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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 20 November 2018

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Sunny disposition

China’s Xi Jinping is visiting the Philippines as relations between Manila and Beijing continue to improve.

President Xi has showered his Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte with praise as he becomes the first Chinese head of state to visit Manila for more than a decade. Xi described current relations between the two countries as like seeing a “rainbow after the rain” – a lovely image indeed. It’s a diplomatic way of moving on from a spat in 2016 when an international tribunal sided with the Philippines in a territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea. Duterte’s election that year calmed the waters but not everyone is so sanguine: talk of a joint oil-and-gas-development deal off the coast of the archipelago is likely to lead to public outcry in the Philippines. Rainbows never last long, after all.

F&B

Image: Alamy

Stealth health tax

In a ham-fisted attempt to ween Russians off processed meat, a special tax has been proposed.

Russian consumers haven’t had it easy in recent years. Smoking has become increasingly taboo, beer was reclassified from a soft drink to alcohol in 2013 (making it more expensive) and global sanctions have made foreign delicacies harder to obtain. And there appears to be no respite. This month the country’s Ministry of Health has put forward plans for a tax on processed meat due to claims about its carcinogenic properties. This includes kolbasa: boiled ham that’s a stalwart of Russian and eastern European larders. Should this go through, prices per kilogram of the pink stuff will rise by 26 per cent to some 760 roubles (about €10). It’s akin to taxing cheese in France or doughnuts in the US. At this rate, Russian pantries will soon look meagre indeed.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Perilous purse strings

Italy’s PM is preparing for a finances-based fracas with the European Commission – and he fancies his chances.

It’s not just the UK being squeezed by Brussels this week: tomorrow Italy will learn whether it will face the wrath of the European Commission over its refusal to trim down its budget deficit in 2019. European officials will announce whether they will take the unprecedented step of fining the country for its intransigence but Italy’s populist prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has vowed to “end poverty” and is refusing to let Europe stand in his way. However, the comforting news for Conte is that Italy’s coalition government is behind its PM, vastly improving his chances of getting his way in the event of a stand-off. The UK's Conservative party should take heed as Theresa May battles to save her Brexit plan: a united front is a strong front.

Urbanism

Image: Alamy

Matter of taste

A Japanese city has decided to change its name in honour of some nuts and beans. Yes, you read that correctly.

There can be many reasons for changing a city’s name, be it history, politics or religion. Food is rarely a deciding factor but it has been in the case of the small Japanese city of Sasayama. Over the weekend it held a referendum in which its residents voted in favour of the city taking on a new name: Tamba-Sasayama. The marketing move is aimed at cashing in on the famous chestnuts and black soy beans – known as Tamba kuri and Tamba kuromame – that are grown in the surrounding region. The unusual poll resulted in high voter turnout and a win for new mayor Takaaki Sakai, an advocate of the name change who won the mayoralty on the same ballot. However, Tamba-Sasayama’s opportunistic rebrand is likely to see the residents of nearby Tamba City go a little nutty. Expect competition between the local rivals to increase on the subject of who is the rightful guardian of the area’s contested kernels.

From Monocle 24

Suspiria

The Monocle Culture Show

Film critics Simran Hans and Jason Solomons review Luca Guadagnino's remake of the 1977 supernatural dance-school horror ‘Suspiria’ to see if it lives up to the original.

From Monocle Films

Barcelona: The Monocle Travel Guide

The Catalan capital boasts a singular character. Venturing beyond the tourist-beaten track, join us on a cinematic tour of fairytale architecture and independent retailers, as well as the innovative restaurants bringing a modern touch to Catalan cuisine. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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