A top American distance runner dedicated the silver medal he won at the track and field World Championships in Moscow to his gay and lesbian friends, becoming the first athlete to openly defy Russia’s new anti-gay law that outlaws “homosexual propaganda.” Nick Symmonds won the silver medal in the 800-meters Tuesday, then broke a previous pledge to not speak out against the law while at the championships by telling a Russian news outlet that he had no choice but to say something.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds told Russia’s R-Sport. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
“I respect Russians’ ability to govern their people,” he added. “I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules.”
Symmonds’ statement is the first major test of the Russian law by an international athlete and could possibly land him in trouble with Russian authorities, who have already deported foreign activists who have protested the law, including four Dutch filmmakers recording a documentary about the activism against it.
Here's hoping the athletes heading to Sochi follow Symmonds' lead. John over at Americablog rounds up all the Russia news in his daily "Russian Gay Olympic Implosion Update" here. I wanted to draw attention to this interview with Alistair Stewart, Assistant Director The Kaleidoscope Trust, "a UK based charity working to uphold the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people internationally." Stewart discusses the legal situation in Russia, what the IOC should do, why there won't be a boycott of the Olympics itself, and the vodka boycott:
What is your view on the vodka boycott?
We are supportive of the vodka boycott. I completely agree that by itself it won’t change the Russian laws and consumer boycotts have a problematic history at best. You also have to be careful when you’re trying to target companies that may ostensibly appear to be Russian but are actually transnational and operate in a number of different territories. Where the boycott has been incredibly successful is in raising the profile of the issue. If it hadn’t been called for it would be unlikely that we would be discussing the problems and unlikely that it would be appearing in national newspapers or that Obama would be talking about it on late night television.
The boycott is working.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), led for the last twelve years by Belgian Jacques Rogge, will hold its next presidential election on September 10th in Buenos Aires, just 150 days before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The IOC is about as transparent as the Vatican when it comes to selecting which male member will lead the 100 person conclave. (Only 16 women are in the group and none of them are candidates for the top job.) Doors are kept closed, balloting is kept secret. But an enormous question will be floating in the room: Does the IOC walk its talk when it comes to human rights? Will the next IOC President act on the belief that human rights are central to "Olympism" or just pay the idea lip service?
Russia's political and cultural lurch backwards has focused worldwide attention on an issue that had not been blinking on the IOC's radar screens—until now.
This year, the Russian Federation legalized the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and criminalized freedom of expression for gays and their allies. The country has gone so far as to arrest tourists from foreign countries who dared to say that "gay is okay." Beyond that, the government's tacit approval of a retrograde popular culture is so terrorizing LGBT people and their allies that some are now seeking political asylum. The result has been a global outcry with movements to boycott Russian vodka, tourism, and other products, with the Olympics looming large.
The IOC has fumbled as the issue crescendoed, first saying it had concerns, then saying it had struck a deal with Russian officials to temporarily suspend enforcement of its heinous anti-gay laws—only to see the Russian government contradict that by saying no, in fact, they will enforce their anti-gay laws to the hilt. (Russian officials have threatened to arrest any athletes or visitors who violate the law.) The IOC's response has been flaccid throughout, but the Olympic Charter is unequivocal. Principle 6 plainly states that discrimination of any kind is incompatible with membership in the organization. The question is whether the IOC will actually act on that principle.
There are six candidates in the running to be the new President of the IOC: Thomas Bach of Germany, C.K. Wu of Taiwan, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, Sergei Bubka of the Ukraine and Denis Oswald of Switzerland. Now is the time for the candidates to speak to this issue. Each of these men should have to answer these three questions:
• What is your commitment to upholding (in actions, not mere assertions) the Olympic Charter and the fundamental Principles of Olympism, specifically Principle 6: "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement"?
• Given that the charter states that "discrimination… is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement," what should happen when a nation violates it?
• In the case of Russia, now violating the Olympic Charter with its anti-gay laws, what should the IOC do to rectify the situation before the opening of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi? What will your position as IOC President be and what actions will you take with respect to Russia?
There are many other questions to answer, of course, such as how the IOC can possibly assure the safety of athletes and visitors in such a climate, but for now, answering the three core questions will let the world learn the character of the men who would lead the Olympics and whether the world should accord the Olympic Charter any credibility at all on basic human rights.
As Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch put it in a recent New York Times opinion piece: "Russian authorities are apparently counting on the I.O.C. to keep quiet again."
The IOC should not enjoy the luxury of keeping quiet.
There's plenty of time to move the 2018 World Cup:
FIFA has asked authorities in 2018 World Cup host Russia for “clarification and more details” about a new anti-gay law, joining the International Olympic Committee in seeking answers from Moscow. Legislation prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” has provoked an international furor since President Vladimir Putin signed it off in June and sparked growing concern at the IOC ahead of the Sochi Winter Games next February. The two most influential organizations in world sports are both now asking Russia how the law would be enforced during their marquee events.
