This weekend on Marketplace Money, we're gearing up for the summer with a show about travel and we're saving room for a look inside everyone's favorite in-flight shopping catalog: Skymall. Have you ever bought something from Skymall? Are you obsessed with reading it like we are? Post a comment below with your Skymall stories or email producer Lindsay Thomas at email@example.com.
An argument between three climbers and Sherpa guides on Mount Everest reportedly devolved into a fistfight on the mountain, close to Camp III, at 24,500 feet. The Nepali Times calls it "the highest brawl in world history," as well as evidence of a culture clash.
Video game makers want their products to be as realistic as possible. Often, that means modeling virtual weapons on real ones, then buying permission to use real brand names. For gun makers, that brand placement is worth a lot more than the licensing fees they collect.
When the federal government nudges its way into an industry -- any industry -- breaking up is hard to do. Take helium. Yes, it's for balloons, but also big science and industrial uses.
Washington's been trying to get out of the way for decades. But it's on its way to failing again.
This is a serious subject. But even congressmen can't stop themselves from puns about the federal helium program "floating along," and "what goes up never comes down."
We at Marketplace would never do that. We go straight to the history of the program, to the 1920s and '30s.
The Frank Capra Film "Dirigible" portrayed government management of helium for military blimps meant to counter the Germans' Hindenberg. But the technology crashed in the film, as it did in real life.
And yet, the federal helium program continued. In fact, the government stockpiled the stuff in the '60s.
Today, geologist Chip Groat, co-author of a federal study on the helium market, says the element serves at least two big uses beyond balloons: research and cooling MRI machines.
"It creates a low temperature environment in which the atomic physicists experiment would matter," Groat says. "And in the MRI the low temperature environment is extremely important.
By the '90s, Congress tried to wind down the strategic helium reserve. But then, the world started running out. Some blamed artificially low prices the feds charged helium suppliers.
"If those companies can buy the federal helium gas at a relatively low price, there is less incentive to develop it," says Penn State physicist Moses Chan, a member of a National Academies of Sciences panel studying the helium reserve program.
So in comes Congress to the rescue again. The helium program that was supposed to die this year is poised for extension. That may open the system up to a true market price.
Whatever happens, helium supplies are tight. So there's new interest in conservation, and alternative sources say, for making your voice go Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-squeaky.
Indeed, there's an app for that.
High winds scrapped the crowning of One World Trade Center today. The final touches on the spire will eventually make it the tallest building in the western hemisphere. The skyscraper already towers over all other Manhattan buildings, but it stands out for another reason, too.
“This is a project that wasn’t based on real estate fundamentals,” says Robert Beauregard, professor of urban planning at Columbia. "It wasn’t based on market analysis, supply and demand. It was a politically driven project.”
Lower Manhattan, home to Wall Street, has become more residential. The number of people living in the area has more than doubled since the twin towers came down.
The implication, Beauregard says, is that “it’s going to take a while to lease up the space.”
That's somewhat true. Construction was paused on two of the five World Trade Center buildings because there weren’t enough committed tenants. The centerpiece building, One World Trade Center, is only about half spoken for. So far, just one building is complete and full of renters.
“Fifty, 55 percent committed tenants is about what we expected,” says Michael Shenot, a managing director at real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle who’s been advising the Port Authority on the development of One World Trade Center.
“It has been a bit of a challenge,” he says, “but more so because of the recession and the financial melt down than tenant concerns.”
He says there’s plenty of time to fill up the rest of One World Trade Center, which doesn’t open for another two years.
Given the hit real estate took in the recession, “we’ve outperformed the rest of the market, especially downtown,” says Jordan Barowitz of the Durst Organization, a commercial real estate firm also working with the Port Authority. He says One World Trade Center is expected to reap $100 million a year in rent once it’s full.
Those tenants will be very different from the original World Trade Center.
“Before 9/11, many of the companies downtown were in the FIRE sector -- finance, insurance, and real estate,” says Dara McQuillan, a spokesman for Silverstein Properties, which is developing the other World Trade Center properties. “Today we’ve seen companies moving downtown are much more creative, technology oriented, nonprofits, you’re seeing ad agencies and marketing firms too.”
One World Trade Center’s anchor tenant is Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue magazine. It will occupy a quarter of the soaring tower.
Barowitz, with Durst, says those kinds of tenants are following their employees.
“Brooklyn and Williamsburg have grown into a mecca for young talented professional people, as has northern New Jersey,” he says, referring several neighborhoods with a reputation for creativity and the arts. The access and proximity to those two burgeoning communities, he says, “has made the trade center a very attractive place to locate your building.”
The increasingly residential character of the neighborhood has affected the design of the new World Trade Center complex. In traditionally commercial areas of New York, austere office blocks serve as glassy 9-to-5 hives of buzzing cubicles during the day and become ghost towns at night.
Barowitz says “design-wise, [the World Trade Center complex] will be very different than the original trade center.” There will be more green space, a performing arts center, a million square feet of retail space. “The site is much more permeable than the old trade center towers,” he says. It’ll be “a lot more accessible and useful.”
Pork producers looking for more financial stability than the commodity market affords are trying their luck with specialty hog breeds. These pigs, raised on small farms, with limited antibiotics, cost more to raise but fetch more at market. And many say they make for tastier pork.
The space tourism company says the vehicle hit Mach 1.2 and reached 56,000 feet in its first rocket-powered test.