Tuesday. 13/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Burning issue

It’s wildfire season again in the northern hemisphere; emergency services have been dispatched to battle blazes in Spain’s Gran Canaria and across three US states in the past few days. Last weekend also saw several fires across Greece, including in an Athens suburb and on Elafonisos island. No injuries have been reported but authorities said the country remains on alert today due to high temperatures and windy conditions.

It is a test for Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s new government. Memories of last summer’s tragic wildfires around the coastal town of Mati are still fresh – the second-deadliest globally this century – which killed 103 people and hospitalised over 140 more. Many say the bungled response to the incident – there was ineffective co-ordination between rescue services and firefighters initially focused on blazes elsewhere – helped to unseat former prime minister Alexis Tsipras in July.

Twenty people have been charged with a slew of offences including negligent manslaughter – figures such as the regional governor, a mayor and fire-brigade officials – but are yet to face trial. As affected citizens continue to chase justice, all eyes are on Mitsotakis’s New Democracy party to see whether it can handle the heat better than Syriza.

Geopolitics / The US and the UK

Olive branch

US security adviser John Bolton is due to meet with a raft of UK cabinet ministers in London today, with a view to strengthening ties between the two countries. Boris Johnson’s obsequious handling of the Trump administration appears to be generating a degree of bonhomie – for now. Bolton told UK officials yesterday that post-Brexit Britain can expect a free-trade agreement between the two countries. It’s a coup for Johnson and his Trump-toadying strategy but such a lifeline would come with conditions. A big one in the short term would likely be for the UK to take a tougher stance on Iran. It might be pressured into joining the US in abandoning the nuclear accord, which is still being honoured in the EU.

Security / New Zealand

I spy

Auckland wants to keep better tabs on its citizens. This week authorities announced a €4m plan to increase surveillance on its streets by introducing a smart system that will consolidate CCTV cameras and enable the city to deploy more in the future. The plan is to have 5,200 eyes on the city in the next three years and then to expand to about 6,000 by 2024. While few people would rail against making the city safer, the technology behind the system is worrying others. The imaging – which can be accessed by the police service, the Civil Defence force and the transport authority – will use facial-recognition software. The city will learn in the coming years that residents have mixed feelings about being watched.

Music / South Korea

Pop goes the money

Members of the world’s highest-paid boy band, South Korean group BTS, have announced that they will be taking an extended break from music. The seven-member band, who were the first K-pop group to top charts in the US and the UK, say that they want to “enjoy their daily lives as normal 20-something young men” for a while. The announcement came much to the disappointment of the band’s legions of fans. But it’s not just bad news for them: BTS are worth more than €3.2bn a year to South Korea’s economy and they’re the reason why one in every 13 foreign tourists visited the country in 2017. Here’s hoping that another floppy-haired gang spring up to fill the BTS-shaped gap.

Aviation / Italy

Heavy weather

Romans were surprised by a potentially lethal summer shower on Saturday when metal pieces from a Los Angeles-bound Norwegian Boeing 787 aircraft rained down on the Italian capital. Residents of the Fiumicino suburb reported that falling fragments from the aircraft damaged vehicles and homes when the engine malfunctioned; the aeroplane then made an emergency landing at Rome-Fiumicino International Airport. Italy’s National Agency for Flight Safety (ANSV) is investigating the incident while the mayor of Fiumicino is already calling for a review of flight paths over the suburb. With events like this causing panic – recall a similar incident earlier this summer in London when a stowaway fell from a Heathrow-bound flight and landed in a residential neighbourhood – flight paths over cities could fall under further scrutiny.

M24 / The Urbanist: Tall Stories

La Grande Motte

This week we delve into issue one of Monocle’s summer newspaper, ‘The Summer Weekly’, and head to the once-marshy, mosquito-ridden coastal commune of La Grande Motte in France, which has been transformed since the 1960s into a lush resort town with real beachfront appeal.

Monocle Films / Zürich

In praise of balconies

Look up as you stroll Zürich’s streets and you’ll see these outdoor living rooms everywhere. Monocle Films visited the city to outline this architectural feature and how it improves quality of life.

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