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tv   Press Here  NBC  August 11, 2019 9:00am-9:28am PDT

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if the chinese cut off access to so-called rare earth elements? a san francisco company wants to give you money to help you buy a house, and because internet, a look at how our online lives are changing the language. our reporters, erin griffith of "the new york times" and reuters' joe menn, this week on "press:here." ♪ scott: good morning, everyone. i'm scott mcgrew. i got one of those letters in the mail the other day. you know the kind, the ones that say "for addressee only," sure signs there's gonna be a fake check inside. and sure enough, there's the check: $218,000 made out to me.
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now, if you have your own tv show you can get away with certain things like inviting the ceo of the company that sent you the fake check to explain it and that's what i've done. thomas sponholtz is the ceo of unison, a very unusual buss that offers to co-invest in houses alongside the homeowner, the same way parents might help their child buy a house. unison helps with the down payment and, in exchange, owns a piece of that house with you. if the house goes up in value, unison shares in the profits when you sell it. thomas has years of experience in finance. before running unison he was at black rock. he has several degrees in economics and apparently he wants to help you buy a e. joined by erin griffith of "the new york times," joe menn of reuters. is it really just that simple, we go in on a house together? thomas sponholtz: it really is. it's essentially investing together in a house. scott: right, like parents would. i mean, hopefully my parents wouldn't then want a cut of, you know, the profits at the end. maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't.
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but it is that simple. we--you are going to contribute to the down payment, i can hold the house for, what, however long i want to, i can live in my own house for as long as i want? thomas: up to 30 years. scott: up to--well, that's plenty of time. i then sell it. we sell it for more, you get the percentage that you put in plus a certain profit? thomas: correct. and simultaneously, or likewise, if the house declines in value we participate in the loss alongside of you. erin griffith: how many times have you done that so far? thomas: participated in the loss? erin: mm-hm. thomas: or have we realized a loss? we participate in the loss of all houses that we purchased. how many times have we realized a loss, i don't know that number off the top of my head but-- scott: but it's happened? thomas: oh, definitely. we were actually doing this during the financial crisis and a lot of houses declined in value. joe menn: how long have you been at this and in how many markets? thomas: about 12 years and today we're in 30 states. scott: this seems like such an obvious thing.
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i'm surprised i hadn't heard of it before. thomas: it's very obvious and, really, at the end of the day, this--the housing market and the financing of a house should have been this way from the beginning because when you buy your first house we all know the pain of buying the first house when we're putting all our hard-earned cash into one investment. it would be a lot better if we had some diversification and then you can actually get some help buying the house and maybe keep some cash for a rainy day on the side so, going back to co-investing, i would say it really is the way housing should have been from the beginning and, as you pointed out, it has been like this for a long time but it was just done by your parents or your rich uncle. and our goal is really to democratize the rich uncle so that everybody can afford to buy a house but in balance with their income or their life goals, rather than having to able to afford and thenget intthe house owns you. not be so again, it really is the way it should have been from the beginning. joe: i guess one of the drawbacks is that you
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can't pass your house on to yki sc. ott: cif you own it-- thomas: correct, so you have to--you have to live in the house, correct. you can--the kids, on the other hand, can then reapply for the same arrangement. scott: refinance. tell me, do you have any trouble and i was teasing you about the junk mail but this actually is from you. but do you have any trouble convincing homeowners that, no, it really is that simple, and i'll give you an analogy and that is solar city. we had the solar city ceo on years ago and he said, "we're having trouble because we go up to the front door, we say, 'here's what we'd like to do. we wanna put free solar panels on your home. you don't pay anything. we'll pull all the permits, we'll do all the construction, doesn't cost you a cent. and then we're gonna cut your power bill in half.'" and they got the door slammed in their face because that can't be right. buy is solar city's model. it is that simple. thomas: you know, the business model is very different than
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what people know and, for at's new. but what's unique here is that it's a partnership and a partnership means that we unusual in business.herhe se tiy typically, that's a business and a client and they don't lose--they don't win or lose together, but in this case, because it is a partnership, and we go in together at the same time, if the house appreciates, we both win. if the house depreciates, we both lose. so there's no catch or no mystery behind it. it is really just a partnership but it is new and you have to explain that. erin: but how do you convince people that you'll be around for the long haul because you are, kind of, you know, a little bit of an upstart. you said you've been doing this for 12 years but still i think when people are thinking about their house, they're thinking about long-term and if they wanna do business with a startup, what happens if you guys sell or if there's a housing crash. true, yeah, i mean, i'm just curious. like, how do you convince people, like, this is gonna be around for a long time and we're not gonna screw you sometime? thomas: we receive no payments, right? so we're not a lender.
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so we provide you cash today and then we participate in the changing value of the house alongside with you. and we don't realize a gain or loss before you decide to sell the house. so you don't need us in between the beginning so this might actually be one of the cases where that's a good event for perhaps the client. obviously, that's not gonna be the case but you don't have that risk as a homeowner. it's a true partnership and that is really, as i said, unusual as a business model. joe: i just want one question on the details. do you have a straight amount of equity typically and then that equity goes up over time or is it money in lieu of equity? how does that work? thomas: i'm actually not quite-- i'm not understanding your question. joe: oh, so well, do you own a percentage of the house after you help with the down payment or is it just them agreeing to pay you something at a future date? thomas: oh, good question. so the actual arrangement is that we have a right to own a piece of the house. we don't-- scott: you have a lien on the house. thomas: yeah, we--but it's not a loan, right? there's no note or loan attached to the house but there's a lien.
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so that means that in the beginning we provide you with a cash payment and then on a pre-agreed percentage ownership of the change in value of the house, 10, 20, 30 years passes scott: thomas, are you repackaging this debt thomas: we have a relationship with the homeowner, each homeowner partner, for the duration of the time. and selling it off or ar scott: you n pools and we scott: and where's your initial funding coming from? where's the capital coming from? thomas: so that's capital for the company. we have shareholders like other people have shareholders, and then we have funds and in those funds are very long-term patient institutional capital. scott: and i wanna squeeze in one more question before we go to break and that is, would you helping me, i mean, outside of silicon valley maybe, put me in a house i couldn't afford? in other words, if i could double my down payment, i could buy a much bigger house, a house i shouldn't have been in in the first place. thomas: we are exactly the inverse of that example. scott: in what way?
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thomas: in what way. first of all, you have to still get a mortgage to buy a house. the lender will have to approve you on your debt to income ratio as that industry calls it. in other words, do you make enough money to pay for the mortgage? so even if some poor player wanted to do what you illustrate, they couldn't because you need a mortgage. likewise, it would make no sense for us to help you buy us togher si only have your best interest in mind and you have my for me to veerest in mind.sens you couldn't afford. scott: if you don't have a rich uncle, thomas sponholtz is your rich uncle. thanks for being with us. thomas: thank you, i appreciate it. scott: up next, china's got something we want, something apple and tessa--tesla, rather, are desperate for and they know it. when "press:here" continues. ♪
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scott: welcome back to "press:here." i want you to look at a photograph with me because there's a lot going on in the picture. this is chinese president xi touring a rare earths facility back in may. the photograph was released by the chinese government with little comment but the message is clear: china can cut off access to their rare earths. rare earth elements are the impossible-to-pronounce parts of the periodic table like praseodymium used in jet engines
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and ytterbium used in fiber optics. tesla uses neodymium for their electric motors. i'm sure those mispronounced all of those but you get my point. the worry is in the middle of this trade war, china will take its rare earths and go home, causing huge problems for american companies. ann bridges is an expert on rare earths and the co-author of a book about the subject that got glowing reviews in the "canadian mining journal" as well as more mainstream outlets like "national review." she's here to educate us. all right, first of all, i did a terrible job with some of those, and neodymium you have in your hand. sample and i brought itm, yes.fa so you could see exactly what we're talking about here. pretty-- scott: looks like, maybe, lead or some of the graphites, something like that. ann: that's correct, but if you pull out your smartphone you'll see that that's used in there and so the question is how do you get from here to our smartphones and all the other magnets that are used and sensors that are used in our current-day technology. scott: why is it current-day technology?
