Repo Commentary-12/21/18

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Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season! Happy Hannukah (since it passed while I was on hiatus), Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year!

It’s been about 2 months since I wrote the last Repo Commentary (10/7/18). During that time, I saw many of you at the RMA Repo & Securities Lending Conference in October in Key Biscayne and others of you at the Finadium Rates & Repo Conference in November in NYC. I also ghostwrote a 220-page self-help/memoir book (first draft manuscript) for a paying associate in that 8-week hiatus from the Repo Commentary. None of you are in THIS one and it’s not about our industry. So, although I was busy on projects, I have also been keeping in touch with many of you and been lightly exploring job opportunities, itching to get back into the Repo market. My 36th anniversary of being in the Securities Finance market and on Wall Street passed 12/6/18. Oh, and I’ve been singing up a storm in the Elvis jumpsuits, as this is our busiest time of year. I have been singing concerts 2 or 3 times per week with my 5-part harmony group, Generation Gap, which recently was voted Best Harmony Group in Florida by InTouch Magazine. Next gigs are tonight at Tiramisu in Jupiter, FL, Saturday at Cucina Cabana in North Palm Beach, FL, and New Year’s Eve at Brookdale Assisted Living (my biggest fans) in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

I am honored to announce that I’ve been selected to be the Chairman of the upcoming 25th (Silver Anniversary) IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale and to add my touch to make it fresh again. We are already shaking it up and including many more sectors of clients to participate, including pension funds, municipalities, money funds, hedge funds, asset managers, and GSEs. The focuses will be on alternative repo efforts, fintech, repo reinvestment and securities lending, and women in the securities financing industry. I hope to see all of you there and I’ll be reaching out to many of you to participate.

Enough about me, I would also like to hear from all of you about what you’ve been up to since October or May?

My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and I believe on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

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

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former 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.

12/20/18 Holidays or Events:

• Cathode-Ray Tube Day
• Dot Your I’s Day
• Games Day
• Go Caroling Day
• Mudd Day (Dr. Samuel Mudd harbored President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, in his home, but “your name is mud” did not come from Dr. Mudd, although that is the popular story)
• International Human Solidarity Day
• Sacagawea Day
• National Regifting Day
• National Sangria Day
• Free Shipping Day at Participating Retail Stores
• Poet Laureate Day
• World Day of Prayer and Action for Children
• Abolition of Slavery Day in Reunion and French Guiana
• Bo Aung Kyaw Day in Myanmar
• Yalda in Iran
• Macau Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
• Tomorrow, Friday at 5:23pm, is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (beginning of Winter) and Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (beginning of Summer)

If you are like me, you are probably wondering why the US flags are currently at half staff. They will remain at half staff until sunset on 12/30/2018, in honor of recently departed President George H. W. Bush. You can always check for half staff proclamations at http://www.halfstaff.org.

Some Famous People Born 12/20 in History:

• 1868-Harvey Samuel Firestone-founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
• 1881-Branch Rickey-MLB
• 1898-Irene Dunne-American actress and singer
• 1908-Dennis Morgan-American actor and singer
• 1924-Charlie Callas-American actor and comedian
• 1927-Jim Simpson-American sportscaster
• 1939-Kim Weston-American soul singer
• 1940-Pat Chapman-English chef and author
• 1942-Bob Hayes-American track star and NFL player
• 1945-Peter Criss-American singer/songwriter/drummer/producer
• 1946-Uri Geller-Israeli-English magician and psychic
• 1946-Dick Wolf-American director/producer/screenwriter
• 1948-Alan Parsons-English keyboard player and producer-Alan Parsons Project
• 1949-Oscar Gamble-MLB
• 1956-Anita Ward-American disco/R&B singer
• 1957-Billy Bragg-English singer/songwriter/guitarist
• 1958-Doug Nordquist-American high jumper
• 1959-Jackie Fox-The Runaways
• 1959-Trent Tucker-NBA
• 1965-Rich Gannon-NFL
• 1981-James Shields-MLB
• 1982-David Cook-American singer/songwriter/guitarist-American Idol
• 1983-Jonah Hill-American actor/producer/screenwriter
• 1990-JoJo-American singer and actress

This Day in History (12/20):

• AD 69-Vespasian, formerly a general under Nero, enters Rome to claim the title of Emperor.
• 1192-Richard I of England is captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria on his way home to England after the Third Crusade.
• 1334-Pope Benedict XII is elected.
• 1522-Siege of Rhodes: Suleiman the Magnificent accepts the surrender of the surviving Knights of Rhodes, who are allowed to evacuate. They eventually settle on Malta and become known as the Knights of Malta.
• 1606-The Virginia Company loads three ships with settlers and sets sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.
• 1803-the Louisiana Purchase is completed at a ceremony in New Orleans.
• 1808-Peninsular War: the Siege of Zaragoza begins.
• 1832-HMS Ciio under the command of Captain Onslow arrives at Port Egmont under orders to take possession of the Falkland Islands.
• 1860-South Carolina becomes the first state to attempt to secede from the United States.
• 1915-WWI: the last Australian troops are evacuated from Gallipoli.
• 1917-Cheka, the first Soviet secret police force, is founded.
• 1924-Adolf Hitler is released from Landesberg Prison.
• 1941-WWII: first battle of the American Volunteer Group, better known at the “Flying Tigers” in Kunming, China.
• 1942-WWII: Japanese air forces bomb Calcutta, India.
• 1946-the popular Christmas movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, is first released in NYC.
• 1948-Indonesian National Revolution: the Dutch military captures Yogyakarta, the temporary capital of the newly-formed Republic of Indonesia.
• 1951-the EBR-1 in Arco, Idaho become the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity only powered 4 light bulbs.
• 1952-a US Air Force C-124 crashes and burns in Moses Lake, WA, killing 87.
• 1955-Cardiff is proclaimed the capital city of Wales, United Kingdom.
• 1957-the initial production version of the Boing 707 makes its first flight.
• 1967-a Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Metroliner exceeds 155 mph on their New York Division, also present day Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
• 1968-the Zodiac Killer kills Betty Lou Jenson and David Farraday in Vallejo, CA.
• 1971-the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders is founded by Bernard Kouchner and a group of journalists in Paris, France.
• 1973-the PM of Spain, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, is assassinated by a car bomb attack in Madrid.
• 1984-the Summit Tunnel Fire, one of the largest transportation tunnel fires in history, burns after a freight train carrying over one million liters of gasoline derails near the town of Todmorden, England in the Pennines.
• 1985-Pope John Paul II announces the institution of World Youth Day.
• 1987-in the worst peacetime sea disaster, the passenger ferry Dona Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker Vector in the Tablas Strait in the Philippines, killing an estimated 4,000 people.
• 1989-the United States invasion of Panama deposes Manuel Noriega.
• 1991-a Missouri court sentences the Palestinian militant Zein isa and his wife Maria to death for the honor killing of their daughter Palestina.
• 1995-NATO begins peacekeeping in Bosnia.
• 1995-American Airlines Flight 965, a B-757, crashes into a mountain 50 km north of Cali, Colombia, killing 159.
• 1999-Macau is handed over to China by Portugal.
• 2004-a gang of thieves steal GBP 26.6 million worth of currency from the Donegall Square West headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast, North Ireland, United Kingdom, one of the largest bank robberies in British history.
• 2007-Elizabeth II becomes the oldest monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months, and 29 days.
• 2007-the Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (1904), by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, and O Lavrador de Café by Brazilian modernist painter Candido Portinari, are stolen from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art.

