Sochi

  • Banks that cheat people pay fines, but people who cheat banks do time: Gary Silverman profiles Carl Cole, who helped turn Bakersfield into one of the home foreclosure capitals of the US.
  • Egypt’s government is letting exiled billionaires and convicted Mubarak cronies buy their way back into the country.
  • The fallow period is over for Russia – after a decade without any top-level women’s figure skaters, it now has more than it can use and one of them, Julia Lipnitskaia, is stealing the show at Sochi.
  • Vegas Tenold recounts his journey to Sochi in a Niva, “an automotive version of the Russian soul”.

 

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Scottish Nationalists seek to emulate Nordic social democracies.
  • The Sochi Winter Olympics is inspiring a resurgence of Circassian nationalism.
  • The lionisation of the Egyptian military creates the myth of an all-powerful institution capable of bringing the country under control.
  • Hindsight does not always provide the clearest picture and the way we view the revolutionaries who toppled Hosni Mubarak in Egypt is an example of skewed perspective.
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting the improbable with an Israel-Palestine peace deal that is already being slammed by far right Israeli politicians who refuse to discuss a withdrawal from the occupied territories.
  • A New York Times profile of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who yesterday was found dead in his Manhattan apartment, aged 46.
  • Janet Yellen, new chief of the US Federal Reserve, lets her work speak for itself in a male-dominated field.
  • Foreign Policy looks at the Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure – a Pentagon compilation of Department of Defence overspending, dishonesty, and immoral conduct.

 

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina describes coming to terms with his homosexuality after the death of his mother.
  • Attitudes towards single motherhood in China are finally shifting.
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a citizens arrest from barman Twiggy Garcia for “a crime against peace” while dining in a Shoreditch restaurant.
  • Evidence of “systematic killing” perpetrated by the Syrian government leads to calls for war crimes charges against the regime.
  • Fethullah Gulen tells the Wall Street Journal that “democratic progress is now being reversed” in Turkey at the hands of prime minister Erdogan.
  • Charles Lane in the Washington Post calls for an end to the “corrupt quadrennial exercise” that is the Olympics.
  • There is little optimism about the Syrian peace talks after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s volte-face on Iranian participation in negotiations.

 

Turkey’s finance minister warns of negative implications for the country’s economy as a corruption scandal engulfs Ankara’s political elite, triggering a slide in the lira.
♦ The uncommon success of the “Common Man” party has upended Indian politics.
♦ Take a look at these photographs showing construction at the Panama Canal.
♦ The increasing cost and shortage of housing has led people to make more and more of less and less space: CNN takes a look at “micro-homes”.
♦ Businessweek looks at the money wasted on the Sochi Olympics

By Luisa Frey
♦ Foreign investors have the perception that it is getting harder to do business in China. By forcing multinationals to lower prices and improve their offerings, the Chinese government aims to raise the bar for domestic competitors and show citizens how their lives are improving under the new administration.
♦After travelling to China and meeting its leader, Xi Jinping, FT’s columnist Gideon Rachman comments on how the government is confident that China can keep growing more than seven per cent a year, proving the sceptics wrong.
The New York Times reports from Sochi, in Russia, which is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in February. For the narrow costal city, the $50 billion Games project has caused irritation as well as pride.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s trial started in Cairo. Foreign Policy’s Bel Trew describes the controversial court session, which ended with the following words from Morsi: “This is not a court. This is a coup.”
In Syria, Islamist rebels use web postings with bloody portraits of dead fighters as a recruiting tool, reports the Washington Post.
A new digital news startup, Vocativ, is capable of eavesdropping social-media conversations all over the world and running an analysis on the results, writes Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. 

♦ Barack Obama said “you would have to slice the salami very thin” to find policy differences between Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen, who are now in the running to chair the Federal Reserve. The FT’s Robin Harding takes a look at the salami.
♦ Russia is spending $51bn on sports facilities in Sochi for the 2013 Winter Olympics, but developers fear the only winners will be friends of the Kremlin.
♦ A Nazi gaffe by Taro Aso, Shinzo Abe’s deputy premier and finance minister, is a reminder that the cultural conservatives, who dominate the ruling Liberal Democratic party, have not abandoned their revisionist dream.
♦ Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, tries to find out where the busloads of voters at Mount Pleasant have come from, but the bus driver is unable to tell him. 

♦ The G8 leaders commit to shake up international corporate tax rules, and crackdown on tax evasion and the shadowy owners of shell companies. (If you want to know why it’s such a global issue, take a look through our Great Tax Race series.) They also agree to push for a Syrian peace conference – although Putin still won’t budge on Assad.
♦ President Obama’s move to increase the public flow of arms to selected Syrian rebels is probably his worst foreign policy decision since taking office, argues Marc Lynch.
♦ To ordinary Russians, a defeat of the Syrian rebels is seen as a victory over the west, says Andrei Nekrasov, a Russian film and television director.
♦ Circassians are protesting against the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, 150 years after being expelled from there.
♦ The tiny emirate of Fujairah is emerging as an increasingly important global strategic oil and logistics hub.
♦ The Global Post experiments with the language used by US journalists to write about foreign countries, by using it to write about the US.