Categories
India Journalism Tech

Amazon’s Bezos Pledges New $1 Billion India Investment Amid Pushback

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Krishna Pokharel, out Wednesday. It begins:

NEW DELHI— Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos pledged to invest an additional $1 billion in the company’s Indian operations, part of a charm offensive in a promising but challenging market.

Mr. Bezos told a gathering of local Amazon sellers that the intent is to help more small businesses start selling on the company’s marketplace. The new funds will supplement the $5 billion that Amazon has said it is spending to build out its Indian business, a spokeswoman said.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

India Orders WhatsApp, Google to Save Data on Mob Attack

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Krishna Pokharel, out Tuesday. It begins:

NEW DELHI — An Indian court ordered Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to preserve data connected to an attack on a university campus earlier this month in the latest attempt by authorities in the country to wrangle more control over the messaging and search giants.

According to an attorney involved in the case, the Delhi High Court said Tuesday that the companies, local police and university authorities must try to save messages, photos and videos connected to the Jan. 5 attack, when several dozen people stormed the campus of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, injuring 32 students and two faculty members.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

India Orders Antitrust Probe of Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart

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

NEW DELHI–India’s antitrust watchdog ordered a probe into whether Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart have violated competition laws, New Delhi’s latest move to try to rein in American tech giants that dominate its burgeoning internet economy.

The investigation launched by the Competition Commission of India Monday said it would focus on allegations that the U.S. titans promote “preferred sellers” of goods on their platforms, which may have hurt smaller rivals.

“It has been alleged that most of these preferred sellers are affiliated with or controlled by Flipkart or Amazon, either directly or indirectly,” the order said.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN205: Best Books I Read in 2019; Suleimani Longread; German Expressions; Jenga-Playing Dogs

Photo by Emerson Peters on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Tues., January 7.

👋 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.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

🌟 Recently posted on Newley.com: The 10 Best Books I Read in 2019.

TLDR: My pics include books about tech giants such as Airbnb, Uber and Google; titles on economic development and Indian billionaires; a true spy story from the Cold War; and a sprinkling of classic fiction…

What memorable books did you read last year? Hit reply and let me know.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🔮 1) A 2013 longread that’s been doing the rounds given recent events: The Shadow Commander [The New Yorker)]

“Qassem Suleimani is the Iranian operative who has been reshaping the Middle East. Now he’s directing Assad’s war in Syria.”

🔎 2) ‘Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age [Yahoo News]

“The OPM hack was a watershed moment, ushering in an era when big data and other digital tools may render methods of traditional human intelligence gathering extinct, say former officials.”

🗑️ 3) The Global Garbage Economy Begins (and Ends) in This Senegalese Dump [The Nation]

“How Dakar’s trash depot became a battleground for Chinese industry, the World Bank, and Senegalese organized labor.”

⌨️ 4) The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of a Virtuoso Coder [Wired]

“Jerold Haas was on the brink of blockchain riches. Then his body was found in the woods of southern Ohio.”

🇲🇳 5) This dad took his son to Mongolia just to get him off his phone [BBC News]

“How do you get a teen to put down their phone and talk to you? Jamie Clarke went all the way to Mongolia to find out.”

⏳ 6) Aging-related chart of the week: how life satisfaction changes with age [Danny Blanchflower/Twitter]

“I have a new paper available on request showing that happiness is U-shaped in age minimizing at around age fifty in 132 countries – here it is for Europe from 1.2 million observations.”

⚡ 7) Amid shut-off woes, a beacon of energy [Washington Post]

“A Native American tribe has insulated itself from California’s blackouts by creating a microgrid utility.

🧠 8) For the New Year, Say No to Negativity [WSJ]

“By recognizing it and overriding our innate responses, we can break destructive patterns, make smarter decisions, see the world more realistically and also exploit the benefits of this bias. Bad is stronger than good, but good can prevail if we know what we’re up against.”

🇩🇪 9) The power of naming: 10 German Expressions that don’t exist in English and their Wisdom [Leo Widrich]

“In German, certain words exist that describe some of our human experiences so accurately and precisely that I’ve marveled at how much helps us to express ourselves.”

🐕 10) Dog-related video of the week: A Jenga-playing canine [Steve Stewart-Williams/Twitter]

“Holy crap, this is incredible: A dog playing Jenga. Turn-taking, fine motor control, apparent understanding of the aim of the game. I would not have guessed a dog could do this.”

💡 Quote of the week:

“If you have good habits, time becomes your ally. You just need to be patient. You just need to let that compounding process work for you. But if you have bad habits, time becomes your enemy.” – James Clear

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Categories
Books

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2019

The books I read in 2019

TLDR: Tech giants, economics, the Cold War, and some fiction! You can also check out my previous lists for 2018 and 2017.