Fun Fact of the Day:

“Yellow Journalism” was an 1890’s term for journalism that presented little or no legitimately researched news and instead used eye-catching headlines, sensationalism, and scandal-mongering. Kind of like “fake news” today.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”—Barbara Bush

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices on 10/5 closed at $74.34/barrel. Yesterday, Oil was trading at $47.66/barrel. Although up over $1/barrel on the day, much much lower than where it was when Iast wrote the Repo Commentary. That would explain a lot, like the price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station, which today was $2.02/gallon, versus 10/5’s $2.77/gallon! Trade war escalation and imminent US Government shutdown (that oil has been kicked down the road again to now), have wreaked havoc on global stock markets, bond markets, and currencies. The USD versus the Yen was trading at $113.77 on 10/5, and now is trading at $112.20, weaker. The USD was at $1.1524 versus the Euro on 10/5, and yesterday it was at $1.1426, stronger. The USD was at $1.3117 against the GBP on 10/5, and yesterday was at $1.2655, weaker. The USD versus the CAD was $1.2948 on 10/5, and is now at $1.3442, weaker. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, but yesterday closed at $1256.70/ounce, reflecting the uncertainty of the markets. Bitcoin was trading at $8185.21 on 7/25, and was still above the magic $6000 figure at $6,350 on 10/5. Well, that apparently has broken through, trading yesterday at $3,7774.97. I hope all those people that I like sold it at $19000 when it was briefly there. The Brexit crisis has deepened, as British PM’s party is attempting now to oust her from power. European stocks tumbled almost 1.5% Thursday, on the heels of the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increase. French, German, and UK benchmarks reaching the lowest points since late 2016. China will release its 2019 economic plan today.

Global Financial News:

With the tumble in oil prices over the last 2 months, energy stock prices are down 23% since early October, and investors say companies are acting like the industry will not improve soon. Some firms are down 40% in 2018, as crude broke the $50/barrel support for the first time in over a year. States and cities issuing bonds will ask Congress to bring back advance refundings in 2019. The possible US government shutdown has Wall Street analysts concerned about the impact on the US dollar and US Treasuries. It does not bode well for debt-ceiling talks in March, which could cause problems for the Treasury Department. A new report by the SEC shows that US credit rating agencies are improving procedures, but they still have instances when they don’t follow any of their rules or other rating criteria. The SEC announced that its examinations and inspections of financial professional in 2019 will give a high priority to cybersecurity, critical market structure, and individual investors. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says the market reaction to the Fed rate hike is overblown and markets were needlessly “disappointed” when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the Fed would raise rates at least twice in 2019, when they originally said they would raise rates at least thrice.

“What to Expect When Expecting a Government Shutdown…The specter of a shutdown is once again lurking in the nation’s capital, just in time for the holidays. Congress has until midnight Friday to avert a partial shutdown by passing either a series of appropriations bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security and eight other federal agencies, or a stopgap spending measure to keep the agencies funded at current levels for a short period.” New York Times 

“Booming job market can’t fill retirement shortfall…For older Americans, the last few years of work can be a vital chance to patch up thin savings or pay down debt to ease their way into retirement. Many aren’t getting that opportunity.” WSJ

“Bankruptcy business booms…Record debt burdens, rising borrowing costs and, in some cases, bigger payday loans are driving many Canadians to seek relief, according to several licensed insolvency trustees who spoke to Bloomberg. They say November was their busiest on record, and December — typically a slow time of year in the insolvency trade — hasn’t let up.”National Post

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, and closed on 10/5 at 26,447.05, as it fell 180 points on the day. It was hovering around its all-time high, but like I said, global trade wars and uncertainty crushed the Dow the last 2 weeks, so that it was trading yesterday at 23,955.34, after taking another 200 point beating on Tuesday. The bull rally is technically still intact and the longest one we’ve seen. But, it becomes a correction if the Dow slips 20% from its all-time and recent high, so that’s about 5,400 points. It’s currently down about 2,700 points, so about halfway there, likely a Fibonacci technical support. As I write this, I see that the Dow is down another 650 points, for a more than 900-point decline in 2 days and 1,900-point decline in 5 days. Today’s losses are being blamed on the aggressive tightening of interest rates by the Fed yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s announcement that President Trump would not sign a temporary government funding resolution, along with losses at Amazon and Apple bringing down the Nasdaq and S&P 500, which are down 2.6% and 2.4% respectively today. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing at 10/5 at 2,885.58. Yesterday, it was trading at 2,570.53. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45. Yesterday, it traded at 6,832.25. With today’s losses, Nasdaq has almost entered bear market territory, down 18.2% from the record high, only needing to be down 20% to achieve bear market territory. Wow, what did you guys do to the market while I was away? With today’s activity, the Dow has hit a 14-month low and is closer to marking a bear market. US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting. Following that meeting, on 10/5: 2years closed at 2.88% and closed 12/18, according to the US Treasury at 2.65%, plummeting 18bp over the last 2 weeks; 3years closed at 2.99% and just closed on 12/18 at 2.64, a full 20bp drop in 2 weeks; 5years closed on 10/5 at 3.07%, and closed 12/18 at 2.65%, down 18bp in last 2 weeks; 7years closed at 3.18% on 10/5, and closed at 2.74% on 12/18, down 16bp in 2 weeks; 10years closed at 3.23% on 10/5, and just closed at 2.82% on 12/18, down 16bp in 2 weeks; and 30years closed at 3.40% on 10/5, and just closed at 3.07% on 12/18, down 20bp in 2 weeks and nearly breaking through 3% again. I can’t believe how flat the curve is now with 2years-30years at 42bp. Worth noting, while I was off writing, in November, Unemployment hit a 50-year low and wages rose 3.1% over the prior year, the fastest pace since April 2009.

Housing News:

By all measurements, the housing market cooled in 2018, and 2019 looks like it may be a difficult year for both buyers and sellers, according to analysts. Most analysts are predicting higher interest rates (although as we just saw above with Treasury yields, they have dramatically dropped since October, some down nearly ½%) and higher home prices, mainly because of less supply and higher labor and material costs. Both of those would be difficult for the housing market, but expected continued economic growth and increase in employment are supposed to prop up demand. I guess, if the housing market gets too unpredictable, that probably helps the renovation of existing homes and the various industries that support that. Analysts say, despite the delay following the Great Recession, the Millenials are now the biggest homebuyer group, particularly for entry-level homes, although supply is very limited. One thing homebuyers should be considering, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is that they have a total debt-to-income ratio below 43%, when all is said and done. I think one thing to watch is the continued move from ownership to renting, houses and condos, as home price increases are likely to advance faster than wage growth. As 2018 ends, with lower existing and new home sales, as well as home prices, analysts still see the slowdown stopping short of a crash. Figures released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau show that almost 2.5 million people have moved to the state of Florida since 2010, up 13.3% in population. Florida remains the country’s 3rd most populous state. Florida’s growth rate in the last year was 1.5%, only surpassed by Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.

Repo News:  

As it seems every other global market and US market took yesterday’s FOMC move to tighten rather badly, the repo market showed resilience today and even less funding pressure than expected. GC Overnight traded well-below the expected 2.60% rate, probably due to some GSE cash still being in the system. That will be leaving by Friday, so rates will likely increase on Monday and next week. Obviously, we are heading into year-end and are seeing year-end balance sheet and funding pressures. Scott Skyrm sees the Turn right now 12/31-1/2 at 3.10%/3.00%.
I’m hearing from several sources that the sponsored repo program at FICC, Direct Repo at AVM, Elixium electronic platform, GLMX electronic platform, EUREX CCP, peer-to-peer OTC financing, and BONY’s DBVX are all making headway and volumes are up, although still below 5% of the overall European and US repo markets. I’ll give you more of my thoughts on all that in the next Repo Commentary (otherwise, I’ll never finish this and all the other news will be old!).

I will say that I saw a provocative piece by my old friend, Steve Malekian, regarding Liquidity Assumptions in the Repo Market. I have been seeing several articles about how 10 years now from the events of the Financial Crisis or Great Recession, we have now returned to some kind of ‘normalcy’. The banks are much better capitalized, forced to be so by over 300 regulations slapped on them and forced deleveraging to all market participants. Many people have been remarking how liquidity has returned to the market and is in abundant supply now. Now, I don’t know about you, but I see deleveraging and increased liquidity as an issue in semantics and timing. If you force people to slash their use of liquidity by as much as 60%, and it is still technically there, then there’s sort of more liquidity.

On the counterparty credit risk side, regulators certainly got things more transparent and eased questions about bank solvency, although the ‘too big to fail’ thing still lurks. There are less participants and the larger ones have crowded out some of the smaller ones. But, at what price was counterparty credit risk at banks reduced? Concentrating that risk into one, two, or three CCPs, may have reduced one counterparty credit risk, just to increase credit risk and concentration risk among only a few institutions. I remember one of the smartest money funds had told me that they now look at the CCPs’ membership lists and their waterfall provisions very carefully.

Anyway, Steve points out that bank balance sheets were slashed and client coverage was culled. As bank capital has been reallocated now back to the Repo Desks, for their smooth revenue stream, its allocation among clients is very different than it used to be. So, if you happened to be a client in the rare category of platinum (in terms of size and doing many of the product lines of that bank), you now are seeing more liquidity from that bank. But, if you are smaller or only doing repo or only doing thinner bid/offer spread repo, you are not receiving the prior liquidity or you are seeing much wider bid/offer spreads.

Remember that liquidity and balance sheet are fickle things that can change pretty suddenly. So, is liquidity overall up? Or, is this time different?

Anyway, I’ve paraphrased Steve, perhaps not perfectly, and added some of my own thoughts just to provoke discussion.

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:
 

• Finadium will hold a webinar on moving to SOFR, SONIA, and ESTER, the three principal LIBOR alternatives, on 1/15.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I have been chosen as the Chairman.
• Finadium will hold a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN will hold its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• RMA will hold its 16th annual PASLA/RMA Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia on 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened yesterday at 2.25%. They will likely open closer to 2.50% on Thursday, as the FOMC tightened yesterday afternoon.

The next FOMC meetings are: 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. 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.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

Yesterday, as expected, and true to form, the Fed ignored a President’s warnings and tightened again, raising the Fed Funds target rate by another 25bp to 2.50%, although Fed Funds have been trading a little lower. The Federal Reserve will propose a rule this year to simplify the stress tests for regional banks and to reduce their frequency, per Randal Quarles. The rule would apply to banks with $100 billion-$250 billion in assets.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

A tsunami warning has been issues, as a 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Russia’s eastern shore. In February 2017, two small seismic events occurred near the Oroville Dam in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. A new report found that actually over 19,000 smaller-magnitude events have occurred near the Oroville spillway and may have caused the periods of spillway discharge.

The latest earthquakes:

12/20/18 7.4 82km W of Nikol’skoye, Russia
12/12/18 6.3 Pacific-Antarctic Ridge
12/12/18 4.4 11km NNE of Decatur, Tennessee
12/11/18 7.1 48km N of Bristol Island
12/9/18 4.8 9km SSE of Big Lake, Alaska
12/5/18 6.6 192km ESE of Tadine, New Caledonia
12/1/18 6.3 293km WNW of Saumiaki, Indonesia
11/30/18 7.0 12km N of Anchorage, Alaska

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, June 1st and ended November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted that this season would be a busy, above average hurricane season. They had predicted 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. There were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major. In 2017, they were way off the wrong way as well, 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 were the 2018 Storm names:

Alberto done
Beryl done
Chris done
Debby done
Ernesto done
Florence done
Gordon done
Helene done
Isaac done
Joyce done
Kirk done
Leslie done
Michael done
Nadine done
Oscar done
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/18 and ended 11/1/18.

As for the weather, those of you who are visiting Florida for the holidays have missed our brief two one-day cold fronts, which brought temps down to the 50s and 60s and had everyone here scurrying for ski clothes. It’s rather funny how most people here are from up North (I95 East coast side from Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, Quebec; i75 West cost side from Memphis, Chicago, Madison, Detroit, Minneapolis, Ottawa) all lost their ability to withstand slight chill. We are back up into the 80s, near record highs, with high humidity and unstable weather. The National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory through Monday morning, as broad system stretching from Wisconsin to the Gulf Coast is pushing east, and is bring rain to the Mid-Atlantic and South. Another system is expected to hit 12/27-12/28, but will mostly affect New England. That storm is expected to have heavy snow and hazardous road conditions. It will begin in the Plains and Great Lakes shortly after Christmas and head on to the Northeast. There is a high-wind warning for Seattle and Florida, two opposite parts of the continental US. Rainfall in Orland shattered a 107-year-old record. NOAA published its outlook for the country for January-March period and is expecting warmer-than-average temperatures for the western half of the country and likely wet conditions across much of the Southwest, South, and up into the Mid-Atlantic.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season has ended. But, it baseball returns in less than 100 days! Let’s see, what happened since I last wrote on 10/7/18. Oh yeah, my Red Sox won the World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers!!! It was the Boston Red Sox 4th World Series Championship in 14 years (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018), since breaking the 86-year Curse of the Bambino. In fact, with the Red Sox 4 Championships, the Bruins one Stanley Cup, the Patriots 5 Super Bowls, and the Celtics NBA Title, Boston/New England teams have won 11 Championship titles in the last 16 years.

