World affairs

If there was a prize for which US president had had the more exclusive and expensive Japanese dining experience, Barack Obama would beat George W Bush hands down.

The incumbent US leader and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe dined in one of Japan’s – and thus the world’s – most exclusive sushi restaurants on Wednesday night – Sukiyabashi Jiro, where only 10 people can squeeze along the counter and there is one choice on the menu – a $300 course of exquisite sushi. Read more

Gideon Rachman

 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks on on the Middle East in London on April 23, 2014. (Getty)

There are plenty of people who will simply refuse to listen to anything that Tony Blair has to say about the Middle East – on the grounds that he is an idiot or a war criminal, or some combination of the two. I am not one of them. On the contrary, I think that the speech that Blair has just given on the Middle East is worth reading. He is intelligent, passionate and well-informed. But I still think he is wrong or, at the least, unconvincing, on a number of crucial points. Read more

The fragile middle
Decades of rapid growth have created a new middle class in the developing world, prompting multinational companies to invest heavily in emerging markets as they attempt to serve millions of new consumers. But rising inequality and slowing growth has presented a risk to this new middle class and is forcing companies to rethink their strategy. In this week’s podcast, Ferdinando Giugliano is joined by Shawn Donnan, world trade editor and James Kynge, emerging markets editor to discuss this nascent middle class and its prospects in the face of slowing growth

Malaise in Brazil highlights how Latin America’s middle class could fall into poverty if growth stalls. The latest in the FT’s Fragile Middle series.

• Italy is embracing change as women are appointed to the top jobs in the country’s largest state-controlled companies.

• Oligarchs in Ukraine deny that they are siding with separatists and trying to use the threat of breakaway areas as a negotiating chip with Kiev.

• Six ways that Europe’s financial sector has changed – or at least is supposed to change.

• The New York Times shows how the five-year economic collapse in Greece has spawned a new burst of creative energy that has turned Athens into a contemporary mecca for street art in EuropeRead more

♦ Almost a billion people in the developing world are at risk of slipping out of the ranks of a nascent middle class, according to FT analysis, raising questions about the durability of the past 30 years’ march out of poverty.

Weeks after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the growing unrest in eastern Ukraine appears to be following an eerily similar script.

♦ Eurozone policy makers aim to make it less attractive to hold euros.

♦ The power of the US cable barons must be challenged, says Edward Luce.

♦ As the US grows older and less white, the political messages and messengers will have to adjust, writes Chris Cilliza in The Washington Post. Read more

Blimey, those lazy French slackers are at it again.

Not content with a statutory 35-hour week, now people are banned from checking work emails after 6pm. No wonder France’s economy is going down the pan. That, more or less, was the story that went viral this week after a flurry of reports on English-language media (The Guardian, the Daily Mail, the tech blog Engadget among others) that a new “legally binding labour agreement” in France prohibited employees from answering emails from work outside office hours. Read more

While officials at the debt management agency prepare to trumpet Greece’s return to international capital markets, for long-suffering Athenians it is just another day marked by anti-austerity protests in the centre of the capital.

The five-year bond issue will be snapped up by investors eager for extra yield. But Greek risk, though diminishing, is unlikely to disappear soon. Here is a quick checklist of informal indicators tracked by local analysts. Read more

Could the UK go it alone in the cut-throat world of global trade?

Iain Mansfield, the 30-year-old British diplomat awarded a €100,000 prize by the eurosceptic Institute of Economic Affairs for his plan for a British exit from the EU, certainly thinks so. At the centre of his plan is the case for the UK to go it alone in negotiating trade agreements with big players like China and the US. Read more

Vladimir Putin speaking at a session of the Russian security services board April 7 (Getty)

At one level, what is happening this week in the cities of eastern Ukraine is thoroughly confusing. Ukrainian security forces are trying to recapture government buildings in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk that were seized earlier this week by unidentified pro-Russia demonstrators. Who exactly is fighting whom? Who is really in charge in the region?

But at another level, what is going on is very clear. Vladimir Putin is providing an object lesson in how to destroy a state. Read more

The aftermath of a barrel bombing by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Aleppo on March 18 (Getty)

Earlier this week the famous-for-being-famous celebrity Kim Kardashian regurgitated Syrian regime disinformation about a rebel massacre of Armenians in the town of Kasab in the country’s northeast on her Twitter feed after it was captured by rebels.

The Tweet – Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get this trending!!!! #SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide – went viral, further damaging the reputation of Syria’s opposition, a ragtag rebellion struggling to make inroads against Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who continues to massacre hundreds of people daily in bombing raids and inside his dark dungeons. Unlike in Kasab, these murders have been meticulously documented by independent human rights groups and the UN. Read more