The downing of a Russian fighter jet by a Turkish F-16 yesterday morning was met by a fierce riposte from Russian president Vladimir Putin, but it won’t necessarily provoke a military response. In recent days Nato allies and Russia have both appeared to be united in their desire to attack Isis (though some Western capitals are still wary of Russia’s true intentions in Syria). That will remain the priority, regardless of what will hopefully be just an isolated incident. In the coming days, expect all sides to do their best to dampen tensions with a combination of bland, diplomatic statements and promises of full (ie long) investigations. The situation is complicated but not necessarily catastrophic.
The millennia-old tradition of Persian carpet-making has suffered over the past five years due to a US embargo on Iranian exports. Yet the breakthrough accord in July means Iranians are hoping for a lift on the US ban on their carpets, which could happen as early as the beginning of 2016. At the time of the 2010 embargo, an estimated one fifth of Iran’s carpets went to the US; the total value of the country’s carpet exports fell 30 per cent due to the sanctions, hitting an estimated one million weavers and their related family members hard. The agreement could prove to be a victory for international diplomacy – and interior design.
Black Friday fever is ramping up again in the US as retailers and consumers prepare for the annual sale frenzy that takes place on 27 November, the day after Thanksgiving. In recent years, these sales have even started cropping up in the UK. But stoking buying mania with absurd discounts isn’t for everyone. The London-based furniture design company Vitsoe, for example, is having none of it: it is closing its shops in both New York and London on Black Friday. “Price reductions are designed to stimulate sales,” says managing director Mark Adams. “They skew the quality of our decisions. How often do we regret buying cheaply?” Instead the company believes consumers should be able to thoughtfully choose quality products that will see them through the long-term. “Vitsoe charges the same fair price for everyone, all year round.”
The Pains of Smog is the soon-to-be-released second book in the trilogy of smog-themed thrillers written by Chinese author Li Yuanchuan. In addition to writing, Li is the deputy head in environmental protection of Langfang, a city 40km south of Beijing, which suffers from the worst smog in China. The first book in the series, Smog is Coming, sold a respectable 30,000 copies, though it wasn’t as big a hit as the smog-themed documentary Under the Dome produced by journalist Chai Jing; the film was viewed more than 150 million times online in a single week last March. The government has not been blind to the nation’s suffocating shades of grey as it’s set a goal to cut carbon emission per unit of GDP by about 65 per cent by 2030.
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