London fire: Manslaughter charges considered

London’s Metropolitan Police Service said Friday it is considering manslaughter charges among the criminal offenses that may have been committed in relation to last week’s deadly Grenfell Tower fire.

The police investigation is focused on how the blaze started, how it spread and whether any person or organizations should be held responsible, Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona McCormack told a press briefing. Documents have already been seized, she said.

McCormack said the number of people dead or presumed dead remains at 79, but she fears the true number could be higher. She appealed for people to come forward with information about anyone who may have been in the building on the night of the fire.

UK authorities have given assurances that they will not check anyone’s immigration status as a result of information given to police in relation to the blaze. The 24-story high-rise was home to 125 families, but visitors may also have been in the building when the flames took hold.

Speculation has focused on the role that cladding apparently used in a recent refurbishment of the tower may have played in the fire, which appeared to spread quickly up the exterior of the tower in the early hours of June 14.

McCormack said samples of the cladding sent by police for analysis had failed safety tests.

The fire started in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer that was not previously part of any recall, McCormack said.

Suspect cladding found on 11 high-rises

The UK government said Thursday it was carrying out tests on 600 high-rise buildings across England that are covered in cladding, with at least 11 high-rise buildings so far identified as having combustible panels.

The affected buildings, housing potentially thousands of residents, are in eight local authority areas, including Manchester, Plymouth and Camden in north London, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said in a letter to lawmakers.

Addressing Parliament earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May said a statement on the test results of the cladding samples taken from Grenfell Tower would be made in the next 48 hours.

She added that the government could test more than 100 samples a day, with the results coming within hours.

Camden residents fear fire threat

Camden Council said it was preparing for the immediate removal of cladding from five tower blocks on its Chalcots Estate after tests revealed that the panels were made of aluminum with a polyethylene core — similar to those used on Grenfell Tower, although fitted differently — and that it had introduced extra fire safety measures in the interim.

These include round-the-clock fire patrols on estate corridors and additional fire safety checks, it said. The council said it had told the contractor that installed the panels it was taking urgent legal advice.

“I cried when I heard the news, I was in shock,” resident Simon Morris said. “I still am shocked, but along with the other residents I’m suffering a combination of shock and anger.”

Another resident, Sayed Meah, said: “We’ve never had any fire evacuation rules, any plans, any procedures, nothing. So we’re scared, we’re genuinely scared (for) our lives.”

Rosie Closier said the situation had added to her fears, saying she was “a lot more anxious because we already planned what we’re going to do if there was a fire when I do have my baby. We’ve got it all set up in a room next to the door so we can just leave straight away, but it is really nerve racking.”

Some anxious tower block residents have seen contractors abseiling from the tops of their buildings to collect samples of cladding to be sent for analysis.

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Why North Korea, US don’t want all-out war

It’s been a tense six months on the Korean Peninsula and many North Korea watchers believe the situation is dangerous.

But it hasn’t reached the brink yet, and that’s likely because President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and their respective advisers are aware of the immense cost of the Korean War, which started 67 years ago Sunday.

“If this goes to a military solution, it is going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said at a news conference last month.

The Korean War, which technically never ended, led to the deaths of about 600,000 North Korean and 1 million South Korean civilians, along with hundreds of thousands of troops.

The legacy of the war lives on in North Korea, where it’s still used as a key piece of propaganda for the Kim regime. American fighter jets blanketed the country with about 625,000 tons of bombs on North Korea, killing 20% of the country’s population, according to one estimate.

If the conflict reignited, it could be even more cataclysmic this time around with the specter of nuclear weapons looming.

“The threat of war on the peninsula — major war or a limited war — has been present off and on since the end of the Korean War,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN. “Both the United States historically and also North Korea have proved that they can demonstrate restraint, de-escalate a crisis (and) step back from the brink of war … They’re both interested in avoiding a war that would be in nobody’s interest.”

The heart of Seoul

While the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula could escalate quickly, there are a handful of scenarios that could play out, ranging from something as calamitous as nuclear strike to small-scale artillery attacks that do not devolve into all-out war, which happened in 2010.

“Part of the difficulty of discussing something like this is there’s a wide range of possible contingencies that vary widely in terms of the outlook in terms of how damaging they are,” Mount said. “The challenge is to try to control escalation.”