It's annoying how the IOC and now FIFA only seem concerned about the law being enforced during their events. The persecution of Russian LGBT people should matter to both groups—it should matter to the whole civilized world—before, during, and after the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup.
More required reading from Nancy Goldstein:
There’s certainly no point—I’m looking at you, President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron—in not boycotting the games because we don’t want to penalize the athletes who have trained so long and hard. That legitimate concern could be addressed by simply pressing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to follow its own charter, which calls for removing the Olympic Games from any nation that does not satisfy its own requirements for equal rights and tolerance. Start working with the one senior IOC member from Norway who already shares this view to help bring others around to it. I’m sure Vancouver’s snowboarding ramps are still in fine repair.
Think long and hard before you evoke the spectacle of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—thus far the model for the West’s approach to Putin—or argue that winning LGBT athletes will “show 'em” in Sochi. In 1935—as in 2013—the International Olympics Committee was keen to pretend that sporting events could wash a clearly politicized setting of its politics, or wipe a dirty city clean. IOC chair Count Henri Baillet-Latour was content with Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s promise that anti-Semitic placards would be taken down during the Olympic games the next year.
In this Faustian bargain, Hitler hid the most obvious signs of what would later become his Final Solution. Jesse Owens, the allegedly “inferior” Negro, kicked Aryan butt on the track and came home with four gold medals (to a country where FDR refused to host him at the White House for fear of losing the Southern vote in the upcoming election). And then, once the international community had left, Hitler and his willing minions invaded neighboring countries and incinerated every fucking Jew, queer, or dissenter they could get their hands on.
But hang on...
Olympic flag waving gave a stamp of approval to Nazi atrocities in 1936. Please don’t use the Rainbow Flag to cover up Russian atrocities in 2014. The Rainbow Flag is the international symbol of LGBT freedom — it is not an endorsement of repression.
And Slog says?
Mr Stoltenberg said he had wanted to hear from real Norwegian voters and that taxis were one of the few places where people shared their true views.
He wore sunglasses and an Oslo taxi driver's uniform for the shift in June, only revealing his identity once he was recognised by his passengers.
...and a whole bunch of other important stuff, in this essay published by the Seattle Gay News.
A small excerpt:
Being Gay, likewise, was not something I understood. The word pedik was most commonly used. It was an equivalent of 'faggot' but also meant 'pedophile.' Judging by the context of how others used it I quickly figured out that being a pedik was absolutely the worst thing in the world. I've heard both my peers and adults say that pediks are viler than serial killers and that anyone admitting to be one deserves to die a terrible death. At school and around my friends, pedik was used in every conversation, to demean or dehumanize anyone you didn't like. Yet with all the references to pediks, I also felt like they didn't really exist. I didn't know of a single one.
Occasionally there were rumors of foreign celebrities being homosexual but these rumors were quickly dismissed. Freddy Mercury was a great example. Being the most popular man in Russia during my childhood (imagine the fan bases of Elvis, Madonna, and the Rolling Stones combined), Mercury was quickly stripped of his Gayness by Russian media and public opinion, who claimed that the rumors were either untrue or that his homosexual tendencies were simply the result of his drug abuse (he was a good boy - he couldn't possibly be one of the pediks they hated so much).
Read the whole thing here.
All your Russian boycott questions, answered.
So, as the move to boycott Stoli and other Russian vodkas gains steam, some people are going to find themselves in tough corners: wanting to help, but not being able to convince straight bar owners to join the boycott.
While politically savvy and activist gay bar owners, workers, and patrons will be right on board, gay bars alone probably won't do the trick of economically hurting SPI and getting the oligarchs to pressure Putin to reverse course on homophobic laws and discrimination. The boycott needs to move to sports bars, hotel bars, mainstream restaurants that serve booze, and every corner bar in the land for it to succeed.
Changing one's twitter avatar won't get that done. Many straight bar owners won't care, or won't want to risk otherwise positive relationships with distributors (who give them discounts on this, that, and the other booze, beyond the Russian brands they handle). The liquor business is all about such quid pro quos and other personal relationships.
The joint I work at one night a week, for instance, is pretty lefty (it was long known as the "hippie bar" in the 'hood) but many long-time regulars swill Stoli like it's mother's milk (they claim it minimizes hangovers; I think not getting drunk minimizes hangovers even better, but whatever). I doubt very much that even my liberal-minded boss would go along with a boycott of Stoli; too many regulars would get angry (though it would have an effect: our distributor once told us we were the biggest black-label Stoli account in Illinois).
But on my shift? We're out of Stoli, sorry.
The CEO of Stolichnaya Vodka released an open letter to the gay community today—so they're paying attention, which is good, and they're scared, which is even better. The letter:
For the record: Regardless of where SPI Group's corporate offices are located, the company is owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia. SPI is a Russian corporation, Stoli is a Russian vodka. And while it's nice that SPI is willing to market to homos who are lucky enough to live in Austria, the US, and South Africa, what has SPI done in Russia? The group has sponsored gay pride events in Vienna and Miami. That's nice. But have they sponsored gay pride events in Moscow or St. Petersburg? Val says that Stoli is upset and angry. That's nice. So has Stoli said anything to the Russian authorities? Has Yuri Scheffler expressed his anger in an open letter to Vladimir Putin? Did the SPI Group speak the fuck up before the Russian government passed a law that made it a crime to be openly gay and a crime to publicly support someone who is openly gay? Frankly I'm not interested in Stoli's marketing efforts in the West. I'm interested in what this Russian-owned company is doing in Russia. And from this letter it's clear they've done and they only plan on doing squat.
