Repo Commentary-6/3/2018 by Jeff Kidwell

Welcome back, where have you been?  Some of you, but probably not most of you, know that AVM, L.P. and I have mutually parted ways.  My creation, Direct RepoÔ is AVM’s service mark and their product.  I still firmly believe in the direction of the securities financing market to ‘directed financing’ (which could be Direct Repo, peer-to-peer financing, all-to-all financing, CCP, etc.) between cash providers and collateral providers, whether they be traditional broker/dealers or non-dealers.  After almost 36 years in the Repo & Securities Lending business and being one of the most outspoken leaders, I have no intention of leaving this business.  So, I am exploring similar opportunities right now and will keep you posted. 

In the meantime, I have taken some criticism from colleagues, friends, clients and potential employers about letting the Repo Commentary disappear for a month, for the first time since 2008, and that actually makes me smile. So, let’s catch up already on the news! 

Remember, as since 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any firm (well that’s easy to say at the moment) and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than informing (20-30%) you.  Hopefully, I’ll work out any kinks on this new Repo Commentary website and be able to automate some functions and news.  I’m interested to see how the picture gallery displays.  Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures.  Also, please send me feedback, as I want to make it better all the time.. I think it may start a little light on content, as I get comfortable with my format and my resources, but hopefully will become something even better than it was.. And, most of all, thank you for being, as Stephen King would say, a ‘constant reader.’ If you would like to reach me, I’m at jeffkidwell82@gmail.com or you can always get me on my mobile 646-753-1300.

Today’s Holidays or Events:

  • Children’s Awareness Memorial Day
  • Chimborazo Day
  • Impersonate Authority Day (I actually played in a 100-person Police Officers’ tournament today, but I was invited)
  • Love Conquers All Day
  • National Child’s Day
  • National Egg Day
  • National Chocolate Macaroon Day
  • National Cancer Survivors Day
  • National Frozen Yogurt Day
  • Repeat Day
  • National Itch Day
  • World Clubfoot Day
  • Wonder Woman Day
  • Confederate Memorial Day (Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee)
  • Economist Day in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Mabo Day in Australia
  • Opium Suppression Movement Day in Taiwan
  • World Bicycle Day

Fun Fact of the Day:

Did you know that roses have been on the Earth for over 35 million years?  

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“I thought the dryer made my clothes shrink.  It turns out it was the refrigerator.”–anonymous

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil closed yesterday at $68.11/barrel, only slightly lower.  That has kept US gasoline prices pinned at high levels.  My West Palm Beach gas station was at $2.79/gallon today.  It has been hovering at this lofty (by about 40 cents level) for weeks now.  where it had been hovering for over a week.  The USD versus the Yen is trading at $109.62 today, up on the day. The USD is mostly unchanged versus the Euro at $1.1658.  The USD is also mostly unchanged against the GBP at $1.3296. Gold closed yesterday at 1,301.66/ounce, pretty much unchanged.  Bitcoin, which is not getting its own Repo Commentary section at the moment, is trading today at $7,389.84.  The Trade Wars have begun, as the EU will now take legal action against the US at the WTO and plans to start a case against China over technology transfers.  China weighed in on President Trump’s actions and Trump warned Justin Trudeau about NAFTA.  There is some similarity to the old sitcom All In The Family, but I can’t put my finger on who is playing the role of Meathead.  The BOJ, who has remained unchanged in monetary policy for what seems an eternity, unexpectedly cut bond purchases, the first time since February.  The G-7 Finance Ministers and central bankers are meeting in Whistler.  Do they still have Spring skiing at this time?  Canada and Mexico were the first to retaliate against US tariffs on steel and aluminum, by imposing tariffs on a wide range of US imports.

Global Financial News:

SIFMA President and CEO was on Bloomberg TV to say that the Federal Reserve’s proposed modifications to some aspects of the Volcker rule are “more in line with Congressional intent.”  Lawmakers and market participants support modifications to the Volcker rule.  Trading in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds is suddenly under scrutiny, with US investigators examining whether traders have been manipulating prices in the corporate bonds that the two mortgage giants issued.  The manipulation that’s being sought, according to reports, is some kind of collusion between firms to set prices.  Deutsche Bank has had a bad week.  S&P just lowered its credit rating one notch, as the bank faces criminal charges for its part in an Australian share sale 3 years ago.  Citi and ANZ are also being investigated.  Reuters reported that an ECB insider said that the DB has made some progress.  This all comes after last month’s news that the bank was closing down a large portion of its US operations and laying off thousands of employees.  US corporate high-yield funds posted a modest outflow this week, according to Lipper.  According to Bloomberg, Bain Capital’s Autodis and at least 22 other companies that announced IPOs valued at $10 million or more this year have now withdrawn or postponed those plans.  Samsonite’s CEO Tainwala quit, after concerns about accounting practices and corporate governance by investors.  Lululemon beat earnings estimates.  Morgan Stanley reportedly snatched some rival Goldman Sachs’ traders. MiFID II has increased compliance burden worldwide, according to Bloomberg, and it’s not just limited to Europe.  Beginning 7/9, FINRA will begin more thorough searches of public records related to individuals applying for registration to work in the securities industry.  Credit Suisse Group plans to cut its interest-rate sales and trading staff in the US and Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions to focus on its algorithmic-trading platform (electronic trading).  I remember when I starting in Voice Recognition at Morgan Stanley and how people thought the machines would replace the traders and salespeople, trading without emotion.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones bounced after the Italy Panic subsided.  As I write this, the Dow is trading at 24,538.  It closed Friday at 24,635.21.  S&P 500 closed at 2,733.75 and Nasdaq closed at 7,554.33. , with a strong finish.  However, that did not help the US Treasury market, with 2years closing down 8.8bp, 5years down 9bp, 10years down 6.3bp, and 30years down 3.8bp, in a severe curve flattener.  Today’s Nonfarm Payroll number was much higher than expected. President Trump hinted at the increase in a Tweet about an hour before the release.  Oh no, we’re not going to start getting the 8:30 release at 8:15, like the University of Michigan leak early release time, are we?  Consensus for Payrolls was 190,000, but it was up 223,000 instead.  More optically important, the Jobless Rate fell to 3.8%, matching the lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years.  US Treasuries fell again on the strong economic data.  According to Bloomberg, some of the biggest US banks have cut their municipal bond investments, because recent reduction in the corporate tax rate made them less valuable as an alternative.  BOA, Citi, JPMorgan, and Wells Fargo cut back their holding of municipal debt by state and city governments by $7.8 billion the first 3 months of 2018.

Repo News:                                

A client pointed out to me that a recent market commentary expressed some concerns shared by dealers about FICC dealer disintermediation with its Cleared Repo product, particularly if it does save some client sectors 4-5bp over broker/dealer matched book rates.  The question is, how would that impact broker/dealer ties to those clients in other products?

 

I see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways.  We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients.  Clearly, with that pipeline becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients.  AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways.  Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including:  the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers.

 

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:

 

  • FIA will hold its 11th International Derivatives Expo (IDX) in London on 6/4-6/6.
  • World Business Research is holding its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Boston, MA 6/6-6/8.
  • ISLA will hold its 27th annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference in Lisbon, Portugal on 6/19-6/21.
  • MFA will hold its Forum 2018 in Chicago on 6/21.
  • Crane’s will hold its Money Fund Symposium in Pittsburgh on 6/25-6/27. I am thinking of attending.
  • IMN will hold its 23rd annual European Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference in London, September 2018.
  • IMN will hold its 24th annual ABS East Conference in Miami Beach, on 9/16-9/18.
  • National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) will hold its Annual Conference in Scottsdale, AZ on 9/30-10/3.
  • SIFMA-will hold its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 10/1-10/2.
  • Risk Management Association (RMA) will hold the 35th annual RMA Conference on Securities Lending in Key Biscayne, FL on 10/8-10/11. I will be there!
  • Finadium will hold its 2nd annual Rates & Repo conference in NYC in November.
  • Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) is holding its annual Treasury & Finance conference in Chicago on 11/4-11/7.
  • RISK USA will hold 24th annual conference in NYC, sometime in November.

