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.
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“By the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I’m politicizing my son’s health problems, I want you to know: I am politicizing my son’s health problems.”
That was Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday evening, in a monologue reacting to the introduction of Graham-Cassidy, the (latest) bill that seeks to replace the Affordable Care Act. Kimmel had talked about health care on his show before, in May—when, after his newborn son had undergone open-heart surgery to repair the damage of a congenital heart defect, he delivered a tearfully personal monologue sharing the experience of going through that—and acknowledging that he and his family were lucky: They could afford the surgery, whatever it might cost. Kimmel concluded his speech by, yes, politicizing his son’s health problems: He emphasized how important it is for lower- and middle-class families to have comprehensive insurance coverage, with protections for people with preexisting conditions. “No parent,” he said, speaking through tears, “should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It shouldn’t happen.”
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The remarks have prompted the expected reactions from Iran, whose foreign minister called it an “ignorant hate speech [that] belongs in medieval times,” and Venezuela’s foreign minister, who countered: “Trump is not the president of the world ... he cannot even manage his own government.” North Korea, whose nuclear-weapons and missile programs have raised tensions with its neighbors and the U.S., is yet to respond.
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J.G. started drinking at 15, when he and a friend experimented in his parents’ liquor cabinet. He favored gin and whiskey but drank whatever he thought his parents would miss the least. He discovered beer, too, and loved the earthy, bitter taste on his tongue when he took his first cold sip.
His drinking increased through college and into law school. He could, and occasionally did, pull back, going cold turkey for weeks at a time. But nothing quieted his anxious mind like booze, and when he didn’t drink, he didn’t sleep. After four or six weeks dry, he’d be back at the liquor store.
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More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
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Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
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Above all else, President Donald Trump wants the world to see him as strong. He has repeatedly described himself as “militaristic,” and his cabinet as a group of “killers.” He relishes saying the supposedly unsayable. When he spoke at the UN General Assembly yesterday, he surely wanted his listeners to be awed by his toughness. Better, as Machiavelli said, to be feared than loved.
Trump’s team loaded his speech with harsh words and phrases. He promised to destroy North Korea if attacked. He called the Iran nuclear deal an embarrassment. He rejected globalism and spoke at length about the benefits of sovereignty, nationalism, and patriotism.
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Most of the people who make the error, however, are not nominees of a president who has alleged that there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election, or who empaneled a commission to consider voter fraud that is on a dubious hunt to try to validate that wild, unsubstantiated claim. Jeffrey Gerrish, however, is President Trump’s nominee to be deputy U.S. trade representative, so it happens that investigators realized he cast his vote in the 2016 election in Virginia, even though he had moved to Maryland—a far less competitive state in national elections.
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John F. Kennedy argued that nuclear weapons necessitated “one world and one human race, with one common destiny” guarded by one “world security system,” since “absolute sovereignty no longer assures us of absolute security.” Richard Nixon spoke of a “world interest” in reducing economic inequality, protecting the environment, and upholding international law, declaring that the “profoundest national interest of our time” is the “preservation of peace” through international structures like the UN. In rejecting tribalism and the walling-off of nations, Barack Obama asserted that “giving up some freedom of action—not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term—enhances our security.” These presidents practiced what they preached to varying degrees, and there’s long been a debate in the United States about the extent to which America’s sovereign powers should be ceded to international organizations, but in broad strokes the case for global engagement was consistent.
On September 19, 2017, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico City, rattling skyscrapers and sending millions into the streets.
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