Monday. 29/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Making tracks

One might think that pro-transit candidates losing regional election races across the US this November would signal waning support for improvements to bus and rail infrastructure in the country. Not so. Though they might not have backed candidates, US voters approved all 11 of the mass transit projects that appeared on their ballots over the course of 2021. It makes this year the first in which every transit funding act that went before a US electorate was supported.

In November alone, voters endorsed some $100m (€88m) in new infrastructure, including an extension of the bus network in Toledo, Ohio, and multimodal improvements in Gilbert, Arizona. It’s an outcome not lost on American Public Transportation Association president Paul Skoutelas. “Even as times and circumstances change, what remains consistent is the voting public’s understanding that public transportation is critical to the future of their communities and part of a forward-looking vision,” says Skoutelas.

The backing is all the more significant in a country where, with a few notable urban exceptions, the car is king: some 82 per cent of people commute by car in the US. That reality should spur confidence in transit advocates across the globe. If automobile-obsessed American electorates can understand that investing in transit is a good thing – reducing traffic congestion, commuting costs and air pollution, while supporting a strong economy – then surely other communities can be convinced too. So whether you personally hail a bus or train to work, let’s mark this year as a success for riders of all modes of transit.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Iran

Up in arms

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the US is back on the negotiating table today as indirect talks between the two nations resume in Vienna. While it is a positive sign that Tehran has agreed to resume discussions, a breakthrough is not expected. It is, however, an opportunity to see how Iran will approach diplomacy under president Ebrahim Raisi (pictured), who took office in August. Talks had been on hold since then and his hard-line government has increased its demands, leading some to criticise Joe Biden for missing an opportunity to restore an agreement before Raisi’s more moderate predecessor Hassan Rouhani left office. Ever since the multilateral accord was scrapped by Donald Trump in 2018, Iran has upped its nuclear programme. That makes today’s renewed diplomatic efforts crucial to ensuring that the country doesn’t amass enough material for a nuclear weapon.

​​For more on the return of nuclear talks in Vienna, listen to today's edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Barbados

Regal tender

Barbados is “Little England” no more. From tomorrow, Queen Elizabeth II will be removed as the island’s head of state on the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain. The position will be taken over by Dame Sandra Mason (pictured, on right, with Queen Elizabeth II), the current governor-general of Barbados, who will be sworn in as its first president.

“Barbadians are generally very happy that Barbados is becoming a republic,” Vic Fernandes, chairman of the island’s radio station, Capital Media HD, tells The Monocle Minute. “We’re cutting links with the monarchy as head of state. However, we remain part of the Commonwealth and our strong connections with the United Kingdom will remain.” In a sign that there are no hard feelings, Prince Charles will be present at the ceremony. The smoothness of the transition makes this an uplifting time for the people of Barbados as they begin a new journey and leave their royal legacy behind.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / UK

Major delays

London is facing an imminent transport crisis as the full extent of the financial woes at Transport for London (TFL) is emerging. Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that a budget crunch could mean the suspension of 100 bus routes and an entire Tube line, while the introduction of new trains could be put on hold for another 20 years. Questions over the return of the 24-hour Night Tube also continue; drivers staged a walkout on Friday and more strike action is planned for December. Khan is in a tough spot: though he sets TFL’s vision, much of its funding comes from Westminster. His statement at the end of last week marked a final attempt to force the UK government into providing much-needed financial support. A failure to act could result in one million fewer public transport journeys across the capital, ultimately erasing the progress of the past few years and pushing Londoners back towards their cars.

Image: Alamy

Culture / France

Au contraire

Peruvian author and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa (pictured) has been elected to the French Academy, the prestigious institution that shapes the standards of French language. The choice marks a rare bending of the rules, given that Llosa is 10 years older than its statutes have previously allowed and hasn’t written any books in French. Famous for titles such as Time of the Hero and for his sharp criticism of Peru’s military in the 1960s, the author was admitted to the academy with 18 out of 22 votes. In a biography that accompanied his election, the academy noted that Vargas Llosa had been shaped by Parisian life, having lived there for three years. Perhaps most notably, the academy also praised his role as a language academic in Spain. Over the years, the French Academy has been criticised for its rigidity but its willingness to admit Vargas Llosa suggests a shift. There’s no harm in breaking with tradition – and recognising the giants of other languages too.

M24 / Eureka

Masterclass

David Rogier is the CEO and founder of Masterclass, the online learning platform on which a host of global leaders and celebrities teach their craft. From Martin Scorsese offering tips on film-making to Malala Yousafzai discussing how to drive change, and Ringo Starr teaching you how to play the drums, the video lessons are created as a celebration of learning. Rogier spoke to Monocle’s Tomos Lewis about what they’ve discovered about the way in which people learn.

Monocle Films / Global

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