Rex Tillerson fired, May’s Putin ultimatum, papal TV vow

What to watch for today

Theresa May’s ultimatum to Vladimir Putin. The British prime minister has demanded that the Kremlin explain by midnight local time (8am in Hong Kong) why a deadly Russian nerve agent was used to poison a former double agent and his daughter in the sleepy city of Salisbury.

Japan Inc. hands out raises. Spring negotiations between big employers and unions are expected to result in wage increases above last year’s 2% hike, but below prime minister Shinzo Abe’s 3% target.

While you were sleeping

Donald Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson… The former oil executive, who was frequently at odds with the US president, was replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo on the eve of high-pressure diplomatic negotiations with North Korea. Deputy CIA director Gina Haspel was tapped to become the first woman to run the spy agency.

…Along with presidential aide John McEntee. In a busy day for the White House personnel desk, former college quarterback McEntee—Trump’s “body man,” responsible for managing the details of the president’s day—was axed for unspecified “security issues.” CNN reported that he is under investigation for “serious financial crimes.”

A Russian exile died of unknown causes in London. As UK-Russia tensions neared the boiling point, Nikolai Glushkov, a former Aeroflet executive and associate of the late Putin antagonist Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his home. After Berezovsky’s contested death in 2013, Glushkov told the Guardian that “too many deaths [of Russian emigres] have been happening.”

Volkswagen is spending $25 billion on batteries to do battle with Tesla. The German automaker announced large contracts with suppliers including Samsung, LG, and China’s CATL for its expanding electric car lineup. Unlike Tesla, which is developing its own powerpacks in partnership with Panasonic, VW won’t design or build its own batteries.

Vice Media poached a new CEO from A+E Networks. Nancy Dubuc is replacing Vice co-founder Shane Smith, who called his new colleague “better than me at everything,” as he becomes executive chairman. Dubuc’s presence may allay concerns about widespread sexual misconduct allegations by Vice employees.

Quartz obsession interlude

Hanna Kozlowska on how Facebook “turned into a beast” in Myanmar: “Facebook is so prevalent that it essentially functions as the entire internet, and is the main source of information for citizens … Because of that, it’s been easy for ultra-nationalists to use the platform to stoke hatred against the Rohingya minority, who have been targeted by government forces, killed by the thousands and driven out of the country.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Blockchain can be used to “fight fire with fire.” IMF head Christine Lagarde says regulators can use the technology to address the “peril that comes along with the promise” of cryptocurrencies.

Don’t leave bad jobs off your resume. Being caught in an omission is even worse.

Who will steal Android from Google? Competitors are developing their own platforms that work much more smoothly than Google’s confusing mishmash of tools.

Surprising discoveries

Pope Francis promised the Virgin Mary he wouldn’t watch TV. He has kept that promise since 1990.

The wealthy are lining up for “young blood.” A scientifically dubious study would charge participants up to $285,000.

Belgian monks are angry at beer scalpers. The Jan Linders supermarket chain has been selling the monks’ Westvleteren brew at a steep markup.

Athletes and celebrities are adopting the Black Panther salute. Tennis players, soccer players, and film stars are using “Wakanda Forever” as a symbol of black excellence.

Bose wants to augment your reality with sound, not vision. The company’s new prototype sunglasses are jam-packed with sensors and inobtrusive speakers.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Trappist ale, and papal binge-watching recommendations to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written and edited by Susan Howson and Adam Pasick.