Two commenters at JMG cut to the heart of the matter:
I guess the paragraph about how Stoli is going work toward demanding that the Russian Government end discrimination went missing.
Dear Russian Oligarch: You and your friends control your nation via your fortune and connections. Fix this or GTFO.
But this comment at JMG wins the thread:
So is the CEO of Stoli now subject to arrest and incarceration in Russia for writing this pro-gay letter?
This is what a free market really looks like...
"In the name of America's dignity ... I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden," Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro told a televised military parade marking Venezuela's independence day...
Maduro said Venezuela was ready to offer him sanctuary, and that the details Snowden had revealed of a US spy program had exposed the nefarious schemes of the US "empire".
"He has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the US spying on the whole world," Maduro said.
The European Commission will sweep its offices for electronic listening devices and other security breaches following revelations of alleged U.S. surveillance programs targeting European leaders, a commission spokeswoman said Monday.
The allegations, reported Sunday by the German news magazine Der Spiegel, threaten to derail negotiations on a variety of issues with the United States, French President Francois Hollande said Monday. U.S. and EU officials are scheduled to begin talks on a proposed trans-Atlantic free trade agreement next month.
Hollande said any such surveillance must stop immediately before negotiations can go forward.
A few final thoughts before I board a plane and return to Seattle for the summer:
Since the spread of the "Standing Man" protests across Turkey, a new (but less popular) form has emerged—the "Falling Man," commemorating the death of protester Ethem Sarisülük, who was killed by a police officer in Ankara in the first week of June. The policeman who fatally shot Sarisülük with a pistol was put on trial this past week and acquitted almost immediately. Video footage of the killing was the main evidence used in the case:
According to an article in Milliyet, the judge ruled that the officer involved in the death was acting in "self-defense" and fired due his "fear of being lynched." (Video footage shows him charging into a small group of people, kicking a demonstrator on the ground, then firing into the crowd.) Since then, people have been collapsing on the street in protest of the court decision.
The other night I attended a mevlüt, an Islamic ceremony which involves a hodja reading prayers or Koranic verses in the home of the family of the deceased or the ill. After the hodja had left, the talk in the room immediately turned to how the AKP government could be beaten in the coming election. For me, this was a perfect illustration of how Islam vs. secularism is not the issue at hand in Turkey. In the midst of conversation, one of the attendees mentioned the giant banner bearing Atatürk's face which had recently been removed from the front of the Atatürk Culture Center in Taksim Square because it was "torn and needed cleaning." He explained that when days passed and the banner was not replaced, he contacted the city and told them: "If you only have one banner with Atatürk, I would be glad to provide another free of charge."
This illustrates a major shift in Turkish culture and the politics surrounding images of its founding father. When I first arrived in this country seven years ago, the images of Atatürk found in banks and classrooms or hung from public buildings on holidays were ubiquitous and banal. Lately, as the very nature of the country has been challenged, the symbols of Turkish nationalism that I used to make fun of have been reborn as symbols of resistance and revolution.
According to another article in Milliyet just days after the protests in Turkey began, a group of students in the city of Mugla were hanging a poster of Atatürk in the hallway of their school when a religion teacher tore it down on the grounds that they had not gained permission to hang it. To put things in perspective, hanging a poster of Atatürk in Turkey would be about as objectionable as students hanging a poster of George Washington in an American school. The religion teacher is reported to have yelled: "You are terrorists! All of you wore black!" The second statement is a reference to people who wore black clothing the first Monday after the protests began, to show their support for the Gezi Park movement. To this, the students responded: "We are all soldiers of Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk]."
This marks the greatest reversal in Turkish politics since the intial movement towards secularization, modernity, and westernization in the 1920s. Some readers may recall the (abandoned) trial of Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk for his critical remarks about Turkey and Atatürk in 2005, which at the time seemed like the greatest offense imaginable. This May, when Prime Minister Erdogan made some oblique remarks about those who had drafted Turkey's laws concerning alcohol consumption (Mustafa Kemal and and his vice president, Inönü) as being "two drunks," he faced no repercussions at all. This is the same man who was briefly imprisoned in the late 1990s for reading a poem that the government declared was "inciting religious hatred." Two weeks ago, in his "Respect for the National Will" meeting, Erdogan made many remarks that could be interpreted as trying to divide and oppose two segments of the population. But no charge has been brought against him.
I will leave you, as I leave Turkey, with the current statistics: seven people dead in connection with the protests, including one police officer; over 7,000 wounded; more than 3,000 detained (around 50 due to Twitter messages they sent); and nine still missing.
