While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Feb 10

Admiral Harry Harris (centre) during a visit to Japan in November 2017.
Admiral Harry Harris (centre) during a visit to Japan in November 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Trump taps decorated admiral to be US ambassador to Australia

President Donald Trump will nominate the top US military commander overseeing the Asia-Pacific region as the next ambassador to Australia, the White House announced on Friday.

Navy Admiral Harry Harris is completing a three-year assignment as head of US Pacific Command, where his tough stance on North Korea and Chinese military adventurism drew notice and approval from the Trump administration.

Australia is a plum diplomatic posting that sometimes goes to presidential donors or friends, but the post has been vacant since Trump’s inauguration. Australia, a close ally, was increasingly concerned last year that the vacancy signalled a downgrade in relations.

The White House statement about Harris describes him as “a highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region.”


EU warns of Brexit chaos risk as transition talks stumble

Brexit negotiations broke up in acrimony on Friday when the European Union's chief negotiator raised the prospect of Britain crashing out of the bloc next year into a legal limbo.

Michel Barnier's comments provoked an angry reaction in London, and the pound fell.

Barnier said he was waiting to hear what Britain wanted to achieve from the talks and warned that Britain's continuing disagreement over the terms of a two-year transition period risked damaging the chances of a deal.


Trump wishes former aide well after domestic abuse allegations

President Donald Trump said on Friday that White House aide Rob Porter, who resigned this week after allegations that he abused two former wives, had maintained his innocence, and he wished him well.

“We certainly wish him well. It’s obviously a tough time for him, and he did a very good job in the White House. We hope he has a wonderful career ahead of him,” Trump said.

The President did not refer to the two women who have this week provided graphic accounts of the verbal and physical abuse they said they suffered while married to Porter. Trump said he found out about the allegations recently, and was “surprised” by them.


Wall Street ends whipsaw week on upbeat note

Wall Street’s main stock indexes climbed more than 1 per cent on Friday, giving investors some solace after a week of huge swings that shook the market out of months of calm.

Even with Friday’s gains, the benchmark S&P 500 fell 5.2 per cent for the week, its biggest weekly percentage drop since January 2016, as volatility spiked back up.

During Friday’s session alone, the S&P 500 swung from as high as up 2.2 per cent to down 1.9 per cent, echoing the big swings of the past week.


Tennis: Serena ready for comeback after 'ups and downs'

Serena Williams has spoken out about the “ups and downs” she faced during her year away from competitive tennis but insists she’s now focused and ready for her quest to once more dominate her sport.

Speaking ahead of her comeback at the Fed Cup in Asheville, North Carolina, where the United States will begin the defence of its crown against an unfancied Netherlands team, the 36-year-old said she had the benefit of a new outlook following the birth of her baby daughter Alexis Olympia in September.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs in the practice,” Williams told reporters on Friday. “It also gives me another view, it’s almost relaxing for me as I have nothing to prove. Again, just fighting against all odds to be out there again, to be competing again.”