“We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people,” President George W Bush said in a short but memorable televised address on March 19 2003.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Anniversaries, however arbitrary they seem as preordained moments of pause, offer a chance for reflection that might otherwise get lost amid the 24-hour news cycle. In that spirit, here are just a few of the best anniversary reads we could find. Please share your own recommendations – there is a lot of great stuff out there – in the comments. Read more

The architecture world’s most prestigious award – the Pritzker – was announced on Sunday, and the winner was Toyo Ito – an acclaimed Japanese architect whose works include the Sendai Mediatheque, the temporary Serpentine Gallery pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, and the amazing solar-powered World Games stadium in Taiwan.

Born in 1941, Ito studied at Tokyo University’s Department of Architecture before founding his own studio in 1971. His projects range from public, multipurpose buildings like the Mediatheque, to commercial buildings like his Tod’s outlet in Tokyo, and also include deeply personal, intimate spaces such as the “White U” house that he built for his recently widowed sister in 1976.

In awarding the prize, the jury said:

Toyo Ito’s personal creative agenda is always coupled with public responsibility. It is far more complex and riskier to innovate while working on buildings where the public is concerned, but this has not deterred him. He has said that architecture must not only respond to one’s physical needs, but also to one’s senses.

We’ve put together a slideshow of some of his most stunning works from throughout his career (and a picture of the prizewinner himself, of course). Read more

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The 115 cardinals tasked with choosing the next Pope have begun their ‘conclave’ in Rome – but the black smoke that emerged from their burnt ballot papers tonight means no result yet.

It’s a good time to revisit this FT interactive on the global reach of the Roman Catholic church (click on the image to go there): Read more

The last time Kenyans voted in a general election, more than a thousand people died in the ensuing violence and hundreds of thousands were displaced. It’s hardly surprising that emotions are running high ahead of this year’s vote on Monday March 4. The election will also be the country’s first under its new constitution, which was introduced in 2010 with the aim of devolving more power to the regions. Adding to the tension is the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta – one of the two men considered most likely to win this year – has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity, along with his running mate, for their alleged role in the 2008 violence.

In the FT

  • What happened last time? After trailing in the polls, the incumbent President – Mwai Kibaki, a member of Kenya’s largest tribe, the Kikuyus – was narrowly re-elected in a vote that many international observers said was flawed. He was sworn in on December 30 2007, but supporters of his opponent – Raila Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe – said the election had been rigged. William Wallis recounted how anger grew: “Text messages circulated stating simply: 41 on 1. This was a reference to Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyus, who comprise close to a quarter of the population, and the 41 (or so) other tribes who make up the rest. It was an ominous reminder of the perils of a system that has encouraged Kenya’s leaders, since the British colonial days of divide-and-rule, to abuse tribal allegiance for economic and political gain.”

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(AFP/Getty Images)

Beppe Grillo, the big winner of Italy’s 2013 election, first rose to fame in the 1970s as an irreverent, foul-mouthed comedian with corruption of all kinds in his sights. Read more

On this, the final day of polling in Italy’s 2013 election, we thought it would be worth highlighting five blog posts from the FT that will help provide the context you need to understand the results when they eventually emerge…

Beppe Grillo at a rally in March 2008 (Marcello Paternostro/AFP/Getty)

He has been called many things: clown, showman, a “sans-culottes satirist”, Italy’s “funniest man”. And less complimentary things too: “populist, extremist and very dangerous”. But Beppe Grillo, the comedian-turned-political campaigner, can give as good as he gets. His nickname for Silvio Berlusconi is “the psycho-dwarf”, while he refers to the technocrat Mario Monti as “rigor Montis”. Grillo’s way with words is just one talent he has used to shake up the political landscape in Italy in recent years; his digital savvy – he runs Italy’s most popular blog – has helped him harness growing public anger at corruption and turn it into a grassroots political movement.

Final opinion polls published ahead of the February 24-25 election showed his Five Star Movement in third position with 13-16% of the vote – ahead of Monti’s Civic Choice and only a few points behind Berlusconi’s People of Liberty. So how did he get there? And what does he really believe in?

