Yesterday saw a Brexit story in two acts. Hopes were raised that British prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker might come to an accord and then promptly squashed when the two sides emerged to announce that there were still areas of disagreement. It is now clear that the prickliest issue is the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – and for May, it will remain so. She must find a solution that is tolerable for both the Republic (and therefore the EU) and Northern Ireland; and she can be sure that if Northern Ireland is given special status, allowing it effectively to remain in the single market, then remain-voting Scotland will demand the same. Talks are set to resume later this week – whether the conclusion will be tragedy or farce is, for now, anyone’s guess.
Japan’s convenience stores live up to their billing: customers can pay taxes, buy flight tickets and, from next year, lift weights. FamilyMart, Japan’s second-largest convenience-shop chain, plans to open the first of 500 gyms in February. Fit & Go will be located above existing shops and operate around the clock, targeting men and women aged between 20 and 40. This strategy is part of the company’s efforts to broaden its customer base. FamilyMart has been busy setting up cafés and its recently announced plans to experiment with launderettes will make its shops an opportune place to have an espresso while waiting for the gym kit to finish its washing cycle.
Ten arrests were made yesterday as police continue to investigate the killing of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who died in mid-October. “Most of the arrests are of well-known members of Malta’s organised crime rings,” says Ivan Martin, a journalist at The Times of Malta. The murder has rocked sleepy Malta. Fatalities involving journalists tend to occur in conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq, not covering corruption on a small European island. The government has been criticised for mishandling the investigation and the European Commission has sent MEPs to investigate. While it will provide little consolation in the present case, the number of journalists killed this year looks set to be the lowest since 2003, according to Reporters without Borders.
The US is bracing for a German invasion, at least in the supermarket aisle that is. The European discount supermarket Lidl came ashore earlier this year, opening up stores throughout the Carolinas and Virginia, and is now heading further south. But it’s meeting resistance in the form of Piggly Wiggly, a wonderful-sounding (we think so, anyway) co-op supermarket chain dating back to 1916. Despite a moderate downturn in sales, the brand is planning to open more shops in 2018 and beef up its e-commerce to continue to deliver its high-quality meat and organic products. While the entry of the German cut-price titan may provide a challenge, Piggly is one supermarket determined not to be in the middle.
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