Month: April 2011

Who created Russia?

Late last year, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed this question in their discussion of the Volga Vikings. (listen here) 

Between the 8th and the 10th centuries AD, fierce Scandinavian warriors raided and then settled large swathes of Europe, particularly Britain, Ireland and parts of northern France. These were the Vikings, and their story is well known today. Far fewer people realise that groups of Norsemen also travelled east.

These Volga Vikings, also known as the Rus, crossed the Baltic into present-day Russia and the Ukraine and founded settlements there. They traded commodities including furs and slaves for Islamic silver, and penetrated so far east as to reach Baghdad. Their activities were documented by Arab scholars: one, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, recorded that the Volga Vikings he met were perfect physical specimens but also “the filthiest of God’s creatures”. Through trade and culture they brought West and East into regular contact; their story sheds light on both Scandinavian and early Islamic history.

…and yesterday, Martin Sixsmith kicked-off a new 25 part series which will trace the story of Russia from it’s creation to the present day: Russia: The Wild East. (listen here

In this first programme, Martin travels to the northern city of Novgorod. It was there that, ancient history has it, the warring Slav tribes invited Rurik to come and bring order. He was the first iron fist, and he gave Rus-sia its name. But, as Martin Sixsmith points out, already by the late ninth century, two key leitmotifs of Russian history are beginning to emerge – the tendency towards autocracy, and the urge for aggression and expansion. Today Russia spans eleven time zones and is home to a hundred nationalities and a hundred and fifty languages

Posted from: www.bearder.com

What happens to the Kyiv Post matters.

In October last year, steel magnate and wealthy businessman Mohammed Zahoor told Willard magazine that his newly acquired newspaper the Kyiv Post “is there to bring news that is not biased so that the public can understand better the atmosphere in which they live and work. It’s there to help people make educated decisions.”

However, on Friday 14th April news spread online in Ukraine that the chief editor of Ukraine’s leading English language newspaper, Brian Bonner, had been sacked. He had been sacked by the papers new owner Mohammed Zahor for refusing to pull an interview with the Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk.

It seems that Zahoor had asked Bonner to remove the article (for resons which are still unclear) and when Bonner refused he was relieved of his duties. This triggered a strike by Kyiv Post staff in defence of a free press and the right to publish their material without censorship. They have refused to layout any new material for the print edition of the paper, an official protest and petition was signed (see below) and sent to Mr Zahoor and it is being reported that are to make public a transcript s of a telephone conversation to prove their point.

Where the strike action will lead is unclear, but one thing is certain – there are no winners in this dispute.

As it stands, the chief editor has his reputation and journalistic integrity in tact (for which he should be applauded), but is without a job. The Kyiv Post staff face possible redundency or a future working for a tarnished and ultimately discredited newspaper, and Mr Zahoor’s reputation is in tatters. It’s also an embarrassment for President Yanukovych and his deputies who often point to the KP as proof that a free press exists in Ukraine. Finally, as Mr Zahoor is a British citizen, the UK’s attachment to free-speech may also be tarnished and discredited amongst an already skeptical Ukrainian population.

If Zahoor refuses to back down, free-speech in Ukraine will have taken another damaging blow and I say this because, despite its relatively small circulation, the Kyiv Post is seen by many as one of the most honest papers in the country and has not pulled any punches in its coverage of high-level corruption and political mismanagement. In fact , it is this and and the fact that the Kyiv Post recentky took a stand against another wealthy businessman in the UK courts to defend freedom of the press, that the whole affair seems so strange. If the KP’s owner is prepared to fight fellow billionaire Firash (and win) in the UK courts, then why has Mr Zahoor backed down and resorted to such tactics over an equally valid article. It also raises other questions. For example, did the Ukrainian government finally give in to temptation (as would seem to be the case) and pressure Mr Zahoor to take such action? If so, then what threats were made to convince him to act and how high in the political pecking-order was the decision made? If Mr Zahoor had other reasons, what are they? and why are they so important that he’s prepared to risk his reputation and the future of the KP,? More importantly, what happens next?

Ideally, something like this…

Mr Zahoor and the Kyiv Post staff will meet and enter a period of negotiation/moderation to resolve the dispute. During the talks, Mr Zahoor can clear up any greviences he has with Bonner, win back the trust and respect of his staff and he will reassert his commitment to running a newspaper which is editorially independent.

If this doesn’t happen and Zahoor stands by his decision, it is hard to see how the KP can have a serious or credible future. Should this be the case, it will be extremely interesting to see how other stake holders an KP supporters react. For example, the UK Ambassador regularly allows the KP to reprint articles he posts on his blog. In these same blog entries Ambassador Leigh Turner raises his own concerns over media freedoms in Ukraine and he would surely need to reconsider his relationship with the paper. In addition to this, many other companies advertise in the newspaper and distribute it for free in their premisies and it will be interesting to see who they support. Will they come out on the side of the KP staff and in favour of a free press in Ukraine, or will they turn a blind eye and pretend not to notice? These companies include many many law firms and many Embassies who post job ads etc. Probably the most high-profile (and significant) advertiser to appear in the paper is the European Business Association who take up the whole of page 3 with a weekly infomercial to lobby on behalf of its members. If the Zahoor doesn’t back down, then, given the stated aims of the EBA (promoting European standards in Ukrainian business) then its hard to see how the EBA can justify a continuation of this relationship. This is also true of the American Chamber of commerce and other business groups who contibute to articles. How could this continue of the independence of the paper has been breeched?

