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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 6 January 2017

Image: George Ourfalian/Getty Images

Syria’s slippery slope

The Syrian peace talks scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana are skidding off-course. Reports of violations by the Assad regime – including continued fighting in Wadi Barada over a major water source – have prompted rebels to freeze the process. It's how ceasefires in Syria have collapsed before but unlike previous truces there’s one crucial difference: the US is not at the mediating table. Russia will look for any opportunity to sideline them and show that American influence in the Middle East is on the wane. If talks do make it to Astana intact, it will send a powerful message to the region. As the biggest backer of the Assad regime, Russia can tell Syria’s government to hold fire.

Power play

California-based car company Tesla Motors has opened its new Gigafactory just east of Reno, Nevada, this week. The diamond-shaped factory specialises in the production of lithium-ion batteries, a key element in the production of Elon Musk’s signature electric vehicles. While the battery-cell market has long been dominated by China, Japan and South Korea, business magnate Musk has plans to double the world’s production of these batteries by 2018, when the factory is set to be in full operation. If Tesla wants to meet its production goal of 500,000 cars per annum by 2018 – and pave the road for electric cars to revolutionise the automobile industry – this goal needs to be met.

Image: Jin Yu/PA

Tailored offer

Since Burberry deserted London Fashion Week Men's after merging its men’s and womenswear shows, the British capital has had to find other ways of invigorating the four-day event that begins today. Why should buyers and editors come to London if all-important business dealings take place in Milan and Paris? The answer is that London offers a sense of surprise that can’t be found anywhere else. This season's highlights include Hussein Chalayan's first London menswear show on Sunday and the debut of Belstaff’s newly appointed collection creative director Delphine Ninous on Monday. Of course, the ever-rebellious Vivienne Westwood will be present too – expect to see her men’s and women’s collections side by side on Monday – in addition to highly anticipated emerging talents Craig Green, Phoebe English and Grace Wales Bonner.

Image: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images

Vehicle for change?

As Australia’s capital, Canberra is undoubtedly smart and serious; it’s also trying to become classy and connected thanks to acclaimed restaurants and new flight paths to Asia and the Middle East. So how can it rebrand itself? With a new number-plate slogan, perhaps? From an outsider’s perspective a three-word tagline, which sits below the registration number, might seem trivial. But in the car-loving land down under it’s a matter of national concern and rivalry between states is famous. The Australian Capital Territory is currently in the midst of a public vote to replace “Australia’s Cool Capital” as the district’s slogan. The winning entries will be announced in March and go into circulation later this year. Whatever the outcome, they can hardly be worse than “Age Friendly City”, which adorned number plates in 2015.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Barcelona Design Week

Set to celebrate its 12th edition this year, Barcelona’s is one of Europe’s most established design weeks. Benefiting from government support, it capitalises on the city’s long tradition of production and craft, industrial production and, of course, design.

From Monocle Films

São Tomé: blinded by the sun

Monocle's Steve Bloomfield and photographer Zed Nelson travel to São Tomé to report on the corruption and misguided ambition that have been a blight on the landscape of this tropical African island.

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