April 28, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

MONTENEGRO

Embarrassment of Riches

Montenegro is lucky, in some ways.

The Balkan region of Europe has long suffered a brain drain as citizens migrated for jobs in Amsterdam, London, Paris and elsewhere. But recently it seems as if highly educated young people have been returning to the former Yugoslav republic on the Adriatic Sea, according to Emerging Europe, a London-based news platform.

Still, organized crime is also a major problem. Corruption is endemic. As the Committee to Protect Journalists explained in a case that illustrated the power of the Montenegrin mafia, journalist Jovo Martinović covered organized crime and was later convicted of drug trafficking, for example, on charges that he insists were in retaliation for his reporting.

But recently, Montenegrin officials announced the capture of Slobodan Kascelan, 58, who has stoked a bloody war with a rival gang over the cocaine trade. That violence has occurred throughout Montenegro and in nearby Serbia, Bosnia, Greece, Spain and Italy. “We have promised that Montenegro will not be ruled by the mafia and we are fulfilling that promise,” Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic told the Associated Press.

As Radio Free Europe reported, many important people in Montenegro believe they should improve relations with Russia. Other voices reflect a more Russian perspective of European history including raising doubts about whether Bosnian Serbs massacred Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) in the Srebrenica massacres of 1995, Balkan Insight noted.

But the country’s civil institutions were firm enough to end a “botched coup d’état” in 2016 that sought to install a pro-Russia, anti-NATO government in the capital of Podgorica, National Interest wrote. Montenegro joined NATO a year later. Still, much of the Montenegrin elite are sympathetic to Moscow, the Conversation argued. But the country is in line to join the European Union, too.

All of those factors contribute to Montenegro looking like a good bet for Chinese investors seeking a fat return on roads, bridges and other civil infrastructure projects. Those investors poured $1 billion into the country of 600,000 people, reported the Washington Post. That’s a fifth of Montenegro’s gross domestic product.

The loan and financial arrangements have become an issue between China and the EU, Nikkei Asia wrote. Europe doesn’t want one of its members in hock to Chinese autocrats. Abazovic then asked if Europe might refinance the loan. The EU has offered more financing but has ruled out repaying the country’s debts. China has defended its loan and the terms.

Montenegro won’t go bankrupt. But someone outside of Europe will likely profit from it integrating more closely with Europe.

WANT TO KNOW

CHAD

The Song Remains the Same

Protesters hit the streets of Chad Tuesday against the new military-led transitional government that followed the death of longtime President Idriss Déby, the Guardian reported.

The demonstrations were backed by opposition parties, who denounced last week’s military takeover as a coup and led to Déby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, becoming the country’s interim president.

At least two protesters have died in clashes with security forces and more than 20 are being treated for injuries.

The landlocked African nation has been gripped with unrest since the April 11 presidential elections, when the rebel group, Front for Change and Concord in Chad, entered the country from Libya in the north.

The fighting that ensued between the military and the rebels in the north of Chad led to Déby’s death.

Chad’s military council – led by Déby’s son – will oversee an 18-month transition to elections: The new government also includes civilian politicians. Even so, protests continue.

Opposition groups have also denounced the role of France, Chad’s former colonial ruler and an important ally in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially backed a civilian-military solution but later called for “an inclusive transition process” following Tuesday’s crackdown.

CANADA

Old Maps, New Rules

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled this month that non-Canadian Indigenous people have constitutionally protected rights to hunt on their ancestral lands in Canada, a verdict that could have far-reaching implications for Native Americans in the United States and Canada, the Washington Post reported.

The ruling followed a case brought by Richard Desautel, a US citizen and member of the Lakes tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state, who shot a cow elk in the Arrow Lakes region of British Columbia in Canada in 2010.

Canadian authorities fined him for hunting without a license and for being a non-resident of the province. Desautel rejected the fine, saying he was exercising his right under Canadian law, which recognizes rights afforded to “aboriginal peoples of Canada.”

He said he was hunting in the traditional territory of his ancestors, the Sinixt, whose lands extended into what is now British Columbia – Canada declared the people “extinct” decades ago, the Hill reported.

Previous courts sided with Desautel, which prompted the Canadian government to appeal the case to the country’s top court.

The high court rejected the appeal and said that the modern-day successors of Indigenous societies that lived on Canadian territory during the “time of European contact” also include communities that are now located outside of its borders.

The ruling has been hailed as a victory for members of the Colville Confederated Tribes but has raised questions about other tribes affected by the Canadian border which was drawn centuries ago.

IVORY COAST

Driving It Home

Ivory Coast moved to suspend all of its driving test examiners because of rising concerns over a spike in the number of road accidents due to fraud and corruption in the transport sector, the BBC reported.

Starting next week, driving tests will be conducted by police officers for three months, said Transport Minister Amadou Koné.

Following a rising number of deaths on the road, Koné has urged road safety police to patrol main roads more frequently to curb poor motorist behavior.

Most Ivorians have dealt with corruption while getting their driving licenses: Bribing examiners to pass visual tests has become commonplace, for example.

Although the country has a safer road infrastructure than many other African nations, accidents on the road take 1,400 lives every year. The population is about 26 million.

Road accidents in the Ivory Coast are mainly caused by overspeeding, poor parking, mechanical problems, fatigue, and the consumption of alcohol or stimulants, wrote the Turkish Anadolu Agency.

The West African state ranks 50th worldwide in death rates caused by car accidents, according to the World Health Organization. The month of April so far had at least 38 deaths – 16 people died when a bus and a truck collided in the northern part of the country.

DISCOVERIES

Spider Talk

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are making music from spider webs, a finding that can help researchers understand how arachnids communicate, CNN reported.

Scientists created 3D models of spider webs as the weavers constructed them, courted mates and communicated with other spiders.

The team noted that the crawlers produced various vibrations during their movements, which is how they orient themselves and communicate with other arachnids.

These vibrations were then converted into ominous, yet serene audio clips with different frequencies using a harp-like virtual instrument.

“The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings,” explained lead researcher Markus Buehler. “It’s unusual and eerie and scary but ultimately beautiful.”

Buehler and his team presented their findings at a virtual meeting of the American Chemical Society. Their goal was to figure out how spiders can weave their intricate silk homes – and traps – as well as speak to other spiders.

“The hope is … to enhance the ability to communicate with the spider and perhaps induce the spider to act in a certain way, to respond to the signals in a certain way,” said Buehler.

He also suggested that the findings can offer more insight into the development of advanced 3D printing techniques.

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: 32,176,051 (+0.16%)
  2. India: 17,997,113 (+2.05%)
  3. Brazil: 14,441,563 (+0.50%)
  4. France: 5,595,403 (+0.54%)
  5. Russia: 4,725,252 (+0.17%)
  6. Turkey: 4,710,582 (+0.93%)
  7. UK: 4,425,259 (+0.06%)
  8. Italy: 3,981,512 (+0.26%)
  9. Spain: 3,496,134 (+0.22%)
  10. Germany: 3,338,564 (+0.72%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours