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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 15 May 2017

Culture

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Soft power ballad

After more than fifty years of trying Portugal has nabbed the top spot in Eurovision, scoring another win for the national brand

With a ballad penned by his sister, Luisa, singer Salvador Sobral scooped Portugal’s first Eurovision win this weekend. But Luisa has had our feet tapping before: at Monocle’s first Quality of Life conference in Lisbon in 2015, her band played sunny sets between the panel discussions. In Kiev, the winning song was more melancholic than most Eurovision show-stoppers, with echoes of Fado and hits another high note for Portuguese soft power after a year that has also seen the arrival of a Portuguese secretary general to the United Nations and a return to economic growth helped along by a golden visa programme that’s luring foreign investment. Lisbon will host Eurovision next year and the warmth of the country’s welcome has become a key component in Brand Portugal. As President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told us in our Portugal survey in Issue 101, “We’re very open in a Europe that’s less open than it used to be.”

Legal

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Uphill battle

Rodrigo Duterte’s opponents will have to use their full arsenal against the Philippines’ political heavyweight.

President Rodrigo Duterte isn’t fond of leaving the Philippines but the stay-at-home statesman may be glad to be in Beijing today as the first impeachment hearing of his presidency gets underway in Metro Manila. The allegations brought against him by congressman Gary Alejano (pictured) include personal enrichment and support for unlawful killings linked to the state’s bloody war on drugs. While some of these accusations sit on questionable legal grounds, the hearing is viewed as the opening salvo in a much longer battle. Criticism of Duterte is increasing in the Philippines but the opposition lacks sufficient political support to oust the president. Alejano and his allies will need to pull out a smoking gun if they are serious about taking down this tough-talking strongman and seasoned lawyer.

Hospitality

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Keys to the castle

The Italian government is giving away historic structures to those able to renovate and run them – but only if you’re under 40.

Got an idea for a hospitality venture but agonising over the perfect location? The Italian government’s agency for state property may have just the place: a grand total of 103 publicly owned buildings – from former schools to farms, monasteries to castles – will be given to entrepreneurs across the country, rent-free. The caveat? The aspiring new occupants must be under 40 and willing to renovate the structures to turn them into hotels, hostels or bike workshops. In Valle d’Aosta in the north to Sicily in the south, all structures are located alongside cycling or walking paths such as stunning pilgrimage route Via Francigena. As the government struggles with the upkeep of its historical heritage, this idea (following the agency’s previous project to re-qualify lighthouses) could be a beacon of hope for the country’s architectural patrimony.

Governance

Image: Getty Images

All work and no play

The Japanese government has named and shamed “black companies” in an effort to get unscrupulous corporates to change their ways.

One way to hurt the reputation of a major corporation in Japan is to accuse it of being unfair to its employees. This week, the Japanese government published the names of 334 companies that have been warned for running foul of labour laws since last autumn. The nationwide list outs so-called burakku kigyo (black companies) whose cases of overworking employees, unfairly withholding wages or neglecting safety precautions are being investigated by prosecutors. The list of alleged corporate offenders ranges from resort hotels to concrete makers but also includes big-name hi-tech firms such as Panasonic and even the privatised Japan Post. By exposing companies that have been slow to clean up their acts, the government is hoping to get swift results with the added incentive that improvers will be removed from the list.

From Monocle 24

London Food Month

The Menu

Grace Dent is the creative director of London Food Month. She explains why London is an extraordinary place to eat right now.

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