National News

Banco Popular retreats toward its home base

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 02:16

Banco Popular is based in Puerto Rico, but it has operations in mainland U.S. cities like New York and Miami. A recent news report says the bank is looking to sell its branches in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Just four years ago, Banco Popular rebranded itself in those cities as Popular Community Bank, hoping to broaden its customer base. Now it's moving in the opposite direction.

"At some point it makes sense for the company to exit the market," says Mark Palmer, managing director of BTIG, "and focus on its operations in Puerto Rico, where it's gaining market share, gaining deposits." And, making better profits.

At home in Puerto Rico, Banco Popular gets a better spread between the interest it pays depositors and the interest it gets paid on loans. Banco Popular is the island's biggest bank, and even in a weak economy, it's been growing.

Analyst Brian Klock watches Popular for the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. He thinks that this move to streamline could be partly intended to please bank regulators.

Popular wants to pay back TARP bailout funds, so it can start paying dividends to shareholders again. Before regulators accept that payment, they require proof that the bank is in good shape, and well-run.

"That's because the regulators are focused on making sure we don't go through this again," he says, referring to the 2008 financial crisis.

Klock thinks that's good news for the rest of us. "The regulator is doing his job," he says, "to try to make sure this is a safe and sound banking system."

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included a photograph of the incorrect bank. The photo has been corrected.

Take our quiz: are you a giver or a taker?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 01:00


Are you the type of person that is more likely to give help to a colleague in need? Or are you more likely to take all you can get from everyone you work with?

Wharton professor Adam Grant explores in his book “Give and Take” whether being a giver or a taker makes you more successful in the business world.

Grant found that selfless givers may earn about 14% less than takers, but that ultimately they are in a better position to go farther in their careers and they last longer when they make it to the top.

Take the quiz below to find out whether you are a giver or a taker.
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Check out this quiz key below to find out more about your tendencies:
Productively helpful—generous and smart about it (1c/d, 2d, 3c/d, 4b/d, 5b, 6b/d)
Selfless—at risk for burning out or letting others take advantage of you (1a, 2a, 3c, 4a, 5c, 6c)
Transactional—at risk for being seen as selfish (1b, 2b/c, 3a/b, 4c, 5a/d, 6a)

To learn more, see "Give and Take," the New York Times bestselling book by Wharton professor Adam Grant. Get the first chapter for free here.

HBO heads to Silicon Valley

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 01:00

HBO premiered "Silicon Valley" this week. The show finds the funny side of what it means to struggle to be the next WhatsApp or Instagram. Critics are pointing out that there are few female characters in the show, thus far. Executive producer and writer Alec Berg says some of that is about getting the details of the tech industry right.

"People keep saying, 'There are a lot of women in tech. What about Marissa Mayer? What about Sheryl Sandberg?' Yeah, there are women in tech. We aren't saying there aren't," says Berg. "Do we want to do the perfect satirical riff on women in tech? Of course we do, and that's our intention. If we haven't gotten to it yet, just the fact that that is one of the hot-button issues that everybody brings up, that to me means we owe it to the show, to 'lean in' to that."

And how does Berg measure success of the show?

"The big thing for us was: Does it play for everybody?," he asks. "The realer we make it, the more the enjoyment factor goes up for people who don't know anything about it. You know, it just feels like a real world because ideally it's very true to that world."

Recapping the pilot of HBO's "Silicon Valley"

by Tobin Low

HBO's inaugural venture into Silicon Valley opens with a shot of Kid Rock performing, which is immediately surprising because ... who even knew Kid Rock still makes music? I'd sooner expect to see him on Dancing with the Stars, but I digress. The point is, he's performing for a minimal audience of not-so-excited Silicon Valley techies at a party celebrating the latest startup to be bought for millions of dollars ($200 million, to be exact -- which, in light of recent purchases made in the tech industry, doesn’t seem like that much money). Kudos to Kid for poking fun at his own lack of cache.

The opening sequence is getting at the larger setup for the show: the race to be the next it thing in Silicon Valley. It’s a topic we’ve explored before, and seems increasingly relevant as startups get snatched up for more and more money. The dream of receiving a fate-changing phone call from a Google or a Facebook is what drives Erlich, the founder of the Hacker Hostel, and his startup tenants, Richard, Big Head, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle. They're all at said party, and they're all unhappy to be there witnessing someone else's success.

