False nuclear attack alert in Hawaii, Saturday 13 January 2018 – VIDEOS

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Sunday 14 January 2018 – False nuclear attack alarm panics the residents of Hawaii

fsgagsaTensions between North Korea and the United States have been tense for some time over the former’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons and its leader’s threats to use them against the United States.  Therefore it was no surprise yesterday when the residents of Hawaii, the State of the USA which lies in the Pacific Ocean 2,000 miles southwest of the mainland USA, went into a panic when nuclear strike alerts suddenly began appearing on their mobile phones, televisions and radios.  At 4,600 miles from North Korea it is also the nearest US State to North Korea and therefore a key possible target for any potential nuclear strike by Kim Jong-un’s regime.


At around 8am local time (6pm GMT), the following emergency message appeared on mobile phones across the Hawaiian Islands: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”  Although the message does not mention North Korea, the people of Hawaii would have been in no doubt that the threat was coming from there.  To make things even more scary and believable, radio and television broadcasts were interrupted.  The message was also repeated by the US Pacific Command and the Pentagon and 93% of the island’s sirens were sounded – although some were barely audible and others sounded the wrong alert siren.  Hawaii understood the threat from North Korea and people had been told as much repeatedly and air raid drills were regular occurrences in the State.  It seems, however, that many were left in confusion, fear and panic as what to do when the threat seemingly became reality yesterday morning.

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Thankfully it was a false alarm.  It seems that someone at the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) in Hawaii during the shift-change had “pushed the wrong button” while undertaking regular procedures.  It would take the EMA 18 minutes to send out an email notifying people of the error, but a further 20 minutes  before a follow-up mobile phone message was sent to the frightened population. Those 38 minutes must have been for many truly the most frightening of their lives and the sense of relief people must have felt at that moment must have been tremendous, but it was also tempered with anger at the mistake and perhaps concern at their own lack of readiness had it been real.


CaptureHawaii state officials were naturally embarrassed and apologetic for the mistake.  Governor David Ige (right) said: “I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this.”  The administrator of EMA, Vern Miyagi, said he was sorry for the “inadvertent mistake” and said that “we are doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again.” However, he cautioned that the threat of attack from North Korea was still there.  He said: “If it comes out, you’re going to have only 12 to 13 minutes of warning before the actual event and please take this to heart.”


It is scary to think what might have gone through the mind of Donald Trump had he been sitting in the Oval Office at the time of the alert.  Although he doesn’t have a physical “nuclear button” on his desk as he boasted to in tweets aimed at Kim Jong-un, the President has access to the so-called “nuclear football” at a moment’s notice.  This is a case carried by a military official who is never more than a few feet from the President at all times.  It contains the codes the President needs to order a nuclear strike and the communications equipment needed to act upon his wishes.  The president himself would not press a “nuclear button,” but would make a decision and then use the codes to authenticate his authority before the commands are passed to the relevant military authorities for action. 


While it seems logical that the president would have waited for authentication of an attack on the United States before responding in kind, the mental instability of President Trump and his repeated threats to obliterate Kim Jong-un and North Korea could have created a very dangerous situation.  Thankfully, the President was not in the Oval Office at the time of the alert in Hawaii.  He was on the golf course.  I’m guessing that the president would have learnt of the alert pretty quickly, although with the confusion in the EMA in Hawaii the threat may have been understood to have been a false alarm before the president was in a position to respond. As Patrick Granfield, a former defence department employee under President Obama tweeted: “Thank God the President was playing golf.”


ajit-pai-fcc-hawaiiThe Federal Communications Commission in the United States, which has jurisdiction over the Hawaiian emergency alert system,  has announced that it  is initiating a full investigation.  The FCC was already due this month to vote on the effectiveness of wireless emergency alerts, which have been in place for the last five years.  Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC (right) said earlier this week the vote by the FCC will “lead Americans to take more seriously the alerts they receive on their mobile devices.”  The alerts are also used to warn of severe weather, evacuation orders, shelter-in-place alerts and Amber Alerts and have been used 33,000 times since 2012 across the States. The FCC has suspended future drills while the investigation takes place.  A preliminary report is due as early as next week


Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC Commissioner, said on Twitter: “Emergency alerts  are meant to keep us and our families safe, not to create false panic. We must investigate and do better.  […the people] should never have endured this false alert today. And I know like them I will hold my children a little bit closer tonight.”


