Jul 23 2013

Kazakhstan News Roundup Part 2 – Four Months Late

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 3:29 pm

This post was written in March, but I apparently forgot to finish inserting the last few links and to publish it. It was discovered as I changed some posts from draft status, now that I have my renewed pink card.

Right, I have now completed the collection of links from the last few months that pertain to Kazakhstan. First up (or fifth, if you count Part 1 of this post), we have a piece on the Border Guards. A massacre, resignations, two suicides and a plane crash have hit the service in recent months, with some analysts deciding that the border service is just as badly hit by poor morale, hazing and abuse of power as the other forces. Eursianet has a piece with a summary and lots of links to other articles on the topic.

Next up is a report on the number of bookmakers in Kazakhstan. Although the report makes it sound like this is a very recent boom, the little kiosks have been popping up for quite a long time, in a lot of the bars I have seen around Astana. In fact, their number did seem to dip a couple of years ago, then bounce back up again. I’m not sure whether the dip was due to regulations suddenly being enforced, a different Akim in power, or perhaps the economic troubles at the time?

There is a newspaper here in Kazakhstan that has a history of problems with the authorities. Given the overall superb levels of multi-party democracy, freedom of association, freedom of religion and a free press that can be found in this glorious nation, it seems obvious that Respublika must print a steady stream of lies and be financed by enemies of this country’s leader and his party. Why else would the paper be banned from publishing? For some background information, check here.

As another indicator of a country with 21st century credentials, Tengri News (via EurasiaNet.org) reports that a bride school has opened in Almaty. As ever, check out some of the comments at the bottom of the Tengri News piece. Google’s translation of it sometimes leaves you wondering, but you get the gist normally. To be fair, the course isn’t just about cooking for your husband, or how to properly apply mascara, but also includes units on psychology (of your husband) and literature.

When agreeing there is no problem doesn’t convince everyone. Baikonur is used by Russia to launch space rockets, and when a Kazakh official suggested last year that Kazakhstan may halt the agreement, Russia wasn’t very happy. But everything is just fine now, no one disagrees about anything. See?

Apr 26 2013

Because, Because…

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 7:08 pm

Someone decided to display their anger at a minister here in Kazakhstan (who does not command a great deal of respect locally, due to his inability to display much comprehension of the troubles of the average man) by launching a few eggs in his direction.

I’m surprised to see this form of protest, I just hope the man, his family, work colleagues and friends do not come under too much observation/pre-emptive strikes by the intelligence services that do such a great job defending this almost unique nation.

Mar 04 2013

Kazakhstan News Roundup

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 6:34 pm

I think these links will end up all being EurasiaNet articles…

Actually, I’ll start off with a piece about life in Turkmenistan (to the South-West of Kazakhstan). President Berdymukhamedov has, so far, not presented himself as quite as egocentric as his predecessor, but if government officials have come up with the following, without specific orders from high, then the personality cult-like environment may well not end up much different. The photo from the original (Russian language, I’d suggest using Google Chrome as it can automatically translate for you) article gives you an idea of what Eurasianet’s piece is all about, and the comments at the bottom are full of the normal “WTF” vs “Don’t dishonour our glorious nation an the president” type responses. Basically, newlyweds now appear to be required to have at least three photos of their wedding with Berdymukhamedov’s portrait in the background. Here in Kazakhstan (unless there are a lot of Western dignitaries in town), you will often see Nazarbayev on billboards with inspirational messages, but I don’t think I’ve seen any photos of him in taxis here (see the last picture here for Turkmenistan taxi requirements!)

Next up we have another horse reference. This one shouldn’t be a problem for vegetarians (though vegans don’t drink milk, I think?) as no meat consumption (or dead animals) are involved. Instead, we have an article on cosmetics research carried out by students from the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (apparently also known as KazGU or KazNU). They decided to try and solve the issue of allergic reactions to the chemicals found in many popular soaps by using Kumis (fermented horse milk) as a natural alternative. In terms of the health benefits, the oft-used buzz word of antioxidants appears, though I’d be interested if any of these are broken down/killed off by any of the processes involved with soap making. I’ll have to ask AlexC what is involved in the process. As is often the case, the comment section at Tengri News is worth a read!

How powerful people prevent the population protesting. I should probably start a local AA chapter (Alliterators Anonymous)!

It finished a little over a week ago, but the P5+1 conference held in Almaty has the potential to finally bring some good news to those of us interested in Iran’s nuclear programme. We won’t know many details until early April (and even then there is no guarantee that a) Iran and the six other nations will not only agree to, but also carry out their parts with any treaty or long term plan and b) That much detail will be revealed about any agreements made), but if you’re interested in the topic, check the articles here, here, here and also here (focuses on Kazakhstan’s background in the nuclear power/non-proliferation arena.)

OK, that is enough for now, I’ll publish this and then trawl through my bookmarks/starred RSS feed items in Google reader.

