February 11, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

KOSOVO

Fighting the Past

In June, 61 out of 120 lawmakers in Kosovo’s parliament voted to install the government of Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti.

Hoti’s political opponents, including former Prime Minister Albin Kurti, questioned the vote, however, because the member of parliament who gave the government its majority had been convicted of a crime, as Reuters explained. The tiny Balkan country’s constitutional court agreed, invalidating the vote and calling for a new general election scheduled for Feb. 14, the Associated Press reported.

And then the tale gets odder.

Kurti can’t run in that upcoming election, however, because election officials barred him from running for office due to his criminal record, wrote Euronews. Six years ago, Kurti and other lawmakers used tear gas and other violence to disrupt parliamentary proceedings related to Kosovo’s borders with Montenegro and also allowing Serbian-majority municipalities in Kosovo the right to form an association.

Election officials also barred a candidate from running because he represented an ethnic Bosniak party but allegedly is Albanian, Balkan Insight reported. The decision raised questions about whether individuals have the right to assert their ethnicity.

Despite the setbacks, Kurti is leading his party’s campaign on a “jobs and justice” platform, as he detailed to scholars at the Wilson Center.

He is likely to win, potentially in a landslide, argued İdlir Lika, a political scientist at Istanbul Gelisim University, in an op-ed published by the Anadolu Agency. Kosovar voters want their economy to improve, to staunch the brain drain of young people leaving the country for better opportunities and an end to corruption.

That corruption included ex-fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army who fought for their country’s independence from Serbia in the 2000s, wrote New Eastern Europe, a Polish news magazine. Many of those fighters still wield inordinate power over their former colleagues.

Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi was one of them. He resigned his office late last year and journeyed to The Hague in the Netherlands where he faces charges of war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearances, torture and crimes against humanity dating from Kosovo’s war against Serbia.

The Feb. 14 election might be the last chance for Kosovo’s voters to put their violent past behind them, according to the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, a Slovenian think-tank. Kosovo can’t fully integrate with Europe and the rest of the world so long as war criminals are embedded in the government. Those corrupt figures, in turn, know they must fight to retain their positions or else lose their freedom.

Now, voters will choose. And though they might have limited options, they can still make their voices heard.

WANT TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

Enter At Your Own Risk

The British government’s warning that travelers who try to hide trips to coronavirus hotspots can be jailed for 10 years has created an uproar among politicians, lawyers and the general public, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that British citizens returning to the country from 33 “red list” countries have to pay more than $2,400 to quarantine for 10 days in government-designated hotels.

He also warned that whoever lied about their trips could face a fine of more than $13,000 and a 10-year jail sentence.

Former conservative lawmaker, Dominic Grieve, called the move “entirely disproportionate,” while former Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption, said that concealing travel history should not come with prison terms comparable to those for assault or sex crimes.

Government officials, however, defended the plan and have urged citizens to refrain from booking holidays either in Britain or abroad, according to the BBC.

The new measures arise out of concern of the new coronavirus variants entering the United Kingdom: The government is unsure whether the existing vaccination campaign will protect British citizens from the mutated strains being discovered around the world.

INDIA

The Warning

Scientists and researchers are still trying to determine what caused the Himalayan glacier disaster in India’s northern Uttarkhand state this week, an event that highlighted the impact of climate change in the fragile Himalayan mountains, the Associated Press reported.

At least 31 people died and more than 160 are missing or presumed dead after a devastating deluge of water and debris crashed downstream from a Himalayan glacier on Sunday.

Scientists initially suspected the disaster occurred when a glacial lake burst but satellite images suggested that a landslide and avalanche were the real culprits. However, it remains unclear whether the landslide caused an avalanche of ice and debris, or whether falling ice led to the landslide.

Indian climate researchers had previously warned that warming temperatures were melting the Himalayan glaciers, which could lead to avalanches and landslides in the area. They had also cautioned officials about the dangers of building dams in the area.

“They were clearly warned, and yet they went ahead,” said Ravi Chopra, the director of the non-profit People’s Science Institute.

The catastrophe underscored how climate change was affecting the lives of millions living in the fragile Himalayan mountains, according to scientists.

The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development found in a 2019 report that rising temperatures would melt a third of the Himalayan glaciers by the end of the century, even if the world met its most ambitious climate goals.

FRANCE

#MeTooInceste

France is planning to set the minimum age of sexual consent at 15 amid growing public outrage over a series of incest and abuse allegations involving high-profile individuals, Politico reported Wednesday.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said this week that he would seek to criminalize any “act of sexual penetration” by an adult of a minor under the age of 15.

The current law defines rape as sexual penetration “under violence, duress, threat or surprise,” regardless of age. A sexual act with a child under the age of 15 that excludes these conditions is deemed an offense with a lighter maximum penalty than rape.

Dupont-Moretti said that exceptions would be made for teenagers having consensual sex.

While the proposal isn’t law yet, it was hailed as a major step in toughening French protection for child victims of rape and sexual violence, the Associated Press reported.

France tried to set a minimum age of consent three years ago during the height of the #MeToo movement but the attempt failed amid legal complications.

The new effort comes after accusations emerged last month over allegations of rape and incest involving prominent French political expert, Olivier Duhamel.

Many victims came forward with their stories of sexual abuse in the new offshoot movement, #MeTooInceste.

DISCOVERIES

The Color of Kings

The Bible mentions how King David and King Solomon wore purple-colored fabric during their reigns, a color associated with royalty and high status 3,000 years ago.

Recently, archaeologists found for the first time solid evidence of purple textiles in Timna Valley in southern Israel, according to Live Science.

In their paper, the team wrote that the well-preserved textiles were woven around 1,000 BCE, during the time of David and Solomon – who ruled from 1010–970 BCE and 970–931 BCE, respectively.

They explained the dye – known as argaman – was made from three species of mollusks found hundreds of miles away in the Mediterranean, which made them extremely valuable as a result.

Researchers were also able to recreate the process used to make the dye – which involved extracting it from the mollusks – using the same techniques the ancient workers used thousands of years ago.

“The practical work took us back thousands of years,” said co-author Zohar Amar. “It has allowed us to better understand obscure historical sources associated with the precious colors of azure and purple.”

The authors added that the arduous task of creating the dye and the long distance to transport it in the Middle East is what made the royal color “often cost more than gold.”

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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: 27,287,173 (+0.35%)
  2. India: 10,871,294 (+0.12%)
  3. Brazil: 9,659,167 (+0.62%)
  4. UK: 3,996,833 (+0.33%)
  5. Russia: 3,983,031 (+0.37%)
  6. France: 3,444,888 (+0.75%)
  7. Spain: 3,023,601 (+0.60%)
  8. Italy: 2,668,266 (+0.49%)
  9. Turkey: 2,556,837 (+0.34%)
  10. Germany: 2,312,530 (+0.46%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours