Why a far-reaching political fight has broken out over trade at the Russian landmark and site of Pussy Riot's "Punk Prayer" demonstration
MOSCOW -- Looking for a place in downtown Moscow to change your tires, have a snack, buy aspirin, launder your shirts, or purchase gold jewelry? In addition to a handful of shopping centers, Christ the Savior, Moscow' largest Orthodox cathedral, offers all of these services.
The cathedral's lucrative commercial activities are at the heart of a bitter dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the country's consumer rights watchdog, which claims unlawful trade is taking place on the cathedral's premises. Both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Christ the Savior Cathedral Fund, which oversees trade at the church, deny wrongdoing and accuse the watchdog of seeking to tarnish their reputation.
The dispute deepened this week when the head of the Society for Consumer Rights' Protection, Mikhail Anshakov, was called in for police questioning after the fund filed a complaint against him for defamation. Anshakov accuses the executive director of the Christ the Savior Cathedral Fund, Vasily Poddevalin, of being in league with Moscow's law-enforcement agencies to silence his watchdog organization. "The fact that this is a business center is common knowledge. As far as I understand, Vasily Poddevalin has contacts in Moscow's law-enforcement system and he is trying to put these contacts to use," Anshakov says. "Otherwise, such high-ranking officials from the prosecutor's office or the main department of internal affairs would not have taken on these cases."
The consumer rights group says trade at the cathedral violates consumer protection law because it is conducted without official price tags or cash registers. According to its findings, only 7 percent of the cathedral's territory has actually been transferred to the church. The rest is owned by Moscow City Hall, which is tied to the Christ the Savior Cathedral Fund. Anshakov says that under Russian law, the Moscow Patriarchate must either legally acquire the portion of the cathedral it is currently using or surrender it.
The commercial activities taking place at Christ the Savior are no secret. A car repair, tire service, and a souvenir kiosk are located adjacent to the building, along with a jewelry stand selling Buran watches for as much as 120,000 rubles ($3,800) and amber necklaces for around 12,000 rubles ($380). A car park, cafe, and laundry service can be found in an underground space beneath the cathedral.
'God Does Not Allow Deceit'
Many Russian Orthodox believers see nothing wrong with the practice and firmly believe the Moscow Patriarchate's assurances that it does not profit from the trade. "Everything here is done honestly, I'm absolutely sure of this," Marina Kaminskaya, a 42-year-old psychologist, said outside the cathedral. "I can vouch for our patriarch and for all priests. God would not allow any deceit to take place next to a church."
But not all churchgoers approve of the bustling trade at the cathedral, rebuilt in the early 1990s from public donations after being destroyed by Soviet authorities. "I don't think this is right," says Yulia, a 25-year-old architect. "This is religion and they are selling [things]. It isn't right."
Russia's all-female dissident punk collective Pussy Riot has been among the most vocal critics of the cathedral's commercial activities. Two of its members are serving two-year prison terms for performing a song critical of the Russian Orthodox Church's ties with authorities in the Christ the Savior Cathedral earlier this year. Members of the collective later said they targeted the cathedral in part to protest its business dealings.
'Gift-Giving at Recommended Price'
The dispute with the Society for Consumer Rights' Protection emerged after Anshakov formally asked prosecutors to look into the activities of the cathedral's fund. Prosecutors, however, turned down Anshakov's request and opened a defamation case against him instead based on a complaint from Poddevalin, the fund's executive director. In July, a Moscow court ruled that transactions conducted at Christ the Savior were not sales but legal "gift-giving at a recommended price." Another court nonetheless cleared Anshakov on October 19.
The new defamation complaint against him and his watchdog was also filed by Poddevalin and stems from a recent press article in which Anshakov reiterated his allegations against the fund. Anshakov also claims that Poddevalin's relatives own some of the fund's businesses. "On which basis are dozens of commercial firms based at Christ the Savior Cathedral?" Anshakov asks. "In addition, some of these firms are registered under the name of relatives of Poddevalin. The cathedral's car wash, tire and repair services, for example, belong to his son and daughter. That's what law enforcement should be investigating, rather than whether or not I defamed Poddevalin."
