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Kosovo Serb leader shot dead in Mitrovica

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Oliver Ivanovic, an influential Kosovo Serb politician figure, has been shot dead outside his party office in Mitrovica, Kosovo.

Nebojsa Vlajic, Ivanovic’s lawyer, said the moderate Kosovo Serb leader was shot four times in the chest and died later in hospital.

After hearing the news, Serbian government representatives walked out of EU-mediated talks with Kosovo Albanians which was being held in Brussels, Belgium.

Until today, Kosovo remains ethnically divided since unilaterally splitting from Serbia.

Mitrovica, a city in northern Kosovo, is a divided city with the south run by Kosovo Albanians and the north part of the city run by Kosovo Serbs.

Ivanovic, who led negotiations with North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, was the leader of a Kosovo Serb party called Freedom, Democracy, Justice.

He faced a retrial for alleged war crimes against ethnic Albanians committed in 1999.

In January 2016, EU judges in Kosovo sentenced him to nine years, but the verdict was overruled by an appellate court a year later.

“This is a criminal and terrorist act that must be and will be punished,” Serbian delegate Marko Djuric emphasized, announcing his move to walk out of the Brussels talks.

The Serbian government is immediately holding an extraordinary security meeting in the capital city of Belgrade.

Ivanovic emerged to importance in Kosovo Serb politics during the territory’s conflict in 1999, when Serb forces fought Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas and allegedly committed war crimes against the ethnic minority.

A NATO air campaign forced Serbia to pull its military personnel out, but an EU law and order team remains in Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and it has been recognized by 115 countries.

However, Serbia and its closest ally, Russia, have not recognized Kosovo independence until today.


More details to follow. Image 1 of Oliver Ivanovic from Wikipedia. ■

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Notre-Dame Cathedral base safe after massive fire

An international landmark burns.

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Eli Ridder | Report

Flames engulfed Notre-Dame Cathedral in France on Monday to the shock of those in the French capital Paris and around the world but authorities said that the shell of the stone base was saved from destruction, unlike the devastated roof and spire.

The fire sparked into flames in the early evening, reported local media, and images showed the flames creeping up the spire — a structure that has survived 800 years of history and wars until its demise in 2019.

As the cathedral burned and the central Paris island it is on was evacuated, firefighters worked to extinguish the fire and at one point believed that they may not be able to get it out for some time, however, around 6 p.m., authorities said the had saved the base.

“We now believe that the two towers of Notre-Dame have been saved,” Paris fire chief Jean Gallet told gathered media outside the cathedral, saying that “we now consider that the main structure Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved.”

Though there is still the risk of a further collapse inside the religious building, Gallet explained that the firefighters would work overnight to cool some of the beams and framework down. It is believed the wooden interiors have all been lost.

Images from the interior taken by Laurent Valdiguie Marianne show that more of the Cathedral’s features may have survived the flames than originally predicted.

Interior, Laurent Valdiguie Marianne

Residents made up huge crowds of onlookers nearby watching the collapse of the sacred Cathedral and international landmark and world leaders gave their sympathy and condolences to the French people.

“Like all of our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of all of us burn,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.


Image of the cathedral from The Hill. ■

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Julian Assange arrested in Britain

A groundbreaking moment in the history of whisteblowers.

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Eli Ridder | Report

British police pulled whistleblower Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy on Thursday after his seven-year asylum was revoked, setting the Australian up for extradition to the United States for one of the largest leaks of classified information in history.


Video: RT Snagged Exclusive Video of Assange’s Arrest


Assange, sporting a long white beard, was seen being carried out by several police officers to a waiting van around 9 a.m. local time. He was yelling “this is unlawful” and “I’m not leaving”.

Assange said he was not guilty in failing to surrender to British authorities in 2012 in front of a London judge, Michael Snow, who convicted him of skipping bail with sentencing scheduled for a later date. The maximum sentence for the crime is 12 months.

There will be a consideration by the justice system in the United Kingdom over whether to extradite Assange to the United States, where prosecutors said after the arrest that they had charged Assange with conspiracy in trying to access a classified U.S. government computer with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010.

To some, the white-haired Assange is a hero for exposing what his supporters say is an abuse of power by several countries and for promoting free speech via the leaks that he carried out, but others say he is a dangerous vigilante who attacked U.S. national security.

Assange, who ran WikiLeaks until recently from the small, cramped rooms of the Ecuadorian embassy, made headlines in 2010 when, via WikiLeaks, he published a classified U.S. military video showing an attack by Apache helicopters in 2017 inside Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including journalists.

Countless other documents were released by whistleblower, who fled the U.S. soon after.

