It’s Official

It’s official: the British political establishment, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jay-Z, “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, and Greyhound totally suck.

But you knew that, right?

thevoima

The Brexit process has already claimed victims: communities such as Scunthorpe, which are suffering job losses and hardship due to Brexit-related industrial closures; migrant workers from EU countries who find their lives thrown into uncertainty and themselves and their families vilified. Their anger is more than justified. But, in addition to this, the Brexit process has produced a gloom, a feeling of powerlessness, of fear, of uncertainty, that is obviously affecting millions of people. I think this feeling is the product of an illusion that our enemies are powerful enough to decide our fate above our heads. It’s another version of the illusions of power that have engendered fear, obedience and subservience to elites for centuries. It’s an illusion, because they, too, are tormented by crisis. It makes them more ruthless, it throws up the zealots – but it doesn’t necessarily make them stronger. We – social movements, communities, workplace organisations, movements about climate change – can find, and are finding, ways to challenge these enemies. (The FcK Boris demonstration when the new government took office was a reminder of this.) This is not a plea for false hope. It’s a suggestion that we evaluate our enemies’ strengths and weaknesses carefully. And be prepared for surprises.
—Gabriel Levy, “Zealots and Ditherers,” People and Nature, 15 August 2019

Tlaib and Omar aren’t the first critics of Israel penalized by the 2017 law, but they are the most prominent. The law targets those who “actively, consistently and continuously” promote boycotts of Israel. It applies to those who hold senior-level positions in pro-boycott organizations, are key activists in the boycott movements, or are prominent public figures (members of Congress, for instance) who support a boycott. More than 20 groups have been blacklisted, including the Nobel Peace Prize–winning American Friends Services Committee. One notable case was the banning of Lara Alqasem, an American college student of Palestinian descent who received a visa to study human rights at Hebrew University but was ordered deported and detained for two weeks on suspicion of being a boycott supporter. Her deportation was later overturned.
—Joshua Keating, “Israel Banned Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar Because They’re Anti-Trump, Not Anti-Israel,” Slate, 15 August 2019

In Mazur’s photo, Jay-Z’s right arm is pointed like an arrow. Goodell looks in the same direction, as does everyone else in the frame. It’s irresistible that way. What is Jay talking about, and why is everyone so rapt? Here’s a Brooklyn-born kid who made good, raised himself up from the projects, became one of the most recognizable names in pop music, and can now claim status as a self-made billionaire. It’s the kind of story you want to believe in. But then you stare a beat longer, holding your gaze, and the mirage begins to wither.

Illusion works both ways: It’s as much about who is in the photo as who isn’t. You ask yourself, Where is Kaepernick or Reid, the two players who sparked the protest? Why are other players who’ve since scrutinized the league, especially those who comprise the Players Coalition, absent from the meeting? That’s the danger in illusion, especially one cast by the NFL. Even though one might see through its hollow spectacle, there’s little to be done to break its spell. Jay-Z commands attention and everyone looks on, ghostly captivated. His arm stretches into an unknowable future. There are those who will follow, and others, who will rightly wonder: Is this the right direction?
—Jason Parham, “Depth of Field: Where Is Jay-Z Taking the NFL?” Wired, 15 August 2019

In January, as the Senate debated whether to permit the Trump administration to lift sanctions on Russia’s largest aluminum producer, two men with millions of dollars riding on the outcome met for dinner at a restaurant in Zurich.

On one side of the table sat the head of sales for Rusal, the Russian aluminum producer that would benefit most immediately from a favorable Senate vote. The U.S. government had imposed sanctions on Rusal as part of a campaign to punish Russia for “malign activity around the globe,” including attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election.

On the other side sat Craig Bouchard, an American entrepreneur who had gained favor with officials in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bouchard was trying to build the first new aluminum-rolling mill in the United States in nearly four decades, in a corner of northeastern Kentucky ravaged by job losses and the opioid epidemic — a project that stood to benefit enormously if Rusal were able to get involved.

The men did not discuss the Senate debate that night at dinner, Bouchard said in an interview, describing it as an amicable introductory chat.

But the timing of their meeting shows how much a major venture in McConnell’s home state had riding on the Democratic-backed effort in January to keep sanctions in place.

By the next day, McConnell had successfully blocked the bill, despite the defection of 11 Republicans.

Within weeks, the U.S. government had formally lifted sanctions on Rusal, citing a deal with the company that reduced the ownership interest of its Kremlin-linked founder, Oleg Deripaska. And three months later, Rusal announced plans for an extraordinary partnership with Bouchard’s company, providing $200 million in capital to buy a 40 percent stake in the new aluminum plant in Ashland, Ky. — a project Gov. Matt Bevin (R) boasted was “as significant as any economic deal ever made in the history of Kentucky.”

A spokesman for McConnell said the majority leader did not know that Bouchard had hopes of a deal with Rusal at the time McConnell led the Senate effort to end the sanctions, citing the recommendation of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

McConnell “was not aware of any potential Russian investor before the vote,” spokesman David Popp said.

Bouchard said no one from his company, Braidy Industries, told anyone in the U.S. government that lifting sanctions could help advance the project. Rusal’s parent company, EN+, said in a statement that the Kentucky project played no role in the company’s vigorous lobbying campaign to persuade U.S. officials to do away with sanctions.

But critics said the timing is disturbing.

“It is shocking how blatantly transactional this arrangement looks,” said Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration and now teaches at Stanford University.

Democratic senators have called for a government review of the deal, prompting a Rusal executive in Moscow last week to threaten to pull out of the investment.
—Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, “How a McConnell-Backed Effort to Lift Russian Sanctions Boosted a Kentucky Project,” Washington Post, 14 August 2019

Throughout the country, people rely on Greyhound to get to work, visit family, or to simply travel freely. But Greyhound has been letting Border Patrol board its buses to question and arrest passengers without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing. The company is throwing its loyal customers under the bus.

For more than a year, we’ve been urging Greyhound to stop letting Border Patrol board its buses, but the company is refusing to issue a policy protecting its customers. So now we’re taking our fight to the next level.

Greyhound is owned by FirstGroup plc, a multi-national transport group based in the UK, whose own Code of Ethics and Corporate Responsibility contradicts what its subsidiary has been doing to passengers.

“We are committed to recognising human rights on a global basis. We have a zero-tolerance approach to any violations within our company or by business partners.”

Greyhound’s complicity in the Trump deportation machine is a clear violation of the human rights values that FirstGroup professes to uphold. We must raise our voices: Sign the petition to demand that FirstGroup direct Greyhound to comply with its code of ethics. Greyhound must stop throwing customers under the bus.
—ACLU: Buses Are No Place for Border Patrol

Image courtesy of The Voima

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Petition: Drop the Criminal Investigation of a “Riot” That Never Happened

petition

Kirill Martynov
Facebook
August 5, 2019

Friends, I rarely sign petitions and I never ask other people to sign them.

Now, however, circumstances are such that we need to get as many of our fellow citizens involved in discussing the political crisis in Moscow. During this crisis, the FSB, the Russian Investigative Committee, and the police have taken direct control of civic life, bordering on a military coup.

So I would ask you to read this petition, sign it, and talk about it on social media.

It says two things.

1. Criminally prosecuting peaceful citizens for their convictions is defined as political terror.

2. Alexander Bastrykin, chair of the Investigative Committee, is asked to put an immediate end to the criminal investigation of the “riot” in Moscow on July 27 due to the fact that no such crime was committed.

To date, eight people have been arrested and remanded in custody in the case of the riot that did not happen. One suspect in the case has vanished. And this is only the beginning.

None of us is so naive as to believe Bastrykin would meet us halfway. No one has any illusions about the man. He regards the people of our country as expendable in maintaining his personal power and the power of his friends. Nevertheless, Bastrykin formally has the authority to stop this train before it reaches full speed.

We must circulate the petition to get as many people as possible to pay attention to what is happening. We also must show the authorities that society is morally, civically, and politically ready to resist.

If hundreds of thousands of us stand up to be counted, no one can say we do not exist, as they said our signatures in support of candidates standing in these elections did not exist.

