Oliver Ivanovic's assassination derails Serbia-Kosovo talks
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- Oliver Ivanovic's assassination throws peace process into turmoil
- Time running out for U.K. to reconsider Brexit
- Something's putting a damper on U.S. tourism
Kosovo killing shatters peace
A top leader of Kosovo's Serb minority was assassinated in front of his offices this morning, derailing ongoing peace talks.
Oliver Ivanovic was the head of the Kosovo Serb Freedom, Democracy, Justice Party. He was shot at least five times as he arrived for work in the Serb-controlled portion of the city of Mitrovica, in Northern Kosovo.
The 64-year-old died of his wounds a short time later in hospital.
Considered a moderate, pro-democracy force, Ivanovic had been a key player in the EU-mediated talks that aim to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The ethnic Albanian region of the former Yugoslavia declared independence in 2008, a decade after a bloody civil war, and is recognized by 115 countries, including Canada, but not its neighbour.
However, Ivanovic was also afigure of controversy.
Ivanovic, who was in charge of a police paramilitary unit in 1999, was accused of being an organizer of a Serb vigilante group known as the Bridge Watchers, which tortured and murdered ethnic Albanians.
The tribunal convicted him in January 2016. Its president found that Ivanovic was aware of the coordinated "expulsions and killings of Albanians" in Mitrovica during the course of NATO's 1999 air campaign, and that he "encouraged paramilitaries to commit this crime."
Ivanovic was sentenced to nine years in jail, but the verdict was overturned and a new trial ordered last February.
Jan Braathu, Kosovo mission head for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, called the assassination a "major test for the rule of law in Kosovo."
Serbia is demanding a role in the investigation. Its foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, has warned reporters that the killing threatens the stability of Kosovo and the entire Balkan region.
The divorce deal is almost done, but Europe still has feelings for Britain.
At least, that seemed to be the message European Council PresidentDonald Tusk was sending today when he suggested that the door is still open for the U.K. to remain part of the EU.
But time is running out, he warned. "If the U.K. government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality - with all its negative consequences - in March next year."
In December, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, finally arrived at a preliminary agreement on Britain's exit from the trading bloc. They settled contentious issues like the rights of citizens who remain behind, future payments and Northern Ireland's border.
Last week, Nigel Farage, former leader of the U.K. Independence Party and one of the main faces of the Brexit campaign, declared that another vote might well be needed — if only to shut up the people he calls "remoaners."
The June 2016 referendum was a tight Brexit victory, 52 per cent to 48 per cent. And polls since suggest that the sentiment has reversed itself, with a majority of Britons now favouring continued EU membership —especially if May can't cut a favourable final deal.
And even the easier-to-accomplish tasks, like changing the U.K.'s passport colour back to blue instead of the EU's burgundy, are creating political headaches.
Hell hath no fury like a technocrat scorned.
Scaring off the tourists
Donald Trump came to power vowing to place "America First." But the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization suggest his country is headed in the other direction.
The U.S. has slipped from the second-most-popular foreign destination to third, behind France and Spain, in the annual UN tourism report.
The UNWTO didn't release a full breakdown — it's still considered a "preliminary analysis" — but U.S. government statistics for the first seven months of 2017 showed a four per cent drop in international tourism.
Just over 41 million tourists entered the United States between the beginning of January and the end of July last year. The only region that showed growth were visits from Canada, which were up 4.6 per cent to 11.6 million.
Tourist entries from Mexico, on the other hand, dropped 8.5 per cent to 9.6 million. Visits from Europeans declined 2.7 per cent, and the number of other overseas travellers decreased by 6.4 per cent.
But the people who pay the most attention — the tourism and trade agencies — have already adjusted their messaging to try and downplay, or even counteract, the divisive president.
Last April, Los Angeles debuted a new slogan: Everyone is Welcome. The accompanying advertising spots are heavy on diversity, showcasing happy visible minorities and gay and lesbian couples with a catchy Father John Misty soundtrack.
In November, New York City launched a $15.6 million US "True York City" campaign in 17 countries including Canada, with an emphasis on the diverse residents and cultures of America's biggest metropolis.
And this week, the U.S. Travel Association is set to announce a new coalition with the American Gaming Association, hotel and lodging groups, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that will try and halt the tourism slump. Their first effort will be a 40-minute film focusing on American music history that will be shown in overseas museums and galleries.
They have good reason to be concerned. In 2016, travel and tourism contributed $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy — 2.7 per cent of overall GDP — and even a small drop in tourism can cost billions.
A decrease of 700,000 visitors over the first three months of the Trump presidency, for example, came with an estimated $2.7 billion price tag.
Europe saw an eight per cent increase, Asia and the Pacific was up six per cent and Africa eight per cent. Visits to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean all rose. It was only the United States that saw a decline.
Which represents an awful lot of money headed for less turbulent climes.
Quote of the moment
"They were very protective of the kids."
Betty Turpin, grandmother of the 13 malnourished, filthy children — some chained to their beds — rescued by California police yesterday. Her son David and his wife Louise have been charged with torture and child endangerment.
What The National is reading
- Japan's public broadcaster sends false alert about North Korean missile (CBC)
- Police arrest a dozen people for breaking ban on feeding homeless (San Diego Tribune)
- 89 vessels broke speed limit designed to protect North Atlantic right whales (CBC)
- At least 20 dead as clashes shut airport in Libya's capital (Africanews)
- How California became a role model after measles debacle (New York Times)
- Brazil: Rainforest pays the price for the country's crisis (Financial Times)
- Black Death spread by humans, not rats, research shows (CBC)
Today in history
Jan. 16, 1991: The Gulf war begins
America's first tilt at Saddam Hussein is marked in the most Canadian way possible — with parliament still hotly debating the UN resolution backing the war as the bombs began to fall.
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