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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
02/26 Holidays or Events:
• Carnival Day (not Mardi Gras yet)
• For Pete’s Sake Day
• Tell A Fairy Tale Day
• Thermos Bottle Day
• National Personal Chef Day
• National Pistachio Nut Day
• Levi Strauss Day
• World Spay Day
• Day of Remembrance for Victims of Khojaly Massacre (Azerbaijan)
• Liberation Day (Kuwait)
• Saviours’ Day (Nation of Islam)
Some Famous People Born 02/26 in History:
• 1564-Christopher Marlowe, English playwright and poet
• 1802-Victor Hugo, French author, poet, and playwright
• 1808-Honore Daumier, French painter, illustrator, and sculptor
• 1829-Levi Strauss, German-American fashion designer, founder of Levi Strauss & Co.
• 1846-Buffalo Bill, American soldier and hunter
• 1852-John Harvey Kellogg, American surgeon, co-created Corn Flakes
• 1866-Herbert Henry Dow, Canadian-American businessman, founded the Dow Chemical Company
• 1887-Grover Cleveland Alexander-American baseball player and coach
• 1893-Dorothy Whipple, English novelist
• 1908-Tex Avery, American animator, producer, and voice actor
• 1912-Dane Clark, American actor and director
• 1916-Jackie Gleason, American actor and singer
• 1920-Tony Randall, American actor, director, and producer
• 1921-Betty Hutton, American actress and singer
• 1928-Fats Domino, American singer-songwriter and pianist
• 1928-Ariel Sharon, Israeli general and PM
• 1932-Johnny Cash, American singer-songwriter, guitarist and actor
• 1939-Chuck Wepner, American boxer
• 1943-Paul Cotton, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
• 1953-Michael Bolton, American singer-songwriter and actor
• 1954-Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President
• 1957-Joe Mullen, American ice hockey player and coach
• 1966-Marc Fortier, French-Canadian ice hockey player
• 1968-Tim Commerford, American bass player (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)
• 1973-Marshall Faulk, American football player
• 1983-Pepe, Brazilian-Portuguese footballer
Fun Fact of the Day:
According to a new study, heavy marijuana smokers are at risk for some of the same health effects as cigarette smokers, like bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses.
“Crazy Horse saw history as integrated in the present, incorporated into daily life.”—Stephen Ambrose.
I picked this quote because I was just reading about how the memorial to Crazy Horse is coming along, now 70 years into the project. It is the world’s largest mountain carving, located in the Black Hills of Custer, County, South Dakota. The face of the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, is now done and, eventually, he will be depicted on a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial and planned Native American Museum of North America and Native American Cultural Center are about 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Luther Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota elder, wrote to sculptor Gutzon Borgium, who was carving the heads of four American presidents at Mount Rushmore and suggested that it would be more fitting to have the face of Crazy Horse sculpted there, alongside Washington and Lincoln. The sculptor never responded to his letters, but sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who worked on Mount Rushmore, under Borgium, did respond and took on the commission. The memorial is a non-profit undertaking and the sculptor has reportedly turned down two offers of $10 million each from the US government.
International and Commodity Markets:
Oil prices closed at $74.34/barrel on 10/5, $47.66/barrel on 12/23, $48.63 on 01/07, $52.31/barrel on 01/16, and $55.26/barrel on 2/3. It was not much different Monday, closing at $55.41/barrel. OPEC has its best start of any year, as its production has fallen. However, the price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station moved from $1.86/gallon on 01/07 to $1.97/gallon on 01/16, to $2.09/gallon on 2/9, and now $2.29/gallon on 2/25. What the heck! The USD has been taking a beating versus other currencies, due to the budget impasse and current US government shutdown. One USD versus the Yen was trading at 112.20 on 12/24, was 108.60 on 01/07, 109.07 on 01/16, and 103.18 on 02/03. It rebounded to 104.86 on 2/25. The USD was at $1.1426 versus the Euro on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.1478, and a bit stronger on 01/16 at $1.1396. On 02/03 it is $1.2047, quite a bit weaker again. It drifted to $1.1955 on 2/25. The USD was at $1.2655 against the British Pound on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.2770, and even weaker on 01/16 at $1.2880. It was even much weaker on 02/03 at $1.3758, and finally about the same, $1.3728 on 2/25. One USD versus the CAD was 1.3442 on 12/24, but at 1.3297 on 01/07, at 1.3255 on 01/16, and at 1.2492 on 2/03. On 2/25, it is unchanged. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, 12/24 at $1256.70/ounce, 01/07 at $1288.85/ounce, 01/16 at $1293.50, 02/03 at $1,322.10, and 2/25 at $1330.20, reflecting the continued uncertainty (almost steady uncertainty) of the markets and flight to gold. Bitcoin was trading at $8,185.21 on 7/25, at $6,350 on 10/5, and $3,774.97 on 12/24. On 01/07 it was at at $3,7774.97. On 01/16, it took some more of a beating, down to $3,598.90. On 2/9 it was down to a paltry $3,421.10, but it rebounded by 2/25 to $3,826.44. PM May has surrendered to Remainers and agreed that Brexit can be delayed. The slowing economy in Europe has caused European businesses to borrow less and make gloomier predictions in recent surveys.
“U.S. opens anti-dumping probe into steel imports from China, Canada, Mexico -source: The U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday it will open a new anti-dumping probe to determine whether fabricated structural steel from Canada, China and Mexico is being sold at below fair value.” Reuters
“Canada threatens not to ratify USMCA until U.S. ends steel, aluminum tariffs: Canada is threatening to not ratify the renegotiated North American free-trade pact if U.S. President Donald Trump doesn’t first remove steel and aluminum tariffs, in a bid to restart serious talks over the punitive duties.” Globe and Mai
“Big decline in poverty rate offers good news to a government that desperately needs some: The number of Canadians in poverty is declining rapidly thanks to a strong labour market and an increase in child benefits, a new report from Statistics Canada says — a bit of good news for a Liberal government increasingly mired in controversy.” National Post
Global Financial News:
Citadel’s Ken Griffin predicts more market volatility in 2019. JPMorgan Chase’s president is warning of a trading revenue fall of high teen percentage. US cannabis law is helping Canada make money. German pharmaceutical company Merck says it wants to buy Arizona’s Versum Materials for $5.24 billion, abandoning a pending merger it had with another company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to irk SEC with tweets last week, that a judge decided Tuesday violated an enforcement agreement he reached with the SEC last year. He has until 3/11 to reply. The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing to review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on 3/7. SEC’s Jackson said that about 90% of known cyberattacks on public companies went unreported in 2018 and he is calling for clearer rules on cyberhack reporting. The GAO reports that the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is not doing enough to prevent examiners from being improperly influenced by major banks. The EU has agreed to allow financial industry 2 more years to transition to new regime for regional and foreign benchmarks, EONIA and EURIBOR, to the end of 2021. The European Court of Justice ruled that Latvia violated EU law when it barred its central bank chief from office over corruption allegations. JPMorgan will offer two new loan products to its existing credit card customers this year, My Chase Plan (with fixed monthly fee) and My Chase Loan (loans on unused portions of their credit card limits). The House Financial Services Committee says the credit reporting system is broken and changes are needed to protect consumers, while executives at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion said yesterday that changes have been made in recent years. The 12 largest investment banks showed commodity revenue increased 45% during 2018 to $3.6 billion. This is a complete reversal of 2017, when commodity revenue fell 42%, to the lowest level since 2006. Vanguard is pressing ahead with ETF fee reductions. A CME Group outage put a halt to trading for several hours on Tuesday.
