National News

More Muslim Groups Voice Willingness To Combat Extremism In Their Faith

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 23:33

Many leaders are reluctant to say al-Qaida's or ISIS' terrorism has roots in Islam. But some Muslims say the time has come to acknowledge an extremist strain in the religion, and to combat it.

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For Students In Ohio, A Crib Sheet For Interacting With Police

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 23:31

In Akron, Ohio, some students made a reference card designed to improve relations between the community and police. It offers tips on how to behave — and how to report police misconduct.

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Why California's Superbug Outbreak Isn't As Scary As It Seems

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 17:44

The outbreak of drug-thwarting bacteria that contributed to the deaths of two patients at a UCLA hospital isn't likely to spread further, doctors say. Still, drug resistance is trouble nationwide.

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Venezuela Arrests Major Opposition Figure, Claiming Coup Plot

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 16:50

Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma was taken into custody by members of country's intelligence service. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vowed to fight against those who try to destabilize his country.

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Chelsea Soccer Clubs Suspends Three People Over Paris Metro Incident

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 16:04

A video showed fans pushing a black man off a crowded train and then chanting, "we're racist." The club said it may seek to ban those people for life.

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Air Force Reservists Say Effects From Agent Orange Exposure Still Linger

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 16:01

The planes used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam weren't retired from service — they were used by reservists in the U.S. for more than a decade after the war, exposing the crews to harmful chemicals.

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How a humble stray dog helped launch Instagram

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-19 14:49

The first Instagram photograph ever was of a stray dog near a taco stand in Mexico, and is now immortalized on a table in the company's headquarters. 

The company was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger back in 2010, and just before they launched, the pair tested their creation on a trip.

"We were on vacation in Mexico and I decided I wanted to learn how to make filters and we took a picture of a dog at a taco stand," Systrom says. "Had I known it was going to be the first photo on Instagram I would've tried a little harder."

Instagram now has more than 300 million worldwide users who now log on to share photos and videos, but that wasn't initially the app's purpose.

"Someone once described entrepreneurship to me as a series of happy accidents," Systrom says. "Initially we wanted to create a game where you checked in at places and shared where you were. You happened to be able to share a photo, but it turns out all people did was share photos. So like any good entrepreneur we spotted an opportunity and as soon as we wrapped our head around that we realized it could be a really powerful platform for expressing yourself or expressing something about a product or a moment.”

Instagram photos have a unique look, not just because of the filters but because of the shape. How did the company arrive at its now-iconic square shape?

“The pictures are square because they were inspired by medium format photography,” Systrom says. “Back in the day I actually studied photography in Florence for a few months and my photography teacher took away my digital camera and said, ‘no, use this, it’s analog and it’s square.’ It was a Holga camera, a very cheap $3 or $4 plastic camera. And that’s what inspired Instagram.”

So what filter does the founder and CEO of Instagram use more than any other?

“Ludwig, it’s one of the new ones we just added and it’s very subtle and beautiful,” he says. “But the real trick is that I use the creative tools. They’re a little more advanced, but I promise you that if you use them your photos will come out better."

Without casting directors, there are no "Best Actors"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-19 14:45

Actors are usually the ones in the spotlight, but it’s someone’s job to put them in their roles.

Terri Taylor cast the Oscar-nominated “Whiplash,” which is up for five awards. As a casting director, Taylor is ineligible for an Academy Award but she was nominated for the Artios Award from the Casting Society of America.

Taylor starts the casting process by reading the script and consulting with the director. After that, she goes into a casting workshop and starts thinking about actors. She says, “I have a lot of ideas of actors I’ve met in the past that I know very well. I’m incredibly familiar with their work, which is a gigantic part of my job… to educate myself on actors and what work they’re doing.” She also speaks with talent agents and auditions actors for each role.

The budget that a film has will greatly affect the casting process. Whiplash was a low-budget film.

“We made it for $3 million dollars, and it absolutely affects the casting process. I think the truth is that we are limited because of our financial resources when you’re making a low budget movie. Not everybody is interested or can work for what we pay,” says Taylor. “So I think it affects our casting process 100 percent.”

Even though she was working with a small budget, Taylor is proud of how the casting of the film turned out.

“I knew going in that it was a special project… not only was the film making wonderful but the acting across the board was so good, even down to the smallest parts,” says Taylor. “It was just pride. Not only for the work that we had done in our craft in assembling people in every role that could get the job done but for all of those actors, I feel a little bit of a kind of maternal feeling for everybody that we assembled and I was just really really proud.”

