The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 28 July 2017

Military

Image: Reuters

Stealth attack

US marines are testing a new weapon that will help them keep the noise down.

Everyone has seen the movie in which the savvy assassin uses a silencer to pop off a foe. Yet when it comes to large-scale contemporary warfare, the epic rumble of artillery fire has never been given much of a thought, with innovation focused on advancements in the field of vision rather than sound. Now a group of some 2,000 marines are testing guns with suppressed carbines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. While such devices have long been used by special-ops units, this test is to see how they can be used by more mainstream infantry. The goal is to be able to better control noise levels in the hope that frontline communication can also be improved; sounds like a plan.

Transport

Image: PA Images

On the go

Russia’s gradual embrace of electric cars is a breath of fresh air.

There are currently a mere 920 electric cars in Russia and just 150 charging points; one, bizarrely, is stuck on the island of Valaam near the Finnish border. But energy company Rossetti hopes that a surge of new infrastructure might encourage more sustainable transport. The firm has announced plans to build a network of charging stations across the country that will allow an electric car to drive 10,000km from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok without running out of juice stops. The 1,000 or so charging points, some of which will be ready by 2018, are being spread throughout 77 of Russia’s 85 federal regions. Let’s hope it encourages a broader shift in gear.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Cultural shift

Why Japan’s government is moving one of its offices to Kyoto – and why no one’s complaining.

As part of a policy to boost Japan’s regions and decentralise government offices, the country’s Cultural Agency is heading out of Tokyo to take up residence in the Kyoto Prefectural Police Headquarters. The 1927 building will be refurbished and strengthened against earthquakes allowing 250 members of staff, including the commissioner and deputy commissioner, to be working there by 2022. Supporters of the move have long argued that the ancient capital is the cultural heart of Japan – the emperor only left the city for the new capital of Tokyo in 1869 – making it the agency’s natural home. The imposing old HQ of the police force is also a good fit – and the spruce-up of a stately landmark is welcomed.

Retail

Image: Getty Images

Fine return

Impressive financial performances for brands in the luxury sector point to an upturn in fortunes.

LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods group, has revealed that its takings for the first half of 2017 have jumped – the biggest rise since 2011. The Paris-based conglomerate recorded a net profit of €2.12bn (up 24 per cent) thanks to an upswing in sales for brands in its stable including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Céline and Loewe. The news comes a few months after Kering, the second-biggest luxury player, recorded strong takings on the back of Gucci's most successful quarter in 20 years. The results indicate that the luxury ship is righting after a horror year in 2016 but Samantha Dover, retail analyst at Mintel, advises caution. “The market remains challenging and for every brand that is performing well, there is another that is struggling.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Berlin: St Agnes

The Urbanist

St Agnes used to be a Catholic church in central Berlin but as the number of faithful declined the Brutalist building was decommissioned. In 2011, Lena König and her husband, gallerist Johann König, decided to turn it into a space for art and culture.

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