TIME Automotives

Your Toyota Prius Might Glitch Out and Stall

A Toyota Prius hybrid car.
Toyota Motors / AFP / Getty Images

The world's best-selling hybrid car has a software defect that could cause it to glitch out and stall while driving, and the car maker formerly plagued by spontaneous acceleration fears is taking no chances, recalling a majority of the Priuses ever made

A glitch in the Toyota Prius’s power system is leading the world’s largest automaker to recall 1.9 million units of its hybrid standard-bearer.

The voluntary recall is intended to fix a software defect that can shut down the hybrid engine system under “higher thermal stress” and stop the car, the company said. Toyota said no accidents have been caused by the defect, which mostly affects cars in Japan and the United States, reports the Financial Times.

The Prius is the world’s biggest-selling hybrid car at 4.2 million global sales, and the recall is a setback for both the Japanese carmaker and the world’s leading hybrid.

[FT]

TIME Education

Yes, College is Totally Worth It

The cost of not getting a college degree is rising, new study finds
The cost of not getting a college degree is rising, new study finds Getty Images

The income gap between grads and non-grads is the widest it has been in half a century

University tuition may be rising steeply, but so is the cost of not getting a college degree.

A new study on higher education in the United States finds that the economic gap between millennials with and without college degrees is the widest it has been in almost 50 years, and that the college educated are doing better on virtually every economic measure.

Among the key findings are that people aged 25-32 with a bachelor’s degree or more have a median annual income of $45,000 and lower unemployment (3.8%), while high school graduates only make $28,000 and 12.2% of them are unemployed. The study also showed that just 5.8% college graduates lived in poverty compared to 21.8% of their lesser-educated peers.

It’s not all about numbers, either: Young people with college degrees are also more likely to be married, less likely to live at their parents’ home and more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, the study finds.

[Pew Research Center]

TIME credit cards

PayPal President Gets His Credit Card Hacked

David Marcus, president of PayPal, had his credit card information stolen while in the United Kingdom.
David Marcus, president of PayPal, had his credit card information stolen while in the United Kingdom. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

PayPal President David Marcus has been the victim of credit card fraud, he said on Monday. The leader of the online payments company revealed via Twitter that his credit card information had been stolen on a trip to the United Kingdom and he’d racked up a “ton” of fraudulent transactions on his account. Marcus speculated that thieves probably skimmed the info from the magnetic stripe on his card, even though his card had an EMV chip, a technology that makes cards in Europe more secure than the ones commonly used in the U.S.

Marcus leveraged the incident as an opportunity to plug his own company, speculating that the fraud wouldn’t have happened if only the merchant had accepted PayPal. His company is currently trying to expand its presence as a payment option in physical stores, putting it in direct competition with platforms like Square and Google Wallet.

TIME Retail

No Dip for CVS Following Tobacco Announcement

Stocks rose for CVS less than a week after announcing they would not be selling tobacco products anymore.
Stocks rose for CVS less than a week after announcing they would not be selling tobacco products anymore. Ben Torres—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Stock prices have risen and fourth-quarter 2013 earnings are strong

CVS’s stock price rose as the company reported glowing earnings Tuesday, positioning the nation’s largest pharmacy chain for a strong year less than one week after it announced it would stop selling tobacco products in the U.S.

Company shares have risen 2.3% since CVS’s surprising February 7 announcement that it would remove all cigarette and tobacco products from its 7,600 pharmacies nationwide by October 1. The earnings report released Tuesday shows the company’s profits in the last quarter of 2013 increased $140 million from the same period a year ago, and revenue hit $32.8 billion.

However, CVS forecasts a direct $1.5 billion annual hit to its revenues due to the ban, the company told analysts on Tuesday’s earnings call.

That said, the company doesn’t seem to be blowing smoke. It raised its guidance for earnings per share in the first quarter of 2014, the first quarter for which CVS’s sales will reflect consumers’ reaction to its no-tobacco announcement, from $1.03 to $1.06. In other words, CVS thinks in the short term, at least, its cigarette ban certainly won’t hurt, and it may even be a boon.

“We are seeing this tobacco decision as an opportunity to connect even more with consumers, as an expert in health and beauty and to build our loyalty with them,” said company executive vice president on Tuesday’s call.

