Carmakers, Cyprus, Putin

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It’s been a bad week for carmakers. On Friday the authorities in France became the latest to take action against alleged emissions cheats, launching a preliminary investigation into French carmaker Renault over suspicion the company may have “cheated” to conceal abnormal emissions of pollutants from some of its diesel engines.

The news came a day after the US Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler of violating emissions laws in 104,000 diesel vehicles, raising the spectre of an eventual recall for these vehicles. On Wednesday Volkswagen agreed to pay a $4.3bn criminal fine for deliberately evading US pollution laws.

Meanwhile, US regulators are set to announce another criminal settlement involving the car industry. Japanese automotive supplier Takata is expected to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing as part of what is reportedly a $1bn settlement with the US Justice Department in its probe of rupturing airbags. (FT, Wired, Reuters)

In the news

Chinese warnings Chinese state media have warned the incoming Trump administration that it risks war with Beijing if it blocks access to islands in the South China Sea. Rex Tillerson, the US president-elect’s nominee for secretary of state, said in Washington that “access to those islands . . . is not going to be allowed”. An editorial in the state-run China Daily described Mr Tillerson’s remarks as “a mish-mash of . . . unrealistic political fantasies”. In a wide-ranging investigation the FT shows how Beijing has spent billions expanding its ports network to secure sea lanes and establish itself as a major maritime superpower. (Guardian, FT)

Cyprus talks end Negotiations in Geneva to reunify the Mediterranean island have ended without an agreement, after stalling over how a deal can be militarily secured. Diplomats remain upbeat and say there is still hope for a deal between the Greek and Turkish sides. (Guardian)

Economic boost for Brexiters Robust UK consumer demand has defied economists’ pessimism over a post-referendum downturn, reinforcing Brexiters’ belief that the country will benefit from leaving Europe. (FT)

Obama’s parting shots Barack Obama has kept busy in his last week. He has ended “wet-foot, dry-foot”, a longstanding US policy that allowed Cuban nationals who reached the US to be eligible automatically for residency. His administration also launched a new case at the World Trade Organisation that is nominally targeted at the Chinese aluminium industry. (FT)

Dossiers, kompromat and intelligence The former MI6 spy who is the alleged author of the controversial dossier alleging Trump ties to Russia is reported to have left his home and to be lying low. Multiple sources support the dossier’s claim that the Russians have what is called kompromat — or compromising material — on Trump, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, Trump supporters in Iowa appear unperturbed by the allegations. Elsewhere, US intelligence continues to be roiled by a justice department investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton case during the election. (FT, BBC, NYT, Atlantic)

Test your knowledge with the week in news quiz. How old did the iPhone turn this week?

It’s a big day for

Big banks Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase begin earnings season for Wall Street — here are five things to look out for as they present fourth-quarter results. (FT)

Food for thought

What Putin really wants from Trump Cuddle up to the Kremlin and do not be surprised when you are burnt, writes the FT’s Philip Stephens. “The next time US intelligence agencies flag up a security threat — another Russian incursion into Ukraine, say — the Kremlin has a riposte. If the occupant of the Oval Office has no faith in the CIA, the National Security Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, why should anyone else believe them?” (FT)

Europe’s future What is the future of democracy in Europe as Brexit, Le Pen, Trump and the refugee crisis loom? According to history professor Adam Tooze, “the result to be feared is not a new dark age, or the imminent collapse of capitalist democracy, the eurozone or the EU, but merely the depressing continuation of both Europe and Germany’s failure to live up to their potential”. (LRB)

Political minstrels ​Congo’s exuberant music is one of its most influential exports but musicians are forced to rely on the country’s notoriously corrupt politicians for ​patronage. In return, they spread their paymasters’ propaganda through their songs — an important conduit for political messages in a country with low literacy. (Economist)

Steve Jobs lives on . . . in China The man who championed computers as tools that would enrich people’s lives, then decades later introduced us to the smartphone and put apps in our pockets, is now helping to spawn a wave of like-minded entrepreneurs in China. (NAR)

The death of the great British curry house The curry house’s once unassailable place in British life looks precarious. Thousands of Indian restaurants are critically short of both staff to cook the food and customers to eat it and handfuls are closing down every week. Why has Britain turned its back on its favourite food — and shut out the people needed to cook it? (Guardian)

Video of the day

Trump and transparency Gillian Tett, the FT’s US managing editor, looks at how president-elect Donald Trump and his cabinet will handle their corporate interests and potential conflicts of interest. Critics say his plans to separate from their businesses are inadequate. (FT)

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