The offseason Free Agency Hot Stove has begun in full force. The two biggest star free agents and likely largest contracts are Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Also, the owners have been meeting to discuss new rules for the game, including possibly banning or limiting defensive shifts for batter tendencies. The Yankees and Red Sox will have a game in London in 2019. The Yankees believe Red Sox-hater 3B free agent Manny Machado is a “perfect fit” for their organization. It sounds like they just have to agree on a price. Currently, the 26-year-old Machado wants a $300 million deal. Star ace Matt Harvey’s expected free agency frenzy has fizzled, but he was finally able to sign a 1-year deal with the Angels for $11 million. His former team, the Mets, are discussing signing free agent infielder Mike Moustakas. Jeurys Familia has returned to the Mets for a 3year/$30 million deal. The Mets also signed a catcher, Wilson Ramos, for 2 years/$19.5 million. The Rays added starter Charlie Morton for 2years/$30 million. The Nationals made a mega deal for starter Patrick Corbin for 6 years/$140 million. The Yankees gave CC Sabathia his $500,000 bonus, despite the ejection for plunking Rays’ Jesus Sucre, which would have nullified the bonus. They also re-signed him for one year/$8 million. The Yankees and pitcher J.A. Happ have finalized a 2-year-deal for $34 million. The Yankees also brought back a Red Sox pest, OF Brett Gardner for one year/$7.5 million. He actually was due $11 million in 2019, but the Yankees bought out his contract for $2 million and then offered him $7.5 million, saving themselves $1.5 million. The Dodgers re-signed David Freese for one year/$6 million. The Indians continue to discuss trading ace Corey Kluber and at least 4 teams are interested. Catcher Brian McCann has returned to the Braves for one year/$2 million. The Braves also signed annoying 3B Josh Donaldson for one year/$23 million. I’m only annoyed because the Red Sox let him go years ago and he continues to light the Red Sox up for other teams. The Nationals signed catcher Kurt Suzuki for 2 years/$10 million. The Nats also signed pitcher Trevor Rosenthal for one year/$7 million. The Red Sox re-signed 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce for one year/$6.25 million. The Astros and former oft-injured Indians slugger Michael Brantley finalized a 2-year-deal. MLB has partnered with DAZN to create live look-in show for baseball fans. The MLB and MLBPA have reached an agreement with Cuban Baseball Federation, finally eliminating the need for players to defect. Astros reliever Joe Smith will be out 6-8 months, after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Cubs’ Addison Russell’s ex-wife is revealing more details of alleged abuse in their marriage.

Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis has made her choice of college and will attend Hampton University and will play on their softball team. She was not the first girl to play in Little League World Series history, certainly had the greatest impact, hurling 70 mph pitches and throwing shutouts. Her second LLWS start 4 years ago drew just under 5 million viewers on ESPN, the single-game Little League viewing record for the network.

Golf:

The PGA of America announced that it will be moving its headquarters from Florida to Texas! Renowned golf architect Keith Foster is facing a possible 5-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to illegally transporting between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of items made from endangered species of wildlife. He apparently imported the items made from endangered species such as crocodiles, sea turtles, sawfish, and migratory birds for his store The Output in Middleburg, VA. The clubhouse at Machrihanish Golf Club, founded in 1876, was destroyed by a fire on Wednesday. The PGA Tour is offering support for sports betting legislation. Last month, Rory McIlroy hinted that he would rescind his European Tour membership in 2019, but instead he has decided to keep it.

Fighting:

Boxing

Seven middleweight contenders are ready to face champ Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez just became a 3-division champion with a 3rd round TKO over Rocky. Matt Korobov is replacing Willie Monroe Jr. to fight Jermall Charlo.

MMA:

Conor McGregor returned to the Octagon to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. Khabib, the Russian, was the undefeated (27-0) light heavyweight champion. I rarely watch MMA anymore, not just because of the $80 pay-per-view, but I happened to be at a restaurant showing it and I watched the entire undercard and main card. The main event turned out to be a historic one, even if it did not show the UFC in its best light, and harkened back to the Gulotta/Bowe boxing match melee at MSG (that I was at and in the middle of) and the infamous Tyson/Holyfield boxing match ear brawl in Las Vegas. First the result, Khabib won over Conor with a 4th round naked-rear chokehold that forced the former flamboyant champion from Ireland to tap out. But, once that fight was over, many more fights began, as the Las Vegas venue erupted in several fights. Bellator 213 was in Hawaii. Headliner Ilima-Lei Macfarlane employed a triangle choke hold to defeat Letourneau. UFC will be featured for a change on Fox. UFC in Milwaukee saw Al Iaquinta getting a unanimous decision over Kevin Lee.

NCAA Basketball:

While I was away, the college basketball season started. Kevin Durant says that Duke’s Zion Williamson is a “once-in-a-generation-star”. Disgraced Rick Pitino is finalizing a deal to become EuroLeague head coach. UNC announced an 8-year extension for coach roy Williams. UCLA is having trouble in the weak Pac-12 and Notre Dame was on a losing streak that was stopped at 2, but at a huge price, losing their best player Rex Pflueger, for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. No.12 UNC just upset No.4 Gonzaga. And that was after No.7 Tennessee had upset then No.1 Gonzaga. Penn shocked Villanova. 5-star recruit Vernon Carey has committed to Duke. Former Indiana star Eric Anderson has died at age 48. Indiana buzzer-beater beat Butler. Former 5-star recruit Quade Green is expected to transfer from Kentucky. We are only about 1/3rd through the season, but this is the latest poll from 12/16, and there are some household names up there, along with some unusual ones:

1. Kansas (10-0)
2. Duke (10-1)
3. Tennessee (9-1)
4. Michigan (11-0)
5. Virginia (10-0)
6. Nevada (11-0)
7. Auburn (9-2)
8. Gonzaga (10-2)
9. North Carolina (8-2)
10. Michigan State (9-2)
11. FSU (10-1)
12. Texas Tech (10-0)
13. Virginia Tech (10-1)
14. Buffalo (11-0)
15. Ohio State (10-1)
16. Wisconsin (9-2)
17. Mississippi State (10-1)
18. Arizona State (8-2)
19. Kentucky (8-2)
20. Marquette (9-2)
21. Houston (10-0)
22. Indiana (10-2)
23. Iowa (9-2)
24. Furman (12-0)
25. Nebraska (9-2)

NCAA Football:

College football season kickoff was on 8/25 and the season has ended, with bowl games already having started. Michigan LB Devin Bush says he will forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. At least one NFL team is looking to hire Jim Harbaugh away from the University of Michigan. Say it ain’t so, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has said that he will retire after the Rose Bowl game. Georgia QB Justin Fields is reportedly looking at transfer options. 5-star recruit DE Zach Harrison has decided to go to Ohio State, despite Urban Meyer leaving. Some new Buckeyes decommitted after the Urban Meyer news, including safety Jordan Battle (who flipped to Alabama), QB Dwan Mathis (who flipped to Georgia). Current Georgia QB Justin Fields is now reportedly looking at transfer options.

