The vast arid Western Sahara has been in political flux since 1975 when the Spanish withdrew from the area and Morocco staked its claim by moving thousands of its people there. The Polisario Front liberation movement contested the move (they hoped to name the region the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) and have rebelled against Morocco’s presence there ever since, backed by Algeria and Libya. Stalemate ensued – until now. Today a UN-backed round-table convening in Geneva offers hope of a solution. Talks have stalled before but the parties can cite the thawing of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa as proof that seemingly intractable disputes can be settled. We should all hope that the talks will lead to hatchets being buried for the benefit of all involved – not least the 100,000-plus refugees living in limbo in Western Sahara.
In the shadow of China, with its dubious track record on freedom of speech, a museum opens in Hong Kong today that’s dedicated to showcasing the media industry. The HK$85m (€9.6m) Hong Kong News-Expo, the first museum of its kind in Asia, will display documents ranging from the city’s first newspaper, Universal Circulating Herald, launched in 1878, to news coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and the Occupy movement in 2014. The museum’s CEO, Chan Siu-ping, is clearly unafraid to confront difficult past events. As the mainland continues to act more boldly against so-called dissidents, informative and discussion-prompting initiatives such as this are a positive step in maintaining Hong Kong’s media independence.
The morning commute is never the most tranquil of pursuits. But in Toronto, the start of the working day is set to become quieter thanks to proposals by the city’s transport authority. Metrolinx, which operates Toronto’s regional train network, wants the new Eglinton Crosstown train service – a 19km light-rail line that will run through the city from east to west – to contribute as little as possible to the city’s noise pollution. Built deeper underground than the existing metro rail routes, which will dampen the sound created by the new rail cars, the CA$5.3bn (€3.5bn) project will feature electric carriages, which will also produce less sound. Noise pollution has become a potent political issue in Toronto as the city grows at a pace faster than many of its North American counterparts. If all goes according to plan, the new service could be a template for city-builders elsewhere.
Southeast Asian film stars, directors and producers are gathering in Singapore this week for the city-state’s annual film festival. Attendees at the region’s foremost film event, now in its 29th year, will be toasting a strong showing in 2018. Thai film Brother of the Year has been winning fans across Asia, while Filipino film-maker Shireen Seno’s Nervous Translation has been a hit on the European festival circuit. The 12-day festival draws to a close at the weekend and Singaporean director Yeo Siew Hua is a hot favourite to pick up the top award. His film A Land Imagined, which premieres in Singapore on Saturday, is a story about the disappearance of a migrant Chinese construction worker. It’s got previous: it won the Golden Leopard award at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival in August.