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Off-target flu shot will cost employers

Tue, 2014-12-09 02:00

Every year, federal scientists make a bet on the flu—They try to figure out the dominant flu strain, and vaccine makers produce a flu shot to fight that strain.

“In some years, the prediction is on the mark, and in some years the prediction is further away from the mark,” says Dr. Bruce Lee, an associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. This year, the vaccine is off the mark, which probably means more flu, he says. “We’ll see more cases this year, and more severe cases."

Lee says, the last time this happened, businesses spent almost $140,000 more on flu-related costs per 100,000 workers.

But employers can fight back. 

“You could increase the number of shifts so there are not as many people working together in the office. Some companies limit the number of meetings," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

And Challenger says employers should still encourage their workers to get a flu shot. Because, doctors say, even if you get the flu anyway, you carry less virus. And that's good news for your co-workers.  

Former child soldiers find rehabilitation a hard road

Tue, 2014-12-09 02:00

A handful of young men in their twenties are busy on the side of the road here in Bukavu, wielding a welding machine that looks as though it barely survived the wars itself. 

"We're fixing this motorcycle," says Daniel Baguma over the din of a saw.  

Putting things back together seems an apt profession for people whose lives came to pieces as children. Eastern Congo has endured two decades of conflict that began when Rwanda's genocidal war spilled across its borders. It proved too much for the fragile Congolese state to handle, and the region descended into chaos.

Thousands of children were swept up by armed groups for use as forced labor or military manpower. As many as 30,000 children were used as child soldiers in 2003. That number has shrunk to an estimated 3,000 or so as violence has declined, some armed groups have demobilized, and a patchwork of peace agreements have been signed. 

For some child soldiers those days are distant memories; for others they remain open wounds. 

"I was out in the country side, taking care of some cattle, and they took me. That's how it started," says Baguma. 

He was 12, and "they" were the Mai Mai — one of dozens of armed groups fighting in Congo in the early 2000's. The group still exists, even though many of the soldiers have since been integrated into the Congolese Arms Forces.   

"I started carrying luggage for them. All of a sudden you don't have a home anymore. You just go. You're just walking through whatever town you find yourself in. You're just ... dispersed."

Baguma remembers those days as he sits down to dinner with friends, many of them former child soldiers like himself. It's a bit like a reunion for Peter Pan's lost boys. 

"I was smoking a lot of weed and taking a lot of drugs. These were the Mai Mai drugs; you inject them and people can't shoot you," he says of the drugs the Mai Mai believed imparted supernatural powers during battle. "I regret it. It messed with my mind."

Pascal Birashirwa was even younger than Baguma when he was taken. He was just 10.

"My father was fetching water for the toilet," when the soldiers appeared, he says. His father fled, and told everyone in town that his son was dead. His family and neighbors went into mourning.

In the jungle, picked up by soldiers, Birashirwa roamed the countryside. "Sometimes they would give me food, sometimes they wouldn't. Sometimes the commanders would eat and leave me with nothing, guarding the camp," he recalls. "I couldn't leave. It was all I knew."

None of the young men like talking about what they did or saw done in the five, seven, sometimes eight years they spent with the armed groups.

"I never killed people, only enemies," says Birashirwa. "And whatever happened out there stays out there."

When their groups demobilized in 2010, the boys—now nearly young men—found their way back to town. Everyone thought they had died.

"They were so happy," says Birashirwa. "So, so happy to see me."

Likewise, the whole neighborhood came out to celebrate for Baguma when he came back.

But the joy was short-lived.

"My family was disappointed," says Birashirwa. His shame is typical. "They said I could've gone to school, but I came back smoking weed and cigarettes."

"When we compare our lives with the lives of someone who stayed in town, stayed in school, did the usual route, they have had successful lives. We're still figuring ours out," says Baguma. 

While many Congolese sympathize with child soldiers, they are often suspicious of them as well. It can make finding work difficult. Baguma spent a year essentially doing nothing, wondering if he should return to the forest. 

Learning some basic literacy skills and some kind of vocation has been critical to reintegrating young people whose childhoods were stolen by armed groups. But sometimes they've needed to learn things that were much more basic.

"Things like: you're allowed to make eye contact with people. It's OK to disagree with people when having a conversation. You are valuable as a person and you have the right to determine your own future," says Jocelyn Kelly, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. 

"These are the skills that are so incredibly human and basic, but often, especially for young girls who were in armed groups, [they] had no idea no idea were available to them," she says.

HHI helped do a study of what worked and what didn't when integrating former child soldiers. A lot of groups have tried a lot of different things. 

"Cash payouts, a kit that has basic household goods, trying to engage people in small income generating activities," she says. 

Fly by night operations that gave a group of young, male child soldiers a goat and a pat on the back, and then left after a few months—and Kelly says programs like this did exist—did not work. And former child soldiers whose psychological needs weren't met, suffered. 

Some ended up institutionalized.

"I mean it's kind of the foundation of everything you're expected to do. If you don't have that basic capacity to engage with people, overcome anxiety or symptoms of PTSD, you're not going to be able to engage with a job in any way shape or form," she says.

Child soldier survivors need sustained follow up care—essentially a caseworker—and so do their parents, says Kelly. "I've not seen many programs at all deal with the effects on families," she says. Parents are anguished that they can no longer seem to communicate or connect with their children; a typical problem for parents of teenagers, made exponentially more intense by a parent's knowledge that just on the other side of their childrens' eyes is an ungraspable reality of deprivation and trauma. 

If they could just get through. 

Both Pascal Birashirwa and Daniel Baguma were lucky enough to find a place at Laissez Afrique Vivre, a school for former child soldiers. They learned welding. For Baguma, who now has his own children, his new career seems to be working out. 

"Business is good," he says. "I know a lot of people who respect my work, I have work, I make money, I feed my kids." He's built a house, and he's paying his children's way through school.

Pascal Birashirwa is having a little more trouble. 

"I could've gone to school. I could've had a life. Welding is giving me money day to day, but I can't plan on anything bigger than that," he says.

Back at the welding shop, former child soldiers are smoothing off some scarred metal on a door they repaired. They're trying to smooth away their own scars too.

Airbnb confronts an unusual marketing challenge

Tue, 2014-12-09 02:00

Airbnb, the home sharing website, is now by some measures the largest lodging provider in the world. It’s valued at over $10 billion and has a million listings — that’s about 300,000 more than the number of beds of either Hilton and Marriott.

Bob Thorson rents out his Washington, DC apartment while he’s out of the city. Guests find his place online, pay $130 a night, and get a cool apartment in one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. But once you’re inside, there’s nothing that indicates it was rented through Airbnb.

Andrew Schapiro, head of brand creative teams at Airbnb, says he recognized that disconnect.

“Every day hundreds of thousands of people are traveling on Airbnb and staying in homes all over the world,” Schapiro says. “How do we actually share stories of those people who are on those travel adventures?”

So, this winter, Airbnb will publish its first issue of "Pineapple," a magazine that will be sent to hosts and bookstores around the world. It will contain stories from three of its most popular cities: San Francisco, London, and Seoul. Pineapple is an effort to address what other companies in the so-called sharing economy have faced when they make it big: moving their online success into real-world brand loyalty.

“It kind of expresses how Airbnb can fit into the greater travel landscape, and that’s part of the issue; people have some sense of Airbnb in general, but not really how it fits in,” says Bjorn Hanson, a hospitality professor at NYU.

The area where Airbnb and its hosts still haven’t figured out where they fit in is with the law. New York’s attorney general has set his sights on the company, which he says enables hosts to violate zoning and hotel laws. In fact, it was hard to find an Airbnb host willing to be interviewed. They said they worry about breaking the law, breaking their lease, their condo board rules, or just about irritating their neighbors.

Thorson owns his place, but some of his fellow host friends are renters. When asked what they do, Thorson says, “they try to skirt it. They just hope that they don’t get found out.”

So guests will soon be able to flip through Pineapple to plan their next travel adventure, even if their hosts would prefer that nobody find out that they’re there.

 

Can the Democratic Republic of Congo rebound?

Mon, 2014-12-08 14:00

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been hit hard over the past few decades by war, currency instability and corruption. 

