Tony Barber

For the past 15 years, there has been little good to say about Italy’s economic performance, and even less about the quality of Italian political life.

Yet one Italian institution emerges with its reputation unscathed – and even strengthened – from this long spell of incompetence, corruption and decline.

I am speaking of the presidency. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who served as head of state from 1999-2006, and Giorgio Napolitano, his successor and the current president, have exemplified everything that is dignified, decent and honourable about their country. Their behaviour in office has put the squabbling and self-serving political classes to shame – and it has preserved respect for Italy among its allies and partners abroad. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

This weekend America announced that it was sending more troops to Iraq, Russia allegedly sent more troops into Ukraine and President Barack Obama set off for Beijing.

Claire Jones

The central bankers, past and present, who met in Paris on Friday have collectively pumped tens of trillions of dollars into financial markets and are widely applauded for staving off a global financial meltdown.

But the crowd of star monetary policy makers at the Banque de France’s conference were clearly peeved that since 2008 they have, in their own words, become the only game in town.

Over the past two week, the Bank of Japan upped its bond purchases to a staggering 15 per cent of gross domestic product a year and the European Central Bank signalled a €1tn balance sheet expansion. Yet the policy makers who helped pass those measures, which included governor Haruhiko Kuroda and members of the ECB’s governing council, played down the impact these waves of cheap cash will have on the economy. Read more

  • Relations between Beijing and Tokyo are at a 40-year low amid territorial disputes and rising nationalist rhetoric, but with the leaders set to meet, can they do anything to ease tensions?
  • Catalans will turn out on Sunday to cast votes on the region’s independence despite Spanish courts suspending the ballot, said a leading grassroots activist who called for unity in the separatist movement
  • After mass protests in Taiwan earlier this year against perceived moves towards closer ties with China, Beijing’s plan to lure back Tapei into its embrace risks backfiring
  • Myanmar has given its Rohingya minority a dispiriting choice: prove your family has lived here for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation, reports NYT
  • A chilling video dispatch by Vice on the creeping presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) in Lebanon

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By Victor Mallet

Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister, has relaunched his country’s controversial claims to some of the world’s greatest scientific achievements with his suggestion that ancient India was adept at genetics and plastic surgery, including the grafting of the elephant’s head onto the god Ganesh.

His remarks – ironically made at the opening of a high-tech hospital in Mumbai – have revived a political debate about the growing influence of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the Organisation of National Volunteers) over the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.

Hindu fundamentalists are delighted by Mr Modi’s words, left-wingers are appalled or mocking and many foreigners are simply bemused that India’s real cultural, scientific and medical achievements are being overshadowed by simplistic references to the mythological past. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Viktor Yanukovich's despotic decor

This is shaping up as the year of the controversial presidential mansion. In February, after the revolution that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine, one of the very first things that demonstrators did was to head for his residence outside Kiev. Pictures of its vast grounds, including a lake and a galleon, were soon doing the rounds of the internet. Read more

What hopes for detente between Japan and China?
What are the prospects for some form of detente between Japan and China? Ahead of next week’s Apec summit, where leaders of the two countries are expected to meet, Ben Hall discusses the reasons for the strained relations between the two countries with Beijing bureau chief Jamil Anderlini and David Pilling, Asia editor.

November’s press conference by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi comes a week after the US Federal Reserve ended its monetary stimulus programme, and the Bank of Japan put a rocket booster under its already large volumes of bond buying.

In contrast, investors and analysts are expecting the ECB’s monetary policy committee to sit tight this month. It has announced that rates remain at a record low and predictions are for no change in its private-sector asset buying programme. But with eurozone deflationary fears showing no signs of receding in the stagnating economy, investors will be wanting Draghi to instil confidence in markets that he has his own bazooka ready to fire. By Lindsay Whipp and Emily Cadman

 

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Claire Jones

The European Central Bank’s governing council gathered in Frankfurt on Wednesday for its monthly meeting, which will end on Thursday with the central bank’s policy decision on interest rates and the traditional press conference by president Mario Draghi. Here are three things to watch for:

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