.

Are you taking notes Karadzic? His trial just got underway at the Hague. If there is any justice in the world, Karadzic will do his time at Pelican Bay, join an El Salvadorian gang and spend his twilight years as a prison tattoo artist for the Maras. Call it his cross-cultural awakening.

Who Wants to Go to Mars?

If you've ever dreamed of becoming a cosmonaut, this is your big chance, sort of.

"The Russian Institute of Medical and Biological Problems continues to recruit volunteers for participation in a 520-day simulation of an expedition to Mars."
(Biological Problems?)

The offer is open to anyone age 25-50, is a product of higher education, knows enough Russian and English to ensure "professional and household communication" and wants to make $20,000.

What's the catch? Two years of isolation, bad food and all the "conditions likely to be encountered by astronauts on a real space flight," but you never leave the containment chamber. On second thought, this less like a scientific experiment and more like a reality television show.

Oct 26, 2009

These little piggies went to market

The Russian central bank has been indicating for months now that they want to diversify away from dollar reserves. Little did we know that they've already begun shifting loan collateral towards so-called “strange assets.” Struggling to deal with bad loans, Russia's two biggest lenders, OAO Sberbank (owned by one of our favorite billionaires and former spooks, Alexander Lebedev) and VTB Group, have begun accepting payment in kind, including stakes in risky (or should we say frisky) assets like Wild Orchid, a lingerie retailer. Just today, OAO Sberbank tried to repossess 40,450 pigs from a farmer near Samara on the Volga river. (Did I mention they're being quarantined for the African swine fever?)

No matter what lipstick/lingerie you put on these pigs, not a pretty sight...

Thanks to Dan for the tip!

Oligarch Alexander Lebedev: Pig Farmer?

“We had a court decision to take away the collateral, which is the pigs,” he told Bloomberg.

(Great minds think alike Baba.)

Oct 23, 2009

Cirque du F - lay

Sometimes in the course of a day you come across an article that makes both your eyebrows raise. As reported by The Times Online:

"A circus bear killed one person and injured another during rehearsals for an ice-skating show...It is unclear why the bear, which was wearing ice skates at the time, attacked Mr Potapov...Deadly attacks are rare in the country's circuses, which often train bears to wear skates and play ice hockey."
I'm still not sure which question bothers me more: Who was the first person that decided it would be a good idea to put ice skates on a fully grown bear? (Or) Are there really so many bears that ice skate and play hockey that the writers at the Times don't know why an enormous predator, which can reach speeds of 30 mph (perhaps even faster on properly zambonied ice), might take dislike of someone forcing him to join the ice capades?

Maybe he needed a good nap...maybe his laces were too tight....

Who Owns the AK-47?

After years of neglect, Russia and China have finally agreed to answer one of the most divisive issues in their bilateral relations: copyright protection for the AK-47.
"There are about 100 million Kalashnikov assault rifles worldwide, of which half are counterfeit," said Anatoly Isaikin of Rosoboronexport...Production of Kalashnikovs outside Russia had [cost] financial losses and tarnished the brand because of their poor quality."

However, this assumes that counterfeit = bad.

In fact, Bulgaria continues to flood Iraq and Afghanistan with an illegal "open source copy" of the AK-47 that is of better quality and lower cost than the Russian-made brand. If anything, the Bulgarians are doing Rosoboronexport a favor.

And even though Russia contends that Bulgaria's license expired with the Warsaw Pact, Soveit-era bureaucrats overlooked the legal ramifactions of Communism's collapse and failed to insert a sunset clause into the agreement.

Didn't you know, comrade? Contracts are the daggers of the bourgeoisie.

Speaking of which, Mikhail Kalashnikov is still alive. He is 89 years old, lives in a modest home in Izhevsk, and has yet to see a penny from his invention.

No profits, no ownership, just workers in a Workers’ State!

