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British prime minister Theresa May will be hoping that the swift appointment of a new UK ambassador to the EU will end an escalating row over Brexit with Britain’s top civil servants. Mrs May appointed career diplomat Sir Tim Barrow to replace Sir Ivan Rogers who quit on Tuesday amid claims Mrs May’s aides did not like the advice he was giving over negotiations to leave the EU. There are persistent reports that morale is low among British diplomats in Brussels who have been criticised by Brexit campaigners for being opposed to leaving the EU.

Meanwhile, new data shows the UK services sector has defied fears of a Brexit slowdown. The Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index rose for the third month in a row to 56.2 in December, the fastest expansion since July 2015. Confidence in the economic outlook for the next 12 months also improved among the purchasing managers surveyed. (FT, Politico)

In the news

Renminbi soars China’s currency has made its biggest ever two-day gain thanks to strong data and tight liquidity in offshore markets. The jump pushed the dollar lower around the world. China has been burning through its foreign exchange reserves in a bid to curb the pace of the renminbi’s decline — which was widely expected to increase this month when Chinese citizens’ annual $50,000 foreign exchange limit was reset. (FT)

Apple removes NYT app in China Apple has removed the New York Times app from its app store in China at the request of mainland authorities, furthering a clampdown on foreign media outlets that has worsened since President Xi Jinping came to power. (FT)

Global cartels beware Antitrust fines levied around the world hit a new high in 2016, driven by the European Commission’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager. Brussels meted out a record $4.1bn in penalties, whereas fines imposed by the US fell sharply to $386m. (FT)

Fishy omen for 2017 A 212kg bluefin tuna may be an unlikely economic indicator but the sale of the first tuna at Tokyo’s annual Tsukiji fish market auction for $637,000 — the highest price since 1999 — is seen as a sign of optimism about Japan’s economic outlook for the year. The winning bidder was Kiyoshi Kimura, the country’s self-styled “King of Tuna”. Campaign groups say the rarity of a such a large bluefin highlights the desperate state of tuna stocks and called on Japan to reduce catches of the prized fish. (NAR, FT)

Parched in Damascus Fears of conflict have been replaced by how to get enough water for millions in the Syrian capital. Most of the city’s water comes from a spring in the Barada Valley, which is controlled by anti-regime rebels. Bashar al-Assad’s government has accused them of damaging infrastructure; they counter that government barrel bombs have destroyed key structures. Fighting continues in the area. (NYT)

It’s a big day for

Cyber security US senator John McCain’s Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its first hearing on foreign cyber threats, and in particular whether Russia hacked Democrats’ emails during the presidential election. (FT)

Food for thought

Cyber war for sale Many office workers send more than 100 emails a day, but as seen on the US presidential campaign trail the hackers can weaponise this important tool. The hacking of a private company that sells digital surveillance software — “the evilest technology on earth”, as one chief executive put it — has shed light on to a shadowy global industry. (NYT)

Kicking the work email habit If hacks weren’t enough of a reason, John Gapper says it’s time to collectively kick our e-addiction, pointing to a French law that came into force this week with the intention of giving employees the “right to disconnect” by making large companies negotiate with their staff times when they are not expected to pick up their smartphones and answer messages. (FT)

Eliminating Aids Activists and doctors wonder whether greater use of preventive drugs could spell the end of Aids. But with more than 36m people in the world living with HIV today, the road ahead is long before the disease is eradicated. (FT)

Stay off the road Living near a busy road can increase the risk of getting dementia in later life, according to a Canadian study. It found that those living closest to major traffic arteries were up to 12 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia — a small but significant increase in risk. (Guardian)

Not birdbrained Time to rethink the humble chicken. The species exhibits social strategies that reveal the ability to engage in Machiavellian manipulation according to new research. (The Times)

Video of the day

Mexican stand-off Mexico’s car industry is under pressure from Donald Trump’s anti-free trade stance, while Japanese companies are also wondering how the president-elect’s policies will affect their business there. (FT, NAR)

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