Friday. 8/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Mending bridges

We don’t often hear very much about what happens when a diplomatic spat starts to cool down. The truth is that ambassadors who are loudly recalled often sneak back into the cities where they are posted once the spotlight is no longer shining quite so brightly. And so it was with France’s esteemed envoy to the US, Philippe Étienne, who is back in Washington just in time for the city’s spectacular autumnal foliage display after a brief return to Paris in protest against Aukus, the nuclear submarine pact between Australia, the UK and the US.

Étienne has already been received at the White House in a low-key event attended by national security adviser Jake Sullivan and secretary of state Antony Blinken. It’s not quite the major public celebration that had been planned in honour of France’s role in the American revolutionary war, which the French pointedly cancelled last month – but it nevertheless shows that the wheels have continued to turn and allied nations need to move on. Blinken was also in Paris this week; discussions included everything from Indo-Pacific geopolitics to the fight against extremism in the Sahel.

While France arguably needs the US more than the other way around, both countries probably crave the comfort of an old friend right now after respective foreign policy blunders. The US has bungled Afghanistan while France’s Emmanuel Macron (pictured, on left, with Étienne) has been accused of acting like a neo-colonialist in Lebanon. Just this week, Macron also caused a serious spat with Algeria over comments that he made about the war of independence and the North African nation’s current “political-military system” (“government” would have been a less problematic choice of words). Pragmatic engagement between two historical allies probably feels pretty good right now.

Image: Shutterstock

Health / Africa

The other vaccine

The World Health Organization’s decision this week to approve the general use of the first malaria vaccine looks set to be a game-changer. The tropical disease is particularly pernicious in Africa; more than 250,000 children died from malaria in 2019. The new vaccine, which has been trialled in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi, presents a number of distribution challenges but nevertheless offers hope to many on the continent. “Having a vaccine will almost certainly translate into a significant number of lives saved,” Chris Smith, consultant virologist at Cambridge University, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. Smith notes that a malaria vaccine has been in development since the 1980s and suggests that the delay, particularly when compared to the lightning-quick arrival of a coronavirus inoculation in the past year, highlights the world’s inequalities. “It’s very easy to obsess about the present [coronavirus] situation while forgetting that we are in the grip of a number of other pandemics,” he says.

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / UK

View from city hall

London has been grappling with rising homelessness since the pandemic began and safety concerns following the murder of Sarah Everard by an off-duty police officer. Monocle caught up with Sadiq Khan (pictured, centre), London’s mayor, at an event to tackle homelessness to ask the hard questions.

On Sarah Everard. “Confidence in the police service has been shattered; we can’t pretend it hasn’t. Sarah’s abduction, rape and murder by a serving police officer is shocking and we have to address that issue. At the same time, we have to do what we can to make meaningful change now.”

On bringing back the night Tube. “As far as public transport is concerned, we have our buses running 24 hours, with CCTV and staff. We’ve had to pause the night Tube because of the pandemic but we’re going to bring it back as soon as we can. I understand why Londoners, particularly women and girls, want the night Tube back.”

On homelessness. “In the past 11 years the number of rough sleepers in London has more than doubled [due to] austerity and losses or changes to benefits. I worry that, with cuts to Universal Credit, with the furlough scheme stopping, with the increase of food prices, with a tax increase next March on National Insurance – it’s a perfect storm. We’re lobbying the government to have more affordable housing and give people the support they need.”

Hear the full interview on the latest edition of ‘The Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: 2021 Art & Antique International Fair Ltd.

Culture / Hong Kong

Change of art

It’s shaping up to be a busy weekend for Hong Kong’s art scene. Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s autumn sales series runs until next week and the Art Next Expo, a three-day biennial showcase of 100 emerging artists, kicks off today. But the top news is the return of Fine Art Asia, one of the continent’s leading art fairs, which opens today and runs until Monday.

This year’s catalogue includes everything from contemporary artworks by Chinese, South Korean and Japanese artists to pieces by UK photographer Emily Allchurch and 13th-century Yuan dynasty lacquer dishes. The fair is also introducing an NFT exhibition for the first time this year. Unlike previous years, only Hong Kong-based galleries are taking part in the fair (pandemic travel restrictions still bar non-residents from entering the city) but that shouldn’t detract from the fair’s potential. As Fine Art Asia’s founder and director Andy Hei said last month, “The Hong Kong art market is still strong.”

Image: Alexandre Guikenger

Luxury / France

Bought for a sniff

LVMH added the quirky, elegant fragrance company Officine Universelle Buly to its stable of 75 brands this week. The firm’s origin story is far from typical. The idea for Buly came to founder Ramdane Touhami after reading Honoré de Balzac’s 1837 novel César Birotteau about a Parisian perfumer who goes bankrupt. “I did some research and found that this was a real guy: Jean-Vincent Bully,” says Touhami. “The company still existed, producing just one product.” Along with his wife Victoire de Taillac, Touhami bought the business in 2014, using funds from the sale of another heritage brand that he’d revived, the Louis XIV-era candle-maker Cire Trudon. Today, Buly makes more than 900 products, which are sold in its shops in Paris, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kyoto and Seoul. This week’s acquisition comes as little surprise: Buly’s growth has been supported for the past four years by LVMH Luxury Ventures, the conglomerate’s investment fund. LVMH clearly has a nose for the sweet smell of success.

For more on Buly, check out our profile of the company in ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’.

Image: Getty Images

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Explainer: A curveball for Cuba

At least nine Cuban baseball players have defected during a tournament in Mexico. Andrew Mueller reflects on history’s most notable examples.

Monocle Films / Global

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