Monthly Archives: December 2009

This post for the Financial Times looks at the attack on Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prime minister.  Read more

James Blitz blogs for the Financial Times on President Barack Obama accepting the Nobel peace prize. Read more

By Victor Mallet, Madrid correspondent

There are few easier ways to inflame Spanish nationalism than to talk about Gibraltar, the tiny British possession at the mouth of the Mediterranean, and that is exactly what the Spanish right has been doing with increasing intensity for the past few months. Read more

Geoff Dyer, China bureau chief of the Financial Times, writes on a study that says the biggest story of the decade in the media has been the rise of China.  Read more

By Stefan Wagstyl, eastern Europe editor

Small European countries generally make international news only when they get into trouble, as crisis-hit Latvia has found to its cost. Read more

Gideon Rachman

By Gideon Rachman

The World Cup draw has just been made and I am immediately faced with a dilemma – can I be bothered to travel thousands of miles and to spend thousands of pounds to watch Brazil play Portugal in Durban on July 25th? On the one hand, I appear to have tickets for the tie of the round. On the other hand, my sofa in west London looks more comfortable and cheaper.

I will return to my personal issues in a moment. But, first, some comments on the draw. Everybody on television here is crowing about how easy England’s group is: the US, Algeria and Slovenia. Even Scotland might have a shot of qualifying from a group like that. When England were drawn in an easy group and made to play their first game in Rustenberg, right near their training camp, I must admit I sensed a fix. (The proverbial hot ball in the pot.) Were FIFA making things easy for the English, who usually have a huge and free-spending group of travelling supporters? The holders, Italy, also have a ludicrously easy group.

But any unworthy suspicions that there might have been a fix have been dispelled by looking at poor old South Africa’s group. It is normally deemed essential to the health of the tournament that the host country qualify for the knock-out stages, which means that they have to finish in the top two. Normally, by hook or by crook, they do it. Even an unfancied US made it to the last 16 in 1994 – and both co-hosts, Japan and South Korea, made it through in 2002. But South Africa are really going to struggle to qualify. In fact, they might struggle to win a game against Mexico, France and Uruguay. Read more

By James Blitz, defence and diplomatic editor

Iran has this week made two announcements about its nuclear programme that made big headlines. The first is that it wants to build 10 new enrichment plants like the one that operates at Natanz. The second is that it wants to begin manufacturing low enriched uranium to 20 per cent purity that can be used in cancer treatments.  The first of these claims is being dismissed by western diplomats as a fanciful goal that Iran could never seriously achieve. The second claim, however, is causing a lot of concern in western capitals. It raises fears that Iran is about to take a big step towards the manufacture of the weapons grade uranium needed for a nuclear bomb. Read more

Alan Beattie

By Alan Beattie, world trade editor

Horrendously remiss of me not to have linked to Vox’s new e-book on how trade collapsed at the end of last year and early this, but fortunately Clive was on the case. Read more

Alan Beattie

This post by Alan Beattie looks at the WTO’s ministerial in Geneva. Read more

By Victor Mallet in Madrid

Secessionists are making a noise again in western Europe. Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, is pushing for a referendum on independence from the UK. In Catalonia, more than a hundred towns and cities are preparing to hold referendums on independence from Spain on December 13. Read more