Japan Quake, UK Terror Arrests, 360 Videos


The gloves came off Thursday night in Brooklyn as Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in the last debate before New York’s crucial primary on Tuesday. Dan Balz of The Washington Post notes that the nature of the Democratic campaign now poses risks to whomever wins the nomination. “What started out many months ago as a relatively civil contest, in which both Sanders and Clinton seemed to resist negative attacks, has descended into the kind of competition that raises questions about how easily the party will come together once a winner has been crowned.” Here’s a 90-second recap of some of the sharpest exchanges.


A series of earthquakes in southwestern Japan left at least nine dead and close to 900 injured early this morning. Some of the tremors reached magnitudes of 6.5 in the hardest-hit region of the Kumamoto prefecture, The Japan Times reports. Several nuclear reactors and power plants are located in the region, notably in the capital city of the Miyagi Prefecture Sendai and the towns of Ikata and Genkai, though Asahi Shimbun quoted local authorities saying no signs thus far of nuclear risk have been signaled. The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of a 40% chance a magnitude-5 aftershocks iin the region in the next three days.


The official campaign for the referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union kicked off today. The Bank of England voiced support yesterday for the stay-in-the-EU campaigners, stating that a leave decision in the June 23 vote could harm the UK’s economic growth and have a serious impact on the pound.


Beijing-based Caixin features a fascinating exploration of Chinese people’s open relationship with food. “This culinary freedom among Chinese people has long created a rather bizarre and decadent impression to the eyes of Westerners. In his 1832 memoir, U.S. diplomat Edmund Roberts, said of a trip to Canton that he witnessed ‘the most fallen and cruel customs.’ He saw people gambling, but also using ‘lethal drugs and spirits to bring pleasure, while at the same time being brutally omnivorous. They consume anything that runs, walks, crawls on the ground, flies in the sky or swims in the water.’ Of course, it's been just as hard for Chinese people to understand why Europeans haven't eaten all the delicious hairy fresh-water crabs crawling around.” Read the full article.


Russia called for the closing of the Turkey-Syrian border yesterday to prevent ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front from receiving foreign fighters and weapons into Syria. Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin also stated during the UN Security Council meeting that members should think about imposing a complete trade and economic embargo against the extremist groups.


“Who would you rescue first if they were drowning, Erdogan or Poroshenko?” The rather challenging question was posed to Russian President Vladimir Putin by a 12-year-old girl yesterday during a public Q&A conference. Putin opted not to pick a favorite, but in a barb to both the Turkish and the Ukrainian leader stated: “If someone is determined to drown, you can’t save them, but we are willing to extend a hand to anyone, as long as they want that.”


Brazil’s Supreme Court has rejected President Dilma Rousseff’s ultimate resort to avoid the impeachment vote she faces, the daily Folha De S.Paulo reports. Protesters blocked streets this morning as the Lower House began debate began on accusations that the Brazilian president manipulated government accounts. The vote is expected to conclude Sunday, which could lead to her fall from power. Brazil’s 36th president rejects the allegations, saying her opponents have plotted a coup against her.


Four men and one woman were arrested today in the United Kingdom over suspected links to the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks, The Guardian reports. Four of the arrests were made in Birmingham and another at London’s Gatwick airport.


The U.S. military claims it detected a failed North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missile launch today, The Korea Times reports. This came as North Korea celebrated the birthday of the country’s founding leader Kim Il-sung known as the “Day of the Sun.”


Two years ago, 276 female students were kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, by terrorist organization Boko Haram. More in today’s shot of history.


Civil unrest is escalating in Macedonia as thousands of citizens join the street protests after President Gjorge Ivanov announced amnesty for 56 politicians and other figures accused of fraud and corruption, Macedonian TV channel Vesti reports. Ivanov has been sharply criticized by both the EU and the U.S. for his decision on Tuesday which effectively neutralized the investigation which was launched last year as part of an EU-brokered effort.


Everyone’s doing fancy 360° videos, so “Game of Thrones” did one too with its opening credits. “From King’s Landing to Dorne, explore the world of Westeros like never before in our immersive 360 experience,” the series’ Facebook page promises.

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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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