Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tweets From The Road: Gay Rome

Via del Corso in central Rome full of classic Italian shoes. Hidden among them, however, are thousands of pointy, white, or velcro'd shoes for gay men. Conspiracy suspicioned. Baltic men feared susceptible. Vatican implicated.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lithuanians Most Miserable

According to the survey Eurobarometer, only 55 percent of Lithuanians are satisifed with their life today. 45 percent categorized themselves as "downright miserable" checking additional boxes indicating their misery was the fault of Latvia, parliament, Estonia, Barack Obama, God, and "that bitch of a neighbor next door with her dog that won't stop barking."
More than half polled said they believed 2010 would be more difficult than 2009, and 94 percent pledged to move to Chicago as soon as their relatives could get clean sheets on the roll-out sofa.
Lithuania's flag, above.

J.D. Salinger Dies, Leaves Estate to Estonia

Jerome David Salinger, recluse author of The Catcher in the Rye, died yesterday at 91. A winter resident of New Hampshire and summer resident of the seaside neighborhood of Pirita in Tallinn, Estonia, Mr. Salinger left his entire estate to the Pirita Vabajakeskus [Pirita Free Time Center, -ed.] where he enjoyed spending time at the bar with Estonian writers.
Salinger lived the last fifty years of his life in seclusion, each summer spent in Estonia where he befriended novelists Jaan Kross and Mati Unt. While, the western press occasionally reported that Salinger drank his own urine, ate only frozen peas for breakfast, and sat for hours in an orgone box, he was able to pass unnoticed in Estonia. "In fact," noted Jaan Kross, "Mati and I were the only Estonians who ever spoke to him."
In Salinger's honor, the Pirita Vabajakeskus will rename its bar Pissibaar. "Although none of us could ever be bothered to speak to him, we believe Jerome was a good person," said bar manager Imbi Int. "And like a true gentleman, he always drank his urine at room temperature."

Latvia's Firewood Follies

According to a LETA survey, demand for firewood in Latvia has doubled due to the recent cold snap. This year a truckload of firewood sells for LVL 100, down from LVL 150 last winter, though some clever new capitalists have placed fresh locks on the Statoil firewood sheds and are forcing buyers to leave five lats on the dashboard of a police vehicle parked nearby in order to gain access to the shed. For those without the means to purchase cut wood, Latvian parliament members are selling chairs and furniture from the front entrance of the Seima and will often deliver it to your home in the boot of their Mercedes Benz for the promise of a hot bowl of borscht or sexual favors from female members of the family.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama Calls Estonia "Model"

In his first State of the Union Address, US President Barack Obama cited Estonia as a "model of democracy which America would do well to emulate." In addition to confronting domestic issues such as unemployment, health care, terrorism, a war on two fronts, Obama took time in his speech to praise Estonia's flat income tax, zero tax on corporate earnings, and the "unique landscape of Võrumaa, which includes the witch's well, which is thought to be caused by witches underground in a sauna." Democrats and Republicans were a bit baffled by the presidential speech's detour into Estonia's southern hill country, but many, when polled afterwards, said they were considering a visit to Estonia this very summer. "Obama made me really think about Estonia's unique jagged coastline and her exciting abundance of winter- and summer family activities," said Representative Rosa DeLauro. "Not to mention the truly unique 600 plant species in one single hectare of land."
Obama has frequently mentioned Estonia during speeches, noted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "When I'm alone with him, it's all he talks about."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Entire Population of Tartu to Compete in Olympics

The entire city of Tartu has been selected to represent Estonia in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, writes Postimees Online. With 102,000 athletes, Estonia's 'Team Tartu' will participate in seven disciplines.
12,890 Tartu residents will form the luge team, riding on snow shovels borrowed from the city's sanitation department. For a competitive edge, the members of Tartu's Annelinn bowling league will "bowl a few balls into the track when other teams are competing.. to keep them on their toes," said luge coach Karli Kaval with a sly grin. Without the funding necessary to rent slalom skis, 8900 Tartu residents will compete in the Aggressively Falling Down A Mountain event.
22,150 University of Tartu staff and students will compete in the combined sport of Curling+Figure Skating. Their trainer, Oskar Omareiglid, said "This demonstration of Estonian Moving Target Curling will take the world, the judges, and the figure skaters by surprise. With our rules, each skater knocked over with a curling stone is worth 5 points. Flattening a pair at the same time is 50 points, like a bulls eye in darts," he said. Omareiglid's strategy is to launch up to 75 curling stones at once in a technique he calls ‘the Blitzkrieg.’ He is confident of a medal.
6,500 Tartu Cross Country ski team members have already departed for Vancouver, on skis. Coach Sammi Suuskama said "They are novices. But they are crossing countries aready, and will cross 19 countries before reaching Vancouver. When they arrive, they'll be ready."
Tartu’s 21,000 strong 'Pensioner Posse' will compete in the Icy Sidewalk Smack down, a demonstration sport in 2010. The Posse are feared for their steely eyed determination, low center of gravity, and ruthlessness in a cold weather queue. The remaining 27,500 Tartu residents will spend their time canvassing Vancouver’s bars, ensuring the Russian Olympic team remains drunk. Their motto, said one team member, is “keep the baby on the tit”.
The most controversial contingent are the 9,900 bi-athletes, who are attending despite objections of Tartu's mayor Lauri Lollpea, who said "I support the Olympics, but this is sport, not a gay pride parade."

Savisaar Adds Sales Tax

Beginning July 1, the City of Tallinn will add a one-percent sales tax to some goods sold within its boundaries. The city believes the tax will generate 150 million EEK over a six-month period. Merchants claim the sales tax will cause confusion as well as inconvenience, as it will not be applied across the board.
According to critics, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar may be unstoppable in his march toward a system of tax collecting similar to the American Double EZ system with its two-line tax form: "1. Write on the following line the amount of money you earned last year _______. 2. Pay that amount."

