Russians Rally in Support of U.S. Teacher Sentenced for Sex With Teens

2015/07/06

The sentencing of an American teacher to 22 years in prison for having sex with teenaged students has sparked outrage among Russians adamant that the 30-year-old had "done nothing wrong" by pursuing the amorous affairs.

Shortly after Jennifer Fichter's sentence for bedding three of her 17-year-old students was handed down by a Florida court last Thursday, Russian sympathizers flooded the Internet with calls for her release.

Widespread support for the former English teacher emerged among Russians who champion "traditional values," as well as those who just two months ago were appalled when a 48-year-old policeman took a 17-year-old as his second bride.

'Stop the Legal Tyranny!'

By Monday, two online petitions had been launched by Russian supporters of the woman convicted of having had affairs with three 17-year-old boys.

One petition — launched on popular website Change.org — quickly went viral among Russian social media users, having gathered upward of 41,000 signatures by Monday evening.

"Twenty-two years for a woman who helped three mature male students start their adult lives. Twenty-two years for a woman who wanted to be happy and loved, even if it was by someone younger than herself. Twenty-two years for the fact that these students wanted to be with her, longed for her tenderness and attention," said the petition launched by Russian netizen Denis Shiryaev.

The emotional statement was accompanied by a picture of Fichter with a halo photoshopped around her head, an apparent bid to depict her as a saint.

The petition's author demanded an end to the "United States' legal tyranny" and urged U.S. authorities to overturn Fichter's conviction, set her free and force the sentencing judge to apologize for calling her a "predator."

"Comrades! Sign the petition! Any woman could have ended up in a situation like this. If we let this go, students would be able to frame any loving women, and they are so important to our society," the petition, addressed to the U.S. White House, concluded.

Another petition was launched on the U.S. White House's citizen action website We the People, but by Monday evening it had gathered fewer than 2,000 of the 100,000 signatures necessary to warrant the U.S. presidential administration's consideration.

It was not immediately clear whether the second petition was launched by the same Russian activists, but the text of the petition — written in English, but festooned with grammatical errors — was heavily reminiscent of its Russian counterpart. "In its place could be any, and if we close our eyes to this incident, then after some time, students will be able to put any loving woman, which our society so desperately needs," said the petition, posted to We the People activism site.

Male and Female Sympathies

Fichter's Russian supporters have not limited their activism to online petitions. Men and women alike have written blog articles and social media postings blasting the lengthy sentence, trumpeting the theory that there is nothing wrong with a grown woman having sex with 17-year-old boys.

"Did she really deprave them? Taint their mentality? Traumatize them for life?" prominent Moscow artist Andrei Bilzho wrote in his blog on Snob magazine on Saturday. "A teacher must be a teacher in every sense of the word, and she was," he stoically concluded.

Bilzho followed the blog entry up with a Facebook post on Monday, saying he had since been swamped with allegations that his thoughts on Fichter made him a "maniac" or a "pervert."

"I just feel sorry for her. I don't know much about U.S. law. But I'm not talking about law — I'm talking about fairness," he wrote.

Well-known publicist and blogger Nikolai Podosokorsky wrote on his LiveJournal page Sunday: "I sympathize with her. I don't think isolating her from society will make this society any better."

"Feministki," a feminist community on LiveJournal, also expressed dismay with the length of Fichter's sentence.

"What has she done [to deserve this sentence]? Has she beaten those kids and sold them cocaine? She's basically been given a life sentence, as she won't be able to advance her career by the time she's released," a community member wrote Monday.

Pure Chauvinism

This is a clear example of how chauvinistic Russian society is, Anton Sorin, a children psychologist and the head of the Kvartet ("Quartet") psychological clinic, told The Moscow Times on Monday.

"Russian people see men as being more active in terms of sexual relationships. In their view, it's the man who initiates sexual encounters and men always have a choice," the expert said.