US Market News:
The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, closed at 26,447.05 on 10/5, closed at 21,792.20 on 12/23, closed at 21,712.53 on 12/26, closed at 24,207.16 on 01/16, closed at 25,063.89 on 2/06, and closed at 26,106.47 on 2/25. It has nearly erased the full downtrade from 9/20. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing on 10/5 at 2,885.58, then on 12/26 at 2,467.70, then on 1/7 at 2,549.69 close, then on 01/16 at 2,616.10, then on 2/06 at 2,706.53. It closed 2/25 at 2,799.34. It still has a way to go. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45, then 12/26 at 6,554.36, then 01/07 at 6,823.47, then 01/16 at 7,034.70, then 2/06 at 7,263.87. it closed on 2/25 at 7,561.87.
US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. On 10/5, 2years closed at 2.88%, closed 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.53%, closed 01/16 at 2.55%, closed 2/06 at 2.52%, and closed 2/22 at 2.48%; on 10/5, 3years closed at 2.99%, closed on 12/18 at 2.64%, closed 01/07 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years), closed 01/16 at 2.53%, still inverted, closed 2/06 at 2.50%, still inverted, and closed 2/22 at 2.46%; on 10/5, 5years closed at 3.07%, closed on 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.49%, closed 01/16 at 2.54%,closed 2/06 at 2.51%, and closed 2/22 at 2.47%; on 10/5, 7years closed at 3.18%, closed at 2.74% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.60%, closed 01/16 at 2.62%, closed 2/06 at 2.59%, and closed 2/22 at 2.55%; on 10/5, 10years closed at 3.23%, closed at 2.82% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.70%, closed 01/16 at 2.73%, closed 2/06 at 2.70%, and closed 2/22 at 2.65%; and on 10/5, 30years closed at 3.40%, closed at 3.07% on 12/18, closed at 2.99% on 01/07, closed at 3.07% on 01/16, closed 2/06 at 3.03%, and closed 2/22 at 3.02%.
Governors are now grappling with housing issues felt throughout the nation, particularly in states that now have a maximum mortgage deduction. Americans in rural and urban areas of the country are facing a housing affordability crisis. Rising percentage of housing devoted to rentals, increasing rental costs, and increasing housing costs (as the country is not building enough homes to meet demand), are making it very difficult on young families. In some states or even different areas of the same state, some builders say the rents are too high, so they can’t build new rentals which will go vacant, while in other areas, builders say the rent is too low, not adjusted for increase in costs to build. In Guam, where there is huge housing demand, they have another problem, as Homeland Security shut down the H-2B work visas for the Philippines, where Guam was sourcing most of its construction workers. The National Apartment Association estimates that the country will need another 4.6 million housing units by 2030, roughly 330,000 new developments each year. Meanwhile, as builders try to figure out which way the housing market, which has been wallowing recently, is going to go and whether to build rentals or homes, the cost of materials has spiked up behind them. Even regulations have taken a bite out of developers, taking up 32% of all development costs. After real estate agents leaked information about investors showing up in droves at open houses in Arlington, VA and Alexandria, VA in December, prices shot up and availability fell. It was all on speculation that Amazon was going to build its HQ2 in Virginia. In January, year/year, the number of homes on the market in Arlington dropped 38%. In Alexandria, its down 48% year/year. There are many activists now and some tech companies who believe that corporations in general, and the tech companies specifically, should contribute financially to fix the affordable housing problem in the US. I love it when I can tie two stories together like that! San Francisco’s real estate prices are now among the highest in the nation, partly due to 15,000 new tech jobs added in the city in 2016 and 2017 and housing supply only 25% of what is needed there. San Francisco’s median home values have doubled since 2010. Seattle is feeling similar impact of Amazon and Microsoft creating 33,000 new tech jobs there in the last two years. Apple is now impacting Austin. US Pending Home Sales were up for the first time in four months, by 1% in January, mostly because of the recent drop in mortgage rates.
Okay, I’ve been dying to report on this story for a week and now I don’t know where to put it. I guess it’s sort of housing news. A Texas man, Terry Robison, has figured out a unique retirement plan. It’s been shared over 200,000 times on Facebook already. Rather than going to a nursing home, he has decided to take a room at a Holiday Inn and calculated that he would save $100/day, plus have many perks that he wouldn’t get at the nursing home. The obvious perks are a friendly staff wanting to make your stay enjoyable (unlike some anecdotal reports of treatment at some nursing homes), maid service every day, and complimentary breakfasts, happy hour at the bar, pool, spa and gym facility. But, there are many other perks too, like unlimited shampoo/soap/razors/toothpaste, free TV and A/C, plenty of rooms for people to stay in when they come visit (and they can use the pool and facilities), laundry room and lounge, and he can travel from Holiday Inn to Holiday Inn and see the world. Meanwhile, the average nursing home costs $188/day and it could take months to secure a room, while the average Holiday Inn room is $59.23/day and you can call reservations right now. He figures he will save $128.77/day to spend on food and entertainment. Travel may be easier too, as many Holiday Inns have shuttle buses to downtown locations and airports. Plus, hotel staff will fix any issues from light bulbs to mattresses and apologize for the inconvenience. His point is, “They treat you like a customer, not a patient.” I wouldn’t be surprised, with all the social media attention to this story worth advertising millions, if he isn’t offered FREE stay at any Holiday Inn for the rest of his life.
