The Sochi Winter Olympics and the image of modern Russia
Even by Olympic superlative standards, the Sochi games are an extraordinary event. The most expensive Olympics ever, these games are the personal project of President Vladimir Putin, bankrolled by the country’s billionaire oligarchs.
In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by Kathrin Hille, Moscow bureau chief and Neil Buckley, East Europe editor to discuss whether after the build up, snags and negative portrayal in western media, are we now seeing a normal winter Olympic contest?

Will a slow down in Asian economies mean cancelled orders for Airbus and Boeing? Our Aerospace special report explores the possibilities and looks at how much western defence contractors such as Raytheon stand to gain from North Korean sabre-rattling and Asia’s territorial disputesRead more

Will Scotland go it alone?
The referendum on Scottish independence takes place in seven months and if the Scots vote to go it alone, they will break up a union which has existed for over 300 years. On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron made an impassioned plea to Scots: “We want you to stay.” But Mr Cameron’s intervention has been treated by the Scottish Nationalists as a sign of panic from the government in London.

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Philip Stephens argues that the people making the strongest case for Scottish independence are the English.
  • There is open mutiny at the New York Times against the editorial page and its editor, Andrew Rosenthal.
  • Saudi Arabia is obsessed with the news, from thriving broadsheets to social media, and much of the interest lies in the uncensored press.
  • Deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak accidentally let slip on Russian surveillance of journalists and their shower habits in his anger at the negative press response to Sochi’s unfinished accommodation.
  • Heavy snow has forced the Iranian government to ration gas in a bid to meet rising domestic need, especially in the country’s northern provinces.
  • There are fears that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is fomenting complacency, with Norwegians taking more and more time off work.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • The USA can no longer rely on Egypt as a bulwark of stability in the Middle East, as jihadists return to the country to fight the military authorities.
  • Oligarchs in eastern Ukraine are abandoning President Yanukovich’s regime.
  • Iranian hardliners blocked the broadcast of a live interview with President Rouhani, exposing the political battle developing in the Islamic Republic.
  • Critics question whether Narendra Modi can do for India what he has done for Gujarat if he wins the upcoming general election.
  • Hugh Roberts in the London Review of Books questions the orthodox view of Hosni Mubarak’s deposition as a revolution.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • The Sochi Olympics will only temporarily distract from Russia’s increasing economic problems, writes Kathrin Hille.
  • Figure skater Johnny Weir talks about the Russian obsession with skating and their attitudes towards homosexuality.
  • Journalists are arriving in Sochi for the start of the Winter Olympics to find their accommodation is still being built.
  • A New York Times interactive map series on the spread of violence in the Caucasus.
  • Egyptian actress Soheir al-Babli has called for “a man as strong as Hitler” to assert authority over the turbulent country.
  • Dr Hisham A Hellyer salutes the journalists in Egypt who are trying to hold power to account in a country that is increasingly hostile to their work.
  • Fatima Khan is determined to learn the facts behind the death of her son, Dr Abbas Khan, in a Syrian prison.
  • A UN report released on Monday details the abuses children are enduring in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
  • Vanity Fair examines the relationship between Wendi Deng, ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • The middle class customer base is shrinking in the US, as the top 5 per cent of earners drives consumption.
  • Women have discovered an entrepreneurial streak in Spain in the face of high unemployment and a sluggish economic recovery.
  • Sarah Carr writes on the Egyptian military’s efforts to stifle dissenting voices in the wake of the coup against Mohamed Morsi.
  • US productivity is suffering in the wake of the global recession, to such an extent that Silicon Valley-based Blueseed plans to launch a cruise ship into international waters to allow immigrants to start new businesses without seeking residency.
  • Norwegians praise Iraqi Farouk Al-Kasim for creating their “oil fund”, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, and avoiding the resource curse.
  • Scarlett Johansson’s decision to side with SodaStream in the West Bank controversy foreshadows Israel’s own need to decide on the future of its settlements on the occupied land.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • Scottish Nationalists seek to emulate Nordic social democracies.
  • The Sochi Winter Olympics is inspiring a resurgence of Circassian nationalism.
  • The lionisation of the Egyptian military creates the myth of an all-powerful institution capable of bringing the country under control.
  • Hindsight does not always provide the clearest picture and the way we view the revolutionaries who toppled Hosni Mubarak in Egypt is an example of skewed perspective.
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting the improbable with an Israel-Palestine peace deal that is already being slammed by far right Israeli politicians who refuse to discuss a withdrawal from the occupied territories.
  • A New York Times profile of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who yesterday was found dead in his Manhattan apartment, aged 46.
  • Janet Yellen, new chief of the US Federal Reserve, lets her work speak for itself in a male-dominated field.
  • Foreign Policy looks at the Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure – a Pentagon compilation of Department of Defence overspending, dishonesty, and immoral conduct.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • Iran is facing a water crisis so severe that President Hassan Rouhani has identified the problem as a national security issue and contingency plans exist for water rationing in the greater Tehran area.
  • Parental pressure on Chinese women has led to the growth of a boyfriend rental industry to fool families into believing that their daughters are on the path to marriage.
  • Obama’s ambitious free trade agenda threatens to split the Democratic Party.
  • The Sochi Winter Olympics are under threat from “black widows” – wives of rebels killed by the Russian state in the volatile Caucasus region.
  • Radical protesters in Ukraine are in the minority, but play an increasingly prominent role, write Neil Buckley and Roman Olearchyk.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • Martin Taylor examines the perennial technical problems that plague modern banks.
  • The number of Saudi women in work has almost doubled in the last six years, as rising living costs render the tradition of the male breadwinner untenable.
  • Turkey more than doubled its weekly repo rate to combat rising inflation.
  • The International Energy Agency has warned that Europe faces decades of higher energy prices, which could be ruinous to industry competitiveness.
  • The Mafia has been dumping rubbish north of Naples, polluting the area so badly that locals refer to it as the “Triangle of Death”.

