Economy & business

Dow closes above 23,000 for first time; IBM soars

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 23,000 for the first time on Wednesday, driven by a jump in IBM after it hinted at a return to revenue growth.

The Dow hit 22,000 on Aug. 2, only 54 trading days earlier and roughly half the time it took the index to move from 21,000 to 22,000. This marks the fourth time this year the Dow has reached a 1,000-point milestone.

“Retail investors continue to pour into the marketplace, and with each headline about a new record, and especially round numbers like that, people tend to feel like they’re missing out and you kind of suck more people into the market,” said Ian Winer, head of equities at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“Ultimately, the only way you’re going to top is by getting everybody all in. And we’re getting close.”

Investors globally pulled $33.7 billion from U.S. equity funds during the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters’ Lipper research unit. The funds are on course to post net outflows for the full year.

Shares of IBM, which beat expectations on revenue, jumped 8.9 percent and accounted for about 90 points of the day’s 160 point-gain in the blue-chip index.

Solid earnings, stronger economic growth and hopes that President Donald Trump may be able to make progress on tax cuts have helped the market rally this year.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also hit record closing highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 160.16 points, or 0.7 percent, to end at 23,157.6, the S&P 500 gained 1.9 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,561.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.56 point, or 0.01 percent, to 6,624.22.

“Today the catalyst is clearly IBM … which appears to have turned the corner. It gave the Dow the boost to stay over 23,000,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

The Dow had briefly surpassed the all-time peak on Tuesday but closed just shy of it.

The financial index jumped 0.6 percent, led by bank stocks recovering from recent post-earnings losses. Bullish calls by brokerages helped to support the bank shares.

Bank shares had run up ahead of recent results, which resulted in some selling following the news, Krosby said.

Investors await news on Trump’s decision on the Federal Reserve chair position. The White House said Wednesday Trump will announce his decision in the “coming days.”

Abbott rose 1.3 percent after the company’s profit beat estimates on strong sales in its medical devices business.

After the bell, shares of eBay fell 4 percent following its results.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.32-to-1 ratio favored advancers. About 5.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 5.9 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.


Science & Health

Some Flowers Create Blue Halo to Attract Foraging Bees

Some flowers have found a nifty way to get the blues.

They create a blue halo, apparently to attract the bees they need for pollination, scientists reported Wednesday. Bees are drawn to the color blue, but it’s hard for flowers to make that color in their petals.

Instead, some flowers use a trick of physics. They produce a blue halo when sunlight strikes a series of tiny ridges in their thin waxy surfaces. The ridges alter how the light bounces back, which affects the color that one sees.


The halos appear over pigmented areas of a flower, and people can see them over darkly colored areas if they look from certain angles.

The halo trick is uncommon among flowers. But many tulip species, along with some kinds of daisy and peony, are among those that can do it, said Edwige Moyroud of Cambridge University in England.  


In a study published Wednesday by the journal Nature, Moyroud and others analyze the flower surfaces and used artificial flowers to show that bumblebees can see the halos.


An accompanying commentary said the paper shows how flowers that aren’t blue can still use that color to attract bees. Further work should see whether the halo also attracts other insects, wrote Dimitri Deheyn of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.


Economy & business

A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks More Support

Every month, Fatma Ahmed sends $200 of the earnings she makes in London to her family in Somalia.

“It’s for daily life. For rent, for buying grocery things, to live over there. Because actually in Somalia, that much we do not have,” she said.

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. However, analysts warn that the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks, putting the welfare of millions of people at risk.

The two million Somalis living overseas send an estimated $1.3 billion back home every year. With no formal banking system in Somalia, most of the diaspora use remittance services.

Technology makes that possible, says Abdirashid Duale, CEO of Dahabshiil, one of Africa’s biggest remittance services.

“Now, it is so instant, where we have the latest technology, with the internet, secure channels that we can use to send money back home,” Duale said. “Or we use mobiles … smartphones, technology where it will help us to deliver money quickly, but less costly. Technology is supporting us also with the compliance issue.”

Remittance companies rely on global banks to route the money, and those banks must comply with regulations on money laundering and the financing of crime and terrorism.

Citing those concerns, many banks have chosen to withdraw from the market. Such a move is unnecessary, says remittance industry expert Laura Hammond of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Very often, it is not based on any kind of empirical evidence that shows that money is going into the wrong hands,” Hammond said. “The fear is just there is a conflict in Somalia, there’s the al-Shabab movement. And so there is a problem in a sense, a real precarious nature of the Somali remittance industry.”

The industry received a high-profile boost last month as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $1 million using the remittance firm Dahabshiil, along with mobile phone companies Somtel and eDahab, with the money transferred “live” to 1,000 families suffering the drought in Somalia.

The technology is moving fast. However, the cooperation of the global banking system remains key, and the remittance industry wants regulators to do more to support this lifeline. 

