Repo Commentary-8/23/18

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I’ve been keeping busy, not only writing the Repo Commentary, reaching out to clients, and exploring job opportunities, but now also consulting on two books and two articles.

My Repo Commentary is posted on my new website: http://www.repocommentary.com. You can also view it through LinkedIn and through Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website.

If you need to get hold of me, my cell is 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on Bloomberg and LinkedIn.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my firms 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 boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. 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.’

Thursday’s Holidays or Events:

• Buttered Corn Day
• European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism
• Hug Your Sweetheart Day
• International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
• National Sponge Cake Day
• National Burger Day
• Valentino Day
• Ride the Wind Day
• Battle of Kursk Day in Russia
• Day of the National Flag in Ukraine
• National Day of Physicians in Iran
• Umhlanga Day in Swaziland
• International Hire Jeff Kidwell Day (well there’s a holiday for everything, why not?)

Some Famous People Born Wednesday in History:

• 1754-Louis XVI of France
• 1785-Oliver Hazard Perry-American commander
• 1846-Alexander Milne Calder-Scottish-American sculptor
• 1890-Harry Frank Guggenheim-American business and publisher, co-founded Newsday
• 1912-Gene Kelly-American actor/singer/dancer
• 1917-Tex Williams-American singer/songwriter
• 1931-Barbara Eden-American actress/singer
• 1932-Mark Russell-American comedian
• 1934-Sonny Jurgensen-NFL player
• 1936-Rudy Lewis-R&B singer (The Drifters)
• 1946-Keith Moon-English drummer/songwriter
• 1949-Rick Springfield-Australian-American singer/songwriter/actor
• 1949-Shelley Long-American actress
• 1951-Jimi Jamison-American singer/songwriter (Survivor)
• 1958-Julio Franco-MLB player
• 1966-Rik Smits-NBA player
• 1968-Chris DiMarco-American golfer
• 1970-Jay Mohr-American actor/producer
• 1970-River Phoenix-American actor
• 1978-Kobe Bryant-NBA player
• 1988-Jeremy Lin-NBA player

This Day in History (Wednesday):

• 30 BC-after the successful invasion of Egypt, Octavian executes Marcus Antonius Antyllus, the eldest son of Mark Antony, and Caesarion, the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt and only child of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.
• 20 BC-Ludi Vocnalici are held within the temple precinct of Vulcan, and used by Augustus to mark the treaty with Parthia and the return of the legionary standards that had been lost at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC.
• AD 79-Mount Vesuvius begins stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.
• 406-Gothic king Radagaisus is executed after he is defeated by Roman general Stilicho and 12,000 “barbarians” are incorporated into the Roman army or sold as slaves.
• 476-Odoacer, chieftain of the Germanic tribes is proclaimed rex Italiae (King of Italy) by his troops.
• 634-Abu Bakr dies at Medina and is succeeded by Umar I who becomes the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate.
• 1244-Siege of Jerusalem: the city’s citadel, the Tower of David, surrenders to Khwarezmian Empire.
• 1268-Battle of Tagliacozzo: the army of Charles of Anjou defeats the Ghibellines supporters of Conradin of Hohenstaufen marking the fall of the Hohenstaufen family from the Imperial and Sicilian thrones, and leading to a new chapter of Angevin domination in Southern Italy.
• 1305-Sir William Wallace (BRAVEHEART) is executed for high treason at Smithfield, London.
• 1382-Siege of Moscow: the Golden Horde led by Tokhtamysh lays siege to the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
• 1514-the Battle of Chaldiran ends with a decisive victory for the Sultan Selim I, Ottoman Empire, over the Shah Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty.
• 1521-Christian II of Denmark is deposed as king of Sweden and Gustav Vasa is elected regent.
• 1541-French explorer Jacques Cartier lands near Quebec City in his 3rd voyage to Canada.
• 1572-French Wars of Religion: mob violence against thousands of Huguenots in Paris results in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.
• 1595-Long Turkish War: Wallachian prince Michael the Brave confronts the Ottoman army in the Battle of Calugareni and achieves a tactical victory.
• 1628-George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, is assassinated by John Felton.
• 1650-Colonel George Monck of the English Army forms Monck’s Regiment of Foot, which will later become the Coldstream Guards.
• 1655-Battle of Sobota: the Swedish Empire led by Charles X Gustav defeats the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.
• 1703-Edirne event: Sultan Mustafa II of the Ottoman Empire is dethroned.
• 1775-American Revolutionary War: King George III delivers his Proclamation of Rebellion to the Court of St. James’s stating that the American colonies have proceeded to a state of open and avowed rebellion. Basically, he said we are revolting.
• 1784-western North Carolina (now eastern Tennessee) declares itself and independent state under the name of Franklin, it is not accepted into the United States, and only lasts for four years.
• 1799-Napoleon I of France leaves Egypt for France en route to seizing power.
• 1813-at the Battle of Grosbeeren, the Prussians under Von Bulow repulse the French army.
• 1831-Nat Turner’s slave rebellion is suppressed.
• 1839-the United Kingdom captures Hong Kong as a base as it prepares for war with Qing China. The ensuing 3-year conflict will later be known as the First Opium War.
• 1864-American Civil War: the Union Navy captures Fort Morgan, Alabama, thus breaking Confederate dominance of all ports on the Gulf of Mexico, except Galveston, Texas.
• 1866-Austro-Prussian War ends with the Treaty of Prague.
• 1904-the automobile tire chain is patented.
• 1914-WWI: the British Expeditionary Force and the French Fifth Army begin their Great Retreat before the German Army.
• 1914-WWI: Japan declares war on Germany.
• 1921-British airship R-38 experiences structural failure over Hull in England and crashes in the Humber Estuary. Of the 49 British and American training crew, only 4 survive.
• 1927-Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti are executed after a lengthy, controversial trial.
• 1929-Hebron Massacre during the 1929 Palestine riots: Arab attack on the Jewish community in Hebron in the British Mandate of Palestine, continuing until the next day, resulted in the death of 65-68 Jews and the remaining Jews being forced to leave the city.
• 1939-WWII: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union sign a non-aggression treaty, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a secret addition to the pact, the Baltic states, Finland, Romania, and Poland are divided between the two nations.
• 1942-WWII: the beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad.
• 1943-WWII Kharkiv is liberated after the Battle of Kursk.
• 1944-WWII: Marseille is liberated by the Allies.
• 1944-WWII: King Michael of Romania dismisses the pro-Nazi government of Marshal Antonescu, who is arrested. Romania switches sides from Axis to the Allies.
• 1944-Freckleton Air Disaster: a US Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator bomber crashes into a school in Freckleton, England, killing 61 people.
• 1945-WWII: Soviet-Japanese War: the USSR State Defense Committee issues a decree “About Receiving, Accommodation, and Labor Utilization of the Japanese Army Prisoners of War.”
• 1948-World Council of Churches is formed by 147 churches from 44 countries.
• 1954-the first flight of the Lockheed C-130 multi-role aircraft.
• 1958-Chinese Civil War: the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis begins with the People’s Liberation Army’s bombardment of Quemoy.
• 1966-Lunar Obiter I takes the first photograph of Earth from orbit around the Moon.
• 1970-organized by Mexican-American labor union leader Cesar Chavez, the Salad Bowl strike, the largest farm worker strike in US history, begins.
• 1973-a bank robbery gone wrong in Stockholm, Sweden turns into a hostage crisis, over the next 5 days the hostages begin to sympathize with their captors, leading to the term “Stockholm Syndrome”.
• 1975-the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, MI opened, 30 miles NW of Detroit, MI.
• 1989-Singing Revolution: two million people from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania stand on the Vilnius-Tallinn road, holding hands.
• 1990-Saddam Hussein appears on Iraqi state television with a number of Western “guests” (actually hostages) to try to prevent the Gulf War.
• 1990-Armenia declares its independence from the Soviet Union.
• 1990-West and East Germany announce that they will reunite on October 3.
• 1991-the World Wide Web is opened to the public.
• 1994-Eugene Bullard, the only African-American pilot in WWI, is posthumously commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force.
• 2000-Gulf Air Flight 072 crashes into the Persian Gulf near Manama, Bahrain, killing 143.
• 2007-the skeletal remains of Russia’s last royal family members Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, and his sister Grand Duchess Anastasia are discovered near Yekaterinburg, Russia.
• 2011-a magnitude 5.8 earthquake occurs in Virginia. Damage occurs to monuments and structures in Washington D.C. and the resulting damage is estimated at $200-$300 million.
• 2011-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is overthrown after the National Transitional Council forces take control over Bab al-Azizia compound during Libyan Civil War.

