Sunday, November 24, 2013

Indian Toilets and The Beastie Boys (Link Round-Up 11/24/13)

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I'll have plenty of pop culture and Chicago politics commentary in the near future, but for now, it's back to your regularly-scheduled geopolitical drama.

Beastie Boys attacked for citing copyright infringement over "Girls" engineering parody
While GoldieBlox was clearly using this for commercial purposes, plenty of commercial activity has been seen as fair use. Further, it seems likely that the viral success of the video almost certainly drove renewed attention (and therefore revenue) to the original Beastie Boys song. This should play into the fair use analysis, but unfortunately many courts focus solely on the "potential licensing revenue" that could have been earned, and ignore the positive impact on the original of a parody. Hopefully, a court will recognize that this is fair use but, again, fair use decisions are almost entirely arbitrary at times.
India and the politics of the toilet
It has become clear that in water-scarce and people-dense India, it's an impossible resource challenge to deliver the conventional flush toilet to more than 1 billion people and then treat the sewage water. The environmentalist Anil Agarwal coined the phrase "the political economy of defecation" to provoke policy makers to consider the many hidden costs and pro-rich biases of the current paradigm of flush toilets and sewage disposal. Agarwal's ideas were amplified by Sunita Narain in 2002, in an article in which she argues that what works in a Western context is "ecologically mindless" in an Indian one. After all, only 13 percent of piped sewage in India is currently treated
London Mayor to Scotland: don't leave
Then there is the basic question of what this independent state of Scotland is supposed to be, and how it is meant to relate to the rest of the world. We are talking about a secession from the Union of the United Kingdom, and many EU diplomats have now made it clear to Salmond that this is exactly the same as seceding from the EU. If the Scots wanted to remain in the EU (and they seem, for some reason, to think this is necessary) Scotland would have to seek an immediate accession – and the question is: who would conduct the negotiations?
Emperor Pedro II, Brazil’s first Arabist?
Emperor Pedro II fostered Arab immigration to Brazil and even visited Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, between 1871 - 1888. Due to his interest, even for learning the language, he translated the first 140 pages of the "Arabian Nights" straight from the original. After the Proclamation of the Republic, in 1889, and the emperor’s exile, in France, he donated his personal library to Brazil’s Historic and Geographic Institute.
 Secret US-Iran talks paved way for nuclear deal
Iran welcomed back its negotiators as heroes at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. Its currency, the rial, which has been pulverized by a grueling succession of economic sanctions, jumped more than 3%. “This is only a first step,” Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign affairs minister, said. “We need to start moving in the direction of restoring confidence, a direction in which we have managed to move against in the past.”

But there was silence from Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and dismal warnings from Israel that the deal would merely embolden its fiercest adversary. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world,” said Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. David Cameron said the deal “demonstrates how persistent diplomacy and tough sanctions can together help us to advance our national interest”. In a tweet from Downing Street, he said: “Good progress on iran – nowhere near the end but a sign pressure works”.
 The case for ending foreign development aid
Actually it’s already scaling, on a national level. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia is a much-lauded direct-cash-transfer program which reaches an estimated 46 million. Earlier this year India launched a direct-transfer program tied to its Unique ID biometric identification scheme; hundreds of millions have already been registered. If these two famously fractious nations can implement direct cash transfers, then why can’t that extend to international aid?

In many places the tools are already in place. All you’d really need, technically, is a mobile banking network — Kenya’s M-Pesa is the most famous and most successful example, but there are a myriad of others around the world — combined with an international payment processor like Xoom or (soon enough, I expect) Stripe.

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