Marketplace's Sabri Ben-Achour recently spent time in the DRC and says, for him, the Congo is both extraordinary and tragic. "It is a place that is sitting on $24 trillion of mineral wealth, and yet it ranks next to last on the planet in terms of human development," Ben-Achour says.

Even with a history of civil wars and a stifling bureaucracy that makes business difficult, some choose to return home to the DRC. In the city of Goma, Ben-Achour says he saw not only new construction, but bustling streets as well.

But what about long-term recovery for the Congo? According to Ben-Achour, the DRC and the U.S. are more intertwined economically than one might think. "We have a power to this place that we don't maybe recognize," he says. "All of our cellphones have minerals that could have come from this part of the world."

Tell us about your best gift ever

Mon, 2014-12-08 12:27
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Growing wages, job creation, and your money

Mon, 2014-12-08 12:16

321,000 jobs were added in November, with jobs in retail, health care, manufacturing, and professional and business services growing. Unemployment held steady at 5.8 percent.

Another significant change was the increase in hourly earnings for ordinary workers — at .4 percent, wage growth exceeded the anticipated increase by double. The U.S. has struggled with wage stagnation and the jobless rate, and this most recent report cast a sunny outlook for the future of both.

How have you been impacted by changes in the job market? Have you felt some of the benefits to a lower unemployment and rising wages? Tell us more about your experiences in the comments or @MarketplaceWKND.

Starbucks, potential tech juggernaut?

Mon, 2014-12-08 12:08

If you’ve been to a Starbucks lately, you might’ve used your smartphone or noticed other customers using theirs to pay for their lattes.

Now Starbucks is taking another technological step forward by rolling out a fleet of Powermat wireless phone chargers in its stores.

They may help curb arguments with power-outlet hoarders, but the chargers serve a larger purpose – to burnish the Starbucks brand. The company's adoption of new technology is just as important to its image as the quality of its coffee beans, says Jonah Berger, a University of Pennsylvania marketing professor and author of the 2013 book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.” 

“Starbucks is an older brand, you know, it's not the new kid on the block,” Berger says, “So, seeming like they're technology-forward, like they know what's going on ... will move [them] from [looking like] sort of a fuddy-duddy company to somebody that's on the cutting edge.”

But this strategy comes with risks, Berger says. If customers don't like the chargers, the technology could come off as gimmicky.

All sorts of restaurants are looking to technology to appeal to younger customers

“McDonald’s, the Coffee Bean, Madison Square Garden also use the Powermat. Starbucks is not the only one out there,” says Betsy Sigman, a Georgetown University business professor. 

When done right, Sigman says, access to new technology gives customers another reason to go to the restaurant and spend more.

Starbucks wants to do more than sell more coffee to young people, Berger says. It also wants to influence the way technology is adopted.

If Starbucks can become "the market-maker" for this technology – and Berger notes that it's a big "if" – the company could become a bigger player in the tech industry.

 

Jeff Bezos on the best gift he's ever recieved

Mon, 2014-12-08 12:00

Ten years ago, we started calling up big names in business and culture and asking them, "What was the best gift you've received?"

In honor of Marketplace's 25th anniversary and the holiday season, we've pulled the "Best Gift Ever" series out of our archives. Here's the answer we got from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which originally aired in December 2004:

The best gift I ever received was all the construction toys that my grandfather gave me over the years when I was a little kid. You know, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos. 

Every year I'd get a new construction toy of some kind. And then building things is something that has served me well all throughout the years. 

In fact, I love construction toys to this day, and I love them so much that for my fifth wedding anniversary, my wife gave me a huge, 5-foot-tall tool chest filled to the brim with Legos.

 

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Here's how the story originally played when it aired in 2004:

LISA NAPOLI: Time now for our Holiday feature, the Best Gift Ever.

JEFF BEZOS: My name is Jeff Bezos and I'm the founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

The best gift I ever received was all the construction toys that my grandfather gave me over the years when I was a little kid. You know, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos.

Every year I'd get a new construction toy of some kind. And then building things is something that has served me well all throughout the years.

In fact, I love construction toys to this day, and I love them so much that for my fifth wedding anniversary, my wife gave me a huge five-foot-tall tool chest filled to the brim with Legos.

