Friday, December 20, 2013

Does Putin's new Literary Assembly bode ill for Russian writers? by Daniel Kalder Friday December 20th, 2013 at 2:39 PM Culture | The guardian.Com

Does Putin's new Literary Assembly bode ill for Russian writers? 

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The Russian president says he wants to support literature, but his new writers' club looks like the return of state control for literary culture
Russia has a long history of revering writers; it also has a long history of censoring, exiling, corrupting and, on occasion, killing writers. The Tsarist and Soviet authorities recognised that the written word was powerful and thus dangerous – a view widely held in the country until the 1990s, when authors suddenly discovered they could write whatever they liked and nobody much cared, the state included.
The era of official disinterest may be coming to a close, however. Last month, Vladimir Putin took time out from his busy schedule wrestling tigers and posing for beefcake snaps to speak at the opening session of Russia's new Literary Assembly. According to news reports, the Kremlin intends it as a replacement for the Union of Russian Writers, itself the replacement for the Union of Soviet Writers, which was established under Stalin in the 1930s, to catastrophic cultural effect. Allegedly, more than 1,000 Russian writers, critics and publishers will participate, with the first official congress slated for the upcoming spring. At the grand opening, Putin – whose own literary tastes include Hemingway and the Persian poet Omar Khayyam – announced plans to make 2015 the "Year of Literature" in Russia, and of getting young people to read more.
That all sounds very noble, but Putin was speaking to a room severely lacking in literary talent, as practically no respected Russian authors accepted his invitations to attend the event. Boris Akunin, the pen-name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, whose literary detective stories have sold millions of copies, was fairly scathing on his blog, writing:
As long as there are political prisoners, I cannot get near the leader or even be in the same room with him. That would mean that I considered it acceptable to listen to speeches about the finer things in life from a man who is keeping people in prison for their political convictions. I would enjoy talking to Putin about literature after all the political prisoners are released. Until then, it is not possible.
Akunin's attitude seems to be shared by anybody of note in the world of Russian letters. That's not to say that Putin's literary shindig lacked for marquee names, however. In a bizarre act of cultural necromancy, Putin invited along the shades of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin and Lermontov, as represented by their descendants – none of whom is a writer. Vladimir Tolstoy makes sense, as he is a cultural adviser to Putin and heavily involved in promoting his great-great-grandfather Leo's legacy. Alexander Pushkin, however, is a random Belgian distantly related to the legendary poet, while ex-tram driver Dmitri Dostoevsky is certainly an amusing interviewee but doesn't have much worthwhile to say about literature. The perennially cheeky Putin even tried to get the ghost of the great dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on board by inviting the author's widow along, but apparently she asked a question about the use of slave labour in Russia's prison camps, striking a less affirmatory note than he might have liked.
As for the non-dead authors in attendance, prominent Russian literary agent Julia Goumen told me that "hundreds" showed up, but they were
… the relics of Soviet times dreaming of restoring the Union of Writers and the privileges and advances they enjoyed thanks to it … It looks as though the bulk of those who attended have no relevance in the literary market whatsoever. And it is they who most strive for being fed by the state … This was at once a shameful and pathetic scene of the buffoons of dead classic names and the mob of generally unknown literary fungus, to put it sharply.
It would be nice to believe that Putin really is motivated by a passion for his homeland's magnificent literary tradition, for it is a tradition in trouble: 2012 was the worst year for Russian publishing in a decade, and the book market is in decline by about 7% year on year.
Alas, Putin's track record as an activist in cultural/social matters is not good. His sudden concern with public morals, most notoriously expressed through the law banning "homosexual propaganda", has been well covered in the media, while Russian courts have a ludicrously free hand when it comes to banning books. This month Putin abolished the country's most respected news agency, putting abigoted, Ministry of Truth type in charge. The response of Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov to Akunin's comments was also ominous: he accused the writer of "social nihilism" – ie a thought crime against the state's current ideological mishmash of "traditional values", orthodoxy and patriotism as defined by the Kremlin.
Speaking at the plenary session, Putin himself adopted a reassuring tone: "We will never return to that terrible time in the past when Pasternak was exiled," he said. In fact, Pasternak was never exiled; rather, he was one of a handful of writers who managed to produce excellent work while living inside the Soviet system.
Whether or not the birth of Putin's Literary Assembly marks the dawn of a new era of state censorship remains to be seen. Goumen, however, makes a crucial point by highlighting the appeal of such a body to the untalented. For if this postmodern zombie version of the Union of Soviet Writers resembles its predecessor in any way, then collaborating writers will at the very least enjoy decent salaries, nice state-funded trips and relaxing holidays at sanatoria in Russia's warm southern regions. All they will have to do is obey.
For the more ambitious, the opportunities for self-betterment could be far greater. After all, in addition to revering authors, Russia has another venerable tradition – cosmic levels of graft perpetrated by state functionaries. Reportedly the Literary Assembly will be funded by taking 7-10% of Russian book sales; given that the market is worth around $2bn (£1.2bn), that's a lot of cash to tap into, not to mention a great deal of largesse to be spread around, a lot of foreign holidays to be enjoyed and many, many luxury villas to be built by those ambitious literary mediocrities willing to make the Kremlin happy. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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RIMSE: The "Hidden" geopolitics: The case of the Afghan heroin ... 