The biggest danger is in densely-populated cities, places like Seoul (urban area population around 9.7 million) or Tokyo (urban area population around 38 million).

Nuclear strikes on those capitals would be catastrophic in terms of loss of life, but an attack using conventional weapons could kill tens of thousands of people too.

“Combat in another Korean War would take place in Seoul’s crowded suburbs. While our war planners estimated that US and South Korean forces would contain the North Korean advance north of Seoul, the price of defense would be heavy,” Ash Carter and William Perry, two former US defense secretaries, wrote in a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post.

“Thousands of US troops and tens of thousands of South Korean troops would be killed, and millions of refugees would crowd the highways. North Korean losses would be even higher. The intensity of combat would be greater than any the world has witnessed since the last Korean War,” the op-ed said.

The concerns about a costly battle in Seoul remain today.

Roger Cavazos of the Nautilus Institute found in a 2012 study that there would be about 3,000 casualties in the first few minutes of a conventional North Korean artillery barrage focused on South Korean forces and 64,000 in the first day.

A surprise volley fired indiscriminately could kill nearly 30,000 civilians, the study found.

North Korea could also fire its ballistic missiles at US, South Korean and Japanese forces (or civilian populations) throughout the region.

North Korea is mismatched when it comes to military technology and capability, experts say. And it’s believed that many of its armaments could be out of date or do not function properly, according to a 2016 five-part analysis on the North Korea threat from the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor.

Though North Korea’s air force and navy pale in comparison to those of the United States, both pose a threat, according to Stratfor.

“Even without the nuclear threat, attacking North Korea guarantees massive destruction in return,” the Stratfor analysis said.

Nuclear threat

If full-scale war broke out, a primary concern for the US would be to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear threat.

The US Air Force might use 24 F-22 tactical fighters — which can carry two 450-kilogram (1,000 pounds) bombs — and 10 B-2 bombers — which can deploy massive bombs to reach underground bunkers — to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure, according to Stratfor.

“Because of their unique properties, these expensive, stealthy platforms would form the backbone of any anti-nuclear operations,” it said.

The United States would also rely on its Tomahawk cruise missiles, incredibly precise weapons that can be fired from sea hundreds of miles away from their target, though collateral damage would likely also be an issue.

“The US Navy (with enough time to prepare) can surreptitiously park two of its four Ohio-class cruise missile submarines off the North Korean coast,” according to Stratfor. “When combined with destroyers and cruisers from the 7th Fleet already in the area, the United States could use more than 600 cruise missiles for the mission.”

A crucial problem is intelligence — it’s not clear exactly how many nuclear weapons the reclusive communist state has or precisely where they are.

The United States has a tough time gathering that sort of information on North Korea; former CIA Director Michael Hayden has called North Korea the toughest intelligence target on the planet.

Without this information, the US could fail to completely eliminate North Korea’s rapidly progressing nuclear threat in the first throes of a war, potentially unable to stop an attack on the US mainland.

“Before the end of President Trump’s current term, the North Koreans will probably be able to reach Seattle with an indigenously produced nuclear weapon aboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,” said Hayden.

What comes after war

A conventional war would likely lead to Kim’s ouster if Beijing — Pyongyang’s only real ally — did not intervene on North Korea’s behalf.

It’s believed North Korea’s policy makers recognize this. Though they will engage in provocative actions like missile launches, they tread with some caution to avoid a military response from adversaries.

“At the end of the day, North Korea’s top priority is regime security and regime survival. So it will take every measure possible to make sure that it does not cross any American red lines,” said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

Even if the US and South Korea were able to swiftly topple the Kim regime, there would be a series of complications in the aftermath of a war.

Pyongyang’s nuclear material would likely be less secure and could fall into the wrong hands. Conflict could spark a refugee crisis. And a change in the region’s balance of power could be followed by countries jockeying for more power, fueling instability.

“The result of a North Korean regime collapse would be catastrophic and may trigger a dangerous race between China and the US-ROK (Republic of Korea) forces attempting to secure strategic and symbolic locations such as the Yongbyon nuclear facility and Pyongyang,” Andrew Injoo Park and Kongdan Oh wrote for the National Bureau of Asian Research.

China worries about both of those, especially the latter.

Beijing values Pyongyang as a strategic buffer between itself and US-allied South Korea. If North Korea were to fall, it could lead to a US-allied unified Korea, with US troops right on China’s border.

