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    I’m not sure what I was hoping for. Maybe something akin to Intel’s 1997 ad featuring a bunch of bunny suit guys dancing to Boom Boom Pow in the world’s lamest rave. Or a vintage, circa-2000 Steve Ballmer flip-out.

    But the video that Microsoft produced in 2009, imagining what technology would look like in 2019, isn’t the massively embarrassing tech giant equivalent to a senior photo that I expected. The decade-old video, which was recently unearthedby Reddit, feels oddly contemporary. In fact, based on the technology it envisions–from gestural interfaces to urban green roofs–it could easily have been produced in 2019.

    From the looks of it, the future of technology is a flat circle.

    Microsoft’s old video hits many familiar future tropes: Every phone is a clear slab of glass. Every object, from plane tickets to coffee cups, is “smart” and has its own LCD screen. Every desk is a smart desk, and every wall is a smart wall. Newspapers rearrange themselves before your eyes, and information hops between all of these screens and objects with a swipe of your hand. Data is everywhere!

    These fictional concepts are, by now, as familiar as the real thing. They’re shorthand for the future–the lorem ipsum of advanced tech. You can find them in movies, or in prescription drug commercials, or in a pitch for car insurance, and your brain’s response is probably something like, “Yup, that’s the world of tomorrow.”

    [Image: Microsoft Office Labs]

    So why do these utopian depictions of the future always feel just out of reach? Because, for the most part, hardware itself hasn’t radically changed. The smartphones and laptops we use now are relatively similar to what we used around the time Microsoft imagined this future. While “smart” cups, e-paper, and smart desks do exist, they haven’t been successful at scale yet. And the kind of gestural control that Microsoft depicted us having to move data between devices is entirely plausible, yet still hasn’t made it into any popular tech products. Mark my words: We will get flying cars before I’m able to just swipe a PowerPoint presentation from my iPhone to a projector at a Sheraton Inn and Suites conference room.

    [Image: Microsoft Office Labs]
    To Microsoft’s credit, the company was right about some of the tech in this video. It’s just that these products have changed the world in quieter ways than this video imagined. Real-time language translation? It exists. Cameras that can recognize plants or pretty much anything else they see? Yup. Machine learning, AI, and cloud technologies have advanced exponentially since 2009–ballooning Microsoft’s profits in the process. In November Apple, the company that gave us the biggest hardware revolution in decades, became less valuable than Microsoft, a company that has built its business on cloud computing and AI.

    If only that stuff was as flashy as a transparent glass smartphone, we could finally stop making videos about transparent glass smartphones.


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    The 76th Golden Globe awards will take place this Sunday, January 6. We know which movies and TV shows are up for awards: A Star is Born, The Favourite, Green Book, Barry, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Some of them will win, some won’t. But what else will go down on Hollywood’s most unpredictable, free-flowing night? Herewith are our predictions for the show that everyone loves to hate and hates to love.

    1. Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg will keep things loose and light

    The newly anointed hosts, who barely know each other but were chosen by NBC based on a presenter segment they did at the Emmys, have made it clear they’re not going dark or roasty on Sunday night. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they frequently invoked the terms “positive” and “celebratory” to describe how they’re approaching their gig. The rationale is that in a world that actually is dark and foreboding, the Globes is going to be a night of boozy escape, along with the requisite nods and appreciation for the work of their fellow film and TV makers. In other words: This is not going to be a Ricky Gervais scorch-the-town kind of a night. Samberg is a veteran of the hosting circuit, having emceed the MTV, Spirit, and Emmy awards, so expect some timely barbs–though none related to Trump, which the duo have outright said they’re not touching. But overall, this is going to be a palsy-walsy performance that, if the pair are lucky, will come close to matching Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s killer run as presenters in 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

    2. Amazon will be the streamer of the night

    By now everyone is used to Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu racking up awards at the Globes and stealing the spotlight from the traditional film and TV players. This year will be no different, though expect Amazon to shine a little brighter than its OTT peers. Julia Roberts, the star of Amazon’s latest darling, Homecoming, is up for best actress in a TV drama (though Oh, the star of the BBC’s Killing Eve, is expected to win), and the show itself is a favorite for Best Drama series. Then there’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the series that almost everyone loves to love–and shower with awards. The multiple Emmy winner is expected to win TV’s Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actress (Rachel Brosnahan). Supporting actress Alex Borstein could also surprise and bring home a trophy. And then there’s Hugh Grant, who’s a favorite for Best Actor in a Limited Series for his portrayal of real-life politician and accused murderer Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal. Netflix, meanwhile, should take home awards for Roma (best director for a dramatic film and best foreign language film). But still: probably a good idea to say hi to Jennifer Salke if you see her.

    3. A Star is Born will gain momentum, while Vice loses it

    Sure, there’ll be surprises and snubs, but it’s all but certain that A Star is Born will get a Globes jolt, solidifying its position as Oscar frontrunner. The film, which is nominated for five Globes, is catnip for members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, thanks to the star power of Lady Gaga and its combination of commercial and critical success. Expect it to win for Best Actress in a Drama (Gaga) and Best Song (Shallow). Writer-director-star Bradley Cooper could possibly, maybe, also win trophies, though he’s expected to be beaten in the Best Drama Director category by Romas Alfonso Cuarón. Bohemian Rhapsodys Rami Malek is expected to win for Best Actor in a Drama. Vice, meanwhile, which stormed into the Globes, receiving the most nominations of any film (six, including Best Musical or Comedy), will likely fizzle. The film, a biting satire about former Vice President Dick Cheney, has received mixed reviews and still has a ways to go at the box office before recouping its $60 million production budget. The one silver lining: Christian Bale, who put on more than 40 pounds to play a mumbling, understated Cheney, is expected to win for Best Actor in a Comedy.  

    4. Someone will have an Oprah/Meryl Streep moment

    Typically, the winner of the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement turns their acceptance speech into a sweeping call-to-action-slash-commentary-on-the-state-of-current-affairs. In 2017 that was Meryl Streep, who used her time at the podium to deliver a rousing indictment of president-elect Trump (without ever naming him). “Disrespect invites disrespect,” the most Oscar-winningest actress of all time declared. “Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” Almost as memorably, Trump reacted the next day by Tweeting that Streep was “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.” Last year, Oprah turned her acceptance speech into a show-stopping oration on the civil rights struggle and the #MeToo movement. On Sunday, Jeff Bridges will be the recipient of the DeMille award. The shambling actor may wax on about some of his pet issues, like the environment and childhood hunger, but don’t expect any Trump Tweets or Lebowski 2020 memes in his wake. As for who will deliver the night’s Sobering Truth moment, our bets are on Gaga.   

    5.  Trump will be mentioned or alluded to at least 80 times

    Oh/Samberg may be swearing off any mentions of the president and the state of Washington, but expect most other presenters and awards winners to use the Globes as a Trump-bashing workshop. The Globes, after all, has always felt more like a soirée for the liberal elite than a formal awards ceremony, what with all that free-flowing champagne and sense that it’s really just a warm-up for the Oscars. Sure, there are movies and TV shows to applaud, but more than anything it’s a night when stars feel free to go rogue onstage as their publicists sit quietly at tables way in the back of the room and reach for another drink. MeToo, TimesUp, and other causes will certainly get air-time, but Trump is the easiest, most obvious target for this crowd. All cameras will be trained on Alec Baldwin. 

    6. An Oscar host will be discovered

    As the Globes ceremony unspools, it won’t be lost on anyone in the industry that another awards ceremony that’s just around the corner–the big one–is currently without a host, thanks to the Kevin Hart debacle. Which means the Globes can be a warm-up in that sense, too–i.e., a very public audition by presenters who can pull off zingers that are feisty without being actually offensive, while also being heart-warming and entertaining and engaged. The latter seemed like a requirement that didn’t need to be mentioned until James Franco barely showed up as an Oscar co-host in 2011. So who’s free on February 24? Gaga? Lena Waithe? Chadwick Boseman? Chrissy Metz? 

