Lionel Barber’s pick of the fortnight

Introduction: Asian and western governments (barring Germany) reflate their economies to stave off a global depression; sterling slumps against the euro and yen; China reported a stomach-churning 2.2 per cent year-on-year fall in exports in November; the Big Three car-makers in Detroit slide toward bankruptcy; President Nicolas Sarkozy bullies his fellow Europeans into a compromise over carbon emissions; and Bernard Madoff, a pillar of the New York financial establishment, confesses to running a $50bn Ponzi scheme.

And if you have not been reading the FT or this past fortnight, you would have missed plenty of news, comment and analysis which did not appear elsewhere, such as:

1) Senior executives have quit their jobs at Terra Firma as the private equity firm struggles to turn round EMI, the music publishing group. Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, supported by Martin Arnold and Salamander Davoudi, wrote a definitive Analysis page on EMI which featured the eye-catching headline, “Dark Side of the Boom”.

2) Farhan Bokhari and James Lamont notched up an exclusive interview with Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s accidental president, followed by a sharp Weekend profile of the man once called Mr 10 per cent, now charged with holding together a nuclear Pakistan.

3) Conversations on the Credit Crunch included videos interviews with  Eric Daniels, CEO of Lloyds-HBOS, and Lord Turner, chairman of the FSA. Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, appears this week from Frankfurt.  The series will resume after Christmas.

4) Workers at Corus, the steel manufacturer owned by the Tata group, are considering pay cuts in return for securing jobs and the future of the Llanwern plant in south Wales, according to plans put forward by the union.  Jim Pickard and Peter Marsh broke the story which was widely followed.

5) Michael Mackenzie added to his reputation for spotting canaries in coal mines by noting that short-term US interest rates had fallen to just about zero. Rates turned negative the next day and Mike followed up with a front-page story but our readers were already way ahead on the story.

6) Proctor and Gamble is planning an unprecedented expansion of its manufacturing facilities in the developing world. Just about everyone else in the US went only with P&G’s earnings forecasts, but Jonathan Birchall drilled down for a top line that was exclusive the next day and historically significant.

7) Roula Khalaf produced a magisterial analysis of the state of political Islam – a must-read for anyone interested in understanding what is happening on the ground in the Middle East.

8.) Chinese package tours are offering special deals for investors wishing to pick up California homes on the cheap from distressed sellers. Geoff Dyer spotted the trend from his perch in Beijing.

9) Tony Barber wrote a top-notch Global Village column on the impending closure of Lithuania’s Soviet-era nuclear power plant. A model of on-the-ground reportage mixed with political context.

10) Jurek Martin wrote an utterly brilliant Saturday obit on the world’s most famous amnesiac.  I am sorry but I have just forgotten the man’s name …

Notable and Quotable: Barney Jopson’s dispatches for our WaterAid appeal have been outstanding. We published the second video from Nepal which focused on the work the charity is doing to make water collection easier for villagers. Steve Ager did tremendous work on location for

Henny Sender’s front-page scoop on the growing problems of the Goldman Sachs Liquidity Partners hedge fund, a development that underscores the bank’s difficulties as it tries to expand its wealth management operations.

Martin Wolf’s op-ed column on why it is (still not) time for Britain to join the euro.  His Friday column on what we should do about Britain’s banks was also a must-read.

Francesco Guerrera continued a run of excellent scoops which included Dick Fuld’s plans for a boutique bank comeback and the likelihood that senior Citigroup executives and director Robert Rubin will forego bonuses this year.

John O’Docherty wrote an excellent on-the-ground report of a firesale in one of Woolies’ London stores.

Andrew Parker, supported by Daniel Thomas, Michael Peel and Kiran Stacy, wrote several telling dispatches on the fall from grace of David Ross, the entrepreneur and socialite who pledged shares in Carphone Warehouse and other companies as collateral for his property investments.  Saturday’s backgrounder was very good.

Let there be Lightness: Our readers need laugh-out-loud moments.  Here are some great examples in the FT this past fortnight. Michael Fullilove’s op-ed on why Barack Obama should use cricket not baseball as a guide to foreign policy. The piece generated some great letters. Lucy Kellaway stormed back from her sabbatical with a column on how jobless bankers are scouring the internet for virtual and real-life girlfriends.  Her pay-off line was delicious. Gideon Rachman’s tongue-in-cheek column on the case for world government broke all records for reader feedback. He received dozens of hate-mail (cf his blog on internet slime) and is currently hiding in an undisclosed location somewhere near West Hampstead.

The letters page came up with a wonderful Paul Newman image for Nouriel Roubini pasta, inspired a sharply written letter from a  reader saying Dr Doom was becoming so famous that he could market his own pasta or “credit crunch croutons”.

Analysis page watch: Freddie Studemann and his doughty team are turning out some excellent features. Among the most enjoyable: Joe Leahy on the travails of the Tata group; Daniel Schaefer on Germany’s struggling (and suprisingly
unconservative) family businesses
who have become unstuck after engaging in financial engineering.  Josh Chaffin wrote a tricky but well-researched analysis of Europe’s efforts to reach a deal on carbon emissions.  Vanessa Houlder composed an equally well-researched account of the clampdown on international tax havens.

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