Japanese Emperor Akihito, in his final remarks as his three-decade reign drew to a close on Tuesday, thanked the people for their support and expressed hope for a peaceful future. Akihito, 85, the first monarch to abdicate in two centuries, had sought to ease the painful memories of World War Two and bring the monarchy closer to the people, including those marginalized in society. The popular Akihito was the first monarch to take the Chrysanthemum Throne under a post-war constitution that defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power.
The shadowy leader of the Islamic State group claimed to appear for the first time in five years in a video released by the extremist group’s propaganda arm on Monday, acknowledging defeat in the group’s last stronghold in Syria but vowing a “long battle” ahead. The man said to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the video also claimed the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka which killed over 250 people were “part of the revenge” that awaits the West. Despite numerous claims about his death in the past few years, al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
A US Army veteran has been arrested as he was in the final stages of a plan to bomb a white supremacist rally in California, say authorities. Muslim convert Mark Domingo, 26, also allegedly plotted terror attacks on Jews, churches and police in revenge for the New Zealand mosque shootings. According to court documents, the former infantryman with combat experience in Afghanistan took steps to build and detonate a weapon of mass destruction. He allegedly expressed a willingness to become a “martyr” in an attack.
The US Navy sailed two destroyers, the USS Stethem and USS William P. Lawrence, through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, referring to the operation as a “routine” transit. While Chinese vessels shadowed the US warships during the transit, officials said that all interactions were “safe and professional.” The Trump administration has sought to make the Taiwan Strait transits more routine, with the operations now taking place on a monthly basis. The approximately 110-mile-wide strait, which separates the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, is seen as a potential geopolitical flashpoint should Beijing ever seek to take the island of Taiwan by force.
The head of NASA has warned that it is time to take the threat of an Earth-destroying asteroid seriously. Jim Bridenstine spoke as the space agency began its planetary defense conference exercises, based around the hypothetical scenario of an asteroid impact. NASA’s administrator expressed concern that similar warnings have historically prompted amusement and said that asteroid collisions were more common than people believed. Planetary defense and astronomical experts have warned against humanity destroying large asteroids with nuclear weapons out of the concern that they would simply shatter into smaller dangerous pieces.