Blowing his own Trump

One of Donald Trump’s biggest fans:

As far as the protests, I have to tell you because I commented on it yesterday.

We left the Prime Minister, the Queen, the Royal Family, there were thousands of people on the streets cheering, and even coming over today there were thousands of people cheering.

And then I heard that there were protests. I said where are the protests, I don’t see and protests.

I did see a small protest when I came, very small.

So a lot of it is fake news I hate to say.

But you saw the people waving the American flag, waving your flag. It was tremendous spirit, and love, there was great love, there was an alliance.

And I didn’t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very very small group of people put in for political purposes, so it was fake news. Thank you.

CNN: Jim Sciutto fact-checks Trump’s ‘fake news’ claim

I think the protests were relatively low key and modest.

But it is clear that not everyone loves Trump as much as much as the President does.

Trump’s insulting introduction to London

Plenty of publicity was assured for Donald Trump’s visit to London, as he and the Mayor of London traded insults. Trump also took aim at the mayor of new York. He tweeted as he arrived:

, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.

Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job – only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!

I’m not sure about the great friends thing, but this ensures he will keep plenty of bitter enemies. His feud with Khan goes back some time

Washington Post: The long and bitter feud between Trump and London Mayor Sadiq Khan

When presidents embark on prestigious state visits abroad, in the past they were expected to leave their political disputes at home and put on a friendly face for the nation hosting them.

But when President Trump arrived in London on Monday for a long-delayed state visit to Britain, he ignored both customs. Circling back to a long feud with Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor and a vocal critic of Trump, the president tweeted [as above].

Khan, his own supporters say, has managed to hit the president where it hurts most, by winning election in a liberal and diverse city on promises that go against Trump’s core policies, granting permission for a “Trump baby” balloon to fly over the skies of London during Trump’s work visit there last year and deploying his own biography to try to prove Trump wrong.

Khan has been provocative, and Trump is easily provoked.

Before Khan was elected mayor, he told The Washington Post’s Karla Adam that Trump was seeking “to divide communities rather than unite them.” Khan repeatedly said in jest that his Muslim faith could pose problems during future U.S. visits.

“I’ll need to rush to come to America before November, because if Trump wins, I’ll be banned from coming,” Khan told The Post.

After becoming mayor, Khan, a Hillary Clinton supporter, doubled down, telling the BBC, “Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe: It risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists.”

Khan comfortably won the London mayoral election in 2016. Initial vote:

  • Shadiq Khan (Labour) 1,148,716 (44.2%)
  • Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) 909.755 (35%)
  • Siân Berry (Greens) 150,637 (5.8%)

Nine other candidates failed to get the 5% required to make the next round. Khan won with 58.8% in the final head to head count with Goldsmith.

In a recent poll Khan was well in front, with 43% support overall and 64% in a head to head with his closest rival.

Trump has now arrived in London:

There are the inevitable tweets:

London part of trip is going really well. The Queen and the entire Royal family have been fantastic. The relationship with the United Kingdom is very strong. Tremendous crowds of well wishers and people that love our Country. Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them.

Great love all around. Also, big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk!

Trump has some support, but a lot more opposition.

Live by social media, truth by social media.

Independent: Trump fans in London defend ‘hero’ president as thousands prepare to protest

Amid the threat of major protests during his UK state visit, a handful of Donald Trump supporters gathered outside Buckingham Palace to welcome the US leader – calling him a “hero” whose presidency the next British prime minister should try to emulate.

Jerry and Lisa Foster, from Hallendale Beach in Florida, said they wanted to show their support for their president, who was the best since Ronald Reagan.

Those views were echoed by Russell, 48, from Shropshire, who, wearing a ‘make America great again’ hat declined to give his surname because of the animosity he said the cap attracted.

“The beloved Mr Trump is a hero,” he said.

“Those people who are calling for him to be banned from the UK are fascist. And don’t forget, not everyone in the UK is against him. We need a Trump-like figure in Downing Street.”

But: Mass protests planned for Trump’s state visit to the UK

Mass protests have been planned for President Donald Trump’s upcoming state visit to the U.K., just a year after the giant “Trump Baby” blimp sparked controversy in London.

Protest banners were unfurled over London’s Vauxhall bridge bearing the message: “Resist Trump. Resist Racism. Resist Cruelty. Resist Hate. Resist Sexism.”

Organizers of the protests from the “Together Against Trump” organization told ABC News that protests are planned at Buckingham Palace on Monday, when the president will be attending a state banquet with the Queen, and on Tuesday, when he will be visiting Prime Minister Theresa May.

The protest at Buckingham Palace is expected to be a small event, with only 66 people so far registered as “attending” on the Facebook event entitled: Protest at the Palace: Spoil Trump’s Banquet.

However, the protest on Tuesday, beginning in London’s historic Trafalgar Square at 11 a.m. local time, is expected to be a much more dramatic affair. Nearly 8,000 people are registered for the Facebook event, while another 33,000 social media users have said they are “interested” in it as of Sunday morning.

A spokesperson from the “Together Against Trump” group told ABC News that they expect protests to take place throughout the country, but that the event in Trafalgar Square is the main event.

A number of Facebook groups, including the “Stop Trump Coalition” and “Stand up to Trump,” have come together to organize the protests against his state visit, so that the “world will know that people here reject him and his toxic politics.”

Trump’s visit was always going to be controversial and opposed by some.

 

 

Julian Assange arrested at Ecudorian Embassy in London

There have been stories about Julian Assange’s imminent exit from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after a seven year stay there avoiding legal actions . He has just left the Embassy after Ecuador withdrew his asylum, to be arrested by UK police for he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

BBC- Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

He now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, in response to allegations by the Department for Justice that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.

He faces up to five years in US prison if convicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

A Twitter thread on Assange’s court appearance.

Asked his name Assange says “My name is Julian Paul Assange”

The court is told Julian Assange was arrested this morning in two warrants

The court is hearing the history of the Swedish sexual offences case through the UK courts, and how after his appeal failed Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorean embassy in June 2012 in breach of his bail

Assange was arrested this morning on a warrant arising from that breach of bail

The second warrant relates to an extradition request from the US issued in Dec 2017 (issued by the District Judge presiding over today’s case)

The court is hearing how Julian Assange was arrested at 10.15 this morning

Officers tried to introduce themselves but he barged past them. He resisted and shouted “this is unlawful”. He had to be restrained and officers struggled to handcuff him. He shouted again “This is unlawful, I am not leaving” as he was led to the police van.

Julian Assange is told that one charge he faces is that he failed to surrender on 29th June 2012. He pleads “not guilty”

He is told that the US warrant says that between Jan 2010 and July 2010 he conspired with Chelsea Manning to “effectuate” unauthorised disclosure.

The court is now discussing whether Julian Assange has to give evidence to explain why he failed to surrender to bail

Julian Assange will not give evidence

Julian Assange’s lawyer says that District Judge Emma Arbuthnot who heard this case at previous hearings should have recused herself because of “bias”

District Judge Michael Snow tells the defence it is “unacceptable in front of a packed press gallery to traduce the reputation of the senior District Judge”. He says it is “grossly unfair”

District Judge Michael Snow finds Julian Assange guilty of failing to surrender

That was quick, but I guess it’s obvious that’s what he did.

He says Julian Assange’s behaviour is “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”

He sends Julian Assange to the Crown Court for sentencing as the offence was so serious

The US Justice Dept describes the charge Julian Assange faces as “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion”, saying the charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison

Trump protests in London – exclusive coverage

Missy has provided coverage of protests against Donald Trump in London.

There were two protests today in London against Trump, both came past my work. I thought the first was big, but the second was massive in comparison.

Video – this starts looking up Haymarket swinging around to Trafalgar Square

Taken about 5 mins later is looking towards Trafalgar Square swinging back around to look up Haymarket.

This was a much bigger protest, we watched it for almost 2 hours from our building and it was still going when I left work.

It was estimated there were about 700,000 – 750,000 people in attendance. That is huge, many of my colleagues were saying it is the biggest protest they had seen in years (for some not since the Iraq War).

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with London, but essentially all of Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Road on the other side and the Church steps appeared to be full, also it looked like people were crowding in down Northumberland Ave on the other side of Trafalgar Square as well – and Haymarket was also fill of people. To me it looked like more people than what has been there at New Year’s!

