October 31, 2017 / 12:05 PM / 23 days ago

Tuesday Morning Briefing

Two ex-Trump aides are charged in the Special Counsel’s Russia probe, Spain awaits the next move by Catalonia’s leader and a special report explores gaps in U.S. law surrounding the body trade.

A boy dressed as Pennywise from the movie "It" poses for a photo during a Halloween party in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Russia probe

Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election charged President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering. It was a sharp escalation of U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s five-month-old investigation into alleged Russian efforts to tilt the election in Trump’s favor and into potential collusion by Trump aides.  

Facebook, Twitter and Google head before U.S. lawmakers for two days of grueling hearings on how Russia allegedly used their services to try to sway the election. At stake for the Silicon Valley companies are their public images and the threat of tougher advertising regulations in the United States, where the technology sector has grown accustomed to light treatment from the government.  

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said a special counsel should be appointed to investigate Democrats over a uranium deal during the Obama administration and a dossier compiled on Trump during the presidential campaign.  

U.S.

A top U.S. business lobby in China said it was concerned Trump’s administration was not making sufficient preparation for talks on imbalances in the bilateral economic relationship ahead of his November visit.  

Trump’s top national security aides pushed back against U.S. lawmakers calling for a new congressional war authorization, saying it would be a mistake to impose geographic or time limits on the campaign against Islamic State and other militant groups.  

Virginia Democrat Danica Roem has been called a man by conservative opponents attacking her views on LGBT rights as she campaigns to become the United States’ only transgender state legislator. Roem does not shy away from her gender identity, but rather than focus on the politics of running as a transgender woman, she prefers to discuss traffic gridlock and other issues in the Nov. 7 election for the Virginia House of Delegates.  

Special Report

Arthur Rathburn is accused of dismembering donated bodies with a chainsaw and renting HIV-infected parts to medical professionals. Prosecutors hailed his arrest as a crackdown. But for years, Reuters found, authorities let him do business despite signs of his bizarre practices. This is Part Four of an investigative series that goes inside the body broker industry.  

Criminals, slaves and minorities: the unseemly past of the body trade. 

Health

A year-long audit of the program overseeing U.S. labs that handle lethal pathogens such as Ebola and anthrax found overworked safety inspectors, an absence of independent review and weak biosafety protections that could expose lab workers and the public to harm, a government report will say. Read the exclusive. 

Pfizer reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly profit, benefiting from strong demand for its newer drugs.  

A red squirrel collects a walnut from a tree in Pitlochry, Scotland, Britain October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

A red squirrel collects a walnut from a tree in Pitlochry, Scotland, Britain October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Tech

Alphabet’s self-driving car unit stopped developing features that required drivers to take control in dangerous situations, its chief executive said, as autopilot reliance left users prone to distractions and ill-prepared to maneuver.  

Apple has designed iPhones and iPads that would drop chips supplied by Qualcomm, according to two people familiar with the matter. The change would affect iPhones released in the fall of 2018, but Apple could still change course before then, these people said.  

Business

SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom AG have reached an impasse in their talks to merge Sprint Corp and T-Mobile, sources said, sending shares in the Japanese Internet giant sliding.  

Airbus said it had uncovered problems involving the use of sales agents to sell U.S. arms technology, dragging the United States for the first time into a growing corruption scandal at Europe’s largest aerospace firm.  

U.S. agricultural trader Archer Daniels Midland reported a nearly 44 percent fall in quarterly profit, hurt by weak margins from agricultural services and oilseeds processing businesses.

Aetna cut losses in its Obamacare business in the third quarter, helping the U.S. health insurer post a higher-than-expected profit and raise its full-year earnings forecast.

Breakingviews - Twin tailwinds help Ryanair weather pilot crisis

World

Spain’s foreign minister said he would be surprised if Belgium granted political asylum to Catalan secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont, who turned up there following Madrid’s dismissal and takeover of Catalonia’s regional government. 

Seoul and Beijing agreed to move beyond a year-long stand-off over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea, a dispute that has been devastating to South Korean businesses that rely on Chinese consumers.  

China has quietly undertaken more construction and reclamation in the South China Sea, recent satellite images show, and is likely to more powerfully reassert its claims over the waterway soon, regional diplomats and military officers say.  

Efforts to restore electricity to Puerto Rico nearly six weeks after Hurricane Maria are shifting as the island’s utility and its regulators, along with U.S. authorities, removed a key contractor and moved to triple the funding of another.  

Video: Meet Saudi Arabia’s first robot citizen

German police arrested a 19-year-old Syrian suspected of planning an Islamist-motivated bomb attack in Germany with the aim of killing as many people as possible, the federal prosecutor’s office said.  

Reuters TV: The wife of a man accused by Russia of plotting to kill President Vladimir Putin was shot dead outside Kiev.

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