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Could Julian Assange finally leave Ecuador’s embassy in London? Prosecutors in Sweden on Friday announced they were dropping their rape investigation into the WikiLeaks founder after a seven-year stand-off. Mr Assange, who denies the charges, took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, saying he feared Stockholm would extradite him to the US over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified military and diplomatic documents.

However, he is likely to remain holed up for a bit longer yet: British police say that he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy for breaching his bail conditions in 2012, although it is unclear whether the UK has received an extradition request from Washington. WikiLeaks in March released nearly 8,000 web pages detailing an array of highly classified CIA hacking tools in the latest blow to US spy secrets and last month the US announced it was reviving its campaign to arrest Mr Assange. His presence in the Ecuadorean embassy has been controversial back in Quito, where the mounting costs of hosting him became an issue in presidential elections earlier this year. (FT, BBC, Guardian)

In the news

US Syria strike condemned
Russia and Syria have condemned a US-led aerial attack on forces loyal to the Assad government in the desert close to the border with Jordan and Iraq. The coalition said the air raid hit a convoy of pro-government militiamen advancing in a protected “deconfliction zone”. Moscow, which supports the Syrian government, called it “a breach of Syrian sovereignty”. (Jazeera)

Brazil’s president rejects call to quit
Michel Temer refused to step down despite allegations in a leading national newspaper that he assented to buy the silence of a former coalition ally. The allegations rattled the Brazilian currency and shares. (FT)

Manuka wars
New Zealand’s honey producers are fighting back against fraudsters who pass off regular honey for the famed manuka variety, with a plan to trademark the word “manuka” in key markets. Exports of the honey have tripled since 2011 and it has become known as “liquid gold” in New Zealand. (FT)

US may expand laptop ban worldwide
The Trump administration is considering extending a ban on laptops in aircraft cabins to all flights to the US from anywhere in the world, in a move that would create severe disruption for passengers and airlines. US officials this week assured European officials that if the ban on large electronic devices was extended, Europe would not be singled out and restrictions would apply to all flights to the US. (FT)

Trump denial
Donald Trump complained that he was the victim of a “witch hunt” and denied he tried to halt the Russia investigation. But advisers are urging the president to hire an experienced outside lawyer to help him deal with the crisis. Some Republicans are beginning to whisper a new name: President Mike Pence. Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s supporters see the crisis as part of a plot to undermine the president. (FT, NYT, Politico)

China’s ‘unprofessional’ jets
Two Chinese Sukhoi Su-30 jets conducted an “unprofessional” intercept of a US aircraft over the East China Sea, the US military said. The US sniffer plane has previously been used to detect evidence of possible nuclear tests by North Korea. Meanwhile, Japan’s defence minister Tomomi Inada criticised Beijing for violating Japanese sovereignty with a drone flight from a Chinese ship inside Japan’s territorial waters. (BBC, NAR)

Test your knowledge of this week’s news with the FirstFT quiz. How many countries were affected by the WannaCry cyber attack?

The day ahead

Trump show goes on the road 
The US leader will embark on his first foreign trip as president this weekend — visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belgium, Italy and the Vatican — with a deepening crisis trailing him back home. Mr Trump is reportedly not looking forward to it. (NYT)

Iran votes
Iranians are voting whether to continue with gradual reforms or double down on Islamic values in presidential elections. A series of charts shows why the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, is defending his record on containing inflation while his opponents are attacking him for high unemployment. (FT)

What we’re reading

The Big Green Bang
A long look at how the shift to cleaner power is disrupting entire industries, making renewable energy unstoppable. Will the 21st century be the last one for fossil fuels? (FT)

Toy industry left spinning
We have written before about the fidget spinner craze but here’s a read on how the fad is turning the toy industry on its head. “There’s no famous brand pushing this. This is for a generation that grew up on YouTube,” one expert said. (FT)

Roger Ailes dead 
The man who created Fox News died aged 77 just months after leaving the channel he founded in disgrace amid a wide-ranging sexual harassment scandal. He was eulogised by the likes of Tina Brown and former president George HW Bush — who said “he wasn’t perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend and I loved him” — and Isaac Chotiner, who wrote: “He made our country nastier, stupider, cruder and more bigoted.” (FT, Slate)

Dividing line: Brexit and the Irish border
The remarkable thing about the Irish border is that it still exists. Once patrolled by troops, the boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic is now almost invisible. Will that change when Britain leaves the EU? (FT)

Nudging behaviour
Behavioural science is helping policymakers change behaviour more effectively than taxes or laws. The British government has even established a “nudge unit”, run by a part public-owned company, the Behavioural Insights Team. It was told that if it did not save the government at least 10 times its running cost (£500,000 a year), it was to be shut down after two years. It saved 20 times its running cost and set off a global trend. (Economist)

Video of the day

Big Green Bang for renewables 
An unprecedented shift to wind and solar power, electric cars and other low carbon systems has defied all predictions and is convulsing the global energy industry. The FT’s Pilita Clark explains the impact of the “Big Green Bang” (FT)


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