January 11, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

The Long Goodbye

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Fikret Alic appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1992 during the Bosnian War. Emaciated, he was standing behind the barbed wire of the Trnopolje camp run by Bosnian Serbs. The treatment he suffered recalled the worst of the Holocaust, when Nazis massacred millions of European Jews and others.

Today, Alic and others are suing Serbia’s television regulator for failing to take action against a talk show host who denied that he was held captive in the camp. They want to take a stand against misinformation and historical revisionism that would whitewash Serbian atrocities during the war, El Pais reported.

The court case is a sign of how interpretations of the past are once again threatening to tear the Western Balkans asunder.

Bosnian Serbs celebrated an outlawed holiday on Jan. 9, the 30th anniversary of when their former leaders declared a new state in 1992 and kicked off the war, for example. The festivities included a military parade and a nationalist song in Banja Luka, their provincial capital, as if they weren’t part of a confederation, the Associated Press wrote.

The US recently slapped sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who serves as one of Bosnia’s three presidents, for his attempts to dismantle the Dayton Peace Accords that brought an end to the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

As Reuters explained, Dodik is seeking to pull the autonomous Serbian Republic out of the country’s institutions and devolve more power to local governments. At the same time, ethnic Croats in the country have threatened to boycott elections that they say will result in their underrepresentation in the central government.

“Some Bosnians, and many outside observers, have wondered aloud whether 2022 could even see a descent into armed conflict,” wrote Radio Free Liberty.

But Dodik’s bluster might be designed to conceal his administration’s corruption, noted the New York Times. When Bosnian regulators discovered that oxygen designated for Covid-19 patients was for industrial uses rather than for humans, for example, Dodik vowed to create a Bosnian Serb medical agency that wouldn’t make the same mistake. Then further investigations revealed that one of Dodik’s political allies arranged the bad oxygen shipment.

American diplomats are trying hard to “walk Bosnia back from the cliff” to avoid another bloody conflict, the Guardian reported. Around 100,000 people died in the Bosnian war. Bosnian Serb forces conducted ethnic cleansing of towns, laid siege to the capital of Sarajevo for four years and massacred more than 7,000 Bosnians in the so-called Srebrenica massacre.

But Indiana University Law Professor Timothy William Waters wondered if keeping Bosnia whole was the right goal. Writing in the Conversation, he wondered if managing a peaceful breakup might be the best path forward. Split into three sections – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – nobody is really in control and everyone has complaints.

Breaking up is hard to do, but that doesn’t mean it should never be done.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Smear Tactics

MYANMAR

A court in Myanmar sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison on Monday in the second round of verdicts against the civilian leader following her ouster in last year’s military coup, the Financial Times reported.

The military-controlled court convicted her in three criminal cases, including for illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies. The charges include violating the country’s export-import law, breaking Myanmar’s communications law and flouting coronavirus rules.

Last month, she was sentenced to four years in jail for inciting dissent against the military and breaching Myanmar’s disaster management law. Her sentence was later reduced to two years.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been held in an undisclosed location since the military overthrew her democratically-elected government in February 2021.

Mass demonstrations gripped the country soon after the coup, prompting the junta to launch a bloody crackdown that has seen the death of more than 1,400 and the arrests of more than 11,000, according to the human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Rights advocates said the recent rulings were the result of a “courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges” aimed at keeping Suu Kyi in prison indefinitely.

They noted that the court verdicts against Suu Kyi are aimed at discrediting her and preventing her from making a political comeback.

Myanmar forbids anyone convicted of crimes from holding political office.

Excommunicated

MALI

West Africa’s regional bloc imposed a series of sanctions on Mali this week after the country’s military junta said they would postpone elections until 2025, the latest escalation in the region following the 2020 Malian coup, Al Jazeera reported Monday.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had insisted that Mali hold elections this February. However, the military government contended that it would only set a poll date after holding a nationwide conference – saying a peaceful vote was more important than speed.

The regional bloc said the delay “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage.” The bloc then ordered a raft of additional sanctions, including the closure of the land and air borders between Mali and its member states and the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks.

