The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 12 May 2017

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Dam nuisance

Lebanon’s stream of wealthy visitors from the UAE has been cut off and, while it may soon re-flow, Syria’s instability will continue to stem the tide.

There’s another Middle East travel ban that gets less airtime, is still in place, and is proving an obstacle to business. In 2016 with regional tensions on a high and strife between its politicians fizzing, Lebanon was stipulated a no-go zone by the UAE for its passport holders. Emiratis were banned from travelling to Beirut by their government which turned off a sizeable revenue stream for the city – as everyone from property hawks and those simply out for a good time stayed away (the Saudis also advised their citizens to leave, post-haste). There are tentative signs of a thaw in relations this week as a new consular office for the Emirates has been inaugurated in Beirut, amid speculation that the ban will soon lift. But until Syria stabilises, visitor numbers from the Gulf states will not be what they used to be.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Good sports

An alternative Australian national anthem is putting identity in the spotlight for all the right reasons (for a change).

In a bid to be more inclusive of its indigenous people, a reworked version of the national anthem was debuted in Australia last night at the televised and widely watched opening game in the National Rugby League (NRL) season. With lyrics about “honouring the Dreaming”, the alternative anthem is part of a broader conversation about Australian identity. The NRL’s commissioner Chris Sarra – an indigenous Australian – told the media that the anthem felt more inclusive for both his people and new migrants. Yet attitudes to these groups often put Australia in the international spotlight for the wrong reasons: from the recent toughening of the citizenship test to reports of racist chants at Australian Football League games. It’s a positive sign, then, to see (and hear) major institutions such as the NRL steering the conversation in a meaningful manner.

Agriculture

Image: Alamy

Bean there, done that

With problems for Vietnam’s pork producers, the industry should ask the country’s coffee farmers how to raise their game.

It seems that this little piggy is not going to market in Vietnam. The country is in the midst of a pork glut following China’s decision in November to ban imports of pigs reared in Vietnam; it cited concerns over the quality of the meat (this week the oversupply saw Vietnamese soldiers and police getting extra pork in their provisions). The latest findings from the World Bank show that Vietnam lags behind its neighbours in terms of regulations and its meat production is also dominated by small, backyard farms – the same goes for some crops; in April, the Philippines issued a temporary halt on rice imports as concerns grew about their production standards. Vietnam should look to its coffee industry to guide the way as better planning has helped the country become the world’s second-largest coffee producer.

Fashion

Image: Getty Images

Right to buy

A Danish fashion summit pits our need to have “new stuff” against wastefulness. Can the two ever be reconciled?

How can we assess whether a garment is made sustainably, and can sustainability also be profitable? These were key questions at yesterday’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit which brought together industry figures in sustainability from H&M and Kering, among others, as well as Hugo Boss’s chief executive Mark Langer. “I think sustainable fashion is an oxymoron,” said Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic at The New York Times, at the event. “Fashion is based on planned obsolescence and sustainability is based on long-term use; they’re opposite concepts.” The challenge, she said, is how consumers’ dependence on endlessly buying “new stuff” can be turned into a practice that isn’t wasteful. H&M, for its part, is repurposing second-hand clothes into new designs while outdoor brand Patagonia is encouraging customers to trade pieces once they’ve tired of them. “There are interesting solutions to it but we’re just at the beginning,” says Friedman.

From Monocle 24

The Seabin Project

The Urbanist

How Helsinki has become one of the first capitals in Europe to start using seabins to keep its coastline clean.

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