The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 3 August 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

One man, one vote?

Venezuela’s polling puzzle is attracting attention – none of it good.

The crisis in Venezuela is spiralling and the European community is getting involved. Following Sunday’s controversial vote, which gave president Nicolás Maduro the power to rewrite the constitution, voices are calling the official turnout figures into question. Yesterday the company that provided the country’s voting system announced that the turnout numbers of 8,089,320 were manipulated by at least one million votes. This comes after two of Venezuela’s opposition leaders were hauled to prison for prompting protests against the vote. In response to the revelation, the president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly will request an investigation into the claims. Meanwhile, the European Commission is considering taking action against Venezuela for threatening democratic freedoms. More than 121 people have been killed in the country since 1 April, when protests against the government began.

Design

Image: Getty Images

Back to the future

As people’s television-viewing habits change, so too are their living rooms.

People are buying fewer televisions and it’s not only affecting the technology industry. The US market alone is down 8 per cent from five years ago, and the average US household owned 2.3 television sets in 2015 compared to 2.6 in 2009. The demise is largely due to changing viewing patterns and the advent of portable devices. The good news – in the design world at least – is that it means a chance to rethink the living room. “This new way of living demands a different kind of furniture set-up and style,” says Hartmut Roehrig, managing director of Austrian furniture firm Wittmann. “There’s been a revival of classic mid-century furniture. In the mid-1900s homes didn’t have television sets and, once again, we’ve reached an age where they have disappeared from the living-room landscape. Furniture has to be more flexible and engaging. It should invite people to hold a conversation.” It’s good to talk, we’ve heard.

Transport

New arrivals

The first light-rail trams are pulling into Sydney this week – a welcome sight for the city’s congested roads.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Sydney’s beleaguered AU$2.1bn (€1.4bn) light-rail plans. The project, for which construction began in 2015, is aimed at improving the city’s public-transport network and alleviating road congestion along the central business district’s main streets. The first fleet of light-rail vehicles (a spacious and energy-efficient model from French makers Alstom) arrives this week and is a promising sign that the enterprise is on the right track. The red-and-silver trams, just a few metres short of a Boeing 747, will be tested this year but not begin operating until 2019.

Fashion

Image: Stone Island

Stone the crows

One label has ridden the technical-clothing wave to shake off a seedy reputation and expand to pastures new.

This week the Singaporean investment fund Temasek (which also owns a stake in fashion brand Moncler) purchased a 30 per cent chunk of the Stone Island label. The sale is an indication of how big the Italian menswear label has become. Once a favourite among football fans (and also hooligans), the Ravarino-based brand has been embraced by a much broader swathe of people. Indeed, walk into any good fashion shop in Europe and there’s every chance it’ll stock a collection of puffy jackets emblazoned with “Stoney’s” signature green-and-yellow compass logo. The label has ridden the wave of interest in technical clothing – as have North Face and Patagonia – and in 2016 its sales were up by a whopping 20 per cent year-on-year. These figures are only likely to grow as the brand pushes to expand its influence outside Europe. Last year it opened its first shop in the US and this week’s deal promises to further increase its global reach. Talk about scoring goals.

From Monocle 24

The Memo

The Entrepreneurs

For newspapers and magazines, unpacking the complexities of technology stories can be difficult. As editor of Tech City News, London-based journalist Alex Wood realised that most media outlets did a bad job at writing technology articles for non-experts who care more about big trends than jargon. So, in 2015 Wood quit his job and launched a news site called The Memo to fill the gap. This week he shares what he’s learnt after two years.

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