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,


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.

👋 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.

New podcast interview

🐯 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!

🎧 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

📖 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:

⌛ 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.)

😷 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.

🔻 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 that’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.

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

😕 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.

🖼️ 6) The British Museum has put more than 1.9 million photos from its collection online. View the images here.

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

💄 8) Who needs makeup when you’ve got Snapchat and Instagram filters?

🐕 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.

🎵 10) Dog-related video of the week: “straight vibin’ #shiba.” [TikTok/@paula_the_koala]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Time misspent in youth is sometimes all the freedom one ever has.” – Anita Brookner

👊 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.

👋 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.

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

🇮🇳 Faithful NN readers may recall that two years ago I wrote a page one story that began: “India’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.

🆕 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 giant’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 world’s biggest untapped digital market: a social media behemoth wedded to a mobile infrastructure titan – both coveting e-commerce.”

🤔 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.

💰 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:

🦠 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.

🧪 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 parents’ generation,” he writes. “In a similar way, the COVID–19 pandemic – the first modern pandemic – will define this era.”

🌆 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. “This 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.”

🖌️ 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.

💻 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.

🆒 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.

⏳ 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.

✈️ 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.

🇯🇵 9) Here’s an interesting travelogue from an eight day walk along the eastern coast of Japan’s Kii Peninsula.

🐕 10) Dog video of the week: Doggo’s just trying to help.

💡 Quote of the week:

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” – Georg Hegel.

👊 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.

👋 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) 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.”

🌇 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.”

🗣️ 3) Shot: How Facebook Works for Trump [The Atlantic]

“Donald Trump won the presidency by using the social network’s advertising machinery in exactly the way the company wanted. He’s poised to do it again.”

💾 4) Chaser: Biden Is Losing the Internet. Does That Matter? [New York Times]

“Mr. Biden’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.”

🥾 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.”

🐻 6) Coyotes, bobcats and bears: Wildlife is reclaiming Yosemite National Park [Los Angeles Times]

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

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

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

🐑 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.”

🐶 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.”

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

💡 Quote of the week:

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

👊 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.

👋 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.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

New Story

💬 My newest story, out Tuesday: Facebook’s WhatsApp Battles Coronavirus Misinformation. 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.


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

🛒 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

📚 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:

😷 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.”

📱 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.”

⛰️ 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.

📍 4) Spreading pathogen maps [SciFi Interfaces]

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

🖥️ 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.”

🧭 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.”

🎧 7) Dave Grohl’s Pandemic Playlist [The Atlantic]

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

🎹 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 America’s pop-cultural wallpaper, a completely ridiculous national treasure, an absurd living legend.”

✝️ 9) Easter’s Healing Touch [WSJ essay]

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

🐾 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]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Let go or be dragged.” – Zen proverb

👊 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.

👋 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.

📖 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:

📉 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 country’s commerce like nothing before it.”

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

“’Unlike in a lot of places near urban areas, I’m not worried about the trailhead being overrun,’ he said. ’It’s very easy to keep six feet, if not three miles, between me and the next person.’”

🌆 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-densification’ to new community activism, Covid–19 is doing it already.”

💬 4) World 2.0 [Tyler Cowen/Marginal Revolution]

“There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.”

🎥 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, they’re ‘the only reference point we have.’”

😂 6) Larry David, Master of His Quarantine [New York Times]

“So I thought I would reach out to the world’s leading expert on the art of nothing: the endlessly irascible man whose mantra has always been: “It doesn’t pay to leave your house — what’s the point?””

🐅 7) Tiger at NYC’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.”

🍸 8) Video: Cocktail hour [Instagram/InaGarten]

“It’s always cocktail hour in a crisis!”

🕺 9) Excellent Twitter feed with silly videos: People dancing to Steely Dan [Twitter: @steelydance]

🐕 10) Dog video of the week: This dog enjoying the snow [Reddit/r/aww]

💡 Quote of the week:

“You 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.” – Marcus Aurelius

👊 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.

👋 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.

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.

🗞️ 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.

📧 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…

🔑 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.

🆕 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 world’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:

🌎 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.”

🦠 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, it’s useful to look back and see how much has changed – and how much hasn’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.”

🔚 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 it’s going to play out.”

😷 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]

😮 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.”

🇮🇳 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.”

🧲 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. It’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.’”

❤️ 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).”

👏 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 John’s newest hero Coco. ”

🐕 10) Just in case you need it, here’s a dog doing yoga in Italian. You’re welcome. [@ATLnewsgirl]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.” — Winston Churchill

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN211: Special Coronavirus Edition + Postcard from Hong Kong

Photo by Steven Wei on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, March 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.

