2018-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2018-01-17 20:14:45 UTC
2018-01-18 08:18:51 UTC
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Armed police respond to serious incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market – with members of the public urged to reach areas of safety.
Since late yesterday evening [Saturday, 3 June], the Metropolitan Police Service has been responding to incidents in the London Bridge and Borough Market areas of south London. We are treating this as a terrorist incident and a full investigation is already underway, led by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
[...] Six people have been killed in terror attacks on London Bridge and at Borough Market.
Three male suspects have been shot dead by police.
Canisters seen around the body of at least one of the suspects have been “established to be hoaxes”, police said.
Police believe all of those directly responsible for the attack have been killed.
[...] Since March there has been the Westminster attack by Khalid Masood, who mowed down pedestrians near parliament and stabbed a policeman, resulting in six deaths, including his own: and the Manchester bombing two weeks ago that killed 22. And now London again.
[...] An editor in the Sun’s London Bridge Street office says police confirmed that a number of blasts heard [...] were controlled explosions.
Source: The Guardian
An investigation into the foreign funding of extremist Islamist groups may never be published, the Home Office has admitted.
The inquiry commissioned by David Cameron, was launched as part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats in December 2015, in exchange for the party supporting the extension of British airstrikes against Isis into Syria.
But although it was due to be published in the spring of 2016, it has not been completed and may never be made public due to its "sensitive" contents.
It is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which the UK recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to.
Source: The Independent
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced an observation of the merger of two black holes observed on 2017-01-04 having masses of approximately 31 and 19 times the mass of our sun (M⊙) at a distance of approximately 880 Mpc (megaparsec) or approximately 2.8 billion light years.
From the full open access report (pdf) which was published in Physical Review Letters, by the American Physical Society (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.221101):
We describe the observation of GW170104, a gravitational-wave signal produced by the coalescence of a pair of stellar-mass black holes. The signal was measured on January 4, 2017 at 10:11:58.6 UTC by the twin advanced detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory during their second observing run, with a network signal-to-noise ratio of 13 and a false alarm rate less than 1 in 70,000 years. The inferred component black hole masses are 31.2+8.4
−6.0 M⊙ and 19.4+5.3
−5.9 M⊙ (at the 90% credible level). The black hole spins are best constrained through measurement of the effective inspiral spin parameter, a mass-weighted combination of the spin components perpendicular to the orbital plane, χeff = −0.12+0.21
−0.30. This result implies that spin configurations with both component spins positively aligned with the orbital angular momentum are disfavored. The source luminosity distance is 880+450
−390 Mpc corresponding to a redshift of z = 0.18+0.08
−0.07. We constrain the magnitude of modifications to the gravitational-wave dispersion relation and perform null tests of general relativity. Assuming that gravitons are dispersed in vacuum like massive particles, we bound the graviton mass to mg ≤ 7.7 × 10−23 eV/c2. In all cases, we find that GW170104 is consistent with general relativity.
[...] The first observing run of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)  identified two binary black hole coalescence signals with high statistical significance, GW150914  and GW151226 , as well as a less significant candidate LVT151012 [4,5]. These discoveries ushered in a new era of observational astronomy, allowing us to investigate the astrophysics of binary black holes and test general relativity (GR) in ways that were previously inaccessible [6,7]. We now know that there is a population of binary black holes with component masses ≳25M⊙ [5,6], and that merger rates are high enough for us to expect more detections [5,8]. Advanced LIGO’s second observing run began on November 30, 2016. On January 4, 2017, a gravitational wave signal was detected with high statistical significance. Figure 1 shows a time-frequency representation of the data from the LIGO Hanford and Livingston detectors, with the signal GW170104 visible as the characteristic chirp of a binary coalescence.
B.P. Abbott et al. (Full author list appears at the end of the linked journal article).
Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.
Once again, no visual confirmation. This time possibly due to technical issues with one detector:
The event candidate was not reported by the low-latency analysis pipelines because re-tuning the calibration of the LIGO Hanford detector is not yet complete after the holiday shutdown. This resulted in a delay of over 4 hours before the candidate could be fully examined. We are confident that this is a highly significant event candidate, but the calibration issue may be affecting the initial sky maps.
The Guardian reports:
At least 19 people were killed and more than 50 injured after an explosion in the foyer area of a crowded Manchester concert hall, which left hundreds of people fleeing in terror. [...] Police said they were dealing with a possible terror incident and counter-terrorism officials were assessing what caused the explosion. Investigators from the police and the domestic security service MI5 were part of the investigation.
I can confirm the details of events tonight that we currently know. At around 10.33pm last night we received reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena in the city centre. It was at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert.
Currently we have 19 people confirmed to have died and around 50 people injured.
The injured are being treated at six hospitals across Greater Manchester. My thoughts are with all those who have been affected and we are doing all we can to support them.
[...] We are currently treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise. We are working closely with the national counter-terrorism policing network and UK intelligence partners.
Unnamed sources, who have not been directly quoted are widely reported as suspecting this incident was a suicide bombing.
Multiple senior U.S. law enforcement officials briefed by British authorities told NBC News that forensic evidence at the scene — including a body found at the blast site — indicated a suicide attack. British and U.S. law enforcement officials said they believed they had tentatively identified the bomber.
