The fiscal cliff may or may not have been averted. But even if the House passes the deal that was hurriedly brokered by Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell on Monday and passed the Senate at 2am yesterday it would merely set up a larger showdown two months from now. Read more
Predictions that the world would end today proved misplaced but Jamil Anderlini has shone a light on the crackdown on a Chinese doomsday cult – Eastern Lightning.
Roula Khalaf writes in a Global Insight how the shifting balance in Syria presents a new opportunity to end the conflict, while the New York Times reports on the impact of President Bashar al-Assad’s use of cluster bombs. Read more
The aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting
The massacre of 27 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school in Newtown, has changed America’s discussion about gun control, but will it lead to legislative change? Ben Fenton, from the FT’s live news desk talks to US correspondent Ed Crooks and Richard McGregor, Washington bureau chief, about the steps President Obama can take to curb investment in the gun industry and why citizens so zealously guard the second amendment, which gives Americans the right to bear arms.
Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel in Jordan in 2008. (Salah Malkawi/Getty)
The shadow boxing over the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next Pentagon boss intensified on Thursday when allies of the former Republican Senator leapt to his defence.
Mr Hagel has emerged as the clear frontrunner to take over from Leon Panetta as secretary of defence but has come under attack in recent days for comments he made several years ago about the “Jewish lobby”.
Amid a drip-feed of criticisms and insinuations about Mr Hagel, nine former senior diplomats released a public letter on Thursday describing him as an “impeccable choice” for the Pentagon. “Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency,” they wrote.
Given that Mr Hagel has been criticised by one pro-Israel group for views that they say “border on anti-Semitism”, one of the interesting features of the letter is that five of the signatories are former ambassadors to Israel – Daniel Kurtzer, Thomas Pickering, Sam Lewis, William Harrop and Edward Djerejian. “He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two state solution,” they write. Read more
They say leading the IMF is like commanding the Red Army (top-down, hierarchical, fiercely cohesive) and running the World Bank like chairing a university social studies faculty (bureaucratic, fractious, ideologically riven). Heading up the WTO these days must be like operating a stable where all the horses are dead, dying or struggling to stand up.
The WTO’s negotiating function has all but seized up. The Doha round has crashed. The fate of plans for a plurilateral deal on services is unclear – and opposition from some emerging markets might force the agreement to be negotiated outwith the WTO. Brazil has made valiant attempts to get the WTO to address currency misalignments, but China has predictably squashed them. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Everybody agrees that economic and political power is moving east. Barack Obama has constructed a whole new foreign policy around this theory – the “pivot to Asia”. But, as I assemble my annual list of the five most important events of the year, it is striking how events in Europe and the Middle East still dominate.