As expected, six months prior to Russia's 2008 presidential elections, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has resigned his position. Fradkov, a technocratic figure who was expected to keep the government's trains running on time, was never expected to succeed Vladimir Putin as president of the country, and it was widely expected that he would be asked to step down in order to allow a possible presidential successor to Putin to, in effect, be anointed.
...It's difficult to see [appointed Prime Minister Viktor] Zubkov as being the designated "heir" to become president. It is important to note that if one looks at the last years of the second term of the Yeltsin Administration, a series of prime ministers were appointed, in part to keep the political establishment off balance.
This also gives some "breathing room" if the overall succession issue has not been settled by having another technocratic prime minister in place for the next several months, while negotiations would continue over how power would be distributed. Remember, the lesson many in the Russian elite learned from the Orange Revolution of 2004 in Ukraine was that when the elite is divided and cannot reach consensus, the system becomes destabilized.
Gvosdev also has something to say about Prime Minister Abe's resignation in Japan. Check out his article here. And thanks to Laura Rozen for forwarding it along.
According to news reports (here and here), the Russian military has successfully tested what it hails as the world's most destructive non-nuclear bomb. The device—unofficially named the 'Father of All Bombs,' an apparent play on a similar U.S. device nicknamed the 'Mother of All Bombs'—relies on an initial explosion to disperse a cloud of explosive material that is then ignited by a secondary blast. The weapon contains 7.8 tons of high explosives, compared with more than 8 tons in its U.S. counterpart. But its explosive power is equal to 44 tons of TNT, about four times more powerful than America's MOAB. The BBC says the differential is due to "a new type of explosives developed with the use of nanotechnology."
General Alexander Rukshin, Russia's deputy armed forces chief of staff, described the new bomb as "relatively cheap" and effective, with explosive power "commensurate with a nuclear weapon." He went on to say the new bomb would allow Russia's military to "protect the nation's security and confront international terrorism in any situation in any region."
Sure, if there's one thing we've learned from Iraq, it's that the best way to dispose of a guy hiding in a roadside shack with his finger on an IED detonator is to blow up his entire city.
Best of all, though, Rukshin pointed out that fuel-air bombs don't emit radiation and therefore are environmentally friendly.
Burger King announced today that they're going to offer healthier food for kids this fall. Their new "Kids Meal" will offer low-fat milk, flame-broiled chicken strips, and "Apple Fries"—red apples sliced (via BK's patented cutting process) and packaged, you guessed it, to look like fries. Although, leave it to Burger King to leave out the most nutritious part of the apple—the skin.
Burger King's attempt to provide healthier food could be in the interest of public health (or pressure?), but to me it sounds like just another marketing ploy which is par for the course for the fast food industry these days. But what's BK up to with these apple fries? Are they shaped like fries to trick children into eating them, or to have kids associate healthiness with french fries? Why not just give the kids a whole apple, skin and all?
After all, a recent Washington Postsurvey of DC fourth graders showed that kids actually do like fruit. Minimally processed mandarin orange segments, applesauce, and pineapple receive as high a kid's review as processed, sweetened treats. But I guess kids can't have it their way at Burger King.
According to a new public opinion poll of Pakistani citizens, Osama bin Laden has a higher approval rating in Pakistan, 46 percent, than does Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, 38 percent.
This is potentially disastrous because Pakistan is home to two things: (1) nuclear weapons, (2) al Qaeda's leadership. If Indonesia or Libya held widespread popular support for bin Laden, it wouldn't be nearly as big a deal.
All I can say is, it's a good thing America is seen as a force for good in the world, a force willing to use positive incentives and diplomacy to reassure the Pakistani people that the extreme ideology of Osama bin Laden is a road to ruin, and that embracing the fragile democracy headed by Musharraf may someday lead them to become the strong and vibrant participatory society we are ourselves.
Oh wait. That's not right at all. And President Bush's approval rating in Pakistan, in the same public opinion poll, is nine percent. Nine percent! We've screwed things up so badly across the world, we don't have the cache to fix our most dire problems.
When former prostitute Wendy Yow Ellis claimed that she and Louisiana Congressman David Vitter had had a sexual relationship lasting several months, he accused her of lying. Vitter's name had already been disclosed as part of the client list of the now-famous "DC Madam," and the also now-famous "Canal Street Madam" had named him as one of her establishment's clients, also. At the time that she named Vitter, she said he liked to visit a prostitute named Wendy; however, Ellis claims that she had nothing to do with the Canal Street operation, that her negotiations with Vitter took place in a French Quarter apartment via the New Orleans Escort Service, and she was paid $300 an hour through a pimp named Jonathan.