    7. Everyone will start leaving early for the HBO party

    Netflix, Amazon, and other tech giants may have arrived in Hollywood with their billion-dollar war chests and limitless desire to spend and showboat, but when it comes to Globes after-parties, there is only one worth attending–HBO’s–and everyone knows it. It’s no surprise that the company that has always treated talent relations like a fine art ends up with the most star-studded galas. It also helps that the party is situated right outside the Beverly Hilton ballroom, where the Globes takes place, making it a first-stop destination for revelers. As smaller awards are given out later in the show, expect a slow migration towards HBO to begin. 

    8. Everyone will bitch about how the Globes don’t mean anything

    Mocking the HFPA and the Globes themselves is a Hollywood pastime by now, one that never seems to grow old. The gripes include: HFPA members aren’t real journalists; winners are selected based on how much stars have schmoozed with the HFPA and posed for selfies (remember the year The Tourist won? And Burlesque? And then there was Pia Zadora; there are so many wild cards, including Vice). And yet… Every year everyone dutifully shows up, earnestly accepts their awards, gives rambling shout-outs to their agents, managers and lawyers, and has a good time. Indeed, for one night, at least, the Globes is the most important event on the planet. On Monday, the bitching will resume–until next year.  


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    Editor’s Note: This story is part of our special New Year’s package “Your Future Self,” click here to read the full series. 


    When you say that you “don’t have enough time,” what you’re really saying is that you don’t have time for the activities that you want or need to do. You can’t actually create more time. We’ve all got a fixed 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. But in 2019, you can feel like you have more time every week by making different choices about how you allocate your hours.

    Here are tips from my own experience as well as working with time management coaching clients around the world to help you feel like you have more time in the New Year.

    Quit something

    The start of a year is a great time for you to reassess why you’re doing what you’re doing, and to let go of activities that no longer make sense. One of the fastest, easiest ways to take back your time in 2019 is to quit something. Quit a recurring meeting. Quit a committee. Quit Facebook. Quit Candy Crush. Quit a leadership position. Quit a program. Just stop. Many of these responsibilities easily take two hours a week, if not many more. By taking them out of your life, you automatically open up space.

    Limit something

    Sometimes you can’t or don’t want to completely eliminate activities from your life. But you can open up more space in your life by setting firmer boundaries around them so that you still have space for other items that matter. For example, you might limit the amount of time you spend on email by checking it three times a day instead of constantly having it open. Or you might limit the amount of time you spend on phone apps to a certain number of minutes each day. Or you might limit how late you stay at work. Or limit the number of hours you watch Netflix.

    These limits where you say, effectively, “this much and no more,” keep certain activities in their proper place. Even limiting activities by 30 minutes a day leads to an extra 3.5 hours a week and 14 hours a month. That in turn opens up hours of your day for other items like exercise, reading, sleeping, or getting more substantive work done.

    Pause something

    The feeling of never having a moment to stop and breathe can play a large role in feeling time-poor. So the antidote can simply look like giving yourself permission to take a break. For example, choosing to eat lunch away from your computer can give you a sense of peace and space, even if you’re away from your desk for only 10 minutes. Or going on a walk in the middle of the day. Or giving yourself permission to run an errand during your lunch break. Stopping for a moment to assert your ability to do the non-urgent reduces the sense that everything has to happen at a frenetic pace, and that there’s no time to slow down.

    Delegate something

    Another way to have extra time in 2019 is to delegate activities that you don’t need to do yourself. At work, that could look like delegating more to a colleague, assistant, or contractor. As you plan your day, ask yourself: Is this something that I really need to do myself, or could someone else do this instead? At home, that could look like recruiting assistance from your fellow household members or looking into services for everything from running errands to grocery shopping to cleaning. You can save yourself at least four to five hours a week by having others help.

    Add something

    Finally, if you want more time to do something you “never have time for,” start putting that activity first. Add an exercise class, book a trip, plan a get-together with friends—and don’t cancel it. When you put first the activities you really want to do, the other tasks in life have a way of fitting in around them.

    With these strategies you can gain back five, 10, or even 15 hours each week to reallocate toward what matters most to you in the New Year.


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    The State Department took a break from the federal government’s shutdown to warn people who are planning to visit China that they may never be able to return home. (Yes, China is basically the Hotel California now.)

    In an alarming post, the State Department wrote that “Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years.” The so-called exit bans can be used to “compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.” If you have Chinese heritage you may be particularly subject to additional scrutiny, it adds.

    China disagrees. On Friday Lu Kang, the spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the State Department’s exit ban warning “cannot stand up to scrutiny.” According to the AP, he noted that 2.3 million Americans visited China between January and November 2018–which “far outnumbers the number of Chinese people visiting the U.S.”–and, presumably, the vast majority of them returned home. Lu also chided the United States for conducting “gratuitous inspections” and creating “obstacles for Chinese citizens entering the U.S.”

    So are these travel warnings just another weapon in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China? Maybe! But you may have to go to China and find out.


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    Chances are, no matter what your job title is, in the coming year you’ll have a series of conversations that are important for your career. Whether you’re being interviewed for a new position, discussing a promotion, or pitching an important project, high-stakes discussions await you in the months to come.

    To ace these exchanges, you must master one crucial skill: the ability to handle Q&A, the impromptu questions and answers that are at the heart of every interview. Studies show that those who think on their feet and respond without hesitation come across as leaders who project a certain charisma. In fact, the same research indicates that this quickness of mind is rated as being even more important as a barometer of your mental smarts than IQ is.

    Here are the four fundamentals that will help you answer any question with grace.

    Prepare, prepare, prepare

    To begin, prepare for these impromptu exchanges. While we think of answering questions as a totally spontaneous act, you can and must get ready for these conversations. Sure, you can’t anticipate ALL the questions you might be asked, but you can take a stab at preparing a list of questions and answers. This holds for job interviews, performance reviews, client meetings, and presentations that have a Q&A component.

    I have coached everyone from individuals who were applying to med and law schools, to executives going for their next big job. In each case, we spent hours writing down questions, preparing answers, and role playing Q&A. The result has been a series of success stories. Candidates got what they wanted: law school, medical school, acceptance into grad school, or a CEO position.

    So if you’re heading for a job interview this year–or any other critical conversation–begin by prepping.

    Don’t rush to answer

    Next, take your time answering. You’ll come across as more confident if you do. Listen to the entire question. If you rush to formulate your answer while the speaker is still talking, you may ignore part of what they’re saying. The result: You’ll answer the question you think they’ve asked, instead of answering the actual question.

    Rushing can also cause you to interrupt the speaker—who may be contemplating the second part of her question. That will make you seem rude and panicky.

    You’ll present yourself as a confident, thoughtful leader if you wait for the full question to be asked and then pause to reflect on your answer. Even if you have the answer in your mind, that pause will suggest that you are taking the question seriously and judging that it deserves a thoughtful answer.

    But just because you are pausing doesn’t mean you have to fill in the silence with words like, “That’s a good question.” You’re not there to evaluate questions, you’re there to answer them. (And, hey, what about the other questions: Are they bad questions in comparison?)

    Structure your response

    Third, carefully structure your response. If you want to sound smart and quick on your feet, organize your answer and include the following components.

    • Begin with a segue from the question. For example, you might open with “That’s something I think a lot about,” or “Yes, I’d be glad to tell you about my qualifications for the job.”
    • Then state your point. Every answer should have a one-sentence message that’s presented clearly and with conviction. For example you might say, “I believe I have the credentials to be successful in this role.”
    • Give two to four proof points. These reasons support your message.
    • End with a call to action. This might be telling the interviewer you are excited about the opportunity being discussed and look forward to hearing from them. You also might ask what the next steps are. When preparing your answers in advance, use this structure so you will come across as clear and confident.

