The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 8 February 2017

Image: Getty Images

On the road

Better known for its rolling stock and high-speed Pendolinos, French rail-master Alstom is now taking to the autonomous open road. The transport firm has invested €14m in Toulouse-based Easymile, a start-up that designs and programs self-driving shuttles. Built for up to 12 passengers and pitched as a “last-mile” solution, the shuttles are ideal for getting people from distant car parks to events, for instance, or as air-conditioned escape pods during a tropical downpour at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, where they were launched in 2015. Currently deployed in 14 countries, expect to see more of Easymile’s Auto Riders around after this cash injection. But more striking here is Alstom’s investment; a sign that the rail and station contracts of the future may come with a built-in shuttle service to boot.

Image: Getty Images

Law and order

Mexico City approved its first constitution this month: the Carta Magna. The document sets out the basic laws and citizen rights that the capital city will uphold, many of which are far more progressive than those found across the rest of the country. It was also a practice of direct democracy as the city’s residents were encouraged to campaign for their own inclusions to the constitution via online petitions. If an idea received enough support, mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera and his drafting committee of lawyers, civil servants and academics would consider it. Thanks to the direct input of residents, the constitution enshrines laws on everything from equal rights for the LGBT community and the elderly to a minimum amount of green space per resident in the city. An idea worth taking note of.

Image: Getty Images

Beef encounter

It’s easier than ever to get Wagyu beef outside of Japan. Last year the island nation exported a record 1,909 tonnes, worth ¥13.6bn (€115m), of the prized fat-marbled meat from select farms in Matsusaka, Kobe, Ohmi, Yonezawa and other regions – roughly 20 times the amount shipped overseas a decade ago. But there’s a downside to Japanese beef’s stellar reputation and growing popularity: imposters. Cattle farmers in Australia and the US also sell beef from select breeds and Japanese officials say it’s not hard to find fraudulent “Japanese Wagyu” or “Kobe beef” labels in some overseas markets. For now the Japanese government is counting on trademark protection to fend off copycats and on promotions to boost the profile of the country’s beef globally but sooner or later it may have to step up its game.

Image: State Tretyakov Gallery

Painting a revolution

A century after the 1917 October Revolution, this turning point in Russian history remains a major event in modern consciousness. To mark the occasion, London’s Royal Academy unveils Revolution: Russian Art 1917 to 1932 this weekend, bringing together works that combine and contrast the diverse array of art that flourished during this post-revolutionary period. The exhibition will feature avant-garde artists such as Chagall, Kandinsky, Malevich and Tatlin alongside the Socialist Realism of Brodsky, Deineka, Mukhina and Samokhvalov. Photography, sculpture, film, posters and porcelain as well as paintings will illuminate this unique era in the history of Russian art, in which artists could truly explore notions of national identity, ideology and revolution before Stalin put an end to artistic freedom.

From Monocle 24

Image: Josh Dickinson

Paul Barbera

Photographer Paul Barbera’s latest book ‘Where They Create: Japan’ collects his photos of the workspaces of Japanese creatives such as Kengo Kuma, Mariko Mori and Tokujin Yoshioka. Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief Fiona Wilson caught up with Paul while he was in Tokyo.

From Monocle Films

Australia’s roadhouses

The roadhouses along the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia are vital, serviceable sanctuaries for the truck drivers who frequent them. Monocle Films hits the road to meet the characters who rely on these outback pit-stops.

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