This map illustrates the structural damage wrought to villages between Kekhvi and Tskhinvali as of August 19, 2008, just three days after Russia signed a ceasefire bringing the Russian-Georgia war over the region to a close. Buildings either completely collapsed or with less than 50 percent of its roof still intact appear in red; those with visible structural damage to a wall or roof are marked in orange.
Interestingly (read: disturbingly), the map notes:
An important preliminary finding of this satellite damage analysis is the observed heavy concentration of damages within clearly defined residential areas."
Yesterday, a shorn and shaven Radovan Karadzic faced his first day in court at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The Karadzic arrest has been hailed as a pivotal turning point in Serbia's path to EU cooperation and accession. But although Karadzic was captured in Serbia, his crimes were in creating the ethnically divided state that is Bosnia. And in Bosnia today, the story remains less than comforting.
In a compelling call for a revitalization of international efforts in the still-fractured country, Paddy Ashdown, former head of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, explains:
Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, Karadzic's creation, has seen the vacuum where will and policy should be. Its premier, Milorad Dodik, is now aggressively reversing a decade of reforms. He has set up the parallel institutions and sent delegations to Montenegro to find out how they broke away….
Meanwhile, in European capitals the growing view goes like this. We invested 13 years of hard work and huge resource in Bosnia. Now it is stable and peaceful and we are rather tired. Kosovo has proved it is possible to divide a country. What matter if Bosnia becomes another Cyprus?…
This is folly of a very dangerous order. What happens to the Muslim populations who have moved back to Republika Srpska, even to Srebrenica, if they are handed back to an exclusively Serb-dominated regime? What happens to Bosnia's shining star, the multi-ethnic, markedly successful sub-entity of Brcko, hemmed in by Republika Srpska? Is it to be handed over, too? I do not believe Bosnia is likely to go back to conflict; most of its people are just too war-weary. But the one event that could change that calculation in favour of blood would be to return to the old Karadzic/Milosevic plan to divide Bosnia.
But minus those few returnees and that one "shining star," Bosnia is divided, functioning largely as two separate, ethnically split states. Yes, it's a sad fact -- one that U.N. peacekeepers allowed to materialize between 1992 and 1995, and one that any international efforts will be hard pressed to undo.
It's no wonder the celebration over Karadzic's arrest in Bosnia has been short-lived. For as Bosnian novelist Aleksandar Hemon concludes in an excellent NYT op-ed, "Justice is good, but a peaceful life would have been much better."
This week's arrest of the Bosnian-Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic has made headlines almost as big as those announcing the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic back in 2001. The shocking photos of Karadzic disguised as a bearded Dr. Dabic have painted the whole story ridiculous; statements from Brussels highlighting the arrest as a milestone trumpet the news that Serbia has really chosen a European future; and re-reported accounts from Bosnian Muslim victims have added an element of remorse for the fact that justice had not been brought sooner. But a lesser story today, that of Dinko Sakic, illustrates the long-term significance of Karadzic's overdue arrest.
Sakic, the last living commander of Jasenovac, the Croatian World War II concentration camp, died this week. Long after fleeing to Argentina, where he lived a rather vocal life in support of Croatian nationalism, Sakic was eventually tried and found guilty of killing thousands of Serbs and Jews -- but not until 1999, decades after his crimes were committed and years after those very crimes were used by Croat and Serb leaders alike to stir up nationalist fervor and inter-ethnic fear during the last bloody days of Yugoslavia.
Fortunately the losses at Srebrenica and Sarajevo will not go the way of Jasenovac, whose significance and death toll still remain in question. Thanks to the work of the ICTY, the former Yugoslavia's crimes of the 1990s have been investigated and documented in great detail, leaving far less room for future finger-pointing and fear-mongering. And with the EU promising future membership to all the countries of the Western Balkans, they'll need all regional stability they can get.
For more reflections what Karadzic's capture means, check out FP's interview with Richard Holbrooke, the man who did as much as anyone to bring peace to Bosnia. He's thrilled:
I got the news on a train from New York to Washington. I’ve rarely been so excited about any news event in a positive sense. The world gets so much bad news, and to bring this man to justice, this terrible man, ranks right up there with capturing Saddam Hussein.
Created by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) -- an Internet surveillance monitoring partnership between the Citizen Lab, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, and the Oxford Internet Institute -- this week's Tuesday Map plots the top 6,000 Persian language blogs according to the links among them, showing both those blocked (left) and visible (right) inside Iran.
Each dot represents a blog, color-coded by content (yellow and green for reformist, secular and expatriate bloggers; purple for Persian poetry; green for popular culture, and red for religious and/or conservative bloggers) and scaled by the number of links to the blog from other sites.
Although most blocked blogs are "secular/reformist" in nature, ONI notes:
[T]he majority of these [secular/reformist] blogs are not blocked. Also, a handful of blogs from religious, pro-regime parts of the network are blocked as well. A preliminary analysis of these indicates content (like anti-Arab bias and discussion of "temporary marriages") that, while not unfriendly to the Islamic Republic, might nevertheless be embarrassing to it."
