The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 18 December 2015

Image: Getty Images

Going out with a bang

Clear skies are essential to any New Year’s fireworks display but the stakes in China just got a little higher: Beijing’s municipal government plans to ban the sale of fireworks whenever a serious pollution warning is in force. Fireworks are big business in China but smog has become so bad in the capital that sales of facemasks are currently skyrocketing. Pollution levels go through the roof around Chinese New Year when roadside vendors peddle firecrackers to amateur pyrotechnicians. Staying indoors could have its upsides, nonetheless: China hopes its new two-child policy will take off during the Year of the Monkey.

Image: Alamy

Food fighters

The Israeli military is making some tweaks to support a growing contingent of vegans in the army. Israel has the most vegans per capita in the world with 5 per cent of the country not eating meat or using animal products. After an internal campaign by a group of soldiers, the military is now planning to add substantial meat substitutes and extra food stipends for non-meat eating soldiers. The vegan meal plan includes soy-based food as well as tahini, nuts and dried fruit. The soldiers will even be provided with wool-free berets and leather-free boots.

Image: Corbis

Change of face

Half a decade after Bahrainis took to the streets to protest against the ruling Al Khalifa monarchy, the country has struggled to shake off condemnation from human-rights groups and accusations of authoritarianism. Bahrain is in need of an image reboot and it’s taking a cue from its tourism hotspot neighbours in the Emirates. Large-scale projects are now in the works including Bahrain Bay, a rather Dubai-looking new waterfront district with several major hotels expected to open next year. An $815m (€754m) expansion to the airport is also due for completion by 2019. Meanwhile, there’s a plan for a second bridge and rail link connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia – the relatively liberal island has often been a bolthole for Saudi weekenders.

Image: Nikola Strbac

Small business, big city

It’s no surprise that New Yorkers love their bodegas and independent coffee shops but a new study from JP Morgan Chase Institute, which analysed spending habits in more than a dozen cities across the US, shows just how much. A colossal 74.7 per cent of money spent by New Yorkers goes to small and medium-sized shops. (Small businesses in Los Angeles are almost as popular, taking in 71.4 per cent of the spend share in the city.) Contrast this to smaller cities such as Dallas or Columbus where small and medium shops only get 56.5 and 54.4 per cent of the spending share. Thriving small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and economic growth, which New York and LA have certainly enjoyed. Local governments in smaller cities should take heed and do what they can to encourage and support their small and medium businesses.

From Monocle 24

Image: Anna and Michal

Strasbourg: Europe’s Christmas capital

The self-declared European capital of Christmas is home to a Christmas market that dates back to 1570. With more than 2 million visitors a month, the Strasbourg Marché de Noël embodies the cross-border history of the Alsace region.

From Monocle Films

A Bohemian Toy Story

The Czech Republic has a rich toy-making history, which dedicated collectors and craftsmen are committed to keeping alive. From the atelier to the Christmas market, Monocle films discover an inspiring toy story where art meets craft.

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