The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 19 December 2016

Image: Hitoshi Yamada/Getty Images

All in?

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe says that casinos would make his country more tourist-friendly and spur growth. Analysts predict a casino market as large as €38bn. But late last week, within hours of the parliament’s approval of legislation allowing integrated resorts – combining casinos, hotels, shops and conference facilities – Abe’s administration was taking a beating in the nation’s newspapers. In a scathing editorial the Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest of the national dailies, called the government “irresponsible” for not having a concrete plan to prevent organised crime groups from cashing in or to tackle addiction and other social problems linked to gambling. The Asahi Shimbun, another major national daily, reported that gangsters were “rubbing their hands with glee” over the prospect of laundering money through casinos and were setting up companies to supply them with roulette wheels, slot machines and chips. Expect the debate to rage on.

Image: Thomas Meyers

Christmas on paper

Germans are choosing the printed page over technology and tablets when it comes to gift-giving this Christmas. According to Handelsdaten, a retail-statistics service, 49 per cent of Germans are giving books to loved ones this season – second only to money as the most popular gift. While more than 500 UK bookshops have closed in the past decade, Berlin has welcomed 53 new independent shops in the past five years. Also heartening is the fact that pockets of the globe are conjuring yet more innovative approaches to get people reading again: Book & Bed in Japan, for example, combines a bookshop with a cosy hostel where patrons can enjoy one of 3,000 books while curled up in a plush bed. Having launched to great success in Tokyo last year, the company opened a Kyoto outpost in November.

Image: Reuters

Show of force

China's seizure of a US unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) in the South China Sea last week isn't the only indication the country is flexing its naval might. China’s state media has announced that the country had carried out live-fire drills for the first time in the Bohai Sea, the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea. The tests involved warships, fighter jets and an aircraft carrier that together carried out exercises such as missile and aircraft defence and aerial interception. China has agreed to return the UUV to the US, according to the Pentagon, though many view China's moves as a reactionary display against antagonistic comments from US president-elect Donald Trump. Though relations between the two countries' naval forces has never been smooth, it's clear they're now heading into unchartered waters.

Image: Justin Chin/Getty Images

Now hiring

Christmas came early in Hong Kong when the city’s unpopular leader CY Leung announced earlier this month that he will not be seeking reappointment as chief executive in March. The shock decision caught both sides of Hong Kong’s increasingly fractious political divide off guard: pro-democrats have lost their favourite pantomime villain and the entire purpose of their “ABC” (anyone but CY) campaign; and senior establishment figures are revising retirement plans and reassessing their suitability for the top job. The current favourite is long-serving finance secretary John Tsang, who has resigned in preparation for launching his candidacy. Beijing is waiting to reveal its pick of the candidates but as a divided Hong Kong looks forward to a new leader in the new year, the whole city is hoping that it’s not another turkey.

From Monocle 24

Lucy Raven

Artist Lucy Raven discusses her curation of films at London’s Serpentine Gallery, including the strange and disturbing 1932 Betty Boop short ‘Minnie the Moocher’.

From Monocle Films

Death watch

In a world where religion has taken a back seat, the Dutch design academy at Eindhoven – in collaboration with Dela, one of the Netherlands’ biggest funeral insurers – is rethinking the way in which we’ll be remembered. The task set for students was to come up with design solutions for a better way to go. We talk to them and look at their dead-interesting work.

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