I'm sure you've heard plenty about the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal by now. But did you know his father, Radisa Blagojevich, was a Serbian immigrant? Apparently, the story has been getting big play in the old country.
The Chicago Tribune reports that, if Internet comment sections are any indication, there isn't a lot of sympathy in Serbia for the Illinois governor.
But the Associated Press did manage to find some folks who thinks the whole thing is an American plot. "He must have been framed, it's all politics," Rod's (supposed) cousin Dragan told Blic, a Serbian tabloid, in a story that ran under the headline "The Governor Defying Entire America." The AP adds:
Cousin Dragan appeared again in Friday's Blic, saying his famous relative still owns some land in the village so "he can come to Serbia if he cannot take it any more in America."
"He can have a cow or a pig or two, a chicken. ... He is always welcome."
Photo: Brian Kersey/Getty Images News
Speaking Tuesday at a rally in a Reno, Nevada, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin had a little fun with her counterpart on the Democratic ticket, thanking Joe Biden for warning Barack Obama's supporters to "gird your loins" for an international crisis if the Illinois senator wins.
Palin helpfully offered four scenarios for such a crisis, one of which was this strange one:
After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next.
Watch the video here:
As we've said before, this is an extremely far-fetched scenario. And given how Russia has been able to unsettle Ukraine's pro-Western government without firing a shot, I don't see why violence would be necessary to bring Kiev to heel. Watch the upcoming parliamentary elections in December to see if Moscow gets the pliable new government it wants.
Europe's last dictator™ Aleksandr Lukashenko has recently irritated his Moscow benefactors by declining to recognize the new pseudo-states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Looking to capitalize on this friction, the EU has lifted a travel ban on the fourteen-year dictator in the hopes of luring him away from Russian influence:
Officially, the move Monday was in response to the recent release of political prisoners by the Belarussian government. But diplomats in Brussels said they thought that the brief war between Georgia and Russia in August might have prompted alarm among Russia’s other neighbors, including Belarus, about their own independence.
I wouldn't hold my breath. Angry as Lukashenko may be at the Kremlin, he knows where the gas is coming from this winter.
Eat your heart out RealClearPolitics. This week's map, put together by the good folks at The Economist, shows how the whole wide world is leaning in the 2008 election. With a month to go, Obama's pretty much got the imaginary global election in the bag:
It looks like McCain can only count on Georgia, (guess that "We are all Georgians" speech did the trick) but has a good shot at Macedonia. Any of our occasional Macedonian commenters want to chime in? It also looks like Obama's support in Slovakia is soft. Better get Scarlett Johansson and will.i.am on the next flight to Bratislava.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was getting awfully tired of reading about Russia's strongly worded but vague "warnings" to its neighbors. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski agrees, and expressed his displeasure yesterday in the politest way imaginable:
"Of course we don't like it when the Russian president or Russian generals threaten us with nuclear annihilation. It is not a friendly thing to do, and we have asked them to do it no more than once a month."
Who could say no to that?
European governments frequently accuse Russia of playing pipeline politics with its energy supplies, but a group of enterprising smugglers found a way to keep a different kind of liquid fuel flowing into Eastern Europe.
Estonian authorities recently discovered a two-kilometer underwater pipeline that was set up to pump cheap Russian vodka under a reservoir into Estonia where it could be sold at a markup without export tarrifs. The smugglers managed to pump 6,200 liters of the stuff under the border before they were shut down.
With this supply cut off, Western diplomats will, no doubt, soon be dispatched to strong-arm Caucasian states into an amibitious trans-Caspian project to pump Uzbek vodka into southern Europe.
The Guardian's Luke Harding has a great piece on the potential for a South Ossetia-type conflict in Ukraine's Crimea region:
Russian-speaking residents say the peninsula, a mass tourist destination in Soviet times, ended up in Ukraine by mistake. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954. Russia affirmed the modern borders of Ukraine in a 1997 friendship treaty. Last April, however, Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister, contemptuously described Ukraine as "not even a real state".
