July 20, 2014

 

In early June, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed a bill into law that will raise the city’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour. At more than double the federal level, Seattle’s new wage floor will become the highest in the country once it is fully implemented. Large businesses have until 2017 to reach the $15 mark while small businesses can wait as late as 2021. In both cases, wages will be slowly raised in the intervening years to make the process Continue reading

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July 11, 2014

 

A few years ago, a rash of employee suicides at Foxconn Technology prompted investigations into the working conditions at the Chinese manufacturing giant. As the maker of such in-demand items as the iPad and Hewlett-Packard servers, Foxconn employs tens of thousands of people who work long shifts and live on-site. The monotonous work and the dorm-like living quarters can make for a grey life on the Foxconn campus, leading to depression and worse.

Foxconn responded to this bleak state Continue reading

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Cigarettes kill more than 5.4 million people each year, a 30 percent increase over the past two decades. Although cigarette use has generally fallen in the U.S., increased use in Asia and Eastern Europe has ensured that the tobacco industry is bigger than ever. Innovation has also hit the cigarette business in the form of e-cigarettes, electronic devices that heat up liquid nicotine to a vapor that is then inhaled.

Like everything related to tobacco, e-cigarettes have been controversial since Continue reading

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Most state laws designate marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic that is illegal to possess, sell or consume, barring medical reasons in some states. But last year voters in Colorado and Washington elected to legalize the drug following years of lax medical cannabis legislation. While Washington lawmakers are spending a year drafting regulations for retail sale, Colorado’s legal dispensaries opened to customers aged 21 and over on January 1, 2014. Nevertheless, the Rocky Mountain State’s marijuana growers have a Continue reading

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Over the last few years, brick and mortar retailers have come up with some ingenious ways to gather data about the customers who walk into their stores. We’ve taken a look at some of them in past posts on this blog, including one story about “smart” mannequins that observe consumer patterns using cameras in the dummies’ eyes. Although that may skew a bit on the creepy side, it’s important to keep in mind that physical retailers are merely trying to Continue reading

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Like all coveted consumer items, smartphones are a prime target for theft. As the devices have become increasingly common, so have reports of muggings and break-ins involving the gadgets. According to Consumer Reports, more than 1.6 million Americans had their smartphones stolen in 2012. Meanwhile, smartphone thefts accounted for more than 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of thefts in the neighboring city of Oakland.

The uptick in gadget-related larceny has led to an outcry among Continue reading

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Smartphones have granted people unprecedented access to information, but many users don’t realize they’re giving away just as much access to themselves simply by using the devices. As we’ve previously discussed, retailers and search engines compile loads of data gathered from users’ browsing habits. And if these legitimate operations can easily obtain this info, then it stands to reason that people with more nefarious intentions can find a way into your data as well.

However, many hackers these days Continue reading

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April 24, 2014

 

The “Happiest Place on Earth” may also be one of the priciest: last year Walt Disney increased the cost of a one-day pass for its Magic Kingdom theme park to $99. The $4 uptick came just eight months after Disney’s previous price hike, but customers don’t appear to mind. In 2013 theme park income rose by 17 percent to $2.2 billion as crowds continued to pack the company’s $14.1 billion entertainment empire.

It’s possible that the lofty costs required Continue reading

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April 7, 2014

Over the years, thousands of brands have established pages on Facebook in order to reach the social network’s hundreds of millions of users. Although companies can purchase banner ads or sponsor certain posts, many prefer to use the service’s free features to reach consumers organically. But as Facebook becomes stuffed with content, fewer and fewer posts pop up in a user’s feed. In October 2013, just 12 percent of a page’s content reached people who had “liked” that page. By Continue reading

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March 26, 2014

For many people, learning a second language is often a necessary step to take in order to climb up the career ladder. Of the 1.2 billion people across the world currently learning a foreign language, more than 800 million are studying English to get a better job. But language learning is such a time-consuming and expensive enterprise that many people are forced to end their instruction before reaching fluency. Even alternatives to personal tutoring, such as the popular software line Continue reading

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