In The Picture

(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)

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

(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Thousands gathered in Soweto’s enormous stadium for a lively memorial service celebrating Nelson Mandela’s life yesterday but much of the news focused on the behaviour of the attendees rather than on Madiba’s legacy.

The memorial event was overshadowed by the crowd’s hostile reaction to South African president Jacob Zuma, a historic handshake between US and Cuban leaders and shameless selfies as western leaders hogged the limelight. In a surreal turn of events, it emerged that the man interpreting the proceedings live on television for deaf viewers was a hoax.

Here are some reports and analysis on the significance of the day and the high jinks in the audience. 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

Soldiers clear the top floor of the Westgate mall (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

As Kenya began three days of national mourning for the victims of the country’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years, the country’s security forces continued to comb Nairobi’s Westgate mall for victims. Read more

ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

By Catherine Contiguglia and David Gallerano
Russia has been the talk of the town since the announcement by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov of a diplomatic initiative to get Syria to turn over chemical weapons. Then all eyes turned to Russian president Vladimir Putin when his New York Times op-ed appeared, arguing that air strikes could “could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”

Here are some of the best articles on the man who has managed to keep a grip on Russian power for over a decade, and his maneuverings around the Syria crisis and beyond. Read more

UN arms expert collects samples for investigation into suspected chemical weapons strike (Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty Images)

By Catherine Contiguglia and David Gallerano

The build up to a US military intervention in Syria was suspended when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced a diplomatic initiative to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision. This is something of a reprieve for US president Barack Obama, who was facing mounting pressure to live up to a promised intervention that has little public support and has yet to be approved by either the United Nations or Congress.

Here are some of the best articles from the FT and elsewhere about chemical weapons and their regulation, and what the Russian plan means for the Syria conflict. Read more

Zojoji-temple in Tokyo (Getty)

The most significant International Olympic Committee meeting in a generation takes place this weekend – the committee will choose a host city for 2020 at the weekend amid reservations about all three candidates. Shortly after, it will have to decide on a successor for Jacques Rogge, president of the movement.

Thomas Bach, a German lawyer, is the favourite in the presidential race. But the decision over the 2020 host will be more difficult. Here’s what’s happened in the campaign so far and why the decision will be an uncomfortable one: Read more

Mohamed Morsi (Getty)

Mohamed Morsi’s presidency is teetering on the brink. Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Morsi moved into the presidency a year ago. But the anniversary has drawn millions of protesters into the streets and the intervention of the military, which has instructed the country’s political classes to address the “people’s demands”.

When he first came to power, Morsi was a relatively unknown, 61-year-old engineering professor and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. But in the year since he took power we’ve learned a lot about him. Here’s some of the best background reading out there on the Egyptian president and his Muslim Brotherhood. Read more

A student prepares a barbecue protest against the rise in bus fares (Getty)

Protests in Brazil are running in to their fifth night, a sign that Brazil’s previously polite manner of protesting has done little to bring about change.

After more than three centuries of colonial rule followed by intermittent dictatorships, confrontation isn’t the preferred style of protest for Brazilians. Samantha Pearson, the FT’s São Paulo correspondent, spoke to so-called BBQ activists - people who organise public barbecues to protest anything from police aggression to homophobia.

The idea of protesting via the medium of a grilled sausage may seem rather unusual, but food and social activism have a long history together. Read more

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Tehran (Getty)

By Aranya Jain

Iran goes to the polls today, with 6 candidates competing to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a group largely consisting of regime loyalists. The turbulent politics of the election and the large variety of support groups involved make the result unpredictable, with further ambiguity arising from the supreme leader’s claims that he has no favourite to win. These articles are the best guide on what to expect. Read more

"DOLY-COM" abattoir, one of the two Romanian companies exporting horse meat to EU countries (Getty)

An emerging scandal about horsemeat found in processed foods has raised questions over European regulators’ ability to monitor the food industry. With the recession creating a glut of horsemeat in Ireland, two UK plants being raided and fingers being pointed at the Romanian abattoir, the trail of responsibility is complex and tangled.

Whether the recent horsemeat incidents were a result of long supply chains or criminal activity, this isn’t the first time food control and regulation has been a hot topic. 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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OCTOBER 23: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks to journalists during his visit to the east Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Gilo on October 23, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister's visit to the settlement comes after his recent declaration to continue construction in the area without restrictions. (Photo by Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits an east Jerusalem settlement in October 2012. (Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)

Israelis go to the polls today in an election widely expected to return Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister for a third term – an historic achievement in the turbulent world of Israeli politics. A hardliner who has not hidden his backing for settlement building on occupied land — despite issuing qualified support for a Palestinian state in 2009 — Mr Netanyahu has successfully portrayed himself as a strong leader who can protect Israelis in a tough neighbourhood in the face of widespread international criticism.

