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Newley's Notes

This Week’s Newley’s Notes, Turkey Day Edition: Amazon Killing it in India; Trump and Visas; Nature vs. Instagrammers

Newleys notes

Edition 72 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter where I share my stories and links to items that catch my eye.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a great one. Making a pecan pie? Don’t forget you can find my Aunt Cece’s famous recipe here! (Thanks for the reminder, Patrick B.!)

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Jeff Bezos Invests Billions to Make Amazon a Top E-Commerce Player in India – This is a story I’d been working on for some time, and I’m happy with how it turned out. It begins:

NEW DELHI– Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, perturbed by his company’s failure to capture much of the massive Chinese market, had a pointed message for executives in India during a visit in 2014: Don’t let that happen here.

Do what it takes to succeed and don’t worry about the cost, Mr. Bezos said, according to a person who was present.

Amazon, which dominates online selling in the U.S. but so far has gained little traction in developing countries, has since invested billions of dollars to build a logistics network spanning India to reel in shoppers.

The result: the company rapidly became India’s No. 2 e-commerce player and moved within striking distance of local rival Flipkart Internet Pvt., according to some estimates. Indeed, Mr. Bezos last month declared Amazon was on top in a market it largely had ignored until recent years, though he didn’t say by which measure.

Click through for a video (you may recognize the narrator’s voice). A colleague and I also chatted about the story on Facebook Live; the video has been watched more than 40,000 times.

What President-Elect Donald Trump Said About Working Visas to the U.S.. The story begins:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday said his administration will scrutinize what he called “abuses” of visas amid speculation that he intends to restrict the flow of skilled workers into his country.

In a two-minute video posted on YouTube, Mr. Trump for the first time since the Nov. 8 election articulated to the public what he plans to do during his first 100 days in office.

“On immigration,” Mr. Trump said, “I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

Indian Online Payments Firm Paytm Says Cash Crunch Has Boosted Business. The story begins:

Indian online payment firm Paytm says it has added 8 million new users in the two weeks since the government announced the replacement of the country’s highest-denomination bank notes.

In a bid to root out corruption, counterfeit money and tax evasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 announced the replacement of notes worth 500 rupees ($7.30) and 1,000 rupees ($14.60). That move has resulted in a cash shortage, with scores of people lining up outside ATMs and banks to deposit their cash, exchange old notes or withdraw new bills.

WHAT I WROTE AT NEWLEY.COM

Book Notes — Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The latest in my series of posts about books I’ve been reading. Previous such posts are here.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) The New York Times’s 100 best books of the year. Among those on the list that caught my eye and I’d like to read: “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, and Don DeLillo’s new novel, “Zero K.” Surprised to see here, as I read it and wasn’t hugely impressed: “Before the Fall,” a thriller by Noah Hawley.

2) Great idea for a world map: every country, with their tourism slogans. I am so happy to be living in Incredible !ndia.

3) “What Is The Most Underrated American Poem?” This piece at Ploughshares puts the question to several poets, critics and academics.

4) Instagrammers are ruining America’s natural treasures. What happens to a once-unknown swimming hole when it’s suddenly overrun by hundreds of social media addicts?

5) Humorous “SNL” video: Can’t stomach the notion of a Trump presidency? Consider moving to “The Bubble.”

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Newley

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Explaining Trump, Arkansas Queso, Medieval Shipwrecks, Best Book Podcasts

Newleys notes

Edition 72 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter where I share my stories and links to items that catch my eye.

There’s only one place to start this week: The rise of Donald Trump.

I posted on my blog links to a bunch of stuff I was reading the day after the election.

One of them is a 2014 book called “The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium,” by Martin Gurri. From the book’s description. Emphasis mine:

Insurgencies enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere have mobilized millions, toppling dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, crushing the ruling Socialist Party in Spain, inspiring “Tea Parties” and “Occupations” in the United States. Trust in political authority stands at an all-time low around the world. The Revolt of the Public analyzes the composition of the public, the nature of authority and legitimacy, and the part played by the perturbing agent: information. A major theme of the book is whether democratic institutions can survive the assaults of a public that at times appears to be at war with any form of organization, if not with history itself.

