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McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Misha Glenny
anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, BRICs, colonial rule, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, Doha Development Round, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, Firefox, forensic accounting, friendly fire, glass ceiling, illegal immigration, joint-stock company, market bubble, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nick Leeson, offshore financial centre, Pearl River Delta, place-making, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Skype, special economic zone, Stephen Hawking, trade liberalization, trade route, Transnistria, unemployed young men, upwardly mobile
Its president, Igor Smirnov, a former red director of a factory in the capital, Tiraspol, has relied for support on a coterie of KGB officers and oligarchs, as well as an uncharacteristically forgiving attitude of Gazprom to the huge debt Transnistria has run up with the energy giant. During the conflict with Moldova, Transnistria held its own in large part because it happened to host both Russia’s Fourteenth Army and its mighty arsenal of 42,000 pieces of stockpiled weaponry ranging from pistols to tanks and a handy supply of surface-to-air missiles. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Fourteenth Army in Transnistria was separated from the Russian motherland by the proclamation of an independent Ukraine. The army could have organized its return but preferred instead to remain in Transnistria as a “peacekeeping force.” But although the Fourteenth Army offered de facto support to Smirnov and the breakaway republic, Russia, like the rest of the world, refused to recognize Transnistria—it is a pariah state.
Reputed to be Sheriff Football Club’s biggest fan, Smirnov must have expended much effort in persuading the government of the self-styled Republic of Transnistria to go ahead with the construction of both the stadium complex and the team. After all, Transnistria’s annual budget amounts to just under $250 million. The stadium, in contrast, cost around $180 million. But then, Mr. Smirnov is both the head of the Customs Service of Transnistria and son of the president, Igor Smirnov. But not even the might of the president and his Communist Party could overcome the second hurdle facing FC Sheriff. In order to participate in any soccer competition, Sheriff must belong to a recognized member of UEFA. But that’s been a problem ever since the Transnistrian authorities declared independence from Moldova—Tiraspol, capital of Transnistria, did not belong to a recognized UEFA country. So how would Transnistria be able to put FC Sheriff on show?
And Itera, the Florida-based company with links to Solntsevo, is the majority shareholder of the metallurgical plant in Ribnitsa, the highest export earner in Transnistria. But still you can’t help wondering whether all this could conceivably finance FC Sheriff and the stadium. Remember that stockpile of Russian weapons? And, indeed, the estimated two to three factories that produce weapons unmonitored? These spew out of Transnistria via Odessa and into the worlds of war—the Caucasus, central Asia, the Middle East, western and central Africa. Occasionally, President Putin suffers a crisis of conscience regarding Transnistria. “Maybe it is time to close down this black hole,” he told Georgi Purvanov when the Bulgarian president pleaded with Putin to dam the lava of criminality that flows down from Transnistria and spreads throughout the neighborhood. Bulgaria is used by various groups as an important staging point in the smuggling of weapons from Ukraine and Transnistria, and Purvanov understandably considers this most damaging for his country’s image.
9 dash line, Admiral Zheng, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, California gold rush, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, drone strike, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Hans Island, LNG terminal, market fragmentation, megacity, Mercator projection distort size, especially Greenland and Africa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, oil shale / tar sands, Scramble for Africa, South China Sea, trade route, transcontinental railway, Transnistria, UNCLOS, UNCLOS, zero-sum game
However, in effect, the Russians do already control part of Moldova—a region called Transnistria, part of Moldova east of the Dniester River that borders Ukraine. Stalin, in his wisdom, settled large numbers of Russians there, just as he had in Crimea after deporting much of the Tatar population. Modern Transnistria is now at least 50 percent Russian- or Ukrainian-speaking, and that part of the population is pro-Russian. When Moldova became independent in 1991 the Russian-speaking population rebelled and, after a brief period of fighting, declared a breakaway Republic of Transnistria. It helped that Russia had soldiers stationed there, and it retains a force of two thousand troops to this day. A Russian military advance in Moldova is unlikely, but the Kremlin can and does use its economic muscle and the volatile situation in Transnistria to try to influence the Moldovan government not to join the EU or NATO.
