Stephen Franks on tolerance

Stephen Franks writes about some trips overseas working in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. He compares that experience with that of working Pakistan and in Turkey.

70 years of Soviet atheism has given Uzbekistan what Turkey is losing (officially secular state power co-existing with a mild Sufi Islam).

They’ve stayed mostly secular, despite infiltration and threats from neighbouring countries. They beat out a determined mainstream Islamist challenge 10 years ago, with no apologies for seeing it as a life and death matter.

It is challenging to one’s liberal beliefs to work out how the relative freedom and security of such countries could survive with the religious tolerance demanded by “Western” values.

10 years ago I did a job in Pakistan. Its intellectual life is dictated by the risk of prompt death for anyone who challenges Islamic orthodoxy, even if the mullahs represent only a small percentage of the population , and few of the qualified people who keep the country running.   Read more »


Two minutes on Google could have saved Andrea Vance’s reputation

hager and vance

Canon Media Award-winning ‘journalist’, Andrea Vance, continued her Panama Papers hit job attacked a New Zealand lawyer in her stories, attacking them for working with an allegedly “corrupt” Kazakh politician.

In Panama, they have realised that Kazhegeldin is a “politically exposed person.” Their research revealed his role in a corruption scandal in the central Asia country. After three years as Prime Minister, Kazhegeldin had resigned in 1997 and fled his home country. He was then accused of tax evasion and using stolen funds to buy property in Belgium.

Four years later, in his absence, he was convicted of abuse of office by a Kazakh court – including charges that he took bribes from a mining company and received a Mercedes and Toyota car.

However if she had bothered to spend just two minutes on Google she would have found out that she is in fact attacking the good guy from Kazakhstan, and far from hiding his house he in fact lives there and is on the electoral roll at that address.

Even Red Radio has provided some balance to the original story, by looking into the role of the current President and dictator of Kazakhstan in smearing anyone who opposed the President. Allegations that Andrea Vance used to try and smear New Zealand and Kiwi based lawyers acting legally.

Read more »

Kazakhstan vs. Mega Limited

In what surely is among the more unexpected news (or is it?) the Republic of Kazakhstan has taken Dotcom’s Mega Limited to the High Court in Auckland this month after documents were allegedly stolen from the Republic’s servers.

Kazakhstan originally filed a civil action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the unknown hackers. This naturally hit some rocky ground because neither Kazakhstan, nor the court, knew who the hackers were. The defended was listed as “Doe”, as in “John Doe”.

As you could guess, John Doe didn’t turn up and Kazakhstan’s representatives were the only ones at the hearing.

However the US Judge did find:

There is good cause to find that the Mega website contains at least 27 files that collectively contain or once contained 27 articles containing screen shots of excerpts of the Stolen Documents. Mega now hosts these Stolen Documents. The [Kazakhstan] Republic does not know who uploaded these files to the Mega website. Mega should have information (the identifying information) which will help identify who uploaded these files. The identifying information includes the IP addresses, email addresses, contact information, account information and payment information for the accounts that were used to upload the articles containing screen shots or excerpts of the Stolen Documents onto the Mega website.

Read more »


An email from a Kiwi teacher living offshore

David Cunliffe wants immigrants and former Kiwi teachers to fill the gaps his 2000 new teachers policy has created.

One such teacher emails:

Morning Cam,

Over the weekend I’ve unwittingly become one of the teachers Labour desperately needs to make up the 2000 extra they’ve promised.

I work in Brunei, make decent coin, can save, and can travel cheaply.  I’ve got 15 years experience, post-grad quals, and have worked in a range of unique schools from Kuwait to Laos to Kazakhstan as well as many years in NZ.

