ByteDance with Death

TikTok's Tick Tock, Calorie Restriction

I had great expectations heading into this morning’s school commute with my kids. “President Joe Biden signed a foreign aid package that includes a bill that would ban TikTok if China-based parent company ByteDance fails to divest the app within a year.” We finally had a topic in common to talk about. Sadly, when I tried to get their takes, they were both distracted … by TikTok. Friends in high government places have been warning me about TikTok for years. But I still have mixed feelings about banning an app, even one owned by foreign rival—even when such a ban could open the slim chance my kids would engage with me again. TikTok surely presents a threat, though it’s worth noting that threats are probably also posed by other China-owned brands that permeate American society, including the drones in our skies, the cars on our roads, the GE appliances in our kitchens, and the food on our tables. Yes, when it comes to TikTok, there is a particular threat to our personal data and the way social media can be tweaked to manipulate our politics. Yet, those are the same threats we’ve been fighting when it comes to Facebook and the modern iteration of Twitter. And of course, it’s TikTok’s competition that would benefit most from a ban. Though, I’m sure that hasn’t occurred to any of their lobbyists who pushed for this legislation in the name of national security.

+ “Former president Donald Trump is perhaps not the most credible critic of a potential TikTok ban, given that he tried to ban the app himself while in office before coming out against the bill that President Biden signed into law today. But amid a barrage of conspiratorial nonsense, unproven claims and insults as he criticizes the measure, Trump has hit on a kernel of truth: The most immediate winner from a ban would most likely be Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta.” WaPo (Gift Article): Congress’ first tech crackdown in years is a gift to Big Tech.

+ FastCo: What the U.S. could learn from India’s TikTok ban. “At the time, India had about 200 million TikTok users, the most outside of China. And the company also employed thousands of Indians. TikTok users and content creators, however, needed a place to go — and the ban provided a multi-billion dollar opportunity to snatch up a big market. Within months, Google rolled out YouTube Shorts and Instagram pushed out its Reels feature. Both mimicked the short-form video creation that TikTok had excelled at. ‘And they ended up capturing most of the market that TikTok had vacated.'”

+ “The strategy employed by the lawmakers in recent weeks caught TikTok flat-footed. And while the app is unlikely to disappear from Americans’ phones as next steps are worked out, the measure stands out as the first time a U.S. president has signed a bill that could result in a wide ban of a foreign app.” NYT (Gift Article): ‘Thunder Run’: Behind Lawmakers’ Secretive Push to Pass the TikTok Bill.


Auto (Private) Parts

When it comes to safety of our personal data, it’s clear that borders and nationalities matter less than dollar signs. Kashmir Hill (who reports extensively on this topic) in the NYT (Gift Article): How G.M. Tricked Millions of Drivers Into Being Spied On (Including Me). “At no point had these drivers been explicitly informed that this would happen, not even in the fine print, they said. New reporting reveals the cause: a misleading screen that these people would have briefly seen when they bought their cars — if their salesperson showed it to them.”


Mixed Emotions

“As with the decline, we might grasp for explanations for this rise. One possibility is collective suffering. Since the empathic lows of 2009, we have faced the Great Recession and a once-a-century pandemic. For all their horrors, hard times can bring people together. In her beautiful book, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit chronicles disasters including San Francisco’s 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11. In the wake of these catastrophes, kindness ticked up, strangers stepping over lines of race and class to help one another. More recently, researchers chronicled a ‘pandemic of kindness,’ as donations to charity and volunteering increased in the face of COVID-19. Still, history is not a science experiment, and it’s impossible to know exactly why American empathy has risen, just like we can’t isolate with certainty why it fell. But we might ask another question: Will people react to this good news as strongly as they did to the bad news that preceded it?” Vox: Compassion is making a comeback in America. ” In 2011, a landmark study led by researcher Sara Konrath examined the trends in those surveys. The analysis revealed that American empathy had plummeted: The average US college student in 2009 reported feeling less empathic than 75 percent of students three decades earlier … A few months ago, she and her colleagues published an update to their work: They found that empathy among young Americans is rebounding, reaching levels indistinguishable from the highs of the 1970s.” (I’m not sure I feel more compassion than I did in the 70s, but I can empathize with people that do.)


Less is More

“If you put a lab mouse on a diet, cutting the animal’s caloric intake by 30 to 40 percent, it will live, on average, about 30 percent longer. The calorie restriction, as the intervention is technically called, can’t be so extreme that the animal is malnourished, but it should be aggressive enough to trigger some key biological changes.” This leads to a big question from the NYT (Gift Article): Could Eating Less Help You Live Longer? (Since it’s Passover, I can’t eat bread and quality carbs, so I’m doing a one week test to see if eating less helps me live longer. Maybe it will give me a few extra days, but they aren’t good days!)

+ The fact that I am abstaining from such foods makes me notice related stories more. Hence, I’ll share that tortilla sales are going through the roof.


Extra, Extra

Dracone Heads: “The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared divided as it grappled with whether provisions of Idaho’s near-total abortion ban unlawfully conflict with a federal law aimed at ensuring certain standards for emergency medical care for patients, including pregnant women.” Supreme Court wrestles with abortion clash over emergency room treatment for pregnant women. This is some extreme stuff. It’s unlikely this SCOTUS will make things less extreme. This could be a November to remember. AP: Highlights from Supreme Court oral arguments on Idaho abortion case.

+ Mike Drop-in: You may think the college students protesting on campuses are right to speak out against Israel’s tactics in Gaza. You may think it’s unreasonable to protest against the one society in the region where one is allowed to protest. You may think that the protests have morphed into antisemitism or you may point out that there are many Jews among the protesters. You may even send me wildly antisemitic rants unrelated to anything I’ve written (yup, that happens, too). But in an effort to find common ground, can we at least all agree that the only thing that could make matters worse is members of Congress looking to exploit the protest movement or its response for their own self-interest? Speaker Johnson says he will call on Columbia president to resign.

+ That’s the Ticket: “Good news for airline travelers: the Department of Transportation on Wednesday Reggie Bush gets Heisman Trophy back 14 years after forfeiting.

+ Don’t Haze Me Bro: A dramatic orange haze has descended over Athens as clouds of dust have blown in from the Sahara desert. (An orange haze has also descended over downtown NYC this week, but the issue is more localized.)

+ Grift Rift: Trump Media CEO Devin Nunes calls on GOP lawmakers for help in Wall Street fight. Wait, a corrupt former politician running a public grift is looking for GOP lawmakers to enable his efforts? That could never happen!

+ Will, I am? We can celebrate the fact that Congress finally passed funding to support our allies, including Ukraine. We can’t ignore the large block of members who opposed it. George Will in WaPo: “Stoking the passion that is their excuse for pandering — the nihilism of a febrile minority in their party — a majority of House Republicans voted last Saturday to endanger civilization. Hoping to enhance their political security in their mostly safe seats, and for the infantile satisfaction of populist naughtiness (insulting a mostly fictitious ‘establishment’), they voted to assure Vladimir Putin’s attempt to erase a European nation.” (I don’t agree with George Will on much, except baseball and this.)

+ The Coast with the Most: What happens after your country runs on 99 percent renewable electricity? Let’s ask Costa Rica.

+ Wild Horses: “Five military horses — including one seemingly covered in blood — got loose in central London early Wednesday, galloping through rush hour crowds, smashing into vehicles and injuring several people before being recaptured.” Here’s more from BBC.


Bottom of the News

“For weeks now, motorists have puzzled over a billboard advertising a senior citizen’s desire to find love in—and relocate to—tiny Sweetwater, Texas. Is it a sincere bid for companionship or an elaborate hoax?” A Lonely Man, a Bizarre Billboard, and a Quest for Everlasting Love. Wait, a lonely man, a bizarre billboard, and a quest for everlasting love? That reminds me of something

+ America isn’t the only place looking to ban something popular. Milan Is Trying to Ban Late-Night Pizza and Ice Cream Sales. Why? Too many tourists bugging everyone. Many of the locals don’t like this solution.

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