While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 23


Donald Trump signs tax, government spending Bills into law

US President Donald Trump signed Republicans’ massive US$1.5 trillion (S$2 trillion) tax overhaul into law on Friday, cementing the biggest legislative victory of his first year in office, and also approved a short-term spending Bill that averts a possible government shutdown.

Trump said he wanted to sign the tax Bill before leaving Washington for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, rather than stage a more formal ceremony in January, so he could keep his promise to finish work before Christmas.

“I didn’t want you folks to say I wasn’t keeping my promise. I’m keeping my promise,” he told reporters in the White House.

The two pieces of legislation represent Trump’s most significant accomplishment with Congress since taking office in January, as well as a sign of what awaits when he returns from Florida after the Christmas holiday.


UN Security Council imposes new sanctions on North Korea

The UN Security Council on Friday  unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea following its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test, a move that analysts said could have a significant impact on the isolated country's struggling economy.

The resolution seeks to ban nearly 90 per cent of refined petroleum product exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year and, in what diplomats said was a last-minute change, demands the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within 24 months, instead of 12 months as first proposed.

The US-drafted resolution would also cap crude oil supplies to North Korea at four million barrels a year. The United States has been calling on China to limit its oil supply to its neighbour and ally.


Paris truffle find hailed as boon for urban gardeners

French gourmets were celebrating on Friday after a wild truffle was discovered for what experts said was the first time ever in Paris.

The discovery in a hotel roof garden in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower comes as prices for the aromatic fungus have doubled to more than €5,000 (S$8,000) a kilo.

Coming just before Christmas, when truffles are used to flavour such seasonal dishes as foie gras and chestnut soup, it raises the hope of an undreamt-of windfall for the new wave of urban gardeners colonising city roofs.


Apple's iPhone slowdowns spur customers to hurry to court

iPhone users have begun racing to courthouses, infuriated by an Apple software update that slowed down the operation of their smartphones.

At least two groups of customers sued Apple over the deterioration of their phones' performance.

One group, in Chicago federal court, claims the software updates that throttle down the performance of iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and some iPhone 7s were intentionally put out to induce customers to buy newer iPhones such as iPhone 8 and iPhone X.


Bitcoin falls 30%, posts worst week since 2013

Bitcoin plunged by 30 per cent to below US$12,000 on Friday (Dec 22) as investors dumped the cryptocurrency after its sharp rise to a peak close to US$20,000 prompted warnings by experts of a bubble.

After falling to as low as US$11,159, it recouped some losses to trade above US$14,000 on the Bitstamp platform, down 9 per cent on the day. It is down around 25 per cent this week, its largest weekly loss since April 2013.

It capped a brutal week that had been touted as a new era of mainstream trading for the digital currency when bitcoin futures debuted on CME Group, the world’s largest derivatives market on Sunday.