The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'moscow'
A Russian ecologist has found that the fierce pressure of living in a hostile urban environment is causing Moscow's stray dogs to evolve increased intelligence, including abilities to negotiate the city's subway system:
Poyarkov has studied the dogs, which number about 35,000, for the last 30 years. Over that time, he observed the stray dog population lose the spotted coats, wagging tails, and friendliness that separate dogs from wolves, while at the same time evolving social structures and behaviors optimized to four ecological niches occupied by what Poyarkov calls guard dogs, scavengers, wild dogs, and beggars.
But beggar dogs have evolved the most specialized behavior. Relying on scraps of food from commuters, the beggar dogs can not only recognize which humans are most likely to give them something to eat, but have evolved to ride the subway. Using scents, and the ability to recognize the train conductor's names for different stops, they incorporate many stations into their territories.
Additionally, Poyarkov says the pack structure of the beggars reflects a reliance on brain over brawn for survival. In the beggar packs, the smartest dog, not the most physically dominant, occupies the alpha male position.I wonder whether similar evolutions of animal intelligence, driven by the conditions of living in cities, have occurred in other cities; there have been anecdotal reports of pigeons deliberately catching the Tube in London, with speculation that they commute in to the tourist-rich city to feed before returning to the suburbs. (As such, one could probably refer to them as passenger pigeons.) Not to mention two instances of cats deliberately catching buses (both in England).
Whilst various European states stubbornly refuse to rein in their freedom of expression to appease religious sensibilities, the Russians have no time for such liberal panderings. Moscow's city government has banned the city's first gay rights parade, on the grounds that the very idea has "caused outrage in society":
Gay and lesbian activists have been campaigning for permission to stage the country's first gay pride event on Saturday 27 May. The date marks the 13th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia in 1993. But the plans have drawn a furious reaction from religious leaders and been condemned as "suicidal" by other gay activists .
Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."
The cleric said the Koran taught that homosexuals should be killed because their lifestyle spells the extinction of the human race and said that gays had no human rights.
In the Communist era Russian homosexuals were jailed for five years and their "condition" was classed as a mental disorder. In post-Soviet Russia public acceptance of homosexuality has been glacial. An opinion poll last year showed 43 per cent of Russians believed gay men should be incarcerated.The organisers of the parade are planning to sue the Moscow government in the European Court of Human Rights.
Still in Russia, survivors of Stalinist gulags are outraged by the imminent opening of a Stalin museum in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). The museum is funded by local businessmen, though will enjoy pride of place in an official facility; its opening is only one manifestation in the recent rise of the popularity of the Soviet dictator.
It now emerges that many buildings in Moscow have large quantities of explosives hidden under them. The explosives were buried by officers of the NKVD (which became the KGB) during World War 2, in case the Nazis captured Moscow:
"At night, they descended into the hotel's basement, designated a man to watch, and dug. They dug through the brick foundation and made a cache beneath the basement. Then, on another night, other NKVD officers secretly delivered a truck full of TNT right into the hotel's inner yard. The officers quartered on the first floor helped unload the explosives and carry the packages one by one into the cache beneath the basement. When they were through, they covered up the cache."
"My father said that the plan went like this: the Germans weren't supposed to suspect anything when they examined the premises. They say that the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels wanted to be housed in the Moskva Hotel and turn it into his personal propaganda office with a view of the Kremlin."It is presently not known where exactly there still are explosives.
Russia's answer to the Cave Clan call themselves Diggers of the Underground Planet, and explore the vast labyrinth of tunnels beneath Moscow, finding everything from secret subway lines and disused facilities of various sorts to Neverwhere-like societies of fringe dwellers and sinister groups of uniformed men doing god only knows what:
According to the Diggers, the underground is also a refuge for former prisoners. It is against the law for ex-convicts to reside in the Russian capital, so those who do move to the city must find inconspicuous lodgings. Some settle in basements with good air-conditioning systems and two or three exits. Sometimes they gather in groups, living by "prison laws."
In a tunnel under the Centrobank building, the Diggers observed uniformed people in masks equipped with powerful halogen lamps. The Diggers were afraid to follow them lest they should come under fire. So far, security services have not taken the Diggers' reports of these sightings seriously.
Under the Skliffasovsky clinic the Diggers encountered people dressed in monk's robes, carrying torches around a strange-looking altar made of stone. They were performing some sort of service and singing. When they saw the Diggers, they hurriedly disappeared.
(via bOING bOING)