So, will we see those who claim to support press freedom, transparency and decent business practices stand up and be counted? Will the expat and foreign community stand by the ethical standards they expect (and enjoy) at home and support the staff of the Kyiv Post? I hope they do, because, without a free KP, Ukraine and the international comunity in Ukraine will be much poorer.

IB

Notes:
The irony of this whole event is that, the offending article has now been read by hundreds if not thousands more people than would have been the case. If nothing else that is a PR disaster.

US Senators have expressed their concerns over these developments: http://ukraine.usembassy.gov/us-senator.html

The EU has….??

Support from hetq: http://www.hetq.am/eng/news/355/

Zahoor’s ITSIL group respond to the claims: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/  (the readers comments at the bottom speak volumes about the mood of the readership) 
Posted from: www.bearder.com

The EU is, therefore, stuck between its willingness to help Ukraine, its need to protect its own economic interests, and the fear of irritating Russia.

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Sir, Respect Your Dinner, Idolize it, enjoy it properly.
You will be many hours in a week, many weeks in the year, and many years in your life, happier if you do.
(William Makepeace Thackeray)

http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/food-culture/

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Sir, Respect Your Dinner, Idolize it, enjoy it properly.
You will be many hours in a week, many weeks in the year, and many years in your life, happier if you do.
(William Makepeace Thackeray)

http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/food-culture/

Posted from: www.bearder.com
Click for larger image
Posted from: www.bearder.com

On an exceptionally hot evening early in April a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in K.yiv and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards P.Hata…

types so various were to be seen in the streets that no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise

…and, that’s what makes Kiev so great! right? Well, it’s definitely one of the reasons. You can find a few others here.

So, I’m back in Kiev and back in Podol. I didn’t see it coming (not so quickly) and I’m just as confused as everyone else who tries to track my movements, but – I’m happy to be back.

After leaving in November, I bounced between Oxford and Brussels, then accepted a job in Oxford, took a holiday to Poland + Ukraine and within weeks I ended up back here! Maybe it was destiny, maybe I am (as most Ukrainians assume) stupid, or maybe, on balance – Kyiv is a much better place than people think. You’ll have to take me for a beer if you want the real answer. Ryan should also accept some responsibility for these events.

Anyway, I haven’t been here long enough to write a full rambling post about life, but I was surprised by a couple of changes that have taken place in the last few months. The first and most obvious is a change of airports and it is definitely a good thing. Wizz Air now fly to Zhuliany International Airport and it cuts the arrival and transfer time considerably. For the time being, there are also less ‘obstacles’ to navigate before you get into your taxi and start arguing about prices…

Secondly, they have started to (get ready to be amazed) display Metro station names in the Latin alphabet! OK, only on the small TV screens, but it’s a good start.

And what hasn’t changed? Well, almost everything else. Strangers still look at your face-then shoes-then face when they pass you in the street, Ukrainians still say ‘nervous’ when they mean angry and you still can’t get through a day without being almost killed by an idiot in a Hummer.

Міцні обійми з Києва

Eddy 
Posted from: www.bearder.com

The keyboard is dead, long live kinetics

Almost exactly a year ago I predicted the end of writing in 50 years. Today, I’m going further and predicting the death of the keyboard and mouse before in 40.

Why?
This is why…
1. Touch screens. How many new phones have a keypad now? Not many and none have a mouse/pointing device. Add to this, the rise of tablet PCs and the old keyboard-mouse combo is on shaky ground.
2. Text to speech. It’s been around for a while gut hasn’t really taken off. However, as the technology improves I expect that will change. Especially in combination with my next point, the deal breaker… 
3. (e?) Motion. Yes, movement is gonna be the real killer. Check Gmail Motion to see why.  
As it says, “Gmail Motion uses your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands. Movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels”
So, I can control my PC and read & write without touching a thing. I’m sold. 
IB 
PS, for the sentimental reader, here’s a recap of last years ‘debate’. Next year, I’m gonna see if I can predict the birth of something. For balance. 

predicts the end of writing (in the classical ‘with a pen’ sense) within 50 years. Mark my words – it’s finished.
07 March 2010 at 19:13 ·  ·  · 
    • Ash Thomas Just like they predicted the paperless office when computers first came in. Never happen mate, they don’t need batteries :o)

