We created unCached to uncover the hidden headlines, those stories that are important but not at the forefront of the news cycle. This usually means we purposefully avoid talking about the dominating news of the week in order to focus on those stories.
In this situation, however, we feel a duty to acknowledge the protests across the country and what they stand for: equal opportunity and equal treatment for all. There should be no room in America for the abhorrent police brutality we’ve seen, and we must all do our part to eliminate the institutional racism that still pervades our country today.
Black lives matter.
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Business Zynn: the New TikTok? by Ben Owens, Harvard ’21
Fun App or Pyramid Scheme? Why not both? Zynn looks and feels a lot like TikTok, but unlike TikTok, it currently doesn't have any ads. It's focusing on growing its user base, so it's comfortable losing money in the short term, especially after a $2 billion investment from Tencent late last year. Here's where the app starts to look like a pyramid scheme: you can get $110 for every five friends you refer. The more people you invite, the more you can make. Zynn also pays its users to view content in the app, with a reward system designed to get users addicted. Zynn's banking on this scheme to rapidly scale its user base and reach a point where it can start making boatloads of money from ads. For now though, it's not a bad idea to refer a few friends and cash in on their marketing.
TikTok Concerns: Speaking of TikTok, its status as a Chinese app with questionable privacy commitments and rapidly growing popularity in the United States is causing some concern. House Democrats are now calling on the FTC to investigate TikTok for allegedly violating an agreement that, among other stipulations, required TikTok to delete children’s personal information. The Democrats summed it up well: “given the reasonable concerns that the Chinese government may have access to the data TikTok collects on Americans, it is all the more troubling that the company appears to intentionally be in violation of U.S. data privacy laws.”
The unCached Take: The creators of Zynn have seen how viral TikTok was able to get in the U.S. It’s a lucrative market, and they’re trying their best to capture a share of it while TikTok is not yet fully established. It’ll be interesting to see how Zynn fares and if it’s marketing strategy of essentially paying people to become users will work out for them. Even if they succeed though, as another Chinese social media app, they’ll likely face the same regulatory challenges that TikTok is facing now.
Culture French Pop: Syncopated Beats and Melancholy Messages by the unCached Team
In addition to the pop music currently charting on Billboard, we’ve been listening to some European pop. Here’s a selection of French-language pop acts we think you might enjoy.
Another Belgian artist, Stromae - real name Paul van Haver - has a musicography that has been described as a form of “melancholic...dance pop” that “has channeled...the gray that currently hangs over Europe.” Stromae uses his music to explore complex topics, tackling everything from absent fathers (Papaoutai) to cancer (quand c’est?).
In Alors On Danse, one of his early hits released in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, a dance beat thumps as Stromae croons: “...les problèmes ne viennent pas seuls... / Alors on sort pour oublier tous les problèmes / Alors on danse.” (“Problems never come alone... / so we go out to forget all our problems / so we dance.”)
Want More European Pop? The New York Times has a selection of 15 popular European pop artists.
Finance IRS Failing to Enforce Tax Filings for High-Income Individuals by Charles Simonds, Yale ’22
What’s the IRS Doing? The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, released a report on May 29 exposing the IRS’s failure to follow up with 879,415 high-income individuals who did not file their taxes. While “high-income” is defined as at least $100,000 annual income, nearly 2,000 of the cases highlighted in the report owe the IRS more than $1 million each, and the total revenue loss in 2014-2016 amounts to a staggering $45.7 billion. Filling the tax gap could cost the average American household an additional $3,000 annually.
How Does Something Like This Happen? The IRS is chronically underfunded and understaffed. Since 2010, the IRS has lost a third of its enforcement personnel. While the IRS received additional funding in 2019, bringing wealthier individuals into compliance is a complicated process that requires experienced staff. As a result, most of the cases cited in the report are either ignored or shelved indefinitely.
The unCached Take: The government should allocate more money to the IRS to bring these wealthy non-compliers in check. The total revenue may not total $45.7 billion, but it will vastly outpace whatever Congress spends on expanding the IRS’ compliance infrastructure. This report, however, adds to concerns about the IRS both accommodating the wealthy and disproportionately targeting poor regions of the country that are cheaper to audit.
Arts European Art Museums: Challenges and Compromises in the Era of COVID-19 by Charles Simonds, Yale ’22
What’s Going On in Europe? On March 13, the Louvre, a Paris museum that attracted 9.6 million visitors in 2019, was one of the first museums to close in response to the pandemic. With lockdowns easing, European art museums are slowly reopening under new guidelines, including limited visitor numbers, online pre-booking, and face masks. While we’ve heard of most of these social distancing techniques, some museums are more innovative: the Florence Cathedral, for example, gives visitors wireless social distancing necklaces that beep and vibrate when another visitor gets too close.
Is This a Good Way to Experience Art? One of my favorite parts about art museums is the freedom to explore exhibits and rooms, comparing different artworks and exploring the building itself. Visitors are worried, however, that one-way paths through exhibits and limited time slots will make museum-going a stifling rather than fun experience. Museums are already in financial trouble; although they have reopened, not only must they limit visitors, but also a drop in global tourism means that museums that cater to international visitors will see smaller demand.
That being said, some museums are finding better ways to balance public health and visitor enjoyment. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, for example, is taking a more hands-off approach: while the number of visitors will be limited and social distancing will be required, once visitors enter the museum, they will be free to roam as they please.
What About the United States? While most American museums have yet to reopen, once they do, they will probably enact similar policies to those of European museums. The Louvre is scheduled to reopen on July 6, but if you can’t make it to Paris in the coming months, the Louvre fortunately offers online tours of several exhibits. While these virtual tours cannot match the in-person tours, over 14 million people have experienced them between March and May.
Ben Owens, a junior computer science major at Harvard, is fascinated with business and the inner workings of the finance world.
Bryan Owens, a junior computer science major at Yale, is an avid reader of finance and tech news.
Ciaran Hassan is a junior at Yale majoring in computer science. His interests include science, technology, cooking, and culture.
Charles Simonds is a sophomore at Yale studying economics and philosophy. He writes about the cultural, economic, and ethical aspects of news stories.