News·5 min read

Daily Skimm Weekend: TikTok and Ways to Breathe

TikTok on a phone screen
March 19, 2023

The Story

Time could be TikTok’ing in the US for the popular app.

Go on. 

On Thursday, TikTok's CEO, Shou Zi Chew, will make his first appearance before Congress. He’s expected to testify about the app’s consumer privacy and data security practices, its impact on kids, and its ties to the Chinese government. It comes as the Justice Dept has launched an investigation into whether TikTok spied on American citizens, especially journalists. And as concerns grow that the company could share user data with the Chinese gov, or that it could be ordered to push propaganda or misinformation.

Tell me more.

Reminder: TikTok is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, which is subject to Chinese laws — including one that allows the government to force a company to hand over data. That's partly why at least 25 states and all federal agencies have already banned the app from government-issued devices. And why other countries around the world — most recently, the UK and New Zealand — have put similar bans in place. While TikTok is no stranger to controversy, the buzz has reached a new pitch, with the Biden admin talking about a nationwide ban, unless TikTok’s parent company agrees to sell its shares.

How did we get here? 

The drama surrounding TikTok goes back to the Trump administration — when Trump said he wanted to ban the platform completely. When he tried, it was blocked by a federal judge. Since then, the app has been negotiating with a US panel on a possible deal that could address privacy and data security concerns. And it said it’d transfer its US user data to Oracle servers. In the meantime, tensions between the US and China (think: spy balloons) have heightened. Closer to home, lawmakers are worried about TikTok being dangerous for kids — so much so that TikTok is one of the few issues that has Congress reaching across the aisle. Earlier this month, a bipartisan group intro’d a bill that’d give the president’s admin powers to restrict or even ban tech originating from China, and five other countries, if there’s a threat to US national security. 

What would that even look like?

Experts say a ban isn’t likely — but, if it were, that could mean that ByteDance would become illegal to do business with in the US. So, American companies like Apple and Google would be blocked from hosting TikTok in their app stores. Over time, TikTok on people’s devices would become slower and harder to use, since there’d be no app updates allowed. But experts say that a ban may once again run up against legal hurdles


For the approximately 1 in 3 Americans who use TikTok: No one's banning the app from your personal phone yet. But this week’s testimony from the viral app’s CEO is an important moment in the debate over what to do about security issues. TBD what Congress — and President Biden — will decide to do about it.

What's Happening

📰 In news...

Just after the International Criminal Court issued an (unenforceable) arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, the Russian President made a surprise visit to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Back in the US, earlier last week, President Biden signed another executive order aimed at strengthening gun laws. Also on Biden’s agenda: He’s expected to make a monumental announcement this week about Avi Kwa Ame, a sacred Indigenous site in Nevada. Meanwhile, in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon (R) signed a bill prohibiting abortion pills — though it won’t take effect until July.

💵 In business...

In the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, banks are still reeling (see: Credit SuisseFirst Republic). That’s got even more eyes on the Fed’s next interest rate decision, which is coming on Wednesday. In a win for organized labor, Michigan is set to become one of the first states to overturn its right-to-work laws — meaning, employees can’t opt out of union membership and paying dues. Surprise, surprise, all things AI are still making headlines: Microsoft and Google are racing to build it into current products, GPT-4 has entered the chat, and you can meet the man or woman of your dreams for just under $70 a year.

🔭 In science...

According to new research, our heartbeat may play a role in our sense of time, while good sleep may be the boost you need before your next booster. Some morning after pills are getting a new look. Speaking of makeovers, NASA unveiled a new wardrobe for those traveling to infinity and beyond. And the Webb Space telescope captured yet another out-of-this world sight. Plus, in all things under the sea: A 5,000-mile-long seaweed blob is threatening beaches in Florida and Mexico. And the sunflower sea star, which is on the brink of extinction, may get o-fish-ial protection thanks to the Endangered Species Act.


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Sunday Scaries, Who?

Here's one tip for a better start to your week.

When was the last time you really thought about your breathing? Aside from a few minutes at the beginning and end of yoga class — if that's even your thing — it’s probably been a while. Yet, studies have shown that breathwork (aka, controlling your breathing through easy exercises) can improve your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost your overall well-being. Which, let’s be honest, is something we could all use on a Sunday evening. Even better: There's no special equipment required and it doesn’t have to take long — so you can do it anytime, anywhere. Here are a few techniques to help you to inhale the good and, well, you know the rest.

  • Box breathing. Used by Navy SEALS, this practice helps you keep calm and improves cognitive focus. Just like the four sides of a box, this type of breathing has four steps: You breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for four, exhale for four, then pause for four. 

  • Cyclic Sighing. No, not what happens when a meeting is running too long. Instead, it’s when you slowly inhale through your nose, inhale again, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. According to one study, people were in a much better mood after using this technique — even more so than after mindfulness meditation.

  • Alternate nostril breathing. Borrowed from yoga, this breathing exercise can boost focus. To try it, close your right nostril and breathe in through your left side for four counts. Then, close your left nostril and breathe out from your right side for four more counts. 

  • The 4-4-8 or 4-7-8 methods. If you’re feeling anxious, try the 4-4-8. So, inhale for four counts, hold for four, then breathe out for eight. If you can't sleep, think 4-7-8: breathe in for four, hold your breath for seven, and exhale for eight.

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