China Enters The Graveyard of Empires | Startup Some Startups | Work = MAD



“The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about.”

“If you want to make money at some point, remember this, because this is one of the reasons startups win. Big companies want to decrease the standard deviation of design outcomes because they want to avoid disasters. But when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don’t win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies.”

– Paul Graham



China Wants to Play in the Great Power Playground That is the Graveyard of Empires: Tajikistan is a tiny, impoverished country in the barren highlands of Central Asia, near a narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan called the Wakhan Corridor. The country served as a gateway into Afghanistan for US troops in the early phases of the 2001 invasion. Presently it seems Tajikistan has joined the list of Chinese military sites that includes Djibouti in the strategic Horn of Africa, and man-made islands in the South China Sea. Satellite imagery shows what appear to be two clusters of buildings, barracks and training grounds, about 10 miles apart, near the mouth of the Wakhan Corridor. Chinese troops have quietly monitored this choke point in Tajikistan, just beyond China’s western frontier, for at least the past three years. And despite Beijing’s public denials, there are a growing number of reports that China has been conducting security operations inside Afghanistan.

China has harbored concerns for decades about militants in Afghanistan, but has staunchly refused to side with any party in the conflict, much less to involve the military. But under President Xi Jinping, who has idolized the restoration of China’s great-power status, the country is shedding its isolationism and making major infrastructure investments from the Caspian Sea to Cambodia’s coastline. US officials say they are aware of the Chinese deployment in Tajikistan, and do not object to its presence because the US also believes that a porous ­Afghan-Tajik border could pose a security risk. One expert at the Center for a New American Security said Washington should welcome China’s encroachment into Afghanistan. “We can and should foist more responsibility for Afghanistan on China… they’ve been free-riding on U.S. dollars and lives for security,” he said.



Throwing Your Tea In Your Own Harbor: A report by the UK branch of the United Nations Association suggests Britain will lose political capital on the 15-member UN security council and the larger general assembly in New York once it leaves the EU. But for the UK’s commitment to spend .7 percent of gross national income on overseas aid, its influence would be in freefall, the study found. A former ambassador to the UN said of Brexit: “Most other people – almost without exception – think we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.” (Guardian) Additional Reads: Hunt and Fox’s Japanese fumble is a sign of UK’s weakness: Attempt to hustle Japan into a trade deal highlights the problems facing ‘global Britain’ (Guardian)

Saudi Arabia To Join Trump’s Nuclear Family: The House Oversight and Reform Committee issued an “interim staff” report Tuesday detailing Trump administration officials’ efforts to rush through the transfer of American nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia despite directives from top ethics advisers at the White House to halt their efforts. The Atomic Energy Act requires that Congress approve any transfer of nuclear technology to a foreign country. Numerous whistleblowers told the committee that top White House advisers ignored warnings their conflicts of interest that could implicate federal criminal statutes. Retired General Michael Flynn, President Trump’s national security adviser, and Thomas Barrack, Trump’s inauguration committee chair, were the main drivers behind the effort. Flynn continued to advise a private company seeking to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia while on the government payroll. (NPR)

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The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy Drama: The Vatican has acknowledged the existence of secret guidelines for priests who break their vows of celibacy and father children. A spokesman declined to make the advice public, saying it was for “internal use” and intended to protect the child. The number of children born to priests is unknown, but one support group, Coping International, says it has 50,000 users in 175 countries. The founder of the support group, Vincent Doyle, is the son of a priest; he says the issue of clerical offspring is “the next scandal” to hit the church. According to Doyle: “There are kids everywhere.” (Guardian)

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Startup Some Startups: The Chinese government unveiled a blueprint Monday to create a “Greater Bay Area” that could compete with innovation cradles such as Silicon Valley, Seattle or New York. The plan would knit together the semiautonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau with Shenzhen, Guangzhou and seven other mainland cities, and transform them into a tech, financial and academic hub. Hong Kong would preserve its status as a research and financial hub; Shenzhen, the mainland tech hotbed, would also cultivate an insurance industry; Macau would focus on tourism and currency trading. Nine of the cities would start tech incubators; funding would be poured into regional centers developing nanomaterials, telecommunications and other technologies. And all of it would be tied together with next-generation “Smart City” Internet infrastructure. (WaPo) Additional Reads: China’s Forbidden City opens to the general public at night for the first time in 94 years (WaPo, $)



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The 411 On The 911: Many legal scholars thought President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency last Friday made a weak argument, particularly since he said “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” But other analysts are saying the president has broad leeway that courts are reluctant to second-guess. That, and the likelihood that the legal decision would entail a narrow interpretation of something other than what constitutes an “emergency.” Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein wrote that the courts are not likely to rule on whether the underlying immigration crisis is an “emergency,” which is not defined in the 1976 National Emergencies Act invoked by the president in making his declaration. Rather: “The legality of Trump’s decision will probably turn on highly technical provisions involving the use of funds for military construction projects.” If courts rule on a narrow question, such as whether the border wall qualifies as a “military construction project” as the White House is reasoning, and the answer is yes, Trump could win. (Guardian)

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Work = Force x Distance. Force = Mass x Acceleration. Therefore Work = MAD(ness). We enjoy four day work weeks. In fact, we often say those weeks are 20% shorter but 100% better. Apparently, there is science behind this too: “Four-day week: trial finds lower stress and increased productivity: Study of pilot at New Zealand firm finds staff were happier and 20% more productive” (Guardian) We think about work a lot, and perhaps too much. In fact, work not just consumes our working hours but also our leisure hours. “Office Space at 20: how the comedy spoke to an anxious workplace: In the cult 1999 film about corporate malaise, the story of an everyman rallying against his sedate life found itself a loyal following” (Guardian) “8 companies offering work-from-home jobs that don’t require a college degree.” (CNBC) “This Is the Fastest-Growing Six-Figure Job in America — and it Doesn’t Require a Degree.” (Money)

Zero to Zero: We didn’t need the FDA to tell us that this was a bad idea but it has: “Beware of Using Young People’s Blood to Halt Aging, FDA Says: Taking a young person’s plasma and infusing it into an older person to ward off aging — a therapy that’s fascinated some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley — has no proven clinical benefit, the Food and Drug Administration said.” The government should step in and more actively regulate many other areas of Silicon Valley such as addictive or dangerous consumer products like vaping, social networks, and raw water.




“Paying attention is more important to reliability than moving slowly. Because he pays close attention, a Navy pilot can land a 40,000 lb. aircraft at 140 miles per hour on a pitching carrier deck, at night, more safely than the average teenager can cut a bagel.”

– Paul Graham

Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: