Economist 4/10/15

  1. Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI) has its headquarters, in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.the firm launched its new Phantom 3 range of drones. Even the basic model has a built-in camera that takes 12 megapixel stills and video at the “1080p” high-definition standard.DJI’s drones are lightweight and relatively easy to use.DJI is today leading the charge in transforming civilian-drone manufacturing from something for hobbyists into a proper business. Now, rumours are swirling in Silicon Valley that DJI is looking for its first injection of outside cash. It is thought to have made around $500m in revenues in 2014 (the company declines to confirm this).Over-regulation is a risk. A Phantom drone crashed onto the White House lawn in Washington, DC, in January; in response, DJI rushed out an upgrade to its drones’ onboard firmware that included many new “no-fly zones”, to head off the risk of outright bans.
  2. ON WINNING power nine years ago, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president, touted his victory as the end of 500 years of colonial rule. Bolivia may have been independent since 1825, but its rulers had the outlook of the imperialists. Change came at last with Mr Morales’s indigenous resistance movement. His Movement To Socialism (MAS) claimed two-thirds of the seats in both chambers of the legislature. In elections last October he easily won a third term. Supporters began talking of a fourth term in office starting in 2020, even though under the constitution he is not eligible to run again.So the results in regional and local elections held on March 29th came as a shock. Opposition candidates for mayor won in eight out of Bolivia’s ten largest cities, up from five at the last vote in 2010.Most worrying for the governing party was its performance in the department of La Paz, until now a stronghold. It lost both the governorship of the department and the mayor’s race in El Alto, a sprawling settlement populated mainly by indigenous Aymara voters, Mr Morales’s keenest supporters.He pinned the blame for the MAS’s poor performance on corruption at regional and local governments.
  3. The December 17th agreement between United Stated and Cuba opened a chink in the trade blockade: it allowed more Americans to visit Cuba without special permits, enabled them to spend more money there and to send more remittances. It also permitted banks and telecoms firms to take steps toward operating in Cuba. The State Department’s designation of Cuba as a sponsor of terror subjects the country to sanctions that terrify banks. It is likely to be taken off the list soon.But the embargo still forbids most American trade and investment, and can only be removed by Congress. Before it is lifted, lawyers say, at least some of about $7 billion of claims by American citizens and companies that lost property after the revolution needs to be paid.On the Cuban side, the state still controls vast tracts of the economy, including foreign trade, banking and law. A dual-currency system is proving difficult to dismantle because of a lack of hard currency. Inefficiencies and arbitrary decision-making can make doing business in Cuba a nightmare.But the embargo, and Cuba’s entrenched suspicion of enterprise, sets limits. The Castro government still makes it almost impossible for most private firms to import supplies or to receive foreign investment. Direct charter flights to Cuba started in March from New York and New Orleans, adding to dozens a week from Miami and Tampa. This month Airbnb brought the sharing economy to Cuba by offering American visitors rooms in private homes.Until Cuba is removed from America’s list of sponsors of terrorism, there is “no way an American bank can touch a Cuban bank”, says Fernando Capablanca of the Miami-based Cuban Banking Study Group.
  4. A YEAR ago Taiwanese students occupied the main debating chamber of Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, in an unprecedented protest against a trade deal with China.The impact of the Sunflower Movement and other recent grassroots campaigns has been wide-ranging.Activists are preparing to stage rallies on April 10th to mark the anniversary of the three-week sit-in, which they agreed to end following a promise by the government to give the legislature more oversight of cross-strait agreements. Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), would be delighted by a high turnout: as the island prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections next January, it welcomes any opportunity to highlight the discomfiture of the ruling Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT).Observers speak of a new “third force” in the island’s politics led by such activists who have campaigned on issues ranging from nuclear power to bullying in the army. They sympathise far more with the DPP than with the KMT, but they complicate the strategies of both.
  5. WHEN the state of Maharashtra banned the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, and the possession of beef, earlier this year, it was bad news for those, mostly Muslims, who turn the state’s ageing cattle into leather and cheap cuts. Then on April 6th Maharashtra’s advocate-general struck fear into the hearts of non-vegetarians. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too.”India’s beef industry has flourished, with exports growing tenfold in the past decade. The country is now the second-largest exporter of beef, behind only Brazil. The paradox depends on a crucial ambiguity: “beef” in India can refer to the meat of either cattle or buffalo, and India’s water buffaloes do not enjoy the sacred status of its cows. Since the government began encouraging farmers to raise and slaughter buffaloes, exports of their meat have boomed. More than 95% of meat exports come from them.

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