Friday. 8/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Look north

In 2018, 76 people were killed in knife-related attacks in London. In the year to the end of September, there were 42,957 knife offences in the UK. In the first two months of 2019, 10 more people have lost their lives to knife attacks on Britain’s streets. The most recent additions to the list of those killed are Jodie Chesney, a 17-year-old who was stabbed in the back while sitting on a park bench, and Yousef Makki, a talented student.

The response of authorities – until now – has been patchy at best. Sometimes this has been because the victims have been seen as sharing some responsibility: young black men whose lives touched a gang culture. But suddenly the latest deaths – a girl, a student – seem to have triggered a reaction from a government associated with police funding cuts.

This is good but unravelling knife culture will take more than police on the beat. From education to urbanism, everything needs to be tested and investigated. Scotland has set a fine example: in Glasgow, the creation of a Violence Reduction Unit addressed the root causes of knife crime – including the failure to find work. In 2005 the country had 137 murders, today that’s down to 59 a year. High, but it shows that policing and outreach work have a long-term impact. Now it’s time for England’s cities and slow-off-the-mark politicians to take heed of Scotland’s solution.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Party on

SXSW, Austin’s treasured music, media and technology festival, which starts today, can add another feather to its cap: it’s become an essential stop on the political campaign trail. While former president Barack Obama took to the SXSW stage in 2016, this year more than half the 2020 Democratic leadership hopefuls – from senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar to South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg – are set to speak at a newly unveiled two-day SXSW event called “Conversations about America’s Future”. A documentary about Beto O’Rourke’s ultimately unsuccessful senate bid is set to premiere at the festival too. Whether the popular Texas politician might use the opportunity to announce a long-rumoured run at the Democratic nomination is anyone’s guess.

Image: Alamy

Society / Zürich

Open season

A motion put forward in Zürich by an alliance of the left-wing SP and the liberal FDP is asking for a trial run on extended opening hours during the summer. Rigid rules currently restrict cafés and bars from serving late on summer nights; most establishments close their terraces and gardens at 22.00 to avoid fines and noise complaints, and only a handful are allowed to stay open until midnight. The proposal seeks to allow businesses to extend opening hours during June to August. Thanks to backing by most parties, the motion is set to pass, meaning Zürich can hope for Mediterranean alfresco summer nights sipping Quöllfrisch until 02.00. And what about the disgruntled neighbours? As a representative of Zürich’s bar and club association explained to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, people outside a bar tend to behave better than those wandering around the streets with a can after-hours.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / Japan

Short order

Seven-Eleven Japan, the largest of the country’s convenience-store operators, is about to experiment with shorter hours for the first time in more than four decades. Starting next week, 10 of Seven-Eleven’s 20,700 conbini will open at 07.00 and close at 23.00, instead of staying open 24 hours, as the company considers whether to relax its round-the-clock policy. The trial reflects a reality of the country’s shrinking labour market: franchisees have struggled to find enough workers to keep shops open through the graveyard shift. The experiment also marks something of an about-face for Seven-Eleven, after weeks of insisting that franchisees’ demands for shorter hours would disrupt deliveries to restock shelves and other logistics. Some late-night customers won’t be happy but most people aren’t likely to even notice the slight inconvenience.

Image: Thomas Meyer

Transport / Berlin

Enjoy the ride

Berliners have long had to deal with the city’s grungy U-Bahn carriages replete with faded, retro-patterned PVC seating and graffiti-spattered windows. But this is all set to change: the city’s senate has announced plans to drastically expand and improve the public-transport system. A planned investment of at least €28bn between now and 2035 will be used to buy new trains, as well as constructing new lines and regenerating existing ones. Of this sum, €1.4bn has been earmarked to replace the city’s fleet of buses with fully electric models. These plans constitute one of the most significant investments in public transport in a European city in some time: London’s Crossrail project, which had an initial budget of €20bn, pales in comparison; and the Grand Paris Express, a vast expansion of the city’s metro system set to open in 2030, should also come in at about €28bn.

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