Oct 17 2012

Rap News 16

Category: In The Media,Personal,VideosChrisM @ 12:44 am

If you’re not interested specifically in the USA election (seriously? with the global impact the result could have??), please do consider checking Juice Media’s back catalogue of other videos, well worth spending a few minutes to catch up with.

Jul 26 2012

Drawing Lines And Fire

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 2:24 pm

Although the 2011 terrorist attacks here in Kazakhstan have, thankfully, not continued this year, the Central Asia region as a whole remains unstable in some areas. Within Kyrgyzstan there was the ethnic violence against Uzbeks, and border clashes and car bombs in Tajikistan, around the Badakhshan region.
For the unseasoned reader (I definitely include myself in that category), what territorial disputes are really about in this area can be hard to fathom sometimes. Back in Britain, where your typical argument over boundary disputes are more likely to be about a neighbour’s fence that is allegedly two foot into your garden, or a farmer taking issue with ramblers veering off established rights of way, the worst that can happen is a legal judgement against you. Here in Central Asia, disagreements over where one legal entity starts and another finishes can have extrajudicial consequences. With national boundaries often drawn up in Soviet times, ethnic groupings can find themselves arbitrarily split across two or even three countries, even if it is a relatively small land area. In Britain, one neighbour may well blame the other by claiming that a fence was moved whilst they were on holiday, and that valuable land has effectively been stolen from them. Over here, governments will often blame militants from minority religions in the area and/or Afghanistan-based groups. This tends to draw sympathy (rather than condemnation for excessive violence and persecution) from the international crowd, and diverts attention away from human rights abuses.


Although official news sources (such as government websites, or press agencies run by relatives of officials) are obviously not great for understanding the real story behind sometimes shocking headlines, as my old history teacher always tried to ensure we took in, propaganda is useful in it’s own right to comprehend what the powers that be in a certain area want conclusions outsiders (as well as their own citizens) are supposed to make. Check this page from the BBC to see how ethnic groups are dispersed amongst the former Soviet republics (and how political borders cut these groupings into different states) in Central Asia. The latest information to come from the border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is that Uzbek and Kyrgyz border guards exchanged fire, with one death recorded. However, both government obviously dispute who fired first, the provocation that initially caused this flare up of violence, and whether boundary disputes are to blame or not.
For more information and links to (mostly Russian language) related articles and government press releases regarding this incident, see EurasiaNet’s article here.

Jun 01 2012

Must Maintain Self Control!

Category: In The Media,PersonalChrisM @ 2:15 pm

Right now, this PC boots up Windows 7 (from the SSD), the old Windows 7 install (not enough time to properly migrate all data and apps yet), Windows Vista, XP and Ubuntu (though it is a cheating install, based on one file acting as a complete partition). I don’t have the time (or often the motivation to be honest) to keep them all updated and stay aware of new developments. So why am I finding my eyes wandering whenever I come across Windows 8?

Windows 8

It isn’t even as though the new interface actually attracts me. I guess it is something new, something a little dangerous (in terms of stability), and something I will need to understand one day in terms of offering technical support. I’ve only got half way through this article, but I am already considering downloading the Release Preview and finding/creating a suitable partition for it. I must however resist the urge to install a 3rd party boot manager again – the last time I tried a couple out, I ended up with a total mess, and a few hours of wondering just how borked my PC had become!

May 31 2012

A News Hope

Category: In The Media,VideosChrisM @ 8:15 pm

Rap News is back with a new video 🙂
Centred around Wikileaks, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, Bradley Manning and the labels of “good” and “evil”, and a little snippet regarding a sealed Grand Jury (USA) indictment stating that Assange is aiding and abetting the enemy that I want to check out later – I’ve somehow missed that in my online reading. Something else to look into is Wikileak’s “foundation stone” referred to by Gillard’s character. Any readers here able to help out? I’ll look it up later.

The line “giving me the power to make or crush political careers” seems pretty spot on, when you consider the kowtowing done by both sides of the political spectrum to the media barons in the last couple of decades.

“The truth is a virus and courage is contagious”. I wish life was that simple, and that this held to be true more often.

A little trivial criticism of the video is the mask they created for Rupert Murdoch’s character, possibly one of their weakest, unless he has jowl lines that split like that around the mouth area. I’d google image him to check, but don’t fancy looking at his face more than necessary!

Finally, did they autotune the (real) Wikileaks spokesperson, to blend him into the track a little better, or is his voice really like that? Not important, I realise, I’m just interested.

Anna is watching Horton Hears A Who! , the scene where the kangaroo raises a mob seemed apt at points!

Oct 03 2011

Favourite ticker entry “Libya …

Category: In The Media,Tweets,VideosChrisM @ 7:40 pm

Favourite ticker entry “Libya recognizes Occupy-Wall-Street protestors as Amrica’s new official govt” RAP NEWS 9 – http://t.co/XMD6ORr4

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jul 12 2011

Rhossili Skinny Dipping!

