Repo Commentary-04/13/20

IMG_6620[1]IMG_6630IMG_6588IMG_6589IMG_6595

IMG_6598
Super Pink Moon over Florida

IMG_6602IMG_6603IMG_6604IMG_6606IMG_6608IMG_6609IMG_6610IMG_6611IMG_6612IMG_6613IMG_6616IMG_6617IMG_6618IMG_6619IMG_6621IMG_6622IMG_6623IMG_6624IMG_6625IMG_6626IMG_6627IMG_6628IMG_6631IMG_6632IMG_6634IMG_6635IMG_6620

IMG_6636
There, Christmas shopping is done!

IMG_6637IMG_6643

 

It is Day 34 (on 4/13) since the start of the COVID-19 American quasi-shelter-in-place/quarantine response and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20).  I decided to use the day counter most prevalent in the media. There are many who could argue that the Chinese were dealing with COVID-19 well before 3/11, and, in fact, their government reports show the first confirmed case of a 55-year-old man in Wuhan (‘patient zero’) on 11/17/19 (although not reported by China to the WHO until 12/31/19), it was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 1/30/20, and many have argued that COVID-19 was in the US around the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras in February 2020. In fact, there are signs that part of this year’s flu season in the US may have actually contained some COVID-19 cases, before tests were available. But, the CDC said on 1/21/20 that it confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus in the US. There are also viral FB posts reported by USA Does anyone have a better suggestion or an opinion on this?

 

 

Sorry for the delay of this edition of the Repo Commentary, but my laptop was in the repair shop for a few days and the memoir I ghost-wrote in 2019 was finally published last Thursday. Don’t miss the new section “COVID-19 MYTHS” after US NEWS and “FUN” section at the bottom/end. That will likely remind you of when I used to include JOKE OF THE DAY. I think we need humor again at this time.

 

 

I want to wish you and your families a healthy and happy Passover and Easter.  Easter Sunday is today, as I write this and Passover continues until this Thursday night. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. My special needs brother tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday. Everything seems to have ground to a halt, except the work of many brave doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, sanitation workers, law enforcement, fire departments, paramedics, pharmacists, warehouse employees, truckers, teachers, factory workers, military personnel, government employees, postal service workers, restaurant workers, delivery workers, farmers, and many other frontline heroes. We have a new paradigm shift, in which our previous heroes (athletes, movie stars, and entertainers), who were paid tens of millions of dollars a year, turn out to the non-essential ones at this time, and the real heroes now are all these front-line workers, healthcare workers, first responders, and military, who never were paid what they were supposed to be paid.  It has long been an upside-down paradigm, with essential workers paid the least. Now, they are being more appreciated and, it appears, may wind up getting hazardous duty pay. There are some silver linings in this cloud and I will try to point them out in the Repo Commentary, whenever I spot them.

 

 

Pressures on family life, relationships and marriages continue, as we hunker down in close quarters for longer periods of time than we normally do and try to find things to do, or tackle parenting, adopting new animals, home schooling, and going on hunting/seeking necessary supplies. We are all in the same boat. Without our collective patience and caring, we won’t defeat the disease.  Do the right thing and stay in, unless you absolutely have to go out. Although I am of the minority opinion that that was not the right way to handle the pandemic, we have pursued that course and need to finish the plan. Meanwhile, I’m here to entertain you while you are at home or at work (or remotely at work), and give you some other insights. I am happy to see that more than 4,540 of you read the 3/24 (Tuesday) Repo Commentary, more than 1,116 read the 3/27 (Friday) edition, and more than 707 read the 4/1 (Thursday) edition. It actually is helping me determine the best days of the week for you to read the Repo Commentary, the optimal frequency, and dovetails with the data I have compiled from nearly 38 years in the industry.  I see many meetings and visits typically on Monday, am and pm, which tail off on Tuesday and Wednesday, which usually have busy trading mornings, followed by Thursday mix of both heavy trading and afternoon meetings, and finally Fridays which seem to always have a surge of meetings. So, the pattern of readership generally follows what I saw as my typical weekly workdays. Of course, in this pandemic environment, nothing is ‘typical’ anymore.  

 

 

I am still not retired. I am available for consulting (for hire, sorry I had to put that in because many of you are calling and writing for free help and advice) on all things Repo and Securities Lending, while working hard on a Fintech solution for the market.  So, if you need my almost 38 years of Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn. 

 

 

My Repo Commentary, however, is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. You are now seeing it more frequently again. With the virtual quarantine on, I’m able to write it once or twice per week.

 

 

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, to make it better! I miss all the pictures you guys used to send me, especially the State Treasurers and CIOs for Redneck Friday features.  Yes, they were surprisingly one of my sources.  But, I digress, on with the non-fake news.

 

 

 

 

Holidays or Events (04/13):

 

 

  • Passover (Judaism)
  • Friday was Good Friday (Christianity)
  • Friday was National Siblings Day
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday
  • Katyn Memorial Day (Poland)
  • South and Southeast Asian New Year
  • Teacher’s Day (Ecuador)
  • Unfairly Prosecuted Persons Day (Slovakia)
  • Dyngus Day
  • Easter Monday (Christianity)
  • International FND Awareness Day
  • National Make Lunch Count Day
  • Scrabble Day
  • National Peach Cobbler Day

 

 

We are in the midst of the Jewish holiday Passover, which began Wednesday night, and just finished the Christian holiday of Holy Week, culminating on Easter Sunday on 4/12.

 

Some Famous People Born on 04/13 in History:

 

 

  • 1570-Guy Fawkes, English soldier, planned the Gunpowder Plot
  • 1743-Thomas Jefferson, 3rdPresident of the United States
  • 1866-Butch Cassidy, American criminal
  • 1906-Samuel Becket, Irish novelist, poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1916-Phyllis Fraser, Welsh-American actress, journalist, and publisher, co-founded Beginner Books
  • 1917-Robert Orville Anderson, businessman, founded Atlantic Richfield Oil Co. (ARCO)
  • 1923-Stanley Tanger, American businessman and philanthropist, founded the Tanger Factory Outlet Centers
  • 1939-Paul Sorvino, American actor and singer
  • 1942-Bill Conti, American composer and conductor
  • 1943-Billy Kidd, American skier
  • 1946-Al Green, American singer-songwriter, producer, and pastor
  • 1950-Ron Perlman, American actor
  • 1951-Peabo Bryson, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1951-Max Weinberg (E Street Band, David Letterman Show)
  • 1964-Davis Love III, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1964-Caroline Rhea, Canadian actress and comedian
  • 1970-Ricky Schroder, American actor
  • 1983-Hunter Pence, American baseball player

 

Last Sunday, would have been my late daughter’s 40thbirthday.

 

 

 Daily Weird Facts:

 

 

Upon his death, OTR & TV star Jack Benny’s widow, Mary, received a red rose. After several days, with another rose delivered each day, Mary called the florist to find out who was sending them. The florist told her that Benny made arrangements for a rose to be sent to her every day for the rest of her life.

 

 

 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

 

 

 

What if my dog only brings back the ball because he thinks I like throwing it?”–anonymous

 

 

 

 

Currency 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

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

 

 

 

 

Oil prices are still at newer historic lows. They are down more than 60% this year. This is crushing the economies based on Oil exports and hurting our fairly young shale and new exploration domestically. OPEC and Russia just agreed to a 10 million barrel per day production cut, according to the FT. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station grudgingly has held constant since 4/1, at $1.82/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon. A station in Cleveland is now pumping out gas at 89 cents/gallon, according to their News5. US banks are establishing companies to take control of oil and gas fields to avert losses if energy companies that have borrowed from them go bankrupt.

 

 

 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

 

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

 

 

 

One Euro was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

 

 

 

One British Pound was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

 

 

 

One USD versus the CAD at:

 

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

 

 

 

 

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce.  On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce.  On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce.  On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce.  On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. this morning, it opened at $1,738.00.

 

 

 

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

 

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

 

 

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It has now given up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion.

 

 

 

 

 

Global Financial News:

 

 

ISLA and its newly-launched Council for Sustainable Finance (ICSF) has released its first “position paper” to address the role of lending and short-selling during periods of heightened volatility. This addresses the now popular topic of environment, social and governance (ESG), according to Securities Lending Times. The ICSF is intended to introduce a set of principles of sustainable securities lending (PSSL), which will be a voluntary rules framework promoting ESG. Proposed (and now implemented in some markets of Europe and Asia) bans against short-selling, a topic thrust on the securities lending industry back in the early 90s, has reared its head again in late 2019. The thing that makes the market work, is blamed for the problem. Taking Tesla as an example, since Elon Musk is the one complaining the loudest about short-selling, if the company were reaching analysts’ profit estimates and delivery deadlines, less people would be selling the stock.  He says that the reason the company isn’t doing as well as it could, is because of the declining net worth because the stock price has gone down due to short-selling. Which came first, the company not achieving goals, so people short the stock, or people short the stock so the company doesn’t reach goals? The whole reason why the securities lending industry was founded, was to cover short positions. Insightful folks in operations’ areas of investment banks and clearing banks discovered that their peers had stocks that they were short, so they borrowed them for a fee to make the delivery that they would have failed on. Borrowing securities helped grease the wheels of clearing on equity trades.  It grew to beneficial owners utilizing their fully paid-for securities which had some value to be borrowed to earn incremental income for their portfolios by lending the securities directly to the investment banks, clearing banks, or through third party securities lending agents. I know that the US Government may be different than a corporation (although in recent history, they seem to wear that hat along with others), but the huge practice of selling short US Treasuries, because prices were expected to decline or it was necessary to hedge equivalent long positions in other securities, such as MBS or corporate bonds. It wasn’t selling short to make the US Government go out of business (although that is one of the COVID-19 conspiracy theories I cover below in a new section of the Repo Commentary). Intent is very important. I’m sure anyone selling short US Treasuries or Equities (or any instrument), hopes the price goes down and/or expects the price to go down, so they can make money, otherwise, why would they enter the trade. There’s always 3 ways you can go: sell, buy, or do nothing. You pick the one that is likely to make the most money for your firm (or you personally), or lose the least money, in some environments. For instance, I think in this COVID-19 pandemic and ridonculous volatility in Equity markets, many individuals and firms sold equities to shed their holdings, in fear of losing more money. So, the short-selling of US Treasuries, which came some time after the short-selling of Equities, spawned further development of the Securities Lending market, and actually moved those areas up from the Operations area and to the Fixed Income and Equity trading profit centers. Fortunately, a short-selling ban refers to ‘outright’ selling, it is not a securities lending ban. Did I wander on to my soap stand again? Back to the subject… the PSSL offers proof against such short-selling bans and ways to mitigate volatility pressure in equities markets, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. By the way, the FCA has also said that there is no evidence that short-selling drives market downswings. My thought, which I keep harping about, is simply reinstate the Uptick Rule from 2008-2010, no selling unless there is an uptick on the stock before each sale, which effectively applies the brakes to a runaway plummet. Back to Elon Musk, he has a lot of hutzpah to think that short-selling of stocks, a practice around since I’ve been alive, so longer than he has been alive, was designed for or is specifically targeting him.

 

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, never shy to share an opinion, says he is expecting “a bad recession.” He made a pointed comment to the WSJ that JPMorgan will not be among banks requesting looser regulation during the pandemic. Fintechs have been allowed to join US government’s $350 billion PPP, to help ailing small businesses, which moved further forward on 4/9, as the US government confirmed that banks would not have to hold capital against the loans made under the program and non-bank lenders were admitted to it. So, that last part means that companies like Kabbage, PayPal, BlueVine, OnDeck, and Square, among others, can join the program without having to partner with a bank, according to Reuters. Canada’s small businesses are getting interest-free relief loans from Canada’s banks, through the federal Canada Emergency Business Account Program. The Canadian Bankers Association says businesses can be loaned up to $40,000 to meet their cash needs. The NY Times reported that some investment bank traders and other employees are feeling pressure to show up to work in the office, despite the COVID-19 threat, or risk losing their jobs or income by working from home. Bloomberg ran an opinion piece that a possible silver lining in this pandemic cloud could be that bankers could win back public respect that was lost in the 2008 Financial Crisis. The sector’s willingness to stop dividend payouts, curb executive compensation increases, embrace debt forbearance, and support struggling businesses may gain some of the public goodwill. Well, at least until the next Hollywood WOLF OF WALL STREET, WALL STREET, TRADING PLACES, ROGUE TRADER, BOILER ROOM movie comes out.  The Securities Industry is remembering a longtime leader, Gedale “Dale” Horowitz, who had chaired the MSRB and the SIA, and who died on 4/2 at age 87. Over his 60-year career, he left and indelible mark on the securities industry, per SIFMA President and CEO Kenneth Bentsen, Jr. Morgan Stanley’s President Gorman has recovered from COVID-19. The SEC has changed rules for Business Development Companies to encourage additional investment. The action modifies calculations that establish asset coverage ratios, giving the BDCs more flexibility to sell securities and invest in small and midsize companies, according to InvestmentNews.

 

 

US Market News:

 

 

Fortunately, the US markets were closed for Good Friday, last Friday, so there was no volatile upswing or downswing, and traders could take a well-needed breather. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a dramatic effect on global equity markets. It is most apparent in the volatility of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I don’t know why regulators don’t reinstate the Uptick Rule, which had been around since 1929 Great Depression, and silently disappeared about 12 years ago. That would impose that no one could sell a stock unless there was an uptick first, which would slow the plummet of the stock market and reduce the aggressive shorting by certain institutions.

 

Okay, someone asked for this, here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (granted there have been times in the past where volatility was greater in terms of percentage moves):

 

 

4/10/20      market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20      23,433.57

4/07/20      22,653.86

4/06/20      22,679.99

4/03/20      21,052.53

4/02/20      21,413.44

4/01/20      20,943.51

3/31/20      21,917.16

3/30/20      22,327.48

3/27/20      21,636.78

3/26/20      22,552.17

3/25/20      21,200.55
3/24/20      20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20      19,898.92

3/17/20      21,237.38

3/16/20      20,188.52

3/13/20      23,185.62

3/12/20      21,200.62

3/11/20      23,553.22

3/10/20      25,018.16

3/09/20      23,851.02

3/06/20      25,864.78

3/05/20      26,121.28

3/04/20      27,090.86

3/03/20      25,917.41

3/02/20      26,703.32

2/28/20      25,409.36

2/27/20      25,766.64

2/26/20      26,957.59

2/25/20      27,081.36

2/24/20      27,960.80

2/21/20      28,992.41

2/20/20      29,219.98

2/19/20      29,348.03

2/12/20      29,551.42 record high

 

 

 

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

 

 

26,656.77 on 9/20/18

26,447.05 on 10/5/18

21,792.20 on 12/23/18

21,712.53 on 12/26/18

24,207.16 on 01/16/19

25,063.89 on 2/06/19

26,106.47 on 2/25/19

25,862.68 on 5/16/19

26,465.54 on 6/18/19

27,269.97 on 7/24/19

26,793.09 on 9/10/19

26,229.31 on 10/02/19

28,015.06 on 12/06/19

29,348.10 on 01/17/20

29,185.07 on 02/07/20

29,551.42  on 02/12/20 record high

23,553.22 on 03/11/20

21,237.38 on 03/17/20

18,591.93 on 03/23/20

22,552.17 on 03/26/20

21,917.16 on 03/31/20

23,719.37 on 04/09/20

 

 

 

 

 

S&P 500 has closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

 

 

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

 

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

 

 

All fixed income markets were closed on Friday as well. During the last two weeks of March, the US Treasury and Federal Reserve teamed up again to execute the new Quantitative Easing, in which the Treasury printed new US currency for the Fed to use to purchase a total of $1.4 trillion in US Treasuries, Corporate Bonds, Municipal Bonds, MBS, and ETFs. This was in addition to the up to $1 trillion PER DAY in “dollar liquidity adds” through the Repo market with Open Market RPs. Did you know that that actually meant that the US Treasury was printing new currency to the tune of $1 million every second of every day? Reminds me of something J.P. Morgan said in 1912, “Gold is money. Everything else is credit.” This mega-purchasing by the Fed is in direct competition with the Treasuries flight-to-safe haven or flight-to-quality as a favored investment, so they are suddenly in very short supply. Front-end cash is buying them up outright, in Treasury futures, and in Repo.

 

 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

 

 

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

 

 

 

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

 

 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

 

 

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

 

 

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

 

 

                                                                                   

 

Housing News:

 

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let borrowers facing hardship defer 2 months of mortgage payments. Both agencies, the two largest sources of mortgage funding in the nation, said they would be taking additional steps to address issues that exist within the lending process and that they will begin offering several “loan processing flexibilities.” The FHA and VA have joined Fannie and Freddie in relaxing some loan standards.  But one of my mortgage lenders tells me that banks have recently made qualifications and the process harder, to stem the rising tide of refinancings.  Not to leave Ginnie Mae out of the news, in terms of COVID-19, GNMA announced that it plans disaster aid for virus-hit mortgage servicers.  But, to be clear, this is for federally-regulated mortgage servicers, mostly depository institutions.  For that, GNMA intends to use a program originally meant to address natural disasters. Many consumers want to lower their mortgage rates, others want to take needed cash out, and all suddenly have free time to work on refinancing applications. I hear from my whole loan expert that the Government is created a $43 billion package for mortgage servicing of p&i, for when mortgage payments or lease payments are being deferred or forbeared, to avoid foreclosures, repossessions, and the impairment of the securities that those loans are bundled in. Once again, I believe this is for federally regulated servicers.

