Tagged: british

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Myanmar military assures UN of 'harsh' action on sexual assault

MAUNGDAW, Myanmar (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military has assured the United Nations of “harsh” action against perpetrators of sexual violence, state media reported on Tuesday, as U.N. envoys traveled to Rakhine State where the military conducted a widely criticized crackdown.

Rohingya refugees are reflected in rain water along an embankment next to paddy fields after fleeing from Myanmar into Palang Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

U.N. and rights groups say nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after a military crackdown launched in Rakhine State in August that the United Nations denounced as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Many of the arriving refugees recounted incidents of killings, arson and rape but Myanmar largely rejected those reports as well as the accusation of ethnic cleansing.

The government said its forces were engaged in a legitimate security campaign in response to a string of Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.

“Sexual violence (is) considered as despicable acts,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper cited military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing as telling the envoys.

The military was “taking harsh and stronger actions against such offenders”, he said.

The U.N. Security Council envoys traveled by Myanmar military helicopters to northern Rakhine on Tuesday, the final day of their four-day visit to the region, flying over burned and bulldozed villages visible from the air.

The envoys arrived in Myanmar on Monday after visiting refugee camps on the Bangladesh side of the border and government leaders in Dhaka.

In Myanmar, they met separately with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing.

British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce told Reuters that during Monday’s meeting Min Aung Hlaing was “very forthcoming” on the issue of sexual assaults in Rakhine, adding that the military chief said such offences were “not tolerated”.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, in her nearly hour-long meeting with the envoys, pledged to investigate any credible accusations of abuse, said diplomats who attended.

Suu Kyi noted Myanmar’s difficulties in transitioning to rule of law after decades of military dictatorship, said the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“She said what had happened or what was alleged to have happened to some of the Rohingya villagers was not acceptable and that if evidence were available it should be reported to the Burmese authorities and they would investigate,” said Pierce.

“What we’ve got to do on the council is think how best to turn that into something operational so that the evidence gets collected and given either to the Burmese authorities or to some sort of international mechanism,” she said.

Suu Kyi’s civilian government has no control over the military. Government spokesman Zaw Htay did not respond to requests for comment.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has for years denied the Rohingya citizenship, freedom of movement and access to basic services such as healthcare. Many in Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from mostly Muslim Bangladesh.

When asked if the council could help ensure evidence of crimes such as rape is collected, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said: “I don’t think this is a council matter, frankly speaking. There are a lot of agencies apart from the Security Council.”

‘COOPERATION NEEDED’

In northern Rakhine, the council envoys were shown a reception center Myanmar has built for repatriating Rohingya, aiming to accept a total of 150 people a day, and a transit camp that can house 30,000 returnees.

The envoys passed two bulldozed villages near the camp. They were also shown a rebuilt village.

The Security Council asked Myanmar in November to ensure no “further excessive use of military force” and to allow “freedom of movement, equal access to basic services, and equal access to full citizenship for all”.

On Monday, the council envoys met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who asked them to press Myanmar to take back “their citizens”.

Hasina said the refugees should return “under U.N. supervision where security and safety should be ensured”.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete the voluntary repatriation of the refugees within two years but differences between the two sides remain and implementation of the plan has been slow.

Suu Kyi’s office also said in a statement that cooperation was needed from Bangladesh on the repatriation of refugees.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Yimou Lee in YANGON; Editing by Robert Birsel and Darren Schuettler

0

Poisoning of Russian ex-spy puts spotlight on Moscow's secret military labs

During his last run for the presidency, in 2012, Russian leader Vladimir Putin startled U.S. military experts with a mysterious pledge to develop novel kinds of weapons to counter the West’s technological edge. Armies of the future, he said, would need weapons “based on new physical principles” including “genetic” and “psychophysical” science.

“Such high-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons,” Putin said in an essay published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government’s newspaper of record, “but will be more ‘acceptable’ in terms of ­political and military ideology.”

Exactly what Putin meant — and how any “genetic” weapon could square with international treaties outlawing chemical and biological warfare — remains uncertain. But what is now clear is that Putin’s words unleashed a wave of activity across a complex of heavily guarded military and civilian laboratories in Russia.

Since the start of Putin’s second term, a construction boom has been underway at more than two dozen institutes that were once part of the Soviet Union’s biological and chemical weapons establishment, according to Russian documents and photos compiled by independent researchers. That expansion, which includes multiple new or refurbished testing facilities, is particularly apparent at secret Defense Ministry laboratories that have long drawn the suspicions of U.S. officials over possible arms-treaty violations.

[Putin: Russia is developing nuclear arms capable of avoiding missile defenses[1]]

Russian officials insist that the research in government-run labs is purely defensive and perfectly legal. But the effort has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of allegations of Moscow’s involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. Both were sickened by exposure to Novichok[2], a kind of highly lethal nerve agent uniquely developed by Russian military scientists years ago.

“The big question is, why are they doing this?” said Raymond Zilinskas, a chemical and biological weapons expert with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. In a newly released book[3], “Biosecurity in Putin’s Russia[4],” ­Zilinskas and co-author Philippe Mauger analyze hundreds of contract documents and other records that show a surge in Russian research interest in subjects ranging from genetically modified pathogens to nonlethal chemical weapons used for crowd control.

The analysis also tracks a simultaneous rise in sensationalist Russian claims that the United States is itself pursuing offensive biological weapons. Reports posted on state-sponsored news sites and amplified over social media have accused U.S. scientists of being behind recent outbreaks of the Zika virus as well as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that began in 2014. In each instance, U.S. federal agencies marshaled a sizable response to counter or contain the outbreaks.

Such baseless claims could be viewed as part of a deliberate effort to “explain to their own people why they need to do this research,” Zilinskas said in an interview.

A spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to answer written questions but forwarded a March 13 statement by Vassily A. Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations. Nebenzia denied any involvement by the Kremlin in the March 4 nerve-agent attack and suggested that it was the United States and Britain, not Russia, that were continuing to conduct illegal research to create “new toxic substances.”

[Britain’s top diplomat accuses Putin of being behind nerve-agent attack[5]]

The research by Zilinskas and Mauger appears to bear out long-held concerns by the State Department, which has sharply criticized Russia in recent years over a lack of transparency in its military-related biological and chemical research. Since 2012, State Department officials have issued a series of reports faulting Moscow for refusing to open its military research laboratories to outside inspectors, and for failing to provide proof that it destroyed the highly lethal arsenals created by Red Army scientists in the years before the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Thomas Countryman, an assistant secretary of state for international security and arms control during the Obama administration, said that even before Putin, U.S. officials questioned whether the Kremlin had owned up to its past “fully and transparently.” But over the past six years, official distrust has grown as Moscow has embraced a more aggressive foreign policy that includes intimidation of Russia’s neighbors and an unabashed support for a Syrian dictator who uses nerve agents to kill his own people.

“Moscow’s full-throated defense of Syrian use of chemical weapons[6] — and, especially, its apparent use of chemical agents in targeted assassinations — only add to the concerns,” Countryman said.

Cold War pathogens

When the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991, the Russian Federation became the heir to history’s most dangerous arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

During the Cold War, Soviet leaders spent vast sums to create weaponized versions of 11 different pathogens — including the microbes that cause anthrax, smallpox and the plague — while also experimenting with genetically altered strains. They created new classes of chemical toxins, such as Novichok, reportedly used in the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England.

[What is Novichok? Russia’s nerve agent has Soviet roots[7]]

A fourth-generation nerve agent more deadly than VX, Novichok is the stuff of legend. Russia denies that it ever researched or manufactured such nerve agents, but it arrested a former Soviet weapons scientist[8] on charges of divulging state secrets after he published details about Soviet Novichok production in newspaper articles and a memoir.

The Soviet program was motivated in part by competition with the United States. Washington maintained its own stockpile of nerve agents during the Cold War and manufactured biological weapons until 1969, when President Richard M. Nixon dismantled the program. But the Kremlin pressed ahead, convinced that the Pentagon was continuing bioweapons research in secret. Finally, in 1992, newly installed Russian President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged the existence of the secret program to U.S. officials and reported that all Soviet bioweapons had been destroyed.