Another is a 1986 book by Arthur Schlesinger called “The Cycles of American History,” in which he argues that the U.S. always alternates between periods of liberalism and conservatism.

And yet another is “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy,” by Chris Hayes.

And in other postmortem news, Economist Tyler Cowen discusses how major stakeholders fared – that is, who comes out of this looking good, and whose status has fallen.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Indian-Origin Candidates Sail to Victory in U.S. Elections. Click through for more details on Pramila Jayapal, Kamala Harris, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi.

What Donald Trump’s Election as President of the U.S. Could Mean for India. The story, which I wrote with a colleague, begins:

For Indian businesses, foreign-policy strategists and government officials, Donald Trump’s election victory sows uncertainty on issues ranging from information-technology outsourcing to Asian geopolitics.

FIVE (NON-ELECTION-RELATED) ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Arkansas says it has the world’s best queso. Texas isn’t pleased. Don’t miss this excellent WSJ story, which begins:

In a safe in Little Rock, Ark., restaurateur Scott McGehee keeps five recipes for what he considers one of the state’s biggest culinary treasures.

Two cheese-dip recipes were handed down by his late father, Frank. One came from the long-gone Taco Kid chain and cost $2,000, with hot-sauce and chili formulas thrown into the deal. The collection represents “the greatest recipes in cheese-dip lore,” says Mr. McGehee, who melded them into the “five families cheese dip” served at his Heights Taco & Tamale Co. in Little Rock.

When it comes to food, Arkansas has long lived in the shadow of neighbors such as Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee, known respectively for their fajitas, gumbo and Memphis barbecue. Many Arkansans think cheese dip has finally given them something to call their own.

2) A guy named Calvin Seibert makes really cool modern sandcastles. Here are some images of the creations, which he constructs at beaches around New York. And here’s an interview with him.

3) Fascinating details are emerging about a medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea. This NYT feature has some amazing photos of the craft, which likely sank in the 13th or 14th century, but has remained unusually intact.

4) Cool site for travel research: The Basetrip. I recently came across the site, which aggregates information on more than 200 countries, providing details on information like visa requirements, currency and electricity.

5) There are some great podcasts about books out there. The Guardian lists ten to check out. The Millions also had a roundup back in July.

Thanks for reading. If you like NN, please forward it to a friend. Any feedback? Hit me up.

– Newley

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Apple’s Newest Gadgets; Frontline on the election; Super-Sophisticated Poker Cheating

Newleys notes

Edition 71 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers today. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

Reader M chastised me a few weeks ago when I said the weather here in Delhi seemed to have turned the corner, with temps starting to dip ever so slightly.

No, he said, it’s still hot here!

Well, I can say for sure this time: It really is cooling off! The other night the mercury dropped…wait for it…under 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or to about 26 Celsius. Bring it on! I am so looking forward to a real fall after a decade in steamy lowland Southeast Asia.

One programming note: Due to travel there will be no NN next week. I’ll rap at you again the week of Nov. 7 (when it will be even cooler!).

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Apple announced new laptops and a TV app. The Verge has a good rundown of the newest products. I can’t decide if it’s cool or gimmicky, but the MacBook Pro’s so-called Touch Bar – a touchable strip above the keyboard – is interesting. As for the TV app: It’s too bad, though predictable since Apple wants to sell you its own content, that it lacks Netflix and Amazon Video.

2) Frontline’s two-hour-long presidential election show is available on YouTube. It’s called “The Choice 2016.” This has been a campaign for the history books; this show looks up to the task of putting things in perspective.

3) Scientists have identified the ten most relaxing songs ever. Number one, called “Weightless,” was made with input from sound therapists. Here’s more on that one, and the rest of the list.

4) And in other music news: a Green Day fan got up on stage, grabbed a guitar, and killed it on “When I Come Around.” Apparently the guy was holding a sign at a concert in Chicago that said “I Can Play Every Song on ’Dookie,” a Green Day album. Front man Billie Joe Armstrong pulled him from the crowd, and the rest is history. Check out the video here.

