Wednesday. 27/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Clean up your act

On paper, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi’s proposal to ban single-use plastics in her city is a good idea – and good PR (see below). We’re all for city officials who want to improve their environment but Raggi’s enthusiasm needs to be measured against her track record in dealing with the Italian capital’s rubbish problem (and other equally basic civic issues).

Since she was elected two-and-a-half years ago, Raggi has consistently been criticised for failing to rid Rome of its overflowing bins. Conditions have even worsened. Potholes are multiplying on the streets, parks are poorly looked after and the public-transport system is on the brink of breaking down. A number of buses have gone up in flames in the past couple of years and, as recently as last weekend, three metro stations were closed because of malfunctioning escalators. Raggi’s plastics ban is a noble idea but there’s reason to fear it might remain just that. Let’s hope it won’t be one of the many initiatives that’s flaunted, endlessly discussed but then dumped in one of the city’s many overflowing bins.

Security / USA

Another brick in the wall?

On Monday evening, Pentagon notified Congress that it had authorised $1bn to begin fortifying the US-Mexican border. While the money won’t go to creating a steel barrier, which is what President Trump has long promised, it will go towards new fencing and roads along the Yuma and El Paso border areas. “This is not the big beautiful wall that he promised his voters when he ran for election,” Amy Pope, former US deputy homeland-security adviser to Barack Obama, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “He is moving around the pieces here so that he can claim that he’s had success on building his wall, without really getting into the nitty gritty legal back and forth of which monies he is using to build it.”

Media / China

Crowd control

China famously keeps a tight rein on the news at home but Beijing is now exporting its media-censorship model abroad. That is the conclusion of an investigative report by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based NGO that supports press freedom around the world. The report, China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order, sheds light on how the country is investing in foreign-media outlets, spending more on international broadcasting and producing international ad campaigns that propagate a favourable image. According to the report, the Chinese government is investing about €1.3bn per year to increase the foothold of its state-run media abroad. China’s more nefarious tactics are ringing alarm bells: last year a reporter from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV caused a disturbance at a seminar on Hong Kong freedoms in London by intimidating and slapping a volunteer.

Urbanism / Rome

Trashy business

The decision of Rome’s mayor to ban single-use plastics from the city is about more than the environment according to mayor Virginia Raggi of the Five Star Movement. Instead, she says, the move is an attempt to starve Mafia-controlled waste disposal and recycling. Organised crime has been associated with a string of fires (the last one as recently as Sunday) at waste-processing plants. According to one estimate from Legambiente, the Italian environment agency, criminal activities in these industries generated an illegal turnover of more than €14bn in 2018. So although this is a good first step, plenty of work still needs to be done to clean up the Italian capital.

Aviation / North America

Earning its wings

Canada might soon boast the world’s first electric airline. Harbour Air, one of North America’s largest regional seaplane carriers, announced yesterday that it will submit an electric-powered prototype to be approved by US and Canadian aviation authorities that will transport parliamentarians across the Georgia Strait to legislature in Victoria, British Columbia, by 2021. One of Harbour Air’s fleet of 40, a DHC-2 Beaver by de Havilland Canada, will substitute kerosene fuel for an electric motor and lithium batteries designed by Redmond, Washington-based manufacturer magniX. The motor will be able to power 60-minute flights, covering about 160km, between British Columbia and cities such as Seattle. It’s a propeller for further innovation towards bigger planes and longer flights.

M24 / Monocle On Design

Architecture and the silver screen

We’re in Tinseltown for the Architecture and Design Film Festival. Josh Fehnert talks to founder Kyle Bergman and Los Angeles’ chief design officer and filmmaker Christopher Hawthorne about the city’s sometimes uneasy relationship with its own buildings.

Film / Print

Monocle preview: April issue, 2019

Monocle has taken the notion of a spring clean to a new level: we’ve got new printers in Germany, fresh paper stock and an updated design all rolled into one. That’s alongside all the usual features, as well as an in-depth retail survey and a smartly turned-out style directory. Things are hotting up…

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