The World Today for October 04, 2018

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War and Peace

Bosnia was one of the most dangerous places in the world in the 1990s, when 100,000 people died in the fighting that followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Some believe it could become so again.

Unemployment, corruption, an exodus of youth and divisive ethnic rhetoric in the run-up to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Oct. 7 elections could spell trouble in this Balkan country where Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs coexist in a complicated and flawed power-sharing agreement, Reuters reported.

Milorad Dodik, a candidate for the Bosnian Serb seat on the nation’s three-member presidency, wants greater autonomy for his ethnic community. Bosnian Croat candidate Dragan Covic wants to create a separate Croat-run region.

Both are likely to win, along with a Bosniak leader.

Dodik is arguably the wild card. A close ally of Russia, he provoked American sanctions on the Republika Srpska, the Serbian enclave within Bosnia, when he celebrated Jan. 9 as a national holiday, violating the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended fighting in the region.

As the New York Times explained, Radovan Karadzic declared the independence of the Republika Srpska on Jan. 9 in 1992. The move triggered a genocidal war. Karadzic is now seeking to overturn his 2016 conviction by an international tribunal in the Hague on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tensions are rising.

“Is Europe Sleepwalking Into Another Balkan War?” read a Bloomberg headline for an article noting that Serbia and Kosovo are now negotiating to redraw their borders, giving Dodik and others ammunition for their calls to split up Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Outside influences aren’t helping.

Former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon has reached out to Dodik and other nationalist leaders on the Continent because they fall into his populist, anti-European Union, pro-Russia political model, the New York Review of Books wrote.

Bannon’s participation in the campaign was a sign of potential trouble ahead in case the country’s three newly elected presidents have severe disagreements over the future.

“I’m more concerned about the influence and back-door deals that will take place under the pretext of an electoral ‘crisis,’” Mirna Buljugic, a journalist with Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, told the Review. “As if our politicians need another excuse for corruption.”

Ironically, Dodik has criticized American officials for interfering in the election. They deny that claim, according to Radio Free Europe.

Dodik did meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during a recent visit to Banja Luka, the Republika Srpska’s de-facto capital, denied that he or his boss were meddling, according to Emerging Europe, a London-based think tank.

With so many layers of government, ethnic groups and history, the truth is elusive. No wonder many voters would rather leave than parse it all out.



‘Unharmonious’ Voices

A budding trade war with the US isn’t the only worry for Chinese business.

In the wake of a curious report of a crackdown on ardent communists in Huizhou, China may also be pushing back against the private businesses that have fueled its booming economy over the past two decades.

“Unharmonious voices” are now condemning private enterprise, top pro-market Chinese economist Wu Jinglian recently told colleagues gathered for an economic forum, the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, though President Xi Jinping sought to reassure entrepreneurs Thursday that he was paying no heed to fringe calls for private enterprises to be abolished and other radical ideas, he also stumped for the state-owned giants, saying that calls for eliminating or shrinking state-owned enterprises are also “wrong and slanted.”

The debate comes as China weighs taking equity stakes in the country’s big internet companies and amid the introduction of stiffer requirements on private firms, including foreign ones, to give Communist Party committees more say in management decisions.


Counting the Pennies

The United Nations has suspended cash transfers to 9 million Yemenis after the Houthi rebels prevented UNICEF from setting up a call center to track the beneficiaries.

Locals familiar with the problem said the Houthi rebels had blocked the call center because it would have exposed how they’re siphoning off the cash amid a fall in the value of the country’s currency that has increased prices for food and fuel, the Associated Press reported.

UNICEF itself declined to provide details about why the call center had not been set up.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who have been battling the Saudi-backed government since 2015, have repeatedly been accused of interfering with aid channels.

Last week, the group also banned the local head of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency from the country after he refused to use the rebels’ beneficiary lists and Houthi-linked staff for aid activities, according to the AP’s sources, who chose to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals.


BadRabbit and Other Rodents

Britain on Thursday accused Russian military intelligence (GRU) of running a network of hackers that have wreaked havoc around the world, while the US is gearing up to put its cyber warfare arsenal at NATO’s disposal.

Based on an investigation conducted by its National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), Britain blamed the GRU for the BadRabbit and World Anti-Doping Agency attacks of 2017, the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016 and the theft of emails from a UK-based TV station in 2015, Reuters reported.

“This pattern of behavior demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that the US is expected to announce it will deploy its cyber warfare capabilities on behalf of NATO amid meetings with NATO defense ministers this week.


The Other Final Frontier

Astronomers may still be looking for signs of extraterrestrial life in the galaxy but it is marine scientists who continue to discover new creatures in the ocean depths.

A team recently recorded three new species of fish in the Atacama Trench of the Pacific Ocean, Quartz reported.

Scientists said the deep dwellers, living 26,000 feet below the surface, belonged to a family of snailfish species known as sea snails or lumpsuckers, due to their feeding style.

But what caught the scientists’ attention was that the Atacama snailfish – a temporary name – “melted” when brought to the surface.

“The hardest structures in their bodies are the bones in their inner ear, which give them balance, and their teeth,” Thomas Linley, a marine biologist at Newcastle University, said in a news release.

Researchers said the new snailfish relies on the extreme pressure of the deep ocean – about 750 times greater than atmospheric pressure at sea level, according to Smithsonian magazine – to hold their gelatinous bodies together.

The team managed to preserve only one of the fish for further studies.

Space might be the final frontier but humans still have a vast underwater world to explore.

“More than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored,” according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Click here to see life at the bottom.

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