    Ask questions

    Finally, take a proactive approach and ask questions. For example, in a job interview, ask your future employer about the position or the culture of the company. These questions will show you’re engaged and have been an active listener. There are tons of great questions to ask. Giving the other person a chance to share her experience and expectations conveys your emotional intelligence–and keenness for the position.

    Asking questions also puts you in a leadership role–rather than a supplicant’s role. Probing shows that you feel confident in front of more senior folks, and that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. This suggests that you want to make sure this is the right job, promotion, or project for you.


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    This year, I served on the judging panel for The Royal Statistical Society’s International Statistic of the Year.

    On Dec. 18, we announced the winner: 90.5%, the amount of plastic that has never been recycled. Okay–but why is that such a big deal?

    Much like Oxford English Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” competition, the international statistic is meant to capture the zeitgeist of this year. The judging panel accepted nominations from the statistical community and the public at large for a statistic they feel shines a light on today’s most pressing issues.

    [Source Image: snyferok/iStock]

    Last year’s winner was 69. That’s the annual number of Americans killed, on average, by lawn mowers–compared to two Americans killed annually, on average, by immigrant jihadist terrorists and the 11,737 Americans killed annually by being shot by another American. That figure, first shared in The Huffington Post, was highlighted in a viral tweet by Kim Kardashian in response to the proposed migrant ban.

    This year’s statistic came into prominence from a United Nations report. The chair of the judges and RSS president, Sir David Spiegelhalter, said: “It’s really concerning that so little plastic has ever been recycled and, as a result, so much plastic waste has leached out into the world’s environment. It’s a great, growing and genuinely world problem.”

    [Source Image: snyferok/iStock]

    Let’s take a closer look at this year’s winning statistic. About 90.5% of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste produced since mass production began about 60 years ago is now lying around our planet in landfills and oceans or has been incinerated. If we don’t change our ways, by 2050, there will be about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste.

    When the panel first began looking at this statistic, I really didn’t have any comprehension of what billions of tons of plastic means. Based on a study from 2015 and some back of the envelope calculations, that’s the equivalent of 7.2 trillion grocery bags full of plastic as of 2018.

    But again, I still didn’t quite have a feel for how much that actually is. People tend to use distance measurements to compare numbers, so I tried that. Assuming that a grocery bag of plastic is about 1 foot high, if you stacked the grocery bags, you could go to the moon and back 5,790 times. That’s starting to feel a bit more real.

    In fact, if you could monetize all of the plastic trash clogging up our environment–including the 12% that is incinerated–you could buy some of the world’s biggest businesses.

    [Source Image: snyferok/iStock]

    Assuming it costs 3.25 cents to produce a plastic bottle, we can estimate that a grocery bag contains about $1 of plastic material production. (I took a grocery bag and filled it with 31 bottles.) So 7.2 trillion grocery bags is the equivalent of a cool $7.2 trillion.

    What can you buy with that? Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Walmart, Exxon, GM, AT&T, Facebook, Bank of America, Visa, Intel, Home Depot, HSBC, Boeing, Citigroup, Anheuser-Busch, all the NFL teams, all the MLB teams and all the Premier League Football teams.

    In other words, if someone could collect and recycle all the unrecycled plastic on Earth, this person would be richer than any individual on the planet.

    One of the most difficult aspects of statistics is putting the numbers into a context that we can wrap our heads around, into a format that means something to us. Whatever it is that speaks to you, all I can say is that this speaks to me. It’s clearly time to clean up our act.


    Liberty Vittert is a visiting assistant professor in statistics at Washington University in St. Louis. This post originally appeared on The Conversation


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    After all the privacy scandals (starring Facebook, Google, and others) in 2016 and 2017—and after more than a decade in which a sprawling and massively profitable “personal data economy” remained largely hidden from the public—many lawmakers in U.S. Congress are finally ready to impose rules on how tech companies can gather and use our personal data. There may be as many as six major bills circulating in the Senate by mid-2019. And with the new Democratically controlled House, such a bill may have a good chance of passage.

    Some key players in the Senate are already sounding optimistic as the new congressional session begins. “I’m not sure that we’re really in very much disagreement with Republicans at this point,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Politico. “There’s a bit of a dance going on, but I’m not sensing that Republicans are racing to the defense of the tech companies.”

    The privacy bills

    One of the strongest ones, the Consumer Data Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), gives a sense of the rules that could be imposed on tech platforms. Wyden’s bill creates a set of minimum cybersecurity and privacy standards, and proposes a national Do Not Track system that allows consumers to stop third-party data companies from tracking them on the web “by sharing data, selling data, or targeting advertisements based on their personal information.” It establishes the right of the consumer to know what personal data is being collected and how it’s being used.

    Wyden has circulated a working copy of the bill, and will likely formally introduce it early in 2019.

    Schatz, along with 14 other Democratic co-sponsors, introduced another high-profile privacy bill in December, called The Data Care Act of 2018. The bill introduces a “duty to care” approach to regulation, which requires tech companies to provide a “reasonable” level of security around personal data and–like Wyden’s bill–expands the powers of the Federal Trade Commission to enforce privacy rules.

    Most of the action will happen in the Senate. The sponsors of the various bills already proposed may work together to form a united front around a single bill. The California privacy bill has much in common with the privacy rules in Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation, and the Democratic bills circulating in the Senate have much in common with both. One staffer told me that because of this fact, some sort of reconciliation of the various leading Senate bills may be possible. Further into the process, Wyden and Schatz may decide to create a new bill that includes the core principles of both.

    And there are other possibilities. Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) work on algorithmic transparency in the context of social justice issues might find its way into a combined bill.

    Most of the discussion and politicking will happen in the Senate.

    One source told me Democratic leaders in the House are ready to work with Senate Democratic leaders like Wyden and Schatz to write a companion privacy bill that contains the main elements of a Senate bill. That bill would very likely pass in the newly Democratic controlled House. The House version of the bill is likely to emanate from either the House Energy and Commerce committee or the Judiciary Committee, the person said.

    Much of the Senate action will take place in and around the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee held several hearings on the subject during 2018. Its chairman during the last session, John Thune (R-SD), was said to be working on a privacy bill. In August, senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) were reportedly working with senators Schatz and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on a bipartisan privacy bill.

    To preempt or not to preempt

    So while some of the foundation laying has already occurred in the Senate, the process is still in its early stages, and lots of talking remains to be done. “The Senate is still very up in the air,” one Senate staffer told me. Republicans are typically not eager to impose new regulations on private companies, tech companies included. Moderate Republicans may find resistance among far-right Republicans to a proposed privacy bill based on that instinct alone. Far-left Democrats could insist on tougher privacy rules than Republicans can support.

    It’s also unclear how successful the increasingly powerful tech lobby might be in convincing lawmakers to weaken privacy legislation. What the tech industry wants is a federal privacy law that doesn’t impose onerous or costly privacy requirements, and does not expand government powers to enforce the rules. And most important of all, the industry wants to make sure that a new federal law will supersede–or preempt–privacy laws enacted by the states, such as the tough privacy law passed by California, which is now scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2020. Not only are the California rules too tough for the industry’s liking, but individual state laws create a patchwork of regulatory regimes and an expensive compliance headache.

    Tactically, the tech lobby will likely try to first influence Republican leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee to push a weak privacy bill that preempts states. The lobby’s second line of attack will attempt to put pressure on Democratic members of the committee who may be up for re-election in 2020 to sign on to a watered-down bill.

    However, Schatz has made it clear that Democrats in the Senate will not agree to a bill that preempts state privacy laws unless it also contains a substantive set of binding privacy rules.

    The Trump effect

    Even if Democrats and Republicans in the Senate get along swimmingly when negotiating the terms of a privacy bill, the whole matter might get pushed further down the priorities list. Fights over immigration and trade are sure to rage on, and the results of the Mueller investigation may be a ticking time bomb that explodes even the best-laid plans. And the reality-TV nature of the Trump White House has a way of pulling media focus and legislative energy away from important policy initiatives.

