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Posts Tagged ‘belarus

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait suggests that the ESA’s Rosetta probe may have found evidence for a calving event in its target comet.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Jupiter’s extraordinarily volcanic moon of Io.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird notes a report that Russia plans on opening a new air force base in Belarus.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel describes how Hakodate, the first city of Japan’s Hokkaido island, hosted multiple consulates.
  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad note how parishoners at a Roman Catholic church in Illinois are rallying behind their church’s music director, fired for announcing his impending marriage.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig describes, with maps, the issues of Christians in the Middle East.
  • Language Log explores the complexities of newly popular Sanskrit language programs in education.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money explores the survival of the old South and Confederate ideals in the modern Tea Party (1, 2).
  • Marginal Revolution started a discussion as to what the European Central Bank should do.
  • The Planetary Society Blog hosts a post from Jason Davis describing the innovative online interface for data from the crowd-controlled ISEE-3 probe.
  • The Russian Demographics blog notes the confused population policy of Belarus.
  • Spacing Toronto notes how Logan Avenue in the east end has become an unofficial slow street.
  • Torontoist discusses doorings suffered by cyclists.

[BLOG] Some politics-related links

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  • 3 Quarks Daily links to an essayist wondering why people talked about Gaza not the Yezidis as a way to dismiss Gaza.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly notes how Americans subsidize Walmart’s low wages by givibng its employees benefits.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Chinese plans to reforest Tibet could accelerate the dessication of its watershed since trees suck up water, observes the existence of a new Chinese ICBM and links to a report of a Chinese drone, notes that the ecologies of Europe are especially vulnerable to global warming owing to their physical fragmentation, and notes that Canadian-Mexican relations aren’t very friendly.
  • Eastern Approaches notes Russia’s reaction to the shootdown of the MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine and observes the issues with Poland’s coal industry.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis calls for American military intervention to protect the Yezidis from genocide.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the plight of the Yezidi, examines the undermining of liberal Zionism, wonders how Russian relations with Southeast Asia will evolve, and after noting the sympathy of some Americans on the left for Russia analyses the consequences of a Russian-Ukrainian war.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders if Russia’s food import ban is a sign of a shift to a cold war mentality, notes the collapse of the Ukrainian economy, wonders about the strategy of Hamas, and comments on the weakness of the economy of Ghana.
  • The New APPS Blog comments on the implications of the firing of American academic Steven Salaita for his blog posts.
  • The Pagan Prattle looks at allegations of extensive coverups of pedophilia in the United Kingdom.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the decreasing dynamism of the ageing Australia economy.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer doesn’t think there’s much of a crisis in Argentina following the debt default, notes ridiculous American efforts to undermine Cuba that just hurt Cubans, examines implications of energy reform and property rights in Mexico, has a good strategy shared with other for dealing with the Islamic State.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little contends with Tyler Cowen’s arguments about changing global inequality, and studies the use of mechanisms in international relations theory.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy touches upon Palestine’s case at the ICC against Israel, looks at Argentina’s debt default, and wonders if Internet domain names are property.
  • Window on Eurasia has a huge set of links, pointing to the rivalry of Russian Jewish organizations in newly-acquired Crimea, looking at Ukrainian ethnic issues in Russia, suggests that the Donbas war is alienating many Ukrainians in the east from Russia, notes Islamization in Central Asia, suggests that Russia under sanctions could become as isolated as the former SOviet Union, suggests Ukrainian refugees are being settled in non-Russian republics, wonders if Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova will join Turkey as being perennial EU candidates, suggests that Belarusians are divided and claims that Belarusian national identity is challenging Russian influence, looks at the spread of Ukrainian nationalism among Russophones, looks at the consequences of Kurdish independence for the South Caucasus, and notes that one-tenth of young Russians are from the North Caucasus or descend from the region.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Discover‘s Collideascape notes that, even as agricultural land is falling worldwide, the productivity of this land is increasing even more sharply.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper examining the extent to which saline water might make cooler planets better for live, and to another paper suggesting that planetary magnetic fields are so importance for life (and oxygen levels) that brief reversals in the history of Earth have led to mass extinctions.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Ukrainian report that the country’s military has captured a Russian tank.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that vehemently anti-gay Minnesota archbishop John Nienstadt is being investigated for allegedly having sexual relationships with men.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that, despite economic collapse, there are some jobs (like low-paying fieldwork) that Portuguese just won’t do.
  • The New APPS Blog’s Gordon Hull notes the gender inequity involved in the recent Hobby Lobby ruling in the United States.
  • pollotenchegg maps the slow decline of Ukraine’s Jewish population in the post-1945 era.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle writes eloquently about his connections to and love of Lake Erie.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs links to a cartographic examination of the time spent by French television news examining different areas of the world.
  • Towleroad notes a faux apology made by the Israeli education minister after attacking gay families.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler notes the future of contraception coverage under Obamacare.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on fears that Crimean Tatar organizations will soon suffer a Russian crackdown, and suggests that the West should reconsider its policies on Belarus to encourage that country to diversify beyond Russia.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares the story of the first LCBOs opened in Toronto after Prohibition. The procedures involved were rather bureaucratic.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper that tries to answer the question of whether Titan’s different seas and lakes are connected by subsurface aquifers.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig recounts the history of Russians in the San Francisco area.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money engages with David Graeber’s left-wing critique of Thomas Piketty.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen doesn’t like Scottish separatism.
  • James Nicoll of More Words, Deeper Hole finds Donald Moffitt’s late 1970s novel The Jupiter Theft somewhat better than he feared.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw explores (1, 2) the consequences of changes to funding in Australian higher education.
  • Peter Rukavina shares an excerpt from a typeset edition of Milton Acorn’s “Poem for the Astronauts”.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russian moves against Belarus or Kazakhstan are still possible if either country disappoints, and wonders if the Eurasian Economic Union will encourage Armenia to promote Karabakh independence rather than to seek to annex it.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell criticizes economists who work without reference to facts.

