Saturday, September 15, 2012

Russia: Religiosity & the Murdered U.S. Ambassador

          Responding to the attack on U.S. embassies and diplomatic territories across the Muslim world (specifically the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his staff in Libya), Russian bloggers have addressed the perceived growth of religiosity in their own country, and used the incident as an opportunity to discuss the wider consequences of political unrest.
          Several media outlets have emphasized the connection between these anti-American violent outbursts and U.S. support for the Arab Spring. Evaluating the legitimacy of the recent bloodshed, many RuNet bloggers have questioned the validity of violently "avenging" Western religious liberality.
          Blogger Evgeny Schultz contextualized the recent events in the Middle East amid growing religiosity in Russia in a post titled [ru], "Religion on the March: In Libya and Russia":
Объяснение всегда просто: "Так требует вера, Бог". [...] Они экстраполируют всезнание, благость и всемогущество Бога на предстоятеля своей религии. И естественно, власть не собирается пропускать возможности мимо себя. Для власти религия - мощнейший электоральный рычаг. Но не понимает власть, что рычаг этот не им подчиняется. И рано или поздно ударит их по лбу. А вместе с ними и всю Россию. Никакие тактические выгоды не оправдают того стратегического тупик [sic], в который ведет клерикализация.
The explanation is always simple: "It requires faith, God." […] They extend God's omniscience, kindness, and omnipotence to their religious leaders. And, naturally, the authorities don't intend to let this opportunity pass them by. For the authorities, religion is the most powerful electoral lever. But the authorities fail to understand that they don't control this lever. Sooner or later it's going to knock them upside the head -- and all Russia with them. There are no tactical advantages that justify the strategic deadlock to which clericalization is leading.
Christopher Stevens, United States ambassador to Libya from June 7, 2012 until killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 12, 2012 (photo taken 23 April 2012), photo by U.S. Department of State, public domain.
          Schultz's nuance, if one can call it that, has not characterized the reactions of all netizens. Hardliner Orthodox blogger Archbishop Sergey Zhuravlev, for instance, posted [ru] a militant anti-Islam rant in response to the mob attacks on American embassies.
          On Twitter, some have aired skepticism about the effectiveness of violence as a response to sometimes offensive material.

In Baku, Azerbaijan, Rahman Haji wrote:
Один идиотский фильм о Пророке перевернул пол мира.Посол в Ливии убит, флаги США срывают с посольств на всем Ближнем Востоке. Просто ужас...
One idiotic film about the Prophet has turned upside down half the world. The [American] Ambassador in Libya has been killed, and American flags are being torn down from embassies across the Middle East. Simply awful...

In Chelyabinsk, Sergei Tretyakov tweeted:
Ирония дня: ливийские мусульмане увидели в интернете ролик про то, что мусульмане - не миролюбивые, обиделись и убили посла США в Ливии
The irony of the day: Libyan Muslims saw an Internet clip about how Muslims aren't peace-loving people, and they got offended and killed the U.S. Ambassador in Libya.

          Others have been more ambiguous in their commentary. In Tula, for example, Gregory Bukreev connected [ru] the anger allegedly incited by an anti-Muslim film to the Pussy Riot case.
В Ливии убит посол США за фильм,где плохо показан пророк Мухаммед,а остающиеся на свободе участницы Pussy Riot готовят новую акцию.Подумайте
In Libya, the U.S. Ambassador was killed because of a film that negatively portrayed the Prophet Mohammed. Pussy Riot's remaining members not in jail are planning a new initiative. Think about it.

          What is the public meant to "think" exactly? Bloggers seem to be united in disapproval of the mob violence against American foreign dignitaries, but a more vexing issue is Russia's own struggle with religious pluralism, including matters as troubling as homegrown Muslim and Orthodox extremism. The Orthodox Church's own growing influence, of course, was and remains a major concern for secularists following the Pussy Riot controversy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day at Centennial Olympic Park #ATL (09/09/12)


A graduate student at Georgia Tech's Sam Nunn School of International Affairs
today I took some time out to visit 
Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park which is located about 2 miles from campus. 
Along the way I uploaded photos to my Twitter account

Walked by some guys loading travel #golf bags into a car on the way home from #church, did an air swing and wished them well. #ATL 
My @georgiatech task for the day- make a working hypothesis about Russo-China #Amur River settlement (2004), and list key research questions
Then decided to take a break and headed to the park:

Fountains at the entrance, kids in swimsuits can play in the water.

Took this while sitting on a bench next to tourists from Germany, other fountains behind me.
This water you can't play in, but nice view of the lawn.

The grass is like a fairway on a nice golf course, I've never seen grass like
this in a public park in Texas - just not enough water to keep it so soft. 

