The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 19 September 2016

Image: Getty Images

Aerial threat

Vietnam’s prime minister began his first official visit to China by talking about calming tensions in the South China Sea but ended it with the promise of increased competition in the skies. Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Hong Kong on the final leg of his six-day trip to announce VietJet’s new route from Ho Chi Minh City; connecting the two southern business hubs is the next stop in the low-cost carrier’s rapid expansion. Vietnam’s first privately owned airline turns 10 next year and it’s already vying with state-owned Vietnam Airlines for an equal share of the domestic market. Founder and CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is known for her colourful marketing stunts, such as bikini-clad flight attendants, but all eyes could soon be on the plucky airline’s financial figures as it ponders an initial public offering.

Image: Richard Gray/PA Images

Long tailbacks

A new report from Eurostat has found that London has the worst traffic congestion of all European urban areas. But just how bad is the city’s congestion? Well, it’s so dire that the average driver was found to lose about 101 hours to traffic each year. (In comparison, Stuttgart came second with a total of 73 hours.) This is a problem for more than just drivers; a study published earlier this year by Transport for London (TfL) estimated that the total cost of annual vehicle delay within greater London amounts to £5.5bn (€6.7bn). The London Assembly transport committee has conducted a six-month investigation to determine what London mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL can do to put the brakes on congestion.

Image: Kohei Take

New tricks?

Japan’s reputation as a rapidly ageing nation is well deserved: the government said that in September the number of centenarians in the country reached more than 65,000, a record high. Five decades ago there were just 150. But it’s not just people in Japan who are living longer – dogs and cats are too. Last week a nationwide survey by the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and the Japan Small Animal Veterinary Association found that the average lifespan for dogs is 13.2 years and for cats 11.9 years. That’s a 50 per cent increase in life expectancy for dogs and more than twice as much for cats when compared to 25 years ago. Vaccinations against diseases have done wonders for these pets but an increase in pampering – living indoors, eating well and the occasional spa visit – probably hasn’t hurt either.

Image: Kenneth Tsang

Art preservation

London’s high rents have put a strain on emerging artists and many fear that the cost of living is pushing out creativity. Yet the city’s new deputy mayor for culture Justine Simons is working on a way to keep artists within the city limits by forming designated Creative Enterprise Zones. Though the details have not been finalised the areas are likely to include Hackney Wick in east London and Peckham in the southeast, where there are already many artist studios – Hackney Wick is home to Europe’s highest concentration of artists per square foot. How the zones will operate has yet to be determined but suggestions include subsidising live-work spaces for people with low incomes employed in the fields of art and fashion and ensuring that studio complexes can’t be bought by residential developers.

From Monocle 24

Max Barenbrug

If you’re a parent of a certain age you’re likely to know stylish baby-stroller brand Bugaboo. Founded by designer Max Barenbrug in the 90s, Bugaboo has since become a design icon and kickstarted a revolution in mobility products.

From Monocle Films

2nd Cycle – collectable cast-offs

In 1935 the founders of Artek drew up a manifesto that the Finnish furniture company still lives by. Their slogan “one chair is enough” promoted a philosophy of intelligent consumption, which resulted in well-designed, timeless pieces that are still coveted to this day – so much so that Artek is hunting down old items and bringing them back to life.

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