For all former Turkmenistan dictator Saparmurat Niyazov’s flaws, and they were truly legion, he was never boring.
Ruling the former Soviet republic with a steel fist from 1985 until 2006, Niyazov created a cult of personality that bordered on the absurd:
- Niyazov, who called himself ”the Father of all Turkmen,” renamed the months of the year and days of the week, often for members of his family;
- He closed down all hospitals outside the capital of Ashgabat, reasoning that the sick should come in from the countryside for treatment. (This was problematic as Ashgabat is in the south-central part of the country, on the border with Iran. Balkanabat, by comparison, the capital of the country’s Balkan province, is 250 miles from Ashgabat.);
- Niyazov ordered all libraries outside of the capital to be closed, as he believed that the only books that most of his citizenry needed to read were the Koran and a rather dubious tome he authored called the Ruhnama. The latter was required reading for anyone taking a driving test;
- He banned dogs from the capital because of their “unappealing odor”;
- He banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television because he said he found it difficult to distinguish male anchors from female anchors; and
- Gold teeth were discouraged in the country after Niyazov suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out. In his words: “I watched young dogs when I was young. They were given bones to gnaw to strengthen their teeth. Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not chew on bones. This is my advice …”
Because Turkmenistan possesses major energy reserves, Niyazov, who died in 2006, always had plenty of money to indulge his flights of fancy. Read the rest of this entry »
For more than a decade companies have been highlighting the “environmentally friendly” nature of their new buildings, and for more than a decade the press has been lapping it up, generously doling out coverage that is all but impossible for businesses to secure through the execution of their actual work.
Ponder that for moment: An accounting firm, for example, in a major city that employs 250 people – many in high-paying positions – and has grown slowly but steadily over the past 20 years, will find it difficult to get media coverage until the times comes when it announces it is a constructing a new office, one that is environmentally friendly.
Never mind that stories of these sorts have been in the news for, yes, a decade or more, making them not very “newsy” at all; the media never tires of writing about anything “eco-friendly.”
This is tiresome on several levels:
- One, space and coverage, particularly of business news, have shrunk dramatically in recent years. To devote limited resources to writing about environmentally friendly construction while ignoring the actual accomplishments of the businesses in question, be they accounting firms, banks, advertising agencies, etc., is bad journalism.
- Second, it’s no longer newsworthy when someone builds a structure that meets the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. That entity was formed in 1993, and more than 7,000 green building projects have been built in the US alone since then.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it appears that the concept behind building environmentally friendly structures may be flawed – very flawed, in fact.
Thirty miles off the coast of Brazil and less than 100 miles from São Paulo, one of the world’s largest and most congested cities, lies a 110-acre subtropical island called Ilha de Queimada Grande. Sounds perfect for an idyllic retreat, right?
No, not in this case. Ilha de Queimada Grande has a population of exactly zero. That would be because the Brazilian Navy prohibits anyone from landing on the island.
Even fans of limited government would have to agree that the reason is a good one: Ilha de Queimada Grande is literally infested with one of most venomous species of snakes known to man, the golden lancehead.
How infested, you ask? To the tune of one golden lancehead per square meter. For those of you who struggle with the metric system, that’s roughly one bad snake every 3-1/2 feet.
Some researchers have estimated that as many as five golden lancehead per square meter can be found on Ilha de Queimada Grande, according to Atlas Obscura. (The island, also known colloquially in English as Snake Island, is covered with jungle, hence the high density as the vipers inhabit trees and the island floor.)
The lancehead genus of snakes is responsible for 90 percent of Brazilian snakebite-related fatalities.
As large daily newspapers continue to gasp for life like oversized carp thrashing in ever-shrinking pools of muddy water, an interesting phenomenon has occurred:
Free weekly publications appear to be thriving across the US.
These “newspapers” are usually little more than a whole mess of advertising wrapped around a handful of inane drivel – often about the advertisers themselves – which is passed off as news.
Unfortunately, the modus operandi of these publications is to carpet bomb as many homes as possible with papers in order to boost circulation numbers.
The higher the circulation, the more publications can charge for advertising. As a result, the companies behind these papers tend to deliver to anything that looks even remotely like a home: run-down trailers, dog houses, tool sheds, etc.
Of course, what is undisclosed is how many or, more accurately, how few people actually read the publication. Also undisclosed is the anger that tends to build up when those that receive the unsolicited publications are unable to end delivery.
Inserted in the opening paragraph of Slate magazine’s story about a Nazi collaborator who was discovered last week to have been living in the US for the past 60-plus years were these two sentences, which would be slightly amusing if not representative of a grave injustice:
“Michael Karkoc now lives in Minnesota and when he entered the United States in 1949 told authorities he had not performed military service during World War II. That wasn’t really accurate.”
