Ebola Nurse Cured, Pope Overruled, Italy's Baby Bonus

Kung Fu students at the 10th Zhengzhou International Shaolin Wushu Festival
Kung Fu students at the 10th Zhengzhou International Shaolin Wushu Festival

Monday, October 20, 2014

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the country would let Iraqi Kurds cross its border and join Syrian Kurds fighting against ISIS in the city of Kobani, the BBC reports. The announcement came after U.S. aircraft dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters in the border town, responding to “an urgent need to resupply” them, The New York Times quotes an official as saying. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Indonesia, where he is expected to press southeast Asian leaders to step up their efforts against ISIS. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation with 250 million Muslims, and authorities believe that hundreds of people in the region have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the terrorist group’s ranks.

More than 1,800 kung fu students from 63 countries and regions are participating in a three-day kung fu festival that opened Sunday in China.

Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa, has tested negative for the virus, suggesting she is cured, daily El País reports. Although she will have a second test in the next couple of days, a family spokeswoman said she was “very excited” and “eager” to leave confinement.

This comes after most of the 50 people who had direct or indirect contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in the U.S., were told they were no longer at risk. The World Health Organization also officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola after 42 days with no new cases.

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to try and formalize a joint EU response to the virus. According to AFP, the European leaders could decide to send “a civilian EU mission” to West Africa.

In an editorial, The New York Times praises Cuba’s “impressive role” in the fight against Ebola, saying that its efforts are “putting America’s contributions to shame,” as the impoverished island is prepared to send 460 specially trained doctors and nurses to West Africa.

“God is not afraid of new things," Pope Francis said following a special two-week Synod summit of the world's Catholic bishops on the state of the family. The gathering was notable in its open and often conflicting debate about such issues as homosexuality and the status of divorced and remarried members of the Church.

Germany's foreign intelligence service BND has evidence that pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are responsible for the July 17 crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the eastern part of the country with 298 people on board, magazine Der Spiegel reveals. According to a BND presentation to a German parliamentary committee, the rebels captured an air defense missile system at a Ukrainian military base and fired a missile at the plane. If accurate, this would contradict Russia’s claim that the aircraft was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. The BND’s report also shows that Ukraine falsified photographic evidence. Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian leaders reached a breakthrough agreement on gas prices for the coming winter, paving the way for Moscow to resume providing its neighbor with supplies. “I can say that Ukraine will have gas, Ukraine will have heating,” President Petro Poroshenko said.

As Die Welt’s Pia Heinemann reports, the only way to eradicate the destructive lionfish, non-native to the Atlantic Ocean and now endangering prey species along the U.S. coast, may be to eat it. “The red lionfish and common lionfish have presumably been in the Atlantic and Caribbean since the 1980s,” the journalist writes. “It is thought that these aquarium fish were turned loose either deliberately or out of ignorance, or possibly that larvae came to this new home with ships' ballast water. In 1992, a Florida aquarium was destroyed by a hurricane, which also resulted in some fish returning to nature.”
Read the full article, Lionfish, A Predator On The Menu.

After two nights of clashes in which several people were injured, Hong Kong protests are entering their fourth week, with the city’s South China Morning Post asking whether the Occupy movement is “spinning out of control.” Talks between the Hong Kong government and protest leaders are scheduled for tomorrow and will be broadcast live, but Reuters explains that “few are expecting any resolution” to end the conflict over the 2017 election. Tension will likely be high at the meeting after Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a televised interview that the movement “obviously” included “participation by people, organizations from outside of Hong Kong.” Protest leaders denied the claims that “external forces” were involved and accused Leung of being “irresponsible.” Read more from the BBC.


Two of Japan’s five female government ministers resigned today after allegations that they had misused campaign funds, The Japan Times reports. Justice Minister Midori Matsushima and Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi had been under intense pressure to resign, even from inside their own government. The resignations are a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took responsibility for having appointed them, amid growing economic woes. In an interview with the Financial Times, Abe suggested that he might delay a planned consumption tax increase from 8 to 10%, just months after raising it from 5%, a move that is believed to be responsible for a 7.1% second-quarter contraction of the Japanese economy.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has proposed an 80-euro a month baby bonus to new mothers until their child is three years old.

Attention to all American Lit (and geography) majors around the world: Brooklyn Magazine has created a map showing the one book that best represents each of the U.S. 50 states and Washington D.C. (Note that Northern and Southern California and New York City each get their own, which must say something about Brooklyn.)

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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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