October 12, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

KYRGYZSTAN

The Revolution Muscle

Revolution has come to Kyrgyzstan – again.

In 2005 and 2010, popular uprisings overthrew authoritarian presidents in the Central Asian country. Then last week, opposition groups seized central government buildings in the capital of Bishkek after demonstrations erupted over alleged vote-rigging during recent parliamentary elections, CNN reported.

Sixteen parties applied to run for seats in the national legislature. Only four were allowed to appear on the ballot. Three of those parties had close ties to President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

The protesters were heard. Election officials in the country annulled the results of the Oct. 4 elections after the protests left one person dead and hundreds injured in clashes with the police, explained Radio Free Europe.

The demonstrators freed former president Almazbek Atambayev, jailed on allegedly trumped-up corruption charges after running afoul of President Jeenbekov. He was rearrested on Saturday for organizing riots.

Also on Saturday, a man convicted of kidnapping, Sadyr Japarov, was sprung from jail by anti-government protestors and selected as the new prime minister after feuding politicians agreed on a new provisional government, the New York Times reported.

Japarov is a former member of parliament for a nationalist party and says his conviction was politically motived – not an implausible claim, says the Times, in a country where most governments jail members of the previous ones.

Meanwhile, officials are planning on new elections, Reuters reported, as the country leans into chaos. Eurasianet wrote about how opposition leaders were appointing themselves to public positions amid a power vacuum and competing with each other for the leadership.

Jeenbekov said the groups were staging a coup d’etat but he ordered security forces not to fire on protesters but did declare a state of emergency, impose a curfew and flood the streets with troops. Later, he hinted to the BBC that he might stand down, saying he was “ready to give the responsibility to strong leaders.”

Kyrgyzstan is strategically important. It hosts a Russian airbase that Tass wrote is now on high alert due to the unrest. A large Canadian-controlled gold mine also operates in the ex-Soviet republic. The country was formerly a US ally but Russian and Chinese interests displaced American influence there.

Both Jeenbekov and Atambayev are pro-Russian, opting to collaborate with, rather than antagonize, the dominant power in their neighborhood. At the same, it’s the only country in the region that can pass for a democracy. Still, it has long been prone to violence because of clan rivalries and divisions between the north and the south.

Still, Transparency International has ranked Kyrgyzstan as one of the most corrupt countries on earth because of its position as a transit country for lucrative smuggling routes from Afghanistan to Europe.

In fact, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have absconded with much of the economic growth that impoverished Kyrgyzstan has experienced in recent years as the country drew closer to Moscow, explained the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in an analysis. Many Kyrgyz citizens want a change. Russia’s power in the country can only go so far, in other words.

If whoever leads the new Kyrgyzstan does not succeed in the eyes of the public, they can always be replaced as the people flex their well-honed revolution muscle.

WANT TO KNOW

NORTH KOREA

Breaking a Stalemate

North Korea unveiled its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile over the weekend, a move that marks the country’s continuous advancement in weapon capabilities despite international sanctions, the Financial Time reported.

The new missile was unveiled during a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the founding North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the weapon was intended to shore up the country’s deterrent capabilities. Meanwhile, analysts said that the unveiling of the new missile underscores how the nation’s ongoing nuclear advancement poses serious danger to the United States and its allies.

North Korea has mainly tested shorter-range weapons since mid-2019. It had put a moratorium on long-range weapons following a historic summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in 2018.

However, nuclear talks between the nations stalled after the two sides failed to agree on key points: Trump demanded North Korea give up its nuclear arsenal while Kim insisted on having sanctions lifted.

With approaching US elections and Democratic nominee Joe Biden the frontrunner, analysts say it’s uncertain how a new administration will handle North Korea. The current one has left the situation in limbo, they add.

ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN

Time Out

Armenia and Azerbaijan declared a ceasefire over the weekend following two weeks of intensive fighting over a disputed region that has claimed hundreds of lives, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The ceasefire follows hours of negotiations between representatives of both nations in Russia. The warring parties agreed to allow some space to exchange prisoners and recover their dead.

The conflict began last month over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area controlled by ethnic Armenians but internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The region has been a flashpoint between the two nations since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 30 years ago. The worst outbreak of violence until now was a six-year war that ended in a ceasefire in 1994 and resulted in 30,000 dead.

Both sides have blamed each other for the recent flare-up, and reports of ceasefire violations emerged over the weekend, according to the BBC.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Armenia and Azerbaijan are starting “substantive negotiations” to reach a peaceful resolution, adding that the talks would be mediated by Russia, the United States and France.

A successful ceasefire would be a diplomatic victory for Russia and solidify its position as its mediator in the region, which it considers part of its sphere of influence.

IVORY COAST

Déjà Vu

More than 20,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan, Saturday, protesting against President Alassane Ouattara’s plan to run for a third term in the upcoming presidential elections, Al Jazeera reported.

The protests are the latest show of defiance against the president’s power grab in the run-up to elections on Oct. 31.

Ouattara announced in August he will seek reelection after his hand-picked successor’s sudden death left a power vacuum in the ruling RDHP party. His opponents, however, say he is violating the constitution by seeking another term: Ouattara countered that a 2016 constitutional amendment he engineered has reset his two-term limit.

Analysts said that the polls mark “an extremely big test” for Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer. Meanwhile, representatives of the ECOWAS regional group – which includes Nigeria, the regional heavyweight – have condemned the demonstrations that have killed more than a dozen people.

The unrest has ignited concerns that it might spiral into another crisis similar to one a decade ago that resulted in the 2010-2011 civil war. That conflict was sparked when, after disputed elections, the electoral commission declared Ouattara the winner and then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

More than 3,000 people died.

DISCOVERIES

The Jovial Ones

Dogs like to have fun and even age won’t stop them.

Recently, though, scientists discovered that some breeds of dogs are more playful than others – and they noted that this trait could determine a canine’s trainability, Cosmos Magazine reported.

Researcher Niclas Kolm and his colleagues realized this after analyzing how human-directed play behavior evolved in modern dog breeds. In their paper, the team compared the playfulness of nearly 90,000 dogs from 132 breeds using data taken from the Swedish Kennel Club. They combined the data with that of the American Kennel Association, which grouped pooches into different breed categories, including herding, hound dogs and working dogs.

The researchers also looked into the shared ancestry and gene flow between breeds and concluded that dog ancestors already exhibited playful behaviors that are found in some modern breeds.

They pointed out that humans often picked the most playful dogs for breeding because they were “easier to work with – or just most fun to have around,” said Kolm.

The results showed herding and sporting breeds were the most playful, which include retrievers, pointers and collies.

Kolm explained that these canines work closely and maintain eye contact with humans, adding that their jovial nature made it easy to form a strong bond between dog and handler.

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 7,762,807 (+0.57%)
  2. India: 7,120,538 (+0.95%)
  3. Brazil: 5,094,979 (+0.24%)
  4. Russia: 1,291,687 (+1.05%)
  5. Colombia: 911,317 (+0.95%)
  6. Argentina: 894,206 (+1.17%)
  7. Spain: 861,112 (+0.00%)**
  8. Peru: 849,371 (+0.39%)
  9. Mexico: 817,503 (+0.39%)
  10. France: 732,434 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country.