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Donald Trump has come out fighting. After igniting the biggest crisis in Washington for decades by firing FBI chief James Comey, he brushed aside charges that he was trying to frustrate a probe into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia and called for warmer US relations with Moscow. Later, pictures of Mr Trump smiling as he shook hands with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday were published by Russian state media. US reporters were barred from the meeting by the White House.

The controversy surrounding Mr Comey’s dismissal continues to roil the US. The news that the FBI head was fired just days after he requested additional resources for the Russia probe has heightened calls for an independent prosecutor from Democratic lawmakers. Republican senator John McCain said regardless of the motive, the Comey firing would do little to quell Trump-Russia investigations: “This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop, I can just guarantee it.” Another question is whether Republicans will act as a check on what some see as presidential over-reach. (FT, Tass, NYT, WaPo, Atlantic)

In the news

Tighter regulation for Uber
The Advocate General at the European Union’s top court has said that Uber should be regulated as a transport company rather than a technology provider. The non-binding opinion could leave the ride-hailing app open to tighter regulation in Europe. (FT)

Brazil’s trial of the century
Riot police lined the streets of Curitiba as former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived for questioning by the country’s toughest anti-corruption judge. The former leader is a suspect in one of the most important cases to arise from the three-year probe into Petrobras, the state-owned oil company. Mr Lula da Silva said he was “the victim of the biggest legal hunt that a Brazilian president or politician ever had”. (FT)

Electronics ban spreads
The Trump administration is likely to expand a ban on laptops on commercial aircraft to include some European countries. Officials in Europe said they expected the US Department of Homeland Security to make an announcement as early as this week. (Reuters)

‘New Silk Road’ investment falls
Xi Jinping’s signature initiative has become the centrepiece of Chinese economic diplomacy and the subject of an aggressive and occasionally bizarre propaganda campaign. Now some hard data suggest the hype surrounding the Belt and Road Initiative may exceed the substance. (FT)

Snap falls short
Shares in the maker of the Snapchat app tumbled by almost a quarter after its first earnings report fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts are not expecting Snap to post a profit until 2019 at the earliest. (FT)

US-backed forces take Isis stronghold
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, has fully captured the key town of Tabqa, and an adjacent dam, from Isis fighters. The dam is one of the few land crossings left on the Euphrates in the vicinity of Raqqa, Isis’s self-declared capital, and its control is key to pushing the jihadis out of their stronghold. (Jazeera)

The day ahead

BoE rate decision
With the pound at its strongest against the dollar since September, the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meeting is almost certain to keep UK interest rates at the rock bottom rate of 0.25 per cent, but the BoE will need to present its outlook in rapidly changing circumstances. (FT)

Macron to name parliamentary candidates
Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! party will announce several hundred candidates for France’s June national assembly elections. Their success — or failure — at the polls will determine how much power the president-elect will wield. (Reuters)

What we’re reading

The cable cowboy speaks
John Malone, the 76-year-old chief of Liberty Media, turned a struggling cable group called TCI into the largest in America and now controls an array of companies and investments around the world. How is he responding to the unprecedented pressure on his industry? (FT)

A workers’ revolution at Michelin
How the venerable French tyremaker has upended its structure with a new programme of responsabilisation — empowering workers — and why rugby has provided inspiration. (FT)

Curse of consultants
What was once a niche for companies such as McKinsey has turned into a management industry. “Some businesses seem to have been entirely occupied by consultants,” writes John Gapper. But while hiring consultants is alluring for companies, here is why they should beware. (FT)

Conquering the art world at 73
Her great-great-grandfather was Charles Darwin, her grandfather was physician to Queen Victoria, and she was related to entrepreneur and industrialist Josiah Wedgwood. The art world has at last woken up to Phyllida Barlow’s audacious, gargantuan sculptures. Now she is representing Britain at the Venice Biennale — but why did it take so long for her to be “discovered”? (Guardian)

​Placebo power
A systematic review of data from five trials of open-label placebos (when the patients know they are taking placebos) found that the sugar pills still benefited patients with conditions such as back pain, depression and irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers reckon a combination of expectation and conditioning make the fake pills so effective. (The Conversation)

Video of the day

US shale industry roars back
The resurgence of the US shale industry after the oil slump of 2014 is a key factor in why crude prices have fallen back below $50 per barrel. (FT)

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