It is not known whether there was actually another Wendy who worked at the Canal Street establishment (as implied by Canal Street Madam Jeanette Maier) who had sex with Vitter. So far, only Wendy Yow Ellis, sometimes known as Wendy Cortez, has come forward. This rather confusing scenario involving Wendys is complicated even more by the fact that Vitter's wife is named Wendy, also.
At any rate, publisher Larry Flynt paid for Wendy Yow Ellis to take a lie detector test, which she passed, and which Vitter's press secretary has refused to comment on. Flynt has also paid Ellis for details about her sessions with Vitter, which he is publishing in a future issue of Hustler.
Vitter, of course, ran for office with a promise of "protecting the sanctity of marriage." Ellis, who describes Vitter as "a very clean man," says she took the polygraph because people who heard Vitter's denial of their relationship might see her as "a two-bit whore when I'm the one telling the truth."
In a rather frank interview with GQ, former secretary of state Colin Powell discusses the Iraq War, Barack Obama, and the ways in which fear is getting the better of us as a nation.
When asked how America might go about restoring its image, he responded:
"We should remember what that image was, back after World War II. It was the image of a generous country that sought not to impose its will on other countries or even to impose its values. But it showed the way, and it helped other countries, and it opened its doors to people, visitors and refugees and immigrants.
America could not survive without immigration. Even the undocumented immigrants are contributing to our economy. That's the country my parents came to. That's the image we have to portray to the rest of the world: kind, generous, a nation of nations, touched by every nation, and we touch every nation in return. That's what people still want to believe about us. They still want to come here. We've lost a bit of the image, but we haven't lost the reality yet. And we can fix the image by reflecting a welcoming attitude, and by not taking counsel of our fears and scaring ourselves to death that everybody coming in is going to blow up something. It ain't the case."
Perhaps the stress of putting out a new issue is getting to them, but everyone around the Mother Jones offices has been e-mailing each other cheesy corporate theme songs today. You're all kooks! Some of these are more well-known than others, but it seems a shame not to share them with you, dear Riff readers.
First up, the saga of Nixon Peabody. Once there was a law firm who thought celebrating some good press with a specially-commissioned tune was a great idea, and I guess you know the rest:
Style: '80s soul played by a wedding band
Great line: "There's no disputin'/The folks at Fortune Magazine agree!"
Next, feel the power of KPMG. Their theme song, "Vision of Global Strategy" got a blogger in trouble when he linked to it, back in 2001.
Listen here. Style: Japanese ballad
Great line: "We'll be number one, with effort and fun!"
This isn't really a corporate theme song, but I remember it as one of the first "Internet memes," back in the early days of this awesomely entertaining series of tubes. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft was filmed at a developers conference, chanting, well, "developers," over and over, and after it was circulated, people began making their own remixes and mashups. Check out the techno mix:
Style: The Prodigy
Great line: when he says "developers" the 293rd time
Don't forget Price Waterhouse Coopers, who burst onto the corporate theme song scene back in 2001 with their hands-in-the-air anthem, "Your World, Our People."
Listen here Style: What was that Kenny Rogers/Sheena Easton duet?
Great line: "We don't sell no dogma/All we've got is skill"
Finally, of course, late last year, a Bank of America employee was aiming for a raise and put together a little ditty about B of A's merger with MBNA, set to the tune of U2's "One." It's so excruciating, I've never actually sat through the entire thing; if you ever want me to stop being a criminal, clamp my eyes open Clockwork Orange-style and force me to watch this over and over, I'll be a real horrowshow chelovek.
Style: Bono gone bad
Great line: "We've got Bank One on the run/What's in your wallet, it's not Capital One"
Don't forget the level this came to: in November, comedian David Cross covered "One Bank," with Johnny Marr, formerly of the Smiths, before a Modest Mouse show in New York City.
Corporate anthem websites seem to come and go rather quickly as their hosts get hit with ceast-and-desist orders. Hopefully these fine companies have all found their sense of humor by now, ha-ha. Commenters, any other corporate themes out there make you want to abolish capitalism? Or any ideas for a Mother Jones theme song?
Momentum seemed to be building in Kanye's favor over the last few weeks in this, the great hip-hop battle of the millenium, but now we have actual statistics to back it up (albeit a pretty small sample from a completely unknown source). HHNLive.com is reporting today's sales figures at all Best Buy stores in the US show Graduation selling 42,438 copies as of 4pm EST; CURTIS has sold 32,640. Not bad.
iTunes has reflected these numbers as well, with pre-orders for Graduation outselling CURTIS all week. Currently, Graduation is lodged at #1 and #4 (the latter being a deluxe edition) with CURTIS at #5; similarly, on iTunes' singles charts, West's "Stronger" is at #1, with 50 Cent's "AYO Technology" at #5.