National / International News

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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The farmer's son who filmed a snow leopard

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 12:12
How a farmer's son filmed the elusive snow leopard

Hillary Clinton's grandmother gambit

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 12:10
Hillary Clinton's "#grandmothersKnowBest" tweet has rekindled speculation that she will highlight on her grandmotherly attributes in a campaign. What could be a clever attempt to soften her image isn't without risks, however.

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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BSC Young Boys 1-4 Everton

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 11:21
Romelu Lukaku scores his first Everton hat-trick to put the Toffees in control of their Europa League tie against Young Boys.

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.

France PM wins confidence vote

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 11:00
France's Socialist government survives a parliamentary confidence vote over a controversial set of free market economic reforms.

British Fighter Jets Escort Russian Bombers Away From Coast Of U.K.

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:58

British Typhoon warplanes were scrambled after Russian military aircraft skirted England. The incident comes after the U.K. criticized Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

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GB women lose team pursuit title

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:47
Great Britain's women are beaten as Australia set a new world record in the Track World Championships team pursuit final.

2 Major Cyclones Are Lashing 2 Parts Of Australia

NPR News - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:43

Cyclone Lam came ashore as a Category 4 storm and Marcia is expected to make landfall as a Category 5 storm with wind gusts of up to 177 mph.

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VIDEO: Egyptian bronze cat found in bin

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:25
A 2,500-year-old bronze cat bust has been found in a bin in Penzance, Cornwall.

Roche signs for US women's club

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:18
Fifa Puskas Award runner-up Stephanie Roche agrees a two-year deal with US Women's Soccer League club Houston Dash.

Chelsea suspends Paris Metro trio

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:16
Chelsea Football Club suspends three people from its ground after fans of the club appeared to stop a black man from boarding a Paris Metro train.

Hamilton withdraws & Wolff crashes

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 10:09
Williams test driver Susie Wolff and Sauber's Felipe Nasr crash at pre-season testing, while ill Lewis Hamilton withdraws.

Doubt over 'cannibal seal' theory

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 09:58
The National Trust urges caution over a report suggesting cannibalistic seals may be to blame for a spate of seal pup deaths in Norfolk.

VIDEO: Germany rejects Greek loan request

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 09:58
Germany rejects a request by Greece for an extension to its EU loan programme, despite earlier signs that a compromise was possible.

Kasabian to headline T in the Park

BBC - Thu, 2015-02-19 09:56
Kasabian, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and The Libertines are revealed as the T in the Park headliners.

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