The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 26 April 2017

Affairs

Image: Getty Images

Too close for comfort

It’s easy to dismiss North Korea’s threats from a distance but neighbouring Japan doesn’t have that luxury.

Conflict with North Korea might seem like a distant prospect in some parts of the world but in Japan it feels uncomfortably close. Last month, three North Korean missiles reached waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, just 300km from the Oga Peninsula in the northern prefecture of Akita. As public anxiety increases, local governments are fielding more and more calls from concerned citizens. Last week there was a meeting in Tokyo of disaster officials from around Japan, who were encouraged to hold evacuation drills based on a scenario where a ballistic missile lands in the country. The number of hits on the Cabinet Secretariat’s Civil Protection Portal Site, which details the procedures in place in the event of an armed attack on Japan, has gone from 450,000 in March to more than 5.7 million this month. There are also reports that sales of nuclear shelters and purifiers that guard against radiation and gases have risen sharply. Earlier this month, prime minister Shinzo Abe said that North Korea might already be capable of firing missiles loaded with sarin nerve gas at Japan.

Infrastructure

Image: Alamy

Polar express

Justin Trudeau’s oil-drilling ban is pushing Arctic residents to come up with fresh ideas for their year-round road.

Canada’s so-called “Top of the World Highway” is nearing completion. The 137km road, which is expected to cost CA$300m (€204m), will link the Arctic town of Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, a hamlet of 1,000 people on the shore of the Beaufort Sea, all year round. By replacing the annual ice highway that becomes impassable in the summer, the hope is that the route will lower the cost of produce (which needs to be flown in during warmer months), increase mobility and encourage growth in the region’s fledgling tourism industry. Approved by Justin Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper, the highway was intended to spur economic development around the untapped oil and gas fields off Canada’s Arctic coast. Trudeau has barred fresh drilling of those areas, which has forced residents in the area to seek new opportunities for the highway – from tourism to construction – when it officially opens at the end of the year.

Transport

Image: Getty Images

Go with the Flo

A smart new system helps the Netherlands’ cyclists catch the green light every time.

The Netherlands is a nation that knows cycling infrastructure. Now the city of Utrecht has invested in a traffic-light system known as Flo that allow cyclists to know what speed they need to ride at in order to hit green lights. The light post, which appears alongside a bike path, uses sensors to measure a cyclist’s speed before flashing a symbol letting them know whether they need to hurry up, slow down or maintain their speed in order to catch the next green light. The system is designed to make cyclists’ journey smoother, keep traffic flowing and prevent bicycle congestion. Two more sets of Flo lights are set to appear in the city soon and Eindhoven is also planning to try out the system.

Culture

The art of the sale

Germany’s largest art fair, Art Cologne, is expanding to Berlin.

Art Cologne may not have as much pull as Art Basel but the longest-running art fair in the world – organised by Germany’s Koelnmesse – is spreading its wings. Not only has the fair secured some 200 galleries for its 51st edition – including blue-chip giants such as Hauser & Wirth, Gagosian and Pearl Lam, alongside a long list of locals such as The Konrad Fischer Galerie – but it’s also recently announced the purchase of Art Berlin Contemporary. The latter will relaunch as Art Berlin on 14 September and strengthen Koelnmesse’s grip on the German art market; an important move in light of Art Basel’s acquisition of a stake in Art Düsseldorf. Art Cologne, which showcases modern and contemporary work by more than 2,000 artists, from Bernd and Hilla Becher to Dale Lewis, is on until 29 April.

From Monocle 24

HDB: Homes of Singapore

Section D

In Singapore, more than 80 per cent of residents live in the rectangular blocks developed by the city-state’s national Housing Development Board. Recently, a Japanese team published a massive photographic tome documenting the private spaces behind these uniform façades.

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