They are one of the weak links in its defense since the collapse of the USSR, another breach in the wall they would prefer to see forming an arc from the Baltic Sea, south, then southeast, connecting to the Urals. This brings us to another gap in the wall and another region Moscow views as a potential buffer state. Firmly in the Kremlin’s sights is Moldova. A number of countries that were once members of the Soviet Union aspire to closer ties with Europe, but with certain regions, such as Transnistria in Moldova, remaining heavily pro-Russian, there is potential for future conflict. Moldova presents a different problem for all sides. An attack on the country by Russia would necessitate crossing through Ukraine, over the Dnieper River, and then over another sovereign border into Moldova. It could be done—at the cost of significant loss of life and by using Odessa as a staging post—but there would no deniability.
The end of the Cold War saw most of the continental powers reducing their military budgets and cutting back their armed forces. It has taken the shock of the Russian–Georgian war of 2008 and the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 to focus attention on the possibility of the age-old problem of war in Europe. Now the Russians regularly fly missions aimed at testing European air defense systems and are busy consolidating themselves in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, Transnistria, and eastern Ukraine. They maintain their links with the ethnic Russians in the Baltics, and they still have their exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. The Europeans have begun doing some serious recalculation on their military spending, but there isn’t much money around, and they face difficult decisions. While they debate those decisions, the maps are being dusted off, and the diplomats and military strategists see that, while the threats of Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, and the Soviets may have vanished, the North European Plain, the Carpathians, the Baltic, and the North Sea are still there.
Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, call centre, cuban missile crisis, Exxon Valdez, happiness index / gross national happiness, indoor plumbing, Mikhail Gorbachev, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, science of happiness, Silicon Valley, Transnistria, union organizing
Vitalie gives me a how-much-time-do-you-have look. “Well, there is the problem of Transnistria,” he says. “Can’t antibiotics take care of that?” I ask. It turns out that Transnistria is not a disease but a breakaway republic, a thin strip of Moldova controlled by pro-Russian forces. They make Cognac and textiles in Transnistria. Every once in a while, a bomb goes off, and mediators from Brussels fly in, wearing double-breasted suits and drinking Evian water. Conferences are held, and resolutions resolved. Then the men from Brussels fly home. Until the next bomb. Vitalie declares the whole Transnistria situation “definitely dumb,” and I’m inclined to agree. Later, I’d detect a strange pride that some Moldovans take in Transnistria, as if they’re thinking, “Yes, we are a backward, profoundly unhappy nation, but at least we have our very own breakaway republic, just like a real country.”
City of Exiles by Alec Nevala-Lee
“Someone came after me in Spain. I know now that it wasn’t you. But I also gave the gangs there no reason to want me dead. Unless my presence threatened their plans in other ways.” “It’s possible,” Vasylenko said, with apparent carelessness, though Ilya knew that the old man’s mind was working intently. “I no longer have any interest in Spain. A new breed has taken over. Anyone willing to make deals with the beasts in Transnistria is not likely to respect the thieves’ code. In any case, they have pledged their allegiance to another faction.” Ilya sensed his meaning. “Military intelligence. Not your friends, but their rivals—” “I did not say that,” Vasylenko replied sharply. “I am only reminding you that the world is changing. The thieves are no longer what they once were. I should know. I was there at the beginning.
Ilya saw that they were coming around to the true purpose of this visit. “I don’t know what you mean.” “I’m saying that you should concern yourself with the real sources of wrongdoing,” Dancy replied. “These days, if you consider how the world really works, you’ll see that a new breed of criminal is responsible for most of these evils. The thieves’ world isn’t what it used to be. If the thugs in Transnistria are making deals with anyone, it’s with the new generation, which cares nothing for the old ways, only money. You should be going after them, not the dying remains of the vory. And I can offer you a chance to get them where it hurts.” Ilya was beginning to glimpse the other man’s intentions. “What are you offering?” “To serve as your solicitor,” Dancy said simply. “I feel that we can be of use to each other.
back-to-the-land, Boycotts of Israel, Burning Man, facts on the ground, friendly fire, ghettoisation, illegal immigration, mass immigration, New Journalism, out of africa, Ronald Reagan, Transnistria, Yom Kippur War
Yisrael was offering Arik the chance to renew his commitment to their fallen friends, to Moisheleh. ”I’m with you,” Arik said. REFUGEE BOY, NATIVE SON YISRAEL HAREL WAS born Yisrael Hasenfratz, in the worst place and time for a Jew: Central Europe, fall 1939. Two years later, the Hasenfratzes, together with tens of thousands of other Romanian Jews, were deported by the fascist Iron Guard to an area of the Ukraine called Transnistria, beyond the Dniester River. Lacking the Final Solution’s thoroughness, the Romanians placed some Jews in camps, shot others, and allowed still others to die of hunger and cold. Yisrael’s father, a lumber merchant, was dispatched to a forced labor brigade; Yisrael’s mother bribed a Ukrainian peasant family and found shelter for herself and her two small sons. Yisrael’s younger brother died of hunger, but Yisrael and his parents survived.