Estonian Air Cuts, Expands

In the face of 30 percent salary reductions for stewardesses and pilots, Estonian Air today announced it would expand by opening new routes to Melchizedek, Poyais, Ishmaelia, Bangalia, the Kingdom of EnenKio, Absurdsvanj, and Claw Island. "This kind of aggressive expansion on the back of salary cuts is unparalleled in the industry," said Estonian Air chief Andrus Aljas.
Captain salaries before the cuts were between 50,000 and 60,000 EEK per month, with co-pilots earning 30,000 to 35,000 EEK. How will Aljas motivate his pilots to fly more for less money? "We are reincorporating the company in the tax jurisdiction of Melchizedek," said Aljas, "where there is zero personal income tax and no social tax." Estonian tax authorities did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Milk Soup, And Other Estonian Culinary Triumphs

After the positive press Latvia received for commemorating the diplomatic "de jure" statehood recognition granted it years ago, Estonia hastily organized its own 'du jour' celebration. Lembit Lusikas, spokesman for Estonia's foreign ministry, claimed "Latvia's not the only one with traditions. Estonia has its own 'du jour' status, too. And today, we commemorate the historic 'Soup du Jour,' which is French for 'A Tiny Northern State With Blond Women and Six Toed Men Who Don't Talk So Much'."
Responding to critics who say 'soup du jour' is unrelated to the Latin phrase 'de jure', and that he made the whole thing up to get publicity, Lusikas said, "Oh no, we have blond women, and we are known for our soups! Like piimasupp (milk soup), for example, which is sublime, and simple. And," he added excitedly, "vanavillisokkisupp (old woolen sock soup) is a yummy mixture of congealed fat, lamb's wool, and day old rice that's served cold, like gazpacho." Lusikas continued, "Just as the word 'sauna' comes from Finland, Estonia has given the world 'soup.' You can find Estonian inspired culinary havens called 'soup kitchens' from America to Zimbabwe. You know, Hemingway supposedly said "in every port, you can find an Estonian," but the precise quote, from To Have and Have Not is, 'in every pot, there's Estonian soup.' Yes sir," he said, wiggling his many toes with enthusiasm.

Estonia Names Athletes, Wins Candy Bar Contract

Estonia's Olympic Committee never thought selecting its 27 athletes and 33 coaches for the Vancouver Winter Olympics could be so profitable. But Pepsico, a key sponsor of the Vancouver Olympics, monitors all entrant names, and almost immediately selected athlete Indrek Tobreluts. "No," said a Pepsico spokesman, "our new candybar will not be named Indrek. The 'drek' part is unappealing." It is the Tobreluts part that interests Pepsico, and beginning next month they will launch a 200-million dollar advertising campaign behind a new triangle shaped candybar. The Estonian Olympic Committee says they are confident some of the other athletes' names would be soon selected as product monikers. "Kaspar Kokk has a pretty interesting last name," noted an Olympic Committee member. "The Trojan people have opened discussions with us."

Latvian Spelloff

With a series of events today and tomorrow, Latvia's Foreign Ministry will commemorate the day of Latvia's international recognition. Diplomatic representatives from around the world will take place in snowman building competition in Riga parks, as well the fifteen annual Spellorama, Latvia's spelling bee for ambassadors. Traditionally, ambassadors are asked to spell obscure Latvian proper nouns (Dienvidu, Saulkrasti were last year's stumpers), as well as to recite a long list of male Latvian names without laughing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tallinn Airport Removes Landing Fees; Builds Airplane Museum

In an attempt to boost competitiveness against regional airport powerhouses like Helsinki and Riga, Tallinn Airport Development Director Lauri Lendama says that the airport intends a radical move to eliminate landing fees entirely this Spring, Postimees Online reports. Lendama said in an interview that aviation is evolving so that fees from planes are falling while fees for passengers are increasing. “And we’re taking it to the n’th degree.” He said.
"It's in line with our development plan, which is simple," he said. "We let planes land for free. And then tell them our departure fees are four million dollars per plane,” he said with a sly grin. "Then, when they refuse to pay the fees, we impound the planes, and start our airplane museum. And we can sell tickets for that" he said, adding "tourists will flock from miles around, arriving by bus. Naturally, we'll let the buses park for free, but when it's time to leave they learn about our Bus Departure Tarriff."

Gas to Cost 30% More

Natural gas tariffs in Latvia will increase in spring, writes Dienas Bizness. Latvijas Gaze enigmatic board chairman Serejs Skaititajs, in a press conference yesterday, said "As the economic crisis ends in Europe, consumption of oil products will increase sharply, and therefore gas prices will increase too."
Asked why, after record high oil & gas inventories and a worldwide recession, increased consumption should result in higher instead of lower prices, he said “it’s as simple as understanding that trees waving back and forth is what makes the wind blow. It’s a force of nature, man. An enigma, wrapped in Ritalin, baked in Alaska. I am the walrus." Asked to clarify this, a visibly displeased Skaititajs said "The prices are fucking going up, alright?”

Zatlers Almost Dismisses Saeima

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers last week was close to being the first president of Latvia to dismiss the Saeima, writes daily newspaper Neatkariga. Zatlers was engaged in attempts to reconcile New Era with the People's Party in order to achieve political stability ahead of a landmark Saeima vote authorizing the government to continue talks with international lenders, and had threatened to dismiss the Saeima if this reconciliation did not succeed. Although Zatlers did not manage to reconcile the two parties, he did not carry out his threat because, according to one aid who wished to remain anonymous, “he was pretty busy.”
Other things President Zatlers almost did last week included skydiving, riding a motorcycle in the nude, and “once,” Zatlers' spokesman admitted, he almost passed wind at a State Dinner. “Thankfully, he didn’t,” said the spokesman, quickly adding – “it was his chief of staff.”

Latvian Communities Secede

In what appears to be a growing trend in Latvia, the residents of Mersrags in Kurzeme wish to secede from Roja Region, according to the Latvian newspaper Diena. But the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Governments will only be able to act after Roja residents express their opinion on the matter. Said one frequent visitor to the region, “They’re like the Shiites and Sunni’s out there – killing each other's goats, having blood feuds, honor killings – I say let ‘em separate.”
In the meantime, the town of Balozi does not want to merge with neighboring Kekava, because, according to official documents, “the name ‘Kekava’ means ‘leftovers’ in Greek, and is unsuitable for the citizens of Balozi.” In a sharp response Kekava town councilman Artis Atliekas said “that’s mighty rich coming from the residents of a town named ‘Pigeons.’" Other secessionists include Aluksne, who recently annexed itself to Oaxaca, Mexico because, according to Aluksne mayor Armands Arbuzs, “it will be easier to enter the U.S. and find work that way.” Finally, Mayor Sandijs Slinkot says his town, formerly known as Aizkraukle has changed its name to Bordeaux and adopted Napoleonic law, because, "the French don't work much and we don't neither."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Officer Krupke, Language Cop

There are some in Estonia who would surgically remove their citizens' senses of humor in order to rigidly enforce language laws. For example, according to one source, a language inspectorate official once demanded the word "steakhouse" be removed from a restaurant sign and replaced with "lihamaja" (meat house--with connotations of "slaughterhouse").
The Livonian Chronicle is pleased to celebrate the Finns, who guard their language at least as closely as the Estonians, though do make exceptions for businesses serving primarily foreigners, as well as for those who demonstrate a well-developed sense of humor. The Helsinki hair salon, Bad Hair Day?, at left, is one such example. And in recognition of their daring in the face of any Finnish Officers Krupke, we award them this free advertisement.