 

 

There has been a big credit unwind in mortgages, as banks have marked the assets down, particularly private label MBS, CMBS, and commercial and residential mortgage loans. They have subsequently issued margin calls on asset managers and securitization conduits, many of whom are using leverage to purchase the securities. This may force some to sell the securities at distressed prices. He said that some non-QM residential mortgage sales are down 10 points with some bids down 15 points from the previous marks of 104-105. And this is on brand new high FICO score borrowers with the alternative bank statement documentation that intend to stay in their homes and are set to receive direct government checks in the next few weeks. You would think these mortgages would not drop in price like this in a 2-week period. Contrast this with commercial office property loans, backed by leases with businesses that may not be using their offices for a while. Most of their employees are working virtually and these businesses may not have enough cash flow or revenue at the moment to meet lease payments and payroll. Further on these low marks and margin calls, on Sunday, the Mortgage Bankers Association in a letter urged the SEC and the nation’s main brokerage regulator, FINRA, to address the problem by telling broker/dealers not to escalate margin calls to “destabilizing levels”, as Bloomberg reported last week. It’s unclear how many billions of dollars of these non-QM commercial loans are out there, as have not been able to confirm any distressed sales of commercial loans as of this writing.  Forbesreported on Friday that credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings, said that commercial mortgage delinquencies may reach the Great Recession level. It predicted that CMBS loan delinquencies could spike between 8.25% and 8.75% by the end of Q3, coming close to the peak of 9.01% in July 2011. Just as a reality check, that delinquency rate stood at 1.31% in March 2020.  The most vulnerable businesses are hospitality, retail and student housing. Another area that could suffer are shopping malls. The banks have probably marked the commercial loans and securities down even further than they did the residential loans. One thing that would really help in both parts of this key the non-QM market and provide much needed liquidity would be for the Federal Reserve to include these as eligible collateral in their new resuscitated TALF program from 2008-2010.  TALF was a useful program to keep the plumbing functioning in vital markets during the Great Recession and the US government ultimately made money on it.  The Hill reports that the $2.2 trillion stimulus package just signed will let homeowners with federally-backed mortgages seek forbearance on payments, a provision that could cause enough losses to bankrupt mortgage servicers. Industry advocates say Federal intervention is essential to ward off a chain of crises. I apologize to those that think I am beating this subject like a dead horse, but you don’t know who all the people are that actually read this Repo Commentary.  It’s hard to see all of these liquidity facilities and the resurrected alphabet programs of the Financial Crisis, without noticing the glaring absence of support for the mortgage originators and servicers. Some 40% of GSE and 70% of GNMA loans, for example, are being serviced by non-banks, who are already beginning to deal with forbearances, which all told could total as much as $80 billion over the next 6 months, per JPMorgan. 15 different associations have come together to call for additional liquidity to mortgage originators and servicers, with a letter to the Federal Reserve about a much needed advancing facility, similar to what liquidity is now being provided to regulated depository institutions. This is already being manifested in the loan market, as concerned lenders of existing loans are now starting to reduce the amount of Jumbo lending they are doing.  GSE’s According to Forbes, NY has suspended mortgage payments 90 days, for those facing financial hardship. Nationwide, foreclosures have been suspended indefinitely. In Florida, with the onset of the pandemic, real estate agents say deals that were in the works have encountered all types of problems, creating havoc in the market, as buyers try to back out of contracts. It is not clear, according to real estate lawyers, whether buyers CAN cancel due to COVID-19. The buyers are pointing to a provision in the FAR BAR contract used by most of the more than 10,000 Florida real estate agents, called force majeure.The Latin term means an unforeseeable action that prevents someone from fulfilling a contract. Listed actions are acts of God, such as hurricanes or floods. But it does not list pandemics. There has been one bright spot, according to some agents, who see an increase in the number of people fleeing the Northeast and making snap decisions on Palm Beach County homes, almost sight unseen. One Connecticut woman bought a home through FaceTime for $100,000 more than the $399,000 asking price, only hours after it was listed online, without ever seeing the house in person.

Pending Home Sales were released last week and were up 9.4% in February from February 2019. Those are signed contracts, perhaps some are now being backed out of, as I described above.

 

 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

 

To make this more legible and easier to follow, I will provide the newest headlines in the Repo & Securities Lending market at the top in RED. The subsequent paragraphs of this section will include other issues and my thoughts on the market, for those who haven’t read them before. They will be updated, but won’t change as much as the first paragraph.  At some point, I will assume people have read parts of those further paragraphs and will trim them from the Repo Commentary.

 

 

State Street’s David Shone, who has spent the past few years spearheading the development of State Street’s SFTR solution, has left the firm. Keith Haberlin, who held a leading role for the past 12 years in Brown Brothers Harriman’s global securities lending business, has stepped aside to a new role in Fintech for BBH, allowing two of his people, Marney McCabe and Tom Poppey, to become co-heads of the business. Margin Reform has appointed Stuart Kidd as senior consultant. I know, for a second, I thought that said Kidwell too and was saying “finally”. Rats!  A former CME executive has been appointed as head of LCH Japan. Speaking of LCH, it revealed that it had a record-breaking quarter for clearing GBP at RepoClear, according to Securities Lending Times. In other CCP news, Eurex Repo revealed strong growth in volumes across its GC Pooling and repo markets for Q1, also as reported in SLT.

 

 

On 3/31/20, it happened, RRP volume was larger than the RP volume (Fed open market operations)! The bottom line was that the Fed wound up taking out more cash from the market than it was putting in. RP operations were $262.7 billion, while RRP volume was $284.9 billion. Scott Skrym said it’s not a bad business for the Fed (which, by the way, is a profit-center), as it currently loans the money at 0.10% and borrows it at 0.00%, a 10bp profit matched book on over $262 billion, or about $729,000 in one day’s revenue.  He further points out that it is a Catch-22, because as long as the RP cash is being pumped into the Repo market at 0%, the dealers will offer buy-side cash providers negative rates for their cash, so they will take that cash to the Fed, and once they do and don’t use it to fund dealers, the Fed will have to pump more cash in the market in RP. So, it is a hamster wheel, after all!

 

 

The Federal Reserve has activated a temporary repurchase agreement facility that lets foreign central banks exchange US Treasuries for US dollars. This was an activity that many central banks and sovereign wealth funds were doing in the Repo market with broker/dealers, repoing their US Treasuries for term 1-3 months for US dollars, then taking those US dollars and buying their own currencies, propping those currencies up, until their own economies improved (or oil prices rose in some cases). But, with oil prices at historic lows, their economies struggling with the pandemic, and the apparent lack of liquidity in the term repo markets, the Fed felt it needed to step in with this Facility. Both the Facility and the term repos to broker/dealers are designed to be alternatives to them selling the US Treasuries outright in the market, something the Treasury Department and the Fed absolutely don’t want them to do.

 

 

 

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has approved a Financial Crisis-era backstop, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, which will give the 24 primary dealers access for at least 6 months to cash through repos of up to 90 days.  The Fed is also actively monitoring the Repo market and committed to provide up to $6 trillion to the Repo market if necessary. They are conducting overnight and term repo operations at least through April. They are even conducting Open Market Operations in the afternoon, after conducting them in the morning, on the same days. Not only is repo cash from typical cash providers in short supply because of the ‘basis-trade’ blowout, causing GC repo rates to be well-above the Fed’s desired Fed Funds target at least until the afternoon, but also because many of those money funds may have suffered redemptions from investors. Money Funds, as my pal Scott Skyrm points out, supply $1.35 trillion in cash to the funding market each day. One thing to watch is how 3/31 quarter-end goes, particularly in light of how difficult December was before the Fed injected some $255 billion into the repo market for year-end.

 

 

The Fed was putting about $500 billion into the repo market. As recently as 3/17, the Fed hit the high-water mark of $541 billion RP operations volume. But, on Thursday 3/26, they only had to do $326 billion. Now, what’s really weird is that these RP Operations, which are CASH going to the 24 Primary Dealers, was simultaneous to the Cash Providers of the Primary Dealers submitting $138.5 billion to the Federal Reserve in the RRP program, on Thursday 3/26!  So, the Primary Dealers didn’t need as much cash from the Fed and also didn’t need as much cash from their Cash Provider customers. So, the good news is that the market has enough ‘liquidity’ for the primary dealers, but the negative news is that those primary dealers probably are not supplying as much liquidity to Collateral Providers AND they didn’t have enough collateral for the Cash Providers (another type of liquidity). This is a classic example of what I’ve been harping about for the last decade: the Fed can implement programs and operations with expectations that the reduced number of Primary Dealers will ‘behave’ a certain way, such as taking the seemingly unlimited cash and lend it out to collateral providers and then have that collateral available to all the cash providers, thereby providing liquidity as market makers to both sides of the Securities Financing market, as they did in the old days. The problem is, and what Thursday demonstrated, is that the Primary Dealers’ ‘behavior’ may now be different, based on ROC and higher spreads, smaller balance sheet, or capital withholding forced by Regulations. You notice that in my description of Thursday’s Fed actions, there was nothing said about Collateral Providers. Once again, the Fed does not address collateral providers or their issues, except its 24 Primary Dealers. Furthermore, obviously, it’s not efficient to have the Fed lending out cash out one side and taking cash in on the other side. It theoretically balloons the Fed’s Balance Sheet. Scott Skyrm pointed out that the Cash Providers who are using the RRP program, which is currently at 0.00%, are willing to give their cash to the Fed and receive no interest. So, he surmises, they are more interested in “Return OF Capital”, as opposed to “Return ON Capital.”

 

 

The Fed Funds target of 0%-0.25% means that we are likely to see some negative repo rates for Treasuries that go Special. That also means we will have to watch those TPMG fails rates. On Monday, Overnight GC traded at 0.04%, at the low end of the Fed Funds target range, but that was with an injection of $449 billion from the Fed. That injection, so far, has only helped the Overnight market, and the yield curve rises dramatically for term repo, as does the bid/offer spread, similar to post 2008. Of course, this is a different market than 2008, as we only have 24 Primary Dealers, and, as Skyrm points out, $23.5 trillion in US Treasury issuance, compared to $10 trillion in 2008.

 

 

Bill Foley has begun a new Securities Finance TV, SecFinHub, featuring interviews and discussions with experts. I am looking forward to participating remotely.

 

I am hearing that the Federal Reserve may be working on resurrecting the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF), which was a subset of the successful TARP program, both from the 2008 Financial Crisis response in 2009/2010. I don’t have a list yet of the securities that the Fed will take in the proposed program, and am curious to see if they will take real estate loans.

 

 

In the Securities Financing industry, we are again facing a tsunami of acronyms in regulations and events, much like during the Financial Crisis. ESMA is delaying rules on failed trades by 2 more months. LEI rules are being postponed for emerging market securities, as nearly 50% of them still don’t have LEIs.  Even 10% of European securities don’t have LEIs.

 

ESMA’s SFTR Level 3

Brexit

EU Crypto Regs

FCA Crypto Regs

EC Cyber-attack Guidelines

FCA Financial Services Duty of Care Bill/MiFID II

CSDR

LIBOR replacement (SOFR, SOIA, EuSTAR)

EISF

ISLA/ICSF/ESG and short selling

MUR

 

 

Well, “repo” is the lubricant of the money market system, particularly the issuance of US Treasuries and other bonds, and it only comes up in conversation among non-participants when the gears start squeaking or fail to function.  And, the last time the general public heard about “repo” it was during the Financial Crisis.

 

 

This is broadly what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

 

  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms.
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy. They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER in the last two FOMC meetings.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008.

 

I believe the reasons we had dislocations in Q4 2019 came down to a major imbalance of bank reserves, behavior not consistent with expectation, illiquidity in the repo market (rather than the highly touted increase in liquidity), concentration risk, a corporate tax date that removed cash from the repo market, humongous new supply of US treasuries being issued, many Repo market participants out of the Federal Reserve direct loop, and a mountain of hundreds of new regulations that broker/dealers (and others) are still trying to adapt to and position reserves/capital, personnel, and trading strategies for.

 

I’m not sure why participants and regulators didn’t foresee an imbalance (lack of) bank reserves. The piles of new regulations that regulators gave to the money markets fundamentally required banks to hold more reserves versus balance sheets (which repo is the major contributor to), the low yields may have encouraged banks to use reserves elsewhere in more profitable areas than repo (they are profit-motivated, as they should be), and the Fed lowered the IOER which may have dis-incented banks from depositing reserves at the Fed. The decrease in the Fed’s balance sheet came at the cost of the market absorbing those securities.  The US Treasury issuing phenomenal amounts of securities that have to be taken by the 24 primary dealers (already full up on balance sheets they are trying to reduce) and the central banks/swfs (who already have $16 trillion of the outstanding $23.5 trillion in US Treasuries), should have been seen as a potential clog in the system.  Plus, with the Fed lowering rates, the returns on those US Treasuries would be lower for those new owners.  And the central banks ownership of US Treasuries is another complicated story, one of ripple effects.  They can’t really sell US Treasuries into this market, without having some issue with the US Government, whichever branch.  But, yet, many of them need to support their currency, particularly against the US Dollar.  So, some of them enter the Repo market to repo the US Treasuries to receive US Dollars to then buy their own currencies with, propping up their currency by kicking the can somewhat down the road, until their GDP rises or oil prices rise (raising their specific GDP).  Layer over that macroeconomic soup a topping of trade wars and tariffs, it becomes rather complex to predict.  And, that brings me to my last observation, that unintended consequences arose from the hundreds of regulations foisted on the money market, mainly because market behavior is not that predictive.  Regulators thought that if they made the system safer, more investors would come in, but yet the repo market didn’t grow that much, but yet supply from the Fed and from the US Treasury increased dramatically.  Regulators thought that if the banks had more reserves and capital, they would pass that on to the buyside, but that didn’t take into account their profit motivations and individual bank idiosyncrasies.  Lastly, the regulators didn’t expect the perfect storm of added supply, taxes withdrawn, cash out of the system, reserves lower, and tools that would work directly only on the 24 primary dealers and the 300 cash providers in RRP.  I’ve been remarking for years, since the RRP, that there was not a comparable program for collateral providers/leveraged players in the Repo market.  It is likely that the newly touted liquidity of the Repo market was “only for Platinum accounts.” Basically, it was only for select buy-side clients, who also provided those dealers with profits in other products.

 

I’m looking at this section that I wrote a few months ago as suggestions for the Fed to handle issues then, even before the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s interesting how many of my suggestions the Fed has actually implemented now for the COVID-19 crisis.

 

So, the Fed needs to do something.  And, I don’t mean just the Overnight operations with the 24 primary dealers. I can’t even predict what those dealers’ positions are or how the added liquidity would flow to the buyside clients. The extra cash could be used to fund their Swaps desk, the Repo Desk, other outright traders, Platinum accounts, or speculatively with leveraged accounts (as a few savvy broker/dealers have seen that opportunity and gone short to reverse in at higher rates from leveraged accounts and supply balance sheet).  The point is that the mound of regulations and the open market operations and the tinkering with the IOER are supposed to impact banks and broker/dealers in such a way to induce certain behavior, but behavior is unique.  So, the Fed needs to go back to its ample toolkit (and get people who have been there at least 10 years) to:

  • Implement more term RPs, to give the market some faith and reduce Fed reputational risk-THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
  • Purchase securities, either US Treasuries or Agency MBS, increasing the Fed balance sheet (although this may be difficult because there were probably several good reasons why they decreased it.)- THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
  • Open the Discount Window to more participants, with NO stigma attached (it used to be how one in the market knew who was having a liquidity crisis), and other sectors represented.
  • Create a collateral provider facility, similar to RRP, or help reduce the hurdles, like CCLF for CCPs and Sponsored Repo type ventures to increase liquidity.
  • Tinker the IOER rate UP, rather than down, to increase the Reserves at the Fed.- THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
  • Support/encourage Repo done outside of the 24 primary dealers, helping collateral providers find cash providers, when certain broker/dealers are balance sheet full and capital restrained from the very regulations that the Fed was involved in. I think systemic risk reduction is a huge priority and I am worried about firesale risk (although I don’t think moving the sale down the road to 7 days or 30 days changes firesale risk, it just changes the date of the firesale).
  • Have the Fed be a permanent backstop to the Repo market.- THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS

 

The bottom line is that the money markets, particularly the securities finance market (Repo & Securities Lending) are still trying to find their footing, particularly as the Repo market has shrunk, while Treasury supply has increased.  I did notice that the Fed did publish a paper (written by, among others, my friend Antoine Martin) on 1/23/20 to the Liberty Street blog, entitled, “Monetary Policy Implementation with an Ample Supply of Reserves*”. You can view it on the federalreserve.gov website.

 

 

 

 

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 ALL 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 dealers’ repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers, which has been volatile but certainly widened since the Financial Crisis, and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis, which not only subjected clients to dealer defaults and wider spreads, but in many cases directly impacted clients by making them suddenly the outright traders of repo collateral. Some of that collateral, on top of it, was very illiquid.  Not knowing who the other clients were on the other side of the dealers’ repo matched book, and who could potentially bring down those intermediary dealers was costly for many clients.  Clearly, with that pipeline of is intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets (which has recovered partially with new entrants to the market and international banks’ increases due to regulatory arbitrage) being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be explored for cash provider and collateral provider clients.  My former baby, AVM’s Direct Repo™, was the first of one of such pathways, over 10 years ago.  Since then, many other liquidity 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,

 

 

Having just moderated a panel at the IMN Securities Financing Conference 2/12-2/13/20, my panel and I were able to share with the audience the current state of ETPs, CCPs, and P2P securities financing, and painted, in no particular order, a current map below (this is based on what we have been able to ascertain, but may not be accurate or complete):

 

CCPs:

 

         Europe

  • Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
  • LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
  • LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

 

         Asia

 

  • Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.

         North America

 

  • OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 billion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
  • FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
  • CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.

CCPs:

 

Europe

 

  • com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
  • HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
  • Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
  • Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
  • Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

 

North America

 

  • GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
  • DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
  • AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
  • State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

One of many developments that I thought was really cool to hear about at the IMN conference (among other things I will share with you over time in the Repo Commentary or in consultation), was the newly formed Global Peer Financing Association created by 4 of my larger pension fund clients (CALPERS, HOOPP, OHPERS, SWIB) to promote peer-to-peer financing, not only among pension funds, but potentially with other sectors too (such as SWFs, Central Banks, Insurance Companies). It is of course near-and-dear to my heart, as I had many discussions with all 4 about peer-to-peer securities financing, over the past decade. I am very happy to see this development, which includes rate negotiation, standardization of legal documents, a credit vendor’s service, and some indemnification for certain clients from a securities lending agent. I am very supportive of this effort and hope to be involved in its evolution.

 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

 

 

 

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26thBeneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
  • iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA will hold its 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
  • GIOA will hold its 16thannual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
  • IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
  • Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th(wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
  • IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
  • ISLA will hold its 29thAnnual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN.I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year.  I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
  • IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
  • RMA will hold its 38thannual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37thRMA I’ve attended.
  • Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • net has yet to announce its 26thannual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

 

 

Federal Reserve News:

 

Similar to what I am doing for the Repo News section of the Repo Commentary, I will report news headlines in RED in the last paragraph of this Federal Reserve section. That paragraph will be preceded with other issues, timelines, and general information that will be updated, but will remain pretty constant, until I decide to trim them from the Repo Commentary. 

