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Russia Needs the EU’s Help, Not Its Sanctions


East and West

The West reacted sharply against Russia over the downing of the Malaysian Boeing. That is justified: Even if investigators conclude that separatists in Donetsk are not to blame, Russia helped create a situation in which such a thing is even possible in southern and eastern Ukraine. However, threatening and isolating Russia is unlikely to improve the problem. Like a teenager exhibiting aggressive behavior, Russia needs the help of a very patient and high-minded adult — that is, if any exist.

One of my Ukrainian colleagues who supported the Maidan from the beginning and who was outraged by Russia’s actions in the Crimea and the south and east of his country, once sent me a heartfelt note reading: “No one cares what internal issues Russia is going through. They should sort out their problems themselves.”

I understand his feelings. I am one of those few Russians who believe that this country’s behavior toward Ukraine in recent months has been completely unacceptable, that it has destroyed whatever international authority Russia once held and has irreparably undermined the credibility of Russian leaders in the eyes of the international community. Indeed, it has led people to stop trying to understand what is happening in this country. Now the world has almost officially concluded that Russians are monsters.

This loss of interest in Russia could be even worse for ordinary Russians than new economic sanctions, or even the tumult that will inevitably result in a society whose imperial ambitions have been thwarted.

But the most frightening possible result of sanctions is that the West could nail shut the “window to Europe” that Russia has been laboring hard to develop ever since Peter the Great first built it at tremendous cost in the early 18th century.

Way back in 2006, a book called “The Day of the Oprichniki” came out, authored by modern Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin. Through some mystical and visionary inspiration, Sorokin created what could serve as a “road map” for today’s Russian leaders.

The book describes a Russia walled off from the West, in which almost everyone speaks Chinese and where the populace happily reproduces some tawdry idea of the political, social and cultural life of Russia prior to Peter the Great.

Of course, it is a monarchy re-established and ruled by a certain Tsar Nikolai Platanovich, an allusion to former Federal Security Service director and current Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev. While watching a public flogging in a central Moscow square, subjects of the heirs to Platonovich recall with pleasure how they made bonfires to burn banned books and how they themselves burned their travel passports on Red Square as a demonstration of loyalty.

In the year the book was released it seemed like just a bit of outlandish fun, although it had a large print run in part because the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi staged a public book burning of Sorokin’s allegedly “immoral” works. Just the same, nobody imagined that the phantasmagoric situation Sorokin described might become reality only a few years later. Now it seems that Russia is racing at full speed toward the world of Sorokin’s oprichniki.

Russia’s isolation from the West could make that world a reality. Many Russians have a passion for reviving the past as is seen, for example, by the way in which Russian historical re-enactors are fighting in the south and east of Ukraine. They represent a tiny fraction of the overall population, just a handful of marginal figures who dream of restoring Russia’s lost imperial power and who have been waiting for their chance ever since the Soviet Union collapsed.

They and their war are such that, after shooting down a foreign passenger plane while hunting for what they believed was a permissible military target, their first thought was to say that the plane was carrying spies, a deluded attempt to make the tragedy fit into their homemade myth.

And then they hurriedly erased all mention of the episode from social networks. It might very well turn out that they are the killers, and if so, they should be punished. But either way, they will not stop being little boys with the mentality of the late Soviet period, boys who were born to rule the Soviet empire but who arrived on the scene just in time to see it collapse. They are boys who haven’t yet stopped playing their historical re-enactment game.

Of course, theirs is a deviant world view. It is impossible to condone their actions in any way, especially now that their games have turned into a bloody mess. But only people who genuinely lack concern for what is happening inside Russia can label them as the vanguard of the “evil empire,” as almost all of the world’s newspapers wrote on the morning after the Boeing disaster.

Here in Russia, there is no “evil empire,” just a huge and doubly bitter disappointment.

It stems first from the collapse of the Soviet Union, a government which, despite all the crimes of the Bolshevik leadership, enabled several generations of Soviet citizens to feel that they were participating in a grand social and humanitarian project. And second, it results from the fact that, after the Soviet collapse, Europe and the U.S. did not admit Russia into their clubby relationship.

But the majority of Russians do not dream of joining the separatists’ ranks. In fact, the several hundred or even thousands of Russians who really are there to fight for their strange ideas are, unfortunately, almost everyone in this vast country that is even capable of taking some form of political action.

That explains why the separatist militias increasingly include individuals who took part in the mass protests on Bolotnaya Ploshchad in 2011, people generally considered to be more liberals than imperialists or nationalists. As for the overwhelming majority of Russia’s more than 100 million people, they could not care less and have no plans to go anywhere at all.