With the coronavirus now spreading across the globe, I hope everyone is safe and healthy. And I trust you are doing what you’re no doubt sick of hearing you should be doing:

  • washing your hands (think you’re doing it right? Watch this),
  • practicing social distancing,
  • wearing a facial mask when around others,
  • looking after those who need help, and
  • taking steps to protect your own health in simple ways (eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising).

🇭🇰 Here in Hong Kong, the city’s 7.4 million residents have been grappling with the coronavirus since January. There have been more than 270 coronavirus cases and four deaths.

Some people are working from home. Some are going into the office. Many have no choice but to be out and about, working in restaurants or in shops, or for the government.

Many people are juggling work and family demands (here’s a thoughtful piece on the subject by a WSJ colleague).

😷 Nearly everyone you see out in the streets is wearing a facial mask. People are still taking the subway and riding busses and trolleys, but they’re less crowded than usual.

People are still having picnics, going for hikes, shopping for food.

And they’re also eating out (sans masks). Most restaurants are still fairly crowded in the evenings. Some will take your temperature to make sure you’re not running a fever, take down your name, mobile number and email address, and ask you to confirm you haven’t traveled abroad in recent weeks.

But life continues. Things just take more time to do. People are more cautious. In one month here, however, I have yet to see a single person lose his or her temper in public due to a coronavirus-related issue. After all: Folks here lived through SARS more than 15 years ago.

As the saying goes: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

🏨 Meanwhile, my newest story, out Thursday, looks at how some hotels are dealing with the pandemic: Do Not Disturb: Hotels Hammered by Coronavirus Offer 14-Day Quarantine Packages. 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.

And some local color from Hong Kong:

At the Dorsett Wanchai, which describes itself as “a 4.5 star hotel,” a reservations employee said the hotel was receiving dozens of inquiries a day about its 14-day quarantine package. For 9,688 Hong Kong dollars ($1,248), or about $89 per night, guests can book a “Premier Room” with a window that can be opened to let in fresh air, an unusual feature for high-rise hotels in the semiautonomous Chinese city.

Here are ten (nearly all Coronavirus-related, and actually this week more than ten) items worth your time this week:

📈 1) For a continuously updated feed of the most important global coronavirus news, see The WSJ’s dedicated page: Much of our core coronavirus coverage is free for all to read.

We also have a page with graphics showing the disease’s spread.

🦠 2) The latest from us, just out: Global Coronavirus Infection Cases Double in a Week to Pass 300,000

The global spread of the novel coronavirus is accelerating rapidly, with cases of infection doubling in a week to top 300,000 Sunday, pointing to the increasing challenges for governments world-wide as they lock down more people and shut borders.

⚠️ 3) Important read about Covid–19’s severity: A Medical Worker Describes Terrifying Lung Failure From COVID–19 — Even in His Young Patients [ProPublica]

“It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube.”

🎥 4) Striking video – warning, it’s graphic – Italy’s hardest-hit city wants you to see how COVID–19 is affecting its hospitals [Sky News]

💉 5) A look at what’s up with testing in the U.S.: America Needed Coronavirus Tests. The Government Failed [WSJ]

“While the virus was quietly spreading within the U.S., the CDC had told state and local officials its ‘testing capacity is more than adequate to meet current testing demands,’ according to a Feb. 26 agency email viewed by The Wall Street Journal.”

🇺🇸 6) How long will Americans be fighting the coronavirus? [AP]

“‘The best-case scenario is that we have vaccine in 12 or 18 months and then our lives go back to normal,’ Jit said. ‘The worst-case scenario it takes a long time for a vaccine to be developed, and the world is really changed and our lives aren’t the same again.’”

📊 7) On the coronavirus and the economy: Coronavirus-Triggered Downturn Could Cost Five Million U.S. Jobs [WSJ]

“A recession is now all but certain, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of 34 economists, which projects a downturn that would last months at least, and would in some ways rival – and possibly even surpass – the severity of the 2007–09 slump triggered by the housing collapse and subprime loan debacle.”

Bonus link: don’t think we’ve never been uncertain before, Jason Zweig, who writes The WSJ’s “Intelligent Investor” column, says:

"Some commentators have argued that the coronavirus panic is nothing like the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 because, unlike today, policy makers knew exactly what they were doing back then. That’s nonsense. Monetary and political leaders navigated that time not with foresight but with a jury-rigged blend of bluffing, analysis, tinkering, bickering, guesswork and luck. Don’t let yourself be fooled into believing it’s unusual that nobody knows what’s going on right now."

🙏 8) Big picture thoughts: The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming [Wired]

"Is there in any way a brighter side to this?

Well, I’m a scientist, but I’m also a person of faith. And I can’t ever look at something without asking the question of isn’t there a higher power that in some way will help us to be the best version of ourselves that we could be?"

(Bonus video: Larry Brilliant’s 2006 Ted Talk, “My Wish: Help Me Stop Pandemics.” )

Bonus big-picture link: Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How. [Politico]

🌟 9) Miscellaneous links, some virus-related, some not:
* Netflix Party: A new way to watch Netflix together;
* 10 Perfect Films to Watch While Stuck at Home;
* Zigsam – The Austrian Cigarette Collection;
* ‘I wear my grandad’s old boxers’: meet the people who haven’t bought clothes for a decade;
* The 48 Hours When Liverpool’s Title Run Screeched to a Halt;
* Cleaning the Ship’s Cargo Hold;
* Locked-Down Lawyers Warned Alexa Is Hearing Confidential Calls

🐕 10) Much-needed dog video the week: This is as good a time as any to tell you that my dog sings along to the Law & Order theme song every time he hears it [Twitter: @pete_schultz].

💡 Quote of the week:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN210: Coronavirus Ticktock; Breaking: Markets Tumble; Kratu’s Swan Song

Sent as an email newsletter Monday, March 9.

👋 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) Breaking: Stock Markets Stay Sharply Lower As Trading Halt Lifts [WSJ]

“U.S. stocks careened on Monday, pushing major indexes closer to bear-market territory as a price war for oil and the fallout from the coronavirus frightened investors, who sought shelter in government bonds and propelled yields to unprecedented lows.”

🦠 2) Coronavirus longread of the week, by my colleagues: How It All Started: China’s Early Coronavirus Missteps [WSJ]

“China’s errors, dating back to the very first patients, were compounded by political leaders who dragged their feet to inform the public of the risks and to take decisive control measures ”

📈 3) Math-related coronavirus video of the week: Exponential growth and epidemics [YouTube/3Blue1Brown]

“A good time for a primer on exponential and logistic growth, no?”

❓ 4) Coronavirus-related AMA of the week: We are a team of medical experts following COVID–19’s progression closely. Ask Us Anything. [Reddit]

“News about the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China, is changing rapidly. Our team of experts are here to break down what we know and how you can stay safe.”

🔮 Bonus coronavirus guide: Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus [Ars Technica]

“This is a fast-moving epidemic – we’ll update this guide at 3pm EDT every day.”

💻 Bonus WFH-related link: The Coronavirus Is Forcing Techies To Work From Home. Some May Never Go Back To The Office. [Buzzfeed News]

“As the coronavirus spreads in the United States and tech companies ask their workforces to do their jobs from home, some in the industry are looking at the outbreak as a test case for the long-gestating but never-arriving moment when working remotely will broadly replace working in person.”

📱 5) WhatsApp is so popular in Africa, even knock-off versions are used more often than Facebook [Quartz]

“…GB WhatsApp, the most widely used WhatsApp mod across major African markets, allows users operate multiple accounts, restore deleted messages and send and receive larger media files (up to 50 megabytes compared to 16 megabytes on WhatsApp). ”

📹 6) Before Clearview Became a Police Tool, It Was a Secret Plaything of the Rich [New York Times]

“Investors and clients of the facial recognition start-up freely used the app on dates and at parties – and to spy on the public.”

🍴 7) The economics of all-you-can-eat buffets [The Hustle]

“By nature, buffets attract the very customers they wish to avoid: Big eaters with insatiable appetites. Buffets seek to ‘fill the customer’s belly as cheaply and as quickly as possible.’ To do so, they employ a number of research-backed tricks to get people to eat less food…”

🧠 8) Study Shows Low Carb Diet May Prevent, Reverse Age-Related Effects Within the Brain [Stony Brook University News]

“’The bad news is that we see the first signs of brain aging much earlier than was previously thought. However, the good news is that we may be able to prevent or reverse these effects with diet, mitigating the impact of encroaching hypometabolism by exchanging glucose for ketones as fuel for neurons.’”

🗿 9) Truck Crashes Into an Easter Island Statue [New York Times]

“The truck rolled down a slope and hit an ahu, a ceremonial platform where one of the island’s famous statues was already on its side.”

🐶 10) Dog-related video of the week: Dog Still Not Sure What’s Going On, Continues to Have Good Time [Slate]

This is Kratu’s last year at Crufts before retirement, and he made it count, getting up to his old tricks of sniffing and hiding in tunnels and general waywardness before pulling off a spectacular heist right before our eyes.

💡 Quote of the week:

"Don’t stumble over something behind you.” – Unknown

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,


Newley's Notes

NN209: So…We Moved to Hong Kong!

