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Imagine you are the boss of a multinational company with a long-planned meeting with an authoritarian leader of a vital trading partner. Then just before the scheduled get-together, he decides to invade one of his neighbours. What do you do?

That, roughly, was the position of Joe Kaeser, chief executive of Germany’s Siemens, as he decided to go through with a meeting with Vladimir Putin this week at the Russian president’s nineteenth century country residence on the outskirts of Moscow. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Wednesday night’s debate in Britain between the standard-bearers of the pro- and anti-EU camps came out as a victory for the eurosceptic, Nigel Farage, over the pro-European deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg. That is not my judgement, it is the verdict of the polls. A snap poll showed that 57% of viewers had Farage winning, whereas 36% had Clegg ahead. That verdict is extra-depressing for pro-Europeans since the polling company weighted the audience to make sure that it was as neutral as possible. Read more

Drive-in movie shows ‘Marty McFly’ from Back to the Future

Mr Abbott has been dubbed ‘Marty McFly’ for his decision to reinstitute the titles of knights and dames in Australia

By Jamie Smyth

“Welcome to Abbott’s bunyip aristocracy”, screamed the headline on the front page of Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald.

This was the newspaper’s satirical take on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s surprise decision to reintroduce an honours system Down Under based on the regal titles of knights and dames.

Twitter provided a stream of satirical comments, while the Sydney Morning Herald’s reference to the “bunyip aristocracy” invoked the mythological aboriginal devil creature that was used to ridicule conservatives’ 19th century attempts to develop an aristocracy.

Outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce and her successor Peter Cosgrove – who takes over as Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Australia on Friday – will be the first to receive the titles. As many as four new awards will be recommended by the prime minister and approved by the Queen each year, with the governor general occupying the position of “principle knight or dame in the Order of Australia”. Read more

Turkey in turmoil over Erdogan’s Twitter ban
Gideon Rachman is joined by Daniel Dombey, Turkey correspondent, and Leyla Boulton, head of special reports and former Turkey correspondent, to discuss Prime Minister Erdogan’s ban on Twitter and what the year ahead holds for the country and its divisive leader. The Twitter ban adds to a growing cloud of controversy, with allegations of corruption and a blackmail ring also engulfing Turkey’s political system, but Erdogan has retained much of his support from conservative groups and is still polling broadly above 40 per cent as this weekend’s local elections approach.

Roula Khalaf

 

Egyptian policemen standing guard outside the courthouse in Minya during the trial of some 683 Islamists on March 25, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

That Egypt’s judiciary is politicised is nothing new. Usually, though, at least it goes through the motions of a trial, allowing some form of defence and taking its time in issuing controversial verdicts.

A court in the southern city of Minya, however, has dispensed with all formality, opting instead for an absurd and outrageous miscarriage of justice. On Monday, it delivered the biggest mass death penalty in the country’s modern history, sentencing 529 Muslim Brotherhood followers to death for an August attack on a police station, in which the deputy police chief was killed. The defendants’ lawyers were not allowed into the proceedings – which lasted a mere two days. Read more

♦ In the new cold war, Russia could hit the US where it hurts – in Iran.

Vladimir Putin has confounded three US presidents as they tried to figure him out.

♦ The decision in Egypt to hand the death sentence to 528 Muslim Brotherhood members was widely condemned, but Egyptian TV told a different story.

♦ The US is losing its edge as an employment powerhouse after its labour participation rate fell behind the UK’s.

♦ Russia’s actions in Crimea have sent a chill through its former Soviet neighbours in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

♦ American economist Hyman Minsky is back in vogue as his ideas offer a plausible account of why the 2007-08 financial crisis happened.

♦ A report on how former Tunisian president Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali changed the rules of business underlines the challenges still facing the country. Read more

Tony Barber

Until a week ago, it looked as if the far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom party (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, might become the largest Dutch political party in the European parliament after the May 22-25 elections to the EU assembly.

But that was before Mr Wilders offended large sections of Dutch opinion, and provoked high-level resignations from the PVV, by making incendiary, xenophobic remarks at a political rally. His party, once top of the opinion polls, is falling back as a result. Read more