Thinking that you only have minutes before a nuclear missile explodes over your head people are going to react in different ways.  Some it seems were pragmatic and accepting that they were going to die, while others went into sheer panic trying to find somewhere to hide – though hiding from a nuclear explosion is largely futile.  Reports suggest that some people hid in bathtubs and even under manhole covers and in storm drains while others shoved their children inside drainpipes!  Surviving a nuclear blast is purely down to where you are in relation to it and the strength of the nuclear weapon.  Hiding anywhere will not help if you are close to the explosion and even if you are far enough away from the initial blast, you will be affected by the shockwave, radiation and fallout.  The further away the better your chances of survival.


One student on the islands, Hasean Deen, told the BBC that the alert sparked a frenzy and he himself was locked with 29 other students in a rubbish-filled room for 47 minutes.  Emma Hine, who is from the UK and was visiting Hawaii said: “It was one of the worst experiences because I actually thought we were going to die. I’ve got a daughter – Chloe – back home in the UK and I thought ‘I’m not going to get a chance to say goodbye.’ Everyone was genuinely terrified.”  Her son was so scared that he suffered a seizure.


Lucja Leonard, who is a marathon runner, was more sanguine, but still scared: “We all just huddled together and just thought – well, you know – if this is going to be the end I guess we’re in a beautiful place, doing something we love – God – it was pretty scary.”  Danielle Smith spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald,  telling them that she was on a beach when 50 phones suddenly all went off with the alert: “Everyone’s just looking around going, ‘What do you do? What do you do?’” She was went into a local school with others: “We were just sitting in there and literally it was just silent, no-one was talking.”


Andy Priest on Twitter wrote: “My mom started to get up to go and my Dad told her that if it was their time to go, he wanted to be looking at the ocean and enjoying the view. My mom then yelled at my Dad for being an idiot for 10 minutes.” On his Twitter feed, Mark Espinosa wrote: “How many false alarm babies are we getting in Hawaii in 9 months?” and John Peterson tweeted: “Under mattresses with my wife, baby and in laws. Please lord let the bomb threat not be real.”


Steve Wheatcroft, who was on the golf course at the time, said “everyone was freaking out” but Justin Thomas was more cool: “I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, it’s my time, it’s my time.”  Professional golfer Colt Knost, who was staying at the Waikiki Beach for a PGA tour event told Associated Press that “everyone was panicking. Everyone was running around like, ‘What do we do?’”

US TV personality Dan Rather tweeted: “I think Hawaii should by everyone on the islands a drink of  their choosing  – on the state.”  A Honolulu TV reporter, Brigette Namata, said: “It was mind-boggling that we have officials here,  we have state workers that are in charge of our public safety and a huge, egregious, mistake like this happened.”


Bill Mitchell, the host of YourVoice America, tweeted: “So some dummy in Hawaii accidentally pushes the  wrong button when Trump is playing golf and suddenly, ‘Trump plays golf while we are under nuclear attack!’ is the headline? I mean, c’mon.’” He later tweeted: “You know, I almost believe some moonbat in the Hawaii government sent out that warning on purpose to try and harm Trump.”  As for Donald Trump, he is yet to comment and the White House would only say that he had been briefed about the incident, which was “purely a state exercise.”  Mr Trump was on Twitter after the incident, but only for his usual rants against “Fake News”  and the mainstream media.


Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, also on Twitter,  blamed Mr Trump for the alert: “This Hawaii missile scare is on YOU Mr. Trump. The real FEAR that mothers & fathers & children felt is on YOU. It is on YOUR ARROGANCE. HUBRIS. NARCISSISM. RAGE. EGO. IMMATURITY and your UNSTABLE IDIOCY. Shame on your hate filled self. YOU DID THIS!”  Others, such as PRZeus on Twitter, supported Trump and blamed Presidents Obama and Clinton: “Grow up. It was 30 minutes. I had nothing to do with Trump. Hawaii is run by Dems. Go find out who screwed up and scared y’all. And when you’re done, send a thank you note to Billy Clinton and Barry Obama since they enabled Little Rocket Man to have missiles in the first place.”


Dancy Hannerman, a musician, said: “I’m currently in Hawaii so 45 minutes ago I thought I was going to die by ballistic missile and now I’m making pancakes. Life is wild.”  Writing on Twitter she said she had “pulled the closet doors off and blocked off the windows.  What do you even do when you think you’re about to die hahaha let’s just say it was extremely dramatic.”


A member of the Hawaiian House of Representatives, Matt Lopresti,  told a local TV channel KGMB: We got our children, grabbed our emergency supplies, put them in our most enclosed room in our house which is our bathroom… We put them in the bathtub, said our prayers, tried to find out what the hell was going on because we didn’t hear any alarms, any of the sirens. […] There’s not much else you can do in that situation. You know, we did what we could, what the state has been trying to tell people – to be ready in this kind of situation and to take it seriously, and I did. And I am very angry right now because it shouldn’t be this easy to make such a big mistake.”  Meanwhile, Hawaiian senator Brian Schatz, tweeted: “AGAIN FALSE ALARM. What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be touch and quick accountability and a fixed process.”


