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National
British police respond to incident at London’s Oxford Circus station
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British police respond to incident at London’s Oxford Circus station

British police respond to incident at London’s Oxford Circus station
Photo Credit: AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images
Police set up a cordon outside Oxford Circus underground station as they respond to an incident in central London on November 24, 2017. British police said they were responding to an "incident" at Oxford Circus in central London on Friday and have evacuated the Underground station, in an area thronged with people on a busy shopping day. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

British police respond to incident at London’s Oxford Circus station

British police said they were responding to reports of an incident at the Oxford Circus subway station, one of London’s busiest, Friday evening.

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  • A family of three was found dead inside of a home in the Regency area late Tuesday.  A man, woman, and toddler daughter were found inside the home on India Avenue by JFRD. Firefighters forced entry into the home near Woodland Acres Elementary School and discovered the bodies and could see that a Christmas tree had caught on fire and burned. The bodies and any evidence are covered in smoke and soot. “We do suspect foul play, but the investigation is in its very early stages and we don’t have much information at this point”, said JSO Sgt. David Smith.   There were no signs of forced entry.   The identities of the victims have not been released by police. 
  • National Transportation Safety Board investigators are finding fault in the Alternate Compliance Program inspection protocol, the use of open lifeboats, training and oversight by the El Faro’s owner and operator, the Captain’s decision making, and many other areas, among their findings and recommendations following a more than two year investigation in to the sinking of the Jacksonville cargo ship. 33 people died when El Faro took on water, lost propulsion, and ultimately sank in Hurricane Joaquin. FULL COVERAGE:The sinking of El Faro NTSB staff spent all day Tuesday presenting 80 draft findings and 53 draft recommendations, while also fielding questions from Board members. The Board unanimously approved those, although Board Member Bella Dinh-Zarr dissented to an additional finding which said the ship’s officers should have been more forceful in how they communicated deteriorating conditions to the Captain. They’ve also approved a probable cause for the sinking, which heavily cites El Faro’s Master, Captain Michael Davidson for not avoiding Hurricane Joaquin, failing to use the most recent weather information, and more. NTSB Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt made it clear from the outset that the investigative staff took on a “herculean effort”, and the work they’ve produced will make a difference. “This report will be studied by mariners young and old for many years, and I’m confident that this tragedy at sea, and the lessons from this investigation, will help improve safety for future generations of mariners,” he says. NTSB Investigators gave technical and detailed presentations of Factual Reports they’ve produced through the course of this investigation, all of which raised some serious questions. Investigator-In-Charge Brian Young also presented a video describing the sinking. El Faro is one of many commercial vessels that are inspected under the Alternate Compliance Program. This allows the ship’s Alternate Class Society- in this case the American Bureau of Shipping- to conduct inspections on behalf of the Coast Guard, in order to better use resources and avoid redundancies. “Staff believes that the Coast Guard’s Alternate Compliance Program is not effective in ensuring that vessels meet the safety standards required by regulations, and many vessels enrolled in the program are likely to be operating in substandard conditions,” says Young. ABS tells WOKV they’ve worked closely with the NTSB through this process and will continue to do so. “While ABS has not yet had the opportunity to review all the NTSB recommendations, ABS supports all recommendations that effectively enhance safety and will continue working with the U.S. Coast Guard on improvements in the Alternate Compliance Program,” says a statement from ABS. Among the testing that is done, Young is proposing having that go further. With El Faro’s sinking, it’s believed that the severe list led to a loss of suction in the lube oil sump, and ultimately a loss of propulsion. While the ship operated above the minimal required lube oil levels, they were generally below what’s recommended. Investigators believe the crew didn’t know about the vulnerability of the lube oil sump suction with a severe list and were not instructed to alter that to accommodate for expected heavy weather.  NTSB investigators want to increase awareness of design factors like that, while also pushing the testing limitations to determine the minimal operating levels to more extreme conditions, including list. While there was a loss of propulsion, investigators don’t believe the ship lost power. FULL COVERAGE: Detailing the NTSB Group Chairman’s Factual Reports Another factor in the sinking is the amount of water that got on board, contributing to the list. It’s believed water first came in through various openings, but then moved through an open scuttle, although the NTSB has not been able to determine why that scuttle was open. They are now recommending that openings like this be outfitted with remote sensors that would show in a manned area- like on the bridge- whether they are open. The water that got in is believed to have made a large cargo deck more slick, and- when combined with vehicle cargo lashings that did not comply with the company’s lashing manual- investigators believe automobiles were able to break loose, and likely hit the fire main that was improperly guarded, and further precipitated the flow of water through the ship.  