A new website seeks to document and shame the Central Asian nation's appalling car parking habits.
Я паркуюсь как осел
Unfortunately, there is no World Bank or International Monetary Fund study on comparative parking practices across nations, no ranking of the world's countries by the politeness and orderliness of their drivers' habits. But, if there were, you might expect Kazakhstan to rank near the bottom, based on the popular Kazakh website, "I Parked Like an Ass."
The story of "I Parked Like an Ass," known in the original Russian as "Я паркуюсь как осел", begins with a disgruntled driver in the city of Almaty named Roman Slegin. Radio Free Europe reports that Slegin started his website so that regular Kazakhs could publicly document, and thus shame, the atrocious parking habits that he says are common in his country. Users are encouraged to photograph any bad parking they happen upon and then upload their shots to the site.
Slegin's site, which has three staffers, has become so popular that Almaty police have offered to verify the photos and "bring charges against persistent offenders," according to Radio Free Europe, which also notes there are similar citizen-meter-maid sites in the U.S., Lebanon, and the U.K.
None of them comes close to the sheer insanity of Kazakhstan's parking habits, as documented. The people in these photos park like they're fleeing the zombie apocalypse. Putting your front wheel a few feet deep on the sidewalk -- or your entire car, for that matter -- seems widespread. So does parking, perpendicular to traffic, in the middle of an active lane. The people who make it into an actual space seem to consider three the magic number.
Here is just a sample of the 1,500-plus photos on the site (my very favorite, of a stretch hummer parked across traffic, is at the bottom), and below that some thoughts on why it would be so.
If you're still with me, you're probably wondering, as I am, what could make people think it's OK to park like this, and with such apparent frequency. Of course, individual photos are just anecdotes, not evidence of a trend. Still, there are over 1,500 of these shots, which is a lot for a nation of an estimated 2.7 million passenger cars (16.5 million people with a passenger car ownership rate of 0.167 per capita). And Clegin's site seems to have taken off in part because of how outraged many Kazakhs are by their compatriots' parking habits. So, with the big caveat that this is just anecdata and not a hard fact, what might explain it?
A few recent trends that have changed Kazakhstan as a whole -- rapid development from a poor country to middle-income, newfound global integration that's brought better access to cars, and urbanization -- could all conceivably contribute to the odd parking habits. The country, once a rural Soviet backwater, has become a bit of an economic success story. The skyrocketing GDP and fast-developing economy have led many Kazakhs out of the vast and sparsely populated countryside -- where parking anywhere and any way you please would be less deleterious to traffic -- and into the rapidly growing cities.
Put another way, there are a lot of cars and city-dwellers in a society that didn't have many of either only a generation ago, meaning that the idea of city parking itself is kind of new, and the practices that we consider normal might not have had an opportunity to develop.
There's another potential factor: oil and gas wealth. Last year, we looked at the notoriously dangerous roads of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where oil subsidies (1) make it easier for people to buy cars; (2) imbue that car with less perceived value, because its owner didn't have to spend as much of their own money on it; (3) can sometimes give people what one Emirates resident called an "above-the-law attitude." This last point refers to a complicated effect of what scholars call a "rentier state," or a country that sells innate resources such as oil and then gives some profits directly to citizens, sometimes warping those citizens' perceptions of the state's basic responsibilities in a way that can denigrate respect for rule-of-law. Kazakhstan has plenty of oil and gas, the profits of which go to, among other things, the fancy German luxury cars you see parked across Almaty sidewalks above.
Whatever the reason, however it came to pass, parking like a barbarian raider appears to be somewhat more accepted in Kazakhstan than in other places. Roman Slegin and the people who use his site appear to be trying to change those norms. If Almaty and other Kazakh cities continue growing, it will be in everyone's interests that they succeed.
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Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
Does Adam Sandler have an expiration date? Does his particular brand of slapstick—humor that's infused with a wan self-deprecation, that manages to be simultaneously silly and sociopathic, that once found Sandler punching Bob Barker in the face while informing him that "the price is wrong, bitch"—hold up? Is Sandler's own price now, finally, wrong?
Recent events would suggest yes. Late last week, in the course of filming Sandler's newest project, the made-for-Netflix Western spoof The Ridiculous 6, a Native-American cultural advisor and several performers and extras walked off the set in protest. (Sample characters: Beaver Breath, No Bra, Sits-on-Face. Sample line: "Say honey: how about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?") As Allison Young, a Navajo actress who quit after being asked to do a scene "requiring her to fall down drunk, surrounded by jeering white men who rouse her by dousing her with more alcohol" told the Indian Country Media Network, “We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’”
In Baltimore, where 25-year-old Freddie Gray died shortly after being taken into police custody, an investigation may uncover homicidal misconduct by law enforcement, as happened in the North Charleston, South Carolina, killing of Walter Scott. Or the facts may confound the darkest suspicions of protestors, as when the Department of Justice released its report on the killing of Michael Brown.
What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked.
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Orr:Wait a minute. There’s a royal wedding—and nobody dies a horrible death? A man is beheaded—and we can all agree that it was for the best? What the hell show am I watching? I came here for Game of Thrones, baby, not Wizards of Waverly Place.
I kid, of course. Given David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s tendency to take George R. R. Martin’s material and render it even more bloody than it already was, I’m actually mildly relieved that they didn’t throw in a random homicide just to spice up the nuptials of Margaery and young Tommen, First of His Name.
Take a walk along West Florissant Avenue, in Ferguson, Missouri. Head south of the burned-out Quik Trip and the famous McDonalds, south of the intersection with Chambers, south almost to the city limit, to the corner of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant. There, last August, Emerson Electric announced third-quarter sales of $6.3 billion. Just over half a mile to the northeast, four days later, Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. The 12 shots fired by Officer Wilson were probably audible in the company lunchroom.
Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars.
“Aspartame is the number-one reason consumers are dropping diet soda,” Seth Kaufman, a vice president at Pepsi, said.
That might be consumers' reason, but it's not a scientific one. As Julia Belluz points out at Vox, the European Food Safety Authority recently conducted a risk assessment on aspartame and "ruled out a potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer." Aspartame is not proven to cause bladder cancer, or brain cancer, or behavior problems, or any other diet-soda old-wives tales.
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Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.