Whiplash is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

Without casting directors, there are no "Best Actors"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-19 14:45

Actors are usually the ones in the spotlight, but it’s someone’s job to put them in their roles.

Terri Taylor cast the Oscar-nominated “Whiplash,” which is up for five awards. As a casting director, Taylor is ineligible for an Academy Award but she was nominated for the Artios Award from the Casting Society of America.

Taylor starts the casting process by reading the script and consulting with the director. After that, she goes into a casting workshop and starts thinking about actors. She says, “I have a lot of ideas of actors I’ve met in the past that I know very well. I’m incredibly familiar with their work, which is a gigantic part of my job… to educate myself on actors and what work they’re doing.” She also speaks with talent agents and auditions actors for each role.

The budget that a film has will greatly affect the casting process. Whiplash was a low-budget film.

“We made it for $3 million dollars, and it absolutely affects the casting process. I think the truth is that we are limited because of our financial resources when you’re making a low budget movie. Not everybody is interested or can work for what we pay,” says Taylor. “So I think it affects our casting process 100 percent.”

Even though she was working with a small budget, Taylor is proud of how the casting of the film turned out.

“I knew going in that it was a special project… not only was the film making wonderful but the acting across the board was so good, even down to the smallest parts,” says Taylor. “It was just pride. Not only for the work that we had done in our craft in assembling people in every role that could get the job done but for all of those actors, I feel a little bit of a kind of maternal feeling for everybody that we assembled and I was just really really proud.”

Whiplash is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

Same-Sex Couple Gets Married In Texas, After Judge Defies Gay Marriage Ban

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 14:23

The couple acted quickly on the judge's order, getting a license, and having a ceremony, but the Texas attorney general said the marriage was "void."

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As Oil Prices Tank, Firms Large And Small Feel The Pain

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 14:06

Oil companies are laying off thousands of workers, and firms that provide services to support the industry — from drilling to seismic surveys — have been told they must slash costs to keep working.

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Nutrition Panel: Egg With Coffee Is A-OK, But Skip The Side Of Bacon

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 13:40

A panel of top nutrition experts is recommending that Americans adopt a more plant-based diet and eat less meat and sugar. It also found that most people are not consuming too much cholesterol.

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Will The Next 'MacGyver' Be An Indian Woman?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 13:21

Sharpen your Swiss Army knives and grab an extra roll of duct tape because Mac may be coming back. The creators are looking to the fans to design the new show. And there's one big twist.

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After His Speech On Race And Police, Complicated Feelings In Comey's Hometown

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 13:04

FBI Director James Comey was praised for addressing tensions between cops and minorities last week. But in Yonkers, N.Y., some wish he had noted that community's own fraught history with its police.

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Oscars Voter Says Selma Cast's 'I Can't Breathe' Tees Were 'Offensive'

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 12:20

"If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male," she also says, "I don't think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were."

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NASCAR Enters New Season After Shifting Gears To Bump Viewership

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 12:05

Though admissions lagged behind pre-recession levels and stadium seats are being torn out, 2014's new playoff model and speedway brawls made for one of the most thrilling seasons in the past decade.

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A Biological Quest Leads To A New Kind Of Breast Cancer Drug

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 12:05

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug that thwarts some enzymes breast cancer cells use to evade treatment with estrogen-blocking drugs.

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Saudis Grow Increasing Critical Of The Campaign Against ISIS

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 11:48

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the ex-Saudi intelligence chief, says the 'pinprick' attacks against the Islamic State are not proving effective. He also says the campaign needs to be better coordinated.

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U.S., Turkey Reach Agreement To Train, Equip Some Syrian Rebels

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 11:15

A defense official tells NPR that the rebels will be vetted and screened under top secret protocols. Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will also be part of the effort.

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The "side business" phenomenon in Nigeria

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-02-19 11:01

"You’re supposed to hold something."

"Hold what?" I reply naively.

"A sample, you're supposed to hold a sample of what you're selling."

Amaka was wondering what a reporter holding a microphone was doing hanging around Onitsha Main Market, neither buying nor selling. She looked at me with pity, as if to say, "if you don't even know about samples, you have a lot learn."  I had been at the market for less than five minutes, and someone was already trying to get the measure of what my business was about.

There's plenty to learn about Nigeria from Onitsha in Anambra State, which sits just on the banks of the River Niger in the southeast. Something like three million people flock here everyday, and some call it the biggest market in the world. They come from across the region, to buy everything from high end mobile phones to low tech plastic containers.

Everything is for sale, every price to be haggled, and everyone is involved. Take the market and replicate the buying and selling across millions of homes and offices across Nigeria.

