Wednesday. 3/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news

House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed that China would not stand in the way of Taiwan’s friendship with the US during a visit to Taipei today. In response, China’s defence ministry put its military on high alert and will launch “targeted military operations” tomorrow. Tune in to Monocle 24 throughout the day and check in with The Monocle Minute tomorrow for reactions to Pelosi’s visit.

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Fork in the road

The night before Barack Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden in 2011, he appeared relaxed at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington. He used his speech to excoriate (in comical fashion) one particular member of the audience, Donald Trump. Just days earlier, Trump’s questioning of Obama’s nationality had forced the latter to release the long-form version of his birth certificate.

That one extraordinary week in US politics arguably set Obama on a path to winning a second term as president – his decision to order the strike on Bin Laden (pictured) saw his approval rating surge from 46 per cent to 57 per cent. Meanwhile, many media outlets have speculated that the humiliating dinner prompted Trump to seriously consider a presidential run of his own (Trump, for his part, denies those rumours).

Shades of Obama’s fateful week are apparent in Washington today. On Monday night, Joe Biden, who was famously sceptical of Obama’s raid on Bin Laden, announced the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. While he won’t get the same bounce in the polls as Obama, the raid could allay some fears that Biden took his eye off threats to the US when he pulled troops out of Afghanistan last year.

Biden also faces a make-or-break week in Congress. Democrats are trying to pass a seminal piece of legislation – the Inflation Reduction Act – that would include the largest ever investment in tackling climate change, offset by a new minimum 15 per cent corporate tax. Meanwhile, Republicans are spending this week pushing anti-abortion referenda and voting in state primaries on whether relative moderates or Trump-supporting election deniers should represent them in November’s midterm polls. It’s never easy to pinpoint moments when momentum shifts but if Biden decides to run for a second term in 2024, this could be the week that sets him on a path to victory – or defeat.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s news editor.

Image: Getty Images

Nature / Greece

Friendly fire

Learning the lessons from disastrous blazes last summer, Greece has asked for international support before this year’s wildfire season gets under way in earnest. Dozens of Norwegian, Finnish and Bulgarian firefighters are heading to the Mediterranean this week, joining groups from France, Germany and Romania. The operation, funded by the EU, will have a heavy workload: though Greece has been spared the major fires affecting nations such as Spain and Portugal in recent weeks, the situation is expected to worsen in August. And while Athens no doubt appreciates the support, there’s something in it for the countries offering assistance too: working in a hot and dry climate could prove useful in future as the climate warms and wildfires become more common – even in the more northern parts of Europe. The firefighters arriving this week can expect to be right on the frontline – a new experience for many of them.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Argentina

Rescue mission

As of today, Argentina has a new “super minister” in Sergio Massa, who is charged with rescuing the country from one of its worst economic crises. A political veteran who replaces the left-leaning Silvina Batakis, Massa (pictured) will lead an all-powerful economy ministry tasked with restoring market confidence and rescuing president Alberto Fernández’s embattled government. It won’t be easy. Massa will oversee the economy, development and agriculture, as well as relations with international organisations.

He’ll also have to grapple with inflation that’s expected to surpass 90 per cent this year and a currency at historic lows against the dollar. Unlike his two predecessors, Massa is not an economist but he is seen as someone who can build bridges between the government’s more left-wing vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and the moderate wing of Fernández’s cabinet. “Argentina’s problems cannot be resolved by one person,” said Massa in a statement upon accepting the job. “They will be resolved by teamwork.”

Hear more about Massa and Argentina’s economic woes from Monocle’s Latin American affairs correspondent, Lucinda Elliott, on the latest edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Tourism / France

Off the beaten track

There are few things that the Marseillais enjoy more than a weekend trip to the Calanques, a series of rugged inlets that line the coast between Marseille and Cassis. But a trip there this summer will require some forward-planning: authorities have introduced a permit system for two popular coves to reduce the number of visitors. Managers at the Calanques National Park say that overcrowding is to blame for “very serious” soil erosion that is threatening the enclaves and the biodiversity of the surrounding area. Until late August, access to the beloved spot is limited to 400 people a day, with bookings made online and stringent security checks on arrival. With fines up to €68 for entry without a permit, the hope is to reduce footfall so that the area’s delicate ecosystem can regenerate. It’s the first measure of its kind for a French national park but a price worth paying to preserve this little slice of paradise.

Read more about preserving the Calanques in Monocle’s ‘Mediterraneo’ summer newspaper, which is available online and on select newsstands today.

Image: Annick Ramp/NZZ

F&B / Switzerland

Farewell to arms

First impressions are everything. For 25 years the Brasserie Federal in the main hall of Zürich train station, has welcomed international visitors with the Swiss coat of arms emblazoned above its entrance. Now a Swiss court is demanding that it replaces the logo with a similar looking flag. A law passed in 2017 forbids displays of the coat of arms by anyone other than the state – and rare exceptions such as the pocket-knife producer Victorinox. The flag, however, remains free to use.

So Brasserie Federal is being forced to change all of its logos, from beer glasses and menus to napkins and aprons – and the entrance. Though an elegant Swiss flag will sit in its place, the move will cost brasserie landlord Reto Candrian about €150,000. All this to protect the coat of arms’ reputation? Perhaps Switzerland should reconsider the strict application of its heritage law; surely gastronomic establishments are good representatives of the state too.

Image: Julian Abrams

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Weird-and-wonderful theatre

We take a deep dive into immersive theatre with the acclaimed company Punchdrunk and offer recommendations for what to watch if you’re heading to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Plus: a musical treat from comedian Jazz Emu.

Monocle Films / Paris

Meet the photographers: Alexandre Guirkinger

Mont Blanc is one the world’s most famous mountains – and its deadliest. We asked French photographer Alexandre Guirkinger to create a portrait of this mountain and the people who dwell in its powerful shadow. In our latest film, Guirkinger speaks about the process behind the assignment and how he captured the peak’s enthralling, luring mix of beauty and danger. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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