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The expansion of the international heroin trafficking over the past three decades is exceptional in history and is directly related to the modern history of Afghanistan but also to the evolution of para-state mechanisms that operate both in ... Along those lines, a set of organizations, either terrorist, extremist of sect-like ones are further fuelling drug trade , whilst the nominal and legitimate state apparatuses reluctantly keep a blind eye for reasons extending to geopolitical ...

The “Hidden” geopolitics: The case of the Afghan heroin production ... 

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By Ioannis Michaletos/ Presentation from the international conference: “Opium Geopolitics”: AfghanDrug Traffic And The Fight Against It After 2014. ... Along those lines, a set of organizations, either terrorist, extremist of sect-like ones are further fuelling drug trade , whilst the nominal and legitimate state apparatuses reluctantly keep a blind eye for reasons extending to geopolitical strategies to simple inner political workings and the need to keep the balance of powers ...

Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Bill must be scrapped

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Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Bill must be scrapped
20 December 2013
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni must veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was passed in a surprise vote this morning, Amnesty International said. The passage of the Bill – which dramatically increases the criminal penalties for consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex – amounts to a grave assault on human rights.

In addition to violating rights to privacy, family life and equality, the bill threatens freedom of association and expression – all protected under Ugandan and international human rights law. It institutionalizes discrimination against already marginalized lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in the country.

“President Museveni must veto this wildly discriminatory legislation, which amounts to a grave assault on human rights and makes a mockery of the Ugandan constitution,” said Aster van Kregten, Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“Passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was a retrograde step for Uganda’s Parliament, which has made some important progress on human rights in recent years, including criminalizing torture. It flies in the face of the Ugandan government's stated commitment to ensure all legislation complies with human rights.”

On 10 September this year the government’s Speaker of Parliament launched a human rights checklist to give lawmakers criteria to assess whether new pieces of legislation were at risk of violating key rights and freedoms protected by Uganda's Constitution, including freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination. Today’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill only three months later suggests Ugandan parliamentarians have completely disregarded this commitment.

According to Ugandan NGOs, an opposition Member of Parliament tabled the bill this morning without prior notice. Despite objections from the floor, the bill was swiftly adopted after its second and third readings both took place today, and now only requires presidential assent within 30 days for it to take effect.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in 2009 and reintroduced to Parliament in 2012. Amnesty International and other Ugandan and international human rights organizations have repeatedly called for the legislation to be scrapped.

A provision in the earlier draft of the bill imposing the death penalty for “aggravated” homosexuality has been replaced with a life sentence. Among those who could be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” are so-called “serial offenders,” and anyone who is HIV-positive and found to have had sexual relations with a person of the same sex – even when such conduct is consensual and protected.

"This bill will institutionalize discrimination, hatred and prejudice in law against lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex Ugandans, who are already marginalized,” said Aster van Kregten.

Other disturbing provisions of the draft bill included criminalizing the “promotion” of homosexuality, compelling HIV testing in some circumstances, and imposing life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage.

The bill would significantly hamper the work of human rights defenders and others who find themselves in conflict with the law merely by carrying out their legitimate activities.

“The knock-on effect of passing this bill will reach far beyond gay and lesbian people in Uganda, impeding the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders,” said Aster van Kregten.

“President Museveni must demonstrate the Government’s stated commitment to human rights compliant legislation by refusing to assent to this Bill.”


Under existing Ugandan law, anyone found guilty of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” – a reference to same-sex sexual conduct – can already face up to life imprisonment. This already violates international norms, but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill goes far above and beyond this legislation.

