“Improvised ‘terrorist’ bomb on packed London commuter train injures 22.”
A home-made bomb on a packed rush-hour commuter train in London engulfed a carriage in flames and injured 22 people on Friday in what police said was Britain’s fifth terrorism incident this year, but apparently failed to fully explode. Passengers on board a train heading into the capital fled in panic as the fire erupted at Parsons Green underground station in West London at 8.20 a.m.
Some suffered burns while others were injured in a stampede to escape. The National Health Service said 22 people had been taken to London hospitals, most believed to be suffering flash burns. None were thought to be in a serious condition, the ambulance service said.
“We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device,” Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley told reporters. Police said officers were making urgent inquiries involving hundreds of detectives backed by the intelligence services to find out who was responsible. British police have not said anything about who could be behind the attack. However, a U.S. law enforcement official and a U.S. intelligence source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attack might well have been carried out in response to recent Islamic State video messages urging would-be militants to attack trains and other public transport.
The officials said the device “doesn’t look very professionally built” and said its rudimentary design suggested the attack was carried out by someone inspired by Islamic State propaganda rather than by a well-trained cell.
UK security services believe those behind some of the militant incidents in Britain this year had probably been acting alone and likely radicalized by online material.
“Bitcoin Crashes Again After China Moves to Halt Exchange.”
Bitcoin tumbled, heading for its worst week since January 2015, after people familiar with the matter said China aims to stop exchange trading of cryptocurrencies by the end of September. Regional Chinese regulators were notified of the timeline by a central bank-led group overseeing Internet finance risks, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Bitcoin dropped 9.3 percent to $3,077.55 at 9:22 a.m. in London, extending this week’s decline to 28 percent.
The notice suggests Chinese policy makers will move quickly on a previously reported plan to end exchange trading, their most far-reaching measure to rein in the growth of cryptocurrencies. China’s crackdown, which includes a ban on initial coin offerings announced last week, has fueled an abrupt reversal in bitcoin after the digital currency soared more than 700 percent in the 12 months through August.
The cryptocurrency ban will only apply to trading on exchanges, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Monday. Authorities don’t have plans to stop over-the-counter transactions, the people said. While Beijing’s motivation for the exchange ban is unclear, it comes amid a broad clampdown on financial risk in the run-up to a Communist Party leadership reshuffle next month. Bitcoin’s surge over the past few years has fueled concerns of a bubble and prompted warnings of a potential crash from skeptics including JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon and billionaire investor Howard Marks.
Matt Roszak, the chairman of Washington-based Chamber of Digital Commerce and an investor in BTC China, said he anticipates that the exchange will resume operations by year-end. Predictions for an eventual resumption haven’t done much to comfort bitcoin traders. The cryptocurrency swung to a loss after Bloomberg reported the government notice and is now trading at the weakest level in six weeks.
“Hurricane Harvey slams U.S. retail sales, industrial production.”
U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in August, likely hurt by the impact of Hurricane Harvey on motor vehicle purchases, suggesting a moderation in consumer spending in the third quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales dropped 0.2 percent last month, the biggest decline in six months. Data for July was revised to show sales increasing 0.3 percent instead of the previously reported 0.6 percent jump.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and foodservices, retail sales fell 0.2 percent last month after an unrevised 0.6 percent increase in July. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Last month’s drop suggested consumer spending could slow in the July-September period.
The weak retail sales report will probably do little to change expectations that the Federal Reserve will announce a plan to start shrinking its $4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities at its Sept. 19-20 policy meeting.
The U.S. central bank is expected to raise interest rates again only in December. It has increased borrowing costs twice this year. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 3.3 percent annualized rate in the second quarter. That boosted GDP growth to a 3.0percent rate in the April-June period.
New York Times
“North Korea’s Threat Pushes Japan to Reassess Its Might and Rights.”
When North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan on Friday morning, prompting the authorities to broadcast an alert on cellphones and television, many people wondered: Why didn’t the Japanese military shoot it down?
The government quickly judged that the missile was not targeting Japan, and it landed in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,370 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. But officials in Japan who may have considered intercepting the missile faced two immediate constraints — the country’s missile defenses are limited, and the Constitution limits military action only to instances of self-defense.
Those same constraints have weighed heavily on the debate in recent weeks over how Japan should be responding to the North’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, including what role it should play as an American ally and to what extent it should upgrade its armed forces. Though Japan provided rear support for the United States during the Vietnam and Korean Wars, its alliance with America has never been tested as it would be in a conflict with North Korea.
Any military action by the Trump administration against the North risks a retaliatory missile attack on Japan, where 54,000 American troops are based. On Friday, North Korea threatened to “sink” Japanese islands with nuclear weapons, adding that “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.” It is also unclear whether the pacifist Constitution allows Japan to shoot down a missile headed for the United States, much less initiate a pre-emptive attack on a missile on a launchpad in North Korea, as some in Japan believe it should be prepared to do.
In recent months, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has revived a long-simmering discussion over whether to acquire cruise missiles — which can be fired from land, air or sea — that would allow it to strike a launch site in North Korea if it detected signs of an imminent attack.