By Gideon Rachman
David Cameron’s acknowledgement that he was not greeted with a “wall of love” at last week’s EU summit demonstrated a flair for languid British understatement. In reality, the prime minister’s long-anticipated demand for a renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU has been met with a mixture of anger and incomprehension.

A view of the ancient city of Palmyra Getty

By Sam al-Refaie

Palmyra: the pearl of the desert. Every Syrian citizen has mixed feelings about this city. It is a symbol of the Syrians’ historic strength and of their queen, Zenobia, who rebelled against the Roman Empire. But it is also the city that held the dreadful prison in which the Assads, father and son, detained all of those suspected of having political opinions that didn’t suit their regime. Read more

Ireland's Dustin the Turkey at the 2008 contest

Russian Babushki have invited Europeans to a “Party for Everyone”, four Swedes found their “Waterloo”, British airline attendants camped it up when “Flying the Flag”, and a girl band from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia pressed Financial Times readers’ buttons with a percentage breakdown of their amorousness (“I Love You 100%”). Read more

Over the weekend, my colleague Richard McGregor, reported on the growing clamour in Washington to push back against China’s “island factory” in the South China sea. He pointed to the possibility of a “limited but risky challenge to Chinese actions by the US military”. That challenge now appears to be underway. Read more

Narendra Modi’s first year in office
Narendra Modi’s election a year ago was accompanied by hopes for economic regeneration but anxiety about his Hindu nationalist agenda. Gideon Rachman discusses the Indian prime minister’s first year in office with Victor Mallet and James Lamont.

By Gideon Rachman
As Europe’s military capacity has shrunk, so the Nato alliance has grown more dependent on the US. But Urban argues US military power is also on the slide.  Read more

If you think that getting fast-track authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements is hard, just wait for the deal that it is designed to pass.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan and 10 other economies in Asia and Latin America has run into a barrage of criticism. Some of it is probably justified; some of it is not. The problem is that we don’t really know.

The governments involved, and particularly the US administration, have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the negotiating texts secret. Even senators and congressmen are only allowed to look at them in a secure location without taking away notes.

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By Gideon Rachman
Why is Barack Obama so desperate to secure a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal? The long-winded official answer is that the US president thinks that it would break down barriers between 12 leading Pacific economies and so increase prosperity. The short, real, answer is: China.

  © Getty Images

Have the US and its allies in Asia reached a tipping point in their relations with China? The question posed by US China scholar, David Lampton, in a speech in Shanghai in March looks disturbingly prescient after a whirl of diplomatic and security offensives in recent weeks in the region.

The US and Japan substantially upgraded their defence alliance in a high profile summit meeting in Washington earlier this month. Japan, in turn, held its first naval exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea. This week, the US announced (and then later denied) it would station B-1 bombers in northern Australia, also with an eye on balancing China in the region.

Then, just in time for John Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, the Pentagon made it known it was contemplating limited military options in the form of naval patrols and surveillance flights in contested areas in the South China Sea to reinforce its opposition to Chinese actions. Read more

Nato claims to be the world’s strongest military alliance and it may soon add a new title: the world’s most terrifying singing ensemble. Read more

Will Britain stay in the European Union?
Britain’s first majority Conservative government for 18 years is pushing for a renegotiation of its relationship with the EU and has promised an in-out referendum on membership by the end of 2017. Ben Hall discusses Britain’s place in the EU with George Parker and Alex Barker.

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

By Gideon Rachman

When Angela Merkel won re-election in 2013, the outside world saw her success as a sign that things were going well in Germany. But David Cameron’s decisive victory in the UK’s election last week is receiving a much more sceptical press overseas. A Washington Post headline proclaimed: “Election may set Britain on a path to becoming Little England”. A New York Times columnist upped the ante by announcing: “The Suicide of Britain”.

The last members of “Occupy Wall Street” were pushed out of Zuccotti Park in New York in November, 2011. But the original event continues to spawn a host of imitators that use the tactics, vocabulary and brand of the “Occupy movement”. In recent months, “Occupy” has been busy on a number of UK university campuses, including the LSE, Kings College London, Warwick, Goldsmiths and Sheffield. These glimmerings of student discontent are interesting, set against the background of the election on Thursday and the controversy surrounding the Cameron-Clegg coalition’s decision to raise student fees to £9,000 a year. The Labour Party led by Ed Miliband has promised to cut fees in England back to £6,000 a year (there are no fees in Scotland) – and is targeting university towns in an effort to capitalise on the student vote. Some even argue that the student vote could tip the balance in the election. Read more

Greece on the brink
Greece is said to be about to run out of money and yet there’s no sign of a deal with its creditors. Gideon Rachman is joined by Martin Sandbu and Kerin Hope to discuss whether a further crisis can be avoided.

By Gideon Rachman
The relationship between the government of Greece and the rest of the eurozone increasingly resembles a bad marriage. The two sides are sick of the sight of each other. Mutual trust has broken down. Efforts to patch things up continue, but nothing seems to work.

In a couple of hours time, I will be setting down at Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea play Crystal Palace and – I hope – secure the victory that will make them Premier League champions. The morning’s newspapers are full of previews of the game, as well as stories about the UK election and the continuing surge of the Scottish National Party. Reading them, I have begun to discern a connection between Scottish nationalism and English football. Here’s why. Read more

Obama seeks to cement Japan ties
Siona Jenkins, Gideon Rachman and Lindsay Whipp discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Washington as the US seeks to cement defence and trade ties with Japan, a key ally in its bid to push back against growing Chinese influence in Asia.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (Getty)

Over the past few weeks I’ve asked several western officials whether Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen signalled a fundamental change in Riyadh’s behaviour. Should we expect a far more aggressive kingdom under recently installed King Salman, or is Yemen a one-off war to blow off steam? Are we facing a new Saudi Arabia?

The answer has been consistent: we don’t know yet.

Early this morning, at the curious hour of 4 am Riyadh time, King Salman went some way towards providing an answer. In a bombshell announcement, he sacked crown prince Muqrin, who had been close to the late King Abdullah, and elevated Muqrin’s deputy, the security-minded interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef, to crown prince. More importantly – and controversially – he appointed his favourite son, the young Mohammed bin Salman, as next in line for the throne after bin Nayef. Read more

The city of Baltimore is in lock-down after a night of riots and violent clashes between police and protesters that followed the funeral of a black man who died in custody.

In scenes that marked the latest episode of unrest over the treatment of African Americans by police, shops were looted, cars torched and 15 officers injured by youths who threw bottles and rocks.

While the convulsions reignited the debate about police behaviour towards ethnic minorities in the US, some commentators have pointed to the city’s high levels of deprivation and inequality as underlying causes of the outbursts.

These charts show the ethnic composition of Baltimore and shed light on some of its socio-economic problems. Read more