June 16, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

ARMENIA

The Defeated

Serzh Sargsyan, a former Armenian president and prime minister now running for parliament, recently pledged to offer his son to the country’s former enemy, Azerbaijan, in order to free Armenian prisoners now detained in the latter country.

The strong words were typical of the heated climate in Armenia in the run-up to elections on June 20, reported Bloomberg.

Thousands of Armenian troops died in the 44-day war that broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan last year. The country lost a portion of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia brokered a truce between the two former Soviet republics in November and peace talks are ongoing, the Russian state-owned Tass news agency wrote. Azerbaijani officials say the Armenian troops they continue to hold are “saboteurs” captured after the end of hostilities.

Sargsyan and his Republican Party of Armenia lost power in 2018 during the so-called Velvet Revolution that ushered Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his Civil Contract political party into power. In the wake of the military defeat, Pashinyan stepped down in order to trigger snap elections so that Armenians could render their judgment on who should lead the country, as Al Jazeera explained.

Pashinyan came into office vowing to refrain from cracking down on officials from the past regime. Recently, however, he threatened those who would use their public office to help the former regime return. “Go to polling stations and replace our velvet mandate with a steel one, and you will see political vendettas, and you will see civil vendettas, and you will see staff purges,” he said at a campaign rally, according to eurasianet.

Meanwhile, polls show Pashinyan and former president Robert Kocharyan’s Armenia Alliance are within a few points of each other, wrote Armenia Weekly, a left-leaning Armenian-American newspaper.

Perhaps, though, the only real winner in the race will be Russia, wrote Emerging Europe. Armenia’s defeat illustrated how the West would not protect it from aggression. Many Armenians feel as if they have nowhere else to turn for allies other than Russia, especially since another one of Armenia’s traditional enemies, Turkey, supports Azerbaijan, as the Associated Press demonstrated.

Ethnic Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, meanwhile, wonder if and when Azerbaijan might seek to kick them off their land, Radio Free Europe reported. Azerbaijan has yet to move in Azerbaijani citizens who fled during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war from 1988 to 1994.

Being the defeated is not easy. The next administration has its work cut out for it.

WANT TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

‘A New Dawn’

The United Kingdom and Australia finalized a free trade agreement this week, the first such pact since Britain left the European Union last year, CNBC reported Tuesday.

Details of the agreement have yet to be finalized but the British government said the new agreement will allow businesses to sell their products for lower tariffs and boost industries that employ 3.5 million across the UK.

The government added that British farmers “will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years,” following concerns from agricultural businesses over a flood of cheap Australian imports.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, hailed the agreement as “a new dawn.”

Britain was Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner in 2019 and 2020, and last year the UK-Australia trade relationship was worth $19.6 billion.

Observers say the free trade deal will act as a precursor to the UK joining a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

PHILIPPINES

Law & Order

The outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked the Netherlands-based tribunal to investigate Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing drug war that has killed thousands of people, including children, CNN reported Tuesday.

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Duterte’s government committed crimes against humanity during a bloody anti-narcotics crackdown that began in 2016 – the year the president was elected.

The Philippine government said that police killed more than 6,000 drug dealers in sting operations since 2016, adding that killings were in self-defense.

Rights groups, however, say authorities summarily executed suspects and staged crime scenes on a massive scale. Officials deny the allegations.

Following Bensouda’s announcement, Duterte’s spokesperson said Tuesday that the president will not cooperate with any investigation because the Philippines is no longer a member of the ICC.

Duterte withdrew the Philippines’ membership in 2018 but the ICC’s withdrawal mechanism allows the court jurisdiction over crimes committed while the state was a member.

In this case, the court might investigate the period between 2016 and 2019 – when Manila’s pullout became official – if it authorizes a probe.

HUNGARY

See No ‘Evil’

The Hungarian parliament passed a new law Tuesday that will ban LGBT+ people from featuring in education materials or TV shows for minors, a move that critics called “a blanket approval” to discriminate and incite hatred against the community, the Guardian reported.

The new legislation prohibits the sharing of information with children if it ‘promotes’ homosexuality or gender change. It also bans companies and large organizations from running advertisements in solidarity with LGBT+ people, if they are deemed to be targeting minors.

The government of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban emphasized the importance of the law, saying that LGBT+ content can have a “detrimental effect” on the development of children.

The controversial bill has been likened to Russia’s 2013 law against “gay propaganda,” which rights advocates said stigmatizes LGBT+ people even more.

The legislation comes less than a year after the government effectively banned adoption by gay couples and ended legal recognition for gender changes, including for those who have already made the switch.

Orban’s government has been targeting migrants and gay rights in its political messaging ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled in 2022.

DISCOVERIES

Fake Calls

When it comes to territorial disputes, animals – and humans – get very serious about interlopers on their territory.

But one monkey species in Brazil has learned to avoid these conflicts through some clever deception, the Independent reported.

A research team found that red-tamarin monkeys in the Brazilian Amazon can imitate the calls of another species, the pied tamarins, when they enter the latter’s territory.

The team studied the behavior of 15 groups of tamarin monkeys and noted in their paper that only the red-handed primates were able to fake their way onto foreign territory.

“Why their calls converge in this way is not certain, but it is possibly to help with identification when defending territory or competing over resources,” said lead author Tainara Sobroza.

Co-author Jacob Dunn explained that the study was the first to show “asymmetric call convergence in primates,” whereby one species used another’s “lingua franca.”

He added that the unique calls could help scientists distinguish the two primate species, which are really difficult to tell apart.

Red-handed tamarins have a greater vocal range than pied monkeys, who are critically endangered and live near the Brazilian city of Manaus.

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: 33,486,103 (+0.03%)
  2. India: 29,633,105 (+0.21%)
  3. Brazil: 17,533,221 (+0.46%)
  4. France: 5,806,255 (+0.06%)
  5. Turkey: 5,342,028 (+0.11%)
  6. Russia: 5,176,051 (+0.27%)
  7. UK: 4,596,994 (+0.17%)
  8. Italy: 4,247,032 (+0.03%)
  9. Argentina: 4,172,742 (+0.66%)
  10. Colombia: 3,802,052 (+0.65%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours