The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 13 March 2017

Infrastructure

Image: PA Images

Cruise control

Venice’s new dock could be a lifeline for residents fearing for their delicate city.

Whether moored at St Mark’s doorstep or squeezing up the Canal Grande, cruise ships overcrowd Venice, with many residents also concerned about the effect of all that displaced water on the city’s fragile foundations. Although Venice has trailed behind when it comes to regulating access for cruise ships, a plan to build a new dock on the Lido – beyond the city’s tidal barrier system – has now been approved. With an estimated cost of €127m, completion is expected in two-and-a-half years and could prove a lifeline for the city. Many conservation projects have slipped off the priority list under previous local governments so Venice must ensure that this project doesn't drift away.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Cuddly campaigning

Japan’s Democratic party hopes new mascot will charm voters.

Japan’s main opposition, the Democratic party (DP), has struggled to win over voters since its merger last year. But over the weekend the DP named a new party ambassador who it hopes will boost its appeal: a smiling blue, white and red mascot known as Min-Shin, a play on the party’s Japanese name. The mascot will appear at DP speeches and rallies on the campaign trail in the coming months. It’s the latest example of a yuru-kyara (“flimsy character”), the large, cuddly mascots that play a key PR role for Japanese brands, government offices and industry associations. At its unveiling, DP president Renhō Murata said she hopes Min-Shin will be loved by people of all ages. While this may be the case, it remains to be seen whether an uptick in votes will follow. “It will provide emotional support to us all,” she added.

Media

Image: Getty Images

Pig gets chop

Chinese government removes foreign children’s books, including ‘Peppa Pig’, from shelves.

British children’s television has long been a soft-power success story and the BBC’s kids channel CBeebies launches in Taiwan today, with shows such as Bafta-winning Hey Duggee dubbed in Mandarin. In China, however, some of the UK’s cuddliest ambassadors are having a mixed reception: Peppa Pig has been viewed more than 5.4 billion times since CCTV acquired the rights to broadcast in 2015 but authorities have recently began hauling foreign children’s books off the shelves, including the adventures of the sugary pink piglet. The government is keeping mum on the reasons behind the purge, although one source told local press that fears about the inflow of foreign ideology and the desire to protect Chinese authors had led to the tighter restrictions.

Environment

Image: PA Images

Driving change

Barcelona to ban older vehicles from city centre in bid to curb emissions.

Barcelona shows no sign of hitting the brakes on its efforts to curb traffic and emissions in the city. From January 2019, the Catalan capital will be banning older, more polluting vehicles – specifically cars registered prior to 1999 and vans registered before 1996 – during the week from its core, as well as some of the surrounding neighbourhoods. While city hall has already seen a backlash over the plan from car owners who don’t want to buy newer models, mayor Ada Colau has proposed major funding for public transport and free passes for up to three years to those who part with their old vehicles.

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