Wednesday. 28/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Preferential treatments

As India struggles with an overwhelming surge in coronavirus cases, many countries around the world have, thankfully, stepped up to offer support and aid. It’s striking how much more muted the global reaction has been to Brazil’s surge. While the two countries are very different in terms of size, population and GDP, the response does demonstrate just how strong India’s global ties are – not least as the home of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

The White House announced this week that the US will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with India to control the coronavirus surge. Washington has reversed its export ban in order to help and will provide India with raw vaccine materials, as well as oxygen and emergency aid. Meanwhile, the UK has sent ventilators and oxygen to India, and France and Germany are also preparing to send oxygen.

During the peak of Brazil’s coronavirus crisis, which is still ongoing, the response has been markedly different. Though the scale of India’s surge has now surpassed that of Brazil’s, both countries are grappling with a collapsing health care system, new variants and a skyrocketing death rate. And yet the US did not send vaccine materials to Brazil and the South American nation’s crisis has been met with far less urgency from the international community.

But the contrast in these reactions isn’t only about India’s economic and diplomatic might. Another factor is Brazil’s dwindling diplomatic power coupled with the alienating rhetoric from its president. Jair Bolsonaro notably stated that he thought the US’s 2020 election was stolen. Such proclamations are only serving to further isolate the nation.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Cyprus

Common ground

Informal talks between rival Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders began yesterday in Geneva. The aim of the UN-led summit is to reignite peace talks over the future of Cyprus. The island has been divided since 1974, when the northern region was seized by Turkey following a failed coup led by Greece. Over the weekend, thousands of Cypriots from both sides of the island’s divided capital, Nicosia, marched through the streets (pictured), calling for peace and reunification. “Cyprus belongs to its people,” they chanted. This turnout has led some to believe that there is reason for optimism. But with no shared vision between the two parties, it’s hard to imagine that the talks will yield much progress. Greek-Cypriot leaders want Cyprus to be reunited under a federal umbrella. Their Turkish counterparts are championing a two-state solution, an unlikely goal that would involve the international recognition of a divided Cyprus. Although the talks are unlikely to result in a consensus, the dialogue is at least a first step in the diplomatic process.

Tune in to a special episode of ‘The Foreign Desk’ today for more on the history that’s shaped Cyprus’s decades-old conflict and whether there is a path to progress.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / UK

Polls apart

A few months ago it would have been inconceivable that Boris Johnson would be worried about his political future. The UK’s vaccine rollout had raced ahead of that of most of the EU and “Teflon Boris” enjoyed a handy lead in the opinion polls. But a number of recent accusations of sleaze and cronyism from his former political aide Dominic Cummings – and a disputed tabloid scoop that Johnson would rather bodies pile “high in their thousands” than order a third coronavirus lockdown – have all served to undermine both his authority and credibility.

“It was George Bernard Shaw who said, ‘Never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty and the pig enjoys it’,” Ben Page, chief executive of UK polling company Ipsos Mori tells The Monocle Minute. “Our latest data suggests that the claims have dented Johnson’s Conservative party’s lead in the polls – but it’s far too early to consider a leadership race. However, any recording of Johnson’s alleged comments about allowing people to die instead of a national lockdown will apply further pressure on the prime minister.”

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Australia

Pilot episode

Planes flying in Greater Sydney’s airspace might soon be receiving their instructions from Melbourne, hundreds of kilometres away. Airservices Australia is planning to shift half of its air-traffic controllers from Sydney to Melbourne in a cost-saving exercise that’s intended to ease the financial strain caused by the pandemic. The plan is facing some controversy as it would mean closing Sydney’s terminal-control unit and relocating its staff to a centralised hub at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport (pictured). The airspace in Greater Sydney is easily the busiest in the country but the plan has its logic. In the past 20 years, air-traffic services for Canberra, Adelaide and Cairns have already been moved to hubs in Melbourne and Brisbane. Some staff will still stay in Sydney, however, to look after the takeoffs and landings that are actually taking place at Sydney Airport.

Image: Courtesy of Phoebe Hui and Audemars Piguet

Culture / Hong Kong

Satellite broadcast

Swiss watch manufacturer Audemars Piguet’s biennial art competition has made its way to Asia for the first time this year. Hong Kong-based artist Phoebe Hui was selected to create a large-scale artwork at Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun Centre for Art and Heritage until 23 May. “The Moon Is Leaving Us” is an homage to the celestial body, which, according to the latest scientific observations, is slowly migrating away from Earth. The installation features a giant sculpture that projects images of the moon onto 48 polarised screens, as well as a custom-built drawing machine programmed to produce ink drawings of the satellite. Remote but universally visible, the moon of Hui’s work bridges cultural boundaries and borders. “The moon is a place that encourages exploration,” she tells The Monocle Minute. “And it can metaphorically bring closer families and friends who are apart.”

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 232: Recipe edition, Alberto Vollmer

Alberto Vollmer, CEO of Venezuelan rum brand Santa Teresa, shares one of his favourite cocktail recipes.

Monocle Films / Italy

Masters of glass

The small Venetian island of Murano has a grand glass-blowing reputation. In the glow of the furnaces, Monocle Films witnesses a new generation of designers at work.

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