The World Today for April 01, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Little Brother

SERBIA

American and Western European diplomats recently expressed their disappointment at Kosovo’s decision to disallow people to vote in neighboring Serbia’s elections on April 3. “Such an attitude of the Kosovo government is not in line with our values and principles and will undermine its European aspirations,” the officials said, according to Reuters.

Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, which officially occurred in 2008 but, as the BBC explained, dates back to the NATO attacks on the Balkan country in the late 1990s during the collapse and fragmentation of Yugoslavia. Today, some citizens of Kosovo are ethnic Serbs who don’t recognize the government that rules the territory they live in. Many presumably would have happily cast votes for the Serbian president, parliament and municipal leaders.

Montenegro, another now-independent former Yugoslav republic that was once part of Serbia, rejected requests to open extra polling stations for Serbian voters, too, incidentally.

These events resonate, of course, with themes that have come up in discussions around the world about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — sovereignty, democracy, ethnicity and land.

It’s no wonder that observers are watching the election closely. Serbia under President Aleksandar Vucic’s Progressive Party has been a Russian ally for years. The country has not joined the US, Britain or European Union in imposing sanctions on Russia, for example. Vucic has also been criticized for muzzling independent media, centralizing political control with rules favoring the Progressives, ignoring environmental protections and pandering to nationalists who lionize Serbian fighters from the 1990s but overlook their war crimes, wrote Foreign Policy magazine.

Serbian authorities, for example, have allowed ultranationalist politician Vojislav Seselj of the Serbian Radical Party to run for a seat in parliament on April 3 even though the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague convicted him of war crimes and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Under Serbian law, reported BalkanInsight, he should be barred from office. Seselj ethnically cleansed Croats from the village of Hrtkovci in 1992, as the Chicago Tribune wrote at the time.

Meanwhile, Euractiv reported how the government is quietly removing ethnic Albanians in Serbia from its voting lists.

Overall, Vucic’s stance has undercut the country’s application to join the EU, aspirations many Serbians want, even as thousands of pro-Russia protesters marched in Belgrade chanting “brothers forever” in support of the war, France 24 reported. Serbia has “every right to follow the model of Russian President Vladimir Putin if it wants to but it must be clear in its intentions and stop pretending to have serious aspirations for EU membership,” wrote a group of European Parliament lawmakers recently to EU leaders in Brussels.

The force animating Russian President Vladimir Putin is not confined solely to Russia. And if polls are correct, noted the New Statesman, those forces embodied in Vucic will be around for a while.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Wearing Thin

TUNISIA

Tunisian President Kais Saied dissolved parliament this week after lawmakers held an online session to repeal decrees that he used last year to assume near-total power, Reuters reported Thursday.

More than half of all legislators took part in an online parliamentary session Wednesday, the first since Saied suspended parliament in July.

The president accused lawmakers of a failed coup and a conspiracy against state security. He also ordered an investigation into these legislators, which observers noted would mark a major escalation between Saied and his opponents.

Saied’s critics have accused him of instigating a coup last year: Saied suspended parliament, saying his actions were constitutional and essential to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation at the hands of corrupt politicians.

Since then, he has brushed aside the 2014 constitution and moved to rule by decree. The president has also taken control of the judiciary and is currently forming a committee to rewrite the constitution, which will be put to a referendum in July.

But lawmakers and critics noted that the current constitution stipulates that parliament must remain in session during any kind of exceptional period. It also says dissolving the legislature should trigger a new election.

Saied had previously pledged to hold new elections in December but other politicians are urging him to call elections within three months.

The latest development further underscores fears that Tunisia is losing its democratic achievements following the 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Major Western funders have urged Saied to return to democracy and a constitutional-led government, while many of the president’s supporters have grown disillusioned with the leader.

Round and Round

PERU

Peruvian authorities refused to release former President Alberto Fujimori from prison following a request from the regional Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which said it will review the divisive leader’s case, the Associated Press reported.

The decision comes nearly two weeks after Peru’s Constitutional Court ordered his release from prison where he is serving a 25-year sentence for murder and human rights violations committed during his rule between 1990 and 2000.

The regional court ordered Peru to hold Fujimori to “guarantee the right of access to justice for the victims.”

Last month, the Constitutional Court restored a humanitarian pardon granted to the former leader on Christmas Eve in 2017 by then-President Pablo Kuczynski. The Supreme Court had previously overturned that pardon and ordered his return to prison in 2018 to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

Many international groups, including the United Nations, criticized his release, saying that it would shorten Fujimori’s sentence by a decade.

