Tuesday. 2/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Melkon Charchoglyan

Korea path

Donald Trump is now back in the US after the G20 summit in Osaka and Sunday’s meeting with Kim Jong-un in the demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea. The president made history by becoming the first US leader to set foot in North Korea, revelling in the usual forced bonhomie, political platitudes and photo opportunities.

Both leaders have promised to resume negotiating denuclearisation in North Korea but for Trump, this meeting wasn’t really about progress with Pyongyang. For all the dewy-eyed talk of making the world safer, nothing has changed: Kim won’t relinquish his nuclear arsenal (his only playing card) and Trump won’t call off sanctions.

This is, in fact, a deft display of Trumpian victory-selling. The US president is likely to freeze further nuclear development in North Korea (as his predecessor Barack Obama did in Iran) and try to sell it as a great feat of statesmanship back home. A handy bit of kudos then – and a little more in time for election season.

Migration / Germany & Italy

To the rescue

German humanitarian group Sea-Watch has been rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean for the past four years. But operations were dealt a blow over the weekend when Carola Rackete, captain of one of its vessels, was arrested by Italian authorities for ramming her ship (carrying 40 migrants) past a police boat blocking its entry to a harbour on the island of Lampedusa. Now German television hosts Jan Böhmermann and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf have set up a crowdfunding campaign for Rackete’s legal costs that has raised more than €800,000. “The campaign’s success is a direct challenge to the Italian authorities,” says Sarah Singer, senior lecturer in refugee law at the University of London. “Clearly, criminalising humanitarian assistance to those in distress is, for many, going too far.”

Conservation / Japan

Licence to kill

Japan’s decision to lift its ban on commercial whaling has dismayed conservationists globally and sparked condemnation from environmental groups. But while many decry the new law, which permits killing up to 227 animals this year, municipalities on Japan’s coastline are jubilant. In the Ayukawa district in the city of Ishinomaki, ¥3.8bn (€31m) is being spent on reopening Oshika Whale Land, a tourist destination that celebrates whaling culture but was closed after being hit by the 2011 tsunami. It features life-size whale models, equipment and artefacts. A raft of new restaurants that cook with whale meat are also expected to surface. Redeveloping a disaster-stricken area might be laudable but championing a cruel and unnecessary hunting practice is not.

Politics / Greece

Fork in the road

Greeks head to the polls this Sunday to vote in a snap election called by prime minister Alexis Tsipras (pictured, on right). It follows the poor performance of Syriza, his left-wing party, in European elections in May: conservative rival New Democracy (ND) won almost 10 per cent more of the vote than the ruling party. The drubbing is widely expected to be repeated this weekend as voters show their dissatisfaction with a leader who has failed to fulfil his promise and end austerity; many are shifting allegiance to ND’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The scion of a powerful political family, Mitsotakis has offered to reduce corporate tax, privatise public services and emphasise family, church and nation. Whether the change in direction will help or hinder Greece’s rocky path to recovery remains to be seen.

Environment / Austria

Sunny outlook

As Europe undergoes one of the most extreme heatwaves on record, drawing more energy from the sun seems to make more sense than ever. Yesterday Austria’s oil and gas conglomerate OMV, and electricity provider Verbund, announced an enormous solar plant to be completed by late 2020. The aim is for it to supply 5,500 households with electricity, saving some 12,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. “Oil exploration is increasingly expensive and risky as it moves to difficult areas, such as the Arctic,” says Sarah Tulej, principal change designer at think-tank Forum for the Future. “Investing in renewables makes strong business sense.” The future might well be bright.

M24 / The Menu

London’s Spanish pioneer

How top Spanish chef José Pizarro has left his mark on London’s restaurant scene and why American diners in New Jersey have been able to maintain their success despite countless new rivals. Plus: a visit to Ynyshir, the restaurant ranked the best in Wales.

Monocle Films / South Africa

Cosy Homes: Die Es

South African architects Gawie and Gwen Fagan designed and built their family home on a dramatic spot between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. Die Es is an ode to vernacular architecture with a difference. To celebrate the publication of The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes, Monocle Films explores the sculpted forms, palpable materiality and harmony with nature that make this eclectic residence stand out.

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