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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 10 September 2018

Politics

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Diplomatic details

The US has a new ambassador to Poland and the Polish president is about to visit the White House. Busy start.

Georgette Mosbacher has formally taken up her duties as US ambassador to Poland after presenting her credentials to the president in Warsaw last week. The entrepreneur and Republican donor, who worked in the cosmetics industry, will seek to strengthen US-Poland security and business ties after a tricky few months, triggered by Poland’s controversial memory law on responsibility for the Holocaust that caused outrage in Israel. Her first task will be to prepare for Polish president Andrzej Duda’s first official visit to the White House, on 18 September. With Russia exuding greater malevolence on the global stage, Warsaw wants the US to establish permanent bases in Poland. However, the Pentagon is treading carefully on said issue so Mosbacher’s job, for the moment, will be to keep things cordial.

Culture

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Making a stand

That Helsinki Design Week is staged at the same time as comparable events in France says much for Finnish fortitude.

At this time of year, design-lovers are often torn between the Gallic allure of Masion & Objet and Paris Design Week, and the pared-back Scandinavian appeal of Helsinki Design Week. Launched in 2005, the latter is the largest design festival in the Nordic countries. The Finnish capital made headlines with the opening of the Amos Rex art museum at the end of last month; now it’s hoping to attract international attention to its designers. One of the week’s highlights is the Design Diplomacy discussion, which takes place across 13 ambassadors’ residences; this year the talks will feature Latvian architect Zaiga Gaile and Danish textile and print designer Cecilie Elisabeth Rudolph. But why schedule this important week at the same time as Paris? It should be taken as a sign of confidence and to be fair, the Nordic aesthetic’s appeal speaks for itself.

Military

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You and whose army?

A Russian military exercise involving China? We spy some none-too-subtle subtext.

Russia’s military exercise, which starts tomorrow, is not unprecedented: the country has two military-preparedness drills, with Zapad (“West”) taking place near the borders with Europe every four years and Vostok (“East”) taking place in Siberia (or thereabouts) the following year. Vostok-18 may be a little bigger than usual, however. According to Russia’s advance publicity, it will involve 300,000 Russian troops and, crucially, several thousand from China’s People’s Liberation Army, due to join exercises at the Tsugol training range in the Transbaikal region, north of Mongolia. The official line is that this will expand the potential for co-operation between the two militaries – but it’s hard not to see a message being sent to the US about the perils of antagonising Moscow and Beijing at the same time.

Disaster management

Bad neighbours

Puerto Rico is showing promising signs of recovery after last year’s Hurricane Maria – but no thanks to the White House.

The Trump administration was subject to widespread criticism for its lack of support for Puerto Rico in the wake of last year’s Hurricane Maria. The island has had to rely on its own means – and a few international partners – to recover. The latest project in its effort to rebuild has come in the shape of a bridge connecting an isolated rural community to the urban area of Arecibo, in the north of Puerto Rico. It was completed last week, with UK engineering firm Mabey working with Puerto Rican companies Viatek and Construcciones José Carro to complete the 58-metre-long bridge in just 19 days. Simple but effective efforts like Mabey’s, be it in terms of infrastructure or restabilising the island’s agriculture, are what’s needed right now. The White House should be taking notes.

From Monocle Films

Arizona’s date farms

The arid Yuma desert is home to a surprisingly plentiful crop. We meet the medjool-date technicians reaching for the skies in Arizona.

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