First the vodka shortage, then salt, now uranium

Looks like Russia escaped the worst of The Great Vodka Shortage of 2006.

But, never ones to let an opportunity to needlessly worry slip by, the Russians are now spooked that they’ll run out of salt, says Two Zero:

Some people seem to believe that Ukraine wants to get back on Russia in the gas dispute. After all about 40% of Russia’s salt comes from Ukraine. The rest is supplied by Belarus, Kazakhstan and other countries. The “salt fever” seems to be triggered by bad memories of Soviet times, when shortages of products were regular and you had to cue up in long lines to get into stores. MosNews brings it to the point: “…But people watch TV, learn that their neighbors rush to shops for salt and follow their example.”

To add to the country’s manic worries, Mosnews yesterday reported its fear that Russia is running out of Uranium, too:

Russia’s uranium reserves could be depleted by 2020 if the current rate of uranium mining is sustained, said on Monday, Feb. 27, Anatoly Ledovskikh, head of the Russian Subsoil Resources Agency (Rosnedra).

Presumably this is why Putin is so keen to cut a uranium enrichment deal with Iran – he plans to siphon off the uranium Russia so desperately need to maintain their position as a nuclear power.

Four things

Yep, I’ve been tagged to do another of those ‘revealing’ meme things – this time by both Tim Newman and Sean Guillory. So here goes:

Four jobs I’ve had

  • Mushroom sorter in a mushroom factory
  • Traffic light salesman
  • Post room assistant
  • Medical policy officer

Plus many many others that I’m far too embarrassed to admit to.

Four movies I can watch over and over

  • Star Wars (the original one)
  • The Princess Bride
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • Field of Dreams

Four places I’ve lived

  • Ottawa, Canada
  • Seattle, USA
  • Irkutsk, Russia
  • London, England

Four tv shows I like

  • The West Wing
  • Northern Exposure
  • Quantum Leap
  • Doctor Who

All of which I tend to watch on dvd rather than tv these days.

Four places I’ve vacationed

  • Venice
  • Crete
  • Mongolia
  • Wales

Four of my favourite dishes

  • Gnocchi
  • Pelmeni in mayonnaise
  • Beans on toast
  • My girlfriend’s Thai curries

Four sites I visit daily

Four books I’ve read this year

Four bloggers I’m going to tag with this

OK, that’s it. We’re done. Back to business.

The missionary position

JC’s girls have a novel approach to spreading their man’s word:

On Good Friday last March [2005], we organized a team of six girls at our church to go to a local strip club. Each of us was to choose a girl that we would buy a private dance from. Once we were back in the booth, we would, of course, tell them we wouldn’t want a private dance, and then just talk to them about God and see if they were receptive.

No word on whether men are allow to join the mission.  Or whether male strippers are also a target.

March for Freedom

What a great idea – a march in support of free speech in Trafalgar Square:

We, a group of individuals of no particular political leaning, are calling on organisations and other individuals to support a march for freedom of expression to be held in London and if possible simultaneously in other cities of the world.

We are doing this for two reasons. Firstly, to celebrate the precious gift of free expression that was entrusted to us by all those who fought so long and hard. Secondly, to remind our politicians of their duty to fearlessly protect free expression against all who wish to undermine it.

We wish to point out that this march and rally is not an attack on Muslims or members of other religious groups. We in fact welcome all members of all religions who believe as we do in the paramount importance of free expression.

Let’s stand up, be counted and be seen.

Hopefully more in the British blogosphere will pick up this story, and turn it into a London repeat of the recent US demonstrations in support of Denmark.

Can’t argue with a nutter, can you?

George Galloway says the Danish cartoons that insulted Muhammed were worse than both the World Trade Center bombings, and the London Underground bombings.

