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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 22 January 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Left out

Italy’s political parties are rebranding in a bid to appear more right on.

With a general election fast approaching on 4 March, Italian political parties and coalitions have started officially presenting their logos to the Interiors Ministry ahead of their appearance on ballots. There is one curiously notable absence: the word “left” has almost entirely disappeared from the political parties’ names. For decades it was used as a self-defining point of pride for the parties that are more liberal than the centre-left Democratic party, the word now only features as part of the logo of the country’s Trotskyist coalition (which still flaunts the slogan “For a revolutionary left”). As a rebranding decision it’s loud and clear: it speaks of a fear that the past – and its lexicon – may no longer be a draw for today’s voters.

Transport

Image: Getty Images

Mind the gap

Railways have never been the most successful means of transport in the US. California is trying to change that but will excessive expenditure signal failure?

The US isn’t known for its stellar train infrastructure. It’s a problem that some states have been trying to remedy, notably California. But the state’s high-speed rail efforts have hit yet another snag in what has been a slog of fits and starts since the project began chugging along in 2008. The latest hiccup is a 192km stretch of track in the Central Valley that is likely to cost upwards of $10.5bn (€8.6bn) to build due to the price of land acquisitions. This extra cost inflates the ballooning budget, which was already at $64bn (€52bn) in 2016. It remains to be seen if there is enough political or financial capital to get back on track.

Politics

Image: Shutterstock

Democratic downturn

Hong Kong’s chief executive may be touting the city-state’s position as a democratic haven but the evidence suggests otherwise.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam is travelling to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos to make a pitch to the global business elite about the city’s investment potential and tout its freedom from Chinese interference. However, the build-up to this rare trip could hardly have gone any worse. First, political activist Joshua Wong grabbed international headlines when he was imprisoned for his part in pro-democracy demonstrations. Then US NGO Freedom House downgraded Hong Kong in its yearly global ranking of democratic freedoms. As Lam’s honeymoon as leader comes to an end, 2018 is already looking like hard work.

Economy

Image: Shutterstock

Bull market

South Korea has beefed up the amount that people can spend on gifts this holiday season to help the nation’s farmers and fishermen.

Just in time for Seollal (South Korea’s Lunar New Year holiday gift-giving season), last week the government raised the spending limit on gifts under its anti-graft law – but only when it comes to agricultural and fisheries products. Under the new rules, civil servants, journalists and teachers are allowed to receive beef, dried fish and fruit valued at ₩100,000 (€77) or less. That’s double the previous limit and officials say the change is meant to help the country’s struggling farms and fishing fleets. That said, cash gifts were reduced by half, capped at ₩50,000 (€38). Still, for department stores there’s not a moment to lose: Shinsegae, Lotte and other major retailers are already offering an expanded line-up of food gift boxes that take advantage of the new rules – and pre-holiday orders are up from last year.

From Monocle 24

Yazmin Lacey

The Sessions at Midori House

Yazmin Lacey is a British jazz singer who has been hotly tipped by the likes of Gilles Peterson. Listen to her live session of songs from her debut EP ‘Black Moon’.

From Monocle Films

Budapest: Design for life

Things are looking sharp on the fashion scene in Hungary’s capital, with a new collection of boutiques, budding young designers and ground-breaking brands.

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