Women, Sorin explained, are generally seen as having a more passive nature, one that is often driven by external circumstances.

"If a man engages in sexual contact with an underaged girl, it's disgusting and appalling in society's opinion. But if a woman does that, she was probably lonely or had some other reasons, and it's always assumed that her male partner didn't mind — that he enjoyed it," Sorin said.

The psychologist asserted that neither gender nor age should matter in cases like this. "The abuser is always responsible for his or her actions, no matter what the age gap between him or her and the victim is," he said.

The fact that Russian people don't acknowledge the illegality of Fichter's actions, opting instead to zero in on whether what she did was good of bad, in Sorin's opinion, is easy to explain.

"The way our legal system handles pedophilia is peanuts compared to what other countries do about it," he said, explaining that the sentences handed down to pedophiles in Russia and the West are enormously disparate.

"Moreover, our society often considers rape [by vaginal or anal penetration] to be the only way a person can be sexually abused," Sorin added.

Isolated Case

Prior to Fichter's case, Russian sympathies have rarely lain with adults who had been sexually involved with teenagers or children.

Numerous examples of American families abusing their adopted Russian children contributed to President Vladimir Putin's decision to sign a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens in late 2012.

And just two months ago Russian society was outraged by a marriage carried out in Chechnya, between a middle-aged police chief and his teenaged second bride.

As rumors mounted of the May-December marriage, it was widely speculated that the bride was being forced to marry the older man. Coming out in defense of the marriage, Russia's flamboyant children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov — the official whose job it is to ensure the safety of children in Russia — explained that marrying underaged girls was normal for Chechnya, a Russia region where, in his view, girls reach puberty earlier than elsewhere.

"In some Russian regions women are shriveled up by age 27," Astakhov said in an interview with radio station Russkaya Sluzhba Novostey.

Contact the author at d.litvinova@imedia.ru



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Relations between Russia, Greece taken to new level — senior Russian diplomat

2015/07/06

MOSCOW, July 6. /TASS/. The telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras following Greece’s bailout referendum indicates that the relations between the two countries have been taken to a principally new level, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev told the Rossiya 24 TV channel on Monday.

"It’s curious that Tsipras has primarily turned to Vladimir Putin time and again. This is a unique situation," Kosachev said. "This means that the relations between the two countries have been taken to a new level. Of course, this situation has to be perceived as creating principally new opportunities for cooperation between Russia and Greece," he added.

Kosachev noted that "Russia and Greece "treated each other with obvious empathy, which had historical roots." Both countries have deep Orthodox Christian traditions and spiritual principles, pursue the same goals and interests in the world," he said.

"But we cannot be holier than the Pope and propose any solutions to Greece until it applies to us for help. A political dialogue on the highest level is appropriate now," Kosachev added.

Earlier on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras discussed the results of the referendum in Greece on the conditions of a rescue package from creditors. The conversation was initiated by the Greek side, the Kremlin press service said. The two leaders also discussed further development of the Russian-Greek cooperation.



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Ukrainian troops shelling Donetsk airport area

2015/07/06

MOSCOW, July 6. /TASS/. Ukrainian troops are shelling the settlement of Spartak near the Donetsk airport, a spokesman for the local administration said late on Monday.

"The shelling continues for more than half an hour. About ten artillery and five tank shells have hit the area," the Donetsk News Agency quoted him as saying.

Apart from that, sounds of heavy artillery shots are being heard from Donetsk’s Kievsky district, the agency said.

Minsk agreements

The Minsk accords were signed on February 12, 2015 after 14-hour negotiations between the leaders of Normandy Four (Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko) in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk. Concurrently, Minsk hosted a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukrainian settlement.

A 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk agreements in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine.

The ceasefire however has been repeatedly violated.



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Savchenko’s case exempted from jury trial jurisdiction — lawyer

2015/07/06

MOSCOW, July 6 /TASS/. A jury court cannot consider a criminal case of the former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko under Russian laws, lawyer Nikolay Polozov told TASS.

