The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 17 September 2015

Image: Getty Images

Base instincts

Politicians are regularly accused of not keeping their word but that could not be said for Takeshi Onaga, the governor of Okinawa. True to his 2014 campaign pledge to stop the building of a new US Marine Corps base in the prefecture, he announced this week that he plans to halt construction work in the picturesque bay of Henoko. Opposition to the controversial new base – a replacement for the unpopular base in residential Futenma – has also come from the mayor of Nago and Greenpeace. But the most vociferous opponents have been the Okinawans themselves. They have come out on to the streets and ultimately at the ballot box to oust the previous governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, who approved the preliminary landfill work for the base.

Image: Peter Gronemann

Greenhouse effect

The Gulf states import up to 90 per cent of their food and vast amounts of water are needed to keep local crops flourishing. A possible, if remarkably simple, solution has just been presented in Dubai: “A leaf is a plant’s air-conditioning system,” says Dr Redouane Choukr-Allah of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture. “The leaf transpires and releases that water as vapour in the greenhouse.” His team believes they can use a highly concentrated salt to absorb the water vapour, condense it and then reuse it in the crop cycle. A pilot greenhouse will be operational in the UAE from November.

Image: Getty Images

Spin it to win it

For the past 20 years every politician with a desire for power employed a communications expert who smoothed out their unpopular wrinkles, acted as an occasional interpreter (“What Tony meant to say was…”) and had just the right level of menace in their voice to persuade political reporters to toe the line. In the new age of the unvarnished politician – the “real person” in touch with the public – the spin doctor has found himself out of a job. But Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, styled as an authentic “tell-it-like-it-is” man of the people, might want to hire one. A series of daily gaffes, from policy disagreements with senior colleagues to presentational disasters such as refusing to sing the national anthem, have put him on the back foot. Much as Corbyn might scoff at the idea of a PR man, he should swallow his pride and hire one.

Image: Nicolas Duc

Zürich’s zeitgeist

Once a seedy neighbourhood with an air of debauchery, Zürich’s Kreis 4 is now a shiny hub of creativity. But the clean-up that began in 1995 didn’t involve a clear-out: a glimmer of the red-light district remains as neon proof of a seductive locale. Isabell Gatzen moved into her apartment five years ago when rents were low and the area fairly undeveloped. “Since then it has been up-and-coming,” she says. “Every weekend I think, ‘Where has this lovely shop come from?’” Read our report in the new issue of Monocle, out this week.

From Monocle 24

Image: Silvia Conde

City-led innovation

In today’s edition of The Entrepreneurs, we assess a new report on how 40 city governments around the world are trying to foster environments for fresh business and innovation.

From Monocle Films

Housewarming: Fabrica and Airbnb

Monocle explores the art of a warm welcome with Fabrica’s design team who collaborated with Airbnb for a special installation at the Palazzo Crespi in Milan during the 2015 Salone del Mobile.

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