Repo Commentary-06/15/21

I have designed and crafted an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. 

  • I have completed the above Pierpoint Finance Academy course on Repo Fundamentals. Our new normal of e-Learning.
  • I am periodically consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans.  
  • I am sharing my opinion and expertise with the industry in articles in various periodicals. 
  • I am consulting with an electronic trading platform, potentially for Repo. 
  • I am participating as the Repo expert for the Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC)- training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), and subsequent forums. 
  • I  was the panel moderator for a panel on trends in Financial Technology, pre- and post-Pandemic, for a virtual conference held by Securities Finance Times on May 6. There were about 400 people signed up for the Zoom conference on Financial Technology. I think it went really well.
  • I was interviewed by my former colleague, one time COO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Ari Schonbrun, for his wildly popular (top 5% in the world) Apple podcast “Whispers and Bricks”. I think it was the latest chapter published online and on LinkedIn. Many of you who have known me over the last 39 years in the industry, probably don’t know this personal stuff about me. Here it is at: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jeff-kidwell-repo-expert-and-movie-buff/id1553840938?i=1000515889833

Kidwell Consultants, LLC is available FOR HIRE as a consultant. I’m actually not that busy (for me) at the moment.  So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeff@kidwellconsultants.com) or (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary 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. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 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  in entertaining (70-80%) you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. You have more than enough stress already!  Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (06/16):

  • Bloomsday (Dublin, Ireland) celebration of “Ulysses” and the author James Joyce
  • Engineer’s Day (Argentina)
  • Father’s Day (Seychelles)
  • International Day of the African Child (Organization of African Unity)
  • Martyrdom of Furu Arjan Dev (Sikhism)
  • Sussex Day (Sussex)
  • Youth Day (South Africa)
  • Fresh Veggies Day
  • Ladies’ Initiated in Baseball Day
  • No Orange Clothes Day
  • Wish Fulfillment Day
  • National Fudge Day
  • National Vinegar Day
  • World Sea Turtle Day

Some Famous People Born on (06/16):

  • 1139-Emperor Konoe of Japan
  • 1829-Geronimo, American tribal leader
  • 1858-Gustaf V of Sweden
  • 1890-Stan Laurel, English actor and comedian
  • 1938-Joyce Carol Oates, American novelist, short story writer, critic, and poet
  • 1939-Billy “Crash” Craddock, American singer-songwriter
  • 1946-Derek Sanderson, Canadian ice hockey player and sportscaster
  • 1947-Al Cowlings, American ex-NFL player and close friend of O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson
  • 1948-Ron LeFlore, American baseball player and manager
  • 1951-Roberto Duran, Panamanian boxer
  • 1952-Gino Vannelli, Canadian singer-songwriter
  • 1955-Laurie Metcalf, American actress
  • 1962-Wally Joyner, American baseball player and coach
  • 1970-Phil Mickelson, American golfer
  • 1971-Tupac Shakur, American rapper and producer
  • 1975-Anthony Carter, American basketball player and coach
  • 1988-Keshia Chante, Canadian singer

Daily Weird Facts:

The US government allegedly poisoned alcohol during Prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s, killing over an estimated 10,000 people. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but It’ll always get you the right ones.”—John Lennon

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23/18

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$50.70/barrel on 01/04/21

$66.34/barrel on 03/05

$61.30/barrel on 04/01

$63.68/barrel on 05/13

$72.25/barrel on 06/15

Oil prices have jumped again, while demand for gasoline has jumped too, keeping the price of gasoline in the US near a two-year high. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station jumped 12 cents in the past 2 weeks, to $2.88/gallon. However, gasoline prices have been rising faster in surrounding areas and in the country. 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates). I did decide to trim this running list to just a few dates:

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

110.63 on 04/01/21

108.61 on 04/28/21

109.47 on 05/13/21

110.05 on 06/15/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.1426 

12/06/19 at $1.1688

03/11/20 at $1.1937

05/04 at $1.0903

12/16/20 at $1.2196

02/04 at $1.2625

04/01 at $1.1774

04/28 at $1.2123

05/13 at $1.2077

06/15 at $1.2127

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.2655 

12/06/19 at $1.3819

02/07/20 at $1.3574

03/24 at $1.2231

12/16/20 at $1.3494

02/16 at $1.3903

04/01 at $1.3832

04/28 at $1.3942

05/13 at $1.4045

06/15 at $1.4083

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24/18

1.2530 on 12/06/19

1.2390 on 01/17/20

1.3540 on 03/18

1.2752 on 12/16/20

1.2548 on 04/01

1.2315 on 04/28

1.2160 on 05/13

1.2186 on 06/15

For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.

10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641/ounce

07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce

11/30/20 $1,774.00 

01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00

03/05/21 $1,698.70

04/01/21 $1,730.00

04/28/21 $1,782.20

05/13/21 $1,826.20

06/15/21 $1,859.90

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25/18 

$6,350 on 10/5/18

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,774.97 on 01/07/19 

$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

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

$36,433.00 on 01/13/21

$36,607.50 on 02/04/21

$48,526.90 on 02/16/21

$58,093.71 on 02/21/21

$43,170.01 on 02/28/21

$49,207.43 on 03/05/21

$58,979.60 on 04/01/21

$54,886.50 on 04/28/21

$54,242.00 on 05/12/21

$39,804.90 on 06/15/21

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 of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  On 4/15/21, it hit a high of $63,237.  It has since made more than a 30% correction. I am not hearing as much from all the 20 and 30-year-olds down here. 

Cryptocurrency advocates and critics have broadly welcomed the Basel Committee’s stated intention to subject digital currencies to more stringent oversight than other assets, per FT. El Salvador shocked the market and world with its adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender. The IMF said that the action may imply a series of risks and regulatory challenges.  

Brexit:

British nationals in France are facing losing rights if they miss proof of residency deadline. There is currently a UK/EU sausage spat sizzling. Just can’t miss alliteration opportunities like that! Ireland now expects UK Brexit stance to shift, after G7 pressure. The EU has said that its patience is wearing thin in UK trade war talks. UK has signed a trade deal with Norway and Iceland. UK has begun a process to join Asia-Pacific trade bloc, the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership.  

