Govind’s Digest #2

World

It wasn’t too long ago that US troops left Iraq, an indication that the country was ready for self management. Just a couple of years later, the country is falling apart at its seams. ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) took over Iraq’s second city, Mosul, with troops numbering just 15,000 (as compared to 270,000 Iraq army soldiers). Footage of inhumane and arbitrary executions of Iraqi soldiers are particularly shocking. While on the one hand hundreds of thousands of people have fled their cities, many have returned claiming that the militants are doing a better job of providing for the people. All of this raises a lot of questions of the US + UK, including whether they left Iraq too soon, and whether they are to be blamed for not foreseeing the Shia/Sunni rifts that’ve emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein. As always, oil interests of the West are just a media backstory, as the rest of us look on with concern at the apparent barbarity.
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Taliban militants attacked Karachi airport, leaving 28 people dead. In retaliation, the government/army has initiated efforts to snuff out militants in Waziristan. This sets back the possibility of a peaceful negotiation between Pakistan and the Taliban. As an outsider, I’m also quite concerned by the brazenness with which these militants were able to target such a key centre of Pakistani operations.
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In India, Narendra Modi took a few steps in the right direction last week:
1. Announced that private sector talent will be considered to run state-run companies. The public sector could do with competition and efficiency. Link
2. Indicated that tough economic measures, that might pinch citizens in the short run, will be taken. While we don’t know what these measures are yet, the government’s willingness to look beyond re-election prospects and appeasement is encouraging. Link
3. Gave his first speech in the parliament, in which he extended a hand of friendship to the Congress and others, talked up remote learning in villages, talked of valuing ability over degrees and more. Link

Tech

Tesla gave up rights on all of its patents. Great news for the world in general, ofcourse. What’s in this for Tesla? For one, this might attract more talent and goodwill. The killer reason here, however, might just be that more competition for Tesla will help grow the electric car market, and in turn, allow its suppliers to deliver better range, cost and quality through economies of scale. Competition from other companies is the least of Tesla’s concerns at the moment; growing the electric car market, even at a cost, is the bigger concern.
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Talk about founder depression doing the rounds, TechInAsia -> Sam Altman -> TechCrunch. In my ~2.5 years as a startup founder, I’ve learned to internalize a few key points, which I think also apply to all highly motivated individuals:
1. Don’t derive self-worth from external factors. If revenue, fund-raising, publicity or for that matter, others’ opinions of you, are what make you tick, you might find it difficult when the going gets tough. On the other hand, if your happiness is tied to the process of building and disseminating your work, you’ll never be left emotionally susceptible.
2. Doing a startup is no reason to forego the psychological, emotional or physical aspects of life. Find time to exercise and keep in touch with the people you love no matter what. In fact, I’d say doing a startup is no reason to forego your avocations either; your alternate interests needn’t hinder your contribution to your startup. After all, your happiness and health is in the best interests of your company.
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Anti-Uber protests in several parts of Europe, most recently in the UK. My first inclination was to label these protests as misguided in the larger picture since they’re anti-competitive, but an understanding of the history of regulation of taxis to maintain supply and reasonable wages does help understand the opposing narrative.
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Sport

Rafael Nadal wins his 9th French Open in ten years, unprecedented to say the least. He’s just three grand slams behind Federer, and in my books, odds on to become the greatest of all time.
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Corruption allegations against the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and Sepp Blatter’s potential re-election to the post of FIFA president have brought the mess that is FIFA to light. A non-profit with a billion dollars in cash reserves run in an opaque and corrupt manner, headed by a septuagenarian with a possible Napoleon complex, governing the most loved sport in the world.
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The world cup has already proved a hit with upsets (Uruguay-Costa Rica, Spain-Netherlands), refereeing controversies (Brazil-Croatia) and goals galore. Amidst all the news and analysis, there’s one site I recommend all football fans read – Zonal Marking. Following the trajectory of the ball is one way to enjoy a football game; understanding the strategies and formations involved makes it even more compelling.
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Other

Starbucks announces that it will provide free online education to all of its full-time employees. The job of a barista is just the sort that might become redundant in 30 or so years, and the economy stands to benefit if the baristas of today gain the skills to help them perform the jobs of tomorrow. Private initiatives like this that embrace online education might just help remedy America’s broken education system.
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