post-soviet roundup

Haven’t checked in on Georgia for a while. What a mess.

The European Union has finally decided that it can’t accomplish anything in the Middle East, so maybe it should pay some attention to, y’know, Europe:

“There are new priorities on the agenda which were not so obvious last year, including the need to stabilize these countries, which are moving from one crisis to another,” said Nicu Popescu, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The focus is less on structural adjustments or institution-building and more on crisis management.”

And file this one under “what could possibly go wrong?”


Been a long time since we checked in on the remaining Republic of Georgia, eh? Long story short: Georgians stuck by President Saakashvili during the war and immediately after, but now that it’s clear that Georgia got pwned, the opposition is heating up. Can the government remember it’s on the side of democracy, or will it crack down? Meanwhile, the Russians (I almost typed “Soviets”) are digging in in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Global financial crisis or not, oil and natural gas are the long-term keys to an inexorable transfer of economic power from the West to Asia. Those who control Pipelineistan — and despite all the dreaming and planning that’s gone on there, it’s unlikely to be Washington — will have the upper hand in whatever’s to come, and there’s not a terrorist in the world, or even a long war, that can change that.

And this:

post-soviet round-up, russians in the arctic and pirates

Georgia hasn’t really stabilized yet:

And Russia’s got trouble of its own just across the Caucasus:

Doesn’t stop the Russians from looking north, though:

Since I’m doing world politics tonight, I’ll take up my sadly neglected duty of telling you everything that happened with pirates. Did I even mention last week that the MV Faina was released? That’s the ship that was carrying tanks and other weapons to Kenya, although the arms are widely thought to have been intended for a Sudanese faction.

According to David Musila, Assistant Minister for Defense, the military equipment will be off-loaded from the ship starting on Friday.

The military equipment, he said, will be delivered by rail to the Kahawa Garrison before transportation to the Armor Brigade in Isiolo in northern Kenya.

“We shall invite the media to witness this process,” Musila said, adding that this will convince those people that have doubted that the cargo was meant for Kenya.

The U.S. and Russian navies joined forces today in the Gulf of Aden in an extraordinary and spontaneous display of counter-piracy cooperation and high-seas diplomacy. The U.S.-guided missile cruiser Vella Gulf and the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov launched a coordinated military response to a distress call from a Panamanian cargo ship, which reported it was about to be attacked by pirates.

But before anyone gets too excited about their antipiracy patrols:

Among the litany of booby traps left by the Bush administration for the Obama team, Somalia could be one of the most complicated and bizarre.

The crisis there is also an opportunity, however, as one of the main obstacles to all-party peace talks was the Bush administration’s cynical and unrealistic refusal to talk to the most powerful insurgent groups in Somalia because of their alleged association with terrorism. The Obama administration, if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing is any indication, also views the Horn of Africa in the context of terrorism.

Nevertheless, Obama has also talked of his preference for diplomatic solutions. Somalia would be an ideal place to test his diplomacy.

space, somalia and the genius of cops

I’m inclined to think that military force will follow humans wherever we go. That doesn’t mean working towards limits on it is a bad idea, though.

“There’s still a lot of wiggle room” in the administration’s statement on military space, said analyst Victoria Samson with the private Center for Defense Information. “But just the sheer fact that they are discussing it represents a real shift from the Bush administration.”

This might actually be good news for the law and order crowd, although supporters of human rights won’t be so happy:

The usual post-soviet geekery:

And finally, you know I can’t resist a good crime story, especially when it makes the police look like idiots:

The boy, who has been charged as a juvenile for impersonating an officer, walked into the Grand Crossing District station, 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave., dressed in a Chicago police uniform, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. The boy, who reported for duty about 1:30 p.m., partnered with another police officer for about five hours.

The boy identified himself as an officer from another district but was detailed for the day to Grand Crossing and also was savvy enough to sign out a police radio and a ticket book, according to a source. The source also said the boy went on traffic stops with the officer he went on the street with.


Starting with News of the Stupid:

Junior Brandon Davis said “it all started in good nature, but then people were throwing them as hard as they could at each other.” Junior Matt Lunchick said an officer chased and arrested a student after being hit in the back with a snowball.

“The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat,” Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

“We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat,” he said.

And on to News of the Grim:

I’m an optimistic pessimist. I think it’s wrong to assume we’ll survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it. Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left. It’s happening again.

And now this:

Nine pirates armed with rocket launchers and heavy machine guns boarded the ship at 12:43 pm (Beijing time) on Dec 17. The 30 sailors locked themselves in the cabins, using fire hydrants and self-made firebombs to keep the attackers at bay.

The beer bottles worked as real weapons, flying like missiles and exploding on impact. And the shards of broken glass made walking on the deck difficult for the pirates because most of them were barefoot.

