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.

By Martin Arnold, Banking Editor, in Davos

The first of many debates about China at Davos this year made an unexpectedly hostile debut this morning as Zhang Xin, head of Beijing’s biggest property developer Soho, was put on the spot over the country’s crackdown on corruption.

“Your industry is one of the most corrupt in China,” said moderator Andrew Browne, China editor of the Wall Street Journal, as he asked Ms Zhang to share her views on the issue. Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina describes coming to terms with his homosexuality after the death of his mother.
  • Attitudes towards single motherhood in China are finally shifting.
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a citizens arrest from barman Twiggy Garcia for “a crime against peace” while dining in a Shoreditch restaurant.
  • Evidence of “systematic killing” perpetrated by the Syrian government leads to calls for war crimes charges against the regime.
  • Fethullah Gulen tells the Wall Street Journal that “democratic progress is now being reversed” in Turkey at the hands of prime minister Erdogan.
  • Charles Lane in the Washington Post calls for an end to the “corrupt quadrennial exercise” that is the Olympics.
  • There is little optimism about the Syrian peace talks after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s volte-face on Iranian participation in negotiations.

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By Toby Luckhurst
Al-Qaeda: On the march Terror affiliates are active in more countries than ever, write Sam Jones, Borzou Daragahi and Simeon Kerr.
The rise of a new US federalism. Edward Luce says with federal government largely paralysed, the future is being shaped in the cities.
♦ The Economist looks at the effect a new era of automation will have on jobs. Previous technological innovation has delivered more long-term employment, not less. But, it notes, things can change.
♦ The New York Times reveals how Iraq’s government is paying and arming tribal militias to fight as its proxies in the battle against militants.
Rewriting the revolution. H.A. Hellyer in Al Arabiya News looks at the historical revisionism in play in Egypt.
♦ An infographic in the New York Times shows the cost per person of the US federal budget passed last week. Read more

By Toby Luckhurst
  • David Gardner explores the rebirth of the security state in Egypt, expressing fears that the west will once again support the governments that foster “Islamist delirium”.
  • James Fontanella-Khan interviews Romanian labour minister Mariana Campeanu, who warns that the exodus of the young and the skilled is beginning to seriously affect the economy. While net migration has balanced, the government is attempting to encourage home young workers with business incentives and mortgage subsidies.
  • Syrian architect Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj and his wife Syndi have opened their Beirut home to Syrian refugees, in an attempt to provide advice on practicalities of life in Lebanon but also to “keep the idea of the country alive”.
  • A Q&A with the filmmakers behind Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square”, chronicling over two years of Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square.
  • Anne Barnard writes in the New York Times that government promises of ceasefires are viewed with suspicion by Syrians, due to the army habit of using ceasefires to establish authority over rebel towns.

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By Toby Luckhurst
There seems to be no end in sight to the protests that have engulfed Bangkok since late last year. Anti-government demonstrators are demanding the resignation of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the suspension of democracy, to be replaced by an unelected “people’s council”, while Ms Yingluck seeks to avoid a repeat of the political violence of 2010 while holding on to power.

Similarly bloody protests have erupted throughout the region – notably in Bangladesh and Cambodia. Yet Thailand stands out for the contradictions of its mass-action anti-democracy opposition, the influence of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on his sister’s government, and because of the country’s economic and military importance.

These articles explore the contradictions at the heart of the protests and the divisions that inspired them, as well as the outlook for Thailand and the region. Read more

Can Hollande get the French economy back on track?
By an unfortunate coincidence, President François Hollande’s efforts to relaunch his presidency with an announcement of bold economic reforms have coincided with the revelation that he appears to be having an affair with an actress. Meanwhile, the economy continues to struggle, and the government is engaged in an effort to block performances by the controversial comic Dieudonné. Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris Bureau chief, and Ben Hall, world news editor, to discuss whether France is in crisis, or whether it’s business as usual


By Jonathan Soble

Sermons from the IMF tend to make Japanese leaders fidget nervously in their pews – all fire and brimstone about budget deficits and the need for austerity. But Christine Lagarde’s warning about the evils of deflation is more likely to elicit a full-throated “amen”.

Successive Japanese administrations have promised to end deflation – the “ogre”, in Ms Lagarde’s description, that has menaced the country’s economy since the late 1990s. But under Shinzo Abe, prime minister since December 2012, and his central bank governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, deflation-fighting has become the overriding priority.

