Thursday. 13/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Golden ticket?

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign was swift to pounce on the announcement of Kamala Harris’s nomination as Joe Biden’s running mate. Harris (pictured) was characterised as “phony” and a member of the “radical left” in an attack ad released by Trump’s campaign shortly after the announcement, and has been called “nasty” by the president himself. But so far the attacks have failed to stick.

Harris’s historic nomination – she is the first black woman and South Asian American to become a vice-presidential candidate – is a far more nuanced choice than suggested by the shorthand that some Republicans have used to refer to Democrats over the past four years. Biden’s choice of running mate is not just a direct response to ongoing anti-racism protests and police-reform debates. It also adds to a pattern that has been a hallmark of his own career: that he is willing to work alongside his political adversaries, past or present, rather than cast them out of his sphere.

Biden has struggled to gain the support of younger, more progressive voters and, given Harris’s own largely centrist political history, it’s still unclear how these groups will respond to her presence on the ticket. She has, however, experienced the pressures of campaigning herself – and that should serve Biden well as a presidential campaign being held in an unprecedented time begins in earnest.

Defence / South Korea

Gearing up

In the face of escalating tensions in the Western Pacific, South Korea announced this week that it will begin building its first aircraft carrier. As part of its 2021 to 2025 national plan, the country’s defence ministry revealed designs for a 30,000-tonne ship. South Korea is also expected to acquire state of the art F-35B fighter jets, making it – alongside the US, Japan and the UK – one of the few countries to possess such an arsenal. This bolstering of military strength is aimed at countering regional threats and offering Seoul the ability to dispatch forces if needed. It’s an option that the country will find reassuring as reports continue to emerge about North Korea defying UN sanctions and working on its nuclear programme.

Energy / Europe

Good turns

Earlier this month the European Commission unveiled a roadmap to increase offshore wind-energy production. Due to be launched formally in October, it’s the first such strategy from the bloc and its aim is to boost electricity generated by wind power twenty-fold within the next 30 years. The plan’s success will hinge on a co-operative rollout from governments and energy providers that will need to ensure that there’s plenty of space between wind farms: if they are too close, the airflow to turbines can be hindered, dramatically reducing power production. Although such understandings will be key, stakeholders are hopeful that the initiative will run smoothly. According to Denmark’s energy and climate minister Dan Jørgensen, even countries that aren’t hugely ambitious about cutting emissions are still interested in investing in renewables. Here’s hoping that the winds don’t change.

Transport / Japan

On the charge

The pandemic has forced commuters around the world into a rethink. And workers in Japan now have another alternative to public transport: electric scooters. Conscious of rising demand, the government will conduct a six-month test to ensure the easy uptake of this entrant on Japanese roads, opening cycle lanes in Fukuoka, Kanagawa and Tokyo to scooter traffic from October. Japan could be tempted to follow in the footsteps of the many European cities that have already welcomed these vehicles. But their adoption might not be straightforward: users are required by law to wear a helmet and have safety mirrors and a licence plate on the scooter – not all are keen. Encouraging the use of green vehicles is well-intentioned but, as cycle lanes are already busy with increased bike traffic, the use of electric scooters in Japan might not reach the fast lane.

Society / Switzerland

Staying afloat

Switzerland continues to chart a confident course towards lifting coronavirus restrictions: the government in Bern announced yesterday that a ban on events with more than 1,000 attendees is on track to be scrapped by 1 October. The Swiss are of the opinion that we need to now move on and learn to live with the virus. The Federal Council is also coming up with protective measures to ensure that this can be done safely. In the meantime, the Swiss are enjoying the summer, with the current heatwave enticing people to lakes and rivers. In particular, the practice known as Böötle, a Swiss-German term for setting sail on inflatable boats, is enjoying such a boom that there is now a shortage of life jackets. Since January it has been mandatory to carry one life jacket per person on board any watercraft on inland waterways; break the rules and you’ll be landed with a CHF50 (€46) fine for every person on board without one. So until the supply of life jackets meets the demand, paddlers can opt to float along on a giant banana or, perhaps, a pink flamingo; such inflatables don't qualify as watercraft. Recent legal changes also allow the Böötle bunch to once again enjoy a beer or negroni while watching the countryside pass by.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Reality check

It seems that there has been an uptick in the amount of reality TV from Netflix. Robert Bound is joined by Fernando Augusto Pacheco and TV critics Inkoo Kang and Scott Bryan to look at the different formats – from dating shows to real-life soap operas – and ask whether the streaming giant, which was once known for glossy drama, is changing tack to cater for an international audience.

Monocle Films / Spain

Creative Mallorca

Palma has kept its charm for young creatives despite its tourist-trodden streets. We meet the people keeping this city alive.

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