The Syrian Armed Forces are on the verge of reclaiming the city of Aleppo from the rebels. Despite again losing Palmyra to the Islamic State on Sunday, the Syrian army has regained control of more than 95 per cent of Aleppo. Following almost six years of unrest, which has displaced about 17 million people, taking back the northwestern city that has been at the heart of the civil war since 2012 will be a major triumph for President Assad. “The battle in eastern Aleppo should end quickly,” Lieutenant General Zaid al-Saleh, head of the government’s security committee, told the press yesterday amid reports of atrocities against civilians. “They [the rebels] don’t have much time.” While losing Aleppo is a major setback for the rebels, bent on unseating Assad, the president is still far from restoring political control in Syria.
The UK government’s determination to reduce immigration numbers has been amplified by the country’s vote to leave the EU. The latest measure, reportedly being considered by prime minister Theresa May’s Conservative government, includes slashing the number of international students given visas – a move that won’t do much to improve immigration figures or feelings of goodwill towards the UK. Not only would such a measure be a financial misstep, it would hardly make a dent in the government’s migration targets. What’s more, it would hurt one of the country’s top soft-power tools: UK universities are among the best in the world and allowing foreign students to study in them shows off the country’s culture and ideals. A post-Brexit UK needs to promote its soft-power potential as much as possible.
Italian director Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary film Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea), which first garnered international acclaim for winning Berlin’s Golden Bear, bagged the European Film Award’s accolade for best documentary this weekend and is now on its way to doing well at the Oscars next year. Set on the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa, the film documents the intertwining lives of the island’s residents and the refugees that land on its shores. Fuocoammare is currently one of 15 documentary films shortlisted for the Oscars, vying for the title against the likes of I Am Not Your Negro and OJ: Made in America. Yet as it’s also running in the foreign-film category there’s a chance that Italy may be able to repeat the success of Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), which took home the honour in 2014.
At Tokyo’s top sushi restaurants diners often let the chef decide on the menu. This is known as the omakase course and it involves the chef explaining what everything is – in Japanese. To assist travellers from overseas, entrepreneur Tetsuya Hanada launched the Sushi University last month: for prices ranging from ¥10,000 (€80) to ¥30,000 (€245) customers can dine at a sushi counter with a translator by their side. As the number of visitors to Japan continues to reach new highs, a growing industry of consultants, guides and translators is cashing in on bridging the language gap. One of them is Frembassy, which specialises in helping restaurants translate menus, websites and social accounts into English; another is Myorder, an English-language smartphone app and call centre that targets diners who are encountering difficulties when ordering from a Japanese menu.
Music journalist Laura Snapes, DJ and broadcaster Baylen Leonard, and chief rock and pop critic for The Times, Will Hodgkinson, join Robert Bound in the studio to rate this year’s Christmas albums. Plus: singer-songwriter Marika Hackman tells us about the making of her festive EP Wonderland.
Los Angeles, a city budding with talent, is a haven for artists and architects, top chefs, emerging designers and trendsetting retailers. Our guide will take you beyond the Hollywood bubble and uncover the diverse and exciting culture scene; published by Gestalten, it is available now at The Monocle Shop.
Want more stories like these in your inbox?
Sign up to Monocle’s email newsletters to stay on top of news and opinion, plus the latest from the magazine, radio, film and shop.