    So while there will likely be lots of talk–and perhaps some political horse trading–done around privacy in 2019, there’s also a very good chance that the arrival at an agreeable law will not happen by the end of the year. It’s possible the work could be completed in 2020, but that’s an election year–and a big one–so the distractions will grow even worse.

    The one thing that won’t change, however, is California’s tough privacy bill. Big tech and telecom rue that day. It may be the one thing that keeps Republican lawmakers coming back to the table until a federal law gets passed.


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    It’s not surprising that Martin Evensen became a shoemaker. Both his grandfather and great grandfather were cobblers in Norway, where he grew up. When Evensen went to San Francisco to study fashion and merchandising in school around 10 years ago, he held onto the craftsmanship and quality that he learned from his family, but decided to take a very different–and more sustainable–approach with the materials.

    [Photo: New Movements]

    His idea for a good-quality, classic sneaker designed for a contemporary consumer who cares about the environment evolved into New Movements, a brand that’s launching early this year with its first line of shoes. The small team, which consists of Evensen, Nils Wiiburg, (business developer), Laney Haviland (content creator), and Alexander Windquist (graphical designer), started with an Indiegogo campaign, which has raised nearly $65,000 and exceeded its fundraising goal by 334%.

    [Photos: New Movements]
    Using a crowdfunding platform, Evensen says, has helped the brand build up a community of consumers who care about the ethical impact of what they wear. New Movements shoes are made with materials intended to set them apart from more mass-produced sneakers. For the body of the shoe, New Movements uses leather tanned with natural vegetable oil, rather than chromium. Chromium is a toxic chemical that’s most commonly used in tanning, and dumped into waterways where it creates environmental hazards. While leather still requires animal agriculture to produce, a handful of startups like Modern Meadow and Bolt Threads are experimenting with lab-grown alternatives that could perhaps–once the price drops–be incorporated into products like New Movements shoes. Evensen says they’re conscious of the impacts of using leather, but hope that the high quality (vegetable-tanned leather is generally more durable) will reduce the need for people to replace the shoes as often as they otherwise might have to.

    [Photo: New Movements]

    For the rest of the shoes, New Movements uses only recycled materials. In the soles, the brand uses a combination of repurposed car tires and soles from other shoes, and the laces are fabricated from thread fabricated from recycled plastic bottles.

    [Photo: New Movements]
    Before launching the brand, Evensen traveled to manufacturing facilities across the world to assess where workers are treated most ethically, and noted wide disparities in worker conditions from continent to continent. In Asia and South America, workers are often undercompensated and forced to labor in tough conditions. Evensen decided to work with manufacturers in Portugal, where the leather and shoe industry makes up around 4% of the economy. In Portugal, Evensen says, factories are often small-scale, which means it’s easier to control conditions and compensate workers fairly. The factory New Movements works with, for instance, stitches shoes or uses chemical-free glue to assemble them, instead of mainstream glue which releases harmful toxins into the work environment.

    [Photo: New Movements]

    Right now, New Movements is in the process of sourcing orders and working with a distribution center in Europe before the first shipments of shoes goes out in February. The shoes will cost around $120 per pair at the moment, but Evensen says the price point is lower than other well-made luxury shoes, and transparent because people know that their money is going to fund ethical manufacturing. “The cost of good ethical effects, and using recycled and natural materials, drive up the price,” he says.

    Additionally, New Movements has partnered with the Norwegian company Empower, which uses the blockchain to track and reward people for cleaning up plastic waste: Empower says that each pair of shoes sold will result in 2 kilograms of ocean waste (or the equivalent of 80 plastic bottles) being removed from the ocean. The plastic collected through the Empower partnership is not yet used in the New Movements shoes, Evensen says, though the company’s aim is to eventually work the plastic they clean up into their products.


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    Ritchie Torres was appalled. In March, the New York City Council Member learned from the New York Times that the iconic sports and entertainment arena Madison Square Garden, the legendary home to the Knicks and the Rangers and an endless parade of arena performers, has used facial recognition software to scan the faces of spectators upon entrance. Details remain scant, but the technology is meant to identify “problem” attendees by matching their faces to those stored in a database. Using the largely unregulated technology–and not telling the public what was being done with their faces–“radically challenges privacy as we know it,” says Torres, who represents the Bronx.

    In October, he introduced a bill that aims to bring a modicum of transparency to businesses’ use of the biometric technology, as well as iris and fingerprint scanning, by requiring businesses to conspicuously disclose the use of the technology at business entrances.

    “We’re increasingly living in a marketplace where companies are collecting vast quantities of personal data without the public’s consent or knowledge,” he says. “In a free and open society, I have the right to know whether a company is collecting my personal data, why a company is collecting my data, and whether a company will retain my data and for what purpose.”

    Under the bill, companies would be required to disclose, with signs at every entrance, if and how they are collecting, retaining, converting, and storing the biometric data of their customers. The online component of the bill would require a company to disclose four pieces of information online: the amount of information it retains and stores; the kind of information it collects; a privacy policy; and, most critically for Torres, any information sharing with third parties.

    To Torres, facial recognition is the most intrusive yet least regulated form of a fast-growing swath of biometric technology he characterizes as being “shrouded in secrecy.”

    “It’s even more intrusive than fingerprinting, [which] is a tangible intrusion into my privacy,” Torres explains. “This facial recognition is an invisible and intangible intrusion–that’s what makes it more pernicious. Even more than that, you’re building a database of private information that can then be commercialized.”

    Madison Square Garden [Photo: Flickr user Daniel]

    He also cites the potential for false positives in face recognition systems. (During a recent set of tests by London’s Metropolitan police, for instance, clandestine face recognition matches found in public places resulted in a 100% failure rate.) Poorly trained algorithms tend to impact non-white faces, an especially poignant concern for residents of the Bronx, where, according to census data, there is a more diverse array of faces than any other place in the country.

    But wherever you live, basic disclosure is “utterly uncontroversial,” Torres says. “If you believe that businesses should be able to collect your personal data without your knowledge or consent, then we disagree on first principles.”

    In the absence of federal regulations, the technology is spreading across public spaces: Airports, casinos, and retailers are buying software that can run on real-time feeds from ever-improving CCTV cameras. The software typically comes with access to databases of faces of suspicious individuals, though it’s unclear how those databases are assembled and how to remove faces from them. (Federal law enforcement agencies operate a database said to contain the faces of half of the U.S. population.)

    The Dept. of Homeland Security has been rolling out face recognition systems at airport gates across the country as part of a post-9/11 biometric system. Amazon has lately courted controversy with its Rekognition service, a facial scanning software used by law enforcement agencies like ICE, as well as many of its other cloud customers. Facebook is well known for its facial recognition algorithm, allowing the company to identify users and target ads at them accordingly. Last month, Microsoft’s president called for rules around face recognition, while Google said it would not yet sell facial recognition services for the time being, given the ongoing privacy and ethical concerns.

    In March, the same month that the Times described MSG’s technology, the ACLU asked 20 of America’s top retailers if they used facial recognition on their customers. All but two of the companies refused to confirm or deny. One company, Ahold Delhaize–a brand that owns supermarkets Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant, and Hannaford–responded they did not use face recognition, while the hardware company Lowes said it does use face recognition technology to identify shoplifters.

    Torres said he doesn’t know which other New York City businesses are currently using facial recognition technology on customers, or how. And therein lies the problem. “Since there is no regulation, since there is not even the most basic standards of transparency, we don’t know how widespread the use of facial recognition technology is in New York City or elsewhere in the country–we just don’t know,” he says. “Businesses are under no obligation to report on the use of facial recognition technology. I think that is part of the purpose of the bill: to shed light on a world of biometric technology that has historically been hidden from public view.”

