The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 24 April 2018

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Flattery gets you nowhere

Both Macron and Merkel will be hoping to sweet talk Donald Trump this week over the Iran nuclear deal but he’s unlikely to budge.

Europe is on a transatlantic charm offensive this week. French president Emmanuel Macron was welcomed by president Donald Trump yesterday and before the end of the week Germany’s Angela Merkel will be hosted in Washington too. Top of the agenda is the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump has intimated he will withdraw support; Germany and France, two of the agreement’s other signatories, hope to convince him that co-operation in global affairs is essential. It’s unlikely to work. Even though Macron displayed his ability to massage Trump’s ego when he rolled out the red carpet for him in Paris last year, the US president has brought in a strident unilateralist (in the form of John Bolton) as his national security adviser. It’s a signal that he wants no further barriers to acting alone in matters of foreign policy. Listen to our discussion with expert Paul Rogers on yesterday’s episode of The Briefing for more analysis.

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

In your hands

Hongkongers are getting a say over development in their city (which means they’ll have no right to complain once the building starts).

The local government in Hong Kong is to involve residents in tricky decisions on where to develop new properties. With space at a premium the city is running out of options when it comes to building new homes, hospitals, green spaces and columbaria to house cremated remains in urns. To diplomatically solve the problem a public consultation lasting for five months will allow residents to pick from a list of 17 proposed places, including disused farmland, a golf course, a container port and some sites that encroach on some of the city’s parks. Once the votes are in, a decision will be made on where it is best – or least controversial – to build. This is an empowering step in allowing the public to have an active voice in how the city will evolve but the more cynical might also add that it is a savvy political move from chief executive Carrie Lam, who can use the process as insurance against any complaints.

Economy

Image: Alamy

Safe as houses

Wealthy Russians are moving their money back home. Is it a sign patriotism or an effort to escape sanctions?

Russian wealth is coming home. In recent years, the country’s uber-rich have been buying up property in some of the West’s most prestigious postcodes but, according to new figures, a slew of money and real-estate investments have been returning to Moscow. Analysis by Russian paper Kommersant shows that the ratio between how much Russians spend abroad and at home is shifting in favour of their home country. In 2013, Russians spent $2.1bn (€1.7bn) on foreign properties and $196m (€160.5m) on domestic ones. By the end of last year, it was just $1bn (€818.4m) on foreign properties and an increase to $265m (€217m) on Russian real estate. It is likely that the return of capital to Russia is a precautionary measure. Those who found wealth under the rule of Vladimir Putin may be trying to prevent its seizure following signs of sanctions from the US, as well as the US Treasury’s naming of individuals who have close ties to the Kremlin.

Society

Image: Getty Images

Production yield

The Tokyo Metro has introduced smart spaces in which commuters can get productive.

Getting work done outside the office isn’t as easy as some would have you believe. Smart devices, 3G networks and plug-socket proliferation are helpful but they don’t do much to mitigate the distractions of a noisy coffee shop, the temptations of working in a bar or the self-consciousness you feel while publicly tapping away at a keyboard. In Japan, leading office-equipment company Fuji Xerox and Tokyo Metro appear to have come up with a small-scale solution for these frustrations in the shape of their In-Station Offices. The miniscule cubicles are designed for nomad workers to snatch moments of productivity between trains. The neat air-conditioned booths are designed for one person and are equipped with a monitor, desk and ergonomic chair, as well as wi-fi and power points. Commuters use an app to book in advance and are then free to work until their train pulls in.

From Monocle 24

Image: Russell Shakespeare

Eddie Ayres

Meet the Writers

Ayres was widely known in Australia as Emma, a celebrated radio presenter. Unhappy in his own body, he gave it all up to travel to Afghanistan and teach music in a school. However an incident there led him to return to Australia and begin his transition from female to male. He tells Georgina Godwin that story.

From Monocle Films

The secret to running a restaurant

In our latest edition of The Experts, Niklas Ekstedt opens up his acclaimed eatery – Ekstedt – and divulges some insightful tips on how to run a successful restaurant.

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