The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 25 November 2016

Image: Getty Images

Kuwait’s dicey democracy

Kuwaiti politics are notoriously wild: fistfights between ministers, lethargy-inducing deadlocks and seven dissolved parliaments in the past decade. Tomorrow the country heads to the polls and Kuwaitis are braced for more of the same, only now there’s a critical need for consensus in this oil-rich Gulf state. Austerity measures are in place as crude prices continue to tank and many development projects have been stalled by the creaky wheels of government. The problem lies in Kuwait’s half-democracy: as the first Gulf state to hold parliamentary elections it remains under the absolutism of the Emir’s rule, stymying decision-making by the elected. Until reform happens at this structural level, Kuwait will continue to be proffered in other Gulf states as an example of why democracy should be left at the door.

Image: Kazuhiro Nogi/Getty Images

Tatooine comes to Tokyo

Commuters in the capital can identify their stop even with their eyes closed thanks to a distinctive jingle for each station that alerts them to their train’s arrival. Most are fairly standard melodies but anyone travelling to Jiyugaoka Station on Tokyu Corp’s Oimachi Line between now and Christmas Day will find they are greeted by a couple of unusual tunes: the Star Wars theme and Darth Vader’s Imperial March. Tokyu Group is running a citywide promotional campaign with Disney ahead of the opening of the Star Wars spin-off film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on 16 December. Star Wars-themed buses will be driving around the city and trains all over Tokyo are decked out with motifs from the sci-fi dynasty. Now that Tokyu has discovered this new revenue source, expect to see more publicity blitzes.

Image: Ruth Bartlett

Principled pop-ups

Folkdays is a Berlin-based fashion brand that works with indigenous artisans around the globe to create sustainable fairtrade clothing and accessories. “It’s the perfect way of combining an entrepreneurial business model with a straightforward approach to reducing poverty in developing countries,” says owner Lisa Jaspers, who collaborates with craftsmen from Peru to Cambodia. This holiday season Jaspers will be hosting a series of pop-up shops in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich as part of Folkdays & Friends, which sees partnerships with sustainable labels such as Conflict Food, The Good Store and Maisoap. Today marks the launch of Hamburg’s two-day pop-up store, to be followed by one in Munich on 2 December; Berlin’s is open until Christmas Eve. “I hope that more people will decide to start a business that has the potential to leave the world a little bit better than they found it,” says Jaspers.

Image: National Gallery Singapore

Shining stars

This weekend Singapore’s visual arts scene is abuzz and today the National Gallery of Singapore’s Gallery Light to Night Festival commences to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Extended opening hours (10.00 to 03.00) over the next two weekends will give visitors more time to explore the gallery’s interactive installations by Australian creative firm S1T2 and Spinifex Group’s vibrant light shows, inspired by abstract art from the museum’s collection. What’s more, special film screenings as part of the concurrent 27th Singapore International Film Festival will be shown across the venue. The annual festival, which showcases Southeast Asia’s multicultural independent film-making talent, will be followed in December by the much-anticipated reopening of the Glass Rotunda at the National Museum of Singapore after an expansive two-year revamp. It seems this young nation’s cultural scene is on a roll.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Austria's night trains

Demand for long-distance overnight services has been falling, leading many EU rail operators to phase out or shut down their midnight movers – with the exception of Austria.

From Monocle Films

Monocle preview: December/January issue 2016

Our December/January double issue sees us go for growth as we explore smart ideas and profile blossoming business to prepare you for the holiday season – and a very fruitful New Year. All that plus our Travel Top 50 and Soft Power Survey. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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