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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 2 December 2016

Image: Karim Sahib/Getty Images

Misplaced pride?

In an age of cheap oil and after a withdrawal from a bloody campaign in Yemen, will the UAE’s 45th National Day be more muted than usual? This weekend the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi will still likely snarl with cars sprayed black and green and Hummers adorned with photographs of sheikhs in love hearts. It’s an annual outpouring of nationalistic fervour that often seems immune to events roiling the region. What's more, the country’s budgetary outlook seems a touch brighter thanks to a deal struck with Opec this week to limit the production of oil (of which the UAE and Gulf states are shouldering the bulk), raising hopes that prices should begin to look healthier. The old days won’t return overnight but that a deal could be struck with Iran’s involvement is at least worth toasting.

Image: Alamy

Ink shrink

This week The New Paper (TNP), one of Singapore’s four main English-language newspapers, was relaunched as a freesheet following a merger with the daily My Paper in October. While it’s unfortunate to see the latter – the nation’s sole bilingual paper – go as part of a streamlining effort by its publisher Singapore Press Holdings, a redesign will do TNP good. The paper will retain its title, compact size and full-colour pages but it will introduce more business-minded content – including sections on the economy, property and job market – to appeal to young professionals. The 28-year-old publication would do well, however, to hold on to its upbeat community-focused stories, which provide insight into Singaporean society and have helped it stand out from leading titles such as The Straits Times and Mediacorp’s Today in the past.

Image: Joe deSousa

Breaking dawn for Twilight

The sleeper train revival in Japan continues with another new train: the Twilight Express Mizukaze. Described by JR West as a “hotel rolling through the beautiful Japanese landscape”, the Mizukaze (fresh wind) will carry passengers in style from Kyoto to Shimonoseki in the far west. Scenic routes include stops at sightseeing spots on the way, including Itsukushima Shrine and Okayama Korakuen garden. Tetsuo Fukuda, also responsible for the N700 Shinkansen, designed the train, while architect Kazuya Ura looked after the interior. The train has five sleeping cars – with capacity for 30 passengers – plus a suite, a lounge and dining car, as well as observation carriages at either end. The nostalgic styling and silhouette reference the old Twilight Express: the train that, until earlier this year, ran between Osaka and Sapporo. The food should be good too, with the chefs involved including Yoshihiro Murata, third-generation owner of Japanese restaurant Kikunoi. The Mizukaze launches on 17 June 2017.

Image: Getty Images

Mercury falling

A new study published by the Environmental Science & Technology journal shows that mercury contamination in endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna has been in rapid decline as a result of North America’s pollution-control measures and its shift from coal power plants to clean energy. The new study, which collected data from 1,300 Atlantic bluefin tuna from 2004 to 2012, found that mercury levels dropped by about 2 per cent every year. Researchers are fearful, however, that if Donald Trump were to honour his campaign trail promise and revive the coal industry, this could nullify the positive progress that’s been made.

From Monocle 24

Image: Tim Kelley

Cairo: Mohamed Elshahed

At the Dubai Design Week in October, Cairo took centre stage as the Iconic City exhibition. It brought together more than 65 Egyptian architects, designers, entrepreneurs and graphic artists in the CairoNow! display curated by Mohammed Elshahed.

From Monocle Films

Brno: fully functional

The Czech Republic’s second city was central to European design before falling into a troubled 20th-century sleep.

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