Around this time last year, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I deliberately set aside the books I wanted to tackle in 2019.

One of the advantages print books, rather than e-books, is their physical nature: I actually lined up the titles I wanted to read on a dedicated shelf next to my favorite reading chair. And they were there, looming over me, all year long, reminding me to dive in.

I picked a mix of classics I’d never read — or had delved into but never fully grasped — and more recent books that I was interested in for work or personal reasons. I also tried to read more novels, as my previous year-end lists have been dominated by nonfiction.

These were my faves, in roughly the order I read them. Note that as always, these are books I read that were new to me in 2019, not books published only during that year.

  1. The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World,” by Brad Stone. (Published: 2017.)

    I enjoyed Stone’s “The Everything Store,” about Jeff Bezos and Amazon (corresponding Book Notes post here), and found this one to be similarly instructive for understanding the origins and culture of Uber and Airbnb — and their founders.

    For more details, see my Book Notes post on “The Upstarts” here.

  2. The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal,” by David E. Hoffman. (Published: 2015.)

    This was not something I’d actually planned to read, but happened upon a copy of it while away at the beach. (All that stuff I was saying above about planning what to read? This was a notable exception.)

    It’s fantastic: a page turner about successful U.S. efforts, after years of failure, to cultivate a spy deep within the Russian government during the Cold War — and how much that cost all the individuals involved. It’s such a pleasure to encounter new insights about a topic that has so little to do with your daily life, but feels so timeless.

  3. How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region,” by Joe Studwell. (Published: 2013.)

    I’d been meaning to read this this it was published several years ago, having loved Studwell’s seminal 2007 book “Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia” (Book Notes post here).

    Why do some countries become rich, while others remain poor or stuck with their middle income status? Studwell shows that it’s really not so mysterious.

    There is a proven path to economic development that countries such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have undertaken. First, initiate land reform that permits farmers to practice small scale agriculture; then build a manufacturing sector by requiring domestic firms to be globally competitive; and, finally, enforce fiscal discipline.

    Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and India (though the South Asian nation is not discussed at length in the book) have not taken this path, and thus have not developed as quickly. (China is a case unto itself.)

  4. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business,” by Neil Postman. (Published: 1985.)

    The crux of this book: TV ruins everything.

    When people communicate important ideas through words (i.e. newspapers, magazines, books), public discourse tends to be more thoughtful. But the rise of TV has brought about sensationalism and shallowness of thought, and discourse has followed suit.

    Were Postman still alive, I reckon he would simply point to Donald Trump, the reality star turned president, to prove his point.

  5. 1984,” by George Orwell. (Published: 1949.)

    I must have read this book in high school or college, but I gave it another look in 2019. The dystopian novel is famous for terms like Big Brother and Doublespeak, and for showing (predicting?) how totalitarian states can employ surveillance to stifle dissent and crush individuals.

    Especially compelling was just how vividly Orwell renders the personal toll on citizens, describing the suffering endured by Winston and Julia in such horrific terms.

  6. Exit West: A Novel,” by Mohsin Hamid. (Published: 2017.)

    Last year I read Hamid’s novel “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” and found it strikingly good.

    I also enjoyed “Exit West,” which follows a couple named Nadia and Saeed as they live their lives together in a world of war and global migration.

    One criticism: Without giving away too much, there is one sci-fi-related plot point that I found unconvincing, but otherwise I found it to be an excellent novel.

  7. The Talented Mr. Ripley,” by Patricia Highsmith.” (Published: 1955.)

    I’m not sure how it is I’d never read this Highsmith classic. It is a psychological thriller about Tom Ripley, touching on identity, wealth and class, jealousy, love, and deception.

    I loved her beautiful, unadorned prose and perfect pacing.

  8. Googled: The End of the World As We Know It,” by Ken Auletta (Published: 2009).

    First, yes: this book is a decade old, and that’s about a century in internet years. Google has changed a lot during that time, but I didn’t read it to understand the company’s most recent happenings.

    Rather, as I mentioned in reading about Uber and Airbnb (and Amazon), what I’m often looking for is knowledge about big tech firms’ beginnings and cultural makeup. Auletta, who covers media for The New Yorker, delivers on that front.

  9. The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age,” by James Crabtree (Published: 2018)

    Crabtree, who was a Financial Times correspondent here in India for several years, has delivered an excellent book explaining why the ranks of India’s billionaires has risen so sharply in recent years, and drawing comparisons to the American Gilded Age.

