Across more than 60 years San Francisco and Osaka have organised hundreds of exchange programmes for officials and students under a sister-city arrangement. That will come to an end this year after Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura made a short-sighted announcement last week that he plans to sever the cities’ ties. The reason: a dispute over a San Francisco memorial to women and girls in Asia who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels – “comfort women” – before and during the Second World War. The memorial had been built with private funds but San Francisco’s move to designate it city property angered Japanese officials. “The sister-city relationship of trust is gone,” Yoshimura told reporters. An estimated 200,000 women were forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels. The issue has strained Japan’s ties with neighbours South Korea and China but it has rarely spoiled municipal government-level relations until now.
The Arctic Circle isn’t everyone’s ideal holiday destination but Tromsø, one of Norway’s northernmost cities, has been hard at work to flip people’s perceptions of it from dreary to happening. It’s certainly showing results: winter tourism has gone up sevenfold in the past decade, despite the fact that January and February bring round-the-clock darkness. But mayor Kristin Røymo is concerned that the city may overdo it if it maintains its charm offensive. Her priority now is ensuring that the city doesn’t develop a winter-tourism bubble. “We want to avoid a situation where jobs only exist in the winter and Tromsø dies for six months of the year,” she says. Part of her plan involves appealing to southern Norwegians and transforming the city into a summer skiing hub: as the sun doesn’t set for parts of June and July, skiing under the midnight-sun has become a local pastime.
Months after a stampede that killed one person and injured 1,500 more during the public screening of a football match, Turin is rightly rethinking the way it manages its public events. But city hall’s decision to cancel its open-air New Year’s celebration in favour of a smaller, indoor and firework-free do is unlikely to find fans among Turin’s citizens. Mayor Chiara Appendino is one of the 20 people still under investigation to ascertain the causes of last June’s events so it’s only natural that the municipality would tread cautiously around how to approach public gatherings. But there’s no indication that swapping the square for the stadium is a fix. We’re hoping that the traditional celebrations won’t be scrapped long-term.
Nepalese voters headed to the polls yesterday in the first of two phases of its general election. A surprise union by Nepal’s two major communist parties all but guarantees them a large chunk of support in the left-leaning nation. Political stability is much needed in the landlocked Himalayan country, which is accustomed to shaky coalitions, but the outcome also has ramifications for the diplomatic tug of war between its neighbours, India and China. After a decade of squabbling some analysts suspect that China played a role in the communist matchmaking. Beijing wants to tie Nepal into its regional network of trade and transport infrastructure known as One Belt, One Road – an initiative against which Delhi has been leading a boycott. Prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress party has close ties to India but he is expected to go into opposition after the second round of voting on 7 December.
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