The World Today for February 06, 2023
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Straddling a Divide
Late last year, Serbia and Kosovo, the former Serbian territory whose majority ethnic Albanian citizens declared independence in 2008 less than a decade after a bloody war to achieve just that, looked as if they were on the verge of conflict again, the Economist wrote.
The flare-up of tensions stemmed from officials in the Kosovar capital of Pristina requiring the minority ethnic Serbs who live in the tiny country to obtain Kosovar car license plates and IDs, the Financial Times reported. Rejecting the authority of Pristina, ethnic Serbs in Kosovo set up roadblocks in protest. Serbia, in turn, deployed troops to its border with Kosovo to defend the ethnic Serbs in case violence erupted, the BBC added.
The timing of the Balkan crisis was curious as Russia immediately backed Serbian efforts to protect ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, Reuters reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited NATO’s attack on Serbia in 1999 and Kosovo’s breakaway from Serbia as reasons why Russia invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia, annexed the Ukrainian territory of the Crimean Peninsula and, later, moved to conquer Ukraine, Balkan Insight explained.
Russia, incidentally, also maintains close ties with Republika Srpska, the Serbian-controlled part of Bosnia-Herzegovina whose leaders recently gave Putin their highest honor, the Order of the Republika Srpska, for his “patriotic concern and love,” according to the Associated Press.
Fighting in the Balkans could distract the West’s efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, Bloomberg Opinion editors argued. That’s why the US quickly offered economic and diplomatic support to Serbian leaders in Belgrade if they joined international sanctions against Russia, Euronews wrote, a move clearly aimed at curbing Russian influence in the country. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has opposed sanctions.
Since then, the US has held negotiations between Serbs and Kosovars to defuse the situation and develop policies that would help ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, too. For example, the US is urging Kosovo to accept the controversial “Association of ethnic Serb-majority Municipalities” (ASM) – even as it reassures Pristina that it won’t back a Serb republic within its borders, as exists in Bosnia, the Associated Press noted.
Meanwhile, Serb Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic recently hinted that his government is considering adopting Russian sanctions, Euractiv reported.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic recently referred to “Russian aggression against Ukraine,” frank rhetoric that Serbia has previously eschewed. And Serbs have reacted in outrage to the open recruitment by the Wagner Group – Russian mercenaries – in Serbia itself for the fight in Ukraine, the BBC reported.
All this reflects how Serbia has been attempting to benefit from improved relations with the US, the European Union, and Russia – but now is under pressure to choose a side, argued Carnegie Europe. Serbia imports all of its oil and gas from Russia. The countries share the Orthodox Christian faith. But the EU and its members are the biggest investors in the country. Serbia is on track to joining the EU, too, an arguably vital step in its political maturation.
Whichever side Serbia chooses could become a fateful decision for Serbs and Europe at large.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
China on Sunday criticized the United States’ decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon flying over US territory, an incident that further strained relations between the world’s two largest economies, The Hill reported.
China admitted the balloon was their property but dismissed allegations it was being used for surveillance. Chinese officials said its purpose was meteorological research and that it had deviated because of strong winds and a lack of steering ability.
Beijing also accused US officials of hyping up the situation in order to “attack and smear China,” adding that it reserves the right to make “further responses that are necessary.”
On Thursday, the US military said it detected a Chinese balloon entering US airspace after flying over the Aleutian Islands and Canada. Pentagon officials said the object was flying at an altitude of 60,000 feet and moving eastward across the continental US, but did not pose a threat to civil aviation.
While it would have limited use in collecting intelligence, they added that the balloon flew over Montana, a state that is home to three nuclear missile silo fields, according to NBC News.
On Saturday, the US military shot down the balloon as it flew off the coast of South Carolina to prevent debris from falling on civilians on the ground. The military is trying to retrieve the remains of the balloon to gather intelligence data.
The balloon was spotted only days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to depart for China in a visit to improve relations, the highest level official to visit in years.
After the discovery, Blinken postponed the trip.
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said another alleged Chinese spy balloon was spotted flying over Costa Rica, Politico noted.
Analysts said it is unclear why China would dispatch such vehicles over the US and Costa Rica at the same time because Beijing has space-based satellites that can reliably monitor the same terrain.
The Contemporary Saint
Ireland has long honored St. Patrick, as have many in Europe and elsewhere, often by wearing green and drinking pints. Now, the country is moving to honor another saintly figure from its past – St. Brigid of Kildare – by creating an official holiday starting on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
St. Brigid of Kildare, a younger contemporary of the more famous St. Patrick, whose holiday began some 120 years ago, founded a “church of the oak,” or “cill dara” in Irish in the fifth century. Her deeds gave the name to the town of Kildare, where she was a prominent abbess of a monastic settlement of men and women.