Lithuania's CIA Prison Investigation Ends

The Lithuanian Seimas voted this week to determine whether a CIA prison existed in the country with 71 MPs voting in the affirmative. Twelve MPs said there wasn't, and 17 abstained, many citing fear of receiving a hot poker in the rectum from a disgruntled CIA staffer. Minister of Defense Rasa Jukneviciene said that unpleasant things needed to be solved and that issues become complicated. "And as everyone knows," said the minister, "parliament was never intended to deal with complicated matters." The minister said Lithuanian-American relations would not be affected and added that "the CIA is welcome to continue to operate their equestrian club and stable as long as they do it in the basement of the American embassy."
Lithuanian nudist equestrian, left, after nasty fall from horse.

Estonia Donates, Latvia Chafes

So far the European Commission and member states have donated 122 million euros to Haiti, Estonia's contribution totaling 3.9 million euros. Two-and-a-half million of Estonia's gift was channeled through the Red Cross with the remainder allocated to fund the visits of IT- and logistics experts. ("We believe everyone has the right to Skype," noted a spokesman for Estonia.)
For Latvia's part, a hat was passed in parliament where 23 lats were collected, plus one 50-cent euro coin which the hat-passer located on the floor near the coffee machine. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis donated the unfinished half of his chicken-salad sandwich before remarking, "This is just like the Estonians. They're always trying to show off."

Parex Sold to Afghanistan

During a closed cabinet session, the Latvian government has approved a deal with Nomura International to assist in the sale of Parex Bank. Contract details will be made public in one week, but inside sources tell the Livonian Chronicle that Nomura has already brokered a deal to relocate the bank to Afghanistan. "By their standards," said a Nomura source on the condition of anonymity, "this is a highly exceptional bank." The source pointed out that while Parex may have been the victim of poor management and downright skullduggery, "it has never once been bombed by a B-52 Stratofortress."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Latvia Eliminates Universities

Latvia's Saeima Culture and Science Committee has concluded that there are too many universities and colleges in Latvia and that the number of higher-education establishments must be reduced. Accordingly, beginning February, 2010, the Stockholm School of Economics will become a welding school. "I've said for many years that arc welding is as practical if not more so than an MBA," said Gints Lazo, Professor of Safe Acetylene Torch Handling at the New Stockholm School of Welding. Also, in the coming months, the Daugavpils Pedagogical University will merge with the University of Latvia to form the Razmatazz School of Performing Arts, with the directive to develop musical talent for cruise ships using the Port of Riga.
Latvian university diplomas (left). Take one.

ECB Frowns Upon Estonia's Statistics Law

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet has criticized the new Estonian statistics law, saying the Ministry of Finance will have too much a hand in manipulating statistics. The law in its current form would allow for interference Trichet claims. Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi says the bill is in line with the Eurostat directive and should not be changed "on the whim of some frog banker with a well-cut suit."
The new statistical rules: All good numbers will be rounded up. Bad numbers shall be rounded down. Really bad numbers shall be explained by insufficient sample size or omitted from reports altogether and/or blamed on Russian cyberhackers. Especially good numbers shall be printed in a type size larger than 18, while bad numbers should always be printed in type size 8 and located only in document appendices. If statistics are particularly unfavorable on a repetitive basis, such as in Latvia or sub-Saharan Africa, new statistics may be made up.
J'accuse! Jean-Claude Trichet, above, is taller and better dressed than Jürgen Ligi.

Real Estate Agencies Declare Crisis Over

Yet another Estonian newspaper has granted column inches to a real estate broker to make readers once again feel confident purchasing real estate: this time Ober Haus. Ober Haus noted that prices of housing real estate in the suburbs of Riga and Tallinn grew by four and seven percent respectively versus Q3 2009. Comparing Q4 to Q3, Ober Haus noted, is entirely within the bounds set by the new Estonian statistics law. "Statistics clearly indicate that the crisis has passed and we may once again invest in real estate knowing that it is the one investment which will never decrease in value," said an Ober Haus spokesman. "After careful analysis we have determined that the past two years, statistically, did not occur."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bright Object in Sky Baffles Baltic Scientists

At 10:45 a.m. yesterday a blindingly bright object appeared in the Estonian sky approximately ten to fifteen degrees above the horizon. The scientific community quickly gathered to observe and analyze, but no consensus has been reached on an explanation. "Forty years ago something similar appeared this time of year," said Urmas Uuring, chairman of Estonia's League of Scientists. "We are entertaining a variety of theories and performing experiments and will release a conclusion when the data warrant it." Scientists have already publicly disagreed over the light source, the fight led by Estonia's most vocal critic of global warming theory, Endel Lipmaa, who is convinced the light is an alien spacecraft. "Heed my words," said the noted scientist. "And don't come crying to me if you're taken on board against your will and anally penetrated." Other noted scientists have theorized that the entire population is drunk and may be collectively imagining the light.
Witnesses report the object giving off enough light that car headlamps are no longer needed for driving, and in some apartment buildings cigarette lighters no longer required to find your way in the stairwells.

Bruni and Ilves Release Duet

Following in the footsteps of First Lady Carla Bruni, Estonia's First Lady Evelin Ilves has released her first album, First Lady First. "When Carla Bruni released her third album, Comme si de rien n'etait, after marrying Mr. Sarkozy, I realized what a full life one may lead after marrying a president," said Ilves to pop music writer Sasha Frere Jones, in part one of a six-part interview conducted for the American magazine, the New Yorker.
Like Bruni, Ilves also has composed the music and written the lyrics for her songs. Bruni joins Ilves on one of the tracks, "Transfat Trauma," in a duet where the gravelly-voiced Bruni sings scat while Ilves raps in the background about the pressures of public life. To promote First Lady First, Bruni and Ilves will headline through February 15th in the Showbaar Lounge aboard Tallink's M/S Superstar.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Latvians Adopt National Haircut

Emboldened by Belarus' adoption of a national stench, the Latvian Seima has passed a resolution requiring men over 18 years of age to adopt the national haircut. "A crew cut is a good way of letting you know a Latvian has entered the room," said Minister for Culture Ints Dālderis who sponsored the law. The minister added that the hairstyle also lends itself to the quick removal of head lice with a pocket comb.
In draft form, says Dālderis, are other laws which will institute a national suit, shoes, and Sunday-go-to-meetin's track suit.