 

 

The Fed announced on 3/23 that the amount of liquidity available for it to buy US Treasuries and Agency MBS in the outright markets is now UNLIMITED. Thursday, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, made a rare appearance on the Today show.  He said that the US “may well be in a recession” but the response by the Federal Reserve will ensure the economy recovers after the COVID-19 pandemic abates. He also said that the control of the virus will dictate the timing of the economic recovery. The $2.2 trillion stimulus package will include $454 billion US Treasury backstop for Fed actions. The Fed Chairman did contradict President Trump’s optimistic COVID-19 timeline.

 

 

I applaud the Fed’s response so far, although I think there are some other things they can still do.  I like to think that I have their ear occasionally, through the decades of relationship I have had with both the Fed and the US Treasury.

 

 

 

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).

 

For you youngsters, particularly the ones freaking out about the Fed doing daily RP operations, the Federal Reserve used to not telegraph what it was doing in monetary policy.  It would simply come in (and not on scheduled dates like FOMC meetings) and add or drain reserves by announcing a Customer RP, System RP, or Matched Sales. We would then all scramble, as the market absorbed the news, and try to figure out how much they did and where the Fed Funds rate would settle.

 

The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

 

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities.  It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website.  It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR.  SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special.  However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral.

 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 4/29/20, 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. This facility, dormant by the middle of 2019, has seen a lot of action in the last few weeks, as cash providers have trouble finding enough repo collateral among their broker/dealer sources.

 

 

A little historical information on Monetary Policy:

 

 

In December 2018, at the FOMC meeting, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the 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%

 

But, then the Federal Reserve paused.  Suddenly, on 7/31/19, the Fed eased the Fed Funds target rate to 2.25%, and then did another rate cut by 0.25% to 2.00% on 9/17/19. Technically, that rate is the top end of a 25bp rate spread that the Fed considers its current target rate (1.75%-2.00%).  The reversal in monetary policy is expected to continue, with perhaps one more rate cut by the Fed in 2019.  The FOMC actually held an unscheduled meeting on 10/4/19, but did not change monetary policy at that meeting.  But, on 12/11/19, the Fed, somewhat expectedly, lowered the Fed Funds target range to 1.50-1.75%, down another 25bp. They only raised the IOER by 5bp on 1/29, but didn’t change the Fed target rate.  On 3/3/20, because of the global financial crisis effect from the COVID-19 crisis, the Fed held an emergency FOMC meeting and cut the Fed target rate 50bp to 1.00-1.25%. Since then, the Fed lowered the target rate twice more, to its current 0.00%-0.25%.

 

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 reference, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007, at or near the beginning of the Financial Crisis.

 

Just as the Federal Reserve felt it had done enough recently to provide liquidity to the Repo market and enough to Monetary Policy, a global pandemic has hit.  On 3/4/20, the FRB approved a rule to simplify its capital rules for large banks, still preserving the strong capital requirements already in place.  On 3/5/20, the FRB announced the termination of enforcement actions. It also postponed its 2020 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference because of COVID-19. On 3/6/20, the FRB published the Community Reinvestment Act. On 3/9/20, the Fed and other Governmental agencies encouraged financial institutions to meet financial needs of customers and members affected by COVID-19.  The FOMC chose to have an unscheduled meeting and press conference on 3/3/20 (sort of like the old days), because of the COVID-19 crisis. The FOMC set the Interest on Excess Reserves Rate (IOER) target to 1.10%, effective on 3/4/20. They also voted to authorize and direct the Open Market Desk at the FRB NY, until instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) as necessary to maintain the Fed Funds rate in a target of 1.00%-1.25%, down 50bp.  The FOMC also instructed the Fed to continue purchasing Treasury bills at least into Q2 of 2020, to maintain over time ample reserve balances at or above the level that prevailed in early September 2019 (before the liquidity problems of year-end). The FOMC also directed the FRB to continue conducting term and O/N repo operations at least through April 2020 to ensure ample supply of reserves. The FOMC also directed the desk to conduct overnight Reverse Repo operations at an offering rate of 1.00% in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities in its SOMA account that are available for such operations and up to a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day.  If that wasn’t enough, the FOMC also directed the desk to continue to reinvest P&I from MBS securities it owns in Treasury securities, up to $20 billion per month, and to engage in Dollar Rolls and Coupon Swap transactions as necessary to facilitate the market.

 

The US Treasury Department is making $10 billion available to support businesses’ liquidity through outright purchases of CP issued by highly rated companies. The CP Funding Facility will be managed by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY.

 

 

The Fed is encouraging banks to use capital buffers imposed by regulations to loan to borrowers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Fed needs to clarify what is permitted.

 

 

The Federal Reserve has reportedly begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, although some question its legal authority to do so. I actually looked into how the Fed can do it and found that they use Special Purpose Vehicles that they have created and backed by their capital, and then trade with the backing of the US Treasury.  I think if it is considered to be on behalf of the US Treasury. It has an interesting by-product, putting pressure on the US Treasury to also take on more risk, per Bloomberg. Thursday, the Fed announced that it was beginning another program, the Municipal Liquidity Facility, to directly purchase short-term municipal debt. I saw an Opinion piece by my friend, James Grant, of the popular Interest Rate Observer, carried in the WSJ, “The High Cost of Low Interest Rates”. James goes into the weakness of American finance and that he thinks the Federal Reserve made the COVID-19 crisis worse than it had to be, with its “suppression of borrowing costs” and “distortion in the cost of credit.” Sorry, any more than that public info and I’ll have to get permission from WSJ. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs last Thursday, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. Even I am losing count of how many trillions of dollars the Fed has hosed this economic fire with. However, the Fed wants the market to know, according to Bloomberg, that it still has plenty of ammunition available beyond the latest $2.3 trillion effort. For instance, the Fed has so far only used about 40% of the $454 billion in seed capital allocated by Congress for such efforts, which leaves it at least $250 billion, which used through the Repo market could be levered as much as 10-times that, to provide further relief. Bloomberg reports that Fed Chairman Powell said that US banks have strong capital buffers now and that there is no reason they should stop paying dividends.

 

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

 

 

Earthquakes above 4.5-magnitude, in the last 2 days:

 

04/12 4.7 Neiafu, Tonga

04/12 4.6 Shizunai, Japan

04/12 4.8 Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

04/12 4.8 Riosucio, Colombia

04/12 5.3 Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

04/12 4.6 Hualian, Taiwan

04/12 5.1 Taron, Papua New Guinea

04/12 4.6 Pagan, Northern Mariana Islands

04/12 6.1 Amsterdam Island, France

04/12 4.5 Panghai, Tonga

04/12 4.5 Saumlaki, Indonesia

04/12 4.6 San Andres, Colombia

04/12 4.5 Saray, Turkey

04/11 4.9 Fiji Islands

04/11 4.7 Chichi-Shima, Japan

04/11 4.9 Tobelo, Indonesia

04/11 4.8 Pangai, Tonga

04/11 5.1 Neiafu, Tonga

04/11 4.6 Bodie, CA

04/11 5.1 Shimodate, Japan

04/11 5.2 Bodie, CA

04/11 4.8 Calingasta, Argentina

04/11 5.0 Makry Gialos, Greece

04/11 4.6 Chagos Archipelago region

04/11 4.6 Fiji Islands

04/11 5.2 Chichi-sima, Japan

 

 

 

 

 

Weather:

 

You may have heard that we have been having scorching weather here in Florida. We broke record high temperatures on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in southern Florida. We have only had one day of rain in the last 33, basically sunny and hot for the entire pandemic quarantine so far. We are hoping for cooler temperatures this weekend. Accuweather is calling for a potential snowstorm in the Rockies and Midwest, a severe weather outbreak in the Southeast, and some extreme weather possible this weekend. I saw from my good friends in New England that it has been particularly unpleasant this week, with temperatures hovering around freezing and bouts of freezing rain and sleet, with power outages, particularly in Maine. Vermont and New Hampshire got 6-8” of snow the past couple of days. Nice Spring weather! But, I (of all people) am not surprised, not just because I grew up north of Boston, but because I was snowed out in Cleveland two years ago for a National Anthem on 4/7, and the year before the Indians had 6 consecutive games at the start of season snowed out! My recollection is that New England and parts of the Ohio Valley and Midwest always seemed to get a late, last snowfall in April.  It’s Mother Nature’s April Fool’s Joke on them regarding Spring!

 

 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1stand ends November 30th.  I want you to know that I am constantly searching for good or uplifting news, but at the moment, the majority of news items are on the negative side and almost all dealing with COVID-19.  Here is something different, but once again, while informational, kind of to the negative. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more -active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4thmost-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.  It turned out to be the 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons.  We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes.  It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. And, on Friday, the official hurricane forecast to the Atlantic Hurricane Season came from CSU:

 

 

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. Cyclone Harold, not following the calendar, struck the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga (while the are was also struck by earthquakes over the last 2 days), killing at least 29 people.

 

 

As for the weather, in West Palm Beach, we continue to see warmer-than-normal temperatures, and will likely move into the 90s again this week. However, we finally got rain on Sunday and Monday, for the first time in almost a month.

 

 

 

Sports News:      

 

 

Given that many sports have suspended or cancelled their events and seasons, this section of the Repo Commentary will have less, changes.  There are some things happening in ownership support of arena workers out of work, free agent market trades, Drafts, and rescheduled events.  I will update any changes in bold RED, so you can find them quickly.  For those not seeing that colors, they will appear at the end of each sub-section.  CDC’s latest recommendations could mean no professional sports until June or July now.

 

 

MLB:

 

 

The 2019 MLB regular season began 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The World Series went 7 games, and the Washington Nationals, who were in the Postseason for the first time, beat the Houston Astros, who had won the World Series in 2017, 4 games to 3 games.  The cool thing, from my perspective, is that they share the same brand new Spring Training facility right here in West Palm Beach, FL, and I sing the National Anthem for both teams several times during Spring Training, and I auditioned for both 2020 Spring Training for the Cardinals, Marlins, Astros, and Nationals. So, I’ve already had the honor to sing 3 National Anthems and “God Bless America”s this year, and I have at least 3 more to sing at. That will bring my total of MLB games, since 2003, to 156.  I have noticed that the Astros’ games have had more players getting booed by the home crowd, hit by opposing pitchers, and even banging on trash cans. One amusing incident in their home park was when fans brought signs calling the Astros cheaters for their admitted sign-stealing electronically in 2017, when they won the World Series, and the Astros’ ballpark security took the signs from the fans.  They just can’t help themselves from stealing signs! Lol! One clever fan got a sign through that said “Try Stealing This Sign!”

 

 

We were about halfway through Spring Training. For the third year in a row, all 30 MLB teams were to be in action at the start of the season on the same day, March 26th. But, the COVID-19 put an end to Spring Training and has delayed the start of the 2020 MLB regular season. It has also suspended all levels of MLB Minor League games. The 3 remaining Spring Training games that I was to sing the National Anthem at were also cancelled. All 30 MLB teams, today, each pledged $1 million to pay ballpark employees who aren’t able to work, until the season can open.

 

 

Detroit Tiger legend, Al Kaline, has died at the age of 85. MLB is considering cancelling the 2020 Draft. MLB is also considering neutral site playoffs for 2020. I am hearing that top players’ agent Scott Boras has proposed a 162-game season beginning in July, with the World Series played on Christmas Day. Although that is all odd and hard to take in and probably will require a neutral dome stadium for playoffs in the dead of Winter, let’s not forget that nobody (except a few rich players) likes Boras. Thursday 3/26 was supposed to be Opening Day of the MLB regular season, with all 30 teams playing. Friday morning, MLB Commissioner Manfred said that MLB will CANCEL the 2020 season, if things are not safe enough. Then, last weekend, he said that MLB is considering playing games without fans in the stadiums. Another proposal that the MLB and the MLBPA union have discussed playing all games in Arizona, and having all 30 teams play in empty Arizona stadiums. This past week, I have been having a long discussion with former MLB pitcher, Mark Wohlers, about scrapping single-A minor league baseball season, and having the Major League teams take over their Spring Training facilities in warm-weather Arizona and Florida. I’ve been suggesting that they could have a regular season, by playing other teams in their respective League, home or away, with the Spring Training fields, and maintain AL competing with AL and NL competing with NL, leading up to a neutral site World Series. He thought that because many of the teams share Spring-Training facilities with other teams, and to cut down on travel, maybe the Cactus League (Arizona) facilities’ teams should play each other, and Grapefruit League (Florida) facilities’ teams should play each other, with the winner of each state League playing each other in a World Series. It’s a weird mix of AL and NL teams and would have to deal with home field vs away field. I thought he and I were having a cool discussion on Facebook, but apparently MLB is actually now considering it. The Palm Beach Post reported on Friday that a plan calls for baseball to be divided into two 15-team Leagues, the Grapefruit and the Cactus, with each consisting of three 5-team divisions, aligned based on the geography of their Spring Training sites. For example, the East Coast of Florida has the Mets, Nationals, Astros, Marlins, Cardinals, etc., and the West Coast of Florida has the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Orioles. So, those teams that are near each other, would play some 19-20 games against each other, as they do now. Basically, the West Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the AL East and AL Central (the I-75 route), and the East Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the NL East, and NL Central. Arizona has many teams from the NL West, AL West, and NL Central.  Of course, not only because I had already been discussing this proposal with Mark, but also because I have 2 awesome stadiums with 4 MLB teams right in my backyard. And, there is a chance, if they have fans in the stadiums, they will need a National Anthem singer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golf:

 

 

Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.  The PGA Tour started the Players Championship is went forward with the “fifth Major’s” first round, on schedule, at Ponte Vedra (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and cancelled 5 other tournaments to come.  It also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.

 

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.  The European Tour schedule for 2020 season was:

 

  • 11/28-12/1/19 Hong Kong Open
  • 11/28-12/1/19 Alfred Dunhill Championship
  • 12/5-12/8/19 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open
  • 12/19-12/22/19 Australian PGA Championship
  • 1/9-1/12/20 South African Open
  • 1/16-1/19 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
  • 1/23-1/26 Omega Dubai Desert Classic
  • 1/30-2/2 Saudi International
  • 2/6-2/9 ISPS Handa Vic Open
  • 2/20-2/23 WGC-Mexico Championship
  • 2/27-3/1 Oman Open
  • 3/5-3/8 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
  • 3/12-3/15 Magical Kenya
  • 3/19-3/22 Hero Indian Open
  • 3/25-3/29 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
  • 4/9-4/12 The Masters
  • 4/16-4/19 Maybank Championship
  • 4/23-4/26 Volvo China Open
  • 4/30-5/3 Estrella D. Andalucia Masters
  • 5/9-5/10 GolfSixes Cascals
  • 5/14-5/17 US PGA Championship
  • 5/21-5/24 Made in Denmark
  • 5/28-5/31 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
  • 6/4-6/7 Trophee Hassan II
  • 6/11-6/14Scandinavian Invitation
  • 6/18-6/21 US Open
  • 6/25-6/28 BMW International Open
  • you have to believe that I had no idea this would be so long and that I just wanted to be helpful/informational…
  • 7/2-7/5 Open de France
  • 7/2-7/5 WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
  • 7/9-7/12 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open
  • 7/16-7/19 The 149thOpen (British Open)
  • 7/30-8/2 Betfred British Masters
  • 7/30-8/2 Olympic Men’s Golf Competition
  • 8/6-8/9 UK event
  • 8/20-8/23 D+D Real Czech Masters
  • 8/27-8/30 Omega European Masters
  • 9/3-9/6 Porsche European Open
  • at least I can keep this in the Commentary and just update it for the next year…
  • 9/10-9/13 BMW PGA Championship
  • 9/17-9/20 KLM Open
  • 9/25-9/27 The 2020 Ryder Cup
  • 10/1-10/4 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
  • 10/8-10/11 Italian Open
  • 10/15-10/18Mutuactivos Open de Espana
  • 10/22-10/25 Portugal Masters
  • 10/29-11/1 WGC-HSC Champions
  • 11/5-11/8 Turkish Airlines Open
  • 11/12-11/15 Nedbank Golf Challenge
  • 11/19-11/22 DP World Tour Championship

 

Fred Ridley, the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, made a statement on Monday 4/6 that the Club has identified, with leading organizations in golf, November 9-15 as the intended dates to host the postponed 2020 Masters Tournament. I’m glad to see that.

 

 

NFL:

 

 

The 100thNFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs had not won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, 52 years ago, snapping the longest drought of any NFL team. The Bengals have the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft, unless they trade it away. The Patriots currently have 12 picks in the Draft and only a backup as a QB.

 

 

On 3/30 (Monday), Florida Governor DeSantis and his medical team said that they believe that the COVID-19 actually may have been around here in Florida as early as the Super Bowl weekend, early February, and people may have become infected in Miami at that time. That is consistent with the feeling from the CDC that the COVID-19 was likely around in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, also in February. That in turn has led Florida’s Governor DeSantis to put up an armed patrol at the Florida/Louisiana border to restrict the entry of potential infected Louisiana residents. NFL teams approved the expansion of the post-season, which was set in motion by the league’s recent bargaining agreement with the players. Under these new terms, the NFL would add 2 Wild Card teams, one from the AFC and one from the NFC, to the Playoffs, raising the number of teams involved in postseason to 14 from 12. Both CBS and NBC each picked up the extra Wild Card game to be aired on 1/10/21. CBS is producing a separate telecast for young viewers on the Nickelodeon channel, while NBC will also make its game available via streaming-video service Peacock and Telemundo. The last time the NFL expanded the playoffs was for the 1990 season, going from 10 postseason teams to 12 teams.