With defamation now a criminal offense in Russia since July, Anshakov risks much harsher punishment if the Christ the Savior Fund successfully presses charges against him. If found guilty, he faces a fine of up to 5 million rubles ($159,000) or up to 480 hours of community work.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Why haven’t more challengers entered the race to defeat the Iraq War hawk, Patriot Act supporter, and close friend of big finance?
As Hillary Clinton loses ground to Bernie Sanders in Iowa, where her lead shrinks by the day, it’s worth noticing that she has never made particular sense as the Democratic Party’s nominee. She may be more electable than her social-democratic rival from Vermont, but plenty of Democrats are better positioned to represent the center-left coalition. Why have they let the former secretary of state keep them out of the race? If Clinton makes it to the general election, I understand why most Democrats will support her. She shares their views on issues as varied as preserving Obamacare, abortion rights, extending legal status to undocumented workers, strengthening labor unions, and imposing a carbon tax to slow climate change.
The NBC show isn’t casting its net wide enough when it comes to finding new players.
Since the departure of many of its biggest stars two years ago, Saturday Night Live has mostly avoided major cast changes. Yesterday, NBC announced the show would add only one new cast member for its 41st season—the near-unknown stand-up comic Jon Rudnitsky. SNL is, of course, a sketch-comedy show, but it keeps hiring mostly white stand-ups who have a markedly different skill set, with limited results. As critics and viewers keep calling out for greater diversity on the show, it’s hard to imagine the series’s reasoning in sticking to old habits.
As is unfortunately typical today, controversy has already arisen over some tasteless old jokes from Rudnitsky’s Twitter and Vine feeds, similar to the furore that greeted Trevor Noah’s hiring at The Daily Show this summer. But Rudnitsky was apparently hired on the back of his stand-up performances, not his Internet presence, similar to the other young stand-ups the show has hired in recent years: Pete Davidson, Brooks Wheelan (since fired), and Michael Che. It’s a peculiar route to the show, because SNL is 90 percent sketch acting, and unless you’re hosting Weekend Update (like Che), you’re not going to do a lot of stand-up material. So why hire Rudnitsky?
Though it wasn’t pretty, Minaj was really teaching a lesson in civility.
Nicki Minaj didn’t, in the end, say much to Miley Cyrus at all. If you only read the comments that lit up the Internet at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, you might think she was kidding, or got cut off, when she “called out” the former Disney star who was hosting: “And now, back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?”
To summarize: When Minaj’s “Anaconda” won the award for Best Hip-Hop Video, she took to the stage in a slow shuffle, shook her booty with presenter Rebel Wilson, and then gave an acceptance speech in which she switched vocal personas as amusingly as she does in her best raps—street-preacher-like when telling women “don’t you be out here depending on these little snotty-nosed boys”; sweetness and light when thanking her fans and pastor. Then a wave of nausea seemed to come over her, and she turned her gaze toward Cyrus. To me, the look on her face, not the words that she said, was the news of the night:
Many educators are introducing meditation into the classroom as a means of improving kids’ attention and emotional regulation.
A five-minute walk from the rickety, raised track that carries the 5 train through the Bronx, the English teacher Argos Gonzalez balanced a rounded metal bowl on an outstretched palm. His class—a mix of black and Hispanic students in their late teens, most of whom live in one of the poorest districts in New York City—by now were used to the sight of this unusual object: a Tibetan meditation bell.
“Today we’re going to talk about mindfulness of emotion,” Gonzalez said with a hint of a Venezuelan accent. “You guys remember what mindfulness is?” Met with quiet stares, Gonzalez gestured to one of the posters pasted at the back of the classroom, where the students a few weeks earlier had brainstormed terms describing the meaning of “mindfulness.” There were some tentative mumblings: “being focused,” “being aware of our surroundings.”