In the years immediately following the Cold War, securing and dismantling Soviet weapons of mass destruction united Americans and Russians in a common cause[9]. The United States helped Russia build incinerators for destroying its chemical weapons, and it sponsored programs that paired former Soviet bioweapons scientists with Western companies to keep them employed during the country’s economic transition.

[Key allies back Britain in blaming Moscow for chemical attack[10]]

Such U.S.-Russian technical cooperation began to wane after Putin’s election as president, and it collapsed after the Russian strongman won a second term in 2012. Yet, even during the Yeltsin years, Russia refused to grant ­access to key weapons sites, including four biodefense laboratories run by the Russian military and perpetually sealed off from outside visitors, former U.S. officials said.

“We were always curious: Were they embarrassed to let us in because of the shape of their labs? Or were they hiding something?” said Laura Holgate, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on preventing biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism.

Holgate allowed that Russia’s reluctance also may have reflected a “paranoia about what the U.S. might be learning” about the country’s military capabilities. In any case, she said, it became clear over time that Putin intended to preserve some Soviet-era capabilities for use in very specific situations. One of these was assassination — the killing of the Kremlin’s opponents using methods that were dramatic, yet allowed Moscow to plausibly deny culpability. Another was crowd control: the use of controversial “knockout” chemicals to incapacitate individuals involved in hostage standoffs and other mass disturbances.

Officials familiar with Russia’s program said the expanded activity at military labs may be partly aimed at honing those capabilities, giving Putin a variety of tools for dealing with adversaries while seeking to avoid the most flagrant violations of Russia’s treaty obligations.

“That would be in line with behavior that we’ve been seeing for years,” Holgate said.

Satellite evidence

Whatever the explanation, the buildup is striking. Data collected by Zilinskas and Mauger includes contract documents, ­Russian-language reports and aerial imagery that shed light on a dramatic expansion at the four secret Defense Ministry laboratories and numerous government-run civilian research centers across the country.

At one military complex at Yekaterinburg — the scene of an accidental release[11] of anthrax spores in 1979 that is said to have killed 100 workers and townspeople — satellite images show clusters of newly built, warehouse-size industrial buildings dotting a walled campus. Renovations can be observed in older buildings that in Soviet times were factories for mass-producing bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax.

At the 33rd Central Research Test Institute at Shikhany — formerly a “closed” Russian military city on the Volga River in southwest Russia — records point to a recent spending spree for specialized equipment such as freeze-drying machines used in microbial production. Lab officials are shown soliciting bids for repairs to a wind tunnel, the type used in testing aerosolized bacteria and viruses, as well as upgrades to an area of bermed storage pens that the researchers say are probably intended for open-air testing involving explosives.

Wind tunnels and outdoor testing facilities can be used legitimately to develop defenses against biological and chemical attacks. Indeed, the Pentagon employs similar equipment at its biodefense research facilities in Maryland and Utah. But Zilinskas and Mauger say the Russian expansion invites a higher level of scrutiny in light of the explicit calls by Russian leaders for work on novel kinds of weapons, including “genetic” ones.

After Putin’s essay in 2012, several senior military officials, including the defense minister at the time, Anatoly Serdyukov, publicly endorsed Putin’s appeal for new kinds of weapons and promised to start building them, the researchers note. Serdyukov specifically pledged to incorporate “genetic” research in creating Russia’s next-generation arsenals.

“We noted the numerous high-level calls for the development of biotechnology-based weapons in Russia, without further specification,” Zilinskas and Mauger write. At minimum, the vagueness of such statements potentially opens the door for any military official or “ambitious scientist” to lobby for a chance to develop a new kind of weapon — with the implicit blessing of top Russian officials, they write.

“When taken in conjunction with the [military’s] apparent support for the development of ‘genetic’ weapons, these statements erode normative barriers toward biological weapons in Russia,” the authors say.

Anton Troianovski in Moscow contributed to this report.

Read more:

With Putin’s reelection, expect rising tensions with the West[12]

The long, terrifying history of Russian dissidents being poisoned abroad[13]

Putin vows retaliation for British sanctions over poisoning case[14]

References

  1. ^ Putin: Russia is developing nuclear arms capable of avoiding missile defenses (www.washingtonpost.com)
  2. ^ exposure to Novichok (www.washingtonpost.com)
  3. ^ book (www.rienner.com)
  4. ^ Biosecurity in Putin’s Russia (www.amazon.com)
  5. ^ Britain’s top diplomat accuses Putin of being behind nerve-agent attack (www.washingtonpost.com)
  6. ^ Syrian use of chemical weapons (www.washingtonpost.com)
  7. ^ What is Novichok? Russia’s nerve agent has Soviet roots (www.washingtonpost.com)
  8. ^ former Soviet weapons scientist (www.voanews.com)
  9. ^ a common cause (armscontrolcenter.org)
  10. ^ Key allies back Britain in blaming Moscow for chemical attack (www.washingtonpost.com)
  11. ^ accidental release (nsarchive2.gwu.edu)
  12. ^ With Putin’s reelection, expect rising tensions with the West (www.washingtonpost.com)
  13. ^ The long, terrifying history of Russian dissidents being poisoned abroad (www.washingtonpost.com)
  14. ^ Putin vows retaliation for British sanctions over poisoning case (www.washingtonpost.com)
0

Poisoning of Russian ex-spy puts spotlight on Moscow's secret military labs

During his last run for the presidency, in 2012, Russian leader Vladimir Putin startled U.S. military experts with a mysterious pledge to develop novel kinds of weapons to counter the West’s technological edge. Armies of the future, he said, would need weapons “based on new physical principles” including “genetic” and “psychophysical” science.

“Such high-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons,” Putin said in an essay published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government’s newspaper of record, “but will be more ‘acceptable’ in terms of ­political and military ideology.”

Exactly what Putin meant — and how any “genetic” weapon could square with international treaties outlawing chemical and biological warfare — remains uncertain. But what is now clear is that Putin’s words unleashed a wave of activity across a complex of heavily guarded military and civilian laboratories in Russia.

Since the start of Putin’s second term, a construction boom has been underway at more than two dozen institutes that were once part of the Soviet Union’s biological and chemical weapons establishment, according to Russian documents and photos compiled by independent researchers. That expansion, which includes multiple new or refurbished testing facilities, is particularly apparent at secret Defense Ministry laboratories that have long drawn the suspicions of U.S. officials over possible arms-treaty violations.

[Putin: Russia is developing nuclear arms capable of avoiding missile defenses[1]]

Russian officials insist that the research in government-run labs is purely defensive and perfectly legal. But the effort has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of allegations of Moscow’s involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. Both were sickened by exposure to Novichok[2], a kind of highly lethal nerve agent uniquely developed by Russian military scientists years ago.

“The big question is, why are they doing this?” said Raymond Zilinskas, a chemical and biological weapons expert with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. In a newly released book[3], “Biosecurity in Putin’s Russia[4],” ­Zilinskas and co-author Philippe Mauger analyze hundreds of contract documents and other records that show a surge in Russian research interest in subjects ranging from genetically modified pathogens to nonlethal chemical weapons used for crowd control.

The analysis also tracks a simultaneous rise in sensationalist Russian claims that the United States is itself pursuing offensive biological weapons. Reports posted on state-sponsored news sites and amplified over social media have accused U.S. scientists of being behind recent outbreaks of the Zika virus as well as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that began in 2014. In each instance, U.S. federal agencies marshaled a sizable response to counter or contain the outbreaks.

Such baseless claims could be viewed as part of a deliberate effort to “explain to their own people why they need to do this research,” Zilinskas said in an interview.

A spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to answer written questions but forwarded a March 13 statement by Vassily A. Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations. Nebenzia denied any involvement by the Kremlin in the March 4 nerve-agent attack and suggested that it was the United States and Britain, not Russia, that were continuing to conduct illegal research to create “new toxic substances.”

[Britain’s top diplomat accuses Putin of being behind nerve-agent attack[5]]

The research by Zilinskas and Mauger appears to bear out long-held concerns by the State Department, which has sharply criticized Russia in recent years over a lack of transparency in its military-related biological and chemical research. Since 2012, State Department officials have issued a series of reports faulting Moscow for refusing to open its military research laboratories to outside inspectors, and for failing to provide proof that it destroyed the highly lethal arsenals created by Red Army scientists in the years before the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Thomas Countryman, an assistant secretary of state for international security and arms control during the Obama administration, said that even before Putin, U.S. officials questioned whether the Kremlin had owned up to its past “fully and transparently.” But over the past six years, official distrust has grown as Moscow has embraced a more aggressive foreign policy that includes intimidation of Russia’s neighbors and an unabashed support for a Syrian dictator who uses nerve agents to kill his own people.