Actor Jim Carrey was in Hawaii and tweeted: “I woke up this morning in Hawaii with ten minutes to live. It was a false alarm, but a real psychic warning. If we allow this one-man Gomorrah and his corrupt Republican congress to continue alienating the world we are headed for suffering beyond imagination. ;^\”.  The TV host Sara Donchey, who works for KPRC in Houston, Texas, was in Honolulu at the time of the alert.  She tweeted: “Also, my husband was on a plane that had just departed #Hawaii when we got the missile alert. I’ve been wondering if he and others flying were made aware. He’s on a flight with spotty or no internet service & I haven’t been able to reach him.” She also wrote: “I’m in Honolulu, #Hawaii and my family is on the North Shore. They were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting people are shaken.”


Emily Young from Manoa in Hawaii spoke to the BBC: “I’ve been here for three years now. I’m used to receiving flood alerts. I was on the phone to my friend when I saw the message come up. I flustered and scrambled a lot. It was a bit of a blur.” She added that she was left “looking into bright blue sky wondering whether something would fall out of it.”  Meanwhile, Malcolm Beebe also spoke to the BBC: “I received the text message about an incoming missile attack. I went outside to hear the air raid sirens, but heard nothing so I assumed it was a false alarm. I do know the sirens work as they are tested every now and then. Also at my age, 76, I am ready for death at any time.”


On Twitter Molly Derryberry posted: “Missile threat to Hawaii called off. Having to say your possible last words to your parents on the phone is something I hope to never have to do again.”  Speaking to the BBC, Elizabeth Hartnett, who lives in London, spoke of her family in Hawaii: “I live in London but am originally from Hawaii. My entire family still lives on the island of Oahu. My parents were out shopping when they both received the text messages. They ran into a local diner where around 20 people were also taking shelter. A few off-duty members of the military were there as well, and were confused because they hadn’t been officially notified by their base. The patrons and staff of the diner were all quiet and scared. My dad tried to comfort a few of the waitresses, who were very distraught. Everyone tried to call their families, 911, or get online to check the news, but phone lines and data services were jammed. About 20 minutes after the text, someone was finally able to get onto the internet using their phone and saw the announcement that it was a false alarm. After that, my mum cried with relief. We tried to turn on the radio, it was relaying the same info – but then regular broadcasts took over. We didn’t know where to turn to.”

Tulsi_Gabbard,_official_portrait,_113th_CongressTulsi Gabbard (right), an American Democrat politician, told CNN: “What makes me angry is that yes this false alarm went out and we have to fix that in Hawaii but really  we’ve got to get to the underlying issue here, of why are the people of Hawaii and the US facing a nuclear threat from North Korea? And what is the president doing, urgently, to  eliminate that threat? Hawaii has just started a few months ago these monthly nuclear attack sirens as a test, telling people, ‘You hear the siren, you’ve got 15 minutes to seek shelter.’ So people who got this message yesterday, they’re literally going through this feeling of, ‘I’ve got minutes to find my loved ones, to say my last goodbyes, to figure out where I could possibly find shelter that will protect them from a nuclear attack.’ And not having an answer to those questions. This was unacceptable that it happened but it really highlights the stark reality that the people of Hawaii are facing.”  Gabbard is a military veteran and a member of the House armed services and foreign affairs committee and she added: “I’ve been calling on President Trump to negotiate directly with North Korea, to sit across the table from Kim Jong-un, work out the differences so that we can build a pathway towards denuclearisation, to remove this threat.”  She added that Pyongyang should be reassured that Washington is not looking for regime change in North Korea and that the US should not set giving up its nuclear weapons as a precondition of talks.


Yet to respond directly to the incident, the President did send out a tweet this morning on North Korea: “The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them ‘I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.’ Obviously I didn’t say that. I said ‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong-un,’ a big difference.  Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!”  The Journal had published a story on Thursday under the headline: “Donald Trump Signals Openness to North Korea Diplomacy in Interview.”  According to the transcript of the interview published on the newspaper’s website, Mr Trump said: “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un of North Korea.”  When asked if he had spoken to Mr Kim, the transcript says that the president said: “I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying that I have or haven’t . I just don’t want to comment.”