 

 

Tampa TV news reports that new Buccaneers QB, Tom Brady, has applied for trademarks on “Tompa Bay” and “Tampa Brady.” Grrrr. Do you recall when the New England Patriots flew their own plane covertly to China to pick up 1.2 million N95 masks on 4/3, to help ease healthcare workers’ shortages? Patriot’s owner Kraft also purchased another 300,000 masks specifically for New York. There were few jokes circling out there at the time, but mostly the public felt it was an example of how collaboration and partnership between countries could lead to real solutions. Well, yesterday (4/12), medical workers in Boston said they are concerned about the masks that the Patriots delivered, saying that many could be defective. It turns out that at least some and possibly many of the protective masks were not the time-tested industry standard N95 masks that medical workers wear, but, rather, they were a Chinese version known as a KN95 mask that some hospitals in Boston and elsewhere have so far declined to use and remain reluctant still to use, according to the Boston Globe. Both the FDA and CDC on 4/3 issued exceptions to their strict regulation of respirators, saying they “would not object” to their use and that the KN95 mask was a suitable alternative when N95 supplies are low. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health did not certify them.

 

 

 

Tennis

 

 

In a surprise move to all of the Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA), French Open officials announced that the French Open, the red clay Major, will be postponed from May 24thto late September 24-October 4, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The controversial change may cause the French Open’s biggest winner, with 12 French Open titles, Rafael Nadal, to boycott the tournament. Apparently, the decision from leftfield by the Federation Francaise de Tennis was made without consultation with other stakeholders. There may be a schedule ripple effect on the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish just a week before, so the French Open may lose players, and the Laver Cup, which was supposed to be played in the same week that the French Open is moving to. The potential boycott from Nadal comes, not only because he may also choose to play in the US Open instead, but also because he and Roger Federer are the ones who champion the Laver Cup exhibition team competition, with the leading players of the world, a fan favorite. Federer is actually more likely now to skip the French Open, as he is returning from knee surgery at Wimbledon, and has been leaning away from clay tournaments. If enough top-ranked players skip the French Open, can it still be considered a ‘Major’? The WTA suspended its tour until 5/2, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The ATP suspended its matches for six weeks.

 

 

Speaking of Wimbledon, at the end of last week, the 134th June 29-July 12 tournament was cancelled. It was the first time that this Major was cancelled since WWII. It will instead be played next year at its normal time, 6/28/21-7/11/21. Following the Wimbledon announcement, the WTA, ATP, and ITF postponed its matches another 5 weeks until 7/13. The US Open is still planning to play at its normal time in September, a week before the now rescheduled French Open.

 

 

Olympics

 

 

The head of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics insisted that the Games are on track, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. With the mounting pressure, on Monday afternoon, the IOC finally announced that the Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until 2021. A virus has done what even a war couldn’t do; postpone an Olympics. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. On Wednesday, President Trump congratulated Japanese PM Abe and the IOC. Some sports reporters are pointing out that the Olympics will likely overlap with the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, and perhaps the MLB season, in 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will begin in July 2021.

 

 

Cricket

 

 

World Cup action is live now between England and New Zealand.

 

 

Soccer

 

 

Soccer’s 2020 European Championship, scheduled for Russia, has been postponed for a year because of the outbreak of the virus among the Norwegian and Swedish football associations, on Tuesday. The Premier League suspended their season, as did most of the top European leagues. Former top goalkeeper, Peter Bonetti, has died at age 78. Merson says that Aubameyang should stay with Arsenal.

 

 

 

NCAA Football:

 

After about 100 bowl games (it seems) over many weeks, the College Football Playoffs came down to 4 teams:  No.1 and unbeaten LSU made easy work of No.4 Oklahoma 63-28 on 12/28, and No.3 Clemson won a close battle over No.2 Ohio State 29-23, on the same day. That left LSU to play Clemson for College Football National Championship, which they did this week on Monday.  Despite LSU playing in the New Orleans Superdome (so, a home field/crowd advantage), and having the Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow, they were down in the 2ndquarter 17-7 to Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence, but came roaring back by halftime, and won 42-25, winning their first National Title since 2007.

 

 

COVID-19 has caused the NCAA to cancel all spring men’s and women’s sports. The NCAA then announced that seniors would have another year of eligibility to play in their sports. However, they then changed that to include ALL players, not just seniors, would have an extra year of eligibility.

 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

 

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

 

 

NCAA Hockey

 

 

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19.

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball

 

 

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt due to COVID-19.  One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started.

 

 

I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.

 

 

 

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

 

  1. Kansas 28-3
  2. Gonzaga 29-2
  3. Dayton 29-2
  4. FSU 26-5
  5. Baylor 26-4
  6. San Diego State 30-2
  7. Creighton 24-7
  8. Kentucky 25-6
  9. Michigan State 22-9
  10. Duke 25-6
  11. Villanova 24-7
  12. Maryland 24-7
  13. Oregon 24-7
  14. Brigham Young 24-7
  15. Louisville 24-7
  16. Seton Hall 21-9
  17. Virginia 23-7
  18. Wisconsin 21-10
  19. Ohio State 21-10
  20. Auburn 25-6
  21. Illinois 21-10
  22. West Virginia 21-10
  23. Houston 23-8
  24. Butler 22-9
  25. Iowa 20-11

 

 

 

 

NHL:

 

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this season on 10/2/19.

 

We were approaching the long postseason, after 82 games, which should have ended again in June, and here were the current standings. In the Eastern Conference: in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are in first with a smoking 44-14-12 record (best in NHL with 100 points) after breaking the Flyers win streak of 9 games Tuesday night on Tuuka Rask’s birthday, with the Lightning in second (tied for 2ndbest record); in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are in first with a 41-20-8 record ( tied for 3rd best in the NHL), followed by the Flyers in second. In the Western Conference: in the Central Division, the Stanley Cup Champion Blues are in first place at 41-19-10 (tied for 2ndbest in NHL), followed by the Avalanche in second (tied for 3rdbest in NHL) and the surprising Stars in third; in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights lead with a 39-24-8 record, and the Golden Knights are just ahead of the Oilers in second place. The Canucks, who had been leading the Division through most of the season, have dropped to 4thplace. The worst team in the NHL continues to be the Red Wings, boasting a dreadful 17-49-5 record. This too, all came to an end, with the season at least being suspended, with no games to be played for a while.

 

 

After requesting arena availability from each team last Tuesday, the NHL general managers said they intend to resume their regular season in July. This lines up well with a popular plan among players, who wanted to compete in the postseason in August and September, take October off as the new “off-season” and then return to the next regular season in November. There will be some obstacles to this plan though, the most important one being ice conditions in the heat of the summer months. Another interesting obstacle is that a number of players’ contracts expire on June 30. The NHL itself has not decided what to do. Also, this could pit the NHL and the 3 other major team sports in the US against each other for fan viewership in the same quarter of the calendar. I, for one, as a fan, am not complaining AT ALL about that bonus!

 

 

 

NBA:

 

 

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs. COVID-19 is having an impact on the NBA now, as the League suspended the NBA regular season indefinitely.

 

 

There was only a little over a month left in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and teams were still jockeying for a playoff position. The current standings are: Eastern Conference had No.1 Bucks, No.2 Raptors, No.3 Celtics, No.4 Heat, No.5 Pacers, No.6 76ers, and the rest were well behind; Western Conference has No.1 Lakers, No.2 Clippers, No.3 Nuggets, No.4 Jazz, No.5 Thunder, No.6 Rockets, and No.7 Mavs, and the rest were well behind.

 

 

 

Several owners of stadiums and/or professional sports teams have decided to pay idle workers of their arenas. I don’t have the list yet, but one of the first owners to do that was Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. There is no word yet from the NBA on when or if it will resume the regular season or hold the Playoffs.

 

 

 

Horse Racing:

 

 

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. The Florida Derby was run this weekend, but without fans in attendance. I did not see masks on the horses. It’s interesting, NBC reported that without casinos or horse tracks (or poker rooms at horse tracks) open, people are willing to wager on almost anything online now.  

 

 

Racing:

 

 

NASCARfinally chose not to do ‘fan-less’ races and, instead, chose to postpone its race events through May 3, in accordance with safety protocols recommended by the CDC in response to COVID-19. Of the 3 major racing circuits, the NASCAR one has the potential to lose the most races in the 2020 schedule, perhaps as many as 10.

 

 

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner 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.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results:

 

2/16 Daytona 500

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400

3/1 Auto Club 400

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350

6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400

6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400

7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400

playoffs:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400

10/25 Texas, Texas 500

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

 

 

 

 

Formula Onebegins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That will be followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule.  Three F1 team members have been placed in isolation over COVID-19 fears.  The opening of the season has been delayed at least until 5/3, although they refuse to confirm date change for that race to later, despite the likelihood that the Dutch Grand Prix probably can’t be staged on 5/3.  F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Then, COVID-19, upset the race schedule and also took down F1’s (FWONK) share price, initially down 25%, and now down 40% from it January 2020 high of over $48.00/share. Sir Stirling Moss, British motor racing legend, has died at age 90. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all-time despite never winning a title. Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to the “legend”. I will be posting the 2020 Formula One calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

 

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne-won by V. Bottas

3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by Lewis Hamilton

4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000thGrand Prix)-won by Lewis Hamilton

4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas

5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by Lewis Hamilton

5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet-won by Lewis Hamilton

6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg-won by Max Verstappen

7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone-won by Lewis Hamilton

7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim-won by Max Verstappen

8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest-Lewis Hamilton

9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Charles Leclerc

9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza-Charles Leclerc

9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore-Sebastian Vettel

9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi-Lewis Hamilton

10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka-V. Bottas

10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City-Lewis Hamilton

11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX-V. Bottas

11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo-M. Verstappen

12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

 

 

 

Here is the IndyCar Racingcircuit and its 2019 calendar and results (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).  The season just ended, with Josef Newgarden coming in 8thin the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. I will be posting the 2020 calendar when they post the updated one:

 

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-Josef Newgarden

3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta

4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato

4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi

5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud

5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud

6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden

6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon

6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden

6/23 Road America-Alexander Rossi

7/14 Honda Indy Toronto-Simon Pagenaud

7/20 Iowa 300-Josef Newgarden

7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-Scott Dixon

8/18 Pocono Grand Prix-Will Power (I love that name!)

8/24 Gateway Grand Prix-Takuma Sato

9/1 Grand Prix of Portland-Will Power (that’s all it takes)

9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca-Colton Herta

 

IndyCar Racing also hit the brakes on the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19. So, instead of the first race running in mid-March, the first race is now scheduled for 5/9, basically losing 4 races from the 2019 schedule.  Here is the updated 2020 schedule (unless it gets changed again because of the pandemic):

 

5/09 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis, IN

5/24 104thIndy 500, Indianapolis, IN

5/31 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, MI

6/06 Genesys 600 in Texas

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America

6/27 Indy Richmond 300

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto

7/18 Iowa 300

8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500

9/06 Grand Prix of Portland

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

 

 

 

Travel News:

 

 

The US government has taken unprecedented steps with respect to TRAVEL in response to the increasing public health threat posed by this new COVID-19:

 

  • Foreign nationals who have been in China or iran within the past 14 days cannot enter the US.
  • US citizens, residents, and their immediate family members who have been in China or Iran within the past 14 days can enter the US, but they are subject to health monitoring and possible quarantine for up to 14 days.

There has yet to be an intra-United States travel ban, although Rhode Island briefly tried it against people from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but later withdrew it.  However, the State Department did put out a warning for people travelling to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Also, Florida Governor DeSantis has put up checkpoints on I-95 and the Florida Turnpike to check on anyone from the tri-state area and force them to quarantine for 14-days, in many cases. He also has a barrier set up for people coming from Louisiana into Florida and a checkpoint on I-95 between Georgia and Florida.  Not very ‘neighborly’, Mister Rogers would be upset. Public transportation in many municipalities is still running. The NY Subway, for example, is packed with NO ‘social distancing’, which is pretty scary. Somebody needs to do something about that.

 

 

As you can imagine, Carnival, Norwegian, and Princess cruise lines are in a world of hurt, and that’s even before any civil litigation. However, bizarrely, all report RECORD bookings so far for 2021 season! The Governor of Virginia has ordered residents to stay home until 06/10. Marriott International, with support from their credit card partners, American Express and JPMorgan Chase, has committed to provide $10 million worth of hotel stays for healthcare professionals leading the fight against COVID-19 in the US. The initiative is called Rooms for Responders and will provide rooms in some of the areas most impacted, including NYC, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and Newark. They have been coordinating with the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Emergency Nurses Association to match doctors and nurses with free accommodations. In a separate effort, Marriott has joined with a number of their hotel owners and franchisee partners to launch the Community Caregiver Program, which will be available in the US, Canada, that Caribbean, and Latin America. It provides significantly discounted rates for first responders and healthcare professionals who want to book rooms in close proximity to the hospitals where they are working. The rate is available at nearly 2,500 Marriott hotels. Many hotels of this chain and other chains, who were forced to close their doors, wound up donating their food products, unused produce, and unused cleaning supplies to support local charities in the communities that the hotels are located. Universal Parks and Disney World and Disney Land do not anticipate reopening until 6/1. Did you know that only two F-16s have ever been shot down in air to air combat? Once was during the Soviet Afghanistan war and was piloted by an Aghan, shot down by a Soviet MiG-23, which was then shot down by another F-16. The second was a Turkish F-16, shot down by Greek fighters. Both the F-16 and the F-15 have the highest kill ratios, mainly because of superior pilots, and being backed up by good command control.

 

Interesting travel news from my friend and former colleague, Warren Green, who sent me a schedule from an SBT Social Worker in NYC, which has a complete Virtual Tour schedule posted in Senior Planet, of a Living Room Concert from Broadway, tour of the Rubin Museum, tour of the New England Aquarium, online dance classes on Zoom, tour of NYC’s Natural History Museum, tour of the American Folk Art Museum, an Impressionists Gallery, a tour of the Brooklyn Museum, and more, AND THEY ARE ALL FREE ONLINE!!! So, these are great escapes (and educational ones) from our quarantine, without increasing our risk of contracting COVID-19.

 

 

Health News:

 

Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED. I have made an attempt to reduce this section, eliminating all old news and only keeping important PSA news and recent news. I will continue to trim where I can here and in other sections of the Repo Commentary.

 

 

More than 1.5 billion people around the world have been asked or ordered to stay-at-home because of the pandemic. The WHO has named COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) a “Pandemic”.

 

 

The New England Journal of Medicine just published a study that tested how long COVID-19 could live on different surfaces. On copper, it was detectable up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours, and on plastic 3 hours and steel up to 72 hours. On shoes, up to 72 hours (although another study claimed up to 5 days). On hands, 5-10 minutes.  It can live on currency 8-10 hours. It does not survive in chlorine or water.

 

 

As of this morning (4/12), globally, more than 113,361 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 1,835,373 people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 381,429 people have totally recovered.  The reason that is important is for “herd immunity” (see INTERNATIONAL NEWS section). By 4/4, Imperial College estimated that about 1-4% of the population, depending on the country, already had COVID-19, one week into lockdown, and that that figure would be expected to double roughly every 4-5 days. People will still be dying, but more and more of the population would likely be immune, noticeably within the first 3 months.  Sounds right to me, but one wrinkle just popped up, and that’s two different news outlets reporting that in Daegu, South Korea, either 51 (NY Post) or 91 (Reuters), depending on the source, people who recovered from COVID-19, have tested positive again.  Originally, it was reported that of the nearly 7000 South Koreans who had recovered from COVID-19, 51 had become reinfected, but that number rose to 91 on Friday, per the KCDC. It’s still unclear if the test may have picked up a false positive from having the antibodies or if they genuinely are re-infected. There are reports that Chinese doctors in Wuhan leaked that about 10% of COVID-19 patients who were given the all-clear, tested positive again. Those doctors warned that it is even deadlier the second time. I don’t know if this is the media not wanting to lose the story or if it is actual reporting. That would not only disturb the theory of herd immunity, but also counter the belief of doctors that people would likely be immune to the disease for about a year after contracting it.  The WHO says the virus has spread to over 166countries. Given that there only about 190 countries on the Earth, that’s pretty much the entire Globe, except Antarctica.  Several countries have experienced large outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, and France). Spain’s COVID-19 confirmed cases total of about 166,019 as of 4/12, makes it 2ndonly to the US. Spain has had at least 16,972 deaths from COVID-19. Spain’s outbreak is reportedly “slowing”, as it enters its 4th week of lockdown. Italy, in particular, suffered very early in Europe, with total confirmed cases in Italy of 156,363 as of 4/12, now moving to 3rdfrom 2nd, but still ahead of China (83,134, which hasn’t changed in two weeks).

 

 

 

The US is the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, at 547,681, more than 25% of the world’s total. The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 4/12, is now 21,692, and now No.1 in the world.  One of the reasons that the number of confirmed cases keep rising is because the US has now tested over 2.6 million people, after a delay for 2 weeks in February when test kits were defective. The President had extended the US guidelines from 4/12 (Easter) to 4/30. New York is the worst-hit state by COVID-19. NYC Mayor de Blasio said on Sunday that, “April will be worse than March, and I fear that May could even be worse than April.” He extended mandatory business closures until at least 5/1 to handle the pandemic. Thousands of New York private and retired healthcare workers have answered the Mayor’s call and are helping in the hospitals. Images have emerged on the news of coffins being buried in a mass grave on Hart Island of the Bronx in Long Island Sound, as the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise and many of these bodies were not claimed. Operations there have increased from one day per week to five days per week, with an average of 24 burials each day, according to the Department of Corrections. The site has long been used for people with no next-of-kin or families who cannot afford a funeral. Traditionally, prisoners from Rikers Island usually did the job, but the rising workload has recently been taken over by contractors. Yesterday (4/9) there were 799 deaths from COVID-19 in NYC, however patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 dropped on 4/8 and 4/9 to only 200 people each day. NYC mortuaries and funeral homes are overwhelmed. NY state now has more COVID-19 confirmed cases (about 189,020) than any single country. Of those, 7,067 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University, as of 4/10. That figure is more than double the death toll from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In Riverside County, CA, residents are now required to wear face coverings and could face a fine of $1000 per day if the mandate, that began on Sunday, is ignored. Los Angeles now has police officers at every entrances of parks to make sure that people are practicing social distancing. Yet, nothing is still happening at crowded Central Park in Manhattan?