5) Beware high-end poker cheating devices. Crazy story about a guy who sourced from China a sophisticated, $1,500 device inserted into a smartphone that can be used to read cards surreptitiously.

Thanks for reading. If you like NN, please forward it to a friend. Any feedback? Hit me up.

– Newley

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Thai King Dies; iPhone 7 Photography; Galactic Revelation; Lil Wayne

Newleys notes

Edition 69 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers Sunday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

A huge story this week here in Asia has been the death of Thailand’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej (an issue I’ve been following closely given the years we lived in Bangkok). Some of our WSJ stories have looked at the potential economic impact on Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, which has already been struggling; and the beginning of the funeral process:

Tens of thousands of people, many dressed in black and weeping, knelt in the streets of Thailand’s capital Friday as a convoy carried the body of King Bhumibol Adulyadej to the city’s Grand Palace from the hospital where he died the day before.

It was the beginning of a funeral process that could take months or even years to complete. The government has declared a one-year mourning period for King Bhumibol, who was 88 and reigned for 70 years.

In the short term, 64-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will become the country’s next monarch after he has taken time to grieve for his father, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said.

As for the crown prince, the BBC is reporting today that government officials say he wants his coronation to be held off for a year or more.

“He said at this time everyone is sad, he is still sad, so every side should wait until we pass this sad time.”

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) The new iPhone 7 takes some pretty badass photos. As this detailed blog post points out, the gadget’s dual-camera system allows for “Portrait Mode,” which is Apple-speak for depth effect. That’s he ability to achieve the kind of depth of field usually only possible with fancier cameras.

2) There are way more galaxies in our universe than previously believed. Bad news, if you’re already feeling cosmically insignificant: As The Guardian reports: “There are a dizzying 2 trillion galaxies in the universe, up to 20 times more than previously thought, astronomers reported on Thursday.” (I like this comment on story: "They’ll have to change the Monty Python Universe song again! <–video NSFW: galactically graphic depiction.)

3) "Was was the worst year in history? Slate posed that question to several authors and academics. 1914, the year World War I began, gets a lot of votes.

4) Lil Wayne gave an amazing interview to the NYT. My favorite of the rapper’s responses:

With this book, were you worried about revisiting a difficult time?

I haven’t read it, and I don’t plan on reading it. I’m not one of those people who revisit things. I don’t remember [expletive]. I could meet the president and forget it. Of course I thought it was because I smoke too much. But somebody told me: “The reason why you don’t remember things is that it’s not the same for you as it is everybody else. Because you are it.”

5) A guy put together a map of global airport WiFi passwords. It’s pretty impressive.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

— Newley

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Google’s Internet Bikes; James Paan; Bradley to Swansea; Trump Fallout

Newleys notes

Edition 68 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

Story of the week, and story of next week – and weeks to come, I’m sure: Donald Trump.

Here’s the very NSFW audio, and a piece on how it surfaced. Here’s a list of the Republican leaders who have jumped ship, and when they did so. Will he quit? Trump tells the The WSJ “I never, ever give up.". And finally, from a WSJ colleague, the fallout:

A divided Republican Party descended into turmoil, as a startling chorus of GOP candidates and officials repudiated their own presidential candidate and scrambled to find personal paths to political survival just a month before Election Day.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Saturday told party officials to redirect funds away from nominee Donald Trump to down-ballot candidates, according to an official informed of the decision. In practical terms, the party will be working to mobilize voters who support GOP House and Senate candidates regardless of their position on the presidential race.

What I wrote in The WSJ

James Bond Actor Pierce Brosnan Stars in Ad for Indian Pan Masala

Sometimes you have to hunt hard for stories. Sometimes they find you:

Pierce Brosnan is the new face of Pan Bahar, an Indian brand of “paan masala,” a concoction of areca nut, a stimulant, and spices often chewed along with tobacco or betel leaf by millions in South Asians.

The debonair actor, a former James Bond, is appearing as a pitchman for the mixture, which carries a government-mandated warning declaring that it is “injurious to health.” The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the areca nut as carcinogenic to humans.

A front-page ad in the Times of India on Friday featured a photo of a bearded Mr. Brosnan in a tuxedo holding a container of Pan Bahar above the slogan “Class never goes out of style.”

How Google’s Bicycle-Riding Internet Tutors Are Getting Rural Indian Women Online

For this story, I traveled to a village outside Jaipur, India. Click through for photos. The story begins:

The internet fails to reach millions of women in the small towns and villages of India, so Google is trying to deliver it to them — by bicycle.

The Alphabet Inc. unit has built an army of thousands of female trainers and sent them to the far corners of the Subcontinent on two-wheelers, hoping to give rural woman their first taste of the web. Each bike has a box full of connected smartphones and tablets for women to try and train on.

The idea is to give people who have never even sent an email a better understanding of how being connected could improve their lives. Families that can afford to be online often chose not to be because they do not see the value. Meanwhile women are sometimes blocked by their families from new technology.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Email newsletter of the week: Sunday New York Times Digest

I’ve mentioned many times how much I love email newsletters, like the one summing up stories in every New Yorker issue.

Here’s a similar one – it’s not new, but it’s new to me – that provides a round-up of what’s in every edition of the Sunday New York Times.

2) “In a wealthy Virginia suburb, their cars are their beds.”

The Washington Post profiles people in Fairfax County whose only homes are their cars.

3) Huge news for U.S. soccer: Bob Bradley, former men’s national team coach, is the new manager of English Premier League club Swansea. Sports Illustrated has the story. Here’s more from The Guardian about what Bradley had to say, not long after joining Swansea, about current U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

4) “The Opposite of a Muse.”

That’s the title of a New Yorker story about Isabelle Mège, a woman in Paris who for 16 years has been gotten well-known photographers to take photos of her.

5) Here’s a fun, informative, two-minute video on the benefits of meditation.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: LinkedIn Lite for India; India Telco Merger; Inflatbale Irish Pubs, Slankets for Hipsters

Edition 65 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Monday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox a few days before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

What I wrote in The WSJ

LinkedIn to Launch Stripped-Down Mobile Website for Indians With Poor Connections:

LinkedIn Corp. is set to launch its first-ever pared-down mobile website so users in India can access its platform through patchy web connections.

The Mountain View, Calif. professional social network, which Microsoft Corp. in June acquired for $26.2 billion, is eager to expand in the country.

LinkedIn says it already has more than 37 million members in India, making it the firm’s second-largest market after the U.S., where it has more than 130 million users.

The new mobile website, called LinkedIn Lite, should launch in the coming weeks. It will load four times faster than other websites and use less data, LinkedIn says.

Reliance Communications Merges Wireless Unit With Aircel:

Indian cellular service company Reliance Communications Ltd. said Wednesday it is combining its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel Ltd., closing the distance between it and bigger players in an increasingly competitive sector.

Under the terms of the agreement, which the two companies in a joint statement called the “largest-ever consolidation in the Indian telecom sector,” Reliance Communications and Malaysia’s Maxis Communications Bhd., Aircel’s majority owner, will each own half of the new company.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Image of the Day: Amazingly Hardcore Hacker Stock Photo – I am very much enjoying perusing local newspapers here in India every day.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Here’s an epic, 31-page review of iOS 10.

iNerds out there will know that iOS 10, Apple’s newest mobile operating system, is now available for download. And at his excellent Mac blog Macstories, Federico Vitici provides a detailed round-up of what’s new.

2) Earth’s warming temperature, visualized over thousands of years.

This comes from the fantastic xkcd webcomic, and starts at 20,000 BC, so you can get a sense of how rapidly temps have been rising since we started burning fossil fuels.

3) “Abandoned places: the worlds we’ve left behind.”

Beautiful photos from a book by Kieron Connolly showing once-busy, now-neglected locations.

4) Behold The Napsack, a Slanket for hipsters

While the Slanket was merely a blanket with sleeves, the $135 (!) Napsack has zippers, chest pockets for your gadgets, and even a hole for headphones. The description says it all:

Perfect for summer trips, couch surfing, music festivals, jumping into after snowboarding, surfing or any other activity that brings your core temperature down

5) Forget bouncy castles. For your next party, pick up an inflatable Irish pub for your backyard.

