Lionel Barber’s pick of the week

Introduction: Stock markets stage a big (bear market?) rally; Chrysler files for bankruptcy; swine flu shuts down Mexico city and spreads around the world; Citigroup scrambles to raise capital; Gordon Brown stumbles in the face of the Gurkhas; and one of India’s billionaire twins is the target of a dastardly murder plot.

And if you missed the Financial Times or ft.com this past week, you would have missed the following top ten stand-outs…

1) FT Alphaville’s two-month investigation into the links between a dodgy New York hedge fund and the sons of vice president Joe Biden. Sam Jones and Tracy Alloway dug deep, with Paul Murphy providing the spades.

2) Peggy Hollinger and Daniel Schaefer’s expertly researched and narrated Analysis Page detailing Franco-German rivalry over civil nuclear power. A fascinating insight into national industrial strategy in Europe.

3) Francesco Guerrera and Justin Baer’s eye-catching curtain-raiser on Warren Buffett’s annual general meeting, raising questions about the succession issue and his recent record. Our elegant Saturday leader contributed to much-clicked FT coverage of the 20th century’s greatest investor.

4) The brilliantly succinct Lex note on who wins and who loses under the financial terms of the Chrysler bankruptcy.

5) Christopher Buckley’s witty opinion piece on Obama’s first hundred days. A big name, an eye-catching headline (“One hundred days of platitude”), and a refreshing burst of humour.

6) Vanessa Friedman’s beautifully written Lunch with the FT with Jodi Picault, the best-selling post-chick-lit author.

7) Gillian Tett’s markets column on Friday, revealing Morgan Stanley’s “heads-I-win, tails-I-win-too” dealings in Kazakh bank credit default swaps.

8) Francesco Guerrera’s scoop on Citigroup’s scramble for capital.

9) Sam Brittan’s masterly opinion piece on the future of capitalism which combined economic expertise with moral philosophy – and an unexpected homage to Jane Austen

10) Charles Clover’s ground-breaking interview with the Kremlin’s top spin-doctor who revealed that Dmitry Medvedev is eyeing a second term rather than stepping aside for Vladimir Putin.

And here’s my eleventh pick of the week: Jamil Anderlini’s lovely piece about the high cost of dying in China, one that drove home the reason why Chinese save such a high proportion of their earnings.

Video watch: We had a handful of excellent “long view” videos from Orlando with John Authers interviewing various luminaries including Nudge author, Richard Thaler, and Michael Mauboussin of Legg Mason. Josh Noble produced the series and also John’s terrific short view on the market response to Obama’s 100 days.

Graphics watch: The Franco-German nuclear spat featured a simple but powerful image. The swine flu Big Page tong victims was arresting. The graphic accompanying James Blitz’s excellent analysis of the British government’s half-hearted military engagement in Afghanistan was also top-notch.

Barack Obama’s 100 days: Ed Luce contributed authoritative and well-balanced coverage as part of our two-page special. There was a fine leader, and Clive Crook wrote a blistering column on the torture memos. Jeremy Lemer and Cleve Jones teamed up for the interactive special on Obama’s 100 days.

Stakhanovite of the week: Very tough call, but the prize goes to Joe Leahy who rushed around Sri Lanka to report on the final throes of the Tamil Tigers, but still finding time to write about elections in Mumbai, the rapid growth in mobile handset sales and (with James Lamont) a colourful piece on the extraordinary plot to sabotage Anil Ambani‘s helicopter.

Weekend FT watch:
- Gillian Tett‘s first extract, of course, which took us back to the roots of the banking collapse and explained succinctly why JP Morgan largely survived and AIG largely didn’t.
- I also really like the Defining Moment story about the arrival of the first Italian espresso machine in Soho – the birth of the cappucino economy.
- Life & Arts was strong, with film director Alex Cox writing on the front. Brian Groom also wrote very well on Thatcher, as well as giving us a nice piece on Britain’s undaunted optimism.
- Money capped a strong section with Sharlene Goff’s story on the most appealing tax havens for heavily taxed Britons, while
- House & Home started a series on the fate of the world’s prime property markets in the downturn.
And How To Spend It gave us a eye-catching piece on young fashion designers who are both good and affordable – perfect for the times.

Opinion watch: Christopher Caldwell on the extinction of the human race was nicely turned. Rosie Blau turned round an excellent Woman in the News on the new Poet Laureate. Philip Stephens slapped around Europe.

Asia watch: James Lamont and Farhan Bokhari wrote an authoritative Analysis page on the encroachment of the Taliban in Pakistan. The piece followed Hilary Clinton’s remarks the previous week about Pakistan facing an existential threat, which seem to have spurred the Pakistani government to take more forthright action. Raphael Minder had a scoop on the ADB, which has found $13bn in new and accelerated funds to help stimulate Asian economies.

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