The Rosé Revolution

You may recall that back in 2006, the Kremlin was not dealing too well with color revolutions. And after Georgian's Rose Revolution, the Kremlin felt Georgia was abandoning its Soviet overlords for the glitz and glamour of the West. Abandoment issues are very real. So as a way of acting out, the Kremlin banned the selling of Georgian wine in all of Russia. This initially was very upsetting. But it's now 2009, and we've learned two things:

1. There are much worse things Russia can do than ban vino. Russia has a bigger army than yours, Saakashvili.
2. Banning Georgian wine in Russia ended up boosting sales and quality of Georgian wine in the West.

According to the Washington Times, Georgia has seen its international wine sales go up 13-17% annually. And because non-Russians have expectations for wine besides it containing alcohol, Georgians have been pushed to improve the quality of the wine (Thank God!). And there it is, folks. Your move, Russia.

Oh Crap. The Kremlin Is Joining Facebook.

Is this better or worse than your parents joining facebook?

So according to the Moscow Times, the Communications and Press Ministry of Russia is looking for a company to help Russian bureacrats promote state interests on Facebook, Twitter, and other Russian networking sites (my guess is vkontakte.ru). I cannot wait to follow these tweets. Please please please, Lavrov, start tweeting!

Not sketchy or sexy enough for you? In addition to helping Medvezhonok tweet "OMG. Putin is like so hot!", the winning tech company must also come up with ways to help bureacrats "to sift through discussion topics" (AKA monitor conversations). If only the Soviets had social networking. They wouldn't have had to bug so many phones.

Oct 22, 2009

Stay Classy Russia: "Whale-Penis Leather" Seats

In the world of over-compensating, eat-my-carbon-footprint, RPG-proof, sport utility vehicles, Russia’s Dartz Prombron Monaco Red Diamond Edition is king of the mountain (MSRP: $1.5 million). Why so special?

“A Russian armored-car builder is boasting that its latest vehicle has seats covered with ‘whale-penis leather.’”

We know what you're thinking, the mileage on that thing must be terrible.

(Thanks Leopolis!)

...and on to Romania

"The United States is grateful for the circus -- service, as well as the sacrifice."
That was Vice President Biden thanking Romania for its contribution in Afghanistan.

Also, here's a fun fact: Romanian officers in Afghanistan have command of U.S. troops.

/high five Romania

Oct 21, 2009

Damage Control Joe

This is about as good as damage control gets: Vice President Biden visits Poland, lays a wreath in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, says "An attack on one is an attack on all," and promises SM-3's by 2018 -- all without a single gaff.

Meanwhile, some Polish parliamentarians are still upset that Turkey will receive more than 50 batteries of U.S. Patriot missiles, while Poland is only slated for one.

The Poles are also upset that the Turks attacked Vienna in 1529.

So that’s strike two, Turkey!

Outlaw Gambling in Bulgaria?

Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has called for a ban on all types of gambling in Bulgaria.

However, this new proposal would still not prohibit Bulgaria's most pervasive form of gambling: getting into a car.

Oct 20, 2009

The Good 'Ole Days

Procrastinators beware: the entire archive of LIFE Magazine is now avaliable for free online. While this feat of human engineering threatens to waste millions of productive work hours, we were able to salvage a priceless quote from December 14, 1942 that reads like a John Kennedy Toole novel:

The American people are generous in their admiration of Russia. And most Americans also recognize that if it had not been for Russia our war would be a lot worse. As Ellis Farrar, a Negro shoe-dyer of Chicago, said last week, "They're saving us a hell of a lot of men."

Other highlights include a rare photo of Stalin before -- and after -- the Kremlin's re-touching team worked their magic, as well as Khrushchev’s “cornball” tear across America.

Postcards from Mirny

This is truly a city on the edge. Yakutia's Mirny diamond mine is the largest in the world. And by large, we mean monstrous.

So, how big is big?

For starters, this beast is 525 meters deep, large enough to bury both the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers (RIP).

And it's rich. In fact, Russia has pulled so much wealth from the mine that the Yeltsin government once offered to pay foreign creditors in diamonds when cash was short. The creditors declined.

