The case of Sergei Magnitsky has become a cause celebre for western critics of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The dogged Russian lawyer died nearly four years ago after being jailed, and allegedly tortured, for uncovering a $230m tax fraud scheme organised by Russian authorities against Hermitage Capital Management, his employer.
Here are some of the best reads from the FT and elsewhere about the Magnitsky case and the fallout from it: Read more
♦ The FT’s Roula Khalaf says that Algeria’s bloody civil war – which lasted for a decade after the military cancelled an Islamist poll victory in 1991 – has lessons for all sides in Egypt: for the military to not repress the Islamists, for the Islamists not to take violent revenge for the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi, and for the liberals not to embrace the military’s strongarm tactics.
♦ The model for the Middle East, proving that democracy and Islam could coexist, sued to be Turkey. But this is no longer the case. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of tampering with secularism by promoting Turkey’s “own brand of Sunni Islam,” which has isolated him from both religious and secular forces.
♦ Saudi Arabia and the UAE, delighted at the overthrow of Morsi and the promises of interim authorities to regain stability, have pledged $8bn in aid to Egypt to help fight a slide in the pound and a foreign reserves crisis.
♦ Away from the Middle East, the FT Analysis page looks at the supercomputer. With its politicians mired in budget wrangling that have frozen current funding levels, the US looks set to be surpassed by China in the race to build an exascale supercomputer – a machine 1,000 times faster than the fastest of today. Such computers are vital for scientific simulations, including investigations into everything from earthquakes to the human heart.
♦ Self-imposed currency controls in Cyprus to aid crisis management have led to the devaluing of the euro there, prompting anxiety among business people.
♦ A brand new 64,000 sq ft military headquarters in Kandahar province that will never be used is being held up as an example of the massive scale of US wastefulness in Afghanistan as its military prepares to withdraw. Read more
♦ An Egyptian doctor observes the pro-Morsi protests outside the Republican Guard barracks in Cairo and the subsequent military intervention that wounded hundreds and killed 51 people, mostly protesters. Egyptian authorities have cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood businesses — reportedly shutting some down. The FT writes on the debate between Islamists and the military over who is to blame for the violence. The FT’s Geoff Dyer questions whether the United States still has influence in the country — with the military or the Islamists.
♦ For German chancellor Angela Merkel, the allegations of collaboration between US and German intelligence services may be an election problem, since data protection is a sensitive issue for Germans. She has sent a team of intelligence and interior ministry officials to Washington for an explanation of US activities. The New Yorker analyses Mr Obama’s motives for spying and whether it is justified.
♦ With a debt burden of $18bn and city infrastructure plunging in quality, Detroit may have to file bankruptcy — an extremely rare act for so populous a city — and may even sell the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
♦ Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 after a call-girl scandal. However, the former governor of New York, is running for comptroller — the city’s third-highest elected office. But he is met by resistance from Wall Street executives — since he advocated reigning in their salaries — and by others who question his moral integrity. In a satire, the New Yorker reported yesterday that the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is considering running for office in New York City because New Yorkers are much more forgiving of political mistakes than Italians. Read more
♦ Manufacturing is on the rise in Nigeria, as the global recession cuts returns in developed countries. But the country faces great challenges — political discord, corruption, broken infrastructure and a high poverty rate.
♦ Vali Nasr, a former senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, criticises the Obama administration’s tough yet diffident and contradictory approach to the Middle East and its eventual retreat in his new book.
♦ Foreign Policy’s flagship blog chronicles the Wikipedia war over whether military intervention in Egypt deserves to be called a ‘Coup.’
♦ The New York Times remembers the 19 Arizona firefighters who died battling a fire outside the old gold-mining village of Yarnell in poignant vignettes.
♦ The New York Times chronicles the lead up to the Egyptian coup, as President Morsi refused to deal with the Americans or with his minister of defence, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. As Egypt’s economy faces a tough transitional period during the post-Morsi period in the midst of political unrest, the central bank governor flew to Abu Dhabi to raise financial support. Read more
♦ The Egyptian military reasserted its privileged political position by removing Mohamed Morsi from power. Troops surrounded the state broadcasting headquarters and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief of staff, delivered a televised speech announcing the takeover. Morsi’s authoritarian governing style exacerbated the huge challenges Egypt already faced – including a moribund economy and intense political polarisation, reports the FT’s Borzou Daragahi. David Gardner says that Morsi’s government, the liberals and Mubarak’s “deep state” are just as much to blame for Egypt’s stormy state of affairs as the generals.
