The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 19 September 2018

Economy

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Eat your words

The president’s reaction to Venezuela’s food shortages? Let us eat steak.

While more than two million citizens continue to flee Venezuela and recent studies reveal that nine in 10 adults are living in poverty, the country’s president Nicolás Maduro splurges on expensive rib-eye steak and smokes Cuban cigars in Istanbul. In the latest update from the South American state, Maduro has sparked rancour after videos of him dining at luxury steakhouse Nusr-Et, owned by internet-famous butcher Nusret Gokce (AKA Salt-Bae), were shared online by the chef. And this isn’t the first time: on a live TV address last year, Maduro snuck bites from an empanada that he pulled from a desk drawer, causing consternation in a country where supermarket shelves are largely empty and the economy is in freefall. The president’s habit of gorging in public does little to inspire confidence in the leader’s capabilities.

Investment

Image: Getty Images

A cut above

Well-heeled investors continue to buoy up the gem market in Asia.

Asia remains the strongest market for gems. The record $82bn sales of diamonds last year were mostly fuelled by wealthy individuals who will continue to be a dominant force in the global high-end jewellery market, a recent Lifestyle Index from Swiss bank Julius Bär has found. “Asian investors tend to be more open to having 5 to 10 per cent of alternative assets, such as rare stones and designer jewellery, in their investment portfolio,” says Pearlyn Wong, executive director of the investment research team at Julius Bär. But being a collector in China isn’t that easy, with Shanghai coming in as the most expensive city to buy high-end bling (from the Swiss bank’s list of 11 cities in Asia). “That’s why more well-heeled clients do their shopping at auctions in Hong Kong – not just to avoid the high import tariffs in China but also for more rare and exclusive gems,” says Wong.

Politics

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Tit for tat

Granting Austrian citizenship to German-speaking South Tyroleans has upped the ante between Rome and Vienna.

Italy’s northern region of South Tyrol, with its ragged peaks, is providing a suitably dramatic backdrop for tensions between two of the continent’s political heavyweights: Italy and Austria. Italy is irked (to the extent that its foreign minister has cancelled a forthcoming bilateral meeting) by its northern neighbour’s decision to move ahead with the decision to grant citizenship to the region’s inhabitants, 62 per cent of whom speak German. Italy has managed to cite the Austrian gesture as an act of revenge for recent celebrations marking the anniversary of the First World War, which goes to the heart of the sensitivities: the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918. Whether the decision has got to do with the centenary or not, it is an idea that has reopened old wounds.

Technology

Data turned off

Punkt’s latest stripped-back offering isn’t a smartphone – but it is a smart phone.

We’re inundated by notifications and noise thanks to the mobile technology that we cart around in our pockets, while smartphones with ever-increasing computing power are being designed to further monopolise our attention. Swiss firm Punkt hopes its just-out Jasper Morrison-designed MP02 handset will limit how distracted we are by offering a simpler life. The device foregoes the frills (you use it simply to call or text) to help wean users off anxiety-inducing beeps and buzzes. But will a younger generation of tech-loving consumers get on board? “Well, it was two people of 19 and 20 who suggested turning the original house phone into a mobile in the first place,” said founder Petter Neby, speaking on Monday at a Monocle event in London to mark the launch.

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Poznan, Old Town

The Menu: Food Neighbourhoods

Anna Siwecka tours the Polish city of Poznan – still under the tourist radar but full of culinary discoveries to be made.

From Monocle Films

São Paulo: building better cities

Brazil’s business capital has reinvented its city centre through clever urbanism. We meet the architects, gallery owners and transport visionaries powering this change.

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