Unfortunately, from the looks of the city’s “Memorial to the Pioneers of Diamond Industry,” not everyone has shared in the wealth.

Thanks Google Maps!

Appeals Court upholds Zhovtis' Sentence

Disappointing? Yes. Disheartening? Yes. Surprising? Not really.

Sadly, today, the Kazakhstani appeals court upheald the sentence of Human Rights Defender Yevgeniy Zhovtis. Zhovtis was convicted of manslaughter in September after unfortunately hitting a man with his car in an accident. Zhovtis' defense team and international observers have pointed to numerous procedural violations during both the investigation and trial that prevented him from presenting all evidence in defense of his innocence. This is most upsetting as Kazakhstan is set to assume the OSCE chairmanship in 2010.


Oct 19, 2009

New Poll: Democracy Down, Iron Fist Up

A new poll by the Levada-Center shows that 57% of Russian respondents believe their country should have a democratic system -- the lowest since 2006. Meanwhile, 26% believe democracy is “not suitable” for Russia.

One point upon which everyone agrees: they have “little or no influence” on events in the country (95%).

So, does the country need an “iron fist” leader?

Forty three percent said, "Yes!"

Got Gold?

CNBC is turning into the king of the slideshow. This week’s topic: “The World’s Biggest Gold Reserves.”

Russia ranks 10th in the world with 625.2 tons of gold in reserve -- totaling $20.85 billion. For everyone keeping score at home, that amounts to 27% of the total debt which the United States borrowed from creditors last week ($78 billion).

But it’s not all bad news for Uncle Sam. America’s gold holdings are still the world’s largest, with 8,946.9 tons of bullion, or $298.36 billion.

And no, gold-plated Porsches are not counted towards a country's total reserves. That would be unfair, Russia.

Oct 17, 2009

A Moscow Winter without Snow?

Germany, now is the time to attack! But seriously, is it just me, or is Russia crazier than usual? According to YahooNews, the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, is promising to keep it from snowing this Winter. I'm not kidding.

For just a few million dollars, the mayor's office will hire the Russian Air Force to spray a fine chemical mist over the clouds before they reach the capital, forcing them to dump their snow outside the city.

Some are not thrilled about the idea. For one, those who live in the Moscow suburbs are not thrilled about having extra snow. And secondly, environmentalists have not yet given an endorsement.

And thirdly, WTF?! It was bad enough when the Chinese were shooting at the sky to make it rain before the Beijing Olympics. Moscow is in the North. It snows there! If you don't like the snow, don't live there.

And, seriously, Moscow without snow is just down right un-Russian. What will your poets write about?

The Amazing, Vanishing Gulag II

Last year, we noted a new trend in sanatizing the past -- the Russian government had began to use privacy laws to block access to archives about the Great Terror (The Amazing, Vanishing Gulag).

In a new twist, authorities are now using the law to imprison historians.

After the FSB detained Russian professor Mikhail Suprun last month for investigating the plight of German prisoners in the Gulag, he was formally arrested yesterday for “violating the privacy” of Stalin’s victims. If convicted, Suprun faces four years in prison.

President Medevdev once declared war on legal nihilism. But his gratuitous abuse of the law is enough to make nihilists of us all.

Oct 16, 2009

“Russian Obama” Gets the Bronze

Sadly, the greatest underdog story of the year has come to an end.

The “Russian Obama,” Joaquim Crima, placed third during this week’s municipal elections in Srednaya Akhtuba, Volgograd. He won just 4.75 per cent of the vote.

"I expected to gain around one percent and I came in third. [I’m] pleasantly surprised," Crima said.
At the top of the podium, United Russia party candidate Sergei Tikhonov won with 47 percent of the vote.

You may have lost the election but you won our hearts, господин крыма.

Oct 15, 2009

Moldova's Grenade Scare

Moldova is known for many things. But grenade attacks are not on the list.

That’s why the news that 40 concert-goers were injured by a grenade blast in Chisinau has raised eyebrows.