___________________________

Stop the Criminal Case Against People Who Took Part in the Peaceful Protest on July 27, 2019, in Moscow
Change.org
August 5, 2019

Novaya Gazeta started this petition to Alexander Bastrykin, Chair of the Investigative Committee, and the Investigative Committee

We, citizens of Russia, demand an end to the political terror unleashed against our country’s people by law enforcement agencies.

On July 27, 2019, a peaceful rally in defense of our constitutionally guaranteed voting rights took place in Moscow. In response to the rally, the Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into “rioting.”

According to Article 212 of the Russian Criminal Code, riots involve violence against citizens and public officials, property damage, arson, and mayhem. However, nothing of the sort happened in Moscow on July 27, 2019.

On the contrary, voters demanded that Russia’s laws should be upheld and candidates who had previously been barred should be allowed to stand in the elections to the Moscow City Duma. The “disorderly conduct” cited by investigators cannot be defined as a “riot” either according to the letter of the law or in terms of common sense.

Despite what the Russian Constitution says, people who peacefully defended their rights have now been subjected to criminal prosecution for their beliefs.

Article 29 Part 3 of our country’s basic law states, “No one may be forced to express his views and convictions or to reject them.”

We believe the criminal investigation into rioting is being used to intimidate the people of Russia. It is tantamount to banning our voting rights.

As of August 5, peaceful protesters Sergei Abanichev, Vladislav Barabanov, Yegor Zhukov, Kirill Zhukov, Yevgeny Kovalenko, Daniil Konon, Alexei Minyaylo, Ivan Podkopayev, and Samariddin Radzhabov have been remanded in custody as part of the riot investigation for no reason whatsoever.

None of them has admitted their guilt.

We are aware of the impending arrests of our family members, friends, and colleagues.

We also know the fabricated evidence in the case is based on information extracted from telephones that were illegally confiscated from citizens detained during peaceful protests.

If the Investigative Committee uses its authority to unleash political terror against its own people, it would not go unnoticed. Massive abuse of the law for political ends would have long-term tragic consequences for our country, as evidenced by the history of the twentieth century.

Criminal prosecution cannot be a means of settling scores with political opponents. It will provoke a further escalation of the civil conflict in Russia.

On the basis of Article 24.1.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code, we demand the authorities drop the investigation into the “riot” in Moscow on July 27, 2019, in view of the obvious fact that no crime was committed.

Who We Are
Founded in 1993, Novaya Gazeta is a Russian newspaper known all over the world for its investigations of high-level corruption and special reports from hot spots. We have won a Pulitzer Prize and been nominated for a Nobel Prize. Our staff includes journalists Elena Milashina, Olga Bobrova, Roman Anin, Elena Kostyuchenko, Pavel Kanygin, and Ilya Azar. Yulia Latynina, Dmitry Bykov, Irina Petrovskaya, and Slava Taroshchina are among our regular contributors. In 2018, our editorial staff and friends of our newspaper launched a partnership campaign. To date, 20% of the newspaper’s expenses have been covered by personal donations from over seven thousand of its readers.

Image courtesy of Kirill Martynov and Change.org. Translated by the Russian Reader

By Hook or by Crook

0C302673-B7CF-4406-A4DA-E3052D4D5125_cx0_cy4_cw0_w1023_r1_stThe courtyard of the Communist Party Regional Committee headquarters in Novosibirsk, where the monument to Stalin will be erected. Photo courtesy of Anton Barsukov and RFE/RL

Monument to Stalin to Be Unveiled in Novosibirsk by May 9
Anton Barsukov
sibreal.org
March 13, 2019

Novosibirsk’s Artistic Expertise Board [Khudsovet] has finally approved installation of a monument to Stalin in the city’s downtown. Our correspondent reports that eleven of the sixteen experts present at the board meeting where the issue was decided voted in favor of the proposal.

The monument is slated for erection on the premises of the regional Communist Party headquarters on the eve of May 9 [Victory Day] of this year. According to the board’s chair, architect Alexander Lozhkin, the board’s decision was a compromise that would satisfy people who wanted to lay flowers at the monument while not insulting people who considered Stalin a tyrant.

Lozhkin implored his fellow board members not to engage in political debates, but to evaluate only the bust’s artistic merits. According to Lozhkin, there was no archival evidence that Stalin was involved in any crimes, and this was the official stance of the Russian government.