“Moscow’s full-throated defense of Syrian use of chemical weapons[6] — and, especially, its apparent use of chemical agents in targeted assassinations — only add to the concerns,” Countryman said.

Cold War pathogens

When the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991, the Russian Federation became the heir to history’s most dangerous arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

During the Cold War, Soviet leaders spent vast sums to create weaponized versions of 11 different pathogens — including the microbes that cause anthrax, smallpox and the plague — while also experimenting with genetically altered strains. They created new classes of chemical toxins, such as Novichok, reportedly used in the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England.

[What is Novichok? Russia’s nerve agent has Soviet roots[7]]

A fourth-generation nerve agent more deadly than VX, Novichok is the stuff of legend. Russia denies that it ever researched or manufactured such nerve agents, but it arrested a former Soviet weapons scientist[8] on charges of divulging state secrets after he published details about Soviet Novichok production in newspaper articles and a memoir.

The Soviet program was motivated in part by competition with the United States. Washington maintained its own stockpile of nerve agents during the Cold War and manufactured biological weapons until 1969, when President Richard M. Nixon dismantled the program. But the Kremlin pressed ahead, convinced that the Pentagon was continuing bioweapons research in secret. Finally, in 1992, newly installed Russian President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged the existence of the secret program to U.S. officials and reported that all Soviet bioweapons had been destroyed.

In the years immediately following the Cold War, securing and dismantling Soviet weapons of mass destruction united Americans and Russians in a common cause[9]. The United States helped Russia build incinerators for destroying its chemical weapons, and it sponsored programs that paired former Soviet bioweapons scientists with Western companies to keep them employed during the country’s economic transition.

[Key allies back Britain in blaming Moscow for chemical attack[10]]

Such U.S.-Russian technical cooperation began to wane after Putin’s election as president, and it collapsed after the Russian strongman won a second term in 2012. Yet, even during the Yeltsin years, Russia refused to grant ­access to key weapons sites, including four biodefense laboratories run by the Russian military and perpetually sealed off from outside visitors, former U.S. officials said.

“We were always curious: Were they embarrassed to let us in because of the shape of their labs? Or were they hiding something?” said Laura Holgate, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on preventing biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism.

Holgate allowed that Russia’s reluctance also may have reflected a “paranoia about what the U.S. might be learning” about the country’s military capabilities. In any case, she said, it became clear over time that Putin intended to preserve some Soviet-era capabilities for use in very specific situations. One of these was assassination — the killing of the Kremlin’s opponents using methods that were dramatic, yet allowed Moscow to plausibly deny culpability. Another was crowd control: the use of controversial “knockout” chemicals to incapacitate individuals involved in hostage standoffs and other mass disturbances.

Officials familiar with Russia’s program said the expanded activity at military labs may be partly aimed at honing those capabilities, giving Putin a variety of tools for dealing with adversaries while seeking to avoid the most flagrant violations of Russia’s treaty obligations.

“That would be in line with behavior that we’ve been seeing for years,” Holgate said.

Satellite evidence

Whatever the explanation, the buildup is striking. Data collected by Zilinskas and Mauger includes contract documents, ­Russian-language reports and aerial imagery that shed light on a dramatic expansion at the four secret Defense Ministry laboratories and numerous government-run civilian research centers across the country.

At one military complex at Yekaterinburg — the scene of an accidental release[11] of anthrax spores in 1979 that is said to have killed 100 workers and townspeople — satellite images show clusters of newly built, warehouse-size industrial buildings dotting a walled campus. Renovations can be observed in older buildings that in Soviet times were factories for mass-producing bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax.

At the 33rd Central Research Test Institute at Shikhany — formerly a “closed” Russian military city on the Volga River in southwest Russia — records point to a recent spending spree for specialized equipment such as freeze-drying machines used in microbial production. Lab officials are shown soliciting bids for repairs to a wind tunnel, the type used in testing aerosolized bacteria and viruses, as well as upgrades to an area of bermed storage pens that the researchers say are probably intended for open-air testing involving explosives.

Wind tunnels and outdoor testing facilities can be used legitimately to develop defenses against biological and chemical attacks. Indeed, the Pentagon employs similar equipment at its biodefense research facilities in Maryland and Utah. But Zilinskas and Mauger say the Russian expansion invites a higher level of scrutiny in light of the explicit calls by Russian leaders for work on novel kinds of weapons, including “genetic” ones.

After Putin’s essay in 2012, several senior military officials, including the defense minister at the time, Anatoly Serdyukov, publicly endorsed Putin’s appeal for new kinds of weapons and promised to start building them, the researchers note. Serdyukov specifically pledged to incorporate “genetic” research in creating Russia’s next-generation arsenals.

“We noted the numerous high-level calls for the development of biotechnology-based weapons in Russia, without further specification,” Zilinskas and Mauger write. At minimum, the vagueness of such statements potentially opens the door for any military official or “ambitious scientist” to lobby for a chance to develop a new kind of weapon — with the implicit blessing of top Russian officials, they write.

“When taken in conjunction with the [military’s] apparent support for the development of ‘genetic’ weapons, these statements erode normative barriers toward biological weapons in Russia,” the authors say.

Anton Troianovski in Moscow contributed to this report.

Read more:

With Putin’s reelection, expect rising tensions with the West[12]

The long, terrifying history of Russian dissidents being poisoned abroad[13]

Putin vows retaliation for British sanctions over poisoning case[14]

References

  1. ^ Putin: Russia is developing nuclear arms capable of avoiding missile defenses (www.washingtonpost.com)
  2. ^ exposure to Novichok (www.washingtonpost.com)
  3. ^ book (www.rienner.com)
  4. ^ Biosecurity in Putin’s Russia (www.amazon.com)
  5. ^ Britain’s top diplomat accuses Putin of being behind nerve-agent attack (www.washingtonpost.com)
  6. ^ Syrian use of chemical weapons (www.washingtonpost.com)
  7. ^ What is Novichok? Russia’s nerve agent has Soviet roots (www.washingtonpost.com)
  8. ^ former Soviet weapons scientist (www.voanews.com)
  9. ^ a common cause (armscontrolcenter.org)
  10. ^ Key allies back Britain in blaming Moscow for chemical attack (www.washingtonpost.com)
  11. ^ accidental release (nsarchive2.gwu.edu)
  12. ^ With Putin’s reelection, expect rising tensions with the West (www.washingtonpost.com)
  13. ^ The long, terrifying history of Russian dissidents being poisoned abroad (www.washingtonpost.com)
  14. ^ Putin vows retaliation for British sanctions over poisoning case (www.washingtonpost.com)
0

Reynaldo Bignone, Argentina's Last Military Dictator, Dies at 90

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BUENOS AIRES — Reynaldo Bignone, the last military dictator of Argentina, died here on Wednesday while under house arrest after being convicted of crimes against humanity in multiple trials. He was 90.

An Army official said the cause was heart failure produced by septic shock in the Central Military Hospital.

Mr. Bignone, a former general, was the fourth and last leader of a military dictatorship that illegally imprisoned, tortured, killed and disappeared tens of thousands of people. He was found guilty of numerous crimes, including killings, tortures and the kidnapping of babies from political prisoners.

His death came just eight days after that of another former Argentine general, Luciano Benjamín Menéndez[1], who had also been convicted of crimes against humanity.

When Mr. Bignone was handed the reins on July 1, 1982[2], the military junta that had engulfed Argentina in repression and economic chaos was on its last legs.

Mr. Bignone, who had retired from the military in 1981, was asked by the military leadership to succeed Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri[3], who in 1982 led Argentina to embarrassing defeat when British forces repulsed an invasion of the British-held Falkland Islands.

Mr. Bignone took over with the stated goal of transitioning to a democratically elected civilian government. On Dec. 10, 1983, he handed power to Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín[4], who had been elected in late October.

