Friday. 21/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Winging it

There’s never a good time to miss a flight but yesterday was perhaps the worst. The plan was this: the Monocle massive fly to Zürich for a biannual pow-wow to dream big, plan stories, theme issues, eat Italian and swim in the lake. It’s a civilised way of doing business, sure, but not without that pleasurable tingle of nerves, the little shimmer and shudder of performance anxiety that goes with taking to the stage. You’re expected to have good ideas and, God damn it, you’re expected to turn up.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself in bed at 08.00 instead of in seat 7A. I blame Magic Betty (who is Googleable). What is the etiquette of missing a flight? Is there a good way to do it? Rather than excuses just board the next bird, of course. Though even our doughty travel agent replied to my email with, “Not again?! LOL. I’ll see what I can do.”

A reputation as a habitual flight-misser is tough to reverse. I missed a few one time in New York when a chef spiked my supper; I missed one in Zürich – the party capital of the world – when I found a nightclub named The Future; and, happily, I missed one in Amsterdam the day after the night I met my wife. In the end I flew to Zürich yesterday, jumped in a taxi to Dufourstrasse and turned up to the meeting dressed as Bob Dylan – sometimes the only way is to style it out. Also, I’m sorry.

International relations / US & Iran

Warning shot

The volatile relationship between Washington and Tehran intensified yesterday when a US drone was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iran claims the drone was infringing on the country’s airspace but this has been disputed by the Pentagon, which says it was flying over international waters. “This move comes as part of an ongoing escalation both in terms of rhetoric and what’s happening on the ground,” Benno Zogg, from the Swiss and Euro-Atlantic security team at the Center for Security Studies, told The Briefing. “But within the Pentagon there are huge factions who are [more] interested in dealing with the threat from China rather than being bogged down in the Middle East yet again.” Whether Trump listens remains to be seen.

Diplomacy / Southeast Asia

Have words

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) gather in Bangkok this weekend with an agenda that reaches far beyond the 10 member nations’ borders. The two key issues: plastics in the ocean and regional trade. Delegates are expected to commit to halting the flow of rubbish into the sea (although it’s unclear how they will deliver this given the recent surge in the region’s imports of electronic waste and other throwaways from wealthy countries). Asean’s hope of mobilising 16 Asia-Pacific nations for a trade pact – covering 30 per cent of global commerce – also faces hurdles if the bloc’s members split over the ongoing US-China trade war. Things could get interesting.

Hospitality / Syria

Checked out

“Please note that the hotel is no longer managed by Four Seasons.” This is the stark message on the webpage for the hospitality company’s Damascus outpost. So what’s happened? Last week the US announced sanctions on 16 individuals and entities that it believes have profited from Syria’s ongoing eight-year civil war. Among them is businessman Samer Foz, who bought a majority stake in said hotel last year and has close ties to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The Four Seasons is well known for hosting staff from the UN, who have faced criticism for using the hotel. But Robert S Ford, a senior fellow at Washington’s Middle East Institute and former US ambassador to Syria, believes that the closure might help. “The criticism that the UN has received for making use of places that are thought to be indirectly funding Assad’s regime might diminish,” he says.

Housing / US

Home truths

The unbridled growth of the technology industry is leading to a housing crisis in its heartland, northern California’s Bay Area. The region saw 3.5 new jobs created for every housing unit last year and Google’s plans for a sprawling new San Jose campus will only exacerbate problems – unless new housing is built. But it appears that Google is listening. Earlier this week, the company announced it would convert $750m (€665m) worth of land into housing for all incomes, while $250m (€220m) will be used to encourage developers to construct 5,000 affordable units. The investment may also set expectations for tech giants’ behaviour in the future. Next month a public meeting in Arlington, Virginia, is slated to discuss Amazon’s arrival. Expect residents airing similar grievances.

M24 / Monocle On Design

Manifestos: architecture of the future

Can a manifesto change the world? In truth there are probably quicker ways but that didn’t stop the London Festival of Architecture and the Design Museum commissioning 10 young London-based practices to compose one each. We hear them out.

Monocle Films / Canada

Why start-ups thrive in Canada

To celebrate this year's soft power survey winner, we visit an emerging roster of budding businesses in Montreal. Canada's innovations minister Navdeep Bains reveals how the country is capitalising on the US's restrictive visa policies.

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