Fun Fact of the Day:

The record holder for most survived lightning strikes (7), was struck while operating a truck, inside a ranger station, on two separate occasions after running/driving away from the storm, and immediately after the 7th strike he had to fight off a trout-stealing bear with a tree branch.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Love demands infinitely less than friendship.”—George Jean Nathan

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices on 8/9 were at $66.78/barrel. Today, they closed at $67.88, $1 higher. However, that has not translated to higher gasoline at my West Palm Beach gas station, which actually dropped this week from $2.74 to $2.67/gallon. The USD versus the Yen is trading at $111.38, up a little from where it was 8/9. The USD was at 1.1535 versus the Euro, stronger since 8/9. The USD is also up since 8/9 against the GBP, at $1.2805. The USD is slightly up versus the CAD to $1.3088 since 8/9. Gold closed today at $1185.33/ounce, down somewhat from 8/9. Bitcoin was trading at $8185.21 on 7/25. On 8/9, it collapsed to $6,300.01. Today, it closed a little stronger at $6,534.50. Russia is reportedly stockpiling gold again. The US and China have intensified their trade war, implementing 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other’s exports. The measures were implemented as officials actually were holding the first trade negotiations since June. Ratings agency S&P global has warned that state and local governments are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks because of public reporting requirements, and their credit ratings could be downgraded if they fail to deal with the issue. SEC’s Jay Clayton has called for an end to product-focused sales contests for financial professionals, saying that they make participants more likely to put their own interests ahead of their clients’ interests. According to the WSJ, the capital plan devised by the Options Clearing Corp. is facing an unknown future, as it is being viewed controversially by the industry. The US Court of Appeals ordered the SEC to re-evaluate the OCC’s proposal last year. The CFTC has voted unanimously to harmonize rules outlining duties of a chief compliance officer with rules from the SEC.

Global Financial News:

CME Group has scheduled a 10/1 launch of Sterling Overnight Index Average contract linked to meeting dates for the BOE Monetary Policy Committee and an International Monetary Market Sonia futures contract that mirrors Libor futures. The contracts are intended to compete with products from Intercontinental Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih has contradicted a report an IPO for Aramco was cancelled. He says the government is committed to the IPO, expected to be the largest in history. Target shares spiked after CEO Cornell said an unprecedented 6.4% increase in store traffic in Q2 gave the retail giant its sharpest increase in sales growth in 13 years, sending the share price to a new record. Lakeland Bancorp reportedly will acquire Highlands Bancorp. Deutsche Bank has moved into non-bank payment platforms with Modo stake.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed down 76.62 points on Thursday, leaving it at 25,656.98. S&P500 was down a little at 2856.98, after just setting another record high. Nasdaq was down 10 points to 7878.46. The S&P 500’s Wednesday close marked 3,453 days without a 20% or greater decline, the longest US bull market in history. The WSJ reported that experts say Treasury market yields should trend up and that hedge funds and other investors are betting on those higher yields. Some economists and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says the yield on the 10-year note could reach 5%. It’s interesting, because global risks seem to be increasing, so there could be a flight to quality, and with stocks near all-time highs, will higher yields attract money away from stocks.

Housing News:

CNBC reported today that the housing recover isn’t over, it just feels like it. US new home sales sunk to a 9-month low, as housing market appears to wobble. US existing home sales declined for 4th straight month in July too. Homebuilder sentiment fell to the lowest point in almost a year. Weekly mortgage applications have also dropped last week. A new report from real estate firm NeighborhoodX reveals NYC is the most expensive place to buy real estate in the country on a per square-foot basis, with some rates over $10,000/square foot! NYC luxury apartment sales have dropped, as evidenced by Million Dollar Listings-New York. CNBC looked into tax laws and less international buyers as the obstacles. HUD has filed a discrimination complaint against Facebook. New Zealand has banned foreigners from buying houses, in parliament’s hopes to bring down ever-rising housing prices. Baltimore received a $30 million grant to help housing redevelopment. The city’s overall plan is for $889 million to revitalize 3 neighborhoods. CNBC says that “unaffordable” Hong Kong home prices could fall by double digits.

Repo News:  
It has been interesting watching repo funding rates, Fed Funds, and the SOFR. It’s interesting that SOFR is trading closer to O/N Fed Funds rate than to O/N GC Repo, which is because it is more heavily weighted in its calculation on the huge Triparty Repo component of the market, which is pure/lowest offer-side rate of Repo. It does not include the peer-to-peer, all-to-all electronic an OTC component. Until it does, it will always shade to the offer-side, lower rate, like Fed Funds. But, as Scott Skyrm asks, was that the purpose of the Fed, to create a secured O/N funding rate that was close to its Fed Funds rate? GC Treasury collateral has been trading O/N at the dealers at a 1.956% average and Agy MBS collateral has been trading O/N at the dealers about 5bp higher. However, SOFR is at 1.86% and Fed Funds were at 1.91%. Let’s back up a minute, it is worth noting that a) we are talking about dealer offer-side rates (not mid-market repo rates as I used to) and b) the MBS vs Treasury spread had averaged 1.7bp on the offer-side from Dealers since the beginning of 2016, and that has blown out in August to nearly 5bp. The really interesting thing is that many repo market participants are unsure why that happened. I think the number one reason has been the increase and decrease of the issuance of the two products and the repo cash preference lately for more just US Treasuries. There could be a reason deeper in investor and dealer positioning outright more MBS securities as a percentage of Treasuries. Wrightson points out that US Treasury issuance is projected to be a net reduction between the beginning of September and October, ending the cycle of ever-increasing issuance.

