The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 20 May 2016

Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Images

Done deal?

As faithful readers of the Minute will know, Saudi Arabia planned to send a contingent of more than 100 cultural ambassadors to Ottawa to charm Parliament Hill with song and dance this week. Well, plans for the Saudi Cultural Days event have been postponed. The Saudis say that “logistical reasons” are the cause but few believe them, considering the backlash the proposed visit prompted. “There is considerable opposition to a trade deal over combat vehicles between Canada and Saudi Arabia that was started by the [former] Harper administration but finished by the Trudeau administration,” says Amir Hassanpour, professor at the University of Toronto. The armoured vehicles (similar to the ones pictured) worth CA$15bn (€10bn) are being sold to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, stoking fears that they could be used against political dissidents at home. Though the deal still appears firm, it seems that relations between the two countries will remain on shaky ground.

Image: Feans

Chewing for change

New York City has been slow to recover from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy some three years ago but city officials are enlisting an unusual bunch in hopes of revitalising Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. A herd of goats, roaming in a portion of the park called the Vale of Cashmere, are tasked with munching away invasive and non-native species that are taking over a once-lush forest. Fifty mature trees were destroyed in this area and the unwanted species that replaced them grow rapidly – which risks choking out native plants. But the eight hungry goats, weighing 54-82 kilos each, can eat close to a quarter of their body weight each day. This isn’t the first time goats have had government gigs: Arlington National Cemetery has used goats for lawn maintenance as well.

Image: Ossip van Duivenbode

On the up

With its psychedelic market hall, angular central station and glass-encased Timmerhuis complex, Rotterdam has acquired a clutch of striking public monuments in the past couple of years and cemented its status as the leading Dutch city for experimental architecture. This week acclaimed architecture firm MVRDV added to the city’s dynamism by erecting a giant staircase that ascends 29 metres to a rooftop deck perched atop the historic Groothandelsgebouw building; the project commemorates the 75th anniversary of Rotterdam’s rebuilding following the Second World War. The steps are only temporary but the idea underpinning them is permanent. “The stairs are an expression of Rotterdam’s hope to rediscover its roofs,” says Winy Maas, MVRDV’s director. “Above us is a layer that is unused and with this we’re wasting such great possibilities. If we activate this second layer we really can make Rotterdam a vertical city.” With forward-thinking urban initiatives like this, it’s no wonder Rotterdam has been dubbed “the city of the future”.

Image: Caroline McCredie/Getty Images

Best on show

Despite its distance from Paris, Milan and New York, Sydney is an overachiever in global fashion, consistently catapulting its talented designers into the international spotlight. But while coveted Aussie brands such as Dion Lee and Zimmermann make their mark in the US, Europe and Asia, Australian Fashion Week has struggled to stay relevant. Buyers are being replaced by bloggers and Australia’s biggest brands favour showing at northern hemisphere events where seasons are more relevant. In response, the annual event, which is on this week, has moved from April to May and will show more relevant resort collections. From the front row in Sydney, Assia Benmedjdoub, editor of Australian industry magazine Ragtrader, says improvements to the format are boding well for emerging Aussie designers: “The resort season is one of the most lucrative cycles in the international fashion calendar.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Alexander Baxevanis

Sport and urban regeneration

Events such as the Olympics can lead the way for urban regeneration. We look at this in more depth and ask how to stay active in a city without sport facilities.

From Monocle Films

State of the news

Burma’s national broadcaster, MRTV, was once a government mouthpiece. As the country slowly turns to democracy, Monocle Films goes behind the scenes to see if it can change with the times.

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