As of 12/1, the official AP Poll is:

1. Alabama (13-0)
2. Clemson (13-0)
3. Notre Dame (12-0)
4. Oklahoma (12-1)
5. Ohio State (12-1)
6. Georgia (11-2)
7. UCF (12-0)
8. Michigan (10-2)
9. Washington (10-3)
10. Florida (9-3)
11. LSU (9-3)
12. Washington State (10-2)
13. Penn State (9-3)
14. Texas (9-4)
15. West Virginia (8-3)
16. Kentucky (9-3)
17. Syracuse (9-3)
18. Mississippi State (8-4)
19. Fresno State (12-2)
20. Utah (9-4)
21. Texas A&M (8-4)
22. Army (10-2)
23. Boise State (10-3)
24. Missouri (8-4)
25. Iowa State (8-4)

Here is your 2018-19 College Football Playoff and Bowl schedule:

12/29 4:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Notre Dame

12/29 8:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Capital One Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama vs No.4 Oklahoma

01/07 8:00pm College Football Playoff National Championship
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA

12/15
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
North Carolina A&T 24
Alcorn State 22

New Mexico Bowl by Progressive
Utah State 52
North Texas 13

AutoNation Cure Bowl
Tulane 41
Louisiana 24

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State 31
Arizona State 20

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern 23
Eastern Michigan 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State 45
Middle Tennessee 13

12/18
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
UAB 37
Northern Illinois 13

12/19
DXL Frisco Bowl
Ohio 27
San Diego State 0

12/20
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Marshall vs. South Florida

12/21
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
FIU vs. Toledo

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. BYU

12/22
Jared Birmingham Bowl
Memphis vs. Wake Forest

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Army

Dollar General Bowl
Buffalo vs. Troy

SoFi Hawai’I Bowl
Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii

12/26
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Boston College vs. Boise State

Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech

Cheez-It Bowl
California vs. TCU

12/27
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Temple vs. Duke

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Miami vs. Wisconsin

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt

12/28
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Auburn

Camping World Bowl
West Virginia vs Syracuse

Valero Alamo Bowl
Iowa State vs. Washington State

12/29
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No.10 Florida vs. No.7 Michigan

Belk Bowl
South Carolina vs. Virginia
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Arkansas State vs. Nevada

CFP Semifinal Cotton Bowl
No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Notre Dame

CFP Semifinal Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama vs. No.4 Oklahoma

12/31
Military Bowl by Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Stanford vs. Pittsburgh

Redbox Bowl
Michigan State vs. Oregon

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Northwestern vs. Utah

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
NC State vs. Texas A&M

O1/01
Outback Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Iowa

VRBO Citrus Bowl
Kentucky vs. Penn State

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No.11 LSU vs. No.8 UCF

Rose Bowl presented by NWML
No.9 Washington vs. No.6 Ohio State

Allstate Sugar Bowl
No.15 Texas vs. No.5 Georgia

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season is nearing its end, as we enter Week 16, with a game tonight, two on Saturday, plenty on Sunday, and one on Monday. My Patriots (9-5) have not done particularly well, falling to a last-second hook-and-ladder 69-yard 4 lateral comeback by Miami and Tom Brady uncharacteristically not completing the 2-minute drill on the 4-yard-line against the Steelers, but, luckily, they are in one of the worst divisions, so they won that, and they have two easy games coming up. They still might get a bye, but probably won’t go much further, despite having been the Super Bowl loser last year. Unfortunately, they are losing personnel right and left: today, WR Josh Gordon chose to quit the team to “focus on his mental health” (rumor has it he was about to suspended by the NFL for the 4th time in 4 years for drug use); TE Rob Gronkowski is now nursing 3 different injuries (not including pride for that blown last second play against Miami); WR Jules Edelman has the ‘drops’; RB/WR White appears to be in the doghouse; and QB Tom Brady is looking rushed and old. The Patriots have now fallen behind the Texans in the playoff rankings. Patriots’ QB Tom Brady and the Patriots reportedly had “tough conversations” following their loss to the Steelers. There have been a lot of surprises this NFL season, a lot more parity than usual, some huge upsets, a lot of OT and tie games, and phenomenal inability of many placekickers. Moving the Point After Touchdown from the 2-yard-line to the 33-yard-line didn’t have that much impact initially, but this year it was bizarre. Former Lions WR Titus Young has been released after serving 20 months in prison. Rams star RB Todd Gurley has been out with a knee injury but is expected to return against the Cardinals in Week 16. Saints QB Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton have moved up the list of great QB/coach combos. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers plans on playing against the Jets. The Raiders will reportedly sign former Bills QB Nathan Peterman. They have gone through 4 or more RBs and at least 3 QBs this season. Steelers RB James Conner is still nursing an ankle injury and says he is “not ready yet”. He made the Steelers and Steeler fans forget that their money RB Le’Veon Bell held out all season, which theoretically crippled the Steelers, but Conner was their shining star. Panthers disappointing season continues, as their one star, QB Cam Newton will be shelved this week as well, with a shoulder injury, after Monday night’s loss. The Dolphins only bright spot in a dismal season of no playoffs, ageless RB Frank Gore has been placed on the Injured Reserve with a foot injury. The Super Bowl Champion Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz (who did not play in the Super Bowl or win the MVP) has had a history of back problems, including a stress fracture in his back, that dates back to his college days. A couple of weeks ago, he missed practice because of back spasms, and now a CT scan has revealed a stress fracture in his back, ruling him out for Week 15 and now Week 16. Backup QB Nick Foles, who WAS last year’s Super Bowl MVP will finally get his fourth appearance of this year. The Eagles are not out of the playoffs yet, as they are 7-7 and only one game behind the first place, reeling Cowboys. But, they are playing the Texans. Ageless superstar Redskins RB Adrian Peterson says that he was inspired to keep playing by Packers QB Brett Favre, his longtime rival. After 12 years in the NFL, Peterson still does not want to retire, after just having a great year for the Redskins. Cardinals superstar WR Larry Fitzgerald says that this Sunday may be his final home game. Former NFL TV analyst Jon Gruden had an interesting year, taking the head coaching job at the Oakland Raiders for a lot of money and then trading everybody except QB Derek Carr away. But, he did get a ton of first round and second round draft picks to rebuild the team. Meanwhile, Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the Raiders. The Rams just signed free agent RB C.J. Anderson. Perhaps, they are more concerned about Todd Gurley’s injury than they let on. The Packers have reportedly met with former Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. If anybody is meeting with a former NFL QB, it should be the Dolphins. The Seahawks have signed RB Bo Scarbrough off the Jaguars practice squad. The Packers have placed RB Aaron Jones on injured reserve with a knee issue. Falcons may fire Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Defensive Coordinator Marquand Manuel, according to a new report, now that they have been eliminated from the playoffs. Redskins safety Montae Nicholson has been arrested on assault charges. Ex-Patriot Damien Woody says Rob Gronkowski is “a shell of himself” after all of his injuries. The Chargers are pretty banged up, with WR Keenan Allen out with a hip injury and RB Melvin Gordon out with a knee injury.