“We chose the least of two evils, but that doesn’t mean any good came of it. We are proud of the fact that we will not be putting it in a public place, but just now we voted for a tyrant,” Konstantin Golodyayev, a board member and local historian, told our correspondent.

8E9E67FA-8D62-415D-BDDD-A87E2960C812_cx0_cy1_cw91_w1023_n_r1_stThe Novosibirsk Artistic Expertise Board in session. Photo courtesy of Anton Barsukov and RFE/RL

The bust of Stalin has already been produced: an action committee raised 500,000 rubles to pay for its manufacture. The city will pay for readying and beautifying the site where the bust is supposed to be installed. Novosibirsk Mayor Anatoly Lokot, who heads the regional committee of the Communist Party, said around one million rubles would be needed for this purpose.

In November of last year, the Artistic Expertise Board turned down the action committee’s request to install the monument in a public place, arguing it could cause distress to people who blamed Joseph Stalin for large-scale crackdowns and the deaths of millions of people.

Earlier, Novosibirsk city hall held a discussion on its official website of the best place for the monument. There were 155 positive reactions to the proposal to erect a bust of Stalin in the city, and 97 of them were worded completely identically. The proposal received a total of 243 reactions. Aside from the positive reactions, there were 85 negative reactions and three blank comments. Over 11,000 people signed a petition on Change.org opposing the monument.*

*When checked at 10:34 a.m. Central European Standard Time on March 14, 2019, the anti-Stalinist petition could not be accessed.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Expressive Eyebrows”: Azat Miftakhov Jailed After Secret Witness Testifies

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Anatrr Ra
Facebook
February 12, 2019

Azat Miftakhov, a mathematics and mechanics graduate student at Moscow State University,  has been remanded in custody until March 7, 2019

Golovina District Court Judge Sergei Bazarov has remanded Azat Miftakhov in custody for a month, until March 7, at the request of police investigators. The police suspect Miftakhov of involvement in a January 13, 2018, incident in which a window in the Khovrino office of the United Russia party was broken and a smoke bomb was thrown inside.

The only evidence in the case is the testimony of a secret “witness” who emerged three days ago. Allegedly, the witness was near the United Russia office the night of the incident. He saw six young people. Three of the young people smashed the window and threw a smoke bomb in it, while the other three stood off to the side. The so-called witness supposedly recalled Miftakhov as being among the group who stood and watched, yet he was unable to describe neither what Miftakhov was wearing or his facial features, only his “expressive eyebrows.” The witness, however, did not contact the police for an entire year since, he explained, his phone had gone dead at the time and, subsequently, he had been busy with his own affairs.

Miftakhov was detained by law enforcement officers on the morning of February 1 on suspicion of making explosives, a criminal offense as defined by Article 223 Part 1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. He was held for twenty-four hours at the Balashikha police station, where law enforcement officers tortured him, demanding he make a full confession. Only on the evening of February 2 was Miftakhov officially detained and sent to the Balashikha Temporary Detention Facility.

On February 4, however, a court refused to remand him in custody due to a lack of evidence. Over the next three days, police investigators were unable to muster any evidence against Miftakhov, and so, on February 6, he was released from the temporary detention facility without charge.

As Miftakhov was leaving the detention facility, he was detained by men in plain clothes and taken to the Interior Ministry’s headquarters for Moscow’s Northern Administrative Division, where he was told he had been detained in another case, an investigation of alleged disorderly conduct outside the United Russia office in Khovrino on January 13, 2018. An investigation into vandalism (Criminal Code Article 214 Part 1) had been opened in January 2018, but Russian law does not stipulate remanding vandalism suspects in custody during investigations.

In an amazing coincidence, just as Miftakhov was detained a second time, the case was reclassified as an investigation of disorderly conduct, as defined by Criminal Code Article 213 Part 2. People suspected of disorderly conduct can be remanded in custody, and Miftakhov suddenly had become the main suspect in the case. On February 10, the Golovina District Court in Moscow refused to remand Miftakhov in custody, postponing the hearing until February 12.

Miftakhov denies the charges against him. He believes he has been framed because of his anarchist views.

