June 5, 2017 Last Updated 7:47 am

London attacks create further uncertainty as UK voters go to polls Thursday; Gulf States cut diplomatic, travel ties to Qatar

Morning Brief: WWDC keynote, usually the top news in early June, now seen as trivial in a week where former FBI Director James Comey scheduled to testify to Congress

Today is the start of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, and in every year TNM has published, starting in 2010, that would would have to be the big news of the day. What new hardware will be unveiled, what will the next generation of iOS and macOS feature (WWDC is primarily a software event, but new hardware is always announced). But really, the world is in chaos now and so front paging whatever Tim Cook has to say probably isn’t going to happen later today — not unless he weighs on current events.

Where to begin?

Photo: London bridge by The Bei Posti used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The attacks on Saturday in London come at a critical time as the UK votes this Thursday in an election called by Prime Minister Theresa May in an attempt to increase her majority in parliament. Seeing Labour as weak under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, May hoped that she would get a giant mandate out of the vote.

But polls, taken before the attacks, showed the race tightening, and though few actually believed Labour could win, a blow out for the Tories began to look less likely.

Then the attacks. Generally, such an event would be expected to benefit the more conservative parties, but May was Home Secretary under David Cameron and seen as the person responsible for security issues. As a result, and likely because the one day halt to campaigning is over, several politicians on the left have called on May to resign over her handling of security issues, though there is clearly no prospect that May will heed the calls.

The Washington Post, Griff Witte and Karla Adam:

A poised yet angry Britain heads toward election as police carry out new raids

Following the May 22 attack in Manchester, Saturday night’s van-and-knife rampage was the second mass-casualty attack to intrude on the homestretch of a parliamentary campaign that was once thought certain to end in a landslide for Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives. The race has tightened in recent weeks, and terrorism has introduced an unexpected variable.

Rival party leaders lashed out at one another as the nation mourned. With her premiership on the line, May took an aggressive and combative tone Sunday, telling the nation that “enough is enough” and insisting that there is “far too much tolerance for extremism in our country.”

“Things need to change,” May said in a speech outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street.

The Independent, Ashley Cowburn:

Jeremy Corbyn calls for Theresa May to resign as Prime Minister for presiding over police cuts while Home Secretary

Jeremy Corbyn has called on Theresa May to resign as Prime Minister over her record on cuts to police numbers.

Speaking just three days before voters head to the polls in Britain at the general election, the Labour leader said he backed similar calls by “very responsible” people who are “very worried” about her record.

The call came after the Prime Minister faced mounting pressure on Monday and repeated questions from journalists over her record as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016.

Evening Standard: Officials face questions over why barriers were not built earlier
The Washington Post: London police chief rejects more cops with guns
The New York Times: After London Attack, Theresa May Finds Her Record on Terrorism Under Scrutiny

Following the London attacks President Trump went on Twitter and immediately advocated for his travel ban to be upheld by the Supreme Court. “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” the president tweeted. Critics immediately denounced the president for politicizing the attack in his response, in contrast to other world leaders whose first public pronouncements were to express condolences.

But it may be his follow-up tweets this morning he will most regret.

The problem is that those who are paid to legally defend the president’s executive orders have been trying to position them not as a travel ban, but as “extreme vetting” — a term which would imply that it is not an outright ban on travel but simply a security measure. Good luck with that argument now.

In fact, the courts have struck down his orders on travel precisely because the president’s own words contradict what his lawyers are arguing in court. From his campaign promise”for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” to his latest tweets, Trump’s own words have hurt his efforts to convince the courts, and much of the public, that his actions are not racially based.

A diplomatic row has blown up into much more today in the Middle East. Gulf states have severed diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar over its ties to the Islamic State and Hamas.

The small gulf state is home to an important US-UK military asset, Al Udeid Air Base, but Donald Trump, who visited Saudi Arabia last week, is seen as favoring that nation, something that may have inadvertently given a green light to today’s actions (and if so, one wonders if the president informed his military advisors that he had said something to this effect).

Qatar is surrounded by Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have cut off air travel and their ports to Qatar. Across the Persian Gulf is Iran, which many of the Gulf States, and the Trump administration, look to be increasing tensions with.

Qatar is also, it should be noted, the home of Al Jazeera, which Saudi Arabia and Egypt say were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring.

Now for the bizarre twist (you knew there would be one, right?): the email account of UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba, was hacked, likely by Russian hackers (again). The released emails purport to show ties between the UAE and Israel, both who see Iran as a threat.


Qatar row: Six countries cut links with Doha

Six Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region. They say Qatar backs militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of oil-rich Qatar.

The Intercept, Zaid Jilani, Ryan Grim:

Hacked Emails Show Top UAE Diplomat Coordinating With Pro-Israel Think Tank Against Iran

The email account of one of Washington’s most connected and influential foreign operatives has been hacked. A small tranche of those emails was sent this week to media outlets, including The Intercept, HuffPost and The Daily Beast, with the hacker promising to release a trove publicly.

The hotmail account belongs to the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and The Intercept can confirm it is the one he used for most Washington business. HuffPost confirmed at least one of the emails as authentic and the UAE has confirmed that Otaiba’s account was indeed hacked.

Reuters: Saudi, Egypt lead Arab states cutting Qatar ties, Iran blames Trump
The Washington Post: Libya, Maldives cuts ties with Qatar

Well, if you are still interested in watching or listening to today’s WWDC keynote, you can still do so from Apple’s event page.

Beyond the usual previews of changes to iOS, macOS and watchOS, it is expected that a MacBook refresh will be announced, a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and possibly a Siri-driven Bluetooth speaker. We’ll see, but it is hard to get too excited about any of this with the world burning.

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