If you are thinking ahead to the Pro Bowl, the Chargers lead the NFL with 7 selections. Saints’ QB Drew Brees was named the starting NFC QB. The thing about the NFL’s Pro Bowl, which is supposed to be similar to the All-Star Games for the MLB, NBA, and NHL, is that it occurs at the end of the regular season, a week before the Super Bowl, whereas the other sports do their All-Star games midway through their regular seasons. I never understood why the NFL does this and I have never watched the game accordingly. Because, theoretically, the players from the best two teams aren’t going to play in the Pro Bowl, because they are getting ready for the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl is sort of a consolation game of the 3rd and 4th best players. If the Saints make the Super Bowl, Drew Brees will not be playing in the Pro Bowl as the starting QB. A ten-year-old could have probably figured out that marketing blunder, so why does the NFL do it? Well, I think it’s because of their other problem, injuries, particularly concussions. The Super Bowl would be marred if the absolute best players in the NFL were injured in the middle of the season in a Pro Bowl. The other sports don’t feel they have the same risks of injury. Interesting.

ESPN is reportedly thinking of ways to bring back the glory days of Monday Night Football and better ratings, including possibly adding Peyton Manning as an anchor.

The NFL has picked future locations for the Super Bowl. Minnesota hosted Super Bowl 52 in 2018 in its new dome stadium. Likewise, Atlanta will host Super Bowl 53 in 2019 in its new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In 2020, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will host Super Bowl 54. In 2021, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will host Super Bowl 55. In 2022, Los Angeles will host Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles Stadium. In 2023, Glendale, AZ will host Super Bowl 57 in University of Phoenix Stadium. In 2024, Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans will host Super Bowl 58. Clearly, the NFL is favoring weather and dome stadiums.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are just short of halfway through now. The Lightning are way ahead (again) in the Eastern Conference and overall in the NHL, trailed by the Leafs, Sabres (that’s a surprise), Capitals, and Bruins (surpisingly mediocre this year). The Devils are in the cellar. Devils goalie, Cory Schneider, just went on IR with an abdominal strain. The Flyers are not far ahead and, so, just fired coach Dave Hakstol. In the Western Conference, there is a logjam at the top between the Jets, Flames, Predators, and Avalanche. The Kings are in the cellar. The Blackhawks are right there too, uncharacteristically. Their goalie, Corey Crawford, suffered another concussion and is back on IR. The Canadian teams have finally returned. Former Senators assistant GM Randy Lee pleaded guilty to sexual harassment charge. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had a heated shouting match with Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, as the Pens beat the Caps. There’s no love lost between these two teams, as Caps’ Tom Wilson dropped Pens’ Jamie Oleksiak in a fight less than a minute into the game. Caps’ Ovechkin extended his career-high point streak to 14 games, the game before, and two straight hat tricks (his 20th and 21st). Trade talk is increasing, particularly for the Blues and the Kings. The Sabres are terminating forward Patrik Berglund’s contract after suspension. The 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships are coming up and Team USA figures to be very involved. Don’t forget the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic coming up (outside in a stadium) on New Year’s Day! This year features the Boston Bruins versus the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium (wow, they are really opening up that place, having just had their first concert there, Garth Brooks.) The fan-popular outdoor series began 11 years ago. 9 years ago, it featured the Bruins and the Flyers in Fenway Park, which ended in an OT win by the Bruins, while it was snowing. The Blackhawks have appeared in 6 outdoor games, 4 of them Winter Classics. This is the Bruins 3rd Winter Classic. The Penguins may be looking to trade Phil Kessel.

FIELD HOCKEY:

In field hockey, the World Cup concluded with Belgium defeating the Netherlands in the Final.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well and it has been all about LeBron James’ debut with the Lakers. The Rockets set an NBA record with 26 3-pointers made in their win over Wizards 136-118 on Wednesday. The Nets have won 6 in a row, topping the Lakers in Brooklyn. Heat guard Goran Dragic will be out 2 months after knee surgery. Timberwolves Taj Gibson tried to block a shot with his shoe. There is a full schedule of NBA games on Christmas Day, a kind of more recent tradition (like NCAA Football bowl games on New Year’s Day, NHL Outdoor Classic game on New Year’s Day, and 4 NFL games on Thanksgiving Day). The NBA trade deadline is 2/7. Free Agency is upon us now though. The Wizards will sign former Knicks guard Ron Baker. LeBron James keeps talking about the Lakers potentially acquiring Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis, although the latter keeps defusing the remarks. Hawks’ Kent Bazemore is generating interest. Jason Terry declared that he would be open to signing with the Lakers or Warriors. Bulls’ Jabari Parker expects to be traded. Lakers will probably trade Brandon Ingram. The Rockets are reportedly interested in Laker’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Thunder’s Dennis Schroder and Raymond Felton were suspended after a scuffle with the Bulls. NFL Draft is also happening now and Rounds 1 and 2 have been completed. The Pacers and Kings will take the NBA to India in 2019. Lamar Odom says he will play in the Dubai International Basketball League. C’mon, they couldn’t find and R word for a snazzy acronym DRIBL for basketball???

Travel News:

Just as we come up on another excessive traveling holiday period, Americans are again facing bad weather that should lead to thousands of delays and cancellations. Friday, 12/21, should be the heaviest day of travel, according to AAA. British Airways flew 4 kids to NYC to recreate the movie HOME ALONE 2, on a plance decked out with Christmas lights. A Korean Air flight attendant humiliated by an airline executive will receive $18,000. US and Mexico have announced that they have reached a deal on migrants seeking asylum at the border. A nudist park is up for sale in New Zealand. A Delta passenger claims a cleaning crew stole laptop left on an airplane. Donna Karan has a new travel-inspired pop-up store. A college student claims that Southwest Airlines forced her to abandon her pet fish at an airport. Speaking of Southwest Airlines, they are beginning their Hawaii route very soon. Britain’s second-largest airport has reopened, after a chaos with nearby drones.

