Bridal makeup and hair in every part of the world is pretty stunning, but for sheer creativity when it comes to makeup and use of color, Kosovar brides from the town of Donje Ljubinje take the cake. Their elaborate maquillage, which includes white face paint, sequins, and tons of gorgeous patterns, is designed to ward off bad luck, but it's also a work of art. The tradition is unique to this area and goes back as far as the town's earliest recorded history, making it truly an amazing cultural artifact. See more brides from around the world, and watch the bride in the photo above as she gets made up in a video after the jump.
- Kosovo has named a central street in its capital after President George W. Bush, thanks to his support of Kosovo's split from Serbia. — AFP
- Iraqi Christians, a tiny minority in the predominately Muslim country, celebrated Christmas today, after the government declared it an official holiday for the first time ever.— AP
- Harold Pinter, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the 20th Century's greatest and most influential playwrights, has died of cancer. — New York Times
- Israeli leaders are warning Palestinian militant group Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would not hesitate to strike back in the Gaza Strip. — BBC News
- Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Baghdad just hours ago on an unannounced visit, according to the Iraqi prime minister's office. On Cheney's agenda are plans to meet with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and with Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, as well as US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. The vice president was on a tour of the Middle East, the latest official to make the trip recently. The trip coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.
- On an unrelated trip, Sen. John McCain is also in Iraq today with colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is scheduled to meet with the same officials as Vice President Dick Cheney. Iraqi politicians are monitoring the visit closely knowing that the outcome of the upcoming election will certainly affect their country. Wael Abdul Latif, an independent Shiite member of the Iraqi Parliament, said “this visit confirms that the Republicans believe that the Iraqi war is very important in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East.” As Iraq is central to the current campaign, Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech in DC this morning on the Iraq surge and her plan to begin troop withdrawals.
- United Nations police have been forced to withdraw from parts of Kosovo after clashes in Serbian areas in the divided city of Mitrovica with Serb demonstrators grew too violent. The violence is said to be the worst since Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence last month. In the clashes, at least 22 UN police and eight NATO troops were injured. The violence started after about 100 UN police arrested 53 Serbs in an operation to retake the UN court in a Serbian part of the city. The action caused 200 to 300 protesters then gathered in front of the court and began to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails, forcing the withdrawal.
- Just-released declassified reports on the frequency of insurgent attacks in Iraq show a large decrease in attacks directly following the surge of US troops, but the conflict now seems to have drifted into a stalemate. Levels of violence have plateaued recently, remaining constant from November 2007 through early 2008. The report was released yesterday at a Senate hearing. News of the stabilized level of violence comes just a day after eight American soldiers were killed in bomb attacks, in addition to bombings and small-arms attacks in or near at least eight cities, the worst being a roadside bomb that struck a bus full of Iraqi civilians, killing at least 16 and wounding 22.
- UN authorities in Kosovo told Serbia today to stop interfering in Serb areas of the new state, where Serbian unrest makes it appear as though Belgrade is trying to split up the territory. Kosovo's declaration of independence comes with a list of Western supporters. and the UN mission called on Serbia to respect the resolution. The recently declared independence comes nine years after a NATO bombing drove out Serbian forces to halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians.
- Afghan cell phone companies have started closing down phone signals at night after attacks by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Ten cell phone towers were attacked in recent weeks, including one last night. Cell phones were only introduced to the country in 2001, after the fall of the Taliban. The Taliban is now threatening the companies, saying that the networks are being used by Afghan and NATO troops to target them. Cell phones are the only method of communication for many Afghans.
Serbian protesters have broken into the US embassy in Belgrade following a mass protest against Kosovo's independence. The demonstrators have set fire to the building's facade and have taken down the US flag and burnt it in anger over US support for the new nation of Kosovo. A reported 150,000 people took part in the protest rally.
Russia and China, among other nations, have condemned Kosovo's declaration of independence, saying it sets a precedent that separatist groups around the world will seek to emulate. No injuries have been reported in the incident as the building was closed and evacuated.
Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, which means nothing unless recognized, has split the international community. The United States, Australia, and some of Europe's major powers — Britain, France, Germany, and Italy — have offered their support to the country, despite warnings from other influential countries and EU members.
Russia, China, and at least five EU states oppose the unilateral assertion of independence. Ethnic Serbs, who consider Kosovo the birthplace of their civilization, are rallying throughout the region, and urging Russia to help Serbia. There have also been attacks on NATO and UN properties, prompting armed UN forces to step in and guard the border. The situation will undoubtedly tighten already tense US-Russian relations.
Many of the countries opposing Kosovo's independence worry that a dangerous precedent could threaten stability in their own countries. Countries like Spain, which deals with Basque and Catalan separatist, oppose unilateral declarations of independence by their internal minorities and therefore by Kosovo. Turkey, whose Kurdish minority consistently seeks independence, went against this trend by recognizing Kosovo on Monday. Some credit Kosovo's Muslim population, as well as Turkey's participation in NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), as motivation for recognition by Turkey.
For more details, click through these photos and read the captions! Do you think a negotiated independence settlement would have been better? Or, is it naive to think Serbia would ever cede Kosovo to the ethnic Albanians? And . . . do you think Palestine will follow Kosovo's lead and unilaterally declare independence?
- A Kosovan kisses the Albanian and US flags, as people gathered to celebrate in downtown Pristina on February 19, 2008.
- Javier Solana (left), the European Union's high representative for foreign and security policy, meets Kosovo's president.
- Angry Serbs destroyed two checkpoints on the Kosovo-Serbia border in arson attacks on Tuesday.
- NATO forces intervened on Tuesday for the first time since Kosovo declared independence on Sunday.
- Serbian students wave flags during a peaceful protest in downtown Belgrade on February 18, 2008.
- The United Nations Security Council met in New York, the day after Kosovo declared independence to discuss the situation.
- Kosovo Albanians celebrate on the day their prime minister proclaimed Kosovo independent.
- Kosovo's independence day.
- Kosovo Albanians celebrate.
- Kosovars climb letters reading "New Born" in Pristina on February 17, 2008.
Kosovo officially declared independence from Serbia on Sunday. Kosovo, the seventh state to emerge from the former Yugoslavia, worked with international actors, in hopes to be accepted into the international community. On Monday, President Bush gave his approval and signaled that full recognition will come soon. Europe is divided on whether to recognize the new country. Spain, Russian, and China have expressed concern over the secession.
Officially a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been under UN jurisdiction since 1999 when NATO threw out the Serbian government. Serbia, a strong ally of Russia, believes the succession is illegal, and will lower diplomatic relations with the countries that extend recognition. Out of the 2 million residents of Kosovo, 130,000 are ethnic Serbians. Convincing this minority to accept and participate in an independent Kosovo will be a significant challenge. Ethnic Albanians make up the majority of the population.
In 1991, Kosovo declared its independence, to no avail. Albania was the only country to recognize it.