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    For a certain privileged class, one of the worst feelings in the world is being ambushed by podcast ads while your hands are otherwise engaged in some activity such as washing dishes and thus unable to fast-forward.

    You feel trapped, an auditory hostage, like passengers on a subway that’s just been boarded by a busking mariachi band. However, there’s a reason we’re willing to put up with podcast hosts droning on about why Tommy John underwear is revolutionizing the underwear game: because podcasts are the best.

    Podcasts have completely revolutionized our commutes, our chores-doing hours, our workouts, and even our work. (Note to my editor: I only listen to podcasts at work during moments when I absolutely do not need my brain.) A 2017 Nielsen survey found that 50% of all U.S. homes are filled with podcasting fans. As the industry continues expanding and we approach peak podcast saturation, programming has only gotten more and more niche. Much like Rule 34 of the internet: If it exists, there’s a podcast of it.

    Hundreds of promising new shows launched in 2018. (It is at this point that I will insert a hearty plug for Fast Company’s own pair of podcasts launched this year: Secrets of the Most Productive People and Creative Conversation.) Some of these brave new shows found their footing right away, while others shuttered after only episode 3. Here are the 15 best new podcasts of 2018, as chosen by Fast Company staffers.

    Game of Our Lives (as chosen by staff writer and editor Jeff Beer)

    Created with Jetty, Al Jazeera’s audio brand, this might as well be The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Soccer podcast. Host David Goldblatt tackles subjects as diverse as politics, culture, economics, immigration, religion, and film–all through the lens of global football. Season One kicked off in March with Werner Herzog talking football and film and ended with an episode on the links between fascism and football in Italy. Season Two quickly gave fans regular servings of cultural context to the 2018 World Cup games in Russia.

    Articles of Interest (as chosen by staff writer Melissa Locker)

    The first spin-off series from Radiotopia’s 99% Invisible features producer Avery Trufelman taking listeners on an engrossing deep dive into the world of clothing. While the episodes on punk clothing and plaid’s checkered past and the legacy of Hawaiian shirts are by turns fascinating and fun, the show really shines in the episode on the strangely sexist history of pockets.

    The Pay Check from Bloomberg (as chosen by deputy editor Kate Davis)

    Hosted by former Fast Company staffer Becca Greenfield, this new show took a topic that I’ve reported on for years and shed new light on it. I learned new things about this complex issue, and the personal stories and deep reporting kept a subject feeling alive and urgent rather than bogged down in stats.

    The Habitat (as chosen by staff writer Melissa Locker)

    This is the true story of six strangers picked to live in fake Mars, work together, and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real… The Habitat!

    The Jeselnik & Rosenthal Vanity Project (as chosen by deputy editor David Lidsky)

    Great podcasts are about relationships. The intimacy of listening to people in your head effectively demands that you feel like you’re among friends, or at least eavesdropping on close pals. My new favorite weekly hang of 2018 comes from experiencing the two-decade-long friendship of comedian Anthony Jeselnik and Gregg Rosenthal, a writer and podcaster for the NFL. These two initially tried a podcast together in 2015, under the auspices of the NFL Network. The Rosenthal & Jeselnik Vanity Project, as the show was then known, went awry almost immediately, as the No Fun League objected to just about everything relating to the podcast, from the rap music Jeselnik favored to his running jokes about commissioner Roger Goodell. As Jeselnik, a renowned button-pusher, grew more hysterically frustrated, Rosenthal tried to walk the line between making a good show and not getting himself fired.

    Fast forward three years, and the duo is miraculously back, revived at Comedy Central as the cable network gets more seriously into the podcasting game. Now on Jeselnik’s home turf, the show is less focused on covering football news, or really much of anything at all. It’s two friends (and their new buddy, producer Erica Tamposi, who also for the NFL by day and is a writer and comedic performer as well) being silly and trying to make each other laugh. Thankfully, Comedy Central is almost as good a foil for Jeselnik as the NFL was, annoying him with its music restrictions and poor advertising options. The show is smart, funny, and daring: Jeselnik will take any indefensible position in an effort to make you laugh uncomfortably, such as analogizing the Caravan to a football team’s offensive strategy. The weekly 45-minute episodes go by remarkably fast. Jeselnik has only committed to doing the podcast for 40 weeks, and JRVP, as the hosts and fans call the show, is already 14 episodes into its run. Whether it makes it to 40, or beyond, is up to Jeselnik and his compellingly combustible humor. It’s a time bomb you’re dying laughing at while you wait for it to blow up.

    Caliphate (as chosen by staff writer Ruth Reader)

    If you love New York Times writer Rukmini Callimachi’s reporting and her epic tweet threads, you will love this podcast. Here, Callimachi really gets to tell her story, reporting on the particulars of ISIS and the people who get sucked into its orbit. It could be some of the best audio storytelling around.

    Late Night Whenever (as chosen by director of photography Jeanne Graves)

    Funny, crass, and endearing comedian Michelle Buteau’s podcast uses a late night TV show format, recorded in front of a live studio audience. Buteau starts each show with some funny and uncomfortable overshare about her day (butt sweat in spanks, fishing a ring out of the toilet after a wipe), and then talks to writers, actors, and comedians (Ben Sinclair, Jason Jones, Ann Dowd, Danielle Brook, Paul Feig) about all sorts of ridiculous life stories (sex, vomit, love) and, of course, inspiration. She ends each show by summing up what she’s learned in a one-sentence zinger. It’s a much needed 30-40 minute relief from the news of the day, and it’s refreshing to sit back and have a good laugh with a black woman talking to creative people.

    We Came to Win and American Fiasco (as chosen by staff writer Melissa Locker)

    The 2018 World Cup not only allowed the world to come together and yell at their TVs in unison, but it was also the perfect peg for two fantastic soccer podcasts. At WNYC, Roger Bennett hosted American Fiasco, about the greatest U.S. men’s soccer team and its disastrous bid to win the 1998 World Cup. The folks at Gimlet scored with We Came To Win telling some of the best untold stories of soccer, including how the 1990 World Cup saved soccer in England and what was really going on in an infamous Zaire match back in 1974.

    The Cut on Tuesdays (as chosen by deputy editor Kate Davis)

    Feminist podcasts are becoming a crowded space, but The Cut still feels fresh and offers interesting reporting and storytelling on a wide range of topics from women in politics to pubic hair to the tie between domestic violence and mass shootings.

    The Dave Chang Show (as chosen by staff writer Ruth Reader)

    If you don’t know Dave Chang, you should. He’s the man behind all the Momofuku restaurants and Milkbar. Though he’s a chef, his show goes far beyond food. What makes the show most compelling is Chang himself, who as a host is rough around the edges but off-the-cuff and extremely honest.

    Everything is Alive (as chosen by staff writer Melissa Locker)

    If you haven’t heard a sentient, lonely, overlooked can of off-brand cola get drunk on air, you are missing out on one of the most charmingly odd moments in audio storytelling.

    Slow Burn(as chosen by editorial assistant Yasmine Gagne)

    The engrossing second season of Slate’s Slow Burn deals with the Clinton impeachment proceedings. I was too young to follow the saga closely when it unfolded and host Leon Neyfakh did a good job bringing some nuance to characters like Linda Tripp and Ken Starr that seem overly simplified now. It’s an interesting listen at a time when our current president is being investigated by special counsel and has been accused of sexual misconduct.

    Personal Best (as chosen by staff writer Melissa Locker)

    The hosts of Personal Best just want to help people be themselves–within reason. Each week they set out to help someone improve themselves in some way, whether that’s learning do backflips like Jackie Chan, delivering a baby cow, or figuring out the rules of flirting via text, and each week it’s a goofy, funny caper that is a joy to listen to.

    Punch Up the Jam (as chosen by staff writer Joe Berkowitz)

    As much as I enjoy hearing trusted voices discuss the day’s news or funny people talking about whatever’s on their minds, my favorite podcasts tend to be those where the hosts and guests have a mission. On Punch Up the Jam, it’s a complicated but endlessly rewarding one. Each episode finds music-minded comedians Demi Adejuyigbe and Miel Bredouw dissect a song together, and then premiere a brand new “punched up” version at the end (along with some picks for songs deemed “unpunchable.”) It’s hard to tell what’s funnier: comedians like Paul F. Tompkins making fun of The Doors’ interminable “LA Woman” for an hour or some of the shockingly well-done Weird Al-ish remixes Adejuyigbe and Bredouw concoct. Luckily, you don’t have to choose. Just listen.

    The Amelia Project (as chosen by staff writer Melissa Locker)

    If you have ever thought about faking your own death to get out of a trip to the DMV or a visit to the in-laws, The Amelia Project is for you. The audio drama is set at an agency that helps people fake their deaths. In each episode, a client explains their plans for faking it as well as their eventual return.


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    Hiring anyone who wants a job. Giving people more time off. Building something utterly novel–be it contraption, app, VC firm, or social movement–that radically impacts the world. These are the types of goals that business leaders and entrepreneurs often dream about. And while much of 2018 was environmentally, socially, and geopolitically turbulent, the good news is that many people are still finding ways to accomplish them–sometimes to directly counteract the darkness they see around them.

    These people don’t just think differently, they’re different from each other, representing a mix of ages, gender, race, and walks of life. Here are 10 of the most inspiring efforts from 2018. Together, they continue to show how anyone interested in using business as a force for good can make a difference.

    [Photo: Greyston]

    This company hired anyone who applied. Now it’s starting a movement

    Millions of people who want a job can’t find one, especially if they’ve been formerly incarcerated. Greyston Bakery CEO Mike Brady challenged that through open hiring: giving anyone from any background a chance to shine. Now the company is teaching others how to do the same.

    [Photo: Emma Yang]

    A 14-year-old made an app to help Alzheimer’s patients recognize their loved ones

    The most remarkable part of Timeless, a new Alzheimer’s assistance app, is the person behind it: Emma Yang wanted to make something special for her suffering grandmother. The result applies facial recognition to photos, and might be the future of fixing forgetfulness.

    [Photo: Tom Kubik]

    Every employee at this grilled cheese restaurant has a criminal record

    Only former felons work at All Square, a nonprofit eatery whose name and square-shaped food signals that owner Emily Turner is building a place for people who have paid their debt to society and are ready to start again. It’s a unique social experiment, and one that’s evolving as the employees grow and take more responsibility for running the business.

    [Source Image: wacomka/iStock]

    This basic income program will give $1,000 a month to black mothers

    In Jackson, Mississippi, the nonprofit Springboard to Opportunities started a trust to provide no-strings-attached stipends to moms in need. Springboard CEO Aisha Nyandoro’s bet: As the most oppressed lift themselves out of poverty, the entire community will gain.

    [Photo: WN/iStock]

    Is tech finally realizing that contractors need benefits, too?

    At least 20% of employed Americans are contract workers and lack the benefits afforded full-time employees. That’s standard Silicon Valley practice, but Becky Cantieri, the chief people officer at SurveyMonkey, has found more bottom-line gains from going the other way.

    [Image: Ocean Cleanup]

    The Ocean Cleanup vessel is on its way to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

    It’s been six years since 18-year-old Boyan Slat dreamed up a futuristic machine that might rid the ocean of its horrible plastic problem. He’s since raised millions and founded a nonprofit that constructed a 2,000-foot structure that’s on its maiden voyage. And sort of working.

    [Photo: courtesy Goodr]

    This app delivers leftover food to the hungry, instead of to the trash

    Jasmine Crowe bootstrapped her way from living with food insecurity to founding Goodr, an Atlanta-based food-waste management company. She’s since redirected about a million pounds of surplus food from landfills to nonprofits that ensure more people get fed.

    [Source Image: JuliarStudio/iStock]

    The four-day workweek is good for business

    What happened when Andrew Barnes, the head of a trust and estate planning firm, decided to give his employees 20% more time off? Employees reported being happier, more focused, and were actually more productive, doing the same amount of work in less time.

    [Photo: João Canziani; Hair: Shendra Coleman; makeup: Ashley Kucich; photographed at Contra Studios]

    Memo to the Silicon Valley boys’ club: Arlan Hamilton has no time for your BS

    The sad truth is that venture capital firms regularly ignore startups run by women and people of color. Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton is outspokenly different: After bootstrapping her own success, she’s launched a $36 million fund for black female founders.

    [Photo: Jessie English]

    The Parkland, Florida, students led the U.S. beyond thoughts and prayers–and they’re just getting started

    The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors Cameron Kasky, Emma González, David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, and Alex Wind cofounded March for Our Lives. The gun safety group has since pressured politicians, changed how companies do business, and given more young people a voice.


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    In December 2017, Google quietly released a new feature on its Arts & Culture app. It was a neat little tool where you could upload a picture of yourself, facial recognition would analyze your features, and a machine learning algorithm would scan through the history of (mostly Western) art to find a painted person who looked like you.

    Come January 2018, the fine art selfie-matching app had gone viral, catapulting to the number one spot in the Apple App Store with people sharing their results on social media. Some lamented how scarily accurate it was; others decried how little they looked like their closest match.

