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Russian civil society is viciously imploding

The great Jeff Sharlet on being gay in Russia in 2014. Being Gay in Russia
I went to Moscow and St. Petersburg for two weeks in November because the Olympics were coming to Russia, and for a brief moment it seemed possible that the outside world was interested in the unraveling of civil society in one of the most powerful countries on the globe. Books are being banned—Burroughs and Baudelaire and Huxley's Brave New World—immigrants hunted, journalists killed, a riot-grrrl band, Pussy Riot, imprisoned for almost two years for playing a "Punk Prayer" in a Moscow cathedral; blasphemy is now illegal. Civil society isn't just coming undone; it's imploding. I wanted to visit the bottom of the heap. The golubye. The blues, which in Russia is another word for queer—any way of being other than "Russian," which, under President Vladimir Putin, has become a kind of sexual orientation. I wanted to see what ordinary LGBT life was like in a nation whose leaders have decided that "homosexualism" is a threat to its "sexual sovereignty," that "genderless tolerance," in Putin's words, is a disease of the West that Russia will cure. The medicine is that of "traditional values," a phrase, ironically, imported from the West, grafted onto a deeply conformist strain of nationalism. In Russia, that means silence and violence, censorship, and in its shadow, much worse. One of the first men I met was Alex, a gay police officer who'd recently quit his job rather than enforce Russia's new anti-gay law. He wasn't always so principled: One of Alex's early assignments on the force was snooping through a fellow officer's computer for evidence of homosexuality. "I was just lucky it wasn't my computer," Alex said one night at a caf� on Arbat Street, Moscow's main thoroughfare of consumer hipsterism. His boyfriend wasn't as glib: "It's Germany in the '30s," he declared. "Hush, hush," Alex said. "Not so loud." It's not Germany in the '30s, he said; it's Russia now. And that's a subtler problem. Yes, there are killings. In May, a 23-year-old man in Volgograd allegedly came out to a group of friends, who raped him with beer bottles and smashed his skull in with a stone; and in June a group of friends in Kamchatka kicked and stabbed to death a 39-year-old gay man, then burned the body. There's a national network called Occupy Pedophilia, whose members torture gay men and post hugely popular videos of their "interrogations" online. There are countless smaller, bristling movements, with names presumptuous (God's Will) or absurd (Homophobic Wolf). There are babushkas who throw stones, and priests who bless the stones, and police who arrest their victims. But such people exist everywhere, said Alex. The difference in Russia now is who's standing behind them.

January 30, 2014

Bed Bugs, Statistics, Press-Release Reporting, and You

(Reposted from my Snip, Burn, Solder Blog) I continue to...

January 23, 2014

Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon coast

Some headlines are just a gift to our collective imaginations. Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon coast | Plymouth Herald
There are fears a ghost ship full of diseased cannibal rats could be about to crash into the coast of Devon or Cornwall. The abandoned Lyubov Orlova has been missing since it cut adrift while being towed from Canada nearly a year ago. The 40-year-old liner has been driven across the Atlantic by high winds and is thought close to the UK shore. Based on emergency beacons activated last year aboard the ship, it is feared the 40-year-old Yugoslavian liner registered to Russia could crash into the shore of Devon, Cornwall, Ireland or Scotland. Those searching for the ship say there are likely to be thousands of disease-ridden rats on board with no source of food except each other, according to The Sun. Belgian-based searcher Pim de Rhoodes said: "She is floating around there somewhere. There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other."