Securities Lending Times has been reporting that the first direct beneficial owner trade has been settled through cooperation of six organizations, including EquiLend Clearing Services, Eurex, BNY Mellon, Euroclear, PGGM, and Morgan Stanley.

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: 
 

• IMN will hold its 23rd annual European Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference in London, 9/12-9/13. I’ve attended this before.
• IMN will hold its 24th annual ABS East Conference in Miami Beach, on 9/23-25. I’ve attended this before.
• National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) will hold its Annual Conference in Scottsdale, AZ on 9/30-10/3. I’ve been invited to this before.
• 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, I don’t want to break my streak of attending every one of them!
• Finadium will hold its 2nd annual Rates & Repo conference in NYC 11/5. I’m thinking of going to this one too. I have moderated/sponsored this one before.
• 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 11/7-11/9. I have chaired/moderated this one before.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 1.91%.

The next FOMC meetings are: 9/20/18, 11/1/18, 12/13/18, 1/30/19, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

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 1.75%. 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.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. As Scott Skyrm says, it has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

A massive 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit six miles deep and 188 miles off the coast of Oregon, increasing fears that “the Big One” will soon hit the US. This latest quake followed an intense week of seismic activity in the Ring of Fire, where some 70 earthquakes hit in just 48 hours. A cluster of 16 movements above 4.5 magnitude hit Monday and 53 hit the same region on Sunday. The quakes have been felt in Indonesia, Bolivia, Japan, and Fiji, all part of the horseshoe-shaped Ring of Fire fault line between the Pacific Plate and the Juan de Fuca Plate. “The Big One” is the name of a large earthquake that hits along the 700-mile-long divide between the two plates about every 400 years. This area is also known as the Cascadia subduction zone, where one plate moves underneath the other. “The Big One” was estimated to be above magnitude 8 and were around 600 BC, 170 BC, 400 AD, 810 AD, 1310 AD, and 1700 AD. I’ve spoken in the Commentary about the Ring of Fire several times, so let me show you a map of it:

The Northwest quakes are not the only ones getting seismologists’ attention right now. In July, a 100-foot fissure opened up in Grand Teton National Park, not far from the potentially catastrophic Yellowstone volcano. That followed some 155 small earthquakes in Yellowstone National Park. Both parks have been closed periodically this season. Let’s keep an eye on this.

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, June 1st. 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 done
Chris done
Debby done
Ernesto
Florence
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William
The NHC reports

The Pacific Hurricane Season began on May 1st. Category-4 hurricane Hector blew by Hawaii. Hurricanes are quite rare in Hawaii. In fact, since 1955, only 19 hurricanes have come within 300 miles of Hawaii. Yet, right now, Hurricane Lane, with damaging winds and catastrophic flooding is approaching. On Tuesday night, Lane became one of only two Category 5 hurricanes to pass within 350 miles of Hawaii, with 160-mph winds. Hurricane John in 1994 was the last one. As of this morning, Lane had been downgraded to Category 4.

Let’s talk about weather, here in Florida, it is still ridiculously hot, with temps in the low to mid-90s for perhaps 30 days in a row and ‘feels-like’ temps in the 105-110 range. Also, the water temperature is 88 degrees and the sand is really hot. The Northeast has cooled off and is experiencing some serious rain, in fact half a month’s worth in a short time. The temps have been cooler than average. The Southwest has also gotten somewhat stormy, while the West Coast remains quite sunny and warm.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season is about 75% over, with around 38-40 games left to play.

In the AL East, the Red Sox have hit a speed bump for them, losing 3 games in a row, but are still way ahead of the rest of the MLB in terms of record. The Red Sox have been holding back ace Chris Sale on the DL, making sure he will be strong for the playoff run. The Yankees have won 4 in a row, including a 12-inning victory Tuesday night against the Marlins, so had climbed to within 8 games of the Red Sox. The Red Sox avoided losing 4 in a row, the only MLB team this year to do that, crushing the Indians Wednesday night, while the Yankees lost to Jeter’s Marlins, making the lead 9 games again. The Red Sox are just the 19th team in MLB’s modern era (1900-present) to win at least 89 of their first 128 games. Of the previous 18, 17 went on to win their league pennant and 9 won the World Series. Oh shoot, I’m sitting here writing and didn’t realize the Red Sox were playing this afternoon on ESPN and I could have watched, as David Price shut out the Indians, to split the 4-game series. The Yankees look like they have lost their closer, Aroldis Chapman, again, as he only lasted 6 pitches Tuesday night before exiting with knee pain. The Yankees also lost start slugging SS Didi Gregorius to injury. The Yankees are still awaiting the return of star slugger Aaron Judge, who is nursing a broken wrist. Rays’ ace Pham dislocated his finger and is listed day-to-day now. In the AL Central, the Indians, who are in the midst of a 4-game series with the Red Sox, have been red-hot winning 4 in a row and 9 of their last 10, locking down the division. Indians OF Leonys Martin will be done for the season with an injury. The Twins are having trouble keeping up and are now 13 games back. White Sox manager Rick Renteria was hospitalized overnight. A nun threw a perfect pitch before a White Sox game and the video went viral. The AL West remains the tight AL division, as the World Champion Astros have let the scorching A’s back in the race, in which they are currently tied for the lead. The Astros did that by losing 7 of their last 10 games, while the A’s won 8 of their last 10. The Mariners are also hanging around, only 4 ½ back of the two teams. Astros star Jose Altuve has just been activated from the DL. The Astros have also named Roberto Osuna has their new closer. A’s Khris Davis crushed a homer while wearing jersey signed by young cancer patient. Over in the NL East, the Braves have overtaken the Phillies and now lead them by 2-games. The Nationals have officially packed it in, making two huge trades on Tuesday afternoon, sending slugger Daniel Murphy to the offense-plagued Cubs and slugger Matt Adams to the Cubs’ rival Cardinals. They were only 7 ½ games back of the Braves, not insurmountable in 40 games, but I guess they decided to start the sell-off. And yet, they are activating ace Stephen Strasburg off the DL prematurely so he can face the Phillies. I’m not sure what this means for soon-to-be Uber free agent Bryce Harper. Are they making room to pay him $400 million or are they just beginning a rebuild that may not include him? My guess is he will be gone and probably playing in a Cubs uniform. Speaking of the Cubs, in the NL Central, the Cubs, without much offense lately and losing 3 in a row, are still 2 ½ games ahead of the Cardinals, who have won 8 of their last 10 games. This is a close race, as the Brewers are only 3 games back of the Cubs. Cubs new starter, Yu Darvish, appears to now be done for the season with stress in his elbow. That trade appears to have not worked. Cards’ pitcher Carlos Martinez is out after getting nailed by a 109 mph line drive. Pirates OF Starling Marte was benched after lack of hustle. In the NL West, the race also is a close one, with the Diamondbacks in first, winning 6 of their last 10, the Rockies in 2nd by 1 ½ games, winning 8 of their last 10, and the Dodgers 3 ½ games back in third, after losing 7 of their last 10. Dodgers new star 3B Manny Machado was injured after being hit by a pitch. This race has been like the game 3-card Monty, with the 3 teams shuffling places constantly this season. The Giants, one of the teams not mentioned in the race and a severe disappointment to fans, just lost Buster Posey to season-ending hip surgery. Twenty years after the Rockies selected him in the 7th round of the MLB Draft and ten years after he last wore their uniform, Matt Holiday is set to put on a Colorado jersey again. The 38-year-old will have his contract purchased by the Rockies and manager Bud Black said that he will start in left field today against the Padres in Coors Field.

