National / International News

Settlers of Catan: Green Bay Edition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00
7 percent

More news from big banks: Goldman Sachs reported on Friday a 7 percent decrease in profits in the fourth quarter. As reported by the New York Times, today's latest report joins disappointing results from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup.

600 jobs

The drop in price of crude oil isn't just a big, global story — It hits local industry, too. Take Lorain, Ohio, for example, where the steel mill says it will have to get rid of 600 jobs — nearly every employee — as demand for steel for drilling and shale exploration has dropped significantly. 

2 sand mines

When officials in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, tried to set limits on new sand mines, mining companies looked closely at how local government is structured in rural Wisconsin and got creative. Sand mining has turned parts of rural Wisconsin inside out thanks to fracking for oil and gas. Since the county only regulates mining in unincorporated areas, mining companies went to some of the cities of Trempealeau County and asked to be annexed — Cities like Independence, population 1,363, which is now home to two sand mines.

19 oscar nominations

Well, now she's just showing off. With this year's oscar nominations, Meryl Streep has a total of 19 career oscar nominations. Check out our breakdown of the numbers behind the golden statue.


Et tu, glitter? $9.99 is how much it will cost you to send an envelope of glitter to your enemies via Australian startup But you already knew that, didn't you? So why not show your tech savvy over at Silicon Tally, our weekly quiz on the week in tech news.

10 points

That's how many points a player needs to gather in order to win a game of Settlers of Catan. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who apparently are huge fans.

Frac sand companies get creative with local politics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

When officials in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, tried to set limits on new sand mines, mining companies looked closely at how local government is structured in rural Wisconsin and got creative.

Sand mining has turned parts of rural Wisconsin inside out thanks to fracking for oil and gas. Fracking consumes 100 billion pounds of sand a year, and sand from a few midwestern states is highly prized.

Trempealeau has more mines than any other county, and in mid-2013, the Trempealeau County board declared a year-long moratorium on new mining permits.

However, the county only regulates mining in unincorporated areas. So mining companies went to some of the cities of Trempealeau County and asked to be annexed.

Like the City of Independence, population 1,363, now home to two sand mines.

At City Hall, Mayor Ottie Baekcer says Independence needed a shot in the arm: “And as you see, there’s not people standing outside that door, trying to bring a GM factory in here.”

Sometimes there’s cash upfront. One company offered $1.5 million to the City of Blair — population 1,379, plus two mines — if the city annexed another site.

Cities like Blair and Independence also offer more-permissive rules for mines than the county. “We let them work 24 hours, ‘round the clock, you see, where the county don’t,” says Blair’s mayor, Ardell Knutson. Rules around noise can also be less strict.        

With annexations, more than half a dozen different ordinances now regulate sand-mining in the county.

“It’s chaos,” says Jack Speerstra, who represents a third layer of local government: townships that provide services to rural parts of the county. Land getting annexed into a city like Independence comes out of a township like Lincoln, where Speerstra is the board chair.

When his constituents have problems — with noise or light from mines that become their neighbors on newly-annexed city land — they get caught in the middle of the chaos that Speerstra talks about. “They call the county, and the county says it’s in the city jurisdiction,” he says. “Who do you call?”

Lincoln and another town are suing Independence to prevent one proposed annexation. The mine site is far from the city limit, connected by a strip of other parcels. Wisconsin courts have ruled against “balloon-on-a-string” annexations before.

Meanwhile, Speerstra has a dairy farm to run. He takes a stipend of $400 a month to serve as town chair.

When aked if it is usually in his job description to negotiate with publicly-traded companies, he chuckles.

“No,” he says. “I’ve done this for 25 years. And in the first in the first 25 years, I probably had contact with an attorneys once every 4 or 5 years at the most.”

Now, he talks to lawyers three, four, five times a week.

Meanwhile, mining companies have also looked for allies going up the chain of government in the state capitol. Proposed legislation in 2013 would have given the state exclusive authority over mining permits; cutting local governments out of the process. That proposal died the first time out, but one senator has said he plans to float it again soon.

Netflix becomes a movie studio

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

In a major first for Hollywood this year, Netflix will release a big-budget movie which it financed both in theaters, and on its streaming service at the same time.

The streaming service signed a four-film deal with Adam Sandler's production company last year, and will release one of his films later this year (the exact date hasn't been announced). It's also financing a sequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which will be released in theaters and Netflix on August 28.

The moves into the film producing business are part of an effort at Netflix to change how films are distributed.

"The current distibution model for movies is pretty antiquated," Ted Sarandos, chief of Netflix's original content, said during MIPCOM, a television industry trade conference last year.

