Tuesday. 30/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Karsten Moran/Redux

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Working paper

There’s an ever-present crisis facing local news. Just last week the scale was revealed of layoffs happening at Gannett, which publishes more than 200 papers across the United States, including the Poughkeepsie Journal and The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, following quarterly losses to the tune of $54m (€54m). Yet there’s one local paper that gives me reason to be hopeful.

I spent a weekend with friends in Amagansett, Long Island, and on the kitchen table was, as always, a copy of The East Hampton Star. It’s a family-owned weekly that’s been going since 1885. Produced on heavy newsprint, it can withstand a splash from the pool or an overturned glass of rosé. The writing can sometimes be moving or it can be hilariously deadpan as it moves across the big stories and banalities of life in the community.

My favourite section is called On the Police Logs, which rounds up the previous week in local misdemeanours. It just ran a story about a mother who allowed her daughter to have a few friends over. “She returned from a night out to a house full of juveniles who wouldn’t leave,” read the Star’s report. The mother chased them off with a portable lawn sprinkler. The cops were called when one reveller smashed a window.

The Star shines because it reads like a blow-by-blow snapshot of the week. It is deeply knit in the people and place around it. Of course, this is a paper in a very moneyed part of the US and I can’t comment on the financials. But I do know this: everyone I met had the latest edition sitting at home and most, I suspect, would fight to keep it going. How many other local papers can say the same?

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US Editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Japan

Mixed bag

The two-day Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad 8) wrapped up on Sunday in Tunis with a final declaration blaming Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the continent’s food crisis and calling on Africa’s creditors to follow “international rules and standards”. But the event had mixed success. Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida had coronavirus and could only join online, while the number of top-level African officials dropped to 20 from the 42 at the previous conference in Yokohama in 2019. Japan, which has been co-hosting Ticad since 1993, was once Africa’s biggest aid donor; these days it falls well behind China.

At the conference, Kishida contrasted Japan and China’s development approaches by criticising “opaque development financing”, while pledging $30bn (€29.97bn) for African development over the next three years and training for 300,000 people across different sectors. But as one source close to the prime minister told The Japan Times: “Online participation is no match for face-to-face diplomacy”. Kishida’s absence was a lost opportunity.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Russia

Taking Vostok

Moscow and Beijing will this week launch military exercises known as the Vostok war games. Held every four years in eastern Russia, they usually involve hundreds of thousands of troops – but only 50,000 will participate this year amid Russia’s ongoing deadly conflict in Ukraine (Russia denies the Ukraine “special operation” is the cause). Other countries involved include India, Mongolia, Belarus and many former Soviet republics, as Russia seeks to shore up non-western alliances. But all is not as it seems. “China regularly participates in military exercises with Russia and is already playing down the wider significance of its involvement in the Vostok exercises,” says Jenny Mathers, Russia analyst at Aberystwyth University, speaking to The Monocle Minute. “Russia, of course, is doing exactly the opposite and will present China’s participation as a sign that Beijing is on its side.” Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin declared a “no limits” friendship before the war began – but look closely and their marriage has its limits.

For more from Jenny Mathers on the Vostok war games, listen to today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Fashion / Belgium

Slow but sure

Dries Van Noten made his name as part of the “Antwerp Six”, a group of fashion designers that put Belgium on the map in the 1980s. Yet while his brand’s international scope has grown, Van Noten has been largely working in his laid-back home town of Antwerp, from where the company operates, in tandem with its Paris office. “Being in Antwerp allows me to keep a distance from the fashion world and lead a quieter, healthier life,” Van Noten tells Monocle, speaking from his office. This slower pace, combined with the Barcelona-based luxury group Puig taking a majority stake in his business in 2018, has given him the time to get creative once more. That includes thinking about how to make his label more ethical. Recently, Dries Van Noten changed its packaging to eliminate plastic, cut down on menswear collections and explored the potential for creative archive rooms in its shops. “Sustainability is our biggest priority now,” says Van Noten.

Read more of our interview with Dries Van Noten in the September issue of Monocle, on newsstands now.

Image: Getty Images

Architecture / Lebanon

Appetite for reconstruction

Forty projects by student architects have been shortlisted for the final stage of the Inspireli Beirut Port Renewal competition. The contenders, from 23 countries, have been assigned the task of designing architectural features that embody the resilient spirit of the capital. Their responses tackle everything from silo regeneration and urban infrastructure to circulation systems and public transport links.

Entries will be judged by a panel of Lebanese and international architects, representatives from Beirut-based non-profit Order of Engineers and Architects, and the city’s mayor, Jamal Itani. Competition is fierce and the finalists have already been whittled down from 249 initial entrants; winners will be announced on 8 September. Successful designs will be put forward to the port administration and Lebanese ministries of transportation and public works, and may even get the chance to feature in the port’s final reconstruction. Two years after the devastating explosion, Beirut could use any help it can get.

Image: Lesha Berezowskiy

Monocle 24 / The Curator

Monocle 24 highlights

Special reports from Ukraine, the latest on former Pakistan PM Imran Khan and news from the worlds of food and design.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Companion

The Monocle Companion has 50 inspiring essays to improve everything from your vacation to your vocation. Our first-ever paperback is packed with long-reads, inspiration and cheery ideas to make you happy. Get your copy today from The Monocle Shop.

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