They have been getting results so far: prices of consumer goods excluding fresh food are rising nearly 1 per cent year-on-year, thanks to the Bank of Japan’s ultra-accommodative monetary policy and the related plunge in the value of the yen, which has pushed up the cost of imports. Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

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The turmoil in Turkey
Turkey is in political turmoil. In recent weeks a corruption scandal has gripped the government, resulting in a series of arrests, the moving of hundreds of senior police officers, a challenge to the power base of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a split between Mr Erdogan and his former backers in the Gulenist movement.
In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Daniel Dombey, Turkey correspondent and Tony Barber, Europe editor, to discuss how these developments threaten the political and economic stability of this large dynamic country that is vital to the geopolitics of both Europe and Asia.

Ronald Pofalla (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

By Stefan Wagstyl in Berlin

Controversial job-seekers have been making the headlines over the holidays in Germany. The debate over EU immigration, sparked by the lifting of restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians, has been entirely predictable – and rather more civilised than, for example, in the UK.

More surprising have been reports of a possible new posting for Ronald Pofalla, chancellor Angela Merkel’s former chief of staff, who quit in December saying he wanted more time for his private life.

There was some sympathy then for the twice-divorced 54-year-old’s plans to start a family with his 32-year-old girlfriend and an understanding that he would, at some point, find work in industry – perhaps in the coal sector in his home region of North Rhine Westphalia. Read more

Judging from our list of the most-read stories of the year, it was a year of personalities, the taper, technology – and increasing turmoil in Syria and Egypt.

This interactive, compiled from the most read stories of the year, gives a picture of what the FT audience was interested in each month.

It’s broken down into four sections, overview, world, companies and markets so you can drill down into the most popular stories in each section. Read more

Protests continue in Ukraine
Mass protests continue in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. The government had refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union, apparently in favor of closer ties to Russia. Neil Buckley, east Europe editor, and Roman Olearchyk, Kiev correspondent, join Gideon Rachman to discuss the still-volatile situation.

China and Japan in the struggle of the century
Aerial posturing over disputed territories in the East China Sea has caused concern among the international community. After China declared an air identification zone over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the US despatched two B-52 bombers in an apparent show of defiance, but has instructed its civilian airlines to respect the zone. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Jamil Anderlini, Beijing bureau chief, and Geoff Dyer, US foreign policy correspondent to shed light on the situation

By Luisa Frey

♦ Fears of an accidental conflict are growing following China’s creation of an air defence zone over the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands it claims as its territory, with the US seeing the move as a provocative step, writes the FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo. Read more

International reaction to the Iran nuclear deal
The United States and European Union are clearly delighted with the historic nuclear deal struck with Iran in Geneva last week, but some key US allies in the region, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia are not happy. John Reed, Jerusalem correspondent, James Blitz, defence and security editor and Siona Jenkins, Middle East news editor, join Gideon Rachman to discuss how the agreement will affect the balance of power in the region.

By Luisa Frey

Are the states of the Near East coming apart – especially along faultlines between Sunni and Shia Muslims that run from Beirut to Bagdad?” asks the FT’s David Gardner. The battle between the two groups is destroying the borders drawn up by European imperialists and creating boundaries based on ethnicity and religion.

♦ Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had no choice but to recognise the nation’s desperation for an end to isolation and is now keeping his options open with the nuclear deal, writes the FT’s Roula Khalaf.

♦ The New Yorker has a profile of British blogger Eliot Higgins, know as Brown Moses, who has never been to Syria, but has become “perhaps the foremost expert on the munitions used in the war”.

♦ In Brazil, one more corruption scandal has become public. Investigators claim that a group of tax inspectors allowed construction companies to evade more than $200m in taxes in exchange for bribes, writes the New York Times.

♦ In periods of uncertainty , Switzerland turns to national superhero William Tell. Like Tell, who refused to bow to an Austrian lord’s hat, the country feels put upon by foreign powers that have pressured it to change its ways in the wake of the financial crisis, writes the Wall Street Journal. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Instead of euphoria, relief swept through Tehran after the reach of a historic deal over Iran’s nuclear programme. Although the agreement is an interim one, Iran now hopes for an end to its isolation and the revival of its economy. But the FT’s David Gardner comments that sceptics will want proof Iran is becoming ‘a player for peace’ – “given Tehran’s record, it could hardly be otherwise”. Read more