February 05, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

ROMANIA

Losing Hope

Bucharest is supposedly the Paris of the East.

Citing the French influence on the Romanian capital’s Beaux-Arts architecture, the Daily Beast recommended a “flânerie,” or aimless walk, through the city to experience a “surreal sense of dislocation” between the City of Light and the ex-communist metropolis of almost 2 million people.

Many Romanians would prefer to live in the real Paris, however. One in eight under the age of 20 live abroad, for example, reported Romania-Insider, a local English-language news outlet.

They’re not leaving solely due to economic reasons. See News reported that unemployment in Romania is less than 4 percent. Rather, many are sick and tired of corruption, subpar services and other issues that were supposed to have been fixed after the fall of communism 30 years ago.

Recently, emergency room doctors accidentally set a cancer patient on fire when a spark from an electric device ignited alcohol used to sanitize her body, reported Bloomberg. A lack of funding and corruption were blamed for the incident. Romania spends proportionally less on health care than any other European Union member. It has one of the worst mortality rates for treatable diseases in the bloc.

The rot is everywhere. Gheorghe Dănulețiu, a shepherd, is sick of exporting his sheep for less than $25 per head. “The sheep trade has become a mockery,” he told the Guardian. “I can’t afford to pay good salaries and I can’t find workers anymore – young people see that it’s all going downhill. I have the impression that this is political, that they’re trying to destroy the sector.”

Romania lacks the slaughterhouses to process Dănulețiu’s animals. So the largely agricultural country must import meat.

Many Romanians feel as if redress is impossible. A court is now investigating the murders of as many as 1,100 people during Romania’s 1989 revolution, the most violent among the East European countries formerly under Soviet control. Many of the deaths took place in the chaotic days after dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were shot and killed on live television on Christmas Day in 1989.

But while politicians like President Klaus Iohannis have vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, Politico wrote about how many Romanians aren’t holding their breath.

Writing in openDemocracy, researcher Cristian Cercel of the Institute for Social Movements noted that Romanian politicians like Iohannis have long vowed to crack down on corruption and strengthen the rule of law versus politicians who depend on graft and cronyism. Often, such vows have amounted to wishful thinking, Cercel concluded

Transparency International rated Romania as the second-most corrupt EU member after neighboring Bulgaria. More than 76 percent of the Romanian public believes the country is going in the wrong direction, according to Euronews.

The hope that flourished after the fall of communism is no more. Something new is necessary.

WANT TO KNOW

SUDAN

Behind the Scenes

Sudan’s military leader informed the country’s governing body on Tuesday about a secret meeting he held with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on normalizing relations between the two nations after decades of hostility, Agence France-Presse reported.

Netanyahu announced Monday that he met with Sudan’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Entebbe, Uganda. Netanyahu said the leaders had “agreed to start cooperation leading to normalization of the relationship between the two countries.”

Relations between Sudan and Israel were hostile during the rule of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted amid mass protests last year.

The meeting could potentially help Sudan’s campaign to improve its relations with the United States, which has classified the Muslim African country as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, Bloomberg reported.

The secret meeting, however, was met with a mixed reception in Sudan. The cabinet said it was not notified about the talks and would seek clarification. The Sudanese Communist Party, meanwhile, condemned the meeting as “a stab in the back” for the Palestinian cause.

UNITED KINGDOM

Cautionary Dream

The British government announced Tuesday that it will ban the sale of new gas, diesel, and hybrid vehicles from 2035 in a move that could affect oil producers and transform the car industry, NBC News reported.

The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the measure is intended to help reduce air pollution and fossil fuel emissions, as well as improve Britain’s environmental credentials.

Last year, the United Kingdom pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

The recent decision is a victory for electric car companies and could bring an end to the internal combustion engine, which has been used for more than a century, according to Reuters.

Several other countries and cities have also announced plans to curb diesel vehicles following the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, and the EU is introducing tougher carbon dioxide rules.

Analysts cautioned that important steps need to be taken on both the “national and regional level, such as informing consumers about the vehicles on offer or building of the necessary charging infrastructure.”

MYANMAR

Digging Further

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday launched an official investigation into Myanmar’s role in crimes committed against the Muslim Rohingya, the Associated Press reported.

Phakiso Mochochoko, director of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division of the ICC, said investigators from the Netherlands-based court will be gathering evidence from Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and that justice will be delivered whether Myanmar cooperates or not.

Myanmar is a not a member of the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the ICC – and has denied committing genocide or any crimes against humanity.

Mochochoko added the court has the mandate to proceed since Bangladesh is a party of the statute and the Rohingya crossed the border into that country.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar’s army launched a crackdown on the minority in 2017.

The ICC is also working with the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice, which ordered Myanmar last month to take all measures to protect the minority from genocide.

DISCOVERIES

Late Bloomers

Sharks were already terrifying, but the idea of “walking” sharks evokes new levels of terror.

Scientists discovered four new species of walking sharks residing in the coastal waters between New Guinea and Australia, Time magazine reported.

Researchers wrote in their study that the animals were able to “walk” using their pectoral and pelvic fins to move across coral reefs – or even outside the water at low tide – to hunt their prey.

“During low tides, they became the top predator on the reef,” lead author Christine Dudgeon told National Geographic.

Fortunately for beachgoers, they are harmless: They have an average length of about 3 feet and feed only on small fish and invertebrates.

The new discoveries bring the total number of walking shark species to nine, but the authors noted something peculiar about the newcomers.

They are the “youngest” sharks on the planet in terms of evolution – they started to evolve nine million years ago.

Most shark species evolve very slowly, but that’s not the case with the four walkers.

Co-author Gavin Naylor explained that the dynamic and shifting nature of coral reefs has actually pushed these species to evolve faster than their bigger and older cousins.

“This may be the one place in the world where speciation is still going on for sharks,” he said.