In the long term, CVS says it will find ways to offset the loss of its annual cigarette sales revenue, and it’s full-year earnings projection hasn’t changed after it proclaimed the ban. Whether CVS becomes a model for other pharmacies remains to be seen, but its earnings reflect a strong position going into 2014.

TIME Cannabis Industry

Now You Can Order Marijuana and Have It Delivered to Your Door

In Washington, placing an order for a pot delivery is now as easy as dialing up for a pizza. Only with marijuana orders, deliveries are made by characters named Otter, Wombat, and Possum.

While shops in Colorado began selling recreational marijuana at the beginning of the year, similar retail outlets in Washington—the other state where voters approved the purely recreational use and sale of pot—won’t start selling weed for non-medicinal purposes until spring or summer. Filling the void in the state where demand for pot is extraordinarily high are businesses such as the Winterlife Cooperative Cannabis Delivery Service.

The service provided is just like the name indicates: Anyone age 21 and up in the greater Seattle area can call up and choose among a daily menu of marijuana and place an order for delivery. Prices run roughly $80 per quarter-ounce of weed, and cash is the only accepted form of payment.

Winterlife’s FAQ page explains that customers can expect delivery to arrive around 45 minutes after an order is placed. The page also addresses a stickier question: Is this operation actually legal? The co-op obviously thinks so, even if a customer hasn’t specifically received a medical prescription to use marijuana. “All adult Washingtonians qualify for ‘Medical Cannabis’ out of ‘Medical Necessity’,” the site explains. “We ‘Good Samaritan’ Critters will continue to provide ‘Safe, Reliable and Legally Defendable Service’ for as long as it takes for ALL adults in Washington to have access to cannabis!”

(MORE: Pot’s Money Problem)

Oh yeah: About the “critter” business. All Winterlife employees are referred to as “critters,” and even use soft-and-fuzzy critter names—Fox, Owl, Wombat, Otter, Hawk, Panther, Bear—rather than their real names on the job. So, as if ordering legal weed wasn’t a trippy enough experience on its own, your order will be handled over the phone and later arrive in the hands of Possum, or another delivery dude with some such name. In addition to pot edibles and various strains of marijuana, Winterlife sells a special “Critter Box” starter kit for $350, which includes a few kinds of marijuana and hash, as well as a vaporizer and a pipe. For each box purchase, Winterlife says it donates $100 to a nearby animal rehab center called South Sound Critter Care.

Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb clarified to the Seattle Times that services like those of Winterlife are “not legal.” And yet neither drivers nor customers nor anyone else seems to be at risk of getting in trouble. Pot delivery “undermines the spirit of the law,” said Whitcomb, but he doesn’t expect the authorities to take any action to stop the practice. “Like anything else, our department takes all the complaints and dedicates our resources in a way that makes sense and is going to be most impactful.”

When The Stranger, an alternative weekly in Seattle, asked directly if the police department would pursue criminal action against pot delivery practitioners, Whitcomb responded, “Probably not.” At least partly because marijuana’s legality is currently in an in-between stage—approved for recreational sale, yet not available for direct sale yet—it seems as if the police are choosing to look the other way for a few months. “It is too early to say where a companion delivery service merits any further review,” Whitcomb said.

(MORE: Colorado Thinks Legal Marijuana Is Hurting Its Image)

So far, that means Winterlife can simply go about its business of delivering marijuana—a business that’s currently averaging four stars on Yelp.

TIME Advertising

You Can Now Flirt With Pizza Hut on OkCupid

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Marry me Getty Images

For all the single people dreading Valentine’s Day this week, Pizza Hut is there for you. The fast-food chain is trying to find “the one” on OkCupid and is promising a lifetime supply of pizza to the person it declares its true soul mate.

On Twitter, Pizza Hut is a much-desired brand, fielding more marriage proposals than a 19th century maiden (more than 10,000 in the last year, according to Ad Age). That outpouring of love inspired the company to set up an OkCupid account to better court its suitors. The company has a p.h.D. in “Delicious,” and a light and airy body type, according to its dating profile.

To cull through its dating options, Pizza Hut is asking its fans to send in ideas for epic marriage proposals via Twitter, Instagram and Vine. The more outlandish the ideas, the better: the company offers parachuting with fireworks and ninjas as examples that might impress. The people with the three best ideas will be flown out to the company’s headquarters in Plano, Texas, where they will compete in more trials to show their devotion to the restaurant. Think of it like The Bachelor, except you’re competing for the affection of a deep-dish pizza instead of a human being.