    [Source Images: Erik Lucatero/Unsplash, Pvt. Francis Calder Emerson, Francis Vandeveer Kughler, 1944/Google]

    It was a prescient start to 2018. This was the year that AI–and AI-generated art in particular–exploded, with thousands of AI-generated images spreading around the internet. Here are five of the best images in this genre of 2018, and here’s what they say about the current and future state of AI.

    [Image: Robbie Barrat]

    AI can paint nudes–and pretty much anything else you throw at it

    Over the course of 2018, AI artists created algorithms that could paint like the old mastersdraw nudes and landscapesgenerate fireworks from scratch, design Balenciaga-worthy clothes, and craft depressing cityscapes. Students used AI to turn anyone into a good dancer. Even the New York Times got in on the action: Neural net experimenter Janelle Shane generated Halloween costumes with AI, then a Times illustrator drew them. It just goes to show: AI can create some approximation of any visual thing you throw at it. Just don’t expect it to be very realistic. AI researcher Robbie Barrat created the surreal image above by training a neural network on nude portraits.

    [Image: courtesy Mauro Martino and Luca Stornaiuolo]

    Companies use AI as a marketing tool

    Tech companies, eager to show off their technical chops, released tools for the public to play with in 2018. Microsoft Research created an algorithm that could conjure up an image based entirely on your words. Adobe released a tool that allows the user to transform their portrait into any style, from the Mona Lisa to a Greek statue. IBM launched a website that shows you what you’d look like as a celebrity (image above). Silly? Gimmicky? Sure. But there’s a serious underpinning: These AI tools are how companies market their AI prowess and help the public understand an often-inscrutable technology.

    [Image: courtesy Andrew Brock]

    AI-generated images can help us understand AI’s thinking

    One of the biggest breakthroughs in image generation in 2018 was an algorithm called BigGAN, created by Google intern Andrew Brock. Brock tapped Google’s outsize computational power to create a complex neural network that he trained on far more images than most researchers could. The result? Images with incredible textures, unlike any the visual AI world had seen before. The neural network generated dogs that looked incredibly dog-like. These kinds of experiments make it easier for non-technical users to get a sense of how AI works, or at least what it’s capable of.

    [Photo: courtesy Shinseungback Kimyonghun]

    Art reveals where AI falls short

    One of the biggest challenges for the AI community is how to develop the technology responsibly. Facial recognition and machine learning algorithms embed bias when they are trained on skewed datasets. This year, tech workers revolted over how their companies were applying the technology. Questions remain over how deeply algorithms are changing the way we experience the world–and ourselves.

    The image above wasn’t technically generated by an AI, but it’s an important artifact of the visual culture that AI has engendered. It’s an example of how artists are using traditional media to shed light on the problematic nature of an algorithmic society. Artistic duo Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun, who go by the name Shinseungback Kimyonghun, asked 10 artists to paint an image of a face that wouldn’t be detected by a facial recognition algorithm. To ensure each painting wouldn’t be detected by a computer, they rigged up a camera with three facial recognition algorithms by each painter’s work station. As the artists worked, the camera searched for faces and a monitor let the artist know if it found any, guiding the work so that the final product would be invisible to all three algorithms. “It will be more and more difficult to find unique human abilities as technology develops further,” Shinseungback Kimyonghun told me earlier this year. “But we need to keep looking for it, not to find our supremacy over machines but to know who we are.”

    [Image: Wieden + Kennedy London]

    AI is already creating fake images, and there are many more to come

    In her exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum “Life: Gillian Wearing” this year, Turner Prize-winning British artist Gillian Wearing used deep fakes to put strangers’ bodies on appear her face. Deep fakes are AI-generated videos that ingest large amounts of video to create a moving image that looks real but is completely fake, and they represent one of the more vexing implications of AI: eliminating the divide between what’s real and what isn’t. Wearing’s project was harmless, of course, but not all such applications will be. One study published in 2018 examined how maps go viral online. The author wrote that it’s only a matter of time before fake maps are generated by bots on a mission to spread misinformation. Our visual culture, after all, echoes our political one.


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    On Christmas day, President Trump renews calls for a border wall and an eight year-old boy under the custody of Customs and Border Protection has passed away. This is the second time a child has died this month under CBP’s watch.

    The boy was apprehended at the U.S. Mexico border with his father. He became visibly ill on December 24th and was sent to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in New Mexico, according to ABC News. He was monitored there for 90 minutes and given amoxicillin and ibuprofen, before being released. He was brought back to the hospital after he started vomiting, ABC News reports. He died just after midnight on December 25th and the cause is still unknown.

    The Department of Homeland Security released the following statement: “DHS has continued to see a dramatic increase in unaccompanied children and family units arriving at our borders illegally or without authorization. Consistent with existing law, these individuals are held at federal facilities pending their removal or release into the interior of the United States with a notice to appear at a court hearing. During their period of detention they received medical screenings and further treatment as needed.”

    The passing comes as President Trump continues to lobby for a border wall. Thousands of government employees are working through the holidays without pay, as Congress continues to debate a spending bill that would allocate $5.7 billion for a border wall. Democrats fiercely oppose the plan. In his remarks to press, the President showed no signs of yielding on the proposed spending in order to end the partial government shutdown.

    “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it,” Mr. Trump told reporters, according to the New York Times. With the president, Republican, and Democratic officials in deadlock over the budget, agencies affected by the shutdown may not re-open until after the New Year, when Democrats will regain a majority in the House.

    Congress will reconvene on Thursday 27 December.


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    According to early projections, Amazon drove at least 40% of online holiday sales this year. That’s great news for the Seattle e-commerce behemoth, but now that Christmas morning is over, it also means a lot of people ended up with gifts from Amazon that they really didn’t want.

    Are you one of them? If so, you’re in luck. Amazon, ever the customer-centric company, makes it pretty easy to return a gift in five steps, even if you didn’t buy it. Here’s what you need to do:

    1. Go to the “return a gift” page and sign in with your Amazon account.
    2. Enter your 17-digit order ID to locate the order. If you don’t have the number handy, you’ll have to contact Amazon for more information.
    3. Select the specific item from the order that you want to return.
    4. Select your shipping method. Once you do this, you’ll get a shipping label. Or if you prefer to return the gift to an Amazon locker, you’ll be prompted to pick the locker location.
    5. Once your return is authorized, put the authorization inside your package, put the label outside of it, and ship it back. Once Amazon receives your package, it will process your return as an Amazon.com Gift Card and credit whichever account you used to return the gift. (Note: If you’re the gift giver, a refund will be processed to the original payment method.

    You can find the full instructions for Amazon gift returns here.

    Now for some important caveats: It’s possible that the person who gave you the gift didn’t mark it as a gift when they bought it on Amazon. If that’s the case, you’ll be prompted to contact Amazon’s customer service department during the return process and may need to provide additional information. (Or you could just come clean: Confess that you didn’t really like the gift, and ask your gift giver to return it for you.)

    Also, it’s worth noting that Amazon doesn’t just automatically accept all returns no questions asked. If you wait too long, or if the item is damaged, you may have a problem. Basically, it’s a good idea to read Amazon’s refund policies before you get started.

    Good luck, and happy holiday hangover!


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    Let’s just say it: When compiling a record of the tech industry’s blunders this year, it’s tempting to zoom in on Facebook and leave it at that. The company had an annus horribilis so rich in scandal, embarrassment, and turmoil that it’s tough to keep track of them without a scorecard.

    Still, limiting this list to any one company—even Facebook, even this year—would leave so many unfortunate incidents uncommemorated. From history-making data leaks to bizarre little moments, a bevy of players gave us even more reasons than usual to disabuse ourselves of the notion that technology is synonymous with progress. Herewith, a month-by-month account of what went wrong in 2018.

    January

    A sensitive exploration of a tragic situation. YouTube superstar Logan Paul blithely shares a jokey video of him stumbling across a dead body in a Japanese forest known for suicides. People take offense, he apologizes, and YouTube demonetizes his videos (but later brings some ads back).

    Every product should be such a failure. A flurry of stories breathlessly report that Apple’s iPhone X has flopped so badly—perhaps because of its high price or notched screen—that the company plans to halt production. Later, when Apple shares sales figures, it turns out that the X is the world’s best-selling smartphone in the first quarter. And when the company announces three new iPhones in the fall, they’re all variants of the X.

    Maybe they should have stuck to selling books. T-shirts, mugs, bibs, and other goods with the slogan “Slavery Gets Shit Done” and an image of pyramids are available on Amazon.com, where they’re offered by third-party merchants. Organizations such as Anti-Slavery International are not amused; Amazon refuses to comment, other than noting that the items have been yanked, and pointing to its policy on offensive products.

    February

    Hey, it’s not like that many people were watching. Hulu’s stream of Super Bowl LII cuts off during the final minutes of action for a small percentage of subscribers to the streaming service. The company later explains that its software was befuddled by the fact that the game went on past 10 p.m., when This Is Us was scheduled to begin.

    March

    Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. People report that Amazon’s Alexa is lapsing into jags of mysterious and creepy laughter. Amazon says the voice assistant is mistakenly thinking it heard the request “Alexa, laugh,” and changes the trigger phrase to the more distinct “Alexa, can you laugh?”

    VR is amaaaaaaaazing. Oculus Rift owners worldwide get mysterious errors about the “Oculus Runtime Service” and find their VR heads inoperative. Oculus fixes the problem with a software patch and issues a $15 store credit by way of apology.

    I told you Facebook quizzes were evil. The New York Times and Guardian report on how political data company Cambridge Analytica harvested data on Facebook users via a quiz created by an academic researcher. It turns out more than 87 million users—most of whom didn’t even take the quiz—were ensnared. Facebook bans Cambridge Analytica, but that turns out to be the beginning of the scandal rather than its end.

    No worries, find a friend on Verizon and swap. Sprint customers who have ordered Samsung Galaxy S9 phones report that they arrive with Verizon SIM cards. Some say that Samsung tells them to work it out with Sprint.

    It’s only an apology tour if you apologize. Via a Facebook post, TV appearances, and a full-page newspaper ad, Mark Zuckerberg admits that Facebook made mistakes that led to the Cambridge Analytica mess; explains what the company is doing to address them; and promises to do better in the future. He expresses regret. But he doesn’t say, “I apologize.”

    April

    Breaking: Harvard student irritates classmates. When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before U.S. Congress on his company’s many controversies, Representative Billy Long (R-MO) chooses to grill him about Facemash, the site Zuck created in 2003 that allowed Harvard University students to rate the attractiveness of other students. Long appears to think it might still be in operation.

    Cool feature! Too bad you don’t have it. Facebook acknowledges that the 2014 Sony Pictures hack led it to give Mark Zuckerberg and other executives a secret feature—unavailable to the masses—that auto-deletes their old Messenger messages in the interest of privacy. The company says it will press pause on the deletions until it’s able to offer everybody else the same option.

    May

    At least the money went to an upstanding citizen. AT&T acknowledges that it paid $200,000 to President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for his insights on the new administration. The company’s CEO calls it a “big mistake.”

    Mea sorta culpa. TV viewers are inundated with commercials from Facebook, Uber, and Wells Fargo expressing contrition—more or less—for their respective scandals.

    “Alexa, behave as inappropriately as possible.” A Portland family reports that Amazon’s Alexa service recorded their conversation and then randomly sent it to a contact associated with their Amazon account. Amazon acknowledges the glitch, says it stemmed from a weird series of malfunctions leading Alexa to think someone had asked it to record and transmit the audio, and promises to tweak its technology to make such scenarios less likely.

    Crank Yankers it’s not. At its I/O conference, Google plays canned demos of Duplex, a new AI technology that can make phone calls to restaurants and hair stylists on a user’s behalf. It’s eerily human and doesn’t disclose it’s a computer. And people raise questions about whether the demos are as real-world as they seem.

    It’s right there in article XXVIII, which also covers Facebook pokes. A federal judge says that Trump’s habit of blocking some of his critics on Twitter is unconstitutional. Trump appeals the ruling a month later.

    June

    Broadcast yourself! Polygonreports that YouTube allows anti-LGBTQ ads to target LGBTQ-themed videos and “demonetizes” some LGBTQ-related content. After initially defending its policies, YouTube apologizes and promises to do better.

    Move fast and break cities. Rent-a-scooter companies Bird, Lime, and Spin dump their scooters on San Francisco’s sidewalks without warning, leading to pedestrian ire and a temporary ban while the city investigates the new mode of transportation. When it allows scooters to return in August, the three original companies are not among those permitted to do business.

    iPhone users will have to wait until 2020 for this feature. Users of Samsung Galaxy phones report that their devices are randomly and spontaneously sending texts and photos to contacts. After some debate whether Samsung or T-Mobile is responsible for the glitch, Samsung takes responsibility and promises to fix it.

    Your privacy is very important to us. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica mess, Facebook acknowledges sharing users’ data with dozens of companies, though it says it’s ended or will soon end most of these arrangements. Though a 2011 Federal Trade Commission degree restricted Facebook’s ability to provide data to third parties, the company maintains that the device makers it had deals with were “suppliers,” not third parties.

    I was there, and the suspense was spine-tingling. Instagram holds a splashy San Francisco launch event for its new IGTV streaming service, but the proceedings unaccountably start an hour behind schedule. Fast Company’s Nicole Laporte later reports that the videos Instagram planned to present got accidentally deleted immediately before showtime, requiring the company to go back to backups and reformat them on the fly.

    July

    Happy Fourth of July! Facebook apologizes for having flagged part of the Declaration of Independence as hate speech.

    If it involved anything other than selling burgers, this would be offensive. Washington, D.C. area hamburger joint Z-Burger tweets a meme disparaging McDonald’s and showing a photograph of James Foley, a journalist kidnapped and murdered by ISIS. The CEO of the chain’s ad agency tweets a three-part video apology and blames the incident on an overworked art director who thought the image of Foley was from a TV show.

    August

    Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? After a reference to Colin Kaepernick is eliminated from a song in the soundtrack for Madden 19, EA apologizes. Rather than having anything to do with Kaepernick’s controversial decision to kneel during the National Anthem, the company says that employees mistakenly believed it didn’t have the right to reference him, even in a lyric.

    So good you won’t believe it came from a phone. A Reddit user notices that an actress who appears in a commercial for a Huawei phone has posted an Instagram picture showing that an image in the ad that looks like a selfie taken with the phone—outstretched arm and all—was actually shot by a crew member with a DLSR.

    The ultimate upselling opportunity. Firefighters battling Northern California’s devastating Mendocino Complex Fire discover that Verizon is throttling their connections on the grounds that they’ve exceeded their plans’ data cap. The wireless carrier initially tells them to spring for a plan with a more generous allotment but later apologizes.

    September

    Kindly keep your experiments to yourself. Users of devices running Google’s Android Pie operating system notice that battery saver mode has been mysteriously enabled, even if the device in question is fully charged. Google explains that the setting was remotely flipped on by an experiment gone awry. The company apologizes.

    Damn you, Joker. A Q&A with T-Mobile CEO/Batman fan John Legere on his “Batphone” is disrupted when a prankster changes the voicemail recording to something described by people who heard it as “very bad” and “racist.”

    Gotta love those naming rights. Six weeks after it opened, San Francsico’s $2.4 billion Salesforce Transit Center closes indefinitely when cracks are detected in two of its beams.

    Goodbye, Burt. When Burt Reynolds dies on September 6, fans pay tribute by posting his famous 1972 Cosmopolitan centerfold—and Facebook deletes the posts for violating its community standards. The company later calls the deletions of of the slightly naughty photo a mistake.

    Hope you didn’t cancel any plans. A Taiwanese hacker says he’s discovered a Facebook bug that will allow him to delete Mark Zuckerberg’s account. He says he will stream the event on Facebook Live—but then backpedals and says he will instead submit the bug to the company for a bounty payment.

    Hey, at least it had nothing to do with Cambridge Analytica. Facebook discloses that an unknown attacker gained access to information from 50 million user accounts, including those of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. (It later downgrades the figure to 30 million.) The company says that three distinct bugs interfaced to enable the hack, and that for 14 million users, the information stolen included “username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches.”

    October

    They’re gonna change it back to Tronc by 2022. Embattled media giant Tronc—the former Tribune—dumps its much-ridiculed moniker and goes back to calling itself Tribune Publishing.

    Moar notches. Google’s new Pixel 3 XL phone suffers from a bizarre software bug that sticks a virtual notch on its screen along with the all-too-real one.

    Even fake disclosure is better than no disclosure. As part of its plan to prevent abuse of its platform for election tampering, Facebook requires those buying political ads to disclose who they are. Vice tests this policy by posing as all 100 U.S. senators and trying to purchase ads. Facebook approves all of them.

    November

    Shoulda given him options: Donald Duck, Alfred E. Neuman . . . The Wall Street Journalreports that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s support of Donald Trump was a factor in his exit from Facebook–which was a firing–and that Mark Zuckerberg had earlier tried to convince Luckey to publicly announce he would be voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

    Algorithms are terrible people. In the wake of vandalism at a Brooklyn synagogue, one of the slurs written on its walls—”Kill All Jews”—briefly appears in Twitter’s Trending Topics sidebar.

    You know you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Google says that a bug may have left the personal data of up to 500,000 users of Google+ vulnerable to unauthorized access since 2015. (According to the Wall Street Journal, it was slow to disclose the breach for fear of rattling consumers.) The company responds by announcing plans to shutter the never-successful consumer version of Google+ by August 2019.

    Bricked, but still beautiful. Some Apple Watch owners report that installing Apple’s WatchOS 5.1 on their timepieces causes them to become inoperable. The company withdraws the update until it can come up with a fix.

    Charming young man, charming young fans. Disciples of controversial YouTuber PewDiePie—alarmed that a Bollywood music video channel may surpass his 66 million followers—take advantage of a vulnerability to print messages of support for their idol on the printers of thousands of random strangers.

    As long as it eventually came back. After internet monitoring firms notice that Google traffic has been mysteriously traveling through China and Russia, a Nigerian ISP explains that a botched network upgrade rerouted traffic through its partner, China Telecom.

    Set the TARDIS for one week from now. Doctor Who fans trying to watch the current episode on Amazon Prime find that the service is actually streaming the next show before it’s supposed to be available.

    Super Stereotype Bros. Nintendo apologizes for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s depiction of Mr. Game & Watch, a character from the 1980s, wearing a feathered headdress and loincloth while brandishing a torch. It removes the imagery from the Japanese version of the game (the U.S. version never had it).

    Loomering large. After being banned from Twitter, far-right activist Laura Loomer handcuffs herself to the company’s New York office, bullhorn in hand, and shouts at employees as they enter the building. She accuses CEO Jack Dorsey of persecuting her as a “Jewish conservative journalist.” And after two hours of protest, she asks the police to cut off her cuffs.

    December

    Even better than Huawei’s camera. A Serbian photographer finds that Samsung Malaysia’s site is misrepresenting a stock photo she took of herself with a DSLR as an example of the Galaxy A8 Star smartphone’s portrait mode.

    The internet is a series of tubes. Trump lawyer/cybersecurity consultant Rudy Giuliani leaves a space out of a tweet, accidentally creating the URL “G-20.In.” A clever someone registers the domain and creates a page headlined “Donald Trump is a traitor to our country.” Giuliani accuses “cardcarrying anti-Trumpers” at Twitter of having permitted the prank, which anyone could have pulled off without any cooperation from the company whatsoever.

    Cher and share alike. Kanye West, attending Broadway’s The Cher Show with wife Kim Kardashian, is politely called out by the actor playing Sonny Bono for using his smartphone during the performance.

    A proud heritage of stealing someone else’s name. Samsung announced plans to partner with fashion brand Supreme in China—not the New York City-based Supreme, but an Italian knockoff. The collaboration generates the wrong kind of publicity, causing Samsung to reconsider.

    Great high-paying jobs for American robots. Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn’s much-trumpeted deal to build a plant in Wisconsin involves a skyrocketing subsidy by taxpayers—up to $4.1 billion in breaks—and a facility of dwindling ambition which, thanks to automation, may not end up hiring that many assembly-line workers after all. Though Foxconn insists that it will eventually hire lots of people, Governor Scott Walker stops bragging about the project.

    It would have been kinda cool if it had been real. A semi-incomprehensible statement of support for YouTube’s PewDiePie in his quest to remain the service’s most-followed channel briefly appears on the Wall Street Journal’s site.

    They’re gonna change it back to Oath: by 2022. Verizon, which had tried to turn itself into a media company by acquiring AOL and Yahoo, takes a $4.6 billion write-down on the combined businesses. It then announces that it’s changing the group’s name from the memorably mystifying Oath to the anodyne Verizon Media Group.

    I can’t help you with your problems, sir. During Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on alleged bias by tech companies against conservatives, Congressman Steve King (R-IA)—famed for his racist tiradesasks Pichai why his granddaughter saw her grandpa’s photo and some insulting commentary about him on an iPhone. “Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company,” replies Pichai.

    One more bug and they’ll have to shut it down retroactively. Weeks after explaining that a Google+ data leak has prompted it to shut down the service in August 2019, Google acknowledges a different vulnerability affecting more than 52 million people, and says it will now terminate the consumer version of Google+ in April.

    On the bright side, they’re no longer blocking sidewalks. San Francisco Bay Area TV station KTVU reports that Oakland’s lovely Lake Merritt is awash in electric scooters from companies such as Bird and Lime. (Whether those dumping them are indulging in pure wanton vandalism or making a social statement is unclear.) 60 scooters were dredged up in October alone.

    This website brought to you by the color yellow. A Google training exercise gone awry causes third-party sites on the company’s network to display yellow rectangles instead of ads for 45 minutes. Google says it will pay the affected sites the money they would have gotten if they’d displayed, you know, advertising.

    Note to self: Don’t forget to renew software certificates. Tens of millions of people in the U.K. and Japan find their phones can’t make calls, send or receive texts, or access the internet via cellular network. Wireless equipment manufacturer Ericsson accepts blame and says the outage stemmed from an expired software certificate. Unhappy wireless carriers want to be compensated for the outage, possibly to the tune of $126 million.

    I guess staying at Holiday Inn Express really was a sign of intelligence. Lodging kingpin Marriott says that someone has accessed the data of 500 million customers of Starwood, the rival hotelier it acquired—including, in some cases, information such as their passport numbers. The New York Timesreports that the breach was part of a Chinese intelligence operation.

    Ironically, Snap was also considering the Potemkin Stock Exchange. The New York Postreports that when Snap CEO Evan Spiegel was mulling over which stock exchange to take his company public on in 2016, the New York Stock Exchange filled its trading floor with ringers from elsewhere in the company to impress Spiegel during a visit. When Snap IPOs, it indeed chooses the NYSE over Nasdaq.

    Remember when it was Microsoft who had a rep for buggy software? Facebook acknowledges that a bug allowed apps access to up 6.8 million users’ photos without permission—including images that people had uploaded but not actually shared with anyone.

    “Alexa, break your old record for inappropriate behavior.” A German Amazon customer who takes advantage of the European Union’s GDPR privacy laws reports receiving 1,700 Alexa audio recordings—of some other Amazon customer. They’re detailed enough to identify the second customer in question. Amazon apologizes and says that a human—not Alexa—goofed.


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    This is the time of the year where we tech journalists like to talk about big things: The best products, the major trends, the colossal screw-ups.

    Still, why not take some time to appreciate the little things? Sometimes the best ideas in tech aren’t the ones that transform lives, but the smaller-scale innovations that make our daily routines a bit easier, or prove to the rest of the industry that there’s a better way to do things. Herewith, a tribute to the cleverest ideas we saw this year.

    Notification killer

    With Android 9 Pie, Google made a big deal about the “Digital Wellbeing” feature that can monitor and limit your time with specific apps. That’s a nice addition, but Android 9’s most mindful new feature is much more subtle: When the system notices that you routinely swipe away notifications from a particular app, it’ll offer to disable those notifications permanently. This is the most proactive step yet by a mobile operating system to deal with notification overload.

    Notch begone!

    “The fewer moving parts, the better” is a good rule of thumb for consumer tech products, so it’s anybody’s guess how well the Vivo Nex phone’s motorized, pop-up selfie cam will hold up over time. Still, it does make the phone pretty to look at, with no unsightly camera notch to break up the all-screen design. At a time when many Android phone makers are embarrassing themselves with cheap iPhone X clones, you have to admire this small act of resistance.

    The spill-resistant smartwatch

    Even if you never have to use the Apple Watch Series 4’s automatic fall detection, you might appreciate that it’s there. Apple trained the Watch’s motion detection algorithms to recognize the distinct upward gesture that our arms make reflexively during a hard fall. If you take a tumble, you can then notify emergency services and your emergency contacts by swiping on the screen; the Watch will do so automatically if you’re not moving after a minute or so. Along with the Series 4’s built-in ECG, this feature could help save lives.

    A new breed of bundling

    The idea of bundling services together at a discount is neither new nor innovative, but the partnership between Hulu and Spotify is more inspired than most. Although the two companies aren’t related, they probably figure the same crowd that’s interested in streaming on-demand video might also want to stream on-demand music. Those who pay for both can now get a $5 per month discount. The bundle is both a fine growth tactic and a sly way to migrate customers out of Apple’s billing system (and corresponding 30% cut of subscription revenues), as the only way to get the deal is directly through Spotify’s website.

    Over here, Uber

    To spare you from gesticulating wildly on crowded street corners, Uber now lets you light up your phone’s screen with a unique color. The feature, called “Spotlight,” is supposed to help drivers pick riders out of a crowd, and prevent passengers from having to hunt for their ride when it doesn’t have its own light-up “Beacon” on the dashboard.

    Just the free stuff, please

    Roku has recently made a mission out of surfacing free video on its streaming players and smart TVs. This fall, for instance, the company launched a “Featured Free” section on its home screen, pulling together ad-supported movies and shows from a wide range of sources. Most impressive, though, is the “free” filter on Roku’s voice remote. Just ask for “free sci-fi movies,” or “free sitcoms,” and your Roku will spit back a list of results that won’t cost you anything. When most other platforms are more interested in peddling subscriptions, Roku’s focus on freebies is a refreshing change of pace.

    Not just for drawing anymore

    With the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung managed to pack a Bluetooth radio into its S Pen stylus, transforming it from a writing tool into a versatile remote clicker. By pressing a button on the pen, you can advance through PowerPoint slides, and control media playback.

    Browsing without a trace

    Even if you’re browsing the web in a private or incognito tab, websites can still get an idea of who you are through a method called “fingerprinting.” With this method of tracking, websites try to pick out individual users through the unique attributes of their computers, such as system configuration, fonts, browser plugins, and time zones. In MacOS Mojave, Apple’s Safari browser only supplies limited system information to websites, so that every Mac looks the same. Sorry, snoops!

    A camera that knows where you are

    Sure, it’s too bad you can’t trust the company behind it, but the camera on Facebook’s Portal smart display has a brilliant way of following users around the room during video chat. By not making users stand in one spot, Portal solves the biggest annoyance with video chat on other smart displays, such as Amazon’s Echo Show and the Google-powered Lenovo Smart Display. Here’s hoping other companies will shamelessly copy the approach, a tactic Facebook can surely appreciate.

    Keep quiet, Alexa

    Next time you feel like to turn down the thermostat in the middle of the night, try whispering your request to Alexa. Assuming that you’ve enabled Whisper Mode, your Amazon Echo will whisper back. To be clear, this is incredibly unsettling in practice, but it’s a clever idea and it can be useful if someone’s sleeping right next to you. (See also: Brief Mode, which replaces many of Alexa’s spoken responses with a chime.)

    Putting Shortcuts to work

    With iOS 12, Apple included a new feature called Shortcuts to help people get things done faster. The praise here isn’t so much for Apple itself, but for all the folks who’ve come up with handy Shortcuts on their own. By using Shortcuts, you can talk to Google Assistant through Siri, download videos from YouTube, bypass paywalls online, and quickly dictate text into your clipboard. The possibilities for cleverness are practically unlimited.

    Posting into the void

    In a former life, Brizzly was a social media app that added richer features to Facebook and Twitter feeds. It was bought by AOL in 2010, and suffered the sort of fate that usually transpired for cool things that were bought by AOL. This year, original founder and Google Reader creator Jason Shellen bought Brizzly back, and promptly turned it into a social media posting tool that goes nowhere. Brizzly posts are neither saved nor published, so you can have all the satisfaction of blurting out your thoughts online with none of the potential embarrassment. Shellen has made vague promises of an actual product to come, but for now Brizzly is part joke, and part release valve for our dumber musings.


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    It’s been a wild year for health and wellness. The booming sector consistently bleeds into more mainstream categories–to the point where traditional retailers depend on it to boost slowing sales. Sephora, for example, is now flush with luxe dental floss, natural deodorants, and $38 collagen-enhancing beauty supplements.

    But at the same time, vigilant consumers and watchdog groups are fighting back against the fakes and exaggerated claims. Earlier this fall, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop settled a lawsuit brought by 10 California counties that argued its product advertisements lacked reliable scientific evidence. (Some customers were able to seek refunds for those jade vaginal eggs.)

    Then, in a rather controversial move, Facebook deleted dozens of pages dedicated to fringe or holistic medicine in an apparent crackdown on pseudoscience. Others, such as myself, rallied against the normalization of influencers who peddle snake-oil antics, such as Mehmet Oz, who was recently appointed to the President Donald Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.

    Despite these controversies, the health and wellness industry witnessed amazing innovations that are spreading the gospel of self-care and affordable health solutions to more audiences. That’s a good thing. In the coming years, it is sure to be associated with more than yoga and green juice.

    Read on for the more promising trends as we head into 2019. And keep track of ongoing trends by signing up for the Well to Do newsletter.

    Taking on awkward issues

    “It’s kind of a taboo topic,” says Will Herlands, cofounder of Willow, a direct-to-consumer underwear brand for those living with incontinence. “Understandably, people don’t like to talk about peeing in your pants.”

    Bladder leakage affects 30%-40% of older women, and 15% of men. That’s about 25 million people in the U.S. and 400 million worldwide. And those with it have little to turn to beyond what amounts to bulky, unflattering adult diapers. Willow offers a more discreet and fashion-forward approach, delivered right to one’s door.


    Related:Dr. Oz is an absurd choice for Trump health council


    It joins a host of new startups aiming to refashion once-whispered-about health issues: Hims and Hers tackles male erectile dysfunction and female hair loss; Blume is the first cohesive line of self-care products for tweens going through puberty; Queen V rebrands feminine hygiene care as cool, fun, and kitschy; Genneve is a telehealth service helping women going through menopause; while Joylux is a vaginal device company for the millions of women who are too embarrassed–or cash-strapped–to seek medical treatment.

    Willow cofounder Will Herlands says Silicon Valley tends to focus on younger demographics (with sexier needs) and ignore audiences with just as much buying power. He wants that to change.

    “We wanted to see how we can bring these types of [direct-to-consumer] services and products to people who are traditionally kind of left out of the (e-commerce) revolution,” says Herlands.

    Home fitness revolution

    The popularity of Peloton has ushered in competitors in the $14 billion home fitness equipment market. There are now smart rowing machines, weight lifting systems, boxing gloves, even jump ropes. Peloton, meanwhile, recently announced it was expanding into yoga, in addition to rolling out new treadmills.

    So, will Americans soon ditch the gym for their living room?

    A new report from user insights platform Alpha found that 54% of Americans who work out at least once a month are interested in buying an at-home fitness system. But there were a few issues that held them back, namely “no room in their home or apartment” (34%), high cost (24%), and preference for the live class environment (11%).


    Related:This connected rower puts you on the Charles River


    Prices will continue to drop as tech advances, more people buy, and the size issue is one the burgeoning industry is keeping in mind. A startup called Mirror reclaims living spaces with a $1,495 full-length connected device that comes alive with an LCD panel, stereo speakers, camera, and mic offering a range of one-on-one fitness classes. It’s essentially a virtual personal trainer the size of a yoga mat that turns back into a mirror when you’re done.

    “Right now, this tech is very early in the adoption cycle, and it may never make sense for everyone,” explains Alpha cofounder Nis Frome, “but for early adopters, the enthusiasm is pretty next-level, so the tech looks promising.”

    The Drybar effect

    Acupuncture clinics exist in plenty of U.S. cities, but they aren’t always accessible or user-friendly. WTHN, a “Drybar of acupuncture,” intends to broaden the Eastern practice’s appeal by making it an affordably luxurious experience, much like a spa. That means studios with modern midcentury furniture, an online booking system, and chic vanity areas.

    The startup joins other new companies lending the Drybar experience to niche sectors. Alchemy 43, for example, wants to take Botox and lip plumping out of the doctor’s office and into a nationwide chain of salons that does just anti-aging injections.

    (“It’s just like getting your hair and nails done,” Alchemy 43 founder and CEO Nicci Levy told Fast Company.)

    The affordable luxury experience has since been adapted for facials with Heyday, as well as massages with Squeeze. (The latter was actually founded by the team behind Drybar.) Then there’s the world’s first “face gym,” which blends fitness and beauty together for a new routine targeting the often-ignored facial muscles.


    Related:Drybar’s founders launch a hip new massage chain


    As the wellness industry continues to swell, expect it to take more cues from the beauty industry. For under-the-radar trends, it’s often a surefire way to woo consumers with disposable income.

    The productive fertility market

    As femtech takes root in Silicon Valley, one area has especially benefited: fertility care. There’s now an influx of women-led startups dedicated to ovulation tracking, sperm testing, benefits solutions, affordability, and more. Some are founded by doctors, others by women who personally struggled through the fertility process.

    A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey found that 29% of women with fertility issues sought medical advice, and 27% had some variant of medical testing, though only 3% pursued assisted reproductive technology. That may be due to the astronomically high cost.

    “This is one of the largest out-of-pocket health variances that millennials face right now,” says Claire Tomkins, cofounder of Future Family, a startup that guides women through the fertility journey.

    Moving forward, the global market is expected to grow to $21 billion by 2020. And it’s not just for women–there are now more startups dedicated to men’s fertility, like Legacy, which analyzes and freezes sperm for aging males.

    Diversity inclusion

    Women of color have long been underrepresented in wellness. For too long, many people associated yoga and meditation with white Lululemon-clad juice enthusiasts. Now leaders are creating innovative ways to bring self-care to new audiences. Until mainstream companies catch on, they’re leading the way for inclusivity.

    Stacey Johnson and Jasmine Johnson, cofounders of Black Zen, a free online meditation guide and weekly podcast, modify their content to incorporate their audience’s daily struggles.

    Britteny Floyd-Mayo, also known as Trap Yoga Bae, introduces newcomers to yoga by  transforming it into a party atmosphere. Based in San Francisco, the events draw crowds in the hundreds.

    South Los Angeles’s Green Tree Yoga  is one of several organizations spreading health and wellness disciplines to underserved and underrepresented sectors.


    Related:Wellness has a diversity issue


    In Miami, Rina Jakubowicz established a bilingual yoga teacher training course for Hispanic women, which has since been accredited by Yoga Alliance. Amazingly, despite a large Hispanic population, there were barely any yoga classes in the city taught by Spanish speakers. Her first students included a cleaning and cooking crew that worked at her yoga studio employer. “It’s empowering. Now they can go out and teach,” says Jakubowicz.

    Plant-based gets meatier

    Impossible Foods (which produces the “bleeding” Impossible Burgers) will soon churn out 500,000 pounds of plant-based “meat” each month to satisfy demand from the 3,000-plus restaurants it supplies. Beyond Meat, meanwhile, recently opened a 26,000-square-foot food lab dedicated to re-creating everything from your favorite ballpark franks all the way to steak.

    Today, plant-based sales account for 20% of food and beverage dollars spent by Americans, with beef alternatives making up 44% of that. In fact, a recent survey found that most Americans are even willing to give lab-grown meat a try.

    It’s a new era for plant-based alternatives, and startups are thinking way beyond standard products (burgers), audiences (vegans), or accessibility (supermarket aisles). “Eerily convincing” faux eggs are already here, so don’t be surprised if you soon hear about the world’s first plant-based oyster shack—or a meatless steakhouse.

    Good Catch, for example, released shelf-stable “tuna” made from lentils, chickpeas, and fava beans. The startup plans to deliver a range of products that reduce the environmental pressure brought about by overfishing. It joins similar companies such as Wild Type, which is attempting lab-grown salmon, and New Wave Foods, a shrimp alternative made from algae.

    Brick and mortar is also seeing a plant-based revolution. Monty’s Good Burger—which won over fans at music festivals like Coachella—just opened a permanent outpost in Los Angeles. Everything on the menu is vegan, including the vanilla milkshakes. On a sweltering summer afternoon, dozens of fans waited over an hour for the vegan creation dubbed the “In-N-Out of Impossible Burgers.”

    “I don’t know when we’ll get into something like octopus, but our plan is to slowly but surely address as much [seafood] as we can,” Good Catch cofounder Chris Kerr told Fast Company.“We are in this for the long haul.”

    Telehealth gets more inventive

    Telehealth has been instrumental in reimagining health care–be it mental health or elder care–with video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, and consultations via mobile communication devices like your iPhone. But these services still suffer some stigma that they are “less than” traditional methods.

    A recent survey found that nearly half of consumers would feel less comfortable during a telehealth visit versus receiving an in-person diagnosis–while two-thirds weren’t even sure telemedicine was covered by their insurer.

    That’s changing, says Chris Steel, PA Consulting Group’s global healthcare lead, a healthcare industry veteran who specializes in telehealth programs. Steel says physicians and nurses are steadily adopting telehealth, which has been championed by younger consumers looking for efficient, cost-effective solutions. For patients in remote areas or for people suffering from chronic ailments or issues that prevent them from moving–like arthritis–telehealth can be a crucial option.


    Related:Men’s wellness startup Hims gets a “badass sister”


    According to a recent medical survey by Kantar Media, 2 out of 5 physicians participate in telemedicine or plan to within the next year. For those who don’t, 80% feel that a percentage of their patients could be successfully diagnosed or treated via telemedicine.

    While certain issues (like physician reimbursement and licensing) are still being ironed out, several startups lead the way in how telemedicine can make your life so much easier.

    TytoCare, an at-home medical examination kit, allows parents to inspect their kids’ ears, nose, throat, lungs, and heart, and then video conference with a doctor–all from the comfort of home. Pediatric “visits” are now reduced to 10 minutes in length.

    Roman, a telemedicine startup founded just last year, raised $88 million in series A funding to connect smokers looking to quit with licensed physicians.

    [Photo: courtesy of Candid]
    Even dentistry is getting the at-home treatment: Direct-to-consumer startup Candid wants to make teeth straightening faster, easier, and more affordable with DIY teeth mold kits that are then analyzed by a network of orthodontists across the country.

    “We are–relatively quickly–going to stop talking about telehealth as a separate category,” stresses Steel. “It’s just going to be the way it’s done. It will be used in conjunction with physicians and nurses as an essential part of the way we deliver healthcare.”

    Helping us sleep

    More than one-third of American adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis, reports the CDC. In fact, it’s now a public health epidemic, with research linking a lack of shut-eye to a number of problems. Our cognitive functions are impaired, so we are more likely to overreact, and our emotional intelligence is degraded, so we are more likely to be irritable. There’s even research connecting sleep deprivation to mental health problems and depression.

    As Arianna Huffington told Fast Company, sleep deprivation is “the new smoking.”

    The last few years have seen several new tech products to help people sleep, including nighttime wearables, sleep trackers, smart pillows, and more. I even once spent the night with a sleep robot, which was more or less like a Teddy Ruxpin for insomniacs.

    Now, the issue is spreading to more industries in the health and wellness space. In May, Equinox announced a new “sleep coach” program for its members, as well as a clinical research study demonstrating how sleep impacts performance. This upcoming February will see the launch of Nightfood’s new line of ice cream that complements the human sleep cycle. Nightfood is betting on sleep health becoming the next big functional food category.

    Expect sleep to pop in even more categories as Americans further prioritize their time in bed.

    Taking fitness recovery seriously

    While the boutique fitness industry has mostly been relegated to yoga or sweat-inducing modalities, more are dedicated to recovery. ClassPass named it the fastest-growing trend last year, reporting a 16% rise in restorative and recovery classes booked.

    StretchLab is one of many new fitness studios aiming to make instructor-led stretching the next big thing. At their airy locations, a “flexologist” pushes, pulls, and twists your legs and arms every which way.

    Meanwhile, a crop of new biohacking and relaxation studios such as New York City’s ReCover help the physically and mentally stressed re-center themselves. Patrons strap into a leather lounge chair, snuggle with a weighted gravity blanket, and then drift off as an attendant administers New Agey brain wave techniques.

    These companies are groomed to see more attendees if the nation’s stats continue on their current path: Over 79% of Americans report experiencing daily stress, mostly brought on by work and family obligations, according to Gallup. That will fuel entire industries dedicated to making people feel better–or just more relaxed, even for just an hour.

    The wellness real estate boom

    There is a lush “wellness community” in Georgia forestland that’s equal parts Pleasantville and Disneyland. It’s called Serenbe, and it’s a Utopian wonderland filled with farm-fresh food, roaming goats, and picturesque homes with wrap-around porches. There are unexpected features, like underground trash cans and secret treehouses for unaccompanied kids to discover and colonize. Barely anyone drives; they use their feet or, if anything, a golf cart to get around.

    Despite its quirkier aspects, Serenbe is nowhere close to a cult. In fact, that’s a common complaint of residents: Why do people automatically think that a community of friendly neighbors, clean air, and healthy living must be some diabolical scheme? “It’s sad, actually,” noted one woman during my visit there.

    Where you build your home matters: A World Health Organization study found that 80% to 90% of our health outcomes are tied to where and how we live. The report looks at environmental pollution, air quality, and healthy foods, among other things.

    As such, wellness communities are a rapidly growing, multibillion-dollar real estate trend. In North America alone, the market is worth $52.5 billion and is growing by 6.4% annually. The concept still has a way to go in terms of public perception and wider adoption, but in the coming decade, more people will consider them a way to combat preventable chronic diseases. Investors are taking notice while developers better customize the idea to suit different areas, like beach condos in Miami or apartment clusters in New York.

    The Global Wellness Institute found that people who once opted for planned neighborhoods or leisure golf centers are veering into wellness communities. “This is the beginning of a whole wave,” Ophelia Yeung, senior research fellow at the Global Wellness Institute, told Fast Company.“There’s a big shift going on in the way consumers look at real estate.”

    Reimagining primary care

    Roughly 70% of diseases in the U.S. are chronic and lifestyle-driven, and nearly half of the population has one or more chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or obesity.

    Parsley Health thinks it can drastically reduce that number. Its mission is to foster a close, long-term, doctor-patient relationship where both parties are committed to addressing the underlying reasons for our health woes. For a monthly fee (usually $150), patients see their doctors for more than an hour each session, allowing for a more comprehensive visit.

    Most primary care visits, in comparison, last under 15 minutes. That ultimately accounts for why 76% of traditional physician visits result in a prescription for a drug, adding another $3.3 trillion spent nationally on healthcare per year.

    While Parsley doesn’t shy away from prescriptions or surgery (if necessary), the staff–doctors who specialize in internal and family medicine–prefer lifestyle changes through nutrition, exercise, supplements, and stress management techniques like meditation. (That’s right, you might get a prescription for more yoga.) After a year with Parsley Health, over 90% of members reported improvements to symptoms related to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, eczema, and insomnia.

    Parsley is available in New York and Los Angeles, and popular with women in their 30s and 40s. It’s not the first of its kind: Oak Street caters exclusively to adults on Medicare, while CareMore serves seniors, among others. But it’s refreshing to see more companies address the issues plaguing overwhelmed U.S. primary care practitioners.


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    At the height of Stalin’s powers in the 1950s, Russian citizens would circulate joke books making fun of the great dictator. These folks would surely be killed if found in possession of such items, but they did it anyway–probably because they needed a laugh more then than ever.

    “It’s almost like humor is one of the last things people surrender,” Veep creator Armando Iannucci told me earlier this year when I interviewed him about his latest film, The Death of Stalin. “You’re still telling yourself you have a bit of freedom left because you’re making jokes about the person pointing a gun at you.”

    America in 2018 was not nearly as grim as 1950s Russia. (Well, not for most people, anyway.) It was still a time, though, in which laughter was a rare reprieve from the toxic sludge of mass shootings, emboldened white nationalism, political turbulence, and nonstop news of the bleak variety. In a moment like this, comedy plays an important role. It’s not merely the art and business of giving college students something to get high to, but a necessary release of tension. It’s a reminder that light can still exist within the dark, a defiant shrug in the face of seemingly impossible odds.

    The only problem with comedy during the Trump era is that some audiences seem to expect more of it than it could ever deliver. Comedy isn’t going to save us. Trump will never feel so deeply owned by a Saturday Night Live sketch that he decides to call it quits. (Although he did recently ponder whether there was perhaps a way to legally force the show to be nicer to him.) SNL was at its worst this year when it seemed to buy into the#Resistance fantasia idea of its importance, presenting a stone-faced Robert DeNiro as Mueller the Superhero.

    The show was its best when it diverged from Trump completely and found other paths to the laughs viewers so desperately needed. As I’ve argued before, political comedy now seems oxymoronic and mostly obsolete. Late night comedy shows can still be funny in 2018, but rarely do they give rise to the kind of unselfconscious belly laughs you get from the stuff that simply takes your mind off of experiencing 2018. Here are the moments from movies, shows, the internet, and beyond that succeeded in that task.

    Movies

    • Blockers was possibly the funniest studio comedy of the year, one whose message proved to be the exact opposite of its premise: three parents frantically trying to stop their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. Director Kay Cannon crafted memorable set-pieces that play out like symphonies. It’s hard to pick a favorite–the sign of a high-quality comedy, indeed–but the scene in which costars John Cena and Ike Barinholtz sneak into a house to retrieve something and find themselves caught up in a blindfolded sex game is a marvel of comedic suspense.

    • I dare not spoil Sorry to Bother You by mentioning the scene that steals a shocked laugh from every audience that sees it. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the scene. Everyone else, get to it.
    • Unintentional comedy still counts as comedy, which is why a scene from the universally reviledGotti ended up on this list. Gottiis a film in which every single choice everybody makes at all times is exactly the wrong choice–casting, song cues, accents, constant usage of actual news footage to tell the story instead of, you know, telling the story. But one scene takes the cake. John Travolta’s cartoonish Gotti consults another mafioso about pulling off a major hit and the guy advises him, “You will need the approval of all five boroughs,” and then he starts to name each borough, as though lifelong New Yorker Gotti needed any elaborating. By the time he names the third borough, you think “No way is he going to do all of them!” But then he does, and it’s pure bad movie magic. (Bonus: once you’ve seen this film, consider seeking out the Chapo Trap House episode about Gotti.)
    • The Favourite is an unexpectedly funny delight set in 1800s Great Britain during the reign of Queen Anne. Although obviously a period piece, the one moment director Yorgos Lanthimos chooses to go anachronistic involves showboaty breakdancing, and it is absolutely hilarious.

    TV shows

    • Netflix rolled out its cooking fail show Nailed It earlier this year, and has since returned with seconds and thirds. In the final batch of episodes, which are holiday-themed, the show truly comes together in a perfectly seasoned comedic soufflé. In the episode where guest host Ron Funches joins Nicole Byer and chef Jacques Torres to judge a round of cookies, the promise of a baking show about people who can’t bake rises like dough to its delicious full potential.

    • Killing Eveis a thriller that finds Sandra Oh’s fledgling spy in a flirtatious game of cat-and-mouse with a prolific hit-woman. However, no show created by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge would be complete without some laughs. The scene from episode 4, in which the killer, Villanelle (Jodie Comer), surprises her handler with an elaborate birthday, manages to both provide one of those laughs and also be creepy.
    • Cringe comedy is a staple of Issa Rae’s Insecure, but the show brought it to new heights in the seventh episode of season 3 this year. In a key scene, when Issa is worried that she’s been ghosted by Nathan, she forces her best friend Molly to meet her at Nathan’s house, since Molly had (until recently) been hitting it off with Nathan’s roommate Andrew. (Got all that?) What follows is a scary-funny, unsparing look at our desperation to solve romantic mysteries.
    • Adam McKay’s HBO show, Succession, could easily have gone by the name of a fake series from Kroll Show:Rich Dicks. In the eighth episode, though, the Roy family tops itself in the field of rich-dick excess by leaving New York for a bachelor party in Prague’s pansexual drug dungeon, The Rhomboid. The one-two punch of Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) martyr-like cocaine moment followed by the immortal Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) line “Buckle up, fuckle head” provides a high you won’t regret later.
    • RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Miss Vanjie’s baffling exit from the series back in March created an instantly iconic moment of television, the kind of thing that will be imitated for years to come. Vanjie is funny enough on her own, but it’s RuPaul’s reaction that elevates her grand exit even further.

    • I badmouth SNL a lot for its Baldwin Trump sketches and that time it sided with Amazon over actual New Yorkers, but the show obviously employs some very funny writers and performers who knock it out of the park sometimes. Case in point: the absolutely bonkers Girlfriend’s Game Night sketch, in which guest host Bill Hader cracks up every one around him and eventually himself.

    Comedians doing comedy

    • John Mulaney’s bit on a detective named JJ Bittenbinder teaching him about street smarts as a child, from the Netflix special Kid Gorgeous, just might be the funniest sustained eight minutes of stand-up comedy this year.
    • Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph reassured the audience at the Oscars that there were plenty more white people backstage, and a good time was had by all.
    • Remember when Michelle Wolf crushed the White House Correspondent’s Dinner so hard they decided never to have a comedian back again?

    • Tig Notaro has been doing her “Ladies and gentleman: The Indigo Girls” fake-out as a closer for years, but with her new Netflix special, Happy to Be Here, we now have the definitive version of the bit.

    Comedians doing comedy with songs

    • Cat Cohen’s “Origin Story” is not only a great intro to her cabaret take on comedy, but it also “explains” why she got into comedy in the first place.

    • Gabriel Gundacker’s song about the nonsense names of characters in the film Smallfoot is an absurdist earworm that went viral for a good reason.

    • Demi Adejuyigbe does a video on September 21 every year, praising the song “September” by Earth Wind & Fire, but this year he really amped up the production values, to joyful effect.

    • Adam Sandler has made enough mediocre movies over the years that his Netflix return to standup, 100% Fresh, had the benefit of low expectations. The Paul Thomas Anderson-directed set of jokes and songs easily clears that bar. In between songs are quieter bits like his standout impression of a dad who has just shaved off his mustache for the first time in years.

    Writing

    Tweets and Twitter threads

    • Spend some time perusing the below threads for amazing crowdsourced stories.

    Memes

    Each of the memes below marked a moment in time. You are still free to use them now, of course, but the meme economy is a real strike-while-the-iron-is-hot kind of thing.

    • Mocking Spongebob instantly became the perfect way to throw somebody’s terrible argument right back in their face without changing any words whatsoever.
    • The American Chopper argument was useful for presenting both sides of an issue in a way that simultaneously made serious matters seem frivolous and frivolous ideas serious.
    • The spate of Elon Musk parody accounts that broke out as Elon Musk began his descent into loopy behavior (and legal trouble) on Twitter earlier this year were each funny in their own way.

    Bonus 

    Here are some comedy items I couldn’t choose one glaring moment from:

    Movies: The Death of Stalin, Ibiza, Game Night

    Shows: Corporate, Detroiters, Big Mouth 

    Books: Patricia Lockwood – Priestdaddy, Patrick deWitt – French Exit

    Podcasts: What a Time to Be Alive, Thirst Aid Kit, Las Culturistas, Blank Check


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    When the world feels so full of problems, it can be hard to know where you should prioritize your giving. What cause needs the most help? Where will your money go the furthest? Which issue needs solving the fastest?

    To make sure these questions don’t paralyze you into not giving at all, several industry groups offer guidance. We’ve gathered three lists that each approach the question differently, from the finding trustworthy brand names, to finding the most cost-effective ones, to ones that will pull at your heartstrings.

    One caveat is that many of these organizations are large and national or international. With the ultra-wealthy increasingly in charge of which philanthropic priorities get funded, many smaller, local organizations are the ones in most dire need of your cash–and where your cash will make a big difference. Giving to a nearby community foundation may help close that gap, as does actually contacting individual groups in your area to learn more about their work and then giving to them.There’s no universal list for local groups, because every community is different, but to get started, one good resource is this accredited community foundation locator provided by the Council on Foundations.

    [Source Image: StudioM1/iStock]

    Big Names You Can Trust

    For those looking to donate by cause and ensure it’s a contribution well spent, Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest independent charity evaluator, grades more than a 9,000 charities on their financial health (including what percentage of funding goes toward programs, administrative, and fundraising costs) and good governance practices covering various public accountability and transparency practices. Each nonprofit has to record at least a million dollars in annual revenue and have been in existence for seven or more years. (That includes community foundations!)

    “We want donors to feel like they have the information they need to make the best possible giving decision for them,” says Ashley Post, Charity Navigator’s communications manager. “That would be supporting a charity that’s in line with their personal interests…and that they know is responsible.”

    The group shares many types of lists, including those with the longest-running record for scoring well. Its database is also searchable by category, and there’s a wide range of specifically cause-centric roundups on its blog (especially if you love kittens). Overall, one of Charity Navigator’s more popular lists is composed of groups that have more than $65 million in assets and spend more than $100 million each year, basically making them household names. Here’s its 10 Best Charities Everyone’s Heard Of to get undecided givers started.

    Matthew 25: Ministries: Secures and redirects goods from companies, manufacturers, and hospitals and others internationally to those need.

    Direct Relief: Specializes in emergency preparedness, disaster response, and disease prevention logistics and supplies.

    MAP International: Christian group that works globally to provide medicine and health supplies to communities in need.

    Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: Funds research and development efforts to cure, control, and improve specialized care for those with the disease.

    Samaritan’s Purse: Evangelical Christian organization providing international aid through supplies and community development.

    Catholic Medical Mission Board: Provides people with healthcare services, and access to food and clean water worldwide.

    The Carter Center: Nongovernmental group that resolves conflict, advances democracy, human rights, and mental healthcare, and prevents disease.

    Americares: Delivers medicine and aid to those affected by poverty or disasters both nationally and internationally.

    The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International: Advocates for cultural understanding and peace through education and anti-poverty efforts.

    American Civil Liberties Union Foundation: Protects individual rights and liberties through litigation, advocacy, and educational work.

    Most Bang For Your Buck

    For those more focused on cost efficiency over specific causes, there’s GiveWell, a nonprofit that publishes its own analysis of charities that can impact the most people per dollar spent. Those organizations operate largely in the global health and development field, in part where inexpensive interventions that control against things like intestinal parasites or malaria can save large numbers of lives and help lift communities out of poverty.

    The general philosophy behind this mindset is called effective altruism. “We use four core criteria for assessing charities for potential inclusion on the list, and those are that they are evidence-backed, cost effective, transparent, and in need of additional funding,” says Catherine Hollander, a research analyst with GiveWell. The result is a short but thoroughly vetted list of eight charities and, in some cases, the specific programs that the group recommends backing there. (To donate through GiveWell, and ensure your contribution is earmarked accordingly, you can go here.)

    Malaria Consortium, SMC or seasonal malaria chemoprevention program: Saves lives by distributing inexpensive preventative anti-malaria drugs to young children in Africa and Asia.

    Helen Keller International, VAS or vitamin A supplementation program: Prevents deaths by supporting government-run efforts against malnutrition that can also cause blindness and other vision issues.

    Against Malaria Foundation: Prevents malaria in developing countries through the distribution of low-cost LLIN or long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets.

    Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative: Supports various government and school-led deworming efforts.

    Schistosomiasis Control Initiative: A more technically titled deworming support program that works largely with officials in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Sightsavers, deworming program: This group works across several different cause areas, but GiveWell specifically recommends supporting their low-cost deworming efforts.

    END Fund, deworming program: Another group that works on multiple topics, but has room to scale and grow its parasite treatment efforts.

    GiveDirectly: Delivers mobile-based cash transfers directly to the extremely poor families in developing countries.

    A Heartwarming–If Unconventional–Approach

    The third option is a more empathy-driven and aspirational one. For more than a year, charitable crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has been compiling a hub of its Kid Heroes: Individual fundraisers under the age of 18 who are directing money to people and causes in need. This builds on the site’s strong track record of making campaigns go viral based on personal stories that help donors feel connected to the people they’re helping. Users can choose the campaign, or give to a central fund that’s redistributed.

    “With the GoFundMe option, you get this notion of here’s the story, I get to read about it, I get to see how the money’s going to be used, and I know that the money is going to go to that person almost immediately,” says GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon.

    The service has a strong online guarantee in the event anything suspicious happens (something that came in handy earlier this year). It’s also currently promoting holiday drives for various seasonal needs. For Solomon, the idea of backing kids has an added bonus. “You create a generation of changemakers who not only know how to make change, they know how to raise funds, they know how to rally people, they know how to bring communities together, and that’s very powerful,” he adds. (All of those campaigns are listed here.) Below are several that have been recently trending, according to the company.

    Help Give Back To Veterans: Tyler, age 7, makes hygiene and grooming kits that include thank-you cards for needy veterans. He works with shelters and is interested in starting his own nonprofit.

    Rhymers are Readers #37books: Havana, 7, wanted to fund a black- and female-centric book club for her friends (the 37 refers to a study that shows non-white children have that many fewer books at home). It’s since expanded to do the same for girls in Ghana.

    Hot Sauce for Heat: Lev, age 13, started Hot Sauce 4 Heat. He sells homemade hot sauce and donates the proceeds to shelters and nonprofits that help low-income people in Philadelphia afford heating during the winter.

    Team Jenny Bean Hospital Care Bags: Jenesis, age 7, is a cancer survivor who distributes moral-boosting care bags with things like socks and coloring books to other kids going through similar treatments. She also gives away handmade beanies.

    Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents: Ruby Kate, age 11, is raising money for low-income elderly people in a government-funded Arkansas nursing home. She hopes to be able to provide them with more life-enriching amenities and experiences.

    P.A.W.S. Project: Molly, age 13, launched the PAWS Project, short for Precious Animals, Wonderful Shelters) to help relocate and find new homes for dogs in overcrowded shelters facing euthanasia. She’s helped more than 110 animals and continues to set new goals.

    Operation: O2 Fur Pets: Brooklyn, age 12, is a volunteer at an animal shelter in Iowa and is raising money for pet oxygen masks that can help firefighters throughout the state revive animals that can’t be resuscitated without better equipment.

    Liam’s Lunches of Love: Liam, age 11, makes lunches for homeless people in his neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He delivers them by hand, has expanded to other items like toiletries, and is raising money for a food truck.

    St. Bakhita Orphanage: Taylor, age 15, has gained national exposure for hosting many campaigns that have gone viral and empower girls in need. For her latest, she’s teaming up with Havana (mentioned earlier) to help girls in Ghana cover the associated costs of attending public school.


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    2018 was a year in which design failed us. Sure, there were some bright spots, but in so many cases, software and hardware design seemed to miss the mark. We learned more and more about how tech companies are using design to deceive us, inciting us to share more data, buy more things, and spend more time with their products–but the failures of tech companies paled in comparison to the poor ballot and voting machine design of the midterm elections.

    These are some of the biggest design failures of a year that offered plenty of them.

    [Source Images: Apple]

    Dongles and cracked screens

    Though Apple released its most advanced phone ever this year, other aspects of its hardware design left much to be desired. Take the dreaded $9 dongle you need to use any of the company’s new phones with non-Bluetooth headphones. This year, this bit of wire–which users complain breaks easily and is hard to keep track of–became Best Buy’s bestselling Apple product.

    [Source Photo: AbrahamAdeodatus/iStock]

    The fact that it’s such a popular product suggests people are constantly having to replace it, and illustrates how Apple’s 2016 choice to remove the iPhone headphone jack is still a problem for many iPhone owners (it’s the reason why I still have an iPhone 6S, and I’m trying to hang onto the phone for as long as I can). Apple’s design decision that has reverberated across the industry, since most other smartphone makers followed suit–as Fast Company‘s Mark Wilson recently lamented, the Pixel 3 lacks a headphone jack, too.

    Another reason many iPhone owners lamented the company’s design this year? The continuing rash of cracked screens. While other phone makers like Samsung have devoted resources to preventing people’s phone screens from shattering when they’re dropped, 10 years after the iPhone was released, Apple still can’t get its act together on this issue.

    While Apple may be pushing forward in other aspects of its design, both of these issue are illustrative of a lack of concern for ease of use and durability. 2018 was the year they became truly unacceptable.

    [Animation: FC]

    A year of dark patterns

    Annoying hardware issues are one thing, but the many ways tech companies deceived users through design this year are quite another.

    Google ended Chrome users’ ability to use the company’s browser without being automatically logged into a Google account. Most of us had no idea about this crucial change, until cryptographer and John Hopkins University professor Matthew Green sounded the alarm, pointing out how the subtle dark pattern was eroding a barrier that allowed you to keep your Google services and your browsing activity separate. Green wrote about how the change convinced him to leave Chrome for good.

    Even more egregious? T-Mobile used a fake ringtone to make it sound like customer calls were connecting, even when they weren’t. The dark pattern was supposed to hide the company’s failures from users, but the FCC found out and fined the company $40 million for the deceptive practice. The ruling is a bright spot, since it signals that dark patterns may one day be subject to regulatory oversight, similar to how other consumer products have to meet safety requirements.

    [Source Image: Amazon]

    On a less serious note, Amazon’s Alexa startled some users this year when she started creepily laughing at random. Amazon soon fixed the problem, but this news story also raises questions about how the software we’re inviting into our homes should be designed. Why was Alexa programmed to laugh in the first place? Alexa is a robot that doesn’t understand humor. It’s a subtle design fail, but an important one, pointing out the gap between these assistants’ true abilities and what their corporate creators would have us believe: that they’re our friends.

    [Animation: FC]

    Bad design that will reverberate for decades

    This was a year full of comically bad design from the Trump Administration: Melania Trump debuted a hilariously childish logo she designed herself for her “Be Best” initiative; Trump’s re-election campaign published a series of laughably bad logos for the never-going-to-happen Space Force; the administration released a commemorative coin for the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un that seemed more like an endorsement of North Korea and its dictator.

    Less funny? The way the 2018 midterm elections highlighted just how terribly designed our electoral system is–and not just in terms of policy.

    In Broward County, Florida, 3.7% of voters accidentally didn’t vote for the hotly contested Senate race even though they filled out every other race. This “undervoting” occurred in this county three times as much as every other county in the state. One theory for why this happened? Poor ballot design. On the far left column of this county’s ballot, there was a long list of instructions on how to vote, with the senate race right underneath it at the bottom of the page. The rest of the races start at the beginning of the next column. There’s a good chance that people likely glossed right over the Senate race box, just as they glossed over the instructions. Because the race was so close, with a margin of only 15,037 votes, it’s possible that this design fail changed the outcome of the race–and the makeup of the Senate for the next two years.

    [Source Image: Broward County]

    Poor voting design also showed up in Texas, where about 5 million voters in 82 counties use Hart eSlate voting machines. Voters reported that the machine switched their votes for Senate when they used a “straight ballot” option to vote all-Democratic. Texas’s Secretary of State, who oversees elections, blamed voters for the changes, saying that they just didn’t know how to use the machines. Either way, this is a design fail. People not understanding how technology works isn’t their fault. It’s the result of poor design, something that we can’t afford in our democracy.

    Unfortunately, bad design can still be very effective design. Just look at the way some tech companies intentionally deceive their users with unclear or confusing software. It’s a chilling reminder that just because these designs are failures for users doesn’t mean they aren’t serving their intended purpose.


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    For the last 11 years, Caryl M. Stern has been working tirelessly to make the world a better place for children. As president and CEO of UNICEF USA, she has helped the organization double its fundraising revenue and ensure that 88.4% of every dollar goes to helping kids. She has spearheaded the organization’s global emergency relief efforts for children, including in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 East Africa drought, and in the U.S., heading to the Mexico border to draw attention to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” child separation policy.  Of course, fending off scurrilous attacks by the president of the United States requires a lot of energy, which the mother of three and grandmother of two gets from a steady stream of black tea, chocolate, and pure grit.

    Here, Stern reveals her tips and tools for getting the most out of every day.

    What service or tool can’t you live without?