One thing that often gets overlooked in these protests is the tremendous pressure they put on the police services.

The police forces in the UK have over the years faced tremendous cuts, they are already stretched with the increase in violent crime and then these protests come along which require a huge police presence.

I am not saying that people should not protest, indeed in a modern democracy it is their right and whether we agree or not with their protests we should always support their democratic right to do so, but also these same people should keep in mind the pressure that is put on police resources when they do organise these large scale protests.

Today’s protests were well behaved, and good natured, indeed there was almost a carnival atmosphere and the police were being open and friendly, in fact the police officer who was directing the protestors was very good natured, in each and every megaphone announcement he began with ‘good afternoon lovely to see you…’ and he finished with ‘…have a lovely day’. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world the police would be that polite at a protest – especially when the officer in question would be working two weeks without a day off because of the protest.

Earlier in the day I was talking to the officer who was on the megaphone, he was saying today was meant to be his day off, he had just come off seven days straight (three on night shift) and was about to go on eight days straight. He also stated he had been brought in from another borough (along with a number of his colleagues) leaving his borough less protected. Despite all this, and his obvious frustration, he still managed to keep good humour and be polite and friendly, including at one point saying hello (via the megaphone) and waving to me and my colleagues on the balcony at our work. I am in awe of these men and women who do these kind of jobs (whether they be police, fire, ambulance, defence etc) that work under such incredible pressure but still manage to put forward such a positive face to the public when most of us would probably be ready to lose our cool.

Also:

  • BBC: Trump’s UK visit and protests
    On the second day of his visit to the UK, President Trump has met Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle. A number of protests against his visit also took place. Here are the day’s events in pictures.
  • BBC: Aerial view of London protest
    Thousands of protesters are marching through central London in protest of Donald Trump’s visit.

And: Donald Trump: US-UK trade deal ‘absolutely possible’

A US-UK trade deal “will absolutely be possible”, Donald Trump has said, after he told The Sun Theresa May’s Brexit plan could kill an agreement.

Speaking after talks at Chequers, Mr Trump said the US-UK relationship is “the highest level of special”, while Mrs May said they had discussed plans for an “ambitious” trade agreement.

As usual Trump is all over the place on trade and on his wild swings from criticism to optimism and praise.

 

 

French outrage over Trump comments on Paris attack

President Trump has offended the French after making some typically bizarre comments in a speech to the National Rifle Association  in Dallas, Texas.

Trump is well known for making stupid and insensitive comments. This just adds to the list.

RNZ: French outrage after US President Trump mimics Paris attackers

What did Trump say exactly?

“Paris, France, has the toughest gun laws in the world…” he told the NRA.

“Nobody has guns in Paris, nobody, and we all remember more than 130 people, plus tremendous numbers of people that were horribly, horribly wounded. Did you notice that nobody ever talks about them?

“They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns. They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!

“But if one employee or just one patron had a gun, or if just one person in this room had been there with a gun, aimed at the opposite direction, the terrorists would have fled or been shot.”

The French foreign ministry…

…called for the victims’ memory to be respected.

“France expresses its firm disapproval of the comments by President Trump about the attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris and asks for the memory of the victims to be respected,” the foreign ministry said.

François Hollande, who was French president at the time of the attacks…

…said Mr Trump’s remarks were “shameful”. They “said a lot about what he thinks of France and its values”, he added.

Manuel Valls, who was France’s prime minister in 2015…

…tweeted: “Indecent and incompetent. What more can I say?”

That may sum up Trump very well.

He also prompted responses from London after saying:

“I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital, right in the middle, is like a warzone for horrible stabbing wounds,” he said. “Yes, that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives, and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military warzone hospital.”

Trump stabbed the air several times with an imaginary knife and muttered: “Knives, knives, knives.

Guardian: Trump’s knife crime comments are ridiculous, says London surgeon

The suggestion by Donald Trump that guns are part of the solution to knife crime in London is ridiculous, a trauma surgeon in the capital has said. The US president told the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas on Friday that a “once very prestigious hospital” in London was like a “warzone”.

He appeared to be referring to reported comments by Martin Griffiths, a lead trauma surgeon at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, who likened the spate of stabbing victims coming through the doors to scenes in a military hospital.

