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Newley's Notes

NN303: Playful Police Puppies

Sent as a newsletter Monday, January 30. Not on my email list? Join here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above:

🚶‍♂️ A recent Hong Kong streetscape.

My WSJ latest:

🔎 My latest story, out Wednesday: Musk’s Twitter Reinstates Hindu Nationalist Accounts That Disparage Muslims

It began:

Twitter Inc. under Elon Musk has reinstated several previously suspended Hindu nationalist accounts that were popular in India, one of its largest markets by users, with human-rights groups saying the move has spurred a resurgence of divisive religious material on the platform.

Some of the accounts that were suspended had been reported for posting hate speech aimed at religious minorities in India, according to groups that reported them. Upon their return in recent weeks, some have tweeted material denigrating Muslims and others.

The tweets include a debunked video that the person who posted it claimed showed a Muslim cleric spitting on rice before serving it to others, another calling Pakistani Muslims “rectums,” and a retweet of a user who called the Quran “the source of all evil.”

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) ⚖️ I’ve mentioned in NN a few times the Murdaugh saga in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, which I find transfixing given, among other reasons, the time I spent growing up in the region. As you may have seen, the trial of Alex Murdaugh, accused of killing his wife and son, began last week in the small town of Walterboro. My WSJ colleague Valerie Bauerlein has been all over the case – indeed, she’s writing a book about it – and had a story out last week about jury selection and opening arguments. Follow her on Twitter here and find her WSJ dispatches here.

2) ✍️ For a fresh longread, there’s “The Corrupt World Behind the Murdaugh Murders,” by James Lasdun, in last week’s New Yorker.

3) 🎧 There are also several podcasts about the saga, including the Charleston Post and Courier’s “Understand Murdaugh,” journalist Mandy Matney’s “Murdaugh Murders,” and “The Murdaugh Murders, Money & Mystery,” from WCIV ABC News 4 in Charleston.

4) 📺 And for the truly obsessed: ABC News, among others, is live-streaming the court proceedings on YouTube. (And for the truly, truly obsessed, there’s even a Reddit subreddit, r/MurdaughFamilyMurders.)

5) 🧬 In other news: here’s an eye-opening Bloomberg Businessweek story by Ashlee Vance about a wealthy, 45-year-old software entreprenuer who spends $2 million a year to try to reverse the aging process. It includes this amazing sentence: “He wants to have the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, tendons, teeth, skin, hair, bladder, penis and rectum of an 18-year-old.”

6) 🤖 “Decoding the Hype About AI”: Arvind Narayanan, a computer science professor at Princeton, speaks with The Markup’s Julia Angwin.

7) 🎵 Dana Gioia – music critic, author, all around brilliant guy – outlines his eight top techniques for judging someone’s character.

8) 📝 Procrastinating scribes in Tokyo, take note: Manuscript Writing Cafe, made for working writers, features an owner who checks in on your progress a couple times an hour.

9) 📍 Wonders of Street View: click the “random” button in the upper right to see one remarkable scene caught on Google after another.

10) 📸 Think you’re a good judge of when a photo was taken? Try your hand with the Chronophoto game.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

Police puppy gets interviewed

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“I always work at the edge of what I understand.” – Brian Eno

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism

Musk’s Twitter Reinstates Hindu Nationalist Accounts That Disparage Muslims

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

Twitter Inc. under Elon Musk has reinstated several previously suspended Hindu nationalist accounts that were popular in India, one of its largest markets by users, with human-rights groups saying the move has spurred a resurgence of divisive religious material on the platform.

Some of the accounts that were suspended had been reported for posting hate speech aimed at religious minorities in India, according to groups that reported them. Upon their return in recent weeks, some have tweeted material denigrating Muslims and others.

The tweets include a debunked video that the person who posted it claimed showed a Muslim cleric spitting on rice before serving it to others, another calling Pakistani Muslims “rectums,” and a retweet of a user who called the Quran “the source of all evil.”

The Hindu-majority South Asian nation has deep social and religious divisions that have in the past erupted into fatal religious confrontations, sometimes connected to material spread online. Muslims make up about 14% of India’s population.

Twitter had 41 million users in India as of December, making it the company’s third-biggest market by users after the U.S. and Japan, according to eMarketer, a unit of data and research firm Insider Intelligence.

Twitter didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Books

The Best Books I Read in 2022

Here the best books I read in 2022.

As in previous years, I’m not restricting myself to titles published this year.

A note on format: I still prefer to read books in printed form. Their analogue attributes such as the ability to mark up pages, easily flip through chapters, and consult front and back matter at a glance just can’t be replicated in electronic form.

Physical books, unlike e-readers or smartphones, don’t run out of batteries, can easily survive a rainstorm, and automatically shut out distractions despite lacking Airplane Mode. So: dead trees FTW!

I do sometimes read e-books on my Kindle, though, when I can’t find a paper version of a title, or to peruse samples of books I’m considering purchasing in print.

This year I read nonfiction spanning Ukraine’s history to the economics of Big Tech to — most important — parenting!

For fiction, I read novels set in the western U.S., in Hong Kong, Italy, and even a post-apocalyptic future North America.

Nonfiction

Fiction

  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven. The huge 2014 bestseller that you’ve no doubt heard of. I love post-apocalyptic tales. This one weaves through past and future, telling the stories of characters’ lives before and after a pandemic, with lovely literary flourishes and interfused with a sense of hope. I watched only a bit of the TV series and didn’t get into it. My Book Notes entry is here.

  • Willy Vlautin, Lean on Pete. A short, sad, striking tale containing some passages and imagery I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My Book Notes entry is here.

  • Thomas Harris, Hannibal: A Novel. I’d never read Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs until two years ago, and finally got around to reading this sequel, featuring the iconic Hannibal Lecter, this year. Set largely in Florence. Fantastic.

  • Paul Theroux, Kowloon Tong. A 1997 novel mainly about the lives of the privileged and insular British living in the city as the handover loomed. Contains some troubling depictions of local residents. (Thanks to pal Dan C. for the recommendation.)

  • Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow: A Novel. Spy thrillers dominated my fiction reading last year, and Matthews might be my new favorite of the genre. This book is rich in detail, beautifully paced, and the characters are vivid. (Thanks to Newley’s Notes reader Stuart H. for the recommendation.)

Previous lists: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN302: My Top 10 of 2022

Sent as a newsletter Sunday, December 25. Not on my email list? Enter your address here.

👋 Hi friends,

🎄Merry Christmas!

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

🚨 Administrative note NN will be away until after the new year. I’ll see you again in 2023, friends!

Image of the week, above:

🌅 A recent Hong Kong sunset. People seriously don’t understand how beautiful this city is.

My WSJ latest:

🔎 My last story of 2022, out a couple weeks ago, before I departed on holiday: Google Faces Pressure in Hong Kong Over Search Results for National Anthem

It began:

Google is under fire from officials and legislators in Hong Kong over a pro-democracy song that is showing up in search results for the national anthem, raising tensions between American tech giants and authorities as Beijing tries to spread patriotism in the city.

As they say: Watch this space.

Here are my top 10 new things of 2022:

1) 📚 Book: “Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control, ” by Josh Chin and Liza Lin. A deeply reported, downright frightening work by my WSJ colleagues that shows the extent to which Beijing has siphoned up data on its citizens in order to influence their behavior. A must-read for anyone who’s interested in digital privacy or China (or both), and a cautionary tale for people everywhere given the extent to which governments and corporations around the world increasingly have access to our electronic details.

2) 🍿 Movie: “Top Gun: Maverick.” If you don’t like this feel-good, adrenaline-packed masterwork that — best of all — doesn’t take itself too seriously, well, I can’t be your friend. Because it probably means you don’t love America hard enough.

3) 🎸 Album: “Cruel Country,” by Wilco. The band, which was once known as alt-country and then morphed into much more, riffs on…country music in this double album.

4) 📺 TV series: “Somebody Somewhere.” Shines a light on the unique people in small town America who are often ignored. And a special shout-out to the magnificent “Better Call Saul” — could it even be better than “Breaking Bad?” It just might be — which ended this year.

5) 🎧 Podcast: “The Eastern Oregon Connection.” Given my roots in Pendleton, Oregon, I have loved this straightforward show: Locals Ryan Smith and Shannon Hartley interview interesting people from the community and surrounding region — farmers, coaches, physical therapists, entrepreneurs and more. That’s it! There should be more podcasts like this one.

6) 📷 Best gadget: I’m going to fudge a bit here as the Fujifilm X100V came out in 2020, but I only got it this year. It’s a compact camera with a prime lens that captures beautiful images. It is also a gorgeous machine itself. (I took the sunset pic above using my modest iPhone 12, though.)

7) 🐘 Best web service: Maybe it’s recency bias, and it’s been around for some time, but 2022 saw growing adoption of Mastodon after Elon Musk took over Twitter. I was skeptical at first that it could work at scale, and Twitter still has massive network effects, but I think Mastodon now represents a legitimate Twitter alternative. (I’m @newley@journa.host, by the way.)

8) 📱Related — best Mastodon iOS app: Metatext. Simple, clean, open source.