Health News:

Legionnaires’ outbreak at a Wisconsin hospital has resulted in 3 deaths, according to officials. New research shows that veterinarians, especially women, are farm more likely to die by suicide. Some stem cell shots have now been linked to a bacterial infection. The US government is urging more doctors to write prescriptions for the overdose antidote. A new report says the obesity epidemic in the US is worsening. Most drugmakers are planning US price hikes in 2019. The deadly Ebola cousin virus, Marburg, has been found in West African bats. The FDA has issued a warning that some antibiotics, particularly those prescribed for an upper respiratory infection or urinary tract infections who are already at risk, can cause fatal heart damage. The antibiotics in the Fluroquinolone family might raise the risk of an aortic dissection in people already at risk. Interestingly, Cipro, which is one of the drugs in that family, one of five families of antibiotics, is the one that put me in emergency for antiphylactic shock twice. A new agriculture bill would legalize hemp. Teen vaping is now becoming a public health threat, according to the Surgeon General, and is many times more concentrated nicotine. He has officially declared it an epidemic among children and outlined the aggressive steps the government, including the FDA, will take to protect our children. The FDA has threatened an outright ban, if these efforts don’t work. Juul, the most popular vape product by far among teens, offers no nicotine-free flavors. Many think that the huge spike in teen vaping is because of the various ‘flavors’, but scientists think that it’s because of the higher concentration of nicotine. “A Juul cartridge, or ‘pod’, contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes,” according to the Surgeon General. A survey released Monday showed 37% of high school seniors have tried vaping, up from just under 28% in 2017. While e-cigarettes may help some adult smokers quit using more dangerous tobacco cigarettes, studies show that they’re of no benefit at all to teens. Nicotine is not only extremely addictive, “but it is uniquely harmful to young and developing brains that can cause learning, attention and memory problems, and it can prime the brain for addiction in the future,” according the Surgeon General. Guns are now the second leading killer of US kids. A new study shows that opioids don’t work that well. The romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak, which has finally ended, has been traced to one California farm.

Animal News:

A record 18-foot 150lb Burmese python was captured in Florida, breaking the state record. The state is currently conducting a hunt, as part of the South Florida Water Management District’s Python Elimination Program. Unfortunately, the non-native gigantic species has no natural predators here, especially at that size. Even alligators and crocodiles stay clear. It looks like fried chicken chain, Popeyes, has missed the mark on its new advertising campaign. Popeyes started using “emotional support chicken” meal carriers at Philadelphia International Airport, which PETA is furious about. They feel it’s a terrible jab at the raging national debate over emotional support animals on planes and people who abuse the program. The disposable tote is a carry-on box in the shape of a chicken and a sign boasting about its chicken’s “comforting” effects on travelers. Scientists have discovered 130-million-year old insects trapped in amber, right where they were born. Former nicotine research monkeys are now at a primate sanctuary. A new animal cruelty lawsuit has been filed by ALDF against Washington Drive-Thru Zoo Olympic Game Farm. According to a new report, 10 species are threatened by extinction, including red wolves, one of the rarest mammals on Earth (only 2 or 3 breeding pairs remain), due to lack of protection by the federal government, as the current administration is working on finalizing rules that will weaken the Endangered Species Act, despite 99.9% of more than 108,000 public comments preferring stronger federal protection. Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction now. Other animals that are now in peril are:

• California condor
• Giraffe
• Hellbender
• Humboldt marten
• Leatherback and Loggerhead sea turtles
• Rusty patched bumble bee
• San Bernadino kangaroo rat
• West Indian manatee
• Western yellow-billed cuckoo
Toughie, the world’s last Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog has passed away and the species is now extinct. According to the WWF, elephants are still the most poached species in the world. Trophy-hunting US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned from controversial position in Trump Administration, in response to numerous ethics investigations. Scientists released a new study in which they found rat poison in 85% of tested mountain lions and bobcats. Beginning on 12/18, Delta Air Lines began banning support animals on airplanes with flights longer than 8 hours, and will no longer allow any service or support animals under 4 months of age on any flight (due to USDA vaccination requirements). Roger, the incredibly buff kangaroo, has died at age 12.

Entertainment News:

While I was away, President Trump announced and awarded the following 7 people the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients (the highest honor a US civilian can receive): my Elvis Presley (finally), George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr., Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senator Orrin Hatch, Miriam Adelson, Alan C. Page, and Roger Staubach. The prestigious award is given to “individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House press release.

Sad news on Tuesday, as Penny Marshall, actress/producer, famous for producing and directing the movie BIG and the movie A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, and her long-standing TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, died of cancer at age 74.

The Academy Awards has yet to find a replacement for host Kevin Hart, who surprisingly pulled out 48 hours after being announced. It was his dream his whole life to host the Oscars, but texts considered homophobic from his past came back to haunt him and forced him to withdraw. The Voice crowned a 14-year-old country singer as champion. Meanwhile, a former Voice finalist just butchered the National Anthem at an NBA game. A WWE professional wrestler just fractured his skull in a jump from the top rope that went terribly wrong. Singer Anca Pop’s last photo shows the river in which she died. Jimmy Kimmel is being slammed for a God and Satan sketch. Ellen DeGeneres is back doing stand-up comedy, after a 20-year hiatus. Mary Lambert is explaining how she survived childhood molestation and rape. Michael Rapaport is being attacked on Twitter for posting mean Tweet about Ariana Grande’s looks. Josh Duhamel has revealed tha the wants to find “someone young enough” to have kids with after split from Fergie. There has been a backlash from the entertainment industry regarding the NFL’s policy regarding kneeling during the National Anthem and the hiring of former QB Colin Kaepernick. Several artists have now declined to do the halftime show, and Maroon 5 has still not committed. Jay-Z is trying to talk Travis Scott out of doing the halftime show. A Beverly Hills 90210 TV series reboot is in the works. Bravo TV’s Andy Cohen announces that he’s going to become a father. Drew Barrymore continues to struggle with her issues and has started a five-part series where she invites people to share in photos of herself crying and in depression. Beyonce may have just secretly dropped 2 new albums, as new songs are appearing on Spotify and Apple Music, as of Thursday night. Vanessa Hudgens and Charles Melton have now joined BAD BOYS 3. Audrina Patridge and Corey Bohan have finalized their divorce, which was filed after only 10 months of marriage in September 2017. The divorce lasted longer than the marriage. There are rumors that Modern Family could come back for one final season. Kate Hudson is under fire for partnering with Weight Watchers. Why? Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton are apparently feuding, which is just like normal families. Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley says ‘priveleged white people’ make up majority of acting industry. Rapper Juelz Santana has been sentenced to prison for possessing gun in airport. Halsey is responded to backlash over her The Voice performance, blasting “homophobic viewers.” Tommy Lee and his son Brandon have made amends after their physical altercation. Madonna is ‘shading’ Lady Gaga, accusing her of ripping her off again over A STAR IS BORN press tour, saying that she is using lines that Madonna had originally said years ago. Sandra Bullock is opening up about losing her father, 2 dogs, and crying in the bathtub. A judge has announced that Harvey Weinstein sexual assault case will move forward, after all the delays. Kelly Clarkson doesn’t want her kids to become musicians. Amber Heard claims that she lost acting jobs after making abuse allegations against Johnny Depp.

