Thursday. 4/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek

Opinion / Alex Briand

A little flight reading

This month more people are reacquainting themselves with the joys of flying. Both Australia and Thailand relaxed strict border closures this week and, from Monday, the US will lift all of its country-specific pandemic travel restrictions. Airlines are bouncing back too: Lufthansa reported a €17m profit for Q3 this year after a €1.3bn loss in the same period last year. So with more people back in the air and carriers’ coffers being replenished, perhaps it’s worth giving passengers something to read again.

The in-flight magazine has taken a hit. In June, Finnair’s Blue Wings closed, as did American Airlines’ American Way, a title with 55 years of history. Delta and Southwest have also ended the print versions of their magazines in the past 18 months. The reasons are mostly familiar: contamination concerns, low passenger numbers, a faith that in-flight wi-fi will pick up the slack. Finnair also tied its decision to a bid to remove weight from its planes to minimise emissions. (If that sounds far-fetched, remember that in 1987, American Airlines said that it saved $40,000 by eliminating a single olive from every first-class passenger’s salad.)

In-flight magazines have always punched above their weight. When I worked at British Airways’ High Life, its cover interviewees ranged from musician Dave Grohl to David Attenborough, while its travel reporting and photography often equalled anything on the newsstand. The best in-flight publications espouse to globetrotters a love of travel: the people, places, sights and sounds that are worth exploring for. It beats watching Godzilla vs Kong on a 7in screen. It’s also worth noting that wi-fi, heralded by some to be the death knell for on-board titles, arrived years before the virus with no dip in magazine pick-up rates. So as tickets are bought for long-awaited family reunions, overdue business trips and well-deserved holidays, airlines should make sure that passengers are reunited with the full on-board experience – and some timely inspiration about where to go next.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / Taiwan

National identity

The EU has openly defied China’s warnings about supporting Taiwan by sending a delegation of politicians from the European Parliament to Taipei for bilateral talks. The three-day visit, which includes discussions with president Tsai Ing-wen (pictured) today, comes after Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu made a rare trip to Europe last month. The European Parliament has also recently backed a non-binding resolution to deepen ties with Taiwan, including a bilateral investment agreement. Taiwan, which does not have official diplomatic relations with any European countries apart from Vatican City, has been understandably eager to forge deeper ties. The EU’s rapprochement, however, might have more to do with China. “While Taiwan’s charm offensive in highlighting its democracy has been positive, it is China’s turn to ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomacy that made the EU turn away and pay more attention to Taiwan,” Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at Soas University of London, tells The Monocle Minute.

For more from Steve Tsang and the Czech MEP Markéta Gregorová, who is part of the delegation in Taiwan, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Right angle

Both political parties in the US are pondering what lessons can be learnt from the results of gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday. Questions over Joe Biden’s leadership and Democratic infighting appeared to sap turnout among left-leaning voters, leaving Republicans the ostensible winners. But the question remains whether the success of a gubernatorial candidate such as Glenn Youngkin (pictured) in Virginia truly holds a blueprint for Republicans going forward.

Youngkin successfully walked a fine line, focusing on issues that voters cared about (notably education) while distancing himself from the more bombastic rhetoric of Donald Trump – without alienating Trumpists. Will that encourage other moderate conservatives to come forward? “It’s going to be very interesting to see how Republicans react to this victory,” Republican strategist Linda Chavez told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “Hopefully this campaign in Virginia will give them some encouragement that a more traditional Republican message can, in fact, win.”

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Italy

Bridge too far

The Ponte Morandi bridge is in trouble – and we don’t mean the one in Genoa that tragically collapsed back in 2018. The Calabrese city of Catanzaro is home to a bridge of the same name (pictured) that is embroiled in a worrying maintenance scandal. Using recordings obtained through tapped phones, Italian authorities discovered that substandard materials were deliberately used by contractors during renovations, in order to maximise profit. Anti-mafia police are also investigating links to the ‘Ndrangheta, Calabria’s organised crime network, as well as the alleged corruption of civil servants and officials. The scandal highlights a problem that has plagued Italian infrastructure for decades and goes well beyond the simple issue of neglect. It’s also a reminder that all the good being done by flashy new projects, not to mention the billions in post-pandemic stimulus funds going into infrastructure and other public works, amounts to nothing if criminal involvement isn’t rooted out of tenders.

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / Global

Green houses

Buildings and their associated infrastructure account for about 40 per cent of global carbon emissions, so getting world leaders at the UN’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow to develop large-scale plans for remaking our cities is key. “We’re launching the Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the built environment at Cop26,” says Simon McWhirter, director of communications for the UK’s Green Building Council, a member-led organisation working to improve the sustainability of buildings. “It sets out all the actions we need to get to net zero carbon by 2050, from what we do with existing homes to new commercial buildings.” McWhirter says that the goal of groups such as his is to show industries and policy-makers exactly what is needed to reach the goal of carbon neutrality. As more and more people move to cities, it’s important that urban carbon emissions are taken seriously – and that making our city infrastructure more sustainable and resilient becomes an urgent part of the conversation.

Tune in to Monocle 24 throughout the week for our coverage from Cop26 and listen to the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ for the full interview with Simon McWhirter.

M24 / Food neighbourhoods

Recipe edition, Mina Stone

An easy vegetarian Greek recipe from the author of the new book, Lemon, Love and Olive Oil.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tbilisi’s architectural revival

Rather than erase all evidence of Georgia’s Soviet past, the country’s architectural community is keen to preserve its history and give its once-foreboding buildings another lease of life.

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