Friday. 7/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

All creatures, great and small

This week, Pope Francis (pictured) returned to a topic that has been getting his goat – and puppy and kitten – for some time: people who, instead of procreating, are choosing to lavish time on pets. Clearly he’s ignoring the fact that Catholic priests, officially at least, are hardly helping with the baby-production business. During his weekly audience at the Vatican, the pontiff declared, “Today we see a form of selfishness. We see some people that do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one and that’s it. But they have dogs and cats that take the place of children.”

Last night as I laid the special miniature dinner table at which Macy, my fox terrier, has her supper, I wondered who on Earth he could mean (although I admit there was not much time to worry at that exact moment, what with affixing the tiara to Macy’s head and selecting some soothing dining music – Bach, naturally – to ease her into her evening). But seeing as I am gay, it might be that I get special dispensation here as I am sure the pope would rather I cut down on anything akin to procreating and actually did pat the puppy (not a euphemism) instead.

It’s unlikely that the pope’s words will dent anyone’s affection for their pets. The truth is that caring for an animal is not selfish and, for all sorts of people, the presence of one in their life is a transformational experience. Plus, having a child does not mean that one automatically becomes a selfless being (crikey, he should come and hang out with the feisty parents I know). Personally, I think it’s time that Pope Francis got himself a cavapoo or a cockerdoo. I am sure he would feel more relaxed in seconds. Macy agrees; we are going to send him a letter on her headed notepaper.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / France

Esprit de corps

EU commissioners have descended on Paris as part of a two-day visit to mark France’s ascension to the bloc’s rotating six-month European Council presidency. The country has signalled that its priorities in that time will be migration, the climate and digital affairs. There are plans for new carbon taxes, an EU-wide minimum wage and reform to the Schengen area. In the digital realm, Emmanuel Macron will push for greater “technological sovereignty” in the face of competition from the US and China. The French president has come under fire from the far-right for his decision to hang the EU flag (pictured) from the Arc de Triomphe on New Year’s Eve. Though he might face some domestic backlash over his plans for the EU, France’s stint at the helm comes at a crucial time both for Macron, who is facing an election in April, and an alliance that is crying out for decisive leadership.

Image: Alamy

Health / Japan

Base levels

Amid Japan’s impressively low coronavirus numbers, one region, Okinawa, stands out for heading in the opposite direction. The subtropical prefecture announced its highest-ever daily case rate yesterday and fingers are pointed squarely at the US military. Infections have been rising in Okinawa since last month following a cluster of cases connected to Camp Schwab (pictured), one of the large American bases located there.

Under an agreement between Japan and the US, quarantine measures for military personnel entering the country are carried out by the army, which means that they are not subject to the same strict border controls as other passengers. Okinawa governor Danny Tamaki said he was “outraged” by the number of new infections, while yesterday Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, asked US secretary of state Antony Blinken to enact measures in order to stem the spread of the virus and impose curfews on military bases. Talk about bad guests.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Myanmar

Banned recognition

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen (pictured) arrives in Myanmar today for a two-day visit, during which he will meet with leaders of the military junta that took power in February 2021. His country is this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and his government has said that it wants to “work for a solution” for crisis-ridden Myanmar. Other member states have banned the country’s de facto leader, Min Aung Hlaing, from attending the group’s meetings. Pro-democracy activists and international rights groups have protested against Hun Sen’s decision to visit, arguing that it legitimises the junta’s rule. “Hun Sen’s rogue diplomacy could do more harm than good by breaking ranks with Asean’s response to the Myanmar crisis,” said Amnesty International of the visit. “If Hun Sen truly wants to help, he should cancel his trip.” But with the junta well-versed in isolationism, Cambodia’s attempt to open an alternative channel of communication than that which Myanmar enjoys with its steadfast backers in Beijing should be supported.

Image: General Motors

Transport / USA

Taking charge

After Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida announced on Tuesday that the Japanese technology giant was exploring the launch of a commercial electric vehicle, General Motors (GM) chief executive Mary Barra went one better. At Las Vegas’ annual CES trade show, GM revealed an all-new electric version of its Chevy Silverado pickup truck (pictured). Detroit’s big three automakers – GM, Ford and Chrysler – are all betting big on an electric future in commercial vehicles, with Ford’s F-150 Lightning set to hit the streets this spring. Tesla is also ramping up production on its Cybertruck and start-up Rivian Automotive is working on its R1T pickup. With competition on all sides, GM is hoping that brand loyalty will bring it success in a turbocharged market. Barra’s announcement at CES came just days after year-end sales figures showed that GM has slipped behind Toyota, out of the top spot for overall US vehicle sales for the first time in almost 100 years. Detroit is putting all its chips on the Silverado’s ability to pick up a homegrown recovery.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Capitol riots: one year later

Last January, a violent mob forced its way past lines of police officers and into the US Capitol building in Washington. As investigators continue to examine exactly what happened that day, many questions remain unanswered. Andrew Mueller shares his take on what we’ve learned since the insurrection.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: December/January issue

Monocle’s December/January issue is packed full of insights and inspiration to see you through to the new year, from our annual Soft Power Survey to a look into Detroit’s thriving art scene. Grab the issue now at The Monocle Shop.

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