Take Richard, for example. He and Big Head work for a Google-esque tech conglomerate named Hooli, whose offices look like a mix between UCLA's cafeteria and an REI showroom (i.e. an adult Gymboree with a sushi bar). We see Richard get bullied by two other employees -- apparently the Silicon Valley equivalent of jocks -- as he tries to defend the concept of his music-matching app, Pied Piper. What he wants more than anything is respect, but he doesn’t seem to be getting much from his coworkers or Erlich.

But Richard's luck is about to take a turn. After mumbling his way through an elevator speech to high-powered investor Peter Gregory, Richard gets competing offers for his Pied Piper algorithm from Gregory and Hooli CEO Gavin Belson.

Let's pause for a second to talk about Peter Gregory and Gavin Belson. Peter Gregory is introduced to the show via a TED talk about the virtues of abandoning higher education to pursue one's dreams. He believes in the idea so much that he’s offering $100,000 to any student who follows through on leaving college. Many see parallels to Silicon Valley angel investor Peter Thiel. Gavin Belson is part Steve Jobs, part AOL digital prophet Shingy, which is to say that he's brilliant and filled to the brim with meaningless buzzwords. These characters are a send up of every Steve Ballmer yell, every Steve Jobs powerpoint presentation, and every SXSW panel you’ve ever seen. They are Tech CEO 2.0.

And they offer Richard two different philosophical routes: Belson wants to buy the company outright for millions of dollars, ensuring that Richard's algorithm is used in Hooli's best interest. Belson wants to buy 10 percent of the company for $200,000, leaving Richard in control with the ability to continue to grow his idea as its own company. It's less money, but it also means Richard could become his own Gregory or Belson. 

In the pièce de résistance of the episode, Richard returns home to tell a ramen slurping Erlich (who is sure to be coming to a meme near you) that he has decided to take the modest offer from Belson in exchange for the chance to become his own CEO. Instead of the expected blow-up, Erlich is totally onboard with the idea, admitting that when he sold his own startup, he also sold a piece of his heart.

It's an optimistic end to a show that is more than a little bit cynical about the culture of Silicon Valley. What makes it interesting is that the plot of Silicon Valley (at least so far) is distinctly different than the one playing itself out over and over again in the tech industry. From Instagram to WhatsApp, most companies have a great idea, grow it, and then sell it to the Hooli's of the world (which doesn't work out for everyone). Will Richard and company do the same? Will Erlich ever find a t-shirt that fits his body? Will I ever understand what "algorithm" means beyond thinking of it as "fancy math"? At least one of these questions should be answered this season.

If you missed the pilot, watch the full episode below (warning: content is rated TV-MA):

How much is a college championship ring worth?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 00:57

The University of  Connecticut beat the University of Kentucky on Monday night during the NCAA championship game.  The Huskies won the glory.  The confetti bath.  The right to star in this year’s “One Shining Moment”. 

 

And, presumably, a few months from now, the players will get a championship ring.  A big, blingy championship ring, like this one (photo courtesy of The Associated Press): 

 

Pretty fancy, right?  Turns out those rings look a lot more expensive than they actually are. Student-athletes who win championships can only receive $415 worth of gifts for the victory, per NCAA rules. (They are allowed additional gifts for participating in post season conference events and for winning their conference championship.)

According to USA Today, Jostens, the company that likely made your high school graduation ring, makes these college championship rings.  In 2013, USA Today spoke to Chris Poitras, from Jostens sport division: 

“In the last 5-10 years, the increase in gold and genuine diamond prices has pretty much priced gold and diamonds out of the scenario for college rings,” Poitras said.

Instead, the rings are decked out in “simulated colored non-genuine stones” and “metals that look exactly the same [as gold], but cost considerably less.”

Just becuase the rings aren't made of actual diamonds and gold doesn't make them cheap for the schools. According to AL.com, after Auburn's football team won the national football championship the school "spent the $75,000-$80,000 for one set of the national championship rings and the SEC title ring, which was slightly less than what was allowed by the NCAA."