[LINK] Open Democracy on Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan on Eurasia

Just recently, Open Democracy has featured a series of articles taking a look at opinion on the Eurasian Economic Union in the smaller states soon to join this Russia-directed project. What do Armenians, Belarusians, and Kazakhstanis think?

On Armenia, Greg Forbes’ article “Armenia and the EEU: the point of no return for Yerevan” suggests that Armenia is making the best of an unenviable situation.

Armenia’s dramatic turnabout decision to move towards Customs Union membership is most commonly attributed by western pundits to a campaign of sustained pressure from Moscow. Increasingly concerned with developments in neighbouring Ukraine post-Euromaidan, and hostile to soft power intrusions into the former Soviet space, Russia made clear its disappointment with Yerevan’s pursuit of an Association Agreement with Brussels. Armenia, dependent on Russia for energy, regional security and trade, and thus arguably hostage to Russian geopolitical interests, duly acquiesced.

However, as some observers have noted, there’s probably more to this picture than might meet the eye. Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan presides over a struggling economy and there has been significant domestic opposition to his government since contentious elections in February 2013 saw street protests dispute the legitimacy of his re-election to a second term. Yerevan’s hurried change of heart may have been prompted as much by Sargsyan’s sense of acute political vulnerability as by Armenia’s strategic dependency on Russia: Sargsyan was seeking to shore up his position with near-term economic rewards from Moscow and to forestall Russia’s possible fomenting of a more pliable client (the Kremlin boasts ties with the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party, former President Robert Kocharian and allegedly with dozens of MPs from the ruling Republican Party).

To date Armenia has received relatively little in return for signing up to Russia’s grand project of regional integration. This reflects the profound position of weakness from which Armenia must negotiate with her patron. There are three core geopolitical drivers to the Russo-Armenian relationship and all of them are weighted in Russia’s favour: the supply of Russian energy to Armenia, the access of Armenian citizens to the Russian labour market, and Russia as Armenia’s security guarantor in the face of Azerbaijan’s revanchist aspirations.