 

 

There is now a blood test to be rolled out, developed by Abbott Labs, that can confirm COVID-19 infection within 5 minutes, rather than previous tests being sent to labs for up to 5 days.  This will be huge for drive-up testing sites, first responders, and hospitals.  There is also a cartridge test that takes only 15 minutes for results, that was recently confirmed by Rutgers University and already has emergency approval from the FDA and began shipping Monday 3/30 from Cepheid, the molecular diagnostics company in California that developed it with help from Rutgers. Like the 5-minute blood test from Abbott Labs, the cartridge test will likely be made available only to those people showing multiple symptoms of COVID-19 or in the highest risk category (immune system-compromised or elderly) or prisoners (so they can isolate infected from the rest of the population and stop releasing hundreds of prisoners).  The cartridge test will not be available for drive-up testing facilities, because they have to be tested on-site at facilities that own a GeneXpert molecular testing platform to process the samples.  I still think those Delivery Dudes, Door Dashers, Grub Hubbers and other food delivery folks, who are potential spreaders of the virus, should be tested! Bloomberg reported on Friday that hundreds of US meat workers have now tested positive for COVID-19. Uh oh…

 

 

The US Navy did an amazing job to retrofit and supply the Hospital Ship, Comfort, which arrived at Pier 90 in NYC two weeks ago.  They saved what was expected to take 3-4 weeks of preparations. It was intended to be used as a ‘surge’ hospital for up to 1,000 non-COVID-19 patients (COVIDians). Of course, hundreds of New Yorkers missed the point entirely of why it was there, and showed up in a huge crowd to see it come in, practicing zero ‘social distancing.’ Just recently, a crewmember of the Comfort tested positive for COVID-19. Since its arrival, authorities have decided to change its use to a hospital FOR COVID-19 patients. The other military hospital ship, Mercy, a sister ship to Comfort, is docked in Los Angles. Also, in NYC, the Jacob Javits Convention Center has been repurposed by the National Guard and NYC officials into a 3,500 bed Field Hospital, which makes it the largest hospital in the country.  It’s good that the hospital ship and convention center are now available, as the latest reports show that NYC hospitals are at full capacity now, with COVID-19 patients and other patients. However, there are signs that the apex is nearing over the next few days, according to doctors and some significant news. NYC hospitals, as of 4/6, had discharged more COVID-19 patients than they brought in for 4 straight days. The largest cathedral in the United States, Manhattan’s St. John of the Divine, had already cleared its pews and was going to be retrofitted by the US Army as another field hospital, and those plans have now been shelved as unnecessary. Now, according to the Anchorage Daily News (that was just for my friends at Alaska USA), Seattle’s US Army-built field hospital in CenturyLink Field Event Center is now being dismantled, without ever treating a single patient, despite the area being one of the first and hardest hit by the pandemic in the US. New studies are indicating that COVID-19 may wind up being seasonal and may die down in the hot summer months and return next year around the same time.

 

 

President Trump spoke about a French study on 3/30 in his daily press conference that involved 2 antibiotics which are showed amazing effectiveness against COVID-19. In the French study, the control group had the virus in their blood still by Day 6. The second group took Hydroxychloroquine and the amount of COVID-19 dropped by 50% in Day 6. The third group took Hydroxychloroquine AND Z-pak of antibiotic, and by Day 6, this group had NO COVID-19 left. Although the FDA has still not approved the combination of these 2 drugs, NYC has already been treating some of the worst COVID-19 patients and seeing great results. NYC, the US, and the FDA are studying the proper dosages now. There are risks to the drugs, but far less risk than reward of not being among the 2-3% of infected patients dying from this disease. The main risk in the use of Hydroxychloroquine, as I mentioned in previous Repo Commentaries, is that it can damage the retina in certain dosages, but that damage sometimes is reversible. I know a lot about retinas, having detached both of mine on different occasions over the last 4 years. Also, since Hydroxychoroquine is derived from Quinine, and Quinine is a poison, overdosing on it could cause death. The media is also talking about 2 HIV drugs as possible cures for COVID-19 which are being tested. In addition, I have heard reports about using plasma from COVID-19 survivors as an infusion. Johnson & Johnson reports promising news on a vaccine, which normally takes 5-7 years to develop, but this one, they believe, will be only 5-7 months in the making. The NY Post reported that biotech company, Novavax, is starting human trials for an “ideal” COVID-19 vaccine candidate in mid-May, weeks ahead of schedule. Last month, the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations awarded Novavax a $4 million investment to support its efforts. At this rate, Novavax plans on having human data by July. However, the company will need a lot more funding, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars, to get the vaccine through regulatory approval, according to the Washington Business Journal. The NY Post reported on 4/6 that America’s major medical society, the American Thoracic Society, issued guidelines that suggest patients with pneumonia get doses of hydroxychloroquine.

 

 

Did you happen to notice that now that we humans are all ‘social distancing’, not touching each other or high-touch surfaces, and actually washing our hands like we were supposed to, oh and not travelling on airplanes, that the incidences of flu and common colds have plummeted? By the way, many of our brave doctors, nurses, and first responders have taken to referring to COVID-19 as “The Beast”. I’m sure by now you have heard about the global phenomenon, which has just come to West Palm Beach, FL, called “clapping hands of thanks”, in which neighbors of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are lining up in their driveways at 8am or 8pm (shift changes) to applaud their healthcare neighbors when they leave or return to their houses to go to battle on the frontlines and show their appreciation for their brave efforts. Some communities are showing up at hospitals and staying in their cars, fire trucks, motorcycles, and police cars, and flashing their lights, applauding, and honking their horns to show their appreciation for healthcare workers working 14-hour shifts and putting their lives on the line to save our lives. Similarly, we are also seeing on the news every day, another child having a birthday and the community getting together to form a 50-car parade to go by the child’s house with lights on and beeping horns to celebrate, in this time of social distancing. Psychologists have been focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and the PTSD-like stress that people are facing and the pressure from the feeling of imprisonment with family members 24/7. Now, they say that the virus is invading our dreams when we sleep. I do notice that the days become a blur and you have to create a schedule, even if it’s artificial, with to dos, like gym, cleaning, reading, writing, singing, infrequent (and exciting) trips to the pharmacy or grocery store, walks, cycling, work, home-schooling, etc. It gives you a routine, so you don’t focus on the isolation or the boredom. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. By avoiding focusing on your imprisonment and figuring out what you touched and what needs disinfecting, seems to keep people from getting edgy, frustrated, or adrift. CBS News reported that home-gym equipment sales have risen 200%! I happen to know, because I bought a pair of selectable 5lb-95lb dumbbells as a wedding gift (it was on my good friend’s registration list, before you give me grief) in December for a good friend who got married in February. The gift was $300 and the wedding was awesome, right before COVID-19. However, I was looking to buy another set as a gift 2 days ago and I went on the same website for the same model, and they now are priced at $935!!! What an increase! Massachusetts has come up with a new approach to a new pollution problem, a $5000 fined for anyone dumping used rubber or nitrile gloves or masks in a parking lot. I am not seeing them all over Florida parking lots outside grocery stores and Targets. It puts all the workers at risk of infection in picking up the used protective gear. It is not that hard for people to throw their own stuff away. A Georgia bar owner removed $3,714 worth of one dollar bills that were stapled to the rafters and walls of the establishment (I’ve hung out at so many of these kind of places, where everyone writes on the money) and gave the money to unemployed staff. A Brooklyn landlord cancelled rent for hundreds of tenants, to make sure that everyone had money for food. NY has raised its fine to $1000 for those not practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet. There are over 27,000 restaurants in NYC, who are all suffering during the lockdown. Some analysts predict that nationwide, some 50% of restaurants will fold. Nationwide, there are 12 million restaurant workers that are struggling now. Did you know that the US Department of Education has revealed its $14 billion bailout (from the CARES Act) allocations for various colleges? It includes beauty schools, flight schools, religious schools, and massage schools. Many colleges have announced furloughs and layoffs, as financial challenges have mounted. Others are moving Summer classes online, considering tuition reductions and technology fee waivers. The Federal government has begun distributing emergency grants for students affected by campus closures. Joe Biden is still talking about his plan to cancel ALL student loan debt.

 

 

In other health news, Tuesday was World Health Organization Day. Did you know that earwax poses not only a serious risk for hearing loss, but also for cognitive decline, and even dementia? Doctors say that most of the nation’s teenagers aren’t getting enough exercise. Although you didn’t ask, I thought I would share with you some information on the toilet paper alternative (no, not big leafy plants or small furry animals), since toilet paper is trading like gold these days. In many countries and in certain expensive hotel rooms, bidets are the norm for washing off down there after you have done your business. They simply open up a stream of water, wash (with or without soap), then dry with a specific ‘bidet towel’. Each person has their own bidet towel in the house, and they are washed regularly. The bidet, itself, is washed about as often as you clean a toilet. Families use the bidets in their house, but not public bidets. I have 2 reservations myself: the not soap option and the 4 individual towels hanging there for a family of 4 until laundry day. Researchers say some of the apps for pregnancy and fertility may have been inaccurate, because they don’t involve women in their design or development and don’t always take into account real-world use.

 

 

Public Service Announcement:

 

 

How do you know if you have COVID-19? The CDC says the following are symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

 

  • Severe sore throat that moves to the lungs.
  • Severe headaches (although not everyone is presenting with headaches)
  • Fever (although not everyone is presenting with a fever)
  • Oz, and celebrities confirmed, that if you don’t present a fever, you will lose the sense of smell and taste for the duration of the virus. This is a new symptom or tell-tale sign. After you have rid the virus, your senses of smell and taste return within weeks. This ‘anosmia’ is occurring in about 30% of the cases, those that are mild or moderate.
  • Cough (for Asthmatics, this would be a dry cough as opposed to the damp cough they are accustomed to). This dry cough is affecting at least 1/3 of all patients and feels like it is coming from the breastbone or sternum and feels like the bronchial tubes are inflamed, and may include coughing up sputum from the lungs.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Digestive or stomach issues, which have been in about half of the patients.
  • Chills and body aches
  • Pink eye, about 3% of patients are experiencing conjunctivitis
  • Major fatigue

 

The CDC says the following are symptoms which are EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS REQUIRING IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION (this list is not all inclusive):

 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Sudden confusion or inability to wake up
  • Bluish lips or face

 

With the WHO globally and the CDC domestically urging “social distancing” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they recommend the following steps (obviously certain states, cities, and countries have adopted even more severe measures):

 

  • I actually wrote about this in the Repo Commentary on 3/18, but now have heard a lot more information about it. The French government (another French study) on 3/16 and later the UK NHS, announced that people infected with COVID-19 should avoid using ibuprofen (like Advil) and instead use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) during the duration to treat the fever and aches. The reason, according to both of these groups, and several doctors from Cornell, Harvard, and the virologist I mentioned on 3/18) is because ibuprofen tends to suppress the immune system somewhat, which could be disastrous during COVID-19, and they felt it could expedite the virus to move into the lungs. There has been mixed reactions from the medical community, as there has not been enough research on whether the virus thrives more on ibuprofen or not. However, some doctors believe that it can make the results 10 times worse than using Acetaminophin. So, it is your choice. Snopes.com said it has not been proven False or True yet. The British Ministry of Health has previously issued guidelines on the use of ibuprofen with infections or viruses. I am hearing from my friends in the homeopathic community that you shouldn’t take NSAIDs generally because of their tendency to suppress the immune system. Frankly, I think if it doesn’t hurt me, I’ll switch to acetaminophen, at least until this is over, just in case it is true. I would like you all to be around too and safe. I’m sure you have all heard anecdotally through the years that more doctors recommend Tylenol than Advil in hospital stays, partly because of the immune system response and partly because of the alleged impact to the kidneys of constant use of ibuprofen. However, what is not spoken about much is that constant use of Tylenol can also lead to bad results for the Liver. In fact, the study that the French Government relied on for its guidelines was based on their own previous study about a woman who had died allegedly taking ibuprofen and how ibuprofen compares to acetaminophen. But, the study was flawed, since the original woman was actually on acetaminophen, not ibuprofen, according to the latest reports. So, I really don’t know. All I know is, after someone mentions it in the media or in a press conference, Tylenol is suddenly gone from all the shelves at the pharmacies, grocery stores, and Target.  But, there is plenty of Advil!  So, another one to add to the Endangered Species of rarely spotted home goods, along with Emergen-C, Vitamin C, Zinc, paper towels, pasta sauce, pasta, latex or nitrile gloves, n95 masks (or any face masks of any kind), Handiwipes/Wet Ones or any type of antibiotic soap, spray, or towel, Purell, and the odd one, toilet paper.
  • Stay home if you are mildly ill with COVID-19, except to get medical care. Do not visit public places.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care, so that the office can protect themselves and other patients.  Be sure to get emergency care if you worsen or have any of those symptoms.
  • Oz says that there are signs that taking Vitamin C and Zinc at the first signs or even as preventive medicine, could be effective against COVID-19 infection and recovery. Of course, some other doctors have come out and said that there was never verifiable proof that Vitamin C or Zinc helped with other viruses or the common cold. And, I still don’t know if eggs are good for you or bad for you, but I still eat them.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Stay away from others, as much as possible, including people in your home. Try to do as much ‘home isolation’ as possible, staying in a designated “sick room” with a separate bathroom, if available, and away from other people in your home.
  • Limit contact with your pets and animals. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals contracting COVID-19 from humans, it is still recommended for those with the virus to limit contact with animals, until more information is known.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you have COVID-19.If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
  • If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
  • If you are caring for others who are sick, you should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. On average, we touch our nose and mouth about 90 times per day, without realizing it.
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or clean in a dishwasher.
  • Daily clean disinfect high-touch surfaces (phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas of your home, but only you in your “sick room” and bathroom. If a caregiver must clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
  • The CDC says that people with the following underlying health conditions BEFORE contracting COVID-19 are at higher risk (this is not a complete list):
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic lung disease or asthma
    • COPD
    • Heart failure or heart disease
    • Sickle cell anemia
    • Cancer or undergoing chemotherapy
    • Kidney disease and dialysis
    • Body Mass Index over 40
    • Autoimmune disorder
    • Recent transplant patients
  • Per the CDC, people with COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation if:
    • You will have a test to determine if you are still contagious
      • You no longer have a fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
      • AND other symptoms have improved.
      • AND you received 2 negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
    • Or, if you will not have a test to determineif you are still contagious, then these 3 things must happen, before ending home isolation:
      • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
      • Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
      • AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

 

 

Animal News:

 

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. There are 3 other tigers and 3 lions there who have also tested positive for COVID-19. So far, all of the big cats (my favorites) are asymptomatic. But, this is a good reminder of something I mentioned a few Repo Commentaries ago, you need to be careful about transferring the virus to your pets. I know that being around at home 24/7 is the perfect time to reconnect with your pets (and they can’t figure it out, but really love it!) or even adopt new pets from shelters to save them, BUT you need to be careful handling them, so you don’t make them sick. Please wash your hands before you cuddle with your pets and be careful to wash your hands before you feed them and give them water. If you go outside with them, keep them away from other humans and their animals. If they lick you a lot, youe need to keep whatever skin they lick on you extremely clean.  And, just yesterday, doctors confirmed that cats can get COVID-19 from humans, although dogs, pigs and birds can’t. So, that explains that only big cats at the zoo tested positive. Wednesday, the WHO said it will take a closer look at transmission of the virus between humans and pets. This could also help scientists in their frantic search for proper treatment and vaccine, as they isolate the differences in the genetic makeup of cats and dogs. One unexpected victim of COVID-19 has been Florida vegetables. Malayan tiger Api of the Palm Beach Zoo is 9 weeks pregnant with at least 2 cubs from male tiger Kadar. This is really good news, since the population of Malayan tigers in captivity and in the wild is probably less than 200 individuals, because of poaching and habitat destruction. Mother Earth continues to heal and claim back her territory, as humans shelter-in-place. One example is that the people India, for the first time in 30 years, can now see the Himalayas, the tallest mountains in the world.  For decades, they have been unable because of the terrible pollution. 70,000 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles have recently laid eggs on empty beaches of the Odisha Rookery, during the 21-day human quarantine and closed beaches in India. Last year, the once-a-year-event was hampered by tourists and the hatcheries severely damaged by Cyclone Title. In Chile, the Atacama Desert has areas so dry that no rainfall has been recorded, but every 5-7 years it transforms into a “desierto florido” (flowering desert). It has just come in to bloom and in the most brilliant display the country has seen in a long time. Los Angeles, with no cars on its superhighways, like the I-10, for the first time in a long time, has blue skies and no smog. Coyotes have been seen crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In NYC, you can hear the birds chirp on people-less midtown Madison Avenue. Scientists have actually measured healing in the ozone layer in just the past month, according to the India Times. They specifically looked at the ozone layer over Antarctica, where the changes have been so dramatic that several atmospheric changes in the Earth’s southern hemisphere have come to a halt, which is impacting the rest of the world’s weather patterns. Meteorologists also report the world’s air and ocean currents shifting back to normal, for the first time in several decades. NASA reported on Saturday that the COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in a 30% air pollution drop in the Northeastern US. Mother Nature has set the RESET button to heal or reboot herself, and to reboot the human race. We need to see these amazing changes, when we stop being ‘busy’ and ‘stop and smell the roses’, as a wakeup call. I have, over the years, made this Animal section also about human evolution, paleontology, and ancient history, as well as flora and fauna. So, it’s where I think Mother Nature and humanity news should also be. I am not ignoring the deadly toll of the pandemic and the Draconian measures that took away human rights and cratered the global economy. I am not ignoring the economic and mental toll on all of the human population. I simply want to report about the remarkable insights or lessons we can learn from this horrific event. Like many wars, 9/11, natural disasters, and other major illnesses (Bubonic Plague, Spanish Flu, Tuberculosis, etc.), this pandemic has brought us hyper awareness of our human situation, how we impact Earth, how we impact each other, and what is really important (family, friends, living, etc.) and not ‘things’ and the rat race. I read a tremendous article on Saturday by Julio Vincent Gambuto on forge.medium.com, titled “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting”. I thought about including it in the Repo Commentary, but it is way too long. I encourage you to look it up though, as it is worth the read. ‘Gaslighting’ is the manipulation of a person into doubting their own sanity. He gave the example of “Carl made Mary think she was crazy, even though she clearly caught him cheating. He gaslit her.” His main premise, as he eloquently explains, is that we will soon be opening up businesses, activities, events, and our lives. And, the media, the governments, the advertisers, the companies who make the products or provide the services, hospitality companies, etc. will try to convince us all to get back to normal. They will try to make us forget that this all happened to us or that they have the specific product right for us that will make everything normal again. They will spend billions of dollars to “get life back to the way it was before the crisis.” They will make us forget the deep problems that we have in society that were uncovered during the crisis and even the fact that many people couldn’t trust the governments or the media to give us all the facts. Everyone will conspire to make us “busy” again, too busy to fix the problems we have or to focus on what is important to us in life. They will ‘gaslight’ us, not with evil intent, but because that is their nature, that is what they were built for. I can’t do this excellent article justice, so I’ll stop trying to summarize and paraphrase, and just let you explore for yourself.  It’s eye-opening.

