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    Today marks the last day of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. The season was more active than average, but not the worst by far. Here’s how this year’s season stacked up, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

    • The season produced 15 named storms.
    • These included eight hurricanes, two of which were “major” (Category 3, 4, or 5).
    • For comparison, an average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
    • Florence and Michael (both Category 4s) were the worst hurricanes to affect the U.S. this year.
    • This year saw a record seven named storms classified as “subtropical.”
    • The previous record was five subtropical storms in 1969.
    • This season was the first in 10 years to have four named storms active at the same time (Florence, Helene, Isaac, and Joyce).
    • The named storms were called Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, and Oscar.
    • The next name on the list would have been Patty, but she got to sit this season out.

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    At some point in our professional lives, we all need to present information. For some, it’s a keynote speech at a conference while for others it may be a presentation at your team meeting. Public speaking is a nerve-wracking experience for many, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, we’re tackling the top reasons people fail when making speeches and how you can fix them:

    1. Not knowing your audience

    Izolda Trakhtenberg, author of Speak From Within: Engage, Inspire and Motivate Any Audience, says one of the biggest reasons people struggle with speaking in public is because they don’t understand their audience.

    While you can practice your speech over and over, trying to perfect your rhythm and timing, Trakhtenberg says spending time building your listening, awareness, and perception skills will lead to a much more fulfilling speech for both you and your audience.

    Asking the event organizer for the demographics of your group can help you to prepare and understand who your audience is, but you can also build camaraderie with the audience and engage them as soon as you step out on stage by asking them directly who they are and what they’re hoping to get out of their time with you.

    2. Preparing the speech, but not your body

    Preparing for any presentation or public speaking opportunity requires more than just knowing what you’re going to say. Trakhtenberg says proper preparation means warming up your body, mind, and spirit before stepping out onto the stage. “A marathon runner warms up before running a race, but we get up to talk without preparing our instrument–our voice, our body, and our physical presence,” says Trakhtenberg.

    To physically prepare for a speech, Trakhtenberg recommends marching in place for 2-3 minutes to oxygenate the blood and deepen your breathing, making your body more relaxed. “One of the worst things you can do is walk up on stage and be nervous,” says Trakhtenberg. Yet, for many people, public speaking doesn’t come naturally and they are a bundle of nerves when stepping up on stage. Trakhtenberg recommends a breathing technique that is practiced by the Navy Seals to stay calm under pressure. In this deep breathing exercise, you inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, inhale for 4, exhale for 4, repeating this cycle 3-4 times. This allows the heart rate to slow and for your body to calm down. Breathing naturally lowers your stress levels and helps you to appear calm when you step onto the stage.

    3. Not speaking from the heart

    “What you say must be authentic or it won’t excite or hook your audience,” says Trakhtenberg. “If you approach every public speaking opportunity as a chance to connect with people and inspire them somehow, you will be successful.”
    Being authentic and speaking from the heart means sharing a piece of yourself with your audience. Connecting your speech topic to a personal story is the easiest way to do this. “We all have stories from our own lives that can help relate what you’re talking about,” says Trakhtenberg. Heart-centered speeches captivate the audience, pulling them into your presentation and creating a memorable moment.

    4. Over-rehearsing your speech

    Practice makes perfect, but over-practicing your speech can kill off the passion and presence in your words, making you sound dull and monotone. Trakhtenberg recommends writing out your main talking points or even the whole speech, but avoid memorizing it word for word. “If you write the whole thing out, you’re not leaving that room to engage with the audience,” she says. Writing out your main points means you’ll know the gist of what you want to say but you’ll be more flexible to adapt your speech to your audience and you won’t completely close up if you forget a couple of words.

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    Online retail was supposed to solve holiday shopping stress. Instead of battling twitchy-eyed hordes in the aisles of Target and Walmart, we can just point, click, and wait for the delivery truck. But nowadays the “aisles” of e-tailers are eye-twitch-inducing in their own right: thousands of products in every category, spam reviews, deceptive ads. “Amazon sometimes feels like a minefield,” says data scientist John DeFeo. So he started his own product-recommendation site to cut through the noise. It’s called “Good, Cheap, and Fast” (I’ll abbreviate it as GCF for convenience), and it’s aggressively designed to do what it says on the tin.

    To that end, the site doesn’t waste effort on frills like “bandwidth-hogging images” or “spill[ing] 10,000 words of digital ink on…mundane appliances.” To DeFeo–a former designer–the job to be done here is simple: “save people time,” he says. Thus GCF’s Craigslist-esque, all-text aesthetic. (It does have nicer fonts, though.)

    [Screenshot: Good, Cheap and Fast]

    But GCF isn’t just a stripped-down clone of The Wirecutter or Consumer Reports–its design springs from an entirely different philosophy on shopping. Most recommendation sites assume that online shoppers are “maximizers”: faced with the internet’s intimidating abundance of options, they want to know which one is The Best. But GCF is for “satisficers“: people who just want something good enough without breaking the bank, so they can get on with their lives.

    “I love review sites that cut through the noise, but many of the products they recommend are expensive,” DeFeo says. “For example, The Wirecutter‘s favorite portable generator costs $1,000. That’s more than many of my friends and family members can afford.” GCF recommends half a dozen alternatives, all for less than $500. None of them are The Best, but each one includes a succinct sentence or two about the trade-offs involved. If you’ve got $300 and you need a decent generator, maybe you’re willing to accept one that’s “beloved” but “very loud.” Satisfice on!

    [Screenshot: Good, Cheap and Fast]

    This approach to product recommendation means that DeFeo can use data–in the form of hundreds or thousands of already-existing user reviews–to make his picks. He says he uses a combination of “existing shopping tools and plugins” to filter out spammy or suspicious product reviews, and then eliminates more by “measuring the relationship between 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5-star reviews, with an eye toward quality control issues.” (Apparently, junky products can still often receive 4-star reviews because the companies placate customers with refunds or replacements.) DeFeo says his data-aggregating-and-scrubbing process currently takes about 25 hours per week, but he hopes to automate more of it if the site “evolves into something beyond a passion project.”

    In the end, every online shopper is a maximizer in some contexts and a satisficer in others. That’s why DeFeo says he hopes Good, Cheap, and Fast can serve as a complement to sites that lab-test products themselves. Personally, whenever I need to buy a thing online, I tend to just do whatever The Wirecutter tells me to. But does that really make sense for commodity items like USB cables and tape measures? In those moments, Good, Cheap, and Fast–in that order–is just enough.

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    Amsterdam is a city of cyclists: As of 2017, 68% of commutes to and from work or school were done via bicycle. Every day, people bike a total of 1.25 million miles. As they cycle, they’re generating a lot of energy–an estimated 19.5 million watt-hours, which is enough to power thousands of people’s homes. What if that energy could be harnessed?

    That’s the idea behind S-Park, a new bike rack system proposed by designers Guillaume Roukhomovsky and Blaž Verhnjak as part of the city’s Clean Energy Challenge. The system includes a front wheel that can be popped into any bike frame; as the rider bikes around the city, the wheel stores the kinetic energy produced by the wheel’s circular motion in batteries. Then, when the cyclist returns home to their neighborhood, they park their bike in a communal bike frame that’s connected to the grid. The energy that the batteries stored from during their commute flows into that area’s electrical grid. The wheel can stay on the bike for a long period of time, acting just like any other bike wheel.

