The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 15 December 2016

Image: Eric Hay/PA

Trump card?

Donald Trump seems to be able to do pretty much what he wants. That includes nominating a fossil-fuel baron with ties to Russia as secretary of state and former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary, even though Perry previously said that he wanted to scrap the Department of Energy altogether (and notoriously forgot its name). And yet despite the chaos that the Trump transition seems to be causing, consumer confidence in the economy is at its highest level since 2008, according to a new poll from Gallup. Perhaps it has something to do with Trump’s so-called business-friendly approach – or the unbridled confidence of Republicans – but 51 per cent of Americans polled said that the country was “getting better”. A dramatic shift.

Image: Getty Images

Bit of bother in Brussels

Today Italy’s new prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, will make his first appearance at the European Council in Brussels. Europe’s migration crisis, Brexit and geopolitical challenges have placed the EU in an unprecedented volatile state so this week’s summit – the last before the end of the year – will prove particularly important. As outlined by council president Donald Tusk, the 28 EU member states will discuss the bloc’s economy, the EU-Turkey statement (which introduced legal pathways to resettle refugees), Europe’s asylum system and policies to strengthen security, among other issues. In the evening EU leaders will prepare for the impending Brexit talks over dinner without the company of UK prime minister Theresa May. The European Commission, with Jean-Claude Juncker at its helm, has been appointed to lead Brexit negotiations once May triggers Article 50.

Image: Jason Larkin

Cabin fever

The Welsh government has launched a project to boost tourist numbers in 2017: a competition to design beautiful and innovative holiday cabins. Earlier this year it called on architects to pitch plans for cosy cabins that are small enough to be transported on a chassis and made from Welsh materials. The list of eight winners – whose designs will be brought to life in three locations across the country in early 2017 – was unveiled this week. Standouts include a cave-like hideaway with sheep’s wool insulation by London’s Miller Kendrick Architects; a hut with a removable roof by fellow Londoners Waind Gohil + Potter; and Sydney-based Trias’s low-slung slate creation. It’s a quirky initiative that should prove a winner.

Image: Alamy

Food for thought

The Japanese school lunch is as much a part of the curriculum as gym class or maths. There’s the nutritional aspect of course – parents are presented with a monthly breakdown of what their children will be eating, down to the last edamame – but it is also about teaching pupils how to eat properly, serve food to their peers politely and clear up at the end of a meal. So there was uproar when the city of Suzuka announced it wouldn’t be serving food on one day in December and another day in January at any of its elementary and junior high schools. The reason? The rise in vegetable prices. The furore was such that the city had to back down. One thing that did come out of the discussion was that parents, who pay a small fee for their children’s lunch, are onto a good thing: almost all schools charge less for lunch than it costs them to make it.

From Monocle 24

Memory man

During a three-month hospital stay when he was 18 years old, Ed Cooke studied memory techniques to overcome boredom. By the age of 23 he was a Grand Master of Memory, someone who can memorise 1,000 random digits in an hour and the order of a deck of cards in two minutes. He is now the founder of a fast-growing start-up called Memrise, which allows people to learn a language quickly while also having fun.

From Monocle Films

Night mayors

We pull up a bar stool in Amsterdam at the inaugural Night Mayor Summit to hear from pioneering night watchmen and urban provocateurs in cities around the world.

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