 

Entertainment News:

 

 

Honor Blackman, JAMES BOND actress who played Pussy Galore in the 1964 movie GOLDFINGER, has died at age 94.  John Prine, one of America’s greatest songwriters, according to Rolling Stone magazine, who chronicled the human condition in folk-country songs, has died from COVID-19 at age 73. Space Force, another workplace sit-com, similar to The Office,and also starring Steve Carell, will be landing on Netflix, starting on May 29, for a 10-episode season. The subject is President Trump’s newest and sixth US military branch. P!nk recently told of her child and her struggle with COVID-19 on the Ellen show, and now has donated $1 million to fight the virus. Ironically, the fact that she was able to get tested in a timely fashion, may have led to her and her 3-year-old son’s survival. But, she is now enraged that celebrities can get tested in a timely fashion, while most people can’t, so she wants to correct that, starting with her donation. Joel Osteen (I think I bring him up again shortly in US News section) is having an online-only service for Easter Sunday, during this pandemic. His service will include Kanye West, Mariah Carey, and Tyler Perry (whom I bring up again below, lol). Sports Illustrated fired a writer who griped about cuts to his $350,000 salary. Timothy Brown, former NFL start and M*A*S*H* actor has died at age 82. Andrew Bocelli is live-streaming a concert on Easter Sunday from from Italy’s empty Duomo Cathedral in Milan. Cleveland’s “The Plain Dealer” newspaper, the country’s first News Guild, has finally ended. Organizers are now considering a ‘virtual’ Burning Man annual festival.

 

 

I have watched a couple of the live studio sessions on TV, with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, who are singing/playing requests from the social media audience, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m slowly catching up on 2020 movies through renting On Demand. I finally saw 1917 and really enjoyed that movie based on true events of WWI. It was intense and a bit stressful. But, that made it very realistic. I would give it a 7.5 out of 10. I also got to see THE GOOD LIAR, which was excellent! It was very clever, with a unique plot based on online dating of seniors and scams. It had an amazing twist at the end (and that’s all I’m going to say!). I would give it an 8.5 out of 10. I finally saw the 2006 James Bond movie, CASINO ROYALE (a remake of the 60’s

classic), with Daniel Craig (who says it’s time to move over and let a new 007 take over, which could be a woman.) I thought it was great, but don’t remember ever seeing it. I give it an 7 out of 10. While we are talking about movies, I bring bad news of another casualty of the pandemic (and an expert says this is just the tip of the iceberg), AMC Theaters. An analyst at MKM Partners says that bankruptcy appears likely for the Theater behemoth, pointing to its running expenses of $155 million per month and zero revenue. I didn’t know this before, but Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group actually owns a majority voting stake in AMC. In late March, AMC furloughed all of its 600 corporate employees, including the CEO. In other theater news, Cinemark’s credit rating has been downgraded amidst the cinema closures. Fitch Ratings does not see its theaters reopening until June “at the earliest”. On the brighter side, Disney stock is rallying, as Disney+ (I really want to see Mandalorians)now topped 50 million paid subscribers. However, on the flip side, Thursday, Disney Films announced furloughs for many employees that will begin 4/19. Movie mogul Tyler Perry, famous for his Madea franchise and TV sitcoms, footed the bill to pay for every elderly person’s purchase during the senior-hour of grocery shopping at 44 Kroger locations in Atlanta. Wow! He did the same for 29 stores in his hometown of New Orleans. Kroger praised him for his extraordinary kindness. Rapper Chynna Rogers died of an accidental drug overdose. British comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor has died of COVID-19. Broadway actor Nick Cordero is in “Very critical condition.” Michelle Money’s daughter is out of ICU. “SNL” will see the return of Larry David as Bernie Sanders. Rob Kardashian claims that Blac Chyna pulled a gun on him. Tom Hanks hosted SNL from home. The show paid a loving tribute to longtime sketch music maestro Hal Willner. Sandra Bullock donated 6,000 N95 masks to healthcare workers. Harvey Weinstein is reportedly free of COVID-19 symptoms. River Phoenix still gets crippling anxiety before taking on a new role, according to an interview. Cabello’s CINDERELLA movie reimagining has been pushed back to 2021. Bruce Willis shaved his daughter’s head during quarantine.

 

 

The “Kennedy Family Curse” has claimed 2 more victims, as on 4/2/20, Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter, Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, and her 8-year-old son Gideon went missing during a canoe trip in the Chesapeake Bay. McKean’s body was found on 4/6 and Gideon’s body was found on 4/8. The Kennedy Curse refers to a series of deaths, accidents and other calamities involving members of the American Kennedy family.  The alleged curse has primarily struck descendants of notorious Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., but it has also affected family friends, associates, and other relatives. Assassinations and plane crashes have been the most common manifestations of the curse. Here is a timeline, that all of us New Englanders know all too well:

 

  • 08/12/44-Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (older brother of John) died when the BQ-8 aircraft he was piloting accidentally exploded over East Suffolk, England.
  • 05/13/48-Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, formally known at Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington, died in a plane crash in France.
  • 08/09/63-Patrick Bovier Kennedy died of infant respiratory distress syndrome, 2 days after his premature birth and on the 20thanniversary of his father, President John F. Kennedy’s, rescue after the sinking of PT-109.
  • 11/22/63-President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was later shot by Jack Ruby two days later. In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone. In 1979, the US House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that it was the result of a conspiracy.
  • 06/05/68-on the night of his victory in the CA Democratic Presidential primary, US Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (younger brother of John), was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
  • 04/25/84-David A. Kennedy died of a drug overdose in a Palm Beach, FL hotel room.
  • 12/31/97-Michael LeMoyne Kennedy died in a headfirst skiing accident in Aspen, CO.
  • 07/16/99-John F. Kennedy, Jr. (son of John) died when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, MA. The crash also took his wife Carolyn and his sister-in-law.
  • 09/16/11-Kara Kennedy died of a heart attack while exercising in a Washington, D.C. health club.
  • 05/16/12-Mary Richardson Kennedy committed suicide on the grounds of her home in Bedford, NY.
  • 08/01/19-Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill died of an accidental drug overdose in Hyannis Port, MA.

Other incidents:

  • November 1941-Joseph Kennedy Sr., in an attempt to cure/treat his daughter, Rosemary, arranged for her to undergo a prefrontal lobotomy, which left her mentally and physically incapacitate for the rest of her life (66 years).
  • 10/03/55-Ethel Kennedy’s (wife of later Sen. Robert F. Kennedy) parents, Ann and George Skakel, died in a plane crash in Oklahoma.
  • 12/19/61-Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. suffered a massive stroke which left him paralyzed on his right side and with aphasia, which severely affected his ability to speak.
  • 06/19/64-US Sen. Ted Kennedy (youngest brother of Joseph Jr, Rosemary, John, and Robert) survived a plane crash that killed one of his aides and the pilot, in Southampton, MA. He was pulled from the wreckage by fellow passenger and Senator, Birch Bayh. He spent 5 months in the hospital recovering from a broken back, punctured lung, broken ribs, and internal bleeding. After the crash, Robert Kennedy remarked to his aide “Somebody up there doesn’t like us.”
  • 07/18/69-Ted Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, MA, resulting in the drowning death of 28-year-old passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Ted’s escape from the submerged car and swim to safety coupled with the passenger’s death has continued to stir up controversy. A week after the crash, Ted said that on the night of the incident he wondered “whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.”
  • 08/13/73-Joseph P. Kennedy II (grandson of Joseph Sr.) was the driver of a Jeep that crashed and left his passenger, Pam Kelley, paralyzed and brother David A. Kennedy injured.
  • 11/17/73-Edward M. Kennedy Jr. (son of Ted), at age 12, had his right leg amputated as a result of bone cancer.
  • 04/01/91-William Kennedy Smith was arrested and charged with the rape of a young woman at the Kennedy Compound in Palm Beach, FL. In the subsequent trial, followed by all the media and the public, Smith was acquitted.

 

 

 

Technology & Space News:

 

 

I was outside and took a picture of Tuesday night’s Pink Supermoon Full Moon to the East and posted it on Facebook. It was the brightest/largest full moon of 2020. I’ll put the picture in the Photo Gallery. Nonprofit Digital Production Partnership, whose members include Sony and Disney, working with tech firm Signiant, has begun a research project to study remote-working behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. AR mobile game “Pokeman GO” is getting a leaderboard. The maker of “Fortnite” mobile game has created a new spy-based mobile game, called “Spyjinx”. Relic Entertainment’s “Company of Heroes” is set to release on Android and then on iOS. Riot Games has expanded beyond its “League of Legends” franchise, with “Legends of Runeterra” launching 4/30. A rare astrological event is coming on three April nights, and it will be much more spectacular than expected because of the dramatic falloff in global pollution during the pandemic. Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon will line up and be clearly visible on 4/14, 4/15, and 4/16.  NASA’s $1 billion, amazing, spacecraft, Juno, completed its 11thhigh-speed trip around Jupiter and sent back more amazing pictures on 4/6. It gets relatively close to the gas giant planet and snaps photos with its JunoCam instrument roughly every 53 days, while traveling at speeds up to 130,000 mph (I have taken blurry photos that friends swear I must have been traveling that fast!). It can take days or weeks to receive the images, but they include amazing swirling, ‘hallucinatory’ clouds and storms. They are now available to the public on NASA’s and Southwest Research Institute’s websites, since late December. Since then, many people have processed the black-and-white files into beautiful, calendar-ready color pictures, like this these:

 

 

 

US News:

 

Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.

 

 

 

I have the updated details and application forms for the $350 billion SBA Paycheck Protection Program. However, they will be changing constantly. This program will provide small businesses with funds to pay payroll costs including benefits up to 8 weeks. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, for rent, and for utilities. Eligible small businesses are ones that have 500 or fewer employees, including nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors. In certain industries, businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible as well. The loans will be fully forgiven if at least 75% of the amount taken is used for Payroll. Otherwise, loan payments will be deferred for 6 months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge any fees. The important part of this is that forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining their salary levels. The government is very earnest about this. Forgiveness of the loan will be reduced if full-time headcount goes down, or if salaries and wages decrease.  Application period starts 4/3 for small businesses and sole proprietorships. The application period for independent contractors and self-employed individuals begins 4/10. There is a cap to all of this funding (I think that’s the $350 billion), so they encourage you to apply ASAP. You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally-insured depository institution, federally insurance credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that are participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are enrolled in the program.  More info and the application forms are at www.sba.gov. Banks and credit unions are in position to earn $billions in fees on the $350 billion in these loans offered by the SBA as part of the COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress and the President. The fees that they will collect from SBA will be on sliding scale based on the size of each loan. Now, the President wants to add another $250 billion to the SBA program, but is coming up against Democrat resistance in Congress. Early news on the first half of the PPP has not been particularly positive, as applications hit $90 billion on the first couple of days, through just 3 major banks (including Bank of America), without a single dollar of relief going out. Like the Department of Employment Services resources, the PPP overwhelmed banks and non-banks resources. Particularly hardest jammed by the influx was Bank of America. It’s also run afoul of lawsuits by prioritizing existing customers’ PPP applications over non-customer applications.

 

 

 

 

One positive that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic is that apparently it has crippled the New York Mafia, if there is even such an organization, per the NY Post. The US Army is trying to quickly procure ventilators, as the service sets up field hospitals and builds makeshift medical facilities around the country, and will pay for low-cost COVID-19 ventilator ideas. Well, since we are on the US military at the moment, the Captain (Capt. Brett Crozier) of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after sounding the alarm about the more than 100 sailors who had tested positive for COVID-19 and desire to save the thousands of other sailors on the vessel from becoming infected, was not only rejected by US Navy command, but was fired as Captain (relieved of his duty and removed from the ship). In a scathing criticism, acting Secretary of the Navy, said that the Captain did not follow the chain of command and should have realized the sensitive situation would be leaked to the press. He also said that Crozier was “too stupid or too naïve” to lead an aircraft carrier. Did you know that the trip then acting Navy Secretary Modly took last weekend to Guam to personally address the sailors and the Captain aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, cost $243,000??? The public outcry for the Captain, who was just trying to save some 5,000 of his sailors from dying, and against the US Navy, forced the acting Secretary, Thomas Modly, to resign on Tuesday. He had replaced the Secretary of the Navy, who was forced to resign in the Fall, after a scandal of his own making. Modly will likely be succeeded by Rear Admiral Kenneth Braithwaite, who was supposed to have been confirmed before Modley stepped in, but the Senate hasn’t held a confirmation hearing yet, with COVID-19 concerns. If you have been paying attention, you would know that there has been a leadership upheaval at the Pentagon over the last 9 months, with a new Defense Secretary, Deputy Defense Secretary, Air Force Secretary, and Army Secretary sworn in. And, we will have seen 3 different Navy Secretaries since the Fall of 2019.  A sailor on the ship who had been in quarantine with COVID-19 has been found unresponsive and moved to the ICU. The number of cases on the warship have reached 400. The Captain himself has also tested positive for COVID-19. In other US military news, 82ndAirborne paratroopers are still in the Mideast and have not returned to Fort Bragg, because the Joint Chiefs are trying to determine when to bring them home and when they are less likely to be contagious. Moving to the VA hospitals, there are currently over 3,500 cases and 174 patient deaths in the facilities across America. Seven VA health care workers have died from COVID-19. If you are curious, more than 29,400 Army and Air National Guard troops have now been mobilized in every state, three territories, and Washington D.C to combat COVID-19. More than 1,400 Air Force trainees just graduated from BMT, wearing face masks. The US Air Force is exploring re-engining the workhorse B-52 bombers.

 

 

 

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record (and twice as high as expected) 3,283,000 on 3/21. Then, on 3/28, the number skyrocketed again by 6,648,000, making it almost a 10 million increase in 2 weeks (way more than expected).  The over 6.6 million reading was also “the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” per the Department of Labor. Many officials and economists are now forecasting a total COVID-19 impact on new Unemployment Claims reaching 20-30 million people. In case you were wondering, before Thursday (4/9) Initial Claims data, the adjusted insured unemployment rate had jumped from 1.2% to 2.1%. The largest state increases (in order of magnitude from highest to lower) on 3/28 were in PA, OH, MA, TX, and CA. The lowest number of Initial Jobless Claims on 3/28 was in Wyoming. Then, on 4/9, the new Initial Claims figure was another 6,606,000, which was a decrease from the prior week, but takes the measure up to a total of over 16.5 million new people claiming unemployment over the last 3 weeks! That increased the Unemployment rate to 5.1%.

 

Most mega churches, like Christ Fellowship here, and Joel Osteen’s church in Houston, are doing virtual services over the Internet or on their TV stations. Other churches, in Palm Beach County, have actually gotten creative and are doing services in their parking lots, using a podium and a local radio station to broadcast to families in their cars in the parking lot. A Catholic church has brought back confessionals, but in the drive-up style, with a priest sitting in the parking lot and a line of cars driving up and the priest talking from a chair through the driver’s open window. That does remove the historical anonymity of the practice though. But, a few states, like Georgia and Florida, have just changed their rules and determined that churches are “essential” businesses and are allowed to remain open, with full services if they want. This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, one such church in Georgia held services for over 1200 parishioners. There are also several church leaders in states that have deemed churches “non-essential” and closed them, who are defying their Governors and staying open anyway. I think it is ludicrous, particularly in Georgia and Florida, that the churches are open and the beaches are closed. It doesn’t make sense, if we are practicing social distancing, that thousands of people should congregate and potentially infect each other, and then infect those outside the church. This is such a ‘hot-button’ issue in many states. The Kentucky Governor, on 4/10, said in-person churchgoers will have license plates recorded and then be “forced to quarantine for 14 days.” On 4/2, Texas Governor Greg Abbott revised his 3/19 executive order regarding shutting down churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now including “religious services” as “essential services”. Although I listed below what Florida considers “essential services”, there are now guidelines listed by the US Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, per CBS News.

 

 

President Trump attacked the WHO for its handling of COVID-19 and its criticisms of his policy.  He has threatened to withhold the WHO’s funding. President Trump also effectively ousted the brand new watchdog of the $2.2 trillion economic relief for the US. Wisconsin’s primary continued, despite the pandemic concerns. The Administration is releasing immigrant detainees who are at risk for COVID-19. Barron Trump celebrated his 14thbirthday on Tuesday, but was cyber-bullied by Trump haters.

 

 

The US Government has streamlined the information on what relief is available for those impacted by COVID-19 on a website, benefits.gov.

 

 

I saw a CNN story Friday morning that the US seems to be rethinking the use of facemasks. New guidelines suggest that we all should be wearing facemasks if we venture out in public, to the pharmacy, doctor’s office, or grocery store. Obviously, all healthcare providers and many first responders have been using facemasks all along. But, in looking at China’s response to the virus, in which most of its general population wore facemasks (many metropolitan citizens have become accustomed to wearing facemasks since pollution got so bad a few years ago), US officials are wondering if the American public would be safer and less likely to transmit the virus (or touch their faces) if they too wore facemasks. The Administration is reportedly considering something called The Heroes Act, which would pay each person that has worked during the pandemic in the healthcare industry (although it probably doesn’t apply to tele-doctors who chose not to see patients in-office), and may include first responders, and the other heroes who have made our lives safer and more bearable, while also healing us during this pandemic. I believe the Act would pay $25,000 to each person, sort of like hazardous duty pay that the military receives during deployment. Dr. Fauci has backed off his shocking forecast of 100,000-240,000 deaths from COVID-19 of a couple of weeks ago, and now is saying deaths could be about 60,000 instead, as social distancing “is working”. Sounds like a ‘backpedal’ to me. On Saturday, Dr. Fauci said that the US can open up businesses and return to a degree of normality (see, there is that ‘gaslighting’) by November. Wow, that’s much later than the public is prepared for and much later than what President Trump is hoping. Once again, they don’t seem to be on the same page.  In fact, late Sunday (4/12), President Trump said that he really intends to reopen businesses on 5/1.  The White House is considering setting up a task force on reopening the economy.  Texas Gov. Abbott, said Friday that he is going to have an Executive Order this week to open up businesses promptly in the first week of May. Virginian Governor Ralph Northam has ordered his residents to stay home until 6/10. Michigan Governor just extender her stay-at-home order until 4/30. Georgia Governor has just opened the beaches, but not the churches. The Governor of California has extended social distancing into June.

