Monday 30 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 30/10/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

A glowing example of safety: Irvine, California

Image: Getty Images

Security / Christopher Lord

Better safe than sorry

New figures released by the FBI show that sunny Irvine in Orange County, California, is the safest city in the US. In any other year, this would be unremarkable – it’s the 18th year in a row that Irvine has received the top prize – but in 2023 the award feels particularly significant. Last week, personal-finance company Wallethub announced its first list of 182 cities where Americans feel most secure – and found some great metropolises languishing. As politicians attempt to lure businesses and workers back to cities, safety is now a battleground metric.

Over the last month, a spate of reporting has taken me from Dubai in the UAE to Des Moines in Iowa, both cities wooing newcomers with low crime rates. Along the way, concerned people asked about the safety of America’s big urban centres. Thankfully, I would explain, my experience has been without great issue but it doesn’t mean that I don’t worry when I see pharmacies in New York keeping toothpaste under lock and key or when I see bouncers standing in front of fashion boutiques. When I mentioned that I was heading to London next, some people wanted to know whether it was safe to visit.

An idea has taken root, despite shortfalls in some cases between actual rates of crime and perceptions of it, that this is what matters as people consider their next move. In the face of social-media videos showing downtown disorder and retail theft, our great urban centres and their leaders have not done enough to counter this narrative. New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, claims that his is still “the safest big city in America” but now is the time to show not tell.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Ukraine’s think tank gets to work

Image: Reuters

Defence / Ukraine

Solo effort?

Spurred on by intelligence reports of the mass transfer of munitions from North Korea to Russia, Ukraine fears that international allies are now shifting their focus away from the country and onto the Israel-Hamas war. A series of comments from European capitals and the election of a new US House speaker, Mike Johnson, who has previously voted against Ukraine aid, have only exacerbated these fears. As a result, the country is seeking to replenish weapon supplies independently.

Approaches range from repurposing redundant US-supplied missiles to encouraging joint ventures between domestic and international defence companies. “Ukraine has realised that with a neighbour like Russia, it will always need to be prepared to defend itself,” Aliona Hlivco, managing director at the Henry Jackson Society, tells The Monocle Minute. “The country has chosen to be innovative, ramping up drone production and inviting in global defence giants such as Bae Systems and Rheinmetall. After the influx of Western weapons in the initial stages of the war, Ukraine is now well on its way to self-sufficient rearming.”

Putting a paws on proceedings: China recalls its pandas

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / China

Hard news to bear

China is gradually pulling back its pandas, which it has given or lent to other countries since the Tang dynasty, from Western zoos as their loan agreements expire. Unfortunately, it seems that bears in Washington will be coming home even earlier than expected.

The National Zoo has not disclosed why the furry animals will be returning to China three weeks before their estimated departure in December but pundits believe that the situation is symbolic of Beijing’s increasingly frosty relationship with the US – and it’s hard to imagine it improving. Tensions are fraught as both superpowers compete for influence in the South China Sea. Just last week, Joe Biden said that the US would defend the Philippines if China were to attack the country. It seems like both countries are done with putting their best foot – or paw – forward.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Canada

Peak performances

The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival kicked off last weekend in the picturesque towns of Banff and Canmore in Alberta. The event, which runs until 5 November, is North America’s premier mountain-culture festival. It features adventure-themed films and book events spread between the two towns, as well as the main campus of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which has hosted the festival for 48 years.

“People flock to Banff from all over the world – the energy of our global event is tangible,” Joanna Croston, Banff festival director, tells The Monocle Minute. A total of 84 films will be screened and authors will present new books, alongside trade shows and talks from people such as famed mountaineer Mingma G Sherpa and snowboarder Jess Kimura. It all culminates in an awards ceremony next Sunday. “For many film-makers and authors, winning one of our prestigious awards and presenting on our stage is a life goal realised,” says Croston.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 168

Growth spurt

Though soon to be stripped of its status as a capital city, Jakarta remains the beating heart of Indonesian entrepreneurship. Monocle travels to meet a few of its movers and shakers.

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Saturdays’ One Satrio shop and Rosalinda Tjioe

Image: Muhammad Fadli

The Gunawarman’s Sofia restaurant

Image: Muhammad Fadli

Monocle Radio / The Stack

‘Fantastic Man’ and ‘The Entrepreneurs’

We speak with Gert Jonkers, editor of the newly revamped Fantastic Man. Monocle editor Josh Fehnert looks at the new edition of our business-focused annual The Entrepreneurs and other forthcoming Monocle titles. And we visit PageFive, a cool publisher and bookshop in Prague. 


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