The new holiday, to fall on the first Monday of February and the first in Ireland to honor a woman, celebrates the saint and also Imbolc, an ancient pagan holy day linked with the goddess Brigid – with whom the saint shares a name and attributes – and the coming of spring.
In Celtic mythology, Brigid was a triple goddess – of healing, fire, and poetry – and the Christian saint who took her name, born in 450 AD, carried some of those same associations as the patron saint of poets and midwives, according to the government of Ireland.
Devotees associate Brigid, and the goddess, with embodying women’s empowerment, environmental care and peacemaking in Ireland. Some Irish have described St. Brigid as the country’s “matron saint” and a symbol “that speaks to the really cutting-edge issues” of modern times.
Her holiday comes as many Irish are starting to reject traditional Roman Catholicism amid cover-ups of sexual abuse and other scandals.
At the same time, the celebration also starts the countdown to the 1,500th anniversary of Brigid’s death in 2024, which will be commemorated by a conference and other events.
Myanmar’s junta imposed martial law in strongholds of anti-military resistance this week, a move aimed at stamping out the opposition in areas where people have taken up arms against the army following its coup two years ago, Al Jazeera reported.
Junta officials said the new measures will affect 37 townships across eight states and regions. The new measures will force those accused of crimes such as treason or “spreading false news” to be tried by military tribunals.
No appeals will be allowed for convictions, except in cases where the death penalty has been imposed.
The imposition of martial law follows a move by the ruling junta to extend the state of emergency it first imposed when it seized power on Feb. 1, 2021, and ousted the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The six-month extension delays elections the military pledged to hold in August.
Army officials said the delay was necessary because the country remains in an “abnormal” state and needs time to prepare for elections.
The military junta has been fighting various armed groups in the country, following the peaceful anti-coup protests that swept the country two years ago.
Nearly 2,950 civilians have been killed after the army launched a bloody crackdown against protesters.
Western nations and the opposition National Unity Government have condemned the extension of the state of emergency, cautioning that the military will increase the killings and torture of people under the pretext of stabilizing the country.
Before the extension, the US and its allies imposed a series of new sanctions on Myanmar’s junta members and officials of the state’s energy industry, Reuters noted.
A new study theorizes that Earth’s inner core has reversed its rotation, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Chinese researchers have analyzed earthquake-driven seismic waves as they pass through the Earth since the 1960s. Their findings suggest that between 2009 and 2020, the inner core’s rotation stopped and changed course.
The team explained that the inner core is made out of iron and nickel, adding that it remains separated from the rest of the planet by the liquid outer core – subsequently allowing it to rotate differently than the rest of the planet.
The liquid outer core generates a magnetic field, which causes the inner core to spin.
While the findings might cause some panic, researchers suggested that this rotational shift could have been going on for a long time, but has only been detected recently.
They noted that the reversal would shorten the length of the day by a fraction of a millisecond over the course of a year and incrementally affect Earth’s magnetic field.
Fortunately, it will not impact life on the planet.
Understanding how the inner core spins can help scientists in determining how the Earth’s many layers interact with one another.
Even so, other researchers pointed out that the study is still theoretical and there may be other interpretations of the seismic data.
“They have a very good analysis and the theory they put in the papers is probably as good as anything at the moment, but there are several competing ideas as well,” according to Earth science professor, John Vidale, who was not involved in the study.
Covid-19 Global Update
Editor’s Note: Exactly three years ago, we began publishing the COVID-19 Global Update with the goal of tracking the impact of the pandemic. Today, we are pausing the Update given that the week-to-week changes in the pandemic are no longer statistically significant. We assure our readers that the Update will return if the coronavirus surges again, something we all hope will not happen.
Your DailyChatter Team
Total Cases Worldwide: 682,546,389 (+0.88%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,819,835 (-0.90%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,232,904,667 (-0.79%)*
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET
- US: 105,972,038 (+2.09%)
- India: 44,696,388 (+0.01%)
- France: 39,703,279 (-0.41%)***
- Germany: 38,297,037 (+0.13%)
- Brazil: 37,145,514 (+0.16%)
- Japan: 33,374,303 (+0.13%)
- South Korea: 30,702,960 (+0.29%)
- Italy: 25,651,205 (+0.19%)
- UK: 24,423,396 (-0.95%)***
- Russia: 22,506,199 (+1.90%)
*Numbers were taken from the World Health Organization as of March 14th, 2023.
**Johns Hopkins University stopped publishing the Covid-19 update on March 10th, 2023.
***Numbers have been adjusted by affected country.
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