9) 🧤 Best save: Emi Martinez saves with his left foot (from 1:28 in the video) in extra time to preserve the 3-3 draw for Argentina and get them to penalties in the best World Cup final match of all time….

10) ⚽ …During which Leo Messi scored the year’s best goal: an outrageously nonchalant penalty (from 0:28 in the video) under unthinkable pressure. Epic.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

Dogs at a shelter getting to pick Christmas presents

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” — Carol Burnett

•••

🤗 What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and videos of excited canines.

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley
Categories
Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Google Faces Pressure in Hong Kong Over Search Results for National Anthem

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

HONG KONG—Google is under fire from officials and legislators in Hong Kong over a pro-democracy song that is showing up in search results for the national anthem, raising tensions between American tech giants and authorities as Beijing tries to spread patriotism in the city.

Two members of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing legislative council in recent days have joined the city’s chief secretary in criticizing the Alphabet Inc. unit for showing the song, “Glory to Hong Kong,” among its top results.

Hong Kong’s official anthem has been China’s “March of The Volunteers” since Beijing regained sovereignty over the former British colony 25 years ago. Antigovernment protesters in 2019 adopted “Glory to Hong Kong”—before the imposition of a national security law—and it has featured prominently on Google and YouTube since then.

That has led to confusion in recent weeks at sporting events when the protest anthem was played, angering local officials and triggering an investigation by the Hong Kong police’s organized crime bureau.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment, though the company has said its search results are determined by algorithms—not by human curation—and that results some might find objectionable can occur when search queries match text on webpages. The company says it only removes content that violates Google’s policies or specific legal obligations.

Last week, a third lawmaker staged a protest with several people at Google’s Hong Kong office. It was a rare show of anger against an American tech firm in a city where access to the internet—unlike in mainland China—has remained mostly unfettered. That is a key reason why global companies operate in the city.

Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki, told media outlets in recent weeks that the government was discussing the search results with Google and its video platform, YouTube.

“It’s about dignity and respect,” said one of the lawmakers, Duncan Chiu.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN301: Delighted Dogs Digging In

Sent as a newsletter Monday, December 5. Not on my email list? Enter your address here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above:

🥧 Once again, for Thanksgiving, I made my Aunt Cece’s world-famous pecan pie.

And once again, it did not disappoint.

My WSJ latest:

🐦 I had two stories out last week, both about Twitter.

The first, with my colleague Selina Cheng, on Wednesday: Twitter Becomes Stage for China Protests Despite Ban by Beijing.

The lede:

Twitter is banned in China, but it is proving a critical platform for getting videos and images of protests occurring across the nation out to the rest of the world.

One Twitter user we profiled, who goes by Li Laoshi, or Teacher Li, had about 760,000 followers at that point, more than three times the number before the demonstrations began. The count has now surpassed 818,000.

And the second story, a spot news piece out Friday with my colleague Sarah Needleman: Kanye West Suspended From Twitter After Swastika Tweet. It began:

Twitter Inc. again suspended Kanye West’s account after the musician and designer posted a swastika in a tweet that the social-media platform’s owner, Elon Musk, said violated its rules.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) ⚽ The U.S. lost to the Netherlands 3–1 in the World Cup round of 16. Yes, we made it out of a tough group and were beaten by a much stronger team with more seasoned players and a more storied footballing history. But some avoidable defensive mistakes cost us the game. Still, with World Cup 2026 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico – and one of the youngest teams at this year’s competition – I’m optimistic about our future.

2) 🧤 One bright spot for U.S. Men’s National Team fans, and goalkeepers everywhere: Matt Turner. He walked on at Fairfield University and once gave up a goal so bad it went viral, but has since made it to MLS and the Premier League. He had a great tournament.

3) 🎧 For an entertaining summation of the U.S. performance and thoughts on where the team goes from here, check out this Men in Blazers podcast episode.

4) ⭐ Elsewhere: The Financial Times’s 25 most influential women of 2022.

5) ☀️ How solar engineering could help mitigate climate change.

6) 🐢 Happy birthday to Jonathan, the world’s oldest tortoise, who just turned 190.

7) 💡 Why are streetlights in the U.S., Canada and Ireland turning purple?

8) 🔉 Here’s a collection of obsolete sounds.

9) 🍎 The tastiest apples, ranked.