Commentators (and commenters) have been speculating about how much soccer and the World Cup have to do with the mass protests in Brazil. The Guardian makes the link:
The rallies, and the violence that has often followed, were not solely prompted by the tournament. The spark last week was a rise in public transport fares. Anger has since been further stirred by police brutality.
Longstanding problems such as corruption, dire public services, high prices and low levels of safety are also prominent among the range of grievances.
But the mega-event has been the lightning conductor. Many protesters are furious that the government is spending 31bn reals (£9bn) to set the stage for a one-time global tournament, while it has failed to address everyday problems closer to home.
"I'm here to fight corruption and the expense of the World Cup," said Nelber Bonifcacio, an unemployed teacher who was among the vast crowds in Rio on Thursday.
"I like football, but Brazil has spent all that money on the event when we don't have good public education, healthcare or infrastructure."
It was all very different in 2007 when Brazil was awarded the tournament. Back then, crowds in Rio erupted with joy and Ricardo Teixeira, president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, was hailed as he said: "We are a civilised nation, a nation that is going through an excellent phase, and we have got everything prepared to receive adequately the honour to organise an excellent World Cup."
And in Turkey, prime minister Erdogan has said the protesters in Brazil and in Turkey are motivated by the same "forces."
Mr Erdogan was speaking hours before police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of flower-bearing protesters who gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim square to commemorate four people who have died since the Turkish unrest erupted on May 31.
“The same game is being played in Brazil,” Mr Erdogan told a large rally of his supporters in the town of Samsun on Saturday. “There are the same symbols, the same posters. Twitter, Facebook is the same, so are international media. They are controlled from the same centre. They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey. It is the same game, the same trap, the same goal.”
While Mr Erdogan says the Turkish protests are linked to terrorism, an international plot against his country and “an interest rate lobby” disturbed by its recent high rates of growth, the protesters say they are motivated by increasing levels of authoritarianism under his government.
He's right, in a sense, if you consider people on multiple continents demonstrating against governments that aren't representing their interests as motivated by the same "forces."
By now, most of you following the events in Turkey have probably heard of Erdem Gündüz’s “standing man” protest which occurred Monday night in Taksim Square and has since been imitated around the world. Those who want the details can read about them here. In the days that have followed, standing has become the protest method of choice in Turkey. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç (whose last name sounds like a Northeasterner saying “orange”) has even condoned this new form of protest.
I took a stroll to the square on Thursday night and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw: In the center of Taksim, facing the Atatürk Culture Center—which Gündüz also faced during his five-hour stand—a few hundred people were gathered, some with balloons in hand the colors of the Turkish flag, some reading books, others simply staring ahead. In one corner of the square there was a pair of shoes left with the remains of candles and flowers which must have been part of a vigil for fallen protesters the night before.
Wandering over to the entrance of the recently-cleared Gezi Park, I found a sign announcing that the park was being “renewed” by the city.
Brazil is having its Arab Spring/Occupy/Taksim Gezi moment. Like other recent nationwide protests, the Brazilian unrest started with something specific—a 20-cent increase in public transit fares—and turned into an avalanche of grievances. NYT:
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Just a few weeks ago, Mayara Vivian felt pretty good when a few hundred people showed up for a protest she helped organize to deride the government over a proposed bus fare increase. She had been trying to prod Brazilians into the streets since 2005, when she was only 15, and by now she thought she knew what to expect.
But when tens of thousands of protesters thronged the streets this week, rattling cities across the country in a reckoning this nation had not experienced in decades, she was dumbfounded, at a loss to explain how it could have happened.
“One hundred thousand people, we never would have thought it,” said Ms. Vivian, one of the founders of the Free Fare Movement, which helped start the protests engulfing Brazil. “It’s like the taking of the Bastille.”
...the mass protests thundering across Brazil have swept up an impassioned array of grievances — costly stadiums, corrupt politicians, high taxes and shoddy schools — and spread to more than 100 cities on Thursday night, the most to date, with increasing ferocity.
Also like Occupy, officials are frustrated that there are no leaders to negotiate with, and no readymade political lollipops they can hand over to soothe the demonstrators. From roarmag.org:
But while the general pattern of the protests in Brazil shows an unmistakable similarity to the ongoing uprising in Turkey, we have to recognize that the context in which the two are taking place is radically different. Turkey is ruled by a megalomaniac and increasingly autocratic Islamist madman who in recent weeks has displayed an undeniable tendency towards the fascistic and the delusional. The protesters are Erdogan’s natural enemy; he knows they will never vote for him again so his only concern is with their violent repression.
The same cannot be said of Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla, who has been forced to praise the protests and push state governors into reversing the measures that initially sparked the unrest. Realizing that last week’s police violence served as a major catalyst for the movement, she has urged restraint on the side of the police and has tried to start a dialogue with protesters. But the leaderless and diffuse nature of the movement makes such a dialogue practically impossible, leaving the government dazed and confused about how to handle the unrest.
