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Newley's Notes

NN255: Office pups transporting pens

Sent as an email newsletter March 21, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 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: Yes, that is a gin and tonic-flavored Easter egg I spotted in a Marks and Spencer grocery store here in Hong Kong. It’s a new product, apparently. The Easter confection 2021 demands!

My latest at Newley.com

🐦 I mentioned, in NN249 last month, that we’d recently been on a birding trip here in Hong Kong. I have more details in a just-published blog post: Birdwatching in Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 👉 A man killed eight people in three spas in the Atlanta area Tuesday, including six women of Asian descent. The shootings have mobilized “Asian-Americans who have seen their communities victimized by hate crimes over the past year, even if police haven’t determined whether the shooting belongs in that category,” my colleagues Valerie Bauerlein, Esther Fung and Cameron McWhirter report.

2) 🎬 Oscar nominations are out. “Mank” – a black and white Netflix film, starring Gary Oldman, about Herman J. Mankiewicz and the filming of “Citizen Kane” (trailer here) – got ten. Last year was, as the AP put it, “a pandemic year that shuttered movie theaters and upended the movie business.”

3) 🌁 RIP Silicon Valley? Tim O’Reilly points out four challenges the region faces, beyond Covid–19: the life sciences revolution, looming tech regulation, climate change, and the “end of the betting economy.”

4) 🌏 Excellent piece by Anna Rasshivkina, Cengiz Yar and Devi Lockwood at Rest of World: “From a florist in Tehran to a chef in Bangkok, meet nine workers who turned their homes into makeshift offices during the pandemic.”

5) 📱 Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman, reporting for Buzzfeed News: “Facebook Is Building An Instagram For Kids Under The Age Of 13.”

6) 🤯 Astounding: Watch a TikToker make an elaborate video in mere seconds.

7) 🎵 What’s going on with musical genres? “As record stores close and streaming algorithms dominate, the identities that music fandom supplies are in flux,” Amanda Petrusich writes in the New Yorker.

8) 💻 Tool of the week: Zoom Escaper, which lets you “escape Zoom meetings and other videoconferencing scenarios” by allowing you to “self-sabotage your audio stream, making your presence unbearable to others.”

9) 👏 The award for walrus impression of the week goes to the guy interviewed at the beginning of this RTE News report.

10) 👩‍🎨 Museo is a “visual search engine that connects you with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rijksmuseum, the Harvard Art Museums, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the New York Public Library Digital Collection.” All images are in the public domain.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week: “This is Minnie. She’s the Executive Pen Transporter for this office. As you can see, she takes her job very seriously. 13/10”

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’m still working my way through Yuval Noah Harari’s thought-provoking “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” – Coco Chanel

•••

🤗 What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and videos of dogs helping with office tasks.

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Hong Kong

Trip Report: Birdwatching in Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve

Despite its urban density and thousands of skyscrapers, Hong Kong is home to significant biodiversity and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

I was surprised, when we moved here last year, to learn about all the hiking available along myriad trails and in the city’s many country parks.

Then early last month we got an opportunity to something I’d never done before: go birding.

Yes, my first organized birding experience took place in a city of more than 7 million people, one of the world’s most densely populated places.

And it was awesome!

Mai Po, just across from Shenzhen

A friend arranged a guided trip, via the Hong Kong WWF, to Mai Po Nature Reserve. As you can see in the map above, this is a large wetlands area near Yuen Long, a town in the north of the city’s New Territories, across the water from Shenzhen.

To get to the the WWF’s Long Ping visitor center, we took the MTR’s West Rail Line, got off at the Long Ping station, and walked from there.

Ours was the aptly-titled “Flap Your Wings” tour, which included transport via shuttle bus to the reserve, a short distance away. Binoculars were provided, as were permits to enter the reserve.

Near the entrance to the reserve
Near the entrance to the reserve

During the five-hour tour, conducted by an expert volunteer guide, we walked along boardwalks built into the mangrove swamps, and stopped at various blinds to look out at the birds on the mudflats.

Many of the creatures, as I understand it, stop over in Hong Kong as they migrate south for the winter, stopping for rest in the wetlands area. I was shooting photos with my iPhone, so didn’t get any good close-ups, but our guide had a spotting scope that we used.

Walking through the mangroves
Walking through the mangroves
I just flew in from
A hint at where birds are heading, or have come from
Looking out from a blind
The view from a blind, looking out at the wetlands
Socially distanced birding
Socially distanced birding
Mudflats
Mudflats
The weather was gorgeous
Fine weather and blue skies
A far cry from skyscrapers downtown
A far cry from skyscrapers
Yours truly
Yours truly
Hard at work
Concentrating

Here’s a list of the birds we saw. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

  • Northern Shoveler
  • Tufted Duck
  • Great Cormorant
  • Little Grebe
  • Black Wing Stilts
  • Western osprey
  • Saunder’s Gull
  • Wimbrell
  • Chinese Pond Heron
  • Grey Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Little Egret
  • Western Osprey
  • Pied Avocet
  • Whimbrel
  • White Breasted Water Hen
  • Greater Spotted Eagle
  • White-throated Kingfisher
  • Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Oriental Stork
  • And the highlight, due to their rarity: Black Faced Spoonbill

That’s 22, by my count.

An excellent trip. Highly recommended.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN254: Leaping Labradors

Sent as an email newsletter March 14, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 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: “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS,” by Beeple. (More on this below…)

🗞 My latest in The WSJ:

My newest story, out Wednesday with my colleague Drew FitzGerald:

Facebook Drops Plan to Run Fiber Cable to Hong Kong Amid U.S. Pressure. The story begins:

A Facebook Inc. consortium withdrew its bid to build a new internet conduit between California and Hong Kong after months of pressure from U.S. national-security officials, the latest sign of a deepening rift between the two governments.

Click through for more.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🎨 Art-meets-tech story of the week: Beeple – the digital artist I mentioned a couple weeks ago – sold an NFT of his work for $69 million in an auction at Christie’s. That’s the third highest price tag for any living artist’s work.

2) 💰 …Wait, sold a what? NFT stands for non-fungible token; it’s a kind of digital certificate of authenticity based on a blockchain. For an explanation, check out this episode of Planet Money’s Indicator podcast, and this episode of our Tech News Briefing podcast.

3) 📷 “More than 100 employees at security camera startup Verkada Inc. could peer through the cameras of its thousands of customers, including global corporations, schools and police departments, according to three former employees aware of the company’s security protocols,” Bloomberg News’s William Turton and Ryan Gallagher report.

4) 🇲🇽 Mexico is set to pass a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, which would make it one of the world’s biggest regulated markets for the drug.

5) 🎵 RIP Lou Ottens, the Philips engineer who invented the cassette tape in the early 1960s. He was 94.

6) 🗺 From Singapore to Paris to the U.S. Virgin Islands, this New York Times interactive shows how people in global tourists destinations have been dealing with the pandemic, one year on.

7) 👏 Twenty-five-year-old Truman Cheng, a graduate student here in Hong Kong, successfully proposed a unique new Lego set: Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

8) 🐻 Sentence of the week, in Hollywood Reporter: “Universal is behind Cocaine Bear, which is based on an untitled spec written by Jimmy Warden, inspired by events that took place in Kentucky in 1985.”

9) 🗣 An excellent resource, with tons of links to new services and apps: “How to learn a language (and stick at it),” by University of Leeds lecturer John Gallagher.

10) 🎳 This is the coolest drone video shot inside a bowling alley that you will ever see. Here’s the backstory.

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🐶 Dog-related video of the week: A classic from 2014 that is worth revisiting. “Run Walter, RUN!!”

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💡 Quote of the week:

“There is no better teacher than history in determining the future…There are answers worth billions of dollars in a $30 history book.” – Charles T. Munger

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Facebook Drops Plan to Run Fiber Cable to Hong Kong Amid U.S. Pressure

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Drew FitzGerald, out Wednesday. It begins:

A Facebook Inc. consortium withdrew its bid to build a new internet conduit between California and Hong Kong after months of pressure from U.S. national-security officials, the latest sign of a deepening rift between the two governments.

The social-media giant told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in a filing it would withdraw its application to land the Hong Kong-Americas project, known by its abbreviation HKA, pending a new request for “a possibly-reconfigured submarine cable system.”

Facebook and several telecommunications-industry partners first filed for permission to build the fiber-optic cable in 2018. It would have connected two sites in California with branches to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN253: Snack-Savvy Shepherds

Sent as an email newsletter March 7, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 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: a recent weekend watercolor. As my dad always says: “Just let go and paint!”

My latest in The WSJ:

👉 I had an exclusive, out Friday, with my colleague Jeff Horwitz.

The headline: India Threatens Jail for Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Employees.

The story begins:

“India’s government has threatened to jail employees of Facebook Inc., its WhatsApp unit and Twitter Inc. as it seeks to quash political protests and gain far-reaching powers over discourse on foreign-owned tech platforms, people familiar with the warnings say.”

Click through to read the rest.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🔍 “Google plans to stop selling ads based on individuals’ browsing across multiple websites,” my colleagues Sam Schechner and Keach Hagey, reported, “a change that could hasten upheaval in the digital advertising industry.”

2) 🚀 Nasa’s Perseverance rover has been sending back some incredible images from Mars.

3) 🍎 In Covid-hit New York, residents are showing their pride in the city, helping out the local economy, and making a fashion statement by purchasing merchandise from local businesses. Here’s a gallery.

4) 🎬 Golden Globes roundup: “Nomadland” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won for best drama and best comedy, respectively. “The Crown” was a big winner of TV prizes.

5) ✉️ Tech-related longread of the week, from Cal Newport (whose books “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism” I recommend) in The New Yorker: “E-mail Is Making Us Miserable.” (Note: But not Newley’s Notes, right?!)

6) 💻 Zoom meetings wearing you out? Stanford researchers explain four reasons for the fatigue, and offer four ways to beat it.

7) 🤖 “The future is already here,” William Gibson once wrote. “It’s just not evenly distributed.” Case in point: Some U.S. states are passing laws that allow robots to be legal “pedestrians” on sidewalks.

8) File under: life in 2021. The $24.99 Fisher-Price My Home Office set comes with “a pretend laptop, 4 fabric apps to attach to the computer screen, a wood smartphone and headset for all those important business calls, and a to-go cup for kids to sip their favorite beverage.”

9) 🌏 Pretty cool: Disney’s newest animated film, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” just out, features Disney’s “first Southeast Asian heroine.” (Watch the trailer here.)

10) 🐀 Capybara-related video of the week: “When you try to eat the chillest animal on earth.” Best comment: “He’s so chill because he knows he’s too chunky to get eaten by that bird.”

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🐶 Dog-related video of the week: “i know a snack when i hear one.”

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📕 What I’m Reading

Having enjoyed Yuval Noah Harari’s 2014 book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” (my book notes here), I’ve turned to his subsequent book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

India Threatens Jail for Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Employees

That’s the headline on my latest story, an exclusive out Friday with my colleague Jeff Horwitz.

It begins:

India’s government has threatened to jail employees of Facebook Inc., its WhatsApp unit and Twitter Inc. as it seeks to quash political protests and gain far-reaching powers over discourse on foreign-owned tech platforms, people familiar with the warnings say.

The warnings are in direct response to the tech companies’ reluctance to comply with data and takedown requests from the government related to protests by Indian farmers that have made international headlines, the people say. At least some of the written warnings cite specific, India-based employees at risk of arrest if the companies don’t comply, according to some of the people.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Talking India on our Tech News Briefing Podcast

I joined host Amanda Lewellyn on the Monday edition of our Tech News Briefing podcast to talk about my recent story about U.S. tech giants facing new rules in India.

Click through to listen online and or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more, or just look for the show wherever you get your to podcasts.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN252: Goldens and Grannies

Sent as an email newsletter February 28, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 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.

📉 Chart of the week, above: It seems hard to believe, but coronavirus infections in the U.S. are plummeting.

Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, writes in The WSJ that the decline is down to 1) increasing numbers of people having built up natural immunity because they were infected earlier, and 2) vaccines becoming widespread.

⭐ “At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life,” Makary writes.

I hope he’s right.

💉 Meanwhile, the latest vaccine stats: about half of people in the U.S. who are over the age of 65 have gotten a vaccine, and almost 20% of the population overall has gotten a first dose.

My latest in The WSJ:

✍️ I had two stories out this week, both about tech in India.

🐦 The first is an analytical look at Twitter’s new challenges in India, where the San Francisco firm faced a standoff with New Delhi over Twitter accounts posting material critical of the government. India is Twitter’s fastest growing market, according to analysts, and yet it’s never had so stiff a test there.

🇮🇳 The second story is about sweeping new rules the government is imposing on the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Netflix. The goal, authorities say: to make these U.S. tech titans accountable for problematic content in India.