      07 March 2010 at 19:19 · 
    • Nigel Redford It will never happen!

      07 March 2010 at 19:23 · 
    • Zoltán Pogátsa Oh, in essence it has already happened.

      07 March 2010 at 20:27 · 
    • Jens Krag I finished writing with a pen 10 yrs ago. Therefore, the only thing Im able to write with a pen is my signature…

      08 March 2010 at 07:12 · 
    • Ben Whitaker Crayons all the way mate

      08 March 2010 at 09:19 · 
    • Silvia Zampese noooooo way!

      08 March 2010 at 11:18 · 
    • Ian Bearder 

      Exactly Jens! …and I can’t even write my signature properly, it just looks like a scribble. Luckily, signatures are on their way out as well. Also, I take comfort from the fact that you’re Danish and Denmark is 10 years ahead of the resSee more

      08 March 2010 at 11:43 · 
    • Silvia Zampese it will be very sad..and very impersonal.

      08 March 2010 at 15:50 · 
    • Jens Krag The pen hasnt even hit Laos yet… I didnt see a single newspaper i Laos and after a little research I found out that there are a weekly paper published in English. However, almost noone i Laos speeks English.

      08 March 2010 at 16:16 · 
    • Ian Bearder 

      Silvia! When was the last time you wrote me a letter??!!??
      It’s already impersonal now.
      …but don’t worry, I’m not sad


      In 50 years Billy László Bíró will be sitting in inventors heaven, stroking a Dodo and reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ with his buddy Samuel F. B. Morse.

      Jens, only the English will publish newspapers even if nobody is there to read them. The other option (learning the local language) is, of course, out of the question.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the best app I’ve ever seen, Google Goggles. Take a picture of foreign text (a statement written by a fat, corrupt Russian Police’man’ for example) and watch in amazement as it converts the picture to text and then translates it for you. Maybe I should predict the end of French lessons as well?
Posted from: www.bearder.com

The keyboard is dead, long live kinetics

Almost exactly a year ago I predicted the end of writing in 50 years. Today, I’m going further and predicting the death of the keyboard and mouse before in 40.

Why?
This is why…
1. Touch screens. How many new phones have a keypad now? Not many and none have a mouse/pointing device. Add to this, the rise of tablet PCs and the old keyboard-mouse combo is on shaky ground.
2. Text to speech. It’s been around for a while gut hasn’t really taken off. However, as the technology improves I expect that will change. Especially in combination with my next point, the deal breaker… 
3. (e?) Motion. Yes, movement is gonna be the real killer. Check Gmail Motion to see why.  
As it says, “Gmail Motion uses your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands. Movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels”
So, I can control my PC and read & write without touching a thing. I’m sold. 
IB 
PS, for the sentimental reader, here’s a recap of last years ‘debate’. Next year, I’m gonna see if I can predict the birth of something. For balance. 

predicts the end of writing (in the classical ‘with a pen’ sense) within 50 years. Mark my words – it’s finished.
07 March 2010 at 19:13 ·  ·  · 
    • Ash Thomas Just like they predicted the paperless office when computers first came in. Never happen mate, they don’t need batteries :o)

      07 March 2010 at 19:19 · 
    • Nigel Redford It will never happen!

      07 March 2010 at 19:23 · 
    • Zoltán Pogátsa Oh, in essence it has already happened.

      07 March 2010 at 20:27 · 
    • Jens Krag I finished writing with a pen 10 yrs ago. Therefore, the only thing Im able to write with a pen is my signature…

      08 March 2010 at 07:12 · 
    • Ben Whitaker Crayons all the way mate

      08 March 2010 at 09:19 · 
    • Silvia Zampese noooooo way!

      08 March 2010 at 11:18 · 
    • Ian Bearder 

      Exactly Jens! …and I can’t even write my signature properly, it just looks like a scribble. Luckily, signatures are on their way out as well. Also, I take comfort from the fact that you’re Danish and Denmark is 10 years ahead of the resSee more

      08 March 2010 at 11:43 · 
    • Silvia Zampese it will be very sad..and very impersonal.

      08 March 2010 at 15:50 · 
    • Jens Krag The pen hasnt even hit Laos yet… I didnt see a single newspaper i Laos and after a little research I found out that there are a weekly paper published in English. However, almost noone i Laos speeks English.

      08 March 2010 at 16:16 · 
    • Ian Bearder 

      Silvia! When was the last time you wrote me a letter??!!??
      It’s already impersonal now.
      …but don’t worry, I’m not sad


      In 50 years Billy László Bíró will be sitting in inventors heaven, stroking a Dodo and reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ with his buddy Samuel F. B. Morse.

      Jens, only the English will publish newspapers even if nobody is there to read them. The other option (learning the local language) is, of course, out of the question.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the best app I’ve ever seen, Google Goggles. Take a picture of foreign text (a statement written by a fat, corrupt Russian Police’man’ for example) and watch in amazement as it converts the picture to text and then translates it for you. Maybe I should predict the end of French lessons as well?
Posted from: www.bearder.com

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