PODCAST: Obama in Myanmar, a chat with Chobani Greek Yogurt CEO
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During the campaign season, we heard President Obama talk about America’s strategic “pivot” of attention to Asia. Today he’s making good on that with a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar, also known as Burma. Obama’s trip to Myanmar is the first by a sitting U.S. president. It’s seen as something of a reward, after the military dictatorship began to open up its economic and political systems. U.S. companies from Coca-Cola to MasterCard are checking out the business opportunities in what was one of the world’s last closed economies. Yangon, like Myanmar itself, has two names — the pre-dictatorship name for the country’s biggest city is Rangoon.
Sales of existing homes rose more than expected in October. The National Asosciation of Realtors says sales grew more than 2 percent. The national median price was $179,000 — that’s up by 11 percent over the year before. Home sales — plus more confidence of a compromise on the fiscal cliff — could be driving investor optimism to start this holiday week. But are we getting too confident? The credit-report company TransUnion says our average credit card debt per borrower grew 5 percent in the latest quarter. That average debt is now almost $5,000. The proportion of late payments also rose in recent months.
You’re likely familiar with the “gold card” concept in the credit card world: If you’re a really top customer, you get special services and such. But mostly, you get the smug pleasure of knowing that your card is especially shiny. That is particularly so in Kazakhstan, where Visa is teaming up with a local bank to offer a card made of actual gold. Embedded, naturally, with 26 diamonds. Only the top 100 customers at the Kazakh bank are even eligible, and it costs $100,000 per year. Oh, one more “perk” worth mentioning: You can’t swipe it. Other than that, it’s very useful.
We’ve told you all about the fiscal cliff, and it ain’t over yet. But there is another January 1st deadline facing the lame-duck Congress. The current farm bill extension expires at the end of the year. The bulk of the money for the bill goes to fund food stamps — now called the SNAP program. Some in Congress are pushing to rein in those benefits.
After superstorm Sandy, the electricity went out for more than a million homes and businesses serviced by LIPA — the Long Island Power Authority. The lights are now back on for everyone except those whose homes were badly flooded. LIPA now faces criticism about how it responded to the storm.
There was no New York City Marathon this year. Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to scrap it in the wake of the storm. It was a last-minute, controversial call. But the cancellation was an economic boon to another marathon just down the road.
In 2005, a Turkish immigrant named Hamdi Ulukaya took out a loan from the Small Business Administration, and he bought a closed-up dairy plant near South Edmeston, N.Y. Two years later, the first cup of Chobani Greek yogurt went to market. Since then, Chobani has taken Yoplait and Dannon to school. In five years it’s become the top selling yogurt in the U.S., and Ulukaya is one of the country’s newest billionaires. Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya shares his views on the yogurt company’s success and plans for the future.
Just a quick correction to something we mentioned on Friday, when we talked about the Hostess company going out of business. Some early reports mentioned that Hostess owns Little Debbie, and we relayed that information on to you. In fact, Little Debbie snack cakes are owned by McKee Foods, which stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries if Hostess brands disappear from the shelves. Twinkies, Snowballs, Donettes, even Wonder Bread — these are all Hostess. But before you mourn a piece of your childhood — all is not lost. Hostess today begins its liquidation, a process where buyers could snatch up valuable brands and assets. One rumored buyer: a global bakery conglomerate from Mexico.
And finally, the end of the election has brought a bit of a rough patch… for Donald Trump. Nothing came of his contest to dig up President Obama’s college transcript. His tweets calling for others to join him in a revolution got nowhere. And then the Trump Steakhouse on the Las Vegas Strip gets shut down for health violations — 51 of them, to be specific, from expired caviar to improperly thawed raw tuna. The Trump Steakhouse has now reopened with a clean bill of health. But I kind of want to know: Did anyone get fired?
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