TIME Companies

Fake Goods Land Alibaba in Hot Water With Regulators

But it might be an excuse for China’s largest e-commerce company to clean itself up, for regulators but more importantly, Wall Street

During Alibaba’s earnings call this morning, when it reported revenues that missed expectations, only one question came up about the report released yesterday by a Chinese regulator criticizing the e-commerce giant. But that might understate how likely the report is to influence talk about Alibaba for some time.

The regulator, the State Administration For Industry And Commerce (SAIC) accused Alibaba of selling fake goods and misleading customers on its biggest shopping platform Taobao.com.

SAIC has already taken down the report, but in it Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer platform Taobao ranked worse for fakes and reliability than other Chinese sites like JD.com and Yihaodian.com. One fair reason for that, from Alibaba’s perspective, is that Taobao is much bigger than its rivals, with 500 million consumer accounts. But the report also includes allegations that Alibaba employees accepted bribes from merchants who wanted to improve their search rankings. Those allegations are going to be riling Wall Street for a while.

Taobao’s history of fakes and ripoffs is well known in China. But that hasn’t hurt Alibaba because increasingly, shoppers look to comments sections first while scanning similar products. If the seller isn’t well reviewed, they simply move on, similar to the way a low feedback score on eBay.com can doom a seller.

In that way, it’s tough to understand the timing of SAIC’s report, which was held until after the firm’s September IPO, the government said. Even if Alibaba isn’t pushing forward with solutions fast enough for regulators’ liking, CEO Jack Ma and Co. would certainly move fast if customers were turned off. But that’s the thing: customers are only growing. In today’s earnings report, Alibaba said revenues in the quarter grew by 40%, even if they slightly missed estimates.

As Paul Mozur of the New York Times notes, Alibaba’s success has brought it greater scrutiny “with China’s opaque and at-times arbitrary government regulators, a reminder that an investment in Alibaba brings inevitable political risk.”

Fortune highlighted those regulators in a piece last yearabout the scrutiny Western companies have come under. In it, foreign business groups accused China’s regulators of having a spotty record of openness and fairness. Now Alibaba has joined the criticism. On Taobao.com, it said the SAIC’s main investigator, Director Liu Hongliang, had unfairly formed the report, including the tiny sample size used (92 batches of products).

“We felt we were unfairly attacked by a report that was a sample check of some of the items,” Alibaba vice chairman Joe Tsai said in an interview this morning on CBNC. “We thought the methodology was flawed, we felt the attack was targeted at us specifically, and it was unfair. Over time we hope to work with regulators to address the issues of their concern.”

One response to the SAIC on Taobao, by an unsigned employee, included a fair point. As translated by the WSJ:

SAIC has “succeeded in proving just how unsafe and unreliable online shopping in China is, just how crafty the several millions of online retailers are, just how blind and stupid its 500 million consumers are….”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.

TIME Companies

Amazon Wants to Power Your Work Email

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A picture shows the logo of the online retailer Amazon dispalyed on computer screens in London on December 11, 2014. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

Amazon deliveries go from electronics to emails

Amazon has launched a work email service aimed at undermining Microsoft’s dominance in office messaging.

The e-commerce giant is introducing WorkMail, allowing users to send and receive emails, and manage contacts and share calendars all stored on Amazon’s cloud servers.

WorkMail won’t replace Microsoft Outlook’s software interface for businesses that make the switch. Instead, it changes the background technology that powers corporate email. It will push messages through Amazon’s encrypted computer networks at a monthly cost of $4 per inbox.

Amazon said that with WorkMail customers won’t have to buy servers or manage software, upgrades, or patches. Instead, they just have to pay for each inbox.

“Customers have repeatedly asked us for a business email and calendaring service that is more cost-effective and simpler to manage than their on-premises solution,” said Peter De Santis, vice president of AWS Compute Services, said in a press release. “We built Amazon WorkMail to address these requests.”

An analyst with Baird Equity Research, Colin Sebastian told the Wall Street Journal that email services could bring Amazon $1 billion each year, based on estimate of sales for Google’s business software.

TIME Smartphones

Apple Might Finally Be Beating Samsung in Smartphone Sales

But some analysts say it's a tie

Apple and Samsung have long been bitter rivals in the smartphone market, with each able to claim an advantage over the other: The higher cost of Apple’s iPhones have helped the company enjoy wider profit margins, while Samsung has historically clobbered Apple in terms of the number of devices shipped.

