The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 12 April 2018

Technology

Ask a silly question

Mark Zuckerberg still needs to provide some answers – preferably after being quizzed by people who actually understand Facebook.

Ahead of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing, many were anticipating the famously awkward entrepreneur to unravel when faced with a grilling from 40-odd senators. But as the anodyne, Google-able questions shot across the billionaire’s bow yesterday, his confidence grew – along with his wealth. Zuckerberg’s poise in the inquiry saw Facebook stock recover by $20bn (€16bn) by end of day Tuesday, which means that his net worth increased by about $3bn (€2bn). It is clear that congress must change tack to ensure meaningful change from Facebook and there are burning questions which have yet to be addressed. “There was a clear lack of expertise in the line of questioning,” says Lucie Greene, author of Silicon States: The Power and Politics of Big Tech and What it Means for our Future. “This is part of an ongoing trend in state illiteracy when it comes to big tech.” It is clear that the complexity of the issue warrants further investigation by lawmakers who are conversant with big tech and its ramifications.

Aviation

Image: Alamy

Permission to expand

Two more airlines are taking off in Cambodia, adding to an already saturated market. A shrewd move or a flight of fancy?

How many airlines does one Southeast Asian country need? For Cambodia’s Civil Aviation Authority, the answer always seems to be: “more”. Seeing as it’s a country with a population of just 15.8 million, many aviation experts estimate that its current count of seven airlines is already too many. However, its is adding another two regardless, catering to the surging number of Chinese tourists travelling to and from the country. This makes sense when you consider that Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism has set itself the target of two million Chinese visitors in 2020. However, the introduction of more airlines is a risky move as they will have to pinch customers from chartered flights that are already ferrying Chinese in big tour groups. This is made more difficult as there is no limit on how many chartered flights Cambodia allows; by comparison, Thailand restricts charters to just 15 per cent of overall traffic. The new airlines had better hope that they can lure enough Chinese tourists to keep their businesses soaring.

Agriculture

Image: Getty Images

Fake out

Fraudsters run afoul of Japan as it looks to stem the flow of counterfeit food from China.

Counterfeit products have posed problems for fashion brands in recent years but now fakes are emerging in the global food and produce industry too. A report by Japan’s agriculture ministry has revealed that the proportion of counterfeit Japanese produce sold overseas increased four-fold in a single year. Between June 2017 and February 2018, the ministry scoured 82 online shopping sites outside Japan and found more than 650 examples of fraudulently labelled food. The culprits – mostly operating out of China – mis-sold counterfeit Kobe beef; Nishio tea, not grown in Nishio; and fake Ichida Gaki, a brand of dried persimmons that are produced only in Iida, Nagano Prefecture. Counterfeiters were found to be misappropriating the Geographical Indication kite-mark, which is normally used to assure a product’s provenance. Japan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ken Saito, declared that the response will be reviewed “case-by-case” but, with no larger strategy to halt the flow of fakes, people will have to more closely scrutinise their comestibles.

Design

Fair trade

As Milan gears up for Salone del Mobile, let Monocle’s Design Week newspaper be your guide.

New furniture from across the globe will find its way to Milan this week as preparation for the world’s biggest design event Salone del Mobile steams ahead. In an increasingly competitive sector, furniture brands are fighting for ways to differentiate themselves at Milan Design Week, which kicks off on Monday. The best way to get noticed this year might be to not attend the event’s main fair at all. Italian furniture-maker Cassina is one brand that has opted out of the competitor-filled melee, exhibiting new designs in its showroom in the city centre instead. The changing nature of Milan Design Week is examined in the inaugural Monocle Salone Weekly, printed in Bolzano and on sale today. Pick up a chunky print analysis of the design and manufacturing sector and study the soft power that countries win by putting creativity at the top of their agenda.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

David Basulto of ‘ArchDaily’

Monocle on Design

The Chilean architect behind the world’s most-visited architecture site weighs in on the new generation of Latin American talent.

From Monocle Films

Son of a beach: Miami’s art scene

Miami was all washed-up but then a new breed of art galleries and a boatload of art collections sailed in, aided by the fair winds of Art Basel Miami and the lure of the tropics. Monocle’s Culture editor finds out how this big, bad city turned into a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed art town.

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