The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 6 May 2016

Image: Alamy

Regaled by Riyadh

When delegates from Saudi Arabia visit Canada later this month they’ll be in full charm-offensive mode. More than 100 culture ambassadors – including dancers, artists and other performers – will descend upon Parliament Hill from 18 to 21 May for Saudi Cultural Days, showcasing various facets of the country’s arts and culture, from calligraphy to cuisine. The event takes place in various global venues every year but it’s the first time since 1991 that Canada has hosted one – and the backlash has already begun. Though Saudi Arabia is hoping to put itself in a positive light, the upcoming event has already led many to criticise Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for honouring a CA$15bn (€10bn) weapons-sales deal inked by the previous administration.

Image: Matt

Pushing the envelope

Australia’s 207-year-old postal service has been in decline for years. As ever more people move online, traditional mail services have suffered all over the world and Australia is no exception. After it announced a AU$222m (€145m) loss in 2015, government-owned Australia Post recently announced a “customer-centric” strategy to turn things around. Yet its latest move has been a publicity nightmare proving pushing the envelope is tough: a new system that includes a AU$9 (€5.90) fine for those who don’t pick up their parcels on time sought to give customers more flexibility. Instead it has instigated public furore over the added fees.

Erratic Ankara

Despite Ankara’s image as a strait-laced spot built solely for politicians, policy-makers and diplomats, Turkey’s capital is also infamous for its urban eccentricity. Whether it’s dinosaur sculptures on the intersections or a newly announced plan to install 70 large pools across the city to the tune of about €4.5m, local government choices often raise a few eyebrows. The municipality’s statement about the pools came just before PM Ahmet Davutoglu announced his resignation yesterday and the government will be keen to show it’s business as usual. But they might want to start with ironing out some of Ankara’s urban quirks, not least because seeking out and photographing staircases that lead to nowhere or signposts hammered in at an angle has become something of a local pastime.

Image: Jason Franson/AP Images

Generous hosts

As a wildfire continues to rage in northern Alberta, nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray and the Canadian province has declared a state of emergency. It’s a desperate situation but one comforting development has emerged. Those who have been forced from their homes – and those in nearby cities and towns who are looking to help out – are being connected via Airbnb’s disaster-response feature. Inspired by the efforts of New Yorkers during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the feature connects those who have room and those looking for shelter and waives the usual fees. Until 21 May, those in the region in need of a place to stay can use the service to find free accommodation. While there’s been plenty of (appropriate) scepticism regarding how much the so-called sharing economy actually benefits local markets, features like this offer a heartening example that should be replicated.

From Monocle 24

Image: Prayitno

Toronto: Urban growth

We’ve talked a lot about megacities and some of the best ways of ensuring they affect positive change as they grow. But what role should public and private resources play as our urban environments expand? We explore some of the main questions Toronto is facing at the moment.

From Monocle Films

End of an era

As the life of Tokyo’s iconic Hotel Okura came to an end, Monocle was granted exclusive access to capture the gracious ways of this much-loved modernist gem on film.

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