However, that may no longer be the case.

Apple sold a record 74.5 million iPhones last quarter, it said as part of its earnings report Tuesday. A day later, Samsung said it sold somewhere between 71 and 76 million smartphones. That means there’s a decent chance Apple is now beating Samsung not only in profit margins, but also in number of devices shipped.

Still, some analysts are sowing doubt over whether that’s actually the case. One research firm, Counterpoint Research, says Apple is now on top: It says Samsung only shipped 73.8 million devices last quarter. Ben Barjarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies and TIME columnist, also gave the nod to Apple.

But another analyst, Strategy Analytics, has taken the middle road and called it a tie, saying Apple and Samsung both shipped 74.5 million devices, giving both companies an equal 19.6% share of the global smartphone market.

A tie game means we’re headed to overtime. Whether Apple can hold on to its maybe-possibly-kind-of lead over Samsung depends on how its newest iPhone models perform as their shine wears off. Apple’s sales numbers last quarter got a big boost from the introduction of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, particularly in China, where the bigger devices were an equally big hit. If history is any indication, Apple won’t refresh its phone lineup for several months at the earliest, while Samsung is reportedly set to drop a new flagship model early this year to replace the Galaxy S5. If that as-yet-unannounced phone is a winner, it could put Samsung right back on top.

TIME

The 1 Weird Reason You’re Tipping More

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

These tricks businesses use could make you more likely to tip

If you buy a cup of coffee or lunch and your server pulls out an iPad, pay attention: You could wind up leaving a higher tip without even realizing it.

When software research company Software Advice surveyed consumers who use iPads or similar devices to buy food and drink, it found that the use of iPads increases the amount many people tip when they pay. More than four in 10 consumers say being in close proximity to their server at the time of the transaction can prompt them to leave a tip when they otherwise might not have.

What’s more, nearly 30% of respondents say they would be more likely to tip if they had to tap a button that says “no tip,” a feature many establishments use.

“This is especially more prevalent at places like coffee shops or at food trucks where the person taking your card is standing right in front of you,” says Justin Guinn, retail market researcher at Software Advice. “People might feel awkward pressing a ‘no tip’ button with the server or cashier looking right at them, waiting for them to make a choice. There’s an undeniable guilty feeling,” he says.

Others also have observed this phenomenon in restaurants that use digital tipping, and even in taxi fleets that have been converted to accept credit cards via touch screens in the back seat.

“I think there’s some kind of a casino effect,” Manny Pena, owner of a New York City cafe. tells Bon Appetit magazine. “You don’t comprehend that it’s real money.”

And in some cases, establishments take advantage of the addition of iPads to tweak the standard tip — rather than offer customers a range with 15% at the midpoint, 15% or even 18% might be the starting point. Reflexively hitting the center option without thinking about it could lead to paying a few percentage points more.

When coffee giant Starbucks added the ability for a customer to leave a tip to their barista using the payment function on their mobile app, they included dollar amounts up to $2 — which adds up to a whopping 50% tip even if you’re paying $4 for your caffeine fix.

It could be guilt at work, or it could be the convenience of paying with a couple of taps, according to Guinn.

“Whether or not patrons are ‘feeling the pressure’ to tip more because the server is standing next to them certainly seems to be a factor in the amount they’re leaving,” he says. “However, since the iPad is streamlining the ordering and paying process overall, it could be the convenience of the iPad itself.”

 

 

TIME China

Why China Is Nervous About Its Role in the World

Hong Kong based Vietnamese demonstrators carry Vietnam's flag during a protest against China's territory claim in Hong Kong
Hong Kong based Vietnamese demonstrators carry Vietnam's flag during a protest against China's territory claim in Hong Kong May 25, 2014. Around 200 people marched on Sunday to declare Paracel Islands belong to Vietnam. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) TYRONE SIU—REUTERS

China’s fear of closer ties between the U.S. and India may indicate growing economic problems at home

In the wake of President Obama’s historic trip to India, China issued an unsolicited and perplexing statement downplaying the relevance of the visit. As the White House pointed out in response, the only thing significant about China’s statement was the fact that the Asian nation felt the need to make it in the first place.

The rivalry between China and India for economic power and strategic control in Asia is longstanding and is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. But China’s taunt is not necessarily a sign of its hostility towards India but an inadvertent admission of its declining supremacy in the region.

