The WBFO Business & Economy News Desk is funded by The M&T Charitable Foundation.

A federal judge in Colorado has approved the first class-action lawsuit testing whether private prisons can force detained immigrants to work as “volunteers” for as little as $1 per day. The case centers on an ICE detention facility run by the GEO Group, one of the country’s largest private prison operators, and may turn on whether detainees are considered the same as inmates convicted of crimes.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

How to be a more critical thinker about news

Mar 7, 2017
David Brancaccio and Marketplace staff

Our brain is wired to make snap judgments. And those judgments can be very, very wrong. 

Daniel J. Levitin, a neuroscientist by training and a distinguished faculty fellow at UC Berkeley, said our best defense against being taken advantage of by others is to employ evidence-based thinking. 


We'll look at a Samsung scandal involving one of the company's top executives, who's about to go on trial as part of a larger corruption investigation involving the South Korean government. Afterwards, we'll chat with Slate's Will Oremus about how Twitter's algorithm affects the way we consume news.


We'll look at a new proposal from House Republicans to replace Obamacare; a lawsuit that will test whether detained immigrants can be forced to work as so-called "volunteers"; and the debut of biblically responsible exchange-traded funds. 

Video: "Squirrel!"

Mar 6, 2017

You may have noticed President Donald Trump tweeted this weekend. But try not to get distracted. We're talking about that, a busy week for tech news and Kai's leftover preferences on this week's live video.

Join us every Monday at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Facebook for our weekly editorial meeting. We like to hear what you're thinking about. And if you can't join us live, let us know what's on your mind in the comments section. We're always checking in throughout the day.

Iraqis are relieved to be excluded from new travel ban

Mar 6, 2017
Kai Ryssdal and Robert Garrova

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on international travel today. Unlike the order issued in January, the new order excludes Iraq from the list of restricted countries. BBC correspondent Rami Ruhayem has been reporting from Iraq on the conflict in Mosul.

Jana Kasperkevic

Some communities are already seeing the impact of “A Day Without a Woman,” a strike planned for Wednesday meant to underscore women’s contributions to the economy and society.

School districts in North Carolina and Virginia have announced they will be shutting down for the day due to a potential shortage of teachers. About 76 percent of teachers who taught at U.S. public schools during the 2011-2012 school year were female, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Rockies divide brand loyalties, too

Mar 6, 2017
Annie Baxter

“I grew up in California," says listener Tom Cronin, of Atlanta, "and about five years ago, I moved to Georgia, and I saw a lot of the same logos for ice cream and bread and restaurants, but they had different brand names. They looked like they're exactly the same company, and when you look, they're usually the same parent, but they use different names in the different places. So my question is: Is that for marketing reasons? Is that for regulatory reasons? Why would they do that?” 

Why St. Louis was named a 'judicial hellhole'

Mar 6, 2017
Maria Altman

Johnson & Johnson, the maker of health and beauty products, won a verdict Friday in St. Louis rejecting a plaintiff’s claim that her ovarian cancer was linked to her use of talcum powder. 

But the company lost three similar lawsuits last year with St. Louis juries awarding nearly $200 million in damages.

Amid news that GM is selling its European car brands, Automobile Magazine's Jamie Kitman breaks down what the move could mean for the company's future. Next, we'll look at why cities might not include potential federal cuts in their budget proposals and then discuss the increased preoccupation with politics at the office. 

Trump's new travel order applies to those seeking new visas

Mar 6, 2017
Julie Pace and Jill Colvin/Associated Press

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump's revised travel ban will temporarily halt entry to the U.S. for people from six Muslim-majority nations who are seeking new visas, though allowing those with current visas to travel freely, according to a fact sheet obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

Trump was to sign the new executive order later in the day. The directive aims to address legal issues with the original order, which caused confusion at airports, sparked protests around the country and was ultimately blocked by federal courts.

Cities like New York and San Francisco are facing uncertainty about how to budget for the future. President Donald Trump has said he plans to make drastic budget cuts, and he’s also threatened to withhold federal money from “sanctuary cities.” Are cities running through scenarios where they might not have federal funding?

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US tourism may have taken a hit from Trump's travel ban

Mar 6, 2017

As President Donald Trump revises his original executive order banning people from seven majority-Muslim countries, the tourism industry is hoping he might soften the edges a little. There’s a lot of concern that U.S. tourism took a hit after the first order did not go down so well, making some global visitors feel unwelcome.  

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

It's official. Politics is distracting us at work

Mar 6, 2017
Sam Harnett

You might have noticed that you or your co-workers are spending more time on the job talking or reading about politics. Maybe you're skimming news headlines, debating with colleagues or posting on social media. It's not your imagination. Politics has become a major topic in the workplace.

Kris Duggan said he has never seen his employees so preoccupied with the news. Duggan is the CEO of a BetterWorks, which develops software to manage employee performance.

03/06/17: A plan to improve mental health care

Mar 6, 2017

General Motors is selling its European car business in a $2.3 billion deal. The BBC's Jonty Bloom explains how this deal reshape the auto industry in Europe. Afterwards, we'll look at how President Trump's immigration ban is affecting the U.S. tourism industry, and then explore the ways some regions are coping with a decline in psychiatric hospitals. 