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have we used neodymium in the past or is this something new with iphones and spawned an entire new pursuitey of what's really going on in the periodic table of elements and so, for the last few decades, we've been pursuing more and more scientific applications, ways to make things smaller, faster, able to handle heat. and we've seen this in the semi-conductor industry but now we're doing the internet of things. we have more and more. we want mobility, we want everything, and we have all these emerging countries, china, india, and more, who have a growing middle-class population and now we have all these proclamations that we shall be running electric vehicles by a certain date across the world so there's just a growing demand for the finished product. the problem is that to get from here to there is a huge leap and it's not just what we have in the ground, it's the entire supply chain and manufacturing chain because we have to process these and filter these and purify them and make them
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into metals and alloys and get it finally into a useable form. erin: so why can't we recycle them? kind of a dumb question, but-- ann: well, eventually we can, some of them. but when you process and purify them and make 'em into new metals and alloys, you're actually changing the chemical basis of it. so sometimes you can split it apart. many times you can't. the other thing, today recycling isn't a good solution because we don't have enough of 'em out there to have a critical mass to be able to create a nugget then to be able to go back from there. joe: if these are in the earth, all over the earth, why can't we just mimic what the chinese processing capability is? how hard could it be to just do the same processing that they did? ann: well, it's probably not hard compared for americans who are pretty ingenious. we gave up this landscape about 20, 30 years ago, literally. i mean, we don't have many schools that offer degrees in this, and our patents filings on these is going like this, and china's are like this. they literally have filed 10 to 20 times more patents over
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the years than we have on using these the geoloy that's reimporting them from greek, from turkey, owhow anymore because for the last 20 years silicon valley has been software and apps. scott: but--go ahead. erin: i mean, we're here in silicon valley and we have a problem and that is, you know, what people here do is innovate their way out of problems so if we're--why can't we--why isn't anyone trying to innovate their way out of this or are there startups or companies that are working on ways around it? ann: there are startups. they're not necessarily here. they tend to be more in the mining areas of the world. what's going on in pittsburgh is truly amazing with carnegie mellon. they've decided that they're staking their claim on the next generation of technology. they're near the auto industry. in--for apple, tesla, they are caught up in having their manufacturing in china and you don't wanna tick off yourvs for manufacturing and where you're trying to sell a product into the consumer class. the problem urisha and they care about having access to this. they don't care whether it costs 2 cents or $25 when you're putting millions of dollars into a submarine.
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they need to have something that works, and they need to have a reliable supply. scott: and the trump administration has noticed this. i mean, they have been pushing forward to get some sort of mining ability back into america but you're saying it's a 20-year lag. ann: it's a many-year lag. we started with the mining. that's, you know, been an issue now since the executive order in december 2017 but it simply takes time. you can't just turn a mine overnight and you can't just build a manufacturing and processing facility overnight. you need to make sure you have all the pieces in place and that end customer so if apple or tesla said, "we wanna buy american," okay, fine, we have a po now anbuu china has also demonstratd that they're willing to tank the prices of the global market so all of a sudden with private-- ann: it wouldn't be worth it, and investors go away. scott: to joe's point about how this is actually all over. it's not like china has some vein of this that only they do, the way you might only findt hdiamonds in certain places.r. but is the mining process such that maybe we wouldn'tept the mining process, that we would be digging whole mountains
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apart to get those little nuggets that you have in front of us, in a way that other countries might be, like, "it's fine; do it"? ann: in the past, i would say "yes." sadly, a lot of these kinds of rare earth elements have been considered waste for our core mining already, like, when we mine copper, you have rare earths as part of it. the problem is no one wanted to deal with it and there wasn't enough economic viability and scope and quantity to deal with it so they just covered it back up. so we have a lot of what's called mine tailings that we can go through and filter and process and do it fairly safely, environmentally well. china was willing to screw up their environment and a lot of "yeah, there is a in one last question and that,e is that photograph that i showed off the top of president xi at a mining facility, rare earth facility. is that the correct interpretation? i mean, that was an interesting photograph to be published and i think that's what the message was in the middle of this trade war, is, "hey, don't forget, you
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can't make an iphone without us." ann: you can't make an iphone, we can't go to war in many respects because we need them to supply our military contractors. so yes, very much and just one quick one. if you look at the elements, you know, fire, air, water, earth, china's culture has five and it includes metals. they appreciate the value that metals brings to their life and they are willing to support that and they've been going after this for decades. scott: ann bridges has written several books about rare earth and i think we're gonna have her back on 'cause i think this is gonna be--continue to be a major, major issue. ann bridges, thanks for being with us. ann: thank you.
