Monday. 10/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Column / Alexei Korolyov

Eye of the storm

While our everyday lives are dominated by the pandemic and what we can and can’t do, ad infinitum, the dull and often-hidden machinery of world diplomacy never stops. It’s not only the essential workers who are permanently on guard, it’s also the faceless officials and political advisers, negotiating, striking deals and making statements.

Vienna is the physical embodiment of this. You’d never guess that there are world-changing decisions being made here but that’s exactly what happens behind many of the city’s palatial façades. Famous for being home to a multitude of diplomatic organisations, such as the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (as well as a den of spies), Vienna still stands at the centre of international diplomacy.

This is where the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was announced and where the current Iran talks continue; the latest round began last week (pictured). It is from here that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe condemns rights abuses around the world. And it is here, within the UN, that member states are currently putting pressure on the Kazakh government to halt its violent repression of recent protests.

It’s a strange feeling, knowing that all of this is going on around you. It’s like walking on a dormant volcano, albeit one populated by smartly dressed people drinking in coffeehouses. But beneath our tortoiseshell frowns, I know that me and my fellow Viennese are proud of our proximity to international peacemakers. We hope that 2022 will see these unsung heroes doing some of their best work yet.

Korolyov is Monocle’s Vienna correspondent and a regular contributor to Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Sport / North Korea

Snowed off

North Korea has sent a letter to China blaming both the pandemic and “hostile forces” for its non-attendance at the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. As well as declaring these vague objections, the letter was used as an opportunity for a less-than-subtle critique of one country in particular, stating that “the US and its vassal forces are getting ever more undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics”. Despite the initial snub to Beijing, the letter’s overtly pro-China stance makes it clear that this is just another attempt to provoke the US. It’s an especially strange move considering that North Korean athletes aren’t actually eligible to compete in the Olympics following the country’s no show at Tokyo 2020. So, though they won’t be winning in the skiing, snowboarding or sled-dog racing, it’s certainly a gold medal-winning attempt when it comes to diplomatic shithousery.

Society / Ireland

Art support

In what’s being hailed as a historic intervention, the Irish government will pilot a universal basic income scheme for an estimated 2,000 artists, actors, musicians and other performers. “This is a key priority for me,” said Catherine Martin, the country’s culture minister. While precise details of the scheme are yet to be determined, it is hoped that it will bring relief to the arts sector, which has been hit hard by recurring lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions.

“I am determined to ensure that permanent damage is not done to the arts sector from the pandemic,” Martin added. “I encourage everyone interested to get involved in the online consultation for the Basic Income for the Arts pilot.” It’s certainly a bold move that will be watched the world over since it offers the perfect test conditions (a small sector-specific sample size) for the feasibility of the much-debated policy.

Image: Getty Images

Media / USA

Clearing the air

This weekend marked the end of an era as Audie Cornish (pictured, on right), the much-loved co-host of NPR’s flagship afternoon news programme All Things Considered signed off for the final time after 10 years in the presenter’s chair. Cornish is the fourth NPR news host to leave the broadcaster since September last year and her departure has stirred debate in the US media. Questions have been raised as to whether such resignations reveal something troubling about NPR’s work environment, particularly for journalists from diverse backgrounds. The personnel changes behind the station’s microphones are notable for another reason, too. Given that several of the presenters in question have left for roles at newer audio-news ventures, it might be an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of one of the most storied and trusted positions in US broadcast journalism: the public radio news host. In a shifting sector, as both newer and legacy outlets vie for a share of a growing and diversifying audience, it’s doubly important to have broadcasters with intelligence and integrity that listeners can trust.

Image: Alamy

Transport / USA

Train reaction

New York’s governor Kathy Hochul has announced a solution to its largest city’s notoriously patchy inter-borough transportation: a new rapid train line connecting Brooklyn and Queens. When completed, the Interborough Express will serve about 80,000 people and take less than 40 minutes from end to end, connecting riders to subway lines in an area often referred to as a “transportation desert”. The project will ensure that commuters coming from typically low-income areas will have increased access to jobs and services, and simultaneously help to solve the problem of traffic congestion in the city. The plan proposes using 14 miles (22km) of unused freight tracks, meaning that the project can be completed swiftly without the need for digging up a large area of new ground. That sounds like a win-win to us.

Image: Bjarke Ingels Group

M24 / The Urbanist

Past pandemics and future cities

We examine how our urban fabric has been moulded by pandemics of the past and explore how our cities will deal with the challenges of the future.

Monocle Films / Friedrichshafen

Inside the airship industry

Airships, once tipped to be the future of flight, are now largely used as costly billboards that drift across cities or over major sporting events. We travelled to Friedrichshafen in Germany to take a peek inside one of the world’s few commercial operations and explore this niche area of aviation. Read more on the story in the November issue of Monocle magazine.

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