Newley’s Notes 175: Sri Lanka Bombings

2019 05 05srilanka

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

Apologies for my absence these past two weeks.

On Easter Sunday, when NN was last due to go out, news emerged about the horrific bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people. I was soon on a plane from New Delhi to Colombo.

I spent a good chunk of time in the capital and in the coastal city of Batticaloa. It was a heartbreaking story, but I’m proud of the work my WSJ colleagues and I did to document the events and get at the truth of what happened.

This week’s NN, then, will not be the typically wide ranging compendium of disparate links, but will focus mainly on the stories I wrote from Sri Lanka, along with a couple of other items you may have missed.

Here goes, in chronological order:

1) With my colleague Jon Emont: Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media Amid Bomb Attacks [WSJ]

“As Sri Lankan authorities scrambled amid a wave of deadly bombings across the country on Easter morning, among their first responses was to block social media, including Facebook and the popular messaging service WhatsApp.”

The block has since been lifted, but reflected, as we wrote, the “growing concerns in many parts of the world about the spread of false information and hate speech on social media and the use of online platforms to incite or exacerbate tensions.”

👂➡ Note: I later discussed the story with Kim Gittleson on The WSJ’s What’s News podcast.

2) With my colleague Eric Bellman: ‘Everyone Has Lost Someone’—Sri Lankan Church Bombing’s Wrenching Toll [WSJ]

“A parishioner was leading a prayer of thanksgiving to wrap up Easter Sunday services when a tall, slim young man ran into St. Sebastian’s Church from a side door.

Eric and I focused on one of the hardest hit churches, speaking with victims’ families and others from the community to tell the story of what happened that day.

3) Another piece with my colleague Eric Bellman: Sri Lankans Adapt to Social-Media Shutdown as Government Holds the Line [WSJ]

“While some citizens said they welcomed the restrictions, others said they had found workarounds.”

4) A story with my colleagues Ben Otto and Niharkia Mandhana: Islamist Preacher Died in Sri Lanka Attack [WSJ]

“Authorities confirmed that a radical preacher who inspired a series of Easter bombings died during the attack, but security forces pursued Islamist militants into Friday evening, engaging in fierce firefights in the area from which he hailed.”

5) Sri Lankan Islamist Called for Violence on Facebook Before Easter Attacks [WSJ]

“Facebook declined to comment on when, or how many, of Hashim’s Facebook postings it has removed nor did the company say when it initiated the 24-hour monitoring in local languages. Facebook deleted the videos still visible Tuesday after the Journal inquired about them.

Meanwhile, an item unrelated to Sri Lanka:

6) In NN 174 I shared the story I wrote about anti-vaccine misinformation on WhatsApp in India. Not long after it ran I joined CBS News’s Anne-Marie Green and Vladimir Duthiers to talk about the situation. The video clip is online here.

Thanks, as ever, for reading. Normal programming will resume next week.

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

(Image via Sri Lanka Wikipedia page.)

WhatsApp Users Spread Antivaccine Rumors in India

2019 04 15 whatsapp vaccine india

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

Antivaccine misinformation, some of it from social media posts in the West, is spreading in India on WhatsApp, undermining efforts to root out measles and rubella in a country where tens of thousands of people are struck by the diseases each year.

Click through to read the rest.

Newley’s Notes 173: False News on WhatsApp – YouTube Under Fire – Rap Grandmas – Puppy Waves

2019 04 10 india

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

🚨 Elections here in India, the world’s largest democracy, begin Thursday. They run in several stages through May 19.

I had several stories – some election-related, some not – out last week.

First, those related to elections.

📰 Online and on Monday’s WSJ front page:

Fake News Runs Wild on WhatsApp as India Elections Loom.

The lede:

In India, viral fake news is lighting up Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging app as the world’s biggest democracy prepares for national elections in the coming weeks.

Efforts by WhatsApp and the government to stop the spread of misinformation are having little effect, according to fact-checking groups and analysts.

Then two more:

Meanwhile, a couple of other stories I wrote with colleagues:

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

📹 1) YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant [Bloomberg]

“The company spent years chasing one business goal above others: ‘Engagement,’’ a measure of the views, time spent and interactions with online videos. Conversations with over twenty people who work at, or recently left, YouTube reveal a corporate leadership unable or unwilling to act on these internal alarms for fear of throttling engagement. ”

⚠ 2) Old, Online, And Fed On Lies: How An Aging Population Will Reshape The Internet [Buzzfeed News]

“Older people play an outsized role in civic life. They also are more likely to be online targets for misinformation and hyperpartisan rhetoric.”

