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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 12 October 2018

Legal

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Who can you trust?

A vote that pits Switzerland’s laws against international ones could prove detrimental to the country’s diplomatic efforts.

The argument of whether national law should trump international order is becoming wearily familiar – and it’s now coming to the fore in Switzerland. On 25 November, the Swiss people will vote on a proposal from the right-wing Swiss People’s party that would see the country’s constitution take precedence over international law. But the sitting government fears a yes vote will hamper Switzerland’s diplomacy, a concern shared by Florian Egli, vice-president of Foraus, the Swiss foreign-policy think-tank. “It would mean handcuffs for Swiss diplomacy,” he says. “If you have a rule that means you can retroactively change any treaty taken with a foreign partner it will consequently erode trust. It is a push against a liberal and international world order.”

Politics

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Risky business

The Francophonie summit has opened in Armenia but it’s the host country’s PM who’s stealing the limelight.

Leaders from the French-speaking world gathered in Armenian capital Yerevan yesterday for the annual Francophonie summit. But there was a sub-plot afoot in the host nation’s domestic politics. Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan announced his sudden resignation and called a snap election so that he might stand again, win and continue to lead with a stronger mandate than before. It’s a political gamble that might not pay off according to Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan: “This is an inherently risky move, based on trust that the former ruling Republican party will adhere to its pledge: to not provide a rival candidate.”

Design

Image: James Newton

Art house

Creative problem-solving by one of the UK’s foremost architecture firms has helped it win another award.

On Wednesday night UK architecture practice Foster + Partners won its third Riba Stirling award for Bloomberg’s new European HQ. While the building is impressive for myriad reasons – it’s the biggest stone construction in London since St Paul’s Cathedral – its use of art was one of the most inventive components, according to senior partner Michael Jones. “We used art and Michael Bloomberg’s patronage of the arts to solve problems within the building,” he says. These included an Arturo Herrera tapestry that covers the back wall of a meeting room and aids the Meyer Sound system, which gives the room enhanced acoustics. Similarly Cristina Iglesias’s concrete-surrounded water feature makes for an elegant security barrier.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Royal rumble

The shrine, the throne, the emperor and the priest: a recipe for controversy in Tokyo.

It’s been decades since a Japanese emperor set foot in Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. Emperor Akihito, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989, certainly hasn’t and it’s hardly surprising: Yasukuni is a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past and a magnet for right-wing nationalists, while his presence there would undoubtedly trigger a backlash from Asian nations. However, the emperor’s restraint hasn’t sat well with Yasukuni’s top priest Kunio Kohori who, it was reported in a weekly tabloid, recently criticised the emperor and his wife (pictured) for not visiting. As a result, the shrine has announced Kohori’s resignation. The row highlights Japan’s conflicting perceptions about its emperor: he is respected for his efforts to heal bitter wartime memories yet remains a revered figure among right-wing royalists.

From Monocle 24

Jess Williamson

The Sessions at Midori House

Texan musician Jess Williamson plays songs from her latest album, ‘Cosmic Wink’, and talks about the changing events that sparked it.

From Monocle Films

How to Live in the City

Billions of people live in cities but how many of us actually live in our city? Hugo Macdonald, author of the book How to Live in the City, takes us to New York, Tokyo and London with tips noting down how to thrive in these urban hubs using pens from Cross's new city-inspired Peerless 125 Special-Edition Collection, inspired by iconic works of architecture; London's Elizabeth Tower, New York's Chrysler Building, and Tokyo's Skytree Tower.

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