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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 18 May 2016

Image: Armando Franca/PA Images

No way, José

Less than a week after being named Brazil’s foreign minister, José Serra is already ruffling diplomatic feathers. Though the politician was only confirmed in the post on Thursday by interim president Michel Temer, his ministry wasted no time in issuing dismissive public responses to Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, which have all raised questions about the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. Now it has emerged that Serra is commissioning a study into the costs and benefits of Brazil’s African and Caribbean embassies and consulates, many of which were opened under the left-wing government of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The study has prompted concerns that the minister is preparing to close diplomatic posts in the southern hemisphere, a move that analysts say could result in political and economic fallout, neither of which the beleaguered country needs right now.

Image: Hiroshi Kai

Japan scales back

In Japan it’s known as sakanabanare: people aren’t eating as much fish as they once did. The country’s per capita consumption is down more than 30 per cent to 27.3kg in the fiscal year that ended in March 2015, from the 40.2kg peak in the year through to March 2002, according to a white paper approved by the Cabinet this week. Japan’s fishing industry has taken a hit as people eat more pork, beef and chicken. At the central wholesale fish market in the southwestern Japanese city of Fukuoka, business has shrunk overall but exports to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Indonesia and the US are on the rise. And market officials are hardly giving up on Japanese consumers: the wholesale market opens its doors to the public once a month with turnouts of more than 10,000 people.

Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Bear necessities

As the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia continue to battle wildfires, and as parts of California, New Mexico and Texas remain on alert for blazes in their territories, focus has once again fallen on the effectiveness of public-service campaigns against forest fires, and one character in particular. Smokey Bear was created by the US Forestry Service and Ad Council in 1944 and illustrated by celebrated artist Albert Staehle, famed for his poster designs for the New York World's Fair in 1939. The ubiquity of Smokey Bear – the longest-running public-service campaign in the US – is testament to the character's effectiveness in the public psyche, the US Forestry Service says. He’ll be a familiar presence once again this wildfire season.

Image: Rich J Matheson

Delicious definitions

Cantonese food-lovers may have spotted some exotic but familiar lexicon in the latest quarterly update from the Oxford English Dictionary: yum cha, char siu, siu mei, milk tea and wet market. A total of 13 words and popular phrases from the average Hong Konger’s daily vocabulary were added to the official list, including the lesser known kaifong (meaning a cohesive community) and dai pai dong (meaning a food stall opening onto streets). The latest additions are a small victory for globalisation and indeed for written language, not least because 2015’s disappointing word of the year wasn’t a word at all but an emoji.

From Monocle 24

Knud Erik Hansen on classics and copycats

Knud Erik Hansen is the CEO of Carl Hansen & Søn, a Danish furniture-maker and the largest manufacturer of furniture by renowned Danish designer Hans J Wegner. He joins us on the phone from New York to discuss the brand’s values and the threat posed by copycat producers.

From Monocle Films

Healthy architecture

How can architects, designers, retailers and city-planners embrace a new vernacular that delivers places that leave us feeling better about our lives? Our fourth film from this year's Quality of Life Conference explores the notion.

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