They were steps from the British Museum. Police confirmed a woman in her 60s died and five people were injured in a mass stabbing in London’s Russell Square Wednesday night. The 19-year-old suspect was subdued with a Taser, treated at a local hospital and taken into police custody. Authorities are probing his mental health — which they called a “significant factor” — and potential links to terrorism. To ease the public’s fears of further violence, officials announced an increased police presence on London’s streets today.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s going his own way. Mike Pence has endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s re-election bid, just a day after his running mate Donald Trump neglected to do the same. When asked if he was ready to endorse Ryan in an interview yesterday, Trump said he was “not quite there”, highlighting tensions between the Trump camp and the mainstream party line Ryan represents. Pence says Trump encouraged him to endorse Ryan in a show of party unity. But the controversial move comes shortly after President Obama called on top Republicans to turn their criticisms of Trump into explicit denouncements.
They’re at it again. U.S. Strategic Command said the nuclear-armed pariah fired two presumed Rodong intermediate-range ballistic missiles Wednesday morning. One exploded immediately after launch, but the second test was one of North Korea’s longest — flying about 621 miles before splashing down 125 miles from Japan’s northeast coast, the Japanese defense ministry reported. The rogue nation’s fuming over missile defense collaboration between the U.S. and South Korea. The Hermit Kingdom’s done several tests this year, and more are expected in the coming weeks ahead of annual U.S.-South Korea military drills.
He’s bringing America together. Republican leaders haven’t heeded President Obama’s call to abandon an “unfit” Donald Trump, but the GOP dam seemed to crack Tuesday. California Republican heavyweight Meg Whitman called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” and endorsed Hillary Clinton along with the first defecting GOP Congressman, New York’s Richard Hanna. Hewlett-Packard CEO and former gubernatorial candidate Whitman also pledged Clinton campaign cash. For his part, the Republican nominee says he’s not sure he’ll support the re-election of House Speaker Paul Ryan or Sen. John McCain, both of whom endorsed Trump but recently criticized his statements.
It’s banking in interesting times. Weighed down by Brexit and its emphasis on Asia when that region’s fortunes are suffering, the world’s fourth-largest bank’s year-on-year quarterly pre-tax profits have declined by 45 percent. That’s still $3.61 billion in profit, but a big disappointment a day after a sell-off of European bank shares despite signs the sector was improving. HSBC executives blamed the drop on market uncertainty, along with slowing Chinese credit demand, and projected the bank won’t meet its 10 percent return-on-equity target by the end of 2017.
Was it ransom? An unmarked plane carrying pallets of cash landed in Tehran just as Iran released four Americans from captivity, according to unnamed U.S. and European officials. It was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement over a failed arms deal in limbo since the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and the State Department insists the money wasn’t linked to the January 17 release. But some are calling it ransom, and many in Congress want to prohibit the Obama administration from further payments for three Americans now held by Iran.
Washington, D.C., transit police officer charged with aiding ISIS. (CNN)
Two buses go down with collapsing bridge in India, 22 feared dead. (AP)
Emirates flight crash-lands and burns in Dubai, but passengers escape. (NBC)
Miami sprays mosquitoes to contain spread of Zika virus. (CNN)
Syrian rebels advance in effort to break Aleppo siege. (The Guardian)
Rights groups call for UN condemnation of Filipino drug war deaths. (The Telegraph)
Tropical Storm Earl moves away from Mexican oil rigs, heads for Belize. (Bloomberg)
It hasn’t happened, but it could. About a quarter of the country uses computerized voting equipment, much of it installed after the 2000 presidential election’s punch card “hanging chad” vote-counting debacle. But many “new” machines are now digital dinosaurs. For example, most run Windows XP, which hasn’t gotten new security patches since 2014. Last year, Virginia decertified thousands of devices after a test discovered that even a non-techie could tamper with them. Now that Russian hackers seem interested in 2016’s results, there are new security fears — which could cause more trouble than actual fraud.
Inmates are paying the price … and then some. A recent report shows that while staff at federal correctional institutions know to look out for over-the-fence drops and contraband-filled drones, they often neglect to pat down fellow colleagues, who can boost their salaries by smuggling in banned merchandise. A crackdown now looms, and experts say prices for everything from cell phones and cigarettes to illicit drugs are set to explode behind bars — a problem sure to worsen as authorities continue adding items to the “contraband” list.
It’s on the table. Pope Francis has created a new commission that could tip the scales on women’s roles in the Roman Catholic Church. Made up of priests and academics, the seven men and six women will consider whether women can serve as deacons, who rank just below priests. The ancient church had female deacons, although it’s unclear what they did. The patriarchal denomination isn’t likely to change easily, but Francis has complained of its “very weak” gender integration and has said he’d like to see more women in decision-making roles.
Gangnam Style, meet the Beijing method. China’s government is no fan of advanced U.S. missiles deploying in South Korea, so it’s reportedly using media censors to retaliate. The story that Chinese TV must postpone booking South Korean shows has even convinced investors to dump Korean entertainment shares. “K-pop” and Korean TV dramas have been popular in China since the 1990s, but tensions between the two nations have grown because of the planned shield, which China considers a threat even if it’s aimed at stopping North Korean rockets.
Has he failed his last test? The slugger’s doping-scarred career might be coming to a close, as he’s been reduced to a $28 million pinch hitter. The Yankees are building their future by trading stars for new blood, and prospect Gary Sanchez arrives Wednesday to take more at-bats away from A-Rod, who’s sitting on 696 career home runs. While he’d prefer to stay and the organization has denied making release plans, the 41-year-old says he “can accept it” and return home to Miami.