Friday Morning Briefing: Noose tightens around Iranian shipping


Flags of inconvenience: Somewhere on its journey from the waters off Iran, around Africa’s southern tip and into the Mediterranean, the Grace 1 oil tanker lost the flag under which it sailed and ceased to be registered to Panama. Iran later claimed it as its own. The ship carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian crude was seized by British Royal Marines off Gibraltar, raising tensions in the Gulf where Iran detained a UK-flagged ship in retaliation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was willing to go to Iran for talks amid tensions between Tehran and Washington, but also called on Japan, Britain and other nations to join a maritime force to guard oil tankers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Fire and fury: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s blistering criticism of South Korea as he oversaw his latest missile launch this week sparked new questions over the South’s role in mediating a nuclear deal between the North and the United States, analysts said.

A week before suspected triad gang members attacked protesters and commuters at a rural Hong Kong train station last Sunday, an official from China’s representative office urged local residents to drive away any activists. More than 1,000 protesters calling for democracy and some chanting “free Hong Kong” converged on the Chinese-ruled city’s airport as Singapore advised its travelers to avoid protest areas in the territory. Hong Kong airport authorities said operations wouldn’t be affected, but advised passengers to arrive early given the risk of disruption.

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's approach to Brexit talks was “very unhelpful” and would not lead to an agreement. Johnson told Britain’s parliament that he did not want to retain the so-called post-Brexit ‘backstop’ that would preserve an open border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland in the event of longer-term trade talks collapsing.


The plight of this mother and son who had traveled some 1,500 miles (2,410 km) from their home country of Guatemala to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, only to be stopped mere feet from the United States, was captured by Reuters photographer Jose Luis Gonzalez. Ledy Perez fell to her haunches, a clenched hand covering her face as she wept, an arm clutching her small 6-year old son, who glared defiantly at the Mexican National Guard soldier blocking them from crossing into the United States.
Carin, a 39-year-old subsistence farmer from Honduras, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with her two sons late last year. They had fled after her political organizing led to threats of violence, she said, and intended to claim asylum. They were released on one condition: that they show up to immigration court when called. Carin said she made sure to check the mailbox regularly at the apartment in Colorado where they were living. In February, the first official letter arrived.It was not a court-hearing notice. It was a deportation order.


“Farming - for where I grew up - was a very unusual career choice,” said Layton Guenther, 32, who grew up in a New York City suburb and identifies as gender non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. But “everybody belongs on the land in their own way. None of us should feel alienated from it.” Guenther grows potatoes, squash, wheat and other crops at Quail Hill, the Amagansett, New York, farm they manage on land donated to the Peconic Land Trust, and is part of a growing cadre of gender-diverse college graduates in their 20s and 30s who are changing the face of organic farming.
Four major automakers said they have reached an agreement with California on fuel efficiency rules, bypassing a Trump administration effort to strip the state of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards. California and other states had vowed to enforce stricter Obama-era emissions standards, after President Donald Trump proposed rolling back the federal rules. Automakers had worried that court battles between state and federal governments could create years of uncertainty for manufacturers.


Apple pays $1 billion for Intel unit in push for chip independence

Apple took a major step toward supplying its own smartphone chips by purchasing the majority of Intel’s modem business in a deal valued at $1 billion, the companies said.
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Alphabet's revenue rebounds; easing doubts on growth and boosting shares

Alphabet shares rose about 8% after the company reported quarterly results that eased investors’ concerns about growth challenges facing its Google advertising business.
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Huawei rolls out 5G phone and flags first Hongmeng device

Huawei released its first 5G phone in China and said it would soon launch smart TVs equipped with its own Hongmeng operating system.
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