If you are fans for one of those teams that has already thrown in the towel, you may be interested to know that MLB has already released its 2019 regular season schedule and will have the earliest Opening Day game EVER, on March 28, 2019!

The Pirates and Cubs will meet in 2019 Little League Classic in Williamsport. Meanwhile, the Little League World Series had been going on and we can look at the bracketology now. Game 30 is the Championship Game and will be in Williamsport on 8/26. On the United States side, we are now left with 4 teams (what I would consider the quarter-finals, but there is some extra Game 26 in there), who are Mid-Atlantic against West (Game 24) and Great Lakes against Southeast (Game 22). On the International side, we are down to 4 teams as well, Japan against Asia-Pacific in Game 23 and Caribbean versus Canada in Game 21 (but somehow there’s an extra Game 25 over there too). Perhaps, the extra games are because of Consolation Game A, in which New England beat Australia 15-0 and Consolation Game B in which the Northwest plays Europe Africa. I don’t know, I used to know brackets from March Madness, but this is much more complicated, plus even the team regions/names don’t make sense to me. Is it Africa or is it Europe? And how did those 4 teams make consolation games when they all lost in the first round?

Tennis:

The Rogers Cup ended 8/12. It is also referred to at the Canadian Open and is the 3rd oldest tournament in all of tennis. They played their matches at a few venues in Toronto. In the Finals, yawn, No.1 Rafael Nadal dispatched Tsistsipas in two sets, breaking a sweat in the second set. In Women’s singles, No.1 Halep beat No.3 Stephens in 3 sets. All focus is now on the last major, the 138th US Open, to be played at Forest Hill in Queens. The seedings have just been announced and Serena Williams was seeded No.17, although she is only ranked No.25 in the world. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer top the men’s seeding. The matches began yesterday and run through 9/9. Only one surprise in the qualifiers so far, with No.14 Frech beaten by unseeded Lao.

Golf:

The 100th PGA Championship, the final major, was last week at Bellerive CC in St. Louis, MO. The defending champion was Justin Thomas. It was an exciting tournament, not only because many of the big names of the sport were in contention on the final day, but also because Brooks Koepka (West Palm Beach, FL) won his 2nd major, but also because he had to hold off a much-improved Tiger Woods and beat him by merely 2 strokes. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Tiger come in 2nd in a tournament, especially a major. Tiger’s surprising play got him into the mix of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and may have secured him a spot to PLAY in the Ryder Cup, rather than just Vice-Chair it again. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, first Tiger is playing in the Northern Trust tournament this week, his first FedEx Cup Playoff event since 2013. Tiger’s ranking is now No.20. The No.1 ranking is still held by Dustin Johnson. But, actually, Justin Thomas is currently in the best position to join Tiger as the only man to win the FedEx Cup (and the $10 million check) twice, as he won it last year and is leading in points this year. On the European Tour, Richard McEvoy captured his first Tour event after 17 years and 285 starts. Brandt Snedeker withdrew from the Northern Trust Open today with back spasms.

Soccer:

The ex-chief of Brazil soccer has been sentenced to 4 years in prison after a FIFA probe.

Fighting:

WWE
The WWE announced its first-ever all women’s event, “Evolution”.
MMA
UFC Boise saw Dos Santos beat Ivanov after 5 rounds. In Bellator 203, Patricio Freire retained title in a split decision. After his Belator 202 injury, just 58 seconds into a fight with Michael MacDonald, Eduardo Dantas needs emergency surgery on his broken leg. Nick Diaz is calling out Cormier, saying his and Brock Lesnar’s WWE antics were embarrassing at UFC 226. An MMA fighter who pleaded guilty to raping a college student got 7 years in jail and lifetime probation. There are mixed feelings in the media about Chuck Liddell coming out of retirement to face Tito Ortiz for Golden Boy.

Boxing

IBF super-featherweight champion Tevin Farmer signed co-promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing for multiple fights. He will have an 10/20 title defense against Jemes Tennyson on DAZN. Also on the card will be WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders vs. Demetrius Andrade.

9/8
Danny Garcia vs Shawn Porter title fight.
9/22
Anthony Joshua (2012 Olympic gold medalist at super heavyweight and current IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight champ will face Alexander Povetkin in London

Racing:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the Brickyard 400 pace car. Elliott Sadler will stop driving full-time after 2018 season. NASCAR has invited Fernando Alonso to race in Daytona 500.

2018 NASCAR Schedule and results:
2/18 Daytona 500-Daytona Intl Speedway-won by Austin Dillon
2/25 Folds of Honor QuikTrip-Atlanta Motor Speedway-Kevin Harvick
3/4 Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube-Las Vegas Motor Speedway-Kevin Harvick
3/11 TicketGuardian 500-ISM Raceway-Kevin Harvick
3/18 Auto Club 400-Auto Club Speedway-Martin Truex Jr.
3/26 STP 500-Martinsville Speedway-Clint Bowyer
4/8 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-Texas Motor Speedway-Kyle Busch
4/16 Food City 500-Bristol Motor Speedway-Kyle Busch
4/21 Toyota Owners 400-Richmond Raceway-Kyle Busch
4/29 GEICO 500-Talladega Speedway-Joey Logano
5/6 AAA 400 Drive for Autism-Dover International Speedway-Kevin Harvick
5/12 KC Masterpiece 400-Kansas Speedway-Kevin Harvick
5/19 Monster Energy Open-Charlotte Motor Speedway-AJ Allmendinger
5/19 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race-Charlotte-Kevin Harvick
5/27 Coca-Cola 600-Charlotte Motor Speedway-Kyle Busch
6/3 Pocono 400-Pocono Raceway-Martin Truex Jr.
6/10 FireKeepers Casino 400-Michigan International Speedway-Clint Bowyer
6/24 Toyota/Save Mart 350-Sonoma Raceway-won by Martin Truex Jr.
7/1 Overton’s 400-Chicagoland Speedway-won by Kyle Busch.
7/7 Coke Zero Sugar 400–Daytona International Speedway-won by Erik Jones
7/14 Quaker State 400-Kentucky Speedway-won by Martin Truex Jr.
7/22 Foxwoods Resort Casino 301-New Hampshire Motor Speedway-won by Kevin Harvick over Kyle Busch.
7/29 Gander Outdoors 400-Pocono Raceway-won by Kyle Busch over Daniel Suarez.
8/5 GoBowling at the Glen-Watkins Glen International-won by Chase Eilliott over Martin Truex Jr.
8/12 Consumers Energy 400-Michigan International Speedway-won by Kevin Harvick in all 3 stages.
8/18 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Bristol Motor Speedway-Kurt Busch’s first win of the season and first in 58 races.