Arts & Entertainment

Ai Weiwei’s ‘Human Flow’ Highlights Refugee Plight Around the World

Human Flow by internationally acclaimed artist and activist Ai Weiwei, highlights the plight of refugees around the world. The Chinese dissident is not the first to make a documentary about the displaced, but his film captures the flow of humanity on a planetary scale. 

Ai filmed in 23 different countries in 40 different refugee camps where people fleeing war, environmental crises and religious persecution were staying. His goal is to show that the flood of refugees has global repercussions.

“You are forcibly robbing this human being of all aspects that would make human life not just tolerable but meaningful in many ways,” says a voice in the documentary.

According to the film, over 65 million people in the world today have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Using cameras attached to drones, Ai Weiwei records humanity’s movement from up high. 

Ai, a renowned artist known for his massive art installations with social and political connotations around the world, is an unassuming, soft- spoken man with a thoughtful expression. Sitting opposite me in one of the studios of the Voice of America, he snaps my picture on his iPhone along with many others he has taken that day of people and exhibits on VOA’s hallways. I feel like an art installation. I ask him what prompted him to make a film about human flow.

“It was serendipitous,” he responds.  

An unexpected opportunity

While vacationing on the Greek island of Lesbos with his family, Ai saw a boat full of refugees approaching. He started filming immediately on his phone.

Known for his political activism against communist China, his imprisonment, torture and subsequent exile, he lives in Berlin now and one would hardly believe that anything could take the Chinese dissident by surprise. But as he relates, filming and living with refugees in makeshift camps was unlike anything he had experienced before. 

“We have been hearing about the refugees all the time in the news. But to see a real group of people come down is very different. You see the children, the women, and you see those elderly people and they are tired, they are frightened, they basically risk their lives, give up everything, to come to just try to find safe conditions. Even though I grew up in a communist society we didn’t see these kinds of things happen. So, for me it is a shock, and I think it’s an opportunity to learn about what really happened. “

Human Flow shows masses fleeing wars, religious persecution, and environmental disasters.  At times his film feels like another one of his enormous art installations, with humanity playing a dual lead, both as a massive organism and as single individuals staring into a camera. The effect is more visceral than intellectual and that is exactly what Ai Weiwei wants to convey.

“We wanted to build an understanding about human flow. Human flow as always happens in human history. In many cases, it is part of our humanity and our civilization,” he says.

Stemming the flow

But the social anomaly of our times, says the filmmaker, is the effort by countries to stem that flow by preventing refugees from crossing borders and integrating into new societies.  After a harrowing sea voyage and days of walking, many refugees from the Middle East make their way to northern Greece, only to be stopped on its border with Macedonia. 

“Over seventy borders have built up their fences and walls and have forbidden any refugee to pass through. So, by doing that, they are really not only stopping  the life line of those refugees to try to find a safe place, even just temporarily across the border and go to another location, but are also putting them in extremely dangerous conditions.”

Ai talks about human smuggling and sex trafficking of a very vulnerable population, mostly of women and children.

At a refugee camp in Turkey, he films an exasperated doctor trying to take care of the young. He points to a baby: “two months old, and born here but he didn’t have any vaccinations.” The deplorable health conditions are one of the many problems plaguing the stateless. A man stands knee high in mud, looking at a cemetery filled with drowned refugees, relatives and friends. He hides his head in his hands and sobs.

A warning for the future

Ai Weiwei warns if we don’t save those people from displacement, entire generations — born without identity, prospects for a better life or a country — will be vulnerable to extremism and radicalization.

“I think, if you see so many children growing up under these conditions, in this 65 million people, now it’s getting much bigger, with 420,000 refugees added from Myanmar, how will these children behave, when they grow up, after they have seen how their parents have been badly treated, unfairly treated, the world watching but doing nothing. What kind of image would remain in their minds?”

Ai Weiwei is very critical of Europe and the United States for lacking empathy, leadership and vision about the refugee issue. He sees the elections of ultra-right governments in Europe and of Donald Trump in the US as dire for refugees worldwide.

“It certainly requires global leaders and also every citizen to be involved to solve the problem,“ he says, warning, if this does not change, no one’s future is safe.

Economy & business

A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks Support

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. But analysts warn the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks — and its precarious nature puts the welfare of millions of people at risk. Henry Ridgwell reports.

Arts & Entertainment

Elvis House, Marilyn Dresses, JFK Radio Up for Auction

Years before Elvis Presley became the King of Rock and Roll, the story goes, he lived in a small house up a hill from his elementary school in northeastern Mississippi and played with other kids in a nearby field. Fans now have a chance to buy that old home and land.

The white, wood-frame house and more than 16 acres (6 hectares) of adjoining property are part of an upcoming celebrity auction that includes everything from actress Marilyn Monroe’s dresses to Michael Jackson’s dark fedora.

