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Kosovo cafe bans Europeans over visa ‘humiliation’

Europeans have been banned from a restaurant in Pristina in retaliation for the EU keeping its door shut to Kosovo passport holders.

The symbolic gesture is “a sign of revolt and despair” said Shpejtim Pefqeli, the owner of Mama’s Restaurant, which is just across the road from the European Rule of Law Mission in the Kosovo capital.

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Pefqeli once served up Italian fare to lots of Europeans, but not anymore.

His ban came after last week’s EU-Western Balkans summit, where Kosovo had hoped to be accepted into a scheme that would allow its citizens to visa free travel in Europe’s Schengen Area.

But by the summit’s end, the measure was not adopted even as Pristina argued that it fulfilled all the conditions.

It was a devastating blow to many and came four years after the European Commission first said Kosovo was eligible for entry into the arrangement.

Since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, the territory has been recognized by over 100 countries. But its passport still opens few doors.

Indeed in languishes alongside Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and North Korea in the bottom 11 of the Henley index, which ranks countries according to the number of destinations their passport holders can visit.

With few visa-free destinations available, Kosovars are forced to wait weeks, if not months, while completing mountains of paperwork to secure the necessary documents to travel abroad.

“We got angry. We saw that we were humiliated,” Pefqeli told AFP, saying he felt compelled to protest after the summit.

Plastered at the entrance of his restaurant is a sign that now reads: “No entry for EU citizens without visa.”

“There were two Bulgarian women in the restaurant” when Pefqeli put up the sign. “They laughed when I told them not to hurry, but to finish their meal and drinks before they leave,” he said.

And while Pefqeli’s move to ban European diners is not exactly legal, passersby appeared to approve.

“It seems very good to me,” said Valdrin Januzi, a 26-year-old engineer.

“Everyone should do something creative, because in this way the problem and this injustice stands out more.”

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Abraham Ancer completes wire-to-wire win in Saudi Arabia’s golf tournament


Abraham Ancer of Mexico closed with a 2-under 68 for a two-shot victory over Cameron Young in the Saudi International on Sunday.

Ancer capped off a wire-to-wire victory, which featured a majority of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. It was his third worldwide victory.

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Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year, received a release to compete in the Asian Tour event. It was his sixth runner-up finish in the last 16 months.

He caught Ancer briefly on the front nine until a two-shot swing on eighth home — Ancer made birdie, Young made a bogey — that restored Ancer's two-shot lead.

Lucas Herbert of Australia had a 65 and finished third.

Young now heads to back-to-back elevated events on the PGA Tour in Phoenix and Los Angeles. Ancer, who joined LIV last summer, has two weeks off before LIV Golf begins its second season.

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Grammy awards: Will megastar Beyonce finally win top honor of best album?


Pop superstar Beyonce, winner of more Grammy awards than any other female artist, has never taken home the coveted album of the year trophy at the music industry’s highest honors.
That could change on Sunday, according to industry experts and awards pundits, although it is not a sure thing in a formidable, wide-ranging field that includes Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, pop musician Harry Styles, singer and flutist Lizzo, and disco-era Swedish hitmaker ABBA.
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Winners will be announced during a ceremony that will be broadcast live on US broadcast network CBS and streamed on Paramount+ starting at 5 p.m. Pacific time/8 p.m. Eastern time (0100 GMT on Monday).
Beyonce heads into the show in Los Angeles with nine nominations, including an album of the year nod for dance-heavy album “Renaissance.” She has won 28 Grammys over her career, and she could break the all-time record of 31 on Sunday.
But the top prize has escaped her. The acclaimed 2016 album “Lemonade” was defeated by Adele’s “25,” prompting the British vocalist to say on stage that Beyonce deserved the honor.
Beyonce “is about to be the most-winningest Grammy award winner. There’s almost no way she’s not going to break the record," said Jem Aswad, deputy music editor for Variety.
“But she has never won album of the year, one of the top awards, and that’s just wrong,” he added.
Adele, who has claimed the album trophy twice, also is in the mix this year with “30.” It is possible that Adele and Beyonce voters could cancel each other out, Aswad said, opening a door for Styles to prevail with “Harry’s House.”
Beyonce’s other nominations include record and song of the year for “Break My Soul.” If she wins at least four awards, she will top the late classical conductor Georg Solti as the most-decorated artist in Grammys history.
The winners are chosen by roughly 11,000 members of the Recording Academy, which has faced complaints that it has not given Black talent proper recognition. The organization has worked to diversify its membership in recent years.
In the best new artist category, contenders include Italian rock band Maneskin, jazz artist Samara Joy, American bluegrass singer Molly Tuttle and TikTok phenom Gayle, who rose to fame with “abcdefu.”
Taylor Swift’s 10-minute version of her 2012 song “All Too Well” was nominated for best song. Swift’s latest album, “Midnights,” was released after this year’s eligibility window, which ran from October 2021 through September 2022.
Comedian Trevor Noah will host Sunday’s awards show. Scheduled performers include Styles, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Luke Combs and Bad Bunny. First lady Jill Biden is among the night’s presenters.
Like other awards shows, the Grammys have seen their television audience decline in recent years. Last year’s ceremony drew roughly 9 million viewers, the second-smallest on record.
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Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save Trpoli’s modernist fairground


Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crubling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.

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But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recent-ly Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently –- and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national pro-gram officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked
entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architeture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond — but rare –- memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions, and economic benefits to Tripoli –- already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”

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