Over a thousand lecturers, professors, researchers, and students from leading Russian and international universities have signed a petition in Miftakhov’s defense, include MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky and Viktor Vasilyev, president of the Moscow Mathematics Society. Mikhail Finkelberg, professor at the Higher School of Economics and Skoltech, Boris Kravchenko, president of the Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR) and member of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council, and Russian MP Oleg Shein have agreed to stand surety for Miftakhov.

Translation and photo by the Russian Reader. Please read my earlier posts on the Khovrino vandalism case and the Russian police state’s senseless, relentless persecution of Azat Miftakhov.

Fighting the Package, Wrapping It Tighter

Muscovites rally against the Yarovaya package on August 9, 2016, in Sokolniki Park. Photo courtesy of Oleg Yakovlev/RBC
Muscovites rallying against the Yarovaya package on August 9, 2016, in Sokolniki Park. Photo courtesy of Oleg Yakovlev/RBC

Petition to Repeal “Yarovaya Amendments” Musters Necessary Number of Votes
Maria Bondarenko
RBC
August 14, 2016

A petition calling for the repeal of the so-called Yarovaya anti-terrorism amendments has garnered over 100,000 signatures on the Russian Public Initiative website. It has now been sent to a federal expert working group for consideration.

As of ten minutes past midnight on Sunday, 100,098 people had voted in support of the initiative, while [1,439] people had voted against it. Voting has now been completed, and the initiative has been forwarded for further consideration.

According to the website, the deadline for deciding on the initiative is no more than two months from the date it was submitted for consideration.

According to the petition’s authors, the law “contradicts the Russian Federal Constitution and is absolutely useless from a technical point of view.”

“We ask Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev to repeal the law, since it requires enormous amounts of money, which could lead many Internet companies to bankruptcy and reduce the revenue the state receives from their taxes,” states the petition.

Tabled by MP Irina Yarovaya and Federation Council member Viktor Ozerov, the amendments to anti-terrorism laws were approved by the State Duma on June 24, and signed into law by the Russian president [sic] on July 7. The original law bill contained provisions for stripping people convicted of terrorism and extremism of their Russian citizenship, as well as those who had gone to work in foreign law enforcement agencies and courts or enlisted in [foreign] armies.

Many of the headline-making provisions concerning the IT sector were left in the legislation that was adopted, including those requiring telecom operators and Internet companies to save the text messages and conversations of users. Internet companies complained that the law [sic] would force a rise in prices for telecommunication services and requested that it be redrafted or postponed.

Rallies against the so-called Yarovaya package were held in Moscow and other Russian cities this past week.

Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

Proposed Russian Law Could “End Online Anonymity”
Moscow Times
August 12, 2016

New Russian legislation could force messaging service providers to identify their users and delete messages containing illegal content, Vedomosti newspaper reported Friday.

Such a law would effectively end the rights of users to online anonymity.

The legislation has been draftedd by Russia’s Media Communications Union (MKS), which represents Russia’s biggest service providers, three of which confirmed to Vedomosti that the project is currently under discussion.

Messaging services will have to “rapidly block messages or publications which contain information banned by Russian law,” Vedomosti reported. If they do not comply, Russia’s media watchdog maintains the right to limit access to the service.

The law bill may be presented in the fall to a parliamentary group headed by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, a MKS source told Vedomosti.

A spokesperson for Rostelecom, a mobile operator working on the legislation, told Vedomosti that the precise details are still being discussed and that mobile operators previously had no such legal obligation to monitor the content of users’ messages.

Users will no longer be able to write anonymously online, which is an infringement of their constitutional rights, according to a spokesman at Russian Internet giant Yandex. He also said the law could force Internet companies to leave the Russian market and could lead to a drop-off in competition and an overall weakening of the sector.

Some believe the new legislation is unnecessary as all provisions for regulating messenger services are contained in anti-terrorism legislation approved this summer by President Vladimir Putin.

The anti-terrorism laws, authored by ultra-conservative Duma Deputy Irina Yarovaya, require messaging companies to monitor the content of phone calls and messages and store them for six months. All messaging apps that use encryption will also be required to add additional code and allow access to Russia’s security services.

NB. The preceding article was lightly edited to make it sound less like a hasty translation or summary of the article that originally appeared in Vedomosti.