Germany Has Mighty Big Meinschaft: Estonia Wants It

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle values Estonia’s aspirations to fulfill the Maastricht criteria and expressed Germany’s political support for Estonia to join the euro area, Postimees Online reports. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip met with Westerwelle recently in Estonia. In a press conference after the meeting Westerwelle said, “Chancellor Merkel asked me to look into Estonia’s application to the Eurozone. So, I had my team conduct a boatload of economic analyses – I have enough Estonian macro economic charts to paper the walls of the Bundestag. But in the end, it is the question of size of the meinschaft, jah? Ours is big and yours is little. You know, the meinschaft of my home in North Rhine-Wesphalia every day spends more on schnitzel und bier at the lunch counter than Estonia’s annual GDP. So we say, what the hell, it makes no difference, let ‘em in. Jah!”

Estonian Air becomes X-Air

In a landmark deal, Tallinn's gentleman's club, the X-Club, has purchased SAS's shares in Estonian Air and taken control of the airline. "This should surprise no one," said X-Club spokesman Tiina Tissi, "since many considered us the government's strategic partner, anyway." Over the weekend, all Estonian Air's Boeing and Saabs were repainted with the X-Club logo.
Terms of the deal are confidential, but insiders said the deal was financed mainly with VIP X-cards for the Harju Street club. Estonian Air pilots have been temporarily retained but stewardesses have already been replaced. "The transition from adult entertainer to stewardess is not difficult for X-club dancers," said Tissi. "Our girls not only speak better English, but they've already memorized tricky phrases like 'return your seatback to its original, upright, locked position.'" The spokesman added that "airline phrases can be sexy when you let them be."
Estonian Air's new logo (left) adorns its Boeing and Saabs. The airline's Cessnas will not carry the new logo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lithuania to help Haiti's quake victims

Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will allocate 50,000 litas (14,485 euros) to the victims of a recent earthquake in Haiti. According to Lithuania's Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas, Lithuania is a responsible member of the international community and "cannot be indifferent to the catastrophe that affected other people, which is why we are sending this money." The Foreign Ministry Spokesman Algirdas Junketivicius, said the funds had been ear marked for Cabinet of Ministers conference on fiscal discipline, which was scheduled to begin tomorrow in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. "But the Haitians fucked that up with this annoying earthquake," he said. Asked why the amount was so small, he replied, "Small? We are sending them the money we would have spent on tips in the Haitian strip bars, and Mister, those are some big tips!" he said, adding "And I know the Lithuanian people would approve. Like us, they are a compassionate, and moral people."

Latvia Sends Foreign Aid to Haiti

Latvia has also decided to send aid to Haiti. A Latvian naval vessel will sail tomorrow with 320,000 sals-maize ("salt-bread") baskets as gifts for all the residents of Port-Au-Prince. "The sals-maize basket is a traditional welcome gift for friends in a new home," said Peteris Davana, spokesman of Latvia's Foreign Ministry. "We usually put salt in a basket carved out of rye bread," he said, "the sort we used to call 'bull bread,' since it was so cheap in the Soviet era we fed it to our animals! But now the Soviet bulls are all dead and what else can we do with all this damn bread?" he asked. "We would have sent money, but the IMF's aid package to Latvia has one line item for disaster relief that allows EUR 50,000 to be spent on 'hopeless and desperate countries,' and we have already spent those funds internally, ordering 10 new pin striped leather suits for our Latvian Minister of Finance."
Davana said that Latvians empathize with the Haitians, whose old homes have been obliterated in the recent earthquake, and he hopes the Haitians will have the good sense to be in their new homes before this bread arrives in two weeks' time. "If they aren't, it would be considered rude."

Friday, January 15, 2010


Cost per month for Mayor of Tallinn's new Mercedes-Benz 350 CDI 4Matic: 1,154 euros.

Average monthly net salary in Estonia: 456 euros.

January unemployment in Estonia: 130,000. (Estonian labor force: 693,000.)

Sources: Äripäev, Estonica, CIA Factbook.

Kallas: Still Supports Rail Baltica

Estonia's Eurocommissioner Siim Kallas said one of the reasons the Rail Baltica project--connecting the Baltic states with Europe via rail--is lagging is because the Baltic states lack ambition.
Research shows Baltic citizens prefer stinky Hungarian buses with locked bathrooms and no air conditioning over comfortable trains. "It's just that sadomasochist inside every eastern European," said Kallas in his Thursday address in a European Parliament hearing. The Eurocommisioner also cited the difference in rail gauge as another barrier to joining western Europe's modern rail system. "Also, on TGV-type trains you can't walk between the cars and smoke or hang your head out the window and spit," the commissioner added.
Kallas, left, vows he won't trim mustache until Rail Baltica is built.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Medvedev to Visit Lithuania?

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite will invite Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev to attend the 20th anniverary of Lithuania's restored independence. She announced the decision at a parliamentary sitting to commemorate the country's Freedom Defenders: "We invite all neighboring presidents, those who eat with forks and those who eat with their hands, to join us for this sacred event."
Asked if the invitation to the Russian president was a turning point in foreign policy, she replied, "This means I want to know whether Lithuania is important to its neighbors." A spokesman for the Kremlin said Mr. Medvedev's oldest daughter's birthday is March 11th, and Grybauskaite should not take insult if the Russian president chooses instead to attend her piñata party. Traditionally, the Medvedev family's piñata has been a replica of the head of musician Frank Zappa.

Estonia's Great Cash Giveaway

Estonia, bathing in excess cash and without any problems of its own, will allocate one million kroons for earthquake victims in Haiti, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet. Even though the country's unemployment approaches that of Spain, Paet said helping others before helping oneself has always been a trademark of Estonians. "We are the world's most unselfish people. If someone opens a door for you somewhere, that person is likely an Estonian. If someone helps an old lady across the street, that person is probably an Estonian. We are a nation known for our kindness, open spirit, and generosity." Paet made the announcement flanked by hungry pensioners wearing tshirts reading Mi casa, su casa.
Urmas Paet (right) and the hand that feeds.

Latvian Violinist Dazzles in Face of Denied Asylum

Stripped of his dressing room's makeup mirror by the Latvian state as punishment for his attempted defection to Japan, Latvian Symphony Orchestra's first chair violinist Edgars Lazo stood and delivered a stunning performance of Bach's Partita in D minor at Tokyo Opera City. Enthusiastic Japanese fans, clearly aware of the difficulty of the Ciaccona, or the fifth movement of Bach's solo for violin, mobbed the stage and carried the violinist on their shoulders into the streets. "This is the greatest day of my life," said classical music fan Shunghee Yubahashi. "Lazo's performance of the fifteen minute Chaconne [Ciaccona, -ed.] was astonishing."
Latvian authorities, however, were unimpressed. Armed Latvian militia followed Lazo and his fans into the street, though they later lost track of their subject and were later discovered at a local strip club. "The first thing we learn in police work," said officer Arnolds Slesers, "is that when you're lost you stop moving around; find the closest strip club and wait for help to arrive."
Lazo returned to his symphony colleagues at the hotel by his own volition. "I still want to defect from Latvia, and I will try again." he said. "But not before I have performed the Penderecki violin concerto number 2 for the people of Japan." Lazo noted that Anne Sophie Mutter had once played it. "But," he sniffed, "mine will flow like oil."

