Smart Reads

The birch forests and heaths across Estonia are echoing with gunfire, explosions and the heavy crump of artillery as the tiny Baltic state holds the largest war games of its independent history

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma is mired in scandals that have tarnished his and the ANC’s reputation, as a recent wave of xenophobic violence puts his record under fresh scrutiny

South Korea is facing a dilemma over Jehovah’s Witnesses, who conscientiously object to military service but have hope of a softening judicial stance towards their boycott

A team of Syrian investigators have risked their lives to collect secret government documents that provide evidence of war crimes by Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Will an international court ever hear their cases? (Guardian)

The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left despite the financial crisis and widening inequality, writes David Brooks in the New York Times  Read more

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  • From Brazil to China, Russia and beyond, developing economies that gorged on debt in recent years are suffering their biggest capital outflows since the financial crisis
  • Poland’s perpetually delayed entry into the eurozone is becoming a thorny issue in an increasingly combative presidential election
  • The dark clouds have lifted after Saturday’s fraught elections in Nigeria, but the winner, 72-year-old General Muhammadu Buhari, faces a daunting economic task
  • Just 15 months after it was founded, Podemos now leads the polls in Spain and has changed European politics. Can the grassroots party win power – or is its bubble about to burst?
  • In an example of the gamesmanship that has overtaken the Iran nuclear talks, with just hours to go US president Barack Obama told negotiators to ignore the deadline

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  • As the US moves closer to a nuclear deal with Tehran that could end decades of estrangement, it simultaneously finds itself scrambling to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East
  • The contours of Russia’s new national ideology have become clear in the Ukraine crisis; its foundations are nostalgia for a glorious past, resentment of oligarchs, materialism and xenophobia
  • Despite being engulfed in news about corruption, Latin America is showing advances in strengthening institutions and holding the powerful to account
  • Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov has upgraded his country from pawn to rook as central Asia’s chess master uses the rivalry between China, Russia and the US to its advantage (Foreign Policy)
  • The provision of an hallucinogenic drug to inmates in the middle of the rain forest reflects a continuing quest for ways to ease pressure on Brazil’s prison system (New York Times)

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The scramble by European countries to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a powerful symbol of the eastward shift of global power

Soldiers of fortune from apartheid-era South Africa that inspired the Hollywood thriller ‘Blood Diamond’ are starring in Nigeria’s attempt to flush out Boko Haram terrorists

Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen’s civil conflict has turned up the heat on a simmering cold war between regional Sunni Arab states and their Shia rival, Iran

If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair, argues Nick Cohen (The Spectator)

Chad’s strongman president, Idriss Déby, says Nigeria is absent in the fight against Boko Haram as Chadian troops defend Nigerian territory from the extremists (New York Times)  Read more

  • Palestinian leaders and activists have welcomed the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as a propaganda victory that will strengthen their case for international recognition
  • An account of the fall from grace of a Ukrainian oligarch, removed from his regional governor post by Kiev over fears that he had become too powerful
  • The European Commission plans to reboot its digital market reforms with measures to abolish mobile roaming fees, end ‘geoblocking’ of online video and change copyright rules
  • As Iran and Hezbollah try to drive back rebel fighters in southern Syria, they threaten to spur a larger conflict in one of the Middle East’s most volatile regions (Foreign Policy)
  • It’s fine to be gay on Japanese TV — if you’re outlandish and outrageous (Washington Post)

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  • Lee Kuan Yew, the founder and patriarch of modern Singapore who has died at the age of 91, was one of postwar Asia’s most revered and controversial politicians
  • In a fight between whales, the shrimp’s back is broken, according to a South Korean expression that sums up the country’s struggle to balance its strategic relationships with China and the US
  • Can economic optimism return quickly enough in Europe to prevent the further rise of extremist political parties? asks Gideon Rachman
  • Despite brutal punishments under Saudi justice drawing comparisons to Isis, avenues for mercy are built into the system that allow reprieves (New York Times)
  • It is used by almost a tenth of the world’s population, gives a buzz equivalent to six cups of coffee and is a symbol of love. But the humble betel nut is also sending tens of thousands to an early grave (BBC)