👋 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.

🇭🇰 Big news on the personal front: Anasuya and I have moved here to Hong Kong!

Hi from HK!


It’s true!

Hong Kong!

Our three and a half years in India were extremely rewarding. Now it’s time for a new adventure. We are thrilled to be here.

😷 (What’s Hong Kong like, given the coronavirus? So far it’s similar to when I’ve visited before, except that 1) fewer folks seem to be out in public, so the streets are less crowded; 2) the vast majority of people are wearing face masks when they’re on the streets and especially on public transportation, though most people in bars and restaurants aren’t wearing them.)

✍️ As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ll be covering – much like I did from New Delhi – U.S. tech titans and their battles across Asia. It is a beat I have loved exploring from New Delhi and look forward to continuing to write about from this new perch.

🐕 Oh, and since I know many NN readers are fans of Ginger, our beloved New Delhi street dog, I will say this: fret not. She is also, of course, joining us here in HK soon. More on that soon!

On to this week’s NN…

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🦠 1) The latest on the coronavirus from The WSJ today: Coronavirus Cases Mount as Second Person Dies in U.S.

Health officials are focused on a cluster of confirmed cases in Washington, including the two deaths. Those infections, and several others in states such as Oregon and California – many with no clear path to exposure – signal that there might be wider spread of the virus in some communities, with many cases still undiagnosed. New cases were also reported in New York, Florida and Rhode Island.

Other resources:

The CDC has a good overview of the virus.

And from The WSJ: How to Prepare for the Coronavirus:

“Public health experts advise staying calm and following the same precautions recommended for preventing flu or any other respiratory virus. Stick with the basics: Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and stay at home from work or school when you’re sick.”

🗣️ 2) The Coronavirus and How Political Spin Has Worsened Epidemics [New Yorker]

"Throughout history, diseases have posed an unsparing test of political leaders and their fidelity to the facts. According to Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, ’From the political to the purely mercenary, secrecy has almost always contributed to the further spread of a pandemic and hindered public health management.’”

🔮 3) On governments and Covid–19: The virus is coming [The Economist]

Officials will have to act when they do not have all the facts, because much about the virus is unknown. A broad guess is that 25–70% of the population of any infected country may catch the disease. China’s experience suggests that, of the cases that are detected, roughly 80% will be mild, 15% will need treatment in hospital and 5% will require intensive care.

➡️ 4) Absolutely riveting corporate story of the week, by my WSJ colleagues: SoftBank’s Rajeev Misra Used Campaign of Sabotage to Hobble Internal Rivals

His rise to the top of SoftBank Group Corp.’s $100 billion Vision Fund isn’t a traditional tale of corporate ladder-climbing. He succeeded, in part, by striking at two of his main rivals inside SoftBank with a dark-arts campaign of personal sabotage.

The tactics included planting negative news stories about them, concocting a shareholder campaign to pressure SoftBank to fire them and even attempting to lure one of them into a “honey trap” of sexual blackmail, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

📚 5) Freeman Dyson, Math Genius Turned Visionary Technologist, Dies at 96 [New York Times]

“‘Life begins at 55, the age at which I published my first book,’ he wrote in ‘From Eros to Gaia,’ one of the collections of his writings that appeared while he was a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study – an august position for someone who finished school without a Ph.D. The lack of a doctorate was a badge of honor, he said.”

📼 6) Archivists Are Uploading Hundreds of Random VHS Tapes to the Internet [Vice]

“An organization called Vista Group recently uploaded dozens of VHS and cassette tapes from the 90s and early 2000s to the Internet Archive, and the content within is worth a retro-nostalgia trip back to a simpler, weirder, more wavy time.”

🎧 7) The Joy of Watching TV With Headphones On [WSJ]

“I’m not sure why I resisted this sonic refuge for so long. With advances in noise-cancelling tech and Bluetooth’s ease of connectivity with smart TVs, soundbars and streaming devices like Apple TV, headphoned TV fans don’t have to worry about intrusive noise.”

🌟 8) My Ex-Boyfriend’s New Girlfriend Is Lady Gaga [New York Times]

“How do you compare yourself with one of the most famous women in the world?”

🏖️ 9) Wacky internet gem of the week:

“Poolside FM was conceived one awfully rainy summer in the Highlands of Scotland – a virtual vacation, if you will. The audio and video streams are curated to inject a healthy dose of serotonin into your brain.”

🐶 10) Dog video of the week: Double H Canine Training Academy… Epic Service Dog Training Failure [YouTube]

💡 Quote of the week:

“How do you get good ideas? You have a lot of ideas and throw out the bad ones.” – Linus Pauling.

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,