Wednesday. 7/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Alternative route

Thanks to the French government’s clampdown on carbon emissions, Marseille is struggling to get the green light to expand its overcrowded airport. This comes at a bad time for the aviation industry, as well as beleaguered travellers suffering the annoyance of having to negotiate a terminal teeming with others.

For many members of the public, air travel is synonymous with grim, low-cost-carrier terminals stuffed with sweaty bodies, terrible retailers and sad restaurants. Meanwhile more radical folk view aviation companies as shameless polluters unwilling to face up to their role in climate change.

This is all good news, however, for the rail operators that are benefiting from providing a more eco-friendly way of heading off on your holiday – and a far more relaxing one too. And Europeans are spoilt for choice when it comes to benchmark carriers (SBB and Thalys, we’re looking at you). Of course there are limits to rail’s appeal, especially if you’re a time-pressed business traveller. But airline operators should be cautious of taking our willingness to be shoved into seat 36C for granted.

Technology / Russia

Digital denial

Previously if the FSB – Russia’s security service – wanted to shut down a website deemed illegal, it had to appeal to the courts. But according to an announcement by the service yesterday, as of 30 July the agency has been given outright power to block any site on its own. The Coordination Center for TLD RU, which regulates online domains in Russia, granted the FSB this mandate to supposedly streamline its efforts against cyber crime. Neither group needed parliamentary approval for this because shutting down websites is not regulated by any higher Russian law. This effectively allows the country’s intelligence officers to crack down on online dissent without oversight, putting Russia’s freedom of expression in further danger.

Retail / New York

All over the shop

After weeks of speculation, department-store group Barneys has filed for bankruptcy. Under the United States Bankruptcy Code the chain, founded in 1923, will keep a handful of shops open, including its Madison Avenue flagship. Like many storied New York retailers (Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s), Barneys – one of the city’s iconic department stores – has struggled with decreasing foot traffic and increasing rents. People shop in a different way compared to even 10 years ago and in many US cities storefronts are dominated by businesses that can afford the still-high rents: boutique gyms, co-working spaces and online companies in need of physical showrooms. Barneys is the most prominent example of a high-end retailer stumbling but there are many similar tales from smaller outlets. If we want to preserve the life of our cities, we need to get off our laptops and back into our favourite shops.

Tourism / Global

Fed up with the Med

Despite Switzerland being a pricey place, holidaymakers seem to think it delivers value for money. Recently crunched numbers from the Federal Statistics Office show that visitors to the country from the US alone increased 10 per cent in the first half of 2019. Turkey and Israel, much cheaper destinations, have felt a similar bounce. There seem to be some interesting consumer manoeuvres at play. In the Med, popular resorts from Ibiza to Mykonos are starting to look overpriced for what they deliver (not least to Brits as sterling stumbles). Interestingly, while Switzerland may hit pockets hard too, it’s judged as a place where service levels and quality are as high as the Alps.

Urbanism / New Zealand

Blessing in disguise?

Christchurch’s decade to forget is coming to a close with the New Zealand city’s senior Catholic bishop having made the decision to demolish its century-old cathedral. Over the weekend, bishop Paul Martin informed parishioners that the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, rendered unsafe by a series of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, will be knocked down. The diocese lacks the financial resources for restoration work, which would have to comply with the city’s more stringent post-quake building regulations. Razing the iconic building will split opinion but a difficult decision had to be made to help everyone move on. It has stood empty for the past eight years, a symbol of the continuing struggle to recover from those devastating natural disasters. A bold new public space could be the answer to the city’s prayers.

M24 / The Monocle Culture Show

‘Old Town Road’

We take a deep dive into Lil Nas X’s US record-breaking number-one single, “Old Town Road”. Baylen Leonard and Leonie Cooper join Robert Bound to discuss genre, sexuality, remixes and what it takes to make a hit song.

Monocle Films / Amsterdam

Night mayors

We pull up a bar stool in Amsterdam at the inaugural Night Mayor Summit to hear from pioneering night watchmen and urban provocateurs in cities around the world.

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