It was great seeing many of you at the 25th IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale!
The focuses were on diversity and inclusion on Wall Street (we had really cool roundtable discussions that came up with several issues and solutions), peer-to-peer repo and lending efforts (it really shocked me how much it was discussed without my coaxing), financial technology and automation, repo cash and non-cash reinvestment (drilled down to the true opportunities and risks), what’s in store for 2019 and what the trends are, and regulatory reforms (especially SFTR, MiFID II, FSA Banking Union stuff, and those pesky liquidation holding periods) facing us. We got dirty in the data about our historic year ($10 billion+) in securities lending revenue, largest since the Financial Crisis, showed what was hot and what was not. We went deep into ETFs as securities lending clients and as investments.
I am doing a lot of follow ups with clients and have several new ideas. I am now again actively interviewing and hope to be back in the Securities Financing industry shortly, after my brief hiatus.
Let’s look forward in the regulatory crystal ball for 2019. So, after the Financial Crisis, and over 350 financial regulations initiated by Dodd-Frank, FSOC, FSB, G20, and other regulators, it seemed that things had cooled down on the regulatory front. But, things are heating up again. We just experienced the implementation of MiFID II and we have SFTR ahead of us to implement. SFTR, if you don’t know, is the FSB’s attempt again to address the elusive Shadow Banking, among other things. Most of the other regulatory initiatives now on the table to implement are related to Basel III and the completion of three major European projects: the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the Digital Single Market. We are also still addressing LIBOR replacement (particularly in the US with the development of SOFR) and reform of Euribor and Eonia reference indices (which the EU just decided to put off for 2 years). Of course, there is always fintech stuff to deal with and to regulate and, lest we forget, there is the mess of Brexit (or now potential for Brelay or Bremain). Financial regulation in 2008-2012 had a very unified global approach. But, that seems to have declined since, and jurisdictional differences are rearing up and making implementation more complicated. While the Banking Package in Europe has come along way regarding what are prudential measures and how to share risks in the banking industry for recovery and resolution, including backstop plans by the ECB and the EC, there has been little progress made on the Banking Union, except to establish a Single Resolution Fund through the ESM, but no agreement on the EDIS. Likewise, the Capital Markets Union effort has seen only small progress. Lastly, while the industry in 2018 saw consolidation of the digitalization of the financial sector, there has been no concrete regulatory framework negotiated to deal with the growing change. Plus, we still have that EU Reform deadline coming up 3/31, as iMoneyNet reminds me. So, until further notice, the Legal and Risk departments remain in charge.
I still 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. Not knowing who the other clients were and who could bring down the intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of intermediation 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 of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium, GLMX, Tradeweb, 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, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, etc.). 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. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but may be for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities.
Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream is held its annual conference this week in Luxembourg, which I attended last year.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I was chosen as the Chairperson.
• Finadium held a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN held its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• iMoneyNet will hold its annual MMExpo in Middleburg, VA 3/4-3/6.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 16th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia 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.
• Securities Lending Times will hold its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• 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 today at 2.40%, 10bp below the top of the target range.
The next FOMC meetings are: yesterday, 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.
But, at year-end, due to liquidity dislocation, particularly for cash providers, the Fed’s RRP program was tapped for $31 billion, coming back to life, if only temporarily.
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%
12/13/18 to 2.50%
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.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is back on Capitol Hill to testify about the US economy, interest rate policy, and financial regulations. Meanwhile, Powell has told the Senate that the US economy will continue growing in 2019, but at a slower pace and that the central bank is in “no rush to make a judgment about changes in policy.”
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
The USGS updated its 2005 rankings of the 161 volcanoes that pose the most threat to American lives. Since 2005, that total number has dropped by 8. The 18 very highest threat volcanoes are in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. 39 other volcanoes are high threat, 49 are moderate, 34 are low, and 21 are very low threat. The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic threat at 44 US volcanoes. Using 24 factors to determine the threat to people and evaluate the US volcanoes, the USGS came up with the entire list. Here are the 18 very highest threat volcanoes:
• Akutan Island-Alaska
• Augustine Volcano-Alaska
• Redoubt Volcano-Alaska
• Mount Spur-Alaska
• Mount Baker-Washington
• Glacier Peak-Washington
• Mount Ranier-Washington
• Mount St. Helens-Washington
• Crater Lake-Oregon
• Mount Hood-Oregon
• Newberry Volcano-Oregon
• Three Sisters Volcano-Oregon
• Lassen volcanic center-California
• Long Valley Caldera-California
• Mount Shasta-California
• Mauna Loa-Hawaii
Latest strong earthquakes (5.0 magnitude and above):
2/1/19 6.6 15km ENE of Puerto Madero, Mexico
2/4/19 5.3 32km SSE of Boca de Yuma, Dominican Republic
2/17/19 6.3 48km NW of Namatanai, Papua New Guinea
2/22/19 7.5 115km ESE of Palora, Ecuador
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted an above average season of 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. But, there were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major.
The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/18 and ends 11/1/18.
As for the weather, the US has been dealing with a huge storm, Winter Storm Quiana, across the country, affecting some 150 million Americans. Parts of the country are seeing torrential rain, while other parts are getting heavy snow, and all parts seem to be getting very strong winds, some up over 75mph. Heavy rain and mountain snow continue in the West, moderate to locally heavy snows will impact much of the Great Lakes region, and portions of New York and New England will receive snow and ice, which could cause hazardous travel conditions.
Here in Florida, the weather has turned whacky, with record highs recorded, even into the 90s in Southern Florida, in February! We also have been getting a heavy dose of summer thunderstorm activity and oppressive humidity. One difference, is that we have had a steady diet of strong winds.
The MLB regular season ended in November e with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, fear not baseball fans, as the MLB has announced the earliest Opening Day ever for 2019, with all 30 teams playing on 3/28/19. They are not counting the first game of the season, between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, that will occur in Tokyo on March 20-21. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Spring Training began 2/21 with the first game between the Mariners and the A’s in the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League kicked off 2/22 with a game between the Rays and the Phillies. The first game in West Palm Beach was 2/23 and the first game in Jupiter was 2/23.
Several of you have asked and, yes, I once again auditioned to sing the National Anthem for Spring Training, for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach (Nationals and Astros) and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (Cardinals and Marlins). So far, I have been awarded the 3/9 Saturday game at Roger Dean Stadium between the Astros @ the Cardinals (with my harmony group), 3/12 Tuesday game at Roger Dean Stadium between the Mets @ Marlins (solo), 3/15 Friday game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches between the Cardinals @ the Astros (with my harmony group), and 3/24 Sunday game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches between the Nationals and the Astros (both the National Anthem and “God Bless America” solo). I may do one or two more games as well.
