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Walmart’s Flipkart CEO Steps Down in Wake of Misconduct Allegation

That’s the headline of my most recent story, which I wrote with my colleague Sarah Nassauer, out Tuesday.

It begins:

Walmart Inc. said the chief executive of Flipkart Group, its Indian e-commerce business, resigned following an independent investigation into a personal misconduct allegation.

Binny Bansal, one of the co-founders of Bangalore-based Flipkart, decided to step down after “recent events risked becoming a distraction,” Walmart said Tuesday.

Walmart opened an investigation this summer after a former Flipkart employee came forward alleging Mr. Bansal had sexually assaulted her sometime around 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter.

During the negotiations this year to sell Flipkart to Walmart, Mr. Bansal didn’t disclose the allegation against him or that he had hired security personnel to privately deal with the matter, the person said.

As part of the investigation, Mr. Bansal told Walmart he had a consensual relationship with the woman and denied he assaulted her, the person said.

Click through to read the rest.

India’s Top Payments App Faces Challenge From Google and WhatsApp

That’s the headline of a story I did with my colleague Corinne Abrams, out Monday.

It begins:

India’s biggest mobile-payments startup, Paytm, has wooed hundreds of millions of users and attracted investment from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The biggest challenge for its charismatic founder, 40-year-old Vijay Shekhar Sharma, lies ahead: Keeping Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp at bay as they push into India, the world’s hottest new market for mobile money.

Paytm’s popular smartphone app, which can be used to pay for everything from auto-rickshaw rides to movies and utility bills, handles some 500 million transactions a month across its network. Paytm, launched in 2010 by Mr. Sharma’s One97 Communications Ltd., has dominated India’s payments space since late 2016. That is when Prime Minister Narendra Modi nullified India’s largest-denomination notes to curb corruption, triggering a cash crunch. Faced with long lines for ATMs, consumers flocked to the Paytm app.

Click through to read the rest.

Excellent Climbing Documentary: ‘Valley Uprising’

2018-11-11VU

I love 1) sports/crazy athletic achievements, and 2) documentaries, so the 2014 film “Valley Uprising” had long been on my list of movies to watch.

I finally checked it out on Netflix. I really liked it. It outlines the emergence of climbing icons and the techniques they employed from one generation to the next in California’s stunningly beautiful Yosemite Valley.

There are brash climbers, philosophical ones, stoners, alcoholics, crazy parties, plane crashes, run-ins with park rangers, a beloved homeless guy and more. The soundtrack is great. And there are some cool animations of still photos pulled from various archives.

I knew that Yosemite was a climbing mecca — when I was 18 a friend and I did the day hike up the back of Half Dome, which is like 0.01% as daring as what the stars of “Valley Uprising” undertake — but I  never knew about its history.

Certainly worth a watch, perhaps as a prelude to “Free Solo,” the new documentary about Alex Honnold (who features in “Valley Uprising” as embodying the newest generation of Yosemite stars) and his rope-less Half Dome summit that seems to be generating some buzz.

🕯️ NN 153: New Apple Gadgets; Netflix Intrigue; Reggie’s Leap

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💰 1. Everything Apple announced at its Brooklyn event [Quartz] – TLDR: New iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini. My WSJ colleague Tripp Mickle has the context on Apple’s corporate strategy here: raising prices:

The announcements amplified Apple’s recent strategy of boosting total revenue by jacking up prices. A year after lifting its flagship iPhone price to $999, the company is raising prices for new versions of the MacBook Air by 20%, the Mac mini by 60%, and the iPad Pro by about 25%.

👎 2. Tech-meets-terrorism story of the week, take one: Cesar Sayoc’s Path on Social Media: From Food Photos to Partisan Fury [NY Times] – “His vehicle, a white van plastered with right-wing slogans, came to resemble a Facebook feed on wheels,” Kevin Roose writes.

💬 3. Tech-meets-terrorism story of the week, take two: Gab.com goes down after GoDaddy threatens to pull domain [The Verge] – Robert Bowers, accused of killing 11 people and injuring six in an anti-Semitic attack last weekend, had taken to the platform in the past.

🎥 4. Must-read WSJ Page One Netflix story: At Netflix, Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks [WSJ] This is a remarkable piece of reporting by my colleagues Shalini Ramachandran and Joe Flint about Netflix’s unique corporate culture. Among the many vivid anecdotes:

When Netflix’s Singapore office opened in 2016, employees said they were shocked by the frequency of firings. A Korean employee who left earlier this year from the Singapore office said the culture encouraging harsh feedback at times reminded her of North Korea, where mothers are forced to criticize their sons in front of the public.

🔌 5. Electric vehicle related stat of the week: “Nearly half of the world’s electric vehicles are in 25 cities.”. And China is leading the way. That’s from the International Council on Clean Transportation.

📚 6. Book-related shot: Tiny Books Fit in One Hand. Will They Change the Way We Read? [NY Times] – “Dwarsliggers” are “tiny, pocket-size, horizontal flipbacks that have become a wildly popular print format in the Netherlands.” I want one bad!

💡 7. Book-related chaser: The New Canon: What’s the most influential book of the past 20 years? [Chronicle of Higher Education] – Scholars from various disciplines list their pics. Fantastic food for thought here.

📱 8. Tech curiosity of the week: Why a Helium Leak Disabled Every iPhone in a Medical Facility [Vice/Motherboard] – Bizarre. (Thanks, Eric!)

🥡 9. Internet silliness of the week: The Reddit Forum That Guesses Who You Are Based on What’s in Your Fridge [New Yorker] – All about the Fridge Detective subreddit.

😂 10. Amazing, uplifting, simply wonderful dog video of the week: Leaping into Monday like! [Instagram] – Magestic stuff from Reggie the miniature Aussie bulldog.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

Happy Diwali from New Delhi!

NN 152: More Bad News for Google; Tesla’s Big Quarter; Old People in 1929; Paper Airplane Bible

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🔍 1) Another big Google story, following our recent piece about the company exposing user data: How Google Protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’ [NY Times] – After being accused of sexual misconduct, “Google could have fired Mr. Rubin and paid him little to nothing on the way out,” Daisuke Wakabayashi and Katie Benner write. “Instead, the company handed him a $90 million exit package.”

🍎 2) Elsewhere in Silicon Valley: Apple CEO Condemns ‘Data-Industrial Complex’ [WSJ] – In a speech at a privacy conference in Brussels, Tim Cook “issued the tech giant’s strongest call yet for U.S.-wide data-protection regulation, saying individuals’ personal information has been ‘weaponized,’” my colleagues Sam Schechner and Emre Peker write.

🚗 3) This week in e-car news: Tesla rides Model 3’s popularity to its first profit in two years [The Verge] – “The turning of financial fortunes can be largely attributed to how Tesla nearly doubled production of the Model 3 from the second quarter to the third this year,” Sean O’Kane reports.

🤖 4) …and in autonomous vehicle news: Self-driving car dilemmas reveal that moral choices are not universal [Nature] – “The largest ever survey of machine ethics, published today in Nature, finds that many of the moral principles that guide a driver’s decisions vary by country,” Amy Maxmen writes.

📵 5) Quote of the week: “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.” That’s from a Nellie Bowles story at the NY Times headlined A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley.

💊 6) Medical story of the week: A Blue Pill Is Stopping HIV, World-First Study Shows [Bloomberg] – The lede on this Jason Gale story: “An antiviral pill taken daily by thousands of men across Sydney and other parts of Australia led to a globally unprecedented reduction in new HIV cases, showing that a targeted, preventative approach may accelerate progress on ending the AIDS epidemic.”

👴🏻 7) Fascinating video of the week: 1929 – Interviews With Elderly People Throughout The US [YouTube] – “The first hundred years is the hardest,” says one centenarian.

💬 8) Linguistics tool of the week: Time Traveler – Search this Merriam-Webster database to find out which words were first used in print by year.

✈️ 9) Paper airplane-related tool of the week: Fold’NFly – “A database of paper airplanes with easy to follow folding instructions.”

🐶 10) Dog/human-related link of the week: O.M.G. Look at That Dog! [NY Times] – Pia Peterson offers this dispatch from the “world’s largest creative grooming industry event,” where “dogs are every color of the rainbow.” (Thanks, Patrick!)

What’s new with you? Just hit reply and share your news. I love hearing from folks.

Wanna help me out? Forward this email to your smartest, coolest friends, so they can join our list. If you received this from a pal, sign up here.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

NN 151: Google Data Bombshell; Alexa: Creepy?, Emotional Support Squirrels

The latest edition of my email newsletter, below, went out on Sunday. Subscribe to get future dispatches in your inbox before they’re posted here.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

🕉️ Shubho Durga Puja from New Delhi!

Durga Puja, an important Hindu holiday in West Bengal and other places, is just kicking off.

So this evening Anasuya and I met a friend to see the festivities and sample some of the food on offer in the city’s C.R. Park neighborhood, home to many Bengalis. It was great fun. Here are some photos I posted to Twitter.