Frankly, there’s not a snowballs chance in hell I’d ever return to full time teaching in NZ.  Schools have become an unwilling conduit for solving all of society’s ills.  Teachers are expected to be social workers, counsellors, and doctors on a daily, week in week out basis with zero respite for staff simply wanting to plan, teach, assess, evaluate, plan…

I left NZ disillusioned with the profession as it stood.  The bulk of my time was taken up with behaviour management.  All the professional development I undertook (usually at my expense) was rendered useless by the sheer volume of time taken up having to manage the behaviour of wayward kids.   Read more »

Borat’s home bans Fonterra

It looks like more countries are banning Fonterra products. Including Borat’s Kazakhstan:

Former Soviet republics Belarus and Kazakhstan have joined Russia in banning Fonterra dairy products in the wake of the dairy giant’s botulism scare, Trade Minister Tim Groser has confirmed.

A spokeswoman for Mr Groser said the two central Asian nations had placed “temporary restrictions” on Fonterra products, the same move taken by Russia last week.

The two countries were small markets for Fonterra, the spokeswoman said.  Read more »

Tony Blair is a slave driver

Tony Blair, the multi millionaire ex-Labour PM of the UK is a typical socialist. He doesn’t want to put his hand in his pocket and pay his way:

Last year jet-setting former Prime Minister Tony Blair trousered an eye-watering £20 million from his foreign interests advising the likes of JP Morgan and the authoritarian Kazakhstan government. He is even sniffing round a £70 billion deal involving the Qatari royal family in the hope of taking home a slice of the pie. Surely the man who introduced the minimum wage to these shores can afford to put his millions where his mouth is and pay his interns?

The Office of Tony Blair runs an internship programme promising “valuable experience in a high profile and fast moving work environment”. The scheme runs for three months and it very much looks like a real, if temporary, job. Just how much is Tony coughing up for the lucky candidates? Merely a few quid a day for lunch and a bus ticket – the position in the multi-millionaire’s office is expenses only. Those who can’t afford to work unpaid are swiftly told where to go.

Humourless Bastards

The Atlantic

The Kazakh government really are a pack of humourless bastards:

Following some embarrassing incidents involving its national anthem, Kazakhstan has passed new legislation imposing stiff punishments for treating its state symbols with disrespect.

Under a bill passed by the upper house of parliament on June 14, anyone who mistreats or desecrates state symbols, which include the country’s flag as well as its anthem, faces up to a year in jail or a stiff fine, the Novosti-Kazakhstan news agency reports.

The new legislation was drafted after Kazakhstan made international headlines over a mix-up involving its national anthem at a March sporting event in Kuwait. Then, the hosts accidentally played a version of the spoof anthem that featured in the 2006 movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which extols Kazakhstan’s potassium and prostitutes and memorably contains the line “Kazakhstan: greatest country in the world, all other countries are run by little girls.”

That blunder came just days after a goof-up in northern Kazakhstan, where the Ricky Martin song “Livin’ la Vida Loca” was accidentally played instead of the anthem at the opening of a skiing festival.

The incidents made headlines and got laughs abroad, but at home Astana — ever sensitive to its international image — was not smiling.

This new legislation is its response, and the penalties are tough: up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of 3.2 million tenge ($21,000). Bakytzhan Sagyntayev, the minister for economic development and trade, has said that the legislation came in response to the anthem mix-ups and to an incident where people were found to be using the national flag to transport garbage.

Will they fund a sequel

Sydney Morning Herald

Despite objecting strenuously to the original film and depiction of Borat and Kazakhstan it seems there has been a benefit to the country:

A senior Kazakh official has credited the comedy film Borat for helping increase tourism in the Central Asian state, the news agency Tengrinews reports.

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen created the fictional character Borat, purportedly a Kazakh reporter, for the 2006 satirical film that represented Kazakhs as misogynist, racist and stupid.

But Kazakhstan has increased the number of tourist visas tenfold since the release of Cohen’s movie, Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said.

“And I thank you that you have attracted tourists to Kazakhstan,” Kazykhahov said.

Kazakhstan’s authoritarian leadership in the months after the movie came called Cohen’s depiction of the ignorant and bigoted Borat as insulting, and not typical of residents of the energy-rich country.

The character Borat’s negative depiction of Kazakhstan returned to international headlines last month when officials at a Kuwaiti sports tournament accidentally played the fake version of the Kazakh national anthem, which Cohen wrote for the movie, in honour of a Kazakhstan athlete’s gold medal performance in a shooting competition.