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Dour Russian humour lifts the mood at Davos - although not the rouble - Ireland faces a credit de-rating and more that has caught our eye today.


Q: What's the difference between Ireland and Iceland?

A: About six months.

Probably not that funny to that many, and certainly not to Moody's, which is reviewing Ireland's credit rating, in what could be the first western European nation to be downgraded in the credit crunch, reports the FT. Elsewhere, diplomatic sources reveal to the Guardian that Iceland is being fast-tracked into the EU. 

I won't comment on the Guardian's enthusiasm for boiling down all issues to pretty images, but it can be used to great effect - such as here, where the paper uses a simple visual device to explain exactly what happened to all that notional money we have lost in the past 18 months.

The Wall Street Journal clearly didn't get the memo on post-partisan US consensus, and here gives President Obama's stimulus plan a good kicking. The tone of the piece rankled with this reader at least, which is a genuine shame, as once you get past the snideness and bitterness they only serve to reduce some very valid and interesting questions.

To the long list of broke institutions in this world, we can now add the IMF, worryingly. The International Herald Tribune reports that the fund is to take a $100 million loan from Japan and is even considering issuing its own bonds for the first time in its 64 year history. The UK and US have previously blocked it from issuing its own paper, but are possibly not going to be negotiating from a position this time. One to watch for debt investors.

And finally... little enough to laugh about at this year's summit in Davos you might think, but the Russians are showing a previously unsuspected talent for humour with President Putin and German Gref, head of Russia's biggest bank, the state-owned Sberbank, providing some a skilled double act

First up was Gref, who in his address to the meeting said that US monetary policy was far too important to be left to the US, and should be placed in the hands of the international community. He later admitted he had given little or no thought to how this would actually work, reports CNN.

After he had warmed them up, Putin came along and slayed them, with a hilarious speech on how western leaders should not try and exert too much state power. How we laughed. Currency traders failed to see the funny side, and the rouble's fall accelerated to a ten-year low, said Reuters.

1 comment so far. Why not have your say?

Derek Roberts

Jan 30, 2009 at 18:37

I think this column is a realy valuable addition to the site.

More power to your elbow.

Well Done Citywire

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David Kempton: my outrage at Beaufort fallout

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