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Hong Kong

Spotted Here in Hong Kong

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Journalism

We Won a George Polk Award for our Facebook Files Series

I’m proud to say that my colleague Jeff Horwitz and our wider Wall Street Journal team last week won a George Polk award for our Facebook Files series.

It was “an explosive series documenting how Facebook (now Meta) ignored internal findings that company practices promoted anger, divisiveness and extremism; protected drug cartels, human traffickers and dictators; and endangered teenage girls susceptible to body-image concerns, anxiety and depression,” the award announcement said.

“Files Horwitz obtained from a whistleblower demonstrated that top executives rejected fixes they feared might reduce profitability or create political friction.”

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Newley's Notes

NN288: See You in the Spring

WSJ page one Facebook

Sent as a newsletter January 27, 2022. Want to join my email list? Sign up here.

👋 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.

🚨 Administrative note:

Newley’s Notes will be taking a break until the spring. After 288 (mostly) weekly dispatches since 2015, I’m going to take a few months to recharge and regroup. But I’ll be back before you know it, friends.

I may send a one-off email here or there with any special announcements, and in the meantime, I may post to Newley.com or Twitter (@Newley).

My WSJ latest:

🗞 Image of the week, above: my latest story, with my colleagues Justin Scheck and Tom McGinty, on Tuesday’s WSJ front page. The headline:

Facebook Promised Poor Countries Free Internet. People Got Charged Anyway.

And the lede:

Facebook says it’s helping millions of the world’s poorest people get online through apps and services that allow them to use internet data free. Internal company documents show that many of these people end up being charged in amounts that collectively add up to an estimated millions of dollars a month.

Click through to read the rest.

While I’m gone….

Here are 10 great newsletters you should check out:

For online oddities and digital tools:

1) ⭐ In Rusty’s Electric Dreams, Rusty Blazenhoff catalogues wonderful and weird stuff she finds online.

2) 🔨 Jeremy Caplan’s Wonder Tools is full of helpful websites, note taking suggestions, email recommendations and more.

For news and views on technology:

3) 💻 Benedict’s Newsletter, by Benedict Evans. What’s new and important in tech, by a seasoned tech investor.

4) 🌏 Rest of World’s newsletter contains the news org’s most recent stories on international tech issues.

5) 📱 Exponential View, by Azeem Azhar. Cutting edge tech: all things AI, climate, crypto, EVs, etc.

For health, books and general interest reads:

6) 💪 Peter Attia’s newsletter focuses on longevity, fitness, and nutrition.

7) 📖 Five Books is one of my all-time favorite websites. Their newsletter is a good way to ensure you don’t miss any posts.

8) 📈 Another of my all time favorite websites is Marginal Revolution, by economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok. You can get their posts via email (the sign up box is on the left).

9) ✍️ Artist and author Austin Kleon’s newsletter always inspires me to create.

10) 🌧️ In Ready for Rain, author and digital guru Lee LeFever documents life in a house he and his wife recently built in Orcas Island, Washington.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

“anatolian shepherd dog puppy in training.”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

•••

📚 What I’m Reading

I recently read, and really loved, Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel “Station Eleven.” Here’s a brief Book Notes post.

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong – and see you before long,

Newley

Categories
Book Notes

Book Notes: ‘Station Eleven,’ by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel
Published: 2014
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN-10: 0385353308
Amazon link.

I really loved this novel. It’s deftly plotted, with leaps through time and place. The characters are vivid. There are sparkling descriptions of the natural world.

It’s a meditation on love, friendship, and regrets. And amazingly, for a book set amid an apocalypse, it’s ultimately hopeful.

I wasn’t aware, until finishing, that it’s also an HBO TV series. I’ll have to check that out.

(For previous Book Notes posts, click here).

Categories
Journalism Tech

Facebook Promised Poor Countries Free Internet. People Got Charged Anyway

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleagues Justin Scheck and Tom McGinty. It was on Tuesday’s WSJ front page. It begins:

Facebook says it’s helping millions of the world’s poorest people get online through apps and services that allow them to use internet data free. Internal company documents show that many of these people end up being charged in amounts that collectively add up to an estimated millions of dollars a month.