According to Moldovan Interior Minister Viktor Katan, "It remains to be seen whether this is a result of hooliganism, negligence or other causes. We are not ruling out the version of a terrorist attack."

Either way, the event sparked a mild grenade panic across the city. After the first explosion, a man walked into the state prosecutor's office with a grenade to demand the release of his son -- a convicted murderer.

Apparently, this is not the usual method of appeal in Moldova.

Sorry Children, Christmas is Cancelled

Belarus ruins everything!

I didn't make this story up. According to the Assembly of Belarusian Pro-Democratic NGOs, a group of Santa Clauses recently voluntarily surrendered themselves in Minsk. On October 15, a number of indviduals dressed in Santa (or Ded Moroz) costumes went to the General Prosecutor's Office in Minsk and handed in a declaration in which the individuals admitted to being a part of an unregistered Santa Claus organization and to participating in unsanctioned Santa Claus activities.

Of course these individuals had not been under any suspicion for their Santa activities, but they were trying to draw attention to Article 193.1 of Belarus' Criminal Code, which imposes a criminal penalty for individuals participating in unregistered organizations. Pretty funny and clever. I thought the donkey skit in Azerbaijan wasn't too bad either. I look forward to your impending trials, and please try to come up with a catchy T-shirt. "I am a Santa Claus too" maybe

"Hottest Heads of State"

So a friend of Remont sent this to me this morning. It's a Web site called "Hottest Heads of State". If you take a quick glance, you will not surprised that the number one spot goes to Yulia Tymoshenko. How could it not? Look at her. You might, however, be surprised, dismayed, confused, astonished, a little sick to your stomach to see that the number 12 spot goes to none other than Alexander Lukashenko. I'm not kidding. Some of the people he beat out: Barack Obama (15) and Vladimir Putin (18).

Before we start demanding a recount, let's look at how the owners of this site came up with this ranking. According to the first FAQ:

"As most people except for you realize, hotness is a subjective quality. That said, if you make a convincing enough argument in our “comments” section, we will adjust the rankings. Note: Comments arguing that Alexander Lukashenko is not that hot will be ignored."

This is a most disturbing Web site.

Oct 14, 2009

A well-planned political protest in Russia

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! Russia is surprising me at every turn this week. From the Washington Post:

"The minority political parties in Russia's parliament walked out of the chamber in a rare act of protest Wednesday, embarrassing the Kremlin during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and demanding a recount of votes in local elections widely perceived to have been rigged...

Ilya Ponomaryov, a Fair Russia lawmaker, said his party was protesting not only election fraud, which has become routine in Russia, but also an attempt by the authorities to forbid debate on the subject in the Duma."

Right in front of Hillary. I'm in shock, Russia. Disrespecting the Kremlin in front of the Americans. What next?

More Fun with Polish Photoshop

Didn't we already learn this lesson, Poland?

Dear student,


You have been accepted into the Medical University of Lubin's prestigious color-blindness specialization program. As part of our newly improved entrance exam, we kindly ask you to identify the one important difference between our English and Polish language websites.

Yours in racial homogeneity,

The Photoshop Staff

(Note: the site has since been fully sanitized. However, even the cover-up is a disaster. For added fun, flip between the current English and Polish language versions. Hair, buildings, and skin color are all horribly wrong. Thanks to Photoshop Dissasters!)


Secretary Clinton’s magical mystery tour of Moscow continued today, first with a speech at Moscow State University on human rights, and then an unveiling of a Walt Whitman statue on campus. And that’s when she said this:

"Just as Pushkin and Whitman reset poetry we are resetting our relations for the 21st century," Clinton said.

Good grief.

Meanwhile, Russian Gay Rights Activists were quick to point out the hilarity of Clinton unveiling a Whitman statue alongside Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, known for his own brand of poetry. Like this famous Luzhkov haiku:

can be described in no oth'r
way than satanic”

(Can you believe the quote actually works as haiku?)

Ah, the poetry of diplomacy.

