Because ties with its closest European neighbours are strained by Brexit, the UK is going further afield to protect its interests abroad. On Friday one of the biggest boats in the Royal Navy’s arsenal, amphibious 22,000-tonne warship HMS Albion, docked in Tokyo. The plan for the visit is to allow officials and defence industry personnel to take a tour of the ship and, following that, there will be a few war games: the ship is carrying about 120 Royal Marines, who are scheduled to train with Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in the coming days. Such co-operation is a sign of the times according to Robert Fox, senior fellow at King’s College London: “Japan is the new key median power; she has a lot of technology that the UK can use.” While the move will strengthen the UK’s position in both the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, it is likely ruffle feathers in Beijing. “It’s post-modern gunboat diplomacy,” says Fox.
Those of you with the recurring worry that your lift will break and plummet to a ground-floor demise need only take one look at Thyssenkrupp’s planned lift-testing skyscraper in the US to dispel such fears. The German engineering conglomerate and lift manufacturer has got the go-ahead for a 128-metre-tall tower in Cobb County, Georgia, where its state-of-the-art lifts will zoom up and down 18 different shafts, testing the limits of the latest technology. Due to open next year, it will be the company’s third such structure, with a recent one completed last year in Germany (see issue 105), and another in China. Though Thyssenkrupp is the leader in the field, Finnish company Kone has the upper hand in terms of quirky testing grounds: in 2012 the firm dispensed with new-builds all together and placed its lift-assessment facility in a former deep-mine shaft.
In the latest phase of declining Russian-American relations, on Thursday a bipartisan body of US senators, led by Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, proposed another round of sanctions against Moscow. These would affect certain oligarchs and private individuals, the energy sector and, most aggressively, Russian sovereign debt transactions. The latter move would effectively bar the Kremlin from the international borrowing market. Graham isn’t playing around: his goal is to deliver a “crushing” blow to Russia and deter them from potentially meddling in the run-up to the November mid-terms. However, some analysts are questioning the efficacy of the plan: Russia is likely to be insulated by its low debt levels and a sizeable monetary reserve thanks to oil and gas exports. Even the US Treasury has advised Congress against such measures, fearing that the fallout would affect foreign markets and investors.
Among Chicago’s myriad problems are its vacant shopfronts. In a bid to tackle this, mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing to loosen up red tape on pop-ups to allow entrepreneurs to temporarily set up shop in properties that would otherwise sit empty. By doing away with hard-to-access licences for temporary restaurants and retail outlets, it’s hoped that the initiative will motivate landlords sitting on empty property to temporarily rent out their space as they await longer-term permits or leases. If successful, the pop-ups could not only reinvigorate the city’s small-business community but also perk up neighbourhoods blighted by vacant property. The idea is part of Emanuel's attempts to win re-election next year and it's a promising experiment. However, he’ll need a few more fixes yet if he’s going to retain his place in the hotseat; after two terms he’s dismally behind in the polls.