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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

NN147: My Newest Page One Story; Amazon = Monopoly?; Space Elevators; Dogs of Twitter

Edition 147 of my email newsletter went out Sept. 9. (I’m late in posting it here.) Subscribe to receive future editions before they’re posted here.


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

😎 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.

This week was a very satisfying one for me. I story I’d been working on for months ran on the front page of the Journal on Wednesday. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

It’s about how India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has spent billions of dollars building a brand new high speed mobile carrier offering data for extremely low prices – and how millions of people here have gotten online for the first time (and why that’s important to the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Facebook and Google).

More below…

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

📡 1) By me: Two Years Ago, India Lacked Fast, Cheap Internet—One Billionaire Changed All That [WSJ] – The lede and first graf:

India’s richest man is catapulting hundreds of millions of poor people straight into the mobile internet age.
Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries, one of India’s largest conglomerates, has shelled out $35 billion of the company’s money to blanket the South Asian nation with its first all–4G network. By offering free calls and data for pennies, the telecom latecomer has upended the industry, setting off a cheap internet tsunami that is opening the market of 1.3 billion people to global tech and retailing titans.

The story, with images shot by the excellent Mumbai-based photographer Sarah Hylton, received a lot of attention on social media. I also liked the responses (some 137 comments and counting) to the story on Hacker News, a Reddit-like site for tech news and discussion.

🗳️ 2) Social media/D.C. story of the week: Lawmakers demand more action from top Twitter, Facebook execs – Axios’s David McCabe sums up the Capitol Hill hearings featuring Twitter chief exec Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: “With the midterms approaching, policymakers and Silicon Valley are both trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 cycle, during which Russian operatives spread content on socially divisive issues ahead of Election Day.”

📵 3) Facebook-related story of the week: More than a quarter of Americans say they’ve deleted the Facebook app from their phones [Recode] – “Let’s just say Americans’ relationship with Facebook is increasingly complicated,” Rani Molla writes.

🤑 4) Finance story of the week: Lehman’s Lessons, 10 Years Later [WSJ] – A decade of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, my colleague James Mackintosh provides five lessons.

🛒 5) Law-related story of the week: Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea [NY Times] – “With a single scholarly article, Lina Khan, 29, has reframed decades of monopoly law,” David Streitfeld writes.

🛰️ 6) Crazy space-related story of the week: Japan starts space elevator experiments [Electronics Weekly] – Arthur C Clarke’s dream could become a reality. (Thanks, Colin R., for the pointer following our discussions of this idea many years ago!)_

📸 7) Insta-story of the week: Instagram is building a standalone app for shopping [The Verge] – The app “will let users browse collections of goods from merchants that they follow and purchase them directly within the app,” Casey Newton writes.

✍️ 8) Religion-meets-journalism op-ed of the week: The Biblical Guide to Reporting [NY Times] – “Some people might think that Christians are supposed to be soft and acquiescent rather than muckrakers who hold the powerful to account,” Marshall Allen writes. “But what I do as an investigative reporter is consistent with what the Bible teaches.”

🍟 9) Prank of the week: Friends hung poster of themselves at McDonald’s, and no one noticed for weeks [CTVNews] – “Maravilla said he noticed that there were several photos on the Houston-area restaurant’s walls of people smiling while consuming McDonald’s products. He said the pictures contained ‘literally no Asians,’’ and decided he and Toledo should rectify that situation.” More is available in their YouTube video.

💗 10) Two dog-related Twitter feeds you should be following: At I’ve Pet That Dog, ten-year-old Gideon shares images of pooches he encounters, and relates fun facts about them. And Thoughts of Dog contains, well, what the author imagines the canine in the profile pic (a delightfully dopey yellow lab eating a piece of watermelon) must be thinking. For example, this recent gem:

gooooob morning. i had a dream. that i was chasing my tail. and started spinning so fast. i went back in time. and high-fived a dinosaur

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

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

India’s Top Court Rules Massive Biometric Identity Database Legal—With Restrictions

That’s the headline of my most recent story, written with a colleague, out yesterday.

It begins:

India’s highest court ruled that the world’s largest biometric identification database doesn’t infringe on citizens’ privacy rights—but needs some new limitations.

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.

Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling was a response to multiple challenges to the system.

A five-judge panel ruled in a 4-1 decision that the program is constitutional and helps the poor by streamlining disbursement of welfare benefits. Being in the database, however, shouldn’t be required for using mobile phones, opening bank accounts or for school admissions, according to the 1,448-page document outlining the court’s decision. It had been unclear for some time whether such organizations could compel people to supply Aadhaar numbers.

“It’s a historic judgment,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. “Everyone must realize, including critics of Aadhaar, that you can’t defy technology or ignore it.”

Click through to read the rest.

SoftBank Leads $1 Billion Investment in Indian Hotel-Booking Startup

That’s the headline on my latest story, out yesterday. It begins:

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.

The company, based in Gurgaon, India, has received $800 million in a round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is using to back cutting-edge technologies, OYO said Tuesday. U.S. venture-capital firms Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also contributed to the round, and existing investors have pledged a further $200 million.

“We plan to rapidly scale our business,” with a focus on continuing OYO’s expansion into China, said 24-year-old company founder Ritesh Agarwal in a written statement. OYO also operates in Malaysia, Nepal and the U.K.

The new round of funding values the company at $5 billion, including the new funds, according to a person familiar with the matter. That is up from a post-money valuation of roughly $850 million when OYO received $250 million last year in a round led by SoftBank.

Click through to read the rest.

NN146: India Mobile Money Momentum — New iPhones? — Psychedelic Temple — Dog Punks Lions

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out last week. Subscribe to receive it before it’s posted here.