At the Captain’s orders, the crew tried to offset the initial list by transferring ballast, but when the Captain then turned the ship to use wind to help offset the list as well, the totality led to an overcorrection. The list shifted to the other side, where it was apparently never remedied. An additional vulnerability that allowed water to get in is the ventilation trunks. NTSB investigators found that the ship’s Certificate of Inspection required those to be open, for the purpose of ventilating cargo holds. They also found, however, that those openings were considered to be watertight or weather tight for the purpose of ship stability- and therefore should have been closed at certain times. Investigators say they don’t believe the crew was aware of this conflict or vulnerability, and water was likely able to get on to the ship through these openings, in the conditions she was facing. A proposed recommendation would outfight all cargo holds with bilge alarms, to more quickly and precisely detect flooding on board. The weather conditions are a main factor not only in the sinking, but the ability of the crew to survive once the call was made to abandon ship. Investigators do not believe El Faro’s lifeboats were ever launched, and in fact on the Voyage Data Recorder, the Captain can be heard calling for the life rafts to be put in the water. “If you’re in such extreme conditions, is there any way out at that point?” asked NTSB Member Christopher Hart. “It was very challenging, but we think the best way to have survived this was to have current equipment, and that would have been enclosed lifeboats, and in particular, the stern-launched lifeboat,” says Jon Furukawa, with the Survival Factors Group. The open-style lifeboats aboard El Faro are not allowed on more modern ship designs, but they were grandfathered in for the ship. NTSB investigators are recommending all of these vessels be required to have enclosed lifeboats, even the ones that would have to be retrofitted. El Faro underwent a “major conversion” in the 1990s that could have meant their lifeboat system would have needed to be upgraded, but the NTSB staff says it appears that was waived because the ship’s lifeboat system itself wasn’t changed in the major modification. The NTSB believes work done on El Faro in 2005-06 should have been considered a “major conversion” as well, but was not. That also could have required the lifeboat systems be brought in to the modern era. Their recommendations also include outfitting crew with personal locating beacons and requiring the ship’s EPIRB to transmit location, in order to aid in search and rescue operations. Investigators say they believe the personal locating beacons would cost about $300-$400 each, and a locating EPIRB would be about $800. In terms of the information transferred by the beacons, there is inconsistency in how the location data is formatted. The NTSB Board was surprised to learn this was an issue that had never been identified  in the past, but staff has put forward a recommendation that would standardize that, and therefore lead to fewer vulnerabilities during the early phases of search and rescue. AUDIO: El Faro’s Captain describes “marine emergency” in final shoreside communication The crew may have also been inhibited in their attempt to safely abandon the ship because the Master, Captain Michael Davidson, took too long to muster them, according to the NTSB staff. Mike Kucharski, with the Operations Group, says there were several points where the crew should have been mustered- when flooding was discovered, when the ship lost propulsion, when they were having difficulty with the list, and when the flooding continued to worsen. He says crew could have helped investigate the cause of the flooding and potentially combat it. “By the time the Captain recognized the ship’s perilious condition and sounded signals to muster and abandon ship, it was too late for the crew to assist and to successfully abandon the vessel,” Kucharski says. Many of the Captain’s decisions are being questioned by the NTSB staff. Captured on the ship’s Voyage Data Recorder, or black box, are multiple attempts by officers to have Davidson alter El Faro’s course in the hours ahead of the sinking. Davidson turned down those suggestions and- despite receiving multiple calls- did not return to the bridge until a few hours before they ultimately went down. When asked why Davidson did not heed the warnings from his crew, Carrie Bell with the NTSB’s Human Factors Group said they believe this was because of several factors, including his prior experience with storms in the Alaskan trade and possible overconfidence from having come through risky situations.  DETAILED LOOK: El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder transcript “By not coming to the bridge as the Mates suggested, and by dismissing their suggestions to change course, the Captain missed opportunities to to reassess the situation and alter the voyage plan.  