How peaceful is your country? Now thanks to the Global Peace Index you can find out. An organization called the Vision of Humanity, which believes that “unless we can achieve a world which is basically peaceful, then the major challenges facing humanity will not be solved,” has released its index of 121 countries according to their “relative peacefulness.”
Here are how some countries ranked:
As for why
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As I noted in my Nation article on the gay propaganda law (which, by the way, has been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award), there have only been few instances where the law has been enforced. This seems to be changing. Last week, Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia’s most well known gay activist, paid the first fine in the law’s history after his appeal was thrown out in an Arkhangelsk court. Also, Molodoi dalnevostochnik, a newspaper in Khabarovsk, was recently fined 50,000 rubles for violating the law, the first publication to be prosecuted. “Gay propaganda” is even turning up in the strangest of places. A prosecutor in Stavropol has found “gay propaganda” in a children’s game “Fanti.” Now Lena Kilmova, the founder of Deti-404, a social media group that supports LGBT teens, has been served an “infringement notice.” As reported in the Advocate:
The formal charges against Kilmova claim she “had registered a web page propagandizing non-traditional sexual relations among minors, which took form of distribution of information among minors aimed at forming of non-traditional sexual affirmations, attraction to non-traditional sexual relations, distorted conceptions of social equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations,” according to the Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality.
“In light of general trends in the country, I am not surprised,” said Kilmova in a statement from the Straight Alliance. “But it is very sad that letters from LGBT teenagers themselves are called ‘homosexual propaganda among minors.’ It is absurd! Milonov, the complaint initiator, has two demands: to fine me and to close the group. If it will be closed, LGBT teenagers will lose the only place where they can openly speak about themselves and receive advice they need to live. It will be a catastrophe.”
Are we finally witnessing an uptick in the law use?
Finally, Slon has a revealing infographic concerning gay propaganda. Slon compared references of homosexuality in the media with popularity of searches of the terms “homosexuality,” “gay,” and “gay propaganda” on media sites between January 2009 and January 2014. Apparently all the media discourse has not contributed to any increased interest in searching homosexuality. This is what Slon came up with:Post Views: 493
My new Russia Magazine column, “Sochi’s Workers: Invisible and Expendable,”
“The final stage in such a massive undertaking is always difficult,” Putin told officials in a meeting during the waning days of November. “A lot has been done, but it’s still a long way from perfection… [there is] still work to be done. We have the New Year and Christmas holidays ahead of us. I’d like to say, I think it should be clear that for you, New Year’s will come… on March 18 [the last day of the Paralympics]. For you and for everyone who is working on the Olympic venues.” With that, Vladimir Putin cancelled the Christmas and New Year’s holiday for some 95,000 people making the final push to ready the Sochi Olympics. A lot is riding on the Olympics, which begins in less than two months from now. It’s the most expensive Games to date, an estimated $46.1 billion—almost four times Putin’s initial estimate of $12 billion (Putin’s Games, a new documentary on corruption in Sochi estimates up to 50 percent of construction costs go to kickbacks), and the completion of this mega-construction project will come down to the wire. The stadium slated to host the opening and closing ceremonies isn’t finished, the pedestrian zone is half built, electricity goes in and out with a good portion of it powered by generators, pipes line the roads, signs reading “coming soon” dangle in restaurant fronts, and the drilling, stamping, and hammering are incessant.
The backdrop to all of this is a wide range of abuses. Human Rights Watch has cataloged those ranging from exploitation of laborers, forced evictions, harassment of civic groups, activists and journalists, environmental damage, and of course, the anti-homosexual propaganda law. While the last has gotten widespread coverage, I want to draw attention to the exploitation of laborers without whom Sochi would be impossible.
There is an estimated 70,000 laborers working in construction, 16,000 are foreign labor. They work long hours and for little pay. In its detailed report on worker abuses, HRW reported that workers got typically paid $1.80 to $2.60 an hour with a monthly average salary of $455 to $605. Their pay is routinely delayed, and sometimes they’re never paid at all. One HRW respondent, Yunus, said “I have no written contract. I got paid only in February: 2,400 rubles [$77] for December. I wasn’t paid after that. I worked for 70 full days without pay. We worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no days off.” He quit before receiving the wages owned to him. Milorad Rancic, a migrant from Serbia, told HRW, “We got paid in pieces. For 10 days, maybe we would get $400. The rest of the month, we would get rubles, around 2,000 rubles [$63] at a time. Then, at the end of the month, when you tried to establish the balance owed, the employer would say, “Oh, we never kept track of it. We don’t have any record of it.” “Almost all employers routinely withhold wages for two months,” Semen Simonov, who works for Memorial’s Migration and Rights project, toldNovaya Gazeta. “People are used to this and don’t even bother. But there are people who’ve come to us who’ve worked in five Olympic sites and never received any money at all.” “There are 500 companies represented in the Olympic sites,” he continued. “I can’t say all of them don’t pay. But we can put together a list of those that don’t because people come to us every day and the list is growing.”Post Views: 1,364
Putin is pardoning Mikahil Khodorkovsky.
“In regard to Khodorkovsky, I’ve already said that Mikhail Borisovich must submit the corresponding papers [for a pardon] in accordance with the law. He didn’t do this, but just recently, he wrote such a document to me with a request for a pardon. He’s been in prison for ten years and that is a serious term. He referenced humanitarian grounds. His mother is sick. And I think that a decision can be made and the decree on the pardon will be signed in the nearest time.”
The comments were made off stage just after Putin’s marathon presser. But he did hint at something in his comments on the unlikelihood of a third Yukos case during the conference. “As to ‘the third case,’ I do not want to go into details but honestly speaking I, as a person watching this from the outside, I do not see considerable prospects in this regard.”
Still, Joshua Yaffa tweeted it best:
This is how the Putin cult works: joke and banter for hours, then break hugest news of all in faux offhand way and make everyone scramble.
— Joshua Yaffa (@yaffaesque) December 19, 2013
Khodorkovsky’s people, however, say their client wrote no such pardon document to Putin.
“He never filed [an appeal for pardon], and we haven’t had any recent information about anyone appealing on his behalf. We don’t have this information, although we’ve received a number of pardon appeals on his behalf of other people over the years,” said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky to RIA Novosti.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, reiterated that Khodorkovsky wrote his boss. “Putin recently received a letter written by Khodorkovsky not long ago.”
This is big news regardless the source of Putin’s decision.
And coming on the heels of the amnesty for some of the Bolotnaya participants, the Greenpeace activists, and Pussy Riot, it points to 2014 beginning with a political thaw.
Just in time for Sochi.
More will certainly be revealed in the coming hours and days.Post Views: 348