I have now sung for 133 MLB games (National Anthem and/or “God Bless America”), during the World Baseball Classic, Major League Spring Trainings, Major League seasons, and Minor League seasons. I have also sent my mp3 and resume out to MLB teams for regular season games, although I have reduced the number I send to from 30 to 8 (Red Sox, Marlins, Nationals, Reds, Indians, Mets, Orioles, and Cubs).
There was a lot of news about all the rule changes that the MLB is considering, like speeding up a play with a timeclock, allowing for more reviewable plays, and having the NL finally adopt the Designated Hitter. But, it doesn’t look like any of those rule changes will happen in 2019. Instead, they are going to try out the play clock during Spring Training, which was used for Minor League play last year. I heard the the biggest problem for speeding up play and why the average game time went from 2hours 47minutes in 1998 to over 5 hours in 2017, is because of pitch counts, and 50% of that problem is due to foul balls. Not much you can do about that, unless you adopt a Little League rule about maximum number of fouls per at bat. They announced that they will test “robot umpires” (that should be fun!). They will also test a longer distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate in the Atlantic League.
Many people were wondering whether Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, would choose MLB or NFL, after the A’s chose him with the No.9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and gave him a signing bonus of almost $5 million. Well, he has now declared for the NFL Draft and informed the A’s that he is going to concentrate on football. I think he’s making a big mistake, as baseball players tend to have longer careers and less concussions.
Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner, sent a text to his manager, after the team’s new president Farhan Zaidi, who had said to reporters in December that he could embrace an “opener” strategy, which said, “If you use an opener in my game, I’m walking out of the ballpark.” Apparently, the GM’s comments were based on the fact that the team’s other 3 starting pitchers have had respectively Derek Holland (4.20 ERA), Johnny Cueto (8.00 ERA), and Jeff Samardzija (9.00 ERA) in the first inning, so they may be candidates to come in to the game in the 2nd inning. I personally don’t think that Bumgarner is a candidate for an “opener” as he held opponents to a .193 batting average in their first plate appearance last year. The top 5 remaining free agents who aren’t Bryce Harper are reportedly: Gio Gonzalez, Marwin Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees reportedly had offered Manny Machado a $220 million/8year deal. There were reports that he had gotten a $250 million/8year offer from the White Sox, but nothing had been verified. Then the Padres swooped in and agreed to pay him $300 million! The White Sox did verify that they offered a 7year/$175 million deal to Bryce Harper. Yankees ace CC Sabathia said that 2019 would be his last season before retirement. Rangers pitcher Doug Fister is also set to retire, his agent has announced. Phillies ace Jake Arrieta had knee surgery during the offseason. Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury will miss the beginning of the season with a foot injury. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is 25lbs lighter. The Phillies and pitcher Aaron Nola have agreed to a new 4-year contract. The Royals still owe $20.25 million guaranteed to pitcher Yordano Ventura two years after his death, according to his agent. The Marlins have signed Rays 35-year-old reliever Sergio Romo for $2.5 million. However, the big Marlins news is that they finished the firesale of assets and traded away their last hero, J.T. Realmuto, to the Phillies. Although they did receive a fair amount in return, Marlins fans are already noting that he is part of a list of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, who were already traded. The Angels think Shohei Ohtani could return in May from injury. Mets Jacob deGrom has set a 3/28 deadline for Mets to extend his contract. Ironically, former free agent ace Justin Verlander of the Astros, who received a $200 million contract, says the free agent system is “broken” as 100 free agents now sit on the market. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez who was signed the last day of Spring Training last year for $110 million, agrees. Baseball revenues are way up and yet owners want to share less with players. The Red Sox have kept their World Series roster intact, except for one major player, their closer Craig Kimbrel, who wants 6years/$150 million at age 32. The Red Sox say they aren’t budging and may consider a closer-by-committee. There are still 79 major free agents left on the market, most notably Bryce Harper. The Rockies and Nolan Arenado agreed to an 8-year extension for $260 million. That gives him a record $32.5 million per year. Yankees SS Didi Gregorius has begun throwing during his injury rehab. The Astros and ace Gerrit Cole are going through an arbitration hearing. Infielder Brett Lawrie has signed with the Brewers. Mike Moustakas is now likely to return to the Brewers. Cardinals are reportedly signing catcher Matt Wieters to a minor league deal. The Yankees signed Aaron Hicks to a 7-year extension. Yankees pitcher Danny Farquhar threw a simulated game, 10 months after brain hemorrhage. Rockies and Bud Black agreed to a 3-year extension. Cardinals and pitcher Miles Mikolas agreed to a 4year/$68 million extension. The Angels are discussing a possible Long Beach waterfront ballpark. Panama beat Cuba for their first Caribbean Series title since 1950. Nevada has declined an MLB request to ban betting on Spring Training games.
The MLB announced the class of the six 2019 inductees into the Hall of Fame and they are: Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez (finally), Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. The ceremony will be on 7/21 in Cooperstown, NY. Baines and Smith were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Baines, an ESPN analyst, will go in as a White Sox, Halladay will go in without a logo, Martinez will go in as a Mariner (kind of insuring that his fellow DH, David Ortiz, will make it too), Mussina will go in without a logo (I’m surprised), Rivera (the greatest reliever of all-time) will go in as a Yankee, and Smith (one of the greatest relievers of all-time) will go in as a Cub.