♦ The Indian newspaper Patrika has achieved success through itsreputation for credibility – it doesn’t take political bribes, which is increasingly common among other Indian newspapers – and for public interest advocacy – it focuses on hyperlocal coverage.
♦ Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, has backed a deal to break up the Russian export monopoly that supplies gas to Lithuania by anchoring a ship off of a small nearby island to process deliveries of liquefied natural gas for homes and businesses.
♦ Le Monde reports that France has a “big brother” similar to the American Prism system that systematically gathers huge amounts of information on internet and phone activity.
♦ The FT’s Chris Giles argues that Carney’s “forward guidance” plan for the BoE may be too risky, even though it is based on a strategy used by other central banks including the US Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan. Read more
Mohamed Morsi (Getty)
Mohamed Morsi’s presidency is teetering on the brink. Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Morsi moved into the presidency a year ago. But the anniversary has drawn millions of protesters into the streets and the intervention of the military, which has instructed the country’s political classes to address the “people’s demands”.
When he first came to power, Morsi was a relatively unknown, 61-year-old engineering professor and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. But in the year since he took power we’ve learned a lot about him. Here’s some of the best background reading out there on the Egyptian president and his Muslim Brotherhood. Read more
♦ Italy faces billions of euros in potential losses, after restructuring eight derivatives contracts last year. Italy’s judiciary is investigating whether the Treasury risked too much monetary loss in its management of the public debt, according to the FT. The inquiry began after a 2012 treasury report was leaked to the FT and Italian daily La Repubblica.
♦The New York Times asks “Is the Civil Rights Era Over?” as it gets experts to ponder Tuesday’s rejection of the Voter’s Rights Act and Wednesday’s same-sex ruling to recognize legally married gay couples. The FT finds a polarised national response to the measures.
♦ The Sydney Morning Herald finds a historical precedent of backstabbing underlying Australian politics and the run up to elections for prime minister. Julia Gillard “died by the sword,” the Herald says, after competing against Kevin Rudd and Labor power broker Bill Shorten for the role of Australian prime minister.
♦ The Daily News Egypt sees no “safe possible outcome” and certain military involvement with the approach of the “Tamarrod,” the nationwide protest movement scheduled for June 30 to demand new presidential elections in Egypt to replace president Mohamed Morsi.
♦ Foreign Policy asks why Mr Snowden missed his flight from Moscow to Ecuador — did Russian military intelligence detain him for questioning or security services question his dubious travel documents, was he afraid the plane would be grounded in the US or simply shy of journalists?
♦ The FT analyses aggressive EU lobbyists in Brussels funded by American tech companies that advocate for more liberal internet privacy rules. The issue has moved to the top of the EU legislative agenda, as the EU summit begins Thursday.
♦ A BBC interactive maps children’s chances of success around the world –in health, education, work, and general well being. Read more
♦ In Qatar, the emir, voluntarily resigned in favour of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as he spoke of the need for younger blood in government. This move is a sign that some monarchies are still more open to change than those in neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia that have “hardened arteries.” Qataris debate whether Sheikh Tamim will follow in his father’s footsteps or take a more conservative, religious, or nationalistic stance, the FT reports.
♦ In Syria, the government and the rebels fight for control of the oil fields, and one gas and electricity plant is representative of the strife. Foreign Policy reports that Obama’s current strategy in Syria is contradictory, taking separate military and diplomatic courses that clash.
♦ If Edward Snowden were Chinese, Americans would respect him as a “brave dissident.”
♦ The European Commission raided the London offices of oil companies – BP, Shell and Norway’s Statoil – as well as Platts, the price reporting agency, for colluding to manipulate prices of oil on the international markets, the BBC reports.
♦ The US Supreme Court amended parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a measure that required mostly southern states to obtain Washington’s approval to change election practices because of discrimination against black voters – but some legislators now see it as an intrusion on state’s rights and no longer relevant – the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report. The Times sees this amendment as a usurpation of Congress and denial that discrimination still exists in the South on the part of the Supreme Court. For the New Yorker, it is all apart of the Republican’s systematic undermining of Democratic influence.