Fujimori remains a divisive figure in the South American country: He is remembered for defeating the Maoist Shining Path guerilla movement and rebuilding the economy through mass privatization of state industries. However, he has been accused of a number of human rights abuses during his leadership.

In 2000, he fled to Japan and later resigned after leaked videotapes showed his spy chief bribing lawmakers. But in 2006, he flew to neighboring Chile in an attempt to run for the presidency again. He was later arrested and then extradited to Peru, where he was put on trial.

Fujimori was also convicted in three corruption cases and owes nearly $14 million in civil damages.

Green Catwalks

EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union plans to crack down on the “fast fashion” industry to ensure that clothing produced in, or imported into, the bloc is more environmentally friendly, NPR reported Thursday.

The EU says that many clothing companies are generating new garments faster than ever to keep up with the latest fashion trends but by doing so, are promoting the growing use of fossil fuels.

The new rules will set standards for how durable and reusable clothing must be. They will also impose bans on the destruction of unsold textiles and order companies to provide information about how sustainable and recyclable a garment is, on its label.

The commission noted that the consumption of textiles ranks fourth in terms of its negative impact on the environment and climate change: About 6.4 million tons of textiles are discarded in the EU each year, about 24 pounds per person.

The proposed regulations are part of a wider push by the bloc to make a larger swath of physical goods – from electronics and packaging to food and buildings – more sustainable.

Last year, the EU announced a comprehensive strategy to reduce its contribution to climate change by more than half within a decade.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Russia intends to continue selling gas to European clients even as it asked that they pay in rubles, according to President Vladimir Putin, allaying concerns that the switch may cause interruptions in fuel from the continent’s largest supplier, Bloomberg reported. The Kremlin issued a presidential order defining the method for converting foreign purchasers’ dollars and euros into Russian currency via a state-controlled bank.
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development warned that the Russian and Ukrainian economies would contract by 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in 2022, according to Al Jazeera.
  • Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia is planning to take steps to become part of Russia, Al Jazeera reported separately. Separatist leader Anatoly Bibilov said, “unification with Russia is our strategic goal, our path, the aspiration of the people.” The Russia-backed region is planning to hold a referendum and said the decision was “linked with the window of opportunity that opened in the current situation,” referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a direct request to Australian lawmakers Thursday for greater assistance in the country’s struggle against Russia, including armored vehicles and stiffer sanctions, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, the White House said that US intelligence sources believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has been “misled” by the Russian army, resulting in tensions between the president and his military leadership, the Hill added.

Weekly World Quiz

DISCOVERIES

Through the Past, Darkly

One of the many mysteries of the moon is the presence of ice in the craters of its poles: Astronomers have detected signs of water in the hundreds of craters that are in permanent shadow – and where temperatures can dip below 418 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet, Earth’s satellite is completely dry and constantly pummeled by solar winds that can destroy water molecules – even in perpetual darkness.

Now, a research team wrote in a new study that these craters – and water molecules – are protected by ancient magnetic fields, Science Magazine reported.

Lead author Lon Hood and his team explained that the moon is packed with magnetic anomalies, which were first discovered in the 1970s. These remnants of the moon’s past are believed to have been created more than four billion years ago when the satellite had a magnetic field and iron-rich asteroids hit its surface.

“These anomalies can deflect the solar wind,” Hood said. “We think they could be quite significant in shielding the permanently shadowed regions.”

Data from the moon’s south pole showed that at least two shadowed craters are overlapped by these anomalies. Hood said there could be more.

Although not as strong as Earth’s magnetic field, these anomalies are tough enough to deflect solar wind.

The shielded craters could become a target for future scientific investigation and exploration: Currently, NASA is planning to send a rover to the moon’s south pole next year and bring back humans to the space rock sometime this decade.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 488,454,296

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,143,148

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,884,874,168

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

  1. US: 80,103,661 (+0.06%)
  2. India: 43,025,775 (+0.003%)
  3. Brazil: 29,951,670 (+0.10%)
  4. France: 25,803,173 (+0.66%)
  5. Germany: 21,394,747 (+1.19%)
  6. UK: 21,216,042 (+0.35%)
  7. Russia: 17,583,111 (+0.11%)
  8. Turkey: 14,860,560 (+0.10%)
  9. Italy: 14,642,354 (+0.51%)
  10. South Korea 13,375,818 (+2.14%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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