Every Nigerian is familiar with the concept of the side hustle - a business on the side. This is a country where everyone has a start up in their front room, including my mother. I'll never forget coming home from school to find the entire living and dining area stacked floor to ceiling with cartons of sunflower oil for sale. And it was my grandmother who'd taught my mum that if you were lucky enough to have a salaried job, that was just pocket money. The real money came from your five to nine.

On the surface, Nigeria may not seem like a country that can teach the world much about how to do business. Elections have been postponed because of the insurgency raging in the northeast. Corruption is still a huge problem. Government revenues depend on the oil and gas industry, which benefits the few.

But Onitsha shows that the Nigerian economy is finding other lubricants.

Innocent Chukwuma is a very successful businessman. He owns five different manufacturing companies around the South East, and is very optimistic about Nigeria’s future. And looking out over his sprawling complex just down the road in Enugu, it’s easy to see why. The government gave him land to expand his business; I reckon he's the largest private sector employer in Enugu state. 4300 people work at the plastics plant we visited.

"In Africa today anyone who can invest in manufacturing in a short time you'll make money as you want," says Innocent, who's softly spoken and understated.

 In the time that we talk, he signs more than twenty checks and banks transfer orders worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Innocent started small. He was a spare parts trader in his native Nnewi. he had graduated from turning his brother's spare parts side business to establishing his own import venture. As the prices of motorcycles coming in from Japan increased in the 1980s, he noticed something about the way they were shipped. They were coming in by barge in containers. And being a spare parts trader he recognized that a motorcycle is made up of individual parts. And so, he thought, if he imported the motorcycle in pieces it would take up a lot less space in the shipping container. And he was right. At the time importers could fit about 40 pre-assembled motorcycles in a single shipping container. But as individual parts, Innocent could fit more than 200 motorcycles in each container. Innocent now had a significant advantage over his competitors; he could sell his motorcycles for much less.

Another advantage he had over his competitors was the cost of labor in Nigeria being relatively cheap. A factory worker in Nigeria would earn around $500 a month. He explains, "when I brought the first one I called the local people, and gave them small training, they assembled it perfectly and the price was cheaper."

Much cheaper in fact, "When they are selling for about 150,000 [naira] for one motorcycle I sold my own for 80,000."

Innocent's bikes were nearly half the price of his competitors. He sold three containers worth of motorcycles in about three months.

"So I went back and brought about 10 containers, and the 10 containers took me about one month to finish."

By the time he had the process down he was buying 200 containers. But Innocent's advantage didn’t last forever, soon everyone was copying his strategy.

"Back then the price crashed to 60,000 but when I saw that the price had come down and then everybody was doing it. That’s why I build this plastic plant."

Motorcycles were just the beginning for Innocent. He had another realization, that he could manufacture some of the motorcycle parts himself. Specifically the plastic parts.

Innocent now makes all kinds of products. His motorcycle business has expanded to cars and buses. His plastics plants now manufacture tables, chairs, water drums, plates, boxes for electricity meters, and much else. And he believes anyone can follow his lead in Africa, which he refers to as a virgin place for entrepreneurs.

Innocent's optimism is infectious. It's easy to get swept up in the euphoria of success. But business in Nigeria is not easy.

Back in Onitsha market it's also a microcosm of the obstacles entrepreneurs face every day. The day I was there the traders were protesting against a new levy. The trade association decided to charge for a cctv system, which the traders said the state governor had given them for free. It’s the sort of surprise cost that wrecks a business plan.

But corruption is not even the biggest problem in Nigeria. Other countries have thrived despite corruption, and Nigeria shouldn't be different.

The lights go out constantly, and nobody bats an eyelid or feigns surprise. Everyone just carries on. Nigeria may be Africa’s biggest oil exporter. But according to one estimate it generates only enough electricity to power a single toaster for every 44 people.

People make do with diesel generators. Which are costly. And that even applies to big factories. Innocent  showed me his electricity bill for the plastics plant, 40 million naira a month, "I spend 60 million on diesel every month."

He also proudly showed off his collection of secondhand old generators, which he said were built stronger in the past than now.

For Innocent,  the high cost of energy is a necessary part of doing business in Nigeria. But it puts a real brake on what entrepreneurs can achieve. A recent privatization of the national power company offers hope for the future. But for now it takes the shine off Nigeria as a place to do business.

The people I met but they are not put off by these obstacles. If you walk into some shops in Nigeria, there's a sign which reads, "no credit today, come back tomorrow." If you keep waiting for the perfect conditions in which to do business, you'll never make it.

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