Listen to this article
Sign up to receive FirstFT by email here
Test your knowledge with the week in news quiz.
Russia has reacted with fury to US air strikes in Syria, calling them an act of aggression that would “inflict major damage” on relations between Moscow and Washington. The Kremlin announced it was suspending its channel for communicating military action in Syria with Washington, which has been used to prevent accidental conflict. Iran, Bashar al-Assad’s other patron, also condemned the operation, calling it “destructive and dangerous”. But it was welcomed by Arab states and Israel.
The overnight operation saw more than 50 Tomahawk missiles fired on the Syrian air base used to launch a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 70 people in an opposition-held town in Idlib this week. The raid marks a dramatic change in President Donald Trump’s position of not getting involved in Syria. But the limited nature of the strike means the US has not committed itself to any particular course of action going forward. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote ahead of the operation that policies in Tehran and Pyongyang would be influenced by the US response to the gas attack.
The strike has overshadowed Mr Trump’s meeting with Xi Jinping at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club as it heads into its second day. Issues on the agenda include North Korea, China’s expanding influence in the South China Sea and — importantly for the US president — trade. (Jazeera, FT, Reuters Guardian)
In the news
Iran’s hardliners gear up for vote The Islamic Revolution Forces Popular Front, a new hardline umbrella group, has nominated five candidates — including a powerful cleric — to contest next month’s crucial presidential election. The front has agreed that four of the candidates will step aside in favour of whoever emerges as the frontrunner ahead of the May 19 poll. They hope the tactic will enable them to avoid a repeat of the 2013 presidential election when several hardline candidates ran against each other, diluting their support. (FT)
Samsung shrugs off turmoil The smartphone maker projected its best quarterly operating profit in more than three years thanks to booming sales of memory chips and flat-panel displays. It is welcome news given the conglomerate’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong has been caught up in a sweeping corruption scandal. (FT)
Alt agency stays anonymous Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the US government, pushing back against an attempt to unmask the identity of the user of an account that has criticised President Donald Trump’s administration. @ALT_USCIS, which has chastised the authorities on immigration issues to its 35,000 followers, is one of a number of “alternative agency” accounts that have sprung up since Mr Trump’s election. Many assume they are run by officials within government departments. (FT)
Anti-Zuma protests in South Africa Thousands have marched in major cities across South Africa demanding the resignation of President Jacob Zuma. His sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan last week has seen the country downgraded to “junk” status by rating agency S&P, and the value of the currency has dropped more than 11 per cent. Mr Zuma’s ANC party is split over the president’s actions but this week said it was behind their leader. (Reuters)
Basques lay down arms The Basque separatist group ETA has announced that it will hand over its weapons to civil society groups this weekend, closing the final chapter on its decades-long terror campaign that ended in 2011. (Politico)
Test your knowledge with the week in news quiz. With which company did Spotify sign a major licensing agreement?
It’s a big day for
The US The country’s newest Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, is expected to be confirmed today after the Senate took the “nuclear option” — lowering the threshold for advancing nominations to a simple majority. (FT)
The US economy US national employment statistics will be released, showing jobs data for the second full month of Mr Trump’s presidency. (FT)
Food for thought
Silicon Valley’s diversity woes Tech has a long way to go on gender diversity, particularly at start-ups. Some larger companies, such as Airbnb, have made progress, while Uber has fallen behind. Even for women who do make it to tech roles, a new study has shown male computer programmers make 28 per cent more than their female counterparts. (FT)
Bust and boom in Spain After three years of impressive economic growth, Spain is about to pass a crucial milestone on the road to recovery: according to official calculations, the country will exceed its pre-crisis level of gross domestic product any day. But was the cost of austerity and reform too high? (FT)
Gluten-free shakes up Big Ag The push for healthier diets is shaking up the wheat, sugar and dairy markets as consumers look for gluten-free, low sugar and organic food. (FT)
Parkageddon Why do the streets of Los Angeles look so different to those of London — and why are both very different to those of Tokyo? Parking. Where cars are stored when they are not in use may seem mundane but it has a profound effect on how cities around the world look and function. (Economist)
Why you should work fewer hours Some of the world’s greatest minds have something in common — they didn’t work long hours. They organised their lives around their work, but not their days. In today’s always-on world, blending work and rest together in this way could make us more creative. (Nautilus)
Video of the day
Is executive pay out of control? The FT’s Madison Marriage looks at the earnings of the top corporate CEOs and asks whether executive pay is completely out of control. (FT)