The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. Then they landed on the continent in California and moved over to Arizona, then stopped in Mexico, before this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Unfortunately, several top players chose to play in Mexico and blow off the Honda, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Jordan Spieth. But, many of the others will be here, including last year’s winner, Justin Thomas. It does appear that this tournament got crunched by the PGA schedule, with only 3 of the top 10 and 6 of the top 25 joining. Four years ago, the Honda Classic drew 16 of the top 25. If you factor in how many of the top 25 players actually live nearby the PGA National course, Honda has to be thinking hard about their deal that ends in 2021 and these new WGC-Mexico and Austin tournaments. First, the WGC-Mexico Championship, where Tiger Woods had a solid 10th place finish and has moved up to the Official World Golf Ranking of No.12. Remember, he began this comeback ranked at No.668 in 2018. Anyway, Dustin Johnson crushed the field with a -21, easily holding of Rory McIlroy at -16. It was DJ’s 20th win on Tour. There was also a PGA Tour event, which confused me (I thought it was the web.com tour) in Puerto Rico, where Martin Trainer won his first. The Phoenix are golf courses were hit by a freak snowstorm this week. Brexit is now worrying the R&A and their Open Championship. The Tiger-Phil rivalry, luckily not the 5-hour boring just the two of them fiasco, resumes next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The college basketball season is closing in on March Madness, with only 2-3 games of a 32 game regular season left. The biggest news was that all-world star of Duke, Zion Williamson, sprained his knee when his Nike sneaker blew out completely on a skidding stop. His foot actually came right through the sole of the shoe. Already hyped as potentially the greatest NBA player of all time, while still a college freshman, he is definitely prime for a huge sneaker promotion contract when he does go to the NBA, because of his social media fame and basketball skills. But, while he may have garnered a contract of $10 million/year for that future promotion contract, now he stands to make even more. All of the companies will compete for him, Puma, Adidas, Reebok, etc. Puma already tweeted that “it wouldn’t have happened in a pair of Pumas.” Nike almost has to sign him for whatever amount he wants, or run the risk of everyone thinking he didn’t go with Nike because it was an inferior shoe. Anyway, enough about his money, regarding his injury, he is out now, but it’s not expected to be long. He is also expected to be selected No.1 in the 2019 NBA Draft. Interestingly, Duke could shut him down and let him focus on his pro career, but coach Kryzewski said the team isn’t considering that. Third biggest news of the week was Sunday’s upset by No.10 Michigan State over No.7 Michigan, to take the lead in the Big 10. They face each other again one more time at Michigan State. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim avoided a disabled car in the middle of the road at night in upstate New York, swerved and accidentally hit and killed the driver who was walking alongside the road. Several Ole Miss basketball players knelt during the National Anthem. Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer is taking a leave of absence. South Dakota’s Mike Daum passed the 3,000-point mark. Other recent games of note: Ohio State over Iowa 90-70, No.1 Duke lost to No.20 Virginia Tech 77-72 Tuesday night!, FSU beat Notre Dame, Kansas beat Kansas State, Xavier beat Villanova, Indiana beat No.19 Wisconsin, and Rutgers beat Minnesota. Here is the AP Poll as of 02/24/19 (which does not include the most recent upsets and has no movement in Top 6):
1. Gonzaga (27-2) up from No.2
2. Virginia (24-2) up from No.3
3. Duke (24-4) down from No.1
4. Kentucky (23-4)
5. North Carolina (22-5) up from No.8
6. Michigan State (23-6) up from No.10
7. Tennessee (24-3) down from No.5
8. Houston (26-1) up from No.9
9. Michigan (24-4) down from No.7
10. Marquette (23-4) up from No.11
11. Texas Tech (22-5) up from No.14
12. Nevada (25-2) down from No.6
13. LSU (22-5)
14. Purdue (20-7) up from No.15
15. Kansas (21-7) down from No.12
16. Kansas State (21-7) up from No.23
17. Maryland (21-7) up from No.24
18. FSU (22-6) down from No.16
19. Wisconsin (19-8) up from No.22
20. Virginia Tech (22-6)
21. Buffalo (25-3) up from No.25
22. Iowa (21-7) down from No.21
23. Cincinnati (23-4) up from unranked
24. Wofford (24-4) up from unranked
25. Washington (22-5) up from unranked
The 99th NFL regular season ended with the New England Patriots beating the Los Angeles Rams in a defensive battle 13-3. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has made the news down here in southern Florida, where he owns a condo in Palm Beach, for allegedly soliciting twice at a massage parlor in Jupiter, FL. Several massage parlors were involved in the police sting which netted at least 105 ‘Johns’ and network of human trafficking. It’s disgusting behavior, if true, and will likely be met with NFL fines or sanctions. The Raiders have reached an agreement to play in Oakland next season. The Ravens are releasing veteran WR Michael Crabtree. Falcons owner Arthur Blank just bought a $180 million yacht, according to a report. Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber reportedly had his car broken into and his playbook stolen. The NFL is considering banning players from leaving sidelines to join celebrations. The Panthers have released defensive captain Munnerlyn and Mike Adams. Kyle Long tweeted “Bear for Life” after contract was reportedly restructured. Cowboys COO finally admitted in discussing coach Jason Garrett that “everybody’s back is against the wall.” Packers team president says QB Aaron Rodgers has to “embrace” change. Jets are reportedly interested in WR Donte Moncrief. NFL’s Randy Gregory has been suspended indefinitely for substance abuse violation.
Although the NFL season is over, the shortest season of the big 4 team sports in the US, the NFL has a new league, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) League, that has already started playing, which includes players who went undrafted, players trying to make a comeback, and players who are on NFL practice squads. The NFL hopes to make this league into kind of developmental league, like MLB’s minor leagues and NBA’s D-League. It was co-founded by Charlie Ebersol. Here are your AAF teams, who are heading into Week 4 (there are a total of 10 weeks plus playoffs, extending the season to 4/27):
Salt Lake Stallions
San Antonio Commanders
San Diego Fleet
The AAF is not to be confused with the XFL, which was launched 17 years ago, by Dick Ebersol of NBC, Charlie’s father. Former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn has been named coach and GM of Seattle’s XFL franchise.
Let’s look at the new NFL Hall of Fame class, which includes Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Kevin Mawae, Champ Bailey, Johnny Robinson, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, and Ty Law.
The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are well past the halfway point now, having played 61-63 games out of 82. The trade deadline was 2/25 and rumors were surrounding these 10 potential trade candidates: Sergei Bobrovsky (Blue Jackets), Cody Ceci (Senators), Artemi Panarin (Blue Jackets), Michael Ferland (Hurricanes), Gustav Nyquist (Red Wings), Kevin Hayes (Rangers), Dougie Hamilton (Hurricanes), Mats Zuccarello (Rangers), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers), and Matt Duchene (Senators). The Senators traded Mark Stone to the Golden Knights, probably the biggest ‘wow’ trade. Penguins acquired Erik Gudbranson from Canucks. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who has been suffering with vertigo for months, has finally been activated from the concussion protocol. The Sabres acquired Brandon Montour from Ducks. Zuccarello was just traded by Rangers to the Stars and was injured in the first game after trade and will be out 4 weeks. The Predators acquired Simmonds from the Flyers. The Rangers dealt Hayes to the Jets. Shane Doan has become the first player in Coyotes’ history to have number retired. The Blue Jackets acquired goalie Keith Kinkaid from the Devils. The Red Wings dealt Nyquist to the Sharks. Mikael Granlund was traded while his fiancée was giving birth.
At this point in the season: the Eastern Conference has the Lightning firmly in first place (winners of 8 in a row), followed by the surging Bruins, Islanders, Leafs, and Capitals; while the Western Conference has the Flames in first place, followed by the Sharks, Jets, and Predators.
The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. We are around 59-61 games in of the 82-game season. The trading window is now over, so the talk is about buyout candidates to add to playoff contenders. The candidates this year include: Carmelo Anthony, Greg Monroe, Marcin Gortat, Alex Abrines, Robin Lopez, DeAndre Jordan, Dewayne Dedmon, and JR Smith. The Celtics have indicated that they are still interested in trading with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Last night, the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, at the hands of the Raptors. Timberwolves star, Karl-Anthony Towns is out of concussion protocol. As for the latest standings: Eastern Conference is led by Bucks, Raptors, Pacers, 76ers, and Celtics; the Western Conference is led by Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, Blazers, and Rockets. Former NBA player Mike Bibby is under investigation after sex abuse charges. Warriors DeMarcus Cousins was given a technical foul for tossing opponent’s shoe into the stands. Trail Blazers players got stuck in an elevator for 30 minutes. Former NBA player Kenny Anderson has suffered a stroke.
After the Australian Open, Serena Williams made it back to the WTA top 10 for the first time as a mother. Meanwhile, she just narrated a new Nike “Just Do It” commercial and was a presenter at the Academy Awards. She was also at Princess Meghan Markle’s baby shower in NYC. World No.1 Naomi Osaka, who just won the Australian Open, after winning last year’s US Open (over Serena), has strangely decided to split from her coach Sascha Bajin. Bajin became the first recipient of the WTA Coach of the Year award after helping Osaka in her breakthrough year. 32-year-old Rafael Nadal wants to play at the Davis Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Andy Murray has undergone hip-resurfacing surgery. With Australian Open victory, Novak Djokovic is world No.1. it was his 7th Australian Open title (the most ever by one person) and 15th Grand Slam title.
Legend Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement, but still left the door open for a UFC comeback. He had failed to secure a super-fight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and decided to call it a career. Nurmagomedov is serving a 9-month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his post-fight brawl following his UFC 229 victory over Conor McGregor in October. Nurmagomedov took to Twitter to try to dissuade St-Pierre from retirement and to offer to fight him in November. St-Pierre (26-2) turns 38 in May and holds the record for most welterweight title defenses in UFC history with 9 and is widely considered one of the greatest competitors in the sport’s history. In UFC 236, Israel Adesanya will fight Kelvin Gastelum for interim middleweight title. In UFC Phoenix, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez made his much heralded return, after a 31-month layoff for back surgery and the birth of his son. He came out strong in front of a rowdy crowd, missed two head kicks and a takedown, and took a short uppercut to the jaw, just as his knee buckled. Ngannou jumped on him and unleashed a series of hammerfists, and the return was over, after just 26 seconds. In Bellator 216, Michael ‘Venom’ Page got a unanimous decision over fellow Brit Paul Daley in a grudge match. Everyone expected a boxing match, but instead, a wrestling match broke out.
Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season just started with Daytona 500 kicking it off, as it does every year. A big crash with 10 laps remaining, knocked out many of the frontrunners. No one was injured in the 18 car pileup, but Denny Hamlin came away with the win. We have also already run in Atlanta. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):
2/17 Daytona 500, won by Denny Hamlin
2/24 Atlanta, QuickTrip 500, won by Brad Keselowski
3/3 Las Vegas
3/10 ISM Raceway
3/17 Auto Club
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte
7/21 New Hampshire
8/4 Watkins Glen
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff
Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:
3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island
Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars):
3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca
Dozens of people were killed in a fire at a Cairo train station triggered by a fuel take explosion on a speeding train. Travel has been a disaster in the US this week, due to storms that have impacted some 125 million Americans and caused thousands of flights to be cancelled. Grand Canyon National Park is turning 100-years-old. An Amtrak train was stranded in Oregon for 36 hours with all 183 people on board. A rare “ice tsunami” hit the coast of Lake Erie. There is a new service that lets you ship home items TSA won’t let you bring on your flight. The State Department has issued an update Bahamas travel advisory. Flights into Dallas were halted after reports of smoke at an FAA facility. TripAdvisor has named the world’s best beaches for 2019. Gale force winds in the northeast stranded a cruise ship off of NYC. An airline has sued a man who threw coins into a plane engine for good luck. One British man from a family of travelers was dubbed an “unruly tourist” and fled New Zealand using someone else’s passport. There is a warrant out for his arrest for fraud, assault with a weapon and reckless driving. Southwest flight cancellations continue amid escalating maintenance problems and computer outage. A Venetian resort town will become Italy’s first smoke-free beach. NTSB and other authorities continue to search for the black boxes from the B-767 cargo plane that plummeted into 4-feet of water off the Texas coast. A Japanese airport’s staff dressed up as ninjas for International Ninja Day. The Hollywood Walk of Fame has been named the worst tourist attraction in America. Some people have found cameras imbedded in their seatback TVs on some airplanes. Singapore Airlines is denying the allegations. The FAA has given the green light to Snohomish County Airport in Everett, WA to launch passenger flights in March. A drone sighting halted flights at Ireland’s Dublin Airport. China is closing Tibet to foreign visitors for 2 months. Yosemite’s Firefall was the brightest in recent years. The US just got a new National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park, right next to where my Dad was from. Ocean microphones may have recorded the lost Malaysian Flight 370 thousands of miles from the search locations, according to new research on the 2014 crash. In New York, two LIRR trains hit a car which ran the down gates, killing all 3 people, derailing the second car, and causing a fire. 7 of the over 900 people on both trains had to be hospitalized. It’s amazing that people still try to gate-crash railroad crossings. It’s a very frequent occurrence here in Florida.
