• The prospect of intelligent machines improving human lives will depend on how the gains are produced and distributed, says Martin Wolf.
  • Hassan Rouhani has fended off the hardliners and can count on the support of the supreme leader, but this depends on his being able to secure a longer-term nuclear deal that leads to a removal of sanctions.
  • If Japan is really to put “women power” to work, it needs more revolutionary change, argues David Pilling.
  • Ugly people are oppressed and to “imagine we could ever completely overcome this kind of natural inheritance… is a fantasy” according to Jonny Thakkar, a lecturer at Princeton.
  • An Italian monastery has become a trendy atelier for brides looking to keep their wedding costs down.
  • Without immigrants, the Swiss football team would be very different.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • The middle class customer base is shrinking in the US, as the top 5 per cent of earners drives consumption.
  • Women have discovered an entrepreneurial streak in Spain in the face of high unemployment and a sluggish economic recovery.
  • Sarah Carr writes on the Egyptian military’s efforts to stifle dissenting voices in the wake of the coup against Mohamed Morsi.
  • US productivity is suffering in the wake of the global recession, to such an extent that Silicon Valley-based Blueseed plans to launch a cruise ship into international waters to allow immigrants to start new businesses without seeking residency.
  • Norwegians praise Iraqi Farouk Al-Kasim for creating their “oil fund”, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, and avoiding the resource curse.
  • Scarlett Johansson’s decision to side with SodaStream in the West Bank controversy foreshadows Israel’s own need to decide on the future of its settlements on the occupied land.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Martin Taylor examines the perennial technical problems that plague modern banks.
  • The number of Saudi women in work has almost doubled in the last six years, as rising living costs render the tradition of the male breadwinner untenable.
  • Turkey more than doubled its weekly repo rate to combat rising inflation.
  • The International Energy Agency has warned that Europe faces decades of higher energy prices, which could be ruinous to industry competitiveness.
  • The Mafia has been dumping rubbish north of Naples, polluting the area so badly that locals refer to it as the “Triangle of Death”.

 Read more

Just sometimes, you encounter somebody or something that shatters your preconceptions of Davos.

I attended a private dinner on Wednesday that had all the Davos elements: a star co-host (“theatrical journalist” Tina Brown), a big business backer (Credit Suisse), and a cast of A-listers – Matt Damon, this year’s World Economic Forum celebrity, came for cocktails, Sir Richard Branson and George Osborne stayed for dinner, Cherie Blair dropped by for dessert.

The theme was the annual celebration of powerful and important women, many of whom were present.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (c) Getty Images

But it was the women honoured who made the evening truly extraordinary. Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recounted her effort to reform the African country’s economy (as she likes to point out “when you fight corruption, corruption fights back”).

But even she was outshone, in my view, by the campaigning 25-year-old Pakistani Khalida Brohi, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the award-winning filmmaker who has documented Ms Brohi’s brave efforts to improve the lives of Pakistani women. Read more

♦ The FT’s Jeevan Vasagar looks at how farmers are reaping the rewards from Germany’s renewable energy boom. The Government appears to be on a collision course with farmers and renewable energy provides as it seeks to rein in generous subsidies.
♦ Sarah Lyall in the New York Times explores how the fates of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks are diverging. Brooks walked away from News International with a $17.6m severance package. Coulson has moved out of London and according to one source, “He has lost everything, basically.”
♦ Also in the New York Times, Ben Hubbard looks at the pioneering Saudi women who are entering the workplace in the conservative Middle Eastern state – a significant shift in a country where women are severely restricted in all public activities.
♦ Finally, African Arguments has an interview with John Githongo, the man who revealed corruption in Kenya’s Kibaki administration in the early 2000s. He describes the current “democratic recession” in Kenya and a wave of new repressive legislation being passed. Read more

♦ Edward Luce explains why it is stupid to insult the IQ of Tea Party members.
♦ The budget fight that led to the first government shutdown in 17 years set off a public escalation of the battle for control of the Republican Party – a confrontation between Tea Party conservatives and establishment Republicans.
♦ The National Geographic reports on how the presence of Boko Haram has affected public psyche in Nigeria: “Boko Haram has become a kind of national synonym for fear, a repository for Nigerians’ worst anxieties about their society and where it’s headed.”
♦ Susan Faludi, the author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, wonders which women the Lean In community is trying to reach.
Christina Lamb writes about her year with Malala Yousafzai.
♦ Dennis Rodman compares a visit to North Korea with a holiday in Ibiza. Read more

Janet Yellen’s nomination for the Fed chairmanship is a significant mark in the history of female central bankery – mainly because there isn’t much of a history.

As Claire Jones, the FT’s economics reporter, points out: advanced economy central banks are severely lacking in female representation in their upper echelons.

In other markets, however, women have more of a presence in monetary policy. Outside of advanced economies, the list of women at the head of central banks is longer than the list of women on the ECB governing council (0).

Gill Marcus (Getty)

South Africa: Gill Marcus spent time in the UK as her parents were anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. She joined the ANC and worked for its department of information and publicity, then returned to South Africa after the ANC ban was lifted. She was appointed deputy minister of finance in 1996 and became deputy governor of the South African Reserve bank in 1999. After a few years working outside the central bank system, she was appointed governor in November 2009. In 2010 she said, “Developing countries are more conscious of women’s emancipation – we’ve all got better statistics in relation to gender than in the developed world. Read more

♦ Why was the Turkish media’s coverage of the protests so inadequate? – it is a “compromised media sector that is largely the property of conglomerates with wide-ranging interests, and a Turkish state that exercises particular sway over business life.”
♦ The protests have shaken Turkey but will not topple the prime minister, says Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol.
♦ Protesters are using gaming lingo in their fight against the government.
♦ Poetry magazine has dedicated their June issue entirely to poetry composed by and circulated among Afghan women.
♦ The IMF admits to errors in its handling of Greece’s first bailout. Here’s some context from FT Alphaville’s Joseph Cotterill.
♦ Take a look at the BBC’s view from Qusair, of a city that has disappeared. Read more

We had plenty to chat about today on the world desk, with these articles: