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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Biden administration has stepped in to save Silicon Valley Bank's customers.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

It's an extraordinary effort to contain the fallout of the collapsed financial institution from spreading to other parts of the US banking sector. Treasury officials say all the bank's customers will be able to get all their funds at no cost to taxpayers. And HSBC said it is purchasing the U.K. subsidiary of the bank for just 1 pound.

FADEL: Wow. NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn joins us now to discuss all that's happening. Hi, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: So what exactly is the federal government doing to avert a crisis here?

ALLYN: So federal regulators are making sure that customers who have collectively billions of dollars in the bank - that they will be able to get their money, right? So many of these customers are tech startups that said they'd have to cease operations and wouldn't be able to pay their employees unless they could access their funds. Now, federal insurance typically covers up to $250,000 when a bank fails. But more than 90% of Silicon Valley Bank accounts were above that amount. So Treasury officials took the pretty extraordinary step here, Leila, of waiving that insurance cap.

FADEL: OK, Bobby. So no taxpayer money. Where does this money come from?

ALLYN: So the money's coming from this insurance fund that banks pay into. And because this bank is being bailed out, it means the fund is going to be pretty depleted.

FADEL: OK. So Biden administration officials seem intent on saying this is not a bailout. But is it a bailout?

ALLYN: Right. I mean, in the traditional sense, no, this isn't the 2008 financial crisis bailout that relied on hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. That's not the case here. Banks are not being rescued here. In another sense, though, it is the government taking emergency actions to save the bank's depositors. And it's quite notable that the government's intervention is a huge lifeline for the tech industry - right? - an industry that historically has been pretty hostile to government regulation and oversight.

FADEL: So tell me more about that. What did the bank do with all the new money it had?

ALLYN: Well, the bank took a big chunk of this new money and invested it in long-term government securities. And this is where the trouble really started. High interest rates have meant those investments in government securities were not paying off. And at the same time, tech startups were running out of cash and having a really hard time fundraising. So they kept going back to the bank and pulling more and more money out. That created a crisis. So the bank said, oh, God, what are we going to do? They decided to sell off a massive amount of these government securities to make sure they just had enough money in the bank, which triggered all sorts of panic. And customers pulled out $42 billion on Thursday alone. And soon after, the bank went under.

FADEL: So what's next for Silicon Valley Bank?

ALLYN: So there's a lot of question around who is to blame. Prominent venture capitalists like Peter Thiel encourage companies to yank money out of the bank. And that has led some to argue that venture capitalists helped fuel this bank run that put the bank under. Others say Silicon Valley Bank executives made unwise investment decisions and that they should be held responsible. President Biden hinted that the administration isn't done looking into this. He said that, quote, "Those responsible for the mess will be held to account." But the situation is a big relief to customers, who today can get their money.

FADEL: NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn, thanks so much.

ALLYN: Thanks, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: One movie swept last night's Academy Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF 95TH ACADEMY AWARDS)

HARRISON FORD: And the Oscar goes to "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

(CHEERING)

ANDREW GARFIELD: "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

(CHEERING)

ZOE SALDANA: "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

(CHEERING)

PFEIFFER: A historic night for a distinctive, even radical movie set in the multiverse with an almost entirely Asian cast.

FADEL: NPR's Mandalit del Barco was in Hollywood for the awards and joins us now. Good morning, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: OK. So "Everything Everywhere All At Once" made history.

DEL BARCO: It sure did. It won best picture and also best director and original screenplay for the Daniels - Scheinert and Kwan. You know, backstage, they told us their film was about joy and absurdity and chasing your bliss. "Everything Everywhere" won seven awards in all, including two for fan favorites Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian to win the best actress award and best supporting actor, Ke Huy Quan.

(SOUNDBITE OF 95TH ACADEMY AWARDS)

MICHELLE YEOH: Dreams do come true. And, ladies, don't let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime.

(CHEERING)

YEOH: Never give up.

KE HUY QUAN: My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage.

DEL BARCO: You know, this film has been championed as a feel-good movie. And so many people were rooting for Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, both in the business for so many years. It was really charming to see prisoner Harrison Ford hugging Quan on stage, having started out as a child actor, Short Round in "Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom." And, Leila, after last year's Oscars drama with Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage, well, this was a very positive night. No slaps.

FADEL: Yeah. Very inspiring words we just heard. Tell us more about some of the other big winners last night.

DEL BARCO: Well, there were definitely some upsets - you know, Jamie Lee Curtis beating out the "Black Panther's" Angela Bassett for best supporting actress, Brendan Fraser winning best actor for "The Whale" and not Austin Butler for playing Elvis. Netflix's German anti-war epic "All Quiet On The Western Front" picked up four awards - best international feature, cinematography, original score, production design. Ninety-two years ago, the original film version won the top Oscar. But perhaps the most timely honor went to best documentary winner, "Navalny," about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is a political prisoner. Here was his wife, Yulia, on stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF 95TH ACADEMY AWARDS)

YULIA NAVALNAYA: Alexei, I am dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love.

DEL BARCO: Backstage, we were told that Navalny's in solitary confinement and unwell. It was one of the more sobering moments in an otherwise upbeat, celebratory night.

FADEL: Now, I want to go back to the best picture winner, "Everything Everywhere All At Once," one more time. What do this year's Oscars say about the larger conversation about inclusion and diversity in Hollywood?

DEL BARCO: Well, yeah, there are still real struggles for racial, ethnic and gender representation in the film industry. But this year, there was a lot of diversity among the winners. Now Hollywood has crowned its best picture, a film about an older woman, a queer film, an Asian American story. Ruth Carter became the first Black woman to win two Oscars. And it was also a big year for South Asian artists. From India, the song from the movie "RRR" beat out songs by Rihanna and Lady Gaga. And the composer of "Naatu Naatu" accepted the award, saying he had grown up in India listening to the Carpenters.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE 95TH ACADEMY AWARDS)

MM KEERAVANI: (Singing) "RRR" has to win, pride of every Indian...

(CHEERING)

KEERAVANI: (Singing) ...And must put me on the top of the world.

FADEL: That's NPR's Mandalit del Barco in Culver City, Calif. Thanks, Mandalit.

DEL BARCO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Former President Donald Trump is in Iowa today for the first time since he announced his latest presidential bid.

PFEIFFER: Iowa is still the first state in the nation to formally nominate a Republican presidential candidate every four years. So Trump knows he has to show up to win there.

FADEL: That's why Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters has been following all the presidential hopefuls around the Hawkeye State, and he joins us now. Good morning, Clay.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So what are you seeing in Iowa as the race gets underway there?

MASTERS: Well, it was a bit of a slow start, but things are starting to pick up here. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made a trip to the state on Friday. Now, he has not officially announced he's running, but he's on a book tour as he thinks about a run, a classic pre-announcement move. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is a declared candidate. She just wrapped up a second trip to Iowa last week. And then, of course, former President Trump will be here today. His visit comes on the heels of the news, you know, last week that he's been invited to testify in front of a New York grand jury, a move that's widely understood to mean he could face criminal charges. Certainly, the folks who will be seeing Trump at the Adler Theatre in Davenport today won't think much of that. But I have been speaking with Iowans coming to some of these early events, and they're saying that they're kind of ready to just move on from Trump.

FADEL: So what are you hearing from Iowa voters in these early campaign visits? I mean, you mentioned some are ready to move on from Trump.

MASTERS: Yeah, there was a new Des Moines Register poll last week that shows Iowa Republicans remain committed to Trump.

FADEL: OK.

MASTERS: Want to make that clear. But the former president is seeing his support erode a little bit. Keep in mind, we're still, like, 10 months or so away from the Iowa caucuses.

FADEL: Yeah.

MASTERS: And the people who come out this early are obviously politically engaged. Sheri Fleiss (ph) is a veterinarian. She and her husband braved the snow to go see Nikki Haley at a farm last week in central Iowa. She told me she likes Trump's policies, didn't care for how divisive he was as president. And then another setback for her is that he already served one term.

SHERI FLEISS: Can you get anything done in four years? You know, can we hold on to it for eight years and get some policies moved through to undo a lot of the bad Democratic policies?

MASTERS: So that's something I also heard from other people seeing Haley, as well as Ron DeSantis at these events last week.

FADEL: How has DeSantis been received in Iowa so far?

MASTERS: Yeah, I mean, he's seen as perhaps the biggest challenger to Trump in 2024, even though, again, he's not yet announced his bid. Privately, he met with state lawmakers at the Iowa Capitol when he was here, had two pretty large public events, hundreds of people at each, one in Davenport, one in Des Moines. He gave campaign-style speeches highlighting how he responded to the pandemic early on, banning mask mandates, vaccine mandates and then opening schools early. He also mentioned policies he's passed in Florida, like the law critics dubbed Don't Say Gay. And he told the crowd those kinds of policies are what made him get reelected by an even larger margin in 2022.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RON DESANTIS: We just do the right thing, let the chips fall where they may. We fight back with the truth. And look. All I can tell you is I got elected by 32,000 votes. I spent four years of them attacking me and me fighting back. And I won by 1.5 million. So I'm fine with that.

(CHEERING)

MASTERS: And his message spoke to Ron Shord (ph) from Davenport. He says he wants DeSantis to make it official.

RON SHORD: I don't disagree with a lot of Trump's policies, but I think he's just too abrasive. He's got too much baggage right now to get anything done if he could get elected. And I don't think he can get elected.

MASTERS: And I should note DeSantis was joined by Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa for both those events, and she said she'll remain neutral in this primary. And I expect to see her tonight in Davenport with Donald Trump, as well.

FADEL: That's Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.