Tag Archives: russia

Photo courtesy of Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

Controversy plagues start of 2014 Winter Olympics

By Annie Moore

To say the Winter Olympics in Sochi have been a farce would be an understatement, and it’s only just begun.

In what proved to be the perfect symbolism for these Winter Games, the opening ceremony featured five giant illuminated snowflakes that descended and expanded to form the five Olympic rings. But the fifth and final snowflake didn’t expand, rendering the Olympic symbol half-formed… kind of like the planning for the Sochi games themselves. Oh, and the final Olympic torchbearers included a woman who tweeted a photoshopped picture of President Obama and a banana, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rumored mistress, an ex-gymnast.

These Winter Games are the most expensive in Olympics history, with a breathtaking $51 billion price tag. That’s billion, with a “b”. And the return on investment has been… less than optimal.

Athletes, journalists, international delegates and fans alike have descended on Sochi in the past weeks to get ready for the Winter Games and have been greeted with accommodations that rival the worst hostiles in the world. Harry Reekie of CNN tweeted upon their arrival that of the 11 rooms they reserved five months ago, one was ready. To which Olympic organizer Dmitry Chernyshenko tweeted the response, “to believe you just need to turn around and look at the mountains.” Last time I checked, mountains can’t install proper plumbing and electricity. Of course, neither can the companies responsible for construction of the many new hotels and Olympic facilities in Sochi.

 Social media has been flooded with “#SochiProblems” for the past week. Rooms without doors, functioning plumbing, safe water, shower curtains and many other necessities.

Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune tweeted that upon her arrival there was no working water in her room. The front desk clerk went on to tell her that if/when water was restored not to use it on her face because it contained “something very dangerous”. Later St. Clair followed up to say that her water had been restored, and tweeted a picture of something I can only imagine was green tea mixed with battery acid, or Sochi water.

But, even if most of those issues could be dismissed as first-world problems that locals deal with on a daily basis (running water is so overrated, right?), deeper, moral issues lie at the heart of these Olympics. They have been passed over by the IOC in what is perhaps the most unforgivable moral depravity in the charade of a sporting event in recent history.

 

Many journalists arrived to find stray dogs and cats in their rooms, or around the Olympic village. The journalists were later surprised to find that their new furry friends had gone missing. That would be because the Russian government has a contract with Basya Services, a pest control company, to trap and kill stray dogs and cats in the city. The original contract was reportedly for around 300 animals per month, but the number was raised to prepare for the Winter Games.

Residents have reported seeing the animals being shot with poison darts, or being fed poisoned meat. Many of the strays are pets that residents could no longer afford to keep, with no shelters to take them to, they were forced to simply turn them out. And now the animals are being exterminated because they are getting in the way of all of the atrociously-planned Olympic festivities.

 

The owner of Basya Services, Alexei Sorokin was quoted as saying the animals were “biological trash”.

The Sochi games are just getting underway, and with two more weeks of competition remaining we will see how history remembers these 2014 Winter Olympics. But one thing is for certain, something’s rotten in Sochi, and it’s not the animals or the sewage.

 

Photo Courtesy: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

Olympic athletes speak out against Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws

By Val Servino–
In late June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into action that altered the freedom of queer individuals in the country. Formally known as Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, the antigay act outlaws the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors”. The law aims to limit the belief in youths that non-normative sexuality or gender representation is of value or “attractive”.
Putin’s stronghold on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and otherwise Queer, or LGBTIQ, community is not limited to citizens of the Russian Federation. In fact, non-residents are subject to more extreme penalties.
Russian natives can be fined anywhere from 4,000 to 1,000,000 rubles–120 to 30,000 USD–depending on their place in society. Public officials receive much higher fines than average citizens.  Organizations, if not fined 1 million rubles, are subject to a 90-day suspension. Internet usage also increases the monetary amount.
Persons without citizenship can be fined anywhere between 4,000 and 100,000 rubles, or 120 to 3,000 USD, with harsher penalties for internet-based propaganda.  In addition to the cash fine, non-natives are subject to a possible 15-day imprisonment followed by deportation. This includes refugees, who fled war and terror for Russia’s borders. The nation’s current refugee population is 110,701 with an additional 15,022 asylum seekers.
Also included in the category of stateless persons are the athletes expected to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi.
In addition to outcry from the American public calling for a boycott of the games en masse, the international community has reacted as well. Athletes with global reach in particular have spoken out. At the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russian athletes Tatyana Firova and Ksenyia Ryzhova shared a kiss after winning the women’s 4×400 meter relay.
Additionally, American Nick Symmonds placed second in the 800-meter race. He dedicated his silver medal to his queer loved ones in the states.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them. Whether you’re gay, straight black, white, we all deserve the same rights,” said Symmonds, as reported by R-Sport. He was the first athlete to speak out against the new law on Russian soil.
Swedish natives and National Hockey League players Henrik Zetterberg and Victor Hedman also spoke out against the ban. Zetterberg, who will likely be called up to the Swedish National Hockey Team for the Winter Olympics, described the law as “awful, just awful”. He continued to explain his belief  “that everyone should be able to be themselves. It’s unbelievable that it can be this way in this time, especially in a big country like Russia.”
While it is wonderful that these athletes are in support of human rights for the Russian citizens who will be hosting their competition come February 2014, it is unknown whether these athletes will follow through on their beliefs.
The Russian LGBTIQ community has hopes that athletes will compete in rainbow-colored uniforms as a form of protest. However, the International Olympic Committee Charter states, “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” Such assertions could lead to fines or suspensions on behalf of the International Olympic Committee or member nations.
Russian natives are similarly unhappy with the legislation, which, put in place to ‘protect’ the youth, has given justification to vigilante attacks.
Dina Shishkova, a Seton Hall University graduate student and research assistant at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, was raised in Novomoskovsk, Russia. She explained that the new law is a variation on a theme for the Russian Federation, with several regions already instituting similar ‘protective’ laws. Sochi is one of these areas.
When asked what would need to be done before her home country repealed the homophobic law, Shishkova stated, “Personally, I don’t think this Federal law will be repealed on domestic level. On the international level, the most possible action that can be done is pressuring Russia to repeal.
“Several organizations already trying to act, such as Amnesty International and Human Right Watch, can’t enforce any actions as it will bring the sovereignty issue to the table. Legally speaking, Russia is free to treat its nationals as bad as it wants but the matter would change if it prosecuted a foreign national.”
The Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Siberia.

In The News: What you missed while you were in class

Meteor explodes over Russia 

The Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Siberia.

A meteorite originally about the size of a house exploded over Russia Friday morning, causing hundreds of people to be injured by the resulting broken glass. Over western Siberia a 10-ton meteor known as a bolide streaked across the sky before exploding and raining fragments down over the Russian district of Chelyabinsk. No deaths have been reported related to the explosion, but officials say more than 750 residents have needed medical care, and 31 have been hospitalized. A crater from the meteorite was found 50 miles from the city.

 

Coal-funded scholarships created

Kentucky’s House Education Committee unanimously passed a bill that would use money from coal-severance tax dollars to provide college scholarships for students in 34 coal-producing counties. The bill was passed Thursday and would work to help juniors and seniors in college finish their four-year degrees.

North Korea continues work on potentially nuclear rocket launch site

A nuclear test launch from North Korea last Tuesday resulted in condemnation from the U.N. Security Council and a warning from the U.S., but sources from inside the country as well as satellite imagery say that the country is continuing work on its Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground.  While North Korea said the test this week was a reaction to “U.S. hostility” following its December rocket launch, the fear from various nations is that North Korea is working on a nuclear device that would fit on a long-range missile.

 

Christopher Dorner manhunt ended

After an hours-long standoff in a cabin near Big Bear, California, Christopher Dorner, accused of killing four people, was killed by LAPD. On Tuesday, officers eventually made the decision to use canisters in the fire fight against Dorner, which caused the cabin he was hiding in to catch fire. Officers chased him into the cabin and first attempted to use tear gas but after Dorner didn’t come out CS gas canisters were used. The remains found in the mountain cabin where identified using dental records as Christopher Dorner’s.

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