Hong Kong

Hong Kong Snapshot: Buildings, Curving Road, Woman with Umbrella

Hong Kong Journalism

Coronavirus Doesn’t Have to Be So Deadly. Just Look at Hong Kong and Singapore

coronavirus Hong Kong Singapore

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Tuesday, which I wrote with my colleague Feliz Solomon. It begins:

Hong Kong and Singapore reported their first cases of the novel coronavirus in January. Four months later, the densely packed Asian metropolises, with a combined population of about 13 million, have seen 27 fatalities between them.

Just 0.4% of those with confirmed infections have died in Hong Kong. In Singapore—less than 0.1%. If the U.S. had a similar fatality rate as the average of the two, its death toll would now stand at about 4,100, rather than 98,000 and growing.

“When you overwhelm health systems a lot more people die,” said David Owens, founder of Hong Kong medical practice OT&P Healthcare, who has treated patients for Covid-19. Hong Kong and Singapore “didn’t let the epidemic run wild.”

The cities’ fatality rates—among the lowest in the world—show that coronavirus outbreaks don’t have to result in large-scale loss of life. Their playbook: test widely, quarantine aggressively and treat patients early to avoid fatal complications and overburdened health systems.

Click through to read the rest.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Snapshot: Building, Trees, Light

Something about this scene just struck me. I love the colors and straight lines of the buildings behind the green of the trees — and the streetlight gleaming as the evening was beginning. 💯

Newley's Notes

NN220: New Hong Kong Protests; Service Dog Cuddles Donald Duck

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, May 24.

👋 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.

A Deeper Look at Mukesh Ambani’s Digital Vision

🇮🇳 I’ve mentioned in previous editions of NN India’s Jio Platforms, the upstart mobile operator and digital services firm controlled by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

To recap: Jio has raised a ton of money recently from the likes of Facebook and other big American investors keen to get a piece of business in the world’s biggest untapped internet economy.

🆕 On Wednesday I had a story out with a deeper look at Mr. Ambani’s vision, and why companies are plowing funds into Jio. The hedline: Inside Facebook and Private Equity’s $8.8 Billion Bet on India’s Richest Man.

Click through for details on how talks with Facebook came out, which executives were involved, and how Mr. Ambani has privately described his vision for Jio.

🎧 I joined my colleague Kateri Jochum to discuss the story on an episode of The WSJ’s Tech News Briefing podcast, which you can listen to here or in your favorite podcast app.

Oh, and an addendum: on Friday Jio said it is raising yet more money – a cool $1.5 billion – from U.S. private equity heavyweight KKR. That brings the total to more than $10 billion…

On to this week’s NN.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🇭🇰 1) China on Thursday indicated it will implement new national security laws here in Hong Kong, which in a story my colleagues describe as “a blow to the territory’s autonomy as Beijing seeks to stamp out widespread pro-democracy protests that have challenged leader Xi Jinping.”

Some U.S. senators have pledged new rules that would target Chinese officials with sanctions. Beijing on Friday said it plans to allow mainland state security agencies to operate in HK. Markets in HK have fallen. And today there were fresh protests. LINK 1: new laws. LINK 2: security agencies. LINK 3: markets. LINK 4: fresh protests

🇨🇳 2) Francis Fukuyama, in an essay out last week about China, writes: “The starting point is to recognize that we are dealing with an aspiring totalitarian country like the mid–20th century Soviet Union, and not with some kind of generic ‘authoritarian capitalist’ regime.” LINK

🎥 3) Facebook acquired Giphy, the platform for making animated images, and will integrate the service into Instagram. Axios put the price at about $400 million. LINK

🎙️ 4) Big news in the world of podcasting: comedian Joe Rogan, whose podcast is one of the world’s most popular, is joining Spotify in an exclusive deal, meaning his episodes eventually will be available only on their service. LINK

🍳 5) Here’s an in-depth look at the cookbook author Alison Roman, her remarks about Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, whiteness, and the popularization of “exotic” ingredients. LINK

🏃‍♂️ 6) Another good longread: On the legacy of Jim Fixx, who authored a mammoth 1977 bestseller that helped popularize recreational running – but who also battled inner demons before famously dying while out for a jog. LINK

🧠 7) How a graduate student solved a decades-old math problem in less than a week, helping gain a tenure track job offer at MIT just over a year after earning her doctorate. LINK

☕ 8) Twitter thread of funny images: “Angela Lansbury as teapots.” LINK

📺 9) If you enjoyed the Bookcase Credibility Twitter account, you may also like @RateMySkypeRoom. LINK

🦆 10) Dog-related video of the week: A service dog meets Donald Duck.

💡 Quote of the week:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything, life is about creating yourself.” – Bob Dylan

What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and videos of good boys snuggling Disney characters.

