Newley's Notes

NN221: On Hong Kong, Singapore, and Covidโ€“19

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, May 31, 2020

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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.

Coronavirus Doesnโ€™t Have to Be So Deadly. Just Look at Hong Kong and Singapore.

๐Ÿ˜ท That’s the headline on a story out earlier this week that 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.

โ€œWhen you overwhelm health systems a lot more people die,โ€ one Hong Kong-based doctor told me. Hong and Singapore “didnโ€™t let the epidemic run wild,” he said.

๐Ÿ”‘ The secret to their success, our reporting showed: wide testing, aggressive quarantining, and keeping infections away from older, more vulnerable people. Possible lessons for the future considering the pandemic could come back in waves.

On to this week’s NN.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

๐Ÿ’ฌ 1) Twitter shielded from public view a tweet from President Trump for violating its rules on glorifying violence. He called demonstrators clashing with police over the death of George Floyd “thugs” and said, โ€œWhen the looting starts, the shooting starts.โ€ By me and my colleague Andrew Restuccia: LINK

๐Ÿšจ 2) …Meanwhile unrest spread from Minneapolis to several cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and many more. LINK

๐Ÿ“ˆ 3) Facebook largely shelved research showing its service exacerbates polarization, my colleagues Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman reported in a page one story. LINK

โœจ 4) Discovery of the week: No big deal, just a Roman mosaic under a vineyard in Northern Italy that dates to around the 4th century. VIDEO

๐Ÿด 5) Will U.S. government experts overseeing dietary guidelines finally recognize the mountains of evidence showing the benefits of a low-carb diet? A committee will soon issue an advisory report on recommendations for the next five years. LINK

๐ŸŒŸ 6) Longread of the week: GQ on the brilliant actor Steve Buscemi, who among other travails lost his wife of more than three decades last year. (And yes, you’re saying his name wrong.) LINK

๐Ÿ˜Ž 7) Soviet-era control rooms: Who knew those analog dials and switches could be so beautiful? LINK

๐ŸŽง 8) Here are 150 educational podcasts, ranging from philosophy to art to history and more. LINK

๐Ÿ‘ƒ 9) Dog-related science story of the week: Specially trained pooches in Finland learned to detect the “previously unknown odor signature” of Covid–19 in urine samples from patients. LINK

๐ŸŽป 10) Dog-related video of the week: “Decided to play a tune to welcome a new pup and well, we think he liked it.” LINK

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.” โ€” Epictetus

What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and videos of dogs “singing” along with their violinist owners.

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


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.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ 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.

๐Ÿ†• 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.

๐ŸŽง 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:

๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ 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 territoryโ€™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

๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ 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

๐ŸŽฅ 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

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ 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

๐Ÿณ 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

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ 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

๐Ÿง  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

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

๐Ÿ“บ 9) If you enjoyed the Bookcase Credibility Twitter account, you may also like @RateMySkypeRoom. LINK

๐Ÿฆ† 10) Dog-related video of the week: A service dog meets Donald Duck.

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

“Life isnโ€™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.

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


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.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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

๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ 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

๐Ÿ“ท 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:

๐ŸŽ“ 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

๐ŸŒ 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

๐Ÿ” 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

๐Ÿ›ธ 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

๐Ÿคณ 5) Depressing story of the week: “mumfluencers” – Instagram micro-celebrities whose online personas revolve around their seemingly perfect families – and their meltdowns. Link

๐Ÿฅก 6) Art critic Jerry Saltz has a thought provoking essay about about food and coping mechanisms amid Covid–19. Link

๐ŸŽ๏ธ 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

๐Ÿค™ 8) Nightclubs in Germany are closed, but party-goers created a unique solution: a drive-in rave. Video

๐ŸŒˆ ๐ŸŒˆ 9) RIP “Double Rainbow Guy,” aka Yosemitebear. Paul L. Vasquez, whose 2010 video became a viral hit, died at age 57. Link + Video

๐Ÿ’• 10) Dog-related video of the week: “When a dog loves a woman.” Video

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

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

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


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.

๐Ÿ‘‹ Hi friends,

India’s Jio Raises Even More Money

๐Ÿ’ธ 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:

๐Ÿ’ช 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.

๐Ÿฆ™ 2) Maybe, just maybe, llamas can help us fight Covid–19.

๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธ 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.

๐ŸŽผ 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”.

๐Ÿ‘ 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.

โ™Ÿ๏ธ 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.

๐Ÿ˜Ž 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.

๐Ÿ˜‚ 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.

๐Ÿ“• 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.

๐Ÿ• 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.

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

“If youโ€™re efficient, youโ€™re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way.” – Jerry Seinfeld.

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN217: How Long will the Pandemic Last? Also: Vibin’ Shibas

mountains and nighttime sky
Photo by brandon siu on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, May 3, 2020.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

New podcast interview

๐Ÿฏ I was on Princeton University’s Policy Punchline podcast to talk all things tech in India with Tiger Gao, a Princeton junior.

The podcast series, if you’ve never heard it, features hour-long discussions with journalists, scholars, entrepreneurs and more on a variety of policy related issues. We recorded this episode before Facebook’s big $5.7 billion investment in Jio, which I mentioned in last week’s NN, but we touched on many related topics in this wide-ranging discussion. Thanks, Tiger and team, for having me on!

๐ŸŽง You can listen on Soundcloud here, or look up Policy Punchline in your podcast app of choice.

Pandemic reading and listening resources: a follow up to a follow up

๐Ÿ“– In NN 213 I mentioned some good books about pandemics, and reader James B. wrote in to share one I’d missed: “The Great Influenza,” about the illness that swept the world in 1918.

Thanks to another reader, Chris E., who tells me that the author of that book, John Barry, was recently on Peter Attia’s podcast. It’s a fascinating episode. (I like Attia’s podcast a lot, but hadn’t heard this episode. He’s a doctor who specializes in longevity, and often has very smart people on to talk about their fields of expertise.) Thanks, Chris. E.!

On to this week’s NN.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

โŒ› 1) How long will coronavirus pandemic last? Perhaps as long as two years, according to a new report from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. And the pandemic won’t be stopped until 60–70% of the world’s population is immune.

“The virus caught the global community off guard, and its future course is still highly unpredictable,” the authors write. (You can read the report here.)

๐Ÿ˜ท 2) Now that some lockdowns around the world are lifting, here’s a good question: should you wear a face mask when exercising outside? The answer: If you can bear it, it’s probably a good idea.

๐Ÿ”ป 3) Even as U.S. gross domestic product falls – with more contraction likely to come – tech giants’ stocks are climbing. “Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook now make up more than 20 percent of the value of the entire S&P 500 – a level thatโ€™s higher than it was even during the dot-com boom,” the New York Times reports. Why? They have a ton of cash on hand, and are more reliant on digital operations than physical ones.

๐Ÿฆ  4) Here’s a graphical guide to the more than 90 vaccines being developed to fight SARS-CoV–2.

๐Ÿ˜• 5) Here’s a good overview of why the pandemic can feel so confusing, ranging from factors like the virus and the disease to research and messaging.

๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ 6) The British Museum has put more than 1.9 million photos from its collection online. View the images here.

๐Ÿ’ฌ 7) On his 68th birthday, tech author and all-around big picture thinker Kevin Kelly provides “68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.”

๐Ÿ’„ 8) Who needs makeup when you’ve got Snapchat and Instagram filters?

๐Ÿ• 9) Indian street dogs seem to be becoming popular pets in India’s tech hub of Bangalore. Many of the dogs shown in that piece look just like Ginger.

๐ŸŽต 10) Dog-related video of the week: “straight vibinโ€™ #shiba.” [TikTok/@paula_the_koala]

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

โ€œTime misspent in youth is sometimes all the freedom one ever has.โ€ – Anita Brookner

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN216: Facebook Bets $5.7 Billion on India; Dogs on Diving Boards

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, April 26, 2020.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

A big – and, for once, non-coronavirus related – story for this week on my radar: Facebook and India.

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ Faithful NN readers may recall that two years ago I wrote a page one story that began: “Indiaโ€™s richest man is catapulting hundreds of millions of poor people straight into the mobile internet age.”

The billionaire: Mukesh Ambani. His company: Reliance Jio. The product: inexpensive 4G mobile access, which had been nonexistent before.

Jio has continued to grow since that piece came out, unveiling new products aimed at consumers in rural India, where most of the country’s population lives.

๐Ÿ†• On Wednesday news emerged that another very rich man – Mark Zuckerberg – was plowing $5.7 billion into Ambani’s firm.

My colleague and I called it, in our story about the deal, “a massive expansion of the social media giantโ€™s commitment to a promising market where it has faced difficulties.”

