The great and the good are gathered at Davos this week and “committed to improving the state of the world”. But what else could they have done with the money spent on entry to this exclusive event?

The average cost of Davos entry, at $20,000, buys…

  • Forget the “Fragile Five”: the list of countries exposed as central banks tighten monetary policy is longer than the moniker suggests.
  • A German man, estranged from his father, may still face a €9,000 bill for the father’s care costs in a legal case that has sparked debate across a nation obsessed with its ageing population and how to pay for its welfare.
  • Businesses in Germany worry about the impact of introducing a minimum wage.
  • In Sudan, economic problems and fears for South Sudan are destabilising Omar al-Bashir’s rule.
  • Sébastien Valiela discusses how he managed to get the infamous photographs of François Hollande .
  • The New York Times documents how a young woman was lured to North Dakota from the west coast by a job in the oil industry, only to find a land dominated by men, lower pay than expected and a high cost of living.

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  • François Hollande, under pressure about his private life, tried to steer the media towards his plans for the economy. See also Le Monde’s take on how he has shaken the left and disoriented the right.
  • Martin Wolf argues that it is the failure of the elite, both historically and today, that creates disaster and leads to the collapse of political order.
  • Policy should focus less on the jihadis and more on the conditions that engender them, argues David Gardner.
  • See what it is like to seek refuge in Europe with this Guardian interactive.
  • European intelligence agencies secretly met Bashar al-Assad’s delegates to share information on European extremists operating in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Executives from some of France’s biggest companies will fly to Tehran next month – signaling a wave of corporate interest as the west eases sanctions.
  • A “whirlwind of reversals, about-faces, and false starts has locked Egypt into a revolving cycle, if not a downward spiral”, say Peter Harling and Yasser El Shimy.

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♦ Borzou Daragahi ventured into Libya’s badlands: a combination of guns, trafficking and inter-ethnic conflict.
♦ The winner of the Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize is an account of being a British Muslim soldier.
♦ John Plender argues that the real driver of income inequality over the past decade or so has been top pay and this is unlikely to change.
♦ Juan Carlos, the King of Spain, is fighting for his legacy.
♦ The National Review looks at the deep poverty among masses of white working class people in the US heartlands.
♦ Gamal Essam El-Din at Ahram Online has put together a comprehensive nuts and bolts guide to Egypt’s constitutional referendumRead more

♦ Iraq’s prime minister is fighting a fire in Fallujah that he helped to start, says Roula Khalaf.
♦ People who once would have been gangsters can now be found in the darker corners of finance, writes Gary Silverman.
♦ US intelligence experts were worried that Osama bin Laden would be reincarnated in an “immortal” form: as a virtual avatar.
♦ The presence of international observers monitoring Egypt’s constitutional referendum could lend legitimacy to a flawed and undemocratic process, says Michele Dunn, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
♦ A small town near Antwerp has been taking the mentally ill and disabled into their homes and offering an alternative to regular treatment with community care.
♦ The bee shortage is going to become a catastrophe. It hasn’t already because “wild pollinators” have picked up the strain so far.
♦ The Simpsons paid tribute to Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his last feature recently. Read more

Chinese exports increased by 4.3 per cent in December compared to the same month last year, while imports rose by 8.3 per cent. That gave China a total of $4.16tn in combined exports and imports in 2013, a figure that the US will find difficult to match. This leaves no doubt that China, the world’s second-biggest economy, is now the world’s biggest trading nation on an annual basis.

Chinese and US trade values were similar in 2012, slightly larger for China according to their respective national data but slightly bigger for the US according to the World Trade Organisation and the International and Monetary Fund. Read more

Sir Run Run Shaw, the Hong Kong media mogul credited with inventing the kung fu movie and who set up Hong Kong’s first television station, has died aged 107.

Shaw Studios produced 760 films over the course of 40 years, pioneering new genres and featuring famous directors and film stars. Here is a taste of the work that came from the Shaw brothers.

The One-Armed Swordsman – often called the first kung fu movie and the first of many swordplay films to come


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If you follow a certain section of the internet, over the last day your news feed has probably been buzzing with obscure clues to cryptography, William Blake’s poetry, transcendentalism and of course Cicada images.

If not, you’d be forgiven for wondering what this is all about.

So what is it this all about?

Back in January 2012, on one the biggest websites you’ve probably never heard of, there was a clue. The /x/ (paranormal) board of 4chan, an anarchic image posting forum, featured an image, with simple white on black text declaring:

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♦ The conflict in South Sudan has exposed the naivety of those self-appointed cheerleaders of southern independence abroad, who argued that all other issues were secondary to sovereignty, says the FT’s William Wallis.
♦ It’s time to think more about Sarajevo and less about Munich when it comes to international affairs, argues Gideon Rachman.
♦ The New York Times looks at how Palestinians find fun and escape while facing everyday life in the Israeli-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza.
♦ Germany is addressing the issue of integration and equality for its large Muslim population – state schools are offering classes on Islam in a bid to quell the radicalisation of Muslims and prejudice among non-Muslims. Read more

Turkey’s finance minister warns of negative implications for the country’s economy as a corruption scandal engulfs Ankara’s political elite, triggering a slide in the lira.
♦ The uncommon success of the “Common Man” party has upended Indian politics.
♦ Take a look at these photographs showing construction at the Panama Canal.
♦ The increasing cost and shortage of housing has led people to make more and more of less and less space: CNN takes a look at “micro-homes”.
♦ Businessweek looks at the money wasted on the Sochi OlympicsRead more

