The World Today for February 07, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

CROATIA

Selective Memories

Croatia’s ombudswoman – the official charged with promoting equality and fighting discrimination in the modern-day republic – warned late last year about the revival of symbols associated with the Ustasa, a fascist movement that collaborated with the Nazis in the puppet Independent State of Croatia during World War II.

“Books have been printed, articles and interviews have been written and published, forums have been held and documentaries and television shows have been recorded that deny or downplay the criminal character of the [Ustasa-led] Independent State of Croatia,” said Ombudswoman Lora Vidovic, according to Balkan Insight.

Some Croats evidently view the Ustase as freedom fighters who sought independence from Yugoslavia. The militants also killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and others “with a brutality that shocked even the Germans,” wrote the Encyclopedia Britannica.

That nostalgia juxtaposes ironically with many Croats’ views today on the prosecution of war crimes stemming from the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s.

Croatian authorities have charged a Serbian, Zoran Tadic, with war crimes stemming from his alleged participation in raids by Serbian paramilitary forces 27 years ago. Tadic and his comrades allegedly massacred 43 people in a village with the goal of sending a message to other Croats to leave the area – ethnic cleansing, in other words.

Recently, those authorities discovered that Tadic had been living in Sydney for more than 26 years, wrote the Australian. They’re now seeking his extradition.

Croatian memories are also long when it comes to Vukovar, where thousands took to the streets last year to criticize the government for not being aggressive enough in prosecuting Yugoslav and Serb paramilitaries that attacked the town in the country’s east, reported the Croatian news agency HINA.

But few Croats appear to be seeking aggressive prosecutions of their own country’s war criminals.

Croatian lawmaker Branimir Glavas has been on trial for war crimes for years, Balkan Insight wrote. Leading a militia in the 1990s, he allegedly forced a prisoner to drink battery acid, for example. But he keeps benefitting from procedural flubs and other technicalities that force retrials while he conveniently works as a power broker in the Croatian Parliament in Zagreb.

The chief prosecutor of the United Nations agency now prosecuting Yugoslav war crimes, Serge Brammertz of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, chided Croatia in a report last year for acting too slowly in cases involving war crimes by Croats and Bosnian Croats, wrote N1, a local broadcaster.

Apparently, not everyone is willing to sanction hate.

The World Jewish Congress recently applauded Catholic leaders in Croatia for unequivocally rejecting anti-Semitism in remarks during a recent Holocaust remembrance ceremony. In a news release, the Jewish organization noted that the church in previous years had glorified pro-Catholic Ustasa nationalists.

Some say, if the church can change, others can too.

WANT TO KNOW

MACEDONIA

What’s In a Name?

After resolving its dispute with Greece over its name, Macedonia on Wednesday got the green light to join NATO as its 30th member, despite Russian objections to Balkan nations joining the alliance.

Following the signing of the accession protocol, which must now be ratified by the member nations, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said it means the country now officially known as North Macedonia “will never walk alone,” Reuters reported.

Former Yugoslav republics Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro have already joined NATO, as have other countries in the Balkan region including Albania, Bulgaria and Romania. But Moscow sees the eastward expansion of the alliance as a threat to its sphere of influence, especially when it comes to the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia, both of which also hope to join NATO.

“For us NATO is about making the world more peaceful, more stable,” said Dimitrov, echoing the Western position that bringing the Balkan countries into NATO and the European Union is the best way to preserve peace in the region.

VENEZUELA

Self-inflicted Blockade

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blocked a bridge linking the country with Colombia to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid that has been demanded by the opposition.

Last week, opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself Maduro’s interim replacement, called for international aid to be delivered via the blocked bridge and two other waypoints, CNN reported. But despite shortages of food and medicine resulting from the country’s economic turmoil, Maduro has rejected the assistance, saying, “We are not beggars.”

CNN noted it’s also possible Maduro may be concerned the aid shipments might be used to camouflage an invasion to depose him.

After a tanker truck and two shipping containers were positioned to block the bridge linking Venezuela with Cucuta, Colombia, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Maduro on Twitter for depriving his country’s people of humanitarian assistance, the Washington Post reported.

“The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid,” Pompeo tweeted. “The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE.”

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

An Angry Peace

Central African Republic on Wednesday formally inked a peace agreement with 14 rebel groups that had been announced earlier. But the deal has raised concerns that it rewards the warring factions rather than meting out punishment.

The peace deal, known as the Khartoum Agreement because it was negotiated in Sudan, is believed to call for incorporating representatives of the rebel groups into the government, the Associated Press reported.

“We are shocked because we see our authorities jubilant alongside our executioners,” said Yannick Nalimo, a journalist and blogger. “The people do not want these people, who put the country down and stripped us bare, to come back and manage the affairs of the state.”

Others are upset by reports that the agreement will end the prosecutions of soldiers accused of human rights abuses during the five-year conflict, which has killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Such concerns aside, pragmatism suggests some kind of accommodation was necessary, as armed groups currently control around 80 percent of the country, fighting to control the trade in gold, diamonds and uranium.

DISCOVERIES

The Real Culprit

Honeybees play a vital role in ecosystems and economies around the world, so scientists are trying hard to find new ways to save them.

Deformed wing virus – spread by the Varroa mite – has been associated with many collapses of bee colonies. The previous belief was that the mite, in transmitting the virus, changed it and made it more deadly.

But a recent study concluded that the mites, not the virus, were more likely to blame, Inverse reported.

Researchers simulated mite bites on bee pupae, then introduced deformed wing virus (DWV) and even deadlier strains, such as the Sacbrood and Black queen cell viruses.

The team found that the latter two viruses spread quickly but subsided quite fast too as they killed their hosts, and the mites with them. DWV, on the other hand, continued to spread because it didn’t kill its hosts. The mites, which are quite destructive all on their own, would survive as well.

The finding “means we don’t have to be scared of the virus,” team leader Madeleine Beekman said in a news release. “Instead we need to focus on eliminating the mite and reducing its numbers.”

The study doesn’t exactly clarify why colonies collapse, but it sheds light on contributing factors and might help in finding new solutions.

Correction: In Wednesday’s WANT TO KNOW item on Costa Rica, we wrote “Me Dos” in our headline. In actuality, the #MeToo movement has two counterparts in Spanish,  #NiUnaMenos and #Cuéntalo. We apologize for the error.

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