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Remarks by the president of Chechnya have sparked theories that Boris Nemtsov, the assassinated Russian opposition politician, fell victim to infighting in an opaque regime

Policy makers in some of the world’s largest economies have devalued their currencies in a bid to boost export-led recoveries, but there is evidence lower exchange rates do not always work

An unprecedented environmental protest movement in a remote part of Algeria has disrupted the country’s multibillion-dollar shale programme, and is making political waves across the region

Four years after a nuclear disaster, Fukushima’s farmers are struggling to sell their produce despite decontamination efforts as the region tries to stand on its own two feet (WSJ)

Win or lose in Tikrit, Isis can only be defeated in Iraq by the Sunnis, writes Hassan Hassan (The Guardian)  Read more

  • If nations could agree a carbon tax, it would help create a more efficient, less polluting future, argues Martin Wolf
  • In Syria, opposition fighters struggle to navigate a war that seems to advance every agenda except ending Assad’s regime
  • If you measure Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance by the applause, his speech to the US congress hit the mark – but it may look very different in hindsight, writes Ed Luce
  • Boris Nemtsov was a very different kind of liberal or “ultra-liberal” (Pandodaily)
  • In a chaotic Middle East, America’s allies create as many problems as they solve (Brookings Institute)

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Despite a collective show of mourning for the assassinated opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, the prospects for Russia’s anti-Putin movement remain bleak

In one of his last interviews days before he was murdered, Boris Nemtsov told the FT that Russia had become a “country of war, of humiliated, hypnotised people” and that Putin had “brought Nazism into politics”

The egregious anomaly of the non-dom status, where the wealthiest enjoy the privilege of UK residency without paying their fair dues to the exchequer, should be scrapped, says the FT

Anatomy of a Killing: How Shaimaa al-Sabbagh Was Shot Dead at a Cairo Protest (Vice News)

‘Jihadi John’: a graduate of my radical London university, a place where extremism can fester and Islamist views were prevalent (Washington Post) Read more

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The scenes of chaos during President Jacob Zuma’s speech at the opening of South Africa’s parliament last week will be remembered as one of the darkest days of the post-apartheid era

Visitors from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong are known as “locusts” and now a long-simmering resentment at their presence in the territory is boiling over into angry protests

Greece must impose capital controls or repeat the costly mistake of Cyprus, where emergency funding from the ECB was spirited out of the country, argues Hans-Werner Sinn

What Isis Really Wants: The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. Here’s what its beliefs means for its strategy – and how to stop it (The Atlantic)

Washington’s uneasy partnership with Tehran now extends to Yemen (Foreign Policy)  Read more

  • A drought in Brazil, which depends on hydropower for 70 per cent of its electricity, is sparking fears of water rationing and energy shortages that could hit economic growth
  • As public deficits rise, pressure to cut costly subsidies on fuel and other products is growing in developing economies. Morocco has shown other countries how the reform can work
  • He is close to Vladimir Putin and has described the European Union as the modern heir to the Third Reich – so why is Viktor Medvedchuk negotiating on behalf of Ukraine in peace talks? (NYT)
  • As China moves into the third year of its anti-corruption campaign, experts are worried that without the grease of bribes, projects are stagnating and the economy is taking a hit (Washington Post)
  • Grow vegetables extensively! North Korea has unveiled a list of 310 new political slogans covering every conceivable topic (Agence France-Presse)

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  • Venezuelan émigrés in Florida with fierce anti-Chavez views are aiming to steer US foreign policy on their homeland, just as exiled Cubans did
  • The postponement of Nigeria’s elections offers President Goodluck Jonathan a chance to regain the initiative in the Boko Haram insurgency, but the delay also risks fraying nerves further
  • India hopes deworming 140m schoolchildren in the world’s biggest campaign against the parasites will boost economic productivity
  • Germany and Greece are engaged in a fight to the death, with neither backing down in a cultural and economic clash of wills
  • Welcome to Crimea in winter - a lonely island, with no tourists, frightened Tatars and where Russians have taken all the jobs.

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