The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 22 November 2018

Security

Image: Getty Images

Great space race

President Trump is championing a new force to protect US interests in space – but is it really necessary?

President Donald Trump is still adamant that he wants the US to assemble a “Space Force”. Although the name of the division could be lifted straight from a bad B-movie, it might not be as strange as it sounds. For one, US-China competition is currently playing out above the Earth’s atmosphere with the recent launch of China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System constellation. It’s a rival to the US’s Global Positioning System and is expected to be active by 2020. Trump’s calls for a space police force also received a recent boost. A new independent study from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies has said that the initiative could cost $2.7bn (€2.4bn) in new spending over five years, significantly less than a $13bn Pentagon estimate. With nothing expected to be ready until at least 2020 though, we may have to wait and see if this otherworldly plan launches successfully.

Politics

Image: Shutterstock

Pedal to the metal

It’s full speed ahead for the forthcoming ascension of Japan’s emperor-in-waiting – and a new fuel-efficient car that will be used in the parade.

The official car for Japan’s emperor-in-waiting has sped into focus as plans for Crown Prince Naruhito’s ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne continue. Shinzo Abe’s government has ditched the Rolls Royce used for retiring emperor Akihito’s public parade and opted instead for a new fuel-efficient custom convertible made in Japan. It will be a branding coup for the as-yet-unnamed manufacturer – thought to be Toyota. And it will be a timely boost for the country’s motor industry, which was rocked earlier this week by the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the Brazilian-born head of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Whoever the maker, the move to a more sustainable vehicle is a welcome change of gear for the Japanese monarchy.

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Come one, come all

Cuba and Spain are embarking on trade talks – will more EU countries join the conversation?

Today Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez kicks off a two-day trip to Cuba; he’s the first Spanish leader to pay an official visit to the country in more than 30 years. It shows a rapprochement between Cuba and the EU following a landmark co-operation deal that took effect last year. Spain has an eye on infrastructure, energy and tourism opportunities on the Caribbean island but there is more at stake for Cuba. In fact its relationship with Europe has become crucial: dialogue with Washington went quiet after the election of President Trump; relations with Brazil were recently severed; and Venezuela, the island’s top trading partner, is facing a crisis-crippled economy. Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel will have high hopes that handshakes exchanged with the Spanish will encourage more European leaders to follow suit.

Architecture

Image: Leonardo Finotti

Valuable lesson

Aleph Zero’s modest timber school in rural Brazil is a worthy recipient of Riba’s International Prize.

It’s impossible to please everyone when choosing the “world’s best” building but the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) picked wisely by awarding this year’s International Prize to a beautiful timber boarding school in rural Brazil that eschews air conditioning in favour of natural ventilation. Monocle caught up with architects Aleph Zero on the eve of yesterday’s announcement. The firm’s co-director Gustavo Utrabo says that the prize for his practice and collaborators Rosenbaum “means a huge amount in the context of Brazilian architecture” because the country’s rural structures – and younger architects – rarely receive international acclaim. The award raises the point that the smart, low-impact architecture embodied by the modest timber building is something all architects can learn from – no matter where it is used.

From Monocle 24

Cookson Adventures

The Entrepreneurs

After leaving the world of finance, Henry Cookson became a record-setting polar explorer, and has since built a multi-million-dollar business, Cookson Adventures, specialising in bespoke journeys for clients. Many of the trips are considered “world-first” experiences, including the first commercial submersible dive in Antarctica.

From Monocle Films

Helsinki: The Monocle Travel Guide

Saunas are at the heart of Finnish culture. To celebrate the launch of our latest book, Monocle Films selects the hottest places to work up a sweat.

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