The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 9 January 2017

Image: Ringo Chiu/Getty Images

Now boarding

Travelling through the US’s busiest airports is about to get a lot easier. The private technology company Clear is preparing to launch its express lanes and screening machines in a number of major hubs this year, including Los Angeles, Atlanta and LaGuardia international airports. Using fingerprint and laser eye technology, Clear machines allow registered members to bypass lines and document checks before reaching security. In addition to the government-run Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Pre-Check system, which allows pre-approved passengers to zip through TSA screening without removing shoes or laptops from their bags, Clear will exponentially speed up security checks. While Clear is already available in a number of US airports, its appearance in the busiest – and consequently often slowest – of transport hubs will be nothing if not a timely arrival.

Image: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Early-onset fashion

It’s been a packed weekend of menswear shows in London – Oliver Spencer, JW Anderson and Grace Wales Bonner have all showcased their wares – and today Vivienne Westwood takes centre stage. Westwood has returned to the UK capital after several seasons in Milan – and she knows how to make an entrance. In contrast to brands such as Burberry, she is presenting her men’s and womenswear collections during London Fashion Week Men’s rather than the women’s equivalent in March. Even though women’s fashion week is a far bigger production, this is a canny commercial move. “If you put women’s into the men’s schedule then you give yourself a much longer shelf-life with your collections so for many designers it really improves their sales potential,” says Jo Ellison, fashion editor at the Financial Times. Other designers: take note.

Image: Sgt. Opal Vaughn

Shoots and leaves

The US Department of Defence (DOD) is undergoing a public call for new training ammunition. The US Army shoots hundreds of thousands of training rounds every year, which are left scattered and take centuries to decompose. Now the DOD is looking at a prototype that will not only be biodegradable but also carry seeds. The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory has already identified bioengineered seeds that could be embedded in the biodegradable composites, designed to germinate after a few months in the ground. According to the DOD, the hope would be “to grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components”. And the plants are animal-friendly to boot.

Image: George Rose/Getty Images

Grape growing

China is the fifth-largest wine market in the world and import numbers are on the rise. The Chinese government is helping to speed up the process by reducing tariffs on Australian wine imports thanks to the bilateral free-trade agreement that entered into force at the end of last year. While France’s more expensive wine has traditionally been the most popular in the Chinese market, Italian sparkling wine as well as Spanish and Australian wines are quickly catching up. In 2016 Australia experienced a 51 per cent market growth in its medium-priced wines in China. With an expected 32 million more legal drinkers by 2020, China plans to further cut tariffs to 2.8 per cent in 2018 and to nil in 2019. This outlook may just have Australian vintners calling 2017 the year of the grape.

From Monocle Films

Art of war: Afghanistan

With an exhibition of his artwork of war-torn Afghanistan opening at the Imperial War Museum North, Monocle Films meets artist and illustrator George Butler. His ink-and-watercolour scenes bring new depth to reportage that’s more often the preserve of combat photographers.

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