National News

Manipulating the markets, right from the online chat room

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 03:01

Today, we kick off a series on Wall Street technology. We start with something pretty low-tech: chat rooms.

Banks and traders are now under investigation, accused of meeting in chat rooms to hatch schemes to manipulate markets.

Robert Friedman, Editor-at-Large at Bloomberg News, joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison to discuss. 

Banks aim for diversity at the top. Can they do more?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 01:39

The NAACP has issued a report card on diversity in the retail banking industry, and it doesn’t look good. The report is focused on the lack of minority suppliers as well as the lack of diversity in upper management positions in banking, and the highest grade, a C+, was scored both by Citibank and Bank of America. The lowest grade, a D+, was given to US Bank. While banks do have a lot of diversity programs, like recruitment and training, the NAACP says minorities don't stick around. 

If you want to fix a problem like lack of diversity in the banking industry,  Dedrick Muhammad, senior director of the Economic Department at the NAACP says just being not racist is not enough.  

"If someone starts off with greater wealth in their families, with greater access to educational opportunities, have family members that are in a much broader array of well paying jobs, they’re starting off ahead," he says, adding that a lack of prejudice today doesn’t do enough to make up for bias of the past.

"The kind of more passive approach of 'we’ll just bring people in through the teller jobs or maybe  through mid to lower management and they’ll just work their way up' --  they’re not working their way up," says Muhammad.

JP Morgan Chase had no comment on the study. The other banks cited in the study did release statements: Wells Fargo and Bank of America acknowledged they have work to do; USBank said it is disappointed in the results and is working to improve; Citibank notes diversity is a major 

Fabiola Dieudonne, a senior associate with the Center for Talent Innovation, which consults with banks to help them work on issues of diversity, says a big problem is that minority workers don’t get the honest feedback they need. Their supervisors, she says, say they’re afraid they’ll be misunderstood.

"Are you going to think that I’m being prejudiced?" she says they ask themselves. "Are you going to think I’m treating you differently than the next person?"

Dieudonne says supervisors "don't want anyone that you’re providing feedback to to go away feeling that way, so people just tend to avoid it altogether,” she says.

In addition, Dieudonne says, minority workers don’t get enough sponsors. (A sponsor is like a mentor but much more aggressive on your behalf.)

“They’re not getting as many sponsors because the sponsors that are sponsoring others, are sponsoring people that may look like them," says Dieudonne, adding that this isn’t racism. We’re much more comfortable, she says, on a subconscious level, with people like ourselves.

Dieudonne says these are the kinds of problems which prevent minority workers from getting the support they need to develop executive presence  -- the "it factor" that can carry them to the C-Suite.

Eveyln Tressitt, President of Grey Pearl Advisors, LLC , has that "it factor". She’s now a corporate consultant, but she used to work for big banks in human resources and as a COO. Banks, she says, need to get better at anticipating openings -- "and look at where you can build a pipeline for that opening. So it might mean you have to hire people in advance of when that opening is available."

Tressitt says that for diversity in banking to become a reality, it has to hit the top of the agenda everyday. In the meantime, Dieudonne says both corporations and multicultural workers continue to lose out.

"People see that you have the capability," she says. But something is missing. "You’ve spent  all this time making sure you’re part of this culture, you’ve conformed to what we see, a white male standard at leadership, you’ve conformed to that. So when you get to the point where you can reach over this hump and get there, you’ve lost a little bit of yourself."

When Sally contacted the banks cited in the study, here's how five of them responded:

Wells Fargo

 

“We welcome the opportunity to receive feedback on our progress, and acknowledge that we have areas of opportunity for us to improve on our diversity and inclusion efforts. We have a strategic plan with measurable goals in place that intentionally focuses on these areas, and we are monitoring and measuring our progress.”

JPMorgan Chase

 

declined to comment

Bank of America

 

"Retaining top diverse talent has been and will continue to be a key priority for us. We are proud to have a culture that prioritizes diversity and inclusion at all levels, and while we’ve made significant progress in several areas, we understand there is more work to do. We will continue our efforts through targeted recruiting and internal programs to support and advance top diverse talent throughout our organization."

 

Citibank

 

"At Citibank, fostering a dynamic and diverse workforce is a major priority. Having talent that reflects the diversity of our customer base is one of the keys to our success as a business, and we take active steps to recruit, train and promote accordingly. We take seriously and participate in numerous external reports and reviews, including the NAACP Opportunity and Diversity Report Card study, to benchmark our work and help identify opportunities for further strengthening our practices. We take pride in the gains achieved through our diversity initiatives, and we remain committed to prioritizing this important issue. 

Further background: Priority workforce diverse objectives are defined annually and implemented through the Citi diversity operating committee, comprised of diversity and human resources professionals, as well as local business and regional diversity councils. The Citi Board of Directors reviews progress. Programs and initiatives are in place across our businesses to support and foster Citi’s diversity strategy. These include, among others, leadership development programs, employee networks and diversity-focused recruitment programs.  Since 1999, we have communicated our progress through our Diversity Annual Report.

