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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 18 May 2018

Politics

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Half-hearted equality

Japan’s effort to increase the number of women in parliament is token at best – but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s no secret that there are few prominent women in Japanese politics. The country’s lower house is just 10 per cent female – compared to, say, 40 per cent in France – and a woman has never been prime minister. This week Japan’s parliament passed legislation that is more like a pledge: lawmakers will try really hard to increase the number of female assembly members. There are no proposed penalties, nor a timeline – just a gentle prod for political parties to back equal numbers of men and women as candidates. Still, coming so soon after the outcry over a former senior bureaucrat’s sexual harassment of a female reporter (and finance minister Taro Aso’s attempts to defend his deputy’s actions), maybe this could be a turning point. The first chance to gauge progress will come during next year’s elections for local assemblies.

Geopolitics

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Cementing its claim

Putin has unveiled his bridge to Crimea: a powerful symbol to that world that Russia’s not going anywhere.

Russia’s torrent of political activity in the past four years has almost erased its 2014 annexation of Crimea from memory. But Tuesday brought it all back as Vladimir Putin unveiled Europe’s longest sea bridge between the Russian mainland and Crimea – a 19km, €3bn behemoth that the president crossed in a convoy of orange Russian-made Kamaz trucks. It means the peninsula is no longer isolated from its new motherland but the far greater triumph is a symbolic one. Infrastructure is an act of permanency and the first step in legitimising Moscow’s presence on the annexed territory. Just as Israeli settlements on the West Bank tighten Israel’s claim to the territories it seized in the 1967 Six-Day War, so too does Russia’s bridge say “we’re here to stay” – and the world can expect more such projects from the Kremlin in the years to come.

Fashion

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Making alterations

A recent change to Fashion Week Australia has made dressing up down under all the more appealing to international buyers.

While European editors and buyers are jetting to Resort shows in New York and the south of France, their counterparts in the southern hemisphere have spent the week in Sydney for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. The nation’s premier fashion event, which wrapped up last night, saw designers show collections in lush gardens and inner-city pubs (only in Australia). The big fashion weeks occur twice a year but Australia’s is only staged once per annum. Yet in 2016 it made an important shift: instead of designers showing spring/summer collections (which put them behind the northern hemisphere seasons), they now show Resort. This aligns them with the rest of the world, meaning more international buyers in attendance. This week there were buyers from the likes of London’s Selfridges, New York’s Opening Ceremony and a host of Middle Eastern retailers, all of whom came to see names such as Christopher Esber and Ellery.

Music

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Wonder boys

The nuclear issue in North Korea is still smouldering but don’t panic: South Korea’s soft-power secret weapon is about to drop.

Waiting for an album to be released may sound like a 21st-century anachronism but just try telling that to fans of South Korean boy band, BTS. The Bulletproof Boy Scouts’ eagerly anticipated third full-length album, Love Yourself: Tear, goes on sale today before the seven piece head out on a world tour in August. Conquering the summer airwaves seems all but assured. BTS were last year’s most-talked-about celebrities on Twitter with more than half a billion tweets or retweets, and an EP released in September peaked at number seven in the US Billboard album charts – the highest to date for any Asian artist. Korean nuclear negotiations may have dominated the global news cycle so far this year but K-pop continues to be a mighty weapon in Seoul’s soft-power arsenal. Last month a star-studded line-up of South Korean pop stars performed in Pyongyang for the first time in a decade – winning the attention of Kim Jong-un.

From Monocle 24

The Sessions at Midori House: Halo Maud

The Monocle Culture Show

French psych-pop musician Halo Maud performs from her debut album Je Suis Une Île.

From Monocle Films

The secret to throwing a dinner party

In our new “secret to” series, supper club host Gabriel Waterhouse shares his tips on organising a friendly feast in your home with great-quality food and (just as important) an entertaining atmosphere.

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