In the FT

  • Grillo’s Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) presents itself as an antidote to a corrupt political elite, focused on five key areas: public water, transportation, development, internet availability, and the environment. In October, the group scored well in a regional election in Sicily, despite a web-driven campaign spending of just €25,000 – far less than the major parties. The head of one of Italy’s biggest companies lamented: “I can’t stand Grillo. He is against everything. He is aiming to destroy not change”.

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(AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATED 11/07/13: After a number of delays, a Moscow court convicted Sergei Magnitsky ‘in absentia’ on July 11 of tax evasion.

In the next few months, Russian prosecutors plan to put a man on trial. Two things make the case important. First, the man is a whistleblower, a lawyer who was jailed after he had publicly accused interior ministry officials of tax fraud amounting to $230m. Second, he is dead.

Amnesty International argues that the posthumous prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky violates his fundamental rights even in death, “in particular the right to defend himself in person.

Is it even legal to try someone once they’ve died? The key question is whether the trial is criminal, or civil, says William Schabas, professor of international law at Middlesex University. “You can sue a dead person in a civil court – you can sue their estate. But the point of a criminal prosecution is to put them in jail. To my knowledge you can’t hold a criminal trial once someone has died – although I can’t rule out the fact that a perverse justice system could create such a possibility.”

Marie-Aimee Brajeux at Queen Mary’s Criminal Justice Centre, University of London, agrees. “The objective of a criminal trial is to hold someone accountable for what they’ve done wrong and punish them for it. In that case, the defendant has to be alive and no action can be brought against them once they’re dead, especially as they can’t defend themselves.”

Until very recently, it was impossible in Russia to bring criminal proceedings against a dead person – so the case against Magnitsky was closed 13 days after he died. But in 2011, a Constitutional Court ruling allowed that criminal proceedings could be continued after someone’s death, if the deceased person’s relatives insisted on it. This is the basis on which the case against Magnitsky appears to have been reopened – despite the fact that his mother is strongly against the reopening of the case.

As you can imagine, trials of people who have already died are pretty rare – but not unprecedented.

The Pope Formosus, pope from 891 to 896, was posthumously tried by his political enemies in the so-called Cadaver Synod – “one of the most bizarre incidents in papal history.” Read more

Half of all world exports are from the US and Europe. Added together, the two constitute the largest, wealthiest market in the world, accounting for over 54% of world GDP in terms of value and 40% in terms of purchasing power. There are many reasons why a trade deal between the two makes sense in the minds of both policymakers and business-owners (a successful pact would boost growth and jobs in both regions, and offer the US and EU a better chance of standing up to an increasingly powerful China, for example).

So why are negotiators working on the deal probably in for the long haul? One reason is that there are some culturally sensitive areas for both regions – in particular, agriculture and food. Here are some potential sticking points:

For US exporters trying to get their products into the EU –

For EU exporters trying to get their products into the US –
  • Buy America. The US fiscal stimulus of 2009 restricted bidding on iron and steel contracts so that only US producers could take part, or producers from countries with a ‘reciprocal government procurement agreement’

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In a word, yes. The news that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down at the end of February has taken many people by surprise, but the Code of Canon Law (the Catholic Church’s collection of rules and procedures) does allow for papal resignation:

“If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” (From Book II, Part II, Section I, Cann. 330 – 367)

Pope John Paul II explicitly referenced this right in 1996, when he set out his new rules for papal election:

3. I further establish that the College of Cardinals may make no dispositions whatsoever concerning the rights of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Church… even though it be to resolve disputes or to prosecute actions perpetrated against these same rights after the death or valid resignation of the Pope.

Precedents: We asked Professor David d’Avray, an expert on religious history at University College London, to tell us about precedents for papal resignation. He picked out two particularly interesting examples: Celestine V in 1294 and Gregory XII in 1415 (who we think was the last pope to resign until today’s announcement). Read more

A police officer asks protesters to move to the sidewalk during a demonstration in front of a Raytheon company building in Florida in August 2012 (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A police officer asks protesters to move to the sidewalk during a demonstration in front of a Raytheon company building in Florida in August 2012 (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The CIA’s drone programme may be classified as covert, but it is increasingly in the public spotlight. On Thursday, John Brennan – Obama’s nominee for CIA director, and the driving force behind the White House’s drone strategy – will appear before the Senate. As Geoff Dyer points out, Brennan’s confirmation hearing will offer a rare moment of public scrutiny of the war on terror – and the ethics of targeted killings.