I can't wait for Scorsese to make this movie

According to the New York Times, Russian Vyacheslav K. Ivankov was laid to rest yesterday. Ivankov, 69, died Friday from complications from a gunshot wound he incurred in July. Who was this Ivankov who beat the odds of Russian male life expectancy only to be shot down? Well Ivankov was a (some might say, "the") "Russian crime boss who survived tangles with the KGB, the FBI, and other violent criminals in a bloody career that spanned decades."

Hundreds attended Mr. Ivankov's funeral, which from pictures I've seen could easily be mistaken for a leather coat convention. In any case, attendees weren't there to pay their respects. It turns out with the death of Mr. Ivankov, those in the crime world are expecting one hell of a Moscow mob war. People attended the funeral to make allies and mark targets. Holy S^&*!

Seriously, Scorsese, start writing it. DiCaprio could totally play a Russian. And Viggo Mortensen was totally believable in Eastern Promises. Think about it.

Oct 13, 2009

Kadyrov gets more respect than Stalin?

According to YahooNews, today a Russian court ruled against Josef Stalin's grandson, Evegeny Dzhugashvili, in a libel suit over a newspaper article that said the Soviet dictator sent thousands of people to their deaths and referred to Stalin as a "bloodthirsy cannibal." Stalin's grandson, who did not attend the trial, had demanded a retraction, a public apology, and monetary damages. He has 5 days to appeal.

So Oleg Orlov has to pay Kadyrov $2,347.90 in damages for accusing him of being complicit in the death of Human Rights activist Natalia Estemirova, but Novaya Gazeta is allowed to print that Stalin was a cannibal? Kadyrov, today, you are officially a bas a$$. Russia adores Stalin. And while I support the decision to rule against Dzhugashvili and still do not support the ruling against Orlov, I am really surprised. I'm at a loss for words. What just happened?

No Love for Hillary

As if we needed any more evidence that Medvedev was speaking way off script at the UN when he hinted that “sanctions are inevitable” against Iran, Foreign Minister Lavrov took a buzz saw to the whole idea.

“Threats, sanctions, and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive,” said Lavrov.

Always a bridesmaid, Hillary! left her meeting in Moscow empty-handed. In fact, Lavrov wasn’t even nice enough to offer the Secretary of State anything resembling a fake plastic prop to symbolize their relationship.

May we remind you, sir, that Hillary’s boss just won the Nobel Prize. Next time, you’d better show some respect, because he’s um, really important and stuff.

(To be fair, however, we do have it on good authority that Lavrov didn't ask the Secretary of State what her husband thought about Iran sanctions.)

Romanian Parliament Dismisses Government

According to YahooNews, today, the Romanian Parliament voted to dismiss the government, because it had failed to improve the economy. This is the first time Parliament has dimissed a government since the fall of communism in 1989.

Romania has been hit by the global downturn and it secured a $17.1 billion International Monetary Fund loan, which was needed to help the country balance the books this year so it can keep paying public salaries and pensions. The unemployment rate is about 7 percent, up from 4 percent a year ago. The economy is expected to contract by 8 percent this year, following three years of an annual economic growth of 8 percent.

Question: can all countries dismiss their own governments because the economy sucks? How have other countries' governments not been dismissed in this global economic crisis?

(Re)branding Nord Stream

Yesterday's NYTimes had a strange article on the Nord Stream project. Strange, because there wasn't much to report. The project continues, Europe remains divided, GazProfit reps are up on their talking points. (Is it news just because the NYTimes reports it?)

In fact, the only quote of interest comes to us from Nord Stream Representative to the European Union Sebastian Sass, who showed a little more leg in the company’s effort to brand the pipeline:

“As far as common energy policy exists, we are part of it on the highest priority level,” said Sass.
You want a common energy policy? I got your common energy policy right here.

More to the point, Sass used specific EU language -- reserved only for Nabucco -- to describe Nord Stream ("highest priority"). This follows Moscow's failed efforts to have the EU designate South Stream as a "high priority" energy project.