China, once an accepted economic and military juggernaut and the darling of investors the world over, is now facing both economic and strategic challenges which could slow down its progress.

First, China’s economy seems to be shrinking. With industrial activity trending down and interest rate cuts yet to produce results, it’s looking likely that China’s meteoric economic rise may have peaked and, according to a report from the Conference Board, could lead to a 4% GDP growth rate in the future, which is considerably lower than in previous decades. Further problems plaguing China include a debt overhang, a real estate bubble, lack of competition, and an old-world industrial economy instead of a more modern information economy such as that of the U.S.

In addition, India’s economic growth is predicted to outpace China’s by 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund, a fact that doesn’t bode well for China’s dominance of Asia. That’s not to say that China will cease to be an economic power but that it may not be able to exert the same clout on the world stage that it once did.

Another major shift could be in China’s ability to use the specter of its military might to secure favorable trade terms with other nations. That specter, even as it grows, could be undermined by higher defense spending by India and Japan (aided by the U.S.), who are eager to contain China. At the same time, China can’t bank on Russia for support since the latter is facing its own crisis from low oil prices and economic sanctions. This could leave China isolated and weaken its position with trading partners.

Finally, there is the democracy factor. The recent protests in Hong Kong were an indication of the tenuousness of China’s draconian control over its people, and possibly of political upheaval to come.

In economic terms, this means that although China has done a fairly good job of balancing free market principles with state run control, the desire of citizens for democracy could force China to relax regulatory control over businesses, embrace labor reform, and truly open its markets in the not-too-distant future. That’s good news for investors but depends heavily on the reaction of the Chinese government, whose response to pro-democracy forces could be unpredictable and severe. Also, a sudden rise in labor costs due to free market forces could in itself disrupt the economic ecosystem in China, and have a negative impact on both domestic and foreign companies that rely on the labor pool.

Given this context, it becomes easier to understand just why China is nervous about closer ties developing between the world’s two largest democracies, the U.S. and India, and why global investors should be wary of the Chinese economic miracle. For sure, China will continue to be an influential player and has demonstrated resilience in the face of difficulties before, but investors looking to make money from the region should still temper their enthusiasm with a realistic assessment of where the nation is now.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, at hedge fund Ramius Capital, and has an MBA from Columbia Business School.

TIME

This Is Why Your Co-Workers Are Judging You

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Nonconformity could hurt your career

As important as individualism and creativity can be to furthering your career, free spirits should rethink their more unconventional traits in the workplace. New research finds that certain physical attributes and behaviors can unconsciously turn off people who don’t know you well.

According to a forthcoming study in the Journal of Marketing Education, we’re all driven to want to work with people we consider trustworthy. “Trustworthiness is so applicable to people in the workplace… [and] very influential in how people behave toward each other,” says Wayne Neu, associate professor and chair of the marketing department at California State University San Marcos.

Trustworthiness is important enough that when we’re placed in a situation where we don’t know our potential teammates or colleagues personally, we wind up using social cues as a kind of proxy, and that’s when people start getting judgy.

And everybody does it. Neu found that all of his subjects, who were told to pick members of a team they would have to work with, said they used social cues at least some of the time when deciding who to choose for their teams and who to avoid.

In experiments, Neu found that subjects judged their potential teammates’ character and values based on details as small and seemingly insignificant as their clothes, hair and makeup.

“It’s quite interesting that when attributes of hair deviate too far from a context-dependent social norm, [like if] it’s too long — for men — too messy, too different in style, it’s associated with possessing negative personality traits and being untrustworthy,” Neu says. Guys with long hair are perceived as slackers, and obviously dyed or messy hair also can trigger a perception that a person is unprofessional and uncooperative.

Both men and women think less of women who wear a lot of makeup, too. “I found make-up to be quite interesting,” Neu says. “A few men and women explained how wearing what they consider too much makeup initiates a sequence of negative beliefs about personality, values, and trustworthiness.” Basically, a woman wearing “too much” makeup is perceived as a flake who’s more concerned about her looks than her job.

On the other hand, smiling, making eye contact and carrying a day planner or laptop are all considered positive attributes.

Although every corporate culture is different, Neu says generally fitting in is a good rule of thumb. “In a given workplace setting, and in the absence of prior knowledge, if a person deviates too far from the norm… he or she is more likely to be mentally categorized by others as an untrustworthy type,” he says.

