Is Venezuela becoming a failed state?
Life in Venezuela is becoming increasingly difficult, with soaring crime, widespread food shortages, rampant corruption and a political stalemate that thwarts all attempts at change. Gideon Rachman discusses whether the country is becoming a failed state with the FT’s Latin America editor John Paul Rathbone and Andes correspondent, Andres Schipani.

Politicians all over the world are struggling to cope with the new world of social media. Donald Trump has proved particularly adept at abusing his opponents on Twitter. But there are also gentler ways of attracting attention. One increasingly popular stratagem for politicians is to post photos of their cats – which are far more likely to attract likes and retweets than any number of dull policy documents.

Two prominent cat-lovers who have risen to power over the last year are the new president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party. Both leaders are single, but are noted for their devotion to their cats. President Tsai has kept a low profile about her relationships with humans – but has posted frequent updates and videos about her cats. Her aides admit that these are considerably more popular than her policy pronouncements. A recent FT profile of Kaczynski noted that he “prefers to spend his evenings at home with his cat”. Photos of the Polish leader with his ginger moggy have tended to soften his rather authoritarian image. Read more

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Among all of Donald Trump’s punching bags, few top the media, at once Trump’s sworn foe and his greatest ally.

Today, the emphasis was on foe, as Trump faced off against his press corps at Trump Tower in a news conference that was ostensibly about the media’s coverage of a Trump fundraiser for veterans in January, yet ended up being more about Trump’s relationship with the media. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Politics in the west are so dramatic at the moment that China can look relatively staid and stable by comparison. But that impression is deceptive. Xi Jinping is taking his country in radical and risky new directions.

This is the latest edition of LatAm Viva, our weekly newsletter on the continent. To receive it every Friday by email, sign up here.

This week, it has been a quarter of a century since Thelma & Louise sailed their battered convertible into the Grand Canyon, securing their place in Hollywood’s pantheon of heroes. This week is another in the saga of the Venezuelan government’s push on the gas pedal towards the approaching abyss. Read more

Donald Trump has disappointed millions of people in America – and probably the head of every television network who hoped to make a killing – by deciding not to debate with Bernie Sanders. On Thursday he revealed that the campaigns were in discussions about a debate, which would have been a huge television hit. But on Friday he reversed course, saying it would be “inappropriate” because Sanders has no way to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Read more

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Donald Trump held a press conference to celebrate crossing the 1,237 delegate line, which ensures victory when the Republican Party holds a formal nomination vote at its July convention in Cleveland. He took the occasion to hit out at Barack Obama for doing a “horrible job” after the US president said in Japan that world leaders were “rattled” by the property mogul’s rise and the isolationist “America First” message of his campaign for the White House. “When you rattle someone, that is good,” said Trump, who has spent the past 10 months rattling everyone from Mexican immigrants to the Republican establishment. Read more

GCHQ suffers from a shortage of Arabic, Mandarin and Russian speakers

The decline in knowledge of foreign languages in Britain is a familiar tale, but an extremely important one nonetheless. I want to draw the attention of readers to a Cambridge university report, “The Value of Languages”. It is the most concise, up-to- date survey of the problem that I have come across.

All too often the status of English as the world’s lingua franca leads people in Britain to the complacent conclusion that there is no need to bother with foreign languages. As the Cambridge report observes, however, a shortage of foreign language speakers is bad for British businesses, is potentially harmful to national security and carries risks for the criminal justice and healthcare systems.

Companies with global operations recruit globally, the report notes. “UK graduates must be aware that the asset value of English diminishes commensurate to the number of international graduates entering the global labour market with fluent English and other languages,” it says. “Too often [employers] report that British graduates have very limited experience of life outside the UK.” Read more

Hillary Clinton had a rough day after the state department, which she ran as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, rapped her on the knuckles for using a personal email account and private server when she was the top US diplomat. In a report sent to Congress, the inspector-general declared that Clinton did not ask for legal approval to set up what critics refer to as her “home brew” server and would not have been given permission by officials had she asked. Here is our story on emailgate, which threatens to dog Clinton as she fights to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. Read more

Populism in Austria
Austria came within a whisker of electing a far-right candidate as its head of state this week. As EU leaders breath a collective sigh of relief, World News editor Ben Hall discusses the ramifications of the election with the FT’s Austria correspondent Ralph Atkins and Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker.

The abrupt cancellation of the latest round of negotiations aimed at ending the Cyprus dispute is the latest indication that the prospects for a comprehensive peace settlement, seemingly bright at the start of the year, may be dimming again. Who now would be brave enough to put money on a Cyprus deal by the end of 2016, the target date everyone was talking about in January?

This time, the problem concerns gourmet food and diplomatic protocol. Nicos Anastasiades, president of the internationally recognised, Greek Cypriot-controlled state of Cyprus, was due to hold talks on Friday with Mustafa Akinci, head of the Turkish Cypriot entity in the island’s north.

But on Tuesday the Greek Cypriot leader called off the talks. Mr Akinci, you see, had attended a banquet on Monday evening that the Turkish government gave for heads of state gathered in Istanbul for a UN summit. Read more

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If you have spent the past decade wondering what has happened to Kenneth Starr, wonder no more. The famous Whitewater independent counsel who spearheaded the investigation of Bill Clinton in the 1990s is back in the limelight, seventeen years after Clinton’s impeachment. Read more

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On Saturday Night Live this past weekend, Kate McKinnon and Larry David – the actors impersonating Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – waltzed into the sunset to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s the Nutcracker in a gauzy, dry ice-filled dream sequence that sees the rivals cheerily reminisce over the primary’s high and lows, laugh, embrace and even pirouette.

Would that were the case. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

The rise of Donald Trump has been accompanied by predictable murmurs of “only in America”. But the Trump phenomenon is better understood as part of a global trend: the return of the “strongman” leader in international politics.

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At 6.27am on Thursday, while most of America was still asleep, Donald Trump took to Twitter with a snap conclusion about EgyptAir flight 804. “Looks like yet another terrorist attack,” he wrote. “When will we get tough, smart and vigilant. Great hate and sickness.”

The rapid-reaction tweet was another example of the style that delights supporters, exasperates party leaders and tantalises the media. It also provided a template for how a terrorist incident might play out in the autumn if one were to take place on US territory.

 Read more

An EgyptAir aircraft on a flight from Paris to Cairo has crashed into the Mediterranean, with 66 people on board.

A multinational search and rescue effort is underway in an area between the Greek island of Karpathos and the northern coast of Egypt.

Key points

  • Flight MS804 left Paris on Wednesday night, but lost contact at around 02:45 Egyptian time

  • The plane, an Airbus A320, was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew

  • The authorities have said it is too early to say what caused the crash

  • There are reports that debris, believed to be from the aircraft, has been spotted in the sea

 

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After earning a reputation for some of the toughest questioning of Donald Trump during the Republican race, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly threw in the towel on Tuesday night with a very soft interview with the tycoon. The man who once said she had “blood coming out of her wherever” and retweeted comments that described her as a “bimbo” said in the interview that, “I like our relationship right now”. Read more

Filipinos elect wild card president
The Philippines has taken a radical change of political direction with the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president. Gideon Rachman discusses why outsiders and investors are so taken aback by the development with Avantika Chilkoti and Tony Tassell.

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Donald Trump faces yet another barrage over his stance on women. Priorities USA, an outside group supporting Hillary Clinton, released the first in a series of political attack ads that will air on television in the swing states of Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Nevada. The video shows numerous women speaking but with their voices dubbed over by Trump delivering some of his controversial comments on women. Some of the lines include, “Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely” and “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter perhaps I would be dating her.” Read more

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Donald Trump spent much of the past day on Twitter attacking a New York Times story that depicted his treatment of women as “degrading”. The paper quoted a former model who described how he urged her to change into a swimming costume when they met at a pool party that he was hosting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. She later accused the paper of mispresenting her, saying Trump had been a gentlemanRead more