Global Financial News:

The G-7 summit concluded with a call for a response to China’s “non-market economic practices,” a transparent study into the origins of COVID-19, and support for an infrastructure initiative for emerging economies to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The proposals were largely seen as a rebuke of China’s global influence. There is an ‘emerging’ trend, according to Bloomberg, of institutional investors’ growing appetite for bonds issued by emerging markets that are moving to lessen inflation, such as Brazil and Russia. Another trend has been a global trend toward digitization of payments, which is quickly being capitalized on by payment processors such as Stripe, Adyen and Checkout.com, who now have a combined market value of $170 billion. There is an IPO of Marqeta soon, which will give them an even bigger market share. Staying on payment systems Facebook’s new QR payment system will supposedly not pose an immediate threat to bank-backed payment systems, like Zelle, according to Crone Consulting. They say that consumers will be a little cautious with the social media company because of privacy concerns. Small Exchange is planning on launching cannabis futures on 6/21/21. The WSJ says that determining how the performance of stocks focused on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors compares with the broader market is made more difficult by differences in rating systems used by data providers, leading to discrepancies in the data. SIFMA has responded to the SEC’s request for input on setting rules and standards for Climate Change disclosure. SIFMA says that the first step, and a challenging and burdensome task, is to establish metrics to be used. Lawmakers had surprisingly little to say to the CEOs of top US banks, when they said in a recent hearing that cybersecurity is their biggest concern. Just after the cyber attacks on a major pipeline and a major meat distributor, it looks more and more like cybersecurity is going to be the corporate world’s problem, not the government’s. The government will defend against war, missile attack, natural disaster, etc., but companies are on their own during the CyberWar.  More big corporations are falling prey to cyberattacks and paying ransoms in Bitcoin. The FBI is warning against making such payments and has actually recovered some Bitcoins. JP Morgan has set up a specialist unit for private capital. ESMA has responded to the EC’s review of Central Securities Depository Regulation. Broadridge has partnered with AccessFintech to collaborate to transform resolution of settlement fails. Clearstream has gained CSDR licenses for its international CSD, Clearstream Banking. The European Association of Clearing Houses (EACH) has urged the EC to agree with ESMA and further delay the implementation. Of CSDR’s SDR beyond February 2022. Although CSDR has certainly been a popular topic in the market, most market participants have not seen any real changes in behavior just yet. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. The specter of inflation is spooking the stock market, even though the Fed said the price spike is temporary.  The SEC wants a broad examination of equity market structure. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (this is the next list I intend to trim to just important dates):

05/12/21  33,587.66

03/31/21  32,981.55

01/13/21   31,060.47

12/31/20   30,606.48

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/22/20   27,005.84

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/08/20   27,572.44

6/03/20     26,269.89

5/27/20     25,548.27

4/17/20     24,242.49

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/03/20     25,917.41

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

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

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

01/13/21 at 3,809.84

02/03/21 at 3,830.17

02/16/21 at 3,923.59

03/05/21 at 3,841.94

03/31/21 at 3,972.89

05/12/21 at 4,063.04

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, then backed off, then shot higher again to a new record 02/16.  It has continued to be up at new record highs. 

Nasdaq closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

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

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

01/13/21 at 13,128.95 

02/03/21 at 13,610.54

02/16/21 at 14,047.50  new record high

03/05/21 at 12,920.15

03/31/21 at 13,246.87

05/12/21 at 13,031.68

The US Treasury market has seen yields rise slightly ahead of the FOMC meeting, as traders are taking some risk off, with some uncertainty about what the Fed may do or say. (see below) Many analysts at the top Wall Street banks are advising clients that the pendulum is shifting and that there is a risk of a hawkish tilt, with rising inflation. 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

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!

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

01/04/21 at 0.11%

01/13/21 at 0.14%

02/03/21 at 0.11%

02/16/21 at 0.11%

03/05/21 at 0.14%

03/31/21 at 0.16%

05/12/21 at 0.16%

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)

12/06/19 at 1.64%

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!

05/10/20 at 0.21%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

01/04/21 at 0.16% record low!

01/13/21 at 0.22%

02/03/21 at 0.17%

02/16/21 at 0.17%

03/05/21 at 0.32%

03/31/21 at 0.35%

05/12/21 at 0.35%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

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%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

12/15/20 at 0.37%

01/04/21 at 0.36%

01/13/21 at 0.48%

02/03/21 at 0.46%

02/16/21 at 0.42%

03/05/21 at 0.79%

03/31/21 at 0.92%

05/12/21 at 0.87%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

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%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.64%

01/04/21 at 0.64%

01/13/21 at 0.80%

02/03/21 at 0.81%

02/16/21 at 0.76%

03/05/21 at 1.23%

03/31/21 at 1.40%

05/12/21 at 1.34%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

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!

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

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.92%

01/04/21 at 0.93%

01/13/21 at 1.10%

02/03/21 at 1.15%

02/16/21 at 1.09%

03/05/21 at 1.56%

03/31/21 at 1.74%

05/12/21 at 1.69%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 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

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 1.65%

01/04/21 at 1.66%

01/13/21 at 1.82%

02/03/21 at 1.92%

02/16/21 at 1.84%

03/05/21 at 2.28%

03/31/21 at 2.41%

05/12/21 at 2.40%

Housing News:

There has been a shift in buyer behavior in Florida, which is reshaping the real estate market here. In Florida, people are keeping a close eye on out-of-state buyers, as they continue flocking down to Florida. Obviously, the pandemic and remote work and home life were deeply affected, and have fueled people to consider where they want to live and what kind of lifestyle they want. Extremely low mortgage rates, coupled with no Florida state income tax, have rocketed our real estate market. Buyers’ demand is still outpacing supply here in Florida, and just like everywhere else, builders and developers are dealing with shortages of raw building materials and record high prices.  It’s funny that we are chatting about this now, because June is National Homeownership Month (also the first month of the Atlantic Hurricane season). Which leads me into another topic that Floridians are wrestling with. With the last several years of higher numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes, and insurance companies still recouping money paid out, home insurance rates and cancellations have increased dramatically. So, I would say, new buyers beware. Port St. Lucie, FL is now No.4 in the nation for median housing market increases since 2017. In the past 4 years, median home sale prices there rose nearly 58%. A Longboat Key mansion is being listed at $12.9 million now. Bidders are offering as much as 10% over asking prices in a flurry of activity in Jacksonville, FL. Florida Realtors have filed a lawsuit seeking an end to CDC eviction moratorium. Kensington Mortgages sold UK’s first green RMBS bond. The Senate has introduced bills aiming to revise rules for Retirement Plans. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

