The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 11 October 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Third degree

The honeymoon period for Hong Kong’s new leader might be over as MPs prepare to grill her on a sticky topic: China.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam delivers her maiden policy address today, just past the 100-day mark since taking office. A proposed starter-homes scheme should make it easier for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder and focusing on civic issues such as this has, so far, maintained Lam's popularity. But that's not expected to last: tomorrow she’ll be grilled by a pro-democracy faction in parliament over how much influence mainland China has on Hong Kong’s politics. “We get the feeling she wants to make Hong Kong a better place to live but when it comes to politics she’s no softer than her predecessor,” says legislative councillor Tanya Chan, founding member of the Civic party. “Eventually she’ll have to face the thorny issues that cause all of the tension here.”

Legal

Image: Getty Images

Show your face

Quite how fining a man in a shark costume helps ‘protect Austrian values’ is as unclear to us as it is to the country’s police force.

Austria’s new “burka ban” hasn’t had the desired effect. In fact, it’s caused quite a bit of confusion already. The controversial legislation, stating that faces must be visible from hairline to chin to “protect Austrian values”, has been in place since the start of the month and police are struggling with the wording. A cyclist wrapped in a scarf on a chilly day only narrowly escaped the €150 fine; a band of street musicians in animal masks got away with a warning (it turns out artistic costumes are allowed); while a man donning a full-body shark costume to promote a shop didn’t get away so lightly and was fined. Apart from complicating Halloween, the law has also led to a couple of physical attacks. So is such a prohibition really that smart? Austria’s far-right Freedom party, confidently going into the general election on 15 October, certainly seems to think so.

Retail

Image: Alamy

Rooms with a view

A Roman fashion emporium is counting on its holistic shopping experience to compete with online sales.

Rome’s sprawling new Rinascente department store opens tomorrow, going against the grain of current market wisdom. As many retail businesses anxiously dither in the face of online, Thailand’s Central Group – Rinascente’s owner – is dauntlessly moving forward with bricks and mortar, buying up chains across Asia and Europe in recent years and launching the Italian capital’s first “shopping cathedral” fashion emporium. “An online store could never transmit what we’ve created here,” says Paolo Cocchini, CEO of the Rinascente chain. “It could never transmit this architecture, this beauty, the impact of our product choices, the terraces with a view of Rome or the experience of shopping within sight of a Roman aqueduct.” Located in a stately palazzo, the eight-storey Rinascente amplifies the revamp of the chain’s flagship Milan store with more high-end brands on offer, plus two floors dedicated to gourmet goods and restaurants.

Technology

Post-mankind

Automation is the future for Singapore’s post offices but will customers miss the human touch?

Singapore’s 159-year-old postal service reopened its flagship branch this week after a S$150m (€94m) revamp. The post office, Singapore’s largest, now includes a self-service, automated system that is presented as the blueprint for the nation’s future postal offices. There are refrigerated lockers to keep posted perishables fresh and machines that let you send, collect and return parcels at all hours. Such amenities will form the basis of the unmanned post offices due to be rolled out in several Singaporean neighbourhoods over the next couple of years. Yet, like the new automated check-in at Changi’s fourth terminal opening at the end of the month, the nation is automating everyday institutions where the human touch might be a friendlier option.

From Monocle 24

Tim Campbell

Section D

Architect Tim Campbell recalls his restoration of Richard Neutra’s Singleton House and other standout projects featured in his new book, Intentional Beauty.

Loading...

/

15

15

Live

00:00 01:00