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Wednesday Morning Briefing
November 1, 2017 / 11:41 AM / 17 days ago

Wednesday Morning Briefing

Authorities brand the vehicle attack in New York an act of terrorism, bitcoin climbs to a new high and an exclusive report reveals the United States is pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korea.

Multiple bikes are crushed along a bike path in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

New York

An attack in New York in which a man driving a pickup truck killed eight people and injured more than 12 others shook residents of the country’s most populous city. A suspect was shot by police and taken into custody after what authorities described as a terrorist incident. 

The Uzbek immigrant accused of carrying out the attack may have worked as a driver and lived in New Jersey after emigrating from Uzbekistan seven years ago, according to authorities and media reports. Few other details about the 29-year-old suspect have emerged since the vehicle rampage.  

Thousands of merry-makers, many dressed in elaborate Halloween costumes, paraded through lower Manhattan, undeterred by the attack that unfolded just hours earlier. Revelers who joined the 44th annual Village Halloween Parade said they were painfully aware of the event, but carried on with the festivities to show fortitude and solidarity with the victims.  

Factbox: Attacks in New York City  

U.S.

The Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates unchanged as speculation swirls on who will be its next leader, but the U.S. central bank will likely point to a firming economy as it edges closer to a possible rate rise next month.  

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives will delay the release of long-awaited tax legislation by one day until Thursday, the head of the chamber’s tax-writing panel said.  

New Jersey sued Purdue Pharma LP, accusing the maker of the chronic pain medication OxyContin of fueling the state’s opioid crisis through deceptive marketing to doctors and patients, including the elderly and the “opioid-naive.”  

Energy

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region in the United States away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget. Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants. Read the latest piece in the Trump Effect series. 

Members of the U.S. International Trade Commission made three different recommendations for restricting solar cell and panel imports, giving Trump a range of choices to address injury to domestic producers. However both supporters and critics of import curbs on solar products were disappointed by the proposals. 

 

Prima ballerina Deborah Ribeiro, soloist of the Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Theatre, performs during a protest of the theatre's artists against the non-payment of their salaries and the economic crisis in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Prima ballerina Deborah Ribeiro, soloist of the Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Theatre, performs during a protest of the theatre's artists against the non-payment of their salaries and the economic crisis in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

North Korea

Megumi, 13, disappeared on her way home from school on a cold November day 40 years ago, kidnapped - it emerged decades later - by North Korean agents to help train spies. Now, as tensions rise after North Korean missile launches over Japan and nuclear tests, Trump has made Megumi’s case part of his attacks on Pyongyang.  

The United States is quietly pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korea, a senior State Department official said, despite Trump’s public assertion that such talks are a waste of time. Read the exclusive.  

Global banks are preparing to defend themselves against North Korea potentially intensifying a years-long hacking spree by seeking to cripple financial networks as Pyongyang weighs the threat of U.S. military action over its nuclear program, cyber security experts said.  

Fintech

Bitcoin climbed to a new all-time high of $6,450, boosted by bets the cryptocurrency could enter the financial mainstream after the world’s largest derivatives exchange operator said it would launch bitcoin futures.  

Russia and China were considering linking their national payment system, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, as he called for a more balanced global finance structure. Noting the rise of China’s Unionpay system and Beijing’s efforts to internationalize its currency, the yuan, Medvedev told a press conference in Beijing that Russia was developing its own payment system, known as Karta Mir.  

Financial markets braced this week for what could be the Bank of England’s first rate rise in a decade - a step into the unknown for a generation of young traders who started work after 2007. However the newest kid on the block is not necessarily the rookie trader with a PhD in physics but the latest computer model or algorithm. How these models will perform under the almost novel circumstances of tightening monetary policy is as much a question as how the human neophytes will react.  

Business

Sony said it has brought back AIBO more than a decade since it last made the robotic dog, as the electronics and entertainment firm seeks to rebuild its reputation for innovation after years of restructuring.  

Breakingviews TV: Under Armour under fire  

Wal-Mart is planning to boost sales and fend off rivals this holiday season by doubling down on incentives for shoppers who buy online and those who visit its stores.  

Japan Tobacco said it expected a steeper decline in cigarette sales at home than previously estimated, after earlier reporting disappointing results, as more smokers quit or defect to “heat-not-burn” tobacco products.  

World

The Islamist group Hamas began ceding control of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt to U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas under an agreement brokered by Cairo to end a decade of internal schism.  

Japan’s Shinzo Abe was re-elected prime minister after his ruling bloc’s big election win last month and days ahead of a visit by Trump that is expected to be dominated by concerns over a volatile North Korea.  

Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani departed office, leaving his nephew to reconcile with the central government in Baghdad, with regional neighbors and with rival Kurdish parties after a failed referendum on independence.  

A lawyer for dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is due to appear in a Spanish court this week to answer charges relating to Catalonia’s push for independence, said he was not expected to return to Spain soon.  

Commentary

The United States cannot counter Iran's aggression through sanctions or the threat of withdrawal from the nuclear deal, writes former Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman and former Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command General (ret.) Charles Wald. Instead, U.S. policymakers need to adopt a two-pronged strategy to restore "credible U.S. military leverage" and take the lead in assembling "a coherent regional coalition" against Tehran. 

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