 

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 1.69%.

 

The next FOMC meetings are:  6/14/17, 7/26/17, 9/20/17, 11/1/17, 12/13/17, 1/31/18

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.50%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.  Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion?  Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted.  MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.  Over month-end, RRP volume did pop up to $21.5 billion, but that’s one of the lowest month-end volumes in its history.  I wonder which trades less now, Fed Funds or RRP?

 

The Atlanta Fed boosted the GDP forecast to 4.8%.

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Ajax, Ontario was hit with a 2.4 magnitude quake on Tuesday.  An earthquake at a Polish coal mine shook houses and left 2 miners dead and 3 missing, trapped nearly a kilometer underground.  Hawaii continues to be hit by lava, earthquakes, and toxic gas as the erupting volcanos forced more evacuations.  The Big Island has been going through fresh earthquakes because of the Kilauea volcano.  The additional threat to citizens is now the molten lava that has made it to the sea and, therefore, the beaches.  Drone films have revealed mysterious cracks in Kilauea.  On Thursday, a 3.6 magnitude hit south of Windsor, Ontario.  Uh oh, Ontario.  22 earthquakes have been recorded in New Brunswick, Canada in the last 30 days.  It’s not my fault, line.

Weather

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, on June 1st.  But, storms don’t read calendars well and we’ve already been hammered in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and other southern states from Tropical Storm Alberto.  Puerto Rico is still two months away from full power, after LAST hurricane season.  In fact, since I’ve been off in Florida, I think we’ve only had two or three days without rain.  Nice!  For 2018, Colorado State University experts have predicted that this season will be a busy, above average hurricane season.  They have predicted 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 will become Hurricanes.  Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively.  But, remember, last year they were way off.  Unfortunately, they were way off the wrong way, with way more storms.  They had predicted 11 Tropical Storms, of which 4 would be Hurricanes.  Instead, we had 17 Tropical Storms and had 10 Hurricanes.  Here are the 2018 Storm names:

Alberto done

Beryl

Chris

Debby

Ernesto

Florence

Gordon

Helene

Isaac

Joyce

Kirk

Leslie

Michael

Nadine

Oscar

Patty

Rafael

Sara

Tony

Valerie

William

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season began on May 1st.

Meanwhile, much of the lower plain states, Southwest, and Southeast are under major heat alerts, with heat indices expected to rise over the next few days to near 100 degrees, from Arizona to Missouri, to Georgia, and down to Florida.  Today’s high in West Palm Beach was 93 degrees and about 93% humidity…hot!!!  Heavy rains and floods swamped the Mid-Atlantic.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB season is already more than 25% done and the Spring Training favorites are remaining strong.  The Red Sox lead the MLB with 39 wins and are 2 games ahead of a very strong Yankees lineup.  Meanwhile, the Orioles are in last place, 22 games behind.  In the AL Central, the Indians lead the resurgent Tigers by 4 games.  The White Sox are again in the cellar, down 12 ½ games to the Indians.  I’m really surprised that the Twins, after a very active trading season, are floundering below .500.  In the AL West, it’s no surprise that the World Champion Astros are in first place, but it is quite a surprise that the Mariners, who traded heavily in the offseason, are only 1 game back.  Or, is it more surprising that the once mighty Rangers are already in last and 11 ½ games back?  Over in the NL East, the Nats are battling with the Braves and, surprisingly, the Phillies.  The Marlins occupy the cellar again, having discarded all their best players in the offseason, 12 ½ games back.  In the NL Central, the Brewers, another active team in the offseason, are in first place.  The Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates are contending.  The Reds, at 16 games back, are not contending.  Lastly, in the NL West, the Rockies are in first place, in a close battle with the Diamondbacks.  The Giants and Padres have recovered.  Cubs’ starter, Yu Darvish, thinks Cubs fans hate him already.  Dodgers’ phenom, Clayton Kershaw, has been activated today against Phillies.  Cardinals’ pitcher, Alex Reyes, is back on DL with lat strain.  Angels’ Shohei Ohtani threw a pitch that hit 101 mph on radar gun, but lost game because of bullpen.  Rays’ pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was pulled in a game in which he had pitched a no-hitter through 6 innings.  A fire broke out at Citi Field while the Mets were on a road trip.  The Giants are targeting next week for ace Madison Bumgarner’s return.