Category: In The Media,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 3:04 pm

Rhosilli In Autumn

OK, to any readers currently hovering their fingers over Ctrl + F4 on their keyboards, I should probably point out straight away that I did not take part in this, so your eyes are safe, and you’ll be fine sleeping tonight 😉

Rhossili is a lovely village right on the South Western tip of the Gower, a beautiful area to visit, and now not to far from where we live when we’re in Britain. Back in 2003 (I think, sure Irina will come and correct me soon enough!) for our second wedding anniversary (yes, that’s right, 10 years next month!) we stayed in a little bed and breakfast there. The beach was beautiful (though we barely investigated a tenth of it!), the scenery was sublime, and it was great to take a break from Gloucestershire and just chill out there for a couple of days.
Below are a few shots I took on a very early digital camera of the beach, along with a geometric design that we watched someone create. Pretty similar method to (non-UFO) crop circles, I think.

Anyway, when I noticed that Rhossili beach was recently host to a record breaking skinny dip event, I remembered the old photos I had, and how great it was down there. Below is a proper shot of the bay.

Rhosilli Beach

If you ever want to go, be aware the beach isn’t a nudist one, however it is pretty well sheltered, so the organizer decided to hold the attempt there. See the original BBC news article (pre-event) here, the report afterwards here, and a Torchwood based article that mentions it here.
Skinny Dipping At Rhosilli
I’m wondering whether the current traffic I get each day for people who arrived here after googling for Skinny Dipping Youtube will end up at this post or not?

Jul 04 2011

Bombs, Flames & Guns

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 3:19 pm

In the past month or so, there have been more media reports about terrorists/criminals/citizens (depending on the event and which media organization/government spokesperson you listen to) using extreme methods to protest against perceived injustices.

Although the official version of this subtitle would be one bomb and one explosion.
First we had a suicide bomber (Rakhymzhan Orynbasarovich Makhatov) who blew himself up at the KNB (modern day KGB equivalent) offices in Aktobe. He obviously perished in the explosion, and two to four people were also injured. The man’s family claim he was converted to an extreme form of Islam (Kazakhstan really is very moderate when it comes to Islam) by his wife. Originally the authorities claimed he was just a criminal who decided to avoid being caught by blowing himself up. I think their script writers need a lesson or five in believable plot lines. Despite releasing a statement condemning the act, the chief Imam of the area (always politically indirectly selected, akin to China’s approach) was fired by the Religious Board of the Muslims of Kazakhstan. For more information and background on this and the next explosion, see this post.

Then we had a car bomb (or random explosion) here in Astana, again near a KNB building, though this time it was a pre-trial detention centre. The two people in the car at the time were killed and the explosion caused their body parts to be strewn some 50-60m away (though one witness account placed body parts more than 200m from the car). A large part of the car was found up a tree 30m away from the blast site. One version of events has this explosion as being a simple accident, with the location being a coincidence, with no terrorist motives at all. Some details taken from Tengri News‘ piece on the incident.

A mother recently self-immolated (not sure if that is correct English) as a protest. This appened here in Astana, in the reception area of the Nur Otan offices. Nur Otan is the dominant political party in Kzaakhstan. KZBlog covers this story well here. Whether this form of protest came to the lady’s mind from the recent uprising in Tunisia, or perhaps going back to the Vietnam era protest by monks, she must have literally been at her wits’ end to come to this decision. Her son was convicted of a crime, and she felt that there was no possible way for him to receive proper justice. It is worth reading through the comments at the Zakon.kz article on this. If your Russian reading skills are as slow and rusty as mine, Google Translate the text or use Chrome, which should offer to translate it automatically.

Then last week a man in Aktobe set himself alight to protest the authorities’ investigation into the murder of his nephew. Where as the Astana woman was protesting her son’s innocence (which some people have called into question), the man in Aktobe was obviously very unhappy with the lack of progress in catching the killers of his nephew. You can read more here.

Over in the West of Kazakhstan, two policemen were killed in Shubarshi. In reply, the police began an operation against an armed gang, though it is not yet clear, or made public whether this group is an armed criminal gang, or a religious group that is armed. See Radio Free Europe‘s article. It was initially very hard to get any information on this incident, at least from Russian language/official sources.

I’m sad to see such violence occurring in this country – until fairly recently, it felt incredibly safe and secure here, especially when you look at the physical and political geography around us. Of course, given the huge size of Kazakhstan, and the infrequency of such events, visitors (and residents!) should probably not be overly concerned, however it makes sense to monitor independent news sources, and to make sure you are aware of, and respect, local customs, don’t start arguments (especially political or religious) with people you don’t know very well and finally, remember that despite the media coverage this violence has attracted, walking the streets of Astana itself is a lot safer (in many areas) than some parts of London!

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