Everyone's heard of the NEW GAMBLING LAW introduced by PRESIDENT VLADIMER PUTIN that will start phasing out casinos and slot halls out of Russian cities and eventually banishing them to four specially allocated gambling zones. So far, the law has coasted through two State Duma readings, and Putin's signature is all that's left to make this law a reality. But that won't happen until sometime in late January, when the government slowly recovers from its two-week national zapoi. However, apparently the MOSCOW CITY DUMA couldn't wait for the Feds to recover. On December 21st, the city's Duma steamrolled a similar--but much harsher--law that will SEVERELY RESTRICT MOSCOW'S GAMING BUSINESSES starting January 1st of the new year. According to Newsru.com, the new Moscow law will set harsher minimum space requirements, as well as necessitate amenities such as bathrooms, cafes, coat checks and cash exchange booths for all slot halls--no matter what size. The new requirements are sure to SHUT DOWN MOST OF MOSCOW'S SLOT DENS. And that's exactly the point. According to some, the purpose of enacting redundant municipal legislation weeks before it will be superseded by a federal decree is to shut down Moscow's slot halls early, buy up their assets on the cheap and sit on them until the more lax federal law comes into effect. Although no one outside the circle of MOSCOW MAYOR YURI LUZHKOV knows for sure, this move is most likely an attempt to take over Moscow's gambling businesses, believed to be controlled by Georgian and other non-Slav clans. Remember those Georgian casinos that were found to be in violation of law a while back? Well, this is probably another projection of that small attempt to wrestle the business away from them.
In other news, Luzhkov went on CHANNEL 1 last week and brazenly declared that Muscovites have nothing to fear. In 2007, housing prices will not go up. That's a Luzhkov promise! His explanation is simple. Under Luzkov's capable guidance, the number of new housing projects in Moscow has increased to the point where supply will finally meet demand. His prediction sounded much more like a directive than anything else... maybe he's working on President Putin his mandate impersonation.
As Fontanka.ru reported on December 18th, ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR VALENTINA MATVIYENKO showed an unusual progressive side to her political persona after recently supporting a "professional safety" initiative put out by ST. PETERSBUG JOURNALISTS. They got sick of being beaten and arrested by OMON every time they went out to cover a demonstration. It seems that their press credentials were never convincing enough. So the St. Pete journos came up with an answer that would be proof positive of their journalistic identity: a highly reflective silver nylon vest that has word "PRESS" written in big bold letters across the back. The idea is that if journalists wear this vest, OMONtsi will have no excuse to fall back on. And if shiny raver vests will fail to stop them, maybe they'll come up with full body suits equipped with blinking lights. As of yet, a "flak jacket" version of the press vest has yet to be developed.
It's December. A time for family, charity, well wishing, vacations... And what a better time to start upholding a 10-year-old LAW FORBIDDING ANYONE WITH OUTSTANDING DEBT FROM LEAVING RUSSIA? This holiday season, THE FEDERAL SERVICE OF JUDICIAL POLICE OFFICERS (FSJPO) forwarded a list of all debtors to the MVD, FSB and BORDER CONTROL SERVICES in order to prevent them from fleeing beyond Russian borders. According to a December 20th Izvestia article, FSJPO hasn't bothered to notify the people that made it onto the list to not bother making holiday vacation plans. They're going to have to find out the hard way--minutes before boarding the plane for their humid 3rd world country getaway.
The FSJPO has also just teamed up with GAI to remind Russians of their duty to Mother Russia. According to Gazeta.ru, the GAI has now been given power to perform ON-THE-SPOT DEBT COLLECTION FOR UNPAID TRAFFIC FINES. This one's going to affect everyone because, as everyone knows, Russians makes it a point to never pay their traffic fines. GAI officers can now run a check through their computers on anyone they stop and, if they have outstanding fines, demand payment on the spot. And if they can't pay? Well, that's no problem at all. The new FSJPO-GAI partnership gives GAI THE RIGHT TO CONFISCATE PROPERTY (spare tires, car stereos and anything else of value that can be detached) as deposit on payment. The first test run spot-check happened on the main road connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg on December 22nd and brought in 11,000 rubles in unpaid fines in just 1 hour. Wow, that's just over $423 in 60 minutes! Gazeta.ru broke the story on December 21st and according to it's source in the GAI, this is just the beginning. These checks aren't just an end-of-the-year government mad rush to collect funds. Soon, this practice is going to spread all over the country and will continue indefinitely. 2007 looks to be the year of civic responsibility...
In an interview with Kommersant published on December 25th, DEFENCE MINISTER SERGEI IVANOV confessed that the SYCHEV HAZING AFFAIR (you remember, that's the guy that got his legs and genitals amputated as a New Year's present almost a year ago) was most likely part of smear campaign to discredit him in front of the Russian public. At the time, Ivanov rejected an independent medical opinion that Sychov's extremities started gangrening as a result of severe beating and prolonged exposure to subzero temperatures. Instead, the defense minister attributed the whole thing to Sychov's previous medical condition. It had something to do with poor circulation as a result of some GENETIC DISORDER... But what makes his comment interesting is that he wasn't the one to bring up the issue at all. KOMMERSANT interviewers ILYA BULAVINOV and KONSTANTIN LANTRATOV served it for him on a platter. There was no debate about it. It sounded like a bad CONAN O'BRIAN monologue. Oh, it's probably a coincidence, but we just remembered that Kommersant was recently bought by steel magnate and Putin ally ALISHER USMANOV.
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