In Seoul, policy makers worry about the cost — a 2014 estimate from the South Korean National Assembly Budget Office found that reunification could cost as much as $9.2 trillion over 45 years — and a decline in popularity of reunification.

“Younger generations that did not personally experience the Korean War and the initial division of the peninsula do not see the imperative for unification, particularly during an economic downturn,” said Kuyoun Chung, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

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Why North Korea, US don’t want all-out war

It’s been a tense six months on the Korean Peninsula and many North Korea watchers believe the situation is dangerous.

But it hasn’t reached the brink yet, and that’s likely because President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and their respective advisers are aware of the immense cost of the Korean War, which started 67 years ago Sunday.

“If this goes to a military solution, it is going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said at a news conference last month.

The Korean War, which technically never ended, led to the deaths of about 600,000 North Korean and 1 million South Korean civilians, along with hundreds of thousands of troops.

The legacy of the war lives on in North Korea, where it’s still used as a key piece of propaganda for the Kim regime. American fighter jets blanketed the country with about 625,000 tons of bombs on North Korea, killing 20% of the country’s population, according to one estimate.

If the conflict reignited, it could be even more cataclysmic this time around with the specter of nuclear weapons looming.

“The threat of war on the peninsula — major war or a limited war — has been present off and on since the end of the Korean War,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN. “Both the United States historically and also North Korea have proved that they can demonstrate restraint, de-escalate a crisis (and) step back from the brink of war … They’re both interested in avoiding a war that would be in nobody’s interest.”

The heart of Seoul

While the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula could escalate quickly, there are a handful of scenarios that could play out, ranging from something as calamitous as nuclear strike to small-scale artillery attacks that do not devolve into all-out war, which happened in 2010.

“Part of the difficulty of discussing something like this is there’s a wide range of possible contingencies that vary widely in terms of the outlook in terms of how damaging they are,” Mount said. “The challenge is to try to control escalation.”

The biggest danger is in densely-populated cities, places like Seoul (urban area population around 9.7 million) or Tokyo (urban area population around 38 million).

Nuclear strikes on those capitals would be catastrophic in terms of loss of life, but an attack using conventional weapons could kill tens of thousands of people too.

“Combat in another Korean War would take place in Seoul’s crowded suburbs. While our war planners estimated that US and South Korean forces would contain the North Korean advance north of Seoul, the price of defense would be heavy,” Ash Carter and William Perry, two former US defense secretaries, wrote in a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post.

“Thousands of US troops and tens of thousands of South Korean troops would be killed, and millions of refugees would crowd the highways. North Korean losses would be even higher. The intensity of combat would be greater than any the world has witnessed since the last Korean War,” the op-ed said.

The concerns about a costly battle in Seoul remain today.

Roger Cavazos of the Nautilus Institute found in a 2012 study that there would be about 3,000 casualties in the first few minutes of a conventional North Korean artillery barrage focused on South Korean forces and 64,000 in the first day.

A surprise volley fired indiscriminately could kill nearly 30,000 civilians, the study found.

North Korea could also fire its ballistic missiles at US, South Korean and Japanese forces (or civilian populations) throughout the region.

North Korea is mismatched when it comes to military technology and capability, experts say. And it’s believed that many of its armaments could be out of date or do not function properly, according to a 2016 five-part analysis on the North Korea threat from the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor.

Though North Korea’s air force and navy pale in comparison to those of the United States, both pose a threat, according to Stratfor.

“Even without the nuclear threat, attacking North Korea guarantees massive destruction in return,” the Stratfor analysis said.

Nuclear threat

If full-scale war broke out, a primary concern for the US would be to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear threat.

The US Air Force might use 24 F-22 tactical fighters — which can carry two 450-kilogram (1,000 pounds) bombs — and 10 B-2 bombers — which can deploy massive bombs to reach underground bunkers — to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure, according to Stratfor.

“Because of their unique properties, these expensive, stealthy platforms would form the backbone of any anti-nuclear operations,” it said.

The United States would also rely on its Tomahawk cruise missiles, incredibly precise weapons that can be fired from sea hundreds of miles away from their target, though collateral damage would likely also be an issue.