Prof Karim Brohi, another surgeon at the hospital and the director of London’s major trauma system, said knife violence was a serious issue for London. “We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our violence reduction programmes,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “The Royal London hospital has cut the number of our young patients returning after further knife attacks from 45% to 1%.

“London hasn’t been used to that. They’re getting used to it. Pretty tough. We’re here today because we recognise a simple fact. The one thing that has always stood between the American people and the elimination of our second amendment rights has been conservatives in Congress willing to fight for those rights. We’re fighting.”

Charlie Falconer, a former justice secretary, said:

“Trump makes Londoners dislike him more, and the US dislike London more. Mutual dislike is not good as the UK leaves the EU. Trump gives the impression he couldn’t give a fig.”

Trump’s reception when he visits England in July was always expected to be far less receptive to him than the NRA or the staged ego stroking rallies he has in the US.

Ardern wearing a korowai in London

Jacinda Ardern got the full royal treatment by the Queen, Prince Charles, various leaders and the media covering her trip to the United Kingdom last week to attend a Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. At one event she wore a korowai (Māori cloak), which prompted mostly praise but also some criticism.

It’s hard to know what all that was supposed to mean.

BBC: Why Ardern’s Maori cloak, worn to meet the Queen, delighted New Zealand

When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore a traditional Maori cloak to meet the Queen, it had quite a few people scratching their heads – and most New Zealanders glowing with pride.

It’s a korowai, a garment woven with feathers and steeped in history, tradition and cultural significance.

The photos of Ms Ardern wearing the korowai have generated a wave of pride, enthusiasm and support online, with people praising it as “stunning” and “beautiful”, while New Zealanders have been filled with pride and respect.

“It makes me really emotional,” Ranui Ngarimu, a senior weaver with the Nga Tahu Maori tribe, told the BBC. “It’s a real acknowledgment of the prestige and power of a woman.”

“To wear something that is so intrinsically of this place here, and for her to wear it at that event knowing that she would be photographed from every angle, that’s a real acknowledgment of her relationship with the Maori people and with New Zealand.

“Korowai are a very special form of cloak,” explains Vini Olsen-Reeder, himself a Maori and a lecturer at Victoria University. “There are lots of different kinds of cloaks, but the korowai is the one with the highest prestige.”

Traditionally, it would be awarded only to people from the upper echelons of Maori society, or given as a gift to people from outside the community if they were thought to be of equally high standing.

In this case the korowai was given to Ms Ardern by a Maori group in London, for her to wear at the Commonwealth Summit.

“The significance of the garment is the prestige that comes with it,” agrees Donna Campbell, lecturer in Maori studies at Waikato University in Hamilton.

“What it represents is the mana of a person, that’s the prestige and power of the person wearing it. So for Jacinda to be wearing it at this event is completely fits with the weight of the occasion; from a Maori point of view, this garment is entirely appropriate.”

It is not unprecedented for non Māori women to wear korowai:

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a korowai, 1954

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a korowai, 1954

Queen Elizabeth II was gifted a korowai (woven cloak) during her first tour of New Zealand in 1953–54. New Zealand does not have a specific national dress, but Māori cloaks are often worn by dignitaries as a symbol of the country.

There has been some criticism, like Cultural Appropriation Much? Jacinda Ardern’s Maori Cloak

Cultural appropriation is where the members of a dominant grouping in society use and – well, appropriate – take the signifiers of the culture of an oppressed or dispossessed part of society.

We do, after all, have to insist that the Maori are oppressed in New Zealand society. Absolutely nothing at all about politics there makes sense without agreeing with that point. Ardern is one of the oppressing class, descended as she is from Northern Europeans doing all that oppressing. And her wearing a Maori cloak is obviously appropriation from that non-dominant culture.

This also got an airing at Reddit:

Something I don’t see addressed here is the origin of the cloak, I work in an organisation with a strong Maori presence and culture, in many cases people outside of Maori culture in the organisation have been gifted similar items by the Maori people for their service, this is where it stops being appropriation and becomes appreciation.

If she bestowed it on herself or other white people bestowed it on her though then that’s a whole shit show.