Ashley Trask from Kauai told The Guardian: “Everyone knows you have about 15 minutes until detonation and no one knows where it will land.”  Trask added that family members “called us and they were crying because the realised they wouldn’t have made it to us.” Beth Ann Brooks of Haleiwa said: she sheltered in the bathroom with her husband and children: “The fear I felt was unlike anything I have ever experienced.”


Meredyth Gilmore said on Twitter: “Got this notification. Ran to find bomb shelter but were told it was bolted shut. Sat in the hallway of a concrete building w/ 50-some military spouses & children, many of whom were in tears & hyperventilating expecting to die. Took @Hawaii_EMA 38 min. to correct their mistake.”  Mrs Gilmore is an elementary school teacher who only moved to Hawaii with her family a week ago.  They were able to find shelter in a hotel.  She told reporters: “Basically, I got the alert on my phone and immediately read the part that said ‘This is not a drill.’  I went outside where husband and son were and told them to get inside.  We were military families and we knew it was not good. People were screaming. Mums were trying to stay calm. The most heartbreaking thing was seeing these little kids with tears running down their faces. Parents were just trying to hold it together for their kids. People were really upset that something like this could happen. They want this fixed. People are outraged that this could have happened.”


Gene Park, who works for the Washington Post and lives in Honolulu, wrote on Twitter: “My friend in Hawaii got the alert and had to quickly choose between which members of his family he would spend his last moments on Earth with because they were ALL too far apart from each other. He had to make the difficult choice of going immediately to his youngest children.”  Mr Park also shared a Twitter post from a friend in Hawaii: “Right now, I’m in tears, pulled over on Bishop Street. Just five minutes before warning, I dropped my oldest at the airport and drove to Nimitz Zippys. There I found out about the threat and had to decide whether to shelter there, drive to my two younger children at home, go back to the airport or go to be with my wife at work.”


CNN’s Jake Tapper wrote that he knew someone on the island who had been “crying in closet texting goodbyes to loved ones, husband shielding their baby. Sounds traumatic. Hang in there, folks.”


Richard Ing,  a Honolulu-based lawyer, was told of the alert by his wife while working on a DIY project at their home.  He said: “I thought to myself, it must be someone’s last day at work or someone got extremely upset at a superior and basically did this as a practical joke. But I think it’s a very serious problem if it wasn’t that, or even if it was. It shows that we have problems in the system that can cause major disruption and panic and anxiety among people in Hawaii.”


Alex Williamson from Naalehu in Hawaii and a seller at the Hilo Farmers Market where he was at the time of the alert: “It was frantic here. We didn’t know what to think. The market manager came out and said ‘Everyone get out, you have 20 minutes to leave. Pack up your stuff and go home and be with your family.’ We were literally crying. And it wasn’t funeral tears it was like hysteric tears, like a movie. I packed up and gave everyone around me a big, long hug.”


John Boone, a New Yorker staying in Pepeekeo, Hawaii: “It was just enough anxiety to get yourself spinning. Because what are you supposed to do? There was nothing to do and it took a few minutes to figure that out. They said to seek shelter but there was no shelter to be sought. Then we scanned the skies and there was nothing, so we turned on the TV and nothing and that’s when we thought it was a pretty good indication it might be a non-event.”


Hilo resident George Orais-Bonheimer was driving home from Kailua-Kona: “It was perfectly beautiful and then all six of our cell phones started going off. There’s no shelter up there obviously and we’d just passed the military base. Everyone on the (Saddle) was starting to slow down, they weren’t sure what to do. Cars were turning around so we floored it back to the military base.” Mr Orais-Bonheimer added that  most people after a while were “keeping calm” but they were still “shaking like a leaf” and “really nervous.” He said he attempted to reach contacts on the mainland for information. “It was just mass confusion. No one really knew what to do. There really isn’t adequate shelter so it’s like where do we actually go? There was just a lot of chaos. A part of me thought it was nice to know the alerts go out so fast but there also was a lot of anger that it was a false alarm. Especially when it reads ‘This is not a drill.’ So your questioning of doubt automatically goes out the window and you take it really serious.”


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Friday 12 January 2018 – Donald Trump calls off his planned UK visit to open new embassy

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It is nearly a year since British Prime Minister Theresa May extended an invitation to President Trump for a State Visit to the UK (above).  She had made the invitation when visiting Washington shortly after he came to office on 20 January 2017.  The invitation proved controversial here in the UK because of President Trump’s policies, in particular his proposed “travel ban” on people from seven mainly Muslim nations from entering the United States.  However, it was also pointed out that it was unusually early in Mr Trump’s presidency for him to be given the honour of a State Visit.  This honour is not offered to most presidents (only two since 1952, Eisnehower and Obama) and when it is granted, it normally comes during a president’s second term – as was the case for Mr Trump’s immediate predecessor Barack Obama.  Many in the UK were appalled at the idea that President Trump would get this honour.