The Federal Reserve and other regulators are growing impatient with the market regarding LIBOR. Fed’s Quarles said there is “no path forward” for LIBOR and urges market participants to shift their derivatives and other contracts to the Secured Overnight Funding Rate (SOFR). The message was then repeated by Fed’s Powell and Treasury’s Yellen. That said, five firms have created US Dollar LIBOR replacement rates that could provide an alternative to the Federal Reserve’s SOFR, but US regulators have expressed concerns over the potential risks posed by these alternative rates. I am not going to comment on that. As the FOMC meets (see below), I like by friend, Scott Skyrm’s take on it. The Fed could increase the rate on the RRP to 0.05%, which might force GC repo rates higher to compete with the Fed paying cash providers 5bp more. However, it doesn’t solve the present dislocation that there isn’t enough collateral for the cash in the market and the RRP is a disintermediation of the broker/dealers with their own typical cash providers. The second solution, to taper QE, is probably the logical choice, but will be the least friendly to other markets and perhaps to the public. But, it would solve the collateral shortage problem. The third solution, the one that Scott and I believe the Fed should choose, is to adjust the Interest On Excess Reserves (IOER) rate higher, which would in turn raise the average Fed Funds rate, which would in turn raise the GC Repo rate.  All three products compete with each other for that elusive cash. 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences

This section is undergoing renovation. I am working on new sources of virtual conferences, networking, and symposiums, rather than continuing to run the 25-30 annual physical conferences for the industry, which are no longer being held, during the pandemic (and may not be all held in the future, after the pandemic). 

Federal Reserve News:

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).  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 next FOMC meetings are: 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are in.  

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.

The FOMC meets 6/16. Lately, FOMC meetings have been followed by policy statements that are carefully positive, with a nod to the slow reemergence of the economy from the pandemic.  However, many economists think THIS meeting could be very different. Monetary policy is still in full Ease mode, with the Fed Funds target at 0.00%-0.25%, although Repo rates are near 0.00%, and QE is still huge with $120 billion of buying per month. Well, one might say, the economy is still struggling and unemployment is high (still around 5.5%) and certain sectors have not recovered at all, and we have a housing supply crisis. But, the inflation figures are all up significantly, and annualized that could scare the Fed. Even though the economy is not running at full capacity, GDP is projected at 6.4%. So, looking at the Fed’s longterm Mission statement, Inflation is an important topic, as is economic growth. True, Unemployment is still a problem, but the Fed may choose to tweak their Easing policy a bit at this meeting. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Swarms of earthquakes are hammering a California lake. Here are significant earthquakes for just two days. A little quieter than it has been previously:

06/07 4.7 Pagan Region, Northern Mariana Islands

06/07 5.1 southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge

06/07 4.7 ESE of Bugasong, Philippines

06/07 4.5 S of Nullagine, Australia

06/07 4.5 N of Caluula, Somalia

06/07 4.7 South Sandwich Islands

06/07 5.3 NE of Tual, Indonesia

06/06 4.6 WSW of Gorontalo, Indonesia

06/06 5.7 Kermadec Islands region

06/06 4.6 Pulau Pulau Tanimbar, Indonesia

Weather:

The nation is seeing record high temperatures, as a major heatwave has blanketed the nation, particularly in the Southwest. Parts of Texas and Louisiana are seeing temps in the 100s. But, in Palm Desert, parts of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, temperatures have been as high as 118, and the high hasn’t dipped below 111 in a week. The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat watches and warnings throughout California, southern Nevada, western and southern Arizona and Utah. On Sunday, Salt Lake City registered a 102 temp, breaking the day’s record from 1918. Here in Florida, we have temperatures in the mid-90s, but with high humidity and frequent showers. The showers are much needed as we are in a drought.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season BEGAN June 1st and ends November 30th.  According to CNN, one thing about 2020 that people didn’t notice during the pandemic is that hurricane forecasts improved. Focus is now on size and speed of the approaching storm and the critical “cone of uncertainty”, which affects a certain population. 2021 is expected by the NOAA to be an Active hurricane season. They expect a likely range of 13-20 named storms (winds of 39mph or higher). They expect 6-10 of them to be Hurricanes, and of that 3-5 reaching Category 3 or stronger. There are currently no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic at this time. Tropical Disturbance 2 is making its way up to Nova Scotia, off of the East Coast of the US. Another Disturbance, which could become a Tropical Storm, is in the Gulf of Mexico and may track towards Texas and Louisiana. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season BEGAN 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

In the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in another exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

For 2021, MLB continues to have limited seating at ballparks, but it depends on the ballpark location. There have been early surprises, like the Red Sox and the White Sox. The trade deadline isn’t until 7/30/21, but rumors are already flying. I would think this would be a tough year for MLB owners to figure out whether they need more to make it to the playoffs or should rid salary to rebuild and not make the playoffs, since the divisions are unusually tight this far into the season. However, at the moment, 7 teams have sub 1% postseason odds, and may be prime traders. The Diamondbacks could trade IF Eduardo Escobar, and listen to offers for Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly. They also could trade pitcher Merrill Kelly. The Orioles, who seem to have been rebuilding for decades, find themselves in that predicament again, and could trade SS Freddy Galvis and pitcher Tanner Scott. The Rockies could trade superstar SS Trevor Story and/or pitcher Jon Gray. The Tigers may trade OF Robbie Grossman, as Miguel Cabrera’s contract is un-tradeable. They may also be willing to let go pitcher Matthew Boyd. The Twins may have DH Nelson Cruz available, as well as pitcher Michael Pinada. The Pirates have 2B Adam Frazier and pitcher Richard Rodriguez available. The Rangers could trade RF Joey Gallo and/or pitcher Kyle Gibson. For those purists who believe that there shouldn’t be a DH, pitchers are hitting a pathetic .108 while striking out more than half their at-bats. The Padres remain interested in Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. Injured Mike Trout (calf) is uncertain of his return date to the Angels. Yankee ace Severino had a promising rehab start. Rockies’ Pint, No.4 pick in the 2016 Draft has retired from baseball. Manager Tony LaRussa has moved into second place on MLB wins list. I had a joke about his driving here, but I’m going to let it go. The MLB said it will now crack down on foreign substances on the baseball (pine tar, spit, gum, etc.). The Phillies home plate netting fell, forcing a game delay. A 1914 Babe Ruth pre-rookie baseball car, valued at $6 million, has sold for a record-breaking price for a sports card. The previous record was for a 1952 Mickey Mantle card at $5.2 million.  

Current standings (06/15), after about 64-67 games:

AL EAST this continues to look like a 4-team race and Boston is for real this year. The Blue Jays and Yankees have fallen off and the Red Sox are having difficulty keeping pace with the Rays. It now looks more like a 2-team race. 

Tampa Bay

Boston

Toronto

NY Yankees

Baltimore

AL CENTRAL this could be the runaway division for the White Sox, as the Indians and Twins are floundering. The Indians have come back, but the other teams have fallen further.

Chicago WS

Cleveland

Kansas City

Detroit

Minnesota

AL WEST the Astros will likely take the division and the The A’s have been a surprise though. They maintain a slim edge over the Astros. The Angels, who had been floundering, despite their superstars, has come on of late.

Oakland

Houston
LA Angels

Seattle

Texas

NL EAST this division continues to underperform and the Braves seem to be in trouble. The Mets hold a slim lead over the Phillies. Nobody is really out of it yet.

NY Mets

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Washington

Miami

NL CENTRAL the Cardinals were looking the best, but the Cubs are certainly right there this year. But, the Cards just lost 5 in a row and fell from First to Third. The Brewers just won 4 in a row and 9 out of 10 to leapfrog the Cards. Cubs and Cards now tied for first place.

Milwaukee

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati

St. Louis

Pittsburgh

NL WEST the World Champion Dodgers looked like they would run away with the division, but the Giants said ‘hold my beer’. You can’t count the Padres out either. 

San Francisco

LA Dodgers

San Diego

Colorado

Arizona

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. They had an exciting tournament this past weekend in Muirfield Village, Jack’s course, at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide in Dublin, OH. The three leaders battled it out until the last 2 holes, when it became just two former NCAA rivals, and they each hit bad shots and good shots at the same time. But, in the Playoffs, one putt didn’t drop (Collin Morikawa) and the other one did (Patrick Cantlay). But, the tournament was also controversially exciting. Jon Rahm was the leader after 54-holes, six shots ahead, basically lapping the rest of the field, until he was informed before play in the Final Round that he had tested positive that morning for COVID-19 and had to Withdraw from the tournament. He is still the betting favorite to win US Open at Torrey Pines next weekend. AMeanwhile, elsewhere, the US Women’s Open had its own excitement, as 19-year-old Yuka Saso came from way behind to win in a 3-hole Playoff with Nasa Hataoka, the trophy, and a $1 million paycheck. Also, Saso was a member of the JLPGA Tour, but one the status on the LPGA Tour, after her victory. She had qualified for the LPGA field in the US Women’s Open by virtue of her world ranking in the Top 75. So, her second ever LPGA start earned her a 5-year membership on the LPGA Tour. 

NFL:

The 2020 NFL season ended with Super Bowl LV, which was played in Tampa Bay, with the Bucs acting as home team, the first time that a Super Bowl was played in the city where one of the teams was from. Despite the odds against it and his age against him, QB Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl over the Chiefs, 31-9. Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, as he won his 7thSuper Bowl, more than any franchise, let alone any player, in 10 trips to the Super Bowl. 

Adam Vinatieri, veteran placekicker for the Colts, has retired and revealed that when he left the Patriots, he nearly signed with Packers. Bucs coach Bruce Arians says QB Tom Brady’s knee recovery could limit him at minicamp and said, “He may be doing a lot of coaching.”  Arians also said that 2nd round QB Kyle Trask is not far behind QB Andrew Luck “mentally-wise”. I love the Repo Commentary, because I can learn new English words every time!  Arians coached Luck as a rookie with the Colts. Former Titans TE Delanie Walker worked out with the 49ers on Wednesday. Steelers QB Big Ben said “I’m going to approach this season like I do every season: like it’s my last.” The Texans have signed former Patriots FB Rex Burkhead. Former Washington RT Morgan Moses is trying out with the Bears. The Bengals have signed first-round WR Ja’Marr Chase to a rookie deal. The Cowboys are not interested in trading LB Leighton Vander Esch. As the Falcons usher in a new era under new head coach Arthur Smith, where does that leave superstar WR Julio Jones? Bengals coach Zac Taylor says QB Joe Burrow is on track to return as good as new at training camp in July. Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin is progressing from ACL tear, ready to ‘compete’ for snaps in training camp. Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy says “I feel I’ve matured” after a drop-filled rookie campaign. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is still disgruntled and rumors are flying that he will be traded to the AFC West, where Patrick Mahomes has already said that he would love to play against his golf partner. 

Soccer

The European Championship is happening in FIFA EURO 2020 right now, as I type this Repo Commentary. France is leading over Germany in the big match. In the Portugal/Hungary match, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in European Championship Finals history to score 10 goals in the competition and set a record for most times appearing in the event. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season is now in full swing. We just finished an exciting, delayed French Open (only delayed a week). We are seeing Roger Federer play well at age 39, after coming back from surgery. However, Rafael Nadal, who basically owns the French Open, having won it 13 times, is also playing very well. No.2 ranked woman, Naomi Osaka, shocked the world with an outburst against compulsory media meetings, was fined and threatened, and withdrew from the tournament. Grand Slam tennis leaders gathered to fine her initially and determine if there should be further consequences for her outburst, but now pledge to address her concerns about the press and players’ mental states. She said that she has been battling anxiety and depression, and is very shy.  Most other tennis stars, while supporting her opinions, feel that she shouldn’t have let it get this far. Nike and other major sponsors have come out in support of Osaka. Here’s more news about the press conferences—they can be physically dangerous, as well as mentally dangerous. Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from the French Open due to an ankle injury sustained during her “post-match press requirements”.  In the semifinals, Djokovic was able to beat the unstoppable Nadal. He then went on to win a war in the Finals with Tsitsipas. It was Djokovic’s 19th major victory and his 2nd this year. He is now only one major victory behind Nadal and Federer, who are both at 20. Djokovic is also halfway to a Grand Slam, winning all 4 majors in the same year. No man has done that in more than 50 years. On the women’s side, a 31-seed Pavlyuchenkova lost to Krejclkova. Wimbledon begins in two weeks!

NCAA Basketball

The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament, March Madness, yielded the national champion, undefeated Gonzaga.

Olympics:

The Olympic Torch began on its 121-day journey around Japan, leading up to the opening of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. A NY Times Op-Ed says that a sports event shouldn’t be a pandemic spreader and that they should cancel the Tokyo Olympics. A 4th wave of COVID-19 has hit Japan now, causing some to doubt whether the IOC will hold the games there. Japanese superstar tennis player, Naomi Osaka, has already threatened to boycott the Olympics in her own country, another not popular move by the No.1 women’s tennis player in the world. If they are held, USA Baseball has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, which will re-introduce Baseball to the Olympics. Japan is still gambling on a successful Olympics, despite the dangers and costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The public angst for these Olympic Games is a sharp contrast to the optimism when Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the asterisk season (last season) on 10/2/19. The puck dropped (again) to conclude the same season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) was delayed and started 1/13/21.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but was only 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. 