The grand prize winner will get free pizza “for life” (actually a check for $4,800 if you read the fine print) and may appear in a Pizza Hut commercial. The contest runs until Feb. 21st.

OkCupid co-founder Sam Yagan told Ad Age that the company is exploring more promotional deals with other brands. Partnerships between dating services and companies are becoming more common. On hook-up app Tinder, celebrities like Mindy Kaling now post ads posing as fake profiles to promote their television shows. And eHarmony is prepping a new business recruitment service that will attempt to match job seekers and employers using some of the same criteria used to make romantic pairings. Expect online love to get a lot more corporate in the future.

TIME Federal Reserve

3 Things Janet Yellen Must Focus on as Fed Chair

Dr. Janet Yellen during her confirmation hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill November 14, 2013 in Washington.
Dr. Janet Yellen during her confirmation hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill November 14, 2013 in Washington. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

The recently-installed Fed chair gave her first testimony Tuesday morning, laying out a roadmap for the future of the U.S central bank. TIME's Rana Foroohar offers the 3 key areas that Yellen must focus on to boost the economy

This morning, Janet Yellen began her first testimony to Congress as Federal Reserve chair. As she sums up the economic health of the nation and the direction that monetary policy will take over the next couple of hours, there are three key things in her comments to focus on:

  1. Despite previous hints that the Fed would consider the U.S. labor market healthy when unemployment dropped below 6.5 percent, Yellen is still cautious about pinning an interest rate hike on the jobs number alone. Indeed, she stressed that she wanted to see more healthy inflation in the economy (right now, we’re below the target of 2 percent) before monetary policy tightens up. Which means interest rates could stay low for a long time to come – the big question, though, is whether market rates will continue to follow the Fed’s “forward guidance,” or go their own way (likely up) as investors sense that winds are changing – that’s what happened last fall, and it had a dampening effect on the mortgage markets.
  2. Yellen is all about clarity. One of her legacies is making Fed communication much clearer and more seamless than it had been, and you can see that again today in her comments – she’s telling us what’s already been done, what’s going to be done, and what might be done, in soothing tones. Again, though, the question is whether clarity and forward guidance can substitute for real ammo (meaning rate cuts and asset purchases). The Fed doesn’t have much of the latter left.
  3. She’s watching financial markets carefully. That means she’s looking for bubbles and volatility (which, per her comments about the recent turmoil in the global markets, she doesn’t believe is too worrisome yet), but she’s also keeping a close eye on banks and banking reform. She still wants to see more capital and lower leverage ratios, quicker implementation of Dodd Frank, and a tighter global framework for reform. The Fed will be hosting a meeting next week on how banking reform should be strengthened – watch this space.
TIME Federal Reserve

Yellen Says Fed Will Keep Pulling Back on Stimulus

Janet Yellen testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Banking Committee, Nov. 14, 2013..
Janet Yellen testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Banking Committee, Nov. 14, 2013.. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Tells lawmakers she foresees continuity with predecessor Bernanke

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Tuesday that the central bank will continue to scale back its stimulus bond-buying program amid the brightening economic recovery.

In her first public testimony as Fed chair, eight days after formally taking the reins, Yellen pledged to continue the asset-purchasing program charted by her predecessor Ben Bernanke, designed to shore up the fragile economy as it fought through headwinds created by the 2008 recession.

“I believe that I am a sensible central banker,” Yellen told the members of the House Financial Services committee. “These are very unusual times.”

Yellen defended the Fed policy known as quantitative easing, arguing it has tamped down long-term interest rates, stimulated growth and boosted employment. “The objective has been to push down longer term interest rates, and I believe we have succeeded in doing that,” she said.

(MAGAZINE: Janet Yellen is the $16-trillion woman)

At the same time, Yellen pledged to pare back those purchases as the economy. The central bank has already begun scaling back its monthly bond purchases, a process known as tapering, as it seeks to unwind the massive portfolio it built up to help keep the economy afloat in recent years. Yellen said the Fed will keep short-term interest rates near zero for the time being, as investors remain jittery about the resilience of the tepid recovery. But she remains bullish on the nation’s gains. “The economic recovery gained greater traction in the second half of last year,” she said in prepared remarks.

