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PODCAST: Popular polar bears

Mon, 2015-01-05 03:00

What can you get for less than $1.20? The answer: a euro. Plus, Bankrate is forecasting that the Fed will finally hike up interest rates this year. What will this mean for cash-flush consumers, and their growing appetite for new cars, new mortgages, and other forms of debt? How far up do experts predict the rates will hike in 2015, and what impact may this have on the rest of the world’s tepid growth? And once a year, hundreds of polar bears descend upon Churchill, Manitoba, a town with more bears than people. Every year, Churchill’s 800 residents share their small town with a flood of scientists, researchers and tourists who come to study and see these massive creatures. But now, a threat to the polar bear population has Manitobans worried about their primary source of income.

2015 could be the year the Fed hikes up interest rates

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Bankrate is forecasting that the Fed will finally hike up interest rates this year.

What will this mean for cash-flush consumers, and their growing appetite for new cars, new mortgages, and other forms of debt? And how far up do experts predict the rates will hike in 2015, and what impact may this have on the rest of the world’s tepid growth?

Click the media player above to hear more.

A polar bear capital fears a bearless future

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Hundreds of bears gather every winter in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can return to hunting seals. This annual migration attracts thousands of tourists, and it's an economic boon for local businesses.

The problem? Polar bear season only lasts seven weeks. And when you’re hundreds of miles from the next major city, with no roads connecting you to the outside world, and there are only a few months of the year when the ground’s not covered in snow, there aren’t many options for work. Here in Churchill, Manitoba, population 800, there are three.

Tourism, the port of Churchill and the town's health center are the options, says Mayor Mike Spence.

The port, which sends grain to Europe, and the health center employ about 10 percent of the town. About 10,000 tourists a year travel here to see polar bears. They stay in local hotels and lodges, and ride on roving jeeps called tundra buggies.

As long as the bears are here, people will pay as much as $1,000 a day to come. But with the season lasting only two months, residents have a narrow window to make their main chunk of revenue — revenue that could disappear along with these animals. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, this population of polar bears could be gone in only a few decades. So, what does that mean for this town's future?

“When the last bear leaves town, so does everything else,” says Spence. “Big question is: How do we become more successful in year-round parts of our community?”

One potential resource could be increased promotion and tourism for the summer beluga whale season, he says. Some locals, like security guard Brendan Windsor, agree.

“There’s more than just bears to see around here,” Windsor says. “Beluga whales, lots of bird watching, flower season.”

But the mayor admits that's not enough. Ironically, global warming could open up the Northwest passage and benefit the port. But it wouldn't be enough to make up for the end of polar bear tourism.

“If we were to lose a part of it, or in time lose all of it, it would be very difficult to recover what it brings to the economy," he says.

Everyone agrees the next few years are critical. Churchill is cooperating with international research groups to bring awareness to the polar bears' plight, even live-streaming their annual migration. Because if the bears go, this town might not be far behind.

Mexico's president to visit Washington on Tuesday

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

On Tuesday, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visits Washington to hold talks with President Barack Obama on cooperation, economic and security issues such as the Merida Initiative.

Approved six years ago, the U.S. government appropriated $2.3 billion dollars for the plan, which called for the U.S. and Mexican governments to partner against crime that spreads across both country’s borders. It sounds like it should buy a lot of crime fighting. But only about half of the money promised by congress has been used.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Polar bear capital fears for future without bears

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Hundreds of bears gather every winter in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can return to hunting seals. This annual migration attracts thousands of tourists; an economic boon for local businesses.

The problem is, polar bear season only lasts seven weeks. And when you’re hundreds of miles from the next major city, with no roads connecting you to the outside world, and there are only a few months of the year when the ground’s not covered in snow, there aren’t many options for work. Here in Churchill, Manitoba, population 800, there are three.

“Tourism; the port of Churchill is another one; the Churchill health center is another,” says Mayor Mike Spence.

The port, which sends grain to Europe, and the health center, employ about 10 percent of the town. But people travel here to see polar bears. About 10,000 tourists come every year. They stay in local hotels and lodges, and ride on roving jeeps called tundra buggies.

If the bears are here, people will pay as much as $1,000 dollars a day to come. But with the season lasting only two months, residents have a narrow window to make their main chunk of revenue — revenue that could disappear along with these animals. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, this population of polar bears could be gone in only a few decades. So, what does that mean for this town's future?