Before the transition, however, Mr. Bignone led a methodical process not only to destroy evidence about the dictatorship’s crimes but also to justify its repression. He approved an amnesty that was effectively an effort to shield military officers from prosecution.

Mr. Bignone’s convictions in 10 war-crimes trials led to three life sentences and seven sentences of 15 to 25 years. He was also acquitted in one case and indicted in nine others that never went to trial, according to data from the Argentine attorney general’s office.

“Death was left without its last boss: The genocide perpetrator Bignone died,” Hijos, a human rights group that advocates for descendants of the disappeared, wrote on Twitter[5]. “His family knows the time, the reasons and the location. It can also decide where to bid him farewell. The thousands of families who are Bignone’s victims can’t.”

Mr. Bignone’s convictions and sentences marked a stark shift in how Argentine society regarded him. He had once been seen as the most benevolent member of the military junta because he had led the transition to democracy, but he came to be reviled when his key role in the darkest chapters of the dictatorship became clear.

Mr. Bignone being escorted by a police officer to court in Buenos Aires in 2010.CreditMarcos Brindicci/Reuters

Mr. Bignone was sentenced to prison for the first time[6] in April 2010 after being found guilty of torture and killings as the head of the Campo de Mayo military base, where illegal detention centers had held thousands.

He had also led the military takeover of the Posadas Hospital in Buenos Aires Province, where another illegal detention center was set up.

In 2016, Mr. Bignone was sentenced for his role in Operation Condor[7], a joint effort by right-wing dictatorships in the region to track down dissidents.

He never expressed regret for his crimes. In a memoir[8], “The Last De Facto” (1992), he sought to justify the actions of the juntas.

He did so again before being sentenced in 2010, saying that there had been an[9] “irregular war” underway in Argentina at the time and that the armed forces “had to get involved in the fight to defeat terrorism.”

Reynaldo Benito Bignone was born on Jan. 21, 1928, in Morón, Buenos Aires Province, and entered the Military Academy at 19. He went on to become general secretary of the Army and was named head of the Military College months before the 1976 coup[10] that ousted President María Estela Martínez de Perón.

Argentina’s Defense Ministry stripped Mr. Bignone of his military rank in October 2014.

He is survived by two of the three children he had with his wife, Nilda Raquel Belén Etcheverry, who died in 2013.

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References

  1. ^ Luciano Benjamín Menéndez (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ the reins on July 1, 1982 (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ Times obituary (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ he handed power to Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín (www.nytimes.com)
  5. ^ wrote on Twitter (twitter.com)
  6. ^ sentenced to prison for the first time (www.nytimes.com)
  7. ^ sentenced for his role in Operation Condor (www.nytimes.com)
  8. ^ memoir (www.pagina12.com.ar)
  9. ^ that there had been an (www.lanacion.com.ar)
  10. ^ months before the 1976 coup (www.nytimes.com)
0

Reynaldo Bignone, Argentina's Last Military Dictator, Dies at 90

Advertisement

BUENOS AIRES — Reynaldo Bignone, the last military dictator of Argentina, died here on Wednesday while under house arrest after being convicted of crimes against humanity in multiple trials. He was 90.

An Army official said the cause was heart failure produced by septic shock in the Central Military Hospital.

Mr. Bignone, a former general, was the fourth and last leader of a military dictatorship that illegally imprisoned, tortured, killed and disappeared tens of thousands of people. He was found guilty of numerous crimes, including killings, tortures and the kidnapping of babies from political prisoners.

His death came just eight days after that of another former Argentine general, Luciano Benjamín Menéndez[1], who had also been convicted of crimes against humanity.

When Mr. Bignone was handed the reins on July 1, 1982[2], the military junta that had engulfed Argentina in repression and economic chaos was on its last legs.

Mr. Bignone, who had retired from the military in 1981, was asked by the military leadership to succeed Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri[3], who in 1982 led Argentina to embarrassing defeat when British forces repulsed an invasion of the British-held Falkland Islands.

Mr. Bignone took over with the stated goal of transitioning to a democratically elected civilian government. On Dec. 10, 1983, he handed power to Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín[4], who had been elected in late October.

Before the transition, however, Mr. Bignone led a methodical process not only to destroy evidence about the dictatorship’s crimes but also to justify its repression. He approved an amnesty that was effectively an effort to shield military officers from prosecution.

Mr. Bignone’s convictions in 10 war-crimes trials led to three life sentences and seven sentences of 15 to 25 years. He was also acquitted in one case and indicted in nine others that never went to trial, according to data from the Argentine attorney general’s office.

“Death was left without its last boss: The genocide perpetrator Bignone died,” Hijos, a human rights group that advocates for descendants of the disappeared, wrote on Twitter[5]. “His family knows the time, the reasons and the location. It can also decide where to bid him farewell. The thousands of families who are Bignone’s victims can’t.”

Mr. Bignone’s convictions and sentences marked a stark shift in how Argentine society regarded him. He had once been seen as the most benevolent member of the military junta because he had led the transition to democracy, but he came to be reviled when his key role in the darkest chapters of the dictatorship became clear.

Mr. Bignone being escorted by a police officer to court in Buenos Aires in 2010.CreditMarcos Brindicci/Reuters

Mr. Bignone was sentenced to prison for the first time[6] in April 2010 after being found guilty of torture and killings as the head of the Campo de Mayo military base, where illegal detention centers had held thousands.

He had also led the military takeover of the Posadas Hospital in Buenos Aires Province, where another illegal detention center was set up.

In 2016, Mr. Bignone was sentenced for his role in Operation Condor[7], a joint effort by right-wing dictatorships in the region to track down dissidents.

He never expressed regret for his crimes. In a memoir[8], “The Last De Facto” (1992), he sought to justify the actions of the juntas.

He did so again before being sentenced in 2010, saying that there had been an[9] “irregular war” underway in Argentina at the time and that the armed forces “had to get involved in the fight to defeat terrorism.”

Reynaldo Benito Bignone was born on Jan. 21, 1928, in Morón, Buenos Aires Province, and entered the Military Academy at 19. He went on to become general secretary of the Army and was named head of the Military College months before the 1976 coup[10] that ousted President María Estela Martínez de Perón.

Argentina’s Defense Ministry stripped Mr. Bignone of his military rank in October 2014.

He is survived by two of the three children he had with his wife, Nilda Raquel Belén Etcheverry, who died in 2013.

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References

  1. ^ Luciano Benjamín Menéndez (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ the reins on July 1, 1982 (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ Times obituary (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ he handed power to Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín (www.nytimes.com)
  5. ^ wrote on Twitter (twitter.com)
  6. ^ sentenced to prison for the first time (www.nytimes.com)
  7. ^ sentenced for his role in Operation Condor (www.nytimes.com)
  8. ^ memoir (www.pagina12.com.ar)
  9. ^ that there had been an (www.lanacion.com.ar)
  10. ^ months before the 1976 coup (www.nytimes.com)
0

Homeland Security Stylesheet: Incest Font

Consider Eric Gill, the English stone carver, typographer, sculptor—and progenitor of the typeface Gill Sans. A different Gill typeface, Joanna Nova, is the official font of the United States Department of Homeland Security, named after the only daughter (of three) that Gill did not sexually assault. Despite selecting the typeface dedicated to Gill’s only untouched daughter, the Department of Homeland Security is befouled by association—befouled because all of Gill’s typefaces feel impure after one reads excerpts from the typographer’s diaries, where Gill makes fastidious notes about molesting his servants, his sister, some children, the family dog.

Yet Gill’s typefaces persist in public:

Saab Automobile deploys Gill Sans.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
, for sure.
The US Department of Homeland Security, natch.
Save the Children, ditto.
Tommy Hilfiger also.

But some British designers, by way of internet declarations, have sworn off Gill Sans. They will not stuff (commercial) content into a contaminating form. Currently, the name of the font doesn’t reflect its mutating brand identity. I want the font to molt; let’s rechristen MS Gill Sans. At this moment, my fingers are typing in what I will now dub “Digital DaddyCock Sans.” But long after I’ve read the internet declarations from the British designers, the contrails of the incesting father persist; filthy crystals are the speech bubbles of quiet daughters. Homogenitus as declaritive human genitals.

