National News

Miner vs Miner: A different kind of mineral conflict

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 02:00

Biyamungu Ngalikyana, in his mid twenties, sports shiny white rubber boots and a mining helmet as he walks down a dirt road in the mining town of Luhwindja in South Kivu, DRC. A former Mai Mai rebel fighter, he now digs for gold hundreds of feet beneath the surface. He’s what’s known as an ‘artisinal miner,' which means he’s just a regular person with hand tools, as opposed to a mechanized industrial outfit.

Mining in Eastern DRC has, over the past two decades, become an important source of revenue for individuals and towns during periods of insecurity and war. There are an estimated half million artisanal miners in Congo. At Luhwindja, 6,000 people in this town depend on the gold in the hills.

Perhaps not for much longer.

“Banro comes and tells us to leave fairly regularly,” says Ngalikyana. 

Banro is an industrial mining company that has held concession rights to this land for decades. 

“These miners are a handicap,” says Maitre Crispin Mutwedu, in charge of stakeholder relations for Banro. “The law that says no [outside] miner is allowed to work inside these areas covered by the concession, and yet every time we show up at a place, we find we were beat to it by several years by artisanal miners.” 

The Democratic Republic of Congo has granted thousands of mining concessions to industrial mining companies over the years. Industrial mines, when they can operate in conflict free areas, can prevent minerals from seeping into the black market or funding armed groups. They also provide tax revenue or infrastructure construction services. 

They do not, however, come close to providing the kind of employment that less efficient hand-mining provides to communities. And in regions that have been courting war for decades, unemployment can have dire consequences.

“I’m not leaving,” says Ngalikyana. “There’s nowhere else to go, there’s no work. If I end up in the street, I”ll go back to the bush and start robbing people again, and maybe I’ll rob Banro.”

These risks are not lost on Mr. Mutwedu with Banro.

“These people who are here, these are people who we have to take seriously. Because if you don’t, and if they’re out of work, you will be too,” he says.

More than most mining companies, Banro has engaged with communities to determine compensation packages or the possibility of relocating to ‘artisinal zones’ set aside elsewhere. 

Valentin Lubala, president of the miners association at a mine called Mukwunge (also in the Banro concession), is frank about the reality: “We understand the site belongs to them. We negotiated, and Banro said they’d give us some time, and the government could help us relocate.”

“The problem comes from the regional government,” he says. 

Technically, it’s not legal to share a concession with artisanal miners, and the regional minister of mines, Adalbert Murhi, has refused to sign off on their agreement. 

A group of NGO’s in South Kivu has accused him of mismanagement and corruption, charges which he firmly denies. 

Meanwhile, groups are trying to convince the government to alter the law or be more flexible. For the moment, it’s easier to find gold than solutions.

Google News shuts down in Spain

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 02:00
3.5 million visitors

That's how many visitors Google News in Spain receives per month. Google announced it would be shutting down Google News in Spain in response to a new law that would charge the news service every time content from Spanish newspapers and publishers appeared.


The total mentions of waterboarding, and other interrogation methods involving water or temperature in the Senate's long-anticipated CIA torture report. The Washington Post published a graphic letting users explore all instances of "enhanced interrogation" described in the report. Or, if you'd prefer, here's a visualization of the report's redactions.

$4.5 billion

That's how much Lending Club, the leading online-lending-marketplace, could be valued at after its IPO on Thursday. It will be the first among several fast-growing financial startups expected to go public in the peer-to-peer (P2P) lending industry.

300 million users

Instagram passed that benchmark Wednesday, edging out Twitter getting that much closer to Mark Zuckerberg's billion-user gold standard. Comparing social networks isn't a perfect science, but Re/Code has a look at how active users compare across services. 

A graph of Active Users on the top social networks.

Re/code 42.9 million

That's how many Americans have unpaid medical bills according to the findings of a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's nearly 20% of consumers.

$634 million

Universal's cash flow for the first nine months of 2014, putting the studio on track for its most profitable year ever. What's notable is that Universal did it without a big summer tent pole, Forbes reported. Their film slate, which is nearly complete, was full of projects with modest budgets. There weren't any earth-shattering successes or flops, but lots of return on investment.

Lending Club goes public

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 02:00

Lending Club—the leading online-lending-marketplace, based in San Francisco—goes public on Thursday. The IPO will be the first among several fast-growing financial startups expected to go public in the peer-to-peer (P2P) lending industry, and could raise $800 million or more for the company, giving it a total market value of in the range of $4.5 billion.

Lending Club matches individuals and businesses that want to borrow with lenders—mostly hedge funds, wealth managers and institutional investors. Borrowers pay interest rates ranging from 7.6 percent to 24.9 percent, based on their credit-worthiness, according to Lending Club’s website. Lenders on the site, meanwhile, can realize attractive net returns, in the 7 percent to 9 percent range.

Loan applications and underwriting are done online, cutting some of the cost and hassle of borrowing from a regular bank. That could help P2P lenders disrupt the established banking business and grab market share.

Talking Point Or Proof Of Value: CIA Tactics And The 'Second Wave' Plot

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:55

The CIA and its defenders disagree with the Senate Intelligence Committee report on whether enhanced interrogations prevented a group of 17 Pakistanis from attacking the U.S. just after Sept. 11.

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ISIS Used Predatory Tools And Tactics To Convince U.S. Teens To Join

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:55

It began with messages sent through an anonymous app. Slowly, the Denver-area girls were lured in, until one day they weren't at school. One girl's dad quickly realized why: They were flying to Syria.

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NFL Owners OK Stiffer Penalties For Domestic Violence, Other Crimes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:55

Any NFL player involved in an assault or in domestic or sexual violence would be suspended for at least six games under rules approved Wednesday. The players' union is reviewing the updates.