Golf:

The PGA Tour is at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.  Hideki Matsuyama is on a run, finishing in a first day tie for the lead.  Tiger Woods is playing, as are Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Phil Mickelson.  Jason Day is playing, 10lbs lighter after being sick, but playing well.  However, there are a lot of big names that are missing, probably with eyes on the US Open that is only two weeks away.  In today’s final round, Tiger, wearing his classic Sunday red shirt and black slacks, in which he won 5 Memorial Tournaments before, started the day 4 strokes back, but closed the back 9 missing easy 3- and 4-foot putts, faltering to -9.  Meanwhile, two of the leaders bogied the 18th hole, to force a 3-way tie playoff.  In the end, Bryson DeChambeau beat Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley in the playoff.  The LPGA is playing the US Women’s Open at Shoal Creek, with Ariya Jutanugarn is leading by 2 strokes.  Michelle Wie was in the hunt, but fell off in the final round.  On the Euro Tour, at Gardagolf CC, Thorbjom Olesen held off Francesco Molinari by one stroke to win at -22.

Tennis:

The French Open is on.  Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund has reached the third round at Roland Garros.  Serena Williams says she can be better than before pregnancy break.  She rallied to defeat 17th seed Ashleigh Barty to reach the third round.  She will meet 11th seed Julia Goerges in the last 32.  Top seed Rafael Nadal cruised through to the third round.

Racing:

After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, both in very sloppy conditions, Justify will make his Triple Crown bid at the Belmont Stakes in Long Island on 6/9.  His odds are currently 4-5 as the favorite.

Danica Patrick’s driving career is now over, after 68 laps into Indy 500.  Kyle Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on 5/27.

NCAA Basketball:

College basketball has had some surprises.  Michigan State star Nick Ward and Michigan’s Charles Matthews both withdrew their names from the NBA Draft, that they had submitted for, and will return to their college teams.  Former Maryland basketball player, Cliff Tucker, has died in a car accident.  UNC star Luke Maye has withdrawn his name from the NBA Draft and will return to school.  James Hampton, Class of 2019 prospect, has died after collapsing in an AAU game.  4-star Romeo Weems has picked DePaul over MSU and Michigan.  Louisville and fomer AD Tom Jurich reached $4.5 million settlement.

NCAA Football: 

College football season is still a few months away.  Just a reminder, Alabama won the National Championship last season.  Northwestern and Wisconsin will play at Wrigley Field in 2020.  Texas got commitment from 5-star OT Tyler Johnson.  South Carolina got a commitment from 5-star DE Zacch Pickens.

