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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 31 March 2017

Politics

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The ambassadors’ rejection

Lack of US envoys means no buffer between Trump’s mouth and foreign ears.

The first two months of Donald Trump’s presidency have been characterised by chaos and controversy. But as the policy failures and investigation into Russian connections dominate headlines, a quieter predicament is looming: there are currently 57 countries without a US ambassador. Though he fired all of Barack Obama’s politically appointed ambassadors when he took office, Trump has so far failed to successfully install more than two replacements. While vacant diplomatic spots aren’t inherently a cause for alarm, a number of these posts are to countries that figure crucially in US foreign policy, including China and Japan. Without a strong, capable voice for US interests present in these nations, Trump’s erratic messages are all the more likely to cause real damage to his country’s reputation.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Let it go

Turkey and America make a show of their friendship but there’s still that coup debacle to resolve.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson got the standard welcome on arrival at Ankara yesterday: the awkward meeting in the Turkish prime minister’s chintzy reception room and the obligatory photo op with president Erdogan. However, there was one part of the agenda missing: the tour around Ankara’s parliament building, which was battered during last year’s failed coup. Turkey has taken to giving dignitaries the tour – even sending newly arrived correspondents a chunk of the wreckage in the post – as if to say, “Look, this thing really happened.” Yet this is a fragile matter for the two nations and while no one doubts that the attempted coup took place, there is less agreement on who was responsible. Turkey has used Tillerson’s visit to once again demand the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. But a UK report this month concluded that, while followers of Gulen were involved, there’s no solid evidence to suggest that he himself masterminded the coup, and the German foreign intelligence chief has concurred. If Turkey really wants to reset US relations, it will have to live with the complexities of a key ally hosting an arch foe.

Fashion

Image: Getty Images

Business model

South Korea’s fashion industry eyes European collaborations to raise its profile.

The third Seoul Fashion Week comes to an end tomorrow. The event brought 65 South Korean designer brands together, eager to make a global name for themselves. Some 140 buyers attended the shows, among them department stores such as Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols Hong Kong and Barney’s New York, as well as senior figures from the world of fashion journalism. “People began to recognise our fashion designers; now we need to make business out of it and that’s what we lack,” says executive director of Seoul Fashion Week, Jung Ku-Ho. “We need to have at least 10 South Korean fashion designers selling their clothes in top European retail stores.” Seoul’s 10 Soul Project, which showcases this week’s top 10 designers at pop-up shops in collaboration with popular European retailers, is a step in the right direction. But the country’s political and diplomatic crises continue to cast a shadow over the economy – something that’s also having an impact on the success of its fashion brands.

Media

Image: Getty Images

Prime time

Singaporean network’s new home signals a boost to journalism in the region.

Singapore’s biggest TV broadcaster, Channel News Asia, started airing shows from its new HQ this week. Its state-of-the-art set-up is also home to owner Mediacorp’s print, television, radio and digital arms, which means that 700 staff are now under one roof creating content across four languages. But while a fancy new HQ is all well and good, it’s the fact that so much investment is going into journalism in a region that doesn’t get enough attention from the major international news brands that’s most significant. And although viewers of Channel News Asia know that the Singaporean government keeps a close eye on local content, its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region should be commended as many other people here get news that borders on propaganda.

From Monocle 24

Image: Flickr

A smelling tour of Vienna

The Urbanist

There’s more to cities than meets the eye – at least that’s the idea behind the smelling tour of Vienna. Participants are encouraged to sniff kebabs, breathe in the sweet aroma of chocolate wafers, experience the sour whiff of beer brewing and much more.

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