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A big cat mystery: The Dallas Zoo went into lockdown on Friday after Nova, a female clouded leopard, went missing. She was found safe and sound, but investigators suspect her fence was “intentionally cut.”

In today’s email:

  • TikTok: An algorithm proposal.
  • Chart: Tesla’s big price cuts.
  • Digits: T-Swift, the IRS, and more news numbers.
  • Around the web: Vertical monitors, motivated employees, a squirrel BFF, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear about Tesla’s price cuts, TikTok’s ban plan, Apple’s touch-screen MacBook, an AI art lawsuit, and more.

The big idea
TikTok logo

TikTok’s new plan to avoid getting banned in the US

The TikTok algorithm is so good that it can basically read your mind. It figures out your preferences — be they ‘90s nostalgia, astrology, or skin care — and recommends video after video to keep its 1B+ users transfixed by its infinite feed.

Now, to maintain ownership of its US operations, TikTok will consider allowing third-party monitors to review its vaunted algorithm, according to The Wall Street Journal

US regulators are skeptical of TikTok for two main reasons

  1. Surveillance: China, which can request data from any Chinese company, including TikTok parent ByteDance, could use the app to spy on American users, who share personal data with TikTok.
  2. The algorithm: Officials believe it could be tweaked to manipulate users.

US Rep. Mike Gallagher told the WSJ he fears Chinese officials could hide videos criticizing the country’s regime or highlight propaganda. About 33% of TikTok users get news from the app.

In 2020, US TikTok executives discovered employees in China had rejiggered the algorithm to downplay certain videos about the US election.

To soothe these concerns…

TikTok is now sending all data from US users to business partner Oracle. The potential next step is letting Oracle and other third parties review TikTok’s algorithm.

  • The monitors would check for any manipulations to the algorithm.
  • Concerns would be brought to TikTok leadership and potentially the US government.

TikTok wants to move quickly, but the process ahead may be arduous. Skepticism of TikTok runs deep among US politicians, and the Chinese government would likely need to approve any deal regarding the algorithm.

Meanwhile: If you’re not convinced about the power of the algorithm, just know that Walmart is now selling the Pink Sauce that kept showing up in your TikTok feed last summer.

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eyeball wearing a hat

The Hollywood “Crypto House,” boasting some interesting wallpaper choices, is on the market for $949k after listing for $1.2m in October. “Makes sense that the crypto house is being sold at a loss,” one astute comment reads.


A group of artists filed a lawsuit against generative AI art platforms Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, arguing they trained their programs on millions of artists’s copyrighted works — worth billions of dollars — without consent.

Icy roads ahead: The EU is reportedly preparing to challenge Microsoft’s $69B Activision Blizzard acquisition in the coming weeks. The FTC sued to block the deal in December.

Clearco, a Canadian startup last valued at $2B that funds ecommerce businesses in exchange for future revenue, saw its CEO resign and plans to cut 30% of its staff (~50 people) following a 125-person layoff last July.

Also in Canada, an accountant was ordered to pay ~$2.7k to her former employer after tracking software determined she wasn’t actually working during 50+ logged hours.

Molson Coors is getting into the growing non-alcoholic cocktail game with a line of zero-proof canned beverages.

Check out this cool study about laser-guided lightning strikes in Switzerland, which found that lasers can help divert potentially dangerous lightning.

Yikes: On average, ~1.6k tech workers have been laid off every day of 2023, totaling 25k+ workers across 91 companies.

Being boss: Running the show sometimes means running out of steam. If you’re feeling the burnout, here’s how to protect your time and energy so you can bounce back.

Tesla price cuts by model
Singdhi Sokpo

What to know about Tesla slashing prices

Last week, Tesla slashed prices on its lineup by up to 20%. The changes mean some models now qualify for an additional $7.5k federal EV tax credit through mid-March.

A Tesla spokesperson attributed the drop to “a partial normalization of cost inflation,” and comes as Tesla faces an increasingly competitive market, a challenging demand environment, and a 65% stock dip in 2022.

Not everyone was happy about the cuts — some Tesla customers felt duped after buying one without knowing a discount would go live soon after. But for prospective customers, a discounted Tesla is exciting news.

How long Tesla’s discounts will last, however, remains to be seen. Lower prices will drive demand, though profit margins will take a hit.

  • Bloomberg’s Kevin Tynan calculated that, assuming 1.8m vehicle sales in 2023, lost revenue for the year “would exceed $11B.”

Big picture: EV’s surpassed 10% of vehicles sold globally in 2022 — ~7.8m cars — up 68% from 2021. Expect Tesla to work hard to maintain market share as the world goes electric.

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Free Resource

An intro to coding in Python

What beautiful code looks like is lost on most of us.

Don’t let that stop you. Though Python launched in the early ‘90s, it’s become a go-to programming language for beginner software developers due to simple syntax and flex functionality.

If you’re interested in learning the powerful language used by data scientists, cloud computing experts, and full-stack engineers — check out our robust Introduction to Python.

Featured in the free ebook (PDF):

  • What is Python?
  • Use cases across industries
  • Methods and functions glossary
  • Coding standards and best practices
  • Overview of advanced Python features
  • Links to convenient educational resources…

… like research publications, frameworks, and a browser-based code editor.

Python crash course →

Digits: Fireball, the IRS, T-Swift, and more news numbers

1) Payment companies pay lots of money for “signature sounds” that play when a purchase is made at a payment terminal. Interestingly, though, the majority of the time, the sound is turned off. Mastercard says its 1.3-second chime is played at 300m touchpoints out of billions in use.

2) Another year, another Taylor Swift record — pun intended. Last year, Swift sold 1.7m vinyl albums, ~4% of the 43.5m vinyl albums sold in the US in 2022. Combined, Harry Styles and The Beatles — the next two top sellers, with 719k and 553k sales, respectively — did not surpass Swift.

3) The IRS is still working through an enormous backlog of tax returns as this year’s tax season nears. The organization had 4.7m unprocessed individual returns and 3.2m business returns as of Dec. 31, 2021. Now it’s down to 400k individual returns and 1m business returns.

4) Sazerac Company, the liquor maker behind the malt-based, Hot Tamales-esque Fireball Cinnamon, is apparently the 15th-largest beer vendor by convenience store sales, bringing in $70m+ in 2022.

5) A new report from global-poverty charity Oxfam found that the world’s wealthiest 1% accumulated 63% of the $42T in new wealth created since 2020, with 99% of the global population amassing $16T of that wealth.

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🏈 On this day: In 1995, the Los Angeles Rams announced a move to St. Louis in exchange for a $260m stadium and a $15m practice facility — but the Rams returned to LA in 2016.

🎧 Podcast: Listen to Truth, Lies, and Workplace Culture for hosts Leanne and Al Elliott’s takes on the workplace and how to find, keep, and motivate great employees.

🖥️ How to: Have you considered a vertical monitor setup? Here are some tips.

🧓🏽 That’s interesting:Geezer Happy Hour” is a live music evening in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the 65+ crowd. Shows run from 6:30pm to 9pm.

🐿️ Aww: And now, a man and his squirrel.

project meme

Relatable. (Link)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “Hasn’t tried Pink Sauce” Dent.

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