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Thursday Morning Briefing: Biden faces attacks, fights back in combative debate

2020 Democratic debate

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden came under heavy fire over healthcare, immigration and criminal justice reform, but fought back against a stage full of rivals eager to knock him off his perch during a contentious debate. Biden battled a wave of critics on the Detroit stage, from Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris to former Housing Secretary Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, emerging relatively unbloodied. But minutes after Biden bungled his closing statement by telling voters to go to a campaign website that did not exist, a college student was using the URL for a spoof election bid.

Detroit-based General Motors emerged from two days of Democratic debates in its hometown largely unscathed as 2020 White House hopefuls largely passed up an opportunity to criticize it for significant job cuts in recent months. It had been bracing for searing attacks when Democrats descended on Detroit for the second round of debates on Tuesday and Wednesday. GM even sent out fact sheets to reporters touting the company’s U.S. employment and its $23 billion in investments in U.S. facilities since 2009.

Former President Barack Obama was not on the Democratic presidential candidate debate stage on Wednesday night, but he was omnipresent as 2020 hopefuls struggled with attacking the legacy of their party’s most popular member. Coming under heavy attack from more liberal, lower-polling candidates, front-runner Joe Biden frequently invoked Obama in his defense, the first black president, for whom he served as No. 2 for eight years.


After Trump described Maryland's largest city as "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" and a "very dangerous & filthy place" last weekend, Baltimore resident Blondina Bean had mixed feelings about his tweets. Bean, whose 19-year-old son George Phillips was killed in a robbery attempt last year in Baltimore, said she was torn because she felt Trump was right about the majority-black city's high crime rate but wrong to use what she called racist language. "I agree with what he said, unfortunately. We should totally be in a state of emergency. I don't agree with his delivery. I look at him and think, 'Wow, do I really want this message from him?' Because his character has shown who he is," Bean said.

The Trump administration took a step toward allowing importation of medicines from Canada, an action the president has advocated as a way to bring cheaper prescription drugs to Americans, but the pharmaceutical industry was quick to resist the move. The Department of Health and Human Services said it and the Food and Drug Administration will propose a rule that will allow it to authorize states and other groups to pursue pilot projects related to importing drugs from Canada.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi met face-to-face for the first time this year and Wang said they discussed ways to promote China-U.S. ties despite “recent disturbances”. The words contrasted with the scorn Chinese officials have heaped on Pompeo recently, with U.S.-Chinese ties souring on multiple fronts, from a trade war to U.S. sanctions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to Taiwan and the South China Sea.


Egypt’s president tightens his grip: In interviews, lawmakers, security sources and people with links to Egyptian intelligence described how President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s supporters rewrote key passages of the constitution to give the president and the military greater power, then pushed the changes through a pliant parliament and the public vote. Read the full special report investigation.

Taiwan’s president rebuked China over a ban on individual permits for its visitors to the self-ruled island, saying the move aimed to manipulate coming presidential elections, amid heightened tension with the giant neighbor. In a blow for Taiwan’s tourism industry, which has recently seen a spurt in mainland visitors, China has said it will stop issuing the permits, citing the state of ties with what it considers a wayward province.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States of “childish behavior” and acting out of fear after Washington imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister amid rising tensions between the two countries. The United States imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, blocking any property or interests he has in the United States. But Zarif said he had none.

North Korea’s latest missile launches did not violate a pledge its leader Kim Jong Un made to Donald Trump, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday, but efforts to resume denuclearization talks remained in doubt. Kim oversaw the first test firing of a “new-type large-caliber multiple-launch guided rocket system” on Wednesday, North Korean state media reported. North Korean state television showed rockets launching from a vehicle that had been blurred in photos to obscure its features.


Britain's LSE lands 'defining' $27 billion Refinitiv deal in data drive

Britain’s London Stock Exchange has agreed to buy financial information provider Refinitiv in a $27 billion deal aimed at offering trading across regions and currencies and positioning the company as a competitor to Bloomberg. Some trading and investment firms are calling for competition regulators to scrutinize LSE’s proposed takeover of Refinitiv to prevent further market data price hikes. A deal that has its origins in May 2013, amid the crocuses, champagne and corporate hobnobbing of London's Chelsea Flower Show.

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BMW second quarter hit by rising costs of manufacturing, emissions

BMW stuck to its outlook even as second-quarter earnings fell 20%, hit by currency headwinds and the rising cost of manufacturing electric and hybrid cars to help the carmaker meet stricter emissions limits.

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South Korean chip giants face 'strangling' from Japanese export curbs

South Korean chipmakers are hitting a dead end in their quest to find alternatives for key Japanese materials that have been slapped with export restrictions, raising the prospect of major disruption to their operations in the coming months.

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