January 31, 2019 / 6:05 PM / in 6 months

Thursday Morning Briefing

The toxic legacy of a California Naval base, China’s military-run space station in Argentina is a ‘black box’ and U.S. lawmakers move to curtail president’s power to levy tariffs. Catch up on the lastes headlines.

A caution sign with a radioactive symbol on it is seen on a condemned building on Treasure Island, near San Francisco, California, U.S., October 18, 2018. Picture taken October 18, 2018. To match Special Report USA-MILITARY/LEGACY REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Top News

Asthma, rashes, lumps, children’s hair loss and cancers: Scores of people who have lived on California’s Treasure Island have reported mysterious maladies amid allegations that the Navy exposed residents to radioactive and toxic materials for decades. Reuters examines what went wrong in the cleanup of a former base.

Senate hearings to probe unsafe housing of U.S. military families. The hearings come in response to a Reuters series that revealed a dark side of the U.S. Military Housing Privatization Initiative, the largest-ever corporate takeover of federal housing. Congress will hold hearings next month to ensure that “what we’re seeing now can never happen again,” said Michigan Democrat Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The blast of arctic cold that hit the U.S. Midwest this week will linger, but it’s pushing east and losing much of its bite. Videos this week showed boiling water freezing as it was tossed in the air in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and transit workers in Chicago setting fire to train tracks to keep them from locking up.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said that self-proclaimed hackers in Russia stole evidence in an attempt to tarnish its investigation of a firm charged with funding a Russian propaganda campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to limit the president’s power to levy import tariffs for national security reasons. The bills face an uncertain future but underscore bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill over the rising costs of the Trump administration’s trade policies.

China

Shrouded in secrecy, China’s military-run space station in Argentina has stirred unease among local residents and fueled conspiracy theories. The stated aim of China’s military-run space station in the Patagonian desert is peaceful space observation and exploration. But the compound operates with little apparent oversight by Argentine authorities.

China and the United States take the lead in the global competition to dominate artificial intelligence (AI), according to a study by the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization. The study found U.S. tech giant IBM had by far the biggest AI patent portfolio, with 8,920 patents, ahead of Microsoft with 5,930 and a group of mainly Japanese tech conglomerates. China accounted for 17 of the top 20 academic institutions involved in patenting AI.

World

Germany, France and Britain have officially set up a European mechanism to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent U.S. sanctions, two diplomats said. The EU has been preparing the system, in effect a clearing house that avoids monetary transfers in dollars between the EU and Iran, for months.

Residents of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais reacted with indifference and in many cases dismissal at a raft of measures mining giant Vale SA pledged to adopt in recent days in the wake of a dam burst that likely killed over 300 people. “Too Late” read the newspaper of record here, O Estado de Minas, after Vale said it would take up to 10 percent of its production offline and spend 5 billion reais ($1.36 billion) to decommission 10 dams like the one that collapsed at its Corrego do Feijao mine.

Russia and the United States failed to bridge their differences over a landmark Cold War-era arms treaty at last-ditch talks in Beijing, Russia’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

The bomber who blew himself up outside a Nairobi hotel last week, launching an attack that killed 21 people, was already so well-known to Kenyan police that they had emblazoned his face across billboards under the slogan “WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE”.

Business

Soothing sounds from the Federal Reserve propelled world stocks to their best January on record, although having scored stellar gains this time last year only to flop spectacularly, traders were trying not to get too carried away.

General Motors said late it will temporarily suspend operations at 11 Michigan plants and its Warren Tech Center after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas during extreme winter cold.

Tesla’s chief financial officer will leave the company as the automaker promised cheaper Model 3 sedans, the launch of Chinese production this year and profits in every quarter in 2019.

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