Yisrael would be like the plowman in the photograph hanging in the Bnei Akiva clubhouse: shirtless and in khaki shorts but wearing a cap, honoring Jewish tradition. Until then, Yisrael did all he could to uproot the traces of exile from his being. When his parents spoke to him in Yiddish or German, he answered in Hebrew. His father, Yaakov, a gentle man who walked about singing cantorial snippets, was nearly deaf, the result of a beating in Transnistria; and deafness wasn’t just a physical but a cultural condition. Every morning, Yaakov, who worked as a lumber inspector, set off for his office on the Haifa docks in jacket and tie—in a country where even the prime minister wore an open-necked shirt. Yisrael wore khaki shorts and sandals until the winter rains. For all his efforts, sabra children still regarded him as not quite one of them. They delighted in devising new ways to mispronounce the name Hasenfratz.
Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
Alfred Russel Wallace, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Basel III, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, bitcoin, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, business process, butterfly effect, call centre, capital controls, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Claude Shannon: information theory, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, Corn Laws, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, credit crunch, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, David Graeber, deglobalization, deindustrialization, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Downton Abbey, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, eurozone crisis, factory automation, financial repression, Firefox, Fractional reserve banking, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, future of work, game design, income inequality, inflation targeting, informal economy, information asymmetry, intangible asset, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, late capitalism, low skilled workers, market clearing, means of production, Metcalfe's law, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, mortgage debt, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, Pearl River Delta, post-industrial society, precariat, price mechanism, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, reserve currency, RFID, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, secular stagnation, sharing economy, Stewart Brand, structural adjustment programs, supply-chain management, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Transnistria, union organizing, universal basic income, urban decay, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wages for housework, women in the workforce
4 The Long, Disrupted Wave PART II 5 The Prophets of Postcapitalism 6 Towards the Free Machine 7 Beautiful Troublemakers PART III 8 On Transitions 9 The Rational Case for Panic 10 Project Zero Notes Acknowledgements Follow Penguin For Calum, Anya, Robbie and James Introduction To find the river Dniestr we drive through cold woodlands, past decomposing flats and railyards where the dominant colour is rust. The freezing water runs clear. It is so quiet that you can hear little pieces of concrete falling off the road bridge above, as it slowly crumbles through neglect. The Dniestr is the geographic border between free-market capitalism and whatever you want to call the system Vladimir Putin runs. It separates Moldova, a country in Eastern Europe, from a breakaway Russian puppet state called Transnistria, controlled by the mafia and secret police. On the Moldovan side, elderly people squat on the pavements selling stuff they’ve grown or made: cheese, pastries, a few turnips. Young people are scarce; one in four adults works abroad. Half the population earns less than $5 a day; one in ten lives in a poverty so extreme it can be measured on the same scale as Africa’s.1 The country was born at the start of the neoliberal era, with the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the entry of market forces – but many of the villagers I talk to would rather live in Putin’s police state than in the disgraceful penury of Moldova.
Eternal Empire by Alec Nevala-Lee
Hard times are coming, and I intend to be ready. Better to be on the winning side. You see?” Ilya only finished his drink. It was not hard to read between Bogdan’s words. What was happening now was only the latest chapter in a secret history that had unfolded in Russia for years. Glancing at his travel companion, Ilya wondered how much of this Bogdan had seen firsthand. In the aftermath of the war between Moldova and Transnistria, Russia had sent troops to the latter, unasked, and in order to survive, the local criminals had been forced to reach an accommodation with military intelligence. In response, their rivals in Moldova had thrown in their lot with the civilian side, which had also meant establishing alliances with the network of thieves of which Vasylenko was one of the last remaining representatives. Looking at his own face, which was reflected darkly in the glass, Ilya considered his predicament.