…frankly what happened is an insult to Islam and Muslims. Personally, I condemn these barbaric and evil acts. Today, the objective of the Western states is to control the oil of the Muslims whatever the price. In fact, the cartoons published in Denmark did not surprise me because the Western states have been waging fierce attacks against Islam for years. These began by humiliation, insults and then occupation. Today they reached the point of ridiculing the prophet. This incident is worse than the 11 September attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London. Therefore, today it is the right of Muslims to express their anger and to defend their right and faith. To be clearer, Denmark is the only European state which practices racism in the pure sense of the word. There is not a single mosque in the entire Denmark. So how do you explain this my brother? There are many other examples. Worse, Denmark’s immigration laws are the worst in the world.

Talk about pandering to your audience.

Still, it’s good to know that Gorgeous George thinks that death by suicide bombing is far less insulting than a satirical drawing of a man in a beard. Just don’t let me catch you making any satirical comments in the future, George, or it’ll be the chop for you.

Oh, and just to put one thing straight – Denmark has a number of Mosques spread around the country to look after the religious needs of its 100,000 plus Muslm citizens, although I don’t think there are any purpose built ones with snazzy domes.

Thanks to David at Harry’s Place for posting the full transcript of George’s interview with Algerian newspaper El Khabar.

Montenegro polling nonsense

Montenegro will hold a referendum on EU membership in May, but alarmingly the EU and Montenegran governments are still squabbling over just how the referendum should be organised.

The EU has it’s position.

In a decision that has outraged analysts, Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, is insisting that for it to be valid, at least 55% of voters casting ballots must opt for independence. EU foreign ministers are expected to bless the Solana proposal today.

And Montenegro has a rather different position:

But the Montenegrin government has indicated it is against the guidelines. It wants the secession vote to be valid if at least 41 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. It is not clear whether it would accept the 55 percent approval requirement or whether it would press for approval by a simple majority of those who vote

Both of which, it has to be said, are absolutely barking ways to decide a referendum. 

What on earth is wrong with the old fashioned 50% or 66% requirements?  If you really want to get technical, I suppose you could add a requirement for 50% of the electorate to turn out to make the vote valid.

But to pick numbers like 55% and 41% respectively out of the air is the most blatantly stupid politicking imaginable, and will do nothing for the credibility of the poll, the Montengran government, or the EU. 

Politician turns down chance to lie

Chris Huhne, currently the leading candidate to become the next Liberal Democrat leader used to have this slightly dull campaign slogan:

Leadership, Ideas, Experience

Then some bright spark wrote into the Guardian newspaper to point out that it wasn’t actually quite as dull as people thought, because the first letters of each word made up a somewhat negative acronym.


Within 24 hours, the campaign slogan on Chris Huhne’s website had been changed to the monumentally dull:

Ideas, Leadership, Experience

Who said politicians can’t inspire the electorate with mere words?

Thanks to Recess Monkey for the tip.

The dream romantic break

Just spent several hundred pounds taking the girl of my dreams on a romantic break.

Major bonus points were won when she discovered I’d booked the hotel’s bridal suite.

All of which were sadly lost when she found a pretty little flower growing out of the mould in the bathroom ceiling, huge stains on the canopy of the four poster bed, and a small dish of Branstone pickle was served with the afternoon tea and scones.

Thanks Swallow Hotels.

23rd February 1944 – a day of genocide

Today is World Chechnya Day, not because of current events in Chechnya, but to mark the mass deportation of an entire people during the Second World War.

On 23 February 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of the entire Chechen and Ingush population to Central Asia. More than half of the 500,000 people who were to be forcibly transported died in transit or in massacres committed by Soviet troops. Those who survived the journey were left facing starvation and disease in the harsh winters of Siberia and Central Asia.

Why it’s not named World Chechen and Ingush day, I’m not entirely sure.

Today is also Russian Men’s Day, more commonly known as Army Day.

And finally, today is my birthday, so I’m off to enjoy a few days well deserved rest. See you Monday.

Update: Joined the Beltway traffic jam.