This is this season’s odd configuration. The top 4 teams from each division made the playoffs, a total of 16 teams:

NORTH (all Canadian)-in this division, the top 2 seeds wound up losing to the 3rd and 4th seeds in Round One, and advance to Round Two. This is the same result as the one in the East Division.  

x-Toronto Maple Leafs-the Leafs lost in the first round of the Playoffs again, blowing a 3-1 series lead to ultimately lose 3 straight games to the heavy underdog, and rival, Canadiens. The Leafs, despite having a great season and team on paper, have not won a Playoff series since 2004. They have lost 8 straight series-clinching games, and are without a Stanley Cup since 1967. 

x-Edmonton Oilers-OUT

x-Winnipeg Jets-the 3rd seed swept the No.2 Oilers, 4-0 in the First Round. Now they will face the 4th seed Canadiens in Round Two. The were knocked out by the Canadiens. OUT

x-Montreal Canadiens-The No.4 Canadiens are in the Third Round (Semifinal), against the Golden Knights from the West Division.  

Calgary Flames

Ottawa Senators

Vancouver Canucks

WEST-the two highest seeds have moved on to the Second Round

x-Las Vegas Golden Knights-Golden Knights’ Ryan Graves has been suspended for 2 games in the Second Round by the NHL, for mugging an Avalanche player in front of the net, they call roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. In the First Round, the Knights dispatched the Wild in a Game 7, while the Avs swept the Blues 4-0. The Avalanche won Game 1 over the Knights in the Second Round, despite the mugging. Eventually, the Golden Knights knocked out the Avalanche, and are now facing the surprising Canadiens from the North Division. The Knights won the first game of Round 3. 

x-Colorado Avalanche-OUT

x-Minnesota Wild-OUT

x-St. Louis Blues-OUT

Arizona Coyotes

LA Kings

San Jose Sharks

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

CENTRAL-here the first seed and 3rd seed proceeded to the Second Round. 

x-Carolina Hurricanes-the Hurricanes knocked the Predators out in the First Round 4-2. Then the rejuvenated Lightning (getting back their two stars from injury) swept the Hurricanes in Second Round. OUT

x-Florida Panthers-the Lightning knocked their Florida rival, Panthers, in the First Round 4-2. OUT

x-Tampa Bay Lightning-the No.3 Lightning are now battling the No.4 Islanders from the East Division, and have lost Game 1 in the Third Round.

x-Nashville Predators-OUT

Dallas Stars

Chicago Blackhawks

Detroit Red Wings

Columbus Blue Jackets

EAST -the 3rd and 4th seeds knocked out the first two seeds, and continued on to Round Two.  

x-Pittsburgh Penguins-the Islanders beat the Penguins 4-2 in the First Round. OUT

x-Washington Capitals-the Capitals were ousted by the Bruins 4-1 in the First Round. OUT

x-Boston Bruins-the Bruins eventually lost to the Islanders 4-2 in the Second Round. OUT

x-New York Islanders-the No.4 Islanders are now up against the No.3 Lightning from the South Division and are leading 1-0 in the Third Round.

NY Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

New Jersey Devils

Buffalo Sabres

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. We’ve played about 68 games so far in the regular season, and here are the current standings (top 8 of each conference make it, with seeding based on 5/11/21 standings, but seed 7 and seed 8 will be decided by a play-in tournament, which includes the current No.7-No.10 teams starting 5/18-5/21):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

x-Philadelphia 76ers-the 76ers knocked out the Wizards in Round 1 4-1. They are now tied with the Hawks in Round 2 2-2.

x-Brooklyn Nets-in Round 2, tied 2-2 with the No.3 Bucks.

x-Milwaukee Bucks-in Round 2, tied 2-2 with the No.2 Nets.

x-NY Knicks-ousted by the No.5 Hawks 4-1. 

x-Atlanta Hawks-in Round 2

x-Miami Heat-swept by the No.3 Bucks 4-0.

x-Boston Celtics-ousted by the No.2 Nets 4-1.

x-Washington Wizards-ousted by the No.1 76ers.

————————–

Charlotte Hornets

Indiana Pacers

Chicago Bulls

WESTERN CONFERENCE

x-Utah Jazz-in Round 2 against No.4 Clippers, tied 2-2.

x-Phoenix Suns-in Round 2 they swept the No.3 Nuggets 4-0.

x-Denver Nuggets-ousted quickly in Round 2 by the No.2 Suns.

x-LA Clippers-in Round 2 against No.1 Jazz, tied 2-2.

x-Dallas Mavericks-ousted in Round 1 by No.4 Clippers 4-3.

x-Portland Trail Blazers-ousted by No.3 Nuggets 4-2.

x-LA Lakers-ousted by the No.2 Suns in Round 1 4-2.

x-Memphis Grizzlies-ousted by No.1 Jazz 4-1.

—————————-

Golden State Warriors

San Antonio Spurs

New Orleans Pelicans

Sacramento Kings

Horse Racing:

So, this is strange. For the second time in my life, I visited a racetrack (Palm Beach Kennel Club, which actually isn’t running dogs anymore) to watch and bet on the Kentucky Derby. If that weren’t strange enough, a rookie in horse handicapping, I went up to the window for the race before the Kentucky Derby and did an ‘exacta box’ on the 3 and the 5. I don’t know why. I thought one of them was the favorite. Would you believe, they ended in a Dead Heat, actually tied! So, I won either way: 3/5 or 5/3. Very unusual event, especially at Churchill Downs. So, for me, what was cool was that I just took the winnings and bet on the horse I liked in the Kentucky Derby to WIN.  He was so good that it took at least 16 other horses to beat him!  The 147th “Run for the Roses” and first leg of the Triple Crown (unlike last year’s order due to COVID) was won by Medina Spirit.  It was another Bob Baffert horse (the guy can’t lose!) and you will see it ranked in my top-10 from the Repo Commentary a month before as No.6 favorite.  Yes, my horse, Rock Your World, came in a distant 17th.  There were still 3 horses worse than him.  But, wait, we have controversy for the 3rd time in 3 years!!! Two years ago, it was a late disqualification of the winner for ‘crowding’ the second-place finisher. Then, last year, the Kentucky Derby was held after the traditional second and third legs of the Triple Crown, due to COVID-19. Now, Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test for a PED. They are rechecking with a second blood sample, but it could invalidate the colt’s win, leaving the second place horse, Mandaloun, as the winner. And if you think it’s unlikely, Bob Baffert has been fined before for this offense. Baffert has admitted that Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment containing the steroid betamethasone. The steroid is allowed in horse racing, but the horse had more than double the allowed limit. Baffert has now been banned from entering any of his horses in races at the race track at Churchill Downs. Medina Spirit just arrived at Pimlico for Saturday’s running of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown Medina Spirit was cleared to run in the Preakness, despite the likely forfeit in the Derby. Unfortunately, if Mandaloun is now declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby, anyone who bet on him will not get any money, because wagering is paid out on “the order of finish as declared “official” by the stewards or judges at the track. However, the more than $1.8 million in winnings would be passed from Medina Spirit’s owners to Mandaloun’s owners. In the Derby’s 147-year history, only 3 races would have been won by the 2nd place horse, and we could see two of them in the last few years!

