January 5, 2018 / 12:56 PM / 5 months ago

Friday Morning Briefing

Trump heads to Camp David to discuss Republican party priorities, services are disrupted as a blizzard continues to pummel the U.S. East Coast and Intel insists that updates to patch major security flaws would not slow down computers.

Rohingya refugee children sit inside a classroom at Kutupalong refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

United States

Following a disruptive start to 2018, President Donald Trump will huddle with top Republicans on a two-day retreat to lay out legislative priorities for the year and discuss a strategy for pivotal November congressional elections. Days after explosive comments by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon left the White House in a defensive crouch, the president will sit down at Camp David with party leaders including House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

The U.S. Justice Department has begun an investigation into whether the Clinton Foundation conducted “pay-to-play” politics or other illegal activities during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, The Hill reported on Thursday, citing law enforcement officials and a witness. 

Bomb cyclone

Street crews in the U.S. Northeast raced through the night to clear snow-clogged streets after a powerful blizzard and restore power to homes ahead of a brutal cold spell that has killed more than a dozen people in the United States. 

The severe winter storm froze pipes and disrupted services at refineries on the Atlantic coast, sending fuel prices higher as heavy snowfall and high winds caused electricity outages for almost 80,000 homes and businesses. 

American Airlines said it and its regional partners have canceled more than 1,300 U.S. flights due to the massive winter storm. 

Slideshow: Blizzard roars into the Northeast

World

China’s Commerce Ministry said it will limit exports of crude oil, refined oil products, steel and other metals to North Korea, in line with tough new sanctions imposed by the United Nations for Pyongyang’s missile tests.

Reuters TV: Iran deploys Revolutionary Guards to quell ‘sedition’ 

Tayyip Erdogan denounced U.S. justice and suggested Turkey could rethink some bilateral agreements with Washington, after a U.S. court convicted a Turkish banker in a trial that included testimony of corruption by top Turkish officials.

A suicide bomber in the Afghan capital caused dozens of casualties after blowing himself up close to a group of security personnel who were carrying out an operation against illegal drugs and alcohol dealing, officials said. 

North Korea agreed to hold official talks with the South next week, the first in more than two years, hours after the United States and South Korea delayed a military exercise amid a standoff over the North’s nuclear and missile programs. 

Pakistan said U.S. “arbitrary deadlines” and its shifting of goalposts were counterproductive to defeating common security threats in the region after the United States slashed aid to Pakistan. 

School children attend a yoga session on the last day of a week-long camp in Ahmedabad, India January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Intel

Daniel Gruss didn’t sleep much the night he hacked his own computer and exposed a flaw in most of the chips made in the past two decades by hardware giant Intel. The flaw, now named Meltdown, and affects most processors manufactured by Intel since 1995. 

Security issues with Intel microchips are only slowing computers slightly, technology companies said, as researchers played down the need for mass hardware replacements to protect millions of devices from hackers. 

Intel said fixes for security issues in its microchips would not slow down computers, rebuffing concerns that the flaws found in microprocessors would significantly reduce performance. 

Breakingviews: Intel flaws hint at tech “too big to fail” risk  

Business

U.S. job growth slowed more than expected in December amid a decline in retail employment, but a pick-up in monthly wage gains pointed to labor market strength that could pave the way for the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates in March.

Investors are gaining confidence - up to a point - that 2018 will be the year of oil stocks. While shares in top energy companies have risen since mid-2017, they have failed to keep step with recovering crude markets, opening up a historically unusual performance gap. Big oil stocks have also underperformed broader equity indexes. 

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted as chief executive in June, is selling nearly a third of his 10 percent stake in the ride-services company for about $1.4 billion, a person familiar with the matter said. 

Saudi Arabia has changed the status of its national oil giant Aramco to a joint-stock company as of Jan. 1, in a key step for an initial public offering planned for later this year. 

Japan Inc is running out of excuses in the face of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s calls for wage rises of 3 percent or more. The nation is having its best run of economic growth in a decade, stocks prices are the highest in 26 years, and corporate profits are near an all-time high. At the same time, the labor market, which is already the tightest among major economies, is only set to get tighter as the nation’s population both shrivels and ages rapidly. 

Commentary

Amid heightening tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, there are finally some positive diplomatic signals, writes John Glaser. Though the Trump administration has made it clear that it considers diplomacy a waste of time, nothing about the current situation on the Korean peninsula forces Washington to take an exclusively hardline approach. "Only pride, honor, and terribly wrong ideas about diplomacy prevent a more sensible approach," says Glaser. 

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