U.S. officials said initial reports indicated that some of the casualties might have been caused by a stampede of concert-goers.
Sky News reports:
Officers carried out a controlled explosion at nearby Cathedral Gardens shortly after 1.30am, but have since confirmed the item they found was abandoned clothing and not suspicious.
FBI Director James B. Comey has been dismissed by the president [...] a startling move that officials said stemmed from a conclusion by Justice Department officials that he had mishandled the probe of Hillary Clinton's emails.
President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey:
President Trump has fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, the White House said Tuesday.
[...] Under the F.B.I.'s normal rules of succession, Mr. Comey's deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, a career F.B.I. officer, becomes acting director. The White House said the search for a new director will begin immediately.
I never liked Comey (see this cluster of stories), but I doubt there will ever be an FBI Director I like.
We're Stuck With Comey
Earlier in the day...
ProPublica reports that most of FBI Director James Comey's testimony to Congress last Wednesday related to Huma Abedin's mishandling of classified emails was inaccurate, and that FBI officials are privately acknowledging the mistake(s) but are still considering their next move:
FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his "incredibly painful" decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner's laptop.
Perhaps Comey's most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner's wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made "a regular practice" of forwarding "hundreds and thousands" of Clinton messages to her husband, "some of which contain classified information." Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss. (Weiner's laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for sex crimes, following a media report about his online relationship with a teenager.)
The New York Post plastered its story on the front page with a photo of an underwear-clad Weiner and the headline: "HARD COPY: Huma sent Weiner classified Hillary emails to print out." The Daily News went with a similar front-page screamer: "HUMA ERROR: Sent classified emails to sext maniac Weiner."
The problem: Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it. FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.
[...] According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the "hundreds and thousands" cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made "a regular practice" of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.
Following reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, President Trump authorized the launch of Tomahawk cruise missiles against a base in Syria. The Russian government was notified prior to the launch as they have resources in the area that was attacked.
According to NBC News:
The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles Thursday night at a Syrian airfield in response to what it believes was Syria's use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 100 people, U.S. military officials told NBC News.
Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk missiles intended for a single target — Ash Sha'irat in Homs province in western Syria, the officials said. That's the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the banned weapons.
There was no immediate word on casualties. U.S. officials told NBC News that people were not targeted and that aircraft and infrastructure at the site were hit, including the runway and gas fuel pumps.
Also at Al Jazeera:
The United States has launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syrian government targets in retaliation for what the Trump administration charges was a Syrian government chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians, a US official says.
The targets hit from US ships in the Mediterranean Sea included the air base in the central city of Homs from which the Syrian aircraft staged Tuesday's chemical weapons attack, the US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
[...] He [Trump] called on "civilised nations" to join US in "seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria".
Syrian state TV said "American aggression targets Syrian military targets with a number of missiles".
The poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on Tuesday killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkey said samples from victims of Tuesday's attack indicate they were exposed to sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.
The New York Times adds:
The Pentagon informed Russian military officials, through its established deconfliction channel, of the strike before the launching of the missiles, the official said, with American officials knowing when they did that that Russian authorities may well have alerted the Assad regime. "With a lot of Tomahawks flying, we didn't want to hit any Russian planes," he said.
[...] It was Mr. Trump's first order to the military for the use of force — other operations in Syria, Yemen and Iraq had been carried out under authorization delegated to his commanders — and appeared intended to send a message to North Korea, Iran and other potential adversaries that the new commander in chief was prepared to act, and sometimes on short notice.
The airstrikes were carried out less than an hour after the president concluded a dinner with Xi Jinping, the president of China, at Mar-a-Lago, sending an unmistakably aggressive signal about Mr. Trump's willingness to use the military power at his disposal.
Mr. Trump authorized the strike with no congressional approval for the use of force, an assertion of presidential authority that contrasts sharply with the protracted deliberations over the use of force by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
[...] Mr. Trump moved with remarkable speed, delivering the punishing military strike barely 72 hours after the devastating chemical attack that killed 80 people this week.
Wikipedia notes: Use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war .
Samsung Group's vice chairman and "de facto leader" Jay Y. Lee and four other executives have denied the charges against them in what is being called South Korea's "trial of the century":
Five executives at Samsung, including the conglomerate's de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, formally denied bribery charges against them on Thursday, in a preliminary hearing for a trial with the potential to shake South Korea.
Mr. Lee, who also goes by the name Jay Y. Lee, and the other executives face charges that strike at the heart of the deep ties between the South Korean government and powerful family-controlled businesses, a source of growing public resentment. Parliament voted in December to impeach President Park Geun-hye over accusations of corruption and other abuses of power, and she could be formally removed from office soon.
But the related arrest of Mr. Lee, scion of the country's biggest and most profitable conglomerate, or chaebol, is a momentous turn in itself. Chaebol bosses, including Mr. Lee's father, have been convicted in previous corruption cases, but punishments have usually been light or commuted. Many see Mr. Lee's trial as a test of whether South Korea can change by abandoning longstanding deference to the business clans that have dominated the country's glittering economic rise. The chief prosecutor has said it could be the "trial of the century."