The Russian media’s coverage of the US often takes a grave, if not unfavourable, tone. Except when it comes to one subject: joint US-Russian efforts in space exploration. Last year it was US hardware and Russian software combining to survey the surface of Mars that received celebratory coverage. Now Russian media is convivially touting the announcement that US astronauts will be joining the Russian Sirius programme, which involves sealing off a group of astronauts in a laboratory on the outskirts of Moscow for up to a year to simulate the isolated nature of interplanetary space travel. Clearly the vastness of the cosmos makes national differences seem trivial, and increasingly close scientific collaboration between the two countries is a glimmer of hope for their relationship as a whole.
Italy’s book industry is turning over a new page. For the first time in seven years, the number of books sold across chains and independent bookshops is registering an uptick – albeit a slim one of just 1.2 per cent – compared to the previous year. Worth a solid annual revenue of €1.5bn, publishing is Italy’s main cultural industry, beating the music, film and art sectors. It’s an encouraging result for a country that often reproaches its citizens for not reading enough (a separate study released last month revealed that just 40.5 per cent read for pleasure). And considering the number of children’s titles produced has grown tenfold since 2000, there’s hope that the customers of the future will keep stacking up the sales.
The Seattle skyline is changing. Though it continues to lead the country in the number of cranes visible across the city, a new tally has found that the number dropped by 22 per cent since the last count six months ago. It’s thought to be an indication that the city’s construction boom is on a downswing. Yet while cranes are coming down in Seattle, they’re staying up a little longer elsewhere in the country. The number of construction projects across the rest of the US is climbing, so much so that they’ve started to overwhelm the industry, which is facing a shortage of skilled labourers. As a result, individual projects are expected to stall.
This month South Korea’s education ministry bowed to public outcry over its plan to ban teaching English in nurseries and childcare programmes. It seems that English proficiency is something that most Korean parents are particularly keen to instill in their children; it’s certainly something that could aid the country’s growing tourism industry. Despite a rising numbers of foreign visitors – particularly as the crowds get ready to descend on Pyeongchang for the Winter Olymics – English speakers will notice that outside of Seoul, communicating can be a challenge. (A new Korean TV show called Friendly Driver even pokes fun at the hurdle by featuring actors and comedians acting as chauffeurs for foreigners on air; there are language-barrier gags aplenty.) A commitment to teaching language skills to youngsters could see the next generation bridge the gap and boost South Korea’s reputation as a must-visit destination.
When it comes to moving people effortlessly through and between cities, who is getting it right? And how do we make cities where mobility works for young and old alike?
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