    Ritchie Torres [Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images]

    While face recognition at places like MSG has been touted as a security measure, the data could also easily be used for other purposes. For several years, advertisers have used facial recognition in electronic billboard campaigns, and the company Bidooh is trying to dominate this market by creating an out-of-home ad network that will target ads at people through facial recognition-equipped electronic billboards. Founded by Abdul Alim, who says he was inspired by the sci-fi film Minority Report, Bidooh aims to be the Google AdWords and Facebook Ads of the out-of-home advertising market.

    “Madison Square Garden assures me that the use of facial recognition technology is limited to security,” Torres says. “But here is the concern I have with companies generally: What could begin as a security measure could easily evolve into something else. Once data is retained, it can be readily repurposed for profit. I’m concerned about the commercialization of private data.”

    In Illinois, face scanning companies must abide by the U.S.’s most extensive biometric privacy law. Companies must obtain express, opt-in consent from consumers before collecting their face or selling that data to third parties, and must delete any data within three years of collecting it. (Texas and Washington also restrict face recognition.) The Illinois law also empowers people to enforce their data rights in court, and since 2015, Google, Snapchat, Facebook, and others have faced lawsuits for allegedly violating the law. But late last month a judge in Chicago dismissed the suit against Google, saying the plaintiff, whose face was unwittingly captured in 11 photos taken by a Google Photos user, didn’t suffer “concrete injuries.”

    Meanwhile, against the protests of privacy experts, a recently proposed amendment to the Chicago municipal code would permit businesses to use face surveillance systems in their stores and venues. As with Torres’s bill, the bill would require the businesses to simply post signs giving patrons notice about some of their surveillance practices, while circumventing the stronger protections provided by the state law.

    Torres says he’s “optimistic” his proposal will pass when it comes before a committee hearing, sometime within the next few months. But there are still headwinds, he says. Some stakeholders worry about the law potentially opening the floodgates to lawsuits. And a few advocates felt his legislation could go farther to regulate facial recognition and other biometric technologies.

    For example, the law doesn’t address government uses of the technology, including by the NYPD, which came under fire last year when The Intercept described trials of an ethnicity-detecting face recognition system. But another New York City law, authored by former Council Member James Vacca, has recently created the Automated Decision Systems Task Force, which will look into the various algorithms across any government agency that underlie public policy-making. The task force, announced in May by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will issue a report in December 2019, in which it will recommend procedures for “reviewing and assessing City algorithmic tools to ensure equity and opportunity.”

    “I see the bill as a floor not a ceiling,” Torres says of his proposal. “It seems to me disclosure is a natural starting point, and if we come to discover abuses in the use of facial recognition or facial screening technology, then we can adopt regulations aimed at preventing those abuses.”


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    The opioid crisis is taking 115 U.S. lives every day, as people overdose on drugs ranging from illicitly acquired heroin to doctor-prescribed fentanyl. What makes opioids so deadly is not just that they’re addictive; they bind with receptors in your brain to slow down your body until it stops. Even though a single nasal spritz of naloxone provides an instant reversal of these symptoms, by the time someone who is overdosing is found, they’re often already dead.

    [Photo: courtesy CMU]
    A smartwatch developed by a team of software engineering students from Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Software Research has the potential to spot opioid overdoses before they’re fatal. Dubbed the Hopeband, the watch currently costs just $26-$30 to build. By reflecting light against the user’s skin, it can take constant pulse oximetry readings–seeing how much oxygen is in your blood–which is a major indicator of an opioid overdose.

    Of course, blood-oxygen measurements may be a bit different for everyone. So when first wearing the Hopeband, the system takes many snapshots to develop a baseline. Then, if you drop significantly below that baseline for more than 30 seconds, the watch flashes red before it sends your GPS coordinates to your emergency contacts (via a Bluetooth connection the watch makes with your phone).

    The Hopeband has yet to be clinically validated, but according to IEEE Spectrum, the team plans to partner with a needle exchange program in Pittsburgh–which sits in a region that’s been dubbed “ground zero” of the opioid crisis–and pass them out freely to the public. That sort of testing and distribution model is only possible because the Hopeband can be built so cheaply. The student team believes the device could scale to a price as low as $16. For now, the work is sponsored by the pharmaceutical consulting firm Pinney Associates.

    I also can’t help but wonder if we’ll see similar functionality come to many more established smartwatches in the future. The Apple Watch hardware has been reported to be capable of blood oxygen measurements since it launched in 2015, even though Apple has yet to activate such a feature in its device. And a new Garmin product promises low-fidelity oxygen readings for people training at altitude.

    Indeed, the greatest promise of wearable technologies is toward our health–opioid-related or not. Carnegie Mellon’s technology can’t come to market fast enough.


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    Plants are not as productive as they could be, and in a bid to help boost global food production, a team of scientists with backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others are hacking photosynthesis.

    If you remember way back to fifth grade when you learned the photosynthesis cycle, plants convert sunlight into energy and use that energy to collect carbon dioxide and water and turn it into sugar. However, there’s a glitch in the system, and plants end up spending a lot of energy getting rid of a toxic compound made when an enzyme called rubisco inadvertently collects oxygen. That process is called photorespiration, and it makes plants produce way less food than they otherwise could.

    Now, researchers from the University of Illinois and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service have figured out a way to engineer plants with a built-in photorespiratory shortcut that makes them 40% more productive in real-world conditions. “We could feed up to 200 million additional people with the calories lost to photorespiration in the Midwestern U.S. each year,” said principal investigator Donald Ort in a statement.

    As reported in the journal Science, the team at the University of Illinois-based research program–called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE)–have engineered plants that grow faster and taller, and produced about 40% more biomass. After testing their photorespiration shortcuts in tobacco, they are moving on to food crops, and will try to boost the yield of soybean, cowpea, rice, potato, tomato, and eggplant.

    If plant yield could be boosted this dramatically, it could feed the planet’s ever-growing population. “We will have to increase food production by between 25 and 70 percent by 2050 to have an adequate supply of food,” writes Amanda Cavanagh, a postdoctoral researcher and one of the study’s authors, on The Conversation“Plants feed people, and we need to quickly develop solutions to feed more people.”

    Hacking photosynthesis is definitely a good start to solving this problem.


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    Festival season is approaching and with it, the heralded release of the lineups. As the (flower-)crowned queen of festival season, Coachella released its schedule this week, and as always, the zeitgeist relevance for each act is determined by the font size on the poster. Coachella headliners Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande are sitting pretty (and big) atop their scheduled weekends. The lesser-known acts? Some squinting may be required.

    But in the grand tradition of “size doesn’t matter,” we’ve created a playlist featuring all the smallest font acts from this year’s Coachella that could very well move up to a medium font next year. For your listening pleasure:

    Las Robertas, “The Feel”
    Tomasa del Real, “Bellaca del Año”
    Blond:ish, “Wizard of Love”
    Bakar, “Unhealthy”
    Still Woozy, “Cooks”
    Lauren Lane, “Mantra 304”
    Ross from Friends, “Don’t Wake Dad”
    The Red Pears, “Daylight/Moonlight”
    The Messthetics, “Your Own World”
    Javiera Mena, “Cámara Lenta”
    Tara Brooks, “Maraquba”
    Razorbumps, “Cry You a River”
    Ocho Ojos, “Culebra”


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    DoorDash has just come up with a new way to use self-driving cars–food delivery. The food delivery company is teaming up with General Motors’s Cruise Automation to test food and grocery delivery in San Francisco using self-driving vehicles, the companies announced on Thursday.

    “Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. “Partnering with DoorDash will provide us with critical learnings as we further our mission to deliver technology that makes people’s lives better and more convenient.”

    But will this make people’s lives better and more convenient? I say absolutely not.