Given the responsibility of this position and the risk of the upcoming weather, it is difficult to explain how the Captain could have been absent from the bridge while the ship sailed in to a hurricane,” Bell says. The track and intensity forecasts for Hurricane Joaquin were inconsistent and had a large margin of error and there were issues with some of the processed weather information the Captain was relying on taking hours to come through and- in one case- containing outdated information. Despite that, the NTSB believes there was adequate data available to plan for this voyage. The Board said the Captain’s decision to leave on that final voyage with the storm brewing was low risk, but his voyage planning left them heading toward an intersection with the storm from the outset. Sumwalt questioned the responsibility of the crew in this type of situation to be more forceful in their suggestions. Bell says the focus of investigators was on the need for open communication and mutual respect, which is why one of the recommendations is to provide recurring training on Bridge Resource Management. Nonetheless, Sumwalt offered an additional finding- which was adopted by the Board- which says if the officers had been more forceful and direct in their communication with Davidson, it’s possible he could have assessed the situation differently. Some family members of the fallen El Faro crew were not happy with the vote. “For him to say the officers wasn’t aggressive enough trying to get the Captain’s attention, that was ridiculous. I mean, three phone calls when the Captain knows there’s a storm- what Captain wouldn’t come out of their room,” Claudia Shultz, the wife of El Faro’s Chief Mate Steve Shultz, told our partner Action News Jax while at the meeting in Washington DC. That breakdown in Bridge Resource Management is one of the reasons El Faro’s owner and operator- which both fall under the TOTE organization- have blame as well under the NTSB report. The company failed to enforce some of its manuals and guidelines, did not provide heavy weather assistance or route planning services, inconsistently evaluated key personnel, did not provide enough training, and other problems. “The company’s lack of oversight in critical aspects of safety management, including gaps in training for shipboard operations in severe weather, denoted a weak safety culture in the company and contributed to the sinking of El Faro,” says the NTSB’s findings. TOTE says they have fully supported the investigation and are eager to review the NTSB’s final report. “The investigation was complex. Assessing the large quantities of records and extensive testimony was a daunting task for these investigative teams. We appreciate the  time and effort both the Coast Guard and NTSB investigators expended in their efforts. The TOTE organization will carefully study the final Coast Guard and NTSB reports of investigation once they are formally issued. We as a company intend to learn everything possible from this accident and the resulting investigations to prevent anything similar from occurring in the future. We will also assist both investigative bodies in communicating lessons learned from the accident to the broader maritime industry,” says a statement from a TOTE Spokesperson. TOTE further says they remain focused on caring for the families of those who died in the sinking and protecting the mariners at sea now. There are also several factors that have been ruled out as contributing to the sinking, under the draft findings. It’s not believed there was any failure in El Faro’s hull. There is a significant crack that can be seen on the wreckage where she lies now, but investigators believe that was the result of impact with the ocean floor. The ship also lost the bridge and part of the deck, but that’s also believed to have been a result of the sinking, not a cause.  Additionally, there were five Polish nationals on El Faro performing work to prepare her to convert to the Alaska trade. NTSB investigators say there is no indication the work that riding gang was doing on board contributed to the sinking. With the NTSB’s investigation done, their attention is shifting to lobbying for change. “The recommendations we’ve adopted today, if acted upon, will result in a broad range of improvements to the safety or marine transportation. As a result of this investigation we’ve plotted a safer course for future generations of mariners. But it is up to the recipients of these recommendations to make a conscious choice, the right choice, to follow that course,” Sumwalt says. In all, 29 recommendations have been issued to the US Coast Guard, two to the Federal Communications Commission, one to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, nine to the International Association of Classification Societies, one to the American Bureau of Shipping, one to Furuno Electric Company, and ten to TOTE Services. FULL LIST: NTSB’s findings and recommendations from their El Faro sinking investigation These recommendations come in addition to several others already issued by the NTSB as a result of this investigation. Those came out earlier this year, directly addressing issues dealing with the safety of mariners at sea in heavy weather conditions. The NTSB issued those recommendations along with the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson was quick to commit to change. “The El Faro sinking was a tragedy. The NTSB’s findings clearly show that more can be done to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.  These recommendations coupled with the Coast Guard’s investigation set out a clear path for improving safety on our ships,” says a statement from Nelson, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Coast Guard. Family members want to make sure the talk will lead to action. “That’s why I’m so heavily involved coming back a nd forth, talking with the Coast Guard,  NTSB, and whoever else I need to talk to- that this cannot happen again,” Rochelle Hamm, wife of El Faro Able Seaman Frank Hamm, told our partner Action News Jax. “The Congress has the will to enact these as law.  Words and recommendations is fine, but actions speak louder than words,” Glen Jackson, brother of El Faro Able Seaman Jack Jackson told our partner Action News Jax while at the NTSB meeting. The NTSB fully participated in three two-week hearing sessions held by a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, which has also been probing the sinking. While the two bodies collaborated through much of the investigation, the NTSB also conducted their own interviews and analysis, and has been operating independently since the last hearing session.  The MBI has issued its Report of Investigation, which also found fault in the Captain and El Faro’s owner/operator, as well as the American Bureau of Shipping and the Coast Guard itself. The Commandant of the Coast Guard is currently reviewing that ROI to determine which of the recommendations and findings he concurs with and how to create change in those areas. There is no timeline on how long his review will last.
