The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 28 September 2015

Image: Sophia Paris/UN

Behind closed doors

There are two main parts to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that begins today in New York: the public and the private. In public, a procession of leaders will take to the stage to deliver set-piece speeches. Every nation gets to make one, though most of the attention will be on the powerful and the controversial; in the past, Muammar Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have always managed to make headlines. However, more important are the behind-the-scenes meetings, including one between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Ukraine and Syria will be on the agenda, particularly the fight against Isis. Of course, any form of agreement is all but impossible but at least the UNGA gives leaders an opportunity to talk in private – and that can only help.

Image: iStock

Colombian conflict

Until recently, Colombia has had a reputation for being off limits due to high levels of violent crime – but as that perception has waned, tourism has increased. The Bogotá-based Conflict Analysis Resource Centre (Cerac) reports that crime levels are lower than they have been in the past three decades thanks to the ceasefire that was announced by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) on 20 July. For David Fernando Correal Merchán, an investigator at the organisation behind the study, both the government and Farc are keeping their ends of the bargain: “Violence associated with both the conflict and other forms of violence are at historic lows.” Last Wednesday positive steps were taken in Havana to flesh out a concrete peace agreement – let’s hope they aren’t derailed.

Image: Reuters/Mick Tsikas

On track?

Melbourne’s train services are exhausted and suited to a much smaller city – not what the city wants to hear as Public Transport Victoria points to a more than 80 per cent increase in peak-hour patronage over the next 10 years. Labour’s Daniel Andrews scooped victory for the party in state elections last year with a campaign that was fought almost solely on trains versus cars. He promised to tear up contracts for a new road project and focus on the Melbourne Metro rail link. But with new infrastructure not set to open until 2026, a short-term solution is required. Melbourne could ease the squeeze by restricting services in the underground city loop and turning Downtown’s stations into a cross-city interchange. However, getting such a plan past the rail unions that object to their shifts ending in the suburbs might prove trickier than convincing the commuters.

Image: Getty Images

Not-so-secret agent

At the head of the cavalry charged with promoting the imminent release of James Bond’s 24th outing Spectre rides Sam Smith’s theme song ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ – set to gallop straight to the top of the iTunes chart too. The job of the Bond song is to whet appetites for the main event, converting near-universal radio airplay into box-office records. Choosing Smith, a UK heartthrob who’s made it big in the US, seems wise: he’s a man who can handle stylistic flashbacks to Monty Norman’s original 1962 Bond theme of strings, horns and that guitar riff. Whether ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ is an inspired From Russia With Love, a solid Goldfinger or a forgettable Die Another Day is moot. What isn’t is that Bond-fanciers the world over are already clicking for their tickets. Job done, Smith.

From Monocle 24

Image: William Murphy

When Europeans were the refugees

Eva Balogh was a student in Hungary who took part in the country’s thwarted revolution of 1956. When Soviet forces bombed Budapest and more than 1,000 Soviet tanks rolled into the country, Eva became one of 200,000 Hungarians to flee to neighbouring countries.

From Monocle Films

When in Rome

If you’re in the diplomatic game you could do worse than a posting in Rome, where you’ll probably be put up in a palazzo fit for a pope. Monocle pays a visit to the ambassadors of Brazil and France.

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