Note: The Auburn-designed national championship ring that went to the players and coaches cost $415 each, the exact amount allowed by the NCAA. The SEC championship ring cost $285 each, under the $315 allowed by the NCAA.

Let's say you are one of the student athletes lucky and talented enough to earn a ring. You can't sell it.  According to the NCAA rulebook: "awards received for intercollegiate athletics participation may not be sold, exchanged or assigned for another item of value, even if the student-athlete’s name or picture does not  appear on the award."

China targets U.S. pig imports

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 00:41

Tougher new restrictions are being placed on imported live pigs from the United States, which represents a small portion of pork products that the U.S. exports to China.

Perhaps more telling, though, is what happened behind the scenes here in China to put some of these measures into place, says Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at Soozhu-dot-com, China’s major web portal on the live pig market: 

"China’s domestic pork prices have been very low for the last two years thanks to imported live pigs from America," said Feng from his office in Beijing, "Domestic farmers have been complaining a lot to China’s government about this, so given all this pressure, it’s understandable the government would take such measures."

China has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct testing and provide certification that imported live hogs are from herds that are free of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, and producers in the states have already noticed that China is already denying permits for live hog imports until the USDA starts to implement this type of testing.

How Mouse Studies Lead Medical Research Down Dead Ends

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 23:44

New drugs are usually tested in animals before they're tested in humans. But many of those studies aren't done carefully enough, analysts say. So time and money is wasted, and treatments are delayed.

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Just How New Is The 'New' GM?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 23:42

During her grilling before Congress, CEO Mary Barra insisted the new GM is different and better than the old GM. But are the company and its cars really new and improved? The answer is complicated.

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Why Women Don't Ask For More Money

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 23:40

A study shows that women can be great negotiators, just not when they're asking for themselves. When women negotiate pay on behalf of a friend, they bargain just as hard as the guys.

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End Of Windows XP Support Spells Trouble For Some

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 22:06

Microsoft will end support for the persistently popular Windows XP on Tuesday. The move could put everything from the operations of heavy industry to the identities of everyday people in danger.

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La. Congressman Asks For Forgiveness After Compromising Video

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 21:47

A newspaper in West Monroe, La., published a video of freshman U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister kissing a woman who wasn't his wife.

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Senate OKs Jobless Bill; House Prospects Slimmer

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 21:38

The Senate voted 59-38 Monday to resurrect federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. Republican supporters appealed to Speaker Boehner to permit election-year action in the House too.

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Study: States Did Better Job Running Elections In 2012

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 20:03

Most states improved improved their election performance between 2008 and 2012, with overall wait times at polling stations decreasing in many places.

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Seniors Rule: UConn Beats Kentucky For NCAA Title

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 19:32

Shabazz Napier scored 22 points and Connecticut won its second NCAA title in four years, beating all those Kentucky freshmen 60-54 in the championship game Monday night.

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Argument Over Requested Leave Preceded Fort Hood Shootings

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 15:27

Army officials say Spc. Iván López opened fire after a dispute over his request for leave. Within eight minutes, López allegedly fired 35 shots.

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When to trust (cough) financial journalists

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-07 14:51

You know how we in the financial press will say "There is word of this big merger being negotiated" or "There are reports of that corporate aquisition in the works"?   Sometimes those stories pan out, sometimes they don't. Now, thanks to researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Michigan, there is a way to tell which deals are more likely to actually get done.   A key takeaway: Consider the source. Bloomberg has the most accurate reportage of mergers and acquisition: An astounding 80 percent accuracy rate. The New York Times is number six on the list, behind -- get this -- the New York Post.    Another guide: the bigger the company in question, the less likely it is that the story will pan out.    

Sick 1-Year-Old Rescued From Sailboat 1,000 Miles Off Mexican Coast

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 14:45

The parents activated a distress beacon from their 36-foot sailboat en route to the Pacific islands after the girl developed a fever and rash that wouldn't respond to medications.

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Group Goes Online To Find Affirmative Action Plaintiffs

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 14:32

The Project on Fair Representation is looking for college applicants willing to challenge Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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