👉 The big picture: the trend is clear. India continues to try to increase its control of Big Tech, a phenomenon I wrote about in a page one story in December 2019, when it was first emerging.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🇺🇸 For all of the potential good news about falling rates of infection – see above – the U.S. passed a sad milestone during a pandemic full of sad milestones: More than 500,000 people in America have now died from the coronavirus. Globally, more than 2.5 million have perished. Reuters has a graphic illustrating the scale of the death toll.

2) ✈️ Boeing told some carriers to ground its wide-body 777 jets after an engine in a United flight from Denver to Honolulu failed after takeoff. The plane returned to Denver, with no injuries. Check out a video of the ailing engine shot by a passenger.

3) 🇸🇦 An unclassified report from the U.S.’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence says Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

4) 🇭🇰 The stark headline on an important story by my colleague Wenxin Fan: China’s Campaign to Crush Democracy in Hong Kong Is Working.

5) 📖 RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “a poet, publisher and political iconoclast who inspired and nurtured generations of San Francisco artists and writers from City Lights, his famed bookstore.” He was 101.

6) 📷 File under: Everything old is new again. An up and coming photography app called Dispo replicates the experience of…a disposable camera. There’s a viewfinder and no editing; images “develop” and appear the next day.

7) 🎨 Art-meets-tech story of the week: Digital artist Mike Winkelmann – a father of two in Charleston, S.C. who goes by the name Beeple – makes millions auctioning his otherworldly creations online, Mickey Rapkin reports in Esquire. See Beeple’s work here.

8) 🎥 New-to-me tool of the week: JustWatch, a search engine for content across a multitude of streaming platforms. Want to know where to find a particular show or flick you’ve heard about? Check out JustWatch’s website or app. (Via Jordan Calhoun on a recent episode of the excellent Cool Tools podcast.)

9) 🦇 Heartwarming story of the week: Statler is a 33-year-old fruit bat who cuddles his human minders. (Thanks, Caitlin C.!)

10) 💅 Canine fashionistas (or, more accurately, their owners, who dress them up in adorable duds) are taking over Instagram – and powering pet clothing sales, the FT’s Kate Finnigan reports. Case in point: Tika the Iggy.

•••

🐶 Dog-related video of the week: “5 months old puppy makes his 100 years old granny very happy.”

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’ve just finished Martin Gurri’s “The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium.” If you’re interested in the media studies, government, science, sociology, or just the world at large, it’s worth a read.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Face New Rules in India

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Thursday. It begins:

India is establishing new rules to govern internet firms like Facebook Inc., WhatsApp and Twitter Inc., a fresh challenge for the American giants in a huge market that is key to their global expansion.

The new guidelines, unveiled Thursday, say that in order to counter the rise of problematic content online like false news and violent material, intermediaries must establish “grievance redressal mechanisms” to resolve user complaints about postings and share with the government the names and contact details for “grievance officers” at the firms. These officers must acknowledge complaints within a day and resolve them within 15.

Social media firms must take down material involving explicit sexual content within 24 hours of being flagged. Firms must also appoint officers and contact people—who live in India—to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and address complaints. Some firms must also help identify the “first originator” of some messages, the rules say.

“We appreciate the proliferation of social media in India,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s minister of electronics and information technology, said Thursday. “We want them to be more responsible and more accountable,” he said.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Twitter’s High Hopes for India Waver Under Government’s Heavy Hand

2021 02 24twitter india

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

As Twitter Inc. looks overseas for growth, India stands out as its fastest-growing major market, one filled with opportunity—and increasingly thorny political challenges.

The San Francisco company in recent weeks blocked, unblocked and then blocked again hundreds of accounts in the South Asian nation for posting material New Delhi called inflammatory amid long-running protests by farmers. Twitter’s moves came after the government threatened the company with legal action, which could have resulted in a fine or imprisonment for Twitter executives, if it didn’t remove the handles.

Twitter finds itself in an awkward position, analysts say, as it publicly stands by its commitment to allow individuals to express opinions while also abiding by New Delhi’s increasing assertiveness over social media. Twitter’s balancing act highlights a growing conundrum for social-media companies as they run up against governments in key markets where they seek growth as developed countries become saturated.

“The problem they face is striking the right balance between ideology and being pragmatic,” said Ashutosh Sharma, a New Delhi-based vice president at research firm Forrester. “Should they be taking sides? They have to be consistent.”

Click through to read the rest.