    Here’s the thing: If I order food delivery, it’s because I don’t want to leave the house. If I have to put on pants to collect my food from a self-driving car parked at the curb or just down the block, the whole purpose of getting food delivered is already ruined. If I am paying another human being to make me food, the baseline for my laziness has already been set–and it’s a pretty low bar. If I have to put on pants, let alone shoes and a coat, to go outside and fetch my burrito from a self-driving car, it is already too much work. Not only will I need to make myself presentable enough for a stroll to the sidewalk, but I will have to brace for the inevitable run-in with an ex or a PTA mom or someone else on the planet who doesn’t need to know that I am forking over my hard-earned cash on overpriced burritos made up of beans, rice, and questionable lettuce that I am too lazy/exhausted/miserable to make for myself.

    That’s between me, my self-esteem, and my judgmental dog, thank you very much. As Cardi B says, let me fat in peace.


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    What: A response to the latest non-scandal around Congress’s most popular new rookie.

    Who: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Why we care: Well, it was bound to happen.

    On Thursday, the plan to shame Ocasio-Cortez with a video of her being awesome ended up backfiring. Even some devout conservatives admitted that attacking her over a college-era dance video was laughably misguided, and paradoxically only served to enhance her popularity and make conservatives seem like they hate the very concept of fun. Considering the representative’s social media skills, a clapback of some kind seemed inevitable. It was only a matter of time. Now, the moment has arrived, with Ocasio-Cortez updating her dance repertoire to the sounds of “War (What is it Good For).”

    Lest you harbor any doubt as to whether the video is an effective response, it’s already making the right people mad.


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    If you’ve been on social media over the last 48 hours, you probably know that the Lifetime network is airing a documentary series about scandal-ridden music artist R. Kelly. The first two episodes of Surviving R. Kelly aired yesterday, sparking a groundswell of conversation on Twitter.

    Rumors of sexual abuse and predatory behavior regarding Kelly date back decades, and the Lifetime series claims to offer the most comprehensive account from his accusers, in addition to interviews with high-profile figures like Tarana Burke and John Legend.

    The conversation is likely to continue over the weekend, as Lifetime still has four more episodes of the six-part series on deck. Here’s the remaining lineup:

    • Episode 3: Friday, January 4, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
    • Episode 4: Friday, January 4, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
    • Episode 5: Saturday, January 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
    • Episode 6: Saturday, January 5, at 10 p.m. ET/PT

    Cord cutters looking to stream the series on their phones, computers, or smart TVs have a few options. Lifetime is owned by A&E Networks, which means you’ll either need access to pay-TV credentials from a cable or satellite provider or you’ll need to sign up to a streaming service that offers A&E-owned channels. I’ve rounded up some options below:

    • Lifetime website: For viewers who have access to a pay-TV login, you can watch already-aired episodes of the series on the Lifetime website. Just click on the episode and you’ll be prompted to select your provider. Find it here.
    • Lifetime mobile apps: These give you access already-aired Lifetime series. Similarly, you’ll need a pay-TV login to watch the show this way. Find them here.
    • Streaming services: If you have no cable/satellite login, this is probably your best bet: A number of streaming services offer access to Lifetime and let you stream it live or on-demand. Those include Sling TV, Hulu With Live TV, Philo DirecTV Now, and FuboTV. These services usually offer a free one-week trial, and they’re easy to cancel.

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    To the surprise of no one, Disney swept the 2018 domestic box office with $7.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales, a hair behind the same studio’s record-breaking 2016 haul of $7.6 billion. Even less surprising is what movies pushed Disney over the top: comic-book flicks, remakes, and sequels. With blockbusters like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2–as well as non-Disney titles Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mission: Impossible–Fallout–Hollywood as a whole is loathe to turn away from churning out more movies from existing IP. Need more proof? A Reddit user created a handy chart that illustrates the decline of original screenplays among top grossing films since 1980.

    It may seem like all 2019 has to offer is another onslaught of reduxes, reboots, and rehashes, but mercifully, there are also a bunch of films based on original ideas. (So yes, that leaves out promising titles like Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and The Goldfinch, both adaptations of novels.) We put together a list of 21 upcoming movies that are free from the same old superheroes, and are not reboots, sequels, prequels, or adaptations.

    Isn’t It Romantic
    Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
    Starring: Rebel Wilson, Priyanka Chopra, Liam Hemsworth
    Release date: February 14

    Putting aside Rebel Wilson’s erroneous comments about being the first plus-size woman to headline a major studio rom-com, and putting aside her ham-fisted way of dealing with people pointing out her false claim, Isn’t It Romantic could be a refreshingly subversive take on a very stale genre.

    Us
    Director: Jordan Peele
    Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
    Release date: March 15

    How could Jordan Peele top his the Oscar-winning cultural moment he created with Get Out? Possibly, with this.

    The Beach Bum
    Director: Harmony Korine
    Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg
    Release date: March 22

    As a follow-up to his neon-coated crime spree Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum stars Matthew McConaughey as just that, in what can only be described as inspired casting.

    Captive State
    Director: Rupert Wyatt
    Starring: John Goodman, Vera Farmiga
    Release date: March 29

    Alien invasions, surveillance states, civil dissent–plus John Goodman and Vera Farmiga. It adds up to a promising early spring sci-fi release from the director of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

    Fast Color
    Director: Julia Hart
    Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw
    Release date: March 29

    Notice we said same old superheroes. And there is nothing tired about Fast Color, in which Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) discovers she has superhuman abilities and goes on the run because of it. So there’s an element of X-Men-style alienation here—only with the addition of intersectional discrimination and the suppression of black women, which has the potential for something much deeper.

    Her Smell
    Director: Alex Ross Perry
    Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Amber Heard
    Release date: March 29

    Elisabeth Moss spirals out of control as a self-destructive punk rocker who’s hellbent on alienating everyone around her. Watch this teaser trailer and tell us you’re not more than intrigued by Moss’s unhinged monologue.

    Under the Silver Lake
    Director: David Robert Mitchell
    Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough
    Release date: April 19

    Andrew Garfield tumbles down a rabbit hole of mystery when his neighbor goes missing in director David Robert Mitchell’s long-awaited follow up to his 2014 indie horror hit It Follows. Since its world premiere at Cannes last May and subsequent release in Europe, Under the Silver Lake has polarized critics. The A.V. Club accurately sums up what appears to be the general consensus that “Mitchell is taking a big swing with his third feature, trying something not just new but also more unconventional, ambitious, and even potentially off-putting.” Stateside audiences can judge for themselves in April.

    BrightBurn
    Director: David Yarovesky
    Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
    Release date: May 24

    Producer James Gunn and his screenwriting brothers Brian and Mark take a very familiar superhero origin story and flip it on its head. That’s refreshing in and of itself. The trailer also suggests that the movie leans away from action and more into horror.

    Limited Partners
    Director: Miguel Arteta
    Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek
    Release date: June 28

    Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne star as best friends who build a company together, only to turn on each other when an exec (Salma Hayek) swoops in to buy the business. We’re hoping this movie is more in the black-humor vein of director Miguel Arteta’s Chuck and Buck than his more recent milquetoast Alexander and theHorrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

    Stuber
    Director: Michael Dowse
    Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista
    Release date: July 12

    Kumail Nanjiani plays an Uber driver who gets caught in the middle of a hunt for a killer when he picks up a very determined detective.

    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Director: Quentin Tarantino
    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
    Release date: July 26

    The Manson Family Murders became one of the most sensational crimes in U.S. history–and it’s getting the Tarantino treatment in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tarantino’s ninth film marks the first time in his entire career that he’s not working with Harvey Weinstein (for obvious reasons). However, there’s still a dark cloud looming over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, with Emile Hirsch being cast despite his alleged 2015 assault of movie exec Dani Bernfeld. Then there’s the lingering discomfort from Uma Thurman’s New York Times interview last year in which she described how she was allegedly mistreated on the set of Kill Bill. It could make for a steep marketing challenge for a director who can be divisive.