The top 10-ranked contenders, 2-3 weeks before the Kentucky Derby, were:

1.Concert Tour-just crushed the field at 2021 Rebel Stakes and is another Bob Baffert trained horse

2.Essential Quality-just won 2021 Southwest Stakes

3.Life is Good-just won 2021 San Felipe, another Bob Baffert trained horse

4.Hot Rod Charlie-just won 2021 Louisiana Derby

5.Known Agenda-just won 2021 Florida Derby

6.Medina Spirit-came in 2nd at 2021 San Felipe, another Bob Baffert horse

7.Greatest Honour-came in 3rd 2021 Florida Derby

8.Soup and Sandwich-came in 2nd 2021 Florida Derby

9.Helium-just won 2021 Tampa Bay Derby

10.Like the King-just won 2021 Jeff Ruby Stakes

Auto Racing:

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the 3rd father-son duo to win the title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale).  In 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 2021 regular season began with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and winners:

02/09/21 Busch Clash at Daytona-Kyle Busch

02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona-Aric Almirola

02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona-Austin Dillon

02/14/21 DAYTONA 500-Michael McDowell

02/21/21 O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona-Christopher Bell

02/28/21 DIXIE VODKA 400 at Homestead-Miami-William Byron

03/07/21 Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas-Kyle Larson

03/14/21 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Phoenix-Martin Truex Jr.

03/21/21 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta-Ryan Blaney

03/29/21 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol-Joey Logano

04/10/21 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, VA-Martin Truex Jr.

04/18/21 Toyota Owners 400-Richmond Raceway-Bowman

04/25/21 GEICO 500-Talladega-Keselowski

05/02/21 NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas-Kyle Busch

05/09/21 NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington-Martin Truex Jr.

05/16/21 NASCAR Cup Series at Dover-

05/23/21 NASCAR Cup Series at COTA-

Formula One began 2020 with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. F1 is cracking down on flexible rear wings, amid suspicions that some teams are bending the rules. There will be a 23-race F1 calendar for 2021. It did not begin until 3/28/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and here are the winners:

03/28/21-Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix-Lewis Hamilton edged Max Verstappen

04/18/21-Italy-Verstappen edged Hamilton

05/02/21-Portugal-Hamilton beat Verstappen

05/09/21-Spain-Hamilton beat Verstappen

05/23/21-Monaco-

06/06/21-Azerbaijan-

06/13/21-Canada-

06/27/21-France-

07/04/21-Austria-

07/18/21-Great Britain-

08/02/21-Hungary-

08/29/21-Belgium-

09/05/21-Netherlands-

09/12/21-Italy-

09/26/21-Russia-

10/03/21-Singapore-

10/10/21-Japan-

10/24/21-United States

10/31/21-Mexico-

11/07/21-Brazil-

11/21/21-Australia-

12/05/21-Saudi Arabia-

12/12/21-Abu Dhabi-

IndyCar Racing circuit (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).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden. The 2021 season does not begin until mid-April. Here is the schedule and the winners:

04/18/21-Birmingham Barber Motorsports Park-Alex Palou

04/25/21-St. Petersburg Street Course-Josef Newgarden

05/01/21-Texas Motor Speedway Grand Prix of Texas Race 1-Scott Dixon

05/02/21-Texas Motor Speedway Grand Prix of Texas Race 2-Pato O’Ward

05/15/21-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-GP 1

05/30/21-Indy 500

06/12/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle Race 1

06/13/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle Race 2

06/20/21-Road America

07/04/21-Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

07/11/21-Toronto Exhibition Place

08/08/21-Nashville Street Course

08/14/21-Indianapolis GP 2

08/21/21-Gateway Motorsports Park

09/11/21-Portland International Raceway

09/19/21-Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

09/26/21-Streets of Long Beach

Travel News:

By now, you have heard about the massive increase in domestic US travel, particularly an exodus to Florida. People couped up for more than a year by COVID-19, some still under tight State restrictions, are venturing out to get rid of the cabin fever. Hotels in some areas are at capacity, gasoline prices are rising due to increased demand, and rental cars are virtually impossible to find. The rideshare companies have noticed too and have more frequently applied “surge pricing”. So, I’ve seen here in Florida that typical Uber and Lyft rides are much more expensive. Airlines, like American and United, have begun investing in electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which are seen as the next big aviation breakthrough. The aircraft are being called 
“air taxis”. The aircraft will likely be used for package deliveries before commercial passenger flights. Eventually, they may also operate without pilots. Electric vehicle startup, Lordstown Motors, has seen its CEO and CFO resign. The company said in an SEC filing last week that it could run out of money unless additional funding is secured. On Tuesday, the US and EU reached a deal to end the Airbus/Boeing trade dispute. An off-duty flight attendant became unruly Monday on a flight and attempted to open the cabin emergency exit, before being subdued by other passengers. More tourists are being caught with concealed guns at Disney World in Orlando. 

Health News:  

As of this evening (6/14), globally, more than 3,800,000 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 176,000,000 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 33.4 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 600,000. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (487,401), India (374,305), Mexico (230,150), Peru (188,708), and UK (128,171). 

The news about COVID-19 has been mostly positive in the US over recent months. The 3 vaccines continue to work well against every variant, and the number of Americans who have gotten a shot continues to rise. But, not all the news is rosy and we must not slack in our efforts to battle the virus. First, the pace of vaccinations has slowed, and a substantial share of Americans, almost one-third, remains hesitant about getting a shot. These unvaccinated Americans are vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks and to potentially serious symptoms. Second, the Delta variant, which seems to be more contagious and more severe than earlier versions of the virus, is spreading rapidly within the US, after first being identified in India. It now accounts for about 10% of cases. Third, these two pieces of news help to explain why the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the US has STOPPED FALLING. The Delta variant is believed to be partly the reason why case counts have risen in several African countries, Russia, Ontario, etc. 

Novavax announced Monday that a clinical trial of its vaccine in the US and Mexico has found an efficacy rate of about 90%.

NYC will hold a ticker tape parade on July 7th for healthcare heroes and essential workers who battled COVID-19.  

The US FDA’s landmark decision to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s treatment, the first new drug for the disease in almost 20 years, could open the door for more therapies. But, hold on, 3 FDA advisory panel members have quit in protest to the approval. Lawmakers are also criticizing the drug’s $56,000/year price tag. 

