The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 28 February 2018


Image: Getty Images

Changing the guard

Saudi Arabia’s far-reaching reforms have swept aside its military top brass.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is set to touch down in London next week, where he’ll meet with prime minister Theresa May, to discuss, among other things, his country’s role in the war in Yemen. His visit comes hot on the heels of the King Salman’s surprise sacking of Saudi’s top generals including the military chief of staff and heads of air defence and ground forces. “In typical Saudi fashion, it was a lightning purge,” says journalist Ben Law. “Broadly speaking, this is part of a much larger reformation of the Saudi military.” Among the problems that the royal family will want to tackle are poor leadership, bad management and corruption, all issues that have contributed to a stalemate in Yemen. But perhaps even more important, says Law, is that by suddenly replacing the military’s top brass, the royals can show off just how powerful they really are.


Top banana

This year’s Mobile World Congress sees Finnish company HMD Global calling the shots.

Mobile World Congress, the annual mobile-phone trade show, is on now at the Fira Grand Via in Barcelona. Last year the press coverage was dominated by Finnish company HMD Global and its bright-yellow revision of Nokia’s 3310. Yellow, it seems, is the Finns’ lucky colour; the company has stolen the show again this year with a new version of the Nokia 8110, famously held by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix and nicknamed “the banana phone”. The trade show’s other big stories include an absence of headphone jacks and a desire for slimmer bezels as the industry edges towards full-screen phones with minimal frames. Sony, meanwhile, premiered its best-designed phone yet, the Xperia XZ2, while Samsung drew praise for its powerful new model, the Galaxy S9. Neither, however, tops the banana.


Image: ALAMY

Thrilla in Manila

A Philippines art fair is courting the world’s media but is keen to retain its rambunctious side.

March in Asia means art – and a lot of it. Art Basel Hong Kong at the end of the month is by far the biggest event in the region but art lovers seeking a little contrast will be heading to Metro Manila this week. Art Fair Philippines was established at the same time as Art Basel HK but on a smaller scale – it takes place in a car park rather than a convention centre. What’s more, it was founded to promote the country’s rich artistic talent. “The fair reflects the local art scene,” says co-founder Trickie Lopa. “Raw and unpolished, casual, perhaps a bit rambunctious but with a fun, urban vibe.” Entering its sixth edition the organisers will be hoping to increase the fair’s international exposure without losing its edge. A photography section has been added this year and overseas exhibitors such as the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) will also be taking part.


Image: ALAMY

Fast track

Thailand’s high-speed rail link will help join the nation’s international airports and tourist hotspots.

Travelling around Thailand is set to get a lot easier. A governmental board chaired by the prime minister has given the green light to a THB200bn (€5.2bn), 260km high-speed train link connecting Bangkok’s international airports Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang to U-Tapao International Airport. U-Tapao serves the coastal provinces of Pattaya and Rayong, both popular regions with tourists. The project promises 10 stops between Don Mueang and Rayong and will cut what would be a three-hour drive southeast of Bangkok to just 45 minutes. Bidding to construct and operate the State Railway of Thailand-owned enterprise starts later this year. The new rail link could offer the country and its tourism industry a timely shot in the arm considering Thailand’s economy grew slower than expected last year.

From Monocle 24

Image: Sergey Rodovnichenko

Tall Stories 95: Khodynka Field

The Urbanist

Khodynka Field in northwest Moscow is the site of a tragic stampede that overshadowed the dying decades of the Russian empire. After the Revolution it became the hub for the Soviet aviation industry and today it is one of the few examples, however modest, of a successful public initiative in the city.

From Monocle Films

Monocle preview: March issue, 2018

The March issue of Monocle is a South Korea special, with an entire survey dedicated to a country that has plenty of stories to tell. We've also got reports on high culture in Hong Kong, timber towers and popular pencils, among many other things. What are you waiting for?






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