Nationalist Crimean MPs now liken Crimea to Kosovo - the former Serbian province largely recognised as independent by the west this year. According to Leonid Grach, a pro-Russian communist MP, Crimea will declare itself independent should Yushchenko press ahead with his plans for Ukraine to join Nato.
"If Yushchenko declares that Russia is the enemy, Crimea won't accept it," Grach said. "It means that Ukraine will break up. In Crimea there will be a war - maybe even a world war." Ukraine should renounce Nato, agree a friendship and cooperation treaty with Russia, and prolong the lease for Russia's Black Sea fleet, Grach said.
I had been skeptical that Russia had the same capacity to undermine the Ukrainian state as it did with fractured Georgia, but after Ukraine's governing coalition collapsed today over disagreement as to whether to condemn the Russian invasion of Georgia, it's starting to seem less far-fetched.
Negotiators have finally hammered out a deal to base U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland. After a deal was reached to base a radar system in the Czech Republic in July, the Poles were the final holdout for America's controversial missile shield, but the agreement was delayed by the Polish demands for Patriot missiles. According to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, that demand has been met.
This has been in the works for nearly 18 months and was sure to be resolved eventually, but the timing of this announcement makes it hard not to wonder if events in the Caucasus didn't help to move things along. Poland, having seen what can happen to other wayward countries on Russia's periphery, is sure to welcome an American troop presence while the United States, which hasn't done much to help its ally Georgia, gets to demonstrate that it still has friends in the former Eastern bloc.
Russia would appear to have few options for punishing Poland, a member of both the EU and NATO with a far larger military and economy than Georgia, but after last week it would be foolish to underestimate what Vladimir Putin can accomplish with limited military and political resources.
UPDATE: Killer quote from Tusk:
Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later - it is no good when assistance comes to dead people. Poland wants to be in alliances where assistance comes in the very first hours of - knock on wood - any possible conflict."
Matt Yglesias, in his new digs at Think Progress, pooh-poohs the notion that the 2008 Georgian War will have implications for other former Soviet states, notably Ukraine.
The appeasement frame rests on the idea that it’s some kind of slippery slope from Russian bombers hitting Tblisi to attacks on Talinn, Kiev, Warsaw and who knows where else. But that’s to view international politics as some kind of purely abstract, logical affair where if Russia gets away with one thing there’s nothing to stop them from marching as far west as they please. In practice, the issue is whether there’s a slipper slope of capabilities and there clearly isn’t.
This ignores the fact that there is a lot that Russia can and probably will do to make trouble for Ukraine. If there's anything we know about Vladimir Putin, it is that he has a temper and that he doesn't make idle threats.
What might Ukraine expect in retaliation for expressing solidarity with Georgia? Well, for one, it might find itself a wee bit short on gas this winter. Mysterious separatist groups might start to cause trouble in Crimea, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based.
It's also worth remembering that nearly a quarter of Ukraine's population are Russian-speakers who, in large part, were never really on board with the pro-Western Orange Revolution. Russia will undoubtedly ramp up the use of "political technology" to give pro-Russian political forces a boost. I think that when people are talking about the Russian threat, this kind of low-level subversion is primarily what they mean -- not tanks in the streets of Kiev.
UPDATE: Yglesias responds:
If people don't mean to conjure up images of tanks rolling into Kiev — or at a minimum, bombers in the sky above — when they talk about future Russian pressure on Ukraine, then they shouldn't use inflammatory language about Munich and appeasement.
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."
The international community may have finally succeeded in creating a safe space where people from all the Balkans' ethnic groups can live together in harmony and respect each others' cultures. The trouble is, it's in a prison for ruthless war criminals awaiting trial at The Hague:
Released inmates say the ethnic rivalries that drove them to fratricide in the bloody wars that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia have faded within the walls of the prison.
Now the detainees, who in 2006 had an average age of around 52, enjoy their common language, cook Balkan food together in the corridor kitchens, watch television and play board games.
"We Muslims from Bosnia and Kosovo celebrated our religious holidays with the Serbs and Croats," former inmate, Bosnian Muslim general Naser Oric, has said.
Serb nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj and Bosnian Croat paramilitary leader Mladen Naletilic were the unit's biggest jokers, he added.
Radovan Karadzic will join the party when he is extradited early next week.
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.
"We are not saying that the three war crimes indictees, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, are not in Serbia, but we cannot be 100 per cent sure that they are."
That's what Rasim Ljajic, the head of Serbia’s Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal told reporters yesterday. Of course, Karadzic was captured that night right in Belgrade, where he has been practicing alternative medicine and even lecturing for years. The arrest seems to confirm what most observers had assumed all along, that Karadzic's arrest was being held up not by the difficulty of capturing him but by the lack of political will to do so. It's unclear whether handovers of Mladic and Hadzic will follow, but it's going to be a lot harder for Serbian authorities to plead ignorance now.
Some are describing today's developments as a triumph for the International Criminal Court, which is fair. But the bigger story is how effective a carrot the prospect of EU integration can be in the right circumstances. It was this carrot that largely swung the last Serbian elections (despite the outrage over Kosovo) in favor of the current pro-European government, making today's arrest possible.
The EU badly has badly needed a victory for a while now and this is a big one.
Update: Then again, perhaps it's all Barack Obama's doing.
While Hugo Chávez is no doubt enjoying this small victory against Yankee imperialism (in Vietnam, no less!), the Century Foundation's Jonathan Kolieb was deeply moved by the performance of Kosovo's first-time contestant Zana Krasniqi (right):
Miss Kosovo was an instant crowd favorite, and the judges agreed – putting her through to the Top 10 finalists – a fantastic feat for a first-time participating country and visibly nervous contestant. If further proof was required that Kosovo had indeed come out from behind Serbia’s shadow, Miss Kosovo easily trounced all her cross-Balkan rivals including Miss Serbia.
Ultimately, Miss Venezuela won the tiara, and Miss Kosovo did not. (A poor choice - but enough editorializing.) However, Kosovo found its first international ambassador – and in an over the top pink-and-frills gown and an itsy-bitsy bikini – she did a splendid job representing her new-born country.
Last night Kosovo took her place amongst the community of nations.
While part of me suspects that Kolieb needed a quick excuse for watching the entire Miss Universe pageant, it's hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm. But Krasniqi should be careful. Small, linguistically divided European nations can be hard on their bikini-clad ambassadors.
As expected, Moscow is apoplectic about the missile defense agreement signed by the Czech Republic and U.S. today in Prague. The Russian foreign ministry issued this ominous-sounding statement in response:
"We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods."
The statement did not specify what those methods might be. As I said yesterday, while Vladimir Putin's government isn't known to make idle threats, it isn't really clear what options Russia has for punishing the impudent Czechs. The AP story brings up a statement Putin made back in February suggesting that Russian missiles could be placed in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad to threaten Eastern European states, but that just seems likely to push the Czech government toward more cooperation with the U.S. military.
Guess what guys, it's not 1968 anymore.
Still reeling from Irish voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last week, EU bigwigs are now focusing on the Czech Republic, another country that has yet to ratify the treaty and appears in no hurry to do so. Badly in need of a victory, French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Prague yesterday in a likely futile bid to try to nudge the reluctant Czechs to ratify as quickly as possible.
There are a few reasons to be skeptical about Lisbon's chances in the Czech Republic. First, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, though mostly a ceremonial figure, is one of Europe's leading EU skeptics and said last week that Irish voters should be congratulated for defeating what he called an "elitist artificial project."
More importantly, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who nominally supports the treaty, is taking heat from within his fragile center-right coalition and will likely stall ratification as long as possible. There's also speculation that Topolánek and his party are trying to stall ratification until after the Czechs get their crack at the EU presidency in January. (Under the new treaty, meetings would be chaired by the new, permanent European Council president, not rotating member states.)
France's hard-sell tactics may also be backfiring. Diplomats say that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's involvement in the lead-up to the Irish vote was counterproductive for the "yes" camp there. And Czech politicians aren't happy about Sarkozy's diplomatic offensive.
It certainly makes sense that the Irish and the Czechs don't appreciate being pushed around by "old Europe." But I find it ironic that two of the countries that have benefited the most from EU membership might be shutting the door on its future development.
Is Becky Hammon a traitor or a savvy capitalist?
The story in a nutshell: Hammon, 31 and from South Dakota, plays basketball for the San Antonio Silver Stars, where she earns the maximum WNBA salary, about $95,000, and was last season's runner-up for the league's MVP. Last year, she signed a four-year contract worth more than $2 million to play with a professional Russian team in the off-season. Russia then fast-tracked her to citizenship, and she became a dual U.S.-Russian citizen early this year. Two weeks later, she became a member of Russia's national team and will now be representing Russia at the Olympics.
Hammon, who has no Russian heritage, says it was simply a smart business decision. Dual citizenship makes her more valuable because her Russian league requires two Russians on the court at all times and each club permits only two American players. "There's nothing more American than taking advantage of an opportunity," she told ESPN.
Hammon insists she never had a serious chance of making the U.S. Olympic team. She wasn't on USA Basketball's original short list of 23 candidates last year and, given that she's 31, this Olympics is probably her last shot. (Why an MVP runner-up didn't even make the short list is another subject altogether.)
Some may criticize Hammon for being unpatriotic, but she is embracing two things Americans love dearly -- capitalism and the freedom to pursue happiness. In a world of athletes without borders, such as Lukas Podolski, expect more talented sports players to go to the highest bidder.
Still, I'm curious to see if her eyes tear up to Russia's national anthem if she gets to mount the medals podium this August.
Georgetown's Daniel Nexon characterizes Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's admonition of Russia's interventions in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia provice as NATO writing "checks it probably can't cash." This prompted Matthew Yglesias to write:
It would be appallingly stupid for the United States or our other key allies to put anything whatsoever on the line for the sake of Georgia's efforts to reassert control over its rebellious province. The question of maintaining a good relationship with an important country, Russia, versus standing up for the independence of Russia's neighbors poses some tough dilemmas. But when the issue is Georgia's effort to rule over a province that by all indications doesn't want to be ruled by Tblisi, the dilemma really isn't difficult at all. We should just stay far, far, far away from this dispute and try to make it clear to our friends in Georgia that we don't encourage them to do anything stupid.
I think it's wishful thinking on Yglesias's part to pretend that this has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy. Abkhazia isn't just some obscure, post-Soviet backwater conflict that emerged on its own. Russia's recent actions -- normalizing trade relations and sending hundreds of "peacekeepers" into the region -- were taken in direct response to Western recognition of Kosovo and talk of NATO expansion. Telling Georgia that it has to resolve this issue on its own before we'll even think about NATO membership is basically an open invitiation for Putin to continue meddling.
I agree that tradeoffs and concessions will have to be made with an increasingly assertive Russia, and Georgia's territorial integrity may be less of a priority than other goals. But being willing to make concessions is not the same thing as looking the other way when Russia responds to U.S. and EU policy by annexing territory from Western allies. I don't really see why de Hoop Scheffer saying that Georgia and Russia "should engage quickly in a high-level and open dialogue to de-escalate tensions" is some sort of bombastic provocation.
For the record, the Georgians have put quite a bit on the line to help the United States reassert control in Iraq with the hope that they might gain NATO membership in return. That gambit is starting to look "appallingly stupid."
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.
Seven NATO states have signed on to support a new cyber-defense facility in Tallinn, Estonia. Estonia, nicknamed E-stonia, is one of the most wired countries in the world and has good reason to be concerned about a cyberterrorism. Last year, a massive botnet attack launched from inside Russia crippled the country's infrastructure for days after the government controversially took down a Soviet-era monument.
