TIME Companies

Amazon and Simon & Schuster Reach Deal Over E-Book Prices

The deal follows an impasse between Amazon and Hachette

Amazon and Simon & Schuster have reached a multi-year agreement over the sale and pricing of print and digital books following the online retail giant’s falling out with the Hachette Book Group.

The publisher will set its own prices for e-books, while Amazon will promote Simon & Schuster titles on the site and be able to set discounts in certain situations as well, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The agreement specifically creates a financial incentive for Simon & Schuster to deliver lower prices for readers,” Amazon said in a statement. The deal arrived two months before its contact with Simon & Schuster was set to expire.

Carolyn Reidy, the head of Simon & Schuster, wrote in a letter to authors and agents that the deal was “economically advantageous” for both the publisher and the retailer and that it “maintains the author’s share of income generated from e-book sales.”

Earlier this year, Amazon and Hachette had a much-publicized dispute over the price of e-books. Customers as a result can no longer pre-order Hachette titles on Amazon. Amazon will at some point renegotiate contracts withe other publishers Macmillan, Penguin Random House and HarperCollins.

[WSJ]

TIME isis

How to Financially Starve ISIS

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A fighter from the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) waves a flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

Air strikes will help but to ruin the extremist organization the U.S.-led coalition will have to cut off ISIS's sources of funding

The U.S.-led air assault in Iraq and Syria on the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria(ISIS) is just one front in the battle being waged against ISIS. The U.S. Treasury recently confirmed plans to try to bankrupt the militant group by targeting its oil businesses and imposing sanctions on those financing them. But how easy will it be to financially ruin a group now considered by analysts to be the best-funded terrorist organization in recent history?

“Like all organizations, money matters to ISIS,” says Fawaz Gerges, the Emirates chair in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies at the London School of Economics. “Napoleon once said ‘An army marches on its stomach’ and even ISIS needs to feed and arm its soldiers, to provide for their families. If you follow the trail of money and starve ISIS financially, you begin the process of degrading and ultimately paralyzing it.”

Yet following this trail of money is difficult. Experts speaking to TIME say hard figures are difficult to come by, partly because of a lack of independent researchers and journalists in the area. ISIS also deals mainly in cash and operates outside the legitimate channels that can be traced by the Treasury, says Valérie Marcel, a Middle East energy and resources expert at London-based think-tank Chatham House. As a result, estimates of ISIS’s daily revenue vary between $1 million and $3 million a day. Gerges says that ISIS has estimated funds of tens of millions of dollars, and that in the last few months the group has reportedly tried to limit its spending as much as possible to counter the coalition’s efforts to cut off its funding.

As ISIS has grown in size and taken control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, its sources of income have also shifted. Justin Dargin, a Middle East energy specialist based at the University of Oxford, says that “while funding from wealthy Gulf patrons assisted the group’s early rise, currently individual donations are not of major importance” since ISIS has developed more independent sources of income. David Butter, a Chatham House expert in the politics and economy of the Middle East, agrees, noting that ISIS benefits from being far less reliant on funds from abroad than other Islamist and Salafist jihadist groups, who made themselves overly dependent on the one-off nature of such fundraising. In fact, experts say one major difference between ISIS and other jihadist groups is ISIS’s more pragmatic outlook. Whereas al-Qaeda was more focused on setting up cells to finance anti-Western terrorist operations, ISIS has concentrated on expanding its area of control, taking hold of natural resources and commercial centers, as well as tens of thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition.

In June of this year, ISIS seized more territory in Northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second-largest city. It declared itself the “Islamic State” and developed revenue streams more typically associated with a government than a jihadist group. Though it’s difficult to establish how well ISIS is running the areas under its control, Paul Rogers, a global security consultant to Oxford Research Group, says that information from social media suggests that “ISIS seem quite competent to run things in Syria” and most areas seem to be functioning reasonably well. Since ISIS has continued to provide services like water and electricity, Gerges says the group has been able to impose taxes on farmers, retail businesses and even fuel. He adds that we should not underestimate the importance of this “social income” in both Iraq and Syria, since ISIS “have been able to generate sources of income to run the provinces under their control and also to generate extra income to wage their battles.”

Yet while ISIS might attempt to act like a state, much of its money is brought in by criminal tactics, including extortion, theft and plundering. For instance, senior U.S. government official Brett McGurk told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July that even before ISIS took control of Mosul, he and other U.S. diplomatic and military officials who had visited the city shortly before it fell to ISIS had been concerned about Mosul “as it had become the primary financial hub” for ISIS, “generating nearly $12 million per month in revenues through extortion and smuggling rackets.” Hostage-taking has also played a part in filling ISIS coffers. According to an investigative report from The New York Times, kidnapping Europeans has earned al-Qaeda and its affiliates at least $125 million in ransom payments in the past five years alone. Although ISIS formally split from al-Qaeda in February, the group has continued the practice and both Gerges and Marcel have sources confirming that ISIS has received large sums of money from citizens of Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Syria in exchange for hostages. As well as Western hostages, the “kidnapping of locals is a big business”, says Gerges, and has generated tens of millions of dollars for ISIS and other militant groups like al-Nusra front, the branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria.

But the majority of ISIS’s revenue appears to come from the territory it controls, much of which is “very rich agriculturally”, says Rogers. For instance, the United Nations estimates that land in Iraq under ISIS control accounts for up to 40 percent of the country’s annual production of wheat. Crucially, the militant group also holds a number of oil fields in both Iraq and Syria and analysts speaking to TIME estimate that the daily revenue from ISIS oil production lies between $1 and $3 million a day. Though this is barely a fraction of the global oil trade, the income is very useful in funding ISIS’s soldiers, who number between 20,000 and 31,500 according to the CIA. As ISIS took hold of more territory in Iraq and Syria in June, it gained more opportunities to sell both crude oil and refined products through well-established smuggling networks. “There are a lot of grey market buyers of crude in the region and a large network of individuals that benefit financially. It’s harder to dismantle because – whether it’s in the KRG [Kurdish Regional Government], in Turkey or in Iran – border guards and municipal authorities have to be paid well enough and given incentives to crack down,” says Marcel.

If the U.S. and its allies continue to bomb ISIS’s oil facilities, however, the group will begin struggling to fund itself. The Paris-based International Energy Agency said in a report released Tuesday that the aerial campaign has brought ISIS oil production down to around 20,000 barrels per day, from a high of around 70,000 a couple of months ago. If oil installations continue to be hit, ISIS will not be able to use its own military vehicles that run on the diesel and gas produced by small, local refineries. Yet it is the civilian population – between 6 and 8 million people in ISIS-controlled territory – that will most acutely feel the effects of the air strikes as winter approaches. The local population relies heavily on diesel for heating, agricultural machinery, bakeries and generators. The U.K.-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has already reported that the air strikes have led to an increase in the price of diesel and petrol. Butter says that if the ISIS economy is “degraded” by the bombings, there is likely to be a nationwide fuel and electricity crisis, as well as agricultural shortages exacerbated by the lighter than normal rainfall in 2013. In addition, Marcel points out that ISIS “depends to a large extent on the willingness of the population to have them there. In the battle to win hearts and minds, you do have to provide heating fuel and petrol.”

But if the group is to lose this battle any time soon, the coalition will have to succeed in cutting all the strands of ISIS’s vast financial web. Until then, ISIS will likely remain a threat to the region and beyond.

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 stocking 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.

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