NAPOLI: Jeff Bezos is CEO of Amazon.com

BEZOS OUTTAKE: What really turned into the best gift was I then got to spend all of my summers working with him on his ranch. Ranchers build everything so I got to do the construction toys for real. We would arc weld gates and build fences and lay pipelines.

 

Santa Claus' estimated salary for 2014

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

According to insure.com, Santa Claus would make $139,924 this year. This is up 1.5 percent from last year.

The insurance website used Labor Department wage and hour data to calculate its estimate. Most of Santa's salary comes from managing the North Pole toy factory and piloting the sleigh, which the survey determined would earn him the salaries of an industrial engineer and a pilot, respectively.

They also commissioned a survey to see how much people think Santa should make. A total of 29 percent say $1.8 billion, or $1 for each child on the planet under the age of 15. Another 29 percent said he should work for free, and the rest split the difference.

The survey polled 895 adults who said Santa visits their homes.

Here's Santa Claus' estimated salary this year

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

According to insure.com, Santa Claus would make $139,924 this year. This is up 1.5 percent from last year.

The insurance website used Labor Department wage and hour data to calculate its estimate. Most of Santa's salary comes from managing the North Pole toy factory and piloting the sleigh, which the survey determined would earn him the salaries of an industrial engineer and a pilot, respectively.

They also commissioned a survey to see how much people think Santa should make. A total of 29 percent say $1.8 billion, or $1 for each child on the planet under the age of 15. Another 29 percent said he should work for free, and the rest split the difference.

The survey polled 895 adults who said Santa visits their homes.

Merck invests in new antibiotics

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

Pharmaceutical giant Merck is acquiring antibiotics maker Cubist for more than $8 billion. The deal upends conventional thinking in the market: Some 23,000 Americans die each year from infections resistant to drugs, and overprescribing worsens the problem. Yet big drug companies have been exiting the space since it’s not lucrative.

Analysts say the Merck deal may make sense for a few reasons. Drug companies are focusing more on targeted products than blockbusters. Those new antibiotics can shorten hospital stays and persuade insurance companies to pay for them. Federal grants also help companies develop new antibiotics, and more may be on the way. Finally, the scarcity of next-generation antibiotics may help drug makers raise prices.

Click below to hear an interview on the subject with Michael Kinch, director of Washington University's Center for Research Innovation in Business.

 

Click below for a longer interview with Jeff Wager, co-founder and CEO of Enbiotix.

 

 

 

 

Why a strong dollar's a dud for indebted foreign firms

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

The dollar is super strong right now.  It's up 11 percent against the euro, and 16 percent versus the yen.

That's good news for Americans who want to spend their money abroad. It's even better news for foreign companies who want to sell their stuff to us. Except for the ones that borrowed money in dollars – which is a lot of companies over the last few years.

Those companies have to pay interest in dollars on those loans, but they get paid locally in their own currency. So, as the dollar rises, they have to pay more local currency to buy the dollars to service their debts. There's a big risk here, if companies start to default on those loans, or, worse go bankrupt. It could present a threat to their host countries, and maybe to the entire economy.

Cosmo and CoverGirl team up on New Year's Eve

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:00

Cosmopolitan magazine has teamed up with one of their biggest advertisers, Cover Girl makeup, to ring in the New Year together.

 

The two companies agreed to a joint sponsorship of the New Year’s Eve ball at Times Square in New York City. 

 

The event has lots of marketing potential, according to Jessica L’Esperance, a Vice President of User Experience at Huge Inc. She says experiential advertising is preferable to stagnant, traditional methods. For Cover Girl, the event means people in Times Square will be able to try their products in an environment that they associate with a fun celebration.

 

"There is no print ad or TV commercial that's really going to help you see it on your own face," says L’Esperance.

 

From Cosmo’s perspective, getting one of your advertisers like to help foot your marketing bill is a pretty savvy strategy too, according to Cathy McPhillips of the Content Marketing Institute. Cosmo and Cover Girl has very similar audiences and they're not competitors.

 

But McPhillips says getting into bed with just one advertiser could backfire for Cosmo. They run the risk of losing advertising dollars from some of their other clients. 

