Tuesday. 29/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tyler Brûlé

Flight shy

You know the global economy is without a rudder or sensible crew in the cockpit when the very industry that should be bringing its members together for their annual jamboree (that would be the IATA, the International Air Transport Association) decides to go virtual rather than assembling in Amsterdam. While the organisation wanted to host delegates in person, myriad quarantines and closed borders made it near impossible. Could the Netherlands not have made a special exception in the interest of global trade? Could the Swiss government not have stepped in and suggested the event be moved to IATA’s HQ in Geneva, or somewhere else with proper distancing measures?

The question of what passes for appropriate physical-distancing and hygiene measures continues to be a hot topic in Switzerland as the government has just unveiled a new campaign (pictured) targeting young clubbers who are gearing up for an autumn indoors and Zürich has lifted its limit on the capacity of bars and clubs from 100 to 300 people. For the past two months, Switzerland has seen an uptick in coronavirus infections but is now seeing numbers fall again.

For the moment, federal and cantonal politicians are happy that the virus is in check and that most infections are with the very group they’re targeting: men in their late teens and early twenties. Why are things – for the moment – working? One of the country’s leading epidemiologists puts it down to a combination of prevention measures, a fast and functioning contract-tracing system and a well-enforced quarantine programme – a sensibly balanced formula that hasn’t brought daily life to a complete standstill.

Politics / Canada

Back to school

Canada’s parliament, which has been prorogued since August, returns this week for a series of speeches and legislative debates before taking a vote of confidence in Justin Trudeau’s minority government. (Spoiler alert: Trudeau’s Liberals will remain in power thanks to a deal eked out on Friday with the opposition NDP party). Much of the internal political oxygen has been soaked up by Trudeau’s ethics scandals over the past few months but now it’s time to get back to governing. In that vein, lawmakers will consider fresh efforts to navigate the pandemic this week, including longer-term financial support for struggling Canadians, expanded sick pay for workers and a national childcare plan, building on ideas pioneered in Québec, to take the pressure off working parents. Expanded childcare is a laudable and underreported aspect of the Trudeau government’s throne speech last Wednesday; we could all use some innovative ideas to keep our economies afloat and employees productive over the coming year.

Business / Japan

Country pursuits

Pasona Group, one of Japan’s biggest temporary-employment agencies, is taking remote working to the next level by moving its HQ out of central Tokyo to Awaji island in the Seto Inland Sea. By 2024,1,200 employees will have left the smart streets of Marunouchi to work 600km away on an island whose key industries are farming and tourism. CEO Yasuyuki Nambu, who is leading the first group, says that the pandemic accelerated an idea he had been mulling over for years.

But he concedes that while the pioneering move makes sense for his company, it won't be right for every industry. Tokyo is irreplaceable but its irresistible allure has long impeded official attempts to fire up depleted regional economies. Nambu is now urging the government to build a nationwide 5G network to encourage more companies to head for the hills. For a closer look at three rural relocation options, check out Monocle’s latest (Entrepreneurs)[https://monocle.com/magazine/the-entrepreneurs/3] magazine, which is on newsstands now.

Elections / USA

Showing their colours

Tonight marks the first of three televised debates between US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden. It takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, an industrial heartland, which has voted for the winning candidate at every election since 1964, including a dramatic swing from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 that summed up the latter race. According to polls, the city is currently leaning towards Biden. Tonight’s moderator will be Fox News’s Chris Wallace, who has vowed to be “as invisible as possible” (and who you will hear more from in Monocle’s forthcoming November issue). Expect Trump to face questions on his long-hidden tax returns, details of which were published by The New York Times on Sunday; the paper claims that he mostly avoided paying taxes by reporting huge losses over the past 20 years. But the debate is consequential for Biden too: he’s known for verbal gaffes and his campaign arguably benefitted from his pandemic-enforced confinement over the past few months. There will be nowhere for either candidate to hide tonight in Cleveland.

Design / Italy

See and be seen

A little normality returned to the world of design yesterday, with Milan playing host to Design City Milano in lieu of April’s cancelled Salone del Mobile. The two-week programme of events curated by city hall and Fuorisalone, an organisation that runs events in tandem with Salone every April, will be hosted across Milan’s showrooms. For designers based in the city, such as Morten Thuesen of design studio Older, the importance of Design City Milano after months of uncertainty shouldn’t be underestimated. “We are extremely grateful to the city for opening the doors and pushing this,” says Thuesen. “To have something where journalists and people are travelling and seeing that Milan is safe and a good place to see progressive design [is important].” With this year leaving designers such as Thuesen short on opportunities to share their work, perhaps there’s room for Design City Milano to continue alongside the city’s venerable design week next year.

M24 / The Big Interview

Ben Rhodes

In our first episode of a special series on the US election, Monocle’s Tomos Lewis sits down with Ben Rhodes, the former speechwriter, foreign-policy adviser and deputy national security adviser to Barack Obama. He talks about how the US has changed since Obama’s presidency and about his new podcast, Missing America.

Monocle Films / Netherlands

All around the table: hideaway in the Netherlands

Nestled in a national park near Dalfsen, Lemelerberg Lodge is the place to slow down from a busy lifestyle. Co-founders Marianne Maat and Lucienne Dunnewijk show us how to create a sense of welcome with soft lighting, natural materials and their handmade wares.

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