The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 29 January 2016

Image: Getty Images

Deeper underground

Japan is not a country to shy away from grand infrastructure projects, regardless of gloomy talk about rising costs and shrinking demographics. Central Japan Railway Company (known in Japan as JR Tōkai) held a groundbreaking ceremony this week to mark the beginning of construction on a new station 40 metres below Shinagawa in Tokyo; the spot will be the starting point of the long-awaited ¥5.5trn (€42bn) magnetic levitation (maglev) line. The excavation involved is unprecedented, as 86 per cent of the 286km journey between Tokyo and Nagoya will be underground. The ultra high-speed train, which will reach speeds of more than 500km/h, is due to be up and running by 2027. Once it is operational the maglev will make the journey in 40 minutes, shaving a full hour off the current time.

Image: Iwan Baan, Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Art house

The cultural renaissance taking place on the US’s west coast continues with this weekend’s opening of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The museum building is a transformed printing plant with a new adjoining stainless-steel structure designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Along with the recently opened Broad Museum in Los Angeles and the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University, this is DS+R’s third project to open in California since September. Beyond expansive gallery space there are two film theatres, a multipurpose performance space, an arts lab and an outdoor plaza designed for film screenings. Berkeley has long been considered a cultural hub; now it’s getting the arts centre to prove it.

Image: Getty Images

One step ahead

While Europe has been busy censoring statues and hiding wine lists to woo Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during his official visits this week, a more subtle diplomatic manoeuvre has been taking place behind the scenes. The Iranian ambassador to the country has said that Oman will be repaid for arranging early talks that set the stage for the nuclear deal; one of the first signs of this is a proposal to have Iran Khodro cars manufactured in Oman. It’s a wily move, especially as GCC countries follow Saudi’s lead and cut relations with Iran. But staying aloof of regional sabre-rattling is Oman’s speciality; recognising that there are opportunities to be had by engagement, especially when oil prices continue to flounder, seems the smarter move right now.

Image: Alamy

From the ashes?

It's no secret that we love a good newspaper so it comes as sad news that two of Canada’s oldest community papers, the Guelph Mercury and the Nanaimo Daily News, are publishing their last bulletins today while La Presse in Montréal has migrated almost completely online. Poor ad sales and dwindling circulation are to blame. Yet while local print papers have taken a hit, there’s reason to hope as Canadian news outlets aggressively experiment with new payment models and improving the quality of their output. Demand for local news could also see a resurgence. April Lindgren, a journalism professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, says, “I’m optimistic citizens will eventually realise the need for local journalism just like they need safe drinking water, good schools and well-functioning local health services.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Roderick Aichinger

Jerry Storch, CEO of the Hudson’s Bay Company

North America’s oldest corporation, the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in what is now Canada in 1670 as a simple trader of furs. Today it has grown into a gigantic corporation, managing the biggest network of department stores in the country.​ We chat with​ CEO Jerry Storch about his work and how ​the company ​has become one of Canada’s most treasured national brands.​​

From Monocle Films

Gin distilleries

Just like craft breweries, small distilleries are reinventing drinks that have fallen out of fashion. We visit three entrepreneurs who have uncorked the potential of the old spirit in London, Hamburg and the Finnish countryside.

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