The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 3 May 2016

Image: Getty Images

Trouble with Turkey

Relations between Turkey and Germany have seen far better days. Just weeks after comedian Jan Böhmermann raised hackles in Ankara with a borderline-racist poem about president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, another German satirist (this time also a member of the European parliament) has openly criticised Turkish censorship. Martin Sonneborn MEP stood up in front of the chamber on Friday and decried the Turkish leader as the “madman from the Bosphorus”, referencing Turkey’s demand that the word “genocide” be removed from a concert in Dresden that will commemorate the Armenian genocide. As right-on as the speech may have been, the wording will provoke a backlash. And with the EU’s prospective deal with Turkey (to trade visa-free travel for help with the migrant crisis) currently languishing, such tensions are unwelcome. Expect more pointed words from Ankara in the coming days and weeks – and more nervous pandering from Germany.

Talking shop

Hundreds of new products are introduced every week in Japan’s 54,000 convenience stores and despite the country’s regional differences it’s not uncommon for shops to stock the same items. In an exhibition running until 19 June at its Shibuya Hikarie shop, D&Department – known for its mantra against mass-consumption and its mission of selling often-overlooked Japanese crafts and goods – takes aim at this homogenisation. Dmart 47 is a convenience store lookalike that sells goods from lesser-known regional producers around the country. On its shelves are 1,000 items, including ginger candy made by century-old green-tea producer Harakotobukien, lip balm from 280-year-old spice brand Yawataya Isogoro and umbrellas by 63-year-old vinyl specialist White Rose.

Image: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

What’s in a name?

Italian towns are known for ditching uncomfortable names: in the 19th century, Schiavi (“Slaves”) became Liberi (“Free”) and Porcili (an unfortunate “Pigsties”) turned into the rather flattering Stella Cilento (or “Star Cilento”). Yet behind Agrigento’s recent idea to revert to its ancient name of Girgenti is a whole different kind of embarrassment. The Sicilian city was renamed in 1927 by Benito Mussolini, who scrapped its previous moniker because it was too regional for his “Italianisation” plan for the nation. Now mayor Lillo Firetto has decided the city should overwrite this fascist intervention at a time when the nation’s harrowing history is still causing controversy. A museum about Mussolini is set to open in Predappio by 2019 and backlash over public funding promptly followed its announcement. It’s no surprise that Firetto is keen to distance the city from its name’s painful past.

Image: Olivier Bruchez

In the loop

French Polynesia is usually thought of as a place to switch off and the often sluggish internet speeds can make the South Pacific archipelago feel even further from the world. This may be good for beachcombers but the locals are after something swifter. Dubai-based start-up Zero.1 has just begun rolling out a system of “Lifi” streetlights that users can connect to wirelessly for speedy access. CEO Marc Fleschen reckons this will keep Polynesians better connected and there are plans for the government to use the new network to send citizens messages about important festivals and events. This should help bring these far-flung islands a little closer together and light up opportunities for smaller businesses.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Austria and the far right

For the first time since 1945, Austria’s president will not come from the centre. Instead two politicians with two very different messages will compete for the presidency: Alexander van der Bellen, a one-time leader of the Green party; and Norbert Hofer, a charismatic gun-carrying politician from the far-right Freedom party.

From Monocle Films

Property Prospectus: Mokotow


The Mokotow district in Warsaw has recently turned into a magnet for the capital’s creative community. Monocle Films explores the shared spirit at the heart of the area’s vibrant neighbourhood.

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