FirstFT: US orders families of embassy staff to leave Ukraine

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The United States ordered the family members of its embassy staff to leave Ukraine on Sunday due to the threat of “significant military action” against the country by Russia.

The State Department said all U.S. citizens should consider leaving immediately because “security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russian-occupied Crimea, and in eastern Ukraine under Russian control, are unpredictable and can deteriorate without notice”.

Non-essential U.S. government employees have the option to leave Ukraine if they wish.

The warning came after weeks of growing tension along Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops.

Senior State Department officials said the travel order was not triggered by new security threats, but by the fact that “military action by Russia could occur at any time.” They said the US government “would not be able to evacuate US citizens in such an event.” The embassy would remain open, they said.

Thank you for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news – Will

1. China’s naval reach in the Western Pacific fuels tensions China has established a constant naval presence near southern Japan and eastern Taiwan, in a marked expansion of Beijing’s sea power that has drawn attention to the region as a potential future battleground.

2. Brookfield is expanding its hedge fund business in Europe Brookfield Asset Management is expanding its hedge fund business in Europe, as the Canadian investment group bets on a strategy that has generated stellar returns for some of the biggest names in the industry during the pandemic.

3. German publishers oppose Google’s third-party cookie project Germany’s biggest publishers and advertisers are calling on the EU to intervene in Google’s plan to end the use of third-party cookies. Axel Springer, the publisher of titles such as Bild and Politico, is among hundreds of publishers, advertisers and media groups who have argued to the bloc’s competition chief that Google is breaking EU law.

4. UK ‘overloaded’ and ‘overwhelmed’ in fight against economic crime Economic crime is costing the UK hundreds of times more than what the government spends each year fighting it, according to a report. Spotlight on Corruption, an anti-corruption watchdog, said the government spends £852m a year on the budgets of economic crime agencies. The National Crime Agency estimates that money laundering costs the UK around £100bn, while fraud losses amount to around £190bn.

5. Airlines will be forced to fly more this summer to retain landing rights Airlines will be forced to fly more regularly this summer to retain take-off and landing rights at UK airports, a sign ministers expect air travel to resume rapidly in the months ahead. The Department for Transport said carriers would have to return slots if they were unused 70% of the time from March 27, up from the current threshold of 50%.

Summary of coronavirus

  • Tourist groups are preparing for an increase in holiday bookings for the mid-term break when ministers are expected to reduce the remaining test required for vaccinated travelers to the UK next week.

  • australia the private sector shrank for the first time in four months as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disrupted operations in December.

  • from new zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will reintroduce tough Covid-19 restrictions – forcing her to scrap her own wedding plans – as Asia-Pacific battles to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

  • the Beijing Winter Olympics poses a challenge to China’s zero Covid policy.

  • The Omicron variant causes much less damage to the eurozone economy than previous waves of Covid-19, according to an analysis by the FT.

The day ahead

IBM revenue The IT, technology and computer consulting firm will report its fourth quarter results.

Italian presidential election Parliamentarians and regional representatives will start voting for the replacement of Sergio Mattarella.

PMI IHS Markit releases Composite Purchasing Managers Index flash data for Japan, Eurozone, France, Germany, UK and US. (IHS Markit)

What else we read

Draghi’s dilemma Mario Draghi confronts Italian politicians with a dilemma: keep their country’s most famous technocrat as prime minister, allowing him to press ahead with an ambitious EU-funded reform agenda, or elevate him to head of state, potentially triggering a crippling crisis over a successor as head of government. The uncertainty has rekindled concerns about Italy’s ability to implement tough but long-awaited reforms to improve its growth prospects.

The Metaverse Bandwidth Problem The speculative poetry of what might possibly be possible in the metaverse leaps far ahead of the more prosaic reality, experts say. A fully functional virtual world, or even just a real-time, high-definition immersive experience, will require far more capacity to transmit data between consumer and network than is available in homes around the world.

Netflix facing a dystopian future The streaming giant seemed to have the wind in its sails at the end of 2021, with the success of squid game and Don’t look up. But the star-studded releases weren’t enough to give it a significant subscriber boost in the fourth quarter. What if the hit shows are no longer enough to attract many new subscribers?

A scene from Squid Game

Analysts say the lifespan of hit programs such as Squid Game is short in an age of excessive viewing © Netflix via AP

Get ready for the four-day work week First, it was about working from home, writes our economics columnist Pilita Clark. Today, the four-day working week is disrupting business life in ways that would have seemed unthinkable before Covid-19. Young managers are much more interested in the idea than the older leaders they are about to replace.

Millions of Turks are flocking to cryptocurrencies TV news channels feature bitcoin and ethereum prices alongside dollar and euro exchange rates. Halftime TV commercials at football games extol the virtues of crypto exchanges. Amid soaring inflation and falling Turkish Lira, millions are investing in crypto. The renewed interest has alarmed the country’s authorities who now want to regulate the sector.

Life & Arts

FT San Francisco correspondent Patrick McGee looks at the controversial rise of connected fitness. Peloton fans and peers describe the gamified experience as a way to get fit, or even build community, without feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable in the gym.

Patrick McGee using some of the products

Patrick McGee: “This is the closest thing yet to cracking the code that will inspire more people to be physically active” © Cayce Clifford/FT

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