Lionel Barber’s pick of the week

Themes of the Week: Larry Summers says the US economy has stopped falling off a cliff; Bob Gates at the Pentagon takes an axe to the military-industrial complex; Japan unveils (another) stimulus package; tensions erupt in the former Soviet borderlands in Moldova and Georgia; Royal Bank of Scotland announces 9,000 job losses in one day; and Britain’s top anti-terrorist cop resigns over a schoolboy error.

And if you missed the Financial Times or this Easter week, you would have missed the following unique items.

1) Aon, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, is cutting its contributions to workers’ pensions in the UK by up to a half in order to remain competitive, a move likely to be followed by other employers. Norma Cohen’s scoop was still being followed up at week’s end in other newspapers and media. Norma also had a front-page story following her interview with the new head of Britain’s pension protection fund.

2) Former Soviet bloc countries in central and eastern Europe should consider adopting the euro in order to resolve their foreign currency debt problems and restore confidence, according to a confidential study by the IMF. Stefan Wagstyl produced a ground-breaking scoop, accompanied by a top-notch Analysis Page later in the week..

3) De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond miner, is braced for a halving of its turnover, following a slump in diamond prices and drastic production cuts in flagship mines in Botswana and Canada. William McNamara nailed his scoop by asking tough questions.

4) Pernod’s one billion euros rights issue and its disposal of the (tasty) Wild Turkey bourbon brand were revealed in a clean scoop by Miles Johnson, European stock markets reporter, and nailed by Shari Daneskhu in Paris just ahead of Europe deadline. The UK news desk kept their nerve, and we made our editions.

5) Mars is to spend tens of millions of dollars annually certifying that the cocoa used in its chocolate products is sustainably sourced by 2020. Jenny Wiggins broke the story – not an easy task with a traditionally media-shy family outfit like the Mars company.

6) The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is scrambling to plug a hole in its finances because of a conservative hedging policy on sterling imposed by HM treasury. Alex Barker and Jim Pickard uncovered the story.

7) Gillian Tett’s column touting the notion of a return to the gold standard was a big hit on

8) Delphine Strauss secured a hard-hitting interview with President Abdullah Gul in which the Turkish leader took several swipes at the Europeans, while hailing Ankara’s new-found friend: Barack Obama.

9) In our future of capitalism series, Sir Martin Sorrell predicted that women will no longer buy a handbag as a badge of affluence, men will be more self-conscious about extremely expensive cars, and luxury goods will be judged more by their authenticity and craftsmanship than by their price.

10) And Ben Fenton pulled off a brilliant coup in the Outside Edge column, reducing some of the world’s most cited wisdoms (Ten Commandments, Declaration of Independence etc) to Twitterspeak.

Good news watch: Jonathan Guthrie’s five inspiring tales from the recession was just what the doctor ordered.

Nuance watch: Roula Khalaf’s column on Dubai’s wild ride and future comeback. A model of sound judgment and clear writing.

Headline of the week: Lex’s “US yearnings season”, closely followed by “Euro the one that I want.” Corny, yes; but clever.

Wit watch: Lucy Kellaway’s chore-chore Monday column on alpha males dodging household tasks. The letters and email are still coming…

Big Idea of the Week: Martin Wolf’s agenda-setting column on the G-2 agenda following the G-20 summit; second place to Fred Bergsten’s column urging the world to take seriously China’s critical comments on the dollar as reserve currency. This latter debate is still generating plenty fo letters. Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Mr Black Swan – also picked up a lot of traffic on how to make the world black swan proof. (Isn’t he writing himself out of a job? – Ed)

Foreign affairs thought of the week: Gideon Rachman’s column criticising Europe for failing to do enough to help Obama (“the right president at the wrong moment”) was a surgical strike worthy of an F-15. A trend to watch.

Moral Maze: Chris Caldwell’s Saturday op-ed on the decline of the British bobby, a must read for anyone wishing to understanding contemporary Britain and the problems of policing in the Age of Terror.

Graphic of the Week: The winners and losers from Bob Gates’s shake-up in Pentagon procurement: clean and powerful.

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