Wednesday. 21/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

A word in your ear

On Monday a judge in Baltimore overturned the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed, who was jailed for murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Syed’s case has been in the spotlight ever since he became the subject of the 2014 investigative podcast series The Case Against Adnan Syed, hosted by Sarah Koenig. The programme, part of the Serial strand, was a sensation, with some 80 million downloads. Koenig’s detailed investigation, a format that left listeners feeling as though they were also trying to solve the case and an overwhelming sense that Syed’s conviction was unsafe, created a ratings winner. But a hit podcast alone is not enough to release a man from prison. Instead, it was dogged, slow-moving legal work that finally led judge Melissa Phinn to release Syed (pictured) from jail after concluding that the original trial was unfair because the state had failed to disclose key evidence. Syed might face a retrial.

What is clear in this case – and in many others involving unsafe convictions in the US and beyond – is that to challenge the court system, you need determined advocates and luck. That’s why Syed has in some ways been fortunate. His story made for a good show and he had the backing of the Innocence Project, an independent nonprofit that works to free people who have been wrongly convicted. The project has been involved in numerous exonerations, including of many people who were awaiting execution.

The Innocence Project estimates that at least 1 per cent of the US prison population has been wrongly convicted. If correct, there are 20,000 people waiting for help. That’s why it is only structural changes to the unflinching machinery of a judicial system in which people are encouraged to confess with the promise of lighter sentences – and where wealth and race are still determinants of what happens to you – that will make people feel confident that bad convictions can be overturned.

Andrew Tuck is editor in chief of Monocle.

Image: Alamy

Tourism / Japan

Home and away

Japan’s internal affairs ministry reported yesterday that inflation in the country hit a 31-year high in August. Consumers are expected to feel even more pain from October, when the prices of over 6,000 daily food items are set to go up. The slide of the yen – a drop of more than 20 per cent this year – is creating its own headaches for consumers but one sector can see the positives: tourism. Visitors from overseas will be thrilled with the weak currency, which will make shopping, eating and travelling in Japan a relative bargain.

Economists say that if visitor spending reaches pre-pandemic levels – nearly ¥5trn (€35bn) a year – inbound tourism might be the best means available to shore up the struggling currency. Many predict that Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, will use his trip to the UN General Assembly in the US to announce when Japan will open to independent travellers from dozens of countries, which would be welcome news for the hospitality industry and the wider economy.

Image: Messe Berlin

Mobility / Berlin

Cleaning up their act

Innotrans, the world’s largest transit trade fair showcasing more than 2,800 exhibitions, opened in Berlin on Tuesday with a bang – literally. Kettledrummers, a trombonist dressed in a hi-vis jacket and a troupe of pirouetting train conductors kicked off the odd, opera-inspired opening ceremony. This year’s conference, the first in four years, is focused on slashing emissions. Hydrogen might be struggling for market share in the automotive and aerospace industries but train manufacturers are steaming ahead with the clean-energy source. One significant unveiling was the first US hydrogen-powered passenger train, Stadler’s Flirt H2, which will run in San Bernardino, California. Meanwhile, Polish firm Pesa revealed what it calls the world’s first hydrogen-powered shunting locomotive. The consensus? Keeping the industry moving will mean harnessing new technologies – and fast. “Hydrogen’s role depends on its price and the cost of electrification,” Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge tells The Monocle Minute. “But it will play a significant role in the future of rail transportation.”

For the latest comings and going, tune in to Monocle 24 for our rolling coverage of the Innotrans trade fair in Berlin.

Image: Paulius Staniunas

Entrepreneurship / Bali

Courting business

Bali is just one of thousands of islands in the Indonesian archipelago but the easy-going, mainly Hindu destination has long been a singular success story among those seeking somewhere sunny to surf and unwind. But after tourism cratered at the height of the pandemic, the government is changing tack: it is now pushing to rebrand it as a place for remote workers and entrepreneurs (as well as surfers, hippies and life coaches).

Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia’s tourism minister and a regular visitor of the island, has announced that the country is preparing a five-year visa for remote workers, with no tax obligations payable on foreign-earned income. The result? A shift in legislation that could spur more small-business owners towards a slower pace of life between the temples and paddy fields. “I don’t want to go back to Japan,” entrepreneur Kimiko Aida (pictured) tells Monocle. She left Tokyo for Canggu in 2019 when her eldest son turned six; she now remotely manages a coffee farm in Kagoshima but plans to start a consultancy from Bali. “Tokyo is too crowded,” she says.

For more slow-down destinations and to meet the latest crop of small-business owners in Bali, pick up our magazine ‘The Entrepreneurs’ from next week. Subscribe to Monocle so you don’t miss an issue.

Entertainment / Toronto

Sound investment

One of the best-loved music venues in Canada’s biggest city has just reopened after a three-year, €138m restoration and punters are already singing its praises. Massey Hall opened in downtown Toronto in 1894. Playing at the venue soon became a rite of passage for both regional acts and international artists, from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to Luciano Pavarotti. (It has even hosted an appearance by the Dalai Lama.)

The project was completed by Canadian practices KPMB Architects and GBCA, which took great care to protect the building’s history and crystal-clear acoustics, while giving it modular red-velvet seating, a new tower for additional practice rooms and recording studios, and external glass walkways to aid movement through the building. “This place means a lot to all kinds of people,” the venue’s president and CEO, Jesse Kumagai, tells Monocle. “It wasn’t a terribly opulent or ornate place. It was intended very much for everyone in the city.”

For our round-up of three new venues that are making an effort, including spaces in Taipei and Helsinki, pick up a copy of our out-now October issue of Monocle.

Image: Terje Ugandi

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Taste of Tallinn

We meet some of the shakers and makers of the Estonian capital’s hospitality industry, including a man who has devised a way to speed up ordering drinks in bars with the help of robots.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: October issue, 2022

Monocle’s October issue is all about making an effort, whether that’s designing a distinctive uniform for your business, decking out your apartment so that hosting is easy or sharpening up your autumn style. We cover it all. Plus: will Brazil stick or twist as election day nears?

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