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,


India Journalism

Inside Facebook and Private Equity’s $8.8 Billion Bet on India’s Richest Man

Facebook Jio

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

Facebook Inc. and a trio of U.S. private-equity firms have in the past month poured billions of dollars into an upstart mobile operator controlled by India’s richest man.

The stakes, which add up to $8.8 billion, amount to a bet that Jio Platforms Ltd. and Mukesh Ambani, the chairman and largest shareholder of its parent company, Reliance Industries Ltd., are the players best positioned to bring legions of Indian consumers fully online and into e-commerce.

Facebook’s April announcement that it would invest $5.7 billion for a stake in Mumbai-based Jio was quickly followed by $750 million from Silver Lake and $1.5 billion from Vista Equity Partners. On Sunday, Jio said it was raising $870 million from another private-equity powerhouse, General Atlantic.

I also discussed the piece on an episode of our Tech News Briefing podcast. Click here to listen, or search for the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Hong Kong

Spotted here in Hong Kong: ‘No Drama’ Personalized License Plate


Newley's Notes

NN219: Will Covid-19 Kill Universities? Also: Hugs from Puppies

nighttime sky
Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, May 17.

👋 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.

A setback in Hong Kong’s Covid–19 Battle

🇭🇰 Hong Kong almost made it to the 28-day milestone of two full quarantine periods without a new local Covid–19 case. But as my colleague Joyu Wang and I wrote Wednesday:

After 23 days without a locally transmitted coronavirus case and with much of the city returning to normal life, health officials here are investigating how a 66-year-old woman and her granddaughter tested positive.

The test results, announced Wednesday, illustrate the continuing challenges for authorities world-wide in eliminating the disease even in places that were successful with containment earlier on.

Still, of course, Hong Kong has recorded just over 1,000 Covid–19 infections and four deaths deaths. It remains a model for many places.

14 photos from our first few months here in HK

📷 This city, as I wrote in a recent blog post, is a photographer’s dream. I’ve had my iPhone out, snapping away like crazy, during our first few months here. Yesterday I posted a round up of 14 of my favorite photos so far. Click through to check ’em out.

On to this week’s NN.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🎓 1) After years of talk about online education “disrupting” in-person universities, will Covid–19 hasten the end of such institutions? Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, thinks so. “There’s this horrific awakening being delivered via Zoom of just how substandard and overpriced education is at every level,” he says. He sees name brand universities partnering with big tech firms to expand their reach. MIT + Google? Microsoft + Berkeley? Link

🌁 2) Bay Area tech titans like Facebook, Twitter and Google have told much of their staff they no longer need to come in to the office amid the pandemic. Faced with sky-high rents, some techies are considering leaving San Francisco altogether, Sarah Frier reports in Bloomberg Businessweeek. “It makes no sense paying Bay Area rent if we can earn our salary living elsewhere,” one worker told her. I’m fascinated to see how this all plays out, in SF and in other metropolises where living costs are astronomically high. Link

🔍 3) Google is increasingly in the spotlight. There were two important WSJ stories out Friday about Google. First, on antitrust: the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are “likely to file antitrust lawsuits” and “well into planning for litigation,” says one scoop. The second is an in-depth investigation showing how people and firms are using dubious copyright complaints to scrub Google of unflattering but lawful material. Link 1 + Link 2

🛸 4) New details continue to emerge about Navy pilots reporting seeing unidentified aerial vehicles. The backstory: a December 2017 New York Times piece revealed a secret Defense Department program studying UFOs, while other subsequent stories have featured aviators speaking about their experiences. The Department of Defense has even officially released videos of the encounters. Link

🤳 5) Depressing story of the week: “mumfluencers” – Instagram micro-celebrities whose online personas revolve around their seemingly perfect families – and their meltdowns. Link

🥡 6) Art critic Jerry Saltz has a thought provoking essay about about food and coping mechanisms amid Covid–19. Link

🏎️ 7) With U.S. highways mostly empty as people stay at home, people are setting new records for the Cannonball Run, shaving hours off the drive from New York to California to make it in about 26 hours. File under: unexpected Covid–19 outcomes. Link

🤙 8) Nightclubs in Germany are closed, but party-goers created a unique solution: a drive-in rave. Video

🌈 🌈 9) RIP “Double Rainbow Guy,” aka Yosemitebear. Paul L. Vasquez, whose 2010 video became a viral hit, died at age 57. Link + Video

💕 10) Dog-related video of the week: “When a dog loves a woman.” Video

💡 Quote of the week:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Hong Kong

14 Photos from Our First Few Months in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a photographer’s paradise.

Since our move here a few months back, I feel like I have constantly had my iPhone out, snapping images of buildings, people, colors, views.