I think it goes without saying that the provider of this service, the Paddy Waggon Pub, is Boston-based. The pubs can also be purchased.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: iPhone 7 in India; Trendy Ayahuasca; U.S. Fortuneteller in Cambodia

Edition 64 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Saturday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox a few days before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes. From the new iPhone to Pokemon Go to women on Facebook in India, it’s a been a busy week.

What I wrote in The WSJ

Why Will Apple’s New iPhone 7 Cost So Much More in India?

Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 7 smartphones go on sale Friday in the U.S. at a starting price of $649. They won’t be available in India until next month, and when they do land their base price will be close to $250 more expensive.

India Petition Seeks to Ban Pokémon Go for Insulting Hindus With Virtual Eggs:

An attorney has filed a petition to ban the smartphone game sensation “Pokémon Go” in India for placing virtual eggs in houses of worship and allegedly offending some people’s religious sensibilities.

In the hit game–which uses location-tracking and augmented-reality technology– players visit landmarks called PokéStops, where they can collect goodies including virtual eggs, which hatch into the eponymous Pokémon or pocket monsters. While the game hasn’t officially been launched yet in India, Pokémon Go enthusiasts have already found ways to play.

On Indian Facebook, Men Outnumber Women Three-to-One

As inexpensive smartphones allow millions of Indians online for the first time, internet newbies are rushing to sign up for Facebook at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, new data shows, an overwhelming majority of the Indians on the network are men

A report this week from U.K. consultancy We Are Social found just 24% of India’s 153 million Facebook users are women — meaning there are more than three men on the platform for every woman.

That figure, one of the lowest in the world, illustrates that even as technology starts to trickle down to more Indians, women are not accessing some online tools at the same rate as their male counterparts.

At a Glance: The Billion-Dollar Battle Between Tata and NTT DoCoMo

The battle over a potential $1.17 billion payment from Tata Sons Ltd., the holding company of Indian conglomerate Tata Group, to Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. has its roots in an ill-fated deal that was agreed in 2009.

Singapore’s Garena Raises Fresh Funds for Expansion

Southeast Asia-focused online entertainment and e-commerce startup Garena Interactive Holding Ltd. has raised additional funding from some high-profile investors as it seeks to expand across the populous region.

Reliance’s Ambani Lays Out Plan for Low-Cost Mobile Data in India

Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, on Thursday outlined his plans to shake up the country’s telecommunications industry through his new cellular company, which aims to lure customers away from the competition and bring millions of Indians online for the first time by offering data at low rates.

The chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd. told the company’s annual general meeting that its new wireless phone unit, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., will undercut its competitors by offering data for 50 rupees (75 cents) per gigabyte and monthly plans as low as 149 rupees, or $2.22. The first group of users signing up for the new platform, which launches Monday, will be offered free service until next year, said Mr. Ambani.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Book Notes — The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

My notes from a surprisingly optimistic and hope-infused novel…that just happens to be about what happens when a mysterious plague wipes out all but a few people on earth. ¯(ツ)

Delhi Snapshot: ‘Selfie Garlic Bread’

The title of the post says it all.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Apple’s iPhone 7 launch, condensed into a two-minute video.

Just the highlights. Or the lowlights, if like many you found their newest smartphone underwhelming. (Personally, I’m pretty stoked about the new camera. And not too fussed about the new audio jack.)

2) Speaking of Apple, here’s how to fix a major design flaw in the Apple TV remote

Thanks, A!

3) “The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale”

That’s the title of this week’s #longread, a New Yorker’s story by Airel Levy examining the growing popularity in the U.S. of Ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogenic drug found in the Amazon.

4) How to choose the fastest supermarket line.

There are some good tips here. For example, it makes sense to get in line behind someone with a full cart rather than several people with smaller amounts of items because the time taken between customers tends to be longer than you’d imagine.

