The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 9 November 2018

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Pow-wow with permutations

As Chinese and American delegates sit down for a conflab, what is Donald Trump’s agenda?

Today senior government figures from the US and China assemble in Washington for talks that many hope will be the first step to a rapprochement between the two superpowers. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Jim Mattis will meet Yang Jiechi, a key member of the Chinese politburo, and Wei Fenghe, China’s defence minister. According to Leslie Vinjamuri, head of the US and the America’s programme at Chatham House, the timing of the summit is telling. “Tuesday’s midterm elections results will drive Trump to focus intensely on scoring a foreign-policy success,” she says. “Whether he succeeds or not, it will deflect from renewed domestic focus on investigating him.”

Society

Image: Alamy

Something to talk about

A new translation app in Japan makes one thing very easy to understand: the country’s language education is lacking.

With Japan’s parliament debating legislation that would let in more workers from overseas, the government faces a problem: how to deal with a growing number of new residents who don’t speak Japanese. Given the scarcity of polyglots in public office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is betting on technology. The ministry is launching VoiceTra, an app for mobile phones, making the service available to all public servants from next April. The app, which has been developed by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, allows government bureaucrats, police officers, firefighters, doctors and tourism officials to speak into a mobile phone and have Japanese instantly translated into 14 languages. Coming a year before the Tokyo Olympics, it’s well timed. But it doesn’t address a more fundamental problem: the country’s schools spend years teaching the English language without much to show for it.

Aviation

Image: Getty Images

Clear skies ahead

A more open approach from Ethiopia is proving to be of direct benefit to its national flag-carrier.

Earlier this year, Ethiopia instigated a reconciliation with Eritrea, its northern neighbour. Now its ruling government, led by reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed, appears to be extending its sociable principles to the rest of the continent. A recent change means any African citizen can touch down at Addis Ababa airport and receive a visa on arrival, making it much easier for visitors. It’s good news for the country’s national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which is likely to see a big commercial boost from the lifting of visa restrictions. In the past 30 years the airline has significantly increased its passenger numbers by dodging the cronyism and scandals that have inhibited the growth of other carriers on the continent. It pays, then, to be a good neighbour.

Urbanism

Image: Alamy

Brick by brick

Canada is laying foundations as the world endeavours to reimagine cities with a future focus.

There are 500 urban thinkers in Toronto today for the final day of the inaugural Future Cities Canada Summit. The three-day event is Canada’s inaugural effort to bring both private and public-sector leaders together – from Amsterdam’s chief technology officer to Sidewalk Lab’s head of urban systems – to address the challenges facing cities, namely climate change, inequality and the role of technology. Sidewalk Lab’s plan to build Toronto’s “neighbourhood of the future”, filled with innovative technology, has stoked privacy concerns, while Vancouver is plagued with an ongoing housing crisis. It feels like Canadian cities, similar to their global counterparts, are facing a pivotal moment. That means well-articulated discussion is needed if urban centres are to navigate the future safely and equitably – and it’s good to know that the conversation has begun.

From Monocle 24

The big Apple

Monocle on Design: Extra

Steve Jobs once said ‘Design is how it works’ – and it was a mantra that became a cornerstone in the success of iPhone. This week, as Apple launches its new iPad Pro (the latest in a long line of recent releases), we look back at some of the design features that introduced touchscreens, among many other technological advancements.

From Monocle Films

San Francisco: The Monocle Travel Guide

This energetic city perched on its Pacific peninsula still serves a healthy dose of Californian cool. Monocle’s travel guide will help you navigate its precipitous slopes and go from forward-thinking retailers to the cosiest coffee shops.

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