MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti)
Russians Defend Darwin as Creationism Gains Strength Worldwide
Dr Konstantin Simonov, Director General of the National Energy Security Fund
During the latest US Congress campaign, one candidate stated that Charles Darwin’s evolution theory amounted to “lies straight from the pit of hell”. The remark prompted local voters to launch a “write-in campaign.”
Although Mr Darwin didn’t win, records show that 4,000 write-in votes were cast for the 19th Century biologist.
In Russia, things are even more complicated. Although there are enough activists resisting the expansion of the Russian Orthodox Church, many view this situation in the context of the growing amalgamation of church and state. The Church is being increasingly viewed as a part of Putin’s project. As a result, activists protesting against the regime find themselves fighting the Church and vice versa, supporters of the Church take any criticism as encroachment on Russia’s statehood.
In reality, the problem is that non-religious views are being increasingly suppressed and rather aggressively pushed into an intellectual ghetto, and not by the Church alone.
Various groups, including smokers, have been rallying for their rights lately. But atheists seem shut out. Even Darwin’s supporters, unlike those in the States, do not seem keen on highlighting insults. The Pussy Riot stunt caused a wave of outrage and led to a draft law increasing the punishment for insulting believers’ feelings. The government sent it back to be revised but it could still be adopted at a later date. However, one of the punk group members earlier participated in a similar stunt staged at a biology museum, and no one seemed to care.
The recent trend of opening theology departments at universities developed shortly after a high profile Church campaign for valuable art pieces to be expropriated from museums. This trend seems rather alarming. I know of one story where an emergency room doctor suggested the patient should go to church as a cure. I have also read about a regional governor who told a businessman complaining about the poor investment climate to try praying. I can only hope that this last one is a joke.
Surveys say atheists account for 5-7 percent of the population in Russia. In reality, the figure could be higher. As he was opening the International Christmas Educational Readings, Patriarch Kirill said that only 23.4 percent of parents in and around Moscow selected Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture for their children to study, while the majority opted for Fundamentals of Secular Ethics and Global Religions. He said he was certain that parents were “pressured” into making this choice. In fact it is virtually impossible to persuade believers to change their mind.
It is probably natural that Russians should stand up to protect Darwin. He is the one who claimed that the best survivors are not necessarily the cleverest or the strongest. They are simply the best at adapting over time.
If Currency War Breaks Out Dollar Could Drop to 25 Rubles
The world is again on the brink of a currency war. This time it may begin in Japan, whose central bank is devaluing the yen to support Japanese exports.
The Bank of Russia recognizes the danger of a new spiral turn in the currency war. “This road leads to separation, segregation and division into separate zones of influence, rather than to unity. It is counterproductive,” says First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Alexei Ulyukayev. But Russia, our source in the Central Bank said, does not intend to go the way of Japan. On the contrary, it is preparing to free-float the ruble.
Will the steps taken by the Japanese bank result in a ripple effect around the world and why does Russia want to steer clear of any currency war? Rossiiskaya Gazeta put this question to some of its experts.
Fears about Japan’s actions are justified, believes Alexander Abramov, professor of investment and stock markets at the Higher School of Economics.
On the other hand, there may be no other way out for the Japanese government, believes Dmitry Miroshnichenko, researcher at the Higher School of Economics.
In the absence of other options, other countries could follow Japan’s example. “The euro exchange rate may fall to full parity with the dollar. But overall, that could hold back world trade and depress the growth of global GDP,“Abramov warns. He sees no benefits from the new spiral turn in the currency war.
Russia in this context holds a special place. The Central Bank’s view is “not to get involved in the fight.” The ruble is likely to strengthen, Abramov believes. “It could rise to 30 rubles per dollar. If a currency war does erupt, the euro-dollar exchange rate is on parity and oil prices stay high, there is every chance the ruble could slip to 25 rubles per dollar,” he predicts.
Is devaluing the ruble to ease competition a worthwhile option? Many support this view, but Rossiiskaya Gazeta experts disagree. “In 2009, the ruble was devalued amid the crisis but failed to give a boost to economic development,” recalls Miroshnichenko. He explains that Russia does not yet have highly competitive products. He says swings in the rate of the Russian currency either way bode ill for the Russian economy.
"Playing with currency rates is a fairly dangerous game," Abramov says. A new currency war may well provoke a new economic crisis, he believes. “There are precedents. Such a war may trigger off other wars – on tariffs, prices and oil.”
“We should focus more on our own problems,” former Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko concluded. “Look, our hot water supply pipes are constantly rupturing, they are 70 years old. Besides, we need to develop engineering. As regards currency stability, we do have our Reserve Fund after all. What we should do is direct its financial potential to solve the problems of the Russian economy.”
Police to Wield Powerful Electric Stun Devices
The Interior Ministry is planning to spend 60 million rubles to buy 7,000 AIR-107U electric-shock batons, which will be issued to police officers for self-defense and for use during football matches or mass protests.
Banned from public sale, these Grade 1 devices, costing just over 8,000 rubles (there are also less powerful Grade 2 and 3 devices), are due to be delivered to the ministry’s storage facilities in Moscow and Balashikha from March to May 2013.
The batons, producing 120,000-volts, are 40 cm long and weigh 500g. They can stun an attacker for between 15 seconds and 15 minutes, both on contact and by firing special cartridges at a distance of four to five meters.
Judging by all appearances, the new weapons are mainly intended for the Balashikha-based Detached Operational Division (formerly Felix Dzerzhinsky Division) of the Interior Troops, which is often used to police football matches and opposition rallies.
It makes no sense to issue them firearms in public places, while a powerful electric stun gun poses little risk to crowds, whether in the metro, at railway stations or airports.
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