To Do, 2010

The USA's National Public Radio has predicted what Barack Obama's 2010 To Do List might resemble. The list includes: Pacify Afghanistan, Draw down troops in Iraq, Counter Iran and North Korea, Manage China's rise, Close Guantanamo, Reach out to pariahs, Avoid disaster in Pakistan, Progress on climate change, Manage global economy, Put domestic priorities first.
The staff of the Livonian Chronicle invites her readers to put their heads together and come up with what are likely to be the Baltic leaders' To Do Lists for 2010. Our Estonia-based editor, Hank, kicks it off in the comment section below.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Skid-marks Case Baffles Experts

The number of registered crimes in Estonia fell last year to 48,359, with police declaring 48.5% of them solved. Unsolved remains the mysterious case of which parliamentarian wiped his bottom with the expensive white hand towels in the riigikogu bathrooms. Known locally as the skid-marks case, it has baffled both local police as well as special investigators from KaPo. "We'd like to conduct a DNA test but don't have the court-issued authorization to take a blood- or skin sample from every parliamentarian," said KaPo spokesman Karl Kakamäe. "That may take six months or longer to get and by that time our forensics experts say the fecal matter on the towels is worthless."
But not everyone believes it should be so complicated. "Everyone knows who's doing it," said Tiit Tüütu, custodian for the parliament's second-floor lavatory, "but they all just keep silent. I don't think we need Miami CSI to solve this one." Parliament Speaker Ene Ergma has been particularly upset by the incident and has repeatedly voiced worry. "I don't want this on my Wikipedia page," she told an interviewer with the weekly Eesti Ekspress. Ergma is a leading proponent of the theory that members of the Tallinn city government have infiltrated the premises and are perpetrating the crime. "There is no real basis for that theory," noted KaPo's Kakumäe.

Political Parties Unite to Work Off Campaign Debt

It isn't often Estonians see Edgar Savisaar, Andrus Ansip, and Mart Laar, figureheads of the Centre, Reform, and IRL parties, respectively, working elbow to elbow. But for the rest of the winter both are doing just that--pick axes in hand in an oil shale mine--in order to pay off their parties' massive local election debt (seven million-, four million-, and six million EEK, respectively). But oil shale mining itself cannot hope to cover the debt, and the three-party coalition has agreed that the men will also serve as stewards aboard Tallink boats, hosts on Estonian Air, and finally, if the debt remains still unsettled, the trio will work as male prostitutes in an EU capital to be named by the court.
The court-ordered indentured servitude may carry on even longer for Mr. Savisaar, whose party still has an unpaid 25 million EEK loan from the 2007 parliamentary elections and a 4.8 million EEK debt to the ad agency Kontuur Leo Burnett. The advertising agency Idea AD has asked the courts to force Centre Party into bankruptcy over what it owes that agency.
"Ansip never did a day's real work in his life," sneered Mr. Laar, as he drove his pick axe into a dark vein underground in Kohtla-Järve. "He thinks his days as an athlete somehow counted." Mr. Ansip, covered in toxic dust, declined comment. Mr. Savisaar, for his part, worked steadily, although he was connected to a respirator. "A concession we had to make," shrugged Laar. "Even in the office he's hooked up to that thing." Laar said that he himself had done a lot of physical labor in his youth while attending malevs, which were quickly characterized as "lemonade-sipping- and chess-playing-under-shade-tree festivals" by Mr. Savisaar, shouting to be heard from behind his respirator mask.
Photo left: Edgar Savisaar (left) makes crack about Ansip's mother. Laar (center) looks on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mormons in Negotiations to Buy Tallinn

Spurred by the tragedy that is Estonian Air, the Church of the Latter Day Saints may soon take possession of Tallinn.
Yesterday, Estonian Air issued a warning that it would soon issue an overall loss for 2009, though the figure will be announced only after audit. Livonian Chronicle sources, however, characterized the number as "frightening" and "one which will cause an ordinary man to soil his pants." Estonian Air President Andrus Aljas partially explained the loss, noting extraordinary expenditures from the return of two planes to the leasing firm. The airline posted a loss of 170 MM EEK in 2008 and a loss of 52 MM EEK in 2007. Year 2006 was profitable, though, as sources recalled, that profit was due only to the sale of one of Estonian Air's Boeings.
It's not all bad news for Estonia, however. The salvation of the country's air transit system (and perhaps economy in general) may come at the hands of the Mormon Church, which recently reached an agreement with Mayor Edgar Savisaar to dispatch 300,000 missionaries to work the city of Tallinn. Contract details were not forthcoming, but the mayor's office did disclose that the church agreed to fly Estonian Air and land all the missionaries at Tallinn Airport, whose traffic was down 26 percent in 2008. "The missionaries are bright young men who bring a fresh point of view to this sinning, pagan land," said a spokesman for the mayor. According to sources, the city of Tallinn is negotiating to sell the entire city to the Mormon Church with Mr. Savisaar retaining the honorary title of Bishop.

American Marines to Occupy Estonia's North Coast

In June, 500 US Marines will land on Estonia's northern coast. Eesti Päevaleht reports that the equipment the Marines will use may be seen in the movie "Saving Private Ryan." Marine Corps General Ticonderoga Bill Basterwaite, reached at the American Armed Forces headquarters in Frankfurt, confirmed the report. "Those bastard journalists got it exactly right this time. Five hundred of the meanest sonsabitches you'll ever see will land using vintage WWII equipment which is so out of date it's absolutely useless to anyone, and then we'll be spared the expense of hauling it out of your country. Like those Swedish Army bicycles, we'll call it foreign aid and just leave it behind to rot in your front yard."
The landing will take place on June 11th, and all are invited. General Basterwaite suggests a battleside picnic of strawberries and champagne. "And take quality moving pictures," added the General, "so those Russkie bastards can see how World War Two equipment can still shake the ground beneath you."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Loan Shark Estonia: Latvia Borrows 100 Large; Pledges Lithuania

Estonia will grant Latvia a 100 million euro loan at market conditions, Eesti Ekspress writes. The loan is part of a joint aid package with the Nordic states and is funded by the EU Structural Loan Shark Assistance Program. Latvia has offered to pledge Lithuania as collateral for the loan, which, according to Bank of Estonia, leaves Estonia under collateralized. “Who wants Lithuania?” asked Lauri Pant, Bank of Estonia spokesman, “Even Poland coughed them up like a hairball after WWII,” he said. “Because of this, we have applied a sovereign risk premium of 148%, which makes the vic 12 million large,” he said, using the language of high finance to refer to the monthly interest bill.
As part of the loan, Latvia’s President Valdis Zatlers has also pledged his summer home in Saulkrasti, as well as his wife’s collection of Belorussian crystal miniature puppies. In return, Estonia is granting Latvia the use of a Visa Classic debit card, a Skype account, and as a signing bonus, one free toaster.

