The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 2 February 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Switched off

A former TV reporter who opposes gay rights is leading the polls in Costa Rica but voters still have time to change the channel.

Stable and relatively wealthy Costa Rica heads to the ballot box on Sunday to elect a new president. At the beginning of the campaign political analysts predicted that the main issues of the election would be corruption and the uptick in violence in the country. Instead, a decision last month by the San Jose-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights calling for its members to recognise same-sex unions has riled the country’s more conservative voters and become the hot-button issue. As a result, evangelical former TV news reporter Fabricio Alvarado, known for his opposition to gay rights, has leapt ahead to lead the polls. Will Costa Ricans be swayed by Alvarado’s message or tune him out?

Aviation

Ready for take-off

A Swiss engineering firm is rebranding as it aims to become the country’s first global helicopter-maker.

Yesterday Marenco Swisshelicopter was reborn as Kopter to signal the start of a new era for the business (its rebrand was headed by Monocle’s sister company Winkreative). “We were an engineering company and now we’re becoming a fully fledged helicopter-manufacturing company,” says Andreas Löwenstein, an industry veteran who joined Kopter last year to fulfil the company’s promise of becoming the first Swiss global helicopter provider and manufacturer. Its debut model, the single turbine SH09, will be unveiled with its new look and logo at the Heli-Expo 2018 in Las Vegas at the end of the month. One of the aircraft's greatest strengths is its versatility as it can be used for virtually anything, including search-and-rescue missions, tourism or short-haul flights. “We are taking a significant leap in terms of safety and uniting all elements that are normally only available on twin engines,” says Löwenstein of the new model. The Swiss company is backed by the investment firm Lynwood, which was founded by Alexander Mamut. The Russian billionaire recently made headlines for putting the UK bookshop chain Waterstones up for sale but Lynwood’s investment into Kopter is secure and will help the company roll out its first SH09 within the next year.

Design

Image: Alamy

Moving sideways

China will host its own Serpentine Pavilion in May – but will this move dilute the London gallery’s brand?

Up until now the Serpentine Pavilion programme, which gives an architect a park as a blank canvas to form a temporary public spectacle within, has been limited to London. This week a Beijing edition has been announced, with China’s Jiakun Architects proposing a design referencing the country’s cultural history. In a nation notorious for mimicking the west, it’s been a shrewd move by Beijing officials to take this formal approach. The question remains, however, about what this means for the Serpentine Pavilion brand itself. Many architects consider a nomination to design the London pavilion an accolade not far from a Pritzker prize. It seems the pressure therefore falls on architect Liu Jiakun to prove that his work can stand up against luminaries – and former London pavilion designers – such as Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Neutral ground

Canada’s senators vote to make a small but significant change to the country’s national anthem.

When Canada’s athletes take to the podiums of the Winter Olympic Games over the coming weeks, the words to “O Canada”, the country’s national anthem, will be gender neutral. This week, senators in Canada voted overwhelmingly to remove gendered language from the anthem following years of campaigning by politicians on the left. The line “in all thy sons command” will be changed to “in all of us command”. The change now requires royal assent by the country’s governor general before it comes into law. Though the bill was first introduced two years ago, the decision comes at a time when gender parity is a key political issue in the country – the cabinet of the government of Justin Trudeau contains an equal number of women to men and, at Davos last week, the prime minister reiterated his ambition to ensure pay equality in Canadian workplaces.

From Monocle 24

From e-commerce to bricks and mortar

The Entrepreneurs

In the early years of the internet and social media, many assumed that e-commerce would eclipse traditional retail. But today many brands are successfully shifting their focus away from the screen and back to the high street. We hear from four businesses invested in that change, from pop-up-space rental platform Appear Here and clothing labels Kotn and L’Estrange to Singapore’s We The People, a shop bringing crowdfunded projects to bricks-and-mortar.

From Monocle Films

Retail Survey: Division Street, Portland, Oregon

Division Street in Portland, Oregon, has witnessed a model retail renaissance. Monocle Films meets the shopkeepers on this once sleepy stretch, which is now the centre of the city’s budding new retail scene.

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