    [Image: courtesy Guillaume Roukhomovsky and Blaž Verhnjak]

    It’s a clever idea, because S-Park doesn’t require anyone in Amsterdam to change their routine–thousands are already biking and parking their bikes at home after work or school. It just harnesses a new, untapped, completely renewable energy source that’s been hiding in plain sight to make the city more energy-efficient. The duo estimates that for a rack of 30 bikes, and an average commute of 2.2 miles every day, the rack could generate about one kilowatt-hour per day.

    If their idea is selected for the challenge, they’ll have the opportunity to test and try it out. While they don’t yet have a prototype, the designers say they have done extensive research into the idea, and interested companies have already reached out to help them bring it to life either way. Currently, they’re hoping to present it to the mayor, because Amsterdam is planning to invest about $100 million in biking infrastructure by 2020, and the team hopes S-Park can be part of it.

    Whether they work with the Clean Energy Challenge or another organization, the designers hope to start by piloting the project in a single neighborhood. Then, it could be easily scaled up to reach the 200,000 bike racks around the city.

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    Amazon says it’s adding Apple Music support to the Echo and other Alexa devices the week of December 17. Subscribers to Apple’s $10/month service will be able to access all of its 50 million songs on demand, along with the Beats 1 global live stream.

    This is the second new music service Amazon has announced for Alexa since opening up a Music Skill API in September, with Tidal also planning to support Amazon’s smart speakers this year.

    More importantly, this is a major expansion for Apple Music, which until now has required a HomePod for playing music hands-free on smart speakers. Apple has brought its music service to some third-party platforms already, including Sonos speakers, Android phones, and Windows devices (via iTunes), but with more than 50 million Echo speakers reportedly in the wild, Alexa support will make Apple Music much more accessible.

    Now, any bets on whether Apple will work with Google Home anytime soon?

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    When large companies move into an area, politicians often proclaim how the new business will create jobs, increase tax revenues, and thus lead to economic growth. This is one reason local governments offer tax incentives to businesses willing to move in.

    Amazon’s decision to locate offices in Long Island City across the East River from Manhattan, and in Crystal City on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., follows this pattern. The New York location borders the largest low-income housing area in the United States, with mostly African-American and Hispanic residents whose median household income is well below the federal poverty level. These people, local politicians claim, will benefit from Amazon’s move to the neighborhood.

    However, when large companies with an upscale and specialized workforce move into an area, the result is more often gentrification. As economic development takes place and prices of real estate go up, the poorer residents of the neighborhood are forced out and replaced by wealthier ones.

    Is such a market-driven approach that accepts displacement ethically justifiable? And how do we even measure its costs?

    The largest public housing complex in the country, Queensbridge Houses, is located near the spot where Amazon plans to put a new headquarters. [Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock]

    Can gentrification ever be ethical?

    Although politicians don’t typically frame gentrification as a question of ethics, in accepting the displacement of poor residents in favor of better-off residents they are, in effect, making an argument based on ideas of utilitarianism.

    Utilitarianism, developed as a modern theory of ethics by the 19th-century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, seeks the greatest balance of happiness over suffering in society as a whole. Utilitarianism seeks the greatest net benefit in any situation. In economics, it is often expressed in monetary terms.

    A classic example is of a new dam that will generate electricity, irrigate crops and provide a new lake for recreation. But it might also displace people and flood land that is used for other purposes.

    Economists might calculate the dollar cost of the dam itself, the monetary value of the land lost, and the cost to relocate displaced people. They would weigh these monetary costs against the value of the electricity gained, the increased food production, and added income from recreation.

    What economists miss in these calculations are the social costs. For example, they do not count the lives disrupted through displacement, nor do they determine if the benefits of the dam are equally available to all.

    Gentrification, as an economic and social phenomenon, is not limited to cities in the United States. Gentrification has become a global issue. In cities as geographically dispersed as Amsterdam, Sydney, Berlin and Vancouver, gentrification has been linked to free-market economic policies. Put another way, when governments decide to let housing and property markets exist with little or no regulation, gentrification typically flourishes.

    When neighborhoods gentrify, politicians and policymakers often point to physical and economic improvements and the better quality of life for residents in an area after gentrification. For example in 1985, during a period of intense urban renewal in New York City, the Real Estate Board of New York took out advertisements in The New York Times to claim that “neighborhoods and lives blossom” under gentrification.

    Through the lens of utilitarianism, one could say that the population living in neighborhoods after gentrification experience greater happiness than before.

    The fallacy of this argument is, of course, that these “happier” populations are overwhelmingly not the same people as were there before gentrification. As a scholar who works on questions of ethics in the built environment, I have studied how we, as the concerned public, can better equip ourselves to see through such arguments.

    Economic development in an area leads to less poverty in that area, not because the personal economic situation of poor people who live there has improved, but because the poor people have quite simply been erased out of the picture.

    Erasing the working class

    Urban geographer Tom Slater points to a similar disappearing act within gentrification research.

    Researchers once focused on the experiences of those negatively affected by gentrification. For example, one study of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn found that gentrification commonly removed manufacturing from inner city areas, leading to blue-collar workers losing urban job opportunities.

    Another study found that gentrification was associated with increased social hardships for residents. Not only did their housing expenses rise, social networks disintegrated as neighbors were forced to move elsewhere. In an examination of seven New York neighborhoods, for example, the researchers found that half of the poor households who had remained in gentrifying areas were paying more than two-thirds of their income for rent.

    Where gentrification research once focused on evictions of low-income and working class residents, housing affordability problems, and torn social fabrics caused through changing neighborhoods, the talk has since turned to the experiences of the middle classes who are doing the gentrifying.

    Terms like “competitive progress” and “regeneration, revitalization and renaissance” of urban neighborhoods are commonly used to describe a process whereby physically distressed areas of a city have their buildings renovated and updated.

    Urban planner and best-selling author Richard Florida also focuses on the gentrifiers. In his much discussed 2002 book, Florida maintains that cities with a large gay and “bohemian” population of artists and intellectuals tend to thrive economically.

    He calls this group of hip and affluent urbanites the “creative class,” and states that they are responsible for a city’s economic success. When Florida’s book came out, city leaders throughout the United States quickly seized on his ideas to promote their own urban renewal projects.

    When researchers and urban leaders focus on the gentrifiers, the displaced poor and working class are doubly erased–from the gentrifying areas they once called home, and with few exceptions, from the concerns of urban policymakers.

    The need to restore happiness

    Amazon’s move to Washington and New York along with an influx of well-paid employees brings us back to the question of how we might apply the ethical concept of utilitarianism to understand the greatest balance of happiness over suffering for the greatest number of people.

    In my view, this number must include the poor and working class. In an area threatened by gentrification, the economic and social costs for displaced residents is typically high.

    To make ethical decisions, we must consider the people who suffer the consequences of rapidly rising costs in the area they call home as part of the ethical equation.

    Alexandra Staub is associate professor of architecture, affiliate faculty, at the Rock Ethics Institute at Pennsylvania State University. This article is republished fromThe Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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    It’s that time of year again: a time to wrap up year-end projects, check key goals off your list, and face the often-daunting but necessary process of negotiating a raise at work. But rather than dive head first into that discussion, be sure to run through the following questions ahead of time.

