January 11, 2019 / 3:07 PM / 4 months ago

Friday Morning Briefing

Impact on U.S. government widens on 21st day of shutdown, Myanmar court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters reporters and China to set lower GDP growth target. Catch up on the latest headlines

U.S. Government Shutdown

President Donald Trump was considering declaring a national emergency that would likely escalate a policy dispute with Democrats over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall into a court test of presidential power. Critics of the national emergency strategy have said it may be illegal. In any case, it was almost certain to trigger an immediate court challenge from Democrats, including an accusation of trying to circumvent Congress’ power over the national purse strings.

Federal law enforcement agencies that keep Americans safe are starting to feel the strain of the U.S. government shutdown, in its 21st day, with agents working for no pay and investigations delayed, law enforcement officials said. Some 800,000 employees from the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, among others, have been furloughed or are working without pay. Private contractors working for many government agencies are also without pay and private companies that rely on business from federal workers or other consumers - such as national park visitors - are affected across the country. Take a look at what departments are being worst affected around the federal government.

Asia

China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6-6.5 percent in 2019 compared with last year’s target of “around” 6.5 percent, policy sources told Reuters, as Beijing gears up to cope with higher U.S. tariffs and weakening domestic demand.

Despite more than a year of international engagement and promises of economic reform by North Korea’s leaders, the human rights situation in the isolated country remains dire, a top U.N. rights official said. U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea Tomas Quintana visited South Korea this week as part of an investigation that will be provided to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

Commentary

Israel boycott ban is not about free speech: U.S. senators may soon vote on whether state governments can withhold contracts or investments from companies that boycott Israel. While 26 states already have laws to this effect, this should not be seen as a free speech issue, writes Zach Schapira, executive director of the J’accuse Coalition for Justice. “While First Amendment arguments must be evaluated in these lawsuits [against the legislation], ignoring the well-established distinction between speech and action grossly misrepresents the controversy.”

World

Reuters journalist Wa Lone leaves after listening to the verdict at Insein court in Yangon, Myanmar, September 3, 2018. REUTERS/Myat Thu Kyaw

A Myanmar court rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act, saying the defense had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been imprisoned in Myanmar for 396 days: follow updates on the case.

Two of the biggest donors to the Brexit campaign say they now believe the project they championed will eventually be abandoned by the government and the United Kingdom will stay in the European Union.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State has begun the process of withdrawing from Syria, a spokesman said, indicating the start of a U.S. pullout that has been clouded by mixed messages from Washington. The coalition “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria. Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements,” Colonel Sean Ryan said.

Business

Goldman Sachs is considering paying big multinational corporations more for their deposits than other banks as it paves the way for its entry into a mundane but prized business: managing cash.

Several Chinese electronics retailers including Alibaba-backed Suning and JD.com have slashed iPhone prices this week, after Apple recently blamed poor sales of the smartphone in the country for a rare revenue warning.

Santander’s increasing reliance on Brazil shows how emerging markets can still provide a jolt of growth. The Brazilian unit contributed 26 percent of group profits in the first nine months of 2018, up from 19 percent four years ago. Santander Brasil’s stock price has surged more than two thirds in the last 12 months, vastly outperforming the shares of its parent company, as well as those of Itau and Bradesco.

France’s response to “yellow vest” protests could be a turning point for euro zone bond markets if it kicks off an era of increased public borrowing in the bloc and loads additional debt on to a market already nervous over the removal of European Central Bank stimulus.

Reuters TV

The excitement over self-driving cars has brought an explosion of startups to the race, and industry sources say the competition is going to get fierce.

Tech rivals set for clash over self-driving cars
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