The past few years have seen Russia ratchet up its military presence in the Baltic Sea, prompting nearby countries such as Sweden to raise their own defences in response. The new year shows no respite: the latest announcement from the Russian Ministry of Defence details plans to create a dedicated air squadron of Su-27M and Su-35S fighter jets in the Baltic enclave Kaliningrad, though how many aircraft will make up this unit is still unclear. The Su-27Ms are ready to go but the 35S – highly versatile, multi-target jets able to strike both sea and land, as well as airborne targets – will be delivered in the coming years. Previously the more broadly focused Baltic Fleet has guarded Kaliningrad; the creation of a dedicated defence unit suggests that Russia values Kaliningrad as a strategic point.
Councillors in Toronto are debating what to do with one of the more incongruous assets in the city’s municipal armoury – its golf courses. Canada’s largest city operates five golf courses and owns two more but in recent years memberships have dwindled while maintenance costs have soared. Given that golfers tend to be high-earners, questions have been raised as to whether publicly subsided rounds of golf need to exist at all. Whereas they once brought in about CA$5m (€3.3m), in 2016 the courses lost money. Suggested uses for the courses range from new public parks to selling them off to be operated as private golf clubs. Toronto, as one of North America’s most rapidly growing centres, is increasingly becoming a city where space is at a premium. Let’s hope Toronto city hall has the solution down to a tee.
Today’s visit by Pope Francis to Chile is already shaping up to be controversial. The end of last week saw several early morning attacks across the South American nation against Catholic churches using homemade bombs – lightly damaging buildings but not hurting anyone. Pamphlets left at the scene claimed freedom for the indigenous Mapuche group’s ancestral homeland and railed against indoctrination, threatening the pope that “the next bombs will be in your cassock”. The threats – however amateur – are part of a long-running social conflict between the state and the Mapuche group. More attacks could still occur as Pope Francis is due to visit Temuco, the site of much of the conflict, tomorrow.
Hoshino Resorts is a deft trend-spotter. The Japanese resort-management company recently built an 18-storey modern ryokan in the heart of Tokyo’s business district – something the city had lacked – and a glamping resort overlooking Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji. Now it’s launching a new brand of mid-range hotels called Omo, targeting travellers who find Japanese cities’ “business hotels” too bland. Its first two Omo hotels will open in the northern city of Asahikawa and in Tokyo’s Otsuka neighbourhood in spring, with compact rooms and concierge-like staff who are happy to share their recommendations for hard-to-find attractions and dining spots. Details remain sparse but given Hoshino Resorts’ record it would be unwise to bet against the firm’s latest venture.
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