Perils and promise of drone economy; More women in charge means bigger profits; Farmers, traders, lions and the India beef ban

1 Promise and peril of drone economy (Straits Times) Emerging technologies can charm, baffle and vex all at once. Shorn of the hype, the performance of drones has yet to live up to expectations. External signals can interfere with their navigation systems, many are not able to sense obstacles or other flying objects, they lack autonomous intelligence to discern their relative position, and they are vulnerable to bad weather conditions.

So, those who criticise regulators for not being able to figure out what to do are missing the target. Drone champions themselves haven’t figured out sound ways to address technological risks. Hence, giving them unbridled leeway to experiment in live settings would be sheer folly.

In the circumstances, it would be prudent for regulators to take a common-sense approach by heeding all security, safety and privacy concerns while offering novel technologies some room to breathe and grow safely. The challenge is to separate facts from fantasy.

Internet retail giant Amazon has been dreaming of drone delivery and has been granted some scope to run more tests. In battle zones, sophisticated drones have been used successfully to hunt down terrorists. But that’s a far cry from having mass-produced flying robots routinely deliver pizzas, without crashing into walls, harming people or hurting operators, as reported. New rules cannot come soon enough to both protect society from potential ills while offering sufficient runway for a new technology to take off.

2 More women in charge means bigger profits (San Francisco Chronicle) Evidence is growing that gender equity is not just politically correct window-dressing, but good business. Companies are trying to increase the number of women in executive positions, yet many are struggling to do so because of a failure to adapt workplace conditions in a way that ensures qualified women do not drop off the corporate ladder, surveys show.

The case for companies to act is compelling. In a survey last year of 366 companies, consultancy McKinsey & Co. found that those whose leadership roles were most balanced between men and women were more likely to report financial returns above their national industry median.

Companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, reducing the costs associated with replacing top executives, McKinsey found. They also have stronger customer relations because management better reflects the diversity of society, and they tend to make better business decisions because a wider array of viewpoints is considered.

It’s not just about hours. Women often struggle with a male-dominated culture at executive levels, surveys show. Some have accused such a culture for the aggressive risk-taking that led to the global financial crisis. IMF chief Christine Lagarde quipped that if collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, the crisis would look different.

3 Farmers, traders, lions and the India beef ban (Dawn) A renewed thrust by India prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to protect cows, worshipped by majority Hindus, has closed abbatoirs in Maharashtra state, making it hard for farmers to sell their animals, and restrictions are spreading to other states.

Even lions, tigers and leopards in Mumbai’s national park are being fed chicken and mutton rather than their usual beef because the city’s main abbatoir has been shut for the past two weeks, said S.D Saste, the park’s assistant conservator. Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, extended a ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks this month and other BJP-led states such as Jharkhand and Haryana have also tightened restrictions on trading beef.

Prices of buffaloes and cattle have fallen by 20-30 per cent in Maharashtra due to the ban and could drop further if more states follow its lead. Several thousand people, mainly from the Muslim community, will be rendered jobless in the beef trade and related industries like leather goods, leaders of the business community say.

The supply of hides to tanneries across India would also be hit, pushing up prices. Tanneries buy and process animal hides and sell leather to makers of shoes, handbags and accessories. Slaughterhouses in Maharashtra are now refusing to slaughter buffalo in protest at the ban, cutting off all beef supplies in a bid to put pressure on the government. Hindus do not consider buffalo to be sacred.

Meanwhile, Hindu nationalist groups affiliated to Modi’s BJP want to set up more cattle camps and cow shelters to house animals no longer wanted by farmers. India has some 300 million cattle, and animals foraging for food are a familiar sight on the rubbish-strewn streets of towns and villages.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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