5) American Soothsayer Rakes In Small Fortune

Interesting story about an American woman who has set up shop at a market in Cambodia, providing tarot-card readings in Khmer. My favorite part is the end of this passage:

“I didn’t have a job, I needed something to do and I wanted to help people through my spiritual work. I was getting messages to do this, so I just followed my gut,” said Eileen, who speaks conversational Khmer and asked to be identified only by her first name so that her mother in the U.S. would not find out about her new trade.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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Newley's Notes

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Ford in India; a ‘City’ in the Desert; Experts’ Book Picks; Invasive Capybaras

Edition 63 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Wednesday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox a few days before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

What I wrote in The WSJ

India Payment Firm Paytm Raises $300 Million:

NEW DELHI—Indian online payment and e-commerce firm Paytm is raising $300 million from a group of investors led by Taiwanese chip-design company MediaTek Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation.

The investment values the Noida, India-based company at $5 billion, up from an earlier valuation of about $2.5 billion, the person said. MediaTek’s contribution amounted to $60 million, according to the person.

In a country where users are increasingly coming online via low-cost smartphones, Paytm provides a popular mobile app that can be used to pay for services like rides from Uber Technologies Inc. and utility bill payments.

Ford Leads $24 Million Funding in India Car-Rental Startup Zoomcar:

NEW DELHI—A Ford Motor Co. subsidiary is among the investors contributing $24 million to a vehicle-rental startup in India, the latest development in the race to use technology in new ways to target consumers in the world’s second-most-populous country.

Bangalore-based Zoomcar allows users to rent its vehicles for as little as an hour at a time, a model similar to the U.S.’s Zipcar Inc., which Avis Budget Group acquired for about $500 million in 2013.

India Wins Its First Olympic Medal in Rio as Wrestler Sakshi Malik Gets Bronze:

Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik won bronze in women’s wrestling at the Olympic Games in Rio on Wednesday, bringing home her country’s first medal of the competition — and she did it in dramatic fashion.

Twenty three-year-old Malik defeated Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova in the 58-kilogram freestyle in a thrilling bout, making a comeback in the final seconds to win 8–5. At one point early in the match she trailed 5 points to none.

India’s Ola Lays Off Workers Amid Growing Competition From Uber:

NEW DELHI—ANI Technologies Pvt.’s ride-hailing service Ola is laying off hundreds of workers at a fellow Indian operator it bought last year, a sign of possible consolidation amid increased competition in the country from Uber Technologies Inc.

Bangalore-based Ola last year acquired Serendipity Infolab Pvt.’s TaxiForSure for $200 million in cash and stock, saying the two companies would continue to operate separately. Ola said at the time that it would retain TaxiForSure’s 1,700 employees.

What I wrote at Newley.com

The Capybaras are Coming. Be Very Afraid. Forewarned is forearmed. How awesome/creepy are these rodents?

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) This Century-Old Map Details the Path to Musical Success

A map from 1913 shows musicians how to become successful: by climbing a mountain toward one’s objectives, and keeping clear of pitfalls like flattery, laziness and “weak morals.” Also: avoid bohemianism.

2) LongRead of the week: “A Monument to Outlast Humanity,” by Dana Goodyear, in The New Yorker.

The story is abuot artist Michael Heizer, who has been building an enormous work, called “City,” in the Nevada desert since 1972. It is not open to the public, but will be viewable in a few years:

After decades of torment—“When’s it gonna be done, Mike?”—the piece is nearly complete. Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, says that the site, which lacma will help to administer, will admit its first visitors from the general public in 2020. Govan, who has been raising money for “City” for twenty years, sees it as one of our civilization’s greatest achievements. “Mike started the idea that you can go out in this landscape and make work that is sublime,” he says. “There is nothing more powerful, romantic, and American than these gestures that in Mike’s case have taken his whole life.”

Click through for a few fascinating images.

3) FiveBooks.com is a fantastic repository of book recommendations.

It’s not a new site, but it’s new to me. The concept is simple: experts recommend five of their favorite books that help explain their areas of expertise. It’s that simple.

Check out WSJ columnist Jason Zweig on the best personal finance books, the Center For American Progress’s Van Jones on change in America, academic and author Ian Buruma on books about the east and west; author William Dalrymple on the best books about ancient and modern India, and much, much more. A truly fantastic resource.