Latvia Cracks Down On Cash

As part of the reforms demanded by the IMF loan package, tough new amendments to the Latvian Law on Credit Institutions are being considered, which stipulate that commercial banks will have to report to the State Revenue Service all cash deposits into bank accounts that exceed LVL 10,000 per month, or a single cash deposit greater than LVL 1,000. Janis Jamaksa, spokesman for the government, said this measure is being led by anti corruption efforts. “We are serious about removing loopholes, and this legislation proves it. No one is above the law.” he said. “Everyone will have to report these deposits, except politicians, the traffic police, civil servants, and any business person who knows politicians, traffic police or civil servants – as well as employees of the state revenue service. Oh, and construction companies involved with the national library project. Or the southern bridge.”
Jamaksa described the procedure saying, “Starting now, everyone can expect the full wrath of the law to rain down on their corrupted money laundering, tax evading heads - unless they are exempted of course.” Asked who the main (non exempt) targets are, Jamaksa said, “we’re targeting those who think they are above the law. Theirs is a motley group, and includes pensioners, children below the age of 12, clergymen, house pets, and employees of the IMF.”

Baltic Car Sales Plummet

Car registrations in Latvia have dropped by a factor greater than eight since 2007 with only 3,456 new cars registered the first eleven months of 2009. The good news, say car dealers, is the fact that all but one of the cars registered were Hummers, Porches, Jaguars, Mercedes Benz S-class sedans, Lamborghinis, or Ferraris. The exception was a Toyota Corolla, registered for transit to Belarus.

Latvian Violinist Defects

Even before the Latvian Symphony Orchestra's debut concert in Japan's Suntory Main Hall, in fact even before the National Symphony had left for Japan, first violinist Edgars Lazo asked for political asylum. "I am tired of living under the tyranny of this regime," said Lazo, reading in English from a prepared statement from inside the grounds of the Japanese embassy in Riga. "When personal freedoms and artistic freedoms are compromised, one must look elsewhere for a place to live."
Japanese state department official Yoshi Ishiguro said he was pleased that Lazo thought so highly of Japan, but that his nation would be unable to grant asylum to Lazo. "Mr. Lazo may live in a kleptocracy," noted Ishiguro, "but we see no grounds for granting asylum." He said Lazo would be thrown out of the embassy after the press conference, because he was drinking up all the embassy's beer. Lazo, unfazed, said he would travel to Japan and try again after the Tokyo Opera City concert.
Lazo, at right, says he is puzzled by Japan's decision but will try again.

Estonian Women Lose Gender War

Estonia ranks first in the EU in terms of pay differences between genders (women earn 30% less in Estonia versus a 17% EU average), and the Ministry of Social Affairs plans to combat the problem with a campaign to promote equal remuneration. 1.3 million kroons will be spent on a media campaign to draw attention to the subject featuring the image of a sweaty woman chained to a plow while a trio of men enjoy champagne and strawberries in the background.
Not all members of government believe the pay difference is a problem. "Men are superior to women," said Minister of Defense Jaak Aaviksoo. "For one thing, they can urinate from a speeding car." Private industry, those responsible for much of the pay gap, have said they are loyal only to market forces. "If a woman thinks she deserves equal pay just because she shows up on time every day, works a full shift, and produces more widgets than a man," said Karl Kartulinina, manager of a high tech factory in Tallinn's Jüri office park, "then she's got another thing coming. But can she drink three pints at lunch with me and still be standing to operate the lathe? That's why Estonian men are paid what they're paid."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Estonia vs. France: Eat Like Ze Pig, Work Like Ze Dog

Estonia will compete with France for organizing and housing the EU's IT Agency. The IT agency would administer the Schengen information system database and the EU's joint visa information system. At present, these databases are operated from servers located in Strasbourg, which suggests France may have an advantage when competing for the new agency's location. However, under an agreement of the European Council, an advantage is given to new member states. According to some, however, the decision will be made in the time honored tradition, based on menu choice in the cafeteria. Said one EU insider, who wished to remain anonymous, “How can kana sült (chicken jello) compete with confit du canard?” In an exclusive interview with Jean-Jacques Fricassee, the Directeur General of the EU Agency Site Selection Committee, offered the following observations:
“In France, when we dine, we go in groups, avec les reservations. We argue over ze menu. We query le garcon about ze freshness of ze duck. We smoke our Gauloises, and discuss ze matters of ze world while we enjoy our lunch. It is ze highlight of ze day, and tres civilized, non? In Estonia, we observe that at lunch, ze workers order ze – comment dites-vous, ‘soljanka?’, bon - then they sit, point ze face down to ze table as if they are afraid ze soup will escape if they do not watch it v-e-r-y carefully. Bon, and they eat ze soup without ever looking up to see if there are other humans to speak to. They finish rapidement, and in 10 minutes return to ze work. Ach de lors! Zis attitude is against everything the EU stands for. Estonians will never win ze EU agency, as long as they eat like ze pig, and work like ze dog."

Kickass Competition For Jobs

In 2009, CV-Online's Estonian job portal indicates that an average of 17 candidates competed for every job opening. Asked how employers choose between candidates, Erkki Tööjõud, CV Online’s Managing Director, said “Employers typically have candidates compete for the position. This used to be straight forward, behind closed doors, on what we call the ‘casting couch.’ As competition has increased, corporate directors have been unable to, err, perform quite so often, so we have developed a new CV Online Competition Catalog for corporate directors to make the selection process fool proof," said Tööjõud. "For entry level positions," he said, "we offer strip poker, name calling, and thumb wrestling. For mid management positions, our menu includes medieval jousting, naked mud wrestling, and blind folded mumble peg. For senior management and director positions, competition is most keen. For these, we offer our Crystal Class Competitions, which include spear throwing with a Native American atlatl, base jumping sans parachute, and hand to hand combat."

