Asia and Australia Edition: Donald Trump, Israel, Australia: Your Morning Briefing


Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

American intelligence officials brief Congress on their investigation of Russian hacking involving the presidential election today, ahead of a briefing for President-elect Donald J. Trump on Friday.

Mr. Trump continued to raise questions about the intelligence on his preferred platform, Twitter. China, a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s posts, criticized him in state news media, saying, “An obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesirable.” Above, Mr. Trump making a post in 2015.

Mr. Trump said he planned to nominate Jay Clayton, a Wall Street lawyer who helped take Alibaba public, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Our special report looks at how private tech companies that aid governments in surveillance of citizens have created cybertools that have proved adept at political espionage — as demonstrated by hacks related to elections in the U.S., Mexico and many other cases.


• The bitter partisan fight over the fate of President Obama’s signature health care law will play out in Congress over coming weeks.

More than 20 million Americans are insured under the law.

President Obama is urging Democrats fight off a Republican effort to gut the law, while Mr. Trump insisted the program would “fall of its own weight.”


Tensions between Indonesia and Australia, sometimes uneasy allies who are close partners in the fight against terrorism, spiked after Indonesia suspended military cooperation.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, said material insulting to its official monotheism had been found in an Australian special forces base. At least one analyst questioned whether the Indonesian military might be using the episode to embarrass the country’s president, Joko Widodo.


• The authorities on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines are still hunting for more than 150 inmates freed in a jailbreak led by a team believed to have ties to Muslim insurgents.

At least five of the escapees were killed in a shootout, along with a village official mistaken for an inmate.


• China is shaking the landscape of pro soccer, offering giddying sums to attract foreign stars from Europe and South America.

The efforts are part of President Xi Jinping’s aggressive campaign to transform China into a soccer superpower.

It won’t be easy: China is currently ranked 82nd in the world, just ahead of the Faroe Islands.


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Ultra high-definition televisions, smart-home systems, Chinese drones, artificial intelligence: The highly watched Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showcases the latest appliances and gadgets through Sunday.

For instance, a cruise-line medallion/app combo meant to enable passengers’ every whim.

• As the show opened to the press, Ford and Toyota announced the formation of a consortium with Mazda, PSA, Fuji and Suzuki aimed at organizing how vehicles connect with apps, a step meant to keep Google and Apple from de facto dominance.

• JPMorgan is seeking to resolve a clash with the Indonesian government, which cut commercial ties after the bank downgraded its assessment of the country’s stocks.

• Our tech columnist examines how authorities around the world are increasingly reacting to perceived threats to governance from the superclass of American corporate might embodied by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

China’s ancient state monopoly on salt has eased.

• Analysts will be watching to see if Japan’s unusual opening day market surge holds. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

Graphic | What the Markets Are Doing

In the News

• An Israeli soldier was found guilty of manslaughter for shooting a Palestinian assailant who lay wounded on the ground, a polarizing case that shook the military’s standing. [The New York Times]

• The police in southern China said a man who complained of being bullied had sneaked into a kindergarten and stabbed 12 children with a kitchen knife. [The Associated Press]

• Turkish authorities said they had confirmed the identify of the fugitive gunman who killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day. [The New York Times]

• Chinese birth tourism is thriving in Southern California despite a crackdown by the United States government. [Los Angeles Times]

• An elderly Japanese doctor who defied evacuation orders to keep treating patients after the 2011 Fukushima disaster was killed in a house fire, leaving his tiny town’s hospital without a full-time physician. [Asahi Shimbun]

• Hundreds of long-defiant residents of a wooden village next to a centuries-old fort in Bangkok face a looming deadline at the end of next month to finally make way for a public park.


• There are thousands of global getaways to explore this year. Our travel team put together 52 ideas to get you started. Some highlights: Canada, Botswana, Ecuador and Germany, above.

• “Gymnastics of the brain.” That’s the focus of a video game used by 550 elite training facilities around the globe to sharpen cognitive agility. But some scientists are skeptical.

• Strange bursts of radio waves were traced to a distant galaxy, but don’t get too excited. “We’ve joked about spaceship battles and death stars blowing up,” an astronomer said, “but we think we can explain it with ordinary physics.”

Back Story

Thailand’s resort island of Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, with a well-earned reputation as a playground for the ultrarich.

Starting today, millionaires and billionaires will gather at the Royal Phuket Marina to party at one of the largest and most exclusive yacht shows in the world.

While the posh atmosphere has helped the island flourish in modern times, Phuket partly owes its existence to the heroic acts of two women.

In 1785 a Burmese army was at the gates of Thalang, then the largest town on Phuket. The governor had just died and the defenders were hopelessly outnumbered. That was when Lady Chan, the governor’s widow, and her sister, Lady Mook, convinced Thalang’s women to impersonate male soldiers and hold positions on the city’s walls.

The invaders were tricked and retreated. The brave sisters were revered as national heroes and given honorary titles from the king.

To this day, many Thais leave incense and offerings at a monument to the two, above, asking for protection before leaving the island, whether for work, an education or maybe a quick jaunt on a yacht.


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