TIME Autos

Death Toll Linked to GM Ignition Switch Defect Rises to 29

GM Hearing
Family members of people killed due to a faulty ignition switch watch a House hearing on April 1, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call / Getty Images

Two new death claims approved by compensation program

The number of deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch in General Motors vehicles rose to 29 on Monday, according to a new report, after two new death claims were approved by the program that will compensate victims and their families.

The fund has received more than 1,500 claims since its establishment on Aug. 1, including 184 submissions for death claims, Reuters reports. All 29 deaths, and another 27 injuries, have been determined to be eligible for compensation so far, finds the report released by the office of Kenneth Feinberg, who is heading the compensation effort.

GM launched the fund amid withering criticism for its failure to address the defect after several employees within the company noted the problem at least 11 years before any action was taken to resolve it.

[Reuters]

TIME behavior

‘Breaking Bad’ Action Figures? Really, Toys R Us?

No, you're not hallucinating, that really is a Walter White doll.
No, you're not hallucinating, that really is a Walter White doll.

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

In a spectacularly bad bit of judgment, the big box store puts a meth manufacturer on its shelves.

Human history is often defined by its very worst pitch meetings. Take the one in 1812, when one of Napoleon’s generals told the Great Emperor, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s invade Russia—in the winter!” Or the one in 1985, when the anonymous product developer at Coca-Cola said, “How ’bout we take a product everyone loves, quit making it and replace it with a different formulation no one is asking for! What could go wrong?”

So too it must have gone in the executive suites of Toys R Us, when someone made the compelling case for a brand-new line of action figures based on the wildly successful Breaking Bad series. After all, nothing quite says holiday shopping like a bendable, fully costumed figurine of Walter White—the murderous chemistry teacher turned crystal meth manufacturer—and Jesse Pinkman, his former student and current bag man. And you want accessories? We’ve got accessories—including a duffle bag stuffed with imaginary cash and a plastic bag of, yes, faux crystal meth for White. Pinkman comes with a gas mask, because the folks at Toys R Us are not the kind to forget about corporate responsibility. If your kids are going to grow up to run a meth lab, it’s never too early to teach them basic safety.

It might not surprise you to learn that Toys R Us has faced a teensy bit of blowback from this curious marketing decision. Florida mom Susan Schrivjer has posted a petition on Change.org that has just exceeded 2,000 signatures, demanding that the company pull the products. She also appeared on The Today Show to make her case more publicly.

“Anything to do with drugs is not doing the right thing,” she said. “I just think they need to look at their vision and values as they call them.”

The part that’s more surprising—but sadly only a little—is that even after being called on its appalling lack of judgment, Toys R Us has not responded with the quickest, loudest, most abject oops in corporate history. Instead, it is standing its ground. Why? Because the dolls are sold only in the “adult section” of the store, of course—the ones intended for shoppers 15 and up.

OK, let’s start with the fact that Toys R Us has an adult section at all—something I never knew and I suspect many other parents didn’t either. So what will they stock there next? A line of Toys R Us hard cider? Toys R Us adult literature? A Toys R Us edition of Fifty Shades of Gray—which is really OK because hey, it actually comes with a set of 50 gray crayons? If an adult section must exist at all, at what point does full disclosure require the company to rebrand itself “Toys as Well as Other Things Not Remotely Appropriate For Children But Don’t Worry Because We Keep Them in a Separate Section, R Us”?

More important, let’s look at above-15 as the dividing line for the adult section—a distinction that makes perfect sense because if there’s anything 15 year olds are known for, it’s their solid judgment, their awareness of consequences, their exceptional impulse control and their utter imperviousness to the siren song of drugs and alcohol. Oh, and they never, ever emulate bad role models they encounter on TV, in the movies or among their peers. What’s more, kids below the age of 15 never, ever run wild in a sensory theme park like a big box toy store, finding themselves in departments not meant for them and seeing products they shouldn’t see. Toys R Us, you’ve thought this one out to the last detail!

What the company’s consumer researchers probably know and if they don’t they ought to, is that the brain’s frontal lobes—where higher order executive functions live—aren’t even fully myelinated until we reach our late 20s, which is why young people can be so spectacularly reckless, why soldiers and political firebrands tend to be young and why judges, heads of state and clerical leaders tend to be old. The adult fan of Breaking Bad might actually enjoy the new toys as collectors items–something to be bought or given as a gift with a little twinkle of irony, a this-is-so-wrong-it’s-right sort of thing. But that kind of nuance isn’t remotely within a child’s visible spectrum.

Really, Toys R Us, there is absolutely no surviving this one. Back up the truck, pack up the toys and send them to a landfill. And if you’re even thinking about following this one up with a Boardwalk Empire board game complete with a Nucky Thompson plush toy, stop now. Or at the very least, invite me to the pitch meeting.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME deals

Spotify Finally Introduces a Family Plan

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SOREN BILLING: A woman uses streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND—AFP/Getty Images

Up to four family members can subscribe at a 50% discount

Spotify announced plans Monday for a steeply discounted subscription option that enables up to five family members to subscribe to the digital streaming music service under one billing account.

The new offer, Spotify Family, enables up to four family members to join an existing subscriber’s ad-free Premium account, which costs $9.99 per month, at half the price. That discount would slash a family of five’s monthly bill from roughly $50 a month to $30 a month.

“This is one of the most asked for features from our audience,” Chief Content Officer Ken Parks said in an online statement.

Spotify Family will roll out worldwide over the next few weeks, the company said. The move follows a similar half-off discount that Spotify launched for college students in March as the company aggressively works to broaden its subscriber base.

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Says Russian Health Inspectors Target 200 Restaurants

Inside Burger King And Subway As McDonald's Faces Growing Challenge From Rivals
A logo hangs on display outside a McDonald's food restaurant in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, April 7, 2013. Andrey Rudakov—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Russian courts also ordered 9 to close

More than 200 McDonald’s restaurants in Russia are being audited by health inspectors, the company said in a public statement over the weekend.

McDonald’s vowed to challenge a court-ordered closure of nine restaurants, according to a Russian-language statement released by the Illinois-based company, Bloomberg reports.

Health inspections of the Russian branches — there were at least 440 as of August — began shortly after countries in the West imposed sanctions against Russia during the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Regulators argue the searches are part of a widening investigation of sanitary violations, but critics in August dismissed the probes as an exercise in political retaliation.

[Bloomberg]

TIME career

Microsoft CEO Says He Was ‘Completely Wrong’ to Suggest Women Shouldn’t Ask for Raises

Satya Nadella had previously apologized for his remarks

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a new interview that he was “completely wrong” to suggest it’s “good karma” for women to wait for a raise instead of asking for one.

“It’s been a very humbling and learning experience for me,” Nadella told CNBC in his first interview since his initial comments drew outrage.

Nadella said anyone held back in their career by gender bias should push back against their managers, and that he had wrongly extrapolated the advice from his own experiences.

“I basically took my own approach to how I’ve approached my career and sprung it on half of humanity,” he said.

Nadella had previously apologized for his remarks in a letter to the company.

“I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work,” he wrote. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

See the interview below.

[CNBC]

 

 

TIME India

India’s Modi Exploits Oil Price Collapse to End Diesel Subsidies

India Fuel Reforms
A man fills diesel in a car at a fuel station in New Delhi, India, Oct. 19, 2014. India freed diesel prices from government control Sunday while raising natural gas tariffs in the biggest-yet reform by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, as it aims to boost the country's economy and overhaul its energy sector. Tsering Topgyal—AP

Move comes as victories in key state elections gives Modi’s government more freedom to make bold reforms

India’s government said it will stop fixing the price of diesel, in a move that will cut the bill for fuel subsidies and send a strong signal of its commitment to liberalize the economy and attract investment.

The move is one of the most radical to date by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and will mollify critics who say he has been too timid since taking power in Asia’s second-largest economy. It will also add substance to the barnstorming speeches he has made from Tokyo to Madison Square Gardens in recent weeks in an effort to drum up investment in his country.

“Henceforth—like petrol—the price of diesel will be linked to the market,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after the cabinet approved the measure Saturday . “Whatever the cost involved, that is what consumer will have to pay.”

Two factors appeared to have influenced the timing of the move: firstly, the collapse in the price of crude oil to its lowest level in over three years means there will be no painful shock for the millions of consumers–most importantly, small-scale farmers–who depend on cheap fuel. Secondly, the politically bold move came as it became clear that Modi’s BJP party would win important regional elections in the states of Maharahstra and Haryana (home to the megacities of Mumbai and Delhi, respectively).

Indian commentators noted that the two elections had limited Modi’s freedom of action somewhat, but said that, with no more big votes due for a year, there is now a clear window to press ahead with the kind of reforms he promised. Under India’s constitution, central government has to share many powers with state government, so having his party in control of two of India’s most important state legislatures (albeit most likely in a coalition in Haryana) is an important advantage for Modi.

The diesel subsidy, which cost over $10 billion in the last fiscal year, had been one of the defining symbols of excessive government interference in the economy, discouraging both foreign and domestic investment in India’s fuel sector. That’s important because India is dependent on imported fuel, having few resources of its own. Energy security is one of Modi’s top priorities.

In the same vein, the government also raised the regulated price of natural gas at the weekend, hoping to encourage more interest in auctions for oil and gas exploration blocks that the government is aiming to hold.

Modi isn’t the only Asian leader who needs to wean his country off fuel subsidies. A similar challenge facesIndonesia’s new president Joko Widodo, who was finally sworn into office Monday after a contested election victory in the summer. Indonesia is lagging India in this area, as subsidies hold down prices not only for diesel but also for gasoline.

Widodo has the tougher challenge: unlike Modi, his opponents have majority control of parliament. And unlike India, gasoline prices are still fixed at below market levels, meaning that liberalization will hit middle-class urban voters.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Have an Insanely Productive Week

To do list
Getty Images

A few pointers that could radically change your week

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

A productive week depends largely on what you focus on every working day and how much time you allocate to activities that take up your time (i.e. busy work). Working harder does not necessarily mean you are being productive. There will always be a better way to complete that task. Find it, work smarter and get more done in your working week.

These are a few things can do to have an insanely productive week this and every other week.

1. Stop planning, start doing.

It’s okay to make time to plan what needs to be done in the week or month but when you get back to the planning table often, you lose precious productive hours.

So instead of plan, just do it. The option to work on a task in the future instead of now seem comfortable but not prudent. While you keep telling yourself you don’t have to do it now, that task won’t go away. And somebody will have to eventually account for it. So instead of procrastinating, get on with it and check it off your to-do list.

Related: 8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings

Also, are your meetings really worthwhile? Most people spend too much time in meetings, when they should be working and getting things done. To ensure you are making the most of your time, create a time budget. This will help you realize how much time you are losing to meetings or planning when you should be doing actual work. You will be surprised at how much you can get done every week if you start tracking how much time you spend planning or meeting.

2. You don’t have to say “yes” to every request.

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” — Warren Buffet.

Saying “yes” to a request seem easier than a simple “no”. Yet every time you agree to do something for somebody that brings low or no result, it makes it difficult to have a schedule you can really control. You don’t want that. You can achieve more if you know what you have to do, when you have to it and what you expect to accomplish. All that can be done in controlled schedule.

3. Don’t be a perfectionist.

If you keep chasing perfection, it could take you longer to get your tasks done – and you will most likely be less productive than you planned. The reason being is when you activity strive for perfection you spend more time on a single task than required, causing your other responsibilities to get pushed back. This will cause you to lose time and possibly annoy your immediate boss in the process. Perfectionism is even higher when you don’t account to anyone but yourself, as the fine tuning never ends.

Related: 10 Ways to Become the Most Productive Person Around

4. Get everything out of your head.

Don’t rely heavily on your memory. It will fail you when you need it most. Instead, write things down.

There are hundreds of options for taking notes — everything from the good old sticky notes to applications like Evernote, Any.do, andWunderlist. By jotting down everything that needs to get done in the week, you will have a better picture of what needs to be accomplished – and set priorities accordingly.

5. Review and measure your accomplishments.

Just before you close the week and prepare for next week, review your achievements, along with everything else that needed to be done, to see if you really got work done. Get back to your to-do list and check them off and find out what you were not able to do and why. Celebrate your accomplishments, take note of everything you postponed and learn from your mistakes. You will be better prepared for the following week.

Related: 4 Ways to Max Out the 40-Hour Workweek

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Exact Perfect Amount of Time to Take a Break, According to Data

487686073
Sam Diephuis—Getty Images/Blend Images RM

The right amount of mental detachment now and again can actually make you much more productive

A lot of productivity gurus advise taking breaks during the day to keep from burning out. But how often should you take breaks, and how long should they be? That’s not as easy an answer.

Until now.

Productivity app DeskTime lets employers see if their people are working or goofing around on Facebook or Buzzfeed. It sifted through the computer activity data of its 5.5 million daily logs to come up with the 10% most productive workers, then it took a peek at how they spend their time during the day.

The result: The most productive workers engage in job-related tasks for 52 minutes, then take a 17-minute break. That 15-to-20-minute window is productivity’s “golden hour” (or quarter-hour, as the case may be). It’s long enough for your brain to disengage and leave you feeling refreshed, but not so long that you lose focus and derail momentum on what you were doing.

The key to getting the most out of those breaks is to throw yourself into your work during those 52-minute increments, since you know there’s a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

“The notion that whatever you do, you do it full-out,” DeskTime says on its blog. “During the 52 minutes of work, you’re dedicated to accomplishing tasks, getting things done, making progress. Whereas during the 17 minutes of break, you’re completely removed from the work you’re doing – you’re entirely resting.”

Giving your brain some down time to avoid losing focus and making sloppy mistakes that slow you down has proven benefits. Wharton School doctoral student Hengchen Dai, discussing her new research, tells the Harvard Business Review that breaks make people more diligent. “The more relaxed and disengaged from work people feel during a break, the more likely they will be to benefit from taking time off,” she says.

In a study of doctors, Dai and her co-authors found that those at the end of their shifts washed their hands less frequently — a mistake that could put themselves and patients at risk.

So don’t feel guilty about taking a walk around the block or checking your fantasy football stats. As long as you jump back into work with both feet, that physical and mental disengagement makes you more productive.

TIME

18 Ways to Send the Right Message With Body Language

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Klaus Vedfelt—Getty Images

Use nonverbal communication to your advantage

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

In addition, it’s especially important to make a good first impression. Why? Because within the first few minutes of meeting someone, we are already making decisions about what the other person’s intentions are, and whether or not the person is credible and someone we want to do business with.

Therefore, the way you present yourself–especially the way you communicate nonverbally in those first few crucial minutes after meeting someone new–could make or break what could potentially be a very important business relationship.

Here are 18 ways you can use your body language to communicate your credibility and intentions in a way that will set you up for success every time.

Positive body

1. Begin with your posture–back straight but not rigid, and shoulders relaxed so you don’t look too uptight.

2. Align your body with the person you’re talking to–this shows you’re engaged.

3. Keep your legs apart a bit instead of crossed–this demonstrates that you’re relaxed, and research shows that you retain more information when you keep your legs uncrossed.

4. Lean in a bit–this shows focus and that you really are listening.

5. Mirror the body language you are observing, showing you are in agreement and that you like–or are sincerely trying to like–the person you are with.

Positive arms and hands

6. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides, showing you are open to what someone else is communicating, and as with your legs, keep your arms uncrossed in order to absorb more of what’s going on.

7. Use your hands to gesture when you speak–this improves your credibility with the listener. In addition, there is evidence that gesturing with your hands while speaking improves your thinking processes.

8. Always remember to greet others with a firm handshake–but not too firm. A firm handshake is probably one of the most important body language moves, because it sets the tone for the entire conversation. Who wants to shake hands and then have a conversation with a wet noodle?

9. Be aware of different cultural greetings and closures prior to your meeting.

Positive head

10. With appropriate nods and genuine smiles, you are showing the speaker that you understand, agree, and are listening to his or her opinions.

11. Laughter is always a great way to lighten the mood when used appropriately, and once again, it shows you’re listening.

12. Keep good eye contact by looking the person in the eye when he or she is communicating. Keep eye contact going when you speak, because this shows you are interested in the conversation. Watch your eye contact, though–if you don’t take breaks to contemplate your next answer, your eye contact could be viewed as staring (translation: aggressive or creepy).

13. Beware of blinking too much. Rapid blinking could communicate that you are feeling uncomfortable with the current conversation.

14. Mirror the other person’s facial expressions, because once again, this demonstrates that you are in agreement and like–or are making an effort to like–the other person.

15. Monitor your voice. Keep it low, and don’t end every sentence as if it’s a question. Take a deep breath and speak slowly and clearly.

The little extras

16. During your meeting, take notes. This will demonstrate that you are engaged and care about what the other person is saying, but remember to make eye contact regularly so the speaker knows you’re still with him or her.

17. Watch the body language of others, as they may be communicating to you through their body language that they would like to conclude the meeting. People are much more likely to engage you in future conversations if you observe and act on their body language cues.

18. End the meeting with a firm handshake and eye contact, showing you enjoyed your time and hope to meet again.

TIME technology

Why Apple Pay May Be the Company’s Most Challenging Move Yet

For Apple Pay to work, Apple needs to get customers, retailers and banks all in lockstep

Our smartphones have already become our de facto camera, music player, navigational device and personal assistant. Now Silicon Valley wants to make them our wallet, too.

Several tech firms have spent the last few years trying to convince consumers their phone is a more convenient payment method than cash or plastic. Most shoppers have balked. But on Monday, Apple is entering the fray, and experts say that could be a turning point for the long-hyped mobile payments industry.

Apple’s service, dubbed Apple Pay, allows customers to buy goods in physical stores with a simple tap of their iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch smartwatch, when that device hits shelves in early 2015. Apple Pay users load their credit card information onto the phone, then press their device’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the checkout line to authenticate the purchase. The process is faster than using a debit card — and more secure. Apple generates a unique ID number for each transaction, meaning users’ credit card data numbers are not shared with merchants.

Apple Pay is launching just as the smartphone is becoming a central point of commerce for the average shopper. Consumers spent $110 billion via their mobile devices last year, according to research firm Euromonitor, and they used their phones plenty more to research products before buying them in stores. Meanwhile, person-to-person payment apps like Venmo have made people comfortable loading their phones with dollars to make simple transactions.

“All of that is really conditioning consumers to trust their phones when it comes to payments,” says Michelle Evans, a senior consumer finance analyst at Euromonitor.

But consumers are still reluctant to give up their credit cards. Mobile payments generated $4.9 billion in sales in 2014, a paltry figure compared to the year’s $4.8 trillion in card transactions, according to Euromonitor. Google’s own mobile payments service, Google Wallet, offers much of Apple Pay’s functionality but hasn’t seen widespread adoption. Startup Square abandoned its much-hyped mobile wallet platform earlier this year, instead pivoting to an order-ahead service like Seamless. PayPal, which is spinning off from eBay in 2015, has also struggled find a mobile formula that works in stores.

“It’s definitely starting to catch on, but I don’t think anybody has quite nailed the overarching reason to pull out your phone to pay,” says Anuj Nayar, PayPal’s senior director of global initiatives.

The transition to mobile payments is a challenging one because it requires buy-in from so many different players. Consumers have to be convinced it’s worth their time to learn a new buying behavior. Retailers have to pay for new equipment so their point-of-sale systems can accept payment from phones and smartwatches. Banks and credit card issuers also have to buy in. “It’s a lot of people to get in lockstep,” says Evans.

Apple does have a few key advantages over its competitors. The company has a knack for convincing people to change their digital lifestyles, whether by downloading MP3s, surfing the web on a phone or using a large tablet to watch videos. And thanks to the iTunes Store, Apple has more than 500 million credit cards already on file. Those customers will be able to seamlessly start using the same accounts they use to buy apps and music to buy goods in the real world when they first boot up Apple Pay. “We’ve never had this large of a base in a starting country” for a mobile payment system, says Matt Dill, Visa’s senior vice president for Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, Commerce and Network Payments.

However, analysts say convincing shoppers to give up credit cards, which are already fairly painless to use, will take more than just offering convenience. The most successful mobile payments platform to date is the Starbucks app, which rewards customers who pay via their phones with free drinks and other perks. Today, Starbucks processes about 15% of all its transactions on the app, or about 6 million per week.

“The customers really feel It’s not just about payments,” says Ben Straley, Starbucks’ vice president for digital products. “It’s also about being rewarded for their loyalty.”

But even if Apple can convince consumers to take their money mobile, some merchants aren’t playing ball. Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, won’t support Apple Pay at launch. Instead, it and other big-box stores like Best Buy are developing a competing mobile payments platform called CurrentC, set to launch sometime next year. Such merchants would have to be the driving force behind any effective loyalty rewards program that convinced shoppers to abandon their credit cards.

With so many competitors offering mobile payment options, analysts expect the segment will finally take off soon. Euromonitor projects in-store purchases via phone will rise to $74 billion by 2019 — though that’s still a far cry from the trillions in card purchases we see today. Mobile devices are already becoming a common tool for buying things in the virtual world. It could very well happen in the real world, too. “It’s just shopping, whether you’re buying it in a store or buying it online,” says PayPal’s Nayar. “The lines between what that looks like have started to disappear.”

Read next: Apple Pay Starts Monday for iPhone 6 Users

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