Going on a therapeutic shopping spree

Mon, 2014-12-08 09:43

The end of the year means plenty of deadlines, and here's one that maybe you forgot about: spending down all the tax-free money socked away in a healthcare flexible spending account, or FSA.

When that happens, a lot of us go shopping, says Kate Goughary, who manages Modern Eye in West Philadelphia.

Our buzz months are usually in June and December,” she says. June because its the end of many firms’ fiscal years, and December because of FSAs.

I always just say, 'Don't panic,’” she says. “We're here to help, and I have something in this store for every budget and every face.”

People get so worked up because, historically, flexible spending accounts have been use-it-or-lose-it. That changed last fall, and now you can set aside up to $2,550 and roll over as much as $500 to the next year.

So there won't be as much of a rush at the end of the year for employees to spend money on things that they don't really need,” says Bruce Elliott with the Society for Human Resource Management.

The new rule came out so late in 2013 most employers didn't shift their policies, but Elliott expects that to change for 2015.

So if you have dollars left to spend, You can use it for just about any medical, dental or vision expense," Elliott says, "as long as it's not cosmetic and as long as it's therapeutic.”

Quiz: Charter school city

Mon, 2014-12-08 04:43

More than 2.7 million students attend charter schools in 42 states, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Japan sinks into a deeper recession

Mon, 2014-12-08 03:00
1.9 percent

That's how much Japan's economy shrunk in the third quarter compared to the second, Bloomberg reported. That puts the country in a deeper recession than predicted.

113th

The 113th Congress comes to an end in a couple weeks, which makes for a lame-duck session. Before then, lawmakers have to figure out how to fund the government, and they have to deal with both a defense bill and tax breaks that are set to expire.

5 percent

That's the portion of New York City cops who bring charges in 40 percent of resisting arrest cases. That's according to a report from WNYC, which also notes 60 percent of officers didn't charge anyone with the crime. 

November 24

The day a grand jury declined to charge Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, not long after, another cop in New York would be cleared of similar charges. Twitter tracked the hashtags "#HandsUpDontShoot," "#BlackLivesMatter" and "#ICantBreathe." That day through last week, to see how protests changes over time.

PODCAST: Diversifying the police force

Mon, 2014-12-08 03:00

First up on today's show: how H&R Block is doing with its strategy of offering help with ACA stuff as a way to bring new customers in to the tax service. Plus, after Ferguson, there has been more than a little talk about making police forces more reflective of the communities they serve. But that's no panacea. And new research out of Pew says lame duck sessions of Congress are more productive than you might think. But what about this Congress in particular -- how effective has it been, and can we really expect a surge in productivity?

Ben Affleck on sustainable aid in the Eastern Congo

Mon, 2014-12-08 02:00

Actor and philanthropist, Ben Affleck sat down with David Brancaccio to talk about Affleck's foundation, the Eastern Congo Initiative. The organization is an advocacy and grant-making initiative focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo.  

Five facts about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the history of conflict in the country: 

  • With a population of more than 68 million people, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa, and the 18th most populous country in the world
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the second-largest rainforest in the world – 18% of the planet’s remaining tropical rainforests are in the region.
  • More than 250 ethnic groups reside in the Democratic Republic of Congo and they speak more than 240 languages.
  • Violence, poverty and disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo have claimed the lives of more than 5 million men, women and children.
  • Despite democratic elections and multiple peace agreements, the eastern region is still impacted by conflict – more than 1.3 million people are not able to return to their homes.

 

Ben Affleck walks among a crowd at a camp outside of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Credit: Barbara Kinney

 

Ben Affleck on his first visits to eastern Congo, and what made him want to help: 

"The people who were living there were not, you know, hiding under tables. They were not cowering before warlords. You could go to a city and people were still going to work, and trying to sell cellphone chips and bananas and these little scooters, and that the human spirit was such that they wanted not only to live, but to thrive and to succeed. In fact, the very same things we believe in fervently here. Sort of the American dream. The Congolese had a very similar dream, and I was moved by that.

"You know I had a sort of ... subconsciously labored under this delusion that's fostered here when we see images of Africans. You know, swollen bellies, laying on their back, flies on their eyes, [saying] "help us," you know, that sort of thing, waiting for a handout. And these were people who in particular in the community-based organizations that I was drawn to who were doing that work for themselves and in an extremely smart and dedicated way."