  • Sen. Al Franken said Thursday that he will resign 'in the coming weeks' from his seat in the U.S. Senate amid growing calls for him to step down after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. >> Read more trending news
  • Update 3:15 p.m. Dec. 11: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the allegations levied against President Donald Trump in a news briefing Monday, telling reporters that the president has “addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.” 'The American people knew this and voted for the president, and we feel like we're ready to move forward,' she said. 'This took place long before he was elected to be president and the people of this country had a decisive election.' Original report: At least four women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment called on Monday for a congressional investigation into Trump’s behavior, pointing to recent investigations announced into lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct. >> Read more trending news Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Lisa Boyne were among the more than a dozen women who accused Trump of sexual harassment in the run-up to last year’s election. “They’ve investigated other Congress members, so I think it only stands fair that (Trump) be investigated as well,” Holvey said Monday at a news conference. “I think also a nonpartisan investigation is very important, not just for him but for anybody that has allegations against them. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is how women are treated every day.” In a statement, White House officials dismissed the accusations as false and politically motivated. >> Related: Who is accusing Trump of sexual misconduct?  Leeds said she was motivated to speak out again in the wake of recent allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. “In some areas, the accusations of sexual aggression were being taken seriously. People were being held accountable. Except for our president,” Leeds said. “In fact, his staff made a big point of calling us all liars.” Earlier on Monday, Crooks, Leeds and Holvey appeared on “Megyn Kelly Today” to share their stories. Leeds said she shared her story because she 'wanted people to know what kind of person he is.” Holvey said his election despite the allegations against him made Trump’s inauguration day particularly difficult. “It was like the entire country said, ‘Meh, we don’t care that he’s like this,’” she said. Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant, told CNN last year that Trump inspected each woman during an event in New York City in the month before the contest.  'He would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat; we were just sexual objects; that we were not people,' Holvey told CNN. 'You know when a gross guy at the bar is checking you out? It's that feeling.' Crooks told The New York Times that she shook hands when she met Trump while working for a firm in Manhattan's Trump Tower in 2005. Crooks, then 22, said he wouldn't let go of her hand, kissed her cheeks, then kissed her 'directly on the mouth.' >> Related: Rep. John Conyers announces retirement in wake of sexual harassment allegations 'It was so inappropriate,' she told the Times. 'I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.' Leeds told The New York Times that Trump put his hands up her skirt after meeting her on a plane in the early 1980s. 'He was like an octopus,' she said. 'His hands were everywhere.' Boyne told The Huffington Post that Trump made models walk on a table during a dinner in New York in 1996. She told the news site Trump “stuck his head right underneath their skirts” and made crude comments about their underwear and genitalia. In a statement released Monday, White House officials called the accusations false. “The American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory (last year),” the statement said. “The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.” Crooks called the White House statement “laughable.”  “I think, if they were willing to investigate Sen. (Al) Franken, I think it’s only fair that they do the same for Trump,” Crooks said. >> Related: Al Franken will resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct Franken announced last week that he plans to resign in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him by several women. The Minnesota Democrat was accused of groping women as they posed for photos with him and forcibly kissing at least two women. He is one of three lawmakers who have announced their intention to leave office in weeks amid sexual misconduct scandals. Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, submitted his resignation last week after he was accused of sexually harassing several women who worked for him. Conyers, D-Michigan, denied the allegations but said he decided to retire because of health concerns. The 88-year-old congressman was hospitalized in Michigan earlier this month. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said last week that he plans to resign from his seat by the end of January after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating allegations of sexual harassment levied against him by his former employees.