About those difficulties: Facebook suffered a high profile setback when its Free Basics campaign was shut down on net neutrality grounds in 2016. And Facebook’s WhatsApp – which has a mammoth 400 million users in India – has been waiting for more than two years for permission to completely roll out its digital payments service.

In a subsequent piece, also out Wednesday, I wrote that the deal “could create a new kind of animal in the worldโ€™s biggest untapped digital market: a social media behemoth wedded to a mobile infrastructure titan – both coveting e-commerce.”

๐Ÿค” How would Facebook and Jio work together? One example the companies gave is that WhatsApp users could tap into the platform to buy items from neighborhood mom and pop shops, which Jio has been connecting via point of service machines. Other potential collaborations are less clear.

So: Facebook/WhatsApp gets to use Jio’s on-the-ground presence in rural India, access to its expertise in tapping the roughly half a billion people who have still yet to get online in the country, and partners with an Indian billionaire in a place it has faced regulatory hurdles.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Jio gets a big cash infusion, and perhaps tie-ins with WhatsApp to expand its e-commerce projects.

Will it work? As they say, stay tuned.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

๐Ÿฆ  1) When should U.S. states begin to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? New projections provide a simple answer: The earlier they locked down, the earlier they can safely resume normal life. And yet Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee – not among those states that acted quickly to enact restrictions – plan to ease lockdowns as early as this week.

๐Ÿงช 2) Bill Gates says the coronavirus pandemic will produce massive global innovation, just like World War II did. Think treatments, vaccines, testing, contact tracing. “Melinda and I grew up learning that World War II was the defining moment of our parentsโ€™ generation,” he writes. “In a similar way, the COVID–19 pandemic – the first modern pandemic – will define this era.”

๐ŸŒ† 3) Will major cities still be worth living in after the coronavirus? Some people who can afford to are accelerating their plans to leave New York City, a WSJ colleague reports. โ€œThis could go on for six months, 12 months,“ said one resident who is ditching Manhattan. ”And who knows what the city could look like after.โ€

๐Ÿ–Œ๏ธ 4) The coronavirus pandemic will inspire a lot of art. What kinds of themes will writers and directors explore? Think economic inequality and marginalized communities, death’s inevitability – and perhaps the end of the superhero.

๐Ÿ’ป 5) One unexpected result of the pandemic: Zoom is giving us new glimpses into our colleagues’ lives. We should just roll with it, The New Yorker’s Naomi Fry writes.

๐Ÿ†’ 6) And speaking of Zoom: With so many people stuck at home, folks have been creating fun backgrounds for videocalls. There’s ZoomerBackgrounds (my fave is “guy looking back at me”, aka the Distracted Boyfriend meme), and even is getting in on the act (I’m partial to Tatooine). There are some good ones from The Met museum, as well.

โณ 7) Former Wall Street Journal global economics editor Neil King says a cancer diagnosis in past years has prepared him for the coronavirus. “I have seen the beauty of life on the six-month plan, which goes something like this: Be confident in the span you know you have; extract from it all you can; look no further,” he writes.

โœˆ๏ธ 8) A family in Australia had their trip to Europe cancelled by the coronavirus. But they decided to simulate the 15-hour flight…from the comfort of their living room. They “screened” their luggage and even ate “in-flight” meals.

๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต 9) Here’s an interesting travelogue from an eight day walk along the eastern coast of Japan’s Kii Peninsula.

๐Ÿ• 10) Dog video of the week: Doggoโ€™s just trying to help.

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

โ€œWe learn from history that we do not learn from history.โ€ – Georg Hegel.

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN215: Profiting from the Coronavirus; What Rick Steves is Up To; Chihuahua Puppies

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, April 19, 2020.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

๐Ÿค‘ 1) Longread of the week, economics-of-the-coronavirus edition: The Price of the Coronavirus Pandemic [The New Yorker]

“When COVID–19 recedes, it will leave behind a severe economic crisis. But, as always, some people will profit.”

๐ŸŒ‡ 2) Rick Steves Is Learning to Cook and Enjoying Every Sunset [GQ]

“Talking to the travel guru about his life in isolation, which includes piano playing and stocking up on weed.”

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ 3) Shot: How Facebook Works for Trump [The Atlantic]

“Donald Trump won the presidency by using the social networkโ€™s advertising machinery in exactly the way the company wanted. Heโ€™s poised to do it again.”