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First The Protest, Then The Storm: Bay Area's 5 Straight Nights Of Clashes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:55

Oakland and Berkeley demonstrators have broken into stores and blocked freeways and rail lines, part of a movement born of frustration about police shootings in Staten Island, N.Y., and Ferguson, Mo.

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Police Finish Dismantling Hong Kong Protest Sites

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:55

The main camp, which had stood for more than two months, was the center of the city's pro-democracy demonstrations.

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Congressional Plan To Fund Military Comes With A Side Of 'Land Grab'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:55

Material tacked onto the authorization bill adds 250,000 acres of new wilderness, expands national parks, and moves toward a national women's history museum. 'Ethically, it stinks,' says Sen. Coburn.

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10 of the most expensive TV shows ever made

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-11 00:12

Netflix's newest series, “Marco Polo,” will cost $90 million for a 10-episode season, making it one of the priciest TV shows ever ... pretty steep for a show that won't actually air on TV.

How did TV shows become so expensive? 

In honor of "Marco Polo's" premiere, here is a list of some of the most expensive TV shows ever made. 

10. Terra Nova (2011): $4 million per episode


“Terra Nova” was an ambitious flop, and proof that a big budget does not necessarily equal commercial success. Despite a pilot that reportedly cost at least $10 million, Fox cancelled the sci-fi epic after a few weeks.

9. Deadwood (2004-06): $4.5 million per episode

(Warning: An obscenity is uttered at the end of the trailer)

“Deadwood” is a western that aired on HBO for three seasons. Between horses, wagons, livestock coordinators and a large ensemble cast, the show was gorgeous to look at, but as with many other HBO shows, that quality came at a price.

8. True Blood (2008-14): $5 million per episode



Sure, vampires are trendy and oh-so pretty, but in this case they also come with a hefty price tag. “True Blood” is one more example of HBO 's willingness to shell out to create good-looking television. Unlike other high-budget HBO shows that aired for for only two or three seasons, “True Blood” got seven thanks to a vocal committed fan base.

7. Boardwalk Empire (2010-14): $5 million per episode


At about $5 million per-episode, “Boardwalk Empire” is an expensive production – but the most staggering number is the nearly $20 million it took to make the pilot. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the show built a $5 million, 300-foot-long boardwalk to re-create Atlantic City in the '20s.

6. Game of Thrones (2011-present): $6 million per episode


HBO, again: “Game of Thrones” premiered on the network in 2011, and is currently one of the most popular shows on television. It made headlines when $8 million was spent on one particularly epic second-season episode – it cost $2 million more than the average "Thrones" episode. (By comparison, an average cable show costs $2 million per episode.)

5. Camelot (2011): $7 million per episode (Starz)

It was received moderately well by audiences, but “Camelot” was not the success the Starz network hoped for. One problem: It had the misfortune of premiering around the same time as “Game of Thrones,” which would win the battle of the period dramas. “Camelot” was cancelled after one season. 

4. Rome (2005-07): $9 million per episode

The two-season historical drama had all the elements of an expensive production: Elaborate sets and costumes, overseas locations and a large cast. Series creator Bruno Heller has laid claim to being a pioneer, saying that “Rome” paved the way for other big-budget dramas like “Game of Thrones."

3. Marco Polo (2014-present): $9 million per episode

“Rome” also may have paved the way for the new show, “Marco Polo." The Netflix show, premiering on Dec. 12, has many of the trappings of other recent high-budget shows: It is a historically based drama filmed overseas in Italy and Kazakhstan, and produced in Malaysia.

2. Friends (1994-2004): $10 million per episode (season 10)

(Getty Images/Handout)

Over the course of 10 seasons, “Friends” became a cultural icon, a huge commercial success and produced no shortage of awkward cast photos. By the final season, the six co-stars each made $1 million per episode, a major reason the otherwise low-budget sitcom ended up near the top of this list. 

1. ER (1994-2009): $13 million per episode (at its peak)

(Getty Images/Handout)

“ER,” like "Friends,” was not always so pricey. But after re-negotiations in 1998, NBC agreed to pay Warner Brothers $13 million per episode. One TV producer called the deal “the half-a-billion-dollar blunder,” since the show cost the network $440 million over a two year period – but the "blunder" had staying power. "ER" ran until 2009, ending after 15 seasons and 331 episodes. Some might say the money was worth it just so George Clooney's million-dollar eyes could seduce the camera. Do you see it?

(Getty Images/Handout)

Yup, there he is.

(Note: Dollar amounts have not been adjusted for inflation.)

Here's Why Retailers Keep Sending You Catalogs

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 23:54

While other things made with paper have become obsolete, Americans received nearly 12 billion catalogs in the mail last year — and they love them, says one business consultant.

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'People Are Going To Rebel': Slow Pace Of Rebuilding Frustrates Gazans

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 23:52

Three months after the war between Israel and Hamas ended, reconstruction has barely started. Many people still live in half-bombed houses. But there are a few bright spots and a bit of innovation.

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Women's Work Is Never Done On The Farm, And Sometimes Never Counted

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 23:51

The percentage of female farmers is climbing — slowly, according to federal figures. But those numbers don't take into account the many new roles women are filling on multigenerational family farms.

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A Toilet No More: NBA Team Changes Arena Plan After Jokes Swirl In

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 17:20

The Golden State Warriors have revised their new arena's design, after critics said that from overhead, at least, the building looked just like a toilet with the seat and lid down.

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Gun Rights Outweigh Gun Control In New Pew Survey

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-10 15:57

For the first time in at least 20 years, significantly more Americans say it's more important to protect the right to own guns than to control gun ownership, according to a Pew survey.

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