Once established, the history of the font is embedded, and designers cannot simply excise it in hopes of miraculously restoring their pleasure at the control and spaciousness of DaddyCock Sans. The original events surrounding the typeface’s crafting become the substance of the font; this substance crowds and confuses the intended linguistic meaning of words encased in the font. Can a person—me, you—selectively refuse, as an act of resistance, to cognitively process a text executed in a specific font? DaddyCock Sans is the Spanish government’s official typeface on all public signage. Say a woman is driving through the mountains of Asturias, an area that long provided shelter to anarchist guerilla forces, and she suddenly finds herself psychologically incapable of reading all official signage in Spanish. She blows through a stop sign. At this point, she, the refuser, finds “ALTO” (Spanish for “HALT”) unintelligible in DaddyCock Sans. She misses road signs marked “Galicia”—where US nuclear submarines used to roost. She can’t read “Policia” either, as it too is encased in Daddycock Sans. This happens because she has totalized an ethos of resistance. Perhaps emergency illiteracy might be a temporary tactic for refusing the state melding of form and male authority.

James C. Scott, political scientist and anthropologist, suggests that certain forms of elective nonliteracy, when practiced collectively, can function as a “positive medium of cultural life as opposed to a deficiency.” He asserts that historically, marginalized peoples retreated from farming and written language in order to flee emerging nation-states. He focuses on Zomia, the name for a series of alpine terrains stretching across southeast Asia defined by “runaway, fugitive, maroon communities who have, over the course of two millennia, been fleeing the oppressions of state-making projects in the valleys—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare.” Considered alongside the productive nonliteracy of Zomia, the abolition of select typefaces is an action for those who choose to remain within the nation-state.

Gill’s typefaces are so habitual and spare as to make them seem invisible; they sheath the moral decay of the maker and the corruption of the user. MS Joanna Nova, operating as an official font, provides a stylized interface with the US Department of Homeland Security—an entity that also mishandles human bodies, but on a institutional scale. Some instructional materials on design urge government officials to select a typeface that “achieves a level of harmony and legibility in print.” “Legibility” here pertains only to the kerning, layout, or thickness of the font—obviously it does not include making legible the fact that institutional bodies hold up and hole up specific human bodies. The web page is bright and simple, its whiteness internally lit by a digital sun; it suggests that the government’s hold on detainees is light, temporary, unremarkable. Additionally, some web visitors will have internalized the commercial history of the typeface—including the cover of the 1965 Penguin Modern Classics edition of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. They might experientially slide between categories: reader and witness, citizen and suspect. This is the design surface of US fascism.

See dhs.gov. Nested within the site is the home page of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), responsible for the forced deportation of undocumented immigrants. When I logged on to the ICE home page in October 2017, a phrase in MS Joanna Nova floated above each image in the “Photos” section.

ENFORCEMENT AND REMOVAL—when in MS Joanna Novais easily received by the user’s eye. It is emblazoned above an image of an alleged child rapist, flanked by ICE officers, on a set of airstairs. Since this appears on a web page, the eye consolidates the inflammatory title and caption and the dull photograph into a unified image; this amalgam contains data without analysis, and competing traumas (rape and deportation) severed from context. The inherent banality of institutional websites paired with the evident boredom of the ICE cameraman eliminates the uncanny as a category of experience for this image. By March 2018, I don’t remember the shapes of the heads of the people in the image or the color of their clothing, so much as the casualness of the shot: a composition that could not locate its register (photojournalism or archival document or…).

Above the next image: ENFORCEMENT AND REMOVAL. In bright sunlight, a figure, bald and with glasses, enters a white van; he is charged with the sex trafficking of minors. Again, MS Joanna Nova. Under the snapshot, the caption reads: “Phoenix, Arizona,” in MS Joanna Nova. The sophisticated typeface is in tension with the artlessness of the composition. This half-hearted attention to style while documenting state power is its own style. Let’s dub it “American Bro,” because American violence, formal and informal, has often aimed to appear casual, effortless, masculine, normal, naturalized. I’m supposed to forget that power could ever be any other way.

Each user of the DHS website—grade-school teachers, businesswomen, DREAMers, cyberattack victims, job seekers, and me—is anonymous to one another. But together we users use in MS Joanna Nova; I use it to determine how the intentions of the state are visualized. In the ICE section, I note thick hands and holsters acting out narratives of white chivalry upon a collateral body of characters specified as rapists and pimps. A border economy based on captives and captors is dependent on feminine victims, actual or conjured. The feminine victim as political commodity also articulates itself in other contemporary ways, oblique and direct, ranging from the reproduction and circulation of images of physically-wasted children as a fundraising tool, to more recent instrumentalizations of conflict-related sexual violence to justify invasions.

For centuries, novelists and artists have recycled images of the female victim. See Beatrice (1866), for example, by Julia Margaret Cameron. For this photograph, Cameron worked with a thirteen-year-old model, May Prinsep. May has been instructed to channel sixteenth-century Beatrice Cenci, in the period after Beatrice’s rape at the hands of her father but before her beheading as ordered by the court. Beatrice and her brothers were executed for hiring assassins to kill their father in Florence, Italy. The sculptor Harriet Hosmer offered her own portrayal of Cenci in 1857. Cameron and Hosmer were attracted to the task of depicting a female victim who suffers twice over: once in the privacy of the home, and once at the hands of the state. Perhaps Hosmer—who, as a lesbian, was subject to a certain kind of erasure by the state—was hoping her prone marble Beatrice was covertly instructing: “You too can kill the father.”

Joanna Gill, the font’s muse, unofficially operates as ICE’s muse—an unmolested Anglo daughter. The use of a font created by Eric Gill, when Gill was never punished for his own crimes, feels ironic. Do my fella users feel that too? Feelings about Petra Gill, molested daughter … Indeterminate feelings about Petra’s Jersey (1922) by Eric Gill, a light sketch of a “clothed partial torso and arm.” The image floats on the surface of the viewer’s mind. It’s a relief not to see the face or skin of Petra, the middle daughter, just the slump of fabric. Human escaped. It is my fantasy that Petra unfurls the jersey like the Invisible Man’s bandages and vanishes into the air, reaching the edge of the exosphere, four hundred miles above the earth’s crust. Spare but prurient wood engravings by Gill—titled Girl in Bath I (1922), Girl in Bath II (1923), and Hair Combing (1922)—do not name teenage Petra as their subject. The totality of Gill’s personal papers were not acquired by UCLA until the 1950s. It is only decades later that the details of Gill’s abuses, as recorded in his archived diaries, are published in mainstream biographies. Petra’s image is only then transformed from the artist’s daughter to an actual victim of the artist. My daydream that Petra gets free persists, her perp stranded on the continental crust.

Be it rape victim, victimized worker, raped worker, or worker raped while traversing the desert towards work, I wish to dodge the narrative orbit that places assault, née human sacrifice, as the whole of representation and the totality of a person’s end. Likewise, the bodies held by the Department of Homeland Security often get fed into a sentimental framework (a liberal reflex) that generates such volumes of emotion that emotion becomes the end experience of the witness as opposed to sparking actual structural change. The MS Joanna Nova typeface circuitously participates in the detention of force-fed bodies, restrained bodies in our private prisons, because it organizes the forward-facing end of the entity and thus conceals assault; it is designed to communicate that the organization is clean and “free of fancy business” (Gill). Do you suspect that I’m advocating for the DHS to replace MS Joanna Nova with MS Antiqua, a font celebrated by the Nazi Party? That I’m urging the adaptation of a font that provides a truer reflection of the DHS’s aims and feelings? I’m not. I only aim to expose unwitting alliances … and to dissolve phallic technique. Duh.

Is there a spell that can do that? What font is it in?

