Daily Archives: March 19, 2012

By Gideon Rachman

My book-shelves in London groan with titles such as Eclipse: Living In the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance and When China Rules the World. But travel to China itself, and you will find plenty of people who are sceptical about the notion that the country is a rising superpower.

What should we make of those leaked e-mails from the Assads? Writing about them in today’s paper, Roula Khalaf, suggests that they are an example of the “banality of evil”. That was the same phrase that struck me, reading about Bashar’s request for a copy of the latest Harry Potter film and I-tunes purchases (“Right Said Fred”?); or pf Asma’s suggestions that a friend take advantage of the Harrods sale. Could these be the same people who are presiding over the brutal and deadly repression of an insurgency? Apparently so. Read more

'Pussy Riot' perform in Red Square on January 20. Denis Sinyakov/Reuters

Late last week, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot agreed to chat with the Financial Times on Skype.

Famous for pulling stunts such as performing the song “Putin wet his pants” in the middle of Red Square, and “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, Expel Putin!” next to the altar at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the band has recently gone to ground after several members were arrested this month. Two are in jail awaiting trial for alleged “hooligan behaviour” in the cathedral stunt; a third member of the group was arrested on Friday, according to their lawyer.

So who are Pussy Riot? Read more

In 2008 Davis Guggenheim made a biographical video of Barack Obama based on hope – the young senator’s lack of experience was studiously avoided. This time round, in Guggenheim’s The Road We’ve Travelled, which, at 17 minutes, is almost twice as long as his first effort, experience is Mr Obama’s chief selling point. It barely even needs a script to press home, although Tom Hanks does a soothing narration. All that is required is to glance at the shots of the youthful president-elect in 2008 versus the grizzled man seeking re-election in 2012Read more