👂 3) Amazon Is Making a Rival to Apple’s AirPods as Its First Alexa Wearable [Bloomberg]

“The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is readying earbuds with built-in Alexa access for as early as the second half of this year, according to people with knowledge of the plans.”

⭐ 4) The Most Hyped Technology of Every Year From 2000–2018 [Visual Capitalist]

“Today’s graphic is a retrospective look at which trends scaled the summit of the Hype Cycle each year since 2000.”

📚 5) They Had it Coming [The Atlantic]

“Thirty years ago, having tapped out of a Ph.D. program, I moved to Los Angeles (long story) and got hired at the top boys’ school in the city, which would soon become co-educational. For the first four years, I taught English. Best job I’ve ever had. For the next three, I was a college counselor. Worst job I’ve ever had.

🔫 6) Reflections on The Sopranos [Econlib/Bryan Caplan]

“Here are the top social science insights I take away. (minor spoilers)”

🚢 7) Building the Largest Ship In the World, South Korea [Alastair Philip Wiper]

“Apart from a couple of guys finishing some last-minute paint jobs, I pretty much had the whole ship to myself. ”

🎤 8) A New Role for Madhur Jaffrey: Rap Grandma [NY Times]

“In the video, which debuted Monday online, the character describes herself as ‘85 years gold’ and ‘the best damn Nani that you ever done seen,’ among other assertions too colorful for this newspaper.”

⚾ 9) A dinosaur tried to throw the first pitch at a Rangers game, but it did not go well [MLB] (Thanks, PB)

“It’s hard to make a pitch when you have tiny arms.”

🐶 10) Say Hi to the people [Reddit] (Thanks, Anasuya)

💡 Quote of the week:

"The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” – Viktor Frankl

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

Newley’s Notes 172: Apple’s New Services – Zuckerberg Talks Regs – 38 Best Bangkok Restaurants – Strays Run Free

2019 04 07wood

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

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🍎 1) Apple Pushes Beyond iPhone With Launch of TV, Finance, Gaming, News Services

“Apple Inc. unveiled new products for entertainment, financial services, news and videogames as the technology giant vies with competitors that are also moving to expand their disruptive influence outside their core businesses in search of new growth.”

🔍 2) Bezos Investigation Finds the Saudis Obtained His Private Data [Daily Beast]

“I’ve seen a lot. And yet, I’ve recently seen things that have surprised even me, such as the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, being in league with a foreign nation that’s been actively trying to harm American citizens and companies, including the owner of the Washington Post. ”

👮 3) Mark Zuckerberg outlines ideas for new web regulations in WaPo op-ed [Axios]

“When it comes to malicious or harmful content, Zuckerberg is making an unabashed pitch for industry self-regulation.”

📷 4) The Business of Your Face [Fortune]

“In at least three cases, for instance, firms have obtained millions of images by harvesting them via photo apps on people’s phones.”

👍 5) By my pal Austin Bush: The 38 Essential Bangkok Restaurants [Eater]

“Despite what you may have heard, the street isn’t the only place to eat in Thailand’s vibrant capital.”

🌋 6) The Day the Dinosaurs Died [New Yorker]

“A young paleontologist may have discovered a record of the most significant event in the history of life on Earth.”

🍔 7) Broken Chains Blog [Actionsdower.blogspot.com]

“Seeking out the restaurant and retail chains thought long-gone.”

😺 8) Garfield phones beach mystery finally solved after 35 years [BBC News]

“The beach-cleaning teams had long suspected that a lost shipping container – perhaps blown overboard – had regurgitated its precious orange cargo. But they had never been able to find it.”

⚽ 9) Listen: A Referee Wears A Microphone During An A-League Match [YouTube]

“A-League referee Jarred Gillett wore a microphone during match between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers to give a fascinating insight into refereeing.”

🐾 10) Dude adopts 45 dogs and lets them loose in their own 4 acre enclosed preserve! [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

📖 "The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” – Voltaire

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley

Fake News Is Rampant on WhatsApp as Indian Elections Loom

2019 04 01 whatsapp india

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

NEW DELHI — In India, viral fake news is lighting up Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging app as the world’s biggest democracy prepares for national elections in the coming weeks.

Efforts by WhatsApp and the government to stop the spread of misinformation are having little effect, according to fact-checking groups and analysts.

That is a challenge for Facebook, as well as policy makers and voters grappling with digital falsehoods in India, a country of 1.3 billion people where mobile internet access has exploded in recent years.

