Monday 3 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 3/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Bumpy ride

Over recent years there have been few mobility issues as divisive as e-scooters. At Monocle, we’ve often talked about their potential – if done right – to provide an easy, speedy and clean way to get around. But when done wrong (which tends to be the case more often than not), they add clutter to pavements, reckless drivers to city streets and highlight a serious lack of protective gear for riders.

Yesterday in Paris, residents (rather than politicians) had the chance to vote on e-scooters’ future. The referendum stands out because it is the culmination of failed attempts by the city to control the rise in e-scooters through the introduction of dedicated parking zones, speed limits and safety requirements. Faced with bureaucratic restrictions when dealing with private operators that run the shared e-scooters, city hall decided to simply place the matter in the hands of Parisians. Might other cities, from London to Rome, leave e-scooters’ future in the hands of those who potentially ride them?

Since their inception, e-scooters’ journey has been far from a smooth ride. Cities grow, evolve and move at different speeds. While Paris has been dabbling in e-scooters, Lisbon has a growing number of commuters hopping on them in the bike lanes. Each city is different, varying in everything from culture to urban planning. The ability of metropolises to allow for urban experiments when it comes to mobility should be celebrated nonetheless – even if some of them are still searching for the right formula.

Carlota Rebelo is Monocle’s senior foreign correspondent and the producer of our flagship cities programme, ‘The Urbanist’.

House News / Monocle Radio

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Space / USA

One small step

Today marks a historic moment for modern space travel as Nasa is set to release the names of its first moon-bound astronauts in more than half a century. The Artemis II mission will take approximately 10 days and see the crew of four loop around the moon, testing a route that will be taken for future journeys to the lunar surface.

It will mark the first flight with crew aboard the Orion, a craft designed for deep-space exploration. While little is known in advance about the line-up, Nasa has said that it will include three Americans and one Canadian. The agency has also pledged that the Artemis programme will be more diverse than its Apollo predecessor. “This is a landmark in the return to space exploration and the start of humanity’s outreach into the solar system,” astronomer and science writer Dr David Whitehouse tells The Monocle Minute.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / France

A bit gauche

France’s powerful leftist trade union, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), has been instrumental in the country’s month-long protests over pension reform and the government's usage of special constitutional powers to push legislation through the National Assembly. At a crucial time for both the union and the country, it has elected what is seen as a surprise choice for new leader: 41-year-old Sophie Binet (pictured).

A strong feminist voice, she is the first woman to head the organisation since it was formed in 1895. France’s second-largest trade union might have a crucial social role to play but it is also licking its wounds from internal disagreements over who to elect. The fact that Binet has been called a “default” leader by some media outlets reflects the fact that a consensus couldn’t be reached over the frontrunners. She’ll have a job on her hands to unite the union and prove her legitimacy – but at least everyone can agree on their disgust at Macron’s plans.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Taiwan

Few friends in high places

Honduran president Xiomara Castro (pictured) has announced that she will be travelling to China “soon” as her country officially re-establishes its ties with Beijing and ends its decades-long relationship with Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has embarked on a 10-day tour of Central America. Following an official visit to Guatemala yesterday, she will meet with government officials in Belize today.

Both countries are Taiwan’s last remaining allies in the region. And with Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama and the Dominican Republic having already switched allegiances, Taipei is rightly worried that Belize and Guatemala will follow suit. As China continues to funnel money, investment and attractive loans into Latin America, Tsai will have to show leaders that maintaining ties with Taiwan is an economically savvy choice. It looks like she has a lot of convincing to do.

Image: Artu Nepomuceno/ Vogue

Media / Indonesia

Golden age

The April issue of Vogue Philippines will feature 106-year-old Apo Whang-Od – the oldest person to appear on the cover of any of the fashion magazine’s editions. A publication historically equated with youth and stardom, the new cover star is clearly a departure. “It challenges mainstream standards of beauty, which is so impressive given that Vogue Philippines only launched last September,” our fashion editor, Natalie Theodosi, tells The Monocle Minute.

Residing in the mountains of Kalinga in the village of Buscalan, Whang-Od is referred to as the last mambabatok (hand-tap tattoo artist) of her generation. She skilfully traces batok motifs on the skin using a length of grass dipped in soot, before tapping the design using a bamboo stick and thorn. Whang-Od’s talents were largely unknown outside her village until tattoo tourists started seeking her out. As magazine budgets tighten and regional titles are snipped, this goes to show the power of an image in print. Thoughtful storytelling – and a little ink – still matter in the digital age.

Image: Martha Summers

Monocle Radio / On Design

Machine-A, designing inclusive spaces, Marco Campardo

We celebrate the 10th anniversary of cult fashion shop Machine-A and find out how material choice can play a role in inclusive design. Plus, we meet Marco Campardo, this year’s winner of the Ralph Saltzman prize.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: April issue, 2023

What’s in store for retail? Monocle’s Retail Survey checks out the global benchmarks in shopping, while our spring Style Directory rounds up the labels, designers and products on the radar of the sharpest dressers. Elsewhere, we go in-depth on the mystery of who blew up Nord Stream and reveal Paris’s best sandwich – and how to make it.


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