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- Donald J. Trump stepped into the latest terror attack in London, calling for tougher, preemptive action against “loser” terrorists as part of a stream of early morning Tweets praising himself and condemning others. London police confirmed they were treating the explosion of what was clearly an improvised device as a terror incident. More than 20 people were injured, suffering mainly burns, when a plastic bucket in a supermarket bag erupted in flames at Parson’s Green station on the London Underground during the morning rush hour. It’s the fifth attack in Britain this year including major and deadly incidents in London and Manchester.
- Present Trump implied in a later tweet that authorities had been monitoring the suspects behind the attack. He tweeted: “these are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard”. Reuters reports that a senior U.S official says that there is no evidence that British intelligence had prior knowledge of the attackers.
- The parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region, approved a referendum for independence, a decision that has triggered harsh criticism from the Iraqi government in Baghdad as well as the United States. While the Trump Administration has approved plans to provide military resources to Kurdish militias in the region, the push for an independent Kurdistan was condemned by the White House in a released statement, “The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the liberated areas. Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing”
- North Korea has fired a second missile over Japan, one day after it threatened to “sink” the country and turn the US “into ashes and darkness”. South Korea responded within minutes by firing two missiles into the sea as a demonstration of power. Today’s North Korean missile travelled 3,700km – the furthest it has ever fired a projectile. The US Pacific territory of Guam, which Kim Jong-Un previously threatened to attack, is 3,400km from North Korea but the US military has said the direction of the missile means the island is not at risk. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the launch and the UN Security Council are meeting later today in New York at the request of America and Japan.
- Peru’s government has been dissolved after the populist opposition forced a vote of no confidence in President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The Popular Force party, led by Keiko Fujimori, control Congress and has already forced the resignations of Kuczynski’s education and finance ministers over alleged ethics breaches. Former Wall Street banker Kuczynski had been set to depart on an international diplomatic tour with stops at the Vatican and White House. He may now regret daring Congress to call the vote, as he now has 72 hours to form a new cabinet instead.
- President Donald J.Trump has repeated the controversial argument that “both sides” were at fault in the Charlottesville fascists versus anti fascist protests last month, that led to the death of anti-racism protester Heather Heyer.
- Harvard University has withdrawn its invitation to Chelsea Manning to be a visiting fellow, saying it was a “mistake” to appear to endorse her opposition to U.S. intelligence. Manning’s invitation to be the first transgender speaker at Harvard’s Kennedy School Institute of Politics was announced on Wednesday. On Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo withdrew from a planned appearance at Harvard, calling Manning, who was court martialed in 2013 for leaking confidential information to Wikileaks, a “traitor”. Manning responded on Twitter: https://twitter.com/xychelsea/status/908576331369238528
- A probe has found American taxi company, Uber, used software to stop regulators from booking rides with them. When Uber began operating in Portland, December 2014, it did not have any permits, so it used its own software tool, Greyball, to block regulators from booking rides. Uber stopped using Greyball after receiving approval to operate in Portland in April 2015. Portland has imposed no fines but transportation officials have recommended that the city change enforcement laws to stop this from happening again.
- The annual Mercury Prize for best album in the UK and Ireland has been awarded to Sampha. The South London artist of Sierra Leonian roots beat competition including Ed Sheeran and last year’s winner Stormzy.
What we’re reading and watching
- Space probe Cassini is going to destroy itself at 11:30am UK time. The probe left Earth in 1997 and has been making observations about Saturn and its moons. Before it deliberately crashes into Saturn, scientists are hoping to gain new information on the chemical composition of Saturn’s gases.
- The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States is pushing for greater autonomy in the use of drone warfare in Afghanistan, similar to their campaign in Pakistan. Unlike the Pentagon, the CIA does not disclose or even acknowledge drone strikes, as explained in this piece from The New York Times.
- After Trump flip-flopped on whether he has agreed a deal with Democrats to protect DACA immigrants, he has received criticism from Republican supporters for working with the opposition. John Cassidy’s New Yorker piece outlines the support from conservatives he has.
- Hundreds of unsubstantiated bomb threats have plagued Russian schools, universities and public buildings in recent weeks. Law enforcement are none the wiser as to the source of the threats, but REF/RL gets into the theories whirling around.