Friday 4 December 2015 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 4/12/2015

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Present and correct

With the season of present-giving now upon us, the US government’s Federal Register has released its annual list of gifts that the Obamas received from foreign governments in 2014. It’s fairly standard stuff: a ceremonial dagger from Algeria, a gemstone-encrusted statue of a palm tree and a recording of Xi Jinping’s wife singing folk songs for Michelle Obama. But the list also revealed the largesse of the late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Some 75 per cent of the value of all official gifts to the president and his employees came from Saudi Arabia last year, including a brass replica of the controversial Makkah Clock Tower and an emerald-and-diamond jewellery set estimated at $780,000 (€715,000). It does raise the question: will next year’s list – post-Iran deal, post the plummet in the price of oil – show King Salman to be quite so generous?

Image: Getty Images

Winging it?

Thailand’s aviation sector is facing tumultuous skies. The nation is scrambling after the US Federal Aviation Administration downgraded its safety rating on Tuesday. The dismal report card follows poor marks from the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization in June and means that Thai Airways is barred from flying to the US. The main problem is the lack of quality staff to maintain safety standards. In response to the national carrier’s tumbling share prices, prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is cracking the whip on the transport ministry, calling the situation a “crisis”. With the European Aviation Safety Agency due to release its assessment on 15 December, it’s unlikely that anything can be done in time to change course.

Image: Getty Images

Robot resumés

Bad news for humans: a new report by the University of Oxford and the Nomura Research Institute estimates that robots could do almost half the jobs currently done by Japanese workers. The study sets out to show that in just 20 years machines will be able to take on 235 of the 601 jobs that researchers examined. The roles that could be done by machines in the future – including those of taxi drivers, cleaners and supermarket workers – today employ 49 per cent of the workforce in Japan. Comfortingly, the report concedes that creativity can’t be replaced by artificial intelligence and that any profession where interacting with people is essential – teachers, doctors and hairdressers among them – will also be hard to replace. With shrinking workforce an ongoing issue in Japan, some will argue that robots would be a solution rather than a problem.

Image: Courtesy of Giovanni Beltran

Eye for design

Unlike neighbouring Art Basel, where Miami-based talent has now been tightly embraced, South Floridian designers still have strides to make at Design Miami. It’s unusual to see a stronghold of homegrown talent at the design fair but this year the city’s own Jonathan Gonzalez – architect and founder of Office GA, a multidisciplinary design-and-fabrication practice – is showing a collection of furniture. The project is in conjunction with design agency Giovanni Beltran and everything has been designed and manufactured in the Magic City. The seven pieces evoke the spirit of art deco with a cool colour palette but they also carry a modern sophistication – and a hopeful nod towards the tactile. If Gonlalez’s work is any indication, there is a bright future for Miami’s designers.

Image: Marcus Holland Moritz

Camisola Amarela in Lisbon

With its seven hills and cobblestone streets, Lisbon might not seem the ideal city for a bicycle-messenger service. But Camisola Amarela, meaning “yellow jersey”, has been going strong since it launched in 2009. We meet co-founder Pedro Ventura and one of his star cyclists.

Retail special: stationery shops

A new generation of stationery entrepreneurs is preserving and reviving the art of writing. Monocle films travels to Prague, Vancouver and London to visit three shops that share a penchant for paper.


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