December 22, 2017 / 1:34 PM / a year ago

Friday Morning Breifing

The State Department has told refugee agencies to cut U.S. offices, Catalan separatists win shock narrow victory and a Reuters Special Report reveals how a Belgian businessman cashing in on selling passports in Africa.

A flock of birds fly past the Marine One helicopter with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard, as he returns to the White House after a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Washington

Exclusive: The U.S. State Department has told refugee agencies it will sharply pare back the number of offices across the country authorized to resettle people in 2018 as President Donald Trump cuts the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

In the Fox & Hound sports bar, next to a shopping mall in suburban Philadelphia, four Democrats are giving speeches to potential voters as they begin their journey to try to unseat Republican congressman Pat Meehan in next year’s elections.

Callista Gingrich, wife of the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, became U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, which is at odds with Washington over immigration, climate change and Jerusalem.

The U.S. Congress on Thursday averted a government shutdown just one day before federal funding was due to expire.

U.N.

More than 120 countries defied President Donald Trump on Thursday and voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for the United States to step back from its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after the United Nations voted against the move despite what he called “ugly and unforgivable” U.S. threats.

Newly proposed sanctions on North Korea could have a significant effect on the isolated country’s already struggling economy, analysts said.

The U.N refugee agency accused Australia of abandoning hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Special Report

Passport to riches: How to make millions selling passports to Africa.

People react to results in Catalonia's regional elections at a gathering of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) in Barcelona, Spain December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea

World

Separatists looked set to regain power in Catalonia after voters rejected Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s attempt to defuse the independence movement, instead re-igniting the country’s biggest political crisis in decades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of plotting to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, which bans short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles.

China urged the United States not to set itself up as a “human rights judge” and denounced the U.S. Treasury Department for punishing a Chinese public security official for alleged rights abuses.

Some human rights advocates say press freedom is under attack in Myanmar, even though decades of rule by a junta that tightly controlled the media has given way to a government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson told his Russian counterpart there was “abundant evidence” of Moscow meddling in foreign elections, but said any Russian efforts to interfere in last year’s Brexit referendum had fallen flat.

Commentary: Making sense of North Korea's hacking strategy. North Korea has consistently used cyber attacks as a distraction from its nuclear program, write cyber security experts Donghui Park and Jessica L. Beyer. One major cause of concern: a recent attempt to penetrate U.S. electric companies by hackers believed to be associated with the Kim Jong Un regime. "In attempting to penetrate the U.S. grid, North Korea is following the same playbook that it developed against South Korea," say Park and Beyer.

Business

Startup companies came away with a significant victory in the U.S. tax overhaul - a chance to defer the often-onerous tax bill that is attached to company stock options.

The tax overhaul is a boon to Silicon Valley technology companies like Apple and Alphabet, which will enjoy big tax cuts and the chance to bring back billions of dollars from overseas at a reduced rate.

OPEC and Russia will exit from oil production cuts very smoothly, possibly extending the curbs in some form to avoid creating any new surplus in the market, the Russian energy minister told Reuters.

Robot growing pains: Two U.S. factories show tensions of going digital.

Bitcoin plunges below $13,000, heads for worst week since 2013.

Swiss drugmaker Roche to buy U.S. cancer drugmaker Ignyta for $1.7 billion.

Reuters TV: Lotte chief gets suspended prison sentence.

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