That the already hawkish Mr Netanyahu was outflanked on the right by a charismatic new candidate, Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, has become the main theme of the election campaign. Mr Bennett makes no bones of his opposition to a two state solution with the Palestinians, and advocates the annexation of at least part of the occupied West Bank. His success in the campaign is part of a sharp shift to the right in Israeli politics.

In the FT:

  • Naftali Bennett burst onto the political scene when he was elected leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party in November and he is emblematic of Israel’s rightward shift. He and his party campaigned hard in working class areas, underlining their support for Eretz Yisrael (Greater Israel, including occupied Palestinian land). His rise alarmed liberals and pushed Mr Netanyahu to the right on the campaign trail.

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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

Demonstrators outside the offices of Southern Weekend in Guangzhou, January 8 (AFP/Getty)

Demonstrators outside the offices of Southern Weekend in Guangzhou on January 8 (AFP/Getty)

Any government that is intent on controlling public debate has traditionally had a number of tools at its disposal. Direct ownership of the press, punishment of unruly journalists or artists and the promotion of malleable ones, book burning, propaganda … the list goes on. The internet, a sprawling, uncontrollable and ever-growing beast may have given birth to a new set of challenges for modern totalitarian powers, but China has thrown its resources at the problem with gusto, keeping a lid on simmering dissent with a mix of technology, commercial incentives, legal restrictions and carefully selected pressure valves.

That is partly why the open revolt by journalists in Guangzhou this past week was so surprising – because it suggested that, just occasionally, spontaneous anger and frustration could yet circumvent the great firewall of China, even if only briefly.

In the FT

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As if concerns over whether Syria’s chemical weapons might fall into the wrong hands amid the increasingly violent civil war weren’t enough to worry about, behind the scenes nuclear experts are now expressing fresh fears over the security of what may be 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium in the country.

As the FT’s diplomatic editor James Blitz reported on Wednesday, concerns centre on the whereabouts of this as yet unconfirmed stash. It is believed by some to have been meant for Syria’s supposed al-Kibar nuclear facility – before Israel destroyed it in a secret mission back in September 2007, a mission that David Makovsky dissected in the New Yorker last September.

For its part, Syria has always denied ever having a nuclear programme. So, did it have one or not? Below are some interesting articles that wade into these extremely murky waters. Read more

Controversy has swirled around the candidacy of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defence, centred on past comments the Republican former senator made about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating congress, sanctions and military action against Iran, and the Pentagon budget.

Amid the his nomination, there have also been an increasing number of opinion pieces in the US press dissecting what James Fallows in The Atlantic describes as a “de-legitimizing campaign” against the decorated Vietnam veteran.

  • Fallows uses a headline from the US satirical news website The Onion to suggest that the imminent nomination could be a “this is bullshit” (‘this’ being the campaign against Hagel) moment for President Barack Obama.
  • Commentary fiercely critical of the nomination has been published, among others, in the neo-con Weekly Standard, citing a top Republican Senate aide emailing: “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.” In the Wall Street Journal, Brett Stephens also aired his disapproval at Hagel’s perceived prejudices against the Jewish community.

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The advances made in recent weeks by a group of rebel soldiers calling themselves M23 have laid bare the frailty of the Congolese state. They have also underlined the continuing and disruptive influence on the country’s politics by its smaller eastern neighbours, particularly Rwanda. But who are M23? And what do they hope to achieve?  Read more

In wartime, everyone wants a hero. The one that has emerged from Israel in recent days is no individual soldier, but a technology: the so-called ‘Iron Dome’. Read more

Gen David Petraeus and his wife Holly walk into a Senate hearing, watched by amongst others PAula Broadwell (seated). (AFP)

It’s not everyday that serious newspapers get to combine sex, spies and the military into one story. But the escalating scandal surrounding the former head of the CIA David Petraeus over his extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell and the involvement of a growing number of other people, has provided just such an opportunity.

The saga has generated the full range of commentary. The serious questions are being asked: Why is the FBI so deeply involved in what essentially appears to be an email harassment case? Why did it take so long for lawmakers to be told? What does this say about military personalities? What are the implications for US national security? Read more