Some will insist that Egypt is not New York is not Istanbul is not etc., and that each place has its own grievances and very specific geopolitical and cultural situation that is not comparable to others, etc.
And that's partly true. But it's impossible to deny the global quality of what's been happening since the Tunisian uprising—it's also impossible to deny the role of heavy-handed police in sparking indignation. (In almost all of these cases, police have done more to stoke the protests than dampen them.) And people seem generally fed up with the way power (government and money) has organized their world, even in representative democracies where people have supposedly voted their way into their current situation. Also from the NYT:
Much like the Occupy movement in the United States, the anticorruption protests that shook India in recent years, the demonstrations over living standards in Israel or the fury in European nations like Greece, the demonstrators in Brazil are fed up with traditional political structures, challenging the governing party and the opposition alike. And their demands are so diffuse that they have left Brazil’s leaders confounded as to how to satisfy them.
The United States is the largest supplier of food aid to poor countries in the world. That's great. We're a generous people. (Contrary to right-wing fulminations, foreign aid represents a minuscule portion of our budget.)
In places like Haiti, though, where I reported for two years, the stars-and-stripes-branded sacks of rice and other foods we ship there have a huge and deleterious impact on the local economy. "I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people," Bill Clinton said after the 2010 earthquake, apologizing for his policies as president. He admitted they were "good for some of my farmers in Arkansas," but "we should have continued to work to help them be self-sufficient in agriculture."
I suppose that was a nice gesture. But five-year-old Dieufort Jean and the millions like him can't eat an apology.
And yet on Wednesday, the US House voted 220-203 against a very modest amendment to the Farm Bill that would have freed up more money for local purchase of food aid in the places where we are trying to feed people. That amendment was a watered-down version of the Food Aid Reform Act, which is a common-sense bill that would ban the "monetization" of food aid, a practice that benefits domestic interests more than the poor. Most wealthy countries don't monetize food aid, and the Obama administration has proposed we start doing it the right way too.
During the House debate on the bill yesterday, I watched in horror as representatives from both sides of the aisle made specious and outright false arguments against the reforms. When it came time to vote on the amendment, which would feed more people faster and make monetization optional instead of required, Washington State's House delegation did not cover itself in glory.
Representative Adam Smith (D-9) told me the previous day he was leaning in favor of the amendment, despite concerns over the impact on the shipping and agriculture industry. "This change will cost them money," he said, but he agreed the food aid system is "inefficient and expensive." So he voted for the amendment. Kudos.
Only two of his Washington colleagues, Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris, joined him. The rest—Representatives McDermott, DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, Reichert, and Heck—did not. The nay vote from McDermott, who's progressive on a range of issues, is craven and disappointing. A call to his office seeking comment hasn't been returned yet.
Want to hear how Christian nonprofit World Vision, which is based in Federal Way, also opposes meaningful food aid reform, but jumped on board at the last second supporting the weaker amendment yesterday? I wrote more about the story at Humanosphere—read the rest over there.
This news is a few days old, but: When the economically and politically bruised Greek government announced it would shut down the country's equivalent of the BBC, the journalists and technicians didn't walk away. They took over.
On Tuesday, it was announced that ERT – the Greek equivalent of the BBC – would be closed down by Antonis Samaras' coalition government after 87 years of operation, the latest in a line of austerity measures after the country was bailed out in 2010. The "sudden death" of the national public broadcaster – which was largely state-funded, with Greek households paying a fee through their electricity bills – took with it some 2,600 jobs; journalists, technicians, artists – everyone it usually takes to run an array of nationwide TV and radio stations. There were plans to replace it with a new public broadcast company called NERIT, but with a hugely reduced number of staff.
However, its closure was far from the end of the story for ERT. Soon after the announcement was made at around 6PM, the redundant workers returned to their former place of work, took control of the company's broadcast frequencies and began transmitting their own programmes.
The government responded by trying to pull the plug on the now-volunteer journalism project, and the broadcasters played hide-and-seek with transmission signals. Meanwhile, thousands reportedly amassed at the station, radical leftists and conservatives alike, to express their support.
By the morning, the workers had won a few important technical battles, but the signal was still unstable and they had to regularly change the analogue and digital frequencies to keep on broadcasting. Worse still, armed police had begun trekking up the mountains around Athens to switch off ERT's antennas.
The European Broadcasters Union announced its support for ERT and gave it a satellite TV channel to broadcast worldwide.
Then Greece tried diplomatic intervention with Israel to shut ERT down:
Officials in Athens confirmed that Greece's ambassador to Israel, Spyros Lambrinis, had held talks with the Israeli government after it became clear that RRsat, a privately-owned local company and subcontractor of the EBU, was continuing to transmit ERT via its uplink facilities in Greece...
"He made no demands as such but, yes, it is a rather unpleasant situation," added the official who contacted the ambassador before speaking to the Guardian.
Now it looks like a Greek court has ordered the restoration of ERT's signal, but there's uncertainty about the staffing and future of the station.
The upshot: Greek journalists working for free while the Greek government burned diplomatic capital to stop them.