Uganda’s constitution, particularly article 29, contains strong protections for freedom of expression, conscience and belief.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled in November 2012, in a case concerning Russia, that prohibitions against the “propaganda of homosexuality” are in violation of non-discrimination protections guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Human Rights Committee ruled in 1994 that laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity were in violation of the right to privacy.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni must veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was passed in a surprise vote this morning, Amnesty International said, calling it a grave assault on human rights.
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President Museveni must veto this wildly discriminatory legislation, which amounts to a grave assault on human rights and makes a mockery of the Ugandan constitution
Aster van Kregten, Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International
Fri, 20/12/2013
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Protecting Prisoners: The Impact of International Human Rights Law on the Treatment of Prisoners in the United Kingdom

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This article considers the impact of international human rights law and standards on the protection of prisoners in the UK, with specific reference to the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998. Although prisoners do benefit from the protection of the Convention within prison, the scope of these rights will be limited by the needs of the prison administration as well as the political climate and the public’s attitude toward prisoners. The conflicts between these variables are addressed. Respect for prisoners’ rights, it is argued, may contribute to raised prison standards and to good order in prison.
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Book Review: Multi-Book Review on Military Masculinities

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A consequential development in victimization theory and research was the idea that individuals with low self-control self-select into the various risky behaviors that may ultimately result in their victimization. To establish the empirical status of the self-control–victimization link, we subjected this body of work to a meta-analysis. Our multilevel analyses of 311 effect size estimates drawn from 66 studies (42 independent data sets) indicate that self-control is a modest yet consistent predictor of victimization. The results also show that the effect of self-control is significantly stronger when predicting noncontact forms of victimization (e.g., online victimization) and is significantly reduced in studies that control directly for the risky behaviors that are assumed to mediate the self-control–victimization link. We also note that the studies assessing self-control and victimization are not representative of victimization research as a whole, with intimate partner violence (IPV), violence against women, and child abuse being severely underrepresented. We conclude that future research should continue to examine the causal processes linking self-control to victimization, how self-control shapes victims’ coping responses to their experience, and whether self-control matters in contexts where individuals may have limited autonomy over the behavioral routines that put them at risk for victimization.

Expert Psychiatric Evidence By Keith Rix, RCPsych Publications, First edition, 1 Nov 2011, 320 pp, ISBN: 978–1908020321 

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‘In Exile Imprisonment’ in Russia 

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This article considers the geographical dispersal of prisoners in Russia. The concept of ‘in exile imprisonment’ is developed to delineate an exceptional penal terrain. The authors examine the historical ‘traces’ of exile in Russian penal culture and argue that the persistence of ‘in exile imprisonment’ does not fit easily into official narratives about the development of penality in that country. The culture of ‘in exile imprisonment’ continues to impose limits on prison reform in Russia.

FBI says active shooting incidents triple in recent years - The Denver Channel

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The Denver Channel

FBI says active shooting incidents triple in recent years
The Denver Channel
This year, recent high-profile active shooting incidents include an attack at the Los AngelesInternational Airport where a gunman killed a Transportation Security Administration officer and wounded two other agents. In September, a gunman killed 12 ...

Physiological reactivity in a community sample of sexually aggressive young men: A test of competing hypotheses

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Men's sexually aggressive behavior potentially could relate to either physiological hyporeactivity or hyperreactivity, and these two different physiological profiles could be associated with different underlying causes of sexual aggression. Thus, measurement of physiological reactivity could provide insight into mechanisms relevant to the etiology of sexual aggression. The relationship between sexual aggression and physiological reactivity was investigated in 78 community men (38 sexually aggressive and 40 non-aggressive men). In a laboratory protocol, the men were exposed to neutral, negative-affect-inducing, and positive-affect-inducing stimuli. Men's salivary cortisol concentrations and electrodermal activity (EDA) were measured throughout the laboratory procedure. Sexually aggressive men demonstrated (1) lower overall cortisol levels and (2) lower EDA reactivity in some conditions as compared to non-aggressive men. Results of this study were consistent with the idea that men's sexual aggression is associated with physiological hyporeactivity, a physiological profile that has been found to be associated with externalizing behaviors and psychopathic traits. Aggr. Behav. 9999:XX–XX, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Wine peddler convicted for making fake vintages in his California kitchen

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Prosecutors argued that Rudy Kurniawan put on a 'magic show' that conned high-end wine world, until whiners noticed

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