For just over a year, Amsterdam NGO Regenboog Groep (Rainbow Group) has been running the work scheme for formerly rowdy public drinkers in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark. Working in two teams of 10, the participants spend six and a half hours a day, three days a week, sweeping and tidying up in the park. For this, they get €10, some rolling tobacco and five cans of beer.
While the United States’ congressional machinery was busy shoveling sugar into its own gas tank last month, politicians in Germany pressed forward on their ambitious drive for sustainability.
Tourists frequenting prostitutes is not exactly a new trend. But sex tourism in the region is predictably gaining attention as Brazil counts down to next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. During the last two World Cups, prostitution generated its own influx of people, with an estimated 40,000 women traveling to Germany in search of sex work in 2006, and the same number to South Africa in 2010.
If the Kremlin actually follows through with prosecuting Pyotr Pavlensky, then hold onto your hats—it promises to be one hell of a show.
Pavlensky, of course, is the 29-year-old St. Petersburg artist who seized Russia’s attention on November 10 when he stripped naked on Red Square and nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones—an act of protest on the Police Day holiday against what he called a creeping police state. He dubbed the act “Nail.”
"I used a metaphor," Pavlensky told DozhdTV after being released from police custody the next day. “It was a metaphor for the political indifference that threatens to become irreversible.”
Prosecutors have opened up a criminal case against Pavlensky for “hooliganism motivated by political, ideological, racial, ethnic, or religious hatred” and he has been summoned for an interrogation on November 21. He could face as many as seven years in prison.
As Kevin Rothrock, editor of Global Voices’ RuNet Echo project, notes in a recent post, his case is based on the exact same article of the criminal code used to prosecute Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich for their anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Read more. [Image: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters]
When the Oxford Dictionary declared “selfie” the 2013 word of the year, it inadvertently kicked off a familiar argument about the relationship between women—or more precisely girls—and culture.
On Slate, Rachel Simmons took the standard third-wave-feminism, girl-culture-is-good line. She argues that selfies are an example of young women promoting themselves and taking control of their own self-presentation: Think of each one, she says, as “a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self.” In response, Erin Gloria Ryan on Jezebel opted for an old-school, second-wave-feminism, culture-is-oppressive argument. Selfies teach girls to obsess over their appearance and judge themselves on the basis of beauty rather than accomplishments, she says: “They’re a reflection of the warped way we teach girls to see themselves as decorative.”
Both perspectives have their strengths and their drawback. What’s interesting, though, is that, beneath Simmons and Ryan’s disagreements lies a broader consensus: that all selfies share an essential selfie-ness. Ryan, for example, acknowledges that a selfie of the first female Marines to finish infantry training (and one who was injured before she could complete the course) is awesome and empowering. But then she brushes it away as irrelevant and not a “typical” selfie. Simmons, meanwhile, says she worries about girls who spend hours editing out the blemishes in their selfies, but concludes by insisting that “The selfie flaunts the restrictions of ‘good girl’ culture.” The selfie may be good or it may be bad, but Simmons and Ryan agree that its essence is all one thing or all the other. Aberrations are to be explained away.
But is there really an essential selfie-ness?
Read more. [Image: AP/Mal Fairclough and Kevin Wolf]
This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
- 39 Congolese soldiers will stand trial for war crimes, primarily mass rape.
- Al Shabab attacked a police station north of Mogadishu, killing 28.
- Fighting in the southwest of Darfur over the past three weeks has killed 200 people in two Arab tribes, the Salamat and the Messeiriya.
- A bomb in Sinai killed 11 Egyptian troops.
- Opponents of the current military administration in Egypt clashed with supporters on the two-year anniversary of fatal clashes between protesters and security on Mohammed Mahmoud Street in Cairo.
- The Syrian Army has wrested Qara, a key stop in supply routes on the Lebanese border, away from rebels.
- Ghaith Abdul-Ahad on the transition of the Syrian conflict from a revolution to a straight-up civil war.
- A bomb at a government building in Damascus killed 31, including, according to an activist group, four generals.
- Dozens of Americans have either traveled or tried to travel to Syria to fight alongside the rebels.
- Transporting the chemical weapons out of Syria proves to be tricky.
- BuzzFeed on Hezbollah’s regime support in the upcoming fight for Qalamoun.
- Dexter Filkins on Syrian violence spilling over into Lebanon.
- A pair of explosions at the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed 23.
