The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 23 May 2016

Image: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd./Alamy

All change

Embedding a tiny chip into the pages of a passport is standard practice for thwarting counterfeiters. But in Japan’s latest attempt to prevent forgeries the foreign ministry plans to use art: ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai. The ministry recently announced that it will feature the artist’s “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”, which dates to the early 19th century, as the new backdrop for passport pages (replacing the current cherry-blossom pattern) a few months before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics kicks off. The committee – which included an actor, marathon runner and two university professors – had decided that artwork featuring the country’s highest and most celebrated peak would reflect “Japanese design”. It will add a colourful flourish to the otherwise understated travel document and will mark the most drastic graphic-design change to the country’s passports since the Second World War.

Image: Getty Images

Ticket to ride

The long-anticipated Expo Line extension, which opened in Los Angeles on Friday, gets its first real test run this week. It connects downtown LA to Santa Monica within 50 minutes and although that may be a step up from commuting via the traffic-plagued 10 Freeway, it isn’t much faster than Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric red trams, which were inaugurated at the turn of the 20th century. Back in the early 1900s LA’s far-flung neighbourhoods were linked by the entrepreneur’s train network before it was replaced by car-lined streets, that is. Now the city is trying to reverse the trend and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is hoping to convert 25 per cent of Angelenos to public transport, tripling current numbers.

Image: DAlchemist27/Alamy

Here comes the sun

Things aren’t so sunny for Jacob Zuma but the rest of South Africa is looking pretty bright. The country’s Northern Cape consistently gets more sunlight from November to January than anywhere else on Earth and people are scrambling to soak up the rays. Saudi company ACWA Power’s ZAR5bn (€280m) concentrated solar-power plant in Bokpoort has passed its test phase and is set to provide power to 200,000 homes – day and night. This month South Africa’s energy minister announced another round of renewable-energy projects – almost half of new power plants are now solar or wind. The fledgling industry’s growing up fast, delivering green jobs and a surprise solution to the Rainbow Nation’s rolling blackouts.

Image: Ashley Pon/Getty Images

True blue

Though Taiwan’s new president Tsai Ing-wen has only just taken up her role, her design-conscious team has already managed to distinguish the new leadership from the last one. Both her inaugural platform and official website have moved away from the usual red, instead adopting a robin-egg blue – otherwise known as Tiffany blue. The move is keeping in line with Tsai’s campaign, where her team set the candidate apart – and captured a large portion of the youth vote – using design and an anime alter ego. Even the memorabilia for her presidency – such as liquor and stamps – has been designed with a contemporary twist. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is already in high demand.

From Monocle Films

Porto revival

Monocle Films visits Porto to discover how one city leader is determined to stop gentrification destroying his city.

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