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TERRORIST ATTACK IN LONDON

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Terrorists have detonated a bomb on the eastbound district line train at the Parsons Green Tube in West London.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing loud bangs coming from a bucket, possibly an improvised explosive device, located towards the rear of the train around 8am, British time. One eyewitness told Sky News that they reported seeing a “white builder’s bucket” with a “foiled carrier back” (possibly a Lidl supermarket carrier bag). This bucket has also been described as having “wires hanging from it and a strong smell of chemicals… a chemical smell more than a burning smell.”

One witness told BBC 5:

“I heard a really loud explosion – when I looked back there appeared to be a bag but I don’t know if it’s associated with it. I saw people with minor injuries, burnings to the face, arms, legs,  multiple casualties in that way.  People were helping each other.”

Another witness said:

“There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood. One guy I saw, his face was covered in blood – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes of the blast. The explosion and subsequent stampede caused injuries to twenty-two people. Fortunately, no one has been killed and none of the injuries have been described as life-threatening or critical.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through their Amaq News Agency on Friday evening. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has raised the UK’s terror threat level from severe to critical.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has raised the UK’s terror threat level from severe to critical. May offered her thoughts to “those injured Parsons Green emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident.” Scotland Yard, meanwhile, has confirmed that they are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

Over in the US, the Trump administration stated that President Trump’s:

“Sympathies and prayers for those injured in the terrorist attack today in London.  The president pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks  worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism.”

President Trump stated in a speech at Joint Base Andrew that he expressed:

“America’s deepest sympathy as well as our absolute commitment to eradicating the terrorists from  our planet.”

NORTH KOREA TESTS HYDROGEN BOMB

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South Korean officials have confirmed that a blast at a North Korean nuclear testing site was caused by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

According to the South Korean newswire service, Yonhap, officials observed a 5.7 magnitude seismic event near the Punngye-ri nuclear testing site at about 12.30pm, local time. Tremors could even be felt in north east China.

North Korean state television announced the test to be ‘a perfect success’ and even published photographs of Kim Jong Un directing the test.  North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodogon Sinmun, reported on Sunday:

“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ranging from the production  of weapons-grade nuclear materials to precision processing of components and their assembling  were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as  many as it wants.”

The United Nations has issued a statement, passed by all fifteen members, condemned North Korea and has accused them of “deliberately undermining regional peace and stability and [having] caused grave security concerns around the world.”

Donald Turk, President of the European Council, released a statement condemning North Korea:

“The EU stands ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions and invites North Korea to restart dialogue on its programmes without condition. We call on the UN Security Council to adopt  further U.N. sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of  the Korean peninsula.”

British Prime Minister, Teresa May, stated:

“The international community has universally condemned this test and must come together to continue  to increase the pressure on North Korea’s leaders to stop their destabilizing actions.”

French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated:

“The international community needs to deal with this latest provocation with the greatest firmness,  so that North Korea will restart dialogue without conditions and proceed with the complete,  verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.”

President Donald Trump tweeted:

“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”

President Trump continued:

“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis, has met with President Trump and Vice President, Mike Pence, to discuss the situation. Outside the White House, Mattis made a brief statement:

“We have many military options, and the President wanted to be briefed on each of them.”

Mattis continued:

“We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among our allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming.”

Mattis continued:

“Kim Jong-un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members  unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses, and they remain unanimous in their commitment  to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, because we are not looking to the total  annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”

Republican Senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, told NBC’s Meet the Press that nearby countries should do everything in their power to force North Korea to ease tensions. According to Blunt, the rogue communist state has been a topic of discussion in Senate Intelligence Committee meetings. Blunt said:

“In the intel committee that I serve on, I think it doesn’t disclose anything to say in that in the last year this has probably been the number one topic month after month –  what was happening there, what are we going to do about it – and I hope the neighbourhood understands how critical this is.”

Blunt went on to refer to Kim Jong Un as “spoiled and reckless”:

“You’ve got a leader who is both spoiled and reckless. Spoiled and reckless is not a unique thing to find in the world today, but it is unique with somebody who has control of what may now be hydrogen weapons.”

