The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 3 April 2018

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Baltic buddies

The White House is holding talks with eastern European leaders today – and their ‘unpredictable’ neighbour is bound to be top of the agenda.

When US vice-president Mike Pence visited the Baltic region in July 2017, he was unambiguous about the main reason for the trip. “No threat looms larger in the Baltic states,” he said, “than the spectre of aggression from your unpredictable neighbour to the east.” Russia will again be one of the central topics today, as president Donald Trump hosts the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the White House. According to a statement, the summit will focus on “security, business, trade, energy and cultural partnerships” but undoubtedly front and centre will be the shape of future relations with Russia after Vladimir Putin’s resounding – and wholly unsurprising – election win a fortnight ago. Nato is looking stronger than when Trump entered office but Putin is no more predictable now than he was last summer.

Gender

Image: Alamy

Salary for her

The deadline for UK firms to reveal their gender-pay-gap data is looming and the results are expected to be shameful.

This week is the final deadline for companies in the UK with 250 or more employees to report exact figures when it comes to their gender pay gaps. Companies that fail – or refuse – to publish their figures could face fines. The results aren’t expected to be pretty: more than three quarters of the companies who’ve already reported have admitted to paying men more than women. But while many companies have dragged their feet when it comes to reporting, likely worrying that copping to a gender pay gap will be bad for business, the sheer number of firms paying women less than men has had a cushioning effect when it comes to PR backlash. After all, if everyone’s doing it, no one looks like an outright villain. Though a few outliers have been singled out for criticism – including the BBC – many have managed to fly under the radar.

Film

Image: Getty Images

Camera, action

Greek officials call “cut” on red tape in an attempt to lure film-makers to the country.

In the opening scenes of the 2016 film Jason Bourne – part of the Bourne series starring Matt Damon – angry Greek citizens are seen protesting in front of parliament in Athens. But the scenes were shot in a film studio in Tenerife; Greece’s lack of financial incentives for film producers and its notorious red tape has meant that the country hasn’t had much appeal for the film industry. But a new initiative could see a change of scene: the Greek government has earmarked €75m to support audiovisual productions and vowed that productions will be approved within 45 days of the application date. Hurdles remain when it comes to filming in archaeological sites (South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s request to shoot his new BBC series around Sounion temple was rejected earlier this week) but we may yet see more film crews in Greece.

Business

Food shopping

How will Bangkok’s suburban food trucks fare against their powerful new competitor?

Food trucks often bring to mind modish businesses that serve the latest food fads. But in Bangkok they offer a more humble service: crossing housing estates selling vegetables and meat door-to-door. Known as pumpuang trucks, they’re often used by Thai farmers to earn income between harvests. But now these small-fry vendors are facing some big competition as Big C, Thailand’s second-largest hypermarket giant, pilots its new prototype. Mini Big C, its own lime-green version of the pumpuang emblazoned with its logo, has sparked outrage, with many fearing that it will drive small independent vendors out of the city. Though analysts have been expecting to see a shake-up in the industry for some time as younger, entrepreneurial ventures seize opportunities, the initial furore is still an affirming nod to the future of these mom-and-pop shops, whose owners develop deep, personal bonds with their neighbourhoods and customers.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

London’s National Theatre

The Urbanist: Tall Stories

Our editor Andrew Tuck takes us to London’s National Theatre, a brutalist wonder built by the architect Sir Denys Lasdun.

From Monocle Films

Australia’s roadhouses

The roadhouses along the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia are vital, serviceable sanctuaries for the truck drivers who frequent them. Monocle Films hits the road to meet the characters who rely on these outback pit-stops.

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