The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 17 February 2016

Image: DPA/PA

Note worthy?

What’s the value in a banknote? The European Central Bank is weighing up that question as it considers doing away with the €500 note on the basis that large denominations aren’t necessary in modern transactions. Yet while everyone debates the note’s practical value we’re left thinking about its worth in terms of design. Each denomination of euro banknote features an image of a different architectural style from across seven cultural periods in European history, going back to the classical period. The €500 note depicts modern 20th-century architecture with illustrations of a building and a bridge (none of the notes portray specific monuments in Europe). No one likes to lose money but it’s a shame to lose a lovely homage as well.

Image: Getty Images

Bad ad fad

“It’s morning again in America,” a treacly toned voiceover announces in the latest campaign ad for Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio, as a tugboat chugs across the waters of a bustling port. But the port city in question isn’t in the US: it’s Vancouver. This is the latest political advertising gaff during this year’s US primaries; Ted Cruz’s campaign withdrew an advert last week because it featured an actress who had starred in porn films. Missteps like these are unlikely to shift voters from one candidate to another but they bring unwelcome publicity that can cause a dent in a close race. “They shift the media’s attention to ads that would otherwise be ignored,” says Sasha Issenberg, Monocle’s Washington correspondent who is currently on the campaign trail. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing: Issenberg notes that US TV networks have aired the Cruz commercial “ad nauseum”.

Image: Max Sher

Slick business

Kazakhstan is looking to improve its fortunes. The oil-rich country has been grappling with a price slump but this week agreed to set up a joint investment fund with Iran following the first bilateral business forum between the two nations earlier this month. Iran also committed to buying a supply of trains, cars and chemical technology made in Kazakhstan. Though the two countries have done business before, this marks the first contract between them since international sanctions were lifted from Iran last year. A cosier relationship could further open their markets to one another and help tackle the economic headwind from falling oil prices and weakening currencies.

Image: Getty Images

Between the lines

Amid growing concerns over Moscow, the EU has launched a new myth-busting Russian-language website in a bid to monitor and respond to disinformation coming from Russian media sources. The staff behind the EU site follow Russian press and social media to understand the current debate and then offer a clearer perspective. The site also aims to highlight EU policies. Those who sign up will receive a weekly round-up of untruths accompanied by sources that explain and debunk the stories. Recent examples include reports that Russia is not linked to civilian deaths in Syria and that the governor of Odessa, Mikhail Saakashvili, is being investigated for alleged war crimes – both erroneous. Although the website is just a drop in the ocean against the tidal wave of Russian disinformation, it’s a start.

From Monocle 24

TPTQ Arabic

Founded in October 2015, TPTQ Arabic is a type foundry and design studio focused on developing high-quality Arabic typefaces. Co-founder Kristyan Sarkis talks to us about the unique opportunities and challenges of Arabic script design.

From Monocle Films

Kenzo Estate

The Kenzo Estate in Napa Valley is owned by Kenzo Tsujimoto, founder of video-games giant Capcom. Monocle Films visits California to see how the company is aiming to break into the global wine market.

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