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scott: "press:here" will be back in a moment. ♪ scott: welcome back to "press:here." have you noticed there are a lot of words for dog online? people talk about their puppers and their doggos and their floofs and their good boys. this is more than just slang. it is a form of language. gretchen mcculloch is a professional linguist who studies the development expertise on the internet. her new book which i have been looking forward to is "because internet: understanding the new rules of language." gretchen, good morning, and let me start out by pointing out there is no internet slang for cats and yet there are dozens orbecause dogs are better than cats and that is pure science right there. gretchen mcculloch: i think you're forgetting about the first animal meme of all which was the lolcat and therefore,
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you know, proves the superiority of the cat. scott: i had forgotten about lolcats. all right, explain the title to your book. i got it immediately but "because internet." explain that to me. gretchen: "because internet" is an example of one of these linguistic phenomena that's especially popular on the internet which is this stylized sort of incoherent language used to heighten an emotional effect. ps so evident that you don't need the full sentence to explain it. gretchen: ha, ha, ha, ha. i think the first example that i came across in this phenomenon was, "i can't do my homework because skyrim," so. scott: now, there is this temptation and i'm not going to do it to you, to interpret what you're doing as some sort of "hey, listen up, parents, we're gonna explain what teens are talking about on the internet when they say 'ffs' or something like that." you are way above that.
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i mean, what you're talking about is linguistic science, right? gretchen: right, absolutely. so there's a whole area of linguistic called sociolinguistics which talks about how language and society are intertwined t oups in society use language differently. scott: let me read something out of your book to prove the point. you're talking about the words--the letters repeating like the word "so," but using a dozen "o's" in "so." you write: "i searched the corpus of 'rsaying, that this is a very serious science that you are engaged in. gretchen: it's a very serious science but i really like the juxtaposition of applying serious science to topics that can seem a little bit amusing or frivolous and the connection between the two is really exciting for me. scott: oh, right, yeah, absolutely feel free to sell your book there. i'm not for some reason saying, "it is a very serious tome and treatise on the american english language. gretchen: it's very boring. scott: yes, no, it's got lolcats in it, for goodness sakes and emojis, i noticed, which was that a problem in printing
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a book to put, like, all the different emojis in it? gretchen: it was an interesting complication when it came to printing the book and, in fact, because of how, you know, the software that the publisher were using, we actually had to save all of the emojis as tiny image files you'll see at the end of the book there's a note on the font used in the book, and that note also ide scott: fair enough, okay. so i use s i mean it as, "okay, got it," you know, like, "all right." there are these sort of emoji languages and i'm not just--not talking about just the slang but this way of now communicating even in business that becomes this very shorthand. gretchen: i like to talk about emoji in terms of gesture. i think that gesture and the words that we say have this complementary relationship with each other and you want to enhance the meaning of what you say by gesturing. you can make things clearer by smiling or by frowning or by
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shrugging and adding emoji to what you're saying can also help you clarify your meaning in a very similar sort of way. scott: we have gotten to the point where in email and text it can be difficult sometimes toa. you sound sarcastic or you sound less than enthusiastic. i know there's been sort of this big debate as to whether people in serious business, fortune 500 companies, ought to be using exclamation points, for instance, in their emails. gretchen: i think it really depends on context, you know? if you're having a straightforward back and forth with someone that you know relatively well then probably you wanna do that. if you're writing a formal memo, then maybe not. it really depends on context. scott: my sister says i shouldn't use the word "super." should i use the word "super"? you're a linguist. i want this on record. gretchen: i don't know. i don't wanna insert myself in the argument between you and your sister. scott: you remember this is my tv show and i'm promoting your book, right? gretchen: you're right, you're completely right, whatever you say. scott: that's correct. that is the correct answer on that one. talk to me about language. i've had erin mckean, the lexicographer, on several times talking about how language works