Beijing’s top five scapegoats, from journalists to hedge funds to the U.S. federal reserve
China’s stock markets continue to stumble, despite the massive stimulus that the government has unleashed to prop them up. The Shanghai benchmark index fell by 1.23 percent Tuesday, after closing down slightly Monday. The index has fallen by nearly 40 percent from its mid-June peak.
In some ways, the slide isn’t surprising—after all, Chinese stocks were trading at extremely rich valuations before they started to fall, even as signs emerged that China’s economy was slowing.
After calling his intellectual opponents treasonous, and allegedly exaggerating his credentials, a controversial law professor resigns from the United States Military Academy.
On Monday, West Point law professor William C. Bradford resigned after The Guardianreported that he had allegedly inflated his academic credentials. Bradford made headlines last week, when the editors of the National Security Law Journaldenounced a controversial article by him in their own summer issue:
As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.
If the Fourteenth Amendment means that the children of undocumented immigrants are not citizens, as Donald Trump suggests, then they are also not subject to American laws.
Imagine the moon rising majestically over the Tonto National Forest, highlighting the stark desert scenery along the Superstition Freeway just west of Morristown, Arizona. The sheriff of Maricopa County sips coffee from his thermos and checks that his radar gun is on the ready. A lot of lawmen wouldn’t have bothered to send officers out at night on such a lonely stretch of road, much less taken the night shift themselves. But America’s Toughest Sheriff sets a good example for his deputies. As long as he’s the sheriff, at least, the rule of law—and the original intent of the Constitution—will be enforced by the working end of a nightstick.
Suddenly a car rockets by, going 100 miles an hour by the gun. Siren ululating, the sheriff heads west after the speeder. The blue Corolla smoothly pulls over to the shoulder. The sheriff sees the driver’s side window roll down. Cautiously he approaches.
Every time you shrug, you don’t need to Google, then copy, then paste.
Updated, 2:20 p.m.
All hail ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
In its 11 strokes, the symbol encapsulates what it’s like to be an individual on the Internet. With raised arms and a half-turned smile, it exudes the melancholia, the malaise, the acceptance, and (finally) the embrace of knowing that something’s wrong on the Internet and you can’t do anything about it.
As Kyle Chayka writes in a new history of the symbol at The Awl, the meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four-, fold. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. I use it at least 10 times a day.
For a long time, however, I used it with some difficulty. Unlike better-known emoticons like :) or ;), ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ borrows characters from the Japanese syllabary called katakana. That makes it a kaomoji, a Japanese emoticon; it also makes it, on Western alphabetical keyboards at least, very hard to type. But then I found a solution, and it saves me having to google “smiley sideways shrug” every time I want to quickly rail at the world’s inherent lack of meaning.
When cobbling together a livable income, many of America’s poorest people rely on the stipends they receive for donating plasma.
There is no money to be made selling blood anymore. It can, however, pay off to sell plasma, a component in blood that is used in a number of treatments for serious illnesses. It is legal to “donate” plasma up to two times a week, for which a bank will pay around $30 each time. Selling plasma is so common among America’s extremely poor that it can be thought of as their lifeblood.
But no one could reasonably think of a twice-weekly plasma donation as a job. It’s a survival strategy, one of many operating well outside the low-wage job market.
In Johnson City, Tennessee, we met a 21-year-old who donates plasma as often as 10 times a month—as frequently as the law allows. (The terms of our research prevent us from revealing her identity.) She is able to donate only when her husband has time to keep an eye on their two young daughters. When we met him in February, he could do that pretty frequently because he’d been out of work since the beginning of December, when McDonald’s reduced his hours to zero in response to slow foot traffic. Six months ago, walking his wife to the plasma clinic and back, kids in tow, was the most important job he had.