No, indeed it wasn’t. Karkoc was a founding member and an officer of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later was an officer in the SS Galician Division.
There appears to be plenty of evidence that the company Karkoc commanded massacred civilians, including burning villages filled with women and children, and that he was at the scene of the atrocities, even if there’s no proof Karkoc himself didn’t actually participate.
The Associated Press broke the story about Karkoc on Friday and provided an exhaustive report on not just the fact he’s been living in the United States for decades, but included background between groups allied with the Nazis and how many individuals avoided being brought to justice under the guise of fighting communism.
It will be hard for Karkoc to plead mistaken identity; in 1995 he published a Ukrainian-language memoir that stated he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 to fight on the side of Germany – and wrote that he served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.
The memoir is available at the US Library of Congress, according to The Associated Press.
(Above: A 1944 photo shows head of the SS Heinrich Himmler, center, reviewing troops of the Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division, of which Michael Karkoc was a member.)
About all that stands out in TopGear.com’s review of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the end of the second sentence – “ … it’s more powerful than ever, and it’s louder” – along with the accompanying photos of the stylish sports car.
But, then again, power, noise and flashy pics can do much to mask muddled writing.
Yes, for the vast majority of us plebeians, dreaming of owning an Aston Martin is akin to window shopping on Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive – except, perhaps, you might get something a little more tangible for your money.
Perhaps that’s why TopGear loaded its review of the V12 Vantage S with jargon that makes it practically incomprehensible at first glance.
Following on from the Rapide S revealed earlier this year, the new Vantage S replaces the old V12 Vantage, and sports Aston’s new AM28 6-litre V12 engine, producing the same figures as the Vanquish. So you’re looking at 565bhp – up from 510bhp – 457lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 205mph. The old car did a piffling 183mph; positively pedestrian.
I make no apologies for my disdain for weddings.
It’s hard to respect an event which costs, on average, nearly $28,000, turns (relatively) sane people into selfish boors and generally highlights all the deplorable excesses of society in a single day.
Worse, far too many brides focus months or sometimes years of attention on their wedding day, rather than the fact that, if things go well, this will be the person they’ll be spending their next 50 or so years with, while too many grooms see their wedding as just another opportunity to get their high school or college buddies together for one more booze-fueled festival of inanity.
And there are plenty of companies all too happy to exploit this ever-increasing celebration of the individual, rather than what it’s meant to be: The joining of a couple.
Weddings provide an interesting barometer for just how far off the deep end a sizeable proportion of society has tumbled.
As columnist Alexandra Gekas wrote not too long ago, “I really think a lot of people put more thought into their wedding than into whether or not they are marrying the right person. … They act like finding and catching that man is a victory of some sort and as if getting married is an accomplishment in itself, for which the reward is a big, gaudy party. Newsflash: Getting married is not an accomplishment, staying married is.”
Ilya Bryzgalov is a better at hockey than history – fortunately for him.
Bryzgalov, a native of the Russian city of Togliatti, on the Volga River, recently gave an interview to the Russian sports outlet Championat in which he was questioned on his views on Stalin, who had many millions killed between 1922 and 1953.
“Positive. I see logic in his action,” Bryzgalov said, according to a translation by Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov. “Not without going too far, of course. But he came to power in a country that had just lived through a revolution. There were so many spies, enemies, traitors there. A lot of people still had guns after the civil war. The country was in ruins, (people) needed to survive somehow. The country needed to be rebuilt, and in order to do that it needed to be held in iron hands.
“… He knew what he was doing. He is described as a ‘bloody tyrant.’ But at the time it couldn’t be any other way. Yes, there were innocent people who were victims of repression. But it happens.”
This may be nit-picky, but a word of advice to whichever public relations firm is advising Bryzgalov and/or the Flyers: when discussing the deaths of millions, avoid phrases such as “but it happens.”
A 2,300-year-old Mayan temple in Central America was recently razed for use as road fill, it was revealed late last week.
The construction company that demolished the temple, which was approximately 160 feet square at the base and 20 feet high, is owned by a local Belizean politician.
The temple was located 50 miles north of Belize City, near the border with Mexico, and was part of the pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site at Noh Mul, on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula.
“This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable,” said Tracy Panton, Belize’s Tourism and Culture Minister. “This expressed disdain for our laws is incomprehensible.”
The archeological complex, like all pre-Columbian ruins, was under the protection of the state even though it was located in a privately owned sugar cane plantation, according to Agence France-Presse.
Noh Mul was the center of a Mayan community of 40,000 that was initially occupied between 350-250 BC. It was inhabited off and on until about 900 years ago.
Authorities learned of the incident at the end of last week, blaming the D-Mar construction company, which is owned by Denny Grijalva, a candidate for mayor of Belize City.