If I restricted myself to other typefaces roughly coeval with Gill’s, I would choose Doves Press font. Although Gill’s typefaces and Doves Press both emerged from the Arts and Crafts Movement, the social origins and physical end of Doves Press font differ from Gill’s typefaces. While Doves Press was financed by a militant suffragette, Anne Cobden-Sanderson, Gill’s best-remembered public engagement with women’s suffrage was his 1910 sculpture Votes For Women, I Don’t Think, purchased by economist John Maynard Keynes. Doves Press font predates Gill’s typography (1926) by twenty-seven years. But by 1919, the entirety of Doves Press font was sunk. In his diary, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, the husband of Anne, records that the alphabet was “bequeathed to the sea.” T. J. wrapped the punches and matrices in paper parcels and over 105 visits threw the typeface over the Hammersmith, a suspension bridge spanning the Thames. One hundred fifty-one of its metal sorts were recovered from by the Port of London Authority’s diving team in November 2014. Some were moved along by the current and dredging; others were possibly destroyed in two IRA bombings of the bridge. It is not just T. J. Cobden-Sanderson’s suturing of his wife’s name to his own or the feminist bankrolling of the initial endeavor that makes Doves Press font the right typeface for a radical spell; it is that T. J.’s gesture was a furious and poetic hex on his former business partner, Emery Walker. What is a hex? The witches of the Susan B. Anthony coven once wrote that they were not circling in order to bake cupcakes. Their work was to curse. To not lament sexual assault but to extinguish its henchman’s momentum, because they rape so frequently and viciously. With what was this font imbued by being drowned, bombed, dredged, and resurrected? Maybe it can be repurposed to refuse abusive literacy, or to destroy it in kind.

But a typeface with a history of wizardly erasure is not casually purchased at Michaels craft emporium. Online, I make contact with a stencil service, which says I can special order Doves Press font at a price. Also online, former colleagues write to inquire about sexual harassment in one of the many art schools I have taught at; female students are confiding: male faculty members have made sexual overtures. The students decline to file reports. Surfing, I notice that a nontraditional undergraduate that I reported for sexually harassing students is now an adjunct professor at the same school. A secretly shared MS spreadsheet lists perpetrators working in the art field. I mentally note who has been listed and who has not. Three days later, the file disappears. Another Gchat window opens up; a friend talks about the article she is writing on sexual predators in the art world. Offline, my partner and I coolly discuss the named perpetrators while doing chores. Run faucet. “Dickie’s name was on it.” Wipe counter. “Not surprised.” Offline, outside of my home, is an abandoned black BMW. It isn’t mine. It belongs to a former resident of the building we live in. He, a pediatrician, is now in prison for possessing the largest stash of child pornography the cops have ever uncovered in the area. When we walk by the Beamer, my kid occasionally asks, “Why it is that car here?” “Oh, it’s a junker,” I say. “It’s for parts.” Next, I quip to the leaf blowers, who may also be in the know: “Can you please bury that in leaves?”

Tonight, I run the mouse over the Wi-Fi icon.

Router names pop up, including the pedophile’s router. I read his surname in MS Helvetica, and MS Helvetica transmogrifies—a default font for child molesters.

Helvetica, initially Neue Haas Grotesk, was designed by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger in 1957. Miedinger explains: “We designers are sellers of subliminal details that the average viewer does not see, but they do feel.”

Dear Viewer, I felt DaddyCock Sans; now we feel Helvetica. The local pedophile is scheduled to be released this year. He will come to fetch his mail, his Beamer, his router.

Recall again that Miedinger said: “We designers are sellers of subliminal details that the average viewer does not see, but they do feel. The message is somehow warmer, more memorable.”

Wi-Fi Router first accessed 09/01/2016, 12:12 p.m. Wi-Fi Router list last accessed 01/03/2018, 6:07 p.m.

I scroll past the pedophile’s router name in Helvetica. It is memorable, but not warmer. I feel it. My self as a cultural isolate … as if the the violence of the state and the violent sentimentality of capitalism both fall away from me and the ghost-router. This is not possible. My feelings have produced a political bio-fiction: a pedophile as autotroph, producing his own nutrients, operating within a closed system where he climaxes only to photographs of his child self.

01/05/2018, p.m.: After the dog shits and I bag it, I photograph the pedophile’s abandoned Beamer in our shared driveway because the snow plows have further buried it. The snow lips the window. The car cannot back out. I’m afraid the neighbors are watching me photograph the disappearing car. As a cover, I snap a picture of the abandoned basketball hoop … the clear blue sky … when to stop? … a beheaded lantern with a duct-taped nub … the copper beech with a sawn-off limb.

To daydream a law based on pedophiles as autotrophs.

(I realize I’m dreaming of punishment.)

A disassembled homeland security. A rudderless rapist. A self-cannibalized pedophile. A dead fascist?

To sleepwalk around the riot?

The Department of Homeland Security Style Guide, downloaded November, 2017.

White supremacists run free here. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists 724 US hate groups with some ideological stake in white supremacy. Some casual protesters fear that a physical confrontation with white supremacists will result in their own death. All summer there was white hand-wringing: Could a white one who chooses personal safety over resistance still regard itself as a moral being? Our whelp!!! was many Family Unit’s public justification, their tender excuse. Was it also mine? There seemed to be scant middle class identification with the Bread and Roses Strike (1912) and the ways in which strikers’ children were mobilized. There was little mainstream knowledge of the Battle of Hayes Pond (1958), where members of the indigenous Lumbee tribe—including fathers, uncles, and cousins—disrupted a Klu Klux Klan rally. Outnumbering the Klan, the Lumbee cut off the Klan’s light source, absconded with their sound system, and stomped on their abandoned banners while the Klan fled. The Lumbee provide an alternative family model. In these times, can middle-class family reunions be organized as marches against white supremacy?

By winter, the energy of resistance seemed to be redirected. Neo-Nazis swapped for Hollywood sexual predators and ivory-tower sexual predators and politician sexual predators. It is plausible that some pursue and pursued (longstanding) sexual predators in the workplace, at this juncture, because they have equated the pursuit of white supremacists with their own personal unrecoverable harm. The piggie Alabaman with a stiff “pinkie” (or his Hollywood counterpart or his NYC cosmopolitan brethren) are not perceived as murderous, despite public policies that prove otherwise (see their votes on policing, health, foreign policy).

It is possible that the majority of white people claiming to be anti-racist will never physically confront white supremacy because they can only imagine defeat. Perhaps some of their reluctance stems from a failure to imagine victory; they have little sense of what an anti-racist land feels like.

Towards a sort of sanity, I look backward online. I’m seeking an image to reassure me that fascism ends. The image: a dead fascist woman dangles from a meat hook. Her feet are bare and she is upside down. Attached to her corpse is a placard with her name. Ghoulishly, I ask: What font? Bathetically, I ask: Is this what the end of an ideology looks like? But this public desecration didn’t stop the form; the dismembered parts of this far-right belief system have reassembled. When our current iteration of fascism goes dormant again, will the beginning of its hibernation include its governing bodies being strung up … on a slowed internet? I am asking if a gory documentation of the political cycle will load sluggishly. To my own grotesque debasement and relief.

I nightdream, awake in the dark, of people dismantling a fascist state, couple by couple, decoupled, bone by bone, my bone. But my problem is compiling a workable to-do list of actions that will allow me to cross over the shape of the family unit. Guy Hocquenghem refers to this unit as “The Couple,” which includes both heterosexual and homosexual couples; as a form, The Couple has been produced by a millenium of patriarchy and centuries of capitalism. In my nightdream, there are millions of households that go beyond The Couple, that enfold not only mommies, dormies, unckies, but also junkies, roomies, furries, hubbies … generating and sustaining a structure suspended between where we shelter and where we love and rage with strangers. We sleep walkers are also sleep talkers—incoherence is our cover and our pleasure. This nocturnal orality happens in lieu of the waking texts recorded by security forces, We, woozily, operate outside of a passion for hierarchy; exterior reality as it exists today buckles under the flow of beings that cannot meet its passions.

Then I nightmare that you and I are belated, the Capitolocene being the end of our human time.

×

Tam Donner is an American artist and writer.

© 2018 e-flux and the author

0

Homeland Security Stylesheet: Incest Font

Consider Eric Gill, the English stone carver, typographer, sculptor—and progenitor of the typeface Gill Sans. A different Gill typeface, Joanna Nova, is the official font of the United States Department of Homeland Security, named after the only daughter (of three) that Gill did not sexually assault. Despite selecting the typeface dedicated to Gill’s only untouched daughter, the Department of Homeland Security is befouled by association—befouled because all of Gill’s typefaces feel impure after one reads excerpts from the typographer’s diaries, where Gill makes fastidious notes about molesting his servants, his sister, some children, the family dog.

Yet Gill’s typefaces persist in public:

Saab Automobile deploys Gill Sans.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
, for sure.
The US Department of Homeland Security, natch.
Save the Children, ditto.
Tommy Hilfiger also.

