Monthly Archives: December 2016

Are Uncontacted Tribes Increasingly Emerging from the Wilderness?

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I recently watched a short, thought-provoking documentary on Netflix from U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 called “First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon.

It contains some captivating footage of uncontacted tribes in the Amazon, on both the Peruvian and Brazilian sides, emerging from the wilderness.

(Uncontacted people are those with no direct contact with civilization. In parts of the Amazon, laws set aside lands for such people, and forbid outsiders from interacting with them.)

The filmmaker, Angus Macqueen, has written online that the uncontacted people in the documentary have seemed motivated to change their behavior — to venture out of the wilderness — due to:

  1. A need to flee encroachment from illegal loggers and drug runners
  2. A desire to obtain materials they don’t have, like axes and clothing

In addition to raising ethical questions about governmental policies that intentionally keep such people isolated, where they lack basic medical care and often starve, I was wondering:

Are we seeing this phenomenon elsewhere? Is there something larger at play in our increasingly globalized the world? Are other uncontacted people also emerging?

I did a little research, and estimates suggest most uncontacted peoples are located in:

  1. the Amazon, and
  2. New Guinea

The film covers a pocket of the first, but as for the second, I haven’t been able to find any reports of uncontacted people in Asia increasingly venturing out of their lands.

This suggests to me that rather than a global trend, the film shows behavior that is indeed unique to the Amazon.

But maybe I’m missing something? I’ll have to keep investigating.

If you have any thoughts, drop me a line (n @ newley dot com) or leave a comment below.

The Best Books I Read in 2016

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I read many books this year, and as faithful readers know, I’ve been sharing my notes from some of them under the heading “Book Notes.”

I’ll break down my picks according to two categories:

My favorite book published this year:

I read Cal Newport’s “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” over the summer, and its insights have stuck with me.

In brief, Newport, a computer science academic, stresses the importance to our careers of doing uninterrupted, sophisticated, value-added work, and avoiding distractions like social media.

Common sense? Yes.

But in a world where information of dubious quality and technologies engineered to monopolize our attention seem to proliferate by the day, it’s a timely reminder that we must focus on activities that distinguish us from our competitors.

My full notes are here.

My pick for the best book I read this year*, regardless of when it was published:

It’s been around for nearly a decade, but Joe Studwell’s “Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia” was a revelation for me, because it provided historical context for what I’d seen all around me during my time in Thailand and Singapore.

Studwell’s thesis: The region’s dysfunctional governments have given rise to its billionaire godfathers.

In turn, Southeast Asia has produced few, if any, truly global brands because the region’s biggest firms simply take advantage of monopolies or licenses, don’t really innovate, and thus aren’t internationally competitive.

My full notes are here.
*Okay, I’m cheating here: I actually read this book in November 2015, but that’s pretty close to 2016!

My Top 10 Posts from 2016

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Here are the ten most popular posts from Newley.com this year, measured by number of visits.

I will refrain from speculating on the reasons. Food, tech, weird animals, soccer — the Internet, I learned a long time ago, works in mysterious ways.

  1. Recommended: Decker Barbeque, Texas-Style BBQ in Singapore — A report from what is, if you ask me, the best purveyor of smoked meat products in the city-state.
  2. My iPhone Home Screen, Early 2016 — There have been some tweaks of late. Stay tuned for an update.
  3. Rise of the ‘Coyowolf’ — Part Wolf, Part Dog, Part Coyote — This one has drawn a lot of search engine traffic. I’m not sure why. People seem to really love coyowolves.
  4. Why You Shouldn’t be Surprised When England Lose — This was written, I must point out, just five hours before the team…lost to Iceland in the Euros.
  5. The 10 Must-Have Apps I Install on Every New Mac — You can’t go wrong with a top ten post for Mac geeks!
  6. By Me Yesterday: India’s Paytm Sees Surge in Usage After Demonetization — This was merely an excerpt from a story of mine. I suspect many folks have been looking up mobile payment services here in India of late.
  7. Single, Individually Wrapped Bananas for Sale in Singapore — Truly an amazing food product.
  8. IPhone 6 Touchscreen Problems? You’re Not Alone — This issue persisted for me. And I was forced to ditch my device. More soon on that. I am not pleased.
  9. By Me Last Week: Facebook Asia-Pac VP Dan Neary Talks Growth in the Region — A link to my story.
  10. Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport — My thoughts on the popular treatise on the importance of uninterrupted, complex work.

Onward to 2017!

Newley’s Notes 77: Uber in India; Apple Scoop; OMGWTF: New ‘Bladerunner’?

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Edition 77 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them on Newley.com, enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share links to my stories and various items I think are worth highlighting.

I hope you had an enjoyable holiday period. Best wishes for a happy new year.

My apologies: This week’s Newley’s Notes is a couple of days late due to holiday travel.

