Monday. 5/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Hot under the collar

In theory, come August, Italian beaches should become the textbook backdrop for a bit of what us locals call il dolce far niente: the “sweet doing nothing”. But this most chilled-out of settings has proved far from drama-free this summer. For starters, business hasn’t been buoyant over the past few months: be it the country’s looming economic crisis or a few instances of freakishly bad weather, the number of tourists on Italian shores has decreased by a hefty 25 per cent compared to last year. Then came the news last week that swimming was temporarily forbidden on a number of beaches on the Adriatic Riviera. The reason? A very unappealing above-the-limit level of bacteria in the water.

However, perhaps the biggest beachy kerfuffle of the summer came courtesy of ever-controversial deputy PM Matteo Salvini. While on holiday in Adriatic resort Milano Marittima he was spotted getting a policeman to give his son a joy ride on a jet ski – while in service patrolling the coast. Endless debates about misuse of police-force equipment ensued. Gone are the days when politics went on summer break: Salvini’s rebuke came via a press conference organised at the beach club. It seems things are heating up at the bagni this year – and not for the right reasons.

Politics / Taiwan

People power

Taiwan’s traditional political divide between green and blue is about to get more colourful thanks to the addition of a new party. Taipei’s independent mayor, Ko Wen-je, will launch the Taiwanese People’s party tomorrow on his 60th birthday. His plan is to contest January’s legislative elections and the focus will be on “people, professions and values” rather than the dominant issue in Taiwanese politics: the island’s relations with China. The ruling “green” party, led by president Tsai Ing-wen, leans towards independence from the mainland; the “blue” opposition seeks closer ties with Beijing. Ko wants to introduce a “third way” in 2020 but he is yet to say what that means. The political outsider is popular with young voters, which means his party could hurt President Tsai’s chances of re-election.

Diplomacy / Global

Left out

The Lima Group is a bloc of Latin American countries – and Canada – that is pushing for a transition to democracy in Venezuela. It meets in Peru tomorrow and several of the nations that have declared support for Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, will be there, including Turkey and China. They’ll be alongside countries who want him gone – the US chief among them. “Tuesday’s meeting will be a way to engage some of the major international actors and see how committed they are to the Maduro administration,” says Antônio Sampaio, research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Will the summit end the stalemate? It’s an unlikely prospect, says Sampaio, largely because Maduro’s government was not invited. “It seems unlikely that Russia will even turn up – it is demanding that a Maduro representative also attend. Russia is, as of now, Maduro’s most committed supporter. China is the least committed and more transactional in its approach to Venezuela because it doesn’t have the same geopolitical interests as Moscow.”

Security / Athens

Safety first

Some 130 armed police officers will begin patrolling metro stations in Athens this week as part of the new government’s plan to restore security to the Greek capital. The stations, which are hotspots for pickpocketing, will have at least one officer on duty during operating hours, who will be wearing a black uniform instead of the traditional blue. The move comes as part of citizens’ protection minister Michalis Chrysochoidis’s plan to reduce the rate of burglaries, thefts and robberies in Athens by 25 per cent come the end of the year. Stepping up to this challenge may be long overdue but only time will tell whether the new measure will prove an effective deterrent.

Society / Los Angeles

Asleep at the wheel?

Los Angeles has extended a ruling that prohibits people living in their cars. Angelenos are forbidden from staying in a vehicle overnight in residential areas (and at any time of day within a block of schools and parks). In a city where more than 9,500 people use their vehicles as a home, this is a significant issue. The city’s homelessness problem is growing: numbers increased by 16 per cent last year, despite the city spending $619m (€560m) on the issue. It is evidently a difficult problem to solve but it remains to be seen whether banning people from living in cars, without offering a replacement place of shelter, is a sustainable answer to an intractable problem.

M24 / The Stack

Summery titles

We speak to the founders of art and culture magazine Majestic Disorder, Konstantin Vulkov from Bulgarian title Dolce Far Niente and Create! magazine’s Ekaterina Popova.

Monocle Films / Istanbul

Istanbul: The Monocle Travel Guide

Beneath its inimitable skyline, Istanbul is a teeming, triumphant metropolis that is constantly being remade and reimagined – as our cinematic portrait explores.

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