While Ardern was given the korowai to wear on the occasion it is quite common seeing them worn at graduations, and you can ‘bestow a korowai on yourself’ – Academic Dress Hire: Korowai

We are now selling Korowai, which are stunning cloaks that look great on graduation day, and make a fantastic family heirloom. The cloaks come with an export certificate should you wish to take them overseas. The cloaks come in various colours and there is a significant amount of work that goes into each Korowai.

It is worn as a mantle of prestige and honor. Everyone has different reasons for wearing Korowai on their graduation day whether it be a sense of identity, a graduation acknowledgement, a congratulatory gift, a connection to our NZ heritage or family tradition.

We are pleased to offer them to you at $700.00 incl.

The Māori dictionary suggests that usage has changed over time.

1. (noun) cloak ornamented with black twisted tags or thrums – the illustration is of the korowai, Te Whiringa Rongomaiwhiti, woven by Gloria Taituha of Ngāti Maniapoto. The feathers of the korowai are of pūkeko (dark blue) and kererū (white).

2. (noun) cloak – in modern Māori this is sometimes used as a general term for cloaks made of muka (New Zealand flax fibre).

He whero ngā huruhuru o te taha whakararo o ngā parirau o te kākā. Ka rangaa he korowai mō te tāngata whakahirahira i ēnei huruhuru (Te Ara 2014). / The feathers under the wings of kākā are red. These feathers were woven into cloaks for important people.

Korowai became popular in the 1800s, and were made out of things like dog skins and the feathers of birds like kiwi, kererū , kākāpō, tūī, kākāriki and kākā. I presume they use other things now.

I guess the koro in korowai comes from ‘term of address to an older man’ and not ‘bay, cove, inlet’ or ‘noose’.

‘Wai’ can mean ‘water’, ‘stream, creek, river’, or ‘tears’.

What may stand out on this occasion is that the Prime Minister wore one at an overseas political summit. I can’t recall or find anything about John Key being given a korowai to wear. Neither Helen Clark, nor any other Prime Minister.

But Ardern seems to have quickly become the queen of symbolism. Time will tell whether she and her Government become known for substance on Māori and other issues – and that will need to be earned by Ardern, not gifted.

Big overseas trip for Ardern – and for the Government

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has set off on an international trip for a couple of weeks. It began with a visit to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast yesterday. She then goes to Europe to meet with the leaders of Germany and France, and then on to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

She is also scheduled to visit the Queen – that’s right up Ardern’s celebrity PR style alley.

Trade will be high on Ardern’s political agenda.

It will be interesting to see how things play out here in her absence, given the difficult last month for the Government.

Craig McCulloch (RNZ): CHOGM great chance for PM to be gone

The trip comes at a pivotal time in international relations – roughly one year ahead of the United Kingdom’s final departure from the European Union. Much of the focus then will be on trade.

New Zealand is ready to jump into bed with the EU as soon as the member states hit the green-light on negotiations.

Officials here hope that could come in the next few months and former Trade Minister Todd McClay understands a date is set for late May.

As for the UK, it’s already signalled New Zealand will be one of the first cabs off the rank for a trade agreement.

But official negotiations can’t Bregin till Britain formally Brexits (sorry) in March next year.

At that point, the UK will go into a 21-month transition phase during which it can finally start negotiating deals.

CHOGM has always been regarded as one of the less-important global events – a bi-annual gab-fest between former British colonies.

…it’s the first since the Brexit vote and the first in London in more than three decades.

Leaders from all but two of the 53 Commonwealth countries are to attend. In previous years, as many as half didn’t turn up.

CHOGM is unlikely to hit many headlines.

The photo opportunities too will be priceless for the Prime Minister. Her media team will be hanging out for that shot of her alongside the similarly-youthful Emmanuel Macron. And don’t forget the Queen. Never forget the Queen.

The media are unlikely to let anyone forget the Queen, who is old enough to be Ardern’s grandmother. Irrelevant pap is likely to get the most attention.

Both Ms Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters will use the opportunity to do the rounds and meet some new faces.

With both Ardern and Peters overseas (a problem when you have the deputy PM as Foreign Minister) who will be fronting up for the Government here?

Labours deputy leader Kelvin Davis? he has been virtually anonymous since performing poorly after his sudden promotion during the election campaign last year.

