The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 26 March 2018

Military

Image: Shutterstock

Hopping mad?

The Japanese government’s decision to approve the formation of an elite military unit could inflame regional tensions.

Even as Japan debates whether to add the extant Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to its constitution, the government is moving ahead with plans for a new elite unit: an amphibious combat force modelled on the US Marine Corps. The unit, which will be based in Nagasaki from 27 March, will draw on 2,100 troops from all branches of the SDF, according to Japanese media reports. It’s part of a coordinated realignment with the US and marks the biggest change to Japanese forces since the SDF was formed in 1954. The unit’s presence within striking distance of the disputed Senkaku Islands and its speciality of landing on and defending the country’s most remote isles should act as a warning to China and Taiwan (both of which claim ownership over the Senkakus): don’t even think about a land grab. But it could also stoke tensions in the region where Japan is still criticised for its wartime aggressions in the early 20th century.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Islands in the sun

Here’s hoping that some of Christopher Liddell’s Kiwi characteristics rub off on his new boss.

New Zealanders are used to punching above their weight on the world stage but that has not dampened their excitement about last week’s appointment of a Kiwi businessman as Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff. Christopher Liddell, a former CFO of GM and Microsoft, is now just one firing away from being the US president’s right-hand man. It makes the Matamata-born émigré arguably one of the most prominent Kiwis in the international political arena, especially since former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark missed out on becoming UN secretary general in 2016. “There are New Zealand plants everywhere,” joked New Zealand’s current leader Jacinda Ardern, speaking to Monocle. She has been quick to play down the national significance of the appointment or any national ties; Liddell was educated in her central Auckland constituency of Mount Albert. Even so she does expect that the “particular” and “pragmatic” New Zealand way of thinking will have a positive impact on White House decision-making. Something the world would welcome.

Geopolitics

Image: Shutterstock

Breach of the peace

Austria’s proposal to award dual passports to some South Tyrol residents risks opening a wound that’s taken years to heal.

The issue of national identity in northern Italy’s autonomous region of South Tyrol (also known as Alto Adige) has been a sore subject since this mountainous province (formerly part of the Habsburg empire) was annexed by Italy after the First World War. Austria’s plans to award a double passport to the roughly 335,000 German and Ladin-speaking inhabitants in the region is at risk of reigniting political friction that took decades to assuage. Last week, Austrian minister of foreign affairs Karin Kneissl and interior minister Herbert Kickl met with the heads of South Tyrol’s autonomous assembly to discuss the idea – in the notable absence of a counterpart from the Italian central government. With regional elections approaching, South Tyrol’s regionalist party may ramp up the autonomist discourse even further: is a double passport worth the upset of such hard-won harmony?

Population

Growth spurt

The number of people living in New York has hit a new high, which explains why the subway’s so cramped.

The Big Apple has hit a new population record. Analysis of census data by the Department of City Planning has found that New York’s population climbed to 8.6 million last year – a 447,565 jump from 2010. The breakdown across the five boroughs also revealed that while the Bronx was the fastest growing with a 6.21 per cent increase, Brooklyn took in the most new residents with 144,071. Now you know why you can never find a seat on the train.

From Monocle 24

Image: Romain Staropoli

Mélissa Laveaux

Sessions

Canadian musician Mélissa Laveaux explores her Haitian roots in her new album ‘Radyo Siwèl’ – a collection of covers of old folk songs from her ancestral home. She plays from it in this week’s session.

From Monocle Films

Masters of glass

The small Venetian island of Murano has a grand glass-blowing reputation. In the glow of the furnaces, Monocle Films witnesses a new generation of designers at work.

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