The regional West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) also ordered its financial institutions to sever Mali’s access to the region’s financial markets.

Mali’s military government denounced the sanctions as illegal and said it closed its land borders “with the states concerned.”

The move marks the latest tensions between Mali and ECOWAS following the August 2020 coup. At the time, army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita ousted elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid mass anti-government protests.

The 15-member bloc threatened to impose sanctions on Mali, prompting Goita to offer to restore civilian rule in the February 2022 general elections.

However, Goita staged another coup in May, forcing out the interim government and disrupting the transition timetable.

Ball In The Court

AUSTRALIA

An Australian court ordered the release of tennis star Novak Djokovic from immigration detention on Monday, a ruling that would enable the player to attend the Australian Open tournament despite his questionable Covid-19 vaccination status, Axios reported.

Last week, Australian border authorities canceled Djokovic’s visa and later detained him, saying the tennis champion failed to provide “appropriate evidence” for his medical exemption from Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine requirement.

Over 92 percent of people over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated in Australia and the country has enacted some of the world’s strictest border policies during the pandemic.

Djokovic announced last week that he would fly to the country to defend his Australian Open title. His announcement drew criticism from many Australians and government officials, because he had an exemption to play in the tournament.

His lawyers maintain that Djokovic had tested positive for the virus within the past six months and had consequently received a medical exemption from the Australian state of Victoria.

In the ruling, Judge Anthony Kelly said that Djokovic’s visa cancellation was “unreasonable” because the player had been told at 5:20 AM last Thursday that he had only three hours to respond to officials. He also ordered the Australian government to pay the player’s costs and return his passport and personal belongings.

Djokovic welcomed the ruling, but he still risks facing deportation: Representatives of the Australian government said that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelation.”

Analysts told the Guardian that the minister can exercise the power “in the public interest to cancel the visa,” which would bar Djokovic from entering Australia for three years. Even so, they noted that the cancelation is not common and would still end up in court.

The tennis player has not publicly revealed his vaccination status and has been critical of coronavirus vaccine mandates.

DISCOVERIES

The Last Moments

Airplanes are equipped with flight recorders – better known as “black boxes” – that log all the communications and flight data before a crash.

Now, Earth is getting its own black box to record the world’s final moments in case climate change eradicates humanity, the New York Times reported.

Scientists are building a 33-foot-long steel vault for that purpose on the Australian island of Tasmania. It is set to be completed in the middle of this year.

Named “Earth’s Black Box,” the vault will collect data from nearly every medium possible to chronicle leaders’ actions – or inactions. It will also gather daily metrics, including average oceanic and land temperatures, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and biodiversity loss.

The box’s creators added that all the data will be stored on a large, automated, solar-powered hard drive with a capacity to collect information for the next five decades.

They are still determining how to provide instructions to open the box, even though they hope it will never need to be opened.

Earth’s Black Box comes as many scientists, leaders and environmentalists are sounding the alarm over the impact of climate change. Climate researchers have warned that if global temperatures rise above a threshold of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet is more prone to disasters, such as water shortages, deadly heat waves and ecosystem collapse.

Even so, some scientists have questioned whether a black box is needed or if climate change will be the end of humanity.

But not everyone is optimistic.

“If civilization does crash, this box will survive with a completely objective data story,” said Jim Curtis, the executive creative director of an Australian advertising agency where the project was conceived.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 310,545,930

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,496,536

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 9,452,855,171

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 61,558,085 (+2.44%)
  2. India: 35,875,790 (+0.47%)
  3. Brazil: 22,563,104 (+0.15%)
  4. UK: 14,710,247 (+1.01%)
  5. France: 12,312,194 (+0.77%)
  6. Russia: 10,503,101 (+0.17%)
  7. Turkey: 10,045,658 (+0.65%)
  8. Germany: 7,605,112 (+0.68%)
  9. Italy: 7,554,344 (+1.58%)
  10. Spain: 7,457,300 (+4.08%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours



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