Monday 4 December 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 4/12/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

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Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Conditional support

Legislating is all about compromise (or it should be, at least) and pairing up issues that matter to both sides of the political spectrum can make sense – if there’s a common denominator. The German government, for example, last month reached a deal with the heads of the country’s 16 states that tied higher numbers of migrants with additional funds for the domestic communities where they’re located. In doing so, Germany linked the issue of immigration with the domestic economy. Such compromises in today’s fractured political landscape are essential but that’s not what’s happening in the US.

Negotiations in Congress over additional foreign aid are expected to shift into a higher gear this week but the talks are increasingly hampered by disagreements over border security and immigration. It would be one thing if this were simply about money, as the White House initially laid out (fund Ukraine, for example, and we’ll increase funding for border security). But it’s another when it morphs into a policy debate. Republicans in the Senate want to increase restrictions for asylum seekers at the country’s southern border as a condition for approving Ukraine aid.

Immigration reform is already difficult enough in the US. George W Bush tried and failed in 2007; no other president has really come close since. Tacking immigration onto other priorities today merely stops any progress being made. If simple obstruction is the goal of Republicans, then it’s working but there’s really no point in Democrats engaging in these negotiations at all.

This problem isn’t confined to the US: criticising foreign aid for Ukraine or support for migrants by saying that we should take care of our own first is a common ploy among the right in Europe as well. This is a convenient argument because there will always be another domestic problem to prioritise instead of helping “foreigners”. Rather than falling into this trap, the least that the US could do is consider foreign aid on its own merits.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


‘Welcome aboard, your majesty’: King Felipe VI

Image: Alamy

Transport / Spain

Departing now

After 19 years of construction, Spain has inaugurated a high-speed railway line between Madrid and the northern principality of Asturias. The final 50km stretch burrows through the Cantabrian mountains and includes a tunnel extending for 25km that is considered to be the country’s most complex rail project. King Felipe VI was aboard for the inaugural journey from Madrid to Oviedo, travelling for three hours and 10 minutes – that’s an hour and 35 minutes less than was previously possible.

The new line makes Spain second only to China for the longest high-speed rail network – and Europe’s clear leader. Politicians had hoped for the project to be finished in 2010 and for costs to have been kept below the estimated €4bn spent. But following rising unemployment and a steady brain drain over the past few decades, the Asturias region will welcome the development.

Design / Taiwan

Drawing a crowd

The first edition of Taiwan Design Week is in full swing. With nearly 70 speakers and 60 designers from nine countries taking part, the 10-day celebration of art and design focuses on sustainability and innovation under the theme “Elastic Bridging”. The main exhibition, which takes place at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, is curated by Taiwanese designers Frank Huang, founder of Double Grass, the design studio behind initiatives such as the Taipei Art Book Fair, and Victor Wu of New York’s Atelier TBD. Though there are five international exhibitors, including Greece’s P4 Architecture and Mexico’s Estudio Estudio, the focus will be on 55 homegrown creatives. The event is a bid to connect Taiwan’s design communities with the rest of the world and promote local talent. “Showcasing homegrown design is a way for the country to promote itself on the international stage,” says Taiwan-based journalist Clarissa Wei. “The design expo is a soft-power flex that aims to draw artists from around the world.”

Image: Karin Kellner


Worth the weight

Looking for the perfect present this holiday season? Then let us inspire you with our Advent Gift Guide. Every day until Christmas, we’ll be showcasing one item featured in our Alpino newspaper, which will be available in kiosks and online from 5 December.

TechnoGym, set of dumbbells
TechnoGym’s new dumbbells sport the same quality chrome that you would find on a high-end motorcycle. What better way to get you revved up for a gym session?

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 169

Tools of the trade

Hermès is at the forefront of a movement to uphold France’s leather-working traditions. Monocle visits its new factory in Normandy to meet its expert artisans.

Equestrian workshop

Image: Anabelle Chapman

Hand-sewn leather

Image: Anabelle Chapman

The Maroquinerie de Louviers was designed by Lina Ghotmeh

Image: Anabelle Chapman

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Image: Kohei Take

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Small Cities Index

We discuss the Small Cities Index from Monocle’s latest edition of ‘The Forecast’ and explore two different examples of adaptive reuse – one from Hamilton, Ontario, and another from London, UK.


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