The temps are dropping ever so slightly in the mornings and evenings; Diwali is just a few weeks away. Winter is almost upon us!

⚠️ One administrative note: There will be no NN next Sunday. I’ll be back Oct. 28.

Wanna help me out? Forward this email to your smartest, coolest friends, so they can join our list. If you received this from a pal, sign up here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🔍 1) Tech story of the week, by my colleagues Douglas MacMillan and Robert McMillan: Google Exposed User Data, Feared Repercussions of Disclosing to Public [WSJ] – The lede:

Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage, according to people briefed on the incident and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

🗣️ 2) Tech-related #longread of the week: Alexa, Should We Trust You? [The Atlantic] – The dek on the story by Judith Shulevitz: “The voice revolution has only just begun. Today, Alexa is a humble servant. Very soon, she could be much more—a teacher, a therapist, a confidant, an informant.”

⌚ 3) File under: wearables and law enforcement investigations: How Jamal Khashoggi’s Apple Watch Could Solve His Disappearance. [Wired] – “The question now is whether the wearable transmitted any forensically useful information to either of his mobile phones,” Robbie Gonzalez writes of Saudi dissident who appears to have disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.

🇸🇦 4) Related opinion piece: Silicon Valley’s Saudi Arabia Problem [NY Times] – “Long before the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished, the kingdom has sought influence in the West – perhaps intended, in part, to make us forget what it is,” Anand Giridharadas writes. “But lately the Saudis have been growing their circle of American enablers, pouring billions into Silicon Valley technology companies.”

🗯️ 5) Big picture political story of the week: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture [The Atlantic] ** – Don’t be distracted by “Team Woke” and “Team Resentment,” Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk writes. Most Americans “share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest – including a general aversion to PC culture.”

💓 6) Semi-morbid but quite useful career-related #protip of the week: Write your own obituary before planning your next career move [Quartz] – “It is often by envisioning the end point that we are able to see clearly what must be done right now,” writes Rakuten Chief Executive Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani.

🖼️ 7) Art “hoax” follow-up of the week: Myth Busting Banksy [Artnome] – “I believe that while Sotheby’s was likely not fully aware of what was going to happen, they had a suspicion that something was up and played along for the sake of theater,” Jason Bailey writes.

💊 8) Runner-up, award for most 2018 story of the year: French drug dealer in US beard contest gets 20 years’ prison [ABC News/AP] – The lede: “A Frenchman who was arrested when he arrived in the U.S. for a world beard-growing championship was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for online drug trafficking using the alias ”OxyMonster.""

🐿️ 9) Winner, award for most 2018 story of the year: Flight Delayed After Woman Brings ‘Emotional Support Squirrel’ on Plane [AP/Bloomberg] –
Don’t miss this video of the passenger being wheeled off the flight.

🎃 10) Dog-related link of the week: 19 Best Halloween Dog Costumes from Around the Internet [Chewy]. Title says it all.

What’s new with you? Just hit reply and share your news. I love hearing from folks.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

NN 150: China Spy Attack; Hi-Fi Cafes; Banksy’s Hoax; Dachshunds Chasing Kangaroos

The latest edition of my email newsletter, below, went out on Sunday. Subscribe to get future dispatches in your inbox before they’re posted here.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

This marks, amazingly, the 150th edition of my modest newsletter. I launched NN in Feb. 2015, or about three and a half years ago. Thanks for subscribing. Here’s to 150 more!

Wanna help me out? Forward this email to your smartest, coolest friends, so they can join our list. If you received this from a pal, sign up here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🖥️ 1) Bombshell tech story of the week: The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies [Bloomberg Businessweek] – The dek on the story by Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley: “The attack by Chinese spies reached almost 30 U.S. companies, including Amazon and Apple, by compromising America’s technology supply chain…” (Apple and Amazon refute the account.)

🕵️ 2) Techno-sleuthing story of the week: Police Use Fitbit Data to Charge 90-Year-Old Man in Stepdaughter’s Killing [NY Times] – The victim’s heartbeat stopped when the alleged killer was in her house, the device showed.

📚 3) Literature-related top 100 list of the week: A Premature Attempt at the 21st Century Canon [Vulture] – A look at the top books so far in the 2000s.

🔊 4) Music-related story of the week: Active listening? Hi-fi bars arrive in Los Angeles… [LA Times] – Audiophiles are gathering in Japanese-inspired “high-fi bars” in L.A. to…simply listen to music on amazing sound systems. I love it.

