Economist 12/30/15

  1. China’s GDP per person is about one-seventh of America’s. But in 2014 Chinese gave 104 billion yuan ($16 billion) to charity, about one-hundredth of what Americans donated per person.Charitable giving is not yet a middle-class habit. Many people still feel awkward about it, despite their growing prosperity.The middle classes have worries too—that giving large amounts to charity may draw unwanted attention to their wealth. They do not want to fuel the envy of the have-nots or encourage tax collectors to pay them closer attention.Yuan Yuan, the organisation behind the plastic pandas.They are large, bear-shaped receptacles, designed to entice people to donate their unwanted garments to those in need. First deployed in 2012, there are now hundreds around Shanghai, often placed by entrances to apartment buildings. They swallowed about a million items of clothing last year.
  2. The China Philanthropy Research Institute estimates that fully 80% of donations by the wealthiest Chinese go to overseas charities. Many may well prefer to give to local causes, but regulations have hindered the development of philanthropy at home. To function as a not-for-profit organisation, charities must have a government partner, which entails the loss of their autonomy. It is also difficult for them to obtain tax breaks for their donors.
  3. AFTER sun and sand, the West Indies Test cricket team may be the best known symbol of the English-speaking Caribbean. From 1980 to 1995, the side was unbeaten in 29 consecutive series it played. Since June 2000 they have won just 14 Test matches and lost 81 against the top eight countries—a record so miserable that the team’s very survival is now in question. There is speculation that Trinidad and Tobago will leave the West Indies team and form its own. On November 4th a review by Caricom called the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), which runs the team, “obsolete” and recommended its dissolution.Globalisation is one culprit. In the 1980s, national Test teams were seen as the pinnacle of the sport. But the advent of for-profit domestic club leagues playing shorter Twenty20 (T20) games, particularly the Indian Premier League (IPL), has lured players away from Test cricket.Six of the Windies’ leading players are now in Australia—competing for domestic T20 clubs rather than their Test side.The WICB is guilty of self-inflicted wounds.Coaches routinely disagree with the WICB over the selection of players. And its Byzantine structure has made even simple tasks, like scheduling matches, difficult.
  4. On December 27th an assembly of the far-left Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP) party deciding whether to back Catalonia’s acting president, Artur Mas, split the vote evenly—1,515 on each side. The deadlock means that, three months after elections, Mr Mas still cannot form a government to carry out his programme of moving steadily towards secession from Spain.The Catalan impasse is part of a wider Spanish gridlock. Elections on December 20th splintered the political landscape. The duopoly of the conservative People’s Party (PP) of the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the opposition Socialists (PSOE), who have traded turns in power for the past 33 years, has been upended. The insurgent left-wing Podemos and liberal Ciudadanos parties grabbed a third of the parliamentary seats between them, making a coalition or minority government a necessity.
  5. Following mandatory safety requirements introduced on December 21st. More than 45,000 people registered their personal UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the first few days.Registration, which applies only to recreational UAVs, costs $5 (waived for those registering before January 21st) and is good for three years. Existing drone-owners and aeromodellers have until February 19th to comply.The directive makes it an offense for anyone to fly a UAV above 400 feet (122 metres) and within five miles (8km) of an airport, unless special permission is received from the airport tower.Reports of recreational UAVs interfering with regular air traffic have been running at over 100 a month of late.Though none has to date, the risk of a drone being ingested by a jetliner engine and causing a fatal accident is all too real. Bird strikes are bad enough. One of the most feared birds encountered by aircraft is the common Canada goose, weighing anything up to 6kg.Over the past year, American pilots have reported some 700 close encounters with UAVs of one sort or another. That pales almost into insignificance when compared with the 13,700 bird strikes in America last year.The biggest aviation threat of all comes when passenger planes are taking off or landing, or when helicopters have to operate close to the ground while fighting fires, rescuing accident casualities or pursuing criminals.Unfortunately, a drone’s small size makes it difficult for a pilot to spot visually. Its little electric motor makes it hard to detect acoustically. And being made mostly of plastic, it is practically invisible to radar.Drones are an order of magnitude more difficult for pilots to notice.
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