The World Today for December 21, 2018
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NEED TO KNOW
When Yugoslavia descended into civil war in the early 1990s, Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and others in the communist republic weren’t the only ones to fight.
Arab jihadists journeyed to the Balkans to defend their Muslim brothers. Employing lessons they learned from Afghanistan, they honed their skills for conflicts later in Iraq and Syria. Chinese and Russian officials helped the Serbs. American-led NATO airstrikes helped the Kosovans.
Similar developments are now unfolding in Ukraine, where eastern separatists have broken off from the central government in Kiev.
Russia, of course, cleaved off Crimea. He denies it but few doubt that President Vladimir Putin is supporting the separatists today. Moscow leaders have been meddling in Ukraine’s (and other countries’) elections and politics, too, noted John E. Herbst, a former US ambassador to Ukraine who is director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, in a briefing.
But Russia isn’t alone.
Hungary appears to be fomenting dissent in Western Ukraine, where around 150,000 ethnic Hungarian Ukrainians live. NBC News wrote about how officials in a consulate gave Hungarian citizenship to a group of those people, angering Ukrainian officials by potentially undermining their authority.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is notorious for spearheading the so-called “illiberal” revolution in Europe. He’s a right-wing strongman who has stoked fears of migrants – even though Hungary has accepted few if any Middle Eastern migrants in recent years – while altering his country’s laws on elections, the free press and the judiciary to all but ensure he remains in power indefinitely, explained the BBC.
In December, pro-democracy protests have been growing, Vox said.
Regardless, critics have long said Orban is in Putin’s pocket. The US has warned that Orban has been working to block Ukraine’s entrance into NATO, a Putin priority, Reuters wrote.
Another Russia ally, Serbia, has also joined the fray in Ukraine. Serbs have joined pro-Russian paramilitary units in Eastern Ukraine, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. “The gunpowder gets under your skin. The adrenaline is excellent, full of uncertainty, like sex in the wild,” Serb fighter Stevan Milosevic told the news organization.
The traffic goes both ways. Fascist groups in Ukraine, which have flourished as Russia has threatened the country’s survival, have trained American white supremacists, wrote Radio Free Europe. Australian neo-Nazis have gone to Ukraine, too, in search of the same thrills as Milosevic, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
When the West lacks conviction and the violent are full of passionate intensity, it’s hard to contain the hate.
WANT TO KNOW
Terrorism vs. Tourism
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said the killings of two Scandinavian tourists – at least one of whom was reportedly decapitated – in the mountains of Morocco were “politically motivated and thus an act of terror.”
The bodies of the two university students, one of whom was Norwegian and one of whom was Danish, were discovered Monday in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
On Thursday, Moroccan authorities said they had detained four men in connection with the crime, saying the suspects are the same four men seen in a video that was circulating on Twitter last week, the Associated Press reported.
The video reportedly shows the four suspects pledging allegiance to Islamic State.
Morocco is investigating the crime as an act of terrorism, but authorities there have declined to name a specific terror group. Meanwhile, Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg said terrorism “is not the only lead that is being investigated in Morocco,” but the case “emphasizes the importance of combating violent extremism.”
Another Traveler’s Nightmare
British authorities called in the army to cope with a mysterious invasion of drones that has forced Gatwick Airport, London’s second-largest airport, to ground all flights for 24 hours, stranding thousands of travelers.
Flights were immediately suspended. The airport tried to reopen around 3 a.m. Thursday, but was forced to ground flights again when another drone was spotted about 45 minutes later. Another drone was sighted around noon.
Reporting from the scene, a Sky News reporter observed that the drones seemed to appear whenever the airport prepared to reopen.
The attack or prank – call it what you will – has resulted in the cancellation of 657 flights and prompted Karl Turner, the shadow aviation minister, to call for tighter regulations on drones, the UK’s Guardian newspaper said.
The army is now deploying “specialist equipment” to deal with the situation, Vox said.
Let My People Go
An Egyptian court acquitted at retrial 43 employees of non-governmental organizations who had earlier been convicted of illegally receiving foreign funding.
In the original 2013 case, three Egyptian workers, an American and a German were sentenced to two years in prison but avoided actually serving any time behind bars. Eleven received suspended sentences, and the rest were tried in absentia, the BBC reported.
The 2013 case outraged US authorities, not least because it involved NGOs linked to the Democratic and Republican parties.
“This was a bogus case that targeted human rights defenders simply for doing their legitimate work and should never have happened in the first place,” said Najia Bounaim of Amnesty International.
However, Bounaim warned that the recent verdict only relates to the funding of international NGOs in Egypt, including the US-based International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, and dozens of employees of local Egyptian NGOs are still at risk.
The crackdown on NGOs followed the army’s ouster of the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi.
The Urchin That Could
Amateur paleontologist Peter Bennicke discovered a peculiar 66-million-year-old sea urchin while on a fossil hunt on a Danish beach.
Upon closer inspection, he noticed that the ancient creature’s remains revealed clues of a struggle, public broadcaster Danish TV2 reported, according to BBC.
“I could see it was a pretty large sea urchin, so I took it home to look at it more closely. That’s when I saw that it had been bitten,” said Bennicke, who made the find at white cliffs of Stevns Klint on the Island of Møn, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Researchers speculate that the sea urchin survived an attack from above, suffering a bite probably caused by the teeth of marine predator Mosasaurus – famously depicted in the movie Jurassic World.
The survivalist urchin caught the attention of the Geomuseum Faxe, where it will be exhibited from February.
Museum curator Jesper Milan told Danish TV ØST that this was an exciting and rare find, because sea urchins were slow and easy prey for predators.
“This is a very exciting find,” he said. “Not only because of the unique backstory, but also because it provides important information about how the animals in the sea lived, and who devoured who.”