The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 15 December 2015

Image: Getty Images

Merkel’s middle ground

The conclusion of the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) annual party conference takes places today in Karlsruhe. Chancellor and leader of the party Angela Merkel received an eight-minute standing ovation yesterday. She has come under intense pressure in recent weeks – from some in her own party and many in sister party the Christian Social Union – for not battling to reduce the influx of refugees into Germany. But moderate critics were pacified on Sunday evening when the CDU announced its determination “to limit the inflow of asylum seekers and refugees through active measures”. When given the floor, Merkel reiterated this message but also reinforced her belief that there was a “humanitarian imperative” behind tackling the crisis. Party members will be familiar with Merkel’s penchant for pragmatism but they should rally behind her on this occasion: appeasing dissenting voices as well as finding middle ground will be vital in 2016.

Image: Reuters

Down a notch

The Japan Sport Council is still weeks away from deciding on a design for the new national stadium in Tokyo but it took the unusual step this week of revealing the two finalists. Known only as A and B, the designs address the biggest criticisms about the scrapped original plan by architect Zaha Hadid: cost and size. Both come within the government’s ¥155bn (€1.2bn) budget and both are small enough to be surrounded by lots of greenery. Instead of Hadid’s giant arches, the stadium will look more conventional, with a partial roof covering seats. (Design A has plants hanging off the exterior of its many layers, while B relies on 72 wooden pillars.) The council hasn’t said much about the contest or design teams but details were leaked to the Japanese media, which reported that big builders – Taisei Corp on one side and a consortium with Takenaka, Shimizu and Obayashi on the other – are competing for the project.

Image: Getty Images

Cheers, Vietnam!

Get ready to raise a glass in Vietnam; the country is consuming beer at an extraordinary pace and foreign brands are queuing up to reserve a tap behind the bar. A record 3.5 billion litres of beer was consumed in Vietnam in 2014, averaging almost one keg per person – the highest rate in Southeast Asia. Rising consumer wealth and a government push to internationalise its business community is creating a prosperous premium-beer market here, with Japan’s Sapporo and Belgian beer giant AB InBev both scaling up Vietnamese operations. This week Asian media has speculated that Taiwan Beer will make its first international expansion through partnerships in Vietnam. The hospitality industry is also reaping the benefits of this beer boom. “More than 70 per cent of beer here is sold on trade, creating a very social atmosphere where beer is enjoyed at clubs and cafés,” says Chad Ovel, partner with Vietnam-based private equity firm Mekong Capital.

Image: Getty Images

Santa goes viral

All that sleigh-riding around the world is finally paying off for Santa, who is sporting a new, more athletic look in Toronto. Gone is the image of the roly-poly man in a red-and-white suit; in his stead is a lithe gentleman with a smart beard decked in the season’s most fashionable offerings. “Fashion Santa” is part of the Christmas marketing drive at Yorkdale, a luxury shopping centre. Played by 51-year-old model Paul Mason, the image of a svelte Santa has captured the attention of people all over the world. While clearly targeted at an older demographic with deeper pockets, children have not been forgotten: Santa is taking photographs with shoppers to raise funds for the Sick Kids Foundation.

From Monocle 24

Image: Nelson Queralta Jr

Miami’s music scene

We head to Sweat Records, Miami’s only independent record shop to meet its founder, Lolo Reskin. She tells us about the local music scene and whether she thinks Miami will ever establish itself on the American music map.

From Monocle Films

Taxi!

Hail a cab from a Tokyo taxi firm whose white-gloved drivers arrive with immaculate manners, spotless cars and carrying real pride in their work.

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