‘Watch out Tesla believers’: Critics are piling on to warn the 300% stock rally will crash and burn

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  • Tesla shares have soared 300% in six months, hitting an all-time high of over $900 on Tuesday.
  • Investors, analysts, and politicians are warning investors the rally won’t last.
  • “I have no doubt it will end in tears for many people,” one investor said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla shares have surged about 300% in the past six months, hitting an all-time high of over $900 on Tuesday. Traders, analysts, and politicians are lining up to warn investors that the run up won’t last.

“This is obviously a computer-generated rally, it’s not a reflection on the company, or on valuation. It’s just a trade,” Andrew Left, the activist short seller behind Citron Research, told MarketWatch this week.

“Yes, I’m shorting it … whoever bought it at these prices has to flush it out, and when it flushes, it’s going to flush hard,” he added.

Left’s comments came after Citron blasted the stock rally as unsustainable.

“We believe even Elon would short the stock here if he was a fund manager,” the equity-research publisher tweeted on Tuesday. “This is no longer about the technology, it has become the new Wall St casino.”

Others have warned Tesla’s rally will hurt those left holding the stock when the music stops.

“This is an incredibly dangerous place to be buying the stock and I have no doubt it will end in tears for many people,” trader and analyst Jani Ziedins wrote in a recent post on his Cracked Market blog.

“Owning a stock that’s tripled over the last few months is great, but don’t mistake serendipity for skill,” he continued. “While the fools are spending all of their time daydreaming about what they will buy when the stock breaks $1,200, smart money is selling their stock to those greedy dreamers.”

Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak, echoed those sentiments in a CNBC interview this week.

“This is taking Tesla well above a level that would be supported by its current fundamentals,” he said. “The stock is going to get absolutely clobbered at some point before long.”

Even former presidential candidate Ralph Nader sounded the alarm, warning Tesla could take down the entire stock market.

“When the stock market bubble implodes, it will have been started by the surge in Tesla shares beyond speculative zeal,” he tweeted.

“Watch out Tesla believers,” he added in a follow-up tweet.

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NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the ‘3rd wave’ firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption

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Nathan Miller obituary, death: Nathan Miller Chocolate Chambersburg

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Nathan Miller obituary, death: Nathan Miller Chocolate Chambersburg

Nathan Miller obituary, death: Beloved Nathan Miller Chambersburg chocolatier has passed away.

He is the proprietor and chocolatier at Nathan Miller Chocolate.

Please say a prayer for his grieving family mourning his death as you read the tributes below:

Please cover Deb and Rick Miller in love and prayers for comfort. They lost their beloved son Nathan and he will be greatly missed by so many.

I just remember him with this amazing dry sense of humor that brought joy to our lives as my sons middle school and highschool friend. Wrestling, soccer, cross country and many sleep overs at our house. Nate had an explorer’s spirit and wasn’t afraid to take risks like my son.

Looking back I never would have dreamed they both would have been business owners. Nate became a chocolatier in Chambersburg after studying abroad and here, all types of culinary skills. Nathan’s chocolates in Chambersburg made the best chocolate.

Nathan was a true example of an overcomer and showed the world that with faith and hard work you can find your dreams. You will be dearly missed and thankyou for the wonderful day I got to come down and have a tour.

Rest in Peace Nate until we meet again. Love and prayers

The Chambersburg community has a lost a real one. I’ll always remember going to $5 punk shows in the event space attached to the coffeehouse, buying bags of my favorite Little Amps coffee, having the best brownie I’ve ever tasted, and tearing up with hometown pride when seeing Nathan’s factory on national TV while on a flight home. Thank you Nathan Miller. Rest Easy.

Nathan Miller obituary

Nathan Miller I met you in the darkest part of my life. You took me under your wing. You told me your dreams of being a chocolatier, I knew you would not only make that a reality, but take it to the highest level.

You were in your twenties, with all your friends, drawn to your house almost nightly, and Sunday barbecues. You were all so smart, fun, creative and welcoming- to an older woman divorcee even though I never felt like the outsider I was.

Your gatherings, many which involved karaoke and music- your go to Karaoke was vintage Pink Floyd and David Bowie. We enjoyed art, the outdoors, our views of spirituality, of course gorgeous food, and a lot of laughter. Then when I was trying to make it as a realtor, you trusted me and hired me, giving me work. You referred your friends and your wonderful uncle Doug Walter.

You grew my business. As time went on your family, Deb Walter Miller with Doug, made me feel welcome, just as you had, with your friends.

When you trusted me to sell your home, I saw you off to go back to Chambersburg to pursue and conquer your dreams. We didn’t stay in touch. I didn’t visit you when your work brought you to Denver. And I didn’t support through your health battle. I never reciprocated any of the joy and generosity you naturally shared with me. I deeply regret that.

My heart is heavy and I pray your heart and soul have been set free. I miss you, and I’m so grateful for all the love and life you showed me.

Nathan Miller obituary, death: Nathan Miller Chocolate Chambersburg

Nathan was a kind, gentle person. He believed in us and helped us get started. He always gave us good advice and held great conversations over his amazing coffee and chocolates. He will be missed and we will think of him every time we take a bite of chocolate. May he rest in peace.

Our downtown mourns. We mourn the loss of Nathan Miller, proprietor and chocolatier at Nathan Miller Chocolate. Nathan provided encouragement and advice to many businesses with our downtown. He collaborated with GearHouse Brewing Co on a chocolate porter and crafted a product known world wide. We offer our condolences and prayers to the Nathan’s family and friends.

📸 – Nathan Miller Chocolate

Saddened to hear about the passing of Nathan Miller of Nathan Miller Chocolate. His dedication to his craft and his effort to revitalize Chambersburg’s Grant-Street-warehouse area were major inspirations for my own business ventures in this town.

“Made with ❤️ from bean to bar then handwrapped by our team. Come visit our factory at 140 North Third Street in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.”

[from the packaging – this bar was a gift to Rach and I from Alex and Moriah].

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How to Promote a Flash Sale on Facebook and Instagram : Social Media Examiner

Do you run flash sales? Wondering how to promote your flash sale on social media?

In this article, you’ll discover how to promote short-term sales with organic posts and paid ads on Instagram and Facebook.

Why You Need a Different Approach for Promoting a Flash Sale

Everyone loves a flash sale. Limited-time offers and short-term sales can be effective ways to inject revenue into your online store, especially around prominent days in the marketing calendar.

Most flash sales last for 24 hours or less; therefore, the campaigns promoting them are also short-lived. Maximizing performance within such narrow timeframes requires a different campaign management approach than for longer campaigns.

Here’s how you can maximize your efforts to drive your campaigns further and make your ad spend work harder.

#1: Create a Facebook Event for Your Flash Sale

Creating a Facebook event for your flash sale allows you not only to add all of the important details about the event but also create organic reach by customers marking they’re “attending” or “interested.”

Additionally, Facebook’s algorithm is likely to show your event to people who might be interested as indicated by their social activity, which extends your reach even further.

More importantly, people who mark themselves as attending or interested will receive a notification about content or updates to the event and a reminder when the event is due to start.

Discover the best social media marketing strategies from the world’s top experts! Don’t miss this event!
SALE ENDS
January 7th!

#2: Run a Pre-Launch Reach Campaign With Ads on Instagram and Facebook

Running a promotion announcing your flash sale ensures potential customers will see it. Using paid ads on Facebook and Instagram is vital in today’s pay-to-play market. You’ll not only increase exposure and build conversation about your upcoming sale but also prime your Facebook pixel.

Priming your pixel means you’re warming up Facebook. If you build engagement and extend your reach before you launch your flash sale, Facebook will know exactly who’s ready to buy because of their activity and engagement in the run-up. You’ll be building a warm audience you can retarget (as discussed a little later).

In a nutshell, this initial priming—thanks to the pixel—will put your product in front of people who are already interested in the sale. With no extra cost to you, this will reduce CPA (cost per acquisition) and increase your ROAS (return on ad spend). This is a smart application of ad technology.

Here’s an example of an announcement ad for a flash sale:

Normally, when setting up Facebook ads for eCommerce, you would choose the Conversions objective because it’s likely to achieve the highest ROAS. It’s also training your pixel to go after the customer who’ll buy from you. In the process, it also allows Facebook to learn about your ideal customer.

This is great for people who are in the buying phase. When you run conversion ads, you’re effectively removing a piece of the pie; you’re going after quick wins with people who buy. But with flash sales, customers may look a little bit different. For instance, they may have thought about buying from you but were waiting for a sale, or they needed an added incentive to get them to cross the finish line.

When you’re promoting the flash sale in the run-up, you want to set up a Reach campaign. This will let you reach a larger audience and therefore more prospects.

To create this campaign, simply select Reach as your campaign objective. Target your ad to your following or a cold audience that may have similar product interests. To illustrate, if you own a children’s clothing store, you can target people who are parents or who have an interest in a similar brand.

#3: Count Down to the Sale With Organic Posts on Facebook and Instagram

About 5–7 days before your flash sale, begin sharing daily countdown posts on Facebook and Instagram. Plan your posts a few weeks in advance to give yourself time to think about how you’ll drive organic engagement. It’s a good idea to schedule your posts to avoid missing a day.

Create 5–7 posts that clearly call out your sale. Be sure to include the date and how many days there are to go, as in the example below:

When creating these posts, consider using engagement hooks such as “tag a friend who NEEDS to know about this sale,” or “Comment below with what you’re thinking of buying.” These are quick and easy ways to build your social engagement and organic reach. More importantly, you’re building a custom audience of people who have recently engaged with your page, which you can then retarget via your ad campaign on the day of your sale.

In addition to these feed posts, both Facebook stories and Instagram stories can provide more organic exposure. Alongside your countdown posts, share 2–3 daily story posts of your products. Include the flash sale reminder, date, and savings on featured products. Rather than simply sharing the sale discount, you’re contextualizing the discount on real products, helping customers visualize their savings.

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Want to keep ahead of your competitors? Need to master a social platform? Discover how to improve your social media marketing at Social Media Marketing World 2020, brought to you by your friends at Social Media Examiner. You’ll rub shoulders with the biggest names and brands in social media, soak up countless tips and new strategies, and enjoy extensive networking opportunities . Don’t miss the industry’s largest conference. Get in early for big discounts.

Sale ends Tuesday, January 7th, 2020.

Another way to use the Stories features to promote your flash sale is to share live content of yourself talking about your brand. This can work if you’re the face of your brand, or as a way to introduce yourself as the face behind the brand. You could also ask your employees to share their excitement about your sale.

Describe to your audience how this is your biggest sale yet, and how you’re excited to offer customers this opportunity to buy the products they’ve had their eye on for a while. You’ll be generating buzz about your sale and connecting with your customers. Giving a sneak peek into who you are and why you’re doing this is a fantastic way to build a relationship with audience members.

#4: Run Instagram and Facebook Ads via a Conversions Campaign on the Day of Your Flash Sale

When you’re ready to go live with your flash sale, I recommend setting it up as a Conversions campaign. By running a Conversions campaign, you’re telling Facebook you want conversions. Don’t run your campaign for adds to carts, landing page views, engagement, and so on, because this is what Facebook will deliver.

Set Your Budget

For campaigns that run for less than 24 hours, I recommend using a lifetime budget for the best results. To do this, toggle Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) on and select Lifetime Budget from the drop-down menu.

Alternