The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 7 December 2017

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Rocky road

Honduras’s election impasse is the latest in a string of regional political setbacks. And it was all going so well...

A few years ago it had looked so rosy for Latin America, booming from its commodities and having turned the darkest chapter in its contemporary history. And while recent events don’t suggest a return to the age of domino-effect coups and authoritarian regimes, the human-rights catastrophe in Venezuela and the Odebrecht scandal that has spread from Brazil make for depressing reading. Now Honduras joins the list of countries in crisis thanks to a contested presidential election. Warning signs in the Central American nation have arguably been there since then-president Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup in 2009. After that, the current president Juan Orlando Hernández – a US ally – decided to run for re-election despite a previous ban, laying the seeds for today’s impasse. Honduras needs fast, decisive regional action.

Design

Look who’s talking

A Belgian design duo have well and truly brought their living room to life at Miami’s design show.

Design Miami, always strong in its hometown, packs a bright and breezy punch this year with certain key designers and booths making a witty pass at the notion of curation (that word for which you’ll wish you earned a dollar every time it’s overheard in Miami this week). But fear not, the Belgian design duo Muller Van Severen indulge their personal, sentimental and witty sides to present their very own Ghent living room as their 2018 booth. Although we’ve been on similar territory in the art world with Helly Nahmad and Waddington galleries presenting collectors’ apartments and artists’ studios at Frieze Masters recently, the humble (or not so) sitting room has not had its moment in the sun. And is that lamp talking to me? That sofa? Why yes: courtesy of Airbnb, each item will whisper its secret history as you explore.

Shipping

Image: Getty Images

Boat race

A Dutch team is designing a captain-less container vessel – but has that ship already sailed?

Move over autonomous cars, there’s a self-sailing container ship coming through. A Dutch consortium of 20 research centres, science institutes, government ministries and industry leaders has launched a two-year research project to develop a driverless (or rather, captain-less) 120,000 tonne vessel. This Smart Shipping Challenge or ‘Smash’ (Dutch humour, clearly) was announced earlier this week at Europe’s largest port in Rotterdam. Ship-owners will welcome the news more than sailors: cutting the costs of crewing these mega ships will inevitably raise their bottom line. However the Dutch team behind it may have already missed the boat. The world’s first autonomous ship, built by Norwegian firms Yara and Kongsberg, is set to sail in late 2018.

Japan

Image: Shutterstock

Gone to the dogs

Japan is about to welcome its Year of the Dog and puppy power is everywhere.

As you’d expect from the country that champions canine nappies and kimonos for teacup poodles, the impending Year of the Dog in the Japanese zodiac is not going to pass unnoticed. Diaries, plates, T-shirts, confectionary and Christmas wrapping are all being emblazoned with cute pooches. Japan Post has gone with Snoopy for its annual nengajo (New Year greetings card) – it has printed 2.5 billion of them – and every stationery shop is filled with canine cards and stamps. The most famous dog in Tokyo is Hachiko, the loyal akita inu who is immortalised in bronze in front of Shibuya Station. Hachiko’s hometown of Odate in chilly Akita prefecture is making the most of the year by offering a selection of 22 free images of the photogenic breed to be used as New Year greetings cards.

From Monocle 24

Freedom to Exist

The Entrepreneurs

Kirsty Whyte and Paul Tanner had more than 25 years of experience in the design world, working in Habitat and Made.com, before deciding to start their own business. In 2015 they launched the minimalist vintage inspired watch brand, Freedom To Exist as a side project to their day-jobs. This week they tell us how they manage their time between both jobs, what they have learned along the way and the secrets to working with your partner.

From Monocle Films

Isetan: shopping as spectacle

One of Japan’s most venerable department stores, Isetan stocks everything you’ll ever need. We hit the shop floor to discover the secret of its success.

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