NFL:

The NFL has passed a new National Anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room during the Anthem, but if they take the field, they must remain standing.  Later, the NFL owners admit President Trump influenced the new policy.  You all know my opinion on the subject, but then again, I’m a National Anthem singer (just sang my 127th MLB game last night).  A new NFL rule will ban plays on which player lowers head to initiate contact.  Bills’ first-round draft pick Josh Allen is reportedly “blowing people away” at Bills’ practices. The Broncos’ ownership group has denied Beth Bowlen’s ownership bid.  Since the Supreme Court ruled that sports gaming was not illegal, Delaware has become the first state to offer sports gaming.  The Eagles have been sued by a fan who allegedly punched a police horse.  Chris Long has been trolling NHL players and NHL fans are not happy about it.  In the NFL free agency arena, the Seahawks made WR Brandon Marshall signing official.  Eagles’ QB Nick Foles says he never turned down a potential trade.  QB Philip Rivers says he’d “be excited” if Chargers re-sign Antonio Gates.  Former superstar Steelers’ RB Franco Harris said that signing Le’Veon Bell is in Steelers’ “best interest.” WR Dez Bryant is still unsigned.  QB Johnny Manziel says he just wants to “have some fun” in CFL debut on Friday.  Texans’ J.J. Watt received an honorary doctorate from Baylor.

Soccer:

In association football, the UEFA Champions League concluded with Real Madrid, led by man of the match, Gareth Bale, defeating Liverpool in the final to win their third consecutive title.  Yes, EU 94 million star, Cristiano Ronaldo, is on Real Madrid.

NHL:

The NHL regular season began on 10/12. The NHL Finals are now on and tied 1-1 between the Washington Capitals (Ovechkin’s first Finals victory!) and the brand-new Las Vegas Knights.  The Caps won Game 2 on “The Save” by goalie Braden Holtby.  Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov is listed as day to day with an injury.  Lightning’s Ryan Callahan will be out for 5 months with shoulder surgery.  Ilya Kovalchuk’s agent is “in discussions” with NHL teams, reportedly.  Johan Franzen’s wife has detailed his post-concussion struggles.  Commissioner Gary Bettman says that NHL expansion vote on Seattle is likely in the Fall.

NBA:

The NBA Finals are on between the Golden State Warriors, who knocked off the Houston Rockets, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who knocked off the Boston Celtics.  Both, the Rockets and Celtics, looked like they were going to change the Finals picture that we’ve seen for the last several years, but they didn’t.  The Warriors are large favorites over the Cavaliers.  Cavs’ Kevin Love has cleared concussion protocol.  Cavs coach Tyronn Lue revealed his leave of absence was for anxiety treatment.  Celtics’ Gordon Hayward had undergone surgery.  76ers’ GM Bryan Colangelo reportedly may be fired for fake Twitter accounts.

Travel News:                                         

A joint investigation team has just concluded that the Buk missile system used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a full passenger plane, originated from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade.  Why haven’t I seen this on the news?  Did you ever wonder where old cruise ships go to retire?  Well, often, the head to Cuba, but after they get a facelift.  Most cruise ships have a lifespan of about 30 years, which is when the asset depreciates to 15% of its original book value.  So, the old, majestic cruise ships get a makeover and then do short 2-, 3- and 4-night sailings from West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami to the Bahamas or Cuba and back.  The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line uses the 1987 Carnival Victory and the 1991 Costa Cruises ship.  By the way, the cruise ships typically get a new name with the makeover, like the former Dawn Princess, which is now the Pacific Explorer.  Carnival has 26 ships, 9 of them built between 1990 and 1998, most of which have been completely refurbished.  Macau casino stock prices have been falling.  Most US carmakers are expected to report slower demand in their monthly sales for May.  It’s still 16.7 million annual rate, mostly due to fleet sales to car rental companies.  The CEOs of Uber and Airbnb have both indicated that they may make IPOs in 2019.  Uber was recently valued at $62 billion and Airbnb was valued at $31 billion last year, so these could be two of the largest venture-capital backed IPOs in at least the last 10 years.  Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund has agreed to pay $2.25 billion for a 19.6% interest in Cruise, a GM business that develops autonomous-driving cars.  GM intends to put $1.1 billion into the business when the transaction closes.  American Airlines is warning of fare increases if oil remains high.  Another person has died on the Brightline high-speed train, this time in Boynton Beach.  Brightline is now running on the freight train tracks from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale to Miami.  They will next be working on the spur from West Palm Beach to Jacksonville, then the spur from Jacksonville to Orlando.  Already 6 people have died, although a few of them have been deliberate suicides.