You can watch Sarandos' entire keynote interview below: 

It can take a year for a Hollywood movie to go from theaters to Netflix - part of a system set in place decades ago in which a film is released in 'windows': first in theaters, then in other formats such as DVD, video-on-demand and streaming.

"So, what we wanted to do is accelerate the model by putting our money where our mouth is a little bit," says Sarandos, "And say we'll release movies in theaters and on Netflix. And, we'll fund the movies to make it work."

"That's completely different and sort of upends the old economic model," says Chris McGurk, chief of Cinedigm, a digital content distributor, who used to be an executive at multiple Hollywood studios including Disney, Universal and MGM.

In recent years, some smaller-budget independent films have upended that model and been released in digital formats first or at the same time as in cinemas, but "now you're talking about major motion pictures," says McGurk, "with multi-tens of millions of dollars budgets, with top-line hollywood talent. And that is pretty much unheard of."

McGurk says Netflix's 50 million subscribers give it the best chance so far to make money on a major digital-first film.

A disappearing industry in Lorain, Ohio

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

On Friday, the International Energy Agency predicted that non-OPEC oil producers will slow the growth of their production this year. There's also news the oil services company Schlumberger will cut 9,000 jobs.

To get some perspective on what this means at a local level, just look at the town of Lorain, Ohio, west of Cleveland. Once economically distressed, jobs poured in at the U.S. steel plant in Lorain to make pipes for domestic shale oil production. Now, crude oil is trading at less than half the price it was in June, and Lorain's mayor, Chase Ritenauer, is seeing the effects.

Says Ritenauer, "U.S. Steel, what they do is driven by the price of crude oil. As crude oil prices have gone down, the demand from their customers for the steel, for the drilling, for the shale exploration, has gone down." Now, there's word that 600 workers at Lorain's steel plant, nearly everyone, will lose their jobs.

"It illustrates the global economy, and how the global economy can impact Lorain, Ohio pretty dramatically," says Ritenauer.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Silicon Tally: Et tu, glitter?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-01-16 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by science reporter Flora Lichtman, host of the forthcoming podcast on climate change entitled "The Adaptors".

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Possible Ebola case flown to UK

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:56
An Australian nurse who has been working at an Ebola treatment centre Sierra Leone has been transferred to the UK after potential contact with Ebola.

Caravaggio case lost in court

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:52
The former owner of a disputed Caravaggio has lost his battle for compensation from a London auction house.

Redknapp laughs off sack rumours

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:50
QPR boss Harry Redknapp laughs off rumours he is facing the sack but admits any decision is out of his hands.

Man remanded over Tesco murder bid

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:45
A 25-year-old man appears before magistrates charged with attempted murder at a Tesco supermarket in Flintshire.

VIDEO: 'I lost £6,000 in betting in one day'

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:35
The first in a series of reports on the Smith Commission looks at the new power the Scottish Parliament could have over fixed odds betting terminals.

Worst A&E waiting times since 2009

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:31
The number of people waiting more than four hours to be seen at A&E units in Wales rises to the highest level since October 2009.

VIDEO: Rhinos flee from Israel's safari zoo

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:28
Three female rhinos escaped from Israel's safari zoo after one of the security guards fell asleep by an open side gate.

Chad to join Boko Haram campaign

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:22
Cameroon says Chad will send a large contingent of troops to help it fight incursions from the Nigeria-based militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.

What does Beagle2 say about how we handle failure?

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:20
David Shukman looks at the lessons of Beagle2 for how we handle failure.

Inquiry into Scottish milk crisis

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:16
An urgent inquiry into the milk pricing crisis is launched by the Scottish Parliament's rural affairs committee.

Search under way for missing student

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:13
A search is under way for a Durham University student missing following a night out in the city.

Released From Prison After 22 Years, But Still 'Locked Up'

NPR News - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:10

Before Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn left office, he granted clemency for Tyrone Hood, who had served more than two decades for a murder Hood says he did not commit. Now Hood is fighting to clear his name.

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Ethiopia 'terror plotters' jailed

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:08
Two British citizens and a Somali man are jailed in Ethiopia for trying to establish an Islamic state, a radio affiliated to the government reports.

‘Keep Falcao; no new deal for RVP’

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:02
Robbie Savage on which of the 18 Manchester United first-team players near the end of their deals should stay - and who should be let go

BBC & FA launch 5-a-side competition

BBC - Fri, 2015-01-16 01:00
BBC Get Inspired and the FA launch the People's Cup, a new competition which will give 100,000 players a chance of Wembley glory.