♦ In Turkey, Gulenists have burnt their bridges with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, while Mr Erdogan makes no bones about his desire to purge the bureacracy of his former allies. It is, according to one of Turkey’s old secular elite, “like Alien vs Predator.
♦ Edward Luce points out that the Indian politicians expressing outrage over the strip search of diplomat Devyani Khobragade are suffering from a hypocrisy problem: “So far, no Indian leader has expressed a scintilla of concern about the rights of the Indian domestic servant whom Ms Khobragade had allegedly mistreated.”
♦ Ben Bernanke announced the taper, but minimised market discomfort.
♦ David Pilling considers which events shook Asia in 2013.
♦ James Carroll, a former priest, looks back at the first year of a radical pope.
♦ B.R. Myers, an expert on north Korea, explains exactly what happened to Kim Jong Un’s uncle and why Kim doesn’t look smart taking his wife around with him. Read more

♦ Cronyism is being blamed for the slow pace of reform in Ireland.
♦ An AP investigation reveals that a US citizen who went missing on a private business trip to Iran actually had ties to the CIA and was on an unapproved mission.
♦ Bill Keller at the New York Times mulls over negotiations with Iran: “For the moment, our hard-liners pose a greater problem than Iran’s.”
♦ Egyptians are outraged that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was not Time’s person of the yearRead more

♦ The Volcker rule is contentious, but it is not the knockout blow some people had expected.
♦ The economically sensible wing of the US Republican party doesn’t exist, says Paul Krugman.
♦ Iran and Israel have paid tribute to Mandela, while choosing to remain a safe distance from the memorial.
♦ Marc Lynch explains why nobody in the Middle East deserves to be on the Foreign Policy Leading Global Thinker list this year.
♦ After cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s interior ministry has turned its attention to the activist community of journalists, non-Islamists and students.
♦ The Australian speaks to a mother in Iraq who is waiting for her son’s execution to be announced after a “hanging day”. Read more

♦ The success of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party at India’s recent state elections is a sign that voters are determined to reshape the political order.
♦ Oligarchs hold the key to Viktor Yanukovich‘s grip on power in Ukraine.
♦ The west is losing faith in its own future, says the FT’s Gideon Rachman.
♦ American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life to conduct surveillance, fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly. Read more

♦ An FT investigation has uncovered the key role played by Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and UniCredit in the reform of the Vatican bank, by refusing to provide financial services over the past two years.
♦ The World Trade Organisation’s 159 members managed to agree on something for the first time in its 18-year history last week – a sign that the organisation is “coming alive”.
♦ Yingluck Shinawatra’s position as Thai prime minister is in jeopardy because of opposition hatred for her brother – a force that has defined her premiership and driven instability.
♦ Bedouin gangs in the Sinai have discovered that taking hostages is more profitable than human smuggling.
♦ Bill de Blasio’s challenge as New York mayor will be to negotiate and pay for a way out of the impasse between the administration and the unions of city workers. Read more

Nelson Mandela a few days after being released from jail in 1990 (TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

As the world mourns for Nelson Mandela, tributes have poured in from the many people around the world who encountered South Africa’s beloved anti-apartheid hero. Here are some personal encounters and memories of South Africa’s first black president. Read more

♦ South Africa began a period of mourning for Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president, as the world joined the grieving for the beloved anti-apartheid hero. FT news editor Alec Russell looked at the meaning of the Madiba magic.
♦ When the US Congress wanted to oppose the South African regime with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, Dick Cheney was among the Republicans who voted against it. He has said he doesn’t regret it: “The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organisation… I don’t have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.”
♦ Chinese citizens mourned Nelson Mandela, but also took to the Internet to ask awkward questions about their own human rights leaders.
♦ If the US Congress succeeds in striking a US budget deal in the coming days, it will cement Paul Ryan’s role as chief economic policy maker for the Republican party.
♦ General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister who led the coup against Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, has won the Time reader poll for person of the year – beating Miley Cyrus. Read more

♦ Indian women are showing a new confidence and combativeness – a sign of India’s first genuinely popular feminist awakening.
♦ World Child Cancer helps bring birthday hopes to a young girl with cancer in Ghana – the FT’s Xan Rice tells her story and looks at how the work of the organisation.
♦ Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell explains how his mid-size family firm, which makes wooden pencils, stays globally competitive against threats from sophisticated Chinese competitors, the stagnant euro zone economy and shifts in technology.
♦ Independent news website Mada Masr looks back at the life of dissident Egyptian poet Ahmad Fouad Negm who died yesterday: ” He seemed to never stop loving life and hating dictators and making jokes through the darkest of conditions.” Read more

♦ The FT’s partner charity for this year’s Seasonal Appeal is World Child Cancer – Shawn Donnan and Andrew Schipani look at the work it has been doing in Colombia.
♦ The FT’s Jamil Anderlini explains why London gains little from trying to please Beijing.
♦ As territorial disputes escalate in the waters around China, the Chinese government has been asserting ownership over thousands of shipwrecks in the South China Sea, which it says have been in its territorial waters for centuries.
♦ David Sanger at the New York Times analyses the row over the disputed islands: “As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.”
A geopolitical tug of war is pulling Ukraine to the brink of upheaval once more.
German Christmas markets are not what they used to be – gifts and wholesome foods are being replaced by fatty foods and tacky fairground rides.  Read more

A house by Tacloban airport (Getty)

By Amie Tsang and Luisa Frey
The Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters. But in just a few days, it has been transformed from emerging market star – its economy grew at annual rate of 7.6 per cent in the first half of 2013, faster than China – to a “state of national calamity”.

Typhoon Haiyan will cause inevitable damage to the country’s economy, but loss of output will be dwarfed by the devastating loss of life.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that losses from typhoons and earthquakes cost the Philippines around $1.6bn each year. The World Bank estimates the annual typhoon season typically shaves 0.8 percentage points off annual GDP growth. Read more