4) “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa.”

An interesting look, in the New York Times, at Dr. Aroup Chatterjee, who has devoted years to exposing the dark side of Mother Teresa’s work.

5) “The 21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films.”

To be sure, we’re only talking a decade and a half here, but this BBC roundup has some gems.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

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In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: India’s Hike; Alibaba’s Expansion; Ugly McMansions, Gorgeous Goats

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Wednesday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

Anasuya and I are continuing to settle in nicely here in New Delhi. Between new jobs and seeing friends and family and getting the house set up, it’s been a whirlwind.

Not lost amid all of that, though, is this milestone: Seven years ago this week we adopted Ashley, our beloved Bangkok street dog.

(Ashley, by the way, is also loving India, especially our small yard, where she enjoys sunning herself and watching the birds and squirrels in the trees above.)

Here’s a blog post I wrote on the fifth anniversary of our adopting her.

What I wrote in The WSJ

India’s WhatsApp Rival Hike Valued at $1.4 Billion

The story begins:

Indian messaging app Hike Ltd. has raised $175 million in a fundraising round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Taiwanese electronics assembler Foxconn Technology Group.

The new investment values the homegrown app, a rival to Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, at about $1.4 billion, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Hike’s founder and chief executive, said on Tuesday.

Alibaba Thinks Outside the China Box

Click through for a video. You may recognize the narrator’s voice.

The story begins:

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., its business maturing at home in China, is seeking out growth in India and Southeast Asia.

In India, the internet company in recent months has snapped up executives with experience in the country’s fast-growing, highly competitive e-commerce sector, a sign it could be planning an online-shopping push there. In Southeast Asia, Alibaba paid $1 billion in April for a controlling stake in Singapore-based e-commerce startup Lazada Group, its biggest overseas acquisition to date.

Apple Is Still Mulling Over Its Plans for India Stores, Government Says

The story begins:

India may have paved the way for Apple Inc. to open stores in the country, but a senior government official says the company hasn’t submitted any detailed plans yet — likely because of local-sourcing rules.

India’s government in June loosened foreign-direct investment restrictions in several sectors.

The government said foreign-owned single-brand retailers like Apple, which is keen to tap potential growth in the huge market, would have a three-year grace period from local-sourcing requirements. Such rules require firms buy at least 30% of their manufacturing materials from Indian vendors.

But since June, “we haven’t heard” anything about Apple’s plans, said a senior government official, declining to be identified.

Facebook Makes New Wi-Fi Push into India After Free Basics

The story begins:

Facebook Inc.’s controversial plan to get Indians online may have failed earlier this year, but the company says it is making a new push to expand internet access in the country, a key market for future user growth.

In the new effort, which Facebook is calling Express Wifi, the Menlo Park, Calif. company is working with internet service providers, or ISPs, and carriers to provide wireless hot spots in rural parts of the country, such as mom-and-pop shops, where users can get cheap access to the internet.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) “Superblocks: how Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars”

Interesting story in Vox, with images, illustrating how planners have used “superblocks” (or superilles) to make the city more pedestrian friendly.

2) “This Basically Anonymous Fund Manager Oversees $800 Billion”

Bloomberg profiles Gerry O’Reilly, who’s in charge of the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund.

“Index funds are often called ‘passive investments,’” Ben Steverman writes, “yet there’s nothing particularly passive about what O’Reilly and his Vanguard colleagues do all day.”

3) “McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture?”

An explanation, in architectural terms, of why McMansions are ugly.

4) “Baton Rouge 2016 Flood: Man saves woman and dog from sinking car.”

Remarkable video. But pretty heavy. Do you need a chaser? Here you go…

5) “These may be the most magnificent portraits of goats and sheep you’ll ever see”

Lovely.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

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Some news: WE MOVED TO INDIA!

2016 08 08 indiatweet

More on this in future posts, but…A and I moved to India! I’m penning this post from New Delhi, our new home after two and a half years in Singapore.

Above is a Tweet I posted sharing the news. Below is the Newley Notes missive in which I explain a bit more.

I’m very excited about this new adventure. Expect more posts on India, tech, and life in the world’s second-most-populous nation.


