For the latest updates following yesterday’s earthquake and tsunami warnings in Japan, tune in to Monocle Radio.
Presidential town hall gatherings in the US can be fascinating events, with candidates put through the wringer by an impressively impartial audience, especially in places such as New Hampshire. “It’s an educated voter base,” says Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy after one such town hall event in Exeter. “I’m proud of the New Hampshire voters who take that responsibility seriously.” And yet, with the state’s primary now just weeks away, the whole thing has felt somewhat pointless. Donald Trump is leading the Republican contest for the nomination by wide margins, holding rallies but avoiding the tough questions that come with such unscripted town hall meetings or national debates.
The contest in the Democratic Party is even more complicated. Officials have shaken up the electoral calendar, choosing South Carolina to hold the party’s first primary. New Hampshire has refused to move its date – the state constitution mandates that it goes first – but the primary might not officially count. Joe Biden’s name will not appear on New Hampshire’s ballot as a result, yet long-shot candidates Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson are crisscrossing the state, hoping for a symbolic victory against the incumbent. Confused yet? We haven’t even mentioned Iowa’s caucuses.
Welcome to what is expected to be a bizarre 2024 presidential election that, in all likelihood, will result in a November rematch of Trump versus Biden. The campaign will take place against a backdrop of Trump facing multiple trials, Republican lawmakers trying to impeach President Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter standing trial on tax evasion and gun charges. For journalists, it will be a challenge to make this tiresome charade seem fresh. This year will be one of the most consequential elections in US history, yet the risk of voter apathy is high. We have until November to explain why Americans should avoid fatalism, pay attention and vote. It all starts with those seemingly inconsequential presidential primaries this month.
Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
Italy takes over the G7 presidency from Japan this month. In June the group will celebrate its 50th anniversary at its summit, which will be held at the Borgo Egnazia hotel in Puglia. The presidency is an opportunity for Italy to position itself as a world leader and provide meaningful solutions to global issues such as public health and geopolitical instability. The government aims to put climate change at the top of the agenda and bring attention to how it affects other issues, including the war in Ukraine, economic and energy security, and relations with Africa. Italy now faces the complex task of building on the work done at the 2023 summit in Hiroshima. At a time of profound economic and geopolitical uncertainty, demonstrating the G7’s prowess as a protector of the West’s rules-based international order will be more important than ever.
Turning a cargo ship around takes a long time – but that’s nothing compared to trying to get the entire shipping industry to change tack. Having spent 200 years burning dirty combustibles, some ship owners are now discovering that the most promising technology for their industry is one that was abandoned years ago: sails. Cargo decks are now sprouting all manner of breeze catchers but smaller vintage fleets are also finding themselves back in the spotlight.
Meanwhile, tyre-maker Michelin is developing inflatable sails and Norway’s Hurtigruten is designing an eco-cruise ship (instead of smoke pouring from the chimneys, this ship’s mast will be covered in solar panels). “What we’re creating is a new generation of vessels,” Guillaume Le Grand, CEO and co-founder of TransOceanic Wind Transport, tells Monocle. And whether these different sectors choose to compete, co-operate or ignore each other, one thing is clearly on the horizon: more sails.
For our full report on wind-powered vessels and other agenda-setting business stories, pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’, which is out now.
Following their successful Canadian launch of a range of naturally flavoured sparkling drinks, all made and canned in Toronto, entrepreneur sisters Andrea Grand and Katie Fielding are now planning to expand operations into the US. They came up with their product, Barbet, in early 2020 after they spotted a gap in Canada’s soft-drinks market for a higher-quality alternative to the same old household names. Attempting to make a dent in the sector, which is dominated by large multinational manufacturers, was a sobering prospect.
But the team decided to capitalise on a key aspect of the brand: its small scale. “If you launch your products in a major grocery shop, there’s a perception that you’re a big operation,” says Grand. Instead, Barbet approached some of Toronto’s smaller boutique food shops and delicatessens, as well as a selection of the city’s well-regarded independent bars and restaurants, and the strategy paid off. Demand in Ontario for Barbet’s drinks has doubled every year since launch. Sometimes, big ideas come in small packages.
For more business-driven ideas, pick up a copy of Monocle’s December/January issue, which is out now.
Monocle sits down with UK astronaut Tim Peake to discuss his remarkable career, the future of space exploration and his new book, Space: The Human Story, which is both a history of spaceflight and a memoir.
Your new book tells a very human story and it’s often funny too. Do you think that all astronauts have some shared characteristics?
Yes, that was something that I wanted to explore with the book. We have progressed so much since the Mercury Seven was selected. Back then, the skills that were required involved being able to go to the space station and back. Now we need to be able to spend six months up there and perform science and engineering tasks. However, there are huge similarities between astronauts from back then and those of today. As author Tom Wolfe said more than 40 years ago, it still requires “the right stuff”.
How did it feel to spend six months on the International Space Station?
We try to achieve normality as soon as we can because you have to be able to operate as an efficient crew member. That means we can’t be in a prolonged state of heightened awareness; otherwise, we can’t crack on and work for 12 hours and do the science. We make schedules, create routines and exercise every day to simulate some sort of normality. But occasionally you go to the cupola window and look out – and it’s impossible not to feel that it’s extraordinary.
There’s a prospect of you returning to space. Is there something in particular that you’re looking forward to?
Seeing the view. That’s the big draw. When Scott Kelly, my previous commander, was returning after nearly a year in space, he did one final float and we had to drag him from the cupola window and force him into the spacecraft to send him home. You would have thought that he was desperate to come back to Earth and see his friends and family. But there was this look on his face as he realised that it was his last chance to see the planet from space. Even for someone who spent so much time up there, it was still a captivating sight.
For our full interview with Tim Peake, tune in to episode 194 of ‘The Big Interview’ on Monocle Radio.
Latika Bourke and Georgina Godwin look back at the biggest news and culture stories of 2023. Plus: Andrew Mueller gives us his alternative take on this year’s events.