 On how he is trying to help: 

"When we looked at aid and traditional aid and aid models and [at] what was successful, we found a really mixed bag. In fact, opponents of aid will point out that $50 billion has been given over the last 70 years, and there hasn't been much progress. Part of what we believed was that that was because, in large measure, it was about western people paying themselves to go over there and sort of wander around and do very short-term projects. So we wanted to do something sustainable that would raise incomes and that would be there long after we were gone. And so what we chose was coffee and cocoa. Both of which [for]  the Congolese were huge businesses and huge agricultural sources of revenue before the war." 

 On being just another guy from California who thinks he's got the prescription for fixing problems half a world away: 

"One of the flaws that we identified when I first started traveling and doing research was that you have large NGOs [non-governmental organizations] who sort of plant themselves in the region and say, "This is how you're going to do it." And I sort of liken it to as if the Chinese showed up in Iowa and said, "No, no, no this is how you're going to farm." They may have a good technique for farming, but the cultural issues and the dramatic change would be such that it would be counterproductive. So what we do is we identify the community organizations who are already in the communities. Who already have the relationships. Who are already leaders in the communities. Who have experience with what they're doing, and we help foster growth with them. We help support them. We help expand what they can do....

"I am keenly aware of the fact that I am a guy from California. That despite the fact that I've been [to] the region nine times, and have done a lot of research and know a lot of people down there, that doesn't make me an expert. What makes me smart is that I listen to experts, and most of all I listen to the Congolese." 

 

 

Close-up of coffee beans from one of the Eastern Congo Initiative's partner cooperatives.

Credit: Michael Christopher Brown

 

 

Affleck also has a few suggestions for how to get involved and help. You can also listen to them by clicking on the above audio link: 

  • Support and buy products made by the Congolese.
  • Become aware of the issues.
  • Become a constituency and support politicians who support these issues. 

You can find more information and ways to help at easterncongo.org 

Note: Listen to Marketplace Morning Report this week and next for more stories about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Marketplace reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour, went to Congo for two weeks, and produced stories about the difficulties the country is facing, corruption, war, and the courageous struggle that individuals have to go through to rebuild their lives.

Ben Affleck on the Eastern Congo Initiative

Mon, 2014-12-08 02:00

Actor and philanthropist, Ben Affleck sat down with David Brancaccio to talk about Affleck's foundation, the Eastern Congo Initiative. The organization is an advocacy and grant-making initiative focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. 

 

Five facts about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the history of conflict in the country:

 

  • With a population of more than 68 million people, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa, and the 18th most populous country in the world
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the second-largest rainforest in the world – 18% of the planet’s remaining tropical rainforests are in the region.
  • More than 250 ethnic groups reside in the Democratic Republic of Congo and they speak more than 240 languages.
  • Violence, poverty and disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo have claimed the lives of more than 5 million men, women and children.
  • Despite democratic elections and multiple peace agreements, the eastern region is still impacted by conflict – more than 1.3 million people are not able to return to their homes.

 

Ben Affleck walks among a crowd at a camp outside of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Credit: Barbara Kinney

 

Ben Affleck on his first visits to eastern Congo, and what made him want to help:

 

"The people who were living there were not, you know, hiding under tables. They were not cowering before warlords. You could go to a city and people were still going to work, and trying to sell cellphone chips and bananas and these little scooters, and that the human spirit was such that they wanted not only to live, but to thrive and to succeed. In fact, the very same things we believe in fervently here. Sort of the American dream. The Congolese had a very similar dream, and I was moved by that.

"You know I had a sort of ... subconsciously labored under this delusion that's fostered here when we see images of Africans. You know, swollen bellies, laying on their back, flies on their eyes, [saying] "help us," you know, that sort of thing, waiting for a handout. And these were people who in particular in the community-based organizations that I was drawn to who were doing that work for themselves and in an extremely smart and dedicated way."