The 'short' blue building in the very middle is the BBT
within walking distance of my apartment @GeorgiaTech. 

Another view from the lawn. The tall building on the right is the Westin Hotel -
It's famous because it's got a revolving restaurant at the top.
When I visited today I learned you have to pay $6 to ride the elevator up if you're not a guest.

The World of Coke building at the far end of the park.
Admission: Adult $16, Children $12, Senior $14

Georgia Aquariam - next to the World of Coke
Ticket prices vary, $25 - $40. Georgia Tech students get a discount.

Walked the 2 miles home to @georgiatech from Centennial Olympic Park. Beautiful #ATL day.

Photo's from last night's home-opener:

Me at the Georgia Tech vs. Presbyterian football game on 9/8/12.
The score was very lopsided early on and so I left after the first quarter.
Next week we play UVA. As a student, I paid $8 for a $20 ticket. 

Pregame marching band formation. Beautiful historic stadium. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mysterious 16th C Ant Plague - E. O. Wilson's "The Creation"

A graduate student at Georgia Tech's Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, one of my 
required courses is Empirical Research Methods. 
E. O. Wilson's "The Creation" is one of our assigned texts and I've 
transcribed a section of the book below - Wilson describes a 
mysterious ant plague that hit the Caribbean soon after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World.

An excerpt: 

          At that precise moment, in those circumstances, I felt confident I had solved a 500 year old mystery. At last, as the culmination of considerable effort, I could report the cause of the first environmental crisis experienced by European colonists of the New World.
          Around 1518, a plague of ants irrupted at the fledgling Spanish colony of Hispaniola. The event was witnessed by Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, exacting chronicler of Columbian America ("who promises before the divine word that everything said and referred to is the truth") and defender of the Caribbean Indians. A great saint, in my opinion, never canonized. He described the scene at the monastery as follows in his History of the Indies. "This plague was an infinite number of ants that…bit and caused greater pain than wasps that bite and hurt men. They could not defend themselves from these ants at night in their beds, nor could they survive if the beds were not placed on four small troughs filled with water."
          Elsewhere, in the newly established capital of Santo Domingo and in other parts of what is today the Dominican Republic, ant swarms destroyed the gardens and orchards everywhere. As the plague spread, entire populations of oranges, pomegranates, and cassias were wiped out. "As though fire had fallen from the sky and burned them," Fray Bartolome agonized, "they stood all scorched and dried out." The loss of the cassia trees, source of a purgative widely used in Spain, was particularly distressing. The colonists, whose income from mining had dropped with the near-extinction of the enslaved Taino Indians from maltreatment and disease, had turned to this crop as an important new source of income.

My copy of E. O. Wilson's 'The Creation'
Photo by Donna Welles 09/05/12

          Fray Bartolome believed that the plague was an expression of God's wrath for the maltreatment of the Taino people. Whatever the Spanish themselves thought about the cause, they soon turned to the highest authority for relief:
As the citizens of Santo Domingo saw the affliction of this plague grow, doing such damage to them, and as they could not end it by human means, they agreed to ask for help from the Highest Tribunal. They made great processions begging Our Father to free them from such a plague so harmful to their worldly goods. In order to receive divine blessing more quickly, they thought of taking a saint as a lawyer, whichever one by chance our Lord should declare best suited. Thus, with the procession over one day, the bishop, the clergy, and the whole city cast lots over which of the litany's saints Divine Providence would see fit to give them as a lawyer. Fortune fell on Saint Saturnin , and receiving him with happiness and joy as their patron, they celebrated him with a feast of great solemnity, as they have each year since then…
          And indeed, according to Fray Bartolome, the plague, as if miraculously, soon began to recede. Within a few years new trees were planted and brought to fruit. To this day citrus and cassia trees flourish throughout the Dominican Republic, and they remain mostly free of damage from ants.

Note: Wilson goes on to argue that the mysterious ant species was the 'tropical fire ant'. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Russia: 40th Anniversary of Canada-USSR Hockey Series

RuNet blogger Vladimir Kharitonov honored the 40th anniversary of the "Summit Series" - eight hockey games played on two continents between the USSR and Team Canada in September 1972. Although Canada emerged with more wins, the series allowed the Soviet Union to showcase some of its hockey talent that had previously been unknown in the West - Valeri Kharlamov and Vladislav Tretiak. Canada's Phil Esposito said publicly that the series' Most Valuable Player (MVP) was unequivocally the USSR's Alexander Yakushev.

Монета Банка России — Серия: Выдающиеся спортсмены России (хоккей): Харламов В.Б. 2 рубля, реверс.
Source: Wikimedia Commons