“When the last bear leaves town, so does everything else,” laments Mayor Spence. “Big question is: how do we become more successful in year-round parts of our community?”

He says one potential could be increased promotion and tourism for the summer beluga whale season. Some locals, like security guard Brendan Windsor, agree.

“There’s more than just bears to see around here,” Windsor points out. “Beluga whales, lots of bird watching, flower season.”

But Mayor Spence admits that's not enough. Ironically, global warming could open up the Northwest passage and benefit the port. But it wouldn't be enough to make up for the end of polar bear tourism.

“If we were to lose a part of it, or in time lose all of it, it would be very difficult to recover what it brings to the economy," he says.

Everyone agrees the next few years are critical. Churchill is cooperating with international research groups to bring awareness to the polar bears' plight, even live-streaming their annual migration. Because if the bears go, this town might not be far behind.

New York developers are mad for super lux apartments

Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

There’s lots of scaffolding, cranes, and hammering in New York City these days. Construction spending has nearly returned to pre-recession highs when accounting for inflation, with nearly $11 billion spent on residential construction this past year.

However, these buildings aren’t for just anyone

“They’re usually very tall, very large, and in the tens of millions of dollars in asking prices,” says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. He says the construction here is now dominated by ultra luxury apartment buildings; a big change from 5 or 10 years ago. “Then it was more a range of housing, more outer borough housing, more affordable housing. Now, we’re spending more money but getting less housing units.”

There’s even something now referred to as Billionaire’s Row in midtown.

“This apartment is over four thousand square feet,” Jeannie Woodbrey says casually, entering a half-floor apartment on the 58th floor of One57, a residential tower in Manhattan where she’s a senior sales executive. Central Park stretches out before the windows like a private runway.

“This one starts at 27, up to about 29, depending on the floor,” she explains, referring to the price tag (in millions).

All those millions buy three bedrooms, a big open living room, and a slew of amenities, including access to a pool which has music from Carnegie Hall piped in underwater.

“I describe this phenomenon as, 'We’re building the world’s most expensive bank safety deposit boxes,'” says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers. “Essentially, the consumer buys one of these units, puts their valuables in it and then rarely visits. And it’s not unique to New York. Miami is seeing this, San Francisco, Los Angeles.”

Miller says the uber wealthy, many of them foreign, are looking for a place to park their money — Many recent luxury sales have been all-cash deals.

High demand and high prices have encouraged developers to build lots of these super-lux buildings — perhaps too many.

“The Manhattan development market has a problem,” Miller says. “It’s facing too much supply with a steady demand. So when people say the market’s been softening, what they’re really saying is we’ve been building too much. The demand hasn’t really changed.”

He doesn’t believe it’s a bubble, but says the pace of sales is slowing and that may leave some planned projects on the drawing board. 

The euro drops to a nine-year low

Mon, 2015-01-05 01:30
$1.1918

The Euro fell to a nine-year low Monday morning, sinking to $1.1861 against the dollar before recovering to $1.1918. As the WSJ reports, the drop in value has a lot to do with Greek politics and expectations that the European Central Bank will amp up its stimulus program.

50 percent

Perspective employers were that much more likely to call back applicants with stereotypically white names than black names, even if their resumes were statistically identical. The author of that study, writing in the Upshot, cites other similar experiments and blames a subliminal, knee-jerk racial bias that contradicts conscious efforts to be more inclusive.

7 weeks

That's how long polar bear season lasts in Churchill, Manitoba. It's an important annual tourist attraction for the small town of 800 — many residents make a large portion of their income off of visitors coming to see the polar bears. But with global warming endangering the polar bear population, many Manitobans worry that their main source of revenue will disappear with the animals.

71 percent

The portion of New Years resolutions that are abandoned after two weeks, FiveThirtyEight reported. The site breaks down that sobering statistic for the most common resolutions.

$11 billion

That's how much was spent last year on residential construction in New York City, an amount which nearly returns to pre-recession highs when accounting for inflation. But that doesn't necessarily translate to cheaper housing, as a lot of that spending is going into lux apartment buildings meant for the super rich.

January 2000

The month AOL made its disastrous purchase of Time Warner, sealing its fate for good. Facebook is on a remarkably similar course as AOL, the Verge notes, in a tech landscape that looks remarkably similar to the 1990s.

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