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

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

💰 As as I’ve mentioned here – and written about in stories – there’s growing interest these days in India’s burgeoning internet economy. From e-commerce to ride-sharing to mobile devices, global tech companies are hustling for a piece of the action as people get online for the first time, and as customers already accessing the web spend more and more money online.

One particularly promising sector is mobile payments. Few people in India have credit or debit cards, but lots of people have smartphones. After Prime Minister Modi took the largest domination notes out of circulation in Nov. 2016 and a cash crunch ensued, masses of citizens flocked to a mobile wallet called Paytm for their everyday transactions.

This week mobile payments were in the news again: Berkshire Hathaway – yes, the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet’s, firm – is investing in Paytm, joining the ranks of Asian tech titans who have already done so, like Alibaba and SoftBank.

Meanwhile Google also rolled out some new features for its mobile payments app in India. Keep reading for more…

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

📱 1) By me and a colleague: Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Invests in India Mobile-Payments Firm [WSJ].

📈 2) Also by me: Mobile Money Heats Up in India as Google Doubles Down [WSJ] – The lede: “Alphabet Inc.’s Google is raising its mobile-payments game in India with new functions and services as global players race to woo the nation’s legions of consumers who are skipping credit cards and transacting on smartphones instead.”

🔍 3) Meanwhile, an important story by my WSJ colleagues Doug MacMillan, Sarah Krouse and Keach Hagey: Yahoo, Bucking Industry, Scans Emails for Data to Sell Advertisers [WSJ] – Yahoo’s owner “has been pitching a service to advertisers that analyzes more than 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes and the rich user data they contain…”

🍎 4) Apple announces next iPhone event for September 12: ‘Gather round’ [9to5Mac] – Look out for “three new flagship iPhones and a redesigned Apple Watch,” Zac Hall says, in addition to new iPad Pros and possibly details on a new wireless charging mat.

🎹 5) Music-related story of the week: Show Tunes [Real Life] – In the age of social media and streaming, “The business model for music doesn’t require a must-have album, then, but rather a week-to-week narrative within the music world to justify a monthly subscription,” writes David Turner. (Editor’s note: I find this all so tiresome. I’ll keep listening to decades-old vinyl, as pretentious as that sounds!)

🛐 6) Crazy art/architecture story of the week: In upstate New York, a DMT-inspired psychedelic temple rises [Architect’s Newspaper] – The story contains this utterly amazing sentence, among many others:

“Selecting a point on their 40-acre plot that aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess, ‘the kabbalistic sephirot of justice,’’ CoSM has begun converting a former carriage house into a three-level, 12,000-square-foot concrete structure replete with modern amenities, including an ADA-compliant elevator.”

🔭 7) Mind-blowing photo of the week: Hubble Observes Energetic Lightshow at Saturn’s North Pole [European Space Agency] – Click through to see the “fluttering auroras.” Astounding.

😴 8) #ProTip of the week: How to Fall Asleep in 120 Seconds [Medium] – It can be done, Sharon Ackman writes, with these steps developed by the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School.

🔥 9) College soccer golazo of the week, featuring my old team: Khattab’s OT Goal Gives No. 8 Emory Men’s Soccer 5–4 Win over No.14 W&L in Instant Classic [EmoryAthletics] – Click through for a video.

💪 10) Brave canine of the week: Dog chasing lions [YouTube] – As the saying goes: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

Two Years Ago, India Lacked Fast, Cheap Internet—One Billionaire Changed All That

That’s the headline on my latest story, a page one piece out yesterday and online here. It begins:

MUMBAI—India’s richest man is catapulting hundreds of millions of poor people straight into the mobile internet age.

Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries, one of India’s largest conglomerates, has shelled out $35 billion of the company’s money to blanket the South Asian nation with its first all-4G network. By offering free calls and data for pennies, the telecom latecomer has upended the industry, setting off a cheap internet tsunami that is opening the market of 1.3 billion people to global tech and retailing titans.

The unknown factor: Can Reliance reap profits itself after unleashing a cutthroat price war? Analysts say the company’s ultimate plan, after connecting the masses, is to use the platform to sell content, financial services and advertising. It could also recoup its massive investment in the years to come by charging for high-speed broadband to consumers’ homes and connections for various businesses, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Click through to read the rest.

A Psychedelic Temple for the Ages

I’m not quite sure how I missed this story by Drew Zeiba in The Architect’s Newspaper in June. It begins:

Tucked away on a tree-studded, 40-acre plot just a quarter mile from the Hudson River, one of New York’s most unusual construction projects is underway. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)—a transdenominational church and registered nonprofit—has been constructing the Entheon: “A place to discover god within.”

The piece, which has many images of the construction, such as the one above, continues:

As with the foundation of the Greys’ relationship and their church, psychedelics and entactogens play a central role in the eccentric design of the Entheon. It was, in fact, a (then legal) shared MDMA experience that showed the Greys they should not sell their work, but rather build a chapel to share it with a “worldwide love tribe.”

But by far the most amazing sentence is this:

Selecting a point on their 40-acre plot that aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess, “the kabbalistic sephirot of justice,” CoSM has begun converting a former carriage house into a three-level, 12,000-square-foot concrete structure replete with modern amenities, including an ADA-compliant elevator.

Remarkable. Here’s more on the CoSM church and the Entheon itself.

Reading the story, I couldn’t help but think: It seems like this would an extraordinarily frightening place to visit while under the influence of psychoactive substances.

Headline of the Day: ‘Goats prefer happy people’

That’s from Phys.org. The lede:

Goats can differentiate between human facial expressions and prefer to interact with happy people, according to a new study led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London.

And:

The study, which provides the first evidence of how goats read human emotional expressions, implies that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, such as dogs and horses.

Intersting. And intuitive. Everyone/thing appreciates a good smile! 🙂

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