The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 22 August 2017

Affairs

Image: Getty Images

Testing times

The US and South Korea begin their joint military exercise despite the looming presence of the latter’s northerly neighbour.

Despite fears that it could increase tensions with North Korea, the US and South Korea kicked off their annual joint military exercises this week. The 10-day Ulchi-Freedom Guardian comes at a critical time: earlier this month Kim Jong-Un threatened to launch four ballistic missiles into waters near Guam and President Trump vowed to bring “fire and fury” to the North unless it drew back. Both Russia and North Korea’s main ally, China, have urged the two nations to cancel the computer-simulated military exercises to avoid escalating tensions in the region. Yet neither country saw a reason to put them off, arguing that they are purely defensive in nature. It remains to be seen how North Korea will react to the exercises this time around. In the past it has been known to fire missiles in response.

Business

Image: Fritz Beck

Fly buy

The German flag-carrier is on course to land a large chunk of its bankrupt rival in a new deal.

Things are looking good for Lufthansa and its CEO Carsten Spohr (whom we interviewed in Issue 101 of Monocle). Along with as many as 10 other entities, the German flag-carrier is looking to bid for a share of its bankrupt rival Air Berlin. Yesterday representatives of the two companies met in the German capital and Lufthansa received the backing of an important voice: economy minister Brigitte Zypries. In an interview with financial daily Handelsblatt, Zypries said, “Lufthansa is already an aviation champion – its position can be strengthened further though.” To be fair to its competition, Germany’s top carrier is unlikely to receive permission to buy all of Air Berlin but all signs now point to a favourable deal.

Defence

Image: Getty Images

Letter bomb

Technology leaders have written to the UN urging it to ban autonomous killing machines.

For years there has been talk about a future where frontline battlefields are manned by autonomous robots – and in some cases they already are. But before artificial intelligence completely takes over warfare, the technology industry is attempting to curtail the use of such deadly robots. In an open letter 116 CEOs and leaders, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, have urged the UN to include lethal autonomous weapons systems (machines that can identify and attack a target without human control) on its list of banned weapons under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The UN has mulled a ban on such technologies since 2013 and, to a certain extent, the future of front lines lies in its hands.

Food

Image: Reuters

Grub’s up

Will Switzerland’s new delicacy fly off the shelves?

We’ve all savoured a Swiss cheese fondue but, now that Switzerland has become the first EEA nation to authorise the sale of insect-based produce, you might find yourself dipping something other than bread into the cheesy goo. Following a revision to Swiss food-safety laws in May, crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms are forthwith allowed to land on Swiss plates; and this week supermarket chain Coop has begun selling insect-based burgers and protein balls. But not any old hopper can be classed as food: the tiny critters must be bred for four generations before being considered appropriate for human consumption, meaning that, initially at least, most will be imported. Perhaps the Swiss are onto something: more than two billion people already supplement their diet with insects and, according to the UN, eating more creepy-crawlies could help fight world hunger and reduce pollution.

From Monocle 24

Green Man turns 15

Culture with Robert Bound

We make our annual pilgrimage to the Green Man Festival in south Wales to meet some of the musicians who have been integral to its success and to relive some memories from the field with the festival’s return customers.

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