Tuesday. 11/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Prize return

You won’t be surprised to hear that an awards show aficionado such as myself was left disappointed by the ceremonies from the past year. From a muted Oscars to the video-call glitches at the Golden Globes, I was craving something better and with a bit more glitz. Perhaps the Brit Awards – happening today in the UK – will mark a turning point as countries start to open up and allow audiences to return to gigs, cinemas and, yes, award ceremonies.

The event will be hosted at The O2 with a live audience of 4,000 people. The line-up this year shouldn’t disappoint either, with some of the biggest pop stars of the moment no doubt looking forward to the chance to finally sing before crowds again. Expect performances from The Weeknd, Griff and Dua Lipa (pictured), who helped us to cope during the first lockdown with her brilliant album Future Nostalgia.

The Brits will no doubt be seen as a test to allow more events of such calibre in the coming weeks and months. Indeed, the cultural calendar this summer is looking increasingly crowded and it has been heartwarming to see other countries offering some optimistic news too. Belgium’s prime minister, for example, said on Sunday that large festivals will be allowed in the country in the second half of the summer. Forthcoming highlights for me include the return of the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam later this month and the Cannes Film Festival in July. Of course, we will keep you informed of all of them in our newsletters and across Monocle 24. For now, though, all we can say is welcome back.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Party line

It appears inevitable that top Republican lawmakers in the US will remove congresswoman Liz Cheney (pictured) from her post as chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-most important party position in the legislative chamber. A vote is expected as early as tomorrow to replace the Wyoming congresswoman with Elise Stefanik. Cheney was among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection and she has also repeatedly dismissed the former president’s unfounded claims of electoral fraud. By contrast, congresswoman Stefanik has a more moderate voting history than Cheney but backed Trump’s incendiary claims of a stolen election in November. Cheney’s ousting represents “a clear division between what the party once was and what the Trump iteration of the party represents,” Rick Wilson, co-founder of the Lincoln Project and a Republican political strategist, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “It is now a nativist, conspiracy-driven party that is much more similar to a personality cult than a political party”.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Global

Cash injection

Despite being present in only a minority of people, vaccine scepticism has the potential to undermine the global response to coronavirus. Born out of reasons as diverse as government mistrust, religious beliefs and misinformation, vaccine scepticism can facilitate surges in cases and allow harmful mutations to arise in unvaccinated populations. Katie Attwell, a vaccine-uptake specialist at The University of Western Australia, says that it’s not too late to change people’s minds. “Two of the key things are to be out in the field early and to understand what the public is thinking,” she says. “We shouldn’t assume that people will stay in a position forever.”

That’s why Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has already donated $40m (€33m) to battling the virus, recently pledged grants of up to $50,000 (€41,000) to 18 at-risk cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to help devise vaccine-confidence campaigns. By focusing on specific communities, including in Rio de Janeiro (pictured), such tailored solutions could have a big global impact.

Listen to our series on tackling vaccine hesitancy throughout this week on ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / Japan

Green bottleneck

With millions of vending machines in use in Japan, ice-cold drinks are available on almost every street corner. And despite obvious advantages for thirsty consumers, there are environmental downsides: the need to dispose of vast quantities of plastic bottles, plus the overflowing bins that sit beside the vending machines. Now the Japan Soft Drink Association (JSDA) is taking matters into its own hands and has laid out plans to raise the ratio of plastic bottles that are recycled from 12.5 per cent now to 50 per cent by 2030. Japanese consumers are assiduous about depositing plastic bottles for recycling but one in 10 of those are too dirty; one cigarette butt inside and the bottle has to be discarded. The JSDA hopes to keep used bottles free of other rubbish by using new bins with openings big enough for plastic bottles and nothing else. With Japan’s carbon-neutral target looming in 2050, every little initiative helps.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Switzerland

Radio silence

Traditional radio could soon be a thing of the past in Switzerland, where the federal government has decided to switch off frequency modulation (FM) broadcasting and only allow digital audio broadcasting (DAB) from next year. It’s a step that’s been taken by a handful of countries including Norway in 2017, where the total number of radio listeners has since declined and no financial support was provided to buy new receivers, which are especially costly for vehicles; some 58 per cent of Swiss cars still use FM radio. “Switching off FM would cause immeasurable damage to the medium of radio,” says Roger Schawinski, a radio pioneer who helped to break up Switzerland’s radio monopoly in the late 1970s by broadcasting with a strong FM transmitter from a hilltop in neighbouring Italy. More than 17,000 people have already signed a petition started by Schawinski, opposing the switch. Switzerland would be wise to avoid becoming a digitalised island where only younger generations can thrive.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Chiefs

Mayor Jan Vapaavuori

In this week’s episode, Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, joins the outgoing mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori. They discuss the path to realising Helsinki’s potential – and why functionality is sexier than it sounds.

Monocle Films / UK

How to fix your high street: Frome

We visit a monthly market in the unassuming Somerset town that’s proving easy sell to locals, buoying local businesses and luring in punters from miles around.

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