The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 22 November 2016

Image: Bernd von Jutrczenka/PA Images

Shining light

Financial markets expressed the relief of many yesterday when they responded positively to Angela Merkel’s announcement over the weekend that she would seek a fourth term in office. With the EU in turmoil as the UK heads for the exit and the US likely to become self-indulgently inward-looking under Donald Trump, the German chancellor has become a constant in an uncertain world. Part of her appeal is her level-headed modesty: she dismissed as “absurd” claims that Germany might take over from the US as the world’s hegemon. Nonetheless, next year’s election will be tough, with the populist right wing in her own country in the ascendancy. And still she might be powerless to keep the EU together: Nicolas Sarkozy bowed out of the running to be France’s next president yesterday, leaving the National Front’s Marine Le Pen with one fewer contender to worry about.

Image: Maja Flink

Good start

Where to set up a start-up? The European Digital City Index, established as part of the European Digital Forum, may have the answer with its ranking of the most successful business hubs for digital start-ups in Europe. The top five places went to London, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Paris, while Cyprus’s capital, Nicosia, came last. The second annual index takes a variety of factors into account that include transportation connectivity, digital market size, access to accelerators and cultural offerings. While London is leading the pack once again this year, the consequences of Brexit may help Stockholm overtake it in the coming years. The Swedish capital has the world’s highest number of “unicorn” start-ups – businesses valued at more than $1bn (€942.3m) – per capita after Silicon Valley in San Francisco and that says something for Europe’s fastest-growing city.

Image: Getty Images

More harm than good?

Japanese troops heading to violence-torn South Sudan for a UN peacekeeping mission this month and next could be in for more than the usual infrastructure-building duties. Under new guidelines, Japan’s troops, the Self Defense Forces (SDF), may use their weapons for more than self-defense for the first time since the Second World War in aid of foreign UN staff and UN peacekeepers. This will be the SDF’s first overseas deployment under legislation that prime minister Shinzo Abe championed last year to give Japan’s military a broader role. Tokyo says it would only approve rescue missions in exceptional cases but critics contend that easing restrictions on troops violates the country’s pacifist Constitution and raises the chances that Japan’s SDF will be put in harm’s way.

Image: Ramzi Haidar/Getty Images

Word on the street

Once home to some of Beirut’s more illustrious foreign correspondents, a rebrand for Hafez Al-Assad Avenue has been long overdue. It was named after the tyrannical father of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the mid-1990s but over the weekend – in time for today’s Independence Day in Lebanon – it reverted to Camille Chamoun Avenue, in honour of a past president. Beirut’s streets have a history of being named and renamed to reflect the tides of political favour. The choice of Chamoun makes sense: like the recently elected president Michel Aoun, he’s a relic of the leadership during the Civil War and a famed figure in Lebanon’s independence movement. Renaming a street may seem like a meagre shift but it does suggest that municipal leaders, after years of mismanagement, are making decisions again.

From Monocle 24

Image: BBC

Why do we love quizzes so much?

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by John Mitchinson, question-writer for British quiz show QI, and Mark Mason, writer of upcoming book Question Time, to discuss the enduring and global appeal of the humble quiz. Plus: we put their knowledge to the test in the Culture Show Quiz Show.

From Monocle Films

Most liveable city: Tokyo

Marking the biggest shake-up in the review’s nine-year history, Monocle’s 2015 Quality of Life Survey awards Tokyo the number one city to call home. Rising from second place in 2014, the Japanese capital’s defining paradox – its heart-stopping size and concurrent feeling of peace and quiet – helped it claim the crown.

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