It appears that parents who were led to believe that vaccinations could cause all sorts of future problems for children, have allowed the mumps, which was eradicated years ago, to become a problem again in 11 states, per the have CDC. Scientists have now synthesized hachimoji DNA using four new nucleobases in addition to the four in natural DNA. Seasonal allergies are at an all-time high. I am suffering with this long-lasting common cold (the flu shot did not help this year), which has actually taken my voice, but luckily after the IMN Conference and my last gig on Valentine’s Day, and before my next gig 3/9. A recent study in BMJ Gut found that a high-fat diet is linked to unfavorable changes in the communities of bacteria in the gut. According to the CDC, influenza picked up again last week, hitting its second peak of the season, but that this season remains milder than last year. There have been up to 20.4 million reported cases of the flu in 48 states and Puerto Rico. The death toll is now 41. The recent craze about celery juice and the celeryjuicechallenge is part true and part fiction. There is research which says the phytochemicals in celery help to reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and fight against oxidative stress. But, there is no research to substantiate that celery can fight infections and disease. Did you know that grapes that are microwaved spit plasma? A new review study finds that an at-home screening test for colorectal cancer may be just as good an option as a colonoscopy. The FDA is proposing new sunscreen regulations aimed at improving the safety and effectiveness of these products, after numerous studies showed that products’ SPF claims were way off. A woman has died and more than two dozen others are sick after eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain. Bayer said the number of plaintiffs suing over its weedkillers has risen by another 1900 over the last 3 months. Beijing has designed new rules for scientists who are editing human DNA, after a Chinese researcher sparked a global controversy last year, by claiming the birth of the first gene-edited babies. Seven drugmakers, representing $140 billion in US revenues, spent the day defending their pricing of drugs in a Senate hearing.
A rare black leopard was spotted (no pun intended) in Kenya, the first one in about 100 years! Biologists believe that the humpback whale that washed ashore in the Amazon jungle was likely sick. A fat rat was rescued after it got stuck in a manhole cover by German firefighters. For the past 150 years, scientists have been puzzled by a 480-million-year-old mystery creature, but have finally identified it from its preserved guts. The stunningly detailed fossils in Morocco were identified as stylophorans, types of echinoderms which were the ancient relatives of modern animals such as sea urchins, starfish, brittle stars, sea lilies, feather stars, and sea cucumbers. A tiny Cretaceous Period mammal, a kind of ‘night mouse’ lived among the northernmost dinosaurs on Earth, above the Arctic Circle. Paleontologists have discovered a new 69 million-year-old mammal species in the North Slope of Alaska too. Paleontologists believe that the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex began as a cute, deer-size dinosaur. The world’s biggest bee species had been feared extinct since it was last seen in 1981, but has been found again. The Wallace Giant Bee, an Indonesian species with a 2.5-inch wingspan and enormous mandibles was spotted in January and captured in February in North Maluku. A giant, unfinished ram-headed sphinx has been found in a quarry site near the Nile and is believed to have been abandoned by King Tut’s grandfather. Speaking of King Tut, I watched a show regarding the current forensic testing being done on the entire collection of artifacts, some 5,000 items, found in his tomb. Despite many world tours of the most famous Pharaoh, the public has only seen about 1/3rd of all the pieces found.
Billy Joel will be performing 12 times in the US in 2019. I thought he was retired? At the Super Bowl, Gladys Knight silenced all of her critics for her doing the National Anthem and not supporting Colin Kaepernick, by performing one of the best renditions of all time. And she was Pip-less. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, best known for his work at Chanel, died at the age of 85. Last night, the Oscars (or Academy Awards) were held in Los Angeles, without a host. They actually went pretty smoothly. Best dressed was probably Jordin Sparks, who wore an amazing dress for her performance. Winner of Best Picture was GREEN BOOK. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY won in 4 categories. Spike Lee won his first Oscar. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga won the Oscar for best song from A STAR IS BORN and performed the song live, sparking rumors of an off-screen romance. The rumors were fanned by the recent announcement that Lady GaGa had called off her engagement to Taylor Kinney. Cooper’s girlfriend Irina Shayk unfollowed Lady Gaga on social media right before the Oscars. Bradley Cooper ex-wife, Jennifer Esposito, is slamming the “psychotic” controversy over her Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa “Ha” remark. Selma Blair stole the off-camera show, by standing (with cane) for cameras, for the first time since announcing in November that she has multiple sclerosis. Chip and Joanna Gaines, fresh off their reality fixer-upper show, are opening a coffee shop. Orlando Bloom proposed to Katy Perry in a helicopter. Pixar director John Lassiter, who was accused of dozens of accounts of inappropriate behavior towards women on his films, has been called about by two-time Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who publicly walked off the film saying she would not work with such a man. Lindsay Lohan, Salma Hayek, and other celebrities sat in the front row at Saint Laurent Paris Fashion Week show. The Kardashians are “upset” Jordyn Woods is doing Red Table Talk interview, violating their NDA. DJ Khaled has chosen to host the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Zachary Quinto and Miles McMillan have “amicably” split after 6 years together. Well, if you thought Tyler Perry’s new movie about Madea at a funeral would be his last Madea play tour and movie, that’s not precisely correct. He will play a younger Madea in future projects, sort of prequels. John Legend is not done at being one of only 16 people to achieve EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) status, but says he also wants the title of “Sexiest Man Alive” to have an EGOTSMA. I watched The Voice last night, and for the first time, they let a family trio act through, who will be coached by Kelly Clarkson. Comedian Pete Davidson confronted a heckler during a live show and threatened to walk off stage. Netflix UK is being blasted by fans for altering the ending of a tearjerker movie. Some songs by Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande have dubbed “pornographic” and banned in Indonesia. Michael Jackson’s NEVERLAND Ranch has been re-listed for $31 million, 70% off the original asking price. Wrapper R Kelly was released on bond, after being arrested on three charges of sexual assault. Megyn Kelly is looking at an October return to TV to cover the 2020 Presidential race, after receiving a huge $30 million payout from NBC. Nicki Minaj denies that she “stole” Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit “Baby Can I Hold You”, as the latter singer sues her for copyright infringement. Shares of Oprah Winfrey’s backed Weight Watchers dropped 32% after profit warning and the CEO says they may need to rebrand.
The 50th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its lineup for 2019. It begins on 4/25-28 and ends on 5/2-5/5. It’s a SICK list of entertainers:
• The Rolling Stones
• Dave Matthews Band
• Katy Perry
• Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
• Chris Stapleton
• Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
• Van Morrison
• Al Green
• Earth, Wind & Fire
• J Balvin
• Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Nevilles
• Glady Knight
• The Revivalists
• Leon Bridges
• John Fogerty
• Chaka Khan
• Herbie Hancock
• Tank and the Bangas
• Tom Jones
• Bonnie Raitt
• Alanis Morissette
• Irma Thomas
• Gary Clark Jr.
