2019年11月12日 星期二

Your Wednesday Briefing

Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019 | View in browser
Good morning.
We’re covering the human cost of SoftBank’s growth, a third day of school closings in Hong Kong amid unrest and what it would feel like to touch the moon.
By Melina Delkic
Protests against the SoftBank-funded companies Uber and Ola outside of Uber's Mumbai office last year.  Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

SoftBank’s big money hits hard downstream

Through its $100 billion Vision Fund, the Japanese tech giant SoftBank has poured cash into fledgling companies that dangled incentives and other payments to attract armies of contractors to deliver services.
But when the start-ups stumbled, they often slashed or reneged on the incentives. Many contractors have been financially and personally devastated.
In essence, the Vision Fund’s formidable torrent of cash is creating a distinctly modern version of the bait-and-switch.
How we know: The Times reviewed contracts and internal company documents, and interviewed dozens of workers with SoftBank-funded start-ups like Oyo and the delivery firm Rappi in places like Chicago, New Delhi, Beijing and Bogotá, Colombia.
Track record: In China alone, three companies backed by SoftBank — the logistics firm Manbang, the ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing and the food delivery company Ele.me — faced 32 strikes last year.
In June, more than 70 Indian hoteliers marched to the hotel chain Oyo’s local headquarters before a two-day strike. The unrest spread to Bangalore, New Delhi and other cities.
SoftBank’s response: Jeff Housenbold, a managing partner at the fund, said, “This is an important, complex issue that predates the Vision Fund and affects many companies we haven’t backed in equal measure.”
Protesters clashing with riot police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday.   Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

A fiery standoff in Hong Kong

Schools are closed again today for a third day, after furious protesters besieged the streets in the wake of a police shooting and the first protest-related death in the territory.
Roads are still blocked and more confrontations are expected. We collected photos of the unrest.
In what a senior official referred to as “the brink of total breakdown,” protesters on Tuesday threw gasoline bombs at police lines and set fires under a barrage of tear gas canisters. University campuses were damaged.
Commentary from China: People’s Daily, an official government newspaper in mainland China, said: “Only by supporting the police force to decisively put down the riots can a peaceful environment be restored and fair elections be held, and help Hong Kong start again.”
U.S. response: A spokeswoman for the State Department said the U.S. condemned “violence on all sides” in Hong Kong, urged its government to address protesters’ concerns, and reminded the territory’s officials that the U.S. could revoke its special trade status.
What to watch for: Local elections are planned for Nov. 24. Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, promised they would be held in a “fair, just, safe, orderly” manner.
Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican who is a staunch defender of President Trump, speaking to media on Capitol Hill this month.  T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

U.S. impeachment hearings to begin

Republicans are planning an aggressive defense as the first day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump gets underway in Washington’s morning.
Administration officials are expected to detail how Mr. Trump and his allies leaned on Ukraine to announce it was investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. Republicans’ defense strategy boils down to a simple formulation: The president did it, but his reasons were innocent.
The Republicans plan to argue that Democrats’ impeachment efforts are based on a group of government insiders who disagree with the president.
What to expect: Democrats believe that two senior diplomats, William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a State Department official, will tell a compelling story of the president’s attempts to inject his domestic political interests into U.S. foreign policy on Ukraine.
If you’re following closely: We have an interactive with the impeachment investigation’s main players and a list of the evidence so far. And you can sign up for our Impeachment Briefing newsletter to get the latest in your inbox.