The US is strongly considering issuing further trade sanctions to cut off North Korea. These sanctions may include Chinese banks and businesses doing trade with North Korea. US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday:

“We are going to strongly consider everything at this point and, again, I will draft a package  for [President Trump’s’ strong consideration that would go as far as cutting off all trade and  other business.”

FALLOUT OVER PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PRESS CONFERENCE

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President Trump has been heavily criticised for appearing to defend the alt-right in the wake of the devastating Charlottesville car attack in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout the conference, Trump appeared agitated and defensive. When asked why it had taken him so long to condemn the Unite the Right protesters, Trump answered:

 “I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement was correct a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts.  It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. It’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.  If you go back to my original statement … I brought it.”

Trump went on to defend his statement on Saturday, saying:

“Excuse me, excuse me, take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I  like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear was a fantastic young woman, and it was on  NBC, her mother wrote me and said though I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And  I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman.  But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake,  and it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and  unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”

Then Trump switched his focus to attacking the “alt-left”:

I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned very different groups. But not all those people were”I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned very different groups. But not all those people were neo-Nazis, believe me, not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E.  Lee. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.  I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop. But they were there to protest, excuse me,  take a look at the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of  Robert E. Lee.”

Republican Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio defended President Trump’s statement on twitter:

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. This is  simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden  them.”

However, the reaction from both Republicans and Democrats has been overwhelmingly negative. Democrat Congresswoman from New York, Kathleen Rice, tweeted: “President Trump is a racist. Period. He’s gone out of his way to make that clear, so let’s not tip-toe around it. He’s a racist.” Similarly,  Democrat Senator from Hawaii, Brian Schaltz tweeted: “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my president.”  Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader and Republican Congressman from Virginia, Eric Cantor criticised Trump for equating the counter-protesters with the alt-right.

Trump’s plight certainly hasn’t been helped by the support he has been receiving from white supremacists. Richard Spencer told the Washington Examiner that he was grateful to Trump for “defending the truth.”  Likewise, Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, tweeted:

“Thank you President Trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

There can be little doubt that President Trump deserves wide-spread criticism for his refusal to directly name and shame neo-nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right for their role in the events in Charlottesville on Saturday. He rightly deserves criticism for refusing to condemn the alt-right during his Presidential campaign.

And the people who should be criticising him should be the American people, not the hypocritical mainstream media and political left who only seem to find their moral indignation when evil can be attributed to the right.

This, after all, is the same media that overhypes every threat of right wing violence and turns every crime committed by a right winger into a condemnation of all conservatives, but conveniently turns a blind eye to the violence committed by antifa in Seattle, Sacramento, and Berkeley.  The same media that has presented right wing violence as a bigger threat to people’s safety than Islamic terrorism, which has routinely downplayed its threat, and vilified anyone who wishes to talk about the issue as being an “Islamaphobe.”

Then there’s the left wing media’s remarkable lack of criticism towards Barack Obama. They did not condemn Obama’s speech in Dallas, Texas, where he blamed the murder of five police officers on the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery, and claimed the police were unfairly and systematically targeting African Americans.

Does President Trump deserve criticism for his refusal to name and shame those responsible for the violence on Saturday? Undoubtedly yes. But the mainstream media and political left have no moral authority to do so.

TRUMP INCREASES RHETORIC ON NORTH KOREA

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President Trump has increased the force of his rhetoric against North Korea, warning the rogue nation that they would “regret it fast” if they kept threatening the US and her allies. Trump tweeted on Friday morning: “military solutions are now in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path.”

Trump told reporters at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey:

“If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam  or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will  regret it fast.”

Trump went on to say:

“I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what  I mean. Those words are very easy to understand.”

President Trump has received support from the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnball. Others, however, have expressed concern. Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson told MSNBC that he is more concerned with Trump’s rhetoric than with North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Similarly, German Chancellor has expressed concern:

“I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for. I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer, I see the need for enduring work at the UN Security Council.”