📓 5) Ivory tower-related hoax of the week: Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship [Areo Magazine]. “Something has gone wrong in the university – especially in certain fields within the humanities,” write Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian. “Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established…”

TLDR: Over the course of a year, the three scholars published several ludicrous papers (e.g. “Dog Park: Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity in Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon” and “Fat Bodybuilding: Who Are They to Judge? Overcoming Anthropometry and a Framework for Fat Bodybuilding”) to illustrate what they see as “cultural studies” or “identity studies” gone awry.

Related: the WSJ opinion piece that brought the issue to a head. And a Chronicle of Higher Education story putting the project into perspective.

🖼️ 6) Art-related hoax of the week: ‘Going, Going, Gone…’: Banksy Artwork Shreds Itself After Sale [WSJ] – The artist’s 2006 painting “Girl With Balloon“ sold at auction for $1.4 million – and then, as my colleague Michael Wright reports, ”the canvas passed through a shredder that appeared to be hidden inside the frame, emerging underneath in thin strips." Here’s a video.

🔘 7) Fun tech-related blog of the week: Control–Panel.com, a repository of photos of old “dials, toggles, buttons, and bulbs.”

⚽ 8) Uplifting aging-athlete story of the week: Kazu Miura and the Never-Ending Soccer Career [NY Times] – Jeré Longman on the 51-year-old striker who is still playing professionally – and scoring goals (video here).

🗡️ 9) Story of the week that most sounds like the beginning of an awesome sci-fi/fantasy series: Girl, 8, pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in Sweden [BBC] – And yes, her first name is…“Saga.”

🌭 10) This week’s moment of sausage dog zen: A Dachshund named Kingsley chases some kangaroos [Instagram video] – Fantastic.

What’s new with you? Just hit reply and share your news. I love hearing from folks.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

Newley’s Notes 149: SoftBank’s OYO Bet; India’s Biometric ID; Facebook’s Terrible Week; Chilean Military Puppies

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out on Sunday. Subscribe to get it in your inbox before it’s posted here.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

It was a busy week for tech news here in India.

First, local hotel booking platform OYO raising a whopping $1 billion on Tues. in a fundraising round led by Japan’s SoftBank.

Then on Wed. the Supreme Court ruled that India’s landmark biometric identity program, known as Aadhaar, doesn’t violate citizens’ privacy, and can continue with some new limitations.

Keep reading for more…

Wanna help me out? Forward this email to your smartest, coolest friends, so they can join our list. If you received this from a pal, sign up here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🏨 1) By me: SoftBank Leads $1 Billion Investment in Indian Hotel-Booking Startup [WSJ] – The lede: “SoftBank Group Corp. is doubling down on one of its biggest bets in India by leading a $1 billion investment in hotel-booking startup OYO Hotels.”

🆔 2) By me and my colleague Krishna Pokharel: India’s Top Court Rules Massive Biometric Identity Database Legal – With Restrictions [WSJ] – The big picture: “The country’s controversial Aadhaar program uses photos, finger and eye scans and has already signed up more than 1 billion people. It has sparked an intense global debate over how far a democracy should be able to go in collecting the personal data of its citizens and how that data can be used, shared and protected."

👋 3) Shot 1: Instagram Co-Founders to Step Down From Facebook [WSJ] – The photo sharing app’s co-founders “clashed with Facebook executives over the extent of Instagram’s autonomy in recent months,” my colleague Deepa Seetharaman. Reminder: WhatsApp’s co-founders have also departed. That means the creators of two of Facebook’s biggest outside platforms are gone.

🔓 4) Chaser 1: Facebook discloses major security flaw, could affect 50 million users [Axios] – The larger contest, writes Axios’s Shannon Vavra: “This is just the latest in a long string of recent problems for Facebook, including executive defections, social media interference, privacy concerns, and accusations of anti-conservative bias.”

🤐 5) Shot 2: Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information [Gizomodo] – Gizmodo’s Kashmir Hill at says Facebook is using for advertising purposes “information you handed over for security purposes and contact information you didn’t hand over at all, but that was collected from other people’s contact books…”

🌐 6) Chaser 2: Facebook: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver [YouTube] – A look at Facebook in emerging markets. (Someone wrote on Twitter recently that Facebook now feels like the last days of Blockbuster Video. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s safe to say public opinion has shifted drastically, and quickly.)

