Thursday. 31/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

The kids are alright

Who said that the next generation isn’t interested in print? Italian magazine Internazionale – a wonderful weekly that collects and translates the best stories from the international press – is moving ahead with a title aimed specifically at younger readers. Following a couple of trial specials, Internazionale Kids launched as a monthly this October; its second issue is on newsstands now.

Other countries have already woken up to the potential of smart kids’ mags; in Germany, both Suddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit have their own nippers’ versions in the form of their Kinder weekend insert and Leo, respectively. Internazionale Kids, like its parent magazine, syndicates stories from other publications: it can only exist thanks to an established transnational network of excellent childhood titles. What’s more, this new generation of mags doesn’t talk down to the young ones and doesn’t try to catch their attention with gimmicks or plastic toys.

Pick up the latest copy and you’ll be pleased to find that what’s setting the agenda in our children’s world is much the same as what’s of interest to the grown-ups: there’s everything from climate change to the Hong Kong-Beijing stand-off. The readers of the future are much more clued up than we think.

Politics / Europe

Back to the ballot box

How is Europe responding to news of the UK’s general election, set for 12 December – the third in four years? The general feeling is that another visit to the polls won’t solve the Brexit dilemma, with no party likely to win a clear majority, and the fear is that the extension offered by Brussels until 31 January probably, once again, won’t be enough. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said as much with an appeal to focus on the matter at hand: “The purpose of this extension is first and foremost to ratify the fair and reasonable agreement we reached on 17 October. I hope that will be the case between now and the period following the general election.” UK prime minister Boris Johnson is eager to increase the number of Conservative MPs to get his Brexit deal through and may yet have more luck than his predecessor Theresa May. That is unless Labour (which is promising a second referendum), the Brexit party (which supports a no-deal) or the Liberal Democrats (who are pledging to revoke Article 50) manage to garner enough votes to either divide parliament further or win a surprise majority. At the end of the day, all Brussels can really do is wait and see what the winter brings.

Security / Japan

Weathering the storms

Japan is counting the cost of Typhoon Hagibis, which struck the country more than two weeks ago. The cost of the effect on farming alone is already more than ¥100bn (€813m) – and that figure is likely to rise once prefectures have properly assessed the damage. Self Defence Forces (SDF) reserves have been called upon to help with the disaster-relief mission for the first time since 2011, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan’s Pacific coast; they are working alongside 31,000 SDF personnel to repair roads and remove debris.

Meanwhile, authorities are warning that increased rainfall caused by global warming will be a regular event: Japan’s Meteorological Agency says that incidences of torrential rain have increased by 40 per cent compared to 30 years ago. The government is discussing new flood-prevention measures; it seems that their use could become an annual occurrence.

Politics / Lebanon

Rage against the regime

Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri may have resigned following almost two weeks of anti-government protests but the move is unlikely to quell the unrest. First ignited by a plan to tax phone calls made using WhatsApp, the protests have swelled to include hundreds of thousands of citizens unhappy with government corruption and economic uncertainty. Bessma Momani, a political scientist at the University of Waterloo, says the protesters are right to be worried. “Unlike other Arab Spring countries, this won’t be just a recession. The whole system is going to crumble financially. There is no easy solution.” Beyond that, Lebanon seems to have learned another lesson from the failure of the Arab Spring to ignite real change. “It used to be, ‘Down with Mubarak, down with an individual.’ But the regime would stay intact,” says Momani. “This time around, it’s not.”

Urbanism / Toronto

Shoring up the future

The fate of Sidewalk Labs’ next-level “neighbourhood of the future” in Toronto will be decided today due to a deadline imposed by government development agency Waterfront Toronto in the hope of resolving the project’s key issues. Sidewalk Labs envisions a waterfront neighbourhood of timber towers and underground rubbish disposal but privacy experts are wary of the technology giant’s plans for data collection and its incursion into city-building. Also up for debate is just how much land Sidewalk Labs can develop. If Waterfront Toronto agrees to move forwards, more evaluations will follow before the plan is finalised in December next year. Proponents fear that if Sidewalk Labs is sent packing it will harm Canada’s efforts to become a technology hub. However, the city is right to move carefully in developing this swathe of untouched prime real estate.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Duolingo

Luis von Ahn is co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, the world’s most popular language-learning tool, teaching more than 35 languages to 300 million people globally. Presented like a game, the platform plays to our competitive nature: a passive-aggressive owl called Duo reminds users to practise daily. The company is also expanding into literacy: new app Duolingo ABC is aimed at helping people who can’t read or write to learn their mother tongues.

Monocle Films / Czech Republic

Baťa: if the shoe fits

The Czech town of Zlín was transformed by a visionary shoemaker who wanted to house his workers in a garden city. We put our best foot forward to explore his functionalist masterpiece.

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