South by Southwest Edu, a conference where educators will get together to reimagine the future of the classroom, kicks off today. Devorah Heitner, author of "Screenwise," joined us to discuss the role of tech in education and how parents can teach their children in the digital age. Also in the world of learning: we'll chat with computing science professor Michael Bowling about why we use games to test artificial intelligence's abilities. 

March Madness at work: the cost of lost productivity

Mar 3, 2017
Mitchell Hartman

In workplaces across America, it’s time for March Madness. Sixty-eight men’s college basketball teams will compete for the National Championship, and tens of millions of fans will fill out “brackets” at work predicting which teams will survive each round and make it to the Final Four.

The tournament kicks off March 14 and diehards are already getting their office pools ready, but this nationwide paroxysm of basketball fandom in the workplace is not cost-free.

Jana Kasperkevic

It was a prank gone good.

After a Craigslist prank falsely advertised 3,000 boxes of free Hot Pockets up for grabs, Nestle — the maker of the microwaveable snack — has said it would donate the advertised amount of boxes to Boston area food banks.  

The ad, which appeared on Craigslist on Wednesday and has since been taken down, read:

“Hi just recently sold my convenience store and I have 3,000 boxes of Hot Pockets and I just don’t want them to go to waste. Please call me and come grab them.”

Community banks divided over Dodd-Frank

Mar 3, 2017
Marielle Segarra

Chris Martin is sitting in his office at the headquarters of Provident Bank, a community bank in New Jersey. There are some paintings and awards on the wall, but otherwise the CEO’s office is sparsely decorated.

“One would say that I’m parsimonious — so that would be that special word for being cheap,” Martin said. “But we’ll spend money to make money.”

What he doesn’t like is spending money complying with the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010.

Blog: A short history of Uber's many scandals

Mar 3, 2017
Tony Wagner

It's been a tough month for Uber.

The super-rich Silicon Valley darling is no stranger to bad PR, but lately Uber's been batting back boycotts, lawsuits and embarrassing leaks all at once. We talked about it on "Make Me Smart," but we can only record so fast. Update (March 20): We just added two new scandals to the list.

'Lower Ed' looks at the controversial role of for-profit colleges

Mar 3, 2017
Lizzie O'Leary and Hayley Hershman

In her new book "Lower Ed," sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom explores the controversial place for-profit colleges have in today's economy. She sat down with Lizzie O'Leary to discuss her book and the problems with for-profit colleges. An edited transcript of the conversation is below.

Video: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to change our privacy settings

Mar 3, 2017

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai intends to roll back rules that require internet providers get customer consent before selling their data. The EPA announced it will not need information about methane from oil and gas well operators. What that means and a whole lot more as we wrap up the Make Me Smart week. 

Make sure to join us Monday, March 6, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time for our weekly editorial video on Facebook Live

Annie Baxter

Costco is increasing its membership fees in June, which will affect about 35 million members. The company’s basic annual memberships will rise by $5, putting them at $60 a year, while executive memberships will increase from $110 to $120 a year.

The announcement follows the release of Costco's fiscal second-quarter earnings report, which fell short of Wall Street expectations.  

03/03/17: What's behind Bitcoin's success?

Mar 3, 2017

Bitcoin closed above the price of gold for the first time. It's seen wild swings in price during it short lifetime, but it's been up as of late. Steve Hanke, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins, breaks down the reasons. Afterwards, we'll explore Trump's decision to pursue one-on-one talks instead of multilateral trade negotiations. And finally, we'll look at the effect of March Madness on workplace productivity.

In England, fewer people own their homes

Mar 3, 2017

The British government released the latest English Housing Survey this week. It found that home ownership in England has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years. It also noted that almost half of all the people in England age 25 to 34 currently rent their home from an individual private landlord. 

Click the above audio player to hear the full story.

Jana Kasperkevic

Just feet away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, David Mendlewicz took the stage in front of about 80 young professionals. Looking over the audience, he asked: “How many of you are managers?”

The majority of people in the room raised their hands.

“How many of you ever received manager training?” Mendlewicz continued. Just three hands remained in the air. Awkward laughter filled the room.

Mendlewicz himself became a manager around the time he was 24. He, too, did not receive management training.

Multilateral trade deals? Trump's just not that into them

Mar 3, 2017
Ashley Milne-Tyte

President Donald Trump has made clear he is not into multilateral trade negotiations. Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He withdrew the U.S. from that agreement, and he says he will conduct these kinds of talks one-on-one from now on, which is quite a change from the past.

For decades, the U.S. has mostly pursued multilateral negotiations. Nora Bensahel, a professor in the School of International Service at American University, said there’s good reason for that.


Costco is raising its membership fees — its first hike since 2011. Marketplace's Annie Baxter explains why retailers are facing tricky times. Next, we'll discuss the reason for low levels of home ownership in England, and then look at how craft brewers feel about Trump's promises on regulation.


2017 hasn't been Uber's year. There have been accusations about sexual harassment from former employees, a lawsuit over intellectual property, and questions about the CEO's temperament. The ridesharing company might need some crisis management. Andy Gilman, the CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, shares how his company helps other companies respond to crises. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Simon Ogus, COO of the website 

Kim Adams

The Trump administration is moving ahead with efforts to build a border wall, even as questions about the financial and physical feasibility of the project remain.  

Beginning next week, the Department of Homeland Security will begin soliciting bids to design and build wall prototypes, and well over 300 businesses have already expressed interest in taking part.