CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – THE FORMER YUGOSLAV EDITION

On Sunday, citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will vote in a referendum on whether to change their country’s name to “Republic of North Macedonia.” The vote will draw close attention in Greece, but also in Russia and at NATO headquarters.


The background: When Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s, citizens of the Yugoslav territory then known as the “Socialist Republic of Macedonia” moved to establish independence and to be known simply as “Republic of Macedonia.”

Greece strenuously objected to this move, because there is also a province in northern Greece called “Macedonia.” Both countries have laid claim to the name and an illustrious history that traces to Alexander the Great. Since then the country has been known internationally as FYROM – but  “North Macedonia” is a compromise name that the (North?) Macedonians hope the Greeks can live with.

(Side note: The land that Alexander knew as “Macedonia” included territory that today stretches across modern Greece, FYROM, and even bits of Bulgaria.)

The politics: Some 73 percent of Greeks oppose any non-Greek use of the word Macedonia—north, south, east, or west. And that matters, because FYROM wants to join the European Union and NATO. Greece, as a member of both organizations, has the power to veto FYROM’s plans. Even if FYROM votes this weekend to become North Macedonia, the Greek parliament will have a chance to vote on whether to accept or reject this change. That vote will likely be decided by a razor-thin margin.

The geopolitics: US Defense Secretary James Mattis, a man with many better-known problems to worry about, visited FYROM last week to warn that Russia is meddling in the referendum to prevent the country from joining NATO. Russia denies this charge, but evidence that Moscow intervened in the politics of Montenegro, another former Yugoslav Republic, in a failed bid to prevent that country from joining NATO last year gives the allegation some credibility.

The bottom line: It won’t be easy for FYROM to manage these tensions over its name. But there is a solution. A commenter in The Economist, writing under a pseudonym, has suggested that FYROM change its name to the “Magnificent And Celestial Eternal Democracy Of Northern Inland Areas.” This would allow the country to refer to itself by the acronym M.A.C.E.D.O.N.I.A. without having the word Macedonia appear in its name. Your Friday author wishes he’d thought of that first.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreement about burden sharing has gained increasing salience in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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