NCAA Basketball:

Five-star Kahlil Whitney has committed to Kentucky. Former Michigan State women’s gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, faces a felony charge for allegedly failing to disclose sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar.

NCAA Football:

College football season kickoff is on 8/25. Just a reminder, Alabama won the National Championship last season. Legendary coach, Urban Meyer, of Ohio State had been put on paid administrative leave, while the school conducted an investigation on whether the coach knew of a reported 2015 incident of domestic abuse between former assistant coach Zach Smith and his ex-wife. Yesterday, Ohio State said it was suspending coach Meyer for the first 3 games of the season (easy opponents), which seems to many to be just a slap on the wrist. It didn’t help that the Coach, given a chance to apologize to Zach Smith’s ex, the victim, simply said “I’m sorry that we are in this situation.” The media is ripping him for that. Wisconsin RB Danny Davis has been suspended for 2 games.

Here is Sporting News’ way-too-early Top 25 rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Georgia
4. Ohio State
5. Oklahoma
6. Wisconsin
7. Washington
8. Auburn
9. Notre Dame
10. Penn State
11. Miami
12. Michigan
13. Michigan State
14. Stanford
15. USC
16. UCF
17. Virginia Tech
18. LSU
19. TCU
20. FSU
21. Oklahoma State
22. Texas
23. South Carolina
24. Mississippi State
25. Boise State

NFL:

The NFL preseason is under way. The NFL regular season is 9/6. The NFL Competition Committee makes no changes to use of helmet rule. Ravens’ CB Jimmy Smith has been suspended for ‘threatening’ behaviors for 4 games by the NFL. The Indianapolis Colts’ announcer, Bob Lamay, has now retired, after using a racial slur in retelling a story off-air. Jets are looking to acquire Khalil Mack from the Raiders. The Patriots released WR Kenny Britt. The Patriots are denying that they have interest in WR Dez Bryant. Giants’ Victor Cruz announced his retirement and is joining ESPN as an analyst. Richie Incognito has been arrested after an incident at a funeral home. Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim has been reinstated after suspension. The Chiefs have released RB Charcandrick West. Bills’ QB AJ McCarron is being limited in practice due to injury. The Vikings signed former Bengal safety George Iloka. Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch has gotten his own special-edition Skittles. Seahawks’ J.D. McKissic will be out 4-6 weeks with foot fracture. Packers’ Jamaal Williams says he will retaliate by kicking players on dirty plays. Steelers WR Eli Rogers has been suspended 1 game by the NFL. Broncos’ Carlos Henderson is hoping to rejoin team after strange absence. RB Adrian Peterson says he is excited to play for the Redskins. Panthers’ D.J. Moore was cited for going 113 mph in a 65 mph zone. Eagles QB Nick Foles took a beating in a preseason game, sacked 8 times. He is still expected to play against the Browns Thursday night. Meanwhile, Eagles QB Carson Wentz is uncertain he’ll be cleared to play. Raiders’ new Las Vegas stadium will have a jail and court for unruly fans. Veteran Sebastian Janikowski reportedly has won Seahawks kicking competition. Rams gave RT Rob Havenstein a 4-year extension. Bears confirm that Leonard Floyd has broken hand and underwent surgery. Broncos QB Paxton Lynch was booed again in 2nd preseason game. The 49ers traded LB Eli Harold to the Lions.

NHL:

The NHL preseason starts on 9/15. Erik Karlsson trade chatter has reheated. NHL’s top free-agent prize signed with the Maple Leafs. Former Red Wings No.1 pick Joe Murphy is now homeless, according to recent documentary. Senators assistant GM Randy Lee resigned after July suspension. Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and wife welcomed their first child. Bryan Berard the No.1 pick in 1995 has filed a concussion-related lawsuit. On the trade rumor front, the Bruins are expected to acquire a winger. They may be able to get Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin or Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds. Also, former Bruin center Tyler Sequin has failed to sign a contract extension with the Stars. As the Red Wings continue to rebuild, questions linger over where their veterans, like Jimmy Howard, Gustav Nyquist, and Trevor Daley will wind up.

NBA:

The Summer League is underway. Preseason will be upon us soon. The NBA Board of Governors will vote on major changes for 2018-19 season. NBA free-agency is still a big topic in the news. The Heat still want to re-sign Dwyane Wade. Kawhi Leonard is reportedly open to re-signing with the Raptors. Spurs’ Manu Ginobili will make his retirement decision soon. Lakers’ Lonzo Ball reportedly has torn meniscus. Meanwhile, his annoying father, LaVar Ball, and his two brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo) have been ripped by their former Lithuanian coach, saying “they started destroying” the team. Their stint in professional Lithuanian basketball did not last long. James Harden is very receptive to Carmelo Anthony joining Rockets. WNBA’s Skylar Diggins-Smith is coming out about the disparity between WNBA and NBA pay. Kobe Bryant said he won’t be playing in Big3 league next year. Speaking of Big3, Nancy Lieberman was named Coach of the Year for 2018 mini-season. The Cavs are still holding a roster spot for Rodney Hood. Lamar Odom revealed that he had 12 strokes, 6 heart attacks in 2015 while in a coma. He was in the coma for 3 days after a drug overdose left him unconscious in a Nevada brothel. Odom plans to make his return to the court in China. Nets’ Kenneth Faried has been arrested for possession of marijuana. Klay Thompson’s dad says his son will retire with the Warriors. Former Spurs GM Bob Bass and 2-time NBA executive of the year has died. The Sixers hired former WNBA star Lindsey Harding as scout. Kobe Bryant has turned his $6 million investment in sports drink into a $200 million windfall. Liz Cambage is considering retiring from WNBA after international season. Minnesota Lynx star Lindsay Whalen announced her retirement from WNBA.

Travel News:

An airplane carrying rapper Post Malone made an emergency landing after blowing two tires during takeoff at Teterboro Airport on Tuesday. Post Malone had performed at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday night and was traveling with 15 other people. Southwest Airways is selling one-way tickets for as low as $39. Unfortunately, they are not to places I need to go. According to Unreported World, the Mexican cartels have been threatening tourism in Cancun to the Mexican government. Eight bodies, two of which were dismembered and shoved in plastic bags, were discovered on the streets of Cancun on Tuesday. In April, 14 murders were reported in the popular resort town. The US State Department issued a travel advisory earlier this month. A Federal Air Marshal on a Continental flight was mistakenly handcuffed by cops. It appears that landslides triggered by human activity are on the rise. More than 50,000 people were killed by landslides around the world between 2004 and 2016, according to a new study. The team, who compiled data on over 4,800 fatal landslides during the 13-year period, revealed for the first time that landslide resulting from human activity have increased over time.

