Can Renzi break Italian deadlock?
In Italy, the government of Enrico Letta has fallen and the country is set to have its youngest Prime Minister ever. Matteo Renzi promises to be a radical reformer. In this week’s podcast Guy Dinmore, Rachel Sanderson and Ferdinando Giugliano join Gideon Rachman to discuss whether Mr Renzi can break the political and economic deadlock that seems to be paralysing the country and what the stakes are for Europe

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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