    1. Am I actually underpaid?

    Though you might feel entitled to a pay boost based on your skills and effort, the reality is that if you’re not statistically underpaid, you might have a harder time arguing that point. Before you attempt to talk numbers with your boss, do some research to see if your earnings are on par with those of the average person who has your job title. If they are, or if you find that you’re being paid rather generously within your field, you’ll need to adjust your strategy when having that salary discussion.

    2. Have I done anything to deserve a salary boost?

    It’s one thing to want more money, but it’s another thing to legitimately merit an increase. Before you ask for a higher salary, think about whether you deserve an increase. If you’ve consistently worked late, pitched in on projects that technically weren’t your responsibility, or added value to your company in another way, then by all means, make the case for a boost. But if you can’t think of a single compelling reason why you deserve a raise, you might want to table that discussion for another time.

    3. When’s the last time I got a raise?

    There’s no rule stating that you must wait a certain period of time (such as a year) between raises before you ask again. For example, if you got a raise in July along with most of your peers but your scope of responsibilities has increased since then, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more money five months later. At the same time, if you got a raise two months ago, there’s a good chance your boss will look at you funny if you initiate a salary discussion in conjunction with the close of the year.

    On the flip side, if you’ve been doing the same job for the past three years without any sort of income boost, you can make the argument that while your responsibilities may not have shifted, there comes a point when you need a boost to keep up with the general cost of living. So if it’s been a while since your pay has changed, get that meeting onto your boss’s calendar.

    4. Are there benefits I should ask for instead of a raise?

    It’s always nice to get more money, but before you insist on a raise, think about whether there are some workplace benefits it pays to request instead. For example, if your 401(k) plan is lousy and your employer doesn’t provide a match, you might ask for an improvement in that area instead of a $2,000 bump in income. And while an uptick in vacation days won’t necessarily put more money back in your pocket, if your company has been stingy on that front thus far, snagging an extra week of paid time off might do more for you than an extra $1,000 or so in earnings.

    5. Should I actually ask for the amount I want or aim higher?

    One of the toughest parts of negotiating a raise is determining what number to ask for. If you present the salary you’re actually looking for, there won’t be room for your company to negotiate downward. On the other hand, if you aim too high, you might come off as greedy. A good compromise, therefore, is to ask for slightly more than the number you’ll actually be happy with. For example, if you’re hoping for a salary of $58,000, ask for $60,000, because chances are your employer will try to take that figure down a notch.

    6. What will I do if that conversation doesn’t go my way?

    While it’s good to approach a salary negotiation with a positive attitude, you’ll also need to account for the possibility that your request for more money could get outright denied. That’s why it helps to go in with a backup plan. Before sitting down with your manager, think about what you’ll do if that discussion doesn’t go the way you want it to. Will you ask for a different accommodation (such as the ability to work from home) as a compromise? Or will you nod politely, exit the room, and immediately fire off your resume? Knowing what you’ll do in the face of rejection will help you better navigate that unfortunate but possible turn of events.

    Talking salary takes guts, but it also requires some forethought. Run through these questions before having that talk so you’re better equipped to handle what could be a lucrative, albeit stressful, conversation.

    This article originally appeared on The Motley Fool and is reprinted with permission. 

    More from The Motley Fool:

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    The show that started Netflix’s love affair with the Marvelvers is getting the boot.

    Daredevil, which recently launched its third season, has been canceled by Netflix, the Hollywood Reporterconfirmed, which means it will join Iron Fist and Luke Cage in their exodus from the streaming service. The move comes as Marvel’s parent company, the Walt Disney Company, is preparing to unveil its own streaming service, called Disney+.

    While possibly no one outside of the cast and crew will miss Iron Fist, Daredevil fans aren’t taking the news lying down. They have kicked off a campaign to save the show–a rescue effort that ideally would not require fans to sign up for Disney+, where the series could conceivably end up.

    The fans have launched a Twitter account and website,, with an impassioned call to action: Tweet, blog, or otherwise post your feelings about the need to #RenewDaredevil beginning on November 30, and continuing every Friday, between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. ET. The hope is that the movement will become a trending topic that Netflix and Marvel execs simply can’t ignore (like a Matt Murdoch fist to the face!), a movement so massive that they have no choice but to renew the series.

    It has worked before. After a fan outcry, Timeless was renewed by NBC three days after being canceled. ABC’s Nashville moved over to CMT after a fan campaign, and after Fox canceled Brooklyn Nine Nine, NBC picked it up after high-profile fans like Lin-Manuel MirandaMark Hamill, and Guillermo del Toro weighed in. Even one of the most beloved TV shows ever–Friday Night Lights–was saved after fans bombarded NBC with light bulbs (get it?). NBC ultimately made a deal with DirecTV and the show continued for three more seasons, including the season that helped make Michael B. Jordan the mega-star he is today.

    While the Disney-Netflix rivalry makes the Daredevil situation a bit more complicated, a little extra fan engagement never hurts. We reached out to Netflix for comment and will update if we hear back.

    Netflix sent along a statement and, well, it doesn’t sound good for Daredevil fans:

    “Marvel’s Daredevil will not return for a fourth season on Netflix. We are tremendously proud of the show’s last and final season and although it’s painful for the fans, we feel it best to close this chapter on a high note. We’re thankful to our partners at Marvel, showrunner Erik Oleson, the show’s writers, stellar crew and incredible cast including Charlie Cox as Daredevil himself, and we’re grateful to the fans who have supported the show over the years. While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.”

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    People contributed a combined $380 million to nonprofit groups on Giving Tuesday, the international day for donating. That’s 27% more than last year’s total of $300 million, according to 92Y, the community nonprofit that founded the event in 2012. The total number of individual gifts given also rose 80% from 2 million in 2017 to 3.6 million this year.

    “We are absolutely seeing a democratization of giving,” says Asha Curran, chief innovation officer at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92Y in an email to Fast Company. “#GivingTuesday is about the participation of the many rather than the power of the few. It’s fueled by many, many smaller actions–both in dollars, in kind, and in kindness–that add up to big impact.”

    The increase in number of gifts does mean that the amount per gift dropped somewhat this year. It was $105 per donation this year, compared to $120 the year before. An increase in people giving small amounts runs counter to the narrative of what’s happening in American philanthropy, which in recent years has been controlled by a small corps of super-rich donors giving more while the majority of Americans donate less. That leaves average people with little say in what causes are being funded.

    More Giving Tuesday participation, even if the individual total is a little less per person, seems like a good step toward changing that ratio, though it’s only a small one: Giving Tuesday has raised a total of $1 billion since it’s inception in 2012. Charitable giving in America reached a record $410 billion last year.

    Exactly how many groups are receiving gifts year-over-year isn’t known, because 92Y only tracks the total number and amount. Either way, the event is giving nonprofits the chance to reach a growing number of people online each year. “This has major implications for the social sector, especially for how we work to engage people in causes in a transformational rather than transactional way,” Curran adds. “That engagement is going to look different than a generation or even five years ago as people claim more and more agency in the way they engage with the issues they care about.”

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    What: A Google doc lists all the TV shows that aired in 2018.

    Who:IndieWire writer Liz Shannon Miller.

    Why we care: This should sound familiar: “What do you mean you haven’t seen [some show]?!?!” It’s probably a friend saying it, but in this moment, they are not your friend; they’re an agent of chaos, burdening you with the possibility that you are missing out on the next Very Good Show Everyone is Talking About. The only problem is that you’re probably not finished with the last one of those shows, and the one before that turned out to be lethally boring. It’s Peak TV in a nutshell: infinite options, infinite FOMO, same mere 24 hours in each day. Whenever Netflix announces however many new shows it has planned each year, it scans as more of a threat than a promise. If it seems sometimes like we are drowning in a sea of Adequate Content, one TV critic has just drawn out a topographic map of that sea to put it in perspective.

    Just in time for Best of the Year roundup season, IndieWire writer Liz Shannon Miller recently released a Google Doc chronicling every single show that aired in 2018, whatever “airing” even means anymore. The list of 545 (!) titles comprises only those shows that are awards-eligible and excludes most children’s shows and reality TV programming. (For comparison’s sake, about 357 shows aired in 2008.)

    This doc isn’t just helpful for anyone putting together a Top 10, though. It’s also therapeutic. Looking at the list, which spans so very many seemingly interchangeable titles, provides a visual representation of just how overwhelming our options are today, allowing you to process how the odds are stacked against you catching up on everything everyone declares a Must-See.

    Have a scroll through the enormous doc here and experience simultaneous horror and relief.

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    With InSight now safely ensconced on Mars, NASA turned its attention back to the moon on Thursday, unveiling nine American companies now eligible to bid on delivering science and technology lunar payloads for NASA’s Moon to Mars Exploration Campaign under an aggressive timeline.

    “The timeline is unprecedented. We’ve never done anything that fast,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which manages the contracts with these firms. “The only thing that rivals it is [1958’s] Explorer 1, our reaction after [the Soviet Union’s] Sputnik put a payload into lower orbit. The reason we’re doing it fast is a multilevel strategy to grow the market and take ambiguity out of the process.”

    These Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are initial steps toward continuous sustainable scientific study and human exploration on the moon, eventually Mars, and beyond. NASA intends the partnerships to enable regular shipments of instruments, experiments, and small payloads to the moon sooner and faster, cover more lunar regions, and maximize efficiency when humans eventually arrive.

    The Exploration Campaign builds on a steady cadence of development, starting now, to enable early access to the surface of the Moon and begin assembling the Gateway in lunar orbit. See larger [Image: NASA]
    The eligible companies range from aerospace veterans to startups: Astrobotic Technology in Pittsburgh; Deep Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado; Draper in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Firefly Aerospace in Cedar Park, Texas; Intuitive Machines, in Houston; Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton; Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California; Moon Express in Cape Canaveral, Florida; and Orbit Beyond in Edison, New Jersey. High-profile firms Blue Origin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX were noticeably absent, though NASA expects the list to expand in the future.

    The contracts call for indefinite deliveries and quantities with a combined maximum value of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years. NASA will consider competitive bids based on technical innovation, feasibility, price, and schedule, for missions as early as next year. (Proposals for instruments and technologies to study the moon are due in January.) They include payload integration and operations, and launching from Earth and landing on the moon. NASA expects to be one of many patrons using the services.

    “When we go to the moon, we want to be one of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and moon with multiple providers competing in cost and innovation, so that we at NASA can do more than we’ve ever been able to do before and advance the humans species,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who helmed the session with Zurbuchen at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    NASA continues to study the Gateway with U.S. industry and international partners for a configuration that could allow for earlier crew expeditions, more science and technology demonstration capabilities, and increased room for astronauts to live and work. See larger. [Image: NASA]
    The companies will work in tandem with ongoing NASA lunar exploration. For example, its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter division wants to coordinate landing dates with commercial landers to observe their dust plumes to see how they disturb the environment. NASA might also reinstate instruments from the canceled Resource Prospector lunar mining mission.

    The initiative is part of Space Policy Directive 1, a year-old change in national space policy calling for a U.S.-led coalition of commercial and international partners enabling human expansion across the solar system by first returning humans to the moon, which offers a closer and, therefore, lower-risk proving ground to Mars.

    The plan includes turning over low-Earth orbit human spaceflight, such as the International Space Station (ISS), to commercial operation, establishing an orbiting command module called Gateway for long-term lunar orbit for humans, reusable landers making round-trips to the moon, and ongoing robotic surface exploration and building with lunar resources.

    NASA also expects to send an American crew around the moon in 2023.

    Groundhog day?

    The NASA administrators fielded questions from reporters, Twitter users, and young STEM students–the ingenuousness of children’s questions contrasting the press’s pointed attempts to glean more details about the contract contents, vague selection criteria, and types of experiments.

    NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing noted the announcement echoed a similar one 15 years ago in the same room to return to the moon, without much progress since. “What seems to have changed is the color of carpet,” he said.

    “We’re going to the moon in a way we have not been before—as partners with commercial industries,” countered Bridenstine. “NASA becomes one customer of many that spread the cost and lower the risk more than it would be [with just NASA]. We’ve proven this with the ISS with commercial resupply and, soon, commercial crew. We’re taking what we’ve learned. This is not going to be ‘Lucy and the football‘ again. We’re going with international partnerships on a level never seen before. This time, when we go, no kidding, we’re going to go.”

    NASA’s Exploration Campaign includes U.S. leadership in low-Earth orbit, in orbit around the Moon and on its surface, and at destinations far beyond, including Mars. [Image: NASA]
    By example, he cited a set of retro-reflector instruments, in partnership with Germany and Israel, as almost ready to go.

    “We want to establish and open architecture capability—of data, communications, avionics, docking—to go from the Earth to the moon over and over again so any individual who can attract the capital, or company, could access it,” said Bridenstine. “We want to do it far more with commercial and international partners than we can do on our own. An open architecture builds sustainability. Think of it as venture capital. Our portfolio is larger, so we can take more risks and get it done fast.

    “At the end of the decade, we envision a continuous presence of landers, rovers, and robots on the surface of the moon, but not necessarily humans,” he added. “And from there we build.”

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    Some 500 million Marriott guests woke up to the news that their personal information may have been compromised in what is shaping up to be one of the largest data breaches ever.

    While some guests only had their names, mailing, and email addresses accessed, around 327 million guests had more serious breaches, including phone numbers, passport numbers, and dates of birth. Some of those guests may also have had their credit card information compromised. The payment information was encrypted, but passport numbers and other personal information were not–leaving some people vulnerable to possible identity theft. That’s probably a more effective wakeup call than the polite phone call Marriott usually offers its guests.

    “This is one of the most significant data breaches in history given the size–about 500 million people are affected–and the sensitivity of the personal information that was stolen,” said industry analyst Ted Rossman in a statement. “To guard against criminals opening fraudulent accounts, I recommend freezing your credit.”

    Freezing your credit doesn’t mean sticking your Amex in the ice bin (although that can be good for your credit in other ways). Rather, it’s an easy way to make sure no one can open up a new account in your name. That helps to prevent stolen data from being used to purchase, say, a wide screen 5K TV at a Walmart in Mississippi when you live a Walmart-free existence in Los Angeles. Because companies may run credit checks on any of the three major credit bureaus, it’s recommended that you freeze your credit with all three.

    So how do you do that? Start clicking (or calling). And while you’re on the website, consider reviewing your credit report and statements for potential fraud. The good news is, credit bureaus are now required to freeze and unfreeze your credit for free, thanks to a federal law that went into effect in September.

    Here’s are the links for the three main bureaus:

    • TransUnion. The company also has a free-freeze mobile app called myTransUnion, available at the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
    • Experian or call 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742).
    • Equifax or call its automated line at 800-685-1111. (Unless you haven’t forgiven them for their own massive data breach.)

    After receiving your freeze request, each credit bureau is supposed to provide you with a unique PIN or password that you need to keep until you decide to lift the freeze. A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit bureau to lift, it either permanently or temporarily, while applying for credit or one of those jobs that likes to check the credit history of job candidates.

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    It’s a time-honored tradition in teen slasher movies that girls who have sex die first. Sneak off to a horny corner of that cabin in the woods and you most likely will notbe right back.

    The post-coital kill trope in horror movies represents a broader real-world social directive: to reward women for chastity and eviscerate them for sexual liberation. This virgin-prizing mindset predates horror movies, but it keeps seeping into the collective unconscious partly through them–and also through the way most media treats female sex workers.

    These apparently virtue-free souls often show up on your TV as expendable parcels of human capital, fleshy props for revealing that a killer is on the loose, but–don’t worry!–he’s not going after good people. Considering how horror movies help perpetuate puritanical ideas about sex, it’s poetic justice that a horror movie itself would completely flip the script on how sex workers are depicted.

    Now streaming on Netflix, Cam is an unsettling film set in the world of cam performers–where women film themselves undressing, masturbating, or performing specific fetish tasks at the whim of their customers, who then digitally tip them. Despite the salacious subject matter, it’s a movie that’s bound to tingle spines more than any other part of the anatomy.

    The Blumhouse-produced creepfest follows Lola (The Handmaid’s Tale’s Madeline Brewer), a rising star on FreeGirls.Live, whose world begins to unravel when she finds a digital doppelgänger doing her job, under her name, more successfully than she does. What happens from there is a mind-bending meditation on digital identity, compelling enough to earn a rave review from Stephen King.

    Cam is a vivid peephole-glimpse into the world of cam performers, coming from an honest and personal place. If it seems to exist in a different universe than the likes of Pretty Woman and The Girl Next Door–one that more closely resembles Planet Earth–it might because Isa Mazzei, who wrote it, is herself a former sex worker.

    Cam screenwriter Isa Mazzei [Photo: courtesy of Caitlin Fullam]
    “The whole impetus was to tell a story where the audience would identify with someone who does what I used to do,” she says. “Before we even knew it would be a genre film, we knew we wanted to make a movie that viewed sex workers in a sympathetic light and de-stigmatized sex work.”

    The other half of that “we” is director Daniel Goldhaber, who Mazzei met years ago when she hired him to record videos for her to sell. Over the course of that initial collaboration, Goldhaber became entranced by the camming world. He convinced Mazzei to work with him on a feature film set in this space.

    Although she had never published any material before, Mazzei had long been a writer of self-described “emo poetry and bad novels.” She was drawn to the idea of channeling her cam experience into a movie–especially if she could make one that showed the world that sex work is just another job, where sometimes one performer stands on the sidelines holding up delivery menus so another performer can surreptitiously choose, mid-filming, which she prefers for dinner. Maybe she could even show viewers that this job was a really difficult job; that it didn’t just involve mechanically removing one’s clothes for bundles of cash.

    [Photo: courtesy of Katelin Arizmendi]
    Mazzei and Goldhaber played with the idea of making their film a documentary and dismissed it, settling on telling a fictional story. Before arriving at the idea of Lola and her doppelgänger, though, the creators wrote a manifesto to guide their broader vision for the project.

    “We decided that the negative face of the film could never be derived from the protagonist’s decision to engage in sex work,” Mazzei says. “There was also this constant balancing act of making something people would want to watch regardless of the politics, but that forcefully conveyed a political message at the same time.”


    Part of the doppelgänger story she and Goldhaber landed on came from a specific aspect of Mazzei’s experience as a cam performer: piracy. Enterprising scavengers would capture her private performances and plaster images from them all over websites like Pornhub. Videos would appear online, digitally scrubbed of their creator’s watermark and any attribution, with titles like “Tall, frizzy-haired girl.” Mazzei would then watch them and see a version of herself that felt like a knockoff bootleg. It was the kind of identity theft authorities are less concerned with than bank fraud, but it took a toll on both her bottom line and her mental well-being.

    “I felt alienated from my own image,” Mazzei says. “And so grappling with that feeling of violation and that feeling of alienation from self is where Lola came from. Her doppelgänger is a literal manifestation of how I felt watching myself on the internet doing something that was in no way linked back to me anymore and where people didn’t know it was me.”

    What feels revolutionary about Cam is how relatable it is. Lola’s desire to succeed as a cam performer is never judged. Instead, it’s presented as a typical hero’s journey, albeit one set in an esoteric field. Much like the protagonists in Black Swan and Whiplash, whose screenplays served as touchstones for Mazzei, Lola wants to be the best at what she does. The movie never questions her motivations for that desire; they’re merely assumed. (Just like those of the drummer in Whiplash and the ballerina in Black Swan.) Cam could just as easily be about any other kind of online performer, whether it’s a Twitch streamer or a YouTuber or an Instagram influencer.

    Cam [Photo: courtesy of Katelin Arizmendi]
    And you don’t have to make a living on the internet to relate to Lola’s fractured identity. In one way or another, nearly everybody is an online performer now.

    “Any form of digital expression is a performance because it’s curated,” Mazzei says. “Even if you’re trying to be really real online, you’re still deciding what to post and what not to post, therefore it’s never going to be a real picture.”

    Social media has warped our understanding and presentation of self. We contort ourselves into whatever version of us the crowd responds to most. We thrive on likes and retweets, and carve out online personas based on whatever delivers them.

    Cam is a film that explores the anxieties around the negative space where we end and those online personas begin.

    If the scene where Lola celebrates finally making it into the top 50 cam performers on FreeGirls.Live by joyfully dumping a bucket of confetti on herself doesn’t feel both endearing and familiar, you either have no heart or no social media presence. (If it’s the latter: my sincere congratulations.)

    Since completing her work on Cam, Mazzei has secured a book deal–her cam performer memoir is due in November 2019–and started work with Goldhaber on another thriller from Blumhouse. If the version of Mazzei depicted in that memoir could see her current incarnation, she might not recognize herself. They’re both clearly the same person, though.

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    The work landscape our children are entering today looks nothing like what our parents experienced. The notion of working for the same firm for your whole career is a distant memory, and anyone whose career trajectory looks that way is considered an outlier. Today, workers are expected to hold many different jobs throughout their careers, and technology will change what it takes to succeed in each role.

    It’s a simple, yet daunting reality: To be a productive lifelong worker in today’s economy, you have to be a lifelong learner. Unfortunately, the country is not yet set up to deliver on this new imperative, and we’re not catching up as fast as we need to be.

    We’re not training our workers to have skills that companies demand

    Gone are the days when you can learn one skill that sets you up for life. Today, new technology is regularly introduced in every industry and workers have to learn how to use it in order to do their day-to-day jobs. This means that an increasing portion of the workforce will need technology and digital skills–ranging from basic digital literacy to advanced computer science. As technology changes, they will have to adapt–which requires them to update their knowledge and learn new skills. In many cases, workers will probably have to do this multiple times over a lifetime in the workforce.

    You don’t need to look far to see these digital skills in demand. For starters, American manufacturers are posting more jobs for coders and software developers than for production workers. Auto mechanics spend more time with computers than they do with wrenches. As technology progresses, we’re going to see different job requirements for both white collar and blue collar professions alike.