Nice trick, Sebastian. We noticed.

Oct 10, 2009

Turkey and Armenia Sign an Accord

No seriously, it happened. According to YahooNews, today in Switzerland, in front of Hilary "My husband is not the Secrtary of State" Clinton and Sergey "Who the f*&^ are you to lecture me" Lavrov, an accord was signed by Turkey and Armenia.

The contentious issue of whether the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide is only hinted at in the agreement, which calls for diplomatic ties for the first time and the opening of the border within two months.

About 10,000 protesters rallied Friday in Armenia's capital to oppose the signing, and a tour of Armenian communities by Sarkisian sparked protests in Lebanon and France, with demonstrators in Paris shouting "Traitor!"

See? Everything is all better now. Oh, wait...

Surgically Modified Toes

Moment like this make us proud. Organizers in Hungary have convened the world’s first beauty pageant for devotees of plastic surgery. Hence, one of the most amazing press releases of all time:

“Among the ever overbidding and confusingly diversified beauty contests now a unique novelty is born. The first competition that is not afraid to go with the flow. Here, women who had plastic surgery show the world that beauty operations are not the work of the devil, that they can be natural and tasteful, and that perfect beauty can be even more perfect.”
One contestant even had plastic surgery on her toes. Meanwhile, the winner, 22 year old hostess Reka Urban, walked away with the crown and a new apartment in Budapest.

(Before you ask, Nancy Pelosi and Tara Reed were not contestants. Damn.)

Oct 9, 2009

Take it or Leave It

The South Caucasus may have finally found something that can unite all nations, unrecognized or not, even ::gasp:: Russia...well other than an oppressive, communist dictatorship that is. What is this magical solution? Tea!

We've all probably read "Three Cups of Tea," but now several Caucasian national tea associations are suggesting the answer is really in a single cup. By brewing a tea which contains tealeaves grown throughout the Caucasus, national tea enthusiasts will restore peace and a sense of unity to the oft troubled region.

These tea-totallers are calling for their national governments to get together and create a cool logo, regional trademark, and, if so inclined, weave friendship bracelets for fellow leaders. South Ossetian coordinator Timur Tskhovrebov argues that the project shows "that a degree of common sense has remained in us, [the South Caucasus]" and the Azerbaijani proponent suggested that "It’s better to have economic dialogue than not to have any."

I personally feel that there may be more important things brewing in the South Caucasus...

Putin Hates Beer

Remember when Medvedev called alcoholism "a national disaster" and vowed to fight it? Putin has responded to the challenge. Under a new law, the Duma will impose a 200% tax increase on beer, followed by a 11% increase in 2011, and a 20% increase in 2012.

According to Marketwatch, the draft bill has prompted howls from "the mostly foreign-owned brewing industry whose profits are bound to be hurt by the measures."

Clearly, Putin's Duma only believes that alcoholism is a problem for Russians who drink Baltika and other foreign-owned labels. Meanwhile, those who can’t afford the tax will have to switch to mouthwash, or -- wait for it -- domestically-produced vodka.

Is that what we were trying to accomplish Medvedev, to force beer drinkers to switch to vodka and brake fluid? If so, then we might need to redefine the term "national disaster."

Take that alchoholism!

Apocalypse Now: Croatia in the EU by 2012

Someone leaked an early version of the EU's enlargement report, originally scheduled for release next week.

Croatia, you're in. Turkey, you're -- not out, sort of -- you just have a really long way to go.

Ok, that was a gross simplification. However, Croatia is expected to meet all ascension benchmarks by 2010, opening up full EU membership by 2012.

That's right, 2012 -- the same year as the Mayan apocalypse. Coincidence? Maybe.

But if a black hole in the center of the galaxy does obliterate the planet, we'll know who to blame, Croatia.

Lech Walesa is Awesome

Nobel Prize laureate Lech Walesa offered his take on Obama's freshly-minted Nobel:

"Who? What? So fast?"