November 16, 2018

Google, Thousand Oaks, China: Your Friday Briefing

Google, Thousand Oaks, China: Your Friday Briefing


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Good morning. An eerily familiar shooting in the U.S., increasingly testy waters in the South China Sea, the origins of the “Mandarin” duck. Here’s what you need to know:

A fatal shooting in California.

A gunman shot and killed at least 12 people and wounded others at a country and western music bar in Thousand Oaks, a city west of Los Angeles. Above, the scene near the bar.

The suspect apparently killed himself as well.

He was identified as a 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran, Ian David Long, who had served in Afghanistan. He’d had several brushes with law enforcement over the last few years, but health specialists had determined he was not a danger to himself or others.

Eerily, some survivors at the bar described having been at the country music festival in Las Vegas last year where a gunman killed 58 people.

• ‘A game of chicken’ in the South China Sea.

American naval commanders see the possibility of a perilous new phase in confrontations with China in the disputed waterway.

Case in point: a near collision in September. A Chinese warship came within 45 yards of an American vessel, above, the closest call yet, after the U.S. ship came within 12 nautical miles of a reef that China has enlarged and fortified with weaponry.

For a few tense minutes, an international crisis between two nuclear powers seemed imminent.

“It’s only a matter of time before a clash occurs,” said an expert on the waterway.

→ In the U.S., lawmakers from both parties have urged President Trump to salvage a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia that he has vowed to abandon.

Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy.

The technology giant said it would end forced arbitration for sexual harassment or assault claims, days after more than 20,000 of its employees around the world walked out in protest of how the company handles cases of sexual misconduct.

“I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making the changes we need to improve,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, wrote in an email to employees. Earlier, Mr. Pichai discussed the challenges of steering the company through its most turbulent period with our Corner Office columnist.

The walkouts, pictured above, were prompted by a Times investigation that revealed the company had given an executive a $90 million exit package despite credible sexual harassment accusations.

The unified action underscores how, with few laws to regulate Silicon Valley, employees have taken it on themselves to change how the companies operate in the world.

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• Self-censorship in Hong Kong?

A string of developments is adding to concerns about the erosion of the territory’s prized freedoms.

On Thursday, the cultural venue pictured above abruptly cancelled two events set for Sunday in the annual International Literary Festival, both featuring the exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian.

His books have been banned in China for decades, and he recently revealed that publishers in Hong Kong had rejected his new novel, “China Dream,” which has been described as a “satire of totalitarianism.”

“The first time that’s happened to one of my books,” the author said on Twitter.

Also on Thursday, The Financial Times reported that Victor Mallet, the senior editor expelled after hosting a talk with a pro-independence Hong Kong activist, had been denied tourist entry after being questioned for hours by immigration officers.

And last week, a political cartoonist whose works satirize leaders of China and Hong Kong cancelled his solo exhibition in the city after receiving threats from Chinese authorities.

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• Tesla named Robyn Denholm, the chief financial officer at Australian telecommunications giant Telstra, to replace Elon Musk as chair. She has been on Tesla’s board since 2014.

• Hundreds of booksellers around the world scored a rare win. Their strike against Amazon subsidiary AbeBooks for its decision to stop selling in South Korea, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia forced the platform to reverse course.

• Review: Facebook’s Portal devices are well designed but still a little creepy, our technology columnists write.

• We’re launching a Sunday newsletter, “With Interest,” to bring you essential business insights to prep you for the week ahead. Sign up here.

• U.S. stocks were mixed. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

• Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court, above, was hospitalized for three broken ribs after falling in her office, days before the court is scheduled to reconvene. [The New York Times]

• Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, was barred from the White House after a testy encounter with the president during a news conference, videos of which appear to have been doctored. [The New York Times]

• Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who was acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years in prison, was freed but remains under government protection because of threats to her life. [The New York Times]

• A Japanese medical university that had previously acknowledged systematic discrimination against female applicants announced it would accept dozens of women who had been unfairly rejected. [ABC]

• Vintage: Archaeologists discovered a bronze pot in China that they think contains several liters of 2,000-year-old wine. [The South China Morning Post]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• Beijing’s Yonghegong Street, pictured above, is a historic tree-lined road that cuts between two of the capital’s landmarks, the Confucius and Lama Temples. It’s also the latest focus of the government’s much criticized preservation campaign, in which workers sweep in with crowbars and jackhammers to attack colorful, modern urban chaos.

• Andy Warhol is getting his first comprehensive American retrospective in more than three decades. At the Whitney Museum in New York, some 350 works explore the Pop artist’s personal hopes, fears and faith, sides of him that were often lost in his ubiquity.

• A cave in Borneo holds the oldest known piece of figurative art: a drawing of a spindly-legged animal dating back more than 40,000 years.

Recently, a visitor has been seen paddling around in a lake in New York’s Central Park: a brightly colored little duck.

The duck, above, a native to East Asia that quickly became a star on social media, is a yuānyang (鸳鸯) in China. In English, it’s a Mandarin duck. Why?

The fowl’s vibrant plumage recalls the dress of government bureaucrats centuries ago, called Mandarins in the West. The same connection applied to the dialect those officials used. Even mandarin oranges got the linguistic overlay.

But Mandarin is not a Chinese word. Its etymology is disputed.

Some say that during the Qing dynasty, visiting Westerners heard people calling government officials of the ruling class “mǎn dàrén” (满大人): Manchu “big man” or “boss.”

Others say that the term comes from “menteri,” the Malay for “court councilor” or “minister,” and that the 16th-century Portuguese who used Malaysia as a steppingstone into China wrote it as “Mandarin.”

The little duck in Central Park has been solo, but in China, its cousins are believed to be lifelong couples. There is a saying: A pair of Mandarin ducks is more enviable than an immortal.

Amy Chang Chien wrote today’s back story. It was first published in our new Chinese-language Morning Briefing. (Sign-up for that here.)

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