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly (most of the time) newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

This is a special edition: it’s the first one I’m penning from New Delhi, our new home!

Anasuya and I moved here from Singapore about a week and a half ago — hence the weeks-long Newley’s Notes absence — and are settling in well so far.

I’ll be working out of the WSJ bureau here in the capital of the world’s second-most-populous country. I’m so, so excited to be in this vibrant, dynamic nation, and to be able to focus more on tech developments here. And having family and friends nearby is a huge bonus.

It’s an exciting time for India, a country of 1.3 billion where people are increasingly coming online for the first time, many on low-cost smartphones.

How is technology changing their lives? Is it improving them? What are some of the world’s biggest tech firms — Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber — doing to win here? How are local startups innovating? These are questions I hope to answer in my stories.

On to this week’s edition.

What I wrote in The WSJ

Grab, an Uber Rival in Southeast Asia, Is Set to Raise $1 Billion

The story, which I wrote with two exceptional colleagues in Hong Kong, begins:

As Uber Technologies Inc. turns away from China, a competitor is raising funds to cement its dominance in Southeast Asia and fend off the tech titan based in San Francisco.

Uber’s decision to sell its China business to Didi Chuxing Technology Co. is giving Singapore-based Grab renewed confidence it can take on Uber and win on its home turf. Grab says it has captured much of Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing market with more than half of private-car rides in the region.

Valued at $1.6 billion in its previous funding round, Grab is planning to raise about $1 billion in fresh capital from investors including Didi and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.,a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The first chunk of that fundraising, a $600 million dose, is expected to be completed this week, the person said.

How Uber Plans to Avoid Getting Didi-ed in India

The story begins:

Uber is upping its game in India following its retreat from China.

The San Francisco ride-hailing company earlier this week gave up its costly battle for users in China, selling its business there to homegrown rival Didi Chuxing Technology Co…

What I wrote at Newley.com

Three additions to my “book notes” series of posts, in which I share notes from my readings.

Book Notes — ‘Never Eat Alone,’ by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Brief recap: A popular book about the power of networking. I didn’t find it revelatory, but appreciate the central theme, which is common sense: that you should help friends just to help them, not because you expect something in return. In other words, as the author writes, networking can be a huge advantage – but don’t keep score.

Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport

Brief recap: Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, argues that knowledge workers must devote themselves entirely to the most sophisticated and valuable contributions they can make – they must concentrate on what he calls “deep work.” Common sense, yes, but the book provides some compelling insights and plenty of practical tips. Highly recommended.

Book Notes — ‘Den of Thieves,’ by James B. Stewart

Brief recap: An absolute classic. Pulitzer-prize winning Jim Stewart tells, though in-depth reporting and riveting storytelling, the story of the insider trading scandals that rocked Wall Street in the 1980s.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Nice Cargo Shorts! You’re Sleeping on the Sofa

A lighthearted WSJ story out of New York that blew up online — we’re talking 83,000 Facebook shares and 600 comments. The nut graf:

Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re comfortable and practical for summer. Detractors​ say they’ve been out of style for years, deriding them as bulky, uncool and just flat-out ugly.

2) After you’ve read that, check out this hilarious Vice piece, in which the author unpacks the WSJ story.

3) When LBJ Ordered Pants From the White House

Speaking of clothing, this is not new, but new to me. Visit the link and scroll down to the hear the remarkble audio of a phone call Lyndon Johnson made to the Haggar clothing company in Dallas in 1964. Audio is possibly NSFW, given graphic anatomical descriptions — not to mention audible burping.

4) America Seen From Abroad: Arrogant, Nice, Tech-Savvy, Free

I love this. The AP asked people all over the world for their impressions of Americans.

One of my favorites:

— “America? Uhh, that’s a huge country. Burgers, the American dream, choppers, … Elvis, cowboys. We dream of America and they dream about Europe. But one thing for sure, they cannot make beer.” — Knut Braaten, 43, handyman, Oslo, Norway.

5) App of the week: Prisma, which turns “every photo into art.” It’s like Instagram, but it makes your pics way cooler.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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