SAS Flies From Vilnius - Quickly

"SAS was the first international airline to operate regular flights from Vilnius Airport in 1992. They have many years experience carrying passengers from Lithuania and after a short break, we are pleased that they have announced their intent to fly from Vilnius,” said Judite Asnachochiziene, spokesperson for Vilnius International Airport.
But Judite has got it wrong, according to Bo Bittsen, SAS spokesman, speaking from Copenhagen. “We never said anything about flying to AND from Vilnius. No, we are flying FROM Vilnius – as fast as we can. Bless their hearts, those Lithuanians tried to renovate that airport, but it still screams “Welcome to Eastern Europe” in a nauseating taupe hued triangular window fashion. The country is forested for crissakes; don’t they like wood? I speak for the entire staff of SAS, and every one of our eight million passengers when I say, 'that place gives me the willies.' ”

Belarus Introduces Scratch-n-Sniff Currency

Many countries boast a national bird or national flower. Belarus has a national stench. "You know how it is when you step into one of those Soviet housing developments and that urine smell hits you at the stairwell?" asked Sergei Yuronovich, director of Belarus tourism. "Well, that's our national stench!"
With the blessings of President Aleksandr Lukashenko (photo right), Belarus will carry its National Stench a step beyond simply celebrating it in tourism brochures: it will put the stench on its currency. "Although it has not been a simple task, we have worked hand in hand with Scratch-n-Sniff Technologies and the Denver Mint to enable the technology to be applied to money," said Yuronovich. "Imagine the joy of a tourist when he discovers he may take one unique part of Belarus home with him!" the spokesman added.
"We call it 'the stinky stairwell,'" said Denver Mint spokesman Ben Cartwright. "You scratch the money and it really does smell like a Soviet housing unit." Or so Cartwright thinks. He admitted that no one in the Denver Mint or with Scratch-n-Sniff Technologies had actually smelled a Soviet-era stairwell. "But President Lukashenko himself spent a full two months skiing at Beaver Creek and Vail and made himself generously available to test the money on two occasions," said Cartwright. "He's really a hands-on president."

Estonia Changes Tourism Slogan to "A Country of Interest"

In order to capitalize on the US government's new classification system, Estonia has changed its tourism marketing slogan from "Positively Surprising" to "A Country of Interest." Now, says tourism spokesman Tiit Tüütu, "anytime someone googles terrorism-related topics he'll wind up on Estonia's homepage." Tüütu added that the new slogan allows Estonia to recover "that certain ring" it lost when it abandoned the slogan "Welcome to Estonia."
The new US security designation follows as a result of alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who boarded an flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. Other Countries of Interest include Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen.

Estonia Greets New Year with Taxes, Cigarettes

Estonia brought in the new year with increased excise taxes on cigarettes, petrol, and alcohol. The City of Tallinn also introduced new taxes on items such as boats, mountain bikes, iPods, iPhones, iPod Shuffles, Nike running shoes, Rossignol skis, Dunhill lighters, Partagas cigars, D&G sunglasses, and "anything else I think of that the Tallinn bourgeoisie in my country like to consume" noted Mayor Edgar Savisaar in a prepared statement delivered from the backseat of his S-class Mercedes Benz.
Kadri Simpson, Centre Party member of parliament's finance committee and Centre Party praised Mr. Savisaar's tax initiative, noting that "it's the best thing he's done since giving away free potatoes and firewood to Estonian citizens." Simpson said Centre Party strategists were busy organizing a "massive giveaway" for the spring where "millions upon millions of cigarettes will be given free to citizens in need."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Latvian Retailers’ Cartel

The Competition Council has determined a cartel exists between the retail trade companies Plus Punkts, Narvesen Baltija and Preses apvieniba, and fined these companies LVL 103,000 altogether. The three companies simultaneously started to charge exactly the same prices for condoms, Snickers bars, beer, and pre-paid Communist Party membership cards, according to the Competition Council. Asked for comment, Janis Kopejs, spokesman for Plus Punkts, Narvesen AND Preses apvieniba said, “we were just following our bank’s advice. And also, the condoms had different flavors.”

Latvenergo Remote Electro Sticks

On Monday Lithuanian news agencies reported that Russia and Belarus had failed to reach agreement on power transit conditions via Belarus, which could threaten power supplies to Lithuania. Responding to this news, Latvenergo spokesman Andris Volts said that emergency situations cannot be ruled out, but he didn’t think one likely. Asked to clarify this statement, he said. “Latvenergo burns lots of coal, we have a hydroelectric stations, and there’s always Ignalina just over the border.” Reminded that Ignalina was shut down on 31 December, he said “Oh. Really? Well then, we’ll just rely on Russia. They’ve always proven themselves a reliable and trustworthy partner, right? And our backup plan, just in case, are to sell these handy Latvenergo Brand Remote Electro Sticks."(see foto)

Ignalina to be Replaced by Treadwheel

Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant, shut down since January 1, will be replaced by a Habitrail treadwheel. Already the state has announced a public tender for the procurement of millions of rodents, including the controversial nutria, which Lithuanian scientists believe will deliver more kilowatts of energy per calorie fed. "Hamsters are of course your traditional power producers, your garden-variety work horse, if you will," said energy ministry spokesman Gintaris Fetacheesicius, "but we plan to test gerbils, mice, rats, guinea pigs, and, yes, even the elusive nutria."
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, wearing a Rodent Power tshirt, said at the press conference that she thought "these small furry forest creatures might be the future of the Baltic nations and eliminate our dependency on Russian gas." President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, visiting Lithuania to promote the release of his new LP, "Toms," said his country was experimenting with moose gas under his leading scientist Endel Lipmaa, a vocal opponent of global warming theory. Grybauskaite said her countrymen would also examine acquiring dogs from Romania and building even larger treadwheels. "Look to Lithuania for leadership," she said.

Flick Bags 240 Grand, Doesn't Do Windows

Latvian national airline airBaltic president Bertolt Flick was paid LVL 240,000 in salary last year, according to Flick's income statement filed with the state revenue service. According to the local press, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis will urge Transport Minister Kaspars Gerhards to reduce Flick's salary. "I don't understand why he won't work for free flights or sample bottles of duty-free perfume," said Dombrovskis during a press conference.
For his part, Flick said that if his salary was reduced he would no longer come in early to shovel snow off the runways and haul passengers' baggage. The airline's president also called into question whether he would continue in his starring role with "Air Baltic: The Musical" (photo right).

