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SPOTLIGHT: A PUTIN THINK TANK IN BERLIN

Far from both the Transatlantic chattering about Brexit, and the simmering war in Ukraine, a new “Research Institute” was quietly christened in the capital of Germany last week. The "Dialogue of Civilizations" think tank moved its headquarters from Vienna to central Berlin, which German historian Karl Schlögel writes is “aimed at the heart of a city in which decisions of European importance are made.” Writing in Die Welt, Schlögel, a Joseph Stalin expert says this is the intellectual front line in Vladimir Putin’s assault on the West:


“Russia’s being a part of Europe means having Putin fans all around you. As if we didn’t know. They always assault us by mentioning Russia’s outstanding culture, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Pasternak. And they always imply that to attack Putin is to attack Russia. They would have us believe that we ‘demonize’ Putin and that, actually, it is always someone else’s fault. May it be the armed aggression against Ukraine or the exclusion and disqualification of doped athletes from international competitions, it is always someone else’s fault. The Putin apologists claim sole monopoly of Russophilia, although they are probably mostly thinking about their male-bonding sessions, having shared a pint of beer and possibly scored a lucrative job posting. That is perfectly fine, they can do whatever they want to but not ‘in our name.’”


The Schlögel critique is thought-provoking, if certainly just one side to this high-brow battle. Nevertheless, the setting of Berlin is a reminder that the embers of the Cold War might one day spark a new conflict all its own. Read the full article, A Dangerous Putin Propaganda Think Tank Lands In Germany.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • Donald Trump heads to Capitol Hill to meet anxious GOP lawmakers.
  • Euro 2016 hosts France take on world champions Germany for a spot in Sunday’s final against Portugal.


MORE U.S POLICE SHOOTING OF BLACK MEN

Philando Castilo, a 32-year-old black man died last night after being shot by police at a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. According to Castilo’s girlfriend, also a passenger in the car, quoted by the local Star Tribune, the man was reportedly reaching for his ID and had warned the police officer that he was carrying a licensed gun when the officer shot him in the arm. The immediate aftermath of the shooting was broadcast live on Facebook by Castilo’s girlfriend. It comes less than two days hours after another video-taped police shooting of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


CAR BOMB HITS LIBYAN TROOPS

At least 12 Libyan troops who were part of a faction fighting against ISIS were killed in a car bomb explosion in Benghazi, Africa News reports. Though no one yet has claimed responsibility, ISIS is believed to be behind the attack.


GERMANY BRINGS WELCOME CHANGE TO RAPE LAW

Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, is expected to change the legal definition of rape today, to adopt a “no means no” statute, Deutsche Welle reports. Under the current legislation, rape is only treated and punished as such when the victim physically resists the aggressor. Critics have long been calling for this change, but the events during the last New Year’s Eve in Cologne have marked a turning point in Germany.


â€" ON THIS DAY

The Roswell UFO incident “happened” 69 years ago … If the truth is elsewhere, maybe it’s in today’s 57-second shot of History?


CHINESE FLOODS, TAIWAN TYPHOON

At least 120 people are dead or missing, and an estimated 16 million people have been affected by weeks of torrential rain across China. The worst may be yet to come, with a “super typhoon” expected to hit Taiwan early tomorrow. See how Chinese daily Dongfang Zaobao featured the flooding on its front page today.


10 EUROS

If you’re traveling to the southern French town of Toulon, do check the price of a coffee before you order. One bartender who wants to turn his establishment into a cocktail bar decided to start charging 10 euros ($11) for coffee after 5 p.m. to free up his terrace. “I’d written 50 euros at first,” the man told Var Matin.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Sad Roadside Attraction â€" Dehiwala, 1992


U.S. SANCTIONS KIM JONG-UN

The U.S. has leveled sanctions against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for the first time over human rights abuses, the State Department said. Most of the abuse is believed to have taken place in political prison camps, where between 80,000 and 120,000 prisoners â€" including children â€" are held. Read more from USA Today.


HEAD OF TURKISH DAILY TAKES BREAK

Can Dündar, the charismatic editor-in-chief of leading Turkish daily and Worldcrunch partner Cumhuriyet, is “taking some time off after a grueling marathon,” he tweeted yesterday. Though Dündar added that he’d be back to “continue the fight,” his break comes in the wake of a number of resignations of Cumhuriyet journalists close to him. Here below is our latest translation from the paper.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Since Turkey made conciliatory moves towards Russia and Israel last week, critics have pointed to the inconsistencies between what has been said before and what is being said now. But for Cumhuriyet’s Nuray Mert, the real issue is about the roots, the true nature and the costs of these changes in foreign policy: “The current state of the deal with Russia is not clear, but if matters unfold as planned, we can start selling tomatoes to Russia again. That part is easy. But dealing with jihadists is nothing like selling tomatoes, and this issue is going to give us a headache. The Istanbul airport attack was a clear sign of the cost: Is it a coincidence that ISIS members who carried out the suicide bombings turned out to be jihadists with Russian citizenship?”

Read the full article, When Turkey Plays Nice With Russia And Israel, It Plays With Fire.


DANONE BUYS WHITEWAVE FOODS

Danone, the world’s largest yogurt maker, is expected to acquire organic food firm WhiteWave Foods in a deal worth $12.5 billion, the Financial Times reports.


â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

LONDON LUXURY

This is the most expensive home in London. You know, just a humble 10,516 square-foot, $70-million abode. Enjoy your visit.

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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