To attract new users, Facebook made deals with cellular carriers in countries including Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines to let low-income people use a limited version of Facebook and browse some other websites without data charges. Many of the users have inexpensive cellphone plans that cost just a few dollars a month, often prepaid, for phone service and a small amount of internet data.

Because of software problems at Facebook, which it has known about and failed to correct for months, people using the apps in free mode are getting unexpectedly charged by local cellular carriers for using data. In many cases they only discover this when their prepaid plans are drained of funds.

In internal documents, employees of Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. acknowledge this is a problem. Charging people for services Facebook says are free “breaches our transparency principle,” an employee wrote in an October memo.

In the year ended July 2021, charges made by the cellular carriers to users of Facebook’s free-data products grew to an estimated total of $7.8 million a month, when purchasing power adjustments were made, from about $1.3 million a year earlier, according to a Facebook document.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Hong Kong

Hong Kong License Plate: Macho

A new one for the collection. On a Prius, no less.

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Newley's Notes

NN287: Pyrotechnics-loving Pups

Sent as a newsletter January 10, 2022. Want to join my email list? Sign up here.

👋 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.

Image of the week, above: I hope your holiday season was restful, and that you got a chance to see friends and family. Onward and upward to 2022!

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 👉 Out just before the new year, a WSJ Facebook Files story I helped with: What happened inside the company when whistleblower Frances Haugen stepped forward. The hed: Facebook’s Pushback: Stem the Leaks, Spin the Politics, Don’t Say Sorry.

2) 🍎 A story I wrote last Monday: India Hits Apple With Antitrust Investigation Over App-Store Practices

3) 🇭🇰 And one I wrote Friday: Hong Kong Officials Quarantined After Covid–19 Case at Tapas Birthday Party

4) 📚 New on Newley.com: The Best Books I Read in 2021.

5) 🎨 Also on Newley.com: a recent watercolor I like. Viewable on Instagram, as well.

6) 🩸 Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on four counts of fraud. But her legal fight is far from over.

7) 😔 RIP Sidney Poitier.

8) 😿 And RIP Betty White.

9) 💫 Here is a gorgeous, close-up image of a comet.

10) 👏 100 things Austin Kleon enjoyed in 2021.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

Good boi attends the fireworks.”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.” – Stephen Jay Gould

•••

🤗 What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and brave dogs who just want to join in the fun.

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Hong Kong

Hong Kong Officials Quarantined After Covid-19 Case at Tapas Birthday Party

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

HONG KONG—As Hong Kong officials were warning citizens to exercise caution after the city’s first Omicron cases emerged last week, senior civil servants joined dozens of other partygoers at a tapas restaurant Monday evening to celebrate the birthday of a China lawmaker.

Now some of them are in a government quarantine center after being classified as close contacts of a party guest who later tested positive for Covid-19. Among them are the city’s home affairs secretary, the director of immigration and some legislators.

Images of the event — held in honor of Witman Hung, a local representative to China’s national legislature — emerged shortly before tough new restrictions on nightlife and other venues across the city came into effect Friday, drawing angry comments from some residents on social media.

Hong Kong has some of the world’s strictest testing and quarantine regimens, and tough border controls had kept the city free of community cases for months. That bubble was punctured last week after an aircrew worker, who was later found to have Omicron, broke home quarantine conditions to eat lunch at a restaurant. Several other diners in the venue later tested positive, and health officials have warned that there are now invisible transmission chains in the city, although recorded cases of Covid-19 transmitted in the community have remained just a few.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Tech

India Hits Apple With Antitrust Investigation Over App-Store Practices

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

India’s antitrust watchdog ordered an investigation into how Apple Inc. runs its App Store, becoming the most recent country to take aim at the U.S. technology giant.

The order from the Competition Commission of India said Friday that its initial view is that the Cupertino, Calif., company has violated some of the country’s antitrust laws. The body is “prima facie convinced that a case is made out for directing an investigation” into Apple, the order said.

The watchdog was responding to a complaint earlier last year from an Indian nonprofit group alleging that a 30% fee Apple charges developers selling digital content via their apps harms software makers and stifles competition. Apple has denied the claims, saying it is focused on making its devices as attractive as possible to consumers, according to the order.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Art

Weekend Watercolor: a Cafe in France