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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 23 January 2019

Politics

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Call me by my name

Does a rebrand by the former governor of Jakarta signal a return to politics after his stint in prison?

Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is due to be released from prison tomorrow after serving almost two years on trumped-up charges of committing blasphemy during a campaign event. Ahok, as he is commonly known, once represented progressive change in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. Now the former politician – who is a “double minority”, being both ethnically Chinese and a Christian – emerges from incarceration amid a general election that’s dominated by religion. There’s speculation that he will return to politics and, while he hasn’t confirmed his intentions, he is attempting a rebrand: his supporters are now calling him by his initials, BTP.

Defence

Image: Getty Images

Pomp and circumstance

India’s PM will flex his country’s muscles for Republic Day – but the show of force disguises a poorly equipped military.

Narendra Modi’s extravagant plans for India’s Republic Day celebrations – which every year marks the date that the country’s constitution came into effect – will be more of an exercise in power-projection than usual. On Saturday, New Delhi will host spectacular parades of military personnel and, more unusually, convoys of the armed forces’ latest hardware, including T-90 battle tanks. The show of force is in line with Modi’s other muscle-flexing displays across the country, designed to reinforce his hardline diplomacy towards rivals such as Pakistan. But all is not as it seems. “It's more show than go,” says Rahul Bedi, India correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly. “Modi loves pageantry and the Republic Day parade is spectacular. However, the pomp and show hides the reality that India’s military has never been so strapped for equipment as it presently is. Modi’s scheme to reduce material imports via his grandiose ‘Make in India’ initiative has not worked.”

Architecture

Sound structure

London’s mooted (and disputed) new concert hall is music to our ears.

Why do concert halls cause such dissonance? From the acrimonious-but-ultimately-adored Sydney Opera House to Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, these expensive music-minded creations tend to polarise people and, more often than not, come in late and over budget. Yesterday plans for a £288m (€329m), 2,000-seat space for the London Symphony Orchestra on the current site of the London Museum caused questioning murmurs. Yet the Diller Scofidio and Renfro-designed building (a tapering, twisted pyramid of a thing) shouldn’t be viewed with the same scepticism as Foster and Partners’ dome-topped Tulip, plans for which were announced last month to jeers from some quarters. Whatever the future holds for London – as the tragicomic opera of Brexit drags on – a world-leading music venue will do the city and its artistic clout more good than a spindly, tulip-shaped tourist attraction.

Business

Image: Getty Images

Law and disorder

The high-profile nature of Carlos Ghosn’s case has thrown another culprit into the limelight: Japan’s draconian courts.

The decision by a Tokyo court to turn down Carlos Ghosn’s latest request for bail will come as little surprise to those familiar with judicial process in Japan. The former Nissan chairman – who stands accused of financial misconduct – has denied any wrongdoing since his detention in November. But Japan’s court system is at best complex and at worst draconian, and it is commonplace for defendants to be granted bail only after they have made an admission of guilt. Sir David Warren – who was the UK’s ambassador to Japan between 2008 and 2012 – told The Briefing on Monocle 24: “It’s striking that the high-profile nature of the case has meant that this has come into the media spotlight more over the past few weeks than I can recall in recent years.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Sunset Tower

The Urbanist: Tall Stories

Monocle’s Andrew Tuck takes a look at this Hollywood architectural legend – and the tales behind it.

From Monocle Films

Iceberg hunters

Monocle Films meets the little-known International Ice Patrol that is keeping ships safe as they navigate Atlantic waters.

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