The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 21 November 2017

Olympics

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Force of nature

As well as the training and construction that’s required before Tokyo 2020, Japanese officials have another thing on their plate: tectonics.

Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Olympics aren't just about building new stadiums and getting athletes to the track: the government also has to be ready to cope with the possibility of a major earthquake. That’s where the Technical Emergency Control Force – or TEC-Force – comes in. Under recent plans drawn up by the government, nearly 2,000 of the 8,900-strong force could converge on the capital within a day, bringing trucks, helicopters and boats. It would mainly support emergency-service first-responders by alleviating flooding, building temporary bridges, setting up satellite-based communications centres, assessing damaged roads and ordering humanitarian aid; in the past decade it has been called on 69 times for quakes, flooding and landslides. Its dispatches would also come in handy for both residents and visitors: anyone with the smartphone app will be able to get updates in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

Politics

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Party poopers

The FDP has withdrawn from coalition discussions in Berlin. A shrewd move or a false step?

“It is better not to govern at all than to govern wrong.” With these words, Christian Lindner pulled out of coalition talks in Germany and cast into doubt whether chancellor Angela Merkel will be able to form a functioning government. But what was behind the decision by the leader of the business-friendly Free Democratic party (FDP)? A spokesman for Merkel’s Christian Democrats has speculated that Lindner never planned to join the coalition; more likely is the theory that he felt he would lose support and momentum if he made too many concessions. It’s a gamble: if Merkel finds a way to form a government then the FDP have missed a chance to be at the top table; if she doesn’t and Germany heads back to the polls, the FDP could gain more seats.

Culture

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Stranger than fiction

Libraries need to move with the times – but resorting to pretend pages deserves a fine.

Libraries are rushing to keep up with the digital age. The New York Public Library’s main beaux arts building on Fifth Avenue is getting a redesign care of Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo, complete with a new learning centre, enlarged exhibition space and more research room. Qatar has also just completed its National Library, housed in a Rem Koolhaas-designed building that includes computer labs and stations offering 3D-printing tools. Libraries are right to adapt but they shouldn’t neglect their main function as a repository of physical books. The Tianjin Binhai Library in China, for instance, has printed fake books to put on its shiny shelves – a bizarre attempt to compensate for a lack of the real thing.

Food

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Hatching a plan

Up until now, US fans of Kinder Eggs have been left with an unsatisfied appetite – but a subtle design tweak is about to crack the market.

Kinder Eggs are available in 170 countries, making them one of the more readily available confections in the world, but they have never been sold in the US. The small plastic toy found inside the chocolate shell has made the treats illegal there due to a 1938 law that prohibits any non-edible objects in sweets. To get around that problem, Kinder’s parent company Ferrero has tweaked the design slightly, making a US-specific egg (a ridge of plastic is visible through the chocolate) that will be released this week on Black Friday. Fans have apparently been smuggling them into the US for years so an official release is sure to be a boon to Ferrero.

From Monocle 24

Image: Mohamed Somji

Can you build a cultural quarter?

Culture with Robert Bound

We head to Saadiyat Island, home to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi, to find out what adorns the walls of this branch of the French mega museum – and whether it will be a success.

From Monocle Films

Property Prospectus: Mokotow

The Mokotow district in Warsaw has recently turned into a magnet for the capital's creative community. Monocle explores how a shared spirit is at the heart of the area's vibrant neighbourhood.

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