 

This is not a political rant about either party, it’s just a topic that seems to keep coming up from the media to President Trump in his daily COVID-19 updates, so I wanted to bring it up here. Why aren’t the President and Vice President absolutely practicing social-distancing? They are currently the No.1 and No.2 ranking leaders of one of the most powerful nations in the world. If we were under nuclear attack, they would be in separate bunkers, thousands of miles away from each other, like the Coca-Cola formula holders not flying on the same airplane. We can’t afford to lose both of them to COVID-19 or either one infecting the other. Even from a political standpoint, since they are both Republican, why would they take any chance to have a Democrat take their office, should they both die from COVID-19? The Speaker of the House is No.2 in succession for the Presidency (behind the Vice President) and is their Democratic nemesis, Nancy Pelosi. In case you were wondering, No.3 in succession would be the President pro tempore of the Senate, currently Sen. Chuck Grassley. I don’t remember if I reported this on 4/1, but a Democratic lawmaker said she was going to refer to the Hague’s International Court to try President Trump for alleged “crimes against humanity”. She wasn’t clear on what crimes the President had committed and didn’t seem to know that the International Criminal Court is only for the 123 member states, and the US is not a member state. “Crimes Against Humanity” has a specific ICC list of crimes that fall under this charge: murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, and “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.”

 

I saw a podcast on iHeartRadio that spoke of Democrat Governor of Nevada, who had banned the use of Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 in his state, right after President Trump mentioned it on one of his daily press briefings on the pandemic. It now sounds suspiciously like the reason was political, because the podcast reports that while he banned it for the citizens of Nevada, he stockpiled the drug for use on sick prisoners. During this time of unusual non-wartime US nationalism, encouraged by President Trump, who keeps reminding the public in his daily updates (improvs as SNL referred to them last night) that we are now independent and self-supporting as a country, there have been many reports of American businesses that are shutting down their China operations and bringing those operations back to the US for American employment. Forbes reported on 4/7 that China-led globalization is “going out of style”. A global manufacturing consulting firm, Kearney, released it annual Reshoring Index and it showed a “dramtic reversal” of a 5-year trend. Now, not all of that manufacturing is coming back to America, some is going to Vietnam and Mexico. I just saw one though about Starbucks, who have been most generous with free coffee to all first responders during the crisis. On 3/12, Starbucks announced it will invest approximately $130 million in China to open a state-of the-art roasting facility in 2022, as part of its new Coffee Innovation Park. It will be the company’s largest manufacturing investment outside of the US and its first in Asia.

 

 

In few headlines not about COVID-19, Democratic Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, has quit the 2020 Presidential race, paving the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to be nominated by the Democratic party to oppose Republican President Trump in November. After watching ads with President Barack Obama supporting both his former Vice President and Sanders, he (and his wife, Michelle) is expected to get behind Biden for President. The last Plains Indian war chief, Joseph Medicine Crow, has died at age 102. He was an acclaimed Native American historian and last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe. CNN reports awful trend of some people luring Instacart shoppers with big tips on their app, $50 or more, and then changing them to $0, once they receive their groceries. That is just mean.

 

COVID-19 Myths (NEW):

 

 

I actually came up with the idea for this NEW section on Wednesday and began writing about it on Facebook to gather more theories than the dozen or so videos and memes that I had been sent in the past week or so. Many of my friends shared more myths and conspiracies with me there, and I wanted to write it all here. Since I began writing this on Repo Commentary edition on Thursday, I discovered that Rolling Stone magazine had published an article debunking the 12 most popular COVID-19 myths in their 3/18 edition, with “Coronavirus Is Spreading—And So Are the Hoaxes and Conspiracy Theories Around It”, which gave me some great background info on some of the ones I was writing about.  And, through that article, I discovered that the WHO had also put on their website a section dealing with some of the conspiracy theories. So, I guess I’m in good company with my line of thinking, and hopefully you will benefit and/or be amused.

 

 

In the last Repo Commentary, I seemed to have a theme of ‘debunking conspiracy theories’ and since then, I’ve been collecting them to bring the popular ones to light to, not only debunk them ‘en masse’, but also to make sure, in the very unlikely event that one of them is partially true, at least I’ve reported it.  With people having way more time at home and on their social media, videos and conspiracy theories are viral.  I get at least 5 videos per day sent to me about one conspiracy or another, and I’m trying to keep a list of the circulating rumors, hoaxes and misinformation about the virus, especially the rabid conspiracy theorizing and racist paranoia, exacerbated by the general public anxiety and the fact that the virus seems to have originated in China (where the US has strained relations). The social media and mainstream media perpetuation of these myths and theories to panic the public has forced the WHO to set up its own online page to debunk COVID-19 hoaxes.  Well, here are the ones I’ve heard so far and some background (I am only reporting them, in no particular order, and with no personal belief):

 

  • The Democrats released the COVID-19 virus, somehow, to make up for failing to Impeach the President in this election year, exacerbated by the fact that the two events seemed to be so close on the calendar. Although it seems highly unlikely that a political party would evilly risk the lives of millions of Americans and the country’s economic foundation, just to shove out a President and gain political power, this is a conspiracy theory that just won’t quit, touted mostly by conservatives Somehow, George Soros, an anti-Trumper, became wrapped up in this theory’s story, for his alleged part in getting the virus to China (hence his meetings there) and to callously bring down the financial markets, sacrifice many people, and ruin jobs and industry, just to unseat the President in the 2020 Presidential election. A brand new version of this is that the Democrats unleashed the virus to cover up and detour the investigation of Hunter Biden.
  • The Republicans released COVID-19. The government introduced the virus in 2018 and Bill Gates was somehow responsible. Jordan Sather followed up by linking the Pirbright Foundation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based on a 2019 release announcing that the foundation would help fund an unrelated project to study livestock disease and immunology. There were similarities to Zika virus conspiracies. Somehow, the Cabal and government were supposed to make money off the potential vaccine. This quickly gained traction with the 2008 anti-Wall Street movement, QAnon, and anti-vaccine Facebook groups. They pointed to an alleged Coronavirus ‘patent’ to prove that it was planned ahead of time. As I wrote in the Repo Commentary recently, and focused on the generic name of “coronavirus”, not COVID-19 in the patent, Firbright said to BuzzFeed News that the 2015 patent was to facilitate the development of a vaccine for a specific type of bird flu coronavirus found in chickens (remember that several viruses are in the generic family of ‘coronavirus’). Also, Firbright made it clear that the Gates foundation did not fund the 2015 patent. The conspiracy still did not die, based on a 2018 presentation that Gates gave, in which he simulated that a flu similar to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic could kill 50 million people within 6 months and that the global public health system was ill-equipped to handle such an event. He was merely pointing out that “The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war.”
  • China’s government released COVID-19 on its own people, to test the spread and to infect the rest of the Western World in a type of biowarfare. Conspiracy types pointed to the possibility that China knew about COVID-19 as early as October 2019, not January 2020, when the rest of the world found out about it, that the epicenter was concentrated in an area allegedly near a top laboratory (biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases) where it could have been engineered, and that spread of the infection was to the West coast of the US (California, Washington), Italy (who had just signed a $2.5 billion pact with China and had sold many of its factories to China who then employed Chinese workers, and US large cities (because of their busy airports). Some theorists also tied in the new trade deal between the US and China, and alleged that China was dissatisfied with the results and wanted to bring down the US economy, in a literal bio-trade war, which China would profit most from as the supplier of many goods to the Western world. This myth was endorsed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) on Fox News in March. Scientists have debunked this theory, saying that there is “absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered.” The Washington Post even came out debunking the “deliberately released bioweapon” theory. But, yet, the US government officials continue to use the theory to sow doubt in Americans’ minds. Gates has even been brought into this theory, as some people have ridiculously alleged that his visits to China as a funding mission for that particular Wuhan lab. Twitter has even had to add a link to the CDC at the top of search results on this subject.
  • The US military released COVID-19 on the Chinese in a type of biowarfare. This is the reverse argument of the one above, but using similar alleged reasons.
  • Russia released COVID-19 on China and US as a type of biowarfare. I guess this would be anti-collusion and in contradiction to Russia’s delivery of masks and medical supplies to the US on Thursday.
  • There is a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 that the US government won’t release yet. This wild theory actually began on 1/22 with a screengrab of an alleged patent filed by the CDC for what is supposed to be a COVID-19 vaccine. This suggests that the US government introduced the virus, so that big Pharma could profit from the treatment of it and the vaccine for it. The money made from this, in addition to bailout funding for pharmaceutical companies and additional funding for the CDC, would be the driving force. This one, besides being inconceivably evil, is also illogical, since the virus is a ‘novel one’, never seen before, so how could there be a vaccine? Back to the screengrab, it actually applies to severe respiratory syndrome (SARS, another type of coronavirus from 2002-2003), not COVID-19. I addressed this subject a couple of weeks ago, but it keeps getting virally circulated on social media, so I wanted to address it again here in this new section. A viral video on social media shows a guy who looks like a doctor, although in black scrubs, who is purportedly showing that “Coronavirus” received a US Patent in 2006 for one of the big Pharmas (of course, feeding into the public’s bias against Big Pharma and the conspiracy theory that Big Pharma must be involved and making a huge profit on the pandemic or in cahoots with some government in research on humans of a new weapon in Biowarfare, as if we are simply lab rats) and then, purportedly, showing a European Patent for a “Coronavirus cure” in 2019 (implying that someone or some group has been withholding the cure and letting tens of thousands of people die). No one has been able to verify this information and I have seen some doctors’ interviews where they debunked the entire theory. I personally think that the whole thing is a deliberately intertwined puzzle of non-related facts, and whatever was allegedly patented has been confused with the current Coronavirus, COVID-19. As the alleged doctor in the video says, there is a patent for Coronavirus from 2006. He does not say that there is a patent for COVID-19, which is the particular virus from the ‘family’ of Coronaviruses. You recall that when I first reported on COVID-19 weeks ago, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. Rarely, do animal coronaviruses infect people and then spread between people (referred to as zoonotic), but those diseases have gained the most media attention and panic over the last couple of decades, including: MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, Swine Flu, H1N1 Bird Flu, and this SARS-CoV-2. The MERS and SARS viruses have their origins in bats, although the transfer of MERS was from dromedary camels and the original SARS via civet cats. It is possible that the Coronavirus that he found in his Internet search, that he believes is patented, was one of the other Coronaviruses, which were around at that time in 2006. It is more likely that his information is false because why would someone use a generic name like Coronavirus for a Patent and not the specific virus name, COVID-19? That would be like getting a patent on a generic 4-wheel driving machine, but not the specific Cadillac. It’s unlikely, if you were trying to protect a formula, that the US Patent Office would grant you a patent for a general subject and not the specific formula. Because of this potential confusion to other Coronaviruses that have come before (a new strain of Bird Flu has just broken out again in China, in fact), I have removed all the instances that I am using the word “Coronavirus” in the Repo Commentary (except here) and swapping in the word “COVID-19”. Let the rest of the media inaccurately use the word “Coronavirus” to continue to incite panic and also confuse people, I will not add to that.  Plus, I want to help that small percentage of rednecks that still think this virus has something to do with Corona beer and are boycotting the brewery.

 

  • There is another video making its way virally through social media, accusing the CDC of knowing about COVID-19 as early as mid-November, when it posted job postings on its website to hire quarantine specialists, well ahead of February, which is when the media has reported the CDC knew. There may a small grain of truth to the fact that COVID-19 may have been around during our Flu season, as I mentioned above in the Health Section, but we had no ability to test for it then, and it is unlikely that the CDC deliberately withheld information. The video goes on to say that the CDC was in cahoots with Big Pharma to get them bailout money and the CDC funding, positioning both to save the country from the pandemic.
  • COVID-19 originated with Chinese people eating bats from a live market. Because coronaviruses have originated among mammals and crossed over to humans and because the working theory is that COVID-19 originated in a live animal market in Wuhan, China, the public has jumped to the conclusion that some people’s preference for eating bats has put us all at risk. This fear has been bolstered by viral videos showing people eating bat soup. The theory has fueled tabloids and animal rights groups as well. It turns out that the odd habit is not that commonplace among China’s 1.3 billion human population. In fact, the habit of eating exotic animals diminished even further after the SARS outbreak. SARS turned out to be transmitted by civet cats and now authorities suggest that COVID-19 was actually transmitted by snakes or pangolins, not bats. Wherever COVID-19 came from, it’s not fair (and actually offensive) to say that the virus is a product of an entire country’s eating habits.
  • Dean Koontz (one of my favorite authors!) predicted the COVID-19 virus in one of his books in 1981. Some conspiracy theorists revel in digging deep like detectives to find sources of a premonition, similar to the alleged findings in the BIBLE CODE, and the prediction of the unlikely Chicago Cubs’ first World Series win since 1907 in the movie BACK TO THE FUTURE II. So, last month, someone did a screegrab of a passage in Koontz’s 1981 novel “The Eyes of Darkness” in which he appears to allude to the creation of a deadly virus known as Wuhan-400, named after the city in which it originated. Interestingly, Wuhan, did not appear in the first edition of the book. Also, Wuhan-400 and allegedly killed 100% of those who contracted it, created a toxin that ate away brain tissue. There are no real similarities, except the reference to Wuhan. 
  • The Simpsons predicted the coronavirus. There are screengrabs allegedly showing “Marge in Chains” about an outbreak in 1993 and supposedly a newscaster delivery a report about a “corona virus”. However, that episode actually was focused on “Osaka flu”, which would be Japanese origin, not Chinese origin. And the screengrab is actually “Apocalypse Now” and morbid Photoshopping.
  • Hand-dryers are effective at killing COVID-19. This hoax started, ironically, in Chinese social media, saying that using a hand dryer for 30 seconds was a way to ward of COVID-19. The WHO came out and said putting your hands under heat does nothing.
  • COVID-19 will go away by Summer. Even the President and other important figures have touted this. Part of the reason is that other coronaviruses and influenza have, in the past, have gone away by Summer. Also, it has been shown that the virus does not survive well in warmer temperatures or water. However, there has yet to be any scientific proof that warmer climates and more sun will kill the virus. Some of the top health officials have said recently on the other side of this myth that COVID-19 may not go away and may become an annual seasonal virus. Also, it is hard to justify COVID-19 going away in warmer weather, when Florida has been hard hit by COVID-19 infection and deaths, despite having the one of the driest and warmest Marchs on record.
  • The country is calling out the National Guard to enforce a nationwide quarantine effective in the next 48 hours, which will include micro-chipping all civilians. This conspiracy theory, which I previously reported on, began on 3/16, and was attributed to the President invoking the Stafford Act. The Stafford Act is real and is a disaster relief law passed in 1988, and has been used several times, first probably by President Clinton in 2000 to fight the West Nile virus. It allows the President to direct FEMA’s resources into states and cities for disaster relief, like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It does not give the President the power to declare a nationwide lockdown. Unfortunately, the state of emergency declared by many state Governors has involved the mobilization of their National Guard for various functions and has seen the movement of military vehicles in response to the disaster that have been misinterpreted, deliberately or not, to imply that there is a government takeover or lockdown of the public. Even though the National Security Council officially debunked this rumor on Twitter, it just won’t die.
  • A “miracle” bleach product can cure COVID-19. QAnon infected social media with this insidious and dangerous conspiracy theory, telling people to drink Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), which is a bleach-based product that anti-vaccine folks have been touting for years, as an effective way to ward of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the ingestion of the product, which contains toxic chemicals, can result in vomiting, intestinal problems, and acute liver failure in large amounts. YouTube has banned the videos promoting use of MMS, but they can still be found across social media.
  • COVID-19 is no worse than the common cold or common influenza, per Rush Limbaugh on 2/24. He even showed the statistics of how many more people catch and die from those two illnesses than from COVID-19. Of course, that was before we had done a lot of testing globally and before the spread of the virus had begun to accelerate. He claimed that it was a conspiracy of Trump-haters just trying to use as a media weapon to bring down Trump. Well, COVID-19 is much worse than the flu or the common cold, in its symptoms and its mortality rate of about 2%.
  • I didn’t realize this one was a ‘myth’ and I had to remove it from the Health News Section as a possible sign of COVID-19: If you can’t hold your breath for 10 seconds without coughing, then you have COVID-19. This self-check COVID-19 “test” was circulated on social media in early March. It included another ‘myth’ that you should drink water every 15 minutes to flush COVID-19 donw your throat into your stomach where it would be killed by your ample stomach acid. I actually saw both of these ‘myths’ broadcast locally on NBC News and in a segment from Dr. Oz. These myths are insidious because they are extrapolations of actually true statements. Yes, COVID-19 seems to move towards fibrosis of the lungs and/or pneumonia, in some severe cases, which could then require treatment with a ventilator. So, it would likely be hard to hold your breath, if you were suffering such acute symptoms. However, it is not a sign that you HAVE COVID-19 if you can’t hold your breath without coughing. It is also true that if you had COVID-19 virus in your mouth, that rinsing it out with water and swallowing would send the virus into your stomach, where it would be killed by your stomach acid. But, there is no proof that if you wash your mouth out with water every 15 minutes, you will reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Here is another one that I didn’t know was a “myth” and I had to take out of my Health News Section: Regularly taking Vitamin C will help you ward off COVID-19. One viral social media post even describes a “quarantine” made up of Emergen-C packet mixed with gin. This is all based on the belief that vitamin C can combat the common cold and that it boosts your immune system. While these are beliefs that have then been extrapolated to COVID-19, there is actually no scientific evidence that taking vitamin C treats or prevents cold and flu. It doesn’t do any harm and it may help immune systems, although there is no proof. Dr. Oz did say it can’t hurt and pointed to some vague evidence of this and doctors’ belief. He also said the same thing about Zinc at the onset of flu or cold. I am taking Emergen-C and Zicam (because they ran out of Cold-EEze), since it won’t harm me.  By the way, Emergen-C immediately disavowed the Quarantini post.
  • Frequencies of vibration allegedly had become too low in a geopathic sense. Okay, I do not totally understand this one, but I’ll give it a go (with some help from an unusual friend). We became too entrenched in low geopathic places, such as subways, electric vehicles, malls, office buildings, bars and restaurants, prisons, and ironically hospitals. The Schumann Resonance Index reading in those places is usually below 20. Also, feelings, stimulus, and emotions apparently also Lower your vibrations. SARS-CoV2, according to “Scientists in Europe”, like any virus, thrives in a LOW vibration, “closed electromagnetic circuit structure” with a resonance in the range of 5.5-14.5 Hertz, and it cannot survive in environments which carry a reading of 25.6 Hertz or higher. So, you must avoid things that bring down your vibes, literally, such as worry, stress, fatigue, emotional breakdowns, etc. Okay, I sort of understood that, I guess, whether I believe in it or not. But, this part is a little too Twilight Zone for me: apparently those Schumann readings for planet Earth have been rising steadily for decades, as our Solar System moves along our orbit around Sagittarius B, the Supermassive Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, our 230 million year cycle, along with the Procession of the Equinox and our other orbits, as per the new 25,800 super cycle that measures our movement around Alcyone in conjunction with the Seven Sister Solar Systems, and more specifically the new 2,150-year cycle, our shift out of the low frequency Pisces constellation, and into the high-vibe Aquarius constellation (from which the name “Age of Aquarius” is derived) and our push deeper into the highly charged Photon Belt. So, with the readings now spiking to increasing new record highs, measured at its peaks as high as 110 Hertz, up from the (then) record highs set in 2017 at 40 Hertz, putting it all together, you are safest when OUTDOORS, which would ostensibly kill the virus. I think I’m going to go check my chakra, if I can find it.

