Lionel Barber’s pick of the week

If you missed this week’s FT or FT.com, you would have missed the following gems:

1. The “shrinking titans” interactive graphic on FT.com, an easy-to-use guide which combines information and wit on the changing fortunes of the world’s top bankers.

2. The succinct Lex note on the flaws in the Obama plan to curb bankers’ pay. One of several sharp Lex notes this week.

3. Aviva, the UK’s biggest insurer, is to cut a promised £1bn (€1.1bn) pay-out for more than 1m policyholders after sharp falls in stock markets. Andrea Felsted broke a big UK corporate scoop.

4. John Thornhill’s elegantly incisive op-ed on the roots of anti-westernism in Russia and how the west should respond.

5. UBS tried to sell its brokerage operation to Morgan Stanley last year in a bid to raise cash and downsize the investment bank. Peter Thal Larsen led the coverage with Francesco Guerrera and Julie Macintosh in New York.

6. The UK is suffering an outbreak of 1970s-style industrial action featuring disputes over tea breaks and declining productivity, according to government and company officials. Jean Eaglesham broke the story behind the story of the wildcat strikes.

7. P&G is looking to sell its pharmaceutical brands. Julie Macintosh broke the story. Julie also broke another exclusive with Francesco Guerrera and Nicole Bullock on plans by Lehman Brothers to pay off creditors with stock rather than cash.

8. Gideon Rachman’s Big Page on the intellectual foundations of Obama’s new foreign policy - the result of prodigious background reading.

9. Guy Dinmore’s weekend profile of Pope Benedict XVI, a riveting account which fingered the men in the Vatican behind the controversial decision to welcome a Holcaust denier back into the Church. We wrote a splendidly splenetic leader too earlier in the week.

10. Google and Nasa are combining forces to back Singularity University, a new school for futurists. David Gelles in Silicon Valley caught Drudge’s eye and huge hits followed.

Corporate news watch:
Henny Sender broke two exclusives on TPG, one detailing the end of the private equity firm’s efforts to sell a stake to outside investors and the other breaking the news that TPG was returning money from its distressed bank fund to investors (in contrast to the strategies of its competitors).

Ken Li and Ben Fenton broke the news that News Corp was moving to lay off newsroom staff on both sides of the Atlantic. Ken’s account of the job cuts at the Wall Street Journal was later confirmed by that paper’s editor in an internal memo.

Matt Garrahan grabbed a spot on the Drudge Report with quick work detailing the breakdown of talks between Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios.

Tom Mitchell did a fine job covering PCCW’s efforts to go private, much to the anger of minority shareholders, while Jack Burton and Sunny Tucker brought us nuanced covearge of changes at the top of Temasek, with the appointment of Charles Goodyear.

Foreign news watch:
Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr have produced some great on-the-ground reporting from Tehran ahead of the spring presidential elections.

Anna Fifield produced more highly readable dispatches, this time from Tikrit in Iraq ahead of the elections.

Charles Clover and Catherine Belton have produced excellent coverage of the Russian banking/economic crisis - and the political tensions between the siloviki and liberals in the Kremlin/White House. The crashing Russian economy is one to watch.

Tobias Buck produced thoughtful reportage on the latest moves in the Israeli election and the rise of the far right in the form of Avigdor Lieberman.

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