Scientists from Tokyo Medical and Dental University have developed earmuffs for use in measuring blood alcohol levels. The earmuffs could be used as an alternative to breathalyzers. The earmuffs collect vapors released through the skin of a person’s ears and monitor ethanol. 

Animal News:

No doubt, you have been hearing about the Cape Cod man who was diving for lobsters and was supposedly swallowed by a humpback whale. He allegedly thrashed around in the throat of the whale, forcing it to surface and spit him out, the modern equivalent of the story of Jonah and the Whale. Many marine biologists are questioning the story’s validity, as humpback whales typically eat tiny plankton, so wouldn’t accidentally eat a human. Whales are also quite intelligent and have shown a general interest and calm around humans. Yet, he is sticking to his story that he was in the mouth of the whale and not in the stomach, for about 40 seconds. The man, from his hospital bed, said that he would like Matt Damon to play him in a movie about the incident. The commercial lobster diver actually has had a few near-death experiences with large great white sharks in the same area off Cape Cod, and survived a deadly plane crash in Costa Rica in 2001. CDC is temporarily banning dogs from some countries because of the risk of rabies. Gray wolf pups have been found in Colorado for the first time since 1940s. Florida’s ZooTampa at Lowry Park announced the birth of a southern white rhino. A behemoth 98-foot-long dinosaur has been confirmed to be the largest ever found in Australia and among the 15 largest specimens worldwide. San Francisco Zoo’s Cobby, the oldest male chimpanzee in a US zoo, has died at age 63. Florida manatees are seeing one of the highest mortality rates in years. A new study shows that dogs are born with an innate ability to understand human cues. Puppies were able to take directions from humans without any training. A herd of wild elephants in China has captured the hearts of many around the world. The elephants have already journeyed 300 miles and are now approaching a large city. Local governments have used roadblocks and food to try to shift the elephants’ course and have evacuated residential areas. I’m still watching that video of the teenage girl who fought off and basically threw a bear off of her wall in her California backyard to protect her small dogs. Now, there is a new post-COVID-19 issue: as COVID slows in America, dogs face THEIR new normal of not having their humans around 24/7. 

Entertainment News:

Beniffer is back! At the British Academy Television Awards, “Save Me Too” won Best Drama and “Inside No.9” won Best Scripted Comedy. Mahraganat in a new underground music genre that is taking the nightclubs of Egypt by storm. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK movie turned 40-years-old on Monday. Last Friday, FERRIS BUEHLER movie turned 40. CNN anchor, Christiane Amanpour has revealed that she has ovarian cancer. A Beauty and the Beast limited musical series is in the works at Disney+.  Lisa Banes, the GONE GIRL actress, has died following a hit-and-run accident. Jessica Biel says that she didn’t mean to have “a secret COVID baby”. Michael Costello of Project Runway says he had “thoughts of suicide” after alleged bullying of Chrissy Teigen. The Pekingese won top dog at the Westminster Dog Show. The cast of Scrubs reunited on Celebrity Family Feud. Is it me, or has TV suddenly gone wild with remakes of old gameshows? Below Deck Sailing had its season finale on Monday. There will be a two-part reunion show(s) still. Meanwhile, Below Deck Mediterranean begins, with Captain Sandy at the helm of a 180+ foot motor yacht. I don’t think she has ever run into a dock like Captain Glen did with the sailing yacht. Ooops, it has been revealed that Anne Hathaway’s role in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA was offered to Rachel McAdams, who turned it down 3 times. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters says he turned down a “huge” Facebook offer to use a song. 

Technology & Space News:

The Juno spacecraft performed a flyby of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. I can’t remember which ones they told us in 2001 or 2010 SPACE ODYSSEY to leave alone. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced 5 bills that would significantly reduce the influence and independence of major technology companies by preventing them from covertly promoting their own products on their platforms, limiting their ability to buy up smaller rivals and giving customers greater access and control over their personal data. If passed, the bills would represent the largest overhaul of monopoly law in decades. Blue Origin is holding an auction to fly into space with Jeff Bezos. The original source code for the World Wide Web will be sold at Sotheby’s, as part of a non-fungible token (NFT). The code was invented in 1989 by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. It is considered one of the most significant inventions since the printing press in 15th Century in Germany by many. The digitally-signed Ethereum blockchain non-fungible token (NFT), a one-of-a-kind digital asset which records ownership, includes the original source code, an animated visualization, a letter written by Berners-Lee, and a digital poster of the full code from the original files. NFTs have exploded in recent months, particularly at auction.  A digital-only artwork by American artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, sold for nearly $70 million at Christie’s in March. 

US News:

New Hampshire has become the 11th State to exempt forgiven Paycheck Protection Program Loans from borrowers’ corporate taxes. This is really a ‘hot potato’ issue, as the PPP Loans were never meant to be taxed as income, per Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act.  Right now, 19 states tax forgiven PPP Loans, either by including them as taxable income or disallowing deductions for business expenses made with the loans. 7 of those states currently have bills introduced in their legislatures to exclude PPP loans from taxation. Some of the other states are just weird. For instance, Wisconsin doesn’t want to lose ALL of the potential tax revenue, so those businesses that got PPP loans in the Spring and Summer of 2020 (so-called “first draw” loans) won’t have to pay taxes on them and they’ll be able to deduct expenses that were paid for with PPP from their state taxes. But, those that got PPP ‘second-draw’ loans, they are expected to be taxed.  Democratic legislators are reportedly exploring a one-time “patriot tax” on wealthy individuals who are multimillionaires. It would be a 2.5% surcharge on wealth between $50 million and $100 million, and 5% on wealth above $100 million. Those taxed could pay back the tax over 5 years. Research suggests that the government could raise about $450 billion through such a tax. The US federal tax system is based on Income, not Wealth. As I mention below, despite a 5.5% unemployment rate, there are not enough restaurant workers for reopened restaurants after COVID-19. Other industries are also suffering. Some municipal pools have had to close for the summer, because they can’t find enough lifeguards. Another report shows that some workers have gotten so used to working from home and the lifestyle that offers, that rather than return to reopened offices, they are just quitting. A disgruntled fire hydrant factory worker shot his co-workers and then himself. A cashier in a Georgia Big Bear supermarket was gunned down, after asking a customer to wear a mask. A retired deputy who intervened was also shot. The man had refused to wear a mask, walked out of the store, then reentered with a gun and shot the cashier in the head. The former deputy was working security in the store and returned fire at the assailant who was also shot. The deputy was fortunately wearing a bullet-proof vest.  On Sunday, Hawaii-based F-22s were scrambled on a request from the FAA, but neither the military or FAA are saying why. A pair of F-22 Raptors were launched on an alert scramble and did an “irregular patrol” due to an “incident”. A third F-22 and a supporting KC-135 were also launched to join the pair of F-22s. The FAA typically requests a scramble of fighters for potential security situations aboard airliners, to provide eyes-on to stricken aircraft, or to investigate unidentified aircraft, among other things. Texas power grid is straining again. 