Want the Army uniform that Tom Hanks wore while filming “Forrest Gump?” It’s in the sale. What about Whitney Houston’s see-through, acrylic piano or the umbrella with a parrot-shaped handle that Julie Andrews carried in “Mary Poppins?” Or Hugh Hefner’s 1973 BMW, purchased with Playboy profits, presumably?

The house, land and other memorabilia are part of an online auction set for November 11 by GWS Auctions, a Southern California company which specializes in the sale of items including estates, fine art and celebrity collectibles.

More than 150 items will be auctioned in all, including other items linked to Presley — his private jet, a 1957 pink Cadillac, a boat named “Hound Dog,” a television he shot up at Graceland and a two-bedroom mobile home from his Circle G ranch.

There’s also a radio once owned by President John F. Kennedy; a dress, nightgown and jumpsuit owned by his late widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Reese Witherspoon clothing from the movie “Legally Blonde;” and a 1993 Jaguar owned by the late model Anna Nicole Smith.

GWS Auctions owner Brigitte Kruse said all the celebrities’ items have been authenticated in various ways.

“Their possessions are rare, but beyond any monetary value, fans place an emotional value on owning something that came in contact with their idols,” she said.

In the case of the Presley house, Charlene Presley, a relative by marriage, said the structure was initially built by the singer’s father, Vernon Presley, and uncle next to the small home where Presley was born in 1935. That birthplace is the focal point of a park and museum that draw thousands of visitors annually to Tupelo.

The newer house was moved to higher ground about a half-mile away from Elvis’ birthplace around 1942, and the singer and his mother, Gladys Presley, lived there for a time, Presley said.


“This house is a house that Elvis and Gladys lived in and he went to school at Lawhon School in the third grade,” she said. “She would walk him to school down this street and around to Lawhon.”

The adjoining property was a playground for Presley, who swam in the creek, played and hunted on the land, according to Presley.

The executive director of the Elvis Presley Birthplace Foundation, Dick Guyton, said five shotgun-style homes — named for their long, narrow design — once stood in the area where Presley’s birth home is still located. But Guyton said he doesn’t know what happened to any of the four other structures, meaning he can’t vouch for the house that’s coming up for sale.

“We don’t have any way to authenticate it,” Guyton said. “We don’t know that that particular house is one that sat here by the birthplace.”

Kruse said members of the Presley family and a longtime employee of Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises have certified all the Presley-related sale pieces.

How much might someone pay for a little house that would normally be worth a few thousand dollars at most? Who knows? But the Presley jet sold for nearly $500,000 in May before it was cleaned up and anyone had located its engines, the auction company said.

Located within a short walk of Presley’s birthplace, the land includes a tract that was going to be developed into a cemetery for Elvis fans more than a decade ago. The project never panned out, and no one has lived in the house for years.

“There’s never really been anything like this,” Kruse said. “It will be interesting to see what this one does.”

Arts & Entertainment

Diana Ross to Perform, be Honored at American Music Awards

Diana Ross will receive a lifetime achievement honor at next month’s American Music Awards and will celebrate with a performance on the broadcast next month.

ABC and Dick Clark Productions announced the honor Wednesday. It’s the first time the AMAs have given out the award since 2006, when it was presented to Sting. Previous winners include Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Jackson.


The 73-year-old Ross tells The Associated Press of the honor: “It took a lifetime to get here, I’m not going anywhere … It’s been a wonderful journey for me of joy and much appreciation.”


The Motown legend and former Supremes singer has performed at the AMAs several times and hosted the show twice.


The AMAs will air live on ABC from Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 19.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Teens Overwhelmingly Prefer Snapchat to Facebook, Study Finds

Teenagers are turning away from traditional social media like Facebook and increasingly turning to Snapchat to communicate with their friends, according to a new study released Wednesday.

According to Piper Jaffray’s semi-annual “Taking Stock with Teens” research survey, 47 percent of teenagers said Snapchat is their favorite social media platform, compared with just nine percent who said Facebook was their favorite.

The results show a sharp spike in the number of teens who said Snapchat is their favorite platform, up from 24 percent when the survey was given in the spring of last year.

In addition to Snapchat and Facebook, 24 percent of teens said they preferred Instagram – virtually unchanged from 2016 – and seven percent said they prefer Twitter, down from 15 percent last year.

For the report, Piper Jaffray interviewed 6,100 teens in 44 states, with an average age of 16.

While Snapchat is the most popular social medium used by teens, it is also the most harmful for them, according to a study released earlier this year by the British Royal Society for Public Health.

The study, which ranked the psychological impact of various social media on teenagers, showed Snapchat, along with Instagram, to cause the largest number of “health and well-being” issues among those surveyed.

Those issues include anxiety, depression, quality of sleep, body image, loneliness and real-world friendships and connections.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the RSPH, said Snapchat and Instagram likely cause the most mental health issues among teens because “both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

To combat the negative influence of social media, the researchers recommend adding pop ups that warn users of heavy usage, which was supported by 71 percent of the people surveyed.