10) 🐻 And now for something completely bizarre: “Cocaine Bear” is a real movie. Here is the trailer.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

“Thanksgiving at Michigan Animal Rescue League 💙”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” – Daniel Kahneman

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Journalism Tech

Kanye West Suspended From Twitter After Swastika Tweet

That was the headline on my latest, a story out Friday with my colleague Sarah Needleman. It begins:

Twitter Inc. again suspended Kanye West’s account after the musician and designer posted a swastika in a tweet that the social-media platform’s owner, Elon Musk, said violated its rules.

Mr. West, who now legally goes by Ye and had recently returned from a previous Twitter suspension, on Thursday posted a picture of a swastika merged with the Star of David.

Asked on Twitter by a user to “fix Kanye please,” Mr. Musk replied: “I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”

Mr. West’s account then began displaying a message saying it was suspended, with no tweets visible.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Journalism Tech

Twitter Becomes Stage for China Protests Despite Ban by Beijing

That was the headline on a story out Wednesday I wrote with my colleage Selina Cheng. It begins:

HONG KONG—Twitter is banned in China, but it is proving a critical platform for getting videos and images of protests occurring across the nation out to the rest of the world.

China’s robust internet censors have sprung into action to scrub domestic social media of photos and video streams showing demonstrations against harsh Covid restrictions, spurring citizens to circumvent the nation’s Great Firewall.

Twitter has been blocked in China since 2009, but people in the country are able to access it using virtual private networks, or VPNs, which disguise their locations. They can then send material via the platform’s messaging system to a handful of widely followed Twitter users, who in turn broadcast it globally.

One Twitter user who lives outside China and goes by the name of Li Laoshi, or Teacher Li, said he has been receiving more than a dozen messages per second with protest material at some points since public unrest erupted—the same number he used to get a day—so that he could repost them publicly.

“My daily routine is: wake up, post online, and feed my cat,” he said. The goal of the account, created in May 2020, is to record events that are subject to censorship in China, his profile states. It had more than 759,000 followers as of Wednesday, more than triple the number before protests began, according to social-media analytics site Social Blade.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Misc.

Winter Weather Arrives in Hong Kong. Finally

It felt like it would never come, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s just a few days ago.

But now it’s here. As if on cue, now that it’s December.

Actual winter weather!

The mercury has dipped to the low 60s and even high 50s. Skies are clear. The sun is out.

I love this time of year in Hong Kong. 🤗

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN300: Pack of Pups on the Prowl

Sent as a newsletter Sunday, November 22. Not on my email list? Enter your address here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above:

Another excellent vanity plate, spotted here in Hong Kong. If you work hard, as the saying goes, you gotta…

My WSJ latest:

🇮🇳 My latest, out Wednesday: Facebook Parent Meta Sees Executive Exodus in India

It begins:

Three of Meta Platforms Inc.’s top executives in India have departed the company in recent weeks, with the Facebook parent changing the country’s reporting structure amid its first broad global restructuring, according to people familiar with the matter.

They were: India head Ajit Mohan; the head of WhatsApp in India, Abhijit Bose; and Rajiv Aggarwal, Meta India’s public policy director.

The story included the exclusive tidbit that India’s office, which long reported to HQ in Menlo Park, California, will now report to Meta’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore. (That was later confirmed in a statement from Meta announcing the new India head, Sandhya Devanathan.)

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) ⚽ The World Cup is here! Ecuador defeated hosts Qatar 2–0 in the opening match yesterday. And England just demolished Iran 6–2.

2) 🍺 More on the World Cup: My WSJ colleagues have the inside story of how (chaotically) and why (a late decision by the Qatari royal family) the tournament’s last-minute beer ban came to be.

3) 📺 And finally: Qatar are a controversial World Cup host. England footballing great turned TV presenter Gary Lineker kicked off the BBC’s coverage of the event with a sober rundown of some of the issues.

4) 🐦 The latest on Twitter: Elon Musk has reinstated Former President Trump’s account, but it’s unclear if Trump will return, given his commitment to his own social media platform, Truth Social.

5) 💸 The FTX débâcle, simplified, by economist Alex Tabarrok.

6) 🇹🇭 Here’s a New York Times travel piece on the revitalization of Bangkok’s Charoen Krung Road, which runs along the Chao Phraya River.

7) 💔 How “Love Is Blind,” over the course of three seasons, went from a “sociological fairy tale to a reality TV nightmare.”

8) 🔉 Soundprint is “like Yelp, but for noise” – an app that helps you find quiet bars, restaurants, and other places.

9) 🎧 Podcast of the week: Ken Burns talks to Tyler Cowen about making documentaries, why he’s lived in the same small New Hampshire town for decades, and why he loves quilts.

10) 🐼 This is the best 12-second compilation of panda fails you will see this week. (Thanks, Anasuya!)

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

“There are some Wonderful people in this world”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley