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From my new piece in the October issue of Wallpaper*, on a recent trip to Ashgabat, the political and cultural hub (as it were) of Turkmenistan. The article is not yet available online but Wallpaper* is on sale at fine newsstands everywhere:
Like most places, Ashgabat has its pluses and minuses. On the upside, expenses are minimal. Even the top-end, five-star President Hotel, located near the cigarette lighter-shaped Ministry of Oil and Gas, will set you back only about $100 per night (or $150 for a suite). On the downside, most everyone staying with you at the President will be a dreary foreign businessman or member of one of the many low-level foreign delegations passing though town, possibly a group from Outer Mongolia’s Ministry of Agriculture, sub-department of water…
One of the city’s most impressive attractions is the Walk of Health, a 37km concrete path cut atop the slopes of the Kopet Dag mountain. At the base is the Garden of the Great Turkmenbashi, a park
and playground featuring a fountain with a huge, perpetually spinning marble ball. Across the road is another monument to the Turkmenbashi in which he is chiseled in marble wearing a jogging suit and running shoes while holding a cup of tea. Curiously, the Turkmenbashi himself was not much of a health nut. He urged all citizens to make the walk at least once a year and ordered his ministers to do so. He o?ered encouraging words to his minions as they embarked on their ceremonial annual hike, before he himself was whisked away by helicopter to the presidential palace. Then he would reappear at the end of the Walk of Health to greet those crossing the ?nish line and to berate laggards.
Also, published next week: Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship (a “marvelous, rollicking exposé of K Street culture” – Booklist).
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Percentage of registered Democrats who say that fishing is their favorite spectator sport:
Democrats would win more elections if black Americans died at the same rate as white Americans.
A former U.S. intelligence official said pornography constituted 80 percent of the material on jihadists’ seized laptops, and Starbucks and McDonald’s made porn inaccessible from their Wi-Fi networks.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”