On Belarus, Vadzim Smok suggests (“Belarus and the EEU: caught between a rock and a hard place”) that while this integration might be relatively popular, it isn’t actually changing the underlying Russian-Belarusian relationship much. The two countries are already closely integrated.

A March 2014 study by Belarus’s Independent Institute for Social, Economic and Political Research meanwhile asked the question: ‘If you had to choose between unification with Russia or membership of the EU, which would you choose?’ When the same question was asked in December 2013, about half of respondents answered in favour of the EU, but now, three months later, with the crisis in Ukraine and the help of a powerful Russian propaganda campaign, opinion has swung away from Europe, although more than a half of Belarusians still oppose the idea of hypothetical unification with Russia.

In other words, Belarusians are only interested in the economic side of integration, or to be more precise its impact on their own standard of living, and have little interest in grand political projects. If Eurasian integration brings no financial benefits, they will happily turn their attention back to the West. But recent events have shown that although Eurasian integration doesn’t seem to be moving very fast, the Lukashenka government is wary of sowing the seeds of disaffection among the public, to avoid annoying Russia.

[. . .]

A poll conducted by the Belarus Business and Management Institute’s Research Centre, in 2013 found that over 50% of owners of small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMB) saw the current level of integration in a fairly positive light, and 44% were in favour of further integration. Only 19% spoke out against the present situation, and 23% against an increase in integration. These figures nevertheless show a significant drop in approval compared to 2012: pro-integration numbers were down by 17%, and anti-integration ones up by 7%.

[. . .]

Eurasian integration has not, in fact, had any significant economic effect on Belarus, primarily because its partnership with Russia predates the ECU and EEU; in 1999 Lukashenka and then Russian president Boris Yeltsin set up the Union State of Russia and Belarus, which created close economic ties between the two countries. The current political situation is good for Lukashenka: the increasing external pressure on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine has brought concessions from the Kremlin on the single energy market, although Putin’s insistence on bilateral agreements means that he wants to use annual energy supply contracts to keep Belarus under his thumb. It also means that Belarus will be even more economically dependent on Russia than before (and it is already deeply dependent).

On Kazakhstan, meanwhile, Luca Anceschi and Paolo Sorbello argue in their “Kazakhstan and the EEU: the rise of Eurasian scepticism” that skepticism about Eurasian integration is being used strategically by the government and by opposition factors.

Rampant anti-Eurasianism represents a key factor in understanding the cleavage between the two main political alternatives to Kazakhstan’s current establishment. The first constituent of the Kazakhstani opposition appears to be favouring western models of political participation, seeing as it incarnates values and visions strongly influenced by US and European traditions. Close monitoring of its activities – as well as brutal repression – have ensured that the forces of this opposition have never become strong enough to have a sizeable impact on Kazakhstan’s political landscape. Pro-government media and political organisations have systematically discredited these actors and portrayed them as ‘foreign agents,’ working to facilitate the capitalist exploitation of Kazakhstan.

The other main opposition grouping – which can be roughly presented under the umbrella of the NatsPatrioty – is fuelled by nationalist sentiments, sits at the right of Kazakhstan’s political spectrum, and tends to manifest its views by advocating the promotion of the Kazakh language and the preservation of Kazakh culture. This group is important to the leadership in Astana, as it includes a sector of its supporters that have become increasingly uneasy with some of the government’s policies. For this reason, Nazarbaev and his associates have largely tolerated the agenda of the NatsPatrioty. The leadership has seemed unwilling to challenge their points of view and has even been known to espouse some of the NatsPatrioty’s arguments, in order to shape legislation introduced to the detriment of Kazakhstan’s main domestic minorities (Russians, Koreans, Germans, and others) or its key international partners (Russia, China, the US). Rumours that the regime has artfully fomented this strand of opposition may remain unfounded but it is undoubtedly true that some of the NatsPatrioty arguments have promoted a divisive nationalism, which is widening the gap between the different components of Kazakhstan’s multi-national fabric and, interestingly, is being used to put more distance between Astana and its neighbours.

