The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 7 December 2016

Image: Alastair Grant/PA

Left high and dry?

As the French left tries to find a presidential candidate who can scrape into the second round of next spring’s election, it can take solace from the fact that it is not alone. In Germany the Social Democratic party is likely to lose its position as junior coalition partner in September’s election, while in the Netherlands the Labour party faces the same fate in March. In Italy the Democratic party is under pressure following Matteo Renzi’s resignation. Where should the left look for hope? We’d suggest Portugal, where the Socialist prime minister António Costa has an approval rating of 81 per cent. How did this happen? He’s “turned the page on austerity”, as he puts it, and grown the economy. Europe’s centre-left politicians should take note.

Image: Getty Images

Well prepared

Amid political turmoil as president Park Geun-hye faces an impeachment vote on Friday, South Korea has made a significant move to protect itself from unrest beyond its borders. Parliament has this week approved the nation’s highest ever defence budget of KRW40trn (€32bn) for 2017, marking a 4 per cent increase on the 2016 budget. The decision follows a year of increased threats from North Korea, which has conducted close to 20 ballistic missile tests and two nuclear tests in that time. Another cause for concern: uncertainty over US president-elect Donald Trump’s policy plans for Asia in 2017 and beyond.

Image: Daniel Wood

On the home front

This year’s winners of one of Canada’s most storied design contests indicated that 2017 promises to be a rich year for urban design and residential architecture across the country. The Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence have garlanded projects since 1968. This year all eyes fell on the city of Edmonton, which has shaken off its rather unflattering nickname of “Deadmonton” over the past few years thanks to a number of groundbreaking design projects. The proposal for the sleek North East Transit Garage bus station by Toronto-based architecture firm GH3 and a striking angular residential building called Infillhaus by Edmonton’s Barry Johns practice shared the night’s big prize.

Image: Lit Ma

Cartography in the city

Urban Discovery, a social enterprise with a focus on culture and heritage preservation, is launching six illustrated district maps of Hong Kong to complement the selection of destinations on its travel app iDiscover City Walks. Having mapped out communities in Yangon, Bali, Java and Macau, this is the first set of maps of the team’s hometown. With help from community NGOs and illustrators, the maps are designed for visitors as well as residents. Instead of listing tourist traps they focus on highlighting lesser-known historical spots, as well as family-run shops and restaurants. Now the team is busy scouting out the best locations in northern Thailand and Manila, which will be up next.

From Monocle 24

Palestinian parliament

Twenty years ago, with the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in full swing, the Palestinians began constructing their first parliament building. But when the peace process fell by the wayside, violence swept the region and the half-finished parliament became an afterthought. Monocle contributor Mary Pelletier went to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Abu Dis to see why this sandy-coloured monolith is still stuck in limbo.

From Monocle Films

Making scents

A centre of perfume-making for centuries, the town of Grasse in the south of France is holding on to its reputation as fragrance capital of the world by developing new technology alongside time-honoured traditions.

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