For a closer assessment of the Iranian blogosphere, check out this more detailed map and case study from the Internet and Democracy project at the Berkman Center.
Seven years ago, it was Albanian-Macedonian tensions that brought the Republic of Macedonia to the brink of war, but given what happened in the days surrounding Macedonia's parliamentary elections last Sunday, it now appears that Albanian-on-Albanian violence poses the greatest threat to Macedonian stability.
Compared with other former Yugoslav republics, Macedonia has been quite the success story. Its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia was followed by years of relative peace. Violence flared up in 2001 when Albanian guerrilla forces launched attacks on the majority Slavic Macedonian authority, but within the year the respective Macedonian and Albanian leaderships had signed on to the Ohrid Agreement, upping protection and rights for Macedonia's 25 percent ethnic Albanian minority.
And for the most part, Ohrid seems to have worked. Today, Macedonia is an EU candidate country, and it fell just short of a NATO membership invite (no thanks to its neighbor to the south). But rifts within the Albanian community -- between the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) -- could launch the country back into pre-Ohrid bloodshed. And if that's the case, the death count has already begun.
Violence started in the weeks leading up to Sunday's elections with clashes between DUI and DPA members but culminated yesterday when a man with a Kalashnikov reportedly threatened voters at a polling station in the majority Albanian town of Aracinovo while his men stuffed the ballot box. Other sources report that Macedonian police in Aracinovo shot three men, killing one and injuring two in a clash with six armed individuals. The DUI announced that the injured men were party members, accusing the DPA and the police of collaborating to stir up trouble.
That the violence has largely been contained within the Albanian community is a good sign, but intra-Albanian tensions could nonetheless hamper Macedonia's future government.
The Balkans, once Europe's "powder keg," has just been crowned "one of the safest [regions] in Europe" by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its report Crime and Its Impact on the Balkans.
According to the report (full pdf), the region has relatively little problem with conventional crime. In fact:
Croatia has a lower murder rate than the United Kingdom. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had less homicide per capita than Portugal or Sweden. Romania was safer than Finland or Switzerland."
But that doesn't mean Croatia is all kittens and roses. Rather than taking the form of street crime, the report explains, the region's ugly transition from communism and years of war has lingered on in the form of organized crime networks and illicit trade. The region's two biggest problems today are trafficking of drugs and humans (predominantly sex trafficking).
About 100 tons of heroin enters the region each year, of which 85 tons are sold on to the West for a gross annual flow worth $25 to 30 billion -- more than the annual GDPs of Albania, Macedonia, and Moldova put together.
On the human trafficking front, the UNODC calls the Balkans an "epicenter" of trafficking in Europe. While the report repeats an outside estimate that 120,000 women and children are moved through the region each year, it quickly points out the utter lack of information on the real magnitude of the problem. (For insight into the world of sex trafficking and those trying to fight it, check out this story and this recent essay in FP).
Take-away message: The Balkans may be Europe's new Mayberry, but only if you're not vulnerable, young, and female.
In collaboration with NASA researchers at Arizona State University, Google Maps has created an interactive map of our neighboring planet, complete with "elevation," "visible," and "infrared" view options, as well as markers indicating space craft landings, dunes, craters, and ridges.
While Google Mars is a pretty cool concept, and its mapping has certainly come a long way from those of the 19th century astronomer Percival Lowell, it appears Mars as a planet doesn't offer quite the diversity of satellite images provided by Earth's mountains, oceans, deserts, and plains.
Google actually admits that without color alteration, "Mars pretty much looks like butterscotch." And according to the principal investigator for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, images sent back from the spacecraft, which landed on Mars's toffee-like surface this weekend, show a "barren landscape that is kind of lumpy."
Apparently the lumpiness, which orbiting space crafts detected back in 2002, is a sign of underground water ice. But now NASA's Phoenix lander is back to explore the next big question: "But does the ice melt?"
If the answer is yes, then at least we're not alone.
For months, Greece has been threatening to veto Macedonia’s admittance into the EU, all because the two can't agree on the name issue. But with violent outbreaks pock-marking Macedonia in the weeks before its June 1 elections, it appears the tiny Balkan state might just knock itself out of contention before Greece even gets the chance.
Since the beginning of the campaign last Sunday, a member of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) has been stabbed to death and members of the rival Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), have been beaten, shot at, and had their offices attacked. In the latter cases, the DUI has blamed the violence on DPA supporters.
EU leaders have expressed concern over
This seems like an awfully understated response on the part of the EU, for whom Macedonia is quite close to the front of its new membership queue. A candidate country since 2005, Macedonia is on track for EU membership in the coming years. But if the country can’t better control its pre-election tensions, is it really ready? After all, as Bulgaria has shown, EU membership is not just going to make crime and corruption disappear. But on the flip side, the promise of an EU future may be the only thing keeping countries like Macedonia on track toward an eventually stable government.
So back to Greece and its veto-happy approach to its northern neighbor. Is prolonged regional instability really worth it for one little modifier?
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