The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 24 November 2015

Image: Getty Images

Consensus needed

The UN and the International Syria Support Group have fixed a date – 1 January – for the Syrian opposition to begin formal talks with president Bashar Al-Assad. The trouble is, which opposition will that be? There are now multiple factions opposing the Assad regime. US secretary of state John Kerry has been in Abu Dhabi this week to try to find ways in which the UAE’s top brass, as well as officials from Saudi Arabia, can convince these various factions in Syria to unify before January. The Gulf States and the West have often diverged over which opposition groups they support but for a post-Assad future the opposition needs consensus. Failing that, the spectre of Libya – fiercely divided once Gaddafi was gone, and dragged into a second civil war – will loom large at the negotiating table.

Image: ASEAN Secretariat

Join the club?

As the 10 Southeast Asian nation members of Asean signed a deal over the weekend to tighten economic ties, one ambitious neighbour is striving to join the pack. Timor-Leste, which broke away from Indonesia in 1999, has improved its economy thanks to two offshore oil fields but these resources are finite and regional integration is key to its long-term prosperity. The tiny nation will likely increase its already intensive lobbying to integrate after the creation of the Asean Economic Community, a single regional market freeing up the movement of goods, capital and labour. Shane Rosenthal, country director for the Asian Development Bank in Timor-Leste, says joining Asean would be beneficial to all parties, with the nation’s young population, strategic location and improved infrastructure boosting its validity for membership.

Image: Getty Images

Billion-dollar solution

While the world’s brightest journalism minds continue the search for a sustainable newspaper model, a short-term fix has emerged: billionaires. Not since Citizen Kane have the owners of broadsheets attracted so much media attention. In 2013 The Washington Post was sold off to tech-tycoon Jeff Bezos for a quarter of a billion dollars, while an ex-hedge funder and owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball team snapped up The Boston Globe. The trend continues eastward. Bloomberg reports that Jack Ma, head honcho of Chinese retail-giant Alibaba, is in advanced talks to purchase a stake in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. But though the strategy has saved a handful of papers, the ultimate health of newspapers will likely rely on investment from a much broader group: readers.

Image: Rollan Budi

Scene shift

Vancouver’s eastside neighbourhood The Flats – once a major industrial area – is marching on with its transformation into a contemporary-arts hub. This weekend saw the joint opening of Gallery Jones and Winsor Gallery in the area; the former recently relocated from its original spot in Kitsilano, near Granville Island, while the latter came from South Granville. This follows the move of other commercial galleries that have picked up sticks from the high rents of South Granville and headed east; there are now more than a dozen visual-arts galleries that call the still-gritty streets of The Flats home. What’s more, the 2017 opening of the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, currently under construction in the area, will further cement The Flats as Vancouver’s arts destination.

From Monocle 24

Film releases in 2016

Film critics Karen Krizanovich and Tim Robey talk Robert Bound through the year ahead in cinema. Are we ready for the return of the Western? Will superheroes continue to reign supreme? Can the Coen Brothers make a better comedy than The Big Lebowski? All is revealed...

From Monocle Films

Hellerup Estate

In the first of two films to celebrate the publication of The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes, we visit the residence of Knud Erik Hansen, managing director of Carl Hansen & Søn and grandson of the company’s iconic founder. Hansen has transformed an impressive Danish estate into a comfortable family home, filling it with beautiful furniture and preserving the property’s charm.

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