In Good Company

Estonians have grappled with the issue of how to reduce salaries of their parliament members during crisis time, and so far they've come up with no satisfactory answers (nor has parliament been especially helpful). But perhaps this first paragraph from Jeffrey Gettleman's review of Michela Wrong's book in The New York Review of Books will salve the wounds: "According to the United Nations, the average Kenyan makes $777 a year. Yet members of Kenya's parliament are among the highest paid in the world, with a compensation package of $145,565 (most of it tax-free). That is 187 times more than the country's average income and would be the equivalent of an American congressman making $8.5 million a year. And this is simply what is earned legally."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

French Assume Defense of Baltic Air Space

The German Air Force handed over defense of Baltic air space to the French Air Force on Monday. "We will use four Mirage 2000 jets to patrol the skies," said French General Antoine la Bitte, "at least until we can get a contract to sell them to the Russians." La Bitte said that talks were underway with Estonian Air to lease their Cessna 150s the airline uses to service its Tallinn-Stockholm and Tallinn-Helsinki routes. "These planes are used only once a day and only half filled with passengers," said la Bitte. "Us borrowing them for a few patrols in the middle of the day will be noticed by no one." La Bitte bristled at questions concerning the sale of the planes in the wake of a French bid to sell an aircraft carrier to the Russians, remarking, "We see no conflict. We have offered to put the Nord Stream logo on the side of both the planes and the carrier."
To commemorate French control of Baltic airspace, the restaurant aboard Estonia's ferry to the island of Hiiumaa offered a special "Pork Fillet by French" (photo at right).

Grybauskaite Releases LP

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite was named Lithuania's Person of the Year for 2009, marking the first time a woman has been given the honor. Grybauskaite released her solo album, "Grybauskaite Superbest," in December, which included the hit single, "Katrina Ignalina," and short opera she has written about Latvia, "Something Special." Grybauskaite was the last Baltic president to release an album in 2009, following on the heels of Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves' duet LP with Tom Jones entitled "Toms." For budgetary reasons, the three Baltic presidents have agreed to form a trio and represent the three nations at this year's Nord Stream AG Eurovision Song Contest. Buy all the Baltic presidents' albums here.

Aurora Cable Access Buys Estonia's Channels 2 and 3

Wayne Campbell, CEO of Aurora Cable Access Television (pictured left), said yesterday he had finalized a deal with Estonia's channels 2 and 3 and would assume immediate control. "For at least the next twelve months, Estonians will be treated to non-stop broadcasts of 'Wayne's World', including the movies Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2. It's the exact quality of programming these channels have proven time and time again that they wish to have." Campbell noted that a few episodes of "Wayne's Power Minute" would also run. Aurora Cable's head of programming, Garth Algar, will immediately take over as CEO of Channel 2, while Mr. Algar's father, Beev, will assume the same position at Channel 3.
"Although we are firing everyone currently employed at those channels, we are still interested in what the current executives think," said Wayne Campbell, adding his trademark "Not!" after a short pause. He noted that all "babes" working at the channels would undergo interviews and any "babia majoras" or "Babraham Lincolns" would be guaranteed jobs.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Savisaar: Snowfall Truly an Achievement

Weather stations in Tallinn reported 62 centimeters of snow over the holiday, besting the city's 1968 record by three centimeters. "This is truly an achievement," said Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, "and it shows what Tallinners can accomplish when supported by the right political leadership." Savisaar noted that the 1968 snowfall was also not a coincidence but rather "the result of government which is in many ways remarkably similar to our Tallinn city government in 2010."
On Toompea in the halls of parliament, members of Andrus Ansip's government did not long celebrate the record but quickly mobilized staff to send out press releases to western media. "This snowfall is an accomplishment to be proud of," said Prime Minister Ansip, "and it's another reason people will come from all over the world to learn from Estonians."

Latvia Closed for 2010

In the final hours of 2009, multiple caravans of 40-year-old, Hungarian-made Icarus buses crossed Latvia's borders at all points. "Latvia is finally closed for business," said Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. "Except for a few representatives of G4S and their German Shepherds, we have evacuated the country." Dombrovskis said he hoped the country would have funds to reopen as soon as 2011 or 2012.
Homeless shelters in Vilnius, Tallinn, and Navapolatsk (Belarus) quickly filled with hungry Latvians. "We will do whatever we can for our Latvian brothers," said Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko in a televised address to Belarusian citizens. "I say to you, my countrymen, rejoice! Let us embrace our Latvian brothers for they are the needed labor for our night crawler farms and onion fields. Let them not go pluck turkeys in foreign lands."
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves also welcomed Latvians in his New Year's address. Ilves, however, expressed doubts that Latvian labor might be able to help Estonia cope with its century-record snowfall. "Latvia," the president said, "is a nation of Soviet stick-brooms while E-stonia has embraced the Fiskars graphite-shafted shovel." An EU-funded campaign is underway to help Latvian refugees cope with life abroad, the first installment an effort to demonstrate that while outside their country Latvians no longer need to boil tap water before drinking.

Putin, Medvedev Vacation in Latvia

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev spent yesterday skiing at Sigulda, Latvia's bobsled and ski resort. In an attempt to demonstrate a harmonious relationship, the two wore matching ski outfits, including red knit hats. Putin's gloves, however, were white, while Medvedev chose to wear black. "It's because I'm good and he's evil," said Putin to a reporter who asked for an explanation. "But actually," answered Medvedev, "he wears black underwear and I wear white underwear." "I wear no underwear at all," rejoined Putin. "Just ask your wife." Medvedev then chuckled loudly while Mr. Putin dug a tin of chewing tobacco out of his pocket and offered a pinch to the president.
Both the president and prime minister praised the skiing conditions in Latvia. Before returning to the Kremlin the leaders were scheduled to tour the district of Jurmala which Mr. Putin is rumored to have recently purchased. Mr. Medvedev bought Rigas Balsams and Stenders soap (the companies) as gifts for his wife. Mr. Medvedev said he would spend Russian Orthodox Christmas (January 7) in Tallinn at an Old Town hotel which he has also purchased for his wife.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Estonian Man Accused of Helping with Dishes After Holiday Meal

If convicted Martin Muna will spend the rest of his life in prison. After a Christmas meal of blood sausage and head cheese, Martin found himself in the kitchen washing and drying dishes. "I don't know what came over me," he said after being taken into custody by members of KaPo (Estonia's FBI) who were patrolling the streets and looking through kitchen windows for offenders just such as Martin. "I know that as an Estonian male I have no obligations whatsoever in the kitchen, but I just felt like doing something nice." More than "no obligations whatsoever," an Estonian male is actually forbidden by paragraph 37-9 of the Estonian constitution from "lingering or loitering near a food preparation surface for more than five minutes in any 24-hour period."
"The evidence against Muna is quite strong, and I believe we'll have no problem getting a conviction," said Estonian State Prosecutor Peeter Pisipeni. "Muna is just lucky he won't swing from the end of a rope," Pisipeni said, referring to pre-EU mandatory sentencing requirements. Prior to EU entry, use of deodorant, drinking water with meals, and failure to smoke at least one pack of Rumba cigarettes per day were offenses punishable by death.