    He explains how it’s happened in the world’s second-most-populous country, who the billionaires are as people, and mixes in colorful anecdotes from his reporting. Recommended for anyone interested in India, its economy, and its future.

  10. Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman (Published: 2011.)

    Yes, it’s as good as you’ve heard it is.

    I’d put off reading this book for so long because since its publication eight years ago the ideas contained in its pages have been everywhere — conversations, podcasts, all manner of journalistic stories — to such an extent that I felt I’d already understood them.

    And, largely, I had. But it’s worth devoting the time to read about them at length. The book is meticulously researched and brimming with insights.

    Simply put: Kahneman provides page after page of evidence showing that we just aren’t as smart as we think we are. When we think fast — use heuristics and fall prey to our cognitive biases — we make bad decisions. Even when we know we’re vulnerable.

Categories
Misc.

NN204: Why Ebooks Disappoint — DNA Kits and Privacy — Fake Paparazzi Pics — Puppy in Tennis Ball Heaven

Real books: you just can’t beat ’em.

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash.

Sent as an email newsletter December 29, 2019.

👋 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.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💲 1) Tech story of the week: State Support Helped Fuel Huawei’s Global Rise [WSJ]

“A Wall Street Journal review of Huawei’s grants, credit facilities, tax breaks and other forms of financial assistance details for the first time how Huawei had access to as much as $75 billion in state support as it grew from a little-known vendor of phone switches to the world’s largest telecom-equipment company – helping Huawei offer generous financing terms and undercut rivals’ prices by some 30%, analysts and customers say.”

📚 2) The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came. [Vox]

“Ebooks aren’t only selling less than everyone predicted they would at the beginning of the decade. They also cost more than everyone predicted they would – and consistently, they cost more than their print equivalents.”

🧬 3) Pentagon warns military members DNA kits pose ‘personal and operational risks’ [Yahoo News]

“The Pentagon is advising members of the military not to use consumer DNA kits, saying the information collected by private companies could pose a security risk, according to a memo co-signed by the Defense Department’s top intelligence official.”

🐖 4) Chinese criminal gangs spreading African swine fever to force farmers to sell pigs cheaply so they can profit [SCMP]

“Sometimes the gangs spread rumours about the virus, which is fatal to pigs, but in more extreme cases they are using drones to drop infected items into farms.”

🕵️ 5) Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands [Washington Post]

“Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. ”

🔥 6) The Couple That Fakes Their Own Paparazzi Photos [The Cut]

“The account was only three months old and had a one-word bio, ‘Samsara,’ spelled out in a cool Gothic script. It featured candid-style photos of an attractive couple wearing impeccably coordinated outfits and eating fast food that matched their clothing.

🗣️ 7) The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts [The Atlantic]

“A dispute between a small group of scholars and the authors of The New York Times Magazine’s issue on slavery represents a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.”

👨‍🎓 8) My Semester With the Snowflakes [Medium/Gen]

At 52, I was accepted to Yale as a freshman. The students I met there surprised me.”

👏 9) Non-dog-related video of the week: 6 year old Irish girl hilariously insists on going to the pub [YouTube]

“My 6 year old daughter insisting that she should get to go to the pub. She is hilarious, watch until the end 😂😂”

🎾 10) Dog-related video of the week: Tennis balls overdose [Reddit/r/aww]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” – Simone Weil

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Thanks for reading. If you like Newley’s Notes, please forward it to a friend or share it on Twitter or Facebook using the links below.

Categories
Life

Merry Christmas from New Delhi

Best wishes from me, Anasuya, and Ginger*!

*Yes, Ginger is wearing a Christmas-themed sweater. Not only is it stylish, but it is functional, with temperatures dipping down into the low 40s Fahrenheit these days!

Categories
Misc.

NN203: India Protests — Mobile Phone Data Dump — ‘Far Side’ Returns — Welcoming Wolves

India flag

Photo by Naveed Ahmed on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter December 22.

👋 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.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

🇮🇳 There’s one story dominating headlines here in India this week: ongoing protests against the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act. Our most recent story, out Friday, begins:

Indian Muslims are stepping off the sidelines to join the political fray, driven by fears their status as citizens has never been more threatened and encouraged by the numbers of non-Muslims joining them in opposing a new citizenship law.

Earlier in the week, my colleague Krishna Pokharel and I wrote about how the government has been cutting off mobile phone and internet links to try to thwart the protests.

That story, by the way, contained these tidbits many people are unaware of regarding internet blackouts in the world’s biggest democracy:

So far this year India has cut access to the internet 94 times, according to India’s SFLC.in, a group that advocates for digital freedom. That accounts for 67% of the world’s documented shutdowns, the organization says.

