The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 31 July 2018

Affairs

Image: Getty Images

Hopes crashed

As a government report offers few answers, the wait goes on for those looking for closure on flight MH370.

Yesterday friends and relatives of those on board the missing flight MH370 waited for answers on just what happened to the plane that set off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014. The disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight has been one of the most mysterious stories of the decade – and it seems that it will remain so. The findings of a report carried out by the Malaysian government concluded that the Boeing-777 was manually turned around in the air, rather than being controlled by the autopilot as previously thought. It also disproved the theories that the plane was brought down by the pilots and that it was subject to a mechanical fault. However, it did not rule out “third-party” interference. While the report was previously heralded as the final phase of investigation, the search for answers – and the plane itself – is likely to go on.

Business

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Cash withdrawal

Famously fussy German banks are finally giving customers more payment options. But will cash-lovers pay attention?

As anyone who has lived in Germany can confirm, banking in the country can be a cumbersome affair. German banks only allow customers to use their ATMs for free. Instead they charge a fee for the privilege. However, German banks are attempting to streamline their services. As of yesterday customers of the Sparkasse savings banks can pay using their smartphones (provided their device is capable of near-field communication, or NFC). Germany’s personal-finance sector is rapidly shifting – Google Pay launched here about a month ago and in August two more financial institutions will follow Sparkasse’s lead. Are customers ready for this in Germany, where cash is still king?

Society

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Sun trap

With Japan assailed by record-breaking heat, men are reaching for protection that might leave them open to ridicule.

Parasol sales in Japan more than doubled in July, fuelled by the country’s recent record-breaking heatwave. An unlikely byproduct of the boom in sun-umbrella sales has been a re-evaluation of the phrase higasa danshi, loosely translated as “parasol man”. The expression has derogatory connotations in Japan; a long-standing jab at the male umbrella-holder’s masculinity, in a country where parasols are traditionally used by women. But as more men have resorted to using parasols this summer (many of whom, according to news reports, have asked wives or female family members to make the purchase on their behalves) the debate around the notion of the parasol man has been reignited. Last year, Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, established a committee to break the stigma of parasol use, to little effect. But with unprecedented temperatures likely to continue in Japan, the best advice is  to embrace the umbrella regardless of how uncool the crowds think it is.

Transport

Image: Getty Images

Supply and demand

Australia’s largest city has been helping lesser-serviced citizens get around with an on-demand bus service. Has it caught on?

Sydney’s blue on-demand buses have been traversing the city in 11 trial areas since they were given the greenlight late last year. The on-demand vehicles are smaller than their standard counterparts and aim to shuttle passengers between areas in which public transport is least accessible. With the swipe of the finger, customers can hail buses via Sydney-based ride-sharing apps such as Bridj or Liftango – and for a lower fare than a taxi or a car-hailing app might cost. Some areas have seen more success than others: services in the eastern suburbs and the northern beaches have picked up about 800 people per week, whereas in Wetherill Park only 30 weekly trips have been made. The pilot scheme is costing the government AUS$7m (€4.4m), partly because smaller buses mean more vehicles and more drivers. An expensive endeavour, perhaps, but with 78,000 trips having been made so far, it marks no small victory on the road to smarter public transit in Australia’s largest city.

From Monocle 24

‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’

The Culture Show

Tom Edwards is joined in the studio by the film critic Anna Smith, deputy music editor of ‘The Guardian’ Laura Snapes and Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco to discuss why the sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’ is the shot of unabashed musical escapism that everyone needs right now.

From Monocle Films

Masters of glass

The small Venetian island of Murano has a grand glass-blowing reputation. In the glow of the furnaces, Monocle Films witnesses a new generation of designers at work.

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