The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 10 October 2016

Image: Stephane de Sakutin/Getty Images

Je t’aime… moi non plus

Independence has been a hot topic in decades past but, as the likes of Catalonia and Scotland yearn for autonomy, French Polynesia has taken a surprisingly contrarian position. The island nation of just 285,000 was removed from the UN Decolonisation List in 1947 before being added back in 2013 to the fury of France, under whose jurisdiction it has been since the 19th century. Speaking to a UN committee this week, French Polynesia’s president Édouard Fritch demanded that his country be removed from the list as “pro-independence has never been a majority movement”, before adding that it is not a true colony since France has devolved much of its powers. But critics have pointed to France’s use of Polynesian waters for relentless nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996, as well as its refusal to accept Tahitian as an official language – all sure signs, they say, of colonialism. Whether the UN accepts the Paris-backed plea is yet to be seen.

Image: Getty Images

Watching from afar

Globe-trotting politicians should spare a thought for president Tsai Ing-wen. When Apec leaders jet off to Peru for next month’s annual meeting, custom dictates that the Taiwanese leader stays at home and China approves her representative (despite both countries joining the economic forum at the same time). Tsai’s olive branch is an opposition politician who supports the contentious “one China” principle but whatever Beijing decides she will be following proceedings from her sofa. Travel perks for Taiwanese presidents are few and far between: Tsai’s only official overseas visits so far have been to Panama and Paraguay. Nor can she dream of joining the jet set in retirement. Former presidents are subject to three years of travel restrictions after leaving office. One exotic destination she can visit – Taiping Island in the hotly contested South China Sea – is currently not in her travel plans.

Image: Getty Images

Japan’s graveyard shifts

More than a fifth of Japanese companies have employees who are clocking dangerously long overtime hours. That’s the conclusion of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s first-ever “white paper” on karoshi (death by overwork), which comes two years after a new law aimed at preventing it went into effect. In its 280-page report the ministry expressed concerns about companies whose staff were putting in more than 80 hours of overtime per month, which is the high-risk zone for deaths and suicides caused by work-related stress. In the fiscal year through March 2016 the government recognised 96 cases of karoshi, down from a record high of 160 in the year that ended in March 2003 – though police statistics suggest that the actual numbers are much higher.

Image: Ross Mantle

Climate of change

Look at a map of Alaska and you’ll see that its southern border protrudes awkwardly into British Colombia for 900km or so, owing to border disputes that date to when the US bought its northernmost state from Russia in 1867. Relationships gradually improved and the historically fraught relationship between Alaska and its Canadian neighbour is now one of co-operation, as evidenced by last week’s signing of the catchy Statement of Cooperation on the Protection of Transboundary Waters. Alaska governor Byron Mallott and British Columbia ministers Bill Bennett and Mary Polak built on agreements made last year with Thursday’s mutual agreement to enrich their shared rivers, fisheries and watersheds through environmental monitoring, water testing and mining regulations. It’s hoped that, in addition to protecting the environment, the signing will foster a collaborative spirit and provide opportunities for tribes in the area. Whatever the outcome it’s encouraging to see the two regions adopting an outlook that goes beyond their own borders when it comes to preserving the natural environment – something that is needed on a much grander scale.

From Monocle 24

Image: Thomas Schauer

Dominique Ansel

Possibly the world’s best-known pastry chef shares the lessons he learned over the course of his career and what it took to bring his business to London.

From Monocle Films

Live Design. Transform life.

Monocle Films travelled to Cape Town ahead of its reign as 2014 World Design Capital, which focuses on the problem-solving potential of design – an approach that’s more gritty than pretty. As South Africa celebrated 20 years of independence, we explore the city's design-for-social-change agenda.



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