The first female Fed chair, who previously served as Bernanke’s No. 2 as well as the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, responded to criticism that her dovish monetary policy could result in inflation.

“I am committed to achieving both parts of our dual mandate: helping the economy return to full employment and returning inflation to 2% while ensuring that it does not run persistently above or below that level,” Yellen told lawmakers, while promising “a great deal of continuity” with programs she helped formulate as Fed vice chair.

Yellen was sanguine about the recent sell-off that caused markets to plunge early this year after months of soaring gains. “Our sense is that at this stage these developments do not pose a substantial risk to the U.S. economic outlook,” she said. “The unemployment rate has fallen nearly a percentage point since the middle of last year and 1-1/2 percentage points since the beginning of the current asset purchase program. “Nevertheless, the recovery in the labor market is far from complete.”

Yellen predicted that “economic activity and employment will expand at a moderate pace this year and next, the unemployment rate will continue to decline toward its longer-run sustainable level, and inflation will move back toward 2 percent over coming years.”

She said she was surprised by the weak jobs numbers posted in January. When the Fed gathers next month, Yellen said, it will assess the economic picture and determine whether to adjust its policies to meet changing economic conditions.

TIME Food and Beverage Industry

South Koreans Slam Down 11.2 Shots of Hard Liquor Each Week

When it comes to hard drinking, they rule

According to analysis by the global marketing-research firm Euromonitor International, South Koreans are the world’s biggest consumers of hard liquor, at 11.2 shots a week on average. They make the world’s second largest consumers, the Russians, seem like lightweights at a mere five shots a week.

The caveat that might restore some Slavic pride? Soju, the South Korean liquor that accounts for 97% of the country’s sales, has an average alcohol percentage half of vodka.

Depending which set of data you’re looking at (the study is reported in both Business Insider and Quartz), there is variation over who makes it to the third, fourth and fifth spots, but Thailand and Japan are in both top fives, with honorable mentions to the tipplers of the Philippines, Bulgaria and Poland.

[BI, Quartz]

TIME Retail

Survey: Men Would Prefer to Have Sex on Valentine’s Day

Getty Images

And other fascinating statistics about Cupid's big day

Flowers, jewelry, chocolate, teddy bears — the conventional Valentine’s Day gifts have a decidedly feminine slant to them, but a new survey shows that men think they’re the ones really cleaning up when it comes to Valentine’s Day: Guys think their significant others will spend $230 on them, while women expect that their main squeezes will spend, on average, $196 on them. Both men and women who are in relationships expect an average of $240 will be spent on them.

According to the Chase Blueprint Valentine’s Day Survey, though, both genders might be a little overly optimistic when it comes to their expectations for Valentine’s Day. Women said they plan to spend an average of $27 less than the $98 guys say they’ll shell out — which means neither gender plans to spend nearly as much as they want to have spent on them.

Not into shelling out the big bucks? A new RetailMeNot.com survey hints at one way couples can avoid breaking the bank this Valentine’s Day: Two-thirds of men and 30% of women say they’d rather have sex than get a gift for the holiday. Chase found that 43% of men and about half as many women don’t want a Valentine’s Day gift.

Fewer people are celebrating Valentine’s Day this year by buying gifts. The National Retail Federation’s new survey of more than 6,4000 people finds that respondents celebrating the holiday plan to spend an average of just under $134, about three bucks more than last year, but the number of people planning to celebrate it this year has fallen — just 54% compared to 60% last year. RetailMeNot finds that almost 20% of people don’t plan to spend anything on their significant other for Valentine’s Day.

About 70% of the more than 1,200 respondents to the Chase survey say they’d rather be surprised than pick out their own present for Valentine’s Day. Gift recipients prefer chocolate over flowers, tech toys over jewelry and dinner out over a home-cooked meal, although RetailMeNot finds that the number of people who want to stay in for the evening has gone up 10 percentage points since last year. The NRF survey finds that more than a third of people will give flowers or take their significant other out for the evening, about half of people will give candy and around 20% plan to buy jewelry.

The NRF survey also looks at Valentine’s spending beyond what people get for their significant others: Almost 60% will get something for a family member, 22% get gifts for friends and almost 20% get Valentine’s Day presents for their pets.

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