January 14, 2019 / 4:06 PM / 8 months ago

Monday Morning Briefing

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince in Riyadh, the deadly winter storm that clobbered the Midwest and East Coast over the weekend is blowing out to sea and protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in a suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. Catch up on the lateset headlines. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 14, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool

U.S. Middle East Policy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince in Riyadh. The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh tweeted that Pompeo and the crown prince had agreed on the need for a continued de-escalation in Yemen. Pompeo also said that Saudi leaders assured him everyone responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be held accountable. Other stops on his trip around the Middle East included Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Doha, but a State Department spokesman says the rest of the trip will be cut short as Pompeo will return to the U.S. to attend a family funeral.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria. Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained over U.S. backing for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party that is waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil. The lira slid as much as 1.6 percent to 5.5450 against the dollar.

Last fall the White House’s national security team asked the Pentagon to provide it with options for striking Iran. The request came after a group of militants aligned with Tehran fired mortars into an area in Baghdad that is home to the U.S. Embassy, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday. The Wall Street Journal reported that it was not clear whether the options were provided to the White House, whether President Donald Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.

Highlights

Steam rises from Duke Energy’s Marshall Power Plant in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, U.S. November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

President Trump has not stopped U.S. coal plants from shutting down, despite campaign promises. More U.S. coal-fired power plants were shut in President Donald Trump’s first two years than were retired in the whole of Barack Obama’s first term, despite the Republican’s efforts to prop up the industry. In total, more than 23,400 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation were shut in 2017-2018 versus 14,900 MW in 2009-2012, according to data from Reuters and the U.S. Energy Information Administration

A judge in California on Sunday partially blocked a set of Trump administration rules that allow employers to opt out of providing health insurance that covers women’s birth control from taking effect. “Today’s court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The deadly winter storm that clobbered the Midwest and East Coast over the weekend is blowing out to sea. It leaves behind as much as 13 inches of snow in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Despite the strom’s retreat “up north it’s going to stay cold,” said Jim Hayes, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

The Republican head of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Sunday he plans to ask the FBI about a report it launched a probe into whether President Donald Trump had been working on Russia’s behalf, suggesting the agency may have gone too far. “If this really did happen, Congress needs to know about it,” said Senator Lindsey Graham said on the “Fox News Sunday” program, adding “how could the FBI do that? What kinds of checks and balances are there?”

World

Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in a suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on Monday, two days after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a massive fuel price hike in an effort to stem a deepening economic crisis. Cash shortages have plunged Zimbabwe’s economy into disarray, threatening widespread social unrest and undermining efforts to win back foreign investors.

People run at a protest as barricades burn during rainfall in Harare, Zimbabwe January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Indonesian divers have found crashed Lion Air jet's second black box. Indonesian authorities will download on Monday the contents of a cockpit voice recorder from a Lion Air jet that crashed more than two months ago, killing all 189 people on board. The crash was the world’s first of a Boeing Co 737 MAX jet and the deadliest of 2018.

The United Nations has called on the Myanmar government to allow “rapid and unimpeded” humanitarian access to Rakhine State. Fighting between government troops and autonomy-seeking rebels has displaced thousands of people. The Rakhine State government issued a notice last week blocking non-governmental organizations and U.N. agencies from traveling to rural areas in five townships in the northern and central parts of the state affected by the conflict.

Commentary: No, Brexit Britain doesn't want its empire back. One of the most common fantasies about the mindset of those who voted for Brexit is that they are hopelessly mired in longing for Britain's past glory, writes columnist John Lloyd. "Yet no body of opinion, no organization, no individual capable of thought wants an empire." While tensions and racism do exist, "they did not define British society before Brexit, and do not now."

Business

Containers and trucks are seen on a snowy day at an automated container terminal in Qingdao port, Shandong province, China December 10, 2018, Picture take December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December, while imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand. 

Saudi Arabia plans to develop a $2 billion solar and carbon black integrated complex in partnership with China’s Longi and South Korea’s OCI, a Saudi official said.

Newmont Mining Corp said on Monday that it would buy smaller rival Goldcorp Inc in a deal valued at $10 billion, creating the world’s biggest gold producer by output.

PG&E Corp said on Monday it is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for all of its businesses, as the company faces pressure from potentially crushing liabilities linked to catastrophic wildfires. The company shares tumbled 55 percent in early trading.

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