♦ In Foreign Affairs, the military historian Rick Atkinson gives a colourful depiction of London on the eve of D-Day. Read more
♦ Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, compared big investors to feral hogs who have unfavourably influenced Ben Bernanke to slow bond buying, the FT reports. Bernanke, he said, should not slow bond buying.
♦ George Magnus, adviser to UBS, finds the stubborn stance of the People’s Bank of China could lead either to ultimate failure if it pursues credit creation too vigorously or to success if it reduces the risk of a more serious credit crunch later, the FT reports. Read more
Jacob Frenkel, currently a chairman of JPMorgan International, will return as governor of the central bank of Israel, 13 years after leaving in 2000. He is taking over from the respected Stanley Fischer who will resign June 30, in an economic environment of slowing growth and rising property prices. Here is a handful of interesting reads (and a video) on his appointment and his past. Read more
♦ Mr Bernanke scared markets after announcing Wednesday that the Federal Reserve will take a more heavy-handed role in the US economy with an “ambitious timetable” of quantitative easing. The announcement fueled a sell-off in equities, bonds and commodities causing world-wide financial turbulence and hitting emerging markets the hardest. People are questioning his earlier optimism in the US economy, the FT reports.
♦ Ashin Wirathu, leader of a radical Buddhist group in Myanmar, has launched a campaign against the country’s Muslim minority, according to the New York Times.
♦ Manhattan-based analysts at United Against Iran, a “privately funded advocacy group,” are trying to keep Iranian merchant ships from breaking economic and trade sanctions via satellite transmissions, navigational data and computer algorithms.
♦ The FT’s Phillip Stephens finds the election of Iranian president Mr. Rohani will likely not stop the country’s development of a nuclear weapon.
♦ China’s central bank has refused to ease the country’s credit crunch by injecting extra cash into the market, which has led to suspicions that the government is to blame.
♦ Actor James Gandolfini died Wednesday, having achieved recognition late in life for his lively characterization of Tony Soprano in the hit television series. Read more
♦ Prime Minister Erdogan blames protesters for falling stocks and does not admit to domineering policies, including plans to turn Gezi Park into a shopping mall.
♦ Patrick Cockburn predicts diplomacy will fail in Syria, as more countries and sects enter the fray.
♦ China buys the most Iraqi oil, the New York Times reports.
♦ Reinsurance prices fall, for the first since Katrina, as investors seek hurricane protection.
♦ The Israeli government wants mandatory military service for ultra-conservative Jewish men. Read more
The reason behind the largest Chinese takeover of a US company to date? Dumplings.
Chinese meat processing firm Shuanghui is aiming to buy Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. The deal is being driven by Chinese consumers’ soaring demand for wonton dumplings, char sui noodles and other delicious pork-based dishes. Read more
♦ The FT shows in words and picture how austerity affects the UK and Europe.
♦ After the bumpy start of the BoJ’s stimulus package last month, stock prices fell as bond yields rose. Martin Wolf, FT commentator, says this does not mean Abenomics has failed. Read more
♦ The UK and France have won the freedom to supply weapons to Syrian rebel groups after they succeeded in dismantling an EU arms embargo in spite of determined opposition from fellow EU member states.
♦ In the face of opposition from home and abroad, Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague says the potential to supply weapons to Syrian rebels has sent a “clear message” to the Assad regime.
♦ The west must take a united stand on Syria, but Russia, Iran and foreign jihadists complicate the issue, says FT Columnist Gideon Rachman.
♦ By aiding the Syrian army, Hizbollah has taken a gamble that could threaten its influence in the Middle East, the New York Times reports. Read more
♦ Chinese novelists publish tales of military victory online, in the face of censorship.
♦ To avoid “perpetual war” with terrorists, Pres. Obama calls for fewer drone attacks. Read more
♦ Since 2010, American drone attacks have declined due to unfavourable popular opinion around the world.
♦ The US Attorney’s Office of the Southern district of New York is cozying up to the Wall Street rogues it once deposed, says Kara Scannell. Read more