    Unfortunately, the United States is not adapting quickly enough. This isn’t good news. As individuals who have served in both the public sector and private sector, we know that as a country, we can only move forward if we build a globally competitive workforce. Having a skilled workforce not only enhances the productivity of individual companies, but also the productivity, economic security (and ultimately), the national security of the United States.

    As workers change jobs with increasing frequency, employers have less incentive to invest in training their workers. And because our tax code and accounting systems treat employee training as a short-term expense, rather than a long-term investment, companies have little motivation to change this reality.

    For our workforce to remain competitive, we need to reverse this trend so that employers view worker investment as important as investment in R&D projects.

    To help move us in this direction, we’ve proposed solutions to tackle both sides of the employer-employee equation, encouraging businesses and individuals alike to prepare for a lifetime of success in an evolving economy.

    Solution one: Create a tax credit that incentivizes employers to invest in skills training

    To incentivize businesses to make long-term investments in their employees, one potential solution that has been introduced in the Senate is the creation of a new tax credit. This is modeled on the popular R&D tax credit and rewards employers who commit further resources to training low- and moderate-income workers. Not only will employers be more likely to make much-needed investments in training and education, but it would also begin to reverse the trend of a 21st-century economy that is leaving too many of our most vulnerable workers behind. Unfortunately, based on the data available, employers have been investing less in worker training: From 1996 to 2008, the percentage of workers receiving employer-sponsored training fell 42% and on-the-job training fell 36%. When they do invest, it tends to benefit their highest-paying, highly educated workforce, and leave behind many low- and middle-wage workers.

    As businesses compete in a global market, companies will need workers who can quickly adapt to changes in the market. Research shows that companies that invest in worker training increase their bottom line over time.

    Solution two: Introduce portable benefits that invest in lifelong learning

    While some employers may recognize the importance of helping workers update their skills, there will still be many workers who have to shoulder this responsibility themselves. Without an employer to contribute, workers will need assistance accessing these opportunities–regardless of where they work. For workers to get a fair shot, access to training should be universal and not limited to those fortunate enough to work for a company that invests in lifelong learning for its employees.

    One way to do this is to create Lifelong Learning and Training Accounts (LLTAs). LLTAs are employee-owned, employer- and government-matched savings plans, which are portable from job to job. Workers could use their accounts at any time during their careers to help pay for the education and training necessary to modernize their skills. These accounts can help workers better manage their economic future by incentivizing workers, businesses, and government to co-invest in the development of worker skills during their careers.

    At the end of the day, lifelong learning is pivotal to the economic competitiveness of the United States. As automation, artificial intelligence, and other technologies continue to disrupt and transform nearly every sector of our economy, these kinds of investments in our workforce will only become more essential.

    The American dream might feel like it’s fading for some, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By making lifelong learning a national imperative, we can give every American, not just the wealthy, the opportunity to up-skill and reinvent themselves as technology creates new jobs or upends existing ones. Companies will also have access to more skilled labor–which means they’ll be in a stronger position to continue to be the global leaders in their fields. Everyone will benefit and we will create greater and more inclusive prosperity in the process. That’s why we need to make lifelong learning a priority for our country.

    Mark R. Warner is the senior United States Senator from Virginia and Honorary Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. Penny Pritzker served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2013 to 2017. She is the founder and chairman of the investment firm PSP Partners. She also serves as the National Advisory Council Co-Chair for the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative.

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    The biggest bank in Russia, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014, just launched a state-of-the-art coding school in Moscow that aims to train thousands of world-class software engineers in the arts of cybersecurity, gaming, and the latest AI technology for years to come.

    School 21, which operates under the umbrella of Ecole 42, a global pioneer in IT education backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel, is wholly owned by Sberbank. It is free, open to aspiring coders from 18 to 30 years old, and has 21 levels of proficiency. The school is highly competitive–its inaugural program has a class of 500 students out of more than 85,000 applicants, and the plan is to scale up to 2,500 a year in the long term, according to Business FM radio station. Sberbank told Fast Company that it plans to run two more application cycles next year, one in the winter and one in the spring, and that it might open a second office in St. Petersburg.

    The school’s launch is raising concerns about Russia training thousands of highly skilled cyber specialists at a time when the United States is expanding its sanctions against Russian entities, including Sberbank-backed properties, and amid heightened tensions in Europe last week over a naval skirmish between Russian and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait. It also comes against the backdrop of the Russian government’s disinformation efforts in elections around the globe, which the Kremlin has vehemently denied.

    In addition, Sberbank has been in the spotlight due to the history of high-level connections between the bank’s leadership, the Russian government and Donald Trump’s associates before he became U.S. president. It was bank chairman Herman Gref who set up Trump’s meeting with Russian businessmen during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013 in Moscow, an event which Sberbank co-sponsored, while Trump was exploring building a Trump Tower in Moscow.

    Trump’s hotel plans are making headlines again this week due to the plea deal that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen negotiated with the Mueller probe–Cohen admitted that he lied when he previously claimed that the deal fell through in January 2016, now conceding that talks for a Trump Tower in Moscow continued up until June 2016.

    “We have a critical shortage of these people today”

    Sberbank’s drive to build up a domestic talent pool will help ease the Russian market’s dependency on Western software like Microsoft products, which face an uncertain future amid strained relations between Microsoft and the Russian government and reports of Microsoft exiting the Russian market. In recent years, there has been increasing demand for Russian software and local operating systems like ALT Linux.

    At the opening ceremony last week, Russia’s education ministry and Sberbank hailed the school’s launch as a “new era in education,” emphasizing the high caliber of software engineers they are looking to groom.

    “This is an engineer who can do and knows everything, from architecture to Artificial Intelligence technology, Blockchain and cybersecurity,” said Gref, according to the bank’s press release. “We have a critical shortage of these people today. Next year, we plan more ‘pools’ in the winter and in the summer. Of course, it’s a small number and won’t even cover Sberbank’s demands.”

    The so-called “pools” are weeks-long grueling tests that the applicants must pass as a part of the entrance exam.

    Sberbank signed an agreement with École 42 back in May. The teacherless philosophy and nerdy terminology also come from École 42, whose name is a reference to a detail in cult classic, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    “We don’t teach anything,” Nicolas Sadirac, head of École 42, told Quartz. “The students create what they need all the time.”

    In Moscow, the students will learn algorithms, Unix, mobile development, system security, C, C+++, Swift, Java, PHP, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, OCaml, and other languages, according to the program’s website.

    State bank the best way to groom talent?

    With over 50% of the new students coming from Russia’s far-flung regions, this program hopes to democratize such IT instruction, which has traditionally been the domain of the country’s prestigious universities that are not accessible to everyone.

    But is having a state bank the best way to groom talent?

    “True talent growth cannot happen on a massive scale: Silicon Valley is a good example of that, all the best guys are there but you still can only have one Steve Jobs,” says Pavel Vrublevsky, CEO of Russian digital payment platform ChronoPay. “The Russian cyber army concept is also flawed in a similar way. I think schools like these would do much better if they would be run by less huge organizations than Sberbank.”

    Despite the bank’s close ties to the Kremlin—the government has a majority stake in the bank—Sberbank insists that the school will not be used by the government to groom students for intelligence work or political purposes. The bank’s press service said neither Sberbank nor the government plan to make recommendations to graduates.

    “The graduates of the school do not have any obligations for employment after training and decide for themselves in what areas and directions to apply their knowledge,” Sberbank told Fast Company in a statement.

    While Sberbank has been under U.S. sanctions for years, there are no signs of tensions going away.

    Earlier this month, U.S. Treasury Department expanded sanctions to include more Russian individuals and entities, including Sberbank-backed Mriya Resort & SPA, a luxury resort in Crimea that features presidential villas and accommodations “worthy of royal families or top officials.” Sberbank invested $300 million in Mriya Resort, according to the U.S. Treasury statement. (Sberbank also owns Grant SV, which controls Mriya Resort. It was registered in Yalta after 2014 annexation of Crimea.)

    As of November 8, Mriya joins a list of entities whose “property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

    While Europe is still in the process of updating its Russia policy, last week’s naval skirmish with the Ukraine sparked a new wave of tensions. The German government said on Tuesday that it favors a Dutch proposal that would introduce an EU-wide blacklist against countries and regimes committing human rights violations.

    In any scenario, the new school would help Russia diversify its talent pool, build for the future and ease its dependency on Western technology, if the sanctions were to endure and expand.

    “Russia is accelerating its efforts to build as much local software at least as possible to get out of dependency from foreign products like Microsoft and SAP, and in some way even help those foreign products creators from possible political threats as well,” says Vrublevsky.

    The new school is a part of Sberbank’s broader drive to be competitive globally, as it views itself as a technology company. It also launched a robotics accelerator earlier this year as part of its drive to“find and deploy new projects and tech solutions that will enhance processes at the bank and have a positive impact on the business of clients and partners who are part of our ecosystem.”

    Russia already has a track record of tapping its hacker talent pool and deploying it for political means. What will happen when this pool is actively cultivated by a state-owned entity, is bigger and more skilled?

    “A lot of the kids don’t have yet any income, the only thing they have is a strong motivation,” Sberbank’s Gref said of the new students this week. “I think this is a start of a new era in education.”

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    Social media was flooded today with images of a violent earthquake that rocked parts of Alaska, damaging buildings and sparking a tsunami warning for Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula. The preliminary 7.0 quake occurred about 10 miles northeast of Anchorage, the National Weather Service said.

    There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but there appears to be plenty of damage, including at the newsroom of local CBS affiliate KTVA. Some users also posted images of broken streets and videos of trembling buildings.

    According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, the earthquake knocked all local Anchorage TV stations off the airwaves Friday morning.

    Below are some of the stunning images circulating on Twitter:

    This story is still developing…

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    WarnerMedia finally gave the world a timeline for its upcoming entertainment streaming service featuring content from its vast offerings.

    Rather, all three services.

    During an analyst day presentation on Thursday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that in the fourth quarter of 2019 AT&T will roll out (in beta form) three different tiers of streaming options. 

    The breakdown of the three services is as follows:

    1. An entry-level option with some movies.

    2. A premium service with original programming and blockbuster movies.

    3. A top-tier offering with all of the content from the first two services, along with library content from WarnerMedia, and eventually more content licensed from third parties.

    He didn’t offer any additional details. Baby steps!

    We still have no idea how much any of this will cost, or how content from, say, HBO will appear and on which tiers. HBO, after all, runs the only pre-existing WarnerMedia streaming platforms, HBO Now and HBO Go, that have millions of users and are generally well liked. Will HBO be able to premier its own stuff first before it lands on one of the WarnerMedia apps, or the other way around? Who knows? There’s still about a year to figure that stuff out, but then again, recall that AT&T had more than a year to think through these kind of important details while it waited for regulatory approval for its Time Warner acquisition, which it finally received last June.   

    One thing is rather clear: This three-tiered strategy is one that only a wireless executive could love. Hard not to see this and think about how AT&T approaches its options for a data plan, with varying price points and levels. AT&T wants to give consumers the same abundance of choice when it comes to their entertainment.  

    The announcement was the first glimpse WarnerMedia has given of how it plans to optimize its newly combined company for the post-cable world of television. At the conference, Stephenson said, “You must develop a direct relationship with your viewers. And if you’re a communications company, you can no longer rely exclusively on oversized bundles of content.” 

    WarnerMedia’s plans come as the entertainment industry as a whole is reorienting itself toward streaming, thanks to pressure from behemoths like Netflix and Amazon. Disney is currently prepping its own entertainment app that will debut in late 2019 and it is also doubling down on programming at Hulu, in which Disney will soon be the majority stakeholder.

    Even Fox News has gotten into the game with its new digital offering, Fox Nation, which launched earlier this week. 

    The question is, with so much competition, is giving consumers even more optionality the best route? In a world where viewers can barely decide between Hulu and Netflix and will realistically only sign up for three to four different apps, shouldn’t WarnerMedia be making its foray into streaming a simpler process? Along the lines of: You want movies and TV shows from HBO and Warner Bros? Click here.  

    According to Stephenson, the idea is to lure people in slowly with the simpler (and cheaper) options, and then ultimately win them over so that they sign up for the top-tier offering. “We want the customer to want all three tiers, and work their way in at an affordable price point,” he said. 

    While the logic there makes sense, AT&T would do well to make its next streaming announcement about something that might excite those consumers it wants to have a direct relationship with.

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    Bees. With backpacks. That’s what led Intel’s global creative director Teresa Herd to see the potential in the power of having an internal creative team. A few years ago, during a routine business meeting in Singapore she happened to be sitting in on, the presenter flashed a quick slide showing a bee with a backpack. Herd immediately spoke up. “I said, What is that?!’ And they told me all about it,” she told me when we spoke earlier this fall. “A few months later, we were shooting that story.” That’s when Herd understood the value of “having teams embedded in places where people are talking about parts of the business and don’t even realize what they have in terms of storytelling.”

    Bees with backpacks was the first major project for Agency Inside, Intel’s in-house creative shop, and it kicked off an impressive, award-winning run. Agency Inside was named AdAge‘s Internal Agency of the Year in 2017, and it has racked up a number of industry awards as well, most recently for its drone light show at the 2018 Winter Games.

    It’s not often that a brand–much less one whose business is mostly selling its products to other businesses and not consumers–can create this kind of intriguing, compelling work on a consistent basis.

    So Thursday’s report in The Information that Intel is cutting down its award-winning internal creative agency comes as a surprise. The in-house group has had about 90 employees and helmed by Herd, global director of experience design Nam Nguyen, and global director of Intel Creative Content Labs Yogi Graham. “As Intel’s complex business continues to expand across more products and industries,” a company spokesperson tells Fast Company, “we’re recalibrating our marketing strategy to be more B2B and ecosystem focused. As part of this shift in strategy, we’ve decided to reduce the capabilities and evolve the focus of our internal creative agency, Intel Agency Inside.”

    This is disappointing because in many ways Agency Inside was the model any brand would be smart to emulate. (One could argue it’s the polar opposite of, say, Pepsi’s in-house effort, which produced the Kendall Jenner debacle two years ago.) It also runs counter to the trend: Overall, companies are embracing internal creative agencies. Back in August, the In-House Agency Forum and Forrester released a survey that said in-house agencies have increased by 52% in the past decade, and that the growth rate has increased from 42% in 2008 to 64% today. Sixty-seven percent of in-house agencies said that they weren’t adequately staffed to meet the demands of the business. By that account, Intel should be staffing up, not downsizing.