 

On how he is trying to help:

 

"When we looked at aid and traditional aid and aid models and [at] what was successful, we found a really mixed bag. In fact, opponents of aid will point out that $50 billion has been given over the last 70 years, and there hasn't been much progress. Part of what we believed was that that was because, in large measure, it was about western people paying themselves to go over there and sort of wander around and do very short-term projects. So we wanted to do something sustainable that would raise incomes and that would be there long after we were gone. And so what we chose was coffee and cocoa. Both of which [for]  the Congolese were huge businesses and huge agricultural sources of revenue before the war." 

 

On being just another guy from California who thinks he's got the prescription for fixing problems half a world away:

 

"One of the flaws that we identified when I first started traveling and doing research was that you have large NGOs [non-governmental organizations] who sort of plant themselves in the region and say, "This is how you're going to do it." And I sort of liken it to as if the Chinese showed up in Iowa and said, "No, no, no this is how you're going to farm." They may have a good technique for farming, but the cultural issues and the dramatic change would be such that it would be counterproductive. So what we do is we identify the community organizations who are already in the communities. Who already have the relationships. Who are already leaders in the communities. Who have experience with what they're doing, and we help foster growth with them. We help support them. We help expand what they can do....

"I am keenly aware of the fact that I am a guy from California. That despite the fact that I've been [to] the region nine times, and have done a lot of research and know a lot of people down there, that doesn't make me an expert. What makes me smart is that I listen to experts, and most of all I listen to the Congolese." 

 

 

Close-up of coffee beans from one of the Eastern Congo Initiative's partner cooperatives.

Credit: Michael Christopher Brown

 

 

Affleck also has a few suggestions for how to get involved and help. You can also listen to them by clicking on the above audio link:

 

  • Support and buy products made by the Congolese.
  • Become aware of the issues.
  • Become a constituency and support politicians who support these issues.

 

You can find more information and ways to help at easterncongo.org

 

Note: Listen to Marketplace Morning Report this week and next for more stories about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Marketplace reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour, went to Congo for two weeks, and produced stories about the difficulties the country is facing, corruption, war, and the courageous struggle that individuals have to go through to rebuild their lives.

 

More diverse police forces are only the first step

Mon, 2014-12-08 02:00

As nationwide protests about police killings continue, the idea of diversifying police forces to better reflect their communities has taken hold. But forces in many big cities have been increasingly diverse for decades, with a mixed record of success in affecting changes in tactics and improving community relationships. 

David Sklansky of Stanford Law School, who has studied demographics changes in U.S. police departments and wrote a paper on the subject, found that the pace of change has varied greatly among departments, but that demographic transformation, where it has occurred, has gone a long way in breaking down entrenched police subcultures of institutional solidarity and insularity. 

"What you see is enormous change, enormous progress but uneven progress and incomplete progress," Sklansky says. "Departments, as they've diversified, have become more dynamic, lively places, where there's much more discussion, and much greater range of opinions voiced." 

The police department in New York, for example, now has the most diverse force in its history. As of 2010, a majority of its patrol officers were reportedly from minority populations. Yet recent protests in New York have drawn attention to complaints about police use of force and aggressive tactics such as 'stop-and-frisk,' which the department has largely discontinued under New York's new mayor Bill de Blasio.

"There's a lot of distrust," says Terrell Jones, a community worker who helps low-income people affected by drug abuse. Jones says he can remember negative experiences with the police in New York dating back to his teenage years in the 1970s. 

"Me being a man of color ... I can remember when I was young, I was beat up by the police for just sitting on my block," Jones says. "And nothing has changed. It has gotten worse." 

Protesters in New York City hold signs referencing the 'Broken Windows' policing strategy, which targets lower-level crimes in urban settings.

Nova Safo/Marketplace

Adding more minority patrol officers to the rank and file doesn't necessarily improve the relationship with a community, says Nelson Lim, Senior Social Scientist with the RAND Corporation's Center on Quality Policing. 

"The scientific literature on minority officers behavior, whether they're substantively different from white officers ... is mixed," says Lim, adding that having a diverse workforce is still important because it makes it easier for police departments to change their tactics. The key ingredient being leadership both from politicians and police managers, says Lim. 

"I cannot overemphasize the leadership," Lim says. "[If] they develop good relationship(s) with minority communities ... you will see the change." 

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