TIME leadership

12 Behaviors That Successful Leaders Should Never Tolerate

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Tolerance is a virtue — most of the time

By and large, tolerance is a good trait. The differences we encounter enrich our lives and organizations. But to attain a successful life and meaningful leadership, we must refuse to tolerate the things that deplete, and ultimately destroy, us.

Start by declaring these things intolerable in yourself and those around you—and see what changes as a result.

1. Dishonesty

Living an honest life allows you to be at peace with others and yourself. Dishonesty imposes a false reality on your life and those around you.

2. Boredom

Successful people are generally exploring something new. Life is too short for inactivity and staying in your comfort zone.

3. Mediocrity

It’s easy, and a constant temptation, to settle for less. But what makes some people stand out is their willingness to make the hard choices that allow a life of greatness.

4. Negativity

Every negative thought keeps you from being your best. If you hear yourself complaining, out loud or to yourself, find a way to shut it down.

5. Toxicity

At work or at home, a toxic environment will literally make you sick. If it doesn’t feel right, if it makes you tired or fills you with dread, cut yourself loose.

6. Disorganization

Clutter and disorder cause stress and affect your emotional and mental well-being. Get rid of what you don’t need and keep everything else where it belongs.

7. Unhealthy anything

Unhealthy food, unhealthy relationship, unhealthy habits—choose what you do wisely. Remind yourself that you deserve better, and then give yourself better.

8. Regrets

We all have regrets, but you can’t move toward your future if you’re dwelling on the past. Learn from it, right any wrongs where you can, and leave it behind.

9. Disrespect

Relationships are at the heart of success, and respect is at the heart of good relationships. Disrespect—whatever the form and whomever it’s directed toward—is one of the most destructive forces you can harbor.

10. Distrust

Distrust often arrives through a succession of little compromises here and there, so be watchful. Focus on building your own integrity and surround yourself with others who do the same.

11. Anger

We all feel anger, and in its place it can move you to action. But holding onto anger is paralyzing and accomplishes nothing. Learn to direct anger toward problems, not people, and then get over it.

12. Control

Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Focus your energy where it can do good, and learn to let go of the rest.

Pay attention to the difference between the things that are truly positive in your life and the things you just let happen.

Remember, you are sum of what you tolerate!

TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Body Language Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

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How to make sure you’re always sending the right message to your colleagues

The Muse logo

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

You’ve got a pretty mean poker face. You wouldn’t have made it this far in your career if you hadn’t become the master of stifling an ill-timed laugh or shaping your blank stare into something a little more musing.

But science has shown that’s not enough. Princeton University researchers have demonstrated that we subconsciously rely on body language more than facial expression for identifying emotions. This supports the oft-cited statistic produced by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, noted pioneer of nonverbal communication, that body language accounts for 55% of the messages you communicate.

Maybe you’ve heard a few maxims from HR professionals—“Don’t cross your arms,” or “maintain good eye contact”—but you don’t know exactly why these moves are so important in your work relationships. Well, it’s time you found out!

Here are the six body language moves that can seriously sabotage collaboration—and how to make sure you’re always sending the right message to your colleagues.

1. Pointing Your Feet Away From Others

Dr. Carol Kinsey Gorman suggests that while you’ll usually focus on the face you’re making as well as your upper body, you often ignore your feet—which are often just as telling of your emotional intentions.

You might think that sounds absurd: Who would notice something as trivial as where your feet are pointing? But foot-positioning is a signal that we all register subconsciously in social situations. For example, maybe your body is facing the person you’re talking to, but your feet—or even just one foot—are pointing away from him or her. This is an obvious signal that you’ve already checked out of the conversation.

So, next time you’re trying to look fully engaged, make sure that both of your feet are pointed at the person you’re speaking with.

2. Crossing Your Legs, Arms, or Feet

Unsurprisingly, physically closing yourself off suggests to others that you’re also mentally closed off. Crossed arms, for example, are often perceived as a signal of distance, insecurity, anxiety, defensiveness, or stubbornness.

If you want to encourage open communication and participation, you have to first signal that you’re open and engaged. Standing at the front of a room giving a speech? Focus on your body language and resist the urge to cross your arms or legs while taking questions.

That said, while crossing your arms isn’t good in a group setting, it does have its neurological benefits. Research completed by Ron Friedman and Andrew J. Elliott found that individuals are 30% more likely to stay on a difficult task if their arms are crossed. So, feel free to cross your arms while you think—in the privacy of your own cubicle.