Health News:

Nigeria reportedly has a cough syrup crisis, as BBC reports recreational drinking of codeine. A new study suggests that smoking pot ages the brain 2.8 years. Doctors are finding it difficult to treat “flesh-eating” STD outbreak reported in the UK. A new study shows that children take longer to learn two languages at once compared to just one. A new study suggests that consuming milk at breakfast lowers glucose throughout the day. A study finds a link between probiotic use, brain fogginess, and severe bloating. A large study suggests that moderate carbohydrate intake may be the best for overall health. Scientists have found the first biomarker evidence of DDT-Autism link. The largest brain study ever, of 62,454 scans, has identified drivers of brain aging. Scientists now believe the poor sleep can trigger viral loneliness and social rejection. Researchers have found that parental life span predicts daughters living to 90 without chronic disease or disability. A new study on mice has shown chemicals found in vegetables prevent colon cancer. A new study shows the way our head and neck are positioned during a head-on impact may significantly affect the risk of concussion. In most of Europe, the rates of smoking starters among older teenagers have declined since the 1970s, while ‘new smoker’ rates among younger teenagers have actually risen in recent years. According to a new analysis of a survey of almost 70,000 people, the use of e-cigarettes every day can nearly double the odds of a heart attack. The research also found that the use of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, appears to more dangerous than using either product alone, increasing risk of heart attack by 5 times. An experimental drug is now taking aim at cancers that are associated with the Epstein-Barr Virus. While the Virus doesn’t directly cause cancer, the infection brings an increased risk of some cancers, including fast-growing lymphomas. New studies are showing a direct correlation with air pollution and cardiovascular diseases. PTC Therapeutics has successfully completed the acquisition of Agilis Biotherapeutics.

Animal News:

I should just have the title CAPE COD SHARK ATTACK! As SUNY professor was brutally hurt in a shark attack off of Cape Cod. The 61-year-old man was standing in the water just 30 yards off a Cape Cod beach last week, as a large shark bit his torso and leg in the attack. He was the first person to be attacked by any kind of shark in those waters since 2012, despite the movies and the sightings of great white sharks in the area every year. A leading shark expert is trying to determine if the very deep puncture wounds are consistent with a great white shark. There have been 10 great white shark sightings in the last week or so and more than 60 over the last month off Cape Cod. A woman in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, who was out walking her dog near a lagoon, was attacked and killed by an 8-foot alligator. Sheriffs retrieved her body and the dog was unharmed. They located the alligator and killed it. You know that I am a huge animal lover (was going to be a zoologist actually at one time), but this story from NY Post is a little silly. PETA pressured the company that makes Barnum’s Animals (the famous animal crackers which were named after the Barnum & Bailey Circus) to change their animal cracker box design to remove the politically incorrect depictions of their animals in cages (as they were in the circus) and show them as wild. I think this is just silly. Next, PETA will demand that we can’t eat the heads of the animal crackers first! This is a picture of the former packaging, showing the animals in bars:

and here are the animals out of the bars:

New research suggests that evolution does not favor the ‘survival of the fittest’, but actually might favor “survival of the laziest.” The new large-data study of fossil and extant bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean suggests laziness might be a great strategy for survival of individuals, species, and even communities of species. The study, which studied 299 species’ metabolic rates, determined that higher metabolic rates were a reliable predictor of “extinction” likelihood. So, stop jogging. Two distinct groups of hominins inhabited Eurasia up until 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals in the West and Denisovans in the East. Now, researchers have sequenced the genome of an ancient hominin individual from Siberia, discovered in 2012, and found a hybrid female from a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father.

A 55-foot fin whale washed up on a Massachusetts beach. Marine biologists are trying to figure out what killed it. 113 dead sea turtles washed up on a Mexico beach and marine biologists don’t know why yet. In France, the deadliest anthrax outbreak in decades has struck farms, killing dozens of cows, sheep, and horses.

Since MEG is still in the movie theaters, let’s chat a little about Megalodon. Earth’s largest known shark ruled the oceans for more than 20 million years and is believed to have gone extinct about 2.6 million years ago. For comparison, so far the earliest Homo sapiens ancestors only emerged 2.5 million years ago, so it’s unlikely the co-existed, as they do in the movie. However, what’s very interesting about the 2014 University of Zurich study of megalodon fossils is that 6 out of 10,0000 simulations showed that these giant sharks could still be alive. There have been no fossils found newer than 2.6 million years ago. Going by the size of the fossilized teeth, some scientists of the Natural History Museum in London believe the megalodon could be as long as 60 feet. However, Encyclopedia Britannica thinks that about 80 feet is more likely. The largest megalodon tooth measures about 7 inches in length, almost 3 times longer than those of great white sharks. Megladon teeth have been found in great quantities, particularly in warm shallow seas and on every continent except Antarctica.

In case you were wondering, yes, alligators will eat other alligators. Cannibalism in alligators is actually quite common. I was actually watching one of those alligator shows at an alligator ranch and they were trying to catch a 14-foot-gator that had attacked dozens of the other gators and killed them.

Entertainment News:

N.K. Jamisin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for a third consecutive time for “The Stone Sky”. As many Elvis Presley fans prepared to celebrate the anniversary of his death on August 16, 1977, the King of Rock and Roll was sadly joined by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who died the same date at age 76. Sadly, we have now lost another music icon/legend in a short period of time. For those who noted the coincidence, it was also the date in 1948 that Babe Ruth died and the 60th birthday of the Queen of Pop, Madonna. Aretha was originally known for her gospel singing in Detroit, MI. But, in 1960, at the age of 18, she embarked on her secular career, recording for Columbia Records, but with only modest success. In 1966, she switched over to Atlantic Records and became a huge commercial success with songs such as “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”, and “I Say A Little Prayer”. By the end of the 1960s, she was dubbed “The Queen of Soul”. In 1998, Franklin achieved international acclaim for singing (my favorite) opera aria “Nessun dorma” (from Puccini’s “Turandot”) at the Grammy Awards that year, replacing Luciano Pavarotti. Franklin 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entires, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries and 20 Nr. 1 R&B signles, becoming the most charted female artist in Billboard’s history. She was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the No.1 greatest singer of all time. Speaking of Madonna and Aretha, Madonna tried to do a tribute to Aretha at the MTV VMAs on Monday night, but somehow it didn’t come off well and she is being ridiculed for it. I think she was trying to say, if it wasn’t for Aretha, there would be no Madonna, but she told a story about a specific audition in which she used her favorite Aretha song and didn’t get the part. She has said to her detractors since that the speech was not intended to be an Aretha tribute. Meanwhile, Candace Bergen did a much better job telling the story of how she wooed Aretha Franklin to make a cameo on Murphy Brown. Did you know, due to some odd royal custom, Kate and Prince William do not actually have custody of their children? The US Navy said that it is currently allowing the TOP GUN sequel to be filmed aboard a Norfolk, VA-based aircraft carrier. This is disturbing, the #metoo movement, an important revelation of sexual abuse in Hollywood and society, had as one of its most vocal and first accusers of Harvey Weinstein as a rapist, who it turns out was herself a sex abuser, who admits now to having sex with a 17-year-old boy and then paying him off for $380,000 to keep quiet, which was paid by the late Anthony Bourdain, who then took his life weeks later. There is no word yet whether Bourdain’s girlfriend, Asia Argento, will be charged with a crime or if her affair and payoff had anything to do with her boyfriend taking his life. Although, many accusers of Weinstein and others in the entertainment industry have every right to be angry with their abusers, it is sad to see that one accuser was actually a hypocrite. Actor Brian Christopher Lawler was found dead at age 46. Steven Tyler is demanding that President Trump stop playing Aerosmith songs at his rallies, especially since the group is not getting paid for them. McClatchy Newspapers announced layoffs of nearly 4% of staff, in cost-cutting move. They own The Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Idaho Statesman, The Fresno Bee, and The Charlotte Observer. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West announced that they “have one last embryo” for baby No.4. I can’t remember, did they keep naming the points of the compass? John Lithgow will play shamed Roger Ailes in new FOXNEWS movie. Olivia Newton-John is addressing rumors that she’s battling cancer again. Red Sox announcer and former 2B Jerry Remy is battling cancer again. President Trump blasted ESPN’s decision not to televise national anthem. Guggenheim has raised MSG target share price amid sports spin-off plans.