Thursday’s shutdown marks the first time the capital has been targeted, said an SFLC.in spokesman. “It’s a first for Delhi,” he said.

Last year India saw 134 internet shutdowns – more than any other country, according to Access Now, another advocacy group. That was more than 10 times its neighbor Pakistan, which came in second with 12 shutdowns, and more than Yemen and Iraq, with seven each.

⚠️ As I mentioned last week, watch this space. The situation is fluid. For more frequent updates, you can follow me on Twitter.

On to this week’s NN.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🇺🇸 📱 1) One nation, tracked [New York Times]

“Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies – largely unregulated, little scrutinized – are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists.”

Bonus link: Freaked Out? 3 Steps to Protect Your Phone

💬 2) Facebook, Twitter Remove AI-Powered Fake Accounts With Pro-Trump Messages [WSJ]

“Facebook linked the company to the Epoch Media Group, which has had ties to the Falun Gong movement, a spiritual movement based in China which has clashed with the Chinese government and supported President Trump’s reelection.”

🙏 3) Losing Faith in the Humanities [The Chronicle Review]

“The decline of religion and the decline of the study of culture are part of the same big story.”

🧪 4) ‘Miss America can be a scientist’: Camille Schrier of Virginia wins after onstage chemistry experiment [Washington Post]

“She certainly stole the show during the talent portion – as the other four finalists performed jazz dances, twirled batons and sang songs, Schrier put on a chemistry demonstration.”

✏️ 5) ‘The Far Side’ Is Back. Sort Of. Gary Larson Will Explain [New York Times]

"A website will feature some of the beloved comic strip’s classics and, Larson says, ’I’m looking forward to slipping in some new things every so often.’”

🔮 6) Song of the week: “Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind.” [YouTube]

⛷️ 7) Trailer of the week: “Downhill,” featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell [YouTube]

💯 8) More best-of–2019 lists! Following up on last week’s roundup: Best news bloopers of 2019 [YouTube]; best longform articles of 2019 [Longreads]; The 14 charts that explain tech in 2019 [Vox/Recode]; The 30 best Southern albums of the year [Bitter Southerner] (Thanks, Miles!).

🔍 9) Busted pooch of the week: Ruh-Roh! Franklin police dog caught stealing from toy donation bin [Boston 25 News]

“When a couple of toys went missing, they quickly identified a suspect, and even caught him on camera in the act.”

🐺 10) Dog (relative) video of the week: A lady reuniting with a wolf pack she helped raise [Reddit/aww]

💡 Quote of the week:

“In your life, you will be evaluated on your output. Your boss will evaluate you on your output. If you’re a writer like me, the audience will evaluate you on your output. But your input is just as important. If you don’t have good input, you cannot maintain good output. The problem is no one manages your input…” – Ted Gioia, via Austin Kleon. (P.S. listen to the whole interview; it’s an excellent episode of Conversations with Tyler, one of my favorite podcasts.)

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN202: Special Best-of-2019 Edition

2019

Sent as an email newsletter December 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.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

For this week’s NN, I’ve put together a special best-of-the best-of–2019 lists. Read on for a meta-guide to top picks for books, music, TV shows, movies and more!

But first: a couple of my stories to share from yesterday (Monday):

🍲 – From the world of tech and food: Uber Is in Talks to Sell Its India Food-Delivery Business to a Rival. Uber could sell to Zomato, according to people familiar with the matter. A deal could be announced as early as this week.

🇮🇳 – And second, from the wider world of India politics, a story yesterday with my colleague Krishna Pokharel: Protests Over India’s New Citizenship Law Widen <– Watch this space. It’s a developing situation.

On to this week’s end-of–2019-themed NN!

Here are ten* items worth your time this week:

* Actually, way more than ten this week! 🙂

📚 1) BEST BOOKS (nonfiction and fiction)

🎶 2) BEST MUSIC

🖌️ 3) BEST ART

📷 4) BEST PHOTOGRAPHY

🎥 5) BEST MOVIES

📺 6) BEST TV SHOWS

🍴 7) BEST FOOD

📱 8) BEST TECH

🎧 9) BEST PODCASTS

🐶 10) BEST DOGS!

💡 Quote of the week:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Me on ‘The Journal’ Podcast Talking U.S. Tech Giants and India

Quick heads up: I was on the latest edition of The WSJ‘s “The Journal” podcast talking about my recent story on U.S. tech giants facing pushback here in India.

I was happy to join in as I’ve long admired the show, and this was my first appearance.

You can listen online here or in your favorite podcast app. Just search for “The Journal.” The episode was out yesterday, December 10, and is called “India Rewrites the Rules for Big Tech.”