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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 24 July 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Still the strongman

The notorious president of the Philippines still has an iron grip on his nation.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s second state-of-the-nation address today is likely to be overshadowed by the Philippine army’s ongoing battle against rebels in the south. Martial law expired over the weekend but the president is seeking an extension from lawmakers until the end of the year. Those attending the address expect bombshells: the Filipino leader rarely sticks to the script. However, equally close attention will be paid to the state of Duterte’s health: several extended absences have fuelled questions about the president’s well-being. Yet the septuagenarian isn’t likely to show any public sign of slowing down, physically or politically – he is submitting his 2018 budget to congress today, a month ahead of schedule.

Technology

Image: Getty Images

Making tracks

Japan’s farmers are facing labour shortages – but a novel solution is just around the corner.

With its population of farmers at just 1.8 million – its lowest level since the Second World War – Japan is pinning its agricultural hopes on hi-tech methods. One idea that’s making headlines: self-driving tractors. Japanese farm equipment maker Kubota has already begun trials of tractors that use GPS to get around and domestic rivals Yanmar and Iseki aren’t far behind. But the technology’s future depends on whether the country’s new GPS satellite, launched into orbit in June, starts operating on schedule next April. It’s also not clear that farmers can afford the steep price tag of upwards of ¥10m (€77,000) per vehicle – 50 per cent more than conventional tractors. The government, which sees the merits of a robotic farm workforce, has drawn up safety guidelines for self-driving farm equipment and is anticipating that one day farmers will remotely monitor the machines that do much of the work in the fields.

Military

Image: Getty Images

Gaining ground?

Heavily armoured American vehicles have arrived in Syria to bolster efforts in Raqqa.

The US is putting more wheels on the ground in Syria. US armoured vehicles, MRAPs and M-ATVs, as well as armoured bulldozers, were last week delivered into Syria. Though the US military is not confirming that the vehicles are theirs, they are not included in aid packages to Syrian Democratic Forces, suggesting that they are in fact for military use. These reinforcements come just as the battle for Raqqa stalls. The inclusion of bulldozers isn’t simply to jumpstart reconstruction – something that will be sorely needed – but rather a key instrument in fighting Isis. More than a 100 armoured bulldozers were used during the battle for Mosul, helping move troops and create hasty defences in the block-by-block fight for the city. 

Food and drink

Image: Lukas Wassmann

Something brewing

Italians are getting crafty – the number of microbreweries is on the rise.

Dreams of moving to Tuscany and opening up a vineyard may be on many wannabe entrepreneurs’ bucket list but perhaps it’s time to tap into a new boozy business opportunity in Italy. The number of microbreweries in the country keeps expanding as people have developed a taste for craft beer. Consumption of beer is at an all-time high and while the market is still dominated by big industrial players and mid-sized independents of the likes of South Tyrol’s excellent Forst, microbreweries’ production has grown year on year. Between microbreweries, brew pubs and beer firms there are well over 1,000 active companies in Italy – and given demand is rising (and start-up costs are more manageable than those required to open a wine-making estate) it may be time to swap the barrel for the keg.

From Monocle 24

Image: Getty Images

Venezuela: Can Maduro hold on?

The Foreign Desk

Unofficial referendums, spurious elections, strikes and riots – the ongoing instability in Venezuela is taking its toll on the people that live there. But could things have been different? And what can be done to return the country to normality?

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