The United Nations’ Human Rights office has repeatedly called for the whistleblower to be allowed to leave the embassy and walk free, most recently releasing a statement in December 2018.

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters he “knows nothing about” WikiLeaks or Julian Assange, despite the fact that Trump repeatedly professed his love for the publication during the 2016 presidential campaign.


U.S. charges Assange

The United States charged Julian Assange in March 2018 of conspiring to hack a computer as the judicial response to his leak of huge amounts of classified files in 2010, in an indictment that was unsealed on Thursday, which puts him for the first time within close reach of U.S. custody.

Read the U.S. Indictment Against Assange

The charge, “Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion”, is part of his agreement to break past a password and into a U.S. government computer in coordination with then-U.S. army private Bradley Manning. The charge carries a penalty with a maximum five years in prison.

It is significant that Washington did not charge Assange with an espionage-related crime that would have resulted in a significantly longer sentencing and a more serious case in general, according to analysts. The New York Times reports that up until last year, the U.S. government considered charged Assange with an espionage offence.


Response

The United Kingdom’s House of Commons clapped and cheered when Prime Minister Theresa May announced the arrest of Julian Assange on Thursday morning, saying it shows “no one is above the law” in the country.

Ecuador’s former president, who granted Assange asylum in the embassy in London seven years ago, criticized the current leader, President Lenin Moreno for allowing the Metropolitan Police inside their embassy, saying that because WikiLeaks revealed corruption by Moreno, he was taking revenge.

Moreno said he took the action due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily life”.

Edward Snowden, also considered a prominent whistleblower who fled the United States in 2013, said on Twitter that “the weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking”. Snowden now lives in Russia and is a fugitive from Washington.

“The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade: it is the count Obama’s DOJ refused to charge, saying it endangered journalism.”

Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, called on the UK in a statement “to prioritize the principles of freedom of expression and protection of the role of journalism, including journalistic sources, in their treatment of Assange”.

“Assange had refused to leave the Ecuadorian embassy during that time out of fear that he could be extradited to Sweden and face charges in the United States in connection with Wikileaks’ publication of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables in 2010.”

Italy and Bolivia have since criticized the British handling of the Assange case.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism said that WikiLeaks is a publisher and the arrest of Assange is an attack on journalists as a whole.

“Charges now brought in connection with its material, or any attempt to extradite Assange to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917, is an attack on all of us,” a statement said.


Image of Julian Assange inside police van on Thursday via Reuters news agency on Twitter. ■

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Protestors slam France as climate meeting continues

In France, protests continue, and in Poland, the future of climate change as hit a stalemate.

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Eli Ridder | Analysis

The yellow vests continued into their fifth consecutive Saturday of protests in France over government reforms while United Nations climate plan discussions went over into an extra day in Poland, largely due to a standoff over climate liability.

Representing some 100 countries worldwide, key ministers are in Katowice to craft the next steps to the future of the landmark climate Paris Accord, with the majority of the details settled outside of carbon credits.

Wealthier governments look to attack emissions by paying for environmental and carbon-cutting programs in other countries, but it’s a system hard to police, reports say.

In the back drop of the conference, so-called “yellow vest” protestors, who initially protested against a rise in fuel taxes that has since been curbed, are rising up for items such as education reforms.

Instead of the 10,000 in Paris the weekend before, only some 2,000 French showed up, after the government asked the demonstrators halt over the Tuesday attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg.

Some 35,500 have turned out across the country, a significant drop from previous protests where intensity and violence killed seven people, and some skirmishes occurred on the main avenue of the capital, Champs-Elysées.

In Poland, further negotiation may be kicked to 2019, with some citing poor organization on Warsaw’s part. A primary contention is that wealthy nations are concerned about being legally liable for causing climate change.

Environment Minister Kathrine McKenna told The Associated Press that “we’ve come a long way” on Saturday, noting “really late negotiations” and “shuttle diplomacy all through the night”.

“Now we are coming to the wire,” McKenna said.

It’s a picture of contrast. In France, protestors were successful, at least for 2019, in pushing back against President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax hike, an increase that Macron once said was critical to fight climate change.

On Dec. 5, just 24 hours after a temporarily six-month suspension, Paris confirmed the first major policy reversal of Macron’s presidency.

The win against climate change-based tax hikes was lauded by U.S. President Donald Trump, considered the only international actor that has not signed on to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

France will not be the last developed country to experience backlash against climate change reforms, and it will be critical to examine the framework Poland’s COP24 summit puts forward for the future of tackling the issue internationally, both legally and socially.


Image of Katowice from COP24 Twitter. ■

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