Western newspapers probably have some intellectual justification for rhetorically equating the words “Russia” and “killers.” And even if the separatists’ guilt in the tragedy is never conclusively proven, a certain logical connection becomes evident. After all, the Russian leadership did its fair share to make such an accident possible and the Russian people chose these leaders. The people must ultimately answer for their officials’ actions, even if they themselves do not really care about what happens in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, very few people in Russia today are prepared to see or understand that connection. As a result, the blame from the West will only offend them, increase tensions and bring “The Day of the Oprichniki” even closer to realization.

In order to clarify this connection, a high-minded adult is needed, someone who will not pressure this already hysterical youth but instead will make an effort to truly understand what is happening inside him, to find a way to reach him, and finally, to speak to him as an equal, without fear but also without arrogance.

Then it just might become clear that the West also carries some blame for the current crisis in Ukraine because, frankly, it never was interested in what was troubling Russia.

Ivan Sukhov is a journalist who has covered conflicts in Russia and the CIS for the past 15 years.


The Moscow Times.

Even sun cream can’t protect from cancer


EVEN Factor 50 sun cream can’t ‘guarantee’ to keep you safe from skin cancer

EVEN Factor 50 sun cream can’t ‘guarantee’ to keep you safe from skin cancer, according to a shocking new study conducted in Spain.

Berta Lopez Sanchez-Laorden, co-author of the study, said that while creams can protect against immediate damage – such as sunburn – radiation can still damage skin cells.

It’s a slap in the face for sun cream manufacturers whose profits have been riding high since the iconic Slip-Slap-Slop sun protection campaign of the 1980s.

The study – carried out at Elche’s Miguel Hernandez University – controversially used mice that had been genetically modified to make them susceptible to melanomas.

The Olive Press

Can cyclists be fined for speeding?


What does the law say about speeding on a bike? Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/ReutersWhat does the law say about speeding on a bike? Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters.

Several years ago, on holiday in Dorset, I picked up speed cycling on a quiet, wide road, and continued with unbridled freedom on a long downhill stretch. It was glorious. Then, making me jump out of my saddle, came the sudden wail of a siren. Pulling out quickly from a side road, a police car flashed its lights and flagged me down. “Do you know how fast you were going, sir?” I shrugged, sweatily. “Well sir, 44mph.”

This actually became a good-natured, even jokey exchange with the local constabulary, who let me off with a warning. I was a bit surprised at the speed. I didn’t have a speedometer, and I don’t know how they measured it with a Lidar speed gun, or any other means. But were they in fact “letting me off” at all? Can cyclists break the speed limit, or does the law only apply to cars?

While it is not unheard of to be shouted at by a taxi driver, for all that they might object to about cyclists, the one thing you wouldn’t expect is to be asked to slow down. But a colleague told me he experienced that very thing this week when cycling quickly to work through Southwark. Coincidence? Southwark council is planning to crack down on fast cyclists by issuing a 20mph speed limit for any traffic on certain areas of the south London borough. There has been resistance to this from various parties, including the Metropolitan police. While this is a more realistic, if nippy speed barrier for the commuting cyclist, can they be bracketed on this issue with motor vehicles?

The law of the road

The Highway Code rule 124 is clear on keeping within speed limits, but does not mention cyclists. Archive notes on the Department of Transport code of conduct for cyclists gives general advice on using cycle paths, particularly those shared with pedestrians, suggesting “if you want to cycle quickly, say in excess of 18 mph/30 kph, then you should be riding on the road”. So – going fast? Then the road is the place to be.

Melissa Henry, communications director at Sustrans, the UK charity of cyclists and pedestrians, gave me a staunch defence for us self-propelled wheelers: “For most cyclists getting up to, let alone breaking the speed limit, is unlikely. The majority of people apply common sense to situations they face on the road. People should follow the Highway Code.” That’s indeed true, and it’s hard to break the limit, but can cyclists still be sanctioned if they do? So I turned to the Metropolitan police, where communications manager Mark Ottowell confirmed the answer: “The legislation regarding speeding covers motor (or mechanically propelled) vehicles only.”

Parklife penalties

So there you have it, we’re exempt. Or are we? Unfortunately not. There’s a caveat. Cyclists can be fined not merely for transgressing paths or pavements, which is another subject entirely, but for speeding on roads in royal parks where other laws can be applied. In 2013 a teenager was reported to have been fined for cycling at 37 mph in Richmond Park. Nippy indeed. Ottwell gives the current police position on riding in that location:

  • Police activity in Richmond Park continues to address poor road user behaviour by riders and drivers. Sections 28 & 29 Road Traffic Act 1988 may be used to report dangerous and careless cycling respectively. These offences closely mirror the provisions (sections 2 & 3) for motor vehicles. Regular ‘Exchanging Places’ events have been held in the park to promote safer cycling. Enforcement of offences committed by cyclists is carried out every day by officers who stop the offender at the time.

Cycling in Richmond Park, south-west London. Photograph: Toby Melville/ReutersCycling in Richmond Park, south-west London. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

So rules apply to roads within royal parks for both cars and bikes, in what is popular destination for recreational cyclists. But what constitutes “dangerous and careless cycling”? Can you go fast and be careful? Perhaps a rule of ride is that may depend on who else is on the road. And where does the actual speed limit apply? Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act defines danger, but what about speed? A 2004 amendment to Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations limited Richmond park speeds to 20mph and other royal parks to 30mph. These speed limits apply to vehicles, they are still not bicycles. Royal park regulations of 1997 separately defines cyclists from vehicles, and even a 2010 amendment defines vehicles as “mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road”. So it seems, penalties seem to be less about speed, more about the issue of dangerous cycling created by high speed.

The ‘furious’ issue

So has a cyclist ever been fined specifically for speed? That’s hard to find. But in September 1997, the Cambridge Evening News and the Guardian reported that a cyclist was fined £120 for travelling through the city centre at 25mph in a 30mph zone. Quite extraordinarily, police used a law that was more than 150 years old for “riding furiously”. The Town Police Clauses Act of 1847, section 28, F18, states that penalties will be given to “every person who rides or drives furiously any horse or carriage, or drives furiously any cattle”. Furiously? Seriously? The Guardian story named the rider as one Tony Adams, a postal worker, 24, who was also in training to try and break Chris Boardman’s pursuit record. Adams said: “I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even pedalling furiously.”

So, fellow cyclists, be careful out there. Don’t be dangerous. It’s difficult to break speed limits, especially when there’s traffic or traffic lights, but even if you do, on normal roads such penalties only apply to motor vehicles. But beware how your cycling is perceived in the royal parks, and let us know your thoughts and experiences.

The Guardian.

BBC News Magazine: The ship that totally failed to change the world


By Tammy Thueringer & Justin Parkinson
NS Savannah
Fifty years ago the world’s first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship sailed from the US to Europe on a publicity tour to persuade the world to embrace the atomic age. It didn’t quite work out like that.

Sleek in shape, painted red and white, its interior decorated in what was then ultra-modern chrome, the NS Savannah wasn’t quite like any other cargo ship.

It had facilities for passengers. The 600ft, 12,000-ton ship boasted a cinema, veranda bar and swimming pool. The cabins had no curtains. Instead, “polarised” windows, designed to cut glare, lined the sides of staterooms.

The ship was one of the few to spring directly from the imagination of a US president. In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower had made his famous Atoms for Peace speech, attempting to balance the growing fear of nuclear apocalypse with optimism about the possibility of civilian use of atomic energy.

And he wanted an atomic ship. A civilian one.

NS Savannah, 1962“A very attractive ship”: The NS Savannah, pictured in 1962

The NS Savannah, which cost $50m, was launched 55 years ago this week. It was to be an ambassador of sorts – the world’s first nuclear-propelled merchant ship and a symbol of safety and faith in the fuel of the future.

Stan Wheatley was one of those who was excited to be working on the ship. He was in the shipyard while the Savannah was built and served as the chief engineer on its maiden voyage. “The nuclear power system was a prototype, no question, but we were all trained well.”

Everyone was aware the ship was supposed to be a beautiful advertisement for nuclear energy.

“It represented the best-looking ship around and it still is a very attractive ship,” says Wheatley, now a member of the Savannah Association which works to preserve and protect the decommissioned ship that now sits at a port in Baltimore, Maryland.

Inside the NS Savannah's stateroomInside the NS Savannah’s stateroom
The Savannah's control roomThe Savannah’s control room
View from the Savannah's bridgeView from the Savannah’s bridge Continue reading

Wired UK: #Harry #Potter fans get glimpse of the #wizard’s future in a new story


Credit: Pottermore.comCredit: Pottermore.com

Has it really been seven years since the end of the seventh Harry Potter book? It has, and as every Harry Potter fan knows, seven in the most powerfully magical number, which might well be why JK Rowling has chosen this anniversary to release a new short story about everyone’s favourite wizard. [Pipe down, Gandalf]

The new material has been published on the online portal to Harry’s world, Pottermore, and takes the form of a Daily Prophet news report — called “Dumbledore’s army reunited at Quidditch World Cup final” — by the nefarious journawitch Rita Skeeter. As gossip correspondent, Skeeter updates us on what happens to the boy who lived in manhood as well as the exploits of other members of Dumbledore’s Army.

Here’s what we learn about Harry and his chums:

Harry is about to turn 34, is starting to go grey and is a famous Auror. He hasn’t swapped his round glasses for wayfarers, even though this seems to have been a style choice inflicted on him early in life by the Dursleys. He has got another scar — a mysterious mark over his right cheekbone.

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