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Journalism

Twitter Flags Trump Tweet About George Floyd Protests for ‘Glorifying Violence’

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Friday, with my colleague Andrew Restuccia. It begins:

Twitter Inc. shielded from public view tweets from President Trump and the White House for breaking what the company said are its rules about glorifying violence, a step that is likely to escalate tension between the president and the social-media giant.

The decision came one day after Mr. Trump signed an executive order taking aim at what he alleged was censorship by social-media companies, calling Twitter “an editor with a viewpoint.”

Mr. Trump, in tweets posted shortly after midnight on Friday, criticized protesters clashing with police in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck. The protests have turned violent, with a police station being set on fire overnight.

The president called the demonstrators thugs and warned: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

That phrase has a fraught history dating back to 1967, when Miami Police Chief Walter Headley used it at a news conference to explain how the threat of police violence had prevented riots and looting in the city. Mr. Headley’s comments and his “get-tough” approach to crime sparked outrage in Miami’s black community, and riots broke out in the city in the summer of 1968.

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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.

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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.

Categories
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.

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India Journalism Tech

Facebook Takes $5.7 Billion Stake in India’s Jio Platforms

That’s the headline on my most recent story, out Wednesday with my colleague Jeff Horwitz. It begins:

Facebook Inc. said it would pay $5.7 billion for just under 10% of Indian telecom operator Jio Platforms Ltd., a massive expansion of the social media giant’s commitment to a promising market where it has faced difficulties.

The deal, unveiled late Tuesday, is Facebook’s largest overseas investment and gives it the opportunity to bring its WhatsApp messaging service—which has more than 400 million users in India—into closer partnership with the mobile operator that upended India’s telecommunications industry with cut-rate data plans.

Jio Platforms Ltd. and its subsidiary, mobile operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., are part of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Jio Infocomm provides services to about 388 million customers.

The deal shows how Facebook, like other tech giants, is pushing ahead and taking advantage of its relative strength during a pandemic that is causing most other industries to retreat.

In a subsequent story, I looked a little closer at the who gets what out of the deal. The lede:

Facebook Inc.’s $5.7 billion tie-up with an Indian mobile leader could create a new kind of animal in the world’s biggest untapped digital market: a social media behemoth wedded to a mobile infrastructure titan—both coveting e-commerce.

Now the two companies are expected to square off against some formidable online shopping rivals: Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc., which have each invested billions in the South Asian market.

Categories
Journalism Tech

Facebook’s WhatsApp Battles Coronavirus Misinformation

whatsapp forwarding

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

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp is limiting users’ ability to forward content on its encrypted messaging platform, as misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic proliferates on the service in its biggest market, India.

In one of the biggest changes WhatsApp has made to a core feature, the company said Tuesday that its more than two billion users globally can now send along frequently forwarded messages they receive to only one person or group at a time, down from five.

In recent weeks the company has “seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation,” the company said.

WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that enables users to click an icon next to frequently forwarded messages—those forwarded at least five times—to search the web for their contents and verify them before sending the message to others, a WhatsApp spokeswoman said.

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Journalism Tech

Hotel Giant Oyo Looks to Rewrite Contracts That Fueled Its Rise

That’s the headline on my most recent story, written with my colleague Phred Dvorak, out Thursday. It begins:

Oyo Hotels and Homes, which built itself into the world’s second-biggest hotel chain by total number of rooms, is phasing out an important tool that fueled its rise.

The India-based company and a key investment by SoftBank Group Corp.’s $100 billion tech fund grew quickly in part by offering independent hotel owners the unusual perk of guaranteed revenues if their hotels joined Oyo’s chain. Many hotels signed up, attracted by the guarantees—sometimes at more than 100% of the previous year’s revenue, according to former Oyo employees. However, some hotels didn’t produce sufficient bookings, leaving Oyo on the hook to meet those revenue levels and resulting in disputes with some hotel owners.

Now, Oyo is ending the practice of awarding those guarantees around the world and instead is rolling out new contracts for its hoteliers without them, Chief Executive Ritesh Agarwal told The Wall Street Journal. The new contracts also raise fees charged to the hotels, according to some hotels and former Oyo employees.

Mr. Agarwal said the company is taking the step largely because the guarantees have served their purpose of convincing hotels that Oyo could boost their occupancy and revenue. But he said Oyo had some problems with the guarantees, particularly in its biggest market of China, and that around 15% of Oyo’s rooms still had them as of the beginning of the year.

“In reflection, we are able to see that minimum guarantees work, but only when they are handled with great care,” he said. Oyo’s share of the money guests pay for their rooms is on average more than 15%, after any losses on the guarantees are subtracted, he said.

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Categories
Journalism Travel

Do Not Disturb: Hotels Hammered by Coronavirus Offer 14-Day Quarantine Packages

That’s the headline on my newest story, which I wrote with my colleague Frances Yoon, out Thursday. It begins:

With the coronavirus pandemic pummeling global travel, some hotels are employing a new tactic to boost bookings: targeting guests who face lengthy quarantines.

The risky strategy is a reaction to the unprecedented challenge that the world’s hospitality companies now face, with few people traveling and few likely to do so for some time.

Hotel occupancy rates have plummeted as coronavirus infections have spread throughout the world. In Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, where cases started climbing early in the global crisis, occupancy rates have fallen from about 70% or higher in January to as low as 20% this month, according to hotel data tracker STR. Hotels in the U.S. and Europe are now suffering a similar fate, as the pandemic causes widespread shutdowns and travel restrictions across the country.

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Journalism

Coronavirus Spreads Outside China as Officials’ Worries Mount

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

HONG KONG—New cases of coronavirus flared outside China, adding to global health officials’ worries about the spread of the disease in dangerous new pockets of infection.

Iran’s health ministry on Sunday confirmed the eighth coronavirus-related death in the country, out of a total of 43 confirmed cases. The ministry said at least 785 people with coronavirus-like symptoms were being examined.

Pakistani officials said Sunday that the country had sealed its land border with Iran as a result of the outbreak there, though Islamabad made no official announcement.

Pakistan is estimated to have the world’s second biggest Shiite population and about 500 people per day cross the border to Shiite-majority Iran. Travelers are being turned back by Pakistani authorities on the road as they approach the border, officials said.

“This really is a new virus and we’re learning as we go along,” said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. “We’re seeing some cases that don’t have a clear epidemiological link,” she said.

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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.

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