The Speaker of the House of Commons, the elected body of the British parliament, expressed his opposition to the President being granted the additional honour of addressing the combined Houses of Parliament.  The Speaker, John Bercow, is in charge of the House of Commons and can decide who is allowed to address parliament and who is not allowed to.  He has the power to prevent anyone, including an American president on a State Visit, from addressing parliament and in February last year stated that he wouldn’t allow the President the honour.  Others expressed concern that the Queen would be embarrassed by  having to entertain the President on a State Visit and hundreds of thousands of Britons signed a petition calling for his visit to be cancelled.  The level of opposition prompted a debate in parliament discussing his proposed visit.

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The planned visit was never called off but it was repeatedly put back and eventually downgraded from a State Visit to a so-called “working visit.”  This would have seen the President come to the UK and meet officials and politicians, but would not have been entertained by the Queen or addressed Parliament.  It was then suggested that he would visit the UK in February this year in order to open the new US embassy in London (above).  The President, however, has now dismissed this idea and has effectively called off any visit to the UK in an official capacity.  The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now expected to open the new embassy. President Trump has used the new embassy, and his opposition to a need for it, as his reason for calling off the visit but most people believe that the real reason is his fear of facing the level of protest and opposition that will greet him in the UK.

Taking to Twitter at 5am this morning (Washington time), the President posted: “Reason I canceled 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!”  The reason for the move of the embassy from its longtime location in Grosvenor Square in the Mayfair area of London was partly because that location was vulnerable to terrorist attack and had become the centre of anti-American protests,  which one would imagine President Trump would think were good reasons to move the embassy.  It was also argued that it made economic sense to move to a cheaper part of London, a new embassy would be more energy efficient and would provide more space. Blaming President Obama is erroneous as the move was initiated by President George W Bush.  In October 2008, then US ambassador to Britain Robert Tuttle said: “This has been a long and careful process. “We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square. In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility. I’m excited about America playing a role in the regeneration of the South Bank of London.”

  

The Grosvenor Square embassy dates back almost as long as the United States has existed with John Adams, a future US President, becoming the first American emissary to the Britain in the late 18th century. The main US diplomatic mission has been in Grosvenor Square since 1938 and was also the main headquarters of General Dwight Eisenhower during World War II when he was Supreme Allied Commander. You can read more about the initial plans to move the embassy in the New York Times nearly ten years ago so it seems strange that President Trump is now all-of-a-sudden using the relocation of the embassy as an excuse for not visiting the UK.


As well as his usual tactic of blaming someone else for everything, his post completely ignores the real reason he ísn’t visiting the UK.  President Trump’s aversion to opposition and his need for affirmation and praise would be seriously tested if he were to come to our shores in Britain.  Many in the UK are today celebrating the President’s decision.


The former leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, said on Twitter: “Nope. It’s because nobody wanted you to come. And you got the message.” Meanwhile, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has had more than one run-in with the President – not least because Mr Khan is London’s first Muslim mayor – said via Twitter: “Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message.” He also said:

“It appears that President Trump got the message from  the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance. His visit next month would without doubt have been met by  mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place. Let’s hope that Donald Trump also revisits the pursuit of his divisive agenda.”

Not everyone is celebrating the President’s decision.  Nigel Farage, former leader of the UKIP party blamed the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan for backing protests against the president as contributing to the President’s decision. Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme he said: “It’s disappointing. He’s been to  countries all over the world and yet he’s not been to the one with whom he’s closest. I think it’s disappointing. Maybe just maybe Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party planning mass protests, maybe those optics he didn’t like the look of.” 


The British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has also taken the path of attacking Mr Corbyn and Mr Khan: “The US is the biggest single investor in the UK – yet Khan and Corbyn seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk. We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall.”


Meanwhile, the Prime Minister insists that the invitation for a state visit still stands, with her spokesman only commenting on the President’s decision by saying: “The opening of the US embassy is a matter for the US. The US is one of our oldest and most valued allies and our strong and deep relationship with endure.”  Downing Street also insisted that Donald Trump is “welcome” in the UK and that it was “confident” that he will visit at a later date and details will be confirmed “in due course.”  Downing Street seems to be in denial for as long as Mr Trump has a fear of protests against him he is never going to visit the UK on an official visit.  There is absolutely no chance of the British public ending their opposition to the current American President anytime soon so it seems highly unlikely he will be gracing our shores anytime soon, except maybe for a sneak visit to his golf courses in Scotland.


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