But some British designers, by way of internet declarations, have sworn off Gill Sans. They will not stuff (commercial) content into a contaminating form. Currently, the name of the font doesn’t reflect its mutating brand identity. I want the font to molt; let’s rechristen MS Gill Sans. At this moment, my fingers are typing in what I will now dub “Digital DaddyCock Sans.” But long after I’ve read the internet declarations from the British designers, the contrails of the incesting father persist; filthy crystals are the speech bubbles of quiet daughters. Homogenitus as declaritive human genitals.

Once established, the history of the font is embedded, and designers cannot simply excise it in hopes of miraculously restoring their pleasure at the control and spaciousness of DaddyCock Sans. The original events surrounding the typeface’s crafting become the substance of the font; this substance crowds and confuses the intended linguistic meaning of words encased in the font. Can a person—me, you—selectively refuse, as an act of resistance, to cognitively process a text executed in a specific font? DaddyCock Sans is the Spanish government’s official typeface on all public signage. Say a woman is driving through the mountains of Asturias, an area that long provided shelter to anarchist guerilla forces, and she suddenly finds herself psychologically incapable of reading all official signage in Spanish. She blows through a stop sign. At this point, she, the refuser, finds “ALTO” (Spanish for “HALT”) unintelligible in DaddyCock Sans. She misses road signs marked “Galicia”—where US nuclear submarines used to roost. She can’t read “Policia” either, as it too is encased in Daddycock Sans. This happens because she has totalized an ethos of resistance. Perhaps emergency illiteracy might be a temporary tactic for refusing the state melding of form and male authority.

James C. Scott, political scientist and anthropologist, suggests that certain forms of elective nonliteracy, when practiced collectively, can function as a “positive medium of cultural life as opposed to a deficiency.” He asserts that historically, marginalized peoples retreated from farming and written language in order to flee emerging nation-states. He focuses on Zomia, the name for a series of alpine terrains stretching across southeast Asia defined by “runaway, fugitive, maroon communities who have, over the course of two millennia, been fleeing the oppressions of state-making projects in the valleys—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare.” Considered alongside the productive nonliteracy of Zomia, the abolition of select typefaces is an action for those who choose to remain within the nation-state.

Gill’s typefaces are so habitual and spare as to make them seem invisible; they sheath the moral decay of the maker and the corruption of the user. MS Joanna Nova, operating as an official font, provides a stylized interface with the US Department of Homeland Security—an entity that also mishandles human bodies, but on a institutional scale. Some instructional materials on design urge government officials to select a typeface that “achieves a level of harmony and legibility in print.” “Legibility” here pertains only to the kerning, layout, or thickness of the font—obviously it does not include making legible the fact that institutional bodies hold up and hole up specific human bodies. The web page is bright and simple, its whiteness internally lit by a digital sun; it suggests that the government’s hold on detainees is light, temporary, unremarkable. Additionally, some web visitors will have internalized the commercial history of the typeface—including the cover of the 1965 Penguin Modern Classics edition of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. They might experientially slide between categories: reader and witness, citizen and suspect. This is the design surface of US fascism.

See dhs.gov. Nested within the site is the home page of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), responsible for the forced deportation of undocumented immigrants. When I logged on to the ICE home page in October 2017, a phrase in MS Joanna Nova floated above each image in the “Photos” section.

ENFORCEMENT AND REMOVAL—when in MS Joanna Novais easily received by the user’s eye. It is emblazoned above an image of an alleged child rapist, flanked by ICE officers, on a set of airstairs. Since this appears on a web page, the eye consolidates the inflammatory title and caption and the dull photograph into a unified image; this amalgam contains data without analysis, and competing traumas (rape and deportation) severed from context. The inherent banality of institutional websites paired with the evident boredom of the ICE cameraman eliminates the uncanny as a category of experience for this image. By March 2018, I don’t remember the shapes of the heads of the people in the image or the color of their clothing, so much as the casualness of the shot: a composition that could not locate its register (photojournalism or archival document or…).

Above the next image: ENFORCEMENT AND REMOVAL. In bright sunlight, a figure, bald and with glasses, enters a white van; he is charged with the sex trafficking of minors. Again, MS Joanna Nova. Under the snapshot, the caption reads: “Phoenix, Arizona,” in MS Joanna Nova. The sophisticated typeface is in tension with the artlessness of the composition. This half-hearted attention to style while documenting state power is its own style. Let’s dub it “American Bro,” because American violence, formal and informal, has often aimed to appear casual, effortless, masculine, normal, naturalized. I’m supposed to forget that power could ever be any other way.

Each user of the DHS website—grade-school teachers, businesswomen, DREAMers, cyberattack victims, job seekers, and me—is anonymous to one another. But together we users use in MS Joanna Nova; I use it to determine how the intentions of the state are visualized. In the ICE section, I note thick hands and holsters acting out narratives of white chivalry upon a collateral body of characters specified as rapists and pimps. A border economy based on captives and captors is dependent on feminine victims, actual or conjured. The feminine victim as political commodity also articulates itself in other contemporary ways, oblique and direct, ranging from the reproduction and circulation of images of physically-wasted children as a fundraising tool, to more recent instrumentalizations of conflict-related sexual violence to justify invasions.

For centuries, novelists and artists have recycled images of the female victim. See Beatrice (1866), for example, by Julia Margaret Cameron. For this photograph, Cameron worked with a thirteen-year-old model, May Prinsep. May has been instructed to channel sixteenth-century Beatrice Cenci, in the period after Beatrice’s rape at the hands of her father but before her beheading as ordered by the court. Beatrice and her brothers were executed for hiring assassins to kill their father in Florence, Italy. The sculptor Harriet Hosmer offered her own portrayal of Cenci in 1857. Cameron and Hosmer were attracted to the task of depicting a female victim who suffers twice over: once in the privacy of the home, and once at the hands of the state. Perhaps Hosmer—who, as a lesbian, was subject to a certain kind of erasure by the state—was hoping her prone marble Beatrice was covertly instructing: “You too can kill the father.”

Joanna Gill, the font’s muse, unofficially operates as ICE’s muse—an unmolested Anglo daughter. The use of a font created by Eric Gill, when Gill was never punished for his own crimes, feels ironic. Do my fella users feel that too? Feelings about Petra Gill, molested daughter … Indeterminate feelings about Petra’s Jersey (1922) by Eric Gill, a light sketch of a “clothed partial torso and arm.” The image floats on the surface of the viewer’s mind. It’s a relief not to see the face or skin of Petra, the middle daughter, just the slump of fabric. Human escaped. It is my fantasy that Petra unfurls the jersey like the Invisible Man’s bandages and vanishes into the air, reaching the edge of the exosphere, four hundred miles above the earth’s crust. Spare but prurient wood engravings by Gill—titled Girl in Bath I (1922), Girl in Bath II (1923), and Hair Combing (1922)—do not name teenage Petra as their subject. The totality of Gill’s personal papers were not acquired by UCLA until the 1950s. It is only decades later that the details of Gill’s abuses, as recorded in his archived diaries, are published in mainstream biographies. Petra’s image is only then transformed from the artist’s daughter to an actual victim of the artist. My daydream that Petra gets free persists, her perp stranded on the continental crust.

Be it rape victim, victimized worker, raped worker, or worker raped while traversing the desert towards work, I wish to dodge the narrative orbit that places assault, née human sacrifice, as the whole of representation and the totality of a person’s end. Likewise, the bodies held by the Department of Homeland Security often get fed into a sentimental framework (a liberal reflex) that generates such volumes of emotion that emotion becomes the end experience of the witness as opposed to sparking actual structural change. The MS Joanna Nova typeface circuitously participates in the detention of force-fed bodies, restrained bodies in our private prisons, because it organizes the forward-facing end of the entity and thus conceals assault; it is designed to communicate that the organization is clean and “free of fancy business” (Gill). Do you suspect that I’m advocating for the DHS to replace MS Joanna Nova with MS Antiqua, a font celebrated by the Nazi Party? That I’m urging the adaptation of a font that provides a truer reflection of the DHS’s aims and feelings? I’m not. I only aim to expose unwitting alliances … and to dissolve phallic technique. Duh.

