National / International News
Stationary bikes that power your gadgets as you pedal are this week's innovation pick. They've already appeared in railway stations and airports in Europe and may be for sale later this year.
It’s unlikely that someone outside the jazz scene would cite Clark Terry if asked to name an influential jazz musician. That’s something legendary music producer Quincy Jones and documentary filmmaker Alan Hicks hope to change.
The two have paired up to make “Keep on Keepin’ On,” a documentary that explains Terry’s role in shaping American jazz music and follows Terry’s work with one of his students.
Both Jones and Hicks agree Terry is one of the best trumpet players ever. He played with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and many more. He was also a member of Johnny Carson’s house band, the NBC Orchestra.
Hicks realized early on that to really illustrate Terry’s greatest legacy, they’d have to show him teaching.
“When we were doing interviews with all these greats, they would constantly be saying, 'Yeah, he’s one of the greatest trumpet players that ever lived, but he’s also one of the greatest teachers to have ever lived,'” Hicks says.
Terry was known to be generous with his time with developing musicians. His students include Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Jones himself.
“I was 12, and I studied with him when I was 13,” Jones says. He remembers skipping school in Seattle to hang out with jazz musicians.
“Seattle was perfect to hang out with guys like Clark, and I begged him to give me a lesson,” he says.
Terry and a student, pianist Justin Kauflin, share a special bond. Kauflin has been blind since he was 11, and Terry went blind more recently after a lifetime of diabetes. In the documentary, the two work through the ups and downs of trying to launch Kauflin’s jazz career.
Jones says that’s harder to do now than back when he started.
“Back then, you couldn’t get away from jazz," Jones says. "It was in the air, the water. Today, they have to resist the pressure of their peers to say, ‘Let’s go see Lil Wayne, Jay Z and Kanye [West].”
In the midst of worldwide panic over Ebola, Africa's most populous nation has started to celebrate. Nigeria's outbreak began in July, and now the country is on the verge of victory.
Officials say that Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who was diagnosed in Dallas with Ebola, lied on an airport form asking whether he'd been in contact with anyone infected with the disease.
Turkey had declined to join the international coalition launching attacks against Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. Today and by a large margin, the country's parliament approved military action.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway already owns NetJets and BNSF Railway, and now it's buying the fifth-largest car dealership in the U.S., the Van Tuyl Group. For those of you keeping score at home, that's planes, trains and automobiles.
(That's Buffett’s joke, by the way, delivered Thursday morning on CNBC.)
“Automobile sales is something that I think Warren Buffett feels he can understand, and therefore forecast, and therefore evaluate,” says Meyer Shields, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, which does business with Berkshire Hathaway.
Buffett hasn’t said how much Berkshire paid, but he did say the Van Tuyl Group’s revenue is around $9 billion.
As Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, points out, “$9 billion is a lot of cars.” Since the financial crisis, Sullivan says, car dealers have been consolidating and their business model has changed. As cars have gotten more reliable, drivers are spending less on repairs.
“When you are making your money pretty much all in sales, bigger is better," he says.
The average age of a car is 12 years old, and Sullivan sees that as an indicator that there is pent-up demand. “It’s a pretty exciting time to be getting into the auto industry for Mr. Buffett," he says.
It is also exciting for the auto industry that Buffett is getting involved with. “I think it is a positive signal to investors and consumers, for that matter, that this is a very healthy, growing industry,” says David Kass, who teaches finance at the University of Maryland and closely tracks Berkshire Hathaway.
Buffett says he plans to buy more dealerships, most of which are privately owned. Something else makes the timing good for Buffett: A lot of underperforming dealerships have closed since the recession — dealerships that sold Fords, GMs and Chryslers. That means the ones that are left have gotten more profitable.
The U.S. dollar is at a four-year high, rising 7 percent since July. Other currencies, by contrast, have fallen — woe unto the euro (down 1.9 percent) and the New Zealand dollar (down 5.2 percent) according to Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes.
“Over the past few months it’s been a very strong story for the dollar,” says Michael Boutros, currency strategist with Daily FX. “We’re at multiyear highs here we haven’t seen since 2010.”
There are three primary causes for the dollar's strength.
“The U.S. economy is finally getting some traction,” says Win Thin, global head of emerging markets at Brown Brothers Harriman. Thin says people are buying dollars to take advantage of the U.S. recovery.
The dollar’s also being helped by a side effect of the recovery: changing Fed policy. The Federal Reserve is wrapping up the stimulus program that everyone calls Quantitative Easing (everyone except the Fed itself). That program kept the yield on government bonds and certain other securities low. As the program ends and yields are allowed to grow again, it should offer an opportunity for investors. It is, of course, an opportunity that one can take advantage of only in U.S. dollars, which is why dollars are so popular.
3. Interest rates
The Federal Reserve is also contemplating raising interest rates. Many suspect it will do so in the first half of 2015. Higher interest rates, again, create an opportunity to make more money and offer a lure to international investors.
By contrast, yields and rates around the world appear low and appear likely to remain low for some time. “The European Central Bank dragged its feet,” says Thin, in adopting unorthodox measures to stimulate its economy. “It’s belatedly addressing these issues now, and as a result the ECB may not raise rates until 2016 or even 2017.”
Money goes where money can grow, and economic and fiscal conditions make the U.S. the most fertile ground right now.
The appreciating dollar could offer relief to many developing countries, whose depreciating currencies are now making their exports look more attractive to consumers in the U.S. “Emerging markets have been complaining about stronger currencies — Brazil, Korea, for example."
“In the U.S., a strengthening dollar makes goods produced in the United States more expensive abroad, and foreign goods cheaper in the United States,” says David Stockton, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Cheaper imports will be welcomed by American consumers, but U.S. exporters will face difficulties.
“At the margin a stronger dollar could hurt exports, but it’s not as big a deal as [in] other economies around the world,” says Thin. “I think we could tolerate a stronger dollar in terms of economic impact much better than a country like, say, Korea or Taiwan could — exports are much more important to their economies.”
Stockton says the impact of more expensive exports and cheaper imports may be to stifle inflation just enough to make the Fed slow down any rate increases, which would in turn slow down the dollar’s rise. It would only slow it, however. All indicators suggest the dollar is in for a steady rise no matter what.
“Even if there were some crisis,” says Daily FX’s Boutros, and people started abandoning risky assets, “that’s still beneficial to the dollar,” since the safest place even in a crisis? Still the U.S. dollar.
Fox's new show Gracepoint is a remake of a British murder mystery, Broadchurch. NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans says those who saw the original might want to watch the new series with someone who hasn't.