  • More than 100 Democratic lawmakers are calling on the House Oversight Committee to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct levied against President Donald Trump, a group of female U.S. representatives said at a news conference Tuesday. >> Read more trending news More than a dozen women have accused the president of forced kissing, unwanted groping and making inappropriate sexual comments since 2015, when Trump announced his plan to run for office. The allegations span decades. The president has repeatedly denied the claims. The chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Florida, said Tuesday that “the time is right to get the truth” about the allegations. She said a letter requesting a congressional investigation had garnered more than 100 signatures from Democratic lawmakers by Tuesday afternoon. >> Related: Who is accusing Trump of sexual misconduct? “The #MeToo movement has arrived,” Frankel said. “Sexual abuse will not be tolerated, whether it’s by a Hollywood producer, the chef of a restaurant, a member of Congress or the president of the United States.” The letter, sent to the chair and vice chair of the House Oversight Committee, said that the president has made statements that have appeared to give credence to the allegations against him. “The President has boasted in public and in crude terms that he feels at liberty to perpetrate such conduct against women,” the letter said, referencing a 2005 video from “Access Hollywood” in which Trump could be heard making crude comments about women.  “Subsequently, Mr. Trump apologized and called it ‘locker room talk.’ He has since called all his accusers liars.” >> Related: Melania Trump defends husband's lewd comments about women as 'boy talk' Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan, the vice president of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, said Tuesday that Americans “deserve to have a thorough investigation that will reveal the facts.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the call for an investigation as unnecessary and unwanted by the American people. “The president has answered these questions,” she said Tuesday at a news briefing. “He has spoken to these accusations and denied and pushed that they are all false and fabricated accusations. Frankly, I think if Congress wants to spend time investigating things they should prob focus on some of the thins that the American people would really like to investigate, like how to secure our borders, how to defeat ISIS (or) how to pass tax reform that actually impacts them.” Four of Trump’s accusers on Monday called on Congress to investigate Trump’s behavior. Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Lisa Boyne first accused Trump of sexual harassment in the run-up to last year’s election. “They’ve investigated other Congress members, so I think it only stands fair that (Trump) be investigated as well,” Holvey said Monday at a news conference. “I think also a nonpartisan investigation is very important, not just for him but for anybody that has allegations against them. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is how women are treated every day.” The pressure to investigate Trump’s actions has grown as the “#MeToo” movement has encouraged more women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Earlier this month, three lawmakers announced their intention to resign or retire amid sexual harassment scandals. >> Related: Trump accusers call for congressional investigation into alleged sexual misconduct Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, announced last week that he plans to resign in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him by several women. He was accused of groping women as they posed for photos with him and forcibly kissing at least two people. Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, submitted his resignation last week after he was accused of sexually harassing several women who worked for him. Conyers, D-Michigan, denied the allegations but said he decided to retire because of health concerns. The 88-year-old congressman was hospitalized in Michigan earlier this month. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said last week that he plans to resign from his seat by the end of January after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating allegations of sexual harassment levied against him by his former employees.

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