If you have 15 minutes, this is worth it

How Russia meddles for profit

Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times
Last year, Moscow worked to sway elections in Madagascar, an island nation off Africa’s southeastern coast. A Times investigation found that the operation was approved by President Vladimir Putin and was coordinated by some of the same figures who oversaw the disinformation campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. election.
But rather than trying to upend Western democracy and rattle Mr. Putin’s geopolitical rivals, the undertaking in Madagascar seemed to have a simpler objective: profit.
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Here’s what else is happening

U.S.-China trade: President Trump renewed economic threats against China, saying that if Beijing didn’t accede to his terms, the U.S. would raise tariffs. He gave little indication that a breakthrough was coming in the talks.
The Philippines: Six soldiers were killed and 23 wounded, the military said, when a platoon checking on reports of an infiltration by communist rebels stepped on improvised bombs.
Bangladesh: Two trains collided in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, killing at least 16 people and injuring dozens more, officials said.
China school attack: A man sprayed a corrosive chemical inside a kindergarten, injuring 51 students and three teachers in southwest China, according to state media.
Bolivia: Evo Morales, the former president who resigned under pressure, flew to Mexico, where he has been granted refuge. He vowed to return to Bolivia “with force.”
Nissan: The Japanese automaker reported that its net income fell 54.8 percent in the last quarter, to 59 billion yen, from the same time last year. Its revenue fell by 6.6 percent in the same period. It’s only the latest bad news for the struggling company, and the situation is expected to get worse.
Jimmy Carter: The former U.S. president, 95, is recovering after a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding from recent falls. There were no complications, according to his nonprofit.
Sebastian Modak/The New York Times
Snapshot: Above, the Setouchi Islands in Japan, where our 52 Places traveler visited a triennial art extravaganza that is revitalizing fading communities.
Germany: Tampons, pads and other menstrual products will no longer be taxed at the country’s 19-percent rate for luxury items, instead joining bread, books and paintings on a list of items considered to be essentials.
The moon: Ever wondered what it would feel like to touch it? Hot to the point of discomfort, maybe sharp, and you’d be exposed to a vacuum. But you would survive.
What we’re reading: This Twitter thread, following up on the uproar after editors at the campus newspaper at Northwestern University apologized for how they covered protests of a speech by Jeff Sessions. “A reporter shared raw memories of his own early, tough calls,” writes Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor. “A powerful reminder of what journalists do, and why.”

Now, a break from the news

Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Amy Elise Wilson.
Cook: Lisbon chocolate cake is topped with whipped chocolate ganache and clouds of cocoa for three layers of texture and flavor.
Watch: Hollywood never really knew what to do with Joe Pesci, so it put him in broad comedies. But “The Irishman” shows what we’ve been missing.
Listen: Ludwig Goransson, a 35-year-old Swede, has worked closely with Ryan Coogler and Donald Glover. Up next: the score for the “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian.”
Smarter Living: Disney Plus launched in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, and is coming to Australia and New Zealand next week. Here are our editors’ picks for the 50 best things to watch.

And now for the Back Story on …

How our SoftBank story came together

I’m Nathaniel Popper, the lead reporter on today’s lead story about the way one giant tech investor has disrupted lives around the world.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund has $100 billion to spend, dwarfing any venture capital fund before it. When I started digging in, I saw that many of its biggest investments were in companies that borrowed the Uber business model, hiring armies of contractors to provide cheap services to consumers. And most were outside the U.S.
This is where I was able to harness The Times’s incredible network of reporters. I enlisted colleagues in China, India and South America to go out and talk to these companies’ workers.
The company's chief executive, Masayoshi Son, in Tokyo in 2017.  Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press
We kept hearing the same complaints over and over, about falling wages and a sense of having been misled. And that ended up being confirmed by a bunch of data we were able to dig up — and by lots of local protests against the companies.
It ended up taking us about five months to do all our interviews and put the pieces together, creating a new picture of how the evolution of tech investing touches the lives of millions of ordinary people across many different countries.
I think reporting like this has never been more crucial, and it takes a news organization willing to devote time and resources to answer the big questions. If you want to help us, please subscribe to The Times, starting at $1 a week.
That’s it for this briefing. We hope you reach for the moon today.
See you next time.
— Melina
Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about how the U.S. government eroded its own legal case on ending protections for young undocumented immigrants.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Egg-beating utensil (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The latest addition to The Times Beijing bureau is Vivian Wang, an intrepid Metro reporter.
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