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G7 Afghan Talks, Paralympics Open, Summoning The Candyman

Welcome to Tuesday, where G7 leaders meet to discuss Afghanistan, Kamala Harris accuses China of "coercion" and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games open. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based media The Initium reports on the pressure still put on unmarried women in Chinese society.

G7 Afghan Talks, Paralympics Open, Summoning The Candyman

A firefighter watches over California's Caldor fire as it moves east towards Lake Tahoe.

Meike Eijsberg, Alessio Perrone and Bertrand Hauger


• G7 leaders plan to pledge unity on Taliban recognition: The leaders of the G7 are expected to pledge unity on whether or not to officially recognize or sanction the Taliban, the organization that took over Afghanistan last week. The G7 will meet virtually today to discuss the situation in the Central Asian country.

• COVID-19 update: New Zealand is bracing for its biggest outbreak of the pandemic after it recorded an additional 41 new cases in a day, taking the total to 148. Experts say the cluster could grow to 1,000 and take four to six weeks to eradicate. In Israel, however, there is hope: the country's COVID-19 vaccine booster program shows signs of taming the Delta variant. Officials began administering booster shots — a third dose of the vaccine — to people above 60 on July 30. Meanwhile, after almost a year of emergency use, the U.S. drug regulator, the FDA, granted the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval.

• Haiti desperate for "right" aid: Ten days after the earthquake that struck southern Haiti, more than 2,200 people have died, and at least 30,000 families had to abandon their homes. And yet, many Haitian families are wary of the massive international aid response underway, saying that "the international NGOs do what they want, not what we need."

• Floods linked to climate change: According to new research, the climate crisis made the record-shattering rainfall that caused the floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands earlier this summer "up to nine times more likely". The work reinforces the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report this month that there is "unequivocal" evidence that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the main cause of worsening weather.

• Paralympic Games kick off: The 16th Summer Paralympic Games are beginning in Tokyo today after being delayed for a year due to the pandemic. But the city — the first ever to host two editions of the Paralympic Games — is still grappling with COVID as cases continue to rise.

• Duterte to run as VP in 2022: The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has agreed to be the ruling party's vice presidential candidate in next year's elections. In the Philippines, the president can only serve one six-year term, but political observers say Duterte's vice-presidential un could be an attempt to hold on to power.

• Dare to summon the Candyman: The trailer for the latest installment in the horror movie series Candyman is out — but there's a catch: to unlock it, you must whisper the killer's name, Candyman, five times in your computer's microphone. Spooky …

"Amatrice, 5 years of nothing," headlines Italian daily Il Tempo, as it reports on the fifth anniversary of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that ravaged more than 100 towns of central Italy, killing 300, displacing some 65,000 people and razing the town of Amatrice to the ground. Today, as they witness the fifth Italian prime minister who visits Amatrice in as many years, locals are still waiting for any of the crumbled houses and buildings to be rebuilt.

In China, women still have to fight for their right to be single

Nowadays, Chinese women are gaining higher social status through access to better education. And yet, the traditional norm of "getting married as early as possible" is still popular, albeit women have gained new social powers, Hong Kong-based media The Initium says. The writer argues that societal norms make marriage the only significant relationship for women to be accepted in society. That discriminates women who have not walked down the aisle as being somehow "leftovers".

The issue of single women was also brought up, interestingly, in a 2017 IKEA commercial that aired in China. In the ad, which stirred up more than a bit of controversy on social media, a girl dines with her parents and calls out to her mother, who slams her chopsticks on the spot and turns against her: "Don't call me mom if you don't bring your boyfriend back!" Then, when the girl's boyfriend comes to visit, the girl's parents completely change their attitude and immediately set up a happy and warm home.

In another ad (SK-II's "She Ended Up at the Matchmaking Corner," from 2016) several "leftover women" are shown speaking with their parents. It opens with the parents putting pressure on their unmarried daughters. But in the second half of the commercial, the daughters explain to their parents that they "don't want to get married just for the sake of getting married." In the end, the parents seem to understand, and there's a reconciliation between the generations.

While social norms pressure women to choose between infertility and marriage, some single Chinese women are looking for a third way: single parenthood. A particularly well-known case is Haiyang Ye, CEO of a cosmetics company, who traveled to the United States in 2017 to buy sperm and gave birth to her daughter Doris through artificial insemination. The effort cost her more than $75,000.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

День незалежності

Ukraine celebrates Independence Day ("Den nezalezhnosti") today, 30 years after the country separated from the Soviet Union. Celebrations come amid tensions with Russia after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed yesterday to reclaim areas of its territory that were annexed by Moscow.

We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.

— U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a speech delivered in Singapore on the first leg of her Southeast Asian tour. She referred to the landmark international legal case the Philippines won over China about its territorial incursions in the South China Sea. Despite the ruling, Chinese coastguards remain present with Filipino fishermen frequently reporting harassment. Harris also touched on other issues, such as the Afghanistan pullout, which she described as "courageous and right."

Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Alessio Perrone and Bertrand Hauger

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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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