Citi has been widely recognized by external organizations and publications for its diversity initiatives. Calvert Investments which recognized Citi as the most inclusive company in the S&P 100 for women and minorities, and Working Mother Magazine, has named Citi to their “100 Best Companies” for 23 consecutive years and “Best Companies for Multicultural Women.”  Diversity MBA Magazine recognized Citi as one of the Top 50 Best Places for Diverse Managers & Women and Exelon recognized Citi as one of the Top Banks, for Diversity and Inclusiveness.  Citi was named the number one Diversified Financial Industry Sustainability Leader by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). Citi has been on the DJSI North America Index and DJSI World Index since 2001."

U.S. Bank

 

"We take the NAACP’s findings seriously. While we are pleased to have received the organization’s highest scores for our board diversity and our branch locations in African-American neighborhoods, we are disappointed in the overall result and are working to improve our performance. We have made significant progress in several areas since 2011, which was the timeframe when the data that was analyzed. 

U.S. Bank strongly believes in the power of diversity – for our bank and in the communities we are proud to serve. We will study the recommendations from the NAACP, and we have committed to partnering with them on ways we can improve."

 

Report card time: Who do YOU think cares the most about diversity?

Can Phoenix un-suburbanize?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-17 01:29

There’s a movement afoot to bring new money into urban areas all over the country, and surprisingly, Phoenix, is part of that movement.

The city has long been famous for its suburban sprawl. But now, plans are moving ahead to link high-rise downtown with a neighboring Latino barrio that wealthy developers have mostly ignored for the better part of 100 years. Not a shovel of dirt has moved, though neighbors already have expectations and fears.

With a good arm, you could probably pick up one of the empty beer bottles on 14.6 acres of land set aside for the proposed development, give it a good chuck, and clear the railroad tracks that separate Grant Park from the polished office buildings of downtown Phoenix. Feliciano Vera is the developer who intends to bridge this divide between rich and poor. “This is a condition that predates statehood,” he said.

In Grant Park, trees and good sidewalks are scarce. Decades of industrial use have polluted the soil. In 2012, median income – at about $19,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – was less than half what of it was citywide.

“For our community to go over the railroad tracks and for the downtown people to come on this side of the railroad tracks, it’s like going to China,” said Eva Olivas, CEO of the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, a group that works to improve the local neighborhoods.

But Olivas said the area is also rich with Latino history. In the 1970s, the now famous saying “si se puede” – Yes, we can – was coined just a few blocks from here when Cesar Chavez embarked on his historic fast for farmworker rights.  “We have been waiting and learning and preparing for this moment,” Olivas said. “This community wants to support something.”

That "something" could be up to 800 new apartments and townhouses – a third of them set aside for low-income residents. There’s room, right under an airport flight path, for about another 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

But with such long a history of disinvestment in this area, what makes the developer think he can pull it off? “The timing,” said Vera. Indeed, from Las Vegas to Detroit, American inner cities are revitalizing. “On the macro level, nationally we are going through this period of intense urbanization,” Vera said.

To gauge the community’s support, Vera is hosting a series of meetings for residents. At a recent gathering inside the Grant Park gym, Vangie Muller and Nenette Parra fantasized about this idea of urbanization. For both women, something as simple as a grocery store would be a huge improvement. But Parra also worried developers will put the community as she knows it at risk. It wouldn’t be the first time in Arizona that working-class Latinos got pushed out of their neighborhoods. Developers “cater to those that are more educated, that are able to speak up,” she said. “Everything that our neighborhood isn't -- that's what they cater to. That's what we don't want.”

The feeling is echoed at El Portal, a Mexican restaurant across the street from Grant Park. “There’s really not an embracing of the Mexican-American culture,” said owner Earl Wilcox. “It’s more the cowboy stuff, the Old West stuff.”

Wilcox’s family is well connected politically, and he’s used that clout to complain that the wrong development will threaten small businesses like his. Wilcox said competition from a big chain could wipe him out and spoil the atmosphere of the entire place.

“If they just come in, historically and traditionally the way they do things – build it and worry about all these things later – then there’s going to be a lot of problems,” he said. But if the developer recognizes Grant Park’s Latino culture, he said “it could be something really beautiful.”

A Black Chef At An All-White Club Who 'Never Looked Back'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 00:34

After his father suffered a heart attack, 13-year-old Clayton Sherrod got a job washing dishes at a country club in Birmingham, Ala. By the time he turned 19 in 1964, he was the executive chef.

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The Birth Of The Minimum Wage In America

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 00:33

For decades, the Supreme Court ruled that laws regulating things like wages and working conditions were unconstitutional. That changed during the Great Depression, when one of the justices switched sides, paving the way for the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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Cash Or Credit? How Kids Pay For School Lunch Matters For Health

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 00:31

A study in the journal Obesity found that students who used credit or debit cards in the school cafeteria chose fewer fruits and vegetables and more desserts than kids paying with cash. But the researchers say schools should work with the bias instead of trying to fight it.

