Friday. 27/8/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Up in the air

I’m prone to making frivolous decisions. For proof, you need only look at my credit-card statement after a night out (did I really buy a round of negronis for the whole bar?). Fortunately, these decisions usually only affect me – unlike a recent order from Washington’s city council, which has allocated $10m (€8.5m) of its 2022 budget to the purchase of a waterfront parcel of land.

While buying riverside real estate in the US capital might not sound misguided, the site has previously been earmarked as the landing point for a proposed cable car crossing over the Potomac River. This purchase, then, is thought to be a signal of intent from the council which, over the past five years, has invested more than $250,000 (€212,000) into studying the feasibility of this proposed connection between the Rosslyn Metro station on one side of the Potomac and Georgetown University on the opposite bank. (At present, commuters catch a bus between the two or take a 20-minute walk across the Key Bridge.) But with little over a mile to cover, a small passenger capacity and construction costs in the ballpark of $90m (€76m), my bet is that the cable car, if built, will become little more than an expensive transport folly.

If I had my hands on the city coffers (and as proof that I can make a sensible decision), I would be spending that $10m (€8.5m) on improving the currently dire pedestrian and cycling links across the existing bridge and earmarking a dedicated bus lane to run from the station to the university. Not only would these improvements serve a host of transport modes reaching beyond the banks of the river and tie in better with the city’s existing movement networks, they would also make for a nicer urban experience. Once those have been done, then we can talk about a frivolous riverside folly – over a negroni, of course.

Image: Shutterstock

Conflict / Afghanistan

No way out

Following days of chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, a series of explosions, suspected to be the work of Isis suicide bombers, rocked the perimeter yesterday evening. As The Monocle Minute goes out, US and civilian casualties have been reported but the final number is still unclear. Western embassies had urged their citizens to avoid the airport’s gates yesterday after warnings of a potential terrorist attack. This latest tragedy unfolds as the clock winds down on the US’s evacuation deadline of 31 August and a number of other nations have already completed their own missions. With untold numbers of people – both foreign nationals and Afghans – yet to be evacuated, the path out of harm’s way has never been more treacherous.

For more coverage of the security situation in Afghanistan, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Media / South Korea

Muted response

In a few days, South Korea’s media landscape might more closely resemble that of its northern neighbour. Amendments to the country’s press arbitration act will introduce heavy penalties for organisations that issue “false” news reports. Domestic and international outlets, as well as NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders, have warned that the new measures (dubbed the “fake news bill”) will threaten press freedom.

The Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club has issued a statement claiming that the bill would jeopardise the country’s regional standing, saying that “recently, an increasing number of foreign media outlets have moved their East Asian media hubs to Seoul”. But the law isn’t only upsetting journalists; the ruling Democratic Party has seen a backlash from its members too. And, with president Moon Jae-In’s party leadership ending in May, it might prove an unhelpful legacy for whoever it is that succeeds him.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Algeria & Morocco

Time to split

Algeria cut diplomatic ties with Morocco this week, bringing decades of poor relations to a new low. Announced by Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra (pictured), the breaking of diplomatic relations follows a deal brokered by Donald Trump last year that saw Morocco normalise its connections with Israel; in return, the US recognised Morocco’s claim on the contested Western Sahara region, which borders Algeria. Recent revelations also suggest that Morocco used Israeli software to spy on Algerian officials. “This is an affront to Algeria, which supports Western Sahara’s autonomy and the Palestinian cause,” says Yahia Zoubir, professor in international relations for France’s Kedge Business School and author of many books on Algerian relations. To make matters worse, a Moroccan diplomat publicly supported Algerian secessionist movement MAK and Morocco’s leadership has refused to denounce the statement. Though Algeria has at times come across as hysterical in its response, Zoubir says that “the ball is in Morocco’s court”. There is little to indicate, however, that relations will thaw anytime soon.

Image: Niklas Vindelev

Art / Denmark

Creative thinking

The ninth edition of Copenhagen’s Chart Art Fair kicks off this weekend with a host of exhibitions, talks, performances, films and live music. Founded in 2013, the fair aims to boost the region’s art scene by showcasing the work of Nordic artists. This year’s programme features 26 galleries including big names such as Stockholm’s Cecilia Hillström and the Peder Lund gallery in Oslo, which will present an installation inspired by Constantin Brâncuși’s Vue de l’atelier. And though last year’s edition was a success, spreading across five cities and a number of digital platforms, gallerists are looking forward to being in the same place at the same time again. “Physical encounters are crucial, especially for a young gallery like my own”, says Simon Rasmussen, founder of CCC gallery in Copenhagen. “Taking part in a dialogue with collectors, curators and other exhibitors is essential”.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Morrow Soft Goods

Trained architect Michelle Toney and former fashion designer Stephanie Cleary are co-founders of Morrow Soft Goods, the Los Angeles-based homeware brand they launched in 2016. The aim was to move away from too-perfect home interiors that didn’t really feel lived-in, taking inspiration – and borrowing a colour palette – from California’s wilderness. Morrow started in bedding and has expanded into other soft goods for the home, from towels and table linen to rugs and pillows.

Monocle films / Porto

Making it in Porto

Portugal’s second city is close to the country’s manufacturing heart and that’s why so many designers have made it their home. We meet some of the bright minds in town.

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