In the FT

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The visit of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad to Cairo on Tuesday marked the first time an Iranian leader has been to Egypt since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979. At a press conference he said he hoped the trip would be “a new starting point in relations between us”.

But the Iranian president, who is a Shia Muslim, suffered two awkward moments during his visit. He was reprimanded by the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, who warned him against seeking the “extension of Shia reach”, pressed for Sunni Muslims in Iran to be given full rights, and told Ahmadi-Nejad to hold back from interfering in Gulf Arab states.

Then, as the Iranian president visited a mosque, a man tried to strike him with a shoe. Read more

“Today you can see that I’m alive. I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone, and today I can speak. And I’m getting better day by day.”

A lot has been written about Malala Yousafzai since she was shot in the head by the Taliban in October. On Monday, we heard the 15-year-old speak, in her first video statement since the attack.

“This is a second life, this is a new life. And I want to serve, I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated.”

The quiet determination in her voice helps explain why the Taliban see her as such a threat. As Adam B. Ellick, the New York Times journalist who made a short documentary about Malala in 2009 put it: “Don’t be fooled by her gentle demeanor and soft voice. Malala is also fantastically stubborn and feisty.”

The Channel 4 reporter Fatima Manji notes that Malala also released statements in Urdu and Pashto on Monday. “One line in Urdu particularly stands out for me,” writes Manji. “Malala says she believes so strongly in education that she would be willing to ‘sacrifi Read more

Two weeks ago a masked assailant threw acid in the face of the Bolshoi’s artistic director Sergei Filin. The attack has cast a shadow over the reputation of one of the world’s most celebrated ballet troupes, as Courtney Weaver explains in her fascinating report on the tensions and rivalries that have emerged at the Moscow ballet in recent months.

What’s it like to dance at the Bolshoi? Here are four videos, and four dancers (well, three dancers and one choreographer, to be precise) who made their mark there over the years. For the sake of brevity, we limited ourselves to four, so they can only gesture at the Bolshoi’s long and varied history; please share your thoughts – and recommendations – in the comments.

1) Galina Sergeyevna Ulánova In this video from the Bolshoi’s official youtube channel, you can watch one of its most famous ballerinas – and one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed – fluttering across the stage, pressing down her net skirts, and talking about her favourite role (Giselle). Joseph Stalin himself is said to have ordered the transfer of Ulánova to the Bolshoi from its rival, the Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad, in 1944 (“Although Leningrad was where the revolution started, Stalin never cared for it. He saw it as a rebellious city,The Economist notes in its obituary of Ulánova). Read more

Residents welcome Malian soldiers as they enter Timbuktu on January 28, 2013 (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents welcome Malian soldiers as they enter Timbuktu on January 28, 2013 (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

French and Malian troops this week took control of the historic city of Timbuktu from the jihadist militants that had taken over the city in April 2012. The adjective often used to describe the desert city is “fabled” – but what is the fable of Timbuktu?

In the 19th century, the city was considered so hard to get to that the Société de Géographie offered a 10,000 franc reward for the first person to reach the city and make it back. By the time the young Frenchman René Caillié arrived there, disguised as an Arab, the centuries-old reports of riches and splendour that had lured so many explorers had disappeared into myth. Caillié described his arrival in a book published in 1830:

Timbuktu, circa 1950 (photo by Richard Harrington/Three Lions/Getty Images)

Timbuktu circa 1950

“I now saw this capital of the Sudan, to reach which had so long been the object of my wishes…

I looked around and found that the sight before me, did not answer my expectations. I had formed a totally different idea of the grandeur and wealth of Timbuctoo. The city presented, at first view, nothing but a mass of ill-looking houses, built of earth.”