A and I just returned to Delhi after an excellent stay at Neemrana Fort Palace, about three hours by car south of here.

It’s a 15th century fort that’s been turned into a hotel. It’s quiet, the countryside is beautiful, and there’s even a fascinating stepwell nearby. I highly recommended it for a quick getaway from Delhi.

Okay. On to this week’s edition.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Uber’s Drive Into India Relies on Raw Recruits – This is a story I’d been working on for some time, and I was happy with how it turned out. It begins:

NEW DELHI—How do you train a million new Uber drivers in a country where most people have never driven a car, tapped on a smartphone or even used an online map?

Uber Technologies Inc. faces that daunting task as it tries to avoid its fate in China, where it decided this year to sell its business to homegrown champion Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

The $68 billion San Francisco startup has plenty of cash and cutting-edge technology to bring to its battle in India. Also, the country hasn’t thrown up the kind of regulatory hurdles that have hindered Uber’s growth in other regions. So the company’s ability to find and teach new drivers could decide whether Uber can dominate this fast-growing market.

Click through for the rest of the piece, along with a video narrated by yours truly.

I also wrote a sidebar titled “5 Ways Uber Is Tweaking Its Strategy in India.”. These localizations include accepting cash payments, going app-less, using motorbikes and more.

Apple Is Discussing Manufacturing in India, Government Officials Say – A scoop with a colleague that was followed by Reuters and picked up by many outlets.

It begins:

NEW DELHI— Apple Inc. is discussing with the Indian government the possibility of manufacturing its products in the country, according to two senior government officials, as the company seeks to expand its sales and presence in the South Asian nation.

In a letter to the government last month, the Cupertino, Calif., firm outlined its plans and sought financial incentives to move ahead, the officials told The Wall Street Journal. Senior Trade Ministry authorities in recent weeks met to discuss the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

I’ve written, as you’ll recall, about Apple in India before. It’s a huge market for the firm’s potential future growth.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Wait, there’s a new “Bladerunner” coming? How did I miss this news?

Longtime readers will know the 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic is one of my favorite films.

Well, “Bladerunner 2049” will be here in October. The trailer’s on YouTube here. Wikipedia sums up the plot this way:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

The trailer: meh. The idea of “Bladerunner” returning? A slightly more optimistic meh. I feel like I should be excited about this.

2) An analysis by Quartz of 36 best books of the year lists shows the title most mentioned has been Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad.”

I haven’t read it. Have you?

3) Jerry Lewis is a tough guy to interview.

In this seven-minute video, the famed, 90-year-old comedian had a remarkably cranky exchange with The Hollywood Reporter.

His mocking laugh is my favorite part.

4) If the less-than-robust Mosul Dam breaks, a million and a half people could perish.

That’s the thrust of this illuminating piece by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

5) Was 2016 an especially bad year for celebrity deaths?

This week brought us news of George Michael’s death. Then Carrie Fisher. Then Carrie Fischer’s mom.

Snopes.com answers the question.

6) SPECIAL BONUS LINK: DESPITE WHAT YOU THINK, THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER. There was a lot of bad news in 2016, but these six charts serve as a reminder that the world is, in the aggregate, improving.

Over the last century, extreme poverty and child mortality are down drastically, while democracy, education, literacy, and vaccinations have flourished. More info here.

Thanks for reading. Happy 2017!

Love,
Newley

How to Send a Paperless Post Greeting Card *Later*

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TLDR: enter the name and email address and click the “add recipient” button. Then the option to send the card later will appear below.

I recently sent an online greeting card via Paperless Post.

For such a popular service, I was surprised to find myself temporarily confounded by part of the process.

After configuring the card, I wanted to set it up to send the next day.

The solution was pretty easy to figure out with some Googling, but I wanted to share it here in case others encounter similar problems.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. First, after entering the recipient’s name and email address, click the box on the right that says “add recipient.”

    In the image above, that’s the grey box on the top right. (Maybe I was in a rush, but this wasn’t especially apparent to me. I entered the name and address, and then all I saw below was an option to send the card immediately.)

  2. Then an option appears below that says “schedule sending.” That allows you to pick the time and day and set it up for sending.

Again, maybe I was just in a hurry. But my solution would be to change the website’s setup so the “schedule sending” option visible from the very outset.

I wonder how many people abort sending, or search out another service, when it looks like the only option is to send the card straight away, perhaps as a service you have to pay for.

How Uber’s Racing to Add Drivers Here in India

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That’s the subject of my latest story, out Thursday, which begins:

NEW DELHI—How do you train a million new Uber drivers in a country where most people have never driven a car, tapped on a smartphone or even used an online map?