“The US Navy (with enough time to prepare) can surreptitiously park two of its four Ohio-class cruise missile submarines off the North Korean coast,” according to Stratfor. “When combined with destroyers and cruisers from the 7th Fleet already in the area, the United States could use more than 600 cruise missiles for the mission.”

A crucial problem is intelligence — it’s not clear exactly how many nuclear weapons the reclusive communist state has or precisely where they are.

The United States has a tough time gathering that sort of information on North Korea; former CIA Director Michael Hayden has called North Korea the toughest intelligence target on the planet.

Without this information, the US could fail to completely eliminate North Korea’s rapidly progressing nuclear threat in the first throes of a war, potentially unable to stop an attack on the US mainland.

“Before the end of President Trump’s current term, the North Koreans will probably be able to reach Seattle with an indigenously produced nuclear weapon aboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,” said Hayden.

What comes after war

A conventional war would likely lead to Kim’s ouster if Beijing — Pyongyang’s only real ally — did not intervene on North Korea’s behalf.

It’s believed North Korea’s policy makers recognize this. Though they will engage in provocative actions like missile launches, they tread with some caution to avoid a military response from adversaries.

“At the end of the day, North Korea’s top priority is regime security and regime survival. So it will take every measure possible to make sure that it does not cross any American red lines,” said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

Even if the US and South Korea were able to swiftly topple the Kim regime, there would be a series of complications in the aftermath of a war.

Pyongyang’s nuclear material would likely be less secure and could fall into the wrong hands. Conflict could spark a refugee crisis. And a change in the region’s balance of power could be followed by countries jockeying for more power, fueling instability.

“The result of a North Korean regime collapse would be catastrophic and may trigger a dangerous race between China and the US-ROK (Republic of Korea) forces attempting to secure strategic and symbolic locations such as the Yongbyon nuclear facility and Pyongyang,” Andrew Injoo Park and Kongdan Oh wrote for the National Bureau of Asian Research.

China worries about both of those, especially the latter.

Beijing values Pyongyang as a strategic buffer between itself and US-allied South Korea. If North Korea were to fall, it could lead to a US-allied unified Korea, with US troops right on China’s border.

In Seoul, policy makers worry about the cost — a 2014 estimate from the South Korean National Assembly Budget Office found that reunification could cost as much as $9.2 trillion over 45 years — and a decline in popularity of reunification.

“Younger generations that did not personally experience the Korean War and the initial division of the peninsula do not see the imperative for unification, particularly during an economic downturn,” said Kuyoun Chung, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

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Intel drones, virtual reality headed to 2018 Olympics

The next Olympic Games will be a spectacle of modern technology.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday announced a new partnership with Intel that will run through 2024. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker will provide drones, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 360-degree video platforms to help capture Olympic events.

The partnership will start with the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

The news comes one week after McDonald’s parted ways with the Olympics after a four decade long sponsorship. McDonald’s has worked with the Olympics since 1968.

Although technology at the Olympics is nothing new, it will play a bigger role in broadcasting games. For example, Intel said home viewers will be able to choose viewing points at Olympic venues, such as front row seats, through virtual reality and 360 video.

Drones will also become more prominent at the Olympics. Intel hasn’t announced the various ways it will use the technology but noted they’ll create “images in the sky,” likely during the opening ceremony. Intel-powered drones were used in Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show this year.

“Drones are excellent for light shows, filming at different angles and moving something light from point A to point B,” Intel chief strategy officer Aicha Evans told CNN Tech.

Evans said Intel’s technology will also help athletes and coaches. For example, coaches could use virtual reality to closely analyze an athletes’ performance from different angles, Evans said.

The sponsorship builds on Intel’s bigger push into sports. The company recently announced a three-year deal with Major League Baseball to use its True VR platform to broadcast live games and show highlights and on-demand replays.

Intel has also partnered with the National Football League. During Super Bowl LI in 2017, its “Be the Player” perspective, shown via 360 video, provided a point-of-view shot from any player on the field.

The Olympics Committee’s move is part of a greater effort to attract a younger audience amid declining viewership.

“The average audience age in traditional TV continues to go up. [Younger people] consume it off of different platforms and in different ways,” Timo Lumme, IOC managing director of TV and marketing services, told CNN Tech. “We know these technologies will engage a younger demographic.”

Technology continues to have a growing presence at the Olympics. In recent years, photographers have used 3D cameras and underwater robots to capture unique shots.

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