The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 6 February 2017

Image: Lorne Bridgman

End of watch?

Canada’s Operation Unifier, which​ has been ​supporting Ukrainian forces since 2015​,​ is due to come to an end next month. Renewed fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region between government forces and Russian-supported rebels, however, could throw that timeline into question. For two years Canadian soldiers have provided training to their Ukrainian counterparts to strengthen their force so that they may better handle Russian aggression — an operation that we reported on in i​ssue 98. Yet with the world’s eyes on the new conflict, which has so far seen 19 people killed, questions loom as to whether Ukraine will be able to cope with Moscow’s manoeuvres. Last week Canada’s defence minister Harjit Sajjan (pictured) told reporters,​ “I’m looking at the options right now in terms of how we can improve our support, what changes we need to make,” – suggesting that Operation Unifier could continue throughout 2017.

Dirty water

A mere 6.6 kilometres separate Venice and the polluted waters of Porto Marghera on the Italian mainland, which have long been an embarrassment to the city and the region as a whole. Now environment minister Gian Luca Galletti and Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro have signed a protocol to clean the area with €72m in funding. The operation will see the completion of 3.5km of borders built around the port – a good start but far from enough. As much as €178m are still needed to purify the waters – something that many still consider a pipe dream. What’s needed is not just money but a long-term plan. At last year’s Biennale, Venice’s pavilion was filled with ideas for improving the industrial port. Turin-based studio Bam!’s vision is to re-organise and densify the area once it’s been cleaned; an idea worth investing in.

Image: Getty Images

Not the fairway

Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, north of Tokyo, has hosted more major professional tournaments than any other golf course in Japan, which made the 87-year-old club a natural choice for the 2020 Olympics. But the club’s discriminatory policies are now under scrutiny: women can’t become full members or play on Sundays. Under pressure from the International Olympic Committee – which says that the policy goes against the spirit of the games – Tokyo Olympics organisers have called on the club to change its rules. The club’s board will consider the request tomorrow but it might be too little, too late. The non-profit Japan Golf Council is already urging the organisers to distance themselves from the club and pick a more suitable course. Holding on to traditions can be good but even traditions should evolve.

Image: Getty Images

Retail realisations

The Australian retail market is in flux: fashion brands David Lawrence and Marcs have been the latest to find themselves in voluntary administration, following in the footsteps of Payless Shoes and Howards Storage World. Despite the troubled state of the market, it’s also an opportunity for entrepreneurial businesses such as Australia’s largest value-fashion group, Cotton On – which has more than 1,200 branches across more than 18 countries and an annual turnover of about €1bn – to show the way. Cotton On has evolved into an international fast-fashion chain, not intimidated by giants such as H&M and Uniqlo. It stays ahead by putting its customers, rather than trends, first. And its stores, as much as its clothes, offer convenience: its latest bricks-and-mortar shops have been equipped with phone-charging stations for its digital-savvy customers. Never stand still, that’s Cotton On’s secret.

From Monocle 24

Image: Hong Kong Tourism

The Hong Kong food-truck trial

Hong Kong has just launched its two-year food-truck pilot project, which may set an example for other world cities.

From Monocle Films

Nagorno-Karabakh: limbo land

The republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus lies in purgatory. Despite its violent history, peace and PR is seen as the fastest route to normality; Monocle Films visited the region just before the most recent flare-up to see if it can succeed.

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