It's a mad world.
At the end of May, protests in Istanbul erupted because capital wanted to transform a public space, a park into another shopping center. And now this...
Absolutely jaw-dropping photo of the massive protests in Rio pic.twitter.com/NWcgsDsbRq #Brazil
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) June 18, 2013
The spark for Brazil's escalating protests was a 2 June increase in the price of a single bus fare in Sao Paulo from 3 reals ($1.40, £0.90) to 3.20 reals.But why not reward people for using public transportation and punish people for using cars or helicopters...
Authorities say the rise is well below inflation, which since the last price increase in January 2011 has been at 15.5%, according to official figures.
There are ways to beat the commute. Rush hour in São Paulo,Brazil, features the same gridlocked streets as many big cities, but theskies afford a brilliant display of winking lights from the helicoptersferrying the city’s upper class home for the evening. Helipads dot thetops of high-rise buildings and are standard features of São Paulo’sguarded residential compounds. The helicopter speeds the commute, bypasses car-jackings, kidnappings—and it prettifies the sky. “My favorite time to fly is at night, because the sensation is equaled only in movies or in dreams,” says Moacir da Silva, the president of the São Paulo Helicopter Pilots Association. “The lights are everywhere, as if I were flying within a Christmas tree”From McKenzie Wark's new and excellent book The
The one fact that must not be missed is that these protests are occurring at the end of a long period of exceptional economic expansion for Brazil. The country now has the 5th largest economy in the world.
(The author is a Seattle native who moved to Istanbul in January of 2006. This is his sixth posting; find all of his reports on his author page.)
This weekend the situation in Istanbul changed dramatically.
Around 8:45pm on Saturday my wife called me to let me know that Gezi Park was being cleared by the police. I packed our breathing masks, goggles and bandanas, plus a pair of her tennis shoes and a permanent marker, in a backpack and headed out the door to meet her. She was in a bar on Nevizade Sokak, the famous bar street just off of Istiklal Caddesi, the main thoroughfare through Beyoglu. On the way to the bar, I was surprised at how many people continued to casually drink their beers, seemingly unaware or unconcerned with what was happening. Inside the bar, I watched a few minutes of news footage on the TV of bulldozers entering the park and then of police on foot systematically checking tents to see if anyone was left inside.
Later, I learned that many of the Gezi Park Occupiers fled to the Divan Hotel, just across the street from the park. The fleeing protesters were pursued into the hotel, where police (whose ID numbers had been whited out on their helmets), removed the protesters’ breathing masks and confiscated their mixtures of antacid and water, leaving them unprepared for the tear gas which would inevitably follow.
(The author is a Seattle native who moved to Istanbul in January of 2006. This is his fifth posting; find all of his reports on his author page.)
Mid-day Wednesday, after Taksim was again inundated with gas Tuesday night, the remaining barricades which had made Gezi Park and Taksim Square briefly impenetrable by large vehicles were removed in the name of returning automobile traffic to the area.
The nature of the square has again changed. Gone are the political parties with their flags, as are the banners strung from the Atatürk Culture Center. Police TOMAs mounted with water cannons and Scorpions (a smaller, armored vehicle) are parked in all corners of the square. Perhaps 100 police in their white helmets are posted prominently in various locations.and gas masks. A number of local institutions, including at least one hotel, have given over space for the Gezi Park occupiers to store surplus supplies and have become a refuge for those injured in police attacks. When my wife and I helped carry some supplies into the depot and asked if any supplies were needed, they looked around and said, “Men’s boxer shorts,” which we supplied a few minutes later. Further lists of the day’s most needed items are available on Twitter and Facebook.
Despite the grim tone the police presence has created, members of the Occupy Gezi movement have not stopped finding ways to enjoy themselves. Wednesday and Thursday night, a pianist from Germany who transported his piano all the way to Istanbul set up in Taksim Square and played outdoor concerts two consecutive nights, with other people sitting down to play when he took breaks. When I attended the second concert on Thursday, the atmosphere was, for lack of a better word, moving. The Monument of the Republic loomed over the crowd, encircled by police in riot gear. The crowd who had assembled to listen all sat on the ground to allow everyone to see. The pianist had affixed decals of a Turkish flag and Atatürk’s signature to the top of his grand piano.
Not far away, a vigil was held for the protesters who have been killed in the past two-and-a-half weeks.
President Obama has concluded that his "red line" on the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime was, in fact, crossed.
As a result, "small arms" from the United States will soon begin flowing to the Syrian rebels.
Things have gone from bad to worse in Istanbul. Here is a brief account of my experience of the events here on Tuesday.
7:30 am: From the taxi on the way to work, I saw a group of 20-30 riot police heading up the hill from their permanent camp—a collection of ten or so regular city buses where the police sleep—towards Taksim. Something was very obviously wrong, as they are never mobile at that time of day.