Health News:

In a referendum, Ireland voted to allow the legalization of abortion.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a major Ebola outbreak.  The ASCO annual cancer conference begins in Chicago.  Utah is suing Purdue Pharma. Did you know that not all hospitals require flu shots for staffers? The romaine lettuce E.Coli outbreak is reportedly over, but 5 people died.  A new study shows that Vitamin D may lower miscarriage risk.  Oddly, I take a lot of Vitamin D.  A new study shows that marijuana is now replacing tobacco and alcohol among US teenagers.  There is a new recall of birth control pills which have been incorrectly packaged.  That egg farm that was the root of that huge salmonella crisis has now been found to have had a rodent infestation.  A new study shows that MLB and college pitcher injuries increase as their pitch count increases, which makes sense.  Another study suggests that sleep loss is linked to nighttime snacking and obesity.  A new decade-long breast cancer study suggests that thousands (up to 70,000) of patients can safely skip painful and potentially detrimental chemo treatments for early-stage breast cancer.

Animal News:

A husky in Utah reportedly killed 20 chickens, one cat, two ducks, two rabbits, a turkey and a goose on Memorial Day, in a wild killing spree.  A giant blue whale, the largest animal in the world, just turned up in the Red Sea, between Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.  Maybe, he is here to bring peace.  Scientists believe a 240-million-year old reptile is the “mother of all lizards”.  This tiny creature is believed to have given rise to all squamates, a group that includes lizards and snakes.  According to recent reports, whalers killed 122 pregnant whales and 114 babies last summer.  The world’s oldest dandruff has been found in a feathered dinosaur fossil, exciting scientists. A flood hit a zoo in Germany and sparked fears, as two lions, two tigers, and a jaguar were thought to have escaped their enclosures today.  Hours later, authorities said that those animals had, in fact, never left their cages.  However, a bear was shot dead after flooding swept away the fencing for its enclosure, allowing it to escape.

Entertainment News:

Roseanne Barr, after a phenomenal comeback season of her sitcom, which will likely be the 3rd most watched TV show of the year, found an idiotic way to get fired on her day off.  She Tweeted a racist remark about a former Obama administrator.  The Tweet generated extremely strong backlash from the Twitter community and drew immediate ire from the press and politicians.  ABC, almost immediately, announced that the show would be cancelled for next year.  Shortly thereafter, Barr apologized and blamed the Tweet on Ambien she had taken.  The maker of Ambien made an announcement later in the day that racism is NOT one of the side effects of their sleep aid medication.  There’s no excuse for her remark.  It reminds me of two other comediennes who crossed other social lines, Joan Rivers (Japanese nuclear disaster) and Kathy Griffin (beheading of President Trump). If you think I’m a conspiracy theorist and there is nothing to this, exhibit D would be Samantha Bee, just yesterday, on her TBS cable show calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c-word”, which was prepared, intentional comments on a teleprompter, not an Ambien-riddled random Tweet.  Bee has already lost two advertisers, just not her whole show, yet.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not equating racism with nasty words about a person.  What Barr did was inexcusable.  I just don’t understand why comediennes (I’m sure it holds true for comedians too) need to push the envelope into the not funny and not appropriate.  I saw today that ABC is considering a reboot of Roseanne  with a focus on Sara Gilbert.  Tom Cruise has posted the first TOP GUN 2 photos from the movie set.  I can’t believe they are going to finally produce this movie, after 30 years, and “I’m requesting a fly-by”!  Former Eagle Scout and Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe sounded off on the Boy Scouts of America for becoming gender-neutral and changing its name to the “Scouts”.  As an Eagle Scout, I want to say I never understood why the two scouting organizations were separate.  A new lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein today reportedly details allegations from 3 women, one of who who claims that he raped her.  Just the other day, Harvey Weinstein turned himself in and was immediately charged with one count of rape.  When Glen Campbell died in 2017 from Alzheimer’s at age 81, there was a lot of negative feedback when Tanya Tucker penned and sang titled “Forever Loving You” which she heavily promoted as a callous or disrespectful move during a time of mourning by his wife of 35 years.  Since then, Tucker has explained that she wanted to bring more awareness to Alzheimer’s.  But, I used to know a great friend of Tanya Tucker and she used to tell me stories of how much Tucker loved Glen and the escapades they used to go on to climb over his wall and run into him, after their relationship ended in 1981. All I can say is what would one do if the ‘love of their life’ died?  Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, is stirring controversy with her post-pregnancy advice.  I’m struggling with the latest season of Southern Charm.  Shep hasn’t grown up any more than Vanderpump Rules’ Jax Taylor and Thomas Ravenel from Southern Charm. It’s a lot easier to enjoy the new Below Deck Mediterranean.  Bachelorette frontrunner has had to apologize for “hurtful and offensive” Instagram likes.  Drake and Pusha T are at war for a song intimating that Drake is not a father.  A new lawsuit claims that Courtney Love hired a group to kill Frances Bean Cobain’s ex-husband over a Nirvana guitar.  The Steve Harvey Morning Show’s assistant was found dead in hotel room.  Grindcore band guitarist Josh Martin has died at age 45 after falling off an escalator in a freak accident.  Deadliest Catch star Blake Painter has died at age 38.  Joy Reid has apologized again for her inflammatory blog posts (wait, I’m reading through my Commentary to make sure I don’t have any apologies to make) but appears to have dropped her hacking claim.

At the box-office this past weekend, things were really humming:  obviously, a Star Wars movie did well, as SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (sort of a prequel to the original 3 STAR WARS films) opened in first place with a mere $84.4 million in box-office; DEADPOOL 2 (Ryan Reynolds reprise with Josh Brolin) did well at No.2 at $43.5 million in its second week; AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (with pretty much every comic book hero) pulled in another $17.3 million, in its 5th week!: BOOK CLUB slipped from No.3 to No.4 with $10 million, in its 2nd week; and LIFE OF THE PARTY fell from No.4 to No.5, with only $5.4 million in its 3rd week.  The only other debut to chart at No.36 was THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE with $47k. In its second weekend (I get up-to-the-minute box-office reports from my insiders), SOLO:  A STAR WARS STORY is tanking at the box-office, collecting only $29.3 million this second weekend.

Movies opening this weekend are ACTION POINT, ADRIFT (based on a true story, and I want to see), UPGRADE, AMERICAN ANIMALS, BREATH, A KID LIKE JAKE, and SOCIAL ANIMALS.

Disneyland is offering a raise to $15/hour for California workers.  Fox has set a July 10 meeting to vote on $52 billion Disney deal.

Technology & Space News:

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect, imposing strict privacy controls for its residents. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has admitted company’s missteps in introducing new, stringent content policy.  SoftBank promotions set 3-way succession race.  Apple is looking to ad growth with a new app network.  Technology stocks led the latest rally on Wall Street.  Facebook has pulled its “trending” idea to try a new approach to News. Pandora is matching rivals with family subscription.   A patent retrial awards Apple $538.6 million in damages from Samsung.

Political News:

Special counsel Robert Mueller has already run up a $16 million tab in the Trump-Russia investigation, in just its first year, well  beyond the Department of Justice’s budget of $10 million in fiscal year 2019.  Do you remember James Comey?  Well, one of the things he did was to prosecute TV icon Martha Stewart for insider trading, who is now being considered for a pardon.  Did Rudy Giuliani just say that President Trump can also pardon himself?

