The rise of factory jobs in Bangladesh has brought profound cultural changes to the country — and to the lives of two sisters who made the Planet Money T-shirt.
A passenger train crash in the Bronx early Sunday killed four people and injured at least 60 others. The train's black box recorder has been found. Investigators are looking at why the train seems to have failed to slow down enough to negotiate a curve.
An estimated 300,000 protesters in Kiev, Ukraine are blocking government buildings today in the largest political crisis Ukraine has faced since the 2004 Orange Revolution. Demonstrators are calling for a change of government after President Viktor Yanukovych abruptly ditched a deal for closer ties with the European Union. He says the EU integration pact would hurt ties with Russia.
For a look at the economic underpinnings of the Ukrainian government's eleventh hour decision to nix the deal, Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio talked with the BBC's Andrew Walker. Walker says by refusing to develop even closer ties with the EU -- Ukraine already exports a lot to the European Union -- Ukraine's government may be denying the country "easier access to a very lucrative market."
"There's money to be had from it if Ukraine could boost its exports to what is a much richer part of the world than its neighbors on the other side, on the East -- Russia and so forth," Walker says.
But Ukraine also has close ties with Russia, though not quite on the same magnitude with the EU. Walker says that a possible motivation for Ukraine's actions may be a contentious history with Russia that has at times resulted in Russia denying Ukraine energy imports.
"I think one of the other things at the back of the Ukrainian government's mind is the thought that by being close to Russia, they've got more of a chance of avoiding some of the problems they've had in the past, where Russia has turned off the gas caps," Walker says. "There was a period where it was almost part of the annual routine -- where having a row about gas prices, gay payments between Russia and Ukraine, sometimes leading to supply being interrupted. So, close ties with Russia would reduce the risk of that kind of thing happening in the future."
A new smartphone comes out this week: The YotaPhone -- that’s Yota, with a T -- is a Russian-made Android phone with a second screen on the back. Asking price, about $600. It poses a question: what distinguishes real innovation from a gimmick?
“I guess I’m cautious to say, ‘This is ridiculous,’” says Sarah Kessler, who writes about technology for Fast Company. After all, lots of people said the iPad was a dumb idea with a silly name. “But I guess when I first looked at it, I did not really see why I would need one, no.”
The smartphone market is “kind of a Samsung/Apple game,” says Alexis Madrigal, who covers tech for The Atlantic. Breaking out of the pack to win new customers, he says, “strikes me as really difficult, without something that really wows you in-person, where you go, ‘Oh, I must have this thing, and I’m going to take the chance on a less well-known brand.”
How about the YotaPhone’s second display? “It strikes me as kind of -- middling,” he says.
He agrees, the YotaPhone is no lightsaber. “This is a band-aid of an innovation,” he says.
But just the other day, he had a problem the YotaPhone might have addressed: Getting off the BART train in San Francisco, he ran out of battery. The YotaPhone’s second screen uses e-Ink, like a Kindle, which uses hardly any juice. Maybe a YotaPhone wouldn’t have bricked itself. He could’ve texted the colleague picking him up.
So, would he consider buying one?
“Because I had that experience on BART -- hell, yes, I would.”
So, there’s one potential customer.
Cyber Monday means lots of good deals online for holiday shoppers, but what if you’re back at work today? Turns out a growing number of companies don’t mind if employees try to bag some bargains from behind their desks.
The retail holiday got its name in 2005 from Shop.org (the online arm of the National Retail Federation) when retailers noticed a bump in online sales the Monday after Thanksgiving. At first a lot of companies blocked employees’ access to shopping sites that day. Now, 54 percent of firms allow workers to shop on the clock with IT teams watching for excessive use. That’s up 20 percent from three years ago according to an annual survey.
"Companies have really smartly said it’s okay to get a little personal business done as long as you are still productive on the job," says Kathy Northamer with Robert Half Technology, the IT staffing company that does the survey. "Companies have realized it’s helped them let their workers be more productive because they’re not taking off a whole day to cybershop."
At the Maryland web-consulting firm HindSite Interactive, company president Payman Taei doesn’t mind if staffers shop on Cyber Monday. "It’s one day a year, and you know this is not something that goes on on a daily basis, so why not take advantage of it and let everybody be happy," Taei says. He even tells his staff to tip him off to good deals. Last year he shopped for the company and saved 25 percent on an external hard drive.