I have a pet peeve that has developed, having studied English and Journalism in college, I want to know when it became okay for television newscasters and reporters to start their stories with the subject, followed immediately by the pronoun, as in “Flu shots, they have been less effective…” or “The President, he said blah blah blah” or “Alec Baldwin, he punched…” or “Hurricane Michael, it will …” I just don’t get it. The proper noun initiated the sentence, so there is zero need to qualify it with an additional pronoun. If you think I’m kidding, listen to any news broadcast and you will hear this rampant misuse of the English language. I’ve listened to six examples just this morning on the Today show.

I’m still behind in movies, but not horrifically behind. I did see some 2017 movies recently: MEG (2 out of 10), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: SKYFALL (8.5 out of 10, I think the best in the series), MAMA MIA 2 (7 out of 10, Cher stole the show), and THE POST (6.5 out of 10, beautifully historic yet boring). I still have not seen A STAR IS BORN, FIRST MAN, or BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, but must.

This week’s box-office was okay, maybe because of the weather. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE took No.1 in its debut, with $35.4 million (budget of $90 million); No.2 was also a debut, the new Clint Eastwood movie THE MULE, pulling in $17.5 million (budget of $50 million); No.3 was DR. SEUSS’ THE GRINCH which fell from No.2 with $11.8 million, in its 6th week (total of $239 million on a budget of $75 million, so no crying to the bank); No.4 was RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET, yet another animated movie, this one tumbling from No.1 with just $9.3 million in its 4th week (total $154 million on budget of $175 million, maybe some weeping. Wait, how does an animated film cost $175 million nowadays?); and No.5 was another debut, MORTAL ENGINES with $7.6 million box-office (budget $100 million, uh oh!). CREED II or Rocky 8, depending on whether you are on metric or not, had a mere $5.4 million for 6th place, but has make more than double its budget of $50 million. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY fell to No.7 in its 7th week, with another $4.3 million (up to $180.6 million now on budget of $52 million, a winner).

Movies coming out this week is a heavy load of movies: DIAL CODE: SANTA CLAUS/BLOOD BEAT (don’t ask me), MARY POPPINS RETURNS (only took 53 years for Part II, so atypical of Hollywood), ANTARIKSHAM, BATMAN RETURNS/GREMLINS (huh?), PADI PADI LECHE MANASU (now I’m wondering if they are just messing with me), SEETHAKATHI, ADANG MARU, AIRPOCALYPSE (what?), ALL IS TRUE, AMERICAN RENEGADES, AQUAMAN, BIRD BOX, BUMBLEBEE (smaller Transformer), COLD WAR, DIE HARD/TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (this is suspicious because in the ad Bruce Willis has hair), DIRTY DIANA, FOURTH QUARTER, KGF CHAPTER I, MAARI 2, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (I want to see this, as she is my ancestor), RENEGADES, SECOND ACT (JLo film which looks funny), SWING KIDS, WELCOME TO MARWEN (I want to see this), ZERO, VIRTUAL ASSASIN, THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, AURORA, HOLMES & WATSON (featuring WIl Farrell and the other guy from TALLADEGA NIGHTS, could be silly funny), IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, ON THE BASIS OF SEX, VICE, TAKE POINT, FANTASTICA, KILL MOBILE, SIMMBA, STAN AND OLLIE (I grew up watching them).

Technology & Space News:

According to the DOJ, Chinese hackers spent years trying to steal US technology. The DOJ is going after the Chinese intelligence officers now. 50 years later, Apollo 8’s astronauts tell of being first to orbit moon and see an “Earthrise”. There is a triple threat today, with the Winter Solstice, a full moon, and a meteor shower. Watch out for the crazies! Apple has changed its rules to allow in-app gifting. Kids have been apparently leery to join Facebook and YouTube Kids, favoring Instagram. US postal stamp prices are going up again in 2019. Kohl’s will be open 24 hours starting today through Christmas Eve.

US News:

A border wall fundraiser is among GoFundMe’s top 5 fundraisers ever. A US Government shutdown is looming and President Trump is vowing a veto of the stopgap budget, if it doesn’t include provisions for his wall on the Mexican border. The House then forced a Senate Thursday by approving $5 billion in border wall funding. The House has also passed a criminal justice reform bill. A porn star has been arrested for masterminding a murder-for-hire plot. The deputy who killed his relatives before committing suicide was a former Officer of the Year recipient. A 12-year-old boy has been charged with stabbing his sister to death and attacking his lobbyist mother. A former gymnast has lost a leg and arm to toxic shock syndrome. A DEA “double agent” has been accused of secretly working with murderous gang. Police have charged an Iowa man with the 1979 murder of an 18-year-old woman. A Salvadoran man sought sanctuary 9 miles from the White House. Illinois Attorney General has found 500 more Catholic clergy accused of abuse. The US military has ended its search for 5 missing US Marines after their crash off the Japanese coast. US Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis is leaving his job, retiring at the end of February, after a clash with President Trump over Syria, following the President’s announcement that he would withdraw troops from Syria because the war against ISIS is over.

International News:

The Balangiga bells, taken by US Army soldiers from the Philippines in 1901 as war trophies, have been repatriated back to the Philippines. Two days after a shooting at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, in which 5 people died, French police have killed the suspected shooter. A massive sinkhole has opened up near an Indonesian hospital. Russian President Putin says convicted Russian spy Marina Butina pleaded guilty to a lie. ISIS may be behind a savage killing of backpackers in Morocco. Congo has delayed presidential vote until December 30th, citing a fire. US troops are preparing to withdraw from Syria, after President Trump declared victory over ISIS. Kurdish-led US allies in Syria say that withdrawing of US troops will aid ISIS. A celebrity spiritual leader, John of God, in Brazil has been accused of sex abuse. North Korea just said that it will never denuclearize, unless the US removes its nuclear threat. The detention of 2 Canadians has raised the tension in China-US-Canada dispute. A US sportswear brand has been traced to internment camps holding detained Chinese Muslims. A 3-year-old Indian girl has been raped on the 6th anniversary of the brutal Delhi gang rape. Germany has agreed to compensate survivors of WWII’s Kindertransport. Saudi Arabia has strongly rebuked US Senate’s “interference” in the Kingdom. At least 11 people have died in India from a suspected rice poisoning at a temple celebration. Australia has just recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Florida:

The blue-green algae disaster on the East Coast of Florida and red tide disaster on the West Coast of Florida (stretching 135 miles along the southwest coast) are thankfully over for tourists and the tourist industry. However, they still left piles of dead fish, turtles, and whales littered all over the beaches, particularly on the West Coast, and overall marine life was devastated.

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert, than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting:

Cher and Chic-Sunrise, January 19
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14 (saw it, was awesome)
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17

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