Uber Technologies Inc. faces that daunting task as it tries to avoid its fate in China, where it decided this year to sell its business to homegrown champion Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

The $68 billion San Francisco startup has plenty of cash and cutting-edge technology to bring to its battle in India. Also, the country hasn’t thrown up the kind of regulatory hurdles that have hindered Uber’s growth in other regions. So the company’s ability to find and teach new drivers could decide whether Uber can dominate this fast-growing market.

Click through for a video, narrated by yours truly.

I also wrote a sidebar, “5 Ways Uber Is Tweaking Its Strategy in India.

Scoop with a Colleague: Apple Is Discussing Manufacturing in India, Government Officials Say

Apple

The story, which ran Tues., begins:

NEW DELHI— Apple Inc. is discussing with the Indian government the possibility of manufacturing its products in the country, according to two senior government officials, as the company seeks to expand its sales and presence in the South Asian nation.

In a letter to the government last month, the Cupertino, Calif., firm outlined its plans and sought financial incentives to move ahead, the officials told The Wall Street Journal. Senior Trade Ministry authorities in recent weeks met to discuss the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Making goods such as iPhones locally would allow Apple to open its own stores in India, helping build its brand in a country where it has less than a 5% slice of a booming smartphone market.

Our piece was followed by Reuters and picked up by many outlets:

AppleindiaTM

As I wrote on Facebook, subscribe to The WSJ to get such news before anyone else!

This Week’s Newley’s Notes: ‘Demonitization’ Back Story; Your Brain on Running; Striking Images from the Philippines

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Edition 75 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Monday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share links to my stories and various items that catch my eye.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

NEW DELHI—Early last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi summoned his cabinet to a room in India’s capital, told them to leave their cellphones outside and delivered a shocker: He was about to go on national television to declare that almost 90% of the country’s paper money would no longer be legal tender.

The move, prepared in secret by Mr. Modi and his advisers, kicked off a radical experiment in government control and instantly put India at the forefront of a nascent global campaign against cash. The European Central Bank has said it would stop printing the €500 note in 2018. Canada and Singapore have phased out their large-denomination bills. The Philippines, Denmark and others are tweaking regulations to nudge citizens to switch to electronic payments.

But no one has gone as far as Mr. Modi. Aiming to cut back tax dodging, terrorism and government corruption, he made India’s largest bank note and one of its most commonly used ones—the functional equivalents of America’s $100 and $20 bills—unusable overnight.

I also pitched in with a sidebar about some early winners in all of this: mobile payment companies.

“If we continue at this pace, within a month or two we will have made more progress than since our inception” in 2009, the founder of one such firm, MobiKwik, told me.

For more on demonetization, as the government’s move has been labeled, a reminder that a colleague and I did a Facebook Live video not long ago, which you can find online here.

  • Facebook at 30,000 Feet? Not Above India – A story with a colleague on why, despite boasting one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, India is still blocking passengers from using Wi-Fi in flight. It begins:

As more airlines roll out in-flight internet and regulators loosen rules governing wireless devices on planes, one country is a holdout in continuing to prohibit passengers from using Wi-Fi on board: India.

Home to the fastest-growing major air-travel market and a galloping economy, India hasn’t consented to the use of onboard Wi-Fi in its airspace due to security concerns.

Carriers including Emirates Airline, Jet Airways (India) Ltd. and Indian associates of Singapore Airlines and Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd. say they are eager to offer Wi-Fi if only the government would allow it. Some have been lobbying New Delhi to change the law, according to aviation and tech industry executives.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) A remarkable, highly graphic collection of photos from Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines. Simply evastating: Photographer Daniel Berehulak captured for the NYT 57 killings in 35 days. A reminder of the power of visual journalism.

2) Tweetstorm: America’s institutions are screwed, Russia is hitting us hard with disinformation and leaks, but we’ll prevail. That’s the TLDR version of a super-long series of tweets from business analyst Eric Garland that everyone’s talking about on Twitter today.

3) Best Book of 2016, according to a bunch of academics, executives and others Bloomberg polled: “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” by J. D. Vance. I haven’t read it yet, but intend to.

4) Why running seems to be good for your brain. In short, aerobic exercise appears to boost the production of cells in the hippocampus, writes Melissa Dahl at NYMag.com:

Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true. Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise, said Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology. “That’s it,” she said. “That’s the only trigger that we know about.”

5) Coolest market find ever: a piece of amber containing feathers from a dinosaur’s tail. NPR has the details:

In 2015, Lida Xing was visiting a market in northern Myanmar when a salesman brought out a piece of amber about the size of a pink rubber eraser. Inside, he could see a couple of ancient ants and a fuzzy brown tuft that the salesman said was a plant.

As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn’t a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur.

“I have studied paleontology for more than 10 years and have been interested in dinosaurs for more than 30 years. But I never expected we could find a dinosaur in amber. This may be the coolest find in my life,” says Xing,

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Newley