Is there a spell that can do that? What font is it in?

If I restricted myself to other typefaces roughly coeval with Gill’s, I would choose Doves Press font. Although Gill’s typefaces and Doves Press both emerged from the Arts and Crafts Movement, the social origins and physical end of Doves Press font differ from Gill’s typefaces. While Doves Press was financed by a militant suffragette, Anne Cobden-Sanderson, Gill’s best-remembered public engagement with women’s suffrage was his 1910 sculpture Votes For Women, I Don’t Think, purchased by economist John Maynard Keynes. Doves Press font predates Gill’s typography (1926) by twenty-seven years. But by 1919, the entirety of Doves Press font was sunk. In his diary, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, the husband of Anne, records that the alphabet was “bequeathed to the sea.” T. J. wrapped the punches and matrices in paper parcels and over 105 visits threw the typeface over the Hammersmith, a suspension bridge spanning the Thames. One hundred fifty-one of its metal sorts were recovered from by the Port of London Authority’s diving team in November 2014. Some were moved along by the current and dredging; others were possibly destroyed in two IRA bombings of the bridge. It is not just T. J. Cobden-Sanderson’s suturing of his wife’s name to his own or the feminist bankrolling of the initial endeavor that makes Doves Press font the right typeface for a radical spell; it is that T. J.’s gesture was a furious and poetic hex on his former business partner, Emery Walker. What is a hex? The witches of the Susan B. Anthony coven once wrote that they were not circling in order to bake cupcakes. Their work was to curse. To not lament sexual assault but to extinguish its henchman’s momentum, because they rape so frequently and viciously. With what was this font imbued by being drowned, bombed, dredged, and resurrected? Maybe it can be repurposed to refuse abusive literacy, or to destroy it in kind.

But a typeface with a history of wizardly erasure is not casually purchased at Michaels craft emporium. Online, I make contact with a stencil service, which says I can special order Doves Press font at a price. Also online, former colleagues write to inquire about sexual harassment in one of the many art schools I have taught at; female students are confiding: male faculty members have made sexual overtures. The students decline to file reports. Surfing, I notice that a nontraditional undergraduate that I reported for sexually harassing students is now an adjunct professor at the same school. A secretly shared MS spreadsheet lists perpetrators working in the art field. I mentally note who has been listed and who has not. Three days later, the file disappears. Another Gchat window opens up; a friend talks about the article she is writing on sexual predators in the art world. Offline, my partner and I coolly discuss the named perpetrators while doing chores. Run faucet. “Dickie’s name was on it.” Wipe counter. “Not surprised.” Offline, outside of my home, is an abandoned black BMW. It isn’t mine. It belongs to a former resident of the building we live in. He, a pediatrician, is now in prison for possessing the largest stash of child pornography the cops have ever uncovered in the area. When we walk by the Beamer, my kid occasionally asks, “Why it is that car here?” “Oh, it’s a junker,” I say. “It’s for parts.” Next, I quip to the leaf blowers, who may also be in the know: “Can you please bury that in leaves?”

Tonight, I run the mouse over the Wi-Fi icon.

Router names pop up, including the pedophile’s router. I read his surname in MS Helvetica, and MS Helvetica transmogrifies—a default font for child molesters.

Helvetica, initially Neue Haas Grotesk, was designed by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger in 1957. Miedinger explains: “We designers are sellers of subliminal details that the average viewer does not see, but they do feel.”

Dear Viewer, I felt DaddyCock Sans; now we feel Helvetica. The local pedophile is scheduled to be released this year. He will come to fetch his mail, his Beamer, his router.

Recall again that Miedinger said: “We designers are sellers of subliminal details that the average viewer does not see, but they do feel. The message is somehow warmer, more memorable.”

Wi-Fi Router first accessed 09/01/2016, 12:12 p.m. Wi-Fi Router list last accessed 01/03/2018, 6:07 p.m.

I scroll past the pedophile’s router name in Helvetica. It is memorable, but not warmer. I feel it. My self as a cultural isolate … as if the the violence of the state and the violent sentimentality of capitalism both fall away from me and the ghost-router. This is not possible. My feelings have produced a political bio-fiction: a pedophile as autotroph, producing his own nutrients, operating within a closed system where he climaxes only to photographs of his child self.

01/05/2018, p.m.: After the dog shits and I bag it, I photograph the pedophile’s abandoned Beamer in our shared driveway because the snow plows have further buried it. The snow lips the window. The car cannot back out. I’m afraid the neighbors are watching me photograph the disappearing car. As a cover, I snap a picture of the abandoned basketball hoop … the clear blue sky … when to stop? … a beheaded lantern with a duct-taped nub … the copper beech with a sawn-off limb.

To daydream a law based on pedophiles as autotrophs.

(I realize I’m dreaming of punishment.)

A disassembled homeland security. A rudderless rapist. A self-cannibalized pedophile. A dead fascist?

To sleepwalk around the riot?

The Department of Homeland Security Style Guide, downloaded November, 2017.

White supremacists run free here. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists 724 US hate groups with some ideological stake in white supremacy. Some casual protesters fear that a physical confrontation with white supremacists will result in their own death. All summer there was white hand-wringing: Could a white one who chooses personal safety over resistance still regard itself as a moral being? Our whelp!!! was many Family Unit’s public justification, their tender excuse. Was it also mine? There seemed to be scant middle class identification with the Bread and Roses Strike (1912) and the ways in which strikers’ children were mobilized. There was little mainstream knowledge of the Battle of Hayes Pond (1958), where members of the indigenous Lumbee tribe—including fathers, uncles, and cousins—disrupted a Klu Klux Klan rally. Outnumbering the Klan, the Lumbee cut off the Klan’s light source, absconded with their sound system, and stomped on their abandoned banners while the Klan fled. The Lumbee provide an alternative family model. In these times, can middle-class family reunions be organized as marches against white supremacy?

By winter, the energy of resistance seemed to be redirected. Neo-Nazis swapped for Hollywood sexual predators and ivory-tower sexual predators and politician sexual predators. It is plausible that some pursue and pursued (longstanding) sexual predators in the workplace, at this juncture, because they have equated the pursuit of white supremacists with their own personal unrecoverable harm. The piggie Alabaman with a stiff “pinkie” (or his Hollywood counterpart or his NYC cosmopolitan brethren) are not perceived as murderous, despite public policies that prove otherwise (see their votes on policing, health, foreign policy).

It is possible that the majority of white people claiming to be anti-racist will never physically confront white supremacy because they can only imagine defeat. Perhaps some of their reluctance stems from a failure to imagine victory; they have little sense of what an anti-racist land feels like.

Towards a sort of sanity, I look backward online. I’m seeking an image to reassure me that fascism ends. The image: a dead fascist woman dangles from a meat hook. Her feet are bare and she is upside down. Attached to her corpse is a placard with her name. Ghoulishly, I ask: What font? Bathetically, I ask: Is this what the end of an ideology looks like? But this public desecration didn’t stop the form; the dismembered parts of this far-right belief system have reassembled. When our current iteration of fascism goes dormant again, will the beginning of its hibernation include its governing bodies being strung up … on a slowed internet? I am asking if a gory documentation of the political cycle will load sluggishly. To my own grotesque debasement and relief.

I nightdream, awake in the dark, of people dismantling a fascist state, couple by couple, decoupled, bone by bone, my bone. But my problem is compiling a workable to-do list of actions that will allow me to cross over the shape of the family unit. Guy Hocquenghem refers to this unit as “The Couple,” which includes both heterosexual and homosexual couples; as a form, The Couple has been produced by a millenium of patriarchy and centuries of capitalism. In my nightdream, there are millions of households that go beyond The Couple, that enfold not only mommies, dormies, unckies, but also junkies, roomies, furries, hubbies … generating and sustaining a structure suspended between where we shelter and where we love and rage with strangers. We sleep walkers are also sleep talkers—incoherence is our cover and our pleasure. This nocturnal orality happens in lieu of the waking texts recorded by security forces, We, woozily, operate outside of a passion for hierarchy; exterior reality as it exists today buckles under the flow of beings that cannot meet its passions.

Then I nightmare that you and I are belated, the Capitolocene being the end of our human time.

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Tam Donner is an American artist and writer.

© 2018 e-flux and the author