However, North Korea seems to be in a fairly precarious position. The Global Times has warned Pyongyang that China would not resist a US attack on North Korea. In an editorial, the Global Times said:

“China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war in the Korean Peninsula. It will not encourage any side to stir up military conflict, and will firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned. It is hoped that both Washington and Pyongyang can exercise restraint. The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should  try to be the absolute dominator of the region.”

President Trump’s rhetoric is changing the dynamic of the argument. When North Korea threatened Guam, Trump threatened North Korea. Furthermore, a nuclear reprisal by the US on North Korea would probably wipe the rogue nation off the map.

SKINNY REPEAL FAILS

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The latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare has failed after a senate vote of 49/51.  The defeat occurred after Republican Senator for Arizona, John McCain, Republican Senator for Maine, Susan Collins, and Republic Senator for Alaska, Lisa Murkowski crossed the floor to vote with the Democrats.

The latest attempt at repeal, known as ‘skinny repeal’, has been seen by many as a last ditch effort to repeal and replace certain elements of Obamacare.  It was met with opposition from Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office – who claimed it would leave sixteen million people uninsured (presumably because they would no longer be forced to pay for health insurance),  and health insurance companies – who claim that skinny repeal would be disastrous for the market.

In a statement, Senator McCain explained his reasons for voting against the repeal:

“While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.”

Both McCain and Murkowski supported a 2015 repeal and replace bill which was more extreme in its contents than the latest version. Collins, meanwhile, has never expressed any true desire to repeal and replace.

The mainstream media has responded to McCain’s decision by claiming that has “given a lot of Americans something to believe in.”  President Trump responded by tweeting: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!”

In the end, the latest defeat is not all doom and gloom. The fact that the latest vote was 49/51 shows how close the Republicans were to repealing and replacing Obamacare. It is perfectly possible for President Trump and other Republicans to find means to persuade McCain, Collins, and Murkowski to change their vote.

A DIVIDED HOUSE: JEFF SESSION’S RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP SOURS

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Tensions between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to rise over Session’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

President Trump has been engaged in a series of attempts to publicly humiliate Sessions, who he blames for the Justice Department’s Russia probe.  On Twitter, and in public, Trump has expressed disappointment in Session’s decision, and has referred to him as ‘beleaguered’ and ‘weak.’

Sessions defended his decision to recuse himself, telling Fox News:

“I am confident I made the right decisions, a decision that is consistent for the rule of law. An  attorney general who doesn’t follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice.”

Sessions also referred to Trump’s attacks on him as ‘hurtful’, although he expressed sympathy commenting that the Russia investigation had been a ‘big distraction’ for the President:

“Well, it kind of is hurtful. But the president of the United States is a strong leader. He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again. And he’s had a  lot of criticisms, and he’s steadfastly determined to get his job done, and he wants all of us to do our  jobs and that’s what I intend to do.”

The Trump-Sessions conflict may cause significant problems for the Trump Administration if it continues to fester.  Many Congressional Republicans have warned Trump against firing Sessions, pointing out that it may be seen as an attempt to kill the Russia investigation.

DONALD TRUMP SIGNALS A CHANGE TO US MILITARY TRANSGENDER POLICY

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On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that his administration would be reversing the previous Obama administration’s decision to allow transgender individuals into the US military:

 “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States  Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical cost and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.  Thank you.”

The decision has been met with negative reactions from both Democrats and from disgraced soldier Chelsea Manning (who was convicted of releasing classified documents to Wikileaks and received a pardon from Barack Obama, presumably because he was transgender). Californian Democrat Senator Kamala Harris referred to it as “discrimination, plain and simple”, whilst Manning tweeted:

“So, biggest, baddest, most $$ military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35? Sounds like cowardice”

In June, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis made the decision to delay the Obama administration’s decision by six months to give military service chiefs the chance to review whether allowing transgender people to enlist would affect the military’s capabilities.

The order to allow transgender people to serve openly in the US Military, undergo gender reassignment surgery (paid for by the military), and change their gender in Pentagon systems.  Under the decision, military service personnel could not be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment purely only the basis of their gender identity.