Monday. 22/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Biden and who?

Speculation over Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate for November’s presidential election is growing. Anticipation heightened last week when Amy Klobuchar (pictured), the Minnesota senator and former Democratic presidential candidate, withdrew herself from consideration; at one point she was a clear favourite for the job.

There are now three significant national issues that Biden’s vice-presidential candidate must be able to speak on: the coronavirus pandemic, the widespread economic damage it has wrought and the ongoing demonstrations against systemic racism in US institutions. Usually a running mate is chosen to fill perceived gaps within the presidential nominee’s platform. Biden has long-standing support among many African-American voters and moderates but he still struggles with younger and more progressive groups.

In March, Biden vowed that his running mate would be a woman. So who is in the reckoning? Elizabeth Warren would be an obvious choice: her reformist credentials and the energetic support she evokes from younger voters make her an attractive prospect. But a ticket of two white candidates, both over the age of 70, could be seen as tone-deaf. Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, and Florida congresswoman Val Demings, a former police chief, are both reportedly on the shortlist.

Whoever Joe Biden chooses will be part of a broader strategy to make his campaign an all-hands-on-deck affair that’s not just about him. He has already promised that his cabinet will “look like the country, look like America”. It was an approach that achieved the most diverse Congress ever elected for the Democrats in the 2018 midterms – and it’s an approach that could help Biden secure the presidency.

Diplomacy / EU & China

Toe the line

Leaders from the EU and China will host a bilateral summit over video call today, setting out – among other things – the trade agenda moving forward. One topic likely to feature is the EU-China investment deal, which many hope will be clinched by the end of this year. The deal might help to limit the economic fallout of the pandemic in Europe but it could also open the EU up to aggressive Chinese investment while businesses are fragile. In previous discussions between Angela Merkel and Chinese premier Li Keqiang, it is reported the German chancellor has demanded market reforms that would open China up to foreign investment and provide equal treatment to foreign companies, creating a level playing field. Though Europe is no doubt hungry for an economic boost, governments would do well to stick to Merkel’s demands.

Politics / Switzerland

Suspect legislation

Switzerland’s recent attempts to push through controversial anti-terrorism legislation have attracted criticism from the UN. The proposed law, which hopes to tackle extremist violence by enabling preventive detention of potential suspects, would reportedly contravene the European Convention of Human Rights. Described as “draconian” by Amnesty International, the draft measures would give police new powers that could lead to the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

For Monocle 24’s security correspondent Benno Zogg, this kind of headline-grabbing legislation also risks diverting funds from other projects that would have a bigger impact in preventing radicalisation in communities. “These measures are just the most drastic for extreme cases; all other measures should be way more important, receiving way more funding and way more time,” he told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “I think the wider, softer measures are really important – we mustn’t lose focus on those.”

Health / Global

Virus check

The future of cities has been the subject of heated debate in recent months as politicians and commentators have raised concerns that high density in urban populations might be worsening the coronavirus pandemic. But a new study by John Hopkins University suggests that density is not linked to higher infection rates. In examining the impact of coronavirus on the health of populations in 913 US metropolitan counties, researchers found that more densely populated areas had death rates that were 11.3 per cent lower than their sprawling counterparts. It’s an assertion backed up by the World Bank’s analysis of the virus in New York and Mumbai, which showed that contagion risk was determined by a community’s economic wealth and not by its density. Also, it’s an important reminder that public health – pandemic or not – relies equally on walkable, compact neighbourhoods that have easy access to services as well as a fair distribution of resources.

Travel / Australia

Beach bound

Australians would normally regard the opening of a flight path between the capital Canberra and the coastal town of Ballina as minor news. But in 2020, with residents banned from leaving the country, regional tourism is on the up and this announcement is a coup for Canberrans. Operated by the wonderfully named Fly Pelican regional airline, the route, announced on Friday, will plonk tourists from the capital within easy reach of Byron Bay and other sunny holiday spots surrounding Ballina in the northern tip of the state of New South Wales. The opening up of new internal flight paths is something we expect to see more of Down Under: this will also benefit future inbound international travellers when Australia eventually reopens.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Rodrigo Duterte goes after the messengers

The conviction of prominent journalist Maria Ressa is yet another worrying sign of the Philippines’ direction under Rodrigo Duterte. Andrew Mueller talks to Sheila Coronel and Richard Heydarian about Duterte’s assault on democratic norms and to Carlo Bonura about the populist president’s so-called independent foreign policy.

Monocle Films / Leipzig

Leipzig’s artist studios

Dubbed the new Berlin, Leipzig is home to an increasing number of galleries and project spaces – but the city still has lots of space for inexpensive artists’ ateliers.

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