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d think there are two i've had erin mckean, schools of thought.her, on one is that the word "literallys adapted and turned to the point where "literally," "mns figuratively. there's the, " literally means it actually happened." and then there's the, "you know what? language evolves and now it means figuratively." gretchen: you know what? i'd like to propose a third camp to the "literally" controversy which is if you look back at the history of the word "literally," it literally means containing the letters or referring to letters. so, you know, even the purists, so-called purists, who think that it should mean exactly what happened, aren't actually going back to the most literal meaning of "literally" which is by the letter. so there is no real linguistic purism. eventually, you know, etymology is fun but it's not the answer. scott: if you're just joining us, we're talking to an expert on language. how in this internet world has language changed in cultures
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in that everyone online seems to have adopted sort of the same, might be doing it in french, they might be doing it in russian, but they're still doing memes. you know, they're--everybody's adopted the same style of talking online on reddit, on twitter, that kind of thing, even if they're factually using a different spoken language. gretchen: well, it's interesting because there are actually twitter dialect studies which look at tweets that have geotags in them and they find that certain features of dialects according to traditional dialects are still alive and well. and so, some examples of this are there's this phenomenon called double modals in the american south where people say things like, "might could," or "might should," as in, "i might could close the window. you might should oughta, you know, get to bed soon." and these phenomena, traditional linguistic methodology has suggested they'd be udyal because they occur relatively rarely in speech,
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even though they're there. but when you look at how people use them on twitter, there's a linguist named jack grieve who's done twitter maps of these double modal constructions and you can see exactly where they're found and they match up with the informal intuitions completely abandonialect maps.t our local ways of speaking when we go online. scott: see, i wouldn't have expected that. i would have thought the internet would have sort of made everything--sort of averaged out everything. gretchen: it's really interesting because people have been predicting this for a long time with all kinds of mass media. when the newspaper was introduced, when radio and television were introduced, all of these things were supposed to lead to the eradication of local dialects and none of them has been the case. scott: gretchen mcculloch's new book is "because internet: understanding the new rules of language." i'm enjoying it very much and, gretchen, thank you for being with us. gretchen: thanks for having me. scott: "press:here" will be back in just a moment. ♪
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scott: a quick reminder as we head out the door this morning, webe about venture capital called "sand hill road."
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this week we talked to jenny lefcourt of freestyle capital. you can find it wherever you find your finest podcasts. that's our show for this week. my thanks to my guests and thank you for making us part of your sunday morning. ♪ ♪
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damian trujillo: hello, and welcome to "comunidad del valle." i'm damian trujillo, and today, the latino community foundation plus the alum rock school district, and they're goin' back to school on your "comunidad del valle." ♪ ♪ damian: and we begin with the annual clear the shelters event put on by nbc bay area and telemundo canal 48, and several other agencies that care for our pets. julie st. gregory is here on our show. she's with the san jose animal care center. welcome to the show. julie st. gregory: thank you. glad to be here.ay s julie:st like her. julie: we think she has beautiful hair, and she's just one of our puppies that's gonna be up for adoption that day at clear the shelters. damian: we do have some video from prior events.
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