• The O’Jays
• The Head and the Heart
• The Doobie Brothers
• Jimmy Cliff
• Ziggy Marley
• Aaron Neville
• Boz Scaggs
• Jerry Lee Lewis
• Indigo Girls
• Rebirth Brass Band
• Mavis Staples
• Los Lobos
• Ellis Marsalis Family with Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason with Ellis
• Big Freedia
• Kamasi Washington
• Rita Coolidge
• Buddy Guy
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band
• Better Than Ezra
• Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band
• Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
• Ani DiFranco
• The Radiators
• Hurray for the Riff Raff
• Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright
• Shirley Caesar
• Little Feat
• Gregory Porter
• Anders Osborne
• North Mississippi Allstars
• Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
• The Mavericks
• The Robert Cray Band
• The Subdudes
• Samantha Fish
• Jupiter & Okwess of Congo
• Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
• Big Sam’s Funky Nation
• Sweet Crude
• Naturally 7
• The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• The Rance Allen Band
• Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort
• Terrence Blanchard
• The Bahamas Revue Band
• Cecile McLorin Salvant
• Marc Broussard
• And about 60 others
2018 was a record year at the domestic box office. Ticket sales were almost $11.9 billion, of which Disney pulled in a record $3.092 billion with BLACK PANTHER ($700mm), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($678.8mm), and INCREDIBLES 2($608.6mm). JURASSIC WORLD 2 pulled in $417.7mm and AQUAMAN pulled in $320mm.
This past week’s box-office was stronger than expected. HOS TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 debuted with an impressive $55.5 million to capture No.1 (it was the largest debut of 2019, surpassing GLASS by $15 million); ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL fell to No.2 with $12.3 million in its second week; THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART came in at No.3, with $9.7 million (total now of $83.3 million), in its 3rd week; FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY stayed at No.4, with $7.8 million in its 2nd week; ISN’T IT ROMANTIC fell from No.3 to No.5, with $7.1 million in its 2nd week. The only other notable debuts were RUN THE RACE at No.10 and TOTAL DHAMAAL at No.14. if you are wondering what the top total grossing films are so far in 2019, they are:
1. AQUAMAN $332.9 million
2. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY $213.1 million
3. A STAR IS BORN $210.8 million
4. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET $199.9 million
5. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE $184.9 million
Thank goodness I finally bought No.2 and No.3, as I missed them at the box-office and they were extraordinarily good.
The number of movies coming out this week is very low, with: GRETA, TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL, APOLLO 11, CLIMAX, FURIE, MAPPLETHORPE, SAINT JUDY, STYX, TRANSIT, and THE WEDDING GUEST.
Technology & Space News:
Virgin Galactic just took its first test passenger into space. Russia will fly two space tourists to the ISS in late 2021. A 12-year-old kid in Tennessee built a nuclear fusion reactor in his family’s playroom. Japan just shot a fake asteroid with a space bullet, in the name of science. China has built the world’s first robotic, partially submersible boat for launching sounding rockets that will help meteorologists understand the atmosphere over Earth’s oceans. A new device has been built, portable enough for use in space, which produces a beam of laser light that changes less over time than any other laser built by humans thus far. The tech industry has shifted focus to Toronto, which is luring some of the best people. British chipmaker, ARM Holdings is warning the delay in 5G in Europe would hurt countries’ GDP, as the debate over Chinese supplier Huawei continues.
The erroneous missile alert about a nuclear attack sent to Hawaii residents and the ensuing confusion and hysteria revealed that Americans are not prepared for what to do in a nuclear attack. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who is being grilled by Congress today, has been disbarred in New York. A body found stuffed in a suitcase in San Francisco Bay was hanged and drugged, according to police. A father and daughter were fined for stealing a $12.5 million Lotto ticket. A new bill in Florida would strip the school sheriff’s deputy in Parkland of his retirement benefits. The House climate-change hearing had to adjourn because not enough Democrats showed up. The new “tax cuts” are surprising some taxpayers and actually raising payments for 11 million of them. Forbes’ list of billionaires showed a $1 trillion loss from the 2018 stock market correction. Los Angeles just had the coldest February in 60 years. Meanwhile, the Sierra Mountains may get a record total of 10 feet of snow, due to this new atmospheric river. A mysterious ‘pillar of light’ was spotted over Pittsburgh. Prosecutors are seeking a long prison term for the Vatican’s former chief of finance, Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted of sexually abusing two choir boys. In a historic Mayoral race, Chicago will have a black woman mayor, as the two frontrunners of a record 14 candidates face off in April.
“Michael Cohen to Say Trump Learned of WikiLeaks Plans Early, Committed Crimes While in Office: Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, plans on Wednesday for the first time to publicly accuse the president of engaging—while in office—in criminal conduct related to a hush-money payment to a porn star, according to the opening statement he will deliver before Congress.” Wall Street Journal
A fire in the historic district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed at least 80 people. A suicide bombing near Pulwanna, in Indian-administered Kashmir, killed 40 security personnel. The Battle of Baghuz Fawquani, part of the Syrian Civil War, continues to rage since February 9th, along the eastern banks of the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The battle marks the last stand of ISIS in eastern Syria as the Syrian Democratic Forces, assisted by American-led Coalition airstrikes, artillery and military advisers, began their thrust into the last enclave. Protests continue in Sudan, raging since December 19th, when the National Congress Party headquarters in Atbara was burned down. Public discontent is fueling calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down. Protesters have been fired on with tear gas and live ammunition. The whole thing started when the Sudanese government started austerity measure as part of its efforts to apply economic reform as recommended by the IMF. Venezuela continues to have a crisis as to who is the legitimate President. On January 10th, the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that the incumbent Maduro’s 2018 reelection was invalid and that its president, Guaido was acting president. Mass demonstrations occurred after the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice said the National Assembly’s declaration was unconstitutional. Maduro’s government claims the crisis is really a coup d’etat led by the United States to topple him and control the country’s oil reserves. The second summit between North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and President Trump has begun in Vietnam. President Trump flew by plane to the summit, while the North Korean leader took an armored train through China to the summit. Pakistan military reports shooting down two Indian warplanes over Kashmir. Iran’s president is blocking his FM’s resignation. Nigerian president won a second term, after a contentious vote.
If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances (or Spring Training National Anthems), there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting (I’ve added some concerts since the last Repo Commentary):
The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 16 (I would like to go)
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Sara Mclachlan-March 1, West Palm Beach
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band-Sunrise, March 17
Steve Miller Band-Hollywood, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
Jackson Browne-West Palm Beach, April 3
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Ariana Grande-Orlando, May 29
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17