Wednesday 23 August 2017 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 23/8/2017

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Soft power

French revelation

How much does a first-lady figure figure? The question has been raised with the announcement that Brigitte Macron will be given a formal role for the first time with extra responsibilities within the Elysée Palace as the première dame. The French media has already registered its objections to an entrenched role for the unelected spouse of a state leader and with Emmanuel Macron’s popularity slipping in the polls, the public may soon start expressing similar feelings. Yet the partner of a president or prime minister will by default become a representative of the nation and face unrelenting scrutiny over everything from their attire to how they spend their time. Why not make the role official and formally put the first spouse to work for the country? You might wind up with one of the best ambassadors your nation has ever had (see Michelle Obama).

Image: Getty Images


Spreading its wings

August’s peak travel season is no holiday for aviation bosses. Hong Kong’s largest airline Cathay Pacific has just announced the acquisition of 32 Airbus A321neos for its regional airline Cathay Dragon. New CEO Rupert Hogg attended the signing ceremony in France a week after the group announced a loss for the first half of the year, as well as significant job cuts to middle management. Cathay faces increased competition for economy travellers but is resisting calls to establish a low-cost airline – partly because Hong Kong’s international airport is operating at full capacity until a new runway becomes operational in 2024. The fuel-efficient A321neo can carry more passengers than Cathay Dragon’s existing fleet of A320s. Loyal passengers will hope this means the airline can become more competitive on cost and regional coverage without cutting back on it’s famed quality.

Image: Getty Images


Law and order

If you find yourself travelling around Bangkok this week, don’t be surprised by the checkpoints that have popped up on key roads into the city. The capital is preparing itself for thousands of protesters who are expected to arrive in time for the verdict in the trial accusing ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra of wasting billions of state funds on a rice-subsidy scheme. The city wants to hinder any form of unrest mirroring the violent clashes set off by the 2014 military coup that followed the controversy. The conclusion to the 18-month long trial – seen as an unprecedented move to punish a Thai leader for a failed policy but also as a political manoeuvre for the military junta to stay in power – will be announced on Friday. Shinawatra faces jail and a lifelong ban from politics.

Image: Getty Images


Pushing the boat out

Denmark-based Maersk, the world’s largest container-shipping company, has announced it is launching a new route between Montréal and ports in the Mediterranean. The move comes one month before the landmark Ceta free-trade deal between Canada and the EU provisionally comes into force. Mearsk’s operations from Canada have increased by 15 per cent this year alone and this new shipping route indicates that the firm expects a boost once Ceta is ratified by all 27 EU member states. It also helps that Canada’s economic growth has been the fastest of the G7 economies this year and is forecast to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2017 – a pace that is set to continue into 2018. The shipping route is expected to begin operating on 30 September. Let’s hope Canada’s rising economic tide lifts all boats.

Boom or bust: statues in the city

Statues are important civic landmarks so what can instating and removing them say about a city and its relationship to its past? We find out how Budapest is remembering its Soviet history. Plus we talk to curator and architect Aaron Betsky about his handsome new title and augur the future of robotics in design at the Vienna Biennale.


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