The history of Soviet underwear

Some people choose to study the most curious things:

Olga Gurova studies the cultural history of underwear in the Soviet Union. “When I am talking about Soviet underwear,” she says, “I mean the underwear that appeared after the 1917 revolution.”

Presumably, pre-Soviet and post-Soviet underwear just wasn’t interesting enough. Still, brings new meaning to the term Control underwear, doesn’t it?

Via Normblog

Belarus election campaign kicks off

The countdown to the Belarussian Presidential election has begun, with current authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko squaring off against opposition here Alexander Milinkevich, plus a couple of other not so important candidates.

Belarusan American Blog is one of the English language blogs covering the race, and here Andrus reports on the “solemn” registration ceremony.

A few hilarious things were reported by RFE\RL. First off, nominees were seated not in the alphabetic order, but Lukashenka was separated from Milinkevich and Kazulin by Hajdukevich.

And thus he flunked from shaking hands with both oppositional candidates.  Milinkevich left the building through the main entrance where he was greeted by a group of around 200 supporters, and Lukashenka had to leave through the backdoor.

An early embarrassment for the President.  Let’s hope we see plenty more.

By the way – for an ever so slightly pro-opposition roundup of the candidates, see br23blog.  I particularly liked the rumour that one of the candidates copied his PhD thesis word for word from “some Moscow scientist”.

Microsoft deletes Chinese blogs

Microsoft’s China policy in action:

When Zhao Jing moved his blog to Microsoft’s popular MSN Spaces site last summer, some users worried the Chinese government would block the entire service. The censors had blacklisted the last site where the young journalist had posted his spirited political essays, and he seemed unwilling to tone down his writing at the new address.

But Zhao, better known by the pen name Anti, told fellow bloggers not to worry. If the government objected to his blog, he predicted, Microsoft would “sell me out” and delete it rather than risk being blocked from computer screens across China.

He was right. Four and a half months after he began posting essays challenging the Communist Party’s taboo against discussing politics, Zhao published an item protesting the purge of a popular newspaper’s top editors. Officials called Microsoft to complain, and Microsoft quickly erased his blog.

I have some very mixed feelings here. One part of me is, in a very real sense, actually rather glad that Microsoft took this step. The alternative would be to allow the Chinese authorities to act directly, and possibly throw Zhao Jing in jail.

I’m sure Microsoft would echo my point that their decision to block blogs can actually save bloggers from worse fates, and that they actually provide one of the most free internet forums in China.

But, on reflection, I think we should assume that bloggers like Zhao Jing know exactly what they are doing, and what risks they face in writing anti-government blogs. Microsoft, Google, et al, should treat them as the adults they are, respect their right to free speech, and allow them to decide whether they are personally prepared to take the risk that what they say may land them in big trouble.

If Microsoft doesn’t feel willing to provide people with a forum under such circumstances, then fair enough – it should not offer MSN Spaces in China at all. Instead, it should leave the market to companies that are either Chinese, government controlled and heavily censored, or companies that are based outside China and truly prepared to provide Chinese bloggers a free forum where they know that, whatever they say, they will not be censored.

At least that way, Chinese bloggers will know where they stand.

Update: I’m curious to see how it works, so I’m adding this post to the Beltway traffic jam.

Philippene Coup?

Austin Bay reports on rumours that a coup is imminent in the Philippenes noting that, although the government is downplaying the rumours, it is under pressure on many fronts.  He also reports that the arrival of 3,000 US troops to help the mudslide relief effort is rather interestingly timed.

I don’t know enough – in fact, I know next to nothing – about Philippene politics.  So, go read Austin’s post, and make your own mind up.

Clinton says “convict” publishers of cartoons

Gateway Pundit has an interesting story about Bill Clinton allegedly telling a news conference in Pakistan that pubishers who printed the Danish cartoons should be “convicted”.

Jim Hoft contacted the Pakistan Daily News, who broke the story, and was told the following:

  • There have been no complaints received from the Clinton Foundation over the article
  • The Daily Times will not comment further on the article at this time.
  • The Daily Times is not retracting nor making changes to their report at this time
  • Part of the Daily Times report was taken from comments after the official news conference

Which raises some interesting questions in my mind.

  • Please can we see a transcript of the press conference? We currently only have the word of the journalist who wrote the article. He wasn’t the only journalist at the press conference, so I’m unsure as to why none of the other journalists – professionals with an eye for a story, I’m sure – thought the comment newsworthy. Even the other story Jim quotes, from The Nation, doesn’t repeat the “convict” comment.
  • Has the story actually been brought to the attention of the Clinton Foundation yet? They may well not yet be aware of the story – although I guess it’s well and truly ‘broken’ now.
  • Does the Clinton Foundation have a policy about not complaining about press reports? Lots of organisations don’t complain on purely practical grounds – it can be far more hassle than it’s worth, and can drag kicking and screaming back into the spotlight a story that would otherwise die a quiet death in a lonely corner.
  • Why would Bill Clinton – a reasonably clever man with a law degree – call for a conviction, rather than a prosecution? I mean, if ever there was a man who knew the power of words in a court of law, Bill Clinton is that man – as he proved during the Monica Lewinsky scandal where he was very very careful with his definitions.

Still, despite my scepticism, this is a story to watch. I’ll be interested to see how it develops.

Update:  Looking into this story slightly more, I see that, in an earlier post, Gateway Pundit links to Mark in Mexico, who also has worries about the authenticity of this report, and seems to have hit upon why the reporter mentioned above thought that Clinton had called for a conviction:

I think I see what has happened here. The ex-president is quoted in several of the news sources as saying that

“religious convictions of the people should be respected at all costs and no media should be allowed to play with the religious sentiments of people of any faith.”

The Pakistan Daily Times needs an English translator.

A whole other world

From Balkan blogger Eric, a sneak peak at the application form questions you’ll need to answer if you want that dream job at the Croatian Foreign Ministry:

Apparently the examination for job candidates at the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes, among its 300 questions, items asking people what sort of sexual practices they prefer.

Plus, as an extra-special bonus – in the comments, news from someone who was asked in a job interview whether he had ever entertained thoughts of killing his mother.

The ever-expanding Eurovision empire

Armenia, one of the last enclaves of musical freedom has finally fallen to the might of Eurovision:

So it looks like we’re definitely in the Eurovision song contest this year..and Andre ( who was voted best male singer of 2005 ) will be representing us with a song called “Without Your Love” sung in English, and written by Armen Martirosian – a well known composer and conductor of Jazz orchestra if I’m not mistaken.

This is a huge step for Armenia, as not only has it’s tv network fulfilled broadcasting rules implied by the EBU , it has also, along with Georgia, redefined the broadcasting area of “Europe” which used to exclude Armenia and Georgia, classing them as Asia. Now they are European, or so it seems! The EBU says it has no further plans for expansion, so , we did good!

Although, yes, I will grudgingly admit that conforming to EBU rules is a success story for Armenian broadcasting, and does show the country’s business climate in a positive light.

But still – they could have turned down the offer and gloated about preserving their freedom, couldn’t they?

Google censoring in the US?

GoodStuff asks whether Google is censoring video in the United States, and cites a video of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in Iraq.

After Google’s decision to leap into bed with the Chinese censors, it has to expect that many people’s first assumption is going to be that it is censoring content – whether in China, Europe or the United States.

But in this case, perhaps another question should be asked by those whould damn Google:

Just what is the point of censoring an explosion in the middle of the desert?