FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Good morning. This article is an on-site version of our FirstFT Asia newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning

China’s largest bitcoin producing provinces have intensified a crackdown on cryptocurrency mining in the latest sign of how global authorities are toughening their stance on the rapidly growing digital asset markets.

The country’s bitcoin mining operations, the power-hungry process of computational puzzle-solving that creates new units of the virtual currency, have been in retreat since May when the government confirmed a ban on cryptocurrency transactions and warned of the risks of using them for payments. Bitcoin prices plunged after the announcement and are currently trading at about $30,000 below the April peak of almost $65,000.

China’s latest intervention places further pressure on what was once one of the world’s most vibrant markets for trading and mining digital currencies. It comes at a time when many governments are scrutinising the industry’s effect on the environment and determining the types of financial oversight that should be applied to cryptocurrencies.

Five stories in the news

1. Ackman’s Spac buys 10% of Universal Music for $4bn A blank-cheque company backed by hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman is to buy a 10 per cent stake in Universal Music Group, Taylor Swift’s label, for $4bn, it confirmed on Sunday. The deal is the first of its kind for a blank-cheque company and comes as music catalogues soar in value.

2. Raisi wins Iran presidential election by a landslide Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric and judiciary chief, won Iran’s presidential election, in a landslide victory that gives regime hardliners full control over all branches of the state for the first time in almost a decade. Western powers vowed over the weekend to forge ahead with efforts aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

  • FT View: Raisi’s ostensible landslide looks to be a Pyrrhic victory, gathering nothing like the popular support needed to guide Iran through one of its worst crises since the 1979 revolution that created the Islamic Republic.

3. General dismisses warnings of imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan General Mark Milley, America’s most senior general, has dismissed warnings of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan, insisting that the People’s Liberation Army was not yet capable of annexing the island.

4. Marine Le Pen falls short in French regional vote Rassemblement National, the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, fell short of expectations in the first round of France’s regional elections on Sunday, leaving the Les Républicains party and other centre-right politicians in a strong position for the second and final set of ballots next weekend.

5. Why Suga insists the Tokyo Olympics must go on Despite intense pressure to cancel or postpone Tokyo 2020, Japan has not yet come close to doing either, according to government and organising committee officials. Instead, they have sought to build a sense of inevitability around the event, which reflects a mixture of electoral politics, one-upmanship on China and practical calculation by Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s prime minister.

Opposition in Japan to the games is faltering, with just 31% of the public wanting to cancel the event © AP

Coronavirus digest

  • South Korea is on track to inoculate three-quarters of its 52m people against Covid-19 over the next three months after early delays.

  • The Delta coronavirus variant that swept the UK has become dominant in Portugal and appeared in clusters across Germany, France and Spain, prompting European health officials to warn further action is needed to slow its spread. 

  • One of Cuba’s coronavirus vaccines has shown 62 per cent efficacy in late-stage trials, using just two out of the three recommended doses.

  • Nurses and supermarket staff are seen as “key workers”. But what about security guards? George Bass writes that his job provides fear and grace in equal measure.

  • Afraid of the return of crowds after the pandemic? Here’s how to deal with them.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

The day ahead

India steps up vaccination drive India’s central government will begin offering Covid-19 vaccinations to all adults today, after previously leaving the responsibility to the states. (Times of India)

Ethiopia’s first ‘free’ poll Monday’s vote will be prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed’s first electoral test since sweeping to power on the back of protests in 2018 promising reform, even as some opposition politicians say the process is deeply flawed.

Activision faces showdown on CEO pay Activision Blizzard faces a contentious vote on its chief executive’s $155m pay package on Monday after delaying the showdown in what critics say was an effort to avoid an embarrassing rebuke.

What else we’re reading

Behind the scenes at China TV The international expansion of CGTN has been a major part of a Chinese soft power push that began in earnest with the Beijing Olympics in 2008. For China, the channel is part of a geopolitical battle for the hearts and minds of the world.

Elon Musk: CO2 saint or sinner? The electric car revolutionary has built a reputation as a clean energy champion. But SpaceX has never fitted in with Musk’s green image and now the tech billionaire is driving the energy-hungry crypto market. FT writers and experts weigh his climate record in this new film.

How Juneteenth became a consolation prize For many black Americans Juneteenth festivities this year were bittersweet. A day off work is no substitute for legal reforms to end institutional racism, writes US banking correspondent Imani Moise. And those who grew up celebrating Juneteenth as a Texas holiday are now seeing it for the first time as a national tradition. (FT, New Yorker)

Vladislav Surkov: ‘An overdose of freedom is lethal to a state’ Surkov is a founding father of Putinism, and one of its key enablers. He is the architect of Russia’s “sovereign democracy”, an ostensibly open system with a closed outcome: elections are called, candidates campaign, votes are cast, ballot boxes are opened, and the same man wins, every single time.

We must overcome the fear of genetic engineering in our food With climate change the next big threat, the huge carbon footprint of farming must be addressed. Genetic engineering offers the possibility of ending dependence on fertilisers which use fossil fuels, and of making crops more resilient, writes Camilla Cavendish.

Work and careers

Many people struggle to find the clarity and confidence required to extract oneself from abusive circumstances at work. Instead, they tend to think, “What have I done wrong?” writes Naomi Shragai, a business consultant and psychotherapist. FT’s Pilita Clark writes that lists of top bosses are fine but what about the 50 worst?

Correction: Hong Kong police arrested senior journalists at the Apple Daily newspaper, not the Daily Apple, as Friday’s newsletter incorrectly stated.

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