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Samsung’s problems just got even worse. The company’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong has been arrested for bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with a massive corruption scandal that has already resulted in the president’s impeachment. It could hinder the succession and restructuring plans for South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, which is still reeling from the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. (A Samsung factory catching fire last week demonstrates how the faulty batteries are still causing headaches for the company.)
Large, family-controlled companies such as Samsung, which dominate South Korea’s economy, are perceived as enjoying lenient treatment from the judicial system — a factor that has contributed to public anger over the widening corruption scandal. Prosecutors are focusing on roughly $37m in payments made by Samsung to entities allegedly linked to a friend of President Park Geun-hye. The payments, they allege, were to receive a nod for a contentious 2015 merger of two Samsung units. (FT, Guardian, WSJ, Reuters)
In the news
That press conference The American president’s 77-minute news conference has been described as “combative”, “erratic”, and “unconventional”. It was organised to announce a new nominee for labour secretary — Alexander Acosta — but the topics were wide-ranging. Meanwhile, Robert Harward, the ex-navy Seal chosen to succeed Michael Flynn as national security adviser, turned down the offer. Mr Trump also used the conference to say Mr Flynn did nothing wrong by discussing US sanctions with the Russian ambassador before the inauguration. (Bloomberg, WaPo, NYT, FT)
Former PM calls for Brexit fight Tony Blair will issue a rallying cry on Friday to opponents of Brexit, urging them to fight against Theresa May’s plans to take Britain out of the EU and warning that the country is on a “cliff edge”. It is his first major political intervention since last year’s referendum but his comments are being criticised as “arrogant and utterly undemocratic”. (FT, BBC)
Greek breakthrough hopes shelved The eurozone is set to miss the deadline for a Greek bailout deal, with EU officials still unable to reach an agreement with the IMF. It means the bailout fight will be pushed into the Dutch and French election season where diplomats fear it could become highly politicised. French bonds are being traded at volumes not seen since the eurozone crisis as investors become concerned the result will deliver the world’s next populist upset. (FT)
Shake-up for Norway’s $900bn fund Oslo has proposed the biggest changes to the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund in decades, cutting the amount of oil money the country can spend each year and tilting the fund towards higher risk by investing about $90bn more in stock markets. (FT)
Asia bucks trend of public distrust While public distrust of the government, business and the media appears to be growing in the west, some Asian countries are bucking the trend. Respondents to the survey by consultancy Edelman in Japan and South Korea had deep distrust of institutions but those in India, Indonesia, China and Singapore held broadly positive opinions. (NAR)
Test your knowledge with the week in news quiz. How many electric vehicles does South Korea want on the road by 2020?
It’s a big day for
Global security Mike Pence, US vice-president, is due to top the bill at the Munich Security Conference, Europe’s leading defence forum, amid uncertainty about transatlantic relations after Donald Trump’s election.
Food for thought
China’s North Korea headache The firing of a ballistic missile towards Japan and the murder in Malaysia of the North Korean leader’s half-brother have exasperated Beijing just as it was seeking to improve relations with a troublesome neighbour that had angered the international community with two nuclear tests last year. Two more suspects have been arrested in connection with the assassination. (FT)
Cautious Kremlin The west looks fragile but here is why Vladimir Putin’s Russia may be unable to step up to a leading global role. (FT)
Wikipedia’s army of fact-checkers With newsroom budgets shrinking and the traditional authoritative institutions increasingly treated with scepticism, Wikipedia’s ever-changing verification structure has redeemed its credibility problem. Now, in unusual online collaboration, the company is cultivating an army to battle fake news. Separately, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has posted a manifesto to counter concerns about fake news. (Pacific Standard Magazine, FT)
Israel’s high hopes Israel has global ambitions to become a medical marijuana supplier and has taken the first steps to amend laws that will allow the export of medical marijuana products. (FT)
The graffiti kids who sparked the Syrian war They were giggling school boys with black spray paint. But their simple rebellion had an effect similar to the assassin’s bullet fired at the outbreak of the first world war. Without that act of teenage impetuousness — and the Assad regime’s violent reaction to it — would the refugee crisis be on the scale it is now? Would the UK — spurred by campaign posters of streams of refugees heading north — have voted to leave the EU? Would the anti-immigrant message of Donald Trump have resonated quite so deeply? One reporter goes back to the beginning, in 2011, in an effort to understand the moment we are in. (Globe and Mail)
Vitamin D could help ward off flu Researchers have found people who take vitamin D regularly suffer fewer respiratory tract infections. Deficiency of the so-called sunshine vitamin is already known to cause rickets, but too much vitamin D can also lead to medical problems. (BMJ, BBC)
Video of the day
Murder reveals nature of North Korean dictator The assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the elder brother of Kim Jong Un, at a crowded airport demonstrates the power and paranoia of the North Korean leader. The FT’s Jeevan Vasagar reports from Kuala Lumpur airport. (FT)