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FirstFT: Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe assassinated

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Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving former prime minister, has been shot dead during a campaign speech in one of the most significant acts of political violence to rock the country in the postwar era.

Abe’s death at the age of 67 was reported by state broadcaster NHK. He was shot twice in the neck and left collarbone at about 11.30am local time today in the western city of Nara, according to the fire department.

The shooting has shocked Japan and politicians around the world who sent messages of support to the family of the former prime minister.

Abe was one of Japan’s most influential prime ministers of recent times. In 2012 he launched an economic programme known as Abenomics which aimed to lift the Japanese economy out of decades of deflation. He was also known for his hawkish opinions on history and his wish to reform the Japanese constitution to expand the country’s military role.

“This is a heinous act of brutality that is utterly unforgivable,” said Fumio Kishida, the current prime minister of Japan, before Abe’s death was reported.

Nara police named the suspect as Tetsuya Yamagami, a resident of the city, with no known occupation. According to the defence ministry, he served in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force from 2002 to 2005.

Gun ownership is limited in Japan and political violence is rare. Inejirō Asanuma, then-head of the Japan Socialist party, was the last high-profile Japanese politician to be killed, after a stabbing in 1960. There was an assassination attempt against former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 1994.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas and here is the rest of the day’s news — Jennifer

1. Former Theranos executive convicted of fraud Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was yesterday convicted of fraud over his role as former president at the now-defunct blood testing start-up, founded by his former girlfriend and business partner Elizabeth Holmes. Balwani was convicted on all 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy by a jury in San Jose, California.

2. Contest to succeed Boris Johnson begins The contest to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the UK’s ruling Conservative party has begun. Johnson resigned yesterday after a tumultuous three years as prime minister which saw the UK leave the European Union amid a global health pandemic. Party grandees said they hoped to have a successor to Johnson, who will become the new prime minister, in place by September.

4. US urges Japan to step up pressure on crypto miners with links to Russia US diplomats have asked several of Japan’s 31 officially licensed crypto exchanges that still have ties with Russia to sever those links in a bid to further financially isolate the country from the outside world, according to people close to the situation. If you want to receive regular news updates on the cryptocurrency industry we are launching a new premium newsletter. Sign up here.

4. HSBC banker quits over climate change furore Stuart Kirk, head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management, has resigned after a provocative speech at a Financial Times event in May that accused policymakers of overstating the financial risks of climate change.

5. Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drugs charges in Russia The US basketball star yesterday pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling charges in a Moscow court appearance but said she had not intended to commit any crime. The court is expected to reconvene for another hearing of the case on July 14.

US basketball star Brittney Griner, centre, yesterday arrives in handcuffs at a Moscow court © Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The days ahead

Economic data A closely watched US jobs report is expected to show that hiring slowed in June as the red-hot labour market finally begins to show signs of cooling after growing at a robust pace since the end of the pandemic. The euro headed towards parity with the dollar ahead of the data release.

G20 meeting Foreign ministers meet for their final day of talks on the Indonesian island of Bali, with the war in Ukraine top of the list of issues to discuss. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is attending, as is US secretary of state Antony Blinken. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, was scheduled to address the meeting virtually.

Wimbledon championships Australian Nick Kyrgios was given a pass to Sunday’s men’s final after Rafael Nadal withdrew because of a torn abdominal muscle. Novak Djokovic is bidding to play in his 32nd Grand Slam final by beating Britain’s rising star Cameron Norrie in today’s lone men’s semi-final match. Tunisian third seed Ons Jabeur will meet Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in tomorrow’s women’s single final.

What else we’re reading

Twitter’s CEO seeks to ‘swing back’ in Elon Musk takeover battle Brash billionaire Elon Musk has often goaded Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s enigmatic chief, during their three-month takeover battle. But now, say insiders at the social media company, Agrawal is becoming more aggressive. “It seems Twitter is willing to go to war to make this deal happen,” one former Twitter executive tells the FT.

Italy’s worst drought in decades A lack of rain has desiccated fields in the country’s northern agricultural heartland, leading to the worst climate event since at least 2003 when a massive heatwave and drought killed 30,000 people. Once again, drought is threatening power generation and agricultural output.

How to change someone’s mind What does it mean to have an argument with someone? What goals are served by different styles of debate? And if you hope to persuade someone to change their mind, how should you do it? Tim Harford loves the ideals of debate. But he is not optimistic that it often works in practice.

Covid’s chronic effects A wave of infections is deluging much of the world this month, fuelled by the rapid takeover of the latest iteration of Omicron. Despite fewer severe cases, the volume of infections means hundreds of thousands will be unwell in the long term, John Burn-Murdoch explains.

Should artists have a stake in their own work? A weird system of economics belies the $65bn top-tier contemporary art market, which has bounced back sharply from the pandemic. A surge in global wealth has unleashed speculation in the works of a few coveted artists — who see little of the profit.

Reader feedback

Earlier this week I asked for your thoughts on Joe Biden’s plan to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as part of a series of measures by the White House to control surging energy prices. Here are some of your responses:

“When he took office, the US was the number one oil and gas producer in the world. Now he’s begging autocracies like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to produce more oil. This is arguably the most misguided policy in recent history and is far more responsible for inflation than Putin’s war on Ukraine.” (Duncan Pollock, Stockbridge, Massachusetts)

“Yes, I agree with more drilling, but at the same time there should be a timeline set to implement a transition to renewable energy.” (Samer Hanoudi, Detroit, Michigan)

“Small gestures will be ineffective, alienating more voters than incremental gestures can attract. Weakness on the inflation issue will cripple him in the midterm elections and ultimately prove fatal to his re-election bid. Weakness and indecision is not a winning combination for any leader.” (Gilbert Maurer, New York)

“What I find most shocking about the US response to the constraints and price rises that characterise today’s oil and gas markets, is the administration’s unwillingness to promote conservation measures.” (Dr. Elissa Sampson, New York)

Thank you for all your responses and have a good weekend. FirstFT Americas will be back in your inbox on Monday morning — Gordon

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