In this context, the NatsPatrioty anti-EEU discourse encapsulates their duplicity vis-à-vis the establishment: the same opponents of the new framework, in fact, are defending the original idea that Nazarbaev presented 20 years ago in Moscow. Their criticism is targeted at Russia, as the NatsPatrioty see Kazakhstan as just a partner being deceitfully driven into the arms of the greedy bear. This discourse facilitates the airing of various opposition grievances, and it ultimately causes the juxtaposition of domestic issues – the country’s economic situation, a suffering job market and industries, its many environmental disasters – with international and geopolitical questions of sovereignty, respect for international law, and prestige in the global arena; a set of foreign policy concerns very dear to the leadership in Astana.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 20, 2014 at 11:02 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait remembers recently departed colleague Bruce Woodgate.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the possibility of layered subsurface oceans on Ganymede.
  • Crooked Timber’s Belle Waring quite likes the song and video “Tous les Mêmes” by Belgian musician Stromae.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting that circumbinary exoplanets–planets orbiting two closely-orbiting stars–might be quite common and another modelling the temperatures on the surface of a tide-locked ocean world.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a DNA study of house mice suggesting that Vikings might have been the first to explore the island of Madeira and its neighbours, four centuries before Portuguese colonization.
  • Eastern Approaches visits east Ukraine and examines turmoil in Slovenia.
  • Far Outliers traces the evolution of the Melanesian island of Rabaul under Japan as a military base in the Second World War.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that anti-gay North Carolina Republican State Senate candidate Steve Wiles had a prior career as drag queen Miss Mona Sinclair.
  • Language Hat samples the beautiful strange poetry of the recently passed Rosemary Tonks.
  • Language Log’s Mark Liberman wonders, inspired by XKCD’s recent meditation on Morse code and Livejournal, how social media will continue to evolve.
  • pollotenchegg maps the changing relative proportions of Russians in different regions of Ukraine over more than a century.
  • Towleroad remembers the late disco great Sylvester.
  • Window on Eurasia links to warnings that Putin is a fascist bent on taking to Russia to war and concerns that so far, the Eurasian customs union isn’t boosting Russian ties with adjacent regions of Belarus and Kazakhstan.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross wonders if one way to deal with the overaccumulation of wealth by elites is to get them to spend it in vast showy projects, like a crash program for nuclear fusion or a colonization of the upper atmosphere of Venus.
  • Centauri Dreams reacts to the discovery of the nearby and literally ice-cold brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin argues that a recent American court case regarding a whistleblower highlights a tension between an individual’s freedoms as a citizens and limits as a private individual.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to two papers suggesting that a star’s circumstellar habitable zone could expand inwards if a planet is different from Earth, one pointing to slower-rotating planets and the other to lower-mass planets than Earth.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the fascinating recovery of evidence of hunting nine thousand years ago from the bottom of Lake Huron.
  • Writing at the Financial Times‘ The World blog, Edward Luce is worried about Narendra Modi.
  • Language Log comments on browser plug-ins and other like things which adjust text to fit prescriptivist dictates.
  • James Nicoll seems much less impressed than the Volokh Conspiracy’s Ilya Somin in the idea of science fiction writers being criticized for their ideologies.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that a chart suggesting there’s a low chance of civil war in Ukraine actually suggests no such thing on closer analysis.
  • Towleroad notes that Russia’s anti-gay laws are now being implemented in Crimea.
  • Window on Eurasia’s links warn of the need for NATO to defend its own, highlight Belarus’ stated interest in a foreign policy that balances the European Union with the Russian sphere, and quotes Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Cemilev on the Crimean Tatars’ continued dissidence and hope for rescue.

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