No word yet on whether "the Vetted" are involved in this new venture.
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?
You may have been wondering what Rudy Giuliani has been up to since the ignominious end of his presidential campaign. It turns out that "America's mayor" is getting back into urban politics...in Ukraine.
Giuliani was in Kiev on Tuesday, speaking with former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, who is running for mayor. Giuliani has signed on as an advisor to Klitschko's campaign. At yesterday's press conference he offered this advice:
"If Vitaly is elected mayor of Kiev, my first piece of advice for him would be to say ... no more corruption, corruption is over."
Klitschko is one of the front runners in a wild election that has drawn 79 candidates, but the ex-boxer known as Dr. Iron Fist has been mocked by his opponents for his perceived lack of intelligence and poor command of Ukrainian. (Like many Ukrainians, he grew up speaking Russian.) The former champ, who actually has a doctorate in physical education, seems to be longing for the simplicity of his sport:
"Sometimes I wish I could meet people inside the ring, where there are clear rules," said Klitschko, who has 34 career knockouts and literally towers over the political field at 6-foot-7 (2 meters). "But physical power decides nothing in politics."
Indeed, in addition to running for mayor Klitschko is training for a shot at retaking his title this summer, two goals that might seem contradictory.
But Giuliani seems confident in his new protege and sees parallels between Klitschko's rise and another slow-talking muscleman turned transformational leader, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Kiev's squeegee-men better watch out.
Boris Tadic, Serbian president and leader of the coalition “For a European Serbia,” declared victory after elections Sunday in which his party took an estimated 103 of the national assembly’s 250 seats.
True, yesterday’s large pro-Europe voting turnout did come as a pleasant surprise to
But “victory,” this election was not. If anything, Sunday has shown just how little has changed in
Once again, the SRS, whose founder currently stands trial at the Criminal Tribunal for the former
But the take away message from Sunday's results is not one of Milosevic’s inescapable legacy or of inevitable stagnation. Rather, it’s the recognition that
Inner change was the message of
If Sunday’s elections follow the gamblers’ gut,
Ironically, a pro-Europe prime minister could only come out of a coalition that includes the leftist parties and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) -- Milosevic's former party. SPS isn't quite what it used to be, but its inclusion still shows how weak the pro-Europe forces in Serbia's politics are.
In December 2006, Jeremiah S. Johnson, 25, began serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rozdilna, Ukraine, a town near the border with Moldova. When he started, he was HIV negative. In January of this year, he had a midservice medical exam in Kiev and agreed to an HIV test. It came back positive. The Peace Corps told him to pack his bags and return to the United States.
Johnson says the Peace Corps director for Ukraine told him he had to go home because Ukraine doesn't allow HIV-positive foreigners to work there. (If so, this isn't unique. As blogger Andrew Sullivan has pointed out repeatedly, the United States has its own fair share of restrictions on HIV-positive immigrants and tourists.)
Back in Washington, Johnson had an end-of-service medical exam and received written notification that he was being "medically separated" from the Peace Corps. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the organization sent a demand letter to the Peace Corps saying that it is violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. (The State Department, by the way, changed its policies just this February to permit HIV-positive Americans, on a case-by-case basis, to work in the Foreign Service.)
Johnson doesn't have any physical symptoms of HIV. He and the ACLU say the Peace Corps did not assess him to determine if he could continue serving with reasonable accommodations. Additionally, his requests to be assigned to another country were denied.
What do you all think? A few questions come to mind:
I figured something was up when Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) kept calling Kosovo "Kosova" (the Albanian pronunciation) at the most recent House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the Balkans. Turns out Engel's swapped the last "o" in Kosovo for a central boulevard in the heart of Pec, a majority Albanian city in western Kosovo that was once the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch (back in the 15th century, that is).
Sewell Chan, NYT:
It felt a bit surreal on Sunday, during a visit to Pec … to encounter a main boulevard named for Representative Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester and Rockland Counties.
