The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 20 December 2017

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

No room at the embassy

Pence has cancelled his diplomatic trip to Egypt and Israel to help pass a tax bill. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

Though Mike Pence was meant to kick off a three-day visit to Egypt and Israel today, the US vice-president has cancelled at the last minute, ostensibly to help ensure that the Senate passes the GOP’s controversial tax bill. Yet there were almost certainly other factors at play: the run-up to his planned visit, where he was meant to meet with political as well Christian leaders in the two countries, had already been overshadowed by Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a move that has prompted anger from many corners and violence in Israel. Though Pence had planned to use this trip to build connections with Christians in the two countries, Palestinian Christians refused to convene with him while Egypt’s Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II cancelled a scheduled meeting after the embassy fall-out. Could Pence’s about-face have been all about saving face?

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Calling each other names

Both Greece and the Republic of Macedonia want exclusive rights to the name Macedonia, but their decades-long dispute could soon be resolved.

Next year could prove pivotal for the strained relations between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, its northern neighbour. A meeting in Brussels last week, the first between the two sides in three years, raised hopes that a deal on the 27-year battle over the name Macedonia is within reach. Greeks claim the name hijacks their culture as Macedonia is also the name of a region in Greece, the birthplace of Alexander the Great. A swift resolution might help Macedonia on its path to becoming a member of Nato and could also encourage Macedonians to see Greece as a desirable tourist destination.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Pay to play

Singapore’s efforts to increase free cultural programming were so successful that they backfired – now not enough people are paying for ticketed events.

The annual Singapore Cultural Statistics report for 2017 revealed a five-year record high attendance for free arts and culture events of 9.2 million, but a dip in attendance at ticketed performing arts events. So in a twist to the development of the nation’s young scene that was struggling with a dearth of programmes and funding just a few years ago, cultural pundits are now concerned that there are too many programmes vying for Singaporeans’ attention. Government-sponsored events such as the Civic District Outdoor Festival and the Singapore Night Festival have been accused of “cannibalising” paid affairs. A more useful discussion should surround the quality of the programmes offered: the aforementioned festivals’ agendas often overlap and the arts and cultural headliners are poorly marketed. The idea of “less is more” can apply here if a more meaningful collaboration between private and public industry leaders is ignited.

Shopping

Click-free Christmas

Last-minute shoppers will do well to buy presents from bricks-and-mortar shops rather than big-box e-warehouses.

Time is running out for the world’s largest e-retailer to guarantee your orders will arrive in time for Christmas Day. But for those of us who have been wrapping up a busy year of work – rather than wrapping presents – it’s likely the time when you’re getting your lists in order. Our advice? Get out into your city’s streets to proudly pick gifts from the best retailers – it’s much more in the Christmas spirit. Better yet, check out another city’s retail offerings. Though it’s been a record-breaking year for online retailers, we’re heartened to see many cities becoming much better at marketing themselves as destinations for winter shopping breaks. While there’s little hope of getting a parcel delivered on time, a last-minute shopping jaunt could still be organised. This year we’re getting behind Boston for its wealth of independent shops and Kyoto for purveying some of the world’s best-made wares.

From Monocle 24

Environmental impact

The Tech 10

Rotterdam designer Dan Roosgarde explores how technology can be used to improve our lives. His Smog Free tower uses positive ionisation technology to clean the air around it using wind energy. Clever stuff.

From Monocle Films

Why start-ups thrive in Canada

To celebrate this year's soft power survey winner, we visit an emerging roster of budding businesses in Montreal. Canada's innovations minister Navdeep Bains reveals how the country is capitalising on the US's restrictive visa policies.

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