He may have done some homework since and be able to answer the occasional question. It will be interesting to see how he shapes up. he may get to be acting PM a bit over the next few months with Ardern out of action for a few weeks and Peters in charge but still with international duties.

Facts on US embassy move in London

After cancelling a visit to London to open the  new US embassy Donald Trump said:

“Reason I cancelled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”

Reuters looks at the facts in Was the sale of the U.S. embassy in London a ‘bad deal’ done for peanuts?

The old United States Embassy in London…

…was situated on a historic square in the exclusive Mayfair neighborhood, home to some of the city’s most valuable real estate.

The U.S. embassy has been based on the square since 1938 and the area was known as “Little America” during World War Two as General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s military headquarters were housed on the square.

 

In 2008, when George W. Bush was president…

…the United States signed a conditional agreement to acquire a site for the construction of a new embassy in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth, southwest London.

The new 12-storey building on the south bank of the river is at the heart of a huge regeneration project in a former industrial zone.

In 2009…

…the US embassy building in Mayfair was listed as a Grade II building including for “special architectural interest for the strongly-articulated design and dynamic facades, well-detailed stonework and consistency of detail.”

This would make it difficult to make certain alterations to the building and can reduce the value of properties.

Lydia Muniz, director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations at the State Department, told the New York Times in 2015 that renovating the building would have cost $730 million and still would not have provided state-of-the-art security.

In 2009, when Barack Obama was president…

…the United States agreed to sell its embassy in Mayfair to the Gulf investor Qatari Diar for an undisclosed sum to help fund a new embassy.

The embassy says the new building was funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. government properties in London, not through appropriated funds.

So the old embassy wasn’t sold ‘for peanuts’.

The move was planned while George W Bush was president.

Washington Post adds: ‘As usual, he’s dead wrong’: Former U.S. ambassadors explain London Embassy move after Trump criticism

“As usual, he’s dead wrong,” said former ambassador Louis Susman, who served under the Obama administration between 2009 and 2013. “He’s 100 percent wrong.”

“We didn’t have a choice,” Susman said. “We had to move.”

The decision to move the embassy came down to practical concerns, the most important of which was safety. After the al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, the State Department imposed new safety standards that required embassies to be set back 100 feet from any adjacent roads due to the risk of car bombs and other attacks.

For embassies that were in densely populated neighborhoods like Mayfair, that posed a major problem and often necessitated a move.

The Grosvenor Square building was a particular problem. Not only was it a listed building, meaning that any alterations to its structure required approval from the British government, it is also in a dense area full of residential buildings. There were often long lines outside the building, and neighbors began to complain about the threat to their homes.

Bob Tuttle, who was served as U.S. ambassador to Britain from 2005 to 2009, said that when he was prepping for his confirmation hearing, it became apparent to him the embassy would need to move.

“There were two narrow side streets by the embassy. They are very slim, and if someone came down there with a truck, a la the Oklahoma City bombing, it would not only blow up half the embassy and kill half the people in it but it would also kill half the people in nearby residences.”

Realizing the high value of the properties, Tuttle said a decision was made to sell the 999-year lease to the embassy building.

Though Trump blamed the Obama administration for the “bad deal,” much of the work was done by Tuttle — a political appointee under the Bush administration.

Tuttle would go on to take the lead in finding a new location for an embassy, eventually looking at 60 to 70 different possibilities, while his Obama-appointed predecessor Susman arranged most of construction of the new building

“I’m very proud of what we did, and I think we did the right thing,” Tuttle said.

And the ambassador appointed by Trump also supports the move.

ROBERT JOHNSON US Ambassador (Evening Standard):  Our Nine Elms US embassy is the most advanced we’ve ever built

I agree with President Trump that Grosvenor Square, in the heart of London, was a perfect location for our embassy. Security concerns after September 11 meant we had to move to a location that could better protect American citizens and our British neighbours.

On Tuesday we will open the doors of our brand-new embassy to the general public in Nine Elms, a site selected under a previous administration.

…the new embassy is not just bigger, it is better and capable of meeting the complex challenges of the 21st century and beyond. It is the most secure, hi-tech and environmentally friendly embassy that the United States has ever built.

That couldn’t have been achieved in the old embassy building.