๐Ÿ’พ 4) Chaser: Biden Is Losing the Internet. Does That Matter? [New York Times]

“Mr. Bidenโ€™s biggest problem is structural. Most of our online political communication takes place on internet platforms that are designed to amplify content that provokes strong emotional reactions, often by reinforcing tribal identities.”

๐Ÿฅพ 5) Why Walking Matters – Now More Than Ever [Wall Street Journal]

“Our upright gait is not just a defining feature of what it means to be human. It also makes our bodies and brains work better.”

๐Ÿป 6) Coyotes, bobcats and bears: Wildlife is reclaiming Yosemite National Park [Los Angeles Times]

“‘Itโ€™s not like they arenโ€™t usually here,’ he said of the bears, bobcats and coyotes that he and other employees now see congregating outside their cabins and apartments. ‘Itโ€™s that they usually hang back at the edges, or move in the shadows.’”

โšฝ 7) A History of Soccer in Six Matches [New York Times]

“From the Hungary team that shattered Englandโ€™s delusions to the club that came to define the sport, through Pelรฉ and Johan Cruyff, here are six games that explain modern soccer.”

๐Ÿ‘ 8) This week’s six-hour moment of zen: Relax with Sheep at Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley [YouTube]

“Everyone at the winery loves it when the sheep arrive.”

๐Ÿถ 9) Melting Ice Exposes Mountain Pass Used by Vikings, Including Ancient Dog and Leash [Gizmodo]

“These items, some made from organic materials, became locked in glacial ice, preserving a record of use that spans 1,200 years.”

๐Ÿ• 10) Dog-related video of the week: Chihuahua puppy is too cute for little boy to handle [Reddit]

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

“If you know the why, you can live any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN214: Coronavirus Misinformation; Puppies Unleashed in an Aquarium

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, April 12, 2020.

๐Ÿ‘‹ Hi, friends, and happy Easter.

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.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

New Story

๐Ÿ’ฌ My newest story, out Tuesday: Facebookโ€™s WhatsApp Battles Coronavirus Misinformation. It begins:

Facebook Inc.โ€™s WhatsApp is limiting usersโ€™ 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.


Among the messages on WhatsApp that have circulated in India in recent weeks, according to fact-checking groups, is a claim that a treatment has been developed that cures Covid–19 within three hours. Others say a disinfectant will be sprayed in cities at night to kill the virus and that NASA satellite images show the coronavirus has been abating in India. All were identified by fact checkers as false.

The story was linked to in Harvard’s Nieman Lab daily email and in Shira Ovide’s new (and excellent) New York Times newsletter, On Tech.

New Book Notes Post

๐Ÿ›’ Meanwhile, I shared on some notes from a 2016 book I recently read called “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built,” by Duncan Clark. Click here to read the post.

TLDR: This is a well researched, in-depth book about Ma and the e-commerce giant he built.

Pandemic Reading List Addendum

๐Ÿ“š And finally, an addendum: In last week’s NN, I listed a few nonfiction books about pandemics.

Thanks to reader James B., who wrote in to share a much-heralded title I missed, and which he says is worth checking out: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry.

Thanks, James!

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

๐Ÿ˜ท 1) A Shift on the Front Line [New England Journal of Medicine]

“I have just finished the night shift on the Covid–19 ward. I look at myself in the mirror: I have a C on my nose from the FFP2 (N95) mask I wear all the time, deep marks on my face left by the elastic bands; my eyes look tired, my hair is damp with sweat. I am not a doctor and a woman any longer – now I am just a doctor, a soldier in the war against the virus.”

๐Ÿ“ฑ 2) Apple, Google to Turn Smartphones Into Coronavirus Tracking Devices [WSJ]

“Apple Inc. and Google will build software together that would alert people if they were in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus, an unprecedented collaboration between two Silicon Valley giants and rivals.”

โ›ฐ๏ธ 3) Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience [NPR]

“We’re all social distancing these days, and it’s unclear when exactly that will end. But Billy Barr has been doing this for almost 50 years. He’s the only full-time resident of Gothic, Colo.

๐Ÿ“ 4) Spreading pathogen maps [SciFi Interfaces]

“So while the world is in the grip of the novel COVID–19 coronavirus pandemic, Iโ€™ve been thinking about those fictional user interfaces that appear in pandemic movies that project how quickly the infectious-agent-in-question will spread.”

๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ 5) A Mini-Office, Delivered to Your Door [Dwellito]

“Give yourself a quiet place to work with a mini office next to your home. In 6 to 8 weeks, you could have a pre-built office delivered to your front door, starting at $9,000.”

๐Ÿงญ 6) The 18 Best TV Shows for Vicarious Travel Thrills [New York Times]

“One of the genuine delights of the streaming era is the degree to which it has made international television available, and readily too – with scores of shows streaming on Amazon, Hulu, HBO and (especially) Netflix.”

๐ŸŽง 7) Dave Grohlโ€™s Pandemic Playlist [The Atlantic]

“The Foo Fighters front man picks a song for your every quarantine mood.”

๐ŸŽน 8) The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic [New York Times Magazine]

“After 40 years, Yankovic is now no longer a novelty, but an institution – a garish bright patch in the middle of Americaโ€™s pop-cultural wallpaper, a completely ridiculous national treasure, an absurd living legend.”

โœ๏ธ 9) Easterโ€™s Healing Touch [WSJ essay]

“In a grim time, the holiday reminds us that the cornerstone of Christian faith is Godโ€™s love for a wounded world.”

๐Ÿพ 10) Dog related video of the week: “Our puppies just had the best. day. ever. They got to explore the @GeorgiaAquarium while it is closed to the public.” [Twitter: @AtlantaHumane]

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

โ€œLet go or be dragged.โ€ – Zen proverb

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN213: Best Nonfiction Books on Pandemics; Dogs ‘Skiing’

Photo by Dave on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Monday, April 6.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

๐Ÿ“– As I’ve mentioned, when it comes to Covid–19, it seems we’re in for a marathon, not a sprint. And I recently figured: what nonfiction books out there best explain pandemics?

You know, since viruses that sweep over the world are not exactly new?

So, I consulted several best-of lists. Here are some titles that come highly recommended:

Did I miss something good? Let me know. Maybe next week I’ll survey fiction titles.

Here are ten (mostly coronavirus-related) items worth your time this week:

๐Ÿ“‰ 1) The Month Coronavirus Felled American Business [The Wall Street Journal]

“March began amid an 11-year expansion and ended with blue-chip companies begging for bailouts. Swift and sharp, the pandemic cut through the countryโ€™s commerce like nothing before it.”

๐Ÿšœ 2) Photos: In Rural Towns and on Remote Farms, the Virus Creeps In [New York Times]

โ€œ’Unlike in a lot of places near urban areas, Iโ€™m not worried about the trailhead being overrun,’ he said. ’Itโ€™s very easy to keep six feet, if not three miles, between me and the next person.’โ€

๐ŸŒ† 3) Cities after coronavirus: how Covid–19 could radically alter urban life [The Guardian]

“Pandemics have always shaped cities – and from increased surveillance to ’de-densificationโ€™ to new community activism, Covid–19 is doing it already.”

๐Ÿ’ฌ 4) World 2.0 [Tyler Cowen/Marginal Revolution]

โ€œThere are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.โ€

๐ŸŽฅ 5) The Only Thing I Want To Do Is Binge-Watch Apocalypse Movies [BuzzFeed News]

“Why am I streaming fictional end-of-the-world stories during a real pandemic? Maybe because, as psychologist Christina Scott told me, theyโ€™re ‘the only reference point we have.’”

๐Ÿ˜‚ 6) Larry David, Master of His Quarantine [New York Times]

“So I thought I would reach out to the worldโ€™s leading expert on the art of nothing: the endlessly irascible man whose mantra has always been: โ€œIt doesnโ€™t pay to leave your house โ€” whatโ€™s the point?โ€”

๐Ÿ… 7) Tiger at NYCโ€™s Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus [Associated Press]

“A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.”

๐Ÿธ 8) Video: Cocktail hour [Instagram/InaGarten]

“Itโ€™s always cocktail hour in a crisis!”

๐Ÿ•บ 9) Excellent Twitter feed with silly videos: People dancing to Steely Dan [Twitter: @steelydance]

๐Ÿ• 10) Dog video of the week: This dog enjoying the snow [Reddit/r/aww]

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

โ€œYou always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.โ€ – Marcus Aurelius

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN212: Coronavirus News, Slowed Down; Chihuahuas Doing Yoga in Italian

Photo by Nicolas Prieto on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Monday, March 30.

๐Ÿ‘‹ 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.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

In last week’s NN I shared some basic steps to lessen coronavirus-related risk, along with some perspective on what life is like here in Hong Kong.

๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ This week I want to share a helpful method for staying on top of coronavirus-related news – in a way that preserves your sanity.

It’s decidedly low-tech.

It’s not a social media platform or a messaging app.

๐Ÿ“ง It’s email. One per day. From the newspaper (or newspapers) of your choosing.

First off: if you already subscribe to a newspaper, thanks for supporting quality journalism. If you get it in print, just keep reading it every day, like always. You can skip below to this week’s links.

If you’re a digital subscriber, or don’t subscribe to any papers, read on…

๐Ÿ”‘ Remember how, even though we had round-the-clock TV news coverage after September 11th, daily newspapers helped sort out the most important events of the previous 24 hours? You could ignore TV news. There was no social media. The paper was pretty much all you needed.

It’s the same today, really.

Just get papers’ daily headlines deliverd to your inbox. Here are a few I consume every day. And yes, I am employed by the first one on this list, and read dozens and dozens of WSJ stories every day, but I always look to see what made it into the day’s paper.

(Even if you’re not a paying subscriber, all three are offering core coronavirus-related coverage for free.)

I bet your local newspaper has a newsletter, too. Sign up for it.

I’m not saying you should stay away from cable TV, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube during these fraught times. (Though it probably wouldn’t hurt.) But if you’re finding the incessant streams and feeds and alerts from those platforms just too much, turn to newspapers – delivered to your inbox – instead.

I promise: they won’t miss any of the big stories. And the news will be delivered to you in a much more measured way.

๐Ÿ†• Meanwhile: my newest story, out Thursday (and only somewhat related to the pandemic) with a colleague: Hotel Giant Oyo Looks to Rewrite Contracts That Fueled Its Rise. It begins:

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

That unusual tool is guaranteed revenue for hotel owners who sign up to Oyo’s platform. And there’s friction in Japan, China, India, and the U.S. Click through to read on.

Here are ten items (mostly big-picture coronavirus-related reads) worth your time this week:

๐ŸŒŽ 1) Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus [Financial Times]

“In this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.”

๐Ÿฆ  2) What Social Distancing Looked Like in 1666 [New York Times]

“For those of us living through these stay-at-home days of Covid–19, itโ€™s useful to look back and see how much has changed – and how much hasnโ€™t. Humanity has been guarding against plagues and surviving them for thousands of years, and we have managed to learn a lot along the way.”

๐Ÿ”š 3) How the Pandemic Will End [The Atlantic]

“The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID–19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how itโ€™s going to play out.”

๐Ÿ˜ท 4) Shot: More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection [New York Times]

“In many Asian countries, everyone is encouraged to wear masks, and the approach is about crowd psychology and protection. If everyone wears a mask, individuals protect each other, reducing overall community transmission. The sick automatically have one on and are also more likely to adhere to keeping their mask on because the stigma of wearing one is removed.”

Chaser: Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public. [Washington Post]

๐Ÿ˜ฎ 5) The Great Empty [New York Times interactive]

“The photographs here all tell a similar story: a temple in Indonesia; Haneda Airport in Tokyo; the Americana Diner in New Jersey. Emptiness proliferates like the virus.”

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ 6) Hand Stamps, Bandannas and Sidewalk Chalk: India Looks to Low-Tech Coronavirus Solutions [Wall Street Journal]

“As coronavirus infections have rapidly climbed over the past week, doctors and citizens are turning to low-cost methods to try to protect its 1.3 billion-strong populace.”

๐Ÿงฒ 7) Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device [The Guardian]

“‘After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. Itโ€™s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears – I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.’”

โค๏ธ 8) We Asked Scientists If Our Pets Love Us Being Home All the Time [Vice]

“‘I think dogs are thrilled to have their humans around more often,’ said psychologist Laurie Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University, in an email (though she cautioned that there are no direct studies to confirm that claim at the moment).”

๐Ÿ‘ 9) Some Good News with John Krasinski [YouTube]

“John Krasinski highlights some good news from around the world, including an interview with Steve Carell to mark the 15thanniversary of THE OFFICE, as well as Johnโ€™s newest hero Coco. ”

๐Ÿ• 10) Just in case you need it, hereโ€™s a dog doing yoga in Italian. Youโ€™re welcome. [@ATLnewsgirl]

๐Ÿ’ก Quote of the week:

โ€œCourage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.โ€ โ€” Winston Churchill

๐Ÿ‘Š Fist bump from Hong Kong,