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    For so many years, Ikea has held the position of being the untouchable, stalwart retail giant—the world’s go-to home furnishings store with something, or many things, for everyone. Who in their life hasn’t come across a Billy or Frakta? Most years, the dependable big blue box giant doesn’t make particularly splashy headlines. But 2018 was different, filled with signs, both stark and hopeful, of larger shifts in what consumers want, and how they’d like to shop.

    The numbers, after all, indicate Ikea is due to reevaluate the direction of its business. Between 2017 and 2018, the world’s largest furniture retailer saw a nearly 40% drop in profits, and just last month, announced it’d be restructuring and cutting 7,500 jobs in the process. In September, Marcus Engman, Ikea’s mediagenic head of design for more than six years, abruptly exited the post to start his own consultancy—but not without first trying a string of bold and wacky attempts at reinventing the company’s product strategy and public image.

    The story of Ikea in 2018, in many ways, is the story of big-box retail, now perpetually in crisis and set at odds with the swift rise and current dominance of online retail (hello, Amazon). Across industries, traditional department stores have struggled to maintain a foothold in the market: This year alone has seen the retail apocalypse take a hold of Sears and Toys R Us, as both companies shuttered their U.S. stores and filed for bankruptcy. Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Walmart, meanwhile, have seen significant declines in the recent years. Yet hope is not lost. Many retailers have found ways to survive and thrive. And Ikea seems to be taking a page from their notebook.

    Read on for our big takeaways from Ikea’s rollercoaster of a year that, need we remind you, kicked off with a bizarre print ad that doubled as a pregnancy test asking users to pee on it.

    Smaller is smarter

    Gone are the days of making a day-trip out of the city and to the big box store, with plans to get everything in a one-shop stop, Swedish meatballs and hot dog lunch included. The outdated draw of big-box convenience has been trumped by the speed and ease of online shopping, and the retail game has gotten more competitive as a result. Enter the rise of experiential retail and concept pop-up stores by lifestyle startups like Floyd, Glossier, Everlane, or Burrow, that aim to be more than just a place to look at things you’ll buy. Even Amazon has taken note, with the launch of small pop-ups like the “Amazon 4-Star” store in Manhattan, which carries a cross-section of goods that have been rated favorably online by shoppers. Target, meanwhile, has managed to open three mini-locations throughout New York this year alone. Across the retail spectrum, startups and big-box brands are going for smaller stores in denser, more expensive city centers that give urban consumers direct access to products.

    Ikea’s product line has long catered to small, urban living spaces; the scale and location of its physical stores have not. Next year, Ikea plans to roll out 30 new Ikea stores in urban markets–including one in Manhattan. This transformation has already begun in London and Warsaw.

    Even big-box stores can master digital service design

    Physical access is just as important as online access, as Michael Valdsgaard, leader digital transformation at Ikea, said to us earlier this year: “The business model of Ikea having a blue box in a cornfield, and you jump in the car with your family and have an ice cream [at the store], is not the only thing we should offer our customer. For the majority of people in the world, Ikea isn’t accessible. Apps can make Ikea accessible.”

    It’s no secret that Ikea’s online shopping experience is in dire need of improvement. Other big retailers, like Target, are in the same boat. Ikea’s struggles to master digital platforms reflect larger shifts in the mass retail sector, and all of the top players recognize the investments they’ll need to make to stay in the game.

    Give it a human touch

    In the age of Amazon and social media—where every consumer desire can be planted and satisfied with a series of clicks—originally crafted, handmade designs are the new luxury: an artful antidote to the serialized, industrially produced cookie-cutter items and startup goods that are likely to end up in everyone’s homes. The resurgence of ceramics among makers and independent product and furniture designers—as well as the high-end collectibles art market—is no fluke.

    Efficiency doesn’t always equal beauty, and wabi-sabi may not be an asset that can be fully achieved in a factory. But with its surprising collaboration with the glass and ceramics artist Per B Sundberg, Ikea sought to soften the hard-edges of its overly minimal, practical midcentury designs with more overtly decorative objects showing individual personality and that implacable jolie-laide. The resulting poodle candlestick holders, objets, and vases launched this August, in Ikea’s own words, was an attempt to harness some of that special and endearing mix of “Pretty, Ugly, Lovely.” The allure of handmade is here to stay, and other big retailers, including West Elm, which regularly folds limited-edition craft collaborations into the mix, are smartly betting on goods that convey a human touch.

    Scarcity can transform the banal

    Was 2018 the year of peak streetwear hype? Between skater brand Supreme’s ad hijinx on the front page of the New York Post and the dark, desperate side of hype it exposed among fans, who were willing to shell out anywhere from $5 to $100 for sold-out copies of the printing, this year showed us the power of generating demand through invented scarcity and digital marketing. The business of hype, surely, is a cunning cousin of planned obsolescence: Hype isn’t about making too many of something we desperately need and will need to keep fixing and replacing; instead, it purposely makes too few of something we never needed anyway, and convinces you that random, rarified object might even be worth a lot more one day.

    Through a series of left-field collaborations with fashion designer Virgil Abloh and celebrity stylist Bea Akerlund, to name a few, Ikea tried its hand at orchestrating a trendy product “drop” with unconventional, limited-edition conversation pieces that included a rug printed with a giant receipt, a top-hat vase, and other designs that seem far and away from its Scandinavian modern sensibility. More name-dropping from their 2018 Democratic Days conference mentioned upcoming collaborations with Adidas, Sonos, Lego, artist Olafur Elaisson, perfume creator Ben Gorham, and Solange’s Saint Heron. The takeaway from Ikea’s year of taking on hype: Even big brands that bank on selling cheap, banal essentials in bulk can recognize that sometimes, less is more lucrative.

    Quality trumps quantity

    At the end of the day, while limited-editions and special experiences might move the needle in the short-term, quality is what keeps consumers coming back for more. Ikea has a mixed track record here. Ikea recalls from the past year alone range from defective bicycles and dog bowls to a collapsing ceiling sconce. Ikea’s quality problems offer an important lesson: Safety and usability is a baseline, not a goal. Bells and whistles are a bonus, so focus on making a quality product—from factory floor to doorstep.

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    It was the year when self-driving cars got boring. When iPhones became confusing. When the army spent $480 million on Microsoft Hololens headsets. When we finally got to see the long-awaited Magic Leap…and it was a dud. When virtual reality headsets like Oculus Go had their cords cut from bulky tower PCs.

    We’re not living in the future yet, but 2018 was an important year for demonstrating how all these technological puzzle pieces will fit together, eventually.

    There were plenty of other fascinating but lower-profile projects that you may have missed, too, born from big box retail stores and basements alike. With that in mind, here are some of the most important projects of the year in graphics, interface, and user experience.

    [Source Photos: Flickr user Gage Skidmore (Obama, Trump), Flickr user George Grinsted (Cage)]

    Deepfakes–and the war on what’s real

    Deepfakes was undoubtedly one of the most important tech moments in 2018. It was a project that launched with incredible contentiousness, and small wonder: the fan-created interface allowed anyone to train an AI to swap one person’s face in a video with another’s. At first, it was used for pornography, but we quickly saw Deefakes alter pop culture, too, from besting Industrial Light and Magic’s work on Star Wars to creating a fake President Obama. We were the only publication to interview Deepfakes this year. Don’t miss it.

    [Image: Microsoft]

    Microsoft Canetroller

    It’s easy to forget that Microsoft is now the world’s most valuable company. Yet somehow, its Microsoft Research arm remains a gem of weird and fascinating work that’s gone untouched even as Microsoft has grown. The group regularly churns out interesting experiments, but the Canetroller takes the cake. It’s essentially a cane that works in virtual reality, allowing someone without vision to tap their way through simulated 3D environments. It’s a reminder that the next digital revolution cannot leave anyone behind. And it’s a marvel of engineering, to boot.

    [Image: Ishikawa Senoo Laboratory]

    Portable Lumipen

    Augmented reality holds incredible theoretical promise, but it faces major UX hurdles. After all, how many of us really enjoy squinting at the world through our phones? Or wearing those bulky glasses? The Portable Lumipen, a research project developed between Sony and University of Tokyo, solves those problems in a very simple way: it projects AR graphics right onto real life. Powered by an eye-, world-, and body-tracking projector that hangs around your neck, Lumipen can, say, spot a scurrying cockroach and float a label over its head in a terrifyingly smooth 1,000 frames per second. It was a reminder that AR still hasn’t found it perfect form, but it’s getting there.

    [Image: Disney]

    The Force Jacket

    It sounds like Star Wars fan gear, but in reality, the Force Jacket is a project by MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Disney Research that uses a series of air bags to make you feel sensations on your torso–anything from the experience of having supersized muscles to the horror of bugs crawling all over your skin. It appears to make you look something like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man, but it’s also a glimpse at the future of tactile interfaces in the digital world.

    [Source Images: koksikoks/iStock, MicrovOne/iStock]

    Teeth Sensors

    We’re living through an obesity epidemic. The problem is deep and complex, and tied to lobbying, politics, subsidies, and our agricultural system. But researchers at the Tufts University School of Engineering think tiny mouth sensors could help some people. They debuted a 2 x 2 mm sensor that sticks on your tooth, tastes your food, and transmits its contents back via radio to your phone. The technology is in its early days for sure, but it points to a future where circuits live not just on, but in your body. Such tech will open up a new pipeline of personal data we can barely imagine today.

