December 28, 2018 / 2:02 PM / 2 months ago

Friday Morning Briefing

Congress meets briefly but takes no steps to end partial federal government shutdown, mystery hacker steals data on 1,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea and China allows first-ever U.S. rice imports. Catch up the latest headlines.

Highlights

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, more Americans blame President Trump than congressional Democrats for the partial U.S. government shutdown, as the closure stretched into its sixth day with no end in sight.

The Trump administration has decided it cannot authorize new flood insurance policies, potentially putting thousands of home sales in limbo. They cited the partial shutdown of the federal government due to a budget impasse in Congress. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees a federal program that insures about 5 million homes and businesses, posted a notice on its website that the program will not be able to “issue new contracts for flood insurance during a lapse in authority unless Congress passes legislation.”

U.S. Border

Catarina Alonzo (C), mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, a 8-year-old boy detained alongside his father for illegally entering the U.S., who fell ill and died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), reacts at her home in the village of Yalambojoch, Guatemala December 27, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

Between heavy sobs, Catarina Alonzo explained that when her husband left Guatemala to try to reach the United States, they hoped taking their 8-year-old son would make it easier for the pair to get in. Instead, the boy fell ill and died. Detained on the U.S. border, Felipe Gomez Alonzo died late on Christmas Eve in a New Mexico hospital a few weeks after setting off with his father, becoming the second Guatemalan child to die this month while in U.S. custody.

On the long journey from Central America to U.S. soil, many migrants have taken solace in their religion. Several 'caravans' of mostly Honduran migrants who made the trek this year faced arduous conditions, braving fierce heat by day and searching for a safe place to sleep at night. Many regard their faith as their compass.

World

The personal information of nearly 1,000 North Koreans who defected to South Korea has been leaked after unknown hackers got access to a resettlement agency’s database, the South Korean Unification Ministry said. “The malware was planted through emails sent by an internal address,” a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

As moves toward peace pick up in Afghanistan, the Taliban are trying to show they have changed since the brutal days of the 1990s when they banned music and girls’ education and carried out public executions in Kabul’s football stadium.

A Spanish charity rescue ship docked in Algeciras port in southern Spain, bringing ashore more than 300 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea one week ago. Several European countries, including Malta and Italy, had refused entry to the Proactiva Open Arms vessel although a mother and her newborn baby were taken by helicopter to Malta.

Breakingviews

China and the United States’ global Cold War has an increasingly important theatre: Africa. On different metrics Uncle Sam and the Middle Kingdom can claim to be the continent’s biggest player. In 2019, China will pull ahead, writes Ed Cropley, former Reuters Africa bureau chief and Breakingviews Africa columnist.

Business

Stocks in Europe and Asia rose cautiously after Wall Street ended a volatile session with big gains, but fears of further price swings and worries about U.S. politics kept safe-haven currencies such as the yen and Swiss franc in demand.

Oil prices rebounded, recovering slightly from heavy losses this week, but remained close to the lowest levels in over a year as rising U.S. inventories and concern over global economic growth rattled markets.

China has opened the door to imports of rice from the United States for the first time ever in what analysts took to signal a warming of relations between the world’s two biggest economies after a frosty year marked by tensions and tit-for-tat tariffs.

Chile will delay a previously announced arbitration with Albemarle, the world’s top lithium producer, in anticipation that the U.S.-based miner will make a new offer to bring it into compliance with a 2016 contract, a source close to the negotiations told Reuters.

Reuters TV

A transformer explosion at an electric power station in the New York City borough of Queens has led police officials to warn people to avoid the area, after social media users posted images of a bright light on the horizon.

New York substation fire lights up the night sky
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