8:30 am: At work, I turned on Halk TV’s live broadcast from the square, where I saw a disturbing scenario playing out. Since the beginning of the protests, I have felt like the protesters have been pitching a perfect game. No violent action had been taken against the police, other than the odd stone or water bottle being thrown. Attempts to attack the police had been consistently stifled by other protesters. Now on the screen was the thing that I had feared: protesters making a serious assault on the police, which is just what the Prime Minister would need to prove the Gezi Park demonstrators were the “vandals,” “radicals” and “terrorists” he has accused them of being. A handful of people waving flags and carrying shields with “SDP” (Socialist Democratic Party) prominently displayed were chucking molotov cocktails at a group of police TOMAs (their crowd-controlling vehicles equipped with water cannons) which had entered the square for the purpose of “opening it to traffic.” After a few minutes of watching things unfold, though, it struck me that it was all a bit hokey. Why weren’t the police making any real attempt to stop or arrest these men who were assaulting them? Why were all the news stations who had ignored the protests up to this point suddenly broadcasting from the square?
By evening the newspapers had pointed out a number of other items that had the stench of fakery in this showdown, and the SDP denied that the people involved were members of their party at all.
The tear gas continued throughout the day, and early in the afternoon, the police (whose commissioner had vowed Gezi Park would not be touched) entered the park itself. Volleys of tear gas were set off on the perimeters of the park, and inside the park, police overturned some of the tents and the structures the park-dwellers had constructed in the past week-and-a-half before leaving.
7:30-8:00 pm: Having come home from work and eaten dinner, I got my camera out and began getting my things together for a walk up to the square to see how the day’s events were ending. People in breathing masks, bandanas, goggles and construction helmets had begun walking up our street towards Taksim. I was hit with the smell of something burning outside. Stepping out on the balcony I realized it was tear gas and shut the door. Our apartment is ten minutes' walk from Taksim Square where the gas was being released and, carried by the wind, was still so strong that it permeated the house in a couple of minutes.
9:00 pm: The sound of pots and pans being banged from all the neighboring buildings was our cue to step back onto the balcony and make some noise, this time with our masks on. I never made it up to the square, since I could hardly get out my own door, but I continued to watch the news. The most telling image of the day was a lone protestor in a wheelchair targeted by one of the TOMAs and sprayed with a water cannon:
Although the area around Taksim Square has had no police presence for a week and an air of carnival reigns at the epicenter of the pro-park, anti-government movement, the protests have spread to dozens of cities all over Turkey, where the protesters (who number far fewer than they do in Istanbul) are meeting fierce resistance from the police.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the past week has been the dismissal of the events by the media. News channels have done everything from ignoring the protests completely (CNN Turk was broadcasting a documentary about penguins when the protests first ignited) to distorting the facts to convince the public either that the protests are significantly smaller than they are or even running old footage from demonstrations in the past which suggest that the current protests are of a more violent and vitriolic nature. In fact, only one station, Halk TV (the equivalent of PBS), has shown anything approaching reliable news.
Radio has suffered a similar fate; however, one public broadcasting station has continued to broadcast coverage of the past week’s events uninterrupted. An employee who wished to remain anonymous shared some insight as to why. “I got word last Saturday they were going to shut [the station] down because it was broadcasting 24/7 from [Taksim] Square.” He added that the station had moved to a new studio in the past three months. “They sent about 15 cops to shut the station down, but they sent them to the old building, not the new one. Essentially, they arrived at an empty building. They called the station and asked where they were located, and a person at the station said, ‘I don’t know.’”
The center of action of the Istanbul protests has been focused around Dolmabahce in Besiktas, near the Prime Minister’s Istanbul office. Three stories in particular capture the tenor of what has been happening there. The incident of a mosque near Dolmabahce Palace which was briefly being used as a hospital to treat wounded protesters and then gas-bombed by the riot squad was especially puzzling, as it put the pro-Islamic government’s priorities to the test.
One of the most inspiring stories of the protests transpired nearby. One night early last week, a group of protesters around Dolmabahce, began removing the paving stones from the sidewalk and passing them one to the next, fire brigade style. By the next morning the paving stones had been exhausted and two large barricades had been built, one in Gümüssuyu, below Taksim, and the other near the rear entrance to Gezi Park, which have continued to keep the police away for nearly a week. This epitomized the spirit of ingenuity and cooperation which has made the protests as successful as they have been.
In another weird event on the same street, demonstrators hijacked a bulldozer left by a construction crew and used it to smash through a police barricade:
(The author is a Seattle native who moved to Istanbul in January of 2006. Find his first report right here.)
Since the city government yielded control of Taksim Square to the protesters on Saturday, things have changed remarkably. While Siraselviler Street in Cihangir, which was a battleground on Saturday, has returned to complete normalcy, Taksim Square and Taksim Gezi Park have changed in ways that I never imagined possible.
On a visit to the Square and the park yesterday evening (Thursday) here is what I witnessed. The Atatürk Culture Center, which has been derelict for years now thanks to the AKP’s systematic closures of such facilities, is covered in banners bearing everything from pictures of Turkish revolutionary hero Deniz Gezmis to a central statement of “Shut your mouth, Tayyip!”
