Weird story #1:
It seems that, in addition to being a haven for excommunicated professional cyclists, Kazakhstan is also home to some serious numpties. Seems that relatives of President Nazarbayev got ripped off by a NY college-counseling firm promising entry into a prestigious school for a mere $200K... and after receiving the cash, then told the young man he "is not Ivy League material." He got into Columbia by himself instead.
a) Winner: Columbia University. Even if the young man is a dunce, there's a good chance of some post-graduation munificence from the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
b) Losers: IvySuccess. I think these people forget that this is a country in which the President feels comfortable trying to extradite and arrest his own son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, and declaring his daughter's marriage dissolved. "After publicly criticizing recent amendments to the Kazakh Constitution that cleared a path for Nazarbayev to become president for life, Aliyev was fired in May [as ambassador to Austria]."
I'd best be careful otherwise I might find myself labeled as a purveyor of filth and lies.
Weird story #2:
I heard this on my BBC World News podcast yesterday, but can't find any on-line record of it. So maybe I dreamt it, or was drunk again on my way to work. (I fly Space Shuttles.) But, as I remember it, the nation of Kyrgyzstan has offered to name a mountain in the Tien-Shan mountains after Jackie Chan if he comes to a film festival they're holding in Issyk-Kul. Not sure if this is for the 1st International Film Festival or the subsequent one. The thing I love about Central Asia is that they're not afraid to think big: "Sufficient sums will be set aside in the 2008 budget for the Issyk-Kul film festival which we hope will eventually challenge the Cannes Film Festival."
Weird story #3:
While looking for the mythical Jackie Chan story I discovered I'd just missed the 4th Annual Felt Symposium held in Kyrgyzstan this year.