• Timbuktu’s golden age One definition of the word ‘fable’ is ‘an untruth; falsehood’. But Timbuktu did experience a golden age – Caillié was just a few centuries too late to see it. As E.J.Kahn, Jr. wrote of Timbuktu, “for a while, it was a shining city of the Empire of Mali, which early in the thirteenth century succeeded the Empire of Ghana as West Africa’s paramount nation.” The root of the city’s prosperity was its geographical location at the crossroads of a caravan route between Africa’s Arab northern regions and west Africa. Situated between the Sahara desert and the fertile banks of the Niger river, Timbuktu became a busy trading hub for merchants exchanging west African goods including gold, ivory, and salt, for Mediterranean products such as glass, ceramics, and precious stones. Read more

Egyptian mourners march in Port Said on January 28, 2013 during the funeral of six people killed in clashes the day before (AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptian mourners march in Port Said on January 28, 2013 during the funeral of six people killed in clashes the day before (AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency in three of Egypt’s troubled provinces, following a weekend of violence in which 48 people were killed in clashes with police. In doing so, he resorted to a tool that had defined the rule of his predecessor, the autocratic Hosni Mubarak, who kept emergency law in force for thirty years as a way to clamp down on dissent. While Morsi’s state of emergency applies only to three cities so far – Port Said, Ismailia and Suez – and is limited to a month’s duration, it has fuelled opposition fears that the president is straying ever further from the ideals of the revolution that brought him to power.

  • On Friday – the second anniversary of the uprising in Egypt – clashes erupted in Cairo, and six Egyptians were killed during confrontations in Suez between anti-government protesters and security forces. “The dividing line between the nation’s secular and Islamist camps and the difference in their perceptions of the political moment that defined the country’s recent history could not be starker”, wrote Borzou Daragahi.

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German politician Stephan Weil (SPD) is seen on an election poster next to a half torn one of the incumbent state premier David McAllister in Lower Saxony (AFP/GettyImages)

A poster for Social Democrat Stephan Weil next to one of the CDU's David McAllister (AFP/GettyImages)

Voters handed a narrow victory to Germany’s centre-left opposition in Lower Saxony on Sunday. ‘But it’s only a regional election!’, you cry. Here’s why it matters:

1) The vote in Lower Saxony is considered a dry run for Germany’s general election in September this year.

The defeat of Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in the swing state on Sunday – albeit by one seat – is a blow to the Chancellor. It emboldens her opponents, the centre-left alliance of the Social Democrats and Green party, who won power with 69 seats compared to the 68 seats of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led coalition. Merkel is still favourite to win in September – particularly because her personal ratings in the polls are excellent – but Lower Saxony suggests she has a battle ahead.

2) Merkel’s party, the CDU, lost power due to the downward drag of its coalition partner, the Free Democrat Party (FDP) – and the fear is that this effect could be replicated in the national elections.

Merkel’s own party still came top in Lower Saxony, with 36% of the vote, but in coalition politics, it’s all about team performance – and the chancellor’s chosen teammate let her down. The voting results slightly hide this: on first glance, the FDP did far better expected, winning 9.9%, compared to polling that showed them with just over 5% last week. Read more

On Wednesday, Barack Obama outlined his plans to tighten controls on gun ownership after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Those in favour of greater gun control hope January 16 2013 could be a turning point; those who want further relaxation of gun regulation will do everything they can to make sure it’s just one more day in a long-running battle. Here are ten key moments that have shaped the debate thus far:

1) 1791: The Second Amendment (or, the birth of a very ambiguous string of words)
The Bill of Rights – which includes 10 amendments to the 1787 US Constitution – was adopted in 1791. The Second Amendment reads:

The Bill of Rights (image courtesy US National Archives)

The Bill of Rights (image courtesy US National Archives)

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This would become a sacred text for the gun rights lobby.

2) 1871: The National Rifle Association is founded (or, promoting good marksmanship)

The NRA was created in 1871 by two men, Colonel William C. Church and General George Wingate, veterans of the Civil war who had fought for the North and who felt that soldiers should be trained to shoot more accurately. Contrary to what you might think, the original NRA wasn’t actually the American one: the British National Rifle Association was set up in 1859 “to provide a focus for marksmanship for the newly formed corps of volunteers which had been raised to meet the perceived threat of invasion by the French”. Read more

A suicide is always a tragedy, but that of 26-year-old Aaron Swartz on Friday has reverberated with particular force across the internet. That’s partly because of the enormous sense of waste – he was a tech prodigy, helping develop the code for RSS when he was just 14 – and partly because the internet was Swartz’s home, where he hung out and talked to people and built things that many of us use today. But it’s also because of a looming and controversial court case, which his family believe contributed to his decision to take his own life – and which put him at the frontline of an ongoing battle over how much of the world’s information should be free. Read more