- Israel has secretly detained a suspected Al Qaeda biological weapons expert without charge or trial since July of 2010.
- More than 5500 have been killed in violence in Iraq since April.
- A Kuwaiti man has been sentenced to five years in prison for a tweet supposedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
- Iran’s senior negotiator in Geneva is insistent on the right to enrich uranium.
- 64% of Americans support a nuclear deal with Iran.
- According to Human Rights Watch, Iran is forcibly deporting Afghans by the thousands.
- The US and Afghanistan have finalized a bilateral security agreement, one which sets up post-2014 American troop presence and international assistance. Afghanistan, however, may not sign the agreement until after the April elections, much to Washington’s dismay. Here’s an explainer of some of the sticking points in the draft deal. Here’s the full text.
- Some background on the loya jirga.
- The beheaded bodies of six government contractors were found in the south of Afghanistan.
- A drone attack in northwest Pakistan on Thursday killed 6 (or maybe 5), including suspected members of the Haqqani Network and Taliban. This is only the second strike to occur outside of the FATA.
- Seven members of the Pakistani Taliban were killed by a suicide bomber in an interesting case of “red on red” violence, explained by the increasing rifts within or among the area’s militant groups.
- Pakistan plans to try Musharraf for treason.
- A Bosnian court has released 10 Bosnian Serb war crimes convicts because the wrong criminal code had been applied at their trials.
- Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin is pushing for police and state investigators to stop trying to solve the cases of killings prior to the 1998 agreement, saying the ongoing investigations hinder the ongoing peace process as 3700 cases remain hopelessly unresolved.
- Former members of a British undercover unit in Northern Ireland have admitted to the BBC that they killed unarmed civilians while tasked with “hunting down terrorists” in the 70s. The unit’s operational records have been destroyed and the members refuse to speak about specific incidents.
- The US is at work behind the scenes on UN negotiations to create an online right to privacy. The US hopes to stop this proposal by Brazil and Germany, which could check NSA surveillance.
- A secret 2007 deal between the US and UK allows the NSA to analyze and store the phone, email and internet records of UK citizens not suspected of wrongdoing.
- The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the NSA datamining program.
- The NSA has had an 888% increase in records requests in the past fiscal year.
- North Korea has detained an American Korean War veteran.
- Meet “Fat Leonard,” the rich Malaysian contractor who sits in the center of a massive Navy bribery scandal.
- Three women have passed Marine combat infantry training (a fourth has nearly passed, delayed by an injury), becoming the first to do so.
Photo: Aleppo, Syria. A Free Syrian Army fighter looks out from a damaged shop. Molhem Barakat/Reuters.
Katie Haegele on everyday costumes, dressing from the imagination, and Pee-wee Herman.
This old picture of Paul Reubens with Cyndi Lauper rolled past my tumblr dashboard today, prompting me to reflect on him. Reubens lives, in my mind, in the small category of famous people who I really wish I knew. I am not into hero worship. I just think he and I could be friends.
I once listened to an interview he did with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. They talked about his life, and at one point he recalled moving to Florida from upstate New York when he was around nine years old. When his parents told him they were going to Florida he was all excited, thinking they were moving to the tropics. It was important to him to look the part. His mother took him shopping for school clothes and he picked out things that would suit his new look. (Apparently he had more agency in this arena than I did.) He’d be, like, a beachcomber. That’s what you do in Florida, right? Comb beaches? He showed up for the first day of fourth grade wearing clamdiggers and a nautical-themed shirt, “like a total freak.”
For all the crude xenophobic placards and slogans at this week’s Russian March, one stood out for its—dare I say—cleverness.
“The good half of the population already hates the regime. Soon you will get to know the bad half,” read a sign carried by a marcher.
Not only was it clever, but it also rang true. In a recent editorial, Gazeta.ru wrote that “for the first time, nationalist marches are taking on an oppositionist character.”
After years of successfully manipulating nationalists for their own purposes and cultivating xenophobia among the population, the Kremlin is now standing face-to-face with the monster it helped create. “Those nationalists who did not join up with the authorities in time attached themselves to the protest movement—you have to avoid your own marginalization somehow,” political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov wrote in arecent commentary.
In addition to the predictable chants of “Russia for Russians,” “Stop Feeding the Caucasus,” and various anti-migrant diatribes at this year’s Russian March, there were plenty of calls for the end of Vladimir Putin’s “Chekist regime.”
Read more. [Image: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]