 

  • Nancy Pelosi is holding back. I had to hunt for this conspiracy theory. It is in reference to her leadership role in Congress and accusations that she is “holding back” COVID-19 funding (the initial $8.3 billion which became law on 3/6/20), so that Democrats could run negative ads about 7 “vulnerable” Republicans that made the latter look bad. Snopes.com, my favorite fact checker, says this is FALSE. Pelosi simply had no bill yet, since it was in negotiations between both parties, to present to the House floor and she doesn’t chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or run its ad campaigns.
  • 5G Network is causing symptoms of radiation sickness, which are identical to the symptoms of COVID-19 and the cure is an oil that the utilities are withholding, except for their own employees who get sick running fiber optic lines.
  • Schiff, after failing with the Impeachment, the Ukrainian meddling, and Russian meddling, is now calling on a commission similar to 9/11 Commission to see if the Administration did anything wrong in the response to the pandemic. He is being ridiculed as trying to pull another media relations stunt.
  • Of course, COVID-19 is now traced back to the ultimate, longest-standing conspiracy theory, the Illuminati. As told in the wildly popular 3 novels (and Tom Hanks’ movies) by Dan Brown, the Illuminati have been around before and included the Knights of the Templar, and have been a pseudo-religious and powerful secret faction of the world’s most intelligent, influential, wealthy, connected people, who have allegedly been behind much of the greatest achievements and turning points in human history. There are offshoot conspiracy theories to the Illuminati including the Priory of Sion and the Holy Grail. Obviously, I’ve looked into the Illuminati quite a bit, when the Dan Brown books came out, fascinated by the stories, but there has been little proof behind them, and I really don’t see the connection to COVID-19, except that it is one of the world’s most popular myths (even more so than the Loch Ness Monster or ancient astronauts (Chariots of the Gods), both of which I did papers on in college.

 

 

 

International News:

 

On 4/8, US NORAD F-22s, CF-18s, supported by a KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft intercepted 2 Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. NORAD confirmed the interception on Twitter. The interception occurred over the Bering Sea, before they could reach the Aleutian Islands which stretch off the Alaskan mainland. Russian planes were also interecepted in March. The President of Thailand reportedly has self-quarantined because of COVID-19. He took a slightly different route though, and quarantined with 20 women. UK PM Boris Johnson is in intensive care, one day after being hospitalized. On Thursday, he was much better and removed from ICU.  There were concerns about his health and questions about his succession, if, God forbid it is necessary.  Queen Elizabeth made only her 5thunscheduled television appeal to her people in her 60+year reign, giving the country a much needed lift. You may have seen on the news the more than 10 million residents of Wuhan, China light up all their building in bright colors to celebrate the “defeat” of COVID-19 there. What you probably didn’t see though was that thousands of people left Wuhan for parts unknown, after the lockdown was lifted, as the NY Post reported. This is disturbing because, as NBC News reported on Friday night (yeah I watch the news and write down the interesting stories that I want to share with you, so you miss nothing important), Europe and some Asian countries (like Singapore and Hong Kong) are concerned about a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19. If the people who were at the epicenter of the pandemic are now walking around without any masks or protection and, worse, travelling to other countries, it could be bad for the rest of us. Well, with our closed borders, they won’t be allowed to travel to the US, but they might be able to enter other countries, which may be bad for those countries, except maybe Sweden. See below…

 

 

I read a thought-provoking article in the National Review, “Has Sweden Found the Right Solution to the Coronavirus,” written by a man who has collaborated with the Swedish Institute for Health Economics for nearly 40 years. I don’t normally read the National Review, but somebody sent me this article and I found it really interesting. Sweden, unlike the other 165 countries touched by the pandemic, has chosen so far to avoid isolation and economic ruin, during the pandemic. They may wind up proving the other countries wrong in their social-distancing controls, Draconian measures, removal of all citizens’ rights, and demolition of those nations’ and the global economies. Many of those countries have tried to discredit Sweden’s approach, including President Trump recently, saying that it is a ‘mass experiment’, when actually what other countries, like the US, are doing is a real ‘mass experiment’, having “taken political, illiberal, and unconsidered actions” that are not justified by the facts.  No one knows if social distancing actually works, and do they work for COVID-19, in particular? And when to those social-isolation controls need to be implemented, at the outset, or a month or two later? It is the first time that we have actually quarantined HEALTHY people, rather than quarantining the sick and vulnerable (like with leprosy, tuberculosis, plague, etc.) And we have done it without proof or actual evidence to 1.5 billion people, yet we need ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ to convict a person and throw them in jail. Plus, the burdensome lockdown our governments have imposed has no end in sight and nothing to prevent being re-imposed at the whim of health or or political officials. Sweden is taking calibrated precautions and isolating only the most vulnerable of its population, the elderly and the immune system compromised, rather than imposing a full lockdown. Gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited and high schools and colleges are closed. But, Sweden is keeping its borders open, as well as bars, restaurants, parks, stores, preschools, and grade schools. They are focused on ‘flattening the curve’ in the fastest and safest way, they say, by allowing young people to mix normally, build up herd immunity, which will eventually protect the frail and sick, who currently are being isolated. Unlike a lockdown, you don’t “tire the system out”, you can practice their method for a long time. You can’t keep a lockdown going for months though. Also, unemployed people can be a greater threat to the public health. By the numbers, so far, Sweden’s population of 10.1 million people, using these far less austere measures, has had 401 COVID-19 deaths (40 deaths/million population), most of Sweden’s ICU cases today are elderly, and 77% have underlying conditions. Plus, the admissions to ICU in the country are flat or declining, and there hasn’t been a single pediatric ICU case or death in Sweden. The young people have spread the virus, mostly asymptomatically, as happens in a normal flu season, and causes them to generate protective antibodies and develop a herd immunity to the virus, which then protects the frail and sick. In fact, the current COVID-19 death rate is Sweden (40/1 million), is half the Swedish death rate during a normal flu season. Contrast this to Switzerland, who has implemented strict social isolation and has 8.5 million people (similar to Sweden), but has had 715 deaths from COVID-19, for a death rate of nearly double the number in Sweden. Norway, with a population of 5.4 million and a 1,000-mile open border with Sweden, has substantially higher rate of COVID-19 ICU admissions than Sweden, despite much harsher measures. And, here is the big difference in Sweden versus the US: the Swedish government estimates that the virus will cause a 4% decrease in the Swedish economy (mostly due to global economic shutdowns impacting its trade), while the Federal Reserve recently forecast that the US Unemployment Rate could go to 32%. I don’t know what to think, but the idea that humans have been coping with new viruses for many generations is thought-provoking. Since I started writing this, a study is now being conducted with 3,500 people in San Francisco to determine whether they have antibodies for COVID-19, which would indicate both the timing of when COVID-19 actually appeared in the US (some scientists are thinking that it could have been misdiagnosed as Flu during the influenza season in Q4 2019) and how herd immunity has been progressing since. A Belfast pub is delivering perfect pints of freshly-poured Guinness door-to-door during lockdown, according to the Irish Post. The High Court of Australia has overturned the conviction of Cardinal George Pell for child sex abuse and has ordered his acquittal.

 

 

Florida:

 

Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.

 

 

Florida has just surpassed 16,826 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, continues to try to protect Florida from the influx of visitors from states that are more impacted by COVID-19. The Governor ordered everyone to ‘shelter in place’ except for going to the below-mentioned ‘essential businesses’, which is pretty much the same thing he said last Wednesday. The Governor is considering reopening some schools. Florida is no different than other states or the counties in those states in the disparity of their rules and efforts against COVID-19. Although Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County all closed private and public golf courses a couple of weeks ago, Martin County reaffirmed on Thursday that it would leave both public and private golf courses open, but limit play on public courses to Martin County residents. All 4 counties’ beaches are closed. But, Martin County has kept its parks and public boat ramps open. Also, Newsweek reported on 4/7 that Marco Island voted to reopen beach access, then reversed its decision. Palm Beach County has banned boats from using County waterways for recreational boating. Speaking of boats, the Palm Beach International Boat Show, that was scheduled to run from 5/14-5/17 in West Palm Beach, has now been postponed indefinitely. With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the worst in Palm Beach County with cases of 1,159, a field hospital is now being planned at the South Florida Fairgrounds (adjacent to the outdoor concert venue). The Fairgrounds are typically where local high school graduations are held, but Palm Beach County has now cancelled live graduation ceremonies. The seniors already lost their proms and now their graduations. A 3-year-old Palm Beach Gardens child shot himself in the hand Thursday with a pistol and his father has been arrested. Publix stores throughout Florida, unbeknownst to me, are more than anchor stores, but typically also the landlords for the other stores in their respective strip malls. Publix announced last week that those stores would not have to pay rent during the crisis. That’s amazing! Although, grocery stores must be doing extremely well during the crisis. Some cities in Florida, such as Boca Raton, have issued emergency orders recommending people wear face masks when out in public, and are using drones to police parks and beaches. On Friday, Fort Lauderdale ordered all of its residents to wear facemasks when in grocery stores and other businesses. I have one friend who was arrested for jogging in her development by Stuart Police, for defying quarantine (she was assumed to have COVID-19, but actually tested negative after the arrest) and disorderly conduct (she’s very vocal and constantly tangling with city, county, and state authorities on civil rights issues.  So, I think they made an example of her. And, a new problem here in Florida is that fake cops are now stopping drivers for violating COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Not to mention, the various fake testing sites that are scamming people for up to $200 per test.

 

Palm Beach County authorities closed down all “non-essential” businesses two weeks ago, urging people to stay at home. It probably would have been easier and shorter to just list the “non-essential” (also known as ‘fun’) businesses that they were closing (realtors, bars, churches, retail stores, clothing stores, golf courses, gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, beaches, parks, amusement parks, and strip clubs.) They specifically designated “essential” businesses (allowed to be Open) as the following:

 

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Dentists’ offices
  • Urgent care centers
  • Clinics
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Physical therapists
  • Mental health professionals
  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Research and laboratory services
  • Blood banks
  • Medical cannabis facilities
  • Medical equipment facilities
  • Healthcare manufacturers and suppliers
  • Reproductive healthcare service providers
  • Substance abuse providers
  • Medical transport services
  • Pharmacies
  • Grocery stores
  • Farmers markets
  • Farm and produce stands
  • Supermarkets
  • Food banks
  • Convenience stores
  • Liquor stores*
  • Businesses engaged in food cultivation (farming, livestock, fishing, etc.)
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and necessities of life for needy individuals
  • Newspapers
  • Television stations
  • Radio stations
  • Media services
  • Gas stations
  • Automobile dealerships
  • Auto-supply stores
  • Auto-repair facilities
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Insurance firms
  • Pawn shops
  • Hardware stores
  • Gardening stores
  • Building material stores
  • Contractors and other trades
  • Building management
  • Maintenance
  • Home Security Firms
  • Fire and Water Damage Restoration
  • Public adjusters
  • Appliance repair personnel
  • Exterminators
  • Mailing businesses
  • Shipping services
  • Private colleges to provide distance learning
  • Trade schools to provide distance learning
  • Technical colleges to provide distance learning
  • University, College or Technical College residence halls for students who cannot return to their homes
  • Laundromats
  • Dry cleaners
  • Laundry service providers
  • Restaurants for take-out only*
  • Schools and other entities to provide free food pickup
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Nursing Homes
  • Adult day care centers
  • Businesses providing professional legal or accounting services
  • Landscape companies
  • Pool care businesses
  • Childcare facilities
  • Airports
  • Seaports
  • Logistics providers
  • Warehouses
  • Trucking consolidators
  • Fumigators
  • Handlers
  • Telecommunication providers
  • Propane and natural gas services
  • Open construction sites
  • Architectural firms
  • Engineering firms
  • Land surveying firms
  • Factories
  • Warehouses
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Bottling plants
  • Industrial distribution
  • Supply chain facilities
  • Waste management services
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Commercial lodging establishments
  • Temporary vacation rentals
  • Veterinarians
  • Pet boarding facilities
  • Mortuaries
  • Funeral homes
  • Crematories
  • Cemeteries
  • Funeral product suppliers
  • Firearm and ammunition supply stores
  • Any businesses providing services to government
  • Electrical production and distribution services
  • Moving, storage, and relocation services
  • Personal grooming services: hair salons and nail salons?
  • Religious services
  • Natural gas, water, electric utilities and cable service providers

 

 

 

I am usually singing a National Anthem, singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, and/or doing an Elvis Presley gig, each week here in Palm Beach County, FL. I had many gigs in November and December, quieted down in January, but had picked up again with private gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games.  However, that all came to a halt when MLB CANCELLED Spring Training and Florida authorities limited gatherings to less than 50, particularly for events and restaurants, then closed the restaurants, except for Delivery and Takeout. We are actually in constant touch with party planners, hotels, and restaurant owners, who are planning to hire us as soon as they reopen, some guessing that that will be in June or July.  If you were inclined to see much more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there were many acts which came to Florida in 2019, and these were scheduled for for 2020 (below), although that all changed with COVID-19.  A public service announcement about the outdoor amphitheater in West Palm Beach (currently adjacent to the South Florida Fair), it has been very confusing with all the name changes, and it has happened again.  It was originally called the Coral Sky Amphitheater, then was changed to the Cruzan Rum Amphitheater, then to Perfekt Vodka Amphitheater, then back to Coral Sky Amphitheater, and was changed again to iThink Financial Services Amphitheater. None of the names have been particularly catchy and all those changes occurred only in the last 11 years! Because of the pandemic, some events, such as fairs and boat shows in Florida have been cancelled or postponed.  So, please check ahead of time to see if the concert you are going to is still being held.

 

SOUTH FLORIDA 2020 SCHEDULE (next 2 months):

 

Celine Dion-Miami, January 17

Queensryche-Fort Lauderdale, January 17

Brian Wilson-Miami, January 17

Mary Wilson-Bonita Springs, January 19

Starship-West Palm Beach, January 22

Steve Martin & Martin Short-Hollywood, January 25

Guns N Roses-Miami, January 31

Jason Aldean,Riley Green,Morgan Wallen-Orlando, January 31

Maroon 5-Miami, February 1

Zac Brown Band-Sunrise, February 1

Styx-Port St. Lucie, February 1

Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 11

Kool and the Gang & Village People-Key West, February 21

John Fogarty-Fort Lauderdale, February 22

Paul Anka-West Palm Beach, March 13

Harry Connick Jr.-Fort Lauderdale, March 18

Cher-Miami, March 24

America-Fort Lauderdale, March 24

YES and Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, March 25

Little River Band-Fort Lauderdale, March 26

The Who-Fort Lauderdale, April 21

Elton John-Miami, May 30

Def Leppard and Motley Crue, Miami Gardens, July 7

Nickelback-West Palm Beach, August 15

Foreigner, Kansas, and Europe-West Palm Beach, September 6

 

Jokes:

 

Self-Isolation Quarantine Diary:

 

Day 1 – I Can Do This!!  Got enough food and wine to last a month!

 

Day 2 – Opening my 8th bottle of Wine.  I fear wine supplies might not last!

 

Day 3 – Strawberries:  Some have 210 seeds, some have 235 seeds.  Who Knew??

 

Day 4 – 8:00pm.  Removed my Day Pajamas and put on my Night Pajamas.

 

Day 5 – Today, I tried to make Hand Sanitizer.  It came out as Jello Shots!!

 

Day 6 – I get to take the Garbage out.  I’m So excited, I can’t decide what to wear.

 

Day 7 – Laughing way too much at my own jokes!!

 

Day 8 – Went to a new restaurant called “The Kitchen”.  You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal.  I have No clue how this place is still in business.

 

Day 9 – I put liquor bottles in every room.  Tonight, I’m getting all dressed up and going Bar hopping.

 

Day 10 – Struck up a conversation with a Spider today.  Seems nice.  He’s a Web Designer.

 

Day 11 – Isolation is hard.  I swear my fridge just said, “What the hell do you want now?”

 

Day 12 – I realized why dogs get so excited about something moving outside, going for walks or car rides.  I think I just barked at a squirrel.

 

Day 13 – If you keep a glass of wine in each hand, you can’t accidently touch your face.

 

Day 14 – Watched the birds fight over a worm.  The Cardinals lead the Blue Jays 3–1.

 

Day 15 – Anybody else feel like they’ve cooked dinner about 395 times this month?

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s