The Gun by C. J. Chivers
air freight, Berlin Wall, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, illegal immigration, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, mutually assured destruction, offshore financial centre, Ponzi scheme, RAND corporation, South China Sea, trade route, Transnistria
In 1991, Georgia attacked separatist South Ossetia, and Chechnya declared its independence from Russia, setting a course for a larger and more costly war that would see human-rights abuses by Russia and its proxy forces on a grand scale, and the separatists’ adoption of the tactics of terror. Yugoslavia was fracturing, heading into a series of ethnic wars. Civil war erupted in Tajikistan in 1992, the year fighting broke out in Transnistria, and between Georgia and the Abkhaz. During these years, an arms-pilferage drama unfolded across the Warsaw Pact. The events in the German Democratic Republic provided one example. The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, pitching the country on a new course. During more than forty years of communist rule, East Germany had become an armed police state and well-stocked military front. The arsenals were large and varied, augmented by the secret production in the Wiesa rifle plant.
IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black
Like other Nazi surrogates in Eastern Europe, Antonescu feared the onslaught of the Russians, and rumors circulated of a forthcoming war crimes announcement. Jewish bribes—including 100 million lei to Antonescu’s personal physician—also helped. The trains did not roll.30 On November 17, 1943, Antonescu again reviewed census data with his generals. “According to the latest statistics we have now in Transnistria a little over 50,000 Jews,” said Antonescu. Adding 10,000 Jews from the Dorohoi area and others, Antonescu tallied “70,000 to 80,000.” General Constantin Vasilu objected, “There was some mistake. We have talked with Colonel Radulescu, who has carried out a census. There are now exactly 61,000.”31 By the end of the war, after a bloody series of Romanian-German executions and deprivations, more than 270,000 Jews had been brutally killed or starved.
Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman
3D printing, additive manufacturing, affirmative action, Airbnb, AltaVista, Amazon Web Services, autonomous vehicles, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, Bob Noyce, business process, call centre, centre right, Chris Wanstrath, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, demand response, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Erik Brynjolfsson, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Ferguson, Missouri, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Flash crash, game design, gig economy, global supply chain, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, intangible asset, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of the steam engine, inventory management, Irwin Jacobs: Qualcomm, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, land tenure, linear programming, Live Aid, low skilled workers, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, pattern recognition, planetary scale, pull request, Ralph Waldo Emerson, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, South China Sea, Steve Jobs, supercomputer in your pocket, TaskRabbit, Thomas L Friedman, transaction costs, Transnistria, urban decay, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, Y2K, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game
Today, this world includes parts of Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Senegal, Iraq, Syria, Egyptian Sinai, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, western Pakistan, Chad, Mali, Niger, Eritrea, the Congo, and various swaths of Central America, including parts of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean. It also includes the warlord-run zones that Russia carved out of neighboring states on its periphery—in the eastern Ukraine, Abkhazia, Chechnya, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. What all of these places have in common is that central authority either has collapsed or can barely extend its writ beyond the capital. In some cases these states were destabilized by the United States and its allies decapitating their governments—Iraq and Libya—and not effectively building successor authorities. Others have disintegrated on their own from the stresses of civil war, environmental degradation, and extreme poverty, and they are now hemorrhaging refugees in all directions.
Albert Einstein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, British Empire, call centre, clean water, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Farzad Bazoft, friendly fire, Howard Zinn, IFF: identification friend or foe, invisible hand, Islamic Golden Age, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, Ronald Reagan, the market place, Thomas L Friedman, Transnistria, unemployed young men, uranium enrichment, Yom Kippur War
If only, I kept thinking, the American journalists who report in so craven a fashion from the Middle East—so fearful of Israeli criticism that they turn Israeli murder into “targeted attacks” and illegal settlements into “Jewish neighborhoods”—could listen to Amira Hass. She writes each day an essay about despair, a chronological narrative that she does not abandon when talking about her own life. She begins at the beginning, her mother a Sarajevo Jew who joined Tito’s partisans, who was forced to surrender to the Nazis when they threatened to kill every woman in the Montenegrin town of Cetinje, her father Avraham spending four years in the Transnistria ghetto in the Ukraine, escaping a plague of typhus that killed up to 50 per cent of the Jews, only to lose his toes to frostbite. “When he came to Israel as a communist activist after the war, he was involved in lots of strikes and demonstrations. In the early Fifties, the Israeli police arrested him and he was brought before a judge who demanded to know why he’d refused to give his fingerprints.