As mourners gather today at a funeral for at least 200 of the 292 victims of the Aug. 24 quake in central Italy, the initial search for survivors has been replaced by the grim final task of recovering bodies and identifying the dead. As has happened in the wake of natural disasters in the past, local newspapers have begun turning their attention to how public money has been mismanaged in ways that may have added to the scale of death and destruction. A top prosecutor even spoke about organized crime bidding for reconstruction projects.
Corruption has long plagued Italy, adding an extra layer of vulnerability to a country home to several earthquake fault lines. The graft stands in marked contrast to public servants who tirelessly dig through the rubble with their bare hands in the search for survivors.
In the south, we have gotten used to witnessing a different kind of dramatic scene as another geographic vulnerability is exposed: Italyâ€™s 7,600 kilometers of coastline. The ongoing waves of desperate would-be immigrants trying to reach Italian shores has peaked in recent days. Reuters reports that the countryâ€™s coast guard rescued as many as 6,500 migrants in the southern Mediterranean on Monday alone.
In the land they call the bel paese (beautiful country), locals know a natural disaster can strike at any time. A man-made one too. The good people, at least, will always be there to help.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Typhoon Lionrock to hit Japanâ€™s northern Tohoku region, the area struck by the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
- Gabonâ€™s electoral commission to announce new president between incumbent Ali Bongo and rival Jean Ping.
RUSSIANS HACKED U.S. VOTER DATABASES
Two recent attempts to breach voter registration databases in the American states of Arizona and Illinois were attributed to Russian spy agencies, â€œfueling concerns the Russian government may be trying to interfere in the U.S. presidential election,â€ NBC News reports.
â€" ON THIS DAY
Happy birthday, Melbourne! Good luck blowing those 181 candles â€¦ That, and more, in your 57-second shot of History.
APPLE FACES MEGA EU TAX BILL
The European Unionâ€™s antitrust regulator is set to announce a major tax ruling against Appleâ€™s tax dealings with the Irish government, the Financial Times reports. The company is said to have used complicated tax structures in Ireland, but also in Luxembourg, to reduce the amount of corporate tax they pay in other countries. Appleâ€™s chief executive, Tim Cook, said they would â€œobviously appealâ€ the decision if his company does not â€œget a fair hearing in Europe.â€ Apple may owe from $1 billion to $8 billion.
SUICIDE BOMBER ATTACKS CHINESE EMBASSY IN KYRGYZSTAN
A minivan driven by a suicide bomber exploded near the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan, killing the driver and injuring two security guards and three local embassy employees. China's foreign ministry condemned the attack, calling it an "extreme and violent attack," according to China Daily.
FRANCE ECONOMY MINISTER TO RESIGN
French Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron will hand in his resignation to President François Hollande later today, the French radio station France Info reports. A rising star, Macron, 38, may enter the fray for next yearâ€™s presidential elections.
KIM DOTCOM TO LIVE STREAM HEARING
A New Zealand judge granted Kim Dotcom the right to live stream his appeal against extradition to the U.S. The 42-year-old founder of file-sharing website Megaupload stands accused of piracy and widespread copyright infringement. His appeal in Auckland high court is expected to last six to eight weeks. Watch Dotcom explain his decision to broadcast the appeal here.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Rhinoceros And Champagne â€" On the Zambezi, Oct. 1997
FAREWELL WILLY WONKA
Gene Wilder, the American actor most famous for his lead role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and who starred in other cult movies such as Mel Brooksâ€™ Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein died yesterday at his home in Connecticut from complications from Alzheimerâ€™s disease. He was 83.
50 MILLION EUROS
American businessman Frank McCourt, the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, has bought French soccer club Olympique de Marseille for an estimated 50 million euros, according to French financial daily Les Echos.
WEINER SEXTING SCANDAL, PART 3
American politician and former Congressman Anthony Weiner and longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin announced that they are separating, after the New York Post reported that Weiner had sent suggestive pictures to yet another woman, including one photograph where his 4-year-old son can be seen, The New York Times reports.
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NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE
Whatâ€™s that perfect geek gift for the Pope? Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave Pope Francis a model of the â€œAquilaâ€ drone that his company is developing to spread Internet accessibility throughout the world, as he and his wife Priscilla met the pontiff at the Vatican yesterday.
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
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.
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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