"Today, the investigator told us that all the five appeals, including a request to hold a jury trial, had been turned down. I have not seen the text but I assume that it is linked to decision to exempt this kind of charge against women from the jurisdiction of jury trials," Polozov said.

He explained that early in 2015 the charge of intentional murder of two and more persons brought against women had been exempt from the jurisdiction of jury trials because women in Russia cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment.

"A jury trial can hear a case initiated against a man on the same charges but it cannot do that if the charge is brought against a woman. We consider this provision to be illegitimate and intend to appeal it," Polozov said adding that Savchenko’s defence lawyers would again demand a jury trial during preliminary hearings.

Savchenko is being charged with the murder of two and more persons by universally dangerous methods that was motivated by hatred of a social group and committed by a group of persons who acted on previous concert. She is also accused of illegally crossing the Russian state border.

According to investigators, Savchenko learrnt the location of Russian journalists of the Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) and other civilians during military hostilities near Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, in June 2014. She informed the Ukrainian armed units in the area about their position, which was later shelled by the Ukraine army. VGTRK journalist Igor Kornelyuk and operator Anton Voloshin were killed. Other civilians who were nearby could have been hurt.



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Ghost rider in the sky: Scientists use lasers to project movie onto clouds (VIDEO)

2015/07/06
Screenshot from YouTube.com video

Screenshot from YouTube.com video

A green ghost rider appeared in the sky over the British city of Nottingham when scientists started testing a newly developed projecting device which allows the beaming of moving images directly onto clouds for the first time ever.

The image of a galloping horse rider was projected onto the clouds from a distance of 50 meters by a special laser-based projection system mounted on an aircraft.

The system beaming the images into the clouds was invented by a research team, calling itself Project Nimbus. It is composed of a designer, Dave Lynch, and a chemist, Dr Mike Nix, from the University of Leeds, who ultimately want to be able to beam the movies onto the clouds from the ground.

The video of the galloping horse-rider is a result of a five year long research project.

“Project Nimbus is the exploration of digital and analogue techniques to project moving images onto clouds from the ground, sea level and aircraft including planes, paragliders and hot air balloons,” the researchers explain on their website.

The application range of the new device is not restricted only to louds, as “the project aims to deliver multiple projection installations also onto cooling towers, steam trains and urban vents,” the Project Nimbus team claims.

The idea of such a device originally came to Dave Lynch as he was doing his master’s degree. During his studies he stumbled upon a military paper on the war in Vietnam, describing sky projections that were used as a psychological weapon against the Vietnamese.

Inspired by the idea, Lynch started his own experiments in 2007. However, they were unsuccessful because of the lack of the necessary equipment.

In 2012, he returned to experimenting after he received funding from the AND festival and the arts incubator Octopus Collective, New Scientist reports.

The working principle of the Lynch’s device is based on a zoopraxiscope – a creation of a 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, which is thought to be a kind of the world’s first movie projector.

Zoopraxiscope (Image from wikipedia.org)

The device developed by Muybridge projected a series of pictures from glass discs having images of a galloping horse on them. The modern researchers decided to also use the image of a moving horse for their experiments, as a tribute to the Muybridge’s creation.

“The experimental projection devices fuse old and new methods developed from ubiquitous technology,” the project authors say.

The original principle of the zoopraxiscope would not work for projecting images onto the clouds, so the team decided to use a laser.

As a result, the Project Nimbus device uses 2.5W 532nm laser as a light source with hemispherical lenses transforming the laser beam and creating the shape of the image.

The researchers presented the findings of their study at Leeds City Museum on Saturday, July 4.

Referring to the future of the project, Dave Lynch expressed hope “to collaborate with someone like flight pioneer Richard Branson to develop a digital art piece which allows us to interact and experience the world through cloud projections,” as he told the New Scientist.



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