The makeup of Mr. Engel's constituency may help explain his advocacy for the province… The Albanian population in the Bronx took root in the 1970s, Mr. Engel remembered. "A lot of them were superintendents when they came,” he said. Groups of relatives or friends would save up money and buy a building, which they would manage. The population surged again in the 1990s fueled in large part by the Kosovo crisis and prompting efforts to organize Albanian-Americans."
New York Albanians are quite the force to be reckoned with. According to Stacy Sullivan in her book Be Not Afraid, For You Have Sons in America, one Kosovar Albanian roofer in Brooklyn helped raise $30 million to fund and outfit the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) -- and largely with American-made guns. At least loopholes in American gun laws have worked out well somewhere.
It's been almost 10 years since the Kosovo crisis, and 15 since the wars in Bosnia and Croatia -- long enough for the world to have "more or less turned its back" on the region, former FP managing editor and negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords Richard Holbrooke recently complained in the Washington Post.
The world may have moved on to bigger and bloodier conflicts, but one former NBA star is staying his ground. Serbia's Vlade Divac, a versatile center in L.A. and Sacramento before his retirement in 2005, has taken on the refugee crisis that continues to plague his home country. Under the banner of "You Can Too," Vlade and his wife have been raising awareness and money to improve the lives of Serbia's 6,748 refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The refugee problem today is a fraction of what it once was (almost 530,000 registered with Serbia at the end of the Kosovo war), but those who remain live in deplorable conditions. Tension between locals and refugees often ran high during my stay in Belgrade last year, with the refugees serving as a constant reminder of the Kosovo war and its messy aftermath. To make matters worse, refugees from Kosovo are still deemed IDPs, rendering them ineligible for the kind of international aid available to officially recognized refugees. They will remain IDPs until a U.N. resolution decides Kosovo's final status (read: never).
But the Divacs are not discouraged. Since launching their campaign last September, they have raised 1 million euros –- enough to provide new homes to 75 families, or about 400 people.
What about today's hot spot? Current stats show that Iraq has produced more than 2 million refugees and 2.7 million IDPs. With UNHCR efforts underfunded and with few displaced Iraqis planning to return home, perhaps the NBA should start ramping up its Middle East recruitment. After all, someone's got to clean things up when the dust settles.
In a story highlighting the corruption and inefficiencies of arming
According to Moore:
The deal drew enough criticism that Iraqi officials later limited the purchase to $236 million. And much of that equipment, American commanders said, turned out to be either shoddy or inappropriate for the military's mission.
The basis of [the NYT] story involved a type of armored vehicle that we do not manufacture. So, the story accusing us of shipping low-grade equipment is impossible, because we have yet to ship anything, and we do not produce that kind of product. That would be like someone accusing
Is there anything
Bulgaria, the EU’s newest member state, is fast becoming one of Brussels' main headaches.
Back in January, corruption accusations grew so rampant around the country’s road construction projects that the EU froze all related funding until further investigation.
Then, less than a week after EU officials visited Sofia to warn against corruption and organized crime, a prominent businessman was shot twice in the head in the stairwell of his apartment building. Less than 24 hours later, a former mafioso turned novelist was also shot and killed while leaving a downtown café. Their deaths only add to the 150 or so mafia-style killings in Bulgaria since the fall of communism –- none of which have seen convictions.
Now, Bulgaria’s parliament has reported that its country’s problems extend far beyond the new EU border. Bulgaria’s National Security Agency has found that Bulgarian drug traffickers, who do a sizable business sitting on the fault line between Europe and Southwest Asia, have close links to Arab drug traders who, in turn, fund Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
I’m all for the EU accession of Western Balkan states –- if nothing else because there is presently no other viable alternative for an economically and politically stable future in the region. But it's because of the lack of an alternative that accession standards have slipped as far as they have. And if the EU can’t hold Bulgaria on its commitment to anti-corruption standards, how will it ever manage the likes of Bosnia and Serbia?
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