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MLB Approves Expanded Replay Starting This Season

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 00:24

Major League Baseball on Thursday approved a huge expansion of instant replay in hopes of eliminating blown calls that riled players, managers and fans. The NFL, NBA, NHL, some NCAA sports and major tennis tournaments all use a form of replay.

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Surgeon General Adds To List Of Smoking's Harms

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-17 00:19

A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General's office says the nation is at a crossroads, celebrating decades of progress against the chief preventable killer but not yet poised to finish the job.

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Japanese WWII Soldier Who Hid In Jungle For 30 Years Dies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 23:25

Hiroo Onoda was an intelligence officer who came out of hiding on Lubang Island in the Philippines in 1974. He surrendered only when his former commander flew there to reverse his 1945 orders to stay behind. He died Thursday in Tokyo at age 91.

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By Tracking Sugar In Tears, Contact Lens Offers Hope For Diabetics

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 18:14

Despite the technical feat, researchers say that much basic research remains, and the relationship between glucose and tears is still unproven.

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With Senate's OK, $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Heads To Obama

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 15:45

The wide-ranging federal spending bill will prevent any gaps in government funding as well as take some of the sting out of automatic spending cuts. The House approved it Wednesday.

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Sweet 16 And Barreling Toward Cowgirl Racing Fame

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 15:22

High schooler Megan Yurko won more than $21,000 last year in cowgirl barrel races. The sport requires circling three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern at top speed, and Yurko hopes she'll leave this weekend's world championship competition as the top ranked racer.

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Gilligan's 'The Professor' Has Died; Russell Johnson Was 89

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 15:14

Russell Johnson, the actor whose job it was to be the voice of reason and calm on an island of shipwrecked ninnies, reportedly died of natural causes at his home in Washington state. Johnson's role as the Professor on the 1960s comedy Gilligan's Island endeared him to audiences.

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What Do You Do If Your Refrigerator Begins Sending Malicious Emails?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 15:08

Consumers are beginning to buy Internet-connected appliances, but companies haven't done enough to protect the machines from hackers, says an information security expert.

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Some towns fight to hang onto their JC Penney

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 14:13

JC Penney announced it is laying off 2,000 people and closing 33 poor performing stores. The move is expected to save the company $65 million a year.

One of the stores scheduled to close is in the Butte Plaza Mall in Butte, Mont. The manager of the mall, Alana Ferko, calls the news "devastating…the idea they could ever close never crossed my mind." Twelve full-time employees and 20 part-time employees will lose their job.

Ferko acknowledges the store has had some profitability problems, which is how it was put on the JC Penney store closure list.

"During this the period that they looked at, the national economy was shaky, JC Penney corporate was changing leadership and the philosophy and that affected us negatively," Ferko says.

For now, Ferko and others in the community hope JC Penney will reconsider the closure of the store.

"We are not going to lay down and we're definitely not going to stay down," she says, adding that they have plans for a local campaign, "to show [corporate] how important our local JC Penney is to Butte, Mont., and you know, hopefully, get them to change their mind."

JC Penney has had a presence in the city since 1929 and moved to its current location in 1995. Ferko says it’s a place where grandparents take their grandkids to buy new Easter shoes and she remembers getting her first credit card from JC Penney. 

"It’s a working man’s store. That’s what it was when I was a little girl – it’s been here for generations."

Some towns fight to hang onto their JC Penney

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-16 14:13

Retailer JC Penney announced it was laying off 2,000 people and closing 33 poor performing stores yesterday. The move is expected to save the company $65 million a year.

One of the stores scheduled to close is one of the anchor stores in the Butte Plaza Mall in Butte, Montana. The manager of the mall, Alana Ferko calls the news “devastating…the idea they could ever close never crossed my mind.” Twelve full-time employees and 20 part-time employees will lose their job.

NSA Reportedly Collected Millions Of Phone Texts Every Day

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 14:00

A presentation slide cited by The Guardian is subtitled "SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit." The top secret Dishfire text-collection program was reportedly both global and arbitrary.

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U.S. Biathlete Gives Up Olympic Spot To Her Twin Sister

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 13:37

Lanny and Tracy Barnes competed on the U.S. Olympic team in 2006, and Lanny competed in 2010. This year, Tracy gave her spot on the team to Lanny, who was ill during the selection races and just missed qualifying. "The Olympics are about more than just competing," Tracy says.

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For Obama And Senate Democrats, The Goal Is Mutual Protection

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 13:37

For President Obama and Senate Democrats, it's all about mutual aid. The president needs their support to achieve whatever of his remaining agenda he can get through Congress. They need him to help raise money for their re-election campaigns.

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Will Team USA's High-Tech Speedskating Suit Pay Off In Gold?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-16 13:32

On Thursday, Lockheed Martin and the sporting goods company Under Armour unveiled long-awaited photos of the new U.S. speedskating uniform they're calling "Mach 39." Unlike other suits, it's not made entirely of smooth, slippery fabric to reduce air drag.

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