Walking up the marble steps from the square into the Gezi Park, the tone quickly changed. The pre-fab buildings the protesters had been ransacking on Saturday have now been converted to the “Museum of the Revolution.” Just beyond this, the vendors who ordinarily sell umbrellas are now selling Guy Fawkes masks à la V for Vendetta along with goggles, face masks and cans of spray paint. The abandoned police paddywagon from a few days ago has been overturned and converted to a message board. The park has become home to thousands of people, with tents set up on every square foot of grass. At one end, fans of the Besiktas soccer team (one of the big three teams in Istanbul, whose involvement in the demonstrations has been a crucial part of their success) have hung up a giant Besiktas “CARSI” sign marking their presence.
(The author is a Seattle native who moved to Istanbul in January of 2006.)
I first saw the Gezi Park protesters on Friday morning at 5:30 am from the window of a taxi riding through the neighborhood of Gümüssuyu, just down the hill from Taksim Square, on my way to the hospital to meet my father-in-law who had been rushed there due to a heart attack. This put me on the street around the same time police were burning the tents of the protesters encamped in the park. The group of 20 or 30 that I saw were huddled together at the bottom of a hill, either about to march on Taksim or having just been chased off.
That afternoon I got a beer just off of Istiklal, the massive pedestrian street which terminates at Taksim. The newspapers were already full of stories from the morning's events. I abandoned my spot upon seeing a number of people walking quickly down the street, followed by the sound of tear-gas canisters being fired not far behind. One of the principal police tactics here has been shooting tear gas down the side streets off Istiklal to keep the protesters from congregating on the main street.
Nothing changed until 9 or 10 that night when the neighbors began banging pots and pans from their balconies and and marchers filled our street shouting, "government step down!" The march continued until at least 2 am. The first indication I saw that something unusual was happening was when a group of notoriously conservative MHP party members with their trademark handlebar mustaches joined in with the rest of the protesters.
Saturday morning was sunny and warm. I stopped at two different hardware stores to pick up construction masks and goggles, a hot commodity which left me waiting 30 minutes for more to arrive. The protesters in my own neighborhood, Cihangir, were attempting to march up Siraselviler Street, which also terminates at Taksim Square. Halfway up the street, the police had created a barricade and were launching volleys of tear gas cannisters. The crowd pushed forward, the barricades moving with them, only to be answered with spray from a water cannon. The riot squad had mixed chemicals into the water which gave it an orange hue. A teenage girl who had been soaked by the cannon kept saying that her skin was burning. My wife doused her with a mixture of Tums and water, which helped a bit to nullify the chemicals. People in the neighborhood threw lemons out their windows for gassed protesters to squeeze on their faces.
A Slog reader writes...
I'm from Seattle and I currently live in Istanbul. I just want to weigh in on the context to all this—I've been reading all the coverage, from social media sites and official news sites, and there's too many people making quick judgments or misunderstanding certain details.
Virtually any protest in crowded parts of town draws a significant armed police presence—I would say a dozen guys with machine guns. The baseline is higher for police violence/response, nobody thinks there's anything wrong with police hitting people. But in normal situations 95% of the time police are supportive and nonthreatening. On the other hand I don't want people to get the impression that Turkey is way different from the US, because in so many ways it's just the same. People have normal everyday jobs, hang out at Starbucks with their iPads, complain about traffic, it's not culturally like the Middle East, as so many people seem to think it is.
The police response to the protests is much more serious than anything Occupy experienced in the state, and it's important for the state department to condemn the police response here—Tayyip has listened to the US a lot in the past. We saw plenty of this during the serious days of Occupy, but we never saw (trigger warning, a little graphic) this. In both cases, the police went too far but it's so much further here:
2) PM Erdoğan said on TV just a couple days ago, "Social media is the worst menace to society," and is engaged in a serious misinformation campaign. Most news outlets aren't covering the protests at all.
3) There's reports of AKP (the current political administration) thugs in plainclothes beating people in the street, joining protesters to track them for the police, luring injured people to "doctors" and "nurses" but actually kidnapping them for the police later.
The US government can condemn this kind of thing, and the people of Turkey would really appreciate it. This doesn't have to be like Syria, nobody wants a civil war, but there needs to be international attention otherwise Erdogan will think he can get away with anything.
If I could sum up everything I'd just give you this video:
Some of it might be upsetting to some viewers, but I think you can/should post it on Slog.
A look at some of the people who want it to, and why, via The Daily Beast:
Every military innovation from longbows to drones has been accused of further detaching soldiers from the people they kill, thus making violence more palatable and war more likely, but autonomous weapons threaten to make that detachment complete, delegating decisions about whether to use a weapon to the weapon itself. Someone along the chain of command should have to think about the decision to kill and take responsibility for it; outsourcing that decision to a machine, Christof Heyns says, “dehumanizes armed conflict even further.”
Interestingly, the article points out that the United States has already taken steps to create a sort of 10-year moratorium on American production of war machines that could decide to kill autonomously. ("Though it can be overridden by high-level officials," as the article notes.)