    I can’t live without Kayak. My role at UNICEF USA gives me the incredible opportunity to travel all over the world. I see UNICEF’s work firsthand and bring back the stories of the remarkable children and UNICEF workers who I meet in my travels, in hopes to inspire others to support UNICEF’s work. Kayak is such a helpful site because I can see all of my options, filter my needs and it works for me.

    What do you do with the time when you have…

    A free five minutes? I love Words With Friends, so if I have a free five minutes, I check my Words With Friends to see if it’s my turn.
    A free hour? I’ll either sketch or write.
    A whole free day? If I have a free day, I will spend it with my husband. It doesn’t matter what we do but just as long as we’re together.

    [Photo: courtesy of Unilever]
    What product are you currently in love with?

    I drink no less than eight cups of Lipton tea every day, and one my favorite mugs to drink out of is my floral mug from UNICEF Market, which offers items from artisans around the world. Each purchase not only supports the artisan and keeps traditional skills alive, but it also supports UNICEF. With this mug, I know I’m supporting Duangkamol from Thailand and at the same time, my purchase could provide 44 packets of lifesaving nourishment to children suffering from acute malnutrition.

    What books are on your nightstand?

    I love reading, and several books come to mind that have been a big part of my life–whether it’s a book that was life-defining in graduate school or a favorite that I love reading over and over again.

    Every couple of years I reread Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. When I first read it as a kid, I could relate to a character who is coming into her own and finding her independence. I loved reading it then, and I love rereading it now.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I’m a fan of science fiction, and I find this book to just be fun.

    This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. It’s a science fiction novel about a controlled society and how people break out of it. I have hard time coloring in the lines, so this novel suits me.

    Men and Women of the Corporation by Rosabeth Moss Kanter looks at the challenges women face in business. I read this book during my first year of graduate school, and it was an eye-opening book for me. When I was 28 years old, I accepted the role of Dean of Students at Polytechnic University and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to take on the challenge. I didn’t realize until after I accepted the job that I was the first female dean of the school since its founding. I think back to this book and how it helped me then, and during my past 30-plus years as a child and civil rights advocate. I had the privilege to meet Rosabeth Moss Kanter recently, and I was so excited to tell her what the book means to me.

    I also like to read what is closest to the register at the airport. The reality of my life is I travel a lot, and as I run through the airport, I always like to grab a book to read on the plane.

    What’s your necessary vice?

    Absolutely chocolate.

    Where do you go to refresh and recharge?

    If I had enough time, and I really could just go and clear my head, I would visit the Milford Sound in New Zealand. The first time I visited was on my honeymoon. Although it’s hard to get there, it’s magnificent. The water is glacial blue, and it feels like you’re at the end of the earth, surrounded by nature. Vietnam is such an incredible place. There are many places to explore, and one of the more relaxing but beautiful places is the Furama Resort in Da Nang, Vietnam. If I were staying more local in the New York area, I would recommend Valatie in upstate New York. We have a family home there, and I can’t think of many places that are prettier.

    What song would you listen to when you’re…

    Waking up?Another Day” by Paul McCartney
    Driving? I like to listen to the Sirius XM channel The Bridge.
    Working out? Anything that is fun with a good beat like Sly and the Family Stone.
    Hard at work on a big project? If I have music on in the office, it’s folk music playing in the background.
    Getting psyched for a big presentation? I can’t listen to music before a big presentation because I won’t be able to focus and I’ll just sing along instead.
    Winding down at the end of the day?Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor. My husband and I played this song many times during my pregnancy. We knew that we were going to name our son James, and this song always calmed us. The other song is a Hebrew song called “Oseh Shalom.” It was the song that I would sing to my son to sleep each night.

    [Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]
    What classic product do you believe nobody’s ever improved on?

    Mallomars. I know there are fancier treats, but if I was given a choice for a treat, that would be mine.

    What’s your favorite thing to eat when…

    You need a quick burst of energy? Popcorn.
    You have plenty of time to go out and eat? If I have enough time, I’m going to cook a meal for my family. I find cooking cathartic. Whether it’s preparing a large meal or baking a dessert, I love to select the ingredients, go shopping, prepare it and then enjoy it with my family. If we do end up going out to eat, it’s going to be Italian or Thai.

    What’s your On Switch?

    My husband and I are usually woken up by our dog. As I feed the dog, my husband makes me a cup of tea and brings it to me. We then carpool with one of our family friends, and it’s my ritual every morning to read out loud the “Noteworthy facts from today’s paper” on the inside of the front page of The New York Times. You never know when those tidbits may be used in a conversation during your day!

    What’s your Off Switch?

    I often feel there is no real off switch for me. UNICEF is a 24-hour operation, and with the time differences around the world, a call can come at any time. UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to reach the most vulnerable children. From Yemen and Central African Republic to Guatemala, and so many places in between, children urgently need our help to survive and thrive. What does help me to clear my head is thinking how I’m truly inspired by the support of UNICEF partners and donors and the UNICEF staff who work tirelessly on the ground to make a difference for children and their families.

    What travel tips do you swear by?

    It can be hard on your family to have a busy travel schedule. When I travel, I like to take a lot of pictures and when my sons were younger, I always took one of their toys with me to place in the photos. For years, I took a little stuffed turtle to photograph in different places during my travels. It was fun for them to look at the photos and find the turtle. The turtle eventually had to be retired and my sons aren’t kids anymore, so now I have a red bear that I take with me. I post photos for my friends and families to see the red bear.


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    In the first half of 2019, the Impossible Burger–the plant-based burger known for its ability to bleed plant-based blood–will be sold in grocery stores for the first time. Good Catch, a startup making fish-free tuna and crab-free cakes, plans to launch in February. And it’s possible that the FDA and USDA will approve the first chicken grown from chicken cells in a bioreactor for sale in restaurants.

    It means we could be at a tipping point for the post-animal meat industry. Sales of plant-based meat are growing; between August 2017 and August 2018, according to Nielsen data, dollar sales grew 23%. Beyond Meat, the California-based startup with a plant-based burger designed to look and taste like a beef burger, struggled to keep its product in stock at Whole Foods, and had to postpone its rollout to the U.K. because it couldn’t keep up with demand. The company tripled its production capacity in 2018.

    [Photo: Beyond Meat]

    The growth is driven by new products that are nothing like traditional veggie burgers. “It’s a real shift in the meat alternative category from what it had been for decades, where most of the products were designed mostly for vegetarian and vegan audiences and weren’t trying to directly replicate conventional meat,” says Caroline Bushnell, who studies the market for plant-based meat at the nonprofit Good Food Institute. “In the last few years, as we’ve seen more companies innovating and thinking of their market base as all consumers and meat eaters…the way these products are being innovated and produced has really evolved.”

    [Photo: Impossible Foods]

    It’s still a tiny category–slightly less than 1% of all retail meat dollar sales go to plant-based meat. But the industry is at a similar point now as plant-based milk was a decade ago, says Bushnell. Soy milk, almond milk, and other products in that category now make up 13% of overall milk sales; more than a third of American households now buy plant-based milk. In part, that shift happened because the products moved from the center aisles of grocery stores to the dairy case next to milk from cows. “It opened up the category to a whole new group of consumers who just didn’t know the product existed before,” she says.

    Something similar is beginning to happen now for plant-based meat–Beyond Meat, for example, refuses to sell to retailers that won’t place its products in the meat case at stores. Target’s frozen aisle uses the label “plant-based protein” for products that are labeled “vegetarian” at other stores. As more products come to retail stores, like the Impossible Burger, consumer awareness will continue to grow. The traditional meat industry is also likely to continue to invest in startups in the space, giving them the resources to ramp up both marketing and product development.

    “All indicators are that [investment from large companies] will continue to increase,” says Bushnell. “I think an interesting parallel can be made to the natural and organic space. For many years, I think a lot of big companies thought that was going to stay kind of niche, and left it to the smaller companies that were catering to those natural and organic consumers. And then very quickly that changed.” It’s now well on the way to becoming mainstream. Kroger, the largest grocery store chain, named plant-based food one of its top trends of 2019. Walmart is stocking both larger brands, like Beyond Meat, and products from smaller startups, like No Evil Foods, which makes a plant-based version of pulled pork.

    Plant-based meat is also growing in restaurants. The Impossible Burger, for example, is now available in more than 5,000 restaurants, including fast food chains like White Castle. All-vegetarian or vegan chains like Veggie Grill, By Chloe, and Next Level Burger are adding new locations.

    [Photo: Just]

    The next step that may happen in 2019 is more monumental: Regulators may approve the first meat grown from animal cells (but not a whole animal) for consumption (though some companies expected it to happen by the end of 2017). A few products, such as chicken meat grown by the San Francisco startup Just, are already set to launch in restaurants in the form of foods like chicken nuggets, albeit at a price higher than McDonald’s; regulatory approval is the final step to bring them to market. For now, these products are grown to be made in a ground form, so they can’t replace all forms of farm-raised meat, and the price needs to come down. But because it’s actually made from animal cells, and tastes exactly like “real” meat–and the startups making it consider it meat, just made in a different way–they hold the potential to convince many more meat-eaters to avoid beef, pork, or chicken from factory farms. The number of options is also growing: Aleph Farms, an Israeli startup, expects to complete the technological development of its platform for a cell-based steak by the end of 2019. We’re one step closer to Richard Branson’s prediction that within three decades, we’ll no longer be eating traditional meat at all.


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    Air travel sucks. Yes, it has become democratic since the exclusive glamour of the early days, with inexpensive flights available to the masses. But in turn, airlines often alienate low-cost travelers. New airplane developments in 2018 only served to widen the gap between wealthy travelers and the rest of us.

    Fortunately, not everything is bad news for the common globetrotter and city hopper. Let’s review, from best to nightmare:

    Economy seat optimized for space and comfort

    [Image: © Neutral Digital 2018/courtesy PearsonLloyd]
    The Eco Seat–presented by London-based design studio PearsonLloyd at this year’s Airplane Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany–is a major evolution of the miserable economy airplane seat: it’s a thin carbon fiber composite shell supported by a hard central spine.

    The spine integrates all the seat’s functional parts, like the AV module and an ingenious bifold food tray that saves even more space. The key to its comfort is in its spine’s curvature, which adapts to the human body to optimize both body posture and the available space around it.

    Self-cleaning seats

    [Photo: courtesy of Recaro]
    Meanwhile, in first and business class, people don’t have to worry about bifold trays and whether they can reasonably hold a plate of chicken marsala that could easily pass for gruel. Instead, they worry about germs from previous passengers. And Recaro Aircraft Seating’s self-cleaning airline seats can take care of that.

    According to the company, its future top-class seats will have a mechanism to “destroy almost every germ on contact within seconds.” Not only that, but the seat will also be able to tell passengers how clean the seat really is by some undisclosed magicks.

    Rocket airplanes

    File this under, “It’s a nice dream if it ever happens, but it probably won’t happen, but this is really cool, but hey, Elon Musk.” What if you could travel anywhere in the world in a few minutes, without any kind of air turbulence, and watch the curvature of the Earth from space? That’s what Musk proposed earlier this year with his “Big Fucking Rocket” (now called “Starship”).

    Yes, Musk wants to replace airplanes with rockets for long-haul travel around Earth. He claims tickets will be “about the same as full-fare economy in an aircraft.” Which is to say: 24 minutes to fly from New York to Shanghai for the price of an economy seat, and you get to see Earth from space. Can you imagine that? Yeah, me neither. But here’s hoping. It will not happen in 2019, but perhaps we will see a dream come true in the late 2020s or 2030s.

    Electric airplanes

    [Photo: Eviation]
    This will not be available for regular consumers for a very long time either, but it’s good news for the environment and, therefore, everyone: Eviation’s Alice Commuter plane–winner of the transportation category of Fast Company‘s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards–is a fully electrical airplane that can take nine people on short trips for less than regular fuel-based airplanes.

    The Israel-based startup believes that the airplane will be able to fly commercially in 2021, scaling up “to hundreds of routes across the U.S. over the next few years.” Crossing my fingers for this one, too.

    Better airports

    [Photo: Nicolas Jehly/Unsplash]
    In 2018, architects thought deeply about how to make the airport experience better and optimize the flow of passengers–in other words, make airports feel less like hell on earthSnarkitecture partner Benjamin Porto–who lives in New York, a city with some famously awful airports–came up with the idea of merging all New York airports into one master plan, both LaGuardia and JFK, and also Newark in New Jersey. For Porto, “It would be interesting to redesign JFK, LGA, and EWR together into one cohesive master plan [because] they are essentially the three Triumphant Gates of New York City and [they] should look as such.” While a hypothetical concept, Porto’s idea flicks at some of the bigger design challenges that architects have been tackling internationally and, fingers crossed, will take on in the United States, too.

    Windowless planes

    [Photo: Emirates]
    Windowless planes can be considered both a curse and a blessing for everyone. Its proponents, like Emirates airlines, think they can replace regular windows, which are heavy and therefore costly, without alienating consumers. In exchange, they promise cheaper travel.

    Of course, this is all theory. And then there’s the psychological effect: Replacing windows with screens is not going to make anyone feel less claustrophobic. Perhaps people traveling in their own private cabins will not care and might find fake windows amusing but, for economy class, it will probably be an extra grievance in a list of many.

    Tiny airline toilets

    [Source Image: courtesy Rockwell Collins]
    Another thing getting reduced: the airline toilet. Rockwell Collins’s Advanced Lavatory will save airlines seven inches of cabin space by reducing the available toilet space for, you guessed it, economy travelers.

    The designers promise the same functionality in the reduced space due to some design legerdemain. Does it work as advertised? You will probably find out, as this will be installed in about 30% to 40% of all future Boeing 737 planes.

    The airplane saddle

    [Photo: Avio Interiors]
    The Skyrider 2.0 is a standing seat for super-economy travel. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the design. And I’m sure that some people will accept it in order to shave more dollars off a ticket price. But I’ll still never sit on one. I say that because, while airline execs may have dreams about these comfy torture devices increasing their profit line, I doubt any company will have the guts to offer something like this in the real world, no matter how much space and weight it saves them. It’s just too extreme. After all, there are lines that nobody in their right mind will ever cross. Like charging money to allow passengers to use the bathroom or print you a boarding pass. Right? Oh, yeah. Right.


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    While you’re busy making lofty resolutions for 2019, it’s important to also think about the things you don’t want to do in the new year. Whether you’re spending too much time fielding emails or reading the news, chances are you could be more productive—or simply happier—by making a few tweaks in and out of the office. We asked a number of CEOs about the habits they hope to kick in 2019.

    Multitasking in and out of the office

    It’s no secret that your productivity suffers when you multitask—a habit multiple CEOs said they want to cut back on. Hussein Fazal, the CEO of travel startup SnapTravel, notes that people often spend “downtime” checking work emails and messages—and then spend their “work time” looking at personal emails and messages. (Perhaps this sounds familiar?) “It is super important to compartmentalize these time blocks,” he says, “to ensure maximum productivity while working and to minimize work distractions while enjoying downtime.” To that end, Fazal has turned off nearly all notifications on his phone and frequently keeps his phone on “do not disturb” mode.

    But even when you don’t let personal agendas interrupt your workday, it can be difficult to truly focus on one task (and one tab!) at a time. That’s why Heidi Zak, CEO of lingerie startup ThirdLove, no longer brings her laptop to meetings. “I’ve found I’m much more engaged and present,” she says. Cheryl Kaplan, cofounder of shoe startup M.Gemi, says that because she often finds herself multitasking, in 2019 she wants to “focus on being present,” whether it’s at work or at home. “Face time is precious, but sometimes it gets difficult to focus on what or who is in front of me,” she says. “My goal is to put all my attention on the conversation or task at hand, instead of trying to give partial attention to a few different things at once.”

    Taking your phone into the bedroom

    If you’re dreaming of more peaceful sleep in the new year, you’re on the right track. “Stop trying to be a ‘hustler’ who works 24/7 and never sleeps,” advises Peter Shankman, the CEO of The Geek Factory and an author who has written and spoken extensively about living with ADHD. “Take care of yourself first and foremost. You can’t make a million dollars if you’re dead.” Founders like Tara Foley, the founder of beauty startup Follain, plan to make sleeping well a priority in 2019—even if it means not finishing work. “I get a more restful sleep if I get in bed earlier, and I get more done with my day if I’ve gotten enough sleep,” she says. Alana Branston, CEO of the retail startup Bulletin, intends to start going to bed before midnight.

    For some CEOs, sleeping more soundly means unplugging. “I am working on creating a phone-free bedroom environment,” says investor Anu Duggal, who started Female Founders Fund. And Ariel Kaye, the CEO of bedding startup Parachute, is already on her way to a bedroom devoid of screens. “This is extremely challenging for me,” Kaye says. “I’ve started using an alarm clock and charge my phone outside of the bedroom. I’m already seeing the benefits—not only do I sleep much more soundly without the blue light from my phone, but I’m now in the habit of reading at night.”

    Plus, the better you sleep, the less likely you are to hit the snooze button—a bad habit that Shankman cautions against. “Getting up a half hour earlier will radically improve your life in countless ways,” he says.

    Stretching yourself too thin

    One way to address both multitasking and sleepless nights is to take on less and say no more, as Eunice Byun—the founder of cookware startup Material—hopes to do in 2019. “As an entrepreneur with an under-one-year-old business, I catch myself feeling like we need to be ready to seize every opportunity,” she says. Over time, she has realized that when she is “more purposeful and intentional” about where she spends her energy, it is easier to stay true to her company mission. “It’s fun and exhilarating to be in hyper-growth mode, but saying ‘no’ can be just as important to growing long-term,” she adds.

    As a founder, doing less also means delegating effectively—something that can be difficult if you have built a company from the ground up. “The single worst habit I have—that I continue to work on—is micromanagement,” says Zahir Dossa, CEO of beauty startup Function of Beauty. “It isn’t easy to detach from the day-to-day tasks that I was once used to occupying. The most important thing that leads me to let go of things, however, is trust in the people [who] now lead these initiatives.”

    Not counting your wins

    Vivian Shen, founder of coding startup Juni Learning, says that in 2019, she wants to focus on creating good habits. One of those is making time to take stock of positive developments. “Given all the negative news throughout the past year, I believe it is more important than ever to practice gratitude,” she says. “We so often focus on what went wrong or what we could have done better. We don’t intentionally take the time to reflect on and truly celebrate the wins at work or in our personal lives. As a CEO, I feel that consistently showing appreciation for our team’s accomplishments needs to be core to our company’s DNA if we’re going to build a successful, long-term company.”


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    The trailer for director Jordan Peele’s new movie Us recently dropped, and people have wasted no time in trying to piece together his twisted new puzzle.

    Us stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke as Adelaide and Gabe, a couple whose beach vacation with their kids plummets into terror and madness when scissor-wielding doppelgängers of the family show up uninvited.

    Peele has established his filmmaking brand as socially conscious thrillers where issues like racism form the foundation of the larger horror narrative. And, as audiences came to realize with Get Out, Peele is a very intentional filmmaker. There’s a good chance that some song, throwaway moment, or even an article of clothing hold the key to a significant plot point.

    So considering where Peele is pushing cinematic storytelling—and how he’s doing it—internet sleuths have cobbled together some legit-sounding theories for Us:


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    A quarter of the government may be shut down right now, but at least one D.C. arts institution is still going strong.

    The Kennedy Center’s 41st annual Kennedy Center Honors will air tonight, paying tribute to the best and brightest in the arts community and beyond. This year’s honorees include Cher, Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The honors gala took place in Washington, D.C., earlier this month but will air tonight (Wednesday, December 26) on CBS at 8 p.m. ET.

    Gloria Estefan hosted the event, while the center also paid special tribute to Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, its director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump broke with tradition for the second year in a row and skipped the event.

    If you’re a cord cutter looking to watch the Kennedy Center Honors on a computer, phone, or smart TV, you’ll need access to CBS either through a pay-TV login or a standalone streaming service. I’ve rounded up some options below. Please note that CBS streaming is not available in all areas, so check your zip code before signing up. Some of these services—including CBS’s own All Access service—are offering free trials:

    CBS already has a number of video clips from the honors gala online. You can find those here.


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    A massive tsunami hit Indonesia on Saturday. Without any warning, a wall of water flattened communities on its two most populous islands (Sumatra and Java), killed at least 429 people, and injured hundreds more. The disaster comes only a few months after an earthquake and tsunami in September killed over 2,000 people and displaced some 206,000 people on the island of Sulawesi.

    The tsunami was apparently triggered by underwater landslides caused by the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait that lies between the two hard-hit islands. On Wednesday, Indonesian authorities warned that the continued eruption of Anak Krakatau, or “Child of Krakatau” volcano, could trigger an additional tsunami, according to Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper.

    For now, though, relief teams are on the ground aiding authorities to find the missing, clear debris, and provide basic needs, while rescue teams use drones and dogs to help find the more than 100 people who are still missing. If you want to help, experts say sending money is usually the most efficient assistance in a disaster. Here are a few charities working in Indonesia right now:

    • Catholic Relief Services is supporting both the government and local partner organizations to reach affected families and provide relief and assistance. The group has a 4 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • Islamic Relief USA has sent a team to survey the damage directly and is on the ground providing aid to survivors, including emergency water, food, and medical aid. It also has a malnutrition project in Indonesia. The group has a 4 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • Doctors Without Borders has a team on the ground in the affected areas helping to support local healthcare providers in the aftermath of the tsunami, in addition to their long-term work in Pandeglang, Indonesia. The group has a 4 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • GlobalGiving, which funnels donations to local organizations, has many options for helping in Indonesia, whether specifically for tsunami and earthquake recovery, or for other worthy causes like orangutan rescue or saving slow lorises or saving street kids from a life of poverty. GlobalGiving has a 4 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • UNICEF USAis on the ground in Indonesia, accompanying authorities as they assess the damage and its impact on children. They are ready to assist children and families, when the government gives them the green light, as per their mandate. The group has a 3 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • Red Cross volunteers, including those from the local outpost, the Indonesian Red Cross, are helping in the affected area. They are assisting in search and rescue, distributing drinking water, dispatching Red Cross ambulances to transport people to hospitals, and doling out hygiene, cooking, and cleaning supplies to people who have lost or cannot return to their homes. They are also sending helicopters to drop supplies to hard-to-reach communities along the coastlines of western Java and south Sumatra. The American Red Cross has a 3 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • Oxfam is working with the government and local organizations to provide clean water, build toilets, and distribute hygiene kits that include items like blankets and soap to people affected by the tsunami. The group has a 3 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.
    • International Medical Corps is working with a local aid organization to assess the most urgent needs of those affected. The group has a 3 out of 4-star rating on Charity Navigator.

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    Germany is attempting a new method to combat an alarming rise in anti-Semitism. The country will launch an online tool for victims to report anti-Semitic incidents, the Algemeinerreports.

    On Thursday, Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner for Jewish affairs, revealed plans for a new platform that will record all instances of discrimination from both victims and bystanders alike. The new site by the Research and Information Center for Anti-Semitism (RIAS) will also include actions that are not necessarily prosecutable crimes–like racial slurs and “everyday” discrimination. It’s slated to go live in February.

    “We cannot leave fighting anti-Semitism in this country to the Jews,” said Klein. “Every anti-Semite in this country has a problem with our democracy and with our civil-law state . . . that affects all of us in this country.”

    The reporting center and site will receive €243,000 ($278,320) in funding led by Germany’s Ministry for Family Affairs. It plans to expand to all of Germany’s states for a nationwide effort.

    German authorities counted 1,075 anti-Semitic crimes in the first nine months of 2018, according to government statistics cited byDeutsche Welle. However, police reports generally do not include non-criminal anti-Semitic attacks. RIAS head Benjamin Steinitz said his federal agency currently records two to three cases per day, but that there is a “considerably higher number of unreported cases” that could help shed light on the issue.

    Together, the police and the new platform hope to paint a fuller picture of the country’s issues.

    Germany’s resurgence of anti-Semitism has become increasingly problematic, with the country battling numerous violent attacks against Jews. In April, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was shocked by the violence, which included a Berlin resident flogging a 20-year-old kippah-wearing Israeli in broad daylight.

    “It depresses me that we have not been able to get a handle on anti-Semitism once and for all,” she told Israel’s Channel Ten. She later said Germany would do “everything” it could to ensure the security of the Jewish community.


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    The reign of flesh-colored Band-Aids may soon be disrupted. Researchers have revealed a new high-tech competitor that might just revolutionize the healing industry: a self-powered bandage that generates an electric field over a boo-boo.

    According to a new report in ScienceDaily, engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison created a new kind of protective bandage that sends a mild electrical stimulation, thereby “dramatically” reducing the time a rat’s wound takes to heal. The technology could be especially useful for people who suffer from chronic wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous ulcers, and non-healing surgical wounds. Often, these kind of wounds don’t respond well to general bandaging procedures.

    This new electric bandage is powered a by wearable nanogenerator constructed of overlapping sheets of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), copper foil, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The nanogenerator converts skin movements into small electrical pulses, which then flow to two working electrodes placed on either side of the wound to produce a weak electric field. Basically, energy generated by a patient’s body fuels the electrical pulses.

    “Our device is as convenient as a bandage you put on your skin,” Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, told the university’s communications team.

    The tests showed that such e-bandages heal wounds within three days, compared to 12 days with a normal control bandage.

    “We were surprised to see such a fast recovery rate,” said Wang. “We suspected that the devices would produce some effect, but the magnitude was much more than we expected.”

    Moving forward, the researchers intend to further study how the pulses affect healing with a study on pig skin, which closely resembles human tissue. They also want to further increase the nanogenerators’ capabilities, which may include new ways to harness energy, like utilizing small, imperceptible twitches in the skin or the pulse of a heartbeat.

    The team believes their new invention could solve a medley of medical issues. And better yet, it’s relatively low-cost,  just a smidge more expensive than a regular bandage. “The device in itself is very simple and convenient to fabricate,” says Wang.


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