Purchased and built from the sale of our London properties, the new embassy did not cost the US taxpayer a cent. Yet is one of the most advanced embassies we have ever built.

That’s not an accident. The United States is re-investing in the Special Relationship. President Trump has told me he views the UK as one of the closest friends and partners of the American people we serve. Our new embassy reflects not just America’s special history with the UK but the special future ahead of us as we advance the prosperity and security of both our nations.

But not special enough for Trump to attend the official opening.

London Finsbury Park Mosque attack

Tensions have been raised and complicated by what is being treated as a terrorist attack with a van that hit people coming out of a mosque in London.

BBC:  ‘Major incident’ as van hits worshippers

Summary

  1. One man has died and 10 people have been injured
  2. Home Secretary Amber Rudd says it is being treated by police as a “terrorist incident”
  3. Muslim Council of Britain says van intentionally ran over worshippers
  4. A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder
  5. The Metropolitan Police describe it as a “major incident”
  6. The area was busy with worshippers leaving evening prayers at Finsbury Park Mosque

Alleged attacker ‘acted alone’ – police

Asked about reports of a number of suspects running away from the van, the Met police said that was a key line of inquiry at the start of investigation.

“But from what we are seeing and what witnesses are reporting to us there was nobody else in the van, it appears that this time this attacker attacked alone,” Dep Asst Commissioner Basu said.

“This is not to say we are not investigating the full circumstances of how he came to be where he was but at this point in time there was nobody else in the van.”

Not the first terror attack against Muslims

This is not the first time that Muslims have been targeted in an apparent act of terrorism in the UK – and all the signs are that this terrible incident is nothing short of that.

The threat from extreme right-wing groups has been growing in recent years – 16% of all terror arrests in the year to March were classed as “domestic extremism”.

Those who have turned to violence have tended to go for visible Muslim targets – namely mosques.

In 2013 an extreme right-wing Ukrainian man murdered a Muslim grandfather in Birmingham and tried to bomb three mosques.

The following year saw the jailing for 10 years of a man from the north-west who was researching bomb-making and mosques to target.

And just last December the Home Secretary banned “National Action”, a group whose supporters have been investigated for planning violence.

It was probably just a matter of time before there was some sort of retaliatory attack in response to Muslim suicide attacks, but again innocent people have been targeted.

Difficult times for people in London and throughout England.

Any attack like this that targets random and innocent people must be condemned, no matter who the perpetrator is and no matter who the targets are.

 

24 story tower fire in London

A disaster has been unfolding in London overnight (afternoon NZ time) with a 24 story block of flats engulfed in flames.

The Telegraph  Grenfell Tower fire: Huge blaze engulfs London flats with people feared trapped

Where was the fire?

It took place in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in Kensington, West London. The residential highrise was built in 1974 and contains 120 homes.

The fire broke out shortly before 1 am, with London Fire Brigade saying it was called at 12.54 am.

What caused it?

The cause of the fire is unknown. London mayor Sadiq Khan has said the fire has been declared a “major incident”.

How many people have been injured?

The picture is still unclear. Thirty people have been taken to five hospitals, but many people are understood to be accounted for.

Police have since said a number of people are being treated for a range of injuries. It is still unclear whether everybody has been evacuated and there are fears that some people could be trapped.

From reports it looks likely there could be a number of casualties.

London fire commissioner Dany Cotton’s statement:

This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale. Firefighters are working very hard at the moment.

This is a major fire that effected all floors of this 24 storey building from the second floor upwards. I have over 200 of my firefighters and officers attending this incident, with 40 fire engines and a range of specialist vehicles, including 14 fire rescue units. We declared this a major incident very early this morning … the first call coming in at 12.54. Our first fire engines were on the scene in under six minutes.

Crews wearing breathing apparatus and extended duration breathing apparatus have been working in extremely challenging and very difficult conditions to rescue people and bring this major fire under control.

London Ambulance Service have confirmed that 30 people have been taken to five hospitals.

I am very sad to confirm that there have been a number of fatalities. I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building. It would clearly be wrong for me to speculate further.

Equally the cause of this fire is not known at this stage.

We are working very closely with our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police and the London Ambulance Service to bring this situation under control.

Further information will be made available shortly including advice for those concerned about those who are working here and people who live her.