The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 4 May 2018

Election

Image: Getty Images

Idiot box

A record number of women are standing in Lebanon’s elections – but you wouldn’t know it if you turned on the TV.

Lebanon heads to the polls on Sunday for its first general election in nearly a decade. Constitutionally the country is supposed to vote every four years but Lebanon’s democracy has been thwarted by crises such as the Syrian civil war and prime minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation – then swift return – last year. Now there are reasons to be optimistic, not just because a general election is happening but also because a record number of women are standing for office: 86 will compete for Lebanon’s 128 seats. The country seems to be making tentative steps towards adequate gender representation but a study by Mahara, a civil society group monitoring the vote, shows that television coverage of elections rarely centres on female candidates. We’ll find out if the electorate is keener for female voices in Lebanese politics than the country’s broadcasters at the weekend.

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Trade blows

China and the US are going toe to toe over tariffs: will either country back down?

It’s a showdown of titanic proportions. Finally, the world’s two largest economies are duking it out to resolve – or reignite – trade tensions. US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has sat down with Chinese officials for a wrestle over trade and tariffs. The two-day talks in Beijing conclude today and neither side will want to be seen to buckle first: Donald Trump’s threat of $50bn (€42bn) in tariffs have been countered by China’s list of punitive restrictions on US exports. As Trump watches from Washington he may realise that he’s picked too many fights at once: Europe is also standing its ground with its own retaliatory measures and the Republican party will not want a trade war with the US’s two largest export markets, especially before midterm elections in November.

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

Feeling the heat

Japan is endeavouring to reduce carbon emissions this summer but is it really hot enough on renewable energy?

This week Japan kicked off its annual (and kitschly named) Cool Biz campaign, which urges citizens to use less energy during the summer months. Along with the usual recommendations to keep the air-conditioning at 28C and forgo ties and jackets at the office, the Environment Ministry has a new idea this year: Cool Share. The theory is that gathering in one air-conditioned room – a living room at home or a public library – rather than trying to keep cool in separate spaces puts less stress on the electricity grid. The government launched Cool Biz in 2005 as part of a broader effort to curb carbon emissions and it’s spurred innovation in the form of lightweight suits made of hi-tech material, and more energy-efficient homes. Yet with only seven of 42 nuclear reactors switched back on since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, and renewable energy’s contribution still minuscule, there’s still a long way to go.

Society

Working out the mechanics

Nolan Giles, Monocle’s Design editor, is in Belgium talking about robots. Here’s why.

The city of Leuven, with its quaint Belgian architecture, might not seem the most obvious spot for a global gathering of futurists. Nonetheless, luminaries from the fields of design, science and urbanism have converged in the town for the inaugural and conference. Visionary thinkers from designer Stefan Sagmeister to science-fiction artist Lucy McRae have taken to the stage to debate the future of society. With minds set firmly on what’s to come, some talks yesterday took a rather dystopian turn: Hiroshi Ishiguro, famous for his life-like androids, discussed how robot societies in a hyper-ageing Japan could combat human loneliness by becoming companions. Other conversations proffered more immediate solutions to societal woes: architect Shigeru Ban led a talk on how design can improve city life, under the theme “We are still human after all”. Lest we forget.

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Is Taiwan running out of friends?

The Foreign Desk: Explainer

When the Dominican Republic announced this week that it was establishing diplomatic ties with China, Taiwan lost yet another ally. However, most countries made the switch in 1971, so what has taken the Dominican Republic so long and, as Andrew Mueller explains, what’s in it for those that still side with China’s little brother?

From Monocle Films

The secret to buying a painting

In the latest episode of our ‘Secret to...’ series, Alexander Gilkes, co-founder of online auction house Paddle8, unveils the alchemy that surrounds the world of collecting art.

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