This week’s box-office was weaker than expected, as the blockbusters fell and the debuts underperformed. CRAZY RICH ASIANS debuted at No.1, with $26.5 million (only cost $30 million to make) and got rave reviews; No.2 was megladon Shark movie MEG, which fell out of the top spot, but still made $21.2 million in its 2nd week; No.3 was the debut of MILE 22, with $13.7 million (low for a movie that cost $50 million to make); No.4 was MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT (which I still want to see and review for you) which fell from No.2, with $10.8 million, in its 4th week (total so far of $181 million, just clearing its $178 million budget); and No.5 was the debut of ALPHA (which I want to see), which made $10.4 million (although it cost $51 million to make,, so not so great). DISNEY’S CHRISTOPHER ROBIN which debuted at only No.2 three weeks ago, with $24.6 million, has been a disappointment, only totaling now $66.9 million. THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME has already fallen to a dismal No.13 in its 3rd week. Even MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (which I must see) has fallen to No.10 (although it has totaled $111.2 million for a $75 million film.)

Movies coming out this week: A.X.L; THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS; BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN; BLUE IGUANA; THE BOOKSHOP; JOHN MCENROE: IN THE REALM OF; AN L.A. MINUTE; PAPILLON (2018 remake); SEARCHING (2018 remake); SUPPORT THE GIRLS.

Movie Reviews:

I’m woefully behind, sorry. I’m going to have to binge-watch to catch up.

Technology & Space News:

Facebook is considering “Trust Ratings” for users. Firefighters fighting the California wildfires have accused Verizon of “throttling” data, crippling their communications during the catastrophe. China has appointed a new Internet czar. President Xi said the Internet must be “clean and righteous.” A Buzzfeed reporter was ejected from China. Google will now reportedly filter out negative news and tell you “something good” instead. Elon Musk has about 129 days to sort out Tesla’s future. Apple appears to be hiring many ex-Tesla employees, not just for autonomous car project. WSJ reports that Microsoft is under a US bribery probe over deals in Hungary. SAIC won a spot on Naval Air Warfare Center training contract.

Political News:

Michael Cohen, the President’s former lawyer, admitted Tuesday that he and Mr. Trump arranged the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and pleaded guilty. President Trump’s former campaign chairman was found guilty on 8 counts involving bank and tax fraud, also on Tuesday, after the jury deliberated for 4 days. The jury was not able to reach a verdict on 10 other counts. As it appears that President Trump has a lot on his mind now with former associates getting in trouble, I saw an article that said President Obama was fined $375,000 for campaign reporting violations, the largest such fine ever. There is some rumbling from the Democratic side and media about a possible move to impeach. President Trump said today on Fox & Friends that he learned of Michael Cohen payments “later on”.

Here’s something less controversial, these are the mere changes that President Trump has made to the Oval Office (before on the left, after on the right):

and a change to the carpet and flowers versus apples

US News:

Florida officials just completed the largest food stamp fraud bust in history, seizing some $20 million and arresting 12 Muslim store owners in four cases. There were 8 small convenience stores in South Florida allegedly involved. The store owners allegedly pocketed the millions of dollars in fees for converting food assistance benefits into cash. Six Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania are under siege for alleged sexual abuse of girls and boys that authorities think may involve thousands of victims, making it potentially the worst case of its kind ever. A grand jury spent nearly two years investigating the Pennsylvania dioceses for potentially 7 decades of sexual abuse and alleged cover-up. The report had remained sealed pending Supreme Court challenges on behalf of about two dozen current and former clergy. The 884-page report alleges that “301 Predator Priests” were involved in sex abuse and lists the names of the priests (except for the two dozen redacted until the Supreme Court hears their challenges), clergy and lay teachers with allegations against them. 99 of them were from the Diocese of Pittsburgh alone. This case appears to be so widespread that it dwarfs similar earlier cases in New York City and Boston. According to the Attorney General Shapiro of PA, “To make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their favored boys gifts—gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse.” Former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan died at the age of 80. Sadly, the Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts, who was missing for more than a month, has been found, murdered. A 24-year-old undocumented immigrant has been charged with her murder. Naturally, the arrest has instigated the debate about illegal immigrants. Many politicians are using the murder for their own political forums. Kelli Ward, an Arizona GOP Senate candidate, said the lack of leadership and courage by Sen. John McCain and Jeff Flake contributed to Mollie’s death. As bad as that is, apparently the accused murderer who has a $5,000,000 bail started (or it was started for him) a GoFundMe page and has already raised some $174,000 from people who think this really is an immigration issue. After a public plea to find his wife, Shanann Watts, and two daughters, a Colorado man reversed his story and he confessed to killing all three of them. Since the confession, Christopher Watts now says they got in a fight about a divorce and he watched her on the child monitor strangling the two young children and then killed her himself. Student protesters toppled another Confederate statue in North Carolina and authorities are investigating. Lowe’s has announced that it is closing all 99 locations of Orchard Supply. Target CEO made a bold remark about the consumer environment. Arlington National Cemetery had to be evacuated today due to a bomb threat. Today, at the White House, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Tech Sergeant John Chapman from US Air Force Special Tactics, the US Air Force equivalent of Special Forces (similar to Army-Green Beret, Marines-ReCon, Navy-SEAL). He showed unbelievable heroism under fire on a frozen mountaintop in Afghanistan in 2002. The investigation by the Pentagon took two years to complete, mostly because of the secret nature of his mission. Chapman had also received posthumously the Air Force Cross. Chapman had been trying to rescue a Navy SEAL, when his team thought that both men had perished and retreated. Chapman had actually, at that point, survived at least six gunshot wounds, to then go on to fight the al-Qaeda extremists. He was killed by machine gun fire as he protected a second helicopter that was arriving. The troops that recovered his body were amazed to find that he had expended virtually all of his 210 rounds of ammunition he had carried into battle. With seemingly no end in sight to our domestic war, another 54 people were shot in Chicago this past weekend. According to the BBC, killings in Chicago have hit a 20-year high, as the grim homicide toll just passed 500 for 2018. Long Beach, CA is apparently under the grip of the Asian Crip gangs. Malibu, CA residents fear a serial attacker is stalking the area. A woman in Florida pulled a building’s fire alarm to get someone’s attention because her cellphone battery died. In Boynton Beach, FL, a teenager who stole an AR-15 and other weapons from an unmarked Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office police vehicle was apprehended, after he “bragged about having it” in a video he posted on Instagram Live. The Sheriff’s department may have gone one step too far, after they made a Facebook post about #OneLessGun, and readers ridiculed them for leaving the car unlocked and allowing their weapons to be stolen. The bottom line, there may be no winners in social media. In Seabrook, NH, a beach I frequented many times as I grew up, a married couple on vacation drowned in a rip current, despite heroic actions by lifeguards on paddleboards, jetskis, and a rescue boat. Five other swimmers were pulled to safety.