3. Striking a Power Pose

Power posing—or puffing up your chest and stretching out your limbs to make yourself seem larger—is great way to pump yourself up, whether before a job interview or prior to public speaking.

But, doing this in public is equally as likely to stifle collaboration as closing yourself off. Connson Locke and Cameron Anderson recently published a study that showed that leaders who demonstrate a powerful demeanor inadvertently stifle participation. Locke and Anderson found that the more powerful a demeanor the leader displayed, the less likely followers were to participate in joint discussions.

So, if you want to hear what your team thinks, lean in toward others while they’re speaking, especially if you’re seated or at a table, which signals that you’re interested and invested in the conversation. Resist the urge to strike an alpha pose: If Superman would do it, save it for when you’re flying solo.

4. Looking Uninterested (or Too Intently)

Yes, it’s obvious that ignoring people will make them feel, well, ignored. You’d never do that. You may multitask, but—oh wait—yes, reading emails while listening to someone is the same as flat-out ignoring him or her.

The thing is, it just doesn’t look like you’re invested in the conversation. Remember that 55% of communication we talked about earlier? Even if you’re listening, you’re sending the message that you’re not interested. So, put down your laptop, phone, or any other distractions, and make eye contact with your colleagues.

Just don’t go so far as to overdo the eye contact. In a recent study, psychologists Julia Minson and Frances Chen demonstrated that people are less likely to be persuaded to agree with you when you make eye contact—it triggers a primal reaction, and people feel like you’re trying to dominate them. Experts suggest that making eye contact about 60% of the time is optimal.

5. Forgetting to Nod

Nodding is almost universally perceived as a sign of encouragement and acceptance. Robotics researchers seeking to facilitate smooth human-robot interaction have identified head nodding and tilting as essential components of successful dialogue.

If nodding can humanize a robot, imagine what it can do for you!

While leadership experts may advise against nodding (as it detracts from your leonine image), it’s an essential tool for encouraging collaboration. Particularly when asking a shy employee to contribute, nod or tilt your head to establish agreement and encouragement.

6. Failing to Mirror

Limbic synchrony, or “mirroring,” naturally occurs in conversations when you feel connected and engaged. Mirroring is as it sounds—it means reflecting the gestures and postures of the person you’re engaging with. On the flip side, a failure to mirror the body language of your team members subconsciously communicates disengagement and dissent.

For example, if you notice a notoriously hard to engage co-worker is resting his chin in his palm while he listens, you might do the same. Look to see if your teammates are taking notes, or if a potential client uses a lot of hand gestures when she speaks (or none at all). Mirroring these actions will make others feel more comfortable with you.

Additionally, scientists at Stanford University found that “matching” gestures between team members was indicative of increased creativity and problem-solving. Scientists tasked a pair with brainstorming and found that the more a team’s movements were synchronized, the more creative the ideas the pair came up with.

Sometimes, it can feel like you’re just not clicking with your team. Practicing the techniques above can help you be more successful with future collaborations.

More from The Muse:

TIME health

These Are the States Where People Live Longest

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The states with the longest life expectancies have concurrently low mortality rates

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

The United States has a health problem. Across the country, life expectancies routinely fail to meet the standards set by other developed nations. Differences in life expectancy between the United States and other developed nations, such as Switzerland and Japan, are dramatic.

However, some states have closed the gap with these nations. In both Hawaii and Minnesota, a resident born in 2010 could expect to live 81 years on average. In 12 states, the life expectancy at birth was 80 years or more.

The states with the longest life expectancies have concurrently low mortality rates, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Across the United States, the age-adjusted mortality rate was 732.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2012. However, in eight of the states with the highest life expectancies the mortality rate was less than 700 deaths for every 100,000 residents. In Hawaii, the age-adjusted mortality rate was just 586.5 per 100,000, the lowest in the country.

Access to health coverage is among the important factors that promotes good health — and as a result leads to longer lives. In most of the states with the longest life expectancies a far lower percentage of the population was uninsured relative to the nation as a whole. While 14.5% of Americans did not have health care coverage last year, only 3.7% of Massachusetts residents did not. In Hawaii and Vermont the uninsured rates was also less than half the national rate.

However, not all the research is conclusive on the effects of health care coverage on mortality. One 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health stated that a lack of coverage led to nearly 45,000 deaths in the United States a year. However, another 2009 study appearing in Health Services Research argued that “there is little evidence to suggest that extending insurance coverage to all adults would have a large effect on the number of deaths in the United States.”

