Thursday. 29/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Starting strong

In 2008 as a young and green reporter in Washington, it was hard not to get swept up in the euphoria of the historic election of Barack Obama. I like to think I stayed objective in my reporting but the inescapable expectations of “change” from voters of the country’s first African-American president were infectious – and hard to fulfill. And yet, Obama’s first 100 days in office weren’t really about change at all. They were focused on more practical measures such as reviving an economy stuck in a financial crisis; it was only after that first sprint that other priorities, such as healthcare, climate change and immigration reform, took hold.

Similarly, as we look back on Joe Biden’s first 100 days this week, he should first and foremost be measured by his handling of the pandemic and the economic crisis that ensued. In the May issue of Monocle magazine, which is out today, Sasha Issenberg helps us take stock of his performance. We also feature interviews with key fixers from the realms of economics, media and education (for an in-depth look at the issue’s inaugural Design Awards, check out yesterday’s edition of our sister newsletter, The Monocle Minute on Design).

By the measure of crisis management it’s been a competent start: the US is well ahead of most countries in distributing vaccines and lawmakers have passed a massive $1.9trn (€1.6trn) stimulus package to boost growth. Now the hard part begins: Biden has intentions of being a transformational president and hopes to address two other long-standing crises: systemic racism and climate change. The proof will be in whether he can get real reforms through a divided Congress – and if he can bring the still-divided country along with him. As Issenberg notes, this is where both Obama and Donald Trump struggled. The question remains: can Biden do any different?

Order a copy of the latest issue of Monocle magazine here and for more analysis of Joe Biden’s first 100 days, tune in to Monocle 24 throughout this week for a series of interviews and discussions.

Defence / Australia

Up in arms

Australia intends to ramp up its defence spending, expand military assets in the Northern Territory and boost war games co-operation with the US in the midst of escalating tensions with China. The country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, yesterday announced that it will spend AU$747m (€480m) on upgrading four military bases in the region. Although he stopped short of mentioning China by name, he said, “Our objective is a free and open Indo-Pacific to ensure a peaceful region.” Morrison’s tone was moderate compared with his home affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, who in his Anzac Day speech on Sunday warned against the “drums of war” and “tyranny’s threat to freedom”. Relations between Australia and China have been in steady decline since Canberra’s call for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, which resulted in trade restrictions imposed by Beijing. With Australian defence minister Peter Dutton also having recently warned of potential conflict over Taiwan, peace and conciliation still seem a long way off.

Hear more on this story from Australian journalist Karen Middleton on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Retail / Italy

Penne stock

Italian food market-cum-restaurant chain Eataly opens its first UK outlet today, adding to its more than 40 branches worldwide. Monocle got a sneak preview of its latest iteration in the heart of London’s financial district yesterday: the site was a hub of activity with open kitchens across the space making fresh pasta, bread and cheese, and shelves stacked high with some of the finest products from across Italy. Spirits did not seem dampened by the fact that this office-heavy area of central London remains relatively quiet as many continue to work from home.

Construction might have begun on the new Eataly site before the pandemic began but the company’s commitment to completing the outpost shows a sense of optimism that footfall will increase as offices reopen. “From what we have seen since we launched bookings for our terrace and other restaurants, we are confident that the city will bounce back to its lively self,” Eataly’s CEO Nicola Farinetti told The Monocle Minute.

Transport / Japan

Virtuous cycles

The Japanese enjoy a good cycle but the infrastructure to get them where they need to go hasn’t quite caught up yet. Unlike in Europe, Japan’s cyclists currently can’t board a train without dismantling and storing their bikes in a special-purpose rinko bag first (a hurdle for more casual cyclists or commuters). That could soon change: from May to September, East Japan Railway Company is conducting a test to allow passengers to take their bikes onboard across five stations on its Suigun Line in Ibaraki prefecture, near Tokyo. The Suigun Line runs through beautiful countryside – think waterfalls, mountains and streams. It’s good news for the prefecture’s government, which is eager to incentivise cycling tourism. And the timing works too: Japan is entering its biggest national holiday, Golden Week, from today until 5 May. The trial could help Japan to shift gears towards a more open cycling society.

Society / Global

Given paws

It’s well known that the pandemic has seen a surge in pet interest but the question is, will it last? Peter Laurie, CEO of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (pictured) in London, notes that about 40 per cent of people who bought puppies in the first lockdown hadn’t considered a pet before, sparking a surge in demand. “We’re asking people to be patient – we promise that a rescue pet is worth the wait,” Laurie told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. Laurie says that the average time that a dog waits to be matched with a new owner is down from 30 days pre-pandemic to 20. While that is good news for rescue centres, he wonders what the future holds. “People are going to want to return to their previous lives and our fear is that many of these pets might be given up,” he says. Lockdown or not, at pet-friendly Monocle we can only advise following the home’s motto: “rescue is best.”

M24 / Monocle On Design

Design and the silver screen

This week, we roll out the red carpet for the unsung heroes of cinema. We speak to the Oscar-winning set decorator of Mank, hear about a new biopic of a design legend and get a film critic’s view on the craft of production design.

Monocle Films / Norway

Boutique Norway

Monocle heads to Norway’s third largest city, Stavanger, to discover how this boom town’s oil reserves are spurring on those entrepreneurs looking to add variety and quality to this once-understated retail scene.

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