January 17, 2018 / 1:26 PM / 5 months ago

Wednesday Morning Briefing

Bitcoin skids more than 11 percent, Steve Bannon refuses to comply with a House subpoena for the Russia probe and a Reuters report explores the fabric at the heart of the North Korean dream.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-remodeled Pyongyang Teacher Training College, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on January 17, 2018.

North Korea

For much of the world, it's a niche product. In North Korea, synthetic fibre vinalon is glorified as a ‘victory of socialism’. Read the investigation that explores the fibre at the heart of North Korea’s history, and the scientist behind it who saw himself as tackling ‘U.S. imperialism’ with test tubes and fabric development. 

Reuters TV: 1970s cartoon from North Korea hails vinalon as the ‘King of Fibres’ 

Twenty nations agreed to consider tougher sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Pyongyang it could trigger a military response if it did not choose negotiations. 

North Korea will send a 230-strong cheering squad to the Winter Olympics in the South next month, Seoul said after both sides held talks amid a thaw in inter-Korean ties and as Japan urged caution over the North’s “charm offensive”. 

Business

Bitcoin skidded more than 11 percent, extending a precipitous downturn in fortunes with investors spooked by fears regulators might clamp down on an asset whose value has skyrocketed in the past year. 

Chinese bidders are circling a diabetes care business owned by the world’s largest healthcare company Johnson & Johnson in a deal that could fetch up to $4 billion, five people with direct knowledge told Reuters. Read the exclusive.

Breakingviews: Uber's next ride-share could be in Southeast Asia 

United States

Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon declined to comply with a subpoena ordering him to answer questions from a U.S. House intelligence panel about his time at the White House as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election. 

Far from silencing critics, Trump’s announcement that he would hand out awards for what he calls “fake news” has fired up comics and media commentators - and has them competing for a “prize.” Comedian Samantha Bee is campaigning for “Shrillest Reporting,” late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert put up a billboard in New York’s Times Square in a bid to win votes, and rival Jimmy Kimmel calls them “The Stupid People’s Choice Awards.” 

The phones at U.S. sexual assault hotlines have been ringing in record numbers as the #MeToo social movement spurs victims to reach out for help, sending organizations scrambling to keep up. 

The U.S. Federal Reserve began steadily raising interest rates one year ago, offering a long-awaited tailwind for bank earnings because lenders can charge borrowers more for loans. But ask bankers when they will start paying more for the money that savers have in their deposit accounts, and the answer is: not any time soon

A murmuration of migrating starlings is seen across the sky near the village of Beit Kama in southern Israel January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Politics

A group of 21 U.S. state attorneys general filed suit to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to do away with net neutrality while Democrats said they needed just one more vote in the Senate to repeal the FCC ruling. 

Pennsylvania’s high court will hear arguments on whether the state’s congressional districts were illegally drawn to benefit Republican lawmakers, a case that could have major ramifications for the 2018 midterm elections. 

House Republicans considered a stopgap bill to fund the U.S. government through Feb. 16 to avert a shutdown, but the measure would not include Democrats’ demands for protections for young people brought to the United States illegally as children. 

Davos

The risk of political and economic confrontations between major powers, including outright military conflicts, has risen sharply, according to a survey released by the World Economic Forum days before its annual gathering in Davos. The Global Risks Report highlighted several top risks for 2018, but most remarkable was the surge in geopolitical concerns after a year of escalating rhetoric between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that has arguably brought the world closer to a nuclear conflict than it has been in decades.  

World

A cut in U.S. funding for a U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees will affect regional security and could put vital health, educational and food services at risk, its chief said on Wednesday, adding he would appeal for world donations. 

Myanmar police shot dead seven demonstrators, while 12 were injured in troubled Rakhine State, after a local gathering celebrating an ancient Buddhist Arakan kingdom turned violent. 

Catalonia’s parliament met in a first step toward forming a new government dominated by the question of whether sacked former leader Carles Puigdemont can return as president and continue his push for independence from Spain. Puigdemont’s supporters have suggested the former journalist could rule the wealthy region via video link from self-imposed exile in Brussels, to where he fled in October to avoid arrest for charges including sedition and treason. 

France and Britain will sign a new immigration treaty at a summit between President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain on Thursday, French officials said. The treaty will “complement” but not replace the 2003 Le Touquet border agreement, which has drawn criticism in France after the town of Calais became a hub for migrants and refugees on their way to Britain, just 33 km across the English Channel. 

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