Wednesday. 19/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Court in a storm

It’s difficult to overstate the polarisation in the US today but one institution that had at one point seemed (somewhat) above it all was the Supreme Court. That is no longer the case: American liberal media appears to have abandoned all pretence of viewing the nation’s nine justices (pictured), six of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, as trusted arbiters of the US constitution.

The shift is due to a series of recent decisions that have gone against progressive causes, including fears that Roe v Wade, a 50-year-old ruling legalising abortion across the nation, could soon be overturned. Another lightning rod was the striking down of Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers, prompting Paul Waldman of The Washington Post, for example, to ask if the court would have ruled the same way in a Republican administration: “There’s no way to know for sure but I have my suspicions,” he wrote.

Conservative-leaning media are rightly criticised for undermining the credibility of our elections but mainstream outlets challenging the Supreme Court’s authority aren’t much better. Whatever your view of vaccine mandates, it is not illogical for a court to see that this is a matter for states or Congress to decide, rather than the federal government; the same might even be said for abortion rights.

Yes, this current court appears suspicious of federal overreach, particularly of making decisions that haven’t been approved by Congress. There are also legitimate questions over its overly ideological makeup and the naked politics that delivered the current conservative majority. But for journalists to suggest that the nation’s top court disregards the law is reckless. For one thing, let’s remember that this is still the court that refused to play any part in efforts to overturn the 2020 election result, as Donald Trump might have desired. We undermine its authority at our peril.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Russia

Under threat

Moscow’s brinkmanship in Ukraine, during which about 100,000 Russian troops have amassed near their common border, has grown serious enough to prompt Sweden to bolster its own military capabilities on Gotland (pictured) over the weekend. The island in the Baltic Sea provides coastal access to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – all of which share a land border with Russia – and would be of strategic importance to Nato in the event of any invasion. Now Russia has also sent thousands of troops to Belarus, sparking fears that it could be preparing to launch a ground offensive against Ukraine from the north. “Bilateral military drills between Russia and Belarus are nothing new but they come at a sensitive time,” Monocle’s security correspondent and Belarus specialist Benno Zogg tells The Monocle Minute, adding that Nato chiefs in Brussels are also concerned. “Increasingly there is a conviction that, since Russia has assembled so many troops, they will probably be used.”

For more analysis from Monocle’s security correspondent, Benno Zogg, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Barbados

Republic’s first vote

Barbadians will head to the polls today in the country’s first general election since it became a republic at the end of last year. The snap election, which was announced in December by prime minister Mia Mottley (pictured), the nation’s first female head of government, came as a surprise to some as the next ballot was not expected to be held until 2023.

A total of 108 candidates, including representatives of seven political parties and nine independents, are contesting 30 seats. The result will no doubt be crucial to charting the course of the country’s economic recovery, particularly of its tourism sector, which has suffered coronavirus-induced setbacks. While Mottley’s Labour Party is expected to hold on to power, analysts say that a low turnout could affect the result. “I need for us to unite around a common cause,” Mottley said on the eve of the election. “We have, my friends, a country to build and we have a people to mould.”

Hear more from Barbados on this evening’s edition of ‘The Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / USA

Warning beacons

New 5G technology is causing a major headache for aviation. CEOs of the largest US airlines have warned of potential disruptions to their operations if telecommunication companies launch 5G networks near airports. It is feared that the frequencies used by the new mobile-phone technology could cause interference, disturbing sensitive instruments such as altimeters and affecting low-visibility operations. Though the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently approved the use of some transponders, airlines remain unconvinced; they have called for a delay in implementing new networks within a radius of two miles from airport runways. The worry is that the launch, involving a large amount of equipment that is still uncertified, could in the worst-case scenario lead to the grounding of thousands of flights. While phone companies have spent billions upgrading their networks and need to move forward, airline safety is paramount. It remains crucial for the FAA and US Department of Transportation to guarantee safe landing conditions. No doubt other global regulators will be watching as the 5G rollout moves beyond the US.

Hear more on the 5G aviation debate from Jon Hemmerdinger, the Americas managing editor at Flightglobal, on ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Muhammad Fadli

Urbanism / Indonesia

Island hopping

“What happens in Indonesia if projections are correct that, in the next 10 years, they may have to move their capital because they’re going to be underwater?” asked Joe Biden in a speech last July. Plagued by congestion, pollution and coastal flooding, Jakarta (pictured) faces many problems and creating a new capital has long been among Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s priorities. Yesterday the country’s House of Representatives finally passed a law approving a $32.5bn (€28.5bn), 10-year plan to shift the administrative capital to a proposed site on Borneo. Widodo chose the new capital’s name, Nusantara (“archipelago”), from a list of more than 80 options. The question is whether the move truly marks a good-faith attempt to address existential issues facing Jakarta and the country as a whole. If not, perhaps Jakarta II would have been a more appropriate name: more of the same ecological peril, just 2,000km to the northeast.

Hear more on Indonesia’s plans for a new capital from Monocle’s James Chambers on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24 and read an in-depth report on the efforts in the 2020 edition of ‘The Forecast’.

Image: Cate Le Bon

M24 / Monocle On Culture

Seasonal music lookahead

Robert Bound is joined by guests Fernando Augusto Pacheco and Laura Snapes to look ahead at some of this season’s most exciting music releases from the likes of Stromae, Cate Le Bon (pictured) and Cecile McLorin Salvant.

Monocle Films / Global

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