International News:

The Asian games opened in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia. Former PM of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee died at the age of 93. Israel has just eased gun controls following lone-wolf attacks. A knife attack occurred in Belgium today in a restaurant and one person was killed and several wounded. Chinese TV is mocking President Trump in sarcastic video. Despite cries from many human rights groups and worldwide criticism, Saudi Arabian prosecutors say they intend to carry out a beheading of a woman activist. She and her husband were arrested in December 2015 “for their roles in organizing anti-government protests in eastern Qatif province in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.” Ghomgham is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to be sentenced to death for political protests. Okay, this is bizarre, but true. In New Zealand, surfers reported that somebody was shooting at them at a lonely point on the coast near the entrance to Kawhia Harbour last Thursday. Other surfers have reported coming under fire at that point in the past, where there was some “extreme localism” where surfing the break created by Albatross Point was by “invite only.” Security companies’ and the FAA’s worst fears seemed to play out in Venezuela last week, as terrorists allegedly used a $5000 drone, equipped it with military grade explosives, and appeared to intend to assassinate Venezuelan President Maduro at a military parade. Two drones were exploded overhead, but far from their intended target, causing panic along the parade route. Some critics are wondering if the assassination attempt wasn’t staged by the embattled President of the economically-challenged country himself. Mexico opened 2,599 homicide investigations in July, the most ever in one month.

Florida:

The Governor has declared a State of Emergency for parts of Florida, including the Treasure Coast (east coast) and the (west coast), with lagoons, rivers, canals and beaches closed. Many fish and oysters have been dying and the toxic muck, which is different on both coasts, is also very dangerous to humans. On the East Coast near the beaches and in the St. Lucie River, several canals, there is a blue-green algae plume which is killing everything and stinking up the area. The Army Corps of Engineers discharges periodically this poisonous water from the Lake Okeechobee’s huge Herbert Hoover dike, which was built after a major hurricane there 100 years ago, which caused major flooding in the area, killing some 2500 people, the . To avoid that ever happening again and to help Florida’s sugar farmers who took over the swampland of the Everglades before 1900, they built the dike and pumping drains to the East at Port St. Lucie River and to the West. They basically changed the natural route for six thousand years of water from Lake Okeechobee to the grasslands and the Everglades. It turns out that the sugar farming, which uses phosphorous in its fertilizer, is actually creating the blue-green algae. The blue-green algae is the consistency of coffee grounds, smells putrid, and can damage human livers. Most conservationists believe the only solution is for the state to buy back the land from the sugar farmers and let the water flow back to the Everglades. Of course, the blue-green algae problem has been exacerbated this year by high amounts of rain and higher-than-normal temperatures in Florida, forcing more discharge and growing more algae. The problem on the West Coast of Florida, in Sarasota County and Collier County, in addition to the discharges near Fort Myers from the canal from Lake Okeechobee, that is killing wildlife, much of it sea turtles (as it is turtle nesting season for several species), and keeping tourists off the beaches is Red Tide. Red Tide is a toxic red algae bloom which flourishes in extra warm weather. The temperature of the seawater is approaching 90 degrees, creating a massive Red Tide bloom, the sea spray of which causes respiratory problems in humans. You get a constant cough or wheeze that you can’t get rid of and it can be deadly for those with COPD or Asthma. It can also be ingested and is toxic for humans, by eating mussels or oysters from the area. The Red Tide is ravaging the southwest coast of Florida, the worst ever in Florida, and may have killed a 26-foot-long whale shark for the first known time, at Sanibel Island, FL. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist sampled several of the shark’s organs and they all tested positive for brevetoxin, a neurotoxin created by the harmful algae called Karenia brevis, which is one of many types of algae found in red tide. Manatees, dolphins, and grouper have also been reported dead as a result of the red tide bloom. One important note from a recent USF study, the Red Tide bloom has nothing to do with the blue-green algae runoff from Lake Okeechobee. All of this is damaging the tourist industry, at the number one fishing capital of the world. If there isn’t enough to worry about in Florida (snakes, sharks, spiders, Burmese pythons, panthers, bears, alligators, crocodiles, blue-green algae, and red tide), a Texas man has died over the weekend, after contracting flesh-eating bacteria, fishing off the Gulf coast of Florida, according to officials. He was ‘wade fishing’ with some open sores on his legs in an area that is a breeding ground for oysters and the Vibrio vunificus bacteria that inhabits those areas. He had severe leg pain, blistering skin lesions, fever, nausea and vomiting. He died less than 36 hours after being admitted to the hospital. Vibrio is known to be found in coastal waters where oysters live and cause an estimated 80,000 illnesses and at least 100 deaths in the US annually, according to the CDC. Just last week, a Florida man died from eating an oyster with the same species of the bacteria, according to the NY Post.

I performed as Elvis Presley in full jumpsuit and blackened hair on 8/16 (the anniversary of his death) at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. I also threw out the first pitch. It went well and was followed by an impromptu 12-song gig at Tiramisu, a restaurant in Tequesta, FL, with an entertainer friend of mine, Franco Corso. My harmony group, Generation Gap, just voted by In Tune Magazine as the Best Harmony Group in the state of Florida, and I (again in full Elvis attire) will be performing 9/2 at Cucina Cabana 1pm-3pm in North Palm Beach, FL and again 9/29 at Double Roads Tavern 5pm-8pm in Jupiter, FL.

If you are interested in seeing longer, more famous, concerts, there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting:

Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers & Ann Wilson-West Palm Beach, August 25
Rick Springfield-Pompano Beach, August 28
Beyonce and Jay-Z-Miami Gardens, August 31
K.D. Lang-Fort Lauderdale-September 7
Paul Simon-Sunrise, September 8
Christine Aguilera-Hollywood, September 25
Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker & Russell Dickerson-West Palm Beach, September 29
Phil Collins-Sunrise-October 5
Kid Rock and Brantley Gilbert-West Palm Beach, October 13
Nikki Minaj with Future-Miami-October 19
Alice in Chains-Hollywood-October 28
Toto-Pompano Beach-October 28
Simple Minds-Miami, November 8
Willie Nelson-Estero, November 12
Elton John-Sunrise, November 23 (I’m there)
Elton John-Miami, November 24
Brian Wilson-Hollywood, December 12
Kansas-Fort Lauderdale-December 15
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Pink-Sunrise-March 1
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16

One thought on “Repo Commentary-8/23/18

  1. Maybe you can print this update, place in a botlle, seal it an send it of a Pier, it would be interesting to see where it travels with the ocean currents 👍🏼

    Like

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