Russian police killed nine suspected Islamist militants 20 August in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, Reuters reports.
The dead reportedly included Bammatkhan Sheikov, a prominent militant leader in the region who had previously served a three-year prison sentence for insurgent activity, according to the Associated Press.
The National Anti-Terror Committee statement blamed the armed group for the death of an imam in Buinaksk, Reuters writes.
Recent months have seen the murders of several Muslim clerics in Dagestan, some moderate and some alleged to have been Salafist extremists.
“The attacks have largely been depicted by religious experts as retribution for the authorities’ crackdown on Salafism, which along with corruption and clan feuds, has been instrumental in directing young Muslims into the ranks of the insurgency,” Reuters writes.
The Macedonian side of Lake Ohrid, a Balkan wonder that is one of just 28 places worldwide listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in both the culture and nature categories, may risk losing that status, Balkan Insight writes.
The organization is worried about two projects that could endanger Macedonia’s top tourist destination. A UNESCO team will arrive in September to assess whether government-funded university construction and a planned luxury resort will threaten the area’s archeological heritage and environmental resources.
The Macedonian government is planning to invest some 20 million euros ($27 million) in a university complex on a hill overlooking the ancient town of Ohrid. The site is directly over valuable archeological findings, Balkan Insight writes.
That project could pale in comparison to what Radio Free Europe calls the “opulent and ambitious” plan for a “Dubai-like summer resort complex” stretching along 240 hectares (600 acres) of lakeside property.
Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar could begin work on the project next year if all the documentation is approved. Sahara, a company tailed by accusations of financial mismanagement, submitted the proposal to the Macedonian government in November.
The deep lake, located on the Macedonian border with Albania, is one of the oldest on Earth and hosts many endemic species. The town of Ohrid is thought to be one of Europe’s oldest settlements.
Once written off as your parents’ technology, vinyl records are enjoying a mini-boom, with U.S. sales increasing 17 percent to 4.6 million units this year, helped by records by rock stars like Jack White and classics such as the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
Many of those records are pressed by GZ Media, a Czech company that claims to be the world’s largest producer of vinyl records, Reuters reports. The company produced 7 million discs last year at its plant in the small town of Lodenice, near Prague, and expects to make 10 million this year.
The company was a major supplier of records on the east side of the Iron Curtain, but the transition to capitalism, on top of the rapid adoption of compact discs, almost finished it off. Now GZ says it makes vinyl records for major music houses Universal and Sony, and soon for Warner Music.
The company also produces packaging for consumer goods such as electronics and liquor, Reuters notes, and its future success depends on beefing up that part of the business, retiring director Zdenek Pelc said recently. Products for the music industry contribute about 50 percent of the company’s revenues, but Pelc predicted the figure would decline to 20 or 30 percent, the Czech business news site E15 wrote in July.
“We are concentrating mostly on printing and packaging products,” Pelc said. Turnover last year was about 1.8 billion crowns ($94 million), he said.
Albania’s new government is encouraging the public to blow the whistle on illegal construction using a new website. Balkan Insight writes that the initiative aims to tackle the endemic problem of buildings constructed without a legal permit. An estimated 300,000 illegal structures have gone up in the past two decades, ranging from shacks on the beach to multistory hotels.
“Use your cell phone as an irreplaceable weapon against destruction. Illegal builds can only be stopped together,” Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on his Twitter account.
Illegal constructions have mushroomed in Albania since the end of central economic planning, in order to fulfill the country’s suppressed demand for housing and commercial spaces. Archeological and historical sites such as Durres, Albania’s oldest city, have been irreparably affected by unchecked urban development.
Top Channel writes that Rama, the Social Democratic party leader, has made the crusade against illegal constructions a priority. “This aggressive cancer risks destroying the great potential of tourist development in our country, and also the future of Albania,” Rama said.
Albania tried to solve the problem in 2006 by legalizing many of the permit-less buildings, but the results were far from satisfying, Balkan Insight notes, citing the World Bank’s estimate last year of 80,000 more illegal buildings erected since the law took effect.
Blic (Serbia), Oslobodjenje (Bosnia), and inSerbia all run with the story, which first appeared in the Serbian daily Politika. All mistakenly identify the NSA’s sister agency CIA as the original source of the startling hypothesis that former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito was an imposter, based on a phonetic analysis of his speech.
Blic links to the declassified original – an article published in a secret NSA cryptology journal in the spring of 1980, only weeks before Tito’s death.
After a presentation of Slavic phonetics and Tito’s speech patterns, the author writes that “Tito’s pronunciation of Serbo-Croatian … is best described as a foreign accent” such as Russian or Polish. Tito, born to a Croat father and a Slovene mother, is also said to have made grammatical errors in Serbo-Croatian. The analysis is based on a single public speech Tito gave in 1977.
“[A] logical way to account for Tito’s speech would be to assume that a non-Yugoslav, perhaps a Russian or a Pole, assumed Josip Broz’s identity” – probably during the 1930s when the communist agitator Broz was living underground, the article states.
The journal, Cryptologic Spectrum, and other once-secret in-house NSA magazines that ran articles like “Communications With Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” “A Program for Correcting Spelling Errors,” and “John Dee: Consultant to Queen Elizabeth I” can be accessed from the NSA/CIA website, thanks to a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request, as Wired magazine wrote in 2006.
We may never know if Tito was a Polish agent, but the closing words of the 1980 article were prescient: “Tito’s non-Yugoslav origin may explain his impartiality, and consequent success, in dealing with the various ethnic groups in Yugoslavia. It remains to be seen whether those who follow him will enjoy the same success.”