The Monocle Minute

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

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Listen to your heart

Canada’s trade deal with Saudi Arabia has left the PM between a rock and a hard place.

Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record has never been sparkling, but it took a further plunge this autumn with its ongoing war against Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Canada, in response, is considering axing a CA$15bn (€9.8bn) deal to supply Riyadh with Canadian-made light-armoured vehicles. But doing so would result in billions of dollars in penalties and come at the cost of about 1,850 Canadian jobs. With General Motors having announced 3,000 layoffs in Canada in November, Canadians are anxious about the future of manufacturing and the last thing prime minister Justin Trudeau needs before the 2019 election is more job losses; however, at least come election season he’ll have a consistent human-rights record to lean on.

Defence

Image: Shutterstock

Staking a claim

Russia’s announcement that it will build barracks on islands once owned by Japan has opened old wounds.

It is often overlooked but, technically, Japan and Russia are still at war. When Japan surrendered to allied forces in 1945, signalling the end of the Second World War, Russia retained control of the formerly Japanese Kuril Islands in the Sea of Okhotsk. Japan was unimpressed and so a peace treaty was never signed. In the years since, the islands have been the subject of a niggling dispute in an otherwise improving relationship. This week the spat flared up again after Russia announced the building of four new barracks on the islands. “This move majorly undermines diplomatic balance,” says Dr Alessio Patalano from the department of war studies at King’s College London. “This new action makes it much more complicated to move forward on the previously agreed aim: to eventually sign a peace treaty.” So the war goes on.

F&B

Image: Getty Images

Moo-ve with the times

With Trump having cheesed off its export markets, the US dairy industry needs to butter up new customers.

Perfectly square, cartoon-yellow cheese slices are a signature of US-style food but their appeal is waning as younger people turn to small-batch artisanal produce. However, the domestic dairy industry doesn’t seem to have got the memo. More than six million kilogrammes of cheese (US-produced cheddar in particular) are reported to be sitting in warehouses across the country. And it isn’t just millennials who are causing the glut: the industry used to export its uniquely American cheese to China and Mexico but president Trump’s trade antics have meant a drop in demand. The resolution? A departure from mass-produced processed cheese and a product that better suits today’s tastes.

Society

Image: Getty Images

Christmas crackdown

Following a tightening of rules, residents in a Chinese city have been told that all outward signs of Christmas celebrations have been banned.

There are plenty of reasons to be irked by the arrival of the festive season. The rampant consumerism, the ceaseless playing of Christmas hits and the family incarceration that the day itself presents. But it appears that no one enjoys the prospect of Christmas less than a local authority in the Chinese town of Langfang in Hebei Province south of Beijing, which has decreed that any festive acts shall be punished. The authorities released a statement saying that decorations and the selling of Christmas-related goods would be banned to maintain stability. The recent crackdown on unsanctioned Christian worship in China signals a worrying sign that Xi Jinping’s resolutely atheist government is further eroding freedom of expression in the country.

From Monocle 24

Image: Arman Dz / Flickr

The 1984 Sarajevo Games

The Urbanist: Tall Stories

With civil war destroying much of what was built for the Games, this city’s Olympic legacy is a particularly poignant one. We reflect on the design achievements that were lost – and celebrate those that survived.

From Monocle Films

The Monocle Guide to Building Better Cities

Sometimes all you need to make a better city is some humanity, a sense of scale and keen citizens. Tune into this visual manifesto, which celebrates our latest book release.

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