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Getty Images

By Toby Luckhurst
Europe is beset by rising energy prices, driven by the increasing competitiveness of shale production in the US, political commitments to lower emissions and an over-reliance on Russia in the wake of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Britain’s Big Six, the six dominant energy companies, face accusations of overcharging, but they in turn claim that prohibitive emissions targets and governmental “green levies” are to blame for the price increase. While the US is benefiting from a shale gas boom that is predicted to give it an edge over both the EU and China for the next two decades, fracking is struggling to take off in Europe due to high costs, geological difficulties and public ambivalence to the environmentally destructive production methods. European politicians are considering abandoning the 2030 renewable energy targets in light of these high costs.

These articles analyse the causes of and possible solutions to Europe’s energy crisis. Read more

Obama’s zen-like State of the Union address
President Obama has just delivered his State of the Union speech to Congress. As usual, it was full of uplifting stories and calls for action, punctuated by standing ovations. But many believe that the sad reality is that this is a presidency that is running out of steam, and some of what Mr Obama had to say about the State of the Union was actually quite bleak. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Richard McGregor, Washington bureau chief and Edward Luce, chief US commentator, to assess the speech and the state of the presidency in general.

By Toby Luckhurst

  • John Kay’s open letter to Bill Gates restates his argument that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.
  • Scarlett Johansson is at the centre of a growing storm surrounding a Soda Stream manufacturing plant in the occupied West Bank.
  • Borzou Daragahi reports on Egyptians’ zealous show of support for the military.
  • Syria’s Islamist rebels have gained control of the country’s oil and are selling fuel to the Assad regime in exchange for protection from air strikes.
  • Jan Cienski reports from Lviv – home to stalwarts of anti-Yanukovich sentiment and Ukrainian nationalism.
  • Upbeat duck accepts premature lameness, writes Edward Luce on Obama’s State of the Union speech.
  • Football stadia are at the forefront of the Chinese push for economic and political influence in Africa.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • New “blockbuster” drugs provide hope for a cure to Hepatitis C – an illness which now kills more in the UK than HIV.
  • Neil Buckley explores the tent city that has sprung up in Kiev’s Independence Square to house, feed, and protect the anti-government protesters.
  • Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy has begun a hunger strike to protest his detention without charge at the hands of Egypt’s military regime.
  • The New York Times reports on life without government in Lebanon.
  • Syrian government officials are facing anger from Syrians in Switzerland – the first time the regime has engaged with those directly suffering from the conflict.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • A BBC documentary will reveal former Libya dictator Colonel Gaddafi’s hidden rooms in which he sexually abused children as young as 14.
  • The New York Times explores South Korea’s taste for Spam.
  • Argentina’s economy minister Axel Kicillof is increasingly the public face and policy guru of the government’s efforts to tackle rising inflation and stagnant growth.
  • The exaggerated threat of terrorism and years of political violence have fomented a conformist backlash in Egypt on the third anniversary of the protests that toppled military dictator Hosni Mubarak.
  • Katrina Manson interviews Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, the most prominent African to reveal his homosexuality.
  • Rand Paul is tainted by the extreme views of a minority in the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, as well as by his father’s successes and failures.

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hitandrun / www.hitandrunmedia.com

By Peter Chapman
With the global youth-to-adult unemployment ratio at its peak, and inequality one of the themes at Davos last week, the FT looks at the questions raised by youth unemployment, as well as solutions to it, in this Special Report.

Will the world’s lack of jobs drive the under-25s to violence and extremism? Do children, meanwhile, make easy targets for the global slave trade, and why is it that teenagers face greater bullying and violence over their sexual orientation?

Business often points the finger at government over the need to tackle the mismatch between qualifications and jobs but could it be doing more to confront the matter itself? Certainly German companies like BMW are bringing the benefit of apprenticeships to US states like South Carolina.

We have examined this and more in our Investing in Young People report.

What do you think must be done to prevent a lost generation of young people? Please share your comments with us below. Read more

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe did not shy away from discussing the tensions with China in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Lifen Zhang, editor-in-chief of FTChinese.com, examines the reaction of Chinese delegates and journalists.

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By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Team Brazil began its charm offensive in Davos on Thursday with Finance Minister Guido Mantega reasserting the primary role in global economic growth of the so-called Brics, which also include Russia, India, China and South Africa. Read more

By Toby Luckhurst
  • Roula Khalaf muses on the lionising of broker Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s film, The Wolf of Wall Street.
  • Syrians have little hope for the talks in Geneva between the Assad regime and opposition forces, writes Borzou Daragahi.
  • Aboud Dandachi, a Sunni activist from Homs, describes life in the port of Tartous, an Assad stronghold.
  • The Catholic Church in Slovenia is in crisis after the “commercial misadventures” of clergy has placed the church in Maribor at risk of repossession.

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Prospects for peace in Syria
World powers are gathering in Switzerland in an attempt to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s three-year civil war, which has cost more than 130,000 lives drawn in regional powers to fight a proxy sectarian war. The conference nearly fell apart before it began when the UN invited Iran to participate. But what chance of success remains? Roula Khalaf, foreign editor, and Borzou Daragahi, Middle East correspondent, join Ben Hall to discuss.