Here are a few of my favorites so far. Most also posted to Instagram (I’m @Newley there).

Hong Kong Journalism

Coronavirus Creeps Back in Hong Kong as Local Transmissions Are Reported

Coronavirus in Hong Kong

That’s the headline on a story I wrote with my colleague Joyu Wang yesterday. It begins:

HONG KONG–After 23 days without a locally transmitted coronavirus case and with much of the city returning to normal life, health officials here are investigating how a 66-year-old woman and her granddaughter tested positive.

The test results, announced Wednesday, illustrate the continuing challenges for authorities world-wide in eliminating the disease even in places that were successful with containment earlier on.

Seven close contacts of the woman have shown symptoms and have been sent to the hospital for testing, officials said Wednesday. The woman has no recent history of travel and hasn’t had contact with known carriers of the disease, officials said. They added that they plan to test residents of their apartment buildings.

The positive results drew a collective sigh from Hong Kongers who have been slowly resuming their normal life routines. Some government health advisers have set a mark of 28 days—or two quarantine periods without a local infection—as a key milestone toward victory over the coronavirus. The two new infections bring the total recorded in the city of about 7.5 million residents to 1,051, with four deaths—which is still relatively low.

Click through to read the rest.

Newley's Notes

NN218: Good News Amid the Pandemic; Also: Dog Welcomes Owner Back from Hospital

Overhead view of pattern
Photo by Caroline Grondin on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, May 10, 2020.

👋 Hi friends,

India’s Jio Raises Even More Money

💸 Remember a couple weeks ago when I wrote about India’s Jio – part of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance empire – getting a big $5.7 billion investment from Facebook?

Well, Jio execs have continued to raise funds to try to trim the debt they’ve accrued building out their huge 4G network.

Over the last week the company raised $750 million and $1.5 billion from two private equity firms in the U.S., Silver Lake and Vista Equity.

These new investors are betting, like Facebook, that they can get a piece of a huge digital platform in India that is growing to comprise not just mobile connections, but music, video, payments, and even – as the Facebook deal to link up WhatsApp with grocery shops shows – e-commerce. (You can bet Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart have taken note.)

The bigger trend, which I’ve written about over the years: India’s internet economy is still poised for massive growth as hundreds of millions of people start to consume online. Global investors want a piece of that.

On to this week’s links, where we have – I am happy to say – GOOD NEWS. The Covid–19 situation remains, especially in the U.S., troubling. But there is positive news out there. Read on.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💪 1) Some interesting new consumer technologies are emerging amid the pandemic, from realtime audio chat apps (Clubhouse) to a boom in video conferencing (Zoom, etc). But don’t forget that the key to all of this – the key to our connectivity – has withstood mammoth pressures: the internet. It’s kept running throughout. Thank god.

🦙 2) Maybe, just maybe, llamas can help us fight Covid–19.

🚶‍♀️ 3) Seattle is permanently making about 20 miles of streets off-limits to most vehicle traffic, after earlier closing them down to let people walk and bike with sufficient physical distance. File under: how the coronavirus is changing cities.

🎼 4) More than 100 people from Juilliard’s community of students, alumni and artists, even while locked down, came together to create an online performance called “Bolero Juilliard”.

👏 5) An Adoption, a Pandemic and an Evacuation. That’s the headline on a powerful, beautifully written story about love and hope by The New York Times’s Maria Abi-Habib. If you read just one story this week, make it this one.

♟️ 6) People stuck inside, combined with the suspension of sports, are powering a “modern chess boom,” my WSJ colleagues report. Among those getting in on the game are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joe Biden.

😎 7) People are creating cool online diversions. One I’ve been enjoying, given our locked-down world in which international travel is verboten: a website called Drive & Listen. Select a city to see video filmed while driving around in that location – while simultaneously hearing the sounds playing on local FM radio in real-time. Mesmerizing. I have grooved to Bob Marley on Melodia FM while virtually cruising around Barcelona, enjoyed some B–52s while taking a tour through sunny Los Angeles, and more. (Note: the website works better on desktop computers than on mobile devices.) BONUS LINK: Point-of-view video from a train zooming though Switzerland, with a techno music soundtrack.

😂 8) Shot: Comedy persists even amid the pandemic! Steve Carell is in a new Netflix sitcom called “Space Force,” and the trailer is excellent. It’s out May 29.

📕 9) Chaser: And high brow humor, too! My new favorite Twitter account is Bookcase Credibility (@BCredibility), which analyzes the way books and bookshelves appear behind experts being interviewed over video.

🐕 10) Dog-related video of the week: this pup’s owner was in the hospital for five weeks. When he returned, the dog didn’t recognize him…until he did.

💡 Quote of the week:

“If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way.” – Jerry Seinfeld.

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,