    Gemini Man
    Director: Ang Lee
    Starring: Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
    Release date: October 4

    It’s a story that’s been percolating in Hollywood for more than two decades, and it’s finally happening, with Ang Lee (Life of PiBrokeback MountainCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) at the helm, no less. Will Smith stars as an assassin at the end of his career who suddenly finds himself in the crosshairs of another assassin who’s his younger clone. Disney was set to produce the film back in 1997 with Jerry Bruckheimer, but the technology needed to make a younger, CG version of the main actor just wasn’t up to snuff. Obviously, that’s not a problem anymore.

    Margie Claus
    Director: Ben Falcone
    Starring: Melissa McCarthy
    Release date: November 15

    Melissa McCarthy and her husband/creative partner Ben Falcone team up for their fourth film with McCarthy starring as the wife of Santa Claus. Margie Claus is billed as a family-friendly holiday movie, which sets up an intriguing parameter for the duo best known for trenchant R-rated comedy. Margie Claus is also a musical, giving us the thrilling prospect of a singing McCarthy.

    Knives Out
    Director: Rian Johnson
    Starring: Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans
    Release date: November 27

    There aren’t too many details about Knives Out other than that it’s supposed to be a modern whodunit with Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi) as the writer and director–and that’s enough to pique our interest.

    Queen & Slim
    Director: Melina Matsoukas
    Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith
    Release date: November 27

    Music video and frequent Insecure director Melina Matsoukas makes her feature film debut with Queen & Slim, a story about a black couple on the run after killing a cop in self-defense–on their first date, no less.

    Honey Boy
    Director: Alma Har’el
    Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs
    Release date: TBD

    We may get a little insight into Shia LaBeouf’s more “eclectic” behavior in Honey Boy, a movie based on his life growing up as a child actor with an alcoholic father. LaBeouf not only wrote the screenplay, but he’s also playing his own dad in the film.

    In Fabric
    Director: Peter Strickland
    Starring: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Gwendoline Christie
    Release date: TBD

    It’s been a minute since we’ve had a good movie based on a demonic piece of clothing (please go watch The Red Shoes if you haven’t done so already). Indie studio of the moment A24 is releasing In Fabric, and if the film passed A24’s discerning taste for all things strange, twisted, and stylistically singular, we’re game to check it out.

    Luz
    Director: Tilman Singer
    Starring: Julia Riedler, Jan Bluthardt
    Release date: TBD

    Currently standing at a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this German-language thriller has been building buzz on the festival circuit as much for its spin on demonic possession as its 16mm aesthetic.

    Ma
    Director: Tate Taylor
    Starring: Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney, Juliette Lewis
    Release date: TBD

    Fresh out of Blumhouse comes Ma, a story about a lonely woman who lets a group of teens party in her house—and all goes to hell. Octavia Spencer stars in her first horror film, and director Tate Taylor seems to be continuing down a darker path following The Girl on the TrainGet on Up, and The Help. Taylor is keeping a tight lid on the story, but he did tell Variety that Spencer isn’t a villain per se, but that it is “definitely the most complex character she’s ever played . . . ”

    The French Dispatch
    Director: Wes Anderson
    Starring: Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton
    Release date: TBD

    Wes Anderson has revealed little about his 10th feature film. IndieWire, going on “one source close to the production,” published this description: “The French Dispatch is a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in 20th-century Paris and centers on three storylines.” And, no, it’s not going to be a musical, as originally reported.

    The Perfection
    Director: Richard Shepard
    Starring: Allison Williams, Logan Browning
    Release date: TBD

    What we know about The Perfection: Netflix acquired it and the film is giving major Black Swan vibes, swapping out ballerinas for cellists played by Allison Williams and Logan Browning.


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    Long before the #MeToo movement reckoned with powerful men who’ve abused women, R. Kelly was hiding in plain sight.

    He wasn’t even particularly well hidden but only lately has popular consensus seemingly caught up with the singer’s history of alleged sex crimes.

    During Thursday’s launch of the six-part Lifetime series Surviving R. Kelly, which brings together Kelly’s accusers and confidants for a comprehensive look at the artist’s life, Twitter was alight with users sickened by what they saw.

    Much of the series’ revelations, however, powerful as they were, should not have been that shocking. R. Kelly isn’t someone like Bill Cosby, who incurred national attention about sex crimes after a joke about the semi-obscure charges against him went viral. “Google ‘Bill Cosby rape,'”  Hannibal Buress told his audience back in 2014, in what may turn out to be the most consequential joke of all time. But very few people would need to be told to google “R. Kelly sex with teenagers.” His history is as known to much of his audience as some of his greatest hits–it’s just been intermittently disregarded over the years.

    Even before the infamous sex tape emerged in the early-2000’s, during which R. Kelly is seen urinating on an alleged minor, the singer had openly carried out a romantic relationship with his protégée, Aaliyah, when she was just 15 and he was 27. (The name of her debut album, which producer Kelly apparently chose, was Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.) Despite many of the harshest revelations in Surviving R. Kelly, fans can hardly say they weren’t warned.

    What follows is a timeline of the most public developments in the case against R. Kelly.

    December 2000: First major investigative report

    Former music critic Jim DeRogatis, who has been pivotal in bringing awareness to the allegations against Kelly, wrote the Chicago Sun-Times report: “R. Kelly Accused of Sex with Teenage Girls.” The report details how Kelly had leveraged his fame into having sex with girls as young as 15. The article reveals how Kelly was sued for $10 million by aspiring singer Tiffany “Tia” Hawkins, who began having a sexual relationship with Kelly in 1991, when she was 15 and he was 24. Kelly’s attorneys and spokespeople defended his innocence following the article’s publication.

    June 2002: Kelly indicted for child pornography

    As the New York Timesdetailed, Kelly was indicted that summer on 21 counts of making child pornography. The FBI Crime Lab in Quantico authenticates the tape.

    March 2003: Awareness of Kelly sex tape peaks with Chappelle Show sketch

    Bootlegs of the Kelly sex tape (in which he urinates on a minor) were so widely circulated (two years before YouTube came into existence) that just about any interested party could obtain one. Dave Chappelle did a sketch of the making the tape, crystallizing the public perception of the incident as an object of ridicule, rather than proof of a sex crime.

    June 2008: Kelly acquitted in child pornography case

    Although an acquittal might sound exonerating, and some conflicted fans surely took it that way, the circumstances could only have served as cold comfort at best. Jurors claimed they were certain that Kelly was the man on the tape, but uncertainty around the identity of the girl and her age made them doubt whether the video counted as child pornography. Given the rest of R. Kelly’s history, the verdict seems like a miscarriage of justice.

    December 2013: The Village Voice publishes an incriminating report

    One week after Kelly released his 12th album, Black Panties, music writer Jessica Hopper wrote an incendiary story detailing disturbing charges against R. Kelly, including rape. The story gathered up all of Jim DeRogatis’s efforts to bring various charges against Kelly, puts them in one stomach-churning package, and details how Kelly’s actions have aversely affected some of his victims. (More than one has attempted suicide.) The piece immediately goes viral.

    July 2017: The R. Kelly “sex cult” revealed

    Further cementing his status as Kelly’s chief journalistic crusader, DeRogatis reported that Kelly had allegedly been keeping women against their will in an abusive “cult.” The piece includes interviews with three former members of Kelly’s inner circle and also immediately goes viral.

    May 2018: “Time’s Up” issues a statement

    An open letter from the women of color in the anti-sexual-abuse organization calls on companies to boycott Kelly and for new investigations into his alleged sex crimes.

    May 2018: Two more accusers emerge

    In the first new allegations against Kelly in the post-#MeToo era, two new accusers tell their story to DeRogatis and BuzzFeed reporter Melissa Carroll.

    July 2018: R. Kelly releases confessional song, “I Admit”

    Instead of turning himself in for committing sex crimes, Kelly released a 19-minute song admitting that he’s “made some mistakes.” The admission is widely considered unsatisfactory reprisal for the misery Kelly has caused. Although Surviving R. Kelly seems to have sparked some new attention toward R. Kelly’s alleged sex crimes, that attention has consistently been with us for close to two decades.


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    There’s a reason not a lot of people Google “cheapest child car seat.” Obviously price is always a consideration, but there are just some things that you don’t really want to find via the bargain basement. In its new campaign, AT&T is using this insight to suggest your mobile network sits alongside sushi, surgery, and tattoos on the list of such things. Not sure that phone contract is on par with that appendix operation or your dolphin tattoo, but it gets the point across. Onward!

    AT&T “OK Surgeon”

    What: A new AT&T campaign about the limits of mediocrity.

    Who: AT&T, BBDO

    Why we care: A true insight, expressed in a clear, entertaining way. Sometimes it’s as simple as that, and it leads to ads that don’t feel like a complete and utter waste of time. This campaign, narrated by Lena Waithe–including “OK Tattoo Parlor,” “OK Babysitter,” and “OK Sushi“–is a perfect example of delivering classic, funny TV commercials that won’t make people hate your brand for interrupting the game.

    Apple “Color Flood”

    What: A new iPhone XR ad that gets conceptual with screen display.

    Who: Apple

    Why we care: Soooooomeone’s been watching old Sony ads. Apple serves up a beautiful ode to its retina display, courtesy of what appears to be the company’s parkour dance team. That or security footage of its factory workers at quitting time. Either way, it’s mesmerizing. Much in the same way Sony mesmerized us with bunnies and bouncing balls more than a decade ago.

    Wealthsimple “Tomorrow Begins Today”

    What: A new spot from the financial planning startup that focuses on the effect planning can have on important life moments.

    Who: Wealthsimple, The Blaze (directors Jonathan and Guillaume Alric)

    Why we care: From the start, Wealthsimple has aimed to to come across as “a company run for and by smart, sensible” people. This new spot, directed by award-winning duo The Blaze, directly taps into that humanity with its attention to detail and subtleties of emotion. Not exactly something we’re used to getting from financial brands.

    Equinox “It’s not fitness. It’s life.”

    What: An arty new campaign from Equinox that goes beyond the gym.

    Who: Equinox

    Why we care: It’s not exactly original for a fitness brand to launch a campaign at the New Year, when culture is awash in healthy resolutions. But here Equinox keeps the artful vibe it’s had for years, and sets itself up nicely for the expected launch of brand extensions beyond the gym, like its hotel and business retreat programs. Plus, with a tone more pep talk than guilt trip, it maaaay just inspire people enough not to hit snooze that second time.

    McDonald’s “The Day After”

    What: A New Year’s Day acknowledgement from the Golden Arches.

    Who: McDonald’s New Zealand, DDB Auckland

    Why we care: Over the last decade, smart brands have realized that they can’t entirely dictate their place in culture. The importance of knowing how people are using and talking about your brand for real cannot be overestimated. And so here we are with McDonald’s embracing the world’s long-time tradition of fighting a hangover with its conveniently cheap, tasty, and gloriously greasy options. We all know there’s no salad in that bag.


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    If you’re a nervous traveler like, say, Rain Man, you’ll be interested to know that Qantas is the safest airline in the world, according to a new list from AirlineRatings.com. (Just like Rain Man said!)

    The Australian airline has nabbed the top spot on the annual list since 2014, although technically it was a joint winner in 2018, when the website didn’t rank the top 20, according to CNN Travel. United Airlines is back on the list after the ranking left it out it last year.

    AirlineRatings.com put together its list by sourcing data from 405 airlines, looking at points like government audits, crash and serious incident records, and, for some reason, profitability. While Qantas has the top spot, Finnair and Hawaiian are not far behind with “perfect records in the jet era,” according to a press release.

    The top 20 are the usual suspects of decent airlines. Here they are in alphabetical order (which is how AirlineRatings.com presents the list):

    • Air New Zealand
    • Alaska Airlines
    • All Nippon Airways
    • American Airlines
    • Austrian Airlines
    • British Airways
    • Cathay Pacific Airways
    • Emirates
    • EVA Air
    • Finnair
    • Hawaiian Airlines
    • KLM
    • Lufthansa
    • Qantas
    • Qatar Airways
    • SAS
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Swiss
    • United Airlines
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Virgin Australia

    Surprisingly absent from the list is Delta, but honestly the promise of Biscoff cookies means I’ll still fly them (I’m only human). We reached out to Delta for comment.

    This year, the AirlineRatings.com editors also identified the top 10 safest low-cost airlines, if you like to reenact the real-world equivalent of that old Jack Benny joke about weighing your money or your life. In alphabetical order:

    • Flybe
    • Frontier
    • HK Express
    • JetBlue
    • Jetstar Australia/Asia
    • Thomas Cook
    • Volaris
    • Vueling
    • WestJet
    • Wizz

    Finally, if you’re looking for airlines to avoid, AirlineRatings.com also announced its lowest-ranked airlines, including two Afghani airlines: Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air, as well as Suriname’s Blue Wing Airlines, Nepal’s Tara Air, and Jakarta-based Trigana Air Service.


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    The nonprofit Direct Relief has traditionally been known for distributing things like medicines, vaccines, and equipment to areas hard hit by natural disasters or severe poverty. But in recent years it’s had to grow in new ways to keep pace with both the increased rate and severity of both natural disasters and inadequate access to decent healthcare among low-income and uninsured people. In 2018, it donated a record amount of both medical supplies but also a new kind of resource–direct funding–to support local health centers within the United States and more than 100 other countries.

    Last year, Direct Relief provided about $1.2 billion worth of wholesale materials to health centers and clinics alongside $23.5 million in cash to support those group’s own needs, such as staffing up in times of crisis, or, in the case of Puerto Rico, helping many facilities convert to a solar and battery backup microgrid, so they wouldn’t be knocked offline in the next major storm.

    [Photo: Direct Relief]
    For comparison, the group distributed a little under $945 million in supplies in 2017, along with $5.5 million in separate funding. Its materials are typically provided through charitable donations from health industry companies, and Direct Relief also accepts public donations.

    “In all respects we ended the year bigger than it began,” says Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief. “That’s in large part to keep up with what we see as the clear trend of more frequent, larger-scale, and more intense natural disasters that put a lot of people into harm’s way, and the need to maintain support to areas of chronic need [with] deeply entrenched poverty.”

    [Photo: Direct Relief]

    For instance, after Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas, Direct Relief delivered 14,000 pounds of supplies, including 300,000 daily doses of medicine to health centers and clinics in those areas, according to a public report. When Hurricane Michael made landfall a few weeks later in Florida, it delivered more goods–but also $250,000 to help keep nearby facilities operating.

    [Photo: Direct Relief]

    After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the organization rendered more than $70 million in supplies, but also $12 million for projects that included solar arrays with battery backups for 14 different service centers. “We did not anticipate two years ago leaning in so heavily to become a financier and project manager… but that’s what they needed,” Tighe says. After all, it’s difficult to ship refrigerated medicine to a place that has no reliable way to keep it cool.

    In Butte Country, California, home of the deadly Camp Fire, it also helped firefighters buy more search and rescue equipment. And the organization is applying some lessons from field operations to its own home base too. In late 2018, the group added its own solar-powered and Tesla battery microgrid on a major warehouse in Santa Barbara, California to ensure operations stay running no matter what obstacles the surrounding area faces.

    [Photo: Direct Relief]

    The organization also helped establish and continues to stock field hospitals with aid supplies for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and equip various pregnancy support centers with equipment and medicine to give impoverished mothers and newborns a better shot at staying healthy.

    Tighe hopes the group will continue to ramp up its delivery of not just supplies but financial assistance when necessary, particularly for the U.S.’s vast network of nonprofit community health centers. “There’s this ongoing debate in the United States at least about how much we want the government to do, and how much we’re willing to pay in taxes to have it do it,” he says. “We’ve created a clearinghouse to gather and efficiently allocate medical material. We’re looking at becoming a clearinghouse to gather funds to provide financial assistance for places that can put it to very good immediate use in communities that need it.”


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