The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 15 February 2016

Image: Getty Images

Crash course

German commercial car-maker Daimler is expected to appoint Ola Kaellenius as head of research and development tomorrow, according to the Düsseldorf-based financial daily Handelsblatt. The Swede will have his work cut out. Last week the manufacturer revealed that over the next three years it will be spending €2.6bn on developing next-generation diesel engines in an attempt to meet rigorous new standards on pollution. It has been a tricky nine months for the company: not only has the “Made in Germany” brand been dented by the Volkswagen scandal but Daimler has also had to set aside €340m to cover the cost of vehicle recalls due to potentially defective Takata airbags. Sales will be sluggish this year too as China’s slowdown bites. No pressure, Mr Kaellenius.

Image: Getty Images

Test of character

For the past two decades the Japanese public has voted for the year’s best kanji character: the picture-like words originally from China. The announcement gets national media coverage; in front of TV cameras a Buddhist priest at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto paints the character on a large piece of paper with an oversized calligraphy brush. Now the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation (JKATF), which organises the vote, plans to open a museum in Kyoto that will feature games, puzzles and interactive displays designed to make learning kanji fun. The objective of this new building, scheduled to open in June, is to champion Japan’s kanji culture and officials predict that some 200,000 people will visit every year. The kanji characters are a fascinating facet of the Japanese language that might appeal to millions of foreign tourists who visit the country’s ancient capital every year – but there’s no word yet on whether this is part of the JKATF’s vision.

Image: Alessandro Carra

Art of cooking

He may already be the dean of illustrious cuisine school Alma and have plans to open a retirement home for former chefs but 85-year-old Italian maestro Gualtiero Marchesi has no intention to curb his eponymous culinary foundation’s expansion. The master of modern Italian gastronomy has just announced plans to set up yet another outpost, this time for a school teaching the artistic side of cooking as well as the technical skills behind it. Set to open its doors in 2018, the school will be housed within Varese’s stunning 18th-century Villa Mylius. A costly €6.5m restoration process will finally salvage the building from decay, creating classrooms for pupils of the haute-cuisine school and space for the public to enjoy exhibitions and cultural workshops. The villa's elegant gardens will also be open to all.

Image: Getty Images

Close quarters

As the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union approaches later this year, the country’s Ministry of Culture is looking for a suitable logo and slogan that can sum up this milestone in its national story. Submissions are being accepted from around the country and prizes will be awarded to the best entrants. But it all comes at a curious time in Armenia’s relations with Russia, with the latter announcing that it is unifying air defences between the two countries and providing loans that will bolster Armenia’s armed forces. A quarter of a century on and the old union still echoes through the Caucasus.

From Monocle 24

Brewed with passion

Leonardo Di Vincenzo, founder of Birra del Borgo brewery, believes the craft-beer market needs to be more creative and experimental.

From Monocle Films

Climb every mountain

From a breed of sheep brought back from extinction in the Italian Dolomites to vintage recipes revitalising the dairy business in a remote part of Norway, Monocle Films brings you inspiring tales of mountain producers on a mission.

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