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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 29 January 2019

Politics

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Livin’ on a prayer

After months of wrangling, Lebanon’s politicians might actually be ready to form a government.

Will this be the week? After what Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah described as “an extraordinary effort” by politicians over the weekend, Lebanon seems to be teetering on the edge of finally forming a government. In the eight months since elections were held, the country’s economy has descended into a full-blown crisis thanks to spiralling debt and a widening fiscal deficit, leading Moody’s to downgrade its credit rating last week. French PM Emmanuel Macron has also applied the thumbscrews, threatening to cancel his visit next month and review funding commitments if there is no movement soon. “Will it reach a conclusion or not?” said Nasrallah in his television address. “This needs a prayer.”

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Back in business

Smithsonian’s museums are set to reopen but the financial hit will be felt in the months to come.

Regional infrastructure and national parks weren’t the only victims of the grinding government shutdown in the US – culture also took a considerable hit. The Smithsonian, a monolithic institution comprising 19 museums and the country’s national zoo, was forced to shut its doors for 35 days, at a reported cost of about $1m per week. It’s due to reopen today but while the animals remained fed and staff will be paid arrears, the damage could be longer lasting. The Smithsonian has hitherto struck an elegant balance, subsisting not just on government funding but also private donations and its own revenue streams; the considerable losses accrued during the shutdown will echo in the institution’s budget for the rest of the year.

Health

Image: Getty Images

Terminal decline?

One more thing for Theresa May to consider during Brexit negotiations: the outcome could push us all closer to the grave.

Today the BMJ will publish a report warning of the potential health risks associated with Brexit. Thousands of extra deaths from heart disease and strokes are likely to occur in England if the UK pushes ahead with its EU departure on 29 March, the report claims. The bout of cardiovascular disease is nothing to do with the stress of leaving, apparently, but more to do with an expected downturn in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, which will become more expensive if the UK goes solo. The worst scenario would arise from a no-deal Brexit: the report forecasts some 12,400 extra cardiovascular deaths in England over the next decade in that eventuality. Another item in the shopping trolley of reasons for the UK to clarify its position and do so quickly.

Culture

Image: Shutterstock

Out of time

Japanese pop band Arashi is splitting up – and their explanation might strike a chord with other popstars.

The sound of distraught teenage girls can be heard throughout Asia following news that Japanese pop group Arashi is breaking up. At a press conference on Sunday the band announced that they would split at the end of 2020 and would no longer be performing, touring or appearing in public. The news prompts questions surrounding the heavy sacrifices that Japanese popstars are required to make in order to be marketable. Many management companies prohibit their charges from dating and employ stringent schedules to keep them focused on their fans. While Arashi had no such complaints, a readjustment seemed to be in order: when speaking at the conference, the band’s lead singer Satoshi Ono expressed a desire to “live freely”. He may influence others in his milieu to do the same.

From Monocle 24

‘Vice’

The Monocle Culture Show

Robert Bound, Ben Rylan and Karen Krizanovich discuss the politics and prosthetics of Vice, Adam McKay’s new biopic of former US vice-president Dick Cheney.

From Monocle Films

Blossoming business

The Netherlands is a world leader in the horticulture industry and shows no sign of wilting. We visit a delicately orchestrated flower auction, a grower and a florist to discover the challenges of this fragrant business.

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