    [Image: ACM SIGCHI]


    GridDrones is a fleet of flying robots that float in front of you. Grab one, and you can move it, placing it anywhere you like in midair. Grab many, and you can choreograph your own show with nothing but your two hands. Maybe we won’t all have our own drone displays one day, but GridDrones teases the next wave of matter: programmable, flexible, and as easy to use as any dumb object today.

    [Image: Peder Norrby]

    This Mindbending iPhone

    3D phones are a gimmick, sure, but oh, what a gimmick!

    Media artist Peder Norrby built an app to give his iPhone X a trompe-l’oeil effect, simulating a 3D image on a 2D plane. The effect is absolutely reality-shattering interface magic.

    [Image: Nvidia]

    Nvidia’s AI-drawn playable city

    There’s crazy and there’s crazy. This is crazy. (The second crazy. The crazy with more emphasis. Not the first, more boring crazy.)

    Nvidia, alongside the the University of California, trained an AI to draw the buildings, cars, and surfaces of city streets. No big deal? Well this system did so in real time, constructing cities from scratch. It’s just the sort of graphics engine that developers will need  to build the infinite expanses of virtual reality. It’s just the sort of tool that will one day allow a single designer to craft a deep, immersive world on their own.

    [Photo: Jesse Rieser for Fast Company]

    Waymo One

    Imagine an Uber with no driver. That’s Waymo One, which launched in the Phoenix area to the public late this year. While the robo cars still feel far from human, every bit of the interface design reinforces trust in the machine, and a calmness in the cabin. We reported an exclusive deep dive with the design team on how Alphabet created the robot mind, and somehow, managed to make us bored even while heading at breakneck speed into the future.

    [Image: courtesy Spatial]

    Spatial hologram meetings

    We’re the biggest skeptics when it comes to teleconferencing or  (*swallows bile*) telepresence. But when it’s designed by MIT Media Lab and Samsung alum Jinha Lee, we’ll give it a shot. With $8 million in funding, his young company Spatial came out of stealth in 2018 to show a very impressive, shared hologram conference room experience that is sure to only get better.

    [Image: courtesy Sylvain Boyer]

    Friend UI and the rise of Dark Mode UX

    Friend UI is a beautiful smartphone interface built around a simple premise: the modern OLED displays in many phones don’t require energy to show black pixels, so why not make more pixels black to extend battery life?

    Friend UI was just a concept, but dark UI was all over 2018. It’s in Android’s Power Saver mode, along with the Pixel’s always-on display. And it’s in the latest MacOS Mojave (for which Google just released a Dark Mode version of Chrome to match!). Given that battery technology is stuck in a rut, dark modes are probably here to stay.

    [Photo: Inami Hiyama Laboratory]

    Metalimbs Fusion tele-robot backpack

    Imagine having two extra arms, controlled by someone else. That’s the premise of Fusion–the latest iteration of a project called MetaLimbs–out of Keio University and the University of Tokyo. Fusion puts a pair of robo arms and a camera over the human’s shoulder, so someone half a world away can have a first-person view of their body, either adding a few helping hands, or even puppeting someone to teach them a new skill.

    [Image: Google]

    Google’s insane AI-powered everything

    This year, Google’s flex moves were all about how AI could empower the next wave of UI–like its flight tracker that can predict when your plane is delayed before the airline tells you. It also put a lot more AI into your pocket, running more code locally on your phone. This enabled new features like Call Screening on the Pixel 3, which answers phone calls and transcribes messages in real time. On top of that, Pixel AI now allows you to shoot night photographs that look like they were taken with reasonable amounts of light–solving one of the biggest human factors problems with smartphone cameras today.

    [Photo: Samara]

    Airbnb Backyard housing

    We still don’t know a lot about the project, but Airbnb’s Samara futures division has been developing housing, working under code name Backyard, and its first units will go live in 2019. It may not sound like an interface, but Airbnb is looking at buildings holistically, with a strong focus on connectivity and even, potentially, reconfigurability. That may mean robotic walls that can create a walk-in closet on a whim. A guy can dream, at least.

    [Source Images: leonardo255/iStock, Walmart]–and the Amazon pushback

    Load if you haven’t in a while. It’s…decent! The redesign launched this year, and it’s a powerful example of how brick and mortar retail is finally firing back at Amazon with digital design. Not to be outdone, Target debuted 2-day shipping nationwide for the 2018 holiday season and has been investing in spreading its new, experiential-focused store design, which is tailored to realities of online and offline shopping today. In each case, major retailers are thinking carefully about how their customers use their websites. Maybe 2019 really will be the year you cancel that Prime membership.

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    It’s that time again. People turning over a new leaf and pledging to be fitter, more productive, and overall better versions of themselves are gunning their mental engines for the start of 2019. This despite the fact that more than a quarter (27%) have left off trying by the first week of the new year and only a little over half make it through January, according to data from Statistic Brain.

    Why do we even bother? Turns out, it’s a time-honored tradition that started about 4,000 years ago with the ancient Babylonians. Beginning with a 12-day religious festival (are we seeing a modern equivalent here?) called Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or re-upped their devotion to the sitting ruler. At this time they also pledged to pay debts and return borrowed goods to keep in good standing with their gods.

    Why January?

    All this would happen in spring, around March of our current calendar. The January remake comes courtesy of the Romans, who initially did celebrate during the same time. Some historians believe that the date was moved to January in 300 B.C. because the Roman emperor was sworn in during that time and because fair weather marked battle season, the generals couldn’t make it.

    Others believe that it was Julius Caesar who declared January 1 as the beginning of the new year around 46 B.C. The month was named after the god Janus, who had two faces. The Romans believed he was symbolically looking into both the past and the future and wielded such power that the Romans made sacrifices with promises to be good during the year ahead.

    Along came the Christians who associated the beginning of the new year to reflect on past mistakes and vowing to change their bad behaviors. Flash forward to 1740, when John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service on December 31 or January 1. This “watch night” was set to counteract the parties and indulgences of the populace.

    How these religious rituals made the leap to a secular tradition is harder to chart. Wendy Doniger, a retired professor formerly at the University of Chicago Divinity School, told the Atlantic, “The idea that you’re suddenly going to change is a magical idea. Religions are in charge of magic for most of us. This [idea] gets into the popular culture as well.” In this context, Doniger used “magic” to explain how faith and ritual call to forces beyond our control or understanding that influence us. She goes on to say that midnight also has magical connotations in nearly every religious tradition, which could explain why we countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

    How New Year became big business

    Regardless of the modern intent of these ancient traditions, businesses have been profiting from resolutions for decades. To clarify, they profit from failed resolutions (which is a significant majority–see above).

    For example, resolving to get fit (one of the most popular resolutions) often means hitting the gym or buying exercise equipment. That explains the spike in new memberships come January. However, most large fitness chains factor this in. NPR reports that even a big box gym has the capacity for about 300 people at any one time, but their member ranks usually exceed 6,000.  And USA Today reports that the average gym membership costs just under $60 per month, and 67% of memberships go unused.

    Ditto for quitting smoking. Those who toss their packs pledging never to take another puff often buy patches, vape pens, nicotine gum, and even enlist the help of a hypnotherapist, to help them stay away. There’s even a telemedicine product called Zero that for $129 will give you a personalized regimen along with nicotine gum and a medication to curb cravings. Factor in research from the National Institute of Health indicates that for many smokers it may take 30 or more quit attempts before being successful and these smoking cessation aids add up to big bucks.

    Finally, for those who resolve to find the love of their lives in the coming year, was waiting. Several years ago the online dating site declared the first Sunday after the New Year as Dating Sunday. Activity on the site as well as dating apps is predicted to spike as in years past. Over 44 million Tinder matches were made on Dating Sunday last year, compared to around 26 million on an average day. And while some apps and sign-ups are free, there is money to be made when people meet up for coffee, dinner, drinks, etc., even if the date doesn’t turn into a relationship.

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    When Diego Rivera painted his famous Detroit Industry Murals during the Great Depression, he captured a sense of wistfulness shared by many across the United States.

    Through his colorful panels, he showcased an era “before the 1929 stock market crash, when industrial productivity, employment, and wages were at their height,” art historian Linda Bank Downs has noted. Yet at the same time, it was lost on no one that this “golden age” had crumbled, resulting in “an atmosphere of self-doubt, fear of the future, and blame of the industrialists” for having “abdicated moral economy.”

    Eighty-five years later, it’s hard not to gaze at these remarkable frescos and wonder: How might Rivera interpret today’s world of work? What, for that matter, should any of us conclude when the unemployment rate is extremely low, corporate profits are surging, and GDP growth has been strong, but so many folks still find themselves left behind?

    During a recent trip to Detroit, I not only had the chance to reflect on these questions, I had the privilege of considering them through the eyes of 19 high school students who’d traveled to Michigan to study the fall of industrial America—not just the collapse in the 1930s, but the hollowing out of millions of middle-class jobs over the past several decades.