Bankruptcy:

In 2020, restaurant and food service industry sales fell by $240 billion, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry 2021 report.  Although more than 27,000 restaurants have gone out of business permanently during the pandemic, the restaurants who have survived, with help from the PPP loans and state grants, are seeing a spike in demand, particularly here in Florida. The new problem is that these restaurants are having trouble hiring qualified people. In Florida, some restaurants are offering signing bonuses, to attract new employees. Some restaurants, like Duffy’s Sports Bar down here, have learned that laying off 3,500 employees and shutting down all their restaurants until all restrictions were lifted, while being easier and maybe less costly during 2020, is becoming a problem for them now. It turns out that many of their employees have permanently moved on or are on Unemployment still and making more money on that than they were making in wages. As Unemployment benefits continue to be rolled on, the conundrum continues.  I have heard that Florida is now going to require those receiving unemployment benefits to list the 5 places they interviewed with that week. That, may push people in that industry to return. We had a shooting on Thursday, nearby in Royal Palm Beach at a Publix, which resulted in 3 deaths. A US mall owner, Washington Prime Group out of Columbus, OH, with more than 100 properties, has filed for bankruptcy. I just read an interesting article on why many shelves at stores are bare or items are out of stock. The first reason is that the pandemic lockdown shut down factories that produced the goods, and they are slowly opening (if they didn’t go out of business) and gradually increasing production. The second reason is that the shutdown of those factories reduced the demand for the raw products that go into those items to be produced, which were also shut down or went out of business because of the pandemic. The third reason is called Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing, a concept made popular by Toyota back in the 70s and since adopted by other industries worldwide. Although it started with autos, it extended to consumer products and market machinery for food, fashion, pharmaceuticals, etc. It was intended to keep the supply chains and stockpiles of all items lean enough, so that industries could be nimble for changes in demand, without waste. Unfortunately, it left many manufacturers and retailers susceptible to shortages. Ironically, one area feeling the biggest impact is the automobile industry, which started the concept, as many headlines trumpet the shortage of chips, a crucial aspect of building and programming modern automobiles. Although automobiles are receiving the biggest headlines, this chip shortage probably affects more than 100 industries, as computer chips are involved in many other items (which includes food, rental cars, lumber, home construction, pet food, computers, printers, phones, etc. 

International News:

Using a compromised encrypted device network, a multinational sting operation resulted in hundreds of arrests and the seizure of several tons of illegal drugs. Two trains collided in Sindh, Pakistan, killing at least 63 people. Waddani, led by Abdirahamn Mohamed Abdullahi, won the most seats in the Somaliland parliamentary election.  A new government has been formed in Israel, with Naftali Bennett becoming Prime Minister, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure. China’s Navy is now the largest in the world, with approximately 350 ships, versus the US Navy’s 293 ships. However, if you go by average size of ship, the US Navy’s 15,700 tons average per ship is much greater than the China Navy’s 5,715 tons average per ship. Staying with China news, China just sent 28 aircraft near Taiwan in its largest military exercise, since the Cold War. US President Biden is preparing for his summit with Russian President Putin, where he intends to confront Putin about the incarceration and near assassination of Putin’s outspoken opponent, among other things. Biden previewed some of his sentiments in his recent meeting with NATO, where he tried to reassure the organization of the US protection and involvement. In an interview, Putin likened the Russian crackdown on dissidents to the US Capitol arrests of rioters. 

Florida:

We had a water advisory here in West Palm Beach last week, due to a toxin in the drinking water supply. Officials advised all individuals to not drink the water, that water purifiers wouldn’t help, including refrigerator door water systems. They recommended that everyone buy bottled water. Of course, Floridians just need a Tropical Storm, pandemic, or computer hack to be an excuse for hording supplies. New COVID-19 cases jumped 14.9% in Florida last week (ending Sunday) and variant cases are surging. Part of it could be vaccine complacency and part could be all of the vacationers now visiting Florida. Florida now ranks 3rd among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis. In the latest week, across the US, COVID-19 new cases dropped 28.3% from the week before. The State Governor of Florida found a way to deal with the increases, and ordered that Florida no longer release daily COVID-19 case and death figures. A titanic clash is brewing between Florida Gov. DeSantis and the cruise industry, as it prepares to restart cruises from Florida. The issue is that DeSantis is firm about barring the industry from requiring that passengers be vaccinated. The cruise industry has been shut down for 15 months, putting some 600,000 Florida jobs on hold and costing the industry $billions. The clash will be soon, as the first US cruise since March 2020 is scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale, FL in two weeks. 

If you wind up getting down to this area of Florida (West Palm Beach), please come to one of my shows. I have been singing regularly Friday and Saturday nights at Agora Mediterranean Kitchen in Northwood, from 6p-9p. I call it my “Men In Black” show, for which I am dressed in black and singing some 40 songs from Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Neil Diamond (artists who frequently wore black). It’s been a lot of fun for me and the crowd (oh and there’s a belly-dancer!)! I sang 6/5, 6/11, 6/12, and will sing 6/18 and 6/19 as well. 

Jokes and Such:

Okay, I decided that since you readers are only going to give me dirty jokes that would just get me in trouble, in the context of distanced learning and your kids likely at home on the computer, I would provide you some CLEAN jokes that you can share with them. That’s just how I am J

52. I couldn’t believe the highway department called my dad a thief.

But when I got home, the signs were all there.

53.Why did the cowboy get a wiener dog?

He wanted to get a long little doggie.

54. Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building?

Of course! The Empire State Building can’t jump.

55. What did the duck say when it bought some lipstick?

“Put it on my bill.”

56. George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matthew McConaughey get together to make a movie.

Clooney says, “I’ll direct.”

DiCaprio says, “I’ll act.”

McConaughey says, “I’ll write, I’ll write, I’ll write.”

57. A horse walks into a bar.

The bartender says, “Hey!”

The horse replies, “Sure.”

58. I googled “Rorshach test.”

But for some reason, all that came up were pictures of my parents fighting.

59. What do we want?

Low-flying airplane noises!

When do we want them?

Nnnnneeeeeeeeeeoooooooooow!

60. I tried to win a suntanning competition.

But all I got was bronze.

61. How much space will be freed in the EU after Brexit?

Approximately 1 GB.

62. Why don’t seagulls fly over the bay?

Because then they’d be bagels.I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…

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