US News:

A teacher who fed a puppy to a snapping turtle is now facing animal cruelty charge.  Police say 4 killings in 3 days in Phoenix suburb were connected.  Two climbers have been killed in a fall from Yosemite’s El Capitan.  California has banned travel to Oklahoma for anti-LGBT law.  As the school year has come to a close in Florida on Friday, at the graduation ceremony at Parkland, FL, the students honored those lost in the mass shooting.  A Georgia cop was fired after hitting a suspect with car.

International News:

Italy’s new Five Star-League government takes office today.  The new Premier is Giuseppe Conte, who has no political experience, but has been a law professor.  The reign in Spain is changing as well, as Mariano Rajoy is out and Pedro Sanchez is in.  North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man is visiting the White House today, carrying a letter from his boss for President Trump.  I doubt it will say, “You’re Fired” on it.  What’s with the letters now?  Another letter, this one from Russia’s Vladimir Putin was hand-delivered to Kim Jong Un by Russian FM Sergei Lavrov.  I’m just thinking back to medieval times, do these letters have to have wax seals and the stamp of the King’s ring (or equivalent)?  Brazil is set for more losses, as truck strike continues.

Florida:

Public school is out as of today in Florida.  If you wanted to go to DisneyWorld, good luck.  Yes, the traffic has lessened slightly since Easter, but now its going to be heavy again, just not with school buses.  If you are coming down to Florida soon, I have a rare solo concert on 6/8 (Friday) at Zuccarellis Restaurant in West Palm Beach, 7-10pm, Elvis Unplugged, singing 3 hours of just Elvis songs.  Or, if you are here on 6/17 (Sunday), I will be singing with my 5-part harmony group, Generation Gap, at Cucina Cabana in North Palm Beach, 1-3-pm, Gospel Brunch, where I will feature 10-12 Elvis Gospel songs.

But, if you are more interested in seeing the more professional musicians, there are many coming to Florida, when you will be visiting:

Shania Twain-Sunrise, June 1

John Fogarty & ZZ Top-WPB, June 3

Harry Styles-Sunrise, June 9

Maroon 5 & Julia Michaels-Sunrise, June 17

Styx and Joan Jett-Tampa, June 17

Luke Bryan, Jon Pardi & Morgan Wallen-West Palm Beach, June 21

Hall & Oates with Train-Sunrise, June 24

Charlie Daniels Band-Hollywood, FL, July 3

Barenaked Ladies, Better Than Ezra & KT Tunstall-St. Augustine, July 6

Erasure-St. Petersburg, July 7

Sam Smith-Miami, July 14

KC and the Sunshine Band-Hollywood, FL, July 20

Chicago & REO Speedwagon-West Palm Beach, July 20

Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton-Hollywood, July 21

Rascal Flatts, Dan and Shay & Carly Pearce-West Palm Beach, July 21

Rod Stewart & Cyndi Lauper-Hollywood-July 24

Smashing Pumpkins-Miami-July 24

Sugarland, Frankie Ballard & Lindsay Eli-Pensacola-July 26

Don McLean-Ponte Vedra Beach-July 27

Britney Spears-Hollywood-July 27-29

Dave Matthews Band-West Palm Beach-July 28

Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town-West Palm Beach,-August 4

Pentatonix-West Palm Beach-August 7

Imagine Dragons-West Palm Beach, August 9

Shakira-Sunrise-August 15

Def Leppard & Journey-Sunrise, August 17

Shakira-Miami, August 17-18

Taylor Swift-Miami, August 18

Lindsey Stirling & Evanescence-Jacksonville, August 20

Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers & Ann Wilson-West Palm Beach, August 25

Paul Simons-Sunrise, September 8

Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker & Russell Dickerson-West Palm Beach, September 29

Ed Sheeran-Tampa, November 7

Willie Nelson-Estero, November 12

Elton John-Sunrise, November 23 (I’m there)

Elton John-Miami, November 24

Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20

Elton John-Sunrise, March 16

Jokes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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