Daily briefing: Japan upgrades N Korea threat, Google memo writer fired, London’s ‘super sewer’

Tokyo warns that rogue regime may already have ability to miniaturise nuclear weapons

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Japan upgrades threat from N Korea
Japan has upgraded its official warning on North Korea, saying that the threat had entered a “new stage” and that the regime may have already acquired the ability to miniaturise nuclear weapons.

Japan’s annual defence white paper — a hefty document that also highlights China’s “attempts at changing the status quo by coercion” — said the threat posed by Pyongyang had been reassessed after two nuclear tests and more than 20 test-firings of ballistic missiles since last year’s report. (FT)

Itsunori Onodera has been re-installed as Japan's defence minister © Bloomberg

In the news

Google fires memo-writer
Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web company’s diversity policies. The memo, shared widely at the weekend, suggested there were fewer women at Google due to biological differences. The imbroglio is the latest incident concerning gender bias and diversity in the tech enclave. According to an FT analysis in April of 500 tech start-ups in the San Francisco Bay area with fewer than 100 employees, only 23 per cent were female. (Bloomberg, FT)

EU official warns on banks
Europe’s top official in charge of winding down failed banks has urged the EU to tighten restrictions on when governments can pump money into stricken lenders. Elke König, the head of the eurozone’s Single Resolution Board, was responding to recent cases in Italy where senior bondholders were spared losses. Ms König said state aid guidelines were in effect out of date, as the EU has since taken steps to make sure failed banks can be wound down without sparking a broader crisis. (FT)

Tesla looks to raise $1.5bn 
Tesla announced a $1.5bn bond sale to boost its Model 3 production, marking the first time the carmaker has turned to the markets for an issue of straight debt. Tesla is trying to stave off the liquidity pressures caused by its headlong rush to become a mass-market car producer. (FT)

Brexit woes
Rising food costs, driven by a fall in the value of sterling since last summer’s Brexit vote, drove British retail sales higher in July. Separately, a shortage of staff for British employers worsened in July, and UK recruiters are blaming it on the departure of EU workers after the vote to leave the bloc. (FT, Reuters)

UK’s ‘super sewer’
The turbid waters of the Thames have been cleaned up dramatically since the river was declared “biologically dead” in 1957. But London’s Victorian-era sewer system still pours at least 40bn litres of water and raw sewage into the Thames each year. Now there may be a solution: a £4.2bn, 15-mile-long “super sewer”. (FT)

Controversial climate report
draft report by government scientists who say climate change is happening now and severely affecting the US has been leaked to the media. Contributors have concerns that the report, which is awaiting approval by the Trump administration, could be suppressed. Meanwhile, staff at another US department have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work; they should use “weather extremes” instead. (NYT, Guardian)

The day ahead

Disney reports
Analysts will be focused on its ESPN unit, which has been a profit-leader over the years but now faces the threat of declining consumer interest in cable packages. (Yahoo)

Kenya votes 
The country holds elections for president, parliament, county governors and local legislators. Polls show a tight race between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, the former prime minister. Tension across the country is high, exacerbated by the murder last week of one of the electoral commission’s senior IT managers. Speculation abounds that the perpetrators were trying to gain access to the electronic tallying system. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

Rise of the racist robots
There is a saying in computer science: garbage in, garbage out. When we feed machines data that reflect our prejudices, they mimic them — from anti-Semitic chatbots to racially biased software. Does a horrifying future await people forced to live at the mercy of algorithms? (Guardian)

The end of typing 
The internet’s next 1bn users have no use for keyboards — they want video and voice. So tech companies are rethinking products for the developing world, which will radically transform not just how we interact with technology but how we communicate. (WSJ)

Why Facebook should pay us a basic income 
John Thornhill on what the social network owes us and how, if data are the new oil, then we may have found a 21st-century revenue stream. (FT)

Iraq and lessons for Brexit 
The comparison might sound provocative — a bloody war and a peaceful referendum differ hugely. Nevertheless, striking parallels exist between the way that the neoconservatives — the ones that persuaded George W Bush to invade Iraq — and the Brexiters think about the world. (Economist)

Have smartphones destroyed a generation?
A considered article on the generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. More comfortable online than out partying, post-millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis. (Atlantic)

The hippies who hated the Summer of Love
Fifty years ago, thousands of hippies descended on the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, where the merchants had advertised a summer of free food, free lodging and free love — what they got instead was a civic nightmare. (Longreads)

Video of the day

HK dollar nears 10-year low
Years of easy money have bred complacency. The FT’s Jennifer Hughes asks whether Hong Kong’s traders are ready for a period of more expensive money and uncertainty. (FT)

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