A couple of these:

And bad news in space, too:

return of the headlines

Trying to get back in the swing of things here….

There’s been a lot of buzz about this story lately:

But this article provides some context that’s missing everywhere else:

The report appeared in November 2008, and was intended for use in “long range planning guidance.” It was not meant to predict anything. Media sensationalists latched on to the comments about “rapid collapse” scenarios in the JFCOM speculative study and totally missed the point that this was a “what if?” scenario for planning purposes, not a prediction. JFCOM’s long-range planners thought Pakistan and Mexico were “worst cases” of rapid collapse. Okay, this is fodder for wargaming and long-range planning excursions. No doubt a Mexican collapse would have huge effects on the US. However, the direct comparison to Pakistan was a huge stretch.

Read the report yourself, if you want. The Mexican collapse scenario appears in exactly one paragraph out of 56 pages:

Been a long time since we visited the former Soviet periphery. Here’s a quick look around:

I’m sure this is nothing to worry about:

If there’s any water on the moon, this is the place to look. Too bad we have to hitch a ride from India to find out.

Here’s some early evidence that Obama won’t do what you want without you making a stink about it (and maybe not even then- time will tell.) This is a draft of a plan that has lots of process ahead of it, but he didn’t have to move it forward at all:

And finally, here’s what you’ve been waiting for: PIRATES!

world news

I’m busy packing tonight, so here’s a quick crawl through the post-soviet periphery and a couple other things.

holy crap

I wish I could embed this video for you- it’s a giant shark taking a dump. No, really.
Shark-cam captures ocean motion

It is as thick as your arm, gungy and smells disgusting – and it has just been caught on camera for what is thought to be the first time.

Whalers slip out of Japanese port

Lunar Images From Chandrayaan-1
Controllers Cheer as Data Arrive from NASA’s Spirit Rover
What to Get Space Station on 10th Anniversary — a Name
Physicist admits sending US space know-how to China

Pirates capture Saudi oil tanker
Somali pirates release cargo ship
US Admiral ‘stunned’ by pirates’ reach

Georgia: Russian drone explodes, killing 2 soldiers and wounding 8 near S. Ossetian border
South Ossetian gunmen withdraw from disputed village: Sarkozy
Macedonia Takes Greece to World Court
Protests against UN, EU in Kosovo planned

Ancient Greeks pre-empted Dead Parrot sketch

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.”

For those who believe the ancient Greeks thought of everything first, proof has been found in a 4th century AD joke book featuring an ancestor of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch where a man returns a parrot to a shop, complaining it is dead.

The 1,600-year-old work entitled “Philogelos: The Laugh Addict,” one of the world’s oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said Friday.

“By the gods,” answers the slave’s seller, “when he was with me, he never did any such thing!”

news keeps on happening

Once again, I wish I had a tag called “awesome.”

The Alternate History Theme Park Where Dinosaurs Fought in the Civil War

Hubble snaps planet orbiting distant star: First visible-light image of gravitationally-bound world

The Hubble space telescope has captured the first visible-light image of an exoplanet orbiting a star – a body no greater than three Jupiter masses, gravitationally-bound to Fomalhaut in the constellation Piscis Australis.

Mission Accomplished: India fifth in world to reach moon
High-Performance Ares Rocket Engine Passes Review
Shuttle Endeavour links with space station

Policeman Killed Near Abkhazia
EU monitors in Georgia ‘come under fire near Abkhazia’
U.S. studies another path for Georgia to join NATO

Explosive charge thrown at EU mission in Kosovo
EU’s Kosovo Mission In Doubt After Rejection Of UN Proposal
Aiming to partition Kosovo, Tadic reveals his Janus-like face

Putin holds talks on Transdniester

news and nudes

I have to admit- I would never stay on top of this story without the Fortean Times:
Sixth severed foot washes up on B.C. shore

Not as cool as the Ganesha that grew up through the sidewalk, but it’ll do:
Monks see Buddha in wasp nest

Judge clears nude bicyclist in Portland
Seattle Parks seeking to ban nudity
Resort plans nude “anything goes” party

The usual post-Soviet stuff, starting in the Balkans:
Postwar Bosnia’s surprising export: peacekeepers
Kosovo rejects deal on deployment of EU mission
EULEX: UN appeals to Kosovo for flexibility

Tag reform! I used to tag stories about South Ossetia and Abkhazia with “Georgia,” just to keep the tags under control. But that’s kind of old school by now, so from this point forward, there’s a new tag called “Ossetia.” Not like you care, but I do.

Police attack raises tension in South Ossetia
S.Ossetia to report EU monitoring failure

The first two Ukraine headlines describe basically the same event, and yet their spin is almost totally opposite:
NATO reaffirms close ties with Ukraine
NATO Raises Concerns About Ukraine Reforms, Alliance Membership
Ukraine MPs sack presidential associate as speaker