It also provides a unique window on how Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s surprising strategic shift from public postings to private messaging could play out around the world. Mr. Zuckerberg said in March that Facebook would move to a model favoring encrypted group chats like those on WhatsApp, which is popular in emerging economies including Brazil and Indonesia.

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market. Research firm Counterpoint estimates it has 300 million users, making it bigger here than Facebook. WhatsApp hasn’t released user figures since February 2017, when it said it had 200 million users in India. Since then, plummeting prices for mobile data and inexpensive smartphones have made WhatsApp the default digital town square in a country with deep societal divides.

Click through to read the rest.

Newley’s Notes 171: Apple’s Big Event; EHRs: FUBAR; Best Chrome Extensions; Weimaraner Puppies

2019 03 27 birds sky

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

🔧 So: Are you ready for some #KnowledgeWorker #ProTips?

Thanks to Mechum for writing in with some suggestions on good Chrome extensions. Yes, Chrome extensions.

If, like many folks, you spend a lot your working day in Google’s Chrome web browser – emailing, doing web research, writing, updating your calendar – it pays to incorporate some tweaks to make it more effective.

✨ Extensions, or small programs you can add on to the browser for specific functions, can be a huge help. To wit, Mechum writes:

"For anyone who runs a tab-heavy Chrome game, I recommend the Cluster extension for wrangling those tabs and actually knowing what you have going on in different windows.

But if you’re running lots of tabs also using an under-powered machine…I find The Great Suspender to be really valuable. It has a lot of options but I have it set to ‘suspend’ (unload) tabs I haven’t viewed in 5 minutes, freeing up memory. The pages reload when you go back to them. These two extensions work together really well."

I can vouch for The Great Suspender, and would add a few more to the list.

For making screen captures, FireShot is excellent.

And for finding web pages that have been taken offline, I suggest Wayback Machine.

For privacy and security, check out two extensions from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere.

Happy browsing!

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💊 1) An important investigation by my friend Erika Fry, of Fortune, and Kaiser Health News’s Fred Schulte: Death By 1,000 Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong [Fortune/KHN]

“…a months-long joint investigation by KHN and Fortune has found that instead of streamlining medicine, the government’s EHR initiative has created a host of largely unacknowledged patient safety risks.

🎥 2) Just what is Apple going to unveil Monday? [Marketplace]

“On Monday, Apple is holding a special event tagged with the line ‘It’s showtime!’ That’s led to wide speculation the company will finally reveal its streaming service.”

🎮 3) Google Unveils Stadia, a High-End Gaming Service Without a Console [WSJ]

“Google unveiled a new service called Stadia that lets players stream videogames from the cloud without needing pricey hardware – an elusive feat that could change the way people buy and play games.”

🎶 4) Myspace apparently lost 12 years’ worth of music, and almost no one noticed [Ars Technica]

“Myspace apparently admitted the problem to concerned users seven or eight months ago, but so few people noticed that there wasn’t any news coverage until the past 24 hours.”

✈ 5) Rick Steves Wants to Set You Free [New York Times Magazine]

“Out of this paradoxical desire – the enlightenment of Americans through their extraction from America – Steves has built his quirky travel empire”

🧐 6) The Magical Thinking Around Brexit [New Yorker]

“Members of the E.U. are frustrated because, even though they have spent two years negotiating a withdrawal agreement with Prime Minister Theresa May, Parliament has rejected it twice, most recently last Tuesday, which means that there is a risk of a chaotic, off-the-cliff No Deal Brexit, without determining new rules for trade, travel, or such basic matters as drivers’ licenses.”

🤖 7) Being An Instagram Influencer Is Hard Work, So This Guy Made A Bot To Do It For Him [Buzzfeed News]

“For Buetti, it’s the perfect solution if you don’t want to actually dedicate time to curating an online following, but still want to score free spaghetti from restaurants seeking publicity.”

🐦 8) Fantasy Birding Is Real, And It’s Spectacular [Deadspin]

“Using eBird, a citizen-science database run by Cornell University where birders log their sightings, players select single locations on a map each day, and get credit for a bird if a real-life birder spots that species within a 10-kilometer radius that day”

🏠 9) Meet the Flintstone House, a Home So Odd It Was Declared a ‘Public Nuisance’ [New York Times]

“‘It is one thing to spot this house when driving by on the freeway; you might find it amusing,’ Mark D. Hudak, a lawyer for the town, said on Monday in an email. ‘It is a different thing to be a neighbor and see it all day, every day.’”

🐕 10) Gotta have the ear blanket [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." – Stephen King

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,
Newley