    Back in September, I spoke to Herd about this upward trend of internal agency growth, and she pegged the movement as a function of corporate “financial decisions, as well as access.” She added, “My hope is it will continue and evolve to include that [companies embrace internal agencies because they] deliver really good work for the brand. If it’s just about saving money, there are lots of ways to do that, and I hope it’s more than that.”

    The company’s move follows the departure of chief marketing officer Steve Fund this past May, and then CEO Brian Krzanich’s resignation in June over allegations of a relationship with another Intel employee. Robert Swan has been interim CEO while the company looks for a permanent replacement.

    Intel seemed to have found the right balance between working with outside agencies and creating its own work in-house, so this scale back should probably give other brands with internal creative ambitions some measure of pause. It certainly won’t end the in-house versus external agency debate, but if it does anything, it reiterates that creating compelling, effective advertising at scale–that also makes financial sense–is incredibly tough, whether you’re inside or out.

    But it’s hard not to think about what might be lost in the process. Last summer, Intel put together a compelling story of how it was using drones to help preservation efforts on the Great Wall in China. At the time Herd said this project was also emblematic of the potential of an internal creative team. Her colleagues had pitched the business side on its story potential. “I can tell a very technical story to people who would be interested in that. Then creatively, it’s also a super appealing human-interest story that can elevate their perception of Intel outside of the PC,” Herd said. “We look at it both ways: Does it have the technical chops that will make it interesting to people who may be interested in using this stuff? But also, is anyone else going to watch it?”

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    A huge proportion of the country’s LGBTQ adults live in the South. So do lots and lots of hate groups. That sad irony isn’t lost on Ryan Roemerman, the executive director of the LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. “We have some of the most LGBTQ populated areas, yet we’re under attack most often,” he says.

    As Roermerman sees it, such attacks happen two ways: through discriminatory anti–LGBTQ state legislation preventing marriage and workplace equality, and also through physical intimidation and assault. Part of the issue is that there’s been little research about who is being affected, how, and the ways they’d like people, companies, and legislators to better support them.

    That changes this month, as the LGBTQ Institute releases its inaugural Southern Survey of more than 6,500 residents across 14 states. The data was collected in partnership with researchers at Georgia State University, who coordinated with 146 nonprofits throughout the region. “Our mission is to connect academics and advocates to advance LGBTQ equity through research and education focused on the American South,” Roemerman says.

    The effort works a lot like a highly detailed census for gay Southern life. It will inform, and hopefully inspire, more funding for three main areas of concern: education and employment, public health and wellness, and criminal justice and safety. By the numbers, at least 30% of the country’s adult LGBTQ population resides in this region, but they receive a per-person average of just 4% of available cause money.

    As the report notes, there’s been at least one large generational shift: Younger respondents appear more self-aware and open about their sexual orientation and gender identity at an earlier age than older folks have been in the past. At the same time, discrimination remains rampant: More than 25% of all respondents report having been the target of jokes and slurs within the last years. Other forms of bigotry include being rejected by a friend or family member (17%), feeling unwelcome at a place of worship (14%), and receiving poor service at a restaurant or other kind of business because of their sexual orientation (13%). In many cases, those rates are nearly twice as high among transgender people.

    Another troubling trend is the role that sexuality and race continue to play in many communities. For instance, 77% of black lesbian, gay, or bisexual respondents report having been threatened or physically attacked at some point in their life, the report notes. “There’s a disproportion amount of folks who are being harassed because of their gender identity and also the interplay between your race and ethnicity as well as your gender identity,” adds Roemerman. Equally disturbing: 33% of transgender people report some discrimination when trying to access health care, with nearly half of those just deciding to avoid treatment.

    On the upside, 93% of those surveyed report being registered to vote and voting in the last election, even if some recent political movements by allies in other regions haven’t done much to improve life for them.

    Roemerman points to the “No Gay, No Way” campaign against Amazon locating its new HQ2 expansion in a state that didn’t support marriage, housing, or workplace equity. That effort was really only half-successful: Earlier this week Amazon announced it would be adding operations in New York, though it is also adding another office in Virginia, and more operations in Tennessee.

    But people living in the South might actually consider that something of a victory. According to the survey, they overwhelmingly want to see companies stay in their states and continue fighting for rights and equity while providing jobs, instead of avoiding the area or relocating. “I mentioned earlier, we are under attack most often,” he adds. “We are on the receiving end of a lot of these, these anti–LGBT pieces of legislation. We definitely want to make sure that the companies that are in the South are willing to stay and support us, not flee and leave. For the folks who are creating these kinds of campaigns, you wonder whether or not they really talked to people in the South.”

    Either way, Southern companies can’t really afford not to take a stand anymore: More than 70% or respondents are willing to support companies with values that support the LGBTQ community, while about 75% will boycott those opposed.

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    ‘Tis the season for schmaltzy, feel-good, holiday-themed advertising, a time in which we’ll be seeing the jolly old elf in all kinds of commercially viable situations, but none–NONE–will punch you in the gut like this one. The newest PSA from the International Red Cross manages to simultaneously dunk on all the superficial BS surrounding the holiday season, while reinforcing its actual core themes of kindness, empathy, and generosity. This is not your Coca-Cola Santa. Onward!

    International Red Cross “The One Gift Santa Can’t Deliver”

    What: A holiday PSA from the Red Cross.

    Who: International Red Cross, adam&eveDDB

    Why we care: Forget jingle bells and roasting chestnuts on an open fire for a few minutes, and remember the importance and impact of empathy and a sense of responsibility to our fellow humans.

    Payless Shoes “The Payless Experiment”

    What: A fantastic, embarrassing, brilliant, on-brand stunt from Payless Shoes.

    Who: Payless Shoes, DCX Growth Accelerator

    Why we care: The social experiment marketing trick is as old as time itself (or at least, 2007). Presenting something cheap as something luxurious to illustrate that there’s no need to spend so much money on such things. It’s become a reliable trope that boasts multiple SNL spoofs (Oh that sweet, sweet BK Joe). This time it’s shoes, and Payless set up a fake luxury shoe store in L.A. called… wait for it… Palessi. So far the joke has racked up reams of earned media across CNN, USA Today, and more.

    Libresse “Viva La Vulva”

    What: A Swedish feminine hygiene brand’s bold, unapologetic ode to vaginas everywhere.

    Who: Libresse, AMV BBDO

    Why we care: This is the followup to last year’s Cannes Lions Glass Grand Prix winner “#BloodNormal,” and shares its predecessor’s challenge to stigmas and hush-hush nature about periods and vaginas in general. Not only that, but this one’s quite catchy, thanks to Camille Yarbrough’s “Take Yo’ Praise.”

    Taco Bell “CrunchWrapping Paper”

    [Photo: courtesy of Taco Bell]
    What: Three square feet of paper that costs Can$4 and looks like seasoned beef, nacho cheese sauce, crunchy tostada, tortilla, with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream.

    Who: Taco Bell Canada, Grip Limited

    Why we care: Seriously, who wouldn’t want to see a multi-layered, burrito-like mass of gifts under the tree?

    Battered Women’s Support Services “Peephole”

    What: An interactive transit ad that puts gives you the POV of a person experiencing domestic violence.

    Who: Battered Women’s Support Services Vancouver, Rethink Canada

    Why we care: Powerful content in unexpected places. This is where advertising often makes the biggest impact, and here it’s for an important cause. It was fun when the Milk Board made bus stops in San Francisco smell like freshly baked cookies years ago, but this takes creative execution on an under-utilized platform (bus stops) to a new level.

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