Poverty, too, can contribute to poor health outcomes. In fact, many states that have relatively high life expectancies also have relatively low poverty rates. New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Hawaii were all among the states with the longest life expectancies, as well as among the five states with the lowest poverty rates.

Some contributors to poor health and the resulting low life expectancies are preventable. Smoking, for instance, was far more prevalent in the states with the lowest life expectancies, as was physical inactivity. By contrast, in many of the healthiest states, people were far more likely to have healthy habits, such as not smoking and being more active.

In order to identify the states with the highest life expectancies at birth in 2010, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the OECD’s 2014 study on regional well-being. Data on age-adjusted mortality rates are from the CDC for 2012. Figures on poverty and health insurance coverage are from the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. Other figures cited are from the 2014 edition of America’s Health Rankings, an annual study from the United Health Foundation.

These are the states where people live longest.

10. Utah
> Life expectancy: 80.2 years
> Obesity rate: 24.1% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (14th lowest)

Utah has one of the highest life expectancies in the United States, at just over 80 years. No state had a lower percentage of adults who smoke. Utah is also the only top state for life expectancy that has not yet committed to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has instead pushed an alternative plan, called Healthy Utah, to provide coverage to disadvantaged residents.

Read more: Cities With the Largest Homes

9. New Jersey
> Life expectancy: 80.3 years (tied-8th highest)
> Obesity rate: 26.3% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (8th lowest)

New Jersey has especially high number of medical professionals. There were more than 143 general practitioners as well as 83 dentists for every 100,000 residents as of the most recently available data. In addition to high numbers of medical professionals, residents were among the least likely Americans to smoke. The effects of a high life expectancy at birth are also reflected in a low age-adjusted death rate, at just 677.6 deaths for every 100,000 people. By comparison, the death rate for all Americans was 732.8 per 100,00 people.

8. New Hampshire
> Life expectancy: 80.3 years (tied-8th highest)
> Obesity rate: 26.7% (16th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 8.7% (the lowest)

Limiting poverty can also improve health outcomes, and no state had a lower poverty rate than New Hampshire. Just 8.7% of the New Hampshire population lived below the poverty line in 2013, versus 15.8% of all Americans. Residents were more likely than most Americans to exercise regularly, and were likely than almost all states to be a victim of a violent crime. Violence has become increasingly recognized as a public health matter in recent decades.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

Read next: 20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health

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TIME Chris Buck

Behind the Cover: How Many People Can Fit Into a Car

TIME asked photographer Chris Buck to pack as many people as possible into a four-seater car

We live in a sharing economy, with companies like Uber and Airbnb dominating the headlines and, for hundreds of thousands of us, our lives. This week, this new economy, worth billions of dollars, is on the cover of TIME.

When photographer Chris Buck was tasked with creating the magazine’s cover, he quickly settled on the idea of pilling as many people as possible into one car. “[This shot] is kind of a comic trope that has existed for a long time,” the Canadian-born, New York-based photographer told TIME. “I usually refer to it as a ‘clown car idea’, because it’s a typical circus thing. I think it’s just clever, [and] it sort of hits that spot that I love where it’s strange but also funny.”

Buck started his research with a simple Google search – “as one would do,” he says. Though many of the pictures out there were heavy of “legs and butts and things like that,” for TIME Buck was looking to create something more photogenic, making a point of having his models look at the camera. And that can take a lot of time.

What appears to be a simple picture – albeit an uncomfortable one for the models involved – took more than six hours to set up. But, Buck says, people knew what they were signing up to when they got on the Brooklyn-based set. “My background is in photographing for advertising and [in photographing] celebrities, and in both cases you really serve the idea,” he says. “I want the shot I want, and I’ll kind of steer things the way I want. You learn that you don’t make interesting by being overtly sensitive to the talent.”

Still, on the set, Buck made sure that his models were as comfortable as possible, both physically and psychologically. “[I told them] if they’re uncomfortable, they’ll tell me. If they’re fine, we’ll keep shooting,” he says. “They were pros, and a lot of the credit goes to the models.”

In the end, all complications aside, Buck’s pictures are united by a single challenge: “Let’s squeeze one more in.”

Chris Buck is a Canadian photographer based in New York. Follow him on Instagram @the_chris_buck

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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