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FirstFT: Today’s top stories 

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Robert Mueller’s report into Russia’s 2016 US presidential election meddling has been published, shortly after William Barr, the US attorney-general, revealed that it discusses “10 episodes” involving possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.

The attorney-general said Mr Mueller, the special counsel, had found “no collusion” between Mr Trump or his presidential campaign and Russia, echoing the defence President Trump has frequently made against an investigation that he called a “witch hunt”.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House speaker, and Chuck Schumer, Democratic leader in the Senate, called for Mr Mueller to publicly testify before Congress, accusing Mr Barr of being “regrettably partisan”.

The FT’s Washington bureau is poring through the nearly 450-page report. Here are the most important revelations we have found so far. (FT)

There will be no FirstFT edition for Monday, April 22, because of the Eastern holiday. We will be back on Tuesday the 23. 

In the news

Row over Notre-Dame reconstruction French opposition politicians have expressed outrage at the idea of repairs to the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris that do not faithfully reflect the largely medieval original, attacking President Emmanuel Macron’s government for raising the possibility of using modern designs or materials. (FT)

Right wing politicians say the spire, which collapsed from within the scaffolding, should be reconstructed using its original 19th century materials of metal and wood © AP

Galaxy Fold phone breakages Some of Samsung’s new folding phones priced at almost $2,000 appear to be breaking only after a couple of days of use, according to multiple tech reviewers. The company said it would investigate the faults, but still pledged to make the Galaxy Fold available on April 26 in the US. Meanwhile, Huawei has laid down the gauntlet to its rivals, saying it planned to sell a 5G phone for just $600, roughly half the price that analysts expected for next-generation handsets. (FT, NYT)

Blackstone status shift The world’s biggest private equity fund is ditching a partnership status that has shielded much of its income from corporate taxation after concluding that tax cuts meant the complex structure was no longer worth the trouble. (FT)

Pyongyang pooh-poohs Pompeo North Korea no longer wants to deal with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo as its negotiating partner for nuclear talks, its state media said on Thursday, less than 24 hours after announcing that Pyongyang had tested a new weapon. (FT)

Pakistan finance minister steps down Asad Umar, Pakistan’s finance minister resigned on Thursday following widespread criticism over the country’s economic crisis and his handling of a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund. (FT)

Watchdog urges end of Big Four dominance The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority called on Thursday for rapid legislation to end the dominance of the Big Four accounting firms and address problems of poor working practices and conflicts of interest in the scandal-hit audit sector. However, the proposals received a mixed reception on concerns that it may not prevent a repeat of recent corporate accounting failures. (FT)

JPMorgan reshuffle Marianne Lake, chief financial officer of JPMorgan, has been appointed to head the bank’s consumer lending and cards businesses. The move increases the rising star’s chances of succeeding Jamie Dimon as chief executive and fills in what some cited as a crucial gap in her CV. Here’s a profile from last year of the physics graduate. (FT)

Tech IPOs surge in debut Online pinboard provider Pinterest went up on the boards of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday and jumped 29 per cent to $24.58 near the close of trade. Also, the business video conferencing service Zoom shot up 75 per cent to $63.14 on its first day of trading. The pop for both signalled investor confidence in tech IPOs, despite the disappointing performance of ride-sharing service Lyft. (FT)

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Did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz. Which Democrat is leading the fundraising race ahead of the 2020 election? Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders?

The days ahead

UK climate protest action Environmental activists who have taken over key thoroughfares in London for four days demanding the UK government declare a climate emergency say they plan to “shut down” Heathrow airport on Friday in a significant escalation of their action. Both police and politicians appeared unsure over how to end the increasing disruption to London’s transport network. (FT)

© AP

Ukrainian presidential election Television comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is the frontrunner to win Ukraine’s presidential run-off this Sunday. Petro Poroshenko, president since soon after Ukraine’s 2014 pro-democracy revolution, polled barely half of the 30 per cent Mr Zelensky achieved in last month’s first found of voting. Meanwhile, Russia will ban the export of oil, petrochemicals and coal to Ukraine from June, raising pressure on Kiev ahead of the election run-off. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead. Click to subscribe here. And don’t miss our FT News Briefing audio show — a short daily rundown of the top global stories.

What we’re reading

Bolsonaro versus the rainforest As Jair Bolsanaro, Brazil’s rightwing president, seeks to open the Amazon rainforest for commercial development, indigenous people fear displacement and ecological destruction. Having fought colonists, other tribal groups, loggers and gold diggers over hundreds of years, they are now ready to battle Mr Bolsanaro to save their home. (FT)

Sound of the preacher man Joel Osteen, known as the “smiling preacher”, runs America’s largest megachurch. More than 50,000 people stream each week into a converted basketball arena to hear his sermons. Millions more watch on TV or online. Edward Luce, our Washington commentator, visited the Lakewood Church in Houston to understand the growing popularity of its brand of Pentecostal Christianity and faith healing. (FT)

Break your single-use plastics habit The world generated 242m tons of plastic waste in 2016, according to The World Bank. The sheer amount of waste isn’t the only problem. Plastics don’t biodegrade but can break down in the sun into smaller fragments known as secondary microplastics, which are harder to detect and clean up. Here are things all of us can do to reduce plastic waste. (NYT)

Rising production in the US and falling demand in China has caused the price of polyethylene to fall 18% from its peak last summer © Bloomberg

Can vending machines stop the opioid crisis? As North America battles an opioid crisis, one doctor believes the answer lies in dispensing safer drugs with high-tech machines. Wired Magazine dives into the complex causes of the crisis, and whether doctor Mark Tyndall’s unorthodox proposal to provide safer drugs to users could help solve it. (Wired)

Land-owning gentry Half of England is owned by less than 1 per cent of its population. Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson. The findings of a new study show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre — an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London. (The Guardian)

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Make friends while travelling solo Experiencing another culture on your own terms, at your own pace, with a budget of your own choosing can be an incredibly rewarding and insightful adventure. But some might worry about safety or a period of solitude in an unfamiliar place. Here are some tactics you can use to meet and befriend people abroad when you are travelling alone. (NYT)

Wolves: the most political animals Norway is one of the world’s richest countries, and captive wolves are some of the country’s most beloved tourist attractions. Even so, the return of wild wolves after centuries of persecution has provoked both joy and furious resistance, pitting urban and rural Norwegians against each other. (Atlantic)

Video of the day

Are non-alcoholic beers ready to challenge the real thing? The FT’s Leila Abboud and Al Gilmour put alcohol free and low-alcohol beers to the test, tasting them against full-strength brews from some of the biggest producers in the industry. (FT)


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