allochthonous: (spirit)
Orthodox priests and protestors attacking a tiny rally in Tbilisi held to celebrate International Day Against Homphobia and promote gay rights.

Last year's rally to celebrate IDAHO was the first time any kind of public gay rights rally had been held in Georgia, and was broken up by religious and ultra-nationalist counter-protestors. This year, the IDAHO opponests weren't going to let them get that far: the rally was abandoned before it started and participants had to be bussed to safety by police after thousands of people accompanied by Orthodox priests occupied the proposed site of the rally and attacked anyone they believed to be associated with it,

Video footage shows some thugs apparently chanting the Lord's Prayer as they attack the demonstrators; others are content with the more prosaic "Kill them! Tear them to pieces!". Some of the protestors are bearing stinging nettles, for their curative properties, to "beat the gays" with.

This very powerful post by a gay rights supporter details some of the threats received by the IDAHO rally participants in the days leading up to the event and emphasises just how brave you need to be to publicly align yourself with this cause (she also has a good post about her experience of the IDAHO rally last year). Public attitudes towards homosexuality in the Caucasus in general are not what you would call enlightened: a 2009 survey suggested that 92% of Georgians believe that homosexuality is totally unacceptable. This infographic about the experience of LBGT people in Georgia seems to bear out that statistic, but I have difficulty believing that the majority of people in the country would agree with this kind of violence. Maybe they would. It's incredibly hard to reconcile the hospitality and generosity I've experienced here with these images.

It is true the Georgian government generally makes the right noises about LBGT rights (got to tick those EU boxes!) and legislation is fairly enlightened in Georgia compared to some of its neighbours (it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation) I suspect that this kind of legislation is upheld on a rather casual basis. The prime minister (whose repeatedly-stated opinion on the subject is the philiosophical but not perhaps hugely proactive "people will get used to it") has just released a statement saying that the perpetrators will be "dealt with according to the law", and whether that happens will be a pretty good indication of the way things are going under the new government (mind you, the law itself has a few questions to answer here; the police didn't exactly cover themselves in glory).
allochthonous: (spirit)
I was having a pretty good day (met a friend for lunch; drunk pretentious coffee; stumbled across a charity shop containing six pairs of nearly new Gap jeans in my size - limited myself to two, but still not bad for fifteen quid) but then I came home and read this and got annoyed.

L'Aquila quake: Italian scientists guilty of manslaughter


Briefly, the members of the Committee for Public Safety have been sentenced to six years each for manslaughter for not giving sufficient warning of the 2009 earthquake in which 309 people died (specifically, for not communicating the risk accurately. ETA2 because I was not very clear here; they were accused of understating the risk and providing inaccurate reassurances that caused peopel to alter their behaviour). This is completely insane, scientifically unsound and sets a very worrying precedent for future prosecutions. Trying to predict geophysical hazards is difficult enough already (anyone fancy being the person who has to make the call when to evacuate the 3 million people living in the Naples area if Vesuvius starts rumbling?), the last thing scientists need is the threat of jail sentences hanging over their heads if they get it wrong.

There is a very good and detailed blog post on the subject here from Highly Allocthonous (no relation: we both independently picked our names from geology class, although he stuck with the rocks for longer than me and hence is better-informed on the subject), written back in June last year when the prosections were kicking off. Back then, no one expected the prosecution to amount to anything. I hope the committee members appeal the hell out of this verdict and get it overturned.

Meanwhile, the best way to limit damage from earthquakes remains developing and properly enforcing stringent building codes for earthquake hazard zomes. There was a lot of argument in the aftermath of the L'Aquila earthquake as to whether poor enforcement of building codes was to blame for the high death toll; certainly a very high number of buildings were damaged in the quake, although it appears that the failure to retrofit older buildings may have been a bigger problem than poorly-constructed newer buildings. The Italian government would be better off investing in improved building techiques rather than pursuing such poorly-informed prosecutions.

ETA Excellent context from the NYT here and 2011 article from Nature on the trial here.
allochthonous: (Default)
The news coming out of Norway this morning is horrifying. More than 90 killed, seven in an explosion in Oslo and at least 84  in a gun massacre on the island of Utøya, most of whom were teenagers. The police there seem to think that the bomb and the shootings were the work of a single madman with far-right sympathies. My thoughts are with the victims and their families - this whole thing is completely senseless.

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