🇷🇺 7) Tech-related longread of the week: How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump [New Yorker] – Jane Mayer on a new book by University of Pennsylvania communications professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

🆒 8) Art-related photos of the week: Scenes From the World of WearableArt Competition [The Atlantic] – Wonderful.

🌟 9) Reddit post of the week: What is a website that everyone should know about but few people actually know about?
[Reddit] – Lots of great suggestions here.

🎖️ 10) Amazing dog video of the week: Adorable Police Puppies Take Part In Military Parade [YouTube] – Heartwarming scenes from Chile.

What’s new with you? Just hit reply and share your news. I love hearing from folks.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

NN 148: Florence & Mangkhut; New iPhones; Zuck Deep Dive; Dog-Pandas

Edition 148 of my email newsletter went out Sept. 16. (I’m late in posting it.) Subscribe to receive future editions before I share them here.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

I hope everyone is safe, sound, and dry!

☔ I’ve been monitoring Tropical Storm Florence closely given friends and family in the Carolinas. (All our WSJ coverage on the storm is open to all readers; here are our live updates on Florence.)

And as I type this, Typhoon Mangkhut is pounding Hong Kong and Southern China after tearing through the Philippines. It’s the world’s strongest storm so far this year.

Take care, readers!

Also: one programming note. There will be no NN next week. I’ll be back the following week.

🤟 Wanna help me out? Forward this email to your smartest, coolest friends, so they can join our list. If you received this from a pal, sign up here.

On to this week’s NN…

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🆕 1) Apple Launches Bigger, Pricier iPhones [WSJ] – At $1,099, the iPhone XS Max is the company’s most expensive model ever, my colleague Tripp Mickle reports. There’s also the new iPhone XS, which costs $999, and the iPhone XR at $749.
The big picture for Apple: “The new models are critical to maintaining sales in a contracting smartphone market where people hold on to devices longer, and growth of high-price handsets has stagnated.”

Meanwhile our Joanna Stern has a first look at the devices in this video. Apple also announced the fourth version of the Apple Watch. The AP’s Michael Liedtke says the company is “trying to turn its smartwatch from a niche gadget into a lifeline to better health by slowly evolving it into a medical device.”

⏳ 2) Tech-related longread of the week: Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy? [New Yorker] – Evan Osnos profiles Facebook’s chief exec. Lots of good stuff here. Axios has the highlights.

❓3) Google-related headline of the week: Where in the World Is Larry Page? [Bloomberg Businessweek] – The dek: “While Alphabet faces existential challenges, its co-founder is exercising his right to be forgotten.” Mark Bergen and Austin Carr write that:

…a slew of interviews in recent months with colleagues and confidants, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about retribution from Alphabet, describe Page as an executive who’s more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company. Supporters contend he’s still engaged, but his immersion in the technology solutions of tomorrow has distracted him from the problems Google faces today.

⚡ 4) Food for thought: For safety’s sake, we must slow innovation in internet-connected things [MIT Technology Review] – Well-known security expert Bruce Schneier talks about his new book, “Click Here to Kill Everybody.”

🦊 5) File under: pets I one day want… These domesticated foxes were 60 years in the making [The Verge] – Contains an interesting video. Related Newley.com post from 2013: What Domesticating Siberian Foxes May Tell Us About Dogs.

📚 6) Depressing education-related story of the week: Teens Are Protesting In-Class Presentations [The Atlantic] – Students in the U.S. “…have started calling out in-class presentations as discriminatory to those with anxiety, demanding that teachers offer alternative options,” Taylor Lorenz writes.

🎄 7) Latest sign Amazon will one day control all commerce: What’s in the Amazon box? Maybe a real 7-foot Christmas tree [AP] – This year you can buy big-ass Douglas firs and Norfolk Island pines from The Everything Store.

💡 8) Cool photography-related link of the week: Terrestrial Chiaroscuro [BLDGBLOG] – Geoff Manaugh on how photographer Reuben Wu “uses drone-mounted LED lights to illuminate remote geological formations, towering figures highlighted against the landscape with what appear to be haloes or celestial spotlights.” Click through to see some of his gorgeous pics.

🐠 9) Fish-related story of the week: ‘Gel-like’ see-through fish discovered 7.5km down on Pacific ocean floor [The Guardian] – “Scientists have discovered three new species of ‘hardcore’ fish living in one of the deepest parts of the ocean, the see-through, scale-free creatures perfectly adapted to conditions that would instantly kill most life on Earth.”

🐼 10) Silly dog video of the week: Puppy wearing panda costume [Reddit] – Title says it all.

What’s new with you? Just hit reply and share your news. I love hearing from folks.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

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