    Oakwood School students at the Diego Rivera industry murals. [Photo: Teva Corwin]
    The course, which I co-taught, was part of a special two-week immersion session at Oakwood School in Los Angeles, where each December, the regular curriculum is suspended so that students can take a deep dive into one subject. (My son and daughter are Oakwood graduates.)

    Oakwood is a private school, and most of the families that go there are extraordinarily privileged. Exposing students to the fact that about half of all working people in the U.S. earn less than $30,000 a year was, in itself, bound to be eye-opening. “It was piercing the bubble in which these kids live,” says Victor Cohen, an Oakwood social studies teacher who designed and led the class with me.

    As a final group project, our 10th, 11th, and 12th graders summoned their inner Diego Rivera and made their own industry mural for the 21st century—a stinging commentary, as it turned out, on a society in which the overwhelming majority of workers don’t partake in the prosperity they produce nearly to the degree that they once did.

    First, though, there was much to absorb.

    Fourth-grade skills in a knowledge economy

    After landing in Detroit, we had dinner at Slows Bar BQ with Nicole Sherard-Freeman, president of the city’s workforce agency, who explained how local public schools have, far too often, left a generation ill-equipped to land a decent job in an economy that increasingly rewards knowledge and skills.

    In a distressing number of cases, graduates are “doing really well if they read and do math at a ninth-grade level,” she said. “Many are at a fourth-grade level.”

    The next morning, the class sifted through boxes at the United Auto Workers archives and chatted with Paul Massaron, a longtime union official, who spoke of how automation had eaten away at lots of well-paid factory jobs. He was quick to add, however, that at least some of the work now largely performed by robots—like painting automobiles—wasn’t fit for humans in the first place.

    It used to be that “if you were painting cars red, you coughed red that day,” Massaron recalled. “If you were painting them blue, you coughed blue.”

    We toured Ford’s Rouge Factory, which Rivera depicts in his murals, and where these days the F-150 pickup is manufactured.

    We visited the General Motors Heritage Center, where the students marveled at a panoply of sparkling vintage vehicles—while trying to understand why a company that had posted more than $3 billion in third-quarter operating profit had just announced it would idle five factories and eliminate 14,000 jobs. The answer, according to the executive who briefed us: Customers aren’t buying small sedans anymore, preferring trucks, SUVs, and crossovers instead. If CEO Mary Barra hadn’t made these “tough decisions,” he said, GM might have jeopardized its long-term financial viability, necessitating far more severe cuts down the road.

    The next morning, the students heard a much different take from activists at the Boggs Center, who criticized GM for putting profits over people.

    We attended services at Church of the Messiah, a congregation determined to create jobs as well as save souls. And we hung out with Joann Castle and Greg Hicks, both of whom were instrumental in the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, which in the late 1960s battled against exploitation and discrimination at the auto plants and within the United Automobile Workers (UAW). They’ve continued to fight for those without much power ever since.

    “There’s always going to be a movement where people are struggling,” Castle told the class. “It’s like a river that just keeps on going.”

    Venturing into Trump country

    On our last day in the area, we headed an hour south of Detroit to Monroe, which had twice backed Barack Obama for the White House before flipping to Donald Trump by more than 20 points. To start the day, the students gathered with their peers from the big public high school, where they compared and contrasted their lives as teenagers—”Everyone loves Travis Scott.” “There’s more opportunity in L.A.”— and made some new friends.

    At Monroe County Community College, we engaged with a panel of Trump supporters, who expressed admiration for the president’s policies—if not always his rhetoric—on immigration and trade. “Jobs are coming back,” declared Leigh Cole, a retired Marine from Monroe.

    Nonetheless, concerns remain.

    “We don’t have $40-an-hour union jobs like we used to,” said Joe Bellino, the Republican state lawmaker who represents the area, pointing to a Ford plant that shuttered about 10 years ago, during the Great Recession, taking out 1,200 positions.

    Longer term, Bellino said, his real worry isn’t that any particular factory will close. As cars become more high-tech—essentially computers on wheels—the entire industry could shift out of the region to, say, California, or other places with a better-trained workforce.

    “We might wake up one day and not have an auto business,” Bellino said. “That scares the bejesus out of us.”

    Our last stop was Flint, where we met with Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who helped blow the whistle on the city’s water crisis, and State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-MI).

    In the mid-1960s, we learned, Flint boasted the highest per-capita income in the country. But as GM jobs began to dry up in the 1980s, the city fell into a downward spiral, and it’s now counted among the poorest and most violent in the U.S.

    “It’s all the lists you don’t want to be on,” Ananich said.

    When we got back to Los Angeles, we were joined by two closing speakers: Laphonza Butler, president of Local 2015 of the Service Employees International Union, and Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab.

    Each highlighted ways in which they and their colleagues are improving conditions for low-wage workers—undertaking successful SEIU organizing drives, sparking the Fight for $15, launching worker-owned co-ops—but acknowledged that even these triumphs have left people short of what they need to make ends meet.

    As a nation, we’ve chosen for people to scrap “for the bare minimum,” Rojas said. “It’s just-enoughism.”

    “We have to demand more,” Butler asserted.

    Commentary in chalk

    Having taken in so much, it was finally time to make the mural. Armed with chalk, the students covered an 8-by-12-foot wall with an array of images representing four overarching themes.

    The first, which spreads across the top of the piece and consumes the middle section, is the ongoing threat of automation—especially to workers engaged in repetitive tasks. The class had been struck by how Ford featured giant robotic arms, not human hands, during a gaudy display of how the F-150 is assembled.

    Working on the Oakwood School mural [Photo: Avery Carey]
    The second theme, which runs in a triptych along the bottom of the mural, is the rise and decline of organized labor. It begins with a drawing of the 1937 Flint Sit-Down Strike—a work stoppage that, as Hanna-Attisha had described to us in Flint, had propelled the UAW into prominence and, in turn, “birthed the middle class.” The series ends with the logo for the Fight for $15, a wage that the students couldn’t imagine trying to survive on.

    “That’s not the middle class,” says Lucy Cameron, a 10th grader. “That’s not enough money. That’s just not a lot at all.”

    The third theme is abandonment, punctuated by a portrayal of a mothballed factory, a Ford truck marked with a “Just Fired” sign, and a “GM baby” clutching a fistful of cash.

    [Photo: Avery Carey]
    Oscar Haas, a 17-year-old senior who lampooned GM, says he actually appreciated the argument that if the automaker hadn’t gotten ahead of consumer trends by reducing its payroll, it could “wind up hemorrhaging tons of money.”

    “I am definitely sympathetic to the company,” he says. But he ultimately couldn’t get past the plight of the workers–“those who got the short end of the stick.”

    The fourth theme is resilience. Inspired by all of those who have dedicated themselves to lifting up their communities amid so much despair, the students drew a collection of symbols, including the mythical Sankofa bird, which flies forward but looks backward while carrying an egg in its mouth. It has been adopted by residents in Flint as a reminder to persevere but never forget all that happened, and to prioritize the young.

    Also in that portion of the mural is 2 +2 = 8, a formula we discovered at the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art space in Detroit, which pushes us to expand our thinking and not automatically accept that things will forever be the way they are.

    As the class wrapped up, the students emphasized that there were no easy solutions to the problems they’d observed. They also stressed that the past was far from perfect, especially for people of color. “We tend to over-romanticize the 1950s,” says Julia Smith, a senior.

    Still, “something’s changed,” she says. “In the ’50s, people with a regular job could have a house with a white picket fence and provide for their kids. Now they can’t.”

    For these students, the central takeaway was clear: For all too many hard-working Americans, it’s not a pretty picture.

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    As Amazon is getting ready to open its new HQ2 in New York City, it has found a new way to either ingratiate itself with its neighbors—or really tick them off. The retail giant is allegedly considering teaming up with Sinclair Broadcast Group to purchase a stake in YES, the Yankees’ local sports network, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

    Currently, 80% of the network–which also airs Brooklyn Nets and NYCFC games–is owned by 21st Century Fox, but The Walt Disney Company has to sell it off for the government to approve its purchase of the majority of that company. Disney is seeking a valuation of $5 billion to $6 billion, per the Wall Street Journal. I reached out to both Amazon and Sinclair for comment and will update if I hear back.

    The Yankees own the remaining 20% stake in the company, and have first rights to the majority share. In addition to Amazon and Sinclair, the team is supposedly in talks with other potential partners, including cable and satellite TV provider Altice USA and RedBird Capital.

    If Sinclair and Amazon do purchase the network, it could give Amazon the opportunity to start streaming Yankees games, like it does NFL games via Prime video. As for Sinclair, well, it could give the media giant yet another platform to air its anti-fake news rants and pro-child detention must-run segments.

    Just in case you forgot that the Sinclair Broadcast Network is an Orwellian propaganda machine, let John Oliver remind you:

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    Tesla today announced two new people to sit as independent members of its board: Larry Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson. Both are being brought on due to a settlement the company reached with the SEC after founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted some unwise statements that resulted in investor bafflement (to say the least). Musk also agreed to step down as chairman of the board.

    Both of the new members are intended to present perspectives that are external to both Musk and the company. Wilson-Thompson runs Walgreens’ global human resources department, and Ellison is the cofounder and executive chairman of Oracle. In a written statement, Tesla’s board said, “In Larry and Kathleen, we have added a preeminent entrepreneur and a human resources leader, both of whom have a passion for sustainable energy.”

    A human resources perspective like Wilson-Thompson’s is much needed. The company has been mired in allegations surrounding how it treats its employees. They include: allegedly providing unsafe working conditions, reportedly fostering a hostile environment for employees of color, and responding with hostility to unionization attempts. Bringing in a human resources veteran could hopefully pave the way for at least some of these problems to be better dealt with.

    Ellison’s presence, however, may raise a few eyebrows. A few months ago, he said, “I am not sure people know I am very close friends to Elon Musk and I am a very big investor in Tesla.” In fact, the Oracle founder said that Tesla is his second largest investment. Ellison was also an early investor in Theranos–and notably quiet during the company’s fall from grace. If Tesla’s board is looking for someone to challenge a temperamental CEO who may be doing overall damage to a company, it’s unclear if Ellison is up for the job.

    The news, however, still gave investors some holiday cheer. Currently the stock is up by nearly 3% Friday in early trading.

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    The 2018-2019 college football bowl games are in full swing this holiday week. Over the next 48 hours, 14 teams will face off for seven games around the country, beginning today at 1:30 p.m. ET, when Purdue takes on Auburn at the Nissan Stadium in Nashville. It’s all leading up to the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Santa Clara, California, on January 7.

    Here’s the lineup for this weekend. You can find the full schedule here.

    • Friday, December 28. Music City Bowl, Purdue versus Auburn (1:30 p.m. ET); Camping World Bowl, West Virginia versus Syracuse (5:15 p.m. ET); Valero Alamo Bowl, Iowa State versus Washington State (9 p.m. ET).
    • Saturday, December 29. Peach Bowl, Florida versus Michigan (12 p.m. ET); Belk Bowl, South Carolina versus Virginia (12 p.m. ET); Cotton Bowl, Clemson versus Notre Dame (4 p.m. ET); Orange Bowl, Alabama versus Oklahoma (8 p.m. ET).

    All of the above games are airing on ESPN (except for the Belk Bowl, which is on ESPN3).

    If you’re a cord cutter looking to stream the games live on your computer, phone, or smart TV, you have a few different options. You may be able to watch the action directly on ESPN’s website or via its mobile apps. However, you’ll need pay-TV login credentials to access the live streams there. If you don’t have those credentials, your best bet is to sign up to a TV streaming service that offers ESPN.

    I’ve rounded up some of the most popular TV streaming services below. All of these offer ESPN in their channel lineups, but check before you sign up, because ESPN is not offered in all individual packages:

    • DirecTV Now (ESPN is offered in the “Live a Little” package)
    • PlayStation Vue (ESPN is offered in all multi-channel plans)
    • Hulu With Live TV (ESPN is offered, but check your zip code first)
    • Sling TV (ESPN is offered through the Sling Orange plan; Sling also has a Game Finder feature that lets you easily search for games)
    • YouTube TV (ESPN is offered in the core package)

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    The lives of North Korean defectors living in South Korea just got a little more difficult. Names, birth dates, and addresses of nearly 1,000 defectors were swiped by hackers after they gained access to a database at a Hana (“resettlement”) center. According to the BBC, the hackers were able to get into the database via a computer infected with malware planted through emails sent by an internal address. With this point of entry, the hackers swiped the personal data of 997 defectors, endangering the lives of their family members who remain in North Korea. The South Korean unification ministry said this is believed to be the first large-scale information leak involving North Korean defectors.

    Investigations by the unification ministry and the police are currently ongoing. While no one has officially pointed their finger at North Korea (yet), North Korean hackers have been accused of some recent massive breaches–including the Sony hack, a breach at a South Korean national security think tank, and billions in cryptocurrency digitally heisted. What’s more, North Korean cyberwarfare expert Simon Choi told the BBC one North Korean hacker group mainly targets the estimated 32,000 North Korean defectors living in South Korea–and it may have tried to hack a Hana center last year.

    This latest data breach comes as the two Koreas have been working to improve their relationship, even agreeing to a “no more war” agreement in April. Hopefully that included cyberwarfare, too.

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    Barack Obama may be out of the White House, but he is continuing a few traditions. The former president–and current most admired man in the U.S.– took to social media on Friday to share a few of his favorite things, including Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman, songs from Cardi B and Kurt Vile, and books by Lauren Groff and Esi Edugyan. Of course Becoming, the memoir by his wife, Michelle Obama, was at the top of the list. (“Obviously my favorite!” he wrote).

    The president’s list of favorite books, movies, and music crosses all genres and interests and includes both well-known artists and authors, as well as some who may have flown under the radar. All in all, the lists prove, once again, that Obama has pretty impeccable taste when it comes to culture.

    Highlights from his list of favorite books of 2018 include:

    • American Prison by Shane Bauer
    • Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault
    • Florida by Lauren Groff
    • Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
    • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

    His favorite movies from 2018 include:

    • Annihilation
    • Black Panther
    • BlacKKKlansman
    • Eighth Grade
    • Shoplifters
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor

    And finally, his favorite songs released in 2018 include:

    • “Apes••t” by The Carters
    • “Could’ve Been” by H.E.R. (feat. Bryson Tiller)
    • “Disco Yes” by Tom Misch (feat. Poppy Ajudha)
    • “I Like It” by Cardi B (feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin)
    • “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monáe
    • “Mary Don’t You Weep (Piano & A Microphone 1983 Version)” by Prince
    • “Need a Little Time” by Courtney Barnett
    • “One Trick Ponies” by Kurt Vile
    • “Wow Freestyle” by Jay Rock (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
    • Also, one classic album: The Great American Songbook by Nancy Wilson, in honor of the great jazz singer, who passed away this year.

    Check out the full list here and start filling up your library holds and Spotify queue, and also cross your fingers that the films come to Netflix.

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    Take a look at some of the Fast Company Art Department’s favorite illustrations from 2018. From our World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies to Most Creative People in Business, we’ve tasked talented illustrators to visually interpret subjects ranging from pharmaceuticals to video game worlds to the Girl Scouts of America.

    It isn’t a surprise that our favorite illustrations are stylistically varied–they span from whimsical complexity to thoughtful and nuanced. Take a look for yourself.

    Nick Liefhebber for “This startup grows diamonds in a lab that are just like the real thing
    Novartis by Scott Balmer for The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies 2018
    Kuo Cheng Liao for “How Nintendo’s Switch And DIY Labo Toys are changing the game
    Josh McKenna for “This digital platform lets international governments compare notes
    Noelia Lozano for “Millennial women’s business conferences: safe space or pink silo?
    My Name Is Wendy for The 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards Finalists
    The Cali Wool Beanie by Kevin Whipple for “8 highlights from the World Changing Ideas finalists
    Girl Scouts of the USA by Emmi-Riikka Vartiainen for The Most Creative People in Business 2018
    Lumi by Arndt Benedikt for The Most Creative People in Business 2018
    Anne McKee, director of neuropathology service by Samantha Hahn for The Most Creative People in Business 2018
    goTenna by Geraldine Sy for The Most Creative People in Business 2018
    Frito-Lay by FOREAL for The Most Creative People in Business 2018
    Space Tango by Meijia Xu for The Most Creative People in Business 2018
    Señor Salme for “Why Barry Diller believes in cultivating creative conflict
    Delcan & Co. for “Google, you auto-complete me
    Super Magic Friend for September 2018
    Peter Oumasnki for “10 outrageous CEO stunts in history that changed business
    Peter Arkle for “A new habitat at the bottom of the world
    Wren McDonald for “Remember Zagat? The iconic burgundy guidebook that helped shape the modern consumer era is back
    Aleksandar Savic for “Netflix’s Lisa Nishimura on Patagonia, Nike, and Jane Austen
    Kuo Cheng Lioa for “How Dara Khosrowshahi’s Iranian heritage shapes how he leads Uber
    Rami Niemi for “6 useful hacks for the open office
    Adam Hayes for “These five Google successes began as employee passion projects
    Bratislav Milenkovic for “13 hidden pockets of daily free time you didn’t know you had (and how to make the most of them)

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    We at Fast Company are extremely proud of the work we publish. Along with our written coverage, our photo editors work tirelessly to showcase change in all aspects. Below are some of their favorites from the past year.

    The images here look to a bright, new future. They boldly and colorfully present leaders at the cutting edge of business, technology, and entertainment–as well as playfully visualize both products and concepts spawned from these leaders’ innovations.

    Jessica Alba by Herring & Herring for “How Jessica Alba uses the honest company’s setbacks to grow”
    Hannah Khymych for “Sephora is bringing shade to the makeup industry”
    Reese Witherspoon by Ellen Von Unwerth for the cover of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People In Business issue
    Daniel Day by João Canziani for “How Gucci brought streetwear swagger to a 96-year-old brand”
    Michael Marcelle for “DJI’s Spark is the first drone you can control with hand gestures
    Marcela Sapone (right) and Jessica Beck (left) for “Two bedroom with views–and a personal concierge
    Hannah Beachler by Daymon Gardner for “From Moonlight to Wakanda: production designer Hannah Beachler’s playbook
    Jeff Brown for “Pepsi’s new shape of water is a product called Drinkfinity
    Doris Kearns Goodwin by Jessie English for “Doris Kearns Goodwin knows what presidential leadership looks like”
    Chamath Palihap­itiya by Justin Maxon for “Social Capital’s Chamath Palihap­itiya wants to fix capitalism
    Ane Crabtree by Nathan Cyprys for “Meet the costume designer for your favorite apocalyptic TV shows”
    Alma Har’el by Mary Rozzi for “Thanks to Alma Har’el, more women are shooting major commercials
    Mauricio Alejo for “Gillette’s new razor provides a benevolent shave
    Daniel Ek by Tim Richardson for “Spotify’s $30 billion playlist for global domination
    Stephanie Gonot for “How Everlane is building the next-gen clothing brand
    Joshua Kissi by Micaiah Carter for “How Tonl’s Joshua Kissi uses stock photography to combat stereotypes
    Daan Brand for “Compass proves cafeteria food can be sustainable
    Aureta Thomollari by Ramona Rosales for “Career pioneers
    Steph Curry by Williams + Hirakawa for “Steph Curry and the new Palm want you to forget your phone
    Mauricio Alejo for “A 3D–printed throne from Zaha Hadid architects
    Tristan Walker by Herring & Herring for “A breakout branding master class from Glossier, Sweetgreen, Away, And Walker & Co.
    Suzanne Lee by Benedict Evans for “Brewing leather in a lab
    Arlan Hamilton by João Canziani for “Memo to the Silicon Valley boys’ club: Arlan Hamilton has no time for your BS
    Yves Béhar by Chloe Aftel for “Not another Yves Béhar profile!
    Will Steyer for Fast Company’s 2018 Innovation By Design
    Nikki Bell by Andy Ryan for “How Thumbtack creates work by giving The Yellow Pages an AI twist
    Mauricio Alejo for “A tougher tablet
    Tyler, the Creator by JUCO for “Tyler, the Creator is in full bloom
    Abby Wambach by Herring & Herring for “Why Nike sees social responsibility as an opportunity to innovate
    Janelle Monáe by Ramona Rosales for the cover of Fast Company’s Most Productive People Issue
    Willow and Bambi by Jason Pietra for “For ensuring that the bleat goes on”
    Mauricio Alejo for “A phone app for the visually impaired
    Jonathan Van Ness by Barrett Emke for “How Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness starts and ends each day
    Katrina Lake by Aaron Feaver for “Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake talks data, Amazon—and hot tubs

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    The U.S. is taking a multi-pronged approach in an effort to get to the bottom of a string of mysterious illnesses that sickened diplomats at embassies in Cuba and China. The investigation now involves medical experts in four states and officials from seven federal agencies—including the State Department, the CIA, the Navy, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—as costs for research and treatment have run into “the tens of millions of dollars,” reports NBC News.

    In late August 2017, State Department officials reported that 16 Americans were injured in what appeared to be a “sonic attack” targeting diplomats in Cuba. In early September, the State Department upped the number of victims to 19, after a new attack occurred in August. Symptoms included mild traumatic brain injury, concussion, nerve damage, and hearing loss from the mysterious “sonic harassment.” Canada reported that five of their diplomats and their family members reported experiencing symptoms consistent with the attacks. The attacks led to the U.S. secretly shutting down its CIA outpost in Havana, and the State Department withdrawing most of its diplomats from Cuba.

    As the U.S. government tried to figure out what was going on in Cuba came reports that at least two employees of the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, were evacuated after falling ill after hearing strange noises, and other staffers were tested by a State Department medical team. Since then, 370 U.S. diplomats and their families serving in China have undergone testing over concerns that they could have been affected by health attacks, too.

    While Cuba has denied being behind the attacks, rumors persist. Others think Russia is the culprit, and computer scientists at the University of Michigan reported that the “sonic attacks” could have been an accidental side effect from two eavesdropping devices operating near each other at the same time. According to a September 1 report by the New York Times, microwave weapons are now a prime suspect in the investigations.

    In August, neurologists confirmed to the State Department that the damage to the U.S. workers’ brains is real. Still, there are no definitive answers about the culprit. The U.S. intelligence community and FBI investigators are still trying to solve the mystery alongside researchers and other governments.

    The efforts, as NBC News describes them, are a bit of a spaghetti-at-the-wall attempt to figure out what’s going on and how to prevent it in the future. Among them:

    • The Defense Department is trying to re-create the technology that was used in the attacks.
    • The Office of Naval Research’s “Code 34” Warfighter Performance Department is researching how different energy sources like the ones used in the attacks affect the human body, and specifically the head.
    • At the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, doctors and scientists are developing an in-depth clinical research study “to try to understand what’s happened to the diplomats’ bodies and how long the symptoms will last.”
    • Doctors at the Center for Disease Control are looking at the incidents as a public health risk and are devising a formal “case definition” for the illness, including risk factors and a full list of common symptoms, to help track its spread.
    • Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, where the U.S. is sending its patients for treatment, have proposed to create a Comprehensive Brain Injury Clinic to serve as a rapid triage center in the event of a major attack.

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    Facebook will stop displaying political campaign ads in Washington State in order to comply with campaign finance laws, and will pay more than $238,500 to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of those rules.

    Google was also alleged to have violated state laws by failing to maintain records of election ads on its platform, and ceased its political ads this summer, after Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against the companies.

    According to documents filed last week, the lawsuits will end without an admission of guilt from either Facebook or Google, which agreed to pay Washington State $217,000. Ferguson told the Stranger that the two payments, which will go into the state’s Public Disclosure Transparency account, represent “two of the largest campaign finance resolutions in state history.”

    Ferguson said that he was unaware of other instances in which Facebook and Google have been forced to settle lawsuits stemming from campaign finance allegations against either company. California, New York, and Maryland also have digital transparency requirements to regulate local political campaigns, and Washington is considering possible new federal rules on online political ads.

    Facebook debuted a political ads archive earlier this year, but Washington State’s regulators say it still does not include enough data. The state’s 1972 transparency law, considered one of the country’s most stringent, requires that political advertisers disclose the name and address of a given ad’s purchaser, the ad’s cost, and the total number of impressions that an ad received, as well as demographic information about the audiences who saw it.

    The companies had opposed the suit, arguing, among other things, that campaigns, not platforms, should be required to disclose information about ads. But a ruling last month by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission reaffirmed the state’s strong disclosure regulations for digital political advertising, which will be enforced starting January 1.

    The unusual decision by Facebook comes as tech platforms are trying to increase the transparency of their political ads amid fallout over Russia’s use of their platforms to target U.S. voters. Last week, the U.S. Senate released reports that showed Russia’s barrage of Facebook and Instagram posts and ads was broader than previously thought.

    Complicating transparency around political ads are the methods that campaigns use to obscure the actual ad buyers, including purchasing ads through shell companies and limited liability companies. And many political ads—like those linked to the Russian government in 2016—may not make specific reference to the election, voting, or to a particular candidate.

    In a blog post on Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the company’s efforts to prevent election interference, including improving systems for identifying fake accounts, partnering with fact checkers, academics, and governments, and creating “a new standard for advertising transparency where anyone can now see all the ads an advertiser is running to different audiences.”

    “We believe all ads should be transparent on Facebook and aren’t waiting for legislation to authorize political advertisers and house these ads in a public archive,” Beth Gautier, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said in a statement last week about the Washington lawsuit.

    Amid continued record-setting splurges on campaign advertising, politicians are pouring increasing piles of money into Facebook and other digital platforms. Online ads garnered almost $1.8 billion in 2018 campaigns, more than 25 times more money than they did during the last midterm elections in 2014, according to estimates by Borrell Associates. Last month, Facebook said it had reaped $354 million from more than 2 million political ads in 2018.

    The company also faces a number of investigations and legal threats related to its handling of user data. Last week, Washington D.C.’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, in the first major legal action of its kind by U.S. officials.

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    The dystopian future that Pink Floyd envisioned in “Another Brick in the Wall” is creeping a little closer to reality in China. Eleven schools in the southwestern province of Guizhou have new “smart uniforms” embedded with computer chips that ensure the student is in school, paying attention, and behaving properly, according to a report from state-run newspaper The Global Times.

    The uniforms, which were developed by local tech firm Guizhou Guanyu Technology, come equipped with GPS devices to ensure the student isn’t playing hooky, as well as tech that will set off alarms if a student walks out of the building or falls asleep in class.

    The chips also allow parents to monitor purchases their child makes at the school and set spending limits via a mobile app, according to the company’s official website. Jacket swapping won’t work, either, as facial-recognition scanners on school doors match the chips with the correct student. It would be hard to damage the two chips, which are inserted into the shoulders of the uniforms, because they are built to withstand up to 500 washes and 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 Celsius), per Global Times. (The company’s website was not reachable at the time of publication.)

    Related: The 60 dumbest moments in tech in 2018

    In keeping with the Big Brother motif, the system can locate students even during non-school hours. However, the principal at one of the schools using the smart uniforms told The Telegraph that they “choose not to check that data.” The Beijing News reported Tuesday that the company pinky-swears it is not monitoring students’ movements around the clock, but people remain skeptical about the company’s respect for privacy rights. “It is horrifying,” one Weibo user wrote. “I imagine the parents agreed to this after being brainwashed.”

    The tracking uniforms are the latest push in China’s ongoing efforts to digitize education and create “smart campuses,” according to The Telegraph. Last year, a professor at the Communication University of China announced he was using facial recognition software to prevent students from skipping his class.

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    Portuguese airline Hi Fly took off from Lisbon on Wednesday without a single piece of single-use plastic on board their flight to Natale, Brazil–no plastic cups, no plastic silverware, no plastic cocktail stirrers, no plastic food containers.

    The flight was a test run as the company hopes to ban single-use plastics from their planes entirely by the end of 2019. They have three more test runs planned, during which passengers will use bamboo cutlery and compostable food containers, made by Vegware, and other plant-based, renewable, lower-carbon or recycled materials.

    “We can no longer ignore the impact plastic contamination has on ecosystems, as well as on human health,” Hi Fly president Paulo Mirpuri told Canadian television network CTV. “We know, too, from the feedback we have received from client airlines and passengers, that it’s the right thing for the airline to be doing.”

    While Hi Fly is first, they aren’t the only airline pledging to stop using single-use plastic. Air New Zealand announced in October that they are working to further cut their plastic usage. The airline is swapping out cups, coffee cups and lids, cheese plates and lids, and plastic bags over the next 12 months, after already removing single-use plastic straws, stir sticks, eye mask wrappers, and plastic toothbrushes from lounges and on board aircraft to reduce its plastic footprint.

    In the U.S., Alaska Airlines has already cut plastic straws, and Delta and American have already begun phasing out some single-use plastic items. Now cities and food service companies are moving so quickly on banning plastic straws that a paper-straw manufacturer in the U.S. has had to build a new factory to meet demand. And according to a recent survey by the United Nations, 127 countries now have some regulation regarding single-use plastic.

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    We’re almost at the end of another year, which means that it’s an excellent opportunity to reflect on our achievements and set goals for the year ahead. If, like many people, you’re hoping to enhance your job prospects in 2019, then strengthening your resume should be at the top of your New Year’s resolutions list.

    Perhaps you’re looking to increase your salary, or maybe find more fulfilling work. Whatever you’re hoping to achieve, your resume will be your number-one tool for getting ahead of the competition. Here’s the catch–making your resume stronger requires you to do more than just tweaking a piece of paper. You need to be prepared to take actions that allow you to have a strong resume.

    Here are three strategies to future-proof your resume for 2019 and beyond.

    Take on extra responsibilities

    You’ve probably heard this Henry Ford quote before, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Motivational speakers often use it, but it’s also a fitting way to describe your career.

    If you don’t take on responsibilities above and beyond your current job, then how can you expect to be considered for more senior roles? If you want a promotion into that next-step role in your career, then you need to show employers and recruiters that you are capable of performing them. Chances are, most hiring managers won’t take a chance on inexperienced staff if they can hire experienced candidates.

    So, if you’re hoping to progress in 2019, reach out to your supervisor and ask if you can alleviate them from some of their responsibilities. You won’t be rewarded instantly for your actions, but familiarizing yourself with the workload of your superiors will have massive long-term benefits for your career. Eventually, your boss will welcome your contribution, and you’ll learn new skills and pick up invaluable experience that you won’t get from just covering the basics in your role.

    Once you’ve gained a wealth of skills from stepping up and taking on more senior duties, be sure to highlight them in your resume and show recruiters that you’re ready for career progression. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when doing this. Challenge yourself and try to acquire some skills outside of the areas you already excel in.

    Stay ahead of the tech curve

    Technology isn’t just for those who work in Silicon Valley. Nowadays, it plays a huge role in almost every industry and profession. It’s highly likely that you come into contact with technological tools in your work.

    Most of us use multiple technology platforms, from operating systems to databases. Some of us are even involved in the building and selling of these platforms. Whatever your involvement is with tech in the workplace, you can’t afford to get left behind. The tech landscape is continually changing, and if you don’t have an understanding of current tools and systems in your field, you’ll become a much less attractive hire than those who do.

    To keep your tech skills sharp and stay in-demand, you need to be proactive in seeking out the latest technology in your field, and ensure that your knowledge is up-to-date. LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to find industry conversations and learn about emerging platforms in your industry. If you learn about a new technology that is disrupting your industry, look for online courses on them, or speak to your supervisor about trying them out in your office.

    When you do this, you can list a much greater breadth and depth of technical knowledge on your resume. You’ll become a much more attractive candidate to future employers.

    Drive some tangible results

    Hiring staff is a significant investment for employers, and, like any investment, they will eventually want to see a decent return. Naturally, hiring managers like to hire candidates who have delivered real results for previous employers.

    If you want to showcase some impressive achievements on your resume in 2019, you need to start working toward them ASAP. Say you’re working on a big project, strive to make notable contributions that can be directly related to saving costs, improving performance, or any other metric that adds real value. If you see a process in your workplace that doesn’t function as smoothly as it should, take action and implement some changes to that process so that it enhances productivity.

    By achieving these results, you’ll have concrete evidence that proves your value to recruiters and hiring managers. When you can present facts and figures, you can illustrate the scale of your impact, and give them an accurate reflection of the benefits you could potentially bring to their team.

    Making professional progress requires you take the initiative to go above and beyond what you are hired to do. By actively boosting your skills, taking extra responsibilities, and staying on top of technological trends, you can make 2019 your year.

    Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter and founder of resume advice center StandOut CV. He is also the author of “How To Write a CV” and regularly contributes careers advice to a number of leading publications.

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    When Swedish company Teenage Engineering got into the wireless speaker game, it sought to reinvent a classic—the OD-11. Back in 1974, the iconic Swedish sound pioneer Stig Carlsson had created a high fidelity loudspeaker in the shape of a small cube. The OD-11 positioned the subwoofer (bass) and tweeter (treble) cones so as to point sound diagonally upward and outward. Its warm, rich sound appealed to audiophiles, while its design seemed futuristic and forward-thinking. So when Teenage Engineering, highly regarded for its OP-1 synthesizer and sampler’s design and sound aesthetics, released its updated OD-11 in 2014, it seemed appropriate.

    This past month, Teenage Engineering announced the release of a new OD-11. All of the internals—a built-in computer, 100-watt amplifier, and WiFi to accommodate all devices—remain the same, but Teenage Engineering redesigned the speaker to be sustainable. Built with holocellulose, a complex mixture of polysaccharides that remain after the removal of lignin (a natural polymer) from wood, the company calls it a “loudspeaker for tree-huggers with golden ears.”

    Teenage Engineering’s Marcus Blom tells Fast Company that they wanted to push the envelope of sustainability. To do this, they started with a basic question: what happens beyond a product’s lifetime? Electronics, in particular, are difficult to recycle, with various plastics, metals, and other materials.

    “We do a lot of prototyping and know quite well what is possible with the materials that are available on the market,” says Kouthoofd. “What we don’t know is what is possible to do with the materials that are not available on the market yet, so we invited RISE research [to collaborate]… our first step in designing for disassembly, but not the last.”

    For the initial meeting, Dina Dedic, Senior Research Associate at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, brought a box to Teenage Engineering’s headquarters filled with a number of different sample materials. Each sample showed what was possible with wood, including iridescent films, holocellulose, and a number of other wood derivatives that Dina and her colleagues were working on at RISE.

    “The newly developed holocellulose has amazing properties when it comes to sustainability and it’s aesthetically really beautiful,” says Dedic. “At that time, it was just a small, thin sample out of the lab. We decided to try and make a lot more of it in order to make an Oriented Strand Board [or flake board].”

    At that time, the holocellulose was hypothetically rigid enough for a speaker cabinet. In short order, Teenage Engineering’s designers began working with RISE on cabinet specifications. After crafting enough materials and manufacturing an OSB, the designers created the holocellulose OD-11. After testing, Teenage Engineering and RISE realized the holocellulose OSB was as robust as other flake boards. Blom says the designers also learned that the holocellulose didn’t yellow with age, and that the wood components were easy to recycle and repurpose.

    “The most exciting part with the holocellulose when it comes to design for us is its sustainable properties paired with a beautiful aesthetic,” Dedic says. “[It] comes from wood from sustainably managed Swedish forests. The process of making holocellulose has low energy consumption and researchers are working on recycling chemicals and water.”

    When in use, holocellulose looks like pure white wood. But, in the right conditions, Dedic says that it can be disintegrated and made into another plant-based product, like transparent film or paper. Typically, composites made of natural fiber and plastics must undergo a separation process with high temperatures and solvents, which can damage materials and ultimately impact their second life. With holocellulose OD-11, no separation of plastics, dye, or paint is necessary.

    As for the holocellulose OD-11’s sound, Blom says it is as good as any of the other Teenage Engineering speaker cabinets. In short, it is just like the other modern OD-11 speakers, though far more sustainable. But sustainability work is far from finished at Teenage Engineering. The company believes there is much more they can do to push the envelope. And, hopefully, the holocellulose OD-11 will have a much broader impact, influencing product design far beyond music technology.

    “If this speaker can show manufacturers that materials such as holocellulose are worth investing in, it will be made available to the world and have a real impact,” Teenage Engineering co-founder Jesper Kouthoofd tells Fast Company. “We will keep our dialog with RISE open and keep exploring.”

    “What if you could make a material hard enough to sustain CNC milling?” Kouthoofd muses. “Then we could replace the OP–1’s [sampler and synthesizer] aluminum chassis with sustainably sourced wood. Wouldn’t that be something?”

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    We all want to expand our knowledge, learn something new, prove our worth and move up the ladder. How do you get started? Knowing the right company that fits your culture, passion, and industry is the first step. But once you find the right company, how do you work your way up? Here are 5 tips on how to cultivate your career.

    Build a solid network

    Relationships are an essential part of your personal and professional life. Whether it’s with your current or former employer, building a solid foundation of professional connections is critical. Clients, peers, and subordinates, in addition to your management team, can all validate the quality of your work. Thoughtfully build your network and continue to learn from every level.

    Make LinkedIn work for you. If you haven’t already, create your LinkedIn profile, and add your skills and contributions to beef up your profile. Endorse your colleagues and request their endorsement. A nod from your peers, or a positive review from a previous client, speaks volumes on LinkedIn.

    Set goals

    Be proactive. Setting goals for your professional career are critical. Start small and add new goals each year.

    Find your passion and connect with others that share your ambitions. By sharing with others, you’ll have an even greater network to leverage expertise and resources.

    Step outside your comfort zone

    Look for opportunities to try something new and step outside your comfort zone. Are there any classes or trainings available at your company? Does the company offer tuition reimbursements for a class you’re interested in taking? If you don’t know, ask!

    When you have a passion for growing your career, take a shot on a “stretch assignment.” Whether it’s contributing to an additional project, or taking on a whole new role, this stretch assignment will add to your skillset, give you exposure to other people in your company, and allow you to gain insight into the expectations and daily work associated with a different position.

    Seek out a coach or mentor

    A coach or mentor can be a person that’s in, or outside, of your organization. They should be a trusted advisor that can help guide you to the next stage of your career. Identify who that person is in your life and see if they’re interested in committing to your growth. You can have more than one. Keep in mind: It should be someone that can help you develop your personal and professional skills. Consider a person that is in a current role that you’d aspire to, or a person that can support your professional development, in preparation for the next step.

    Be receptive to feedback. Look at any constructive criticism as positive. Remember–your coach or mentor has your best interests at heart. Be open-minded when listening to their suggestions; this can have a lasting, positive effect on your relationship with them and help you identify talents in yourself that you may not have previously realized.

    Take the leap

    Are you ready to grow? Sometimes you need to take the leap and find out. Before you do, make sure you can land on your feet. Have you excelled in your current role? Have you grown to your full potential? If you answered yes, it’s time to move on to the next stage of your career. Before presenting your interest to your manager, prepare to reference any positive comments from others about your performance to solidify your next move. Include any past performance evaluations to add credibility.

    If you’ve truly mastered your current role, then moving into a larger or a new position will seem like an obvious next step. In speaking with your manager about your next move, ask what tools you’ll need to succeed.

    When looking at the big picture, plan effectively, build relationships, and execute a growth strategy with guidance from your manager and mentor to progress to the next stage in your career. By executing strategic goals, a new path to success will unfold. By implementing these steps, you can significantly impact your growth opportunity and challenge yourself to reach the next stage in a successful career.

    This article originally appeared on Glassdoor and is reprinted with permission. 

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    The fast Fast Company staff is forever on the lookout for the most imaginative minds in all aspects of our culture–and this year was no exception.

    So with an eye toward helping you feel inspired and energized for 2019, we compiled the top 17 quotes from our interviews with entertainers. Read ahead and get ready for a new year of newfound creativity.

    “I don’t mind making mistakes and having something fail, I just don’t keep making the same mistake. It’s trying to be smart about where the intersection is between what you’re interested in and what other people are interested in.” — Steven Soderbergh, filmmaker

    “I had no idea what I was doing. In four years, I produced one film, Penelope, with Christina Ricci. It was beautiful, and I loved it, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t ready to tell stories–because I didn’t know what stories I wanted to tell.” — Reese Witherspoon, actor and producer

    “One of my biggest strengths is I’m unafraid to say no. I’m not into people owning me. I have a strong vision, and any companies or partners who want to work with me have to match my purpose: shaping culture, redefining culture, and moving culture forward.” — Janelle Monáe, singer and actor

    “You have to believe in yourself. The bigger the film, the more experts come to the foreground and go, ‘You should do it this way–this is how we do it here.’ But I believed in myself. That’s my biggest lesson, is that I do have a voice and I can stand behind it. And as long as I’m supported, I can do some good things with my artistry.” — Ruth E. Carter, costume designer

    “I’m not a woman. James Baldwin is not a woman. And yet [If Beale Street Could Talk] is dominated by women. It’s told from the female point of view. So anytime the actresses had a suggestion or thought they felt very firm about, I had to check my directorial ego and listen.” — Barry Jenkins, director

    “The biggest lesson I learned was about things being a straight, white guys’ club and allowing that to make me question what my voice is and what I bring to the table. If I could talk to younger me, I would say, ‘Stay true to what is important and authentic to you. Don’t look to the left or the right, just focus on what you’re doing–your art will make room for you.'” — Jessica Williams, comedian and co-host of the 2 Dope Queens podcast

    “My core is to explore. That curiosity, people lose that, because they think they know everything.” —Tyler, The Creator, rapper and producer

    “Opinions will be the death of you. If I cared about what other people thought, then I would not be here today. I’ve been ridiculed my whole life, a lot of people didn’t understand me because I guess they’ve never seen anyone like me. But when you come from the hood, unique is not cool–they fear what they don’t understand. I just had to believe in myself enough to know what I was doing was right.” – A$AP Ferg, rapper

    “[The key component about creativity] which I don’t think many people get nowadays, is silence. That’s really, really important–to be in a secluded, quiet place where you can hear your thoughts. When we get bored, we pull out our phones and [get] instant gratification. I embrace the idea of being bored and just sitting around. That’s when the best ideas come to you.” — Questlove, musician

    “The way to bounce back from any major setback … is to plow forward. Because if it does knock … away your ambition, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Every successful person I know in show business or any other business is just driven, driven, driven, and won’t take no for an answer.” — Paul Feig, director

    “The reason I’m so calm with this show coming out is that, back on SNL, one week you’d be called a genius and the next week, not only should you be fired but they should murder you. You just realize it’s all in waves. At the end of the day, nothing makes sense, so you should just do whatever you want and hope it works.” — Bill Hader, actor

    “I would like to represent as many aspects of blackness as possible. That’s such a beautiful thing to do, to me. It’s really that mindset that is equal parts conscious and creative that is something I’m striving to participate in as much as I can. We need to champion difference, particularly as we display blackness. Everybody should be comfortable with all kinds of blackness, so the more we can telegraph that in people’s living rooms, the better.” — Daveed Diggs, actor

    “These are things outside my organic experience and I wanted to work with writers who could write from their experience. The more different kinds of minds I have in the room–not just ethnicity, but more cerebral minds, more emotional minds–the better the mix is going to be just to generate stories that are more fully formed and actually have some meat to them.” — Alan Ball, TV writer and producer

    “You’ve just got to be comfortable taking that risk. And we’ve had in the past things that have been less successful. But fuck it–it’s just clothes. And I think people need that these days.” — Marcus Wainwright, founder of Rag & Bone

    “I just had to learn that decisiveness is one of the most important characteristics as a director. It dawned on me that I had to make the final decision on everything and that me being very clear about what I want is not the same as me being selfish or bossy.” — Cory Finley, writer-director, Thoroughbreds

    “I had a vocal coach say to me once, “Your voice is 60% emotion, 40% technique.” And he said that’s the strength of my voice. You can’t train the emotion out of it, and replace it with technique. It’s about finding the balance, being able to do what you need to do to express the emotion.” — Lauren Mayberry, lead singer of Chvrches

    “I refuse to take no for an answer on anything. I was told MTV VJs have no career after MTV, and I’m like, that’s never going to be me. I was always about not feeding into the negativity and proving to people that I can do more than one thing. There was a time, and still now, where people want to put you in a box. Why can’t I do a lot of things and also be great at a lot of different things?” — La La Anthony, actor and fashion designer

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    Our colleagues publish thousands of great stories every year, but these 10 are some that our staff kept coming back to in 2018. If you have some extra time over the holidays, we recommend you check them out.

    They do not, we should warn you, paint a very pretty picture. We spent much of the year covering the rapidly approaching deadline for fixing climate change, and the fact that extractive businesses who have fueled it are also failing to share that wealth with most of the population. At Fast Company, we often focus on solutions. Many of these stories helped us frame the problems that we need solutions for–from exploited workers to mass extinction and everything in between. (Click on the titles to read the articles.)

    The Insect Apocalypse Is Here, the New York Times

    Bugs are not usually the poster animal for extinction. You’re going to garner a lot more sympathy with a polar bear or a whale than a cockroach, but this truly horrifying article makes it clear that humankind’s impact on the natural world reaches all levels, and with potentially disastrous consequences. Bugs are, in fact, vitally important to the world’s ecosystems, and now they’re disappearing incredibly quickly:

    In 2013, Krefeld entomologists confirmed that the total number of insects caught in one nature reserve was nearly 80% lower than the same spot in 1989. They had sampled other sites, analyzed old data sets, and found similar declines: Where 30 years earlier, they often needed a liter bottle for a week of trapping, now a half-liter bottle usually sufficed. But it would have taken even highly trained entomologists years of painstaking work to identify all the insects in the bottles. So the society used a standardized method for weighing insects in alcohol, which told a powerful story simply by showing how much the overall mass of insects dropped over time. “A decline of this mixture,” Sorg said, “is a very different thing than the decline of only a few species.”

    A Kingdom From DustCalifornia Sunday Magazine

    Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s story is one of how the U.S.’s appetites–and appetite for growth–has made and lost fortunes, and destroyed the planet in the process. The Resnicks are the largest farmers in the United States (you may know them as the people behind Pom pomegranate juice and the bogus claims about its health effects). Their shrewd businesses decisions have grown an empire in California, but growing the empire took so much water that there’s none left to sustain it.

    “Let’s call it what it is,” he says. “It’s gambling. Stewart gambled and won for many years. He gambled on the price of nuts going up, and he gambled on the water never going dry. He kept planting more and more trees. But he got too big. Too many pistachios. Too many almonds. Too many pomegranates. Like a lot of empires, it comes to an end.”

    The War Inside 7-11, Bloomberg

    There’s an ongoing battle between 7-Eleven corporate and its franchisees that, in a Trump world, has taken on new, intense dimensions of race and identity. While before the chain celebrated the diversity of its store owners, new corporate leadership has been less cosmopolitan, leading to a series of raids by immigration authorities that may have been sparked by the company itself.

    Donna Bucella, a former federal prosecutor who was hired in January as chief compliance officer at 7-Eleven, says the company doesn’t steer investigators toward store owners with whom it has disagreements or disputes. If the company has specific, credible evidence of wrongdoing, she says, it will pass it along to law enforcement. Bucella says she didn’t know about the company reviewing store tapes.

    Paranoia has swept across the universe of 7-Eleven franchisees. At franchisee conventions, inside stores, and on private email chains, they swap stories about perceived offenses from headquarters in Dallas. In particular they’re alarmed by the ICE raids on stores owned by critics of the company. They all but assume 7-Eleven has something to do with it.

    The Nastiest Feud in Science, the Atlantic

    We all learn in school that the dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid. But one scientist is fighting against this orthodoxy, arguing that instead it was a series of volcanoes. This has caused a major battle in the scientific community, but what’s really important is–as we approach what may be a sixth mass extinction–to grapple with the facts of the most recent one.

    The age of the dinosaurs opened with continents on the move. Landmasses that had spent millions of years knotted together into the supercontinent of Pangaea began to drift apart, and oceans–teeming with sponges, sharks, snails, corals, and crocodiles–flooded into the space between them. It was swimsuit weather most places on land: Even as far north as the 45th parallel, which today roughly marks the U.S.-Canada border, the climate had a humid, subtropical feel. The North Pole, too warm for ice, grew lush with pines, ferns, and palm-type plants. The stegosaurs roamed, then died, and tyrannosaurs took their place. (More time separates stegosaurs from tyrannosaurs–about 67 million years–than tyrannosaurs from humans, which have about 66 million years between them.) It was an era of evolutionary innovation that yielded the first flowering plants, the earliest placental mammals, and the largest land animals that ever lived. Life was good–right up until it wasn’t.

    The Country’s First Climate Change Casualties? Pacific Standard

    Virginia’s Tangier Island is slowly sinking beneath the waves. A combination of erosion and rising sea levels makes it nearly certain that life there can’t continue. But its residents are determined to stay–and have been bolstered by the president, who has told them not to worry about the rising seas that are threatening their livelihoods.

    The story of Tangier has largely been limited to the inevitability of an island going down–the science behind it, the politics around it. And without new infrastructure, fast, Tangier is indeed going down. What’s been left out, however, is why its people are willing to go down with it–and why they’ve risked it all on Trump to keep them afloat.

    In This Rapaciously Dry Year, a Quiet Question Grows Louder: What Are We Doing Here?High Country News

    As the effects of climate change increase, it’s going to force even harder decisions about how humanity should adapt to the changes. In this story, an author in Santa Fe, New Mexico, grapples with the question of what it means to live in a city that will likely be afflicted with drought for the rest of her life. What does it mean to stay in that place–and what does it mean to abandon it?

    The question of whether we should stay or go was turning out to be complicated; even the angles that seemed straightforward weren’t. Shanahan pointed out that if water limited the city’s growth, the value of our home might go up. That’s how supply and demand should work, Grady Gammage, a lawyer, water expert, and sometimes developer in Phoenix, told me. But the idea that there’s not enough water to build houses? “That’s going to scare people, so it might constrain demand.” Claudia Borchert, Santa Fe County’s sustainability manager, remarked over coffee that she’d just fielded a call from an anxious homeowner asking if his property value was safe. “Boy, in the short term, yes,” she told him. “In the long term, all bets are off. It won’t necessarily be that there’s no water, but will people want to live here?”

    Affordable Housing Is Disappearing. These Mobile Home Residents Are Fighting to Protect Theirs, Time

    In a story of how corporatized the housing market is becoming, this piece examines what’s happening to people at the lowest end–residents of trailer parks–as their parks are bought up by large companies who then try to increase returns on the backs of the residents.

    Mobile home park residents, most of whom own their trailers but rent the land beneath them, have always been among America’s most vulnerable low-income homeowners. But since the 2008 financial crisis, and as an aging generation of mom-and-pop park owners cashes out, a new breed of investors bent on raising rents to increase returns has bought up a growing share of the market. In July, Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, bought a portfolio of 14 mobile home parks in California and Arizona for $172 million—not to redevelop, but to operate. It’s one sign, according to Jim Baker of the watchdog Private Equity Stakeholder Project, “that the industry is becoming a commodity.”

    With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation, the Intercept

    One of the defining policy issues of the next U.S. Congress and presidential campaign will be the Green New Deal. Pushed by charismatic young lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the plan would involve decarbonizing the economy, creating green jobs, and moving to 100% renewable energy. But most of the rhetoric has been very big picture. This story digs into what a world after a Green New Deal could look like, and what it will take to actually get there.

    In a broad sense, that’s what policymakers in other countries refer to as industrial policy, whereby the government plays a decisive role in shaping the direction of the economy to accomplish specific aims. That doesn’t mean that the state controls every industry, as in the Soviet system; instead, it would be closer to the kind of economic planning that the U.S. practiced during the economic mobilization around World War II, and that is practiced internally today by many of the world’s biggest corporations. Should Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution pass muster, the select committee will convene policymakers, academics, and representatives from the private sector and civil society to hash out next steps. How widely or narrowly that groups defines a Green New Deal–and whether it’ll ever be given space to meet on Capitol Hill– remains to be seen, as supportive lawmakers huddle in Washington this week to try and gain support for writing it into the rulebook for the next Congress. Ultimately, it will be that committee that fleshes out what a Green New Deal looks like. But the proposal itself, American history, and existing research give us a sense for what all it might look like in practice.

    “I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison,” the New York Times

    What each of us should do to combat climate change is an open question. Do your personal choices matter, or is it more important to advocate for major societal change? For the people in this story, the answer is more powerful. Their fight against climate change involves going to jail for civil disobedience that involves physically shutting down oil pipelines–and then making the case against climate change in court.

    Foster, who is 53, was charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief, conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. At his bond hearing in Cavalier, North Dakota, he learned that he faced a maximum sentence of more than 26 years. When prosecutors requested that his bail be set at $100,000, Foster asked for a chance to speak. “Your Honor,” he said, “one of the main reasons for this action is to appear here and see justice done for our children, and to protect the air and land and water that they will require to survive. So it’s very important for me to be here in this courtroom, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’m–it’s terrifying–but I am not going to miss it.”

    Inside Google’s Shadow Workforce, Bloomberg

    As tech employees began to more aggressively assert their rights in the workplace this year, the focus was often on engineers and their push back against company policies. But next to that labor story is the fight of many of the other workers who aren’t even employed by the companies, but work there on contract from staffing companies. These workers are also beginning to agitate for their right to accrue more of the benefits that full-time tech employees get. This story is a window into that workforce and how it might change.

    Google’s Alphabet Inc. employs hordes of these red-badged contract workers in addition to its full-fledged staff. They serve meals and clean offices. They write code, handle sales calls, recruit staff, screen YouTube videos, test self-driving cars, and even manage entire teams–a sea of skilled laborers that fuel the $795 billion company but reap few of the benefits and opportunities available to direct employees. Earlier this year, those contractors outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company’s 20-year history, according to a person who viewed the numbers on an internal company database. It’s unclear if that is still the case. Alphabet reported 89,058 direct employees at the end of the second quarter. The company declined to comment on the number of contract workers.

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