Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s hopes of courting both Moscow and Washington just got a lot trickier. When Abe meets Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 27 April the two leaders are expected to focus on working out their decades-old territorial dispute and signing a peace treaty to officially end their Second World War hostilities. After more than a dozen meetings, Abe will want to make this one count – but they could get sidetracked by Syria. Abe’s decision last week to come out in support of a US military strike on the Bashar al-Assad government won’t go down well with Putin, who backs Assad’s regime. Abe might explain that he only approved of Washington’s “determination” to punish Syria for using chemical weapons, not the US missile strike itself. He might talk about the message that Washington’s action sends to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has been developing a nuclear arsenal. No matter what he tells Putin, though, it’s hard to see the two leaders putting on their usual show of friendliness.
Earlier this month, the electric-car brand Tesla (founded in 2003) surpassed stalwart Ford Motors (founded in 1903) in market value for the first time. Even though the Detroit-based manufacturer sells far more cars than its Californian cousin, this shift illustrates that investors think the future of the industry lies on the West Coast. This is the backdrop for the New York International Auto Show, which opens this Friday in the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Yet although traditional car-makers are working feverishly on innovations to keep pace with the likes of Tesla, in New York their focus will be less on groundbreaking visions of the future and more on a market segment that has proved particularly strong in recent years across the US: sport utility vehicles. So eyes will be on the new Enclave by Buick (owned by General Motors) and the updated Navigator by Ford-owned Lincoln.
The small-scale resorts and guesthouses that dot the Albanian Riviera are seeing a surge in tourism; last year the numbers for this corner of the Med were the best on record and the country is braced for good arrivals again this summer. Tourism contributes 6 per cent to the country’s GDP – in neighbouring Greece it’s more like 8 per cent – and in December the World Bank lent Albania $71m (€67m) to bolster its tourism infrastructure, from safeguarding sites around the historic Seranda port opposite Corfu to simply building more hotels. The Ministry of Defence is doing its bit too: it has decided to let Sazan Island, a warren of underground tunnels used as a Cold War era fortress, be opened up for day-trippers.
Political satire in Australia won't be quite the same after the sudden death of Kiwi comedian John Clarke who, along with his comedy partner Bryan Dawe, appeared on Australian television for almost 30 years. The pair gently skewered the political scandal of the day through mock interview, with Clarke always playing the part of a prime minister or prominent politician. His inimitable talent for expressing the vague incredulity of modern politics made him the perfect accompaniment to Dawe’s eternally bewildered interviewer. One of their final sketches took aim at recent headlines surrounding Australia’s energy policies, with Dawe asking, “Wasn't all of the energy in this country owned by the Australian people?” To which Clarke issued a smug reply: “Yeah, we fixed that.”
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