Tuesday 1 May 2018 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 1/5/2018

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images


Running interference

Armenia’s parliament is set to elect a new prime minister today following weeks of civil unrest, with outsider candidate Nikol Pashinyan likely to secure office. Russia, rather than its usual form of meddling in the politics of a former Soviet bloc, has remained on the sidelines allowing the cards to fall as they may. So why the leisurely approach? The answer is that Armenia is dependent on Russia irrespective of who is in charge. Armenia is short on friends in the area – surrounded by hostile powers Turkey and Azerbaijan – and is economically dependent on its northern neighbour. “Armenia has fewer choices than other former Soviet republics so Russia is inclined to a hands-off attitude,” says Chatham House think-tank member Mary Dejevsky. Although Pashinyan won’t be looking to readdress Armenia’s relationship with Russia anytime soon, it is likely that the country will want to forge ahead with fewer ties to Soviet-era geopolitics.

Image: Getty Images


Wangling it

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi packs his bags for Pyongyang this week as Beijing looks to secure its front-row seat at the rapidly evolving Korean denuclearisation talks. His visit to North Korea follows in the footsteps of his US counterpart Mike Pompeo and will be an early test of China’s enhanced focus on diplomacy. Wang has been an increasingly visible frontman on the international stage since a promotion in March. Last month he met with the Russian president and the Japanese prime minister – a far cry from his first term as foreign minister, where foreign meetings were few and far between. Coming off the back of last week’s surprise bilateral meeting with India, the Pyongyang trip is also a measure of Beijing’s efforts to build up its international influence and diplomatic clout beyond its hard-edged economic and military power. Given that the US has already given up its leadership on global trade and the environment, president Xi Jinping might see a weakened state department under Donald Trump as ripe for the taking.

Image: Getty Images


Keys to the kingdom

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will soon have its own version of the Magic Kingdom. That’s according to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who broke ground over the weekend on an enormous new entertainment resort, set to be more than twice the size of Florida’s Disney World. Qiddiya, which is about an hour’s drive from the capital, Riyadh, is the latest move in an initiative to liberalise the economy, boost tourism and prepare the country for a post-oil era. The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund will be the biggest investor in the project, which will include cultural, sport and recreational facilities, including a Six Flags amusement park. The initiative to turn Saudi Arabia into an entertainment and tourism hub isn’t without its difficulties. The constraints of a strict social code may discourage some travellers and the government’s lamentable human-rights record might also turn off potential investors.

Image: Getty Images


Sick as a dog

The anti-vaccine movement – which raises unsubstantiated concerns about immunisation against measles, polio and the like – is often associated with twitchy parents and oddball personalities such as Jim Carrey and the US president. But now it would appear that some dog owners are avoiding inoculating pets for fear that their hairy charges may develop autism as a side effect. The spreading concern, stoked by discussion on UK television, prompted the British Veterinary Association to unfurl a definitive statement: dogs cannot get autism. The spread of the anti-vaccine movement is worrying; it has gathered such momentum that the World Health Organisation recently warned that measles is making a comeback in Europe, citing a sudden spike in cases last year. Dog owners need to show that they are more capable of rational thought than some parents and safeguard their canine friends.

Image: Alamy

Sea Point Pavilion

More than two decades since the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the city of Cape Town still struggles with a unique form of urban segregation. There is one space, however, where people of all backgrounds regularly come together to breathe in the salty Atlantic air and enjoy a day by the sea.

Monocle Films / Global

New-generation animators

Mike Mills explains how he spun recollections from his childhood into his new film, ‘20th Century Women’, starring Annette Bening. Plus: ‘Thumbsucker’ author Walter Kirn and we write a letter of appreciation to Ferris Bueller’s sidelined sister.


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