The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 14 February 2017

Image: Getty Images

Safe bet?

It is seen as a largely ceremonial role but Germany’s new president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will find the job more difficult than many of his predecessors, including Joachim Gauck, whom he will replace on 19 March. The SPD politician, who has served as foreign minister under Angela Merkel in the Grand Coalition, will enter office as Germany gears up for a federal election in the autumn and as populist voices grow louder across the country. Steinmeier is a good choice. While he is not the most exciting politician, the world certainly doesn’t need another outspoken hothead. And his previous role as foreign minister means that he already has a profile outside Germany, enabling him to command attention when he speaks on everything from Brexit and Trump to Putin’s Russia.

Image: Getty Images

Relationship troubles?

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has faced a tricky task during Trump’s first month in office: the US president’s vow to reinstate the KeystoneXL pipeline has buoyed rumblings in Alberta, while the promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement has left many in Ottawa trying to second-guess how Canada might make the most of a rewritten trade agreement. Often touted as the poster boy for liberalism in North America, alongside immigration and social issues, promoting business north of the border will remain high on Trudeau’s agenda. Whether Trump is willing to listen remains to be seen. Tomorrow all eyes will be on the president’s meeting with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which could well set a new tone for American-Israeli relations.

Image: Getty Images

Robot relief

Facing the prospect of a future without enough nursing-care workers, Miyagi prefecture in northern Japan is turning to an infant-sized semi-controlled robot to fill the gap. This week the prefecture began using the robot, known as Telenoid, with people who have dementia at Urayasu, an elderly-care facility in Natori city. Developed by Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro to be small enough to hug and cradle, Telenoid has a bald head, expressionless face, soft torso and stumps instead of limbs. It’s the first real-world application for the robot and a big step for Miyagi, which has experimented with robots in elderly-care since 2014. With an estimated 93,000 residents in Miyagi suffering from dementia and an increase expected as the baby boomer generation reaches 75 in 2025, things are likely to get a lot busier for Telenoid.

Image: Getty Images

Pedal power

The Lebanese have a knack for solving problems through private enterprise: where municipality fails it’s often business that steps in to plug the gap. Such is the case with the new bike-sharing scheme that’s slowly being implemented across Beirut and Byblos: a plan for 5,000 ad-branded bicycles to be ready to ride by June, dreamt up by entrepreneur Jawad Sbeity. For those familiar with Beirut’s perpetual gridlock, adding bicycles to the chaos may seem a tad hair-brained but after years of political stasis it’s a sign at least that the government is approving measures to improve things for the populace. Yet it may not be quick enough: Sbeity has offered to paint bike lanes onto the streets himself and his request to government is still pending.

From Monocle 24

Neal Whittington: founder of Present & Correct

A former designer at Monocle’s sister company Winkreative, Neal Whittington set up Present & Correct to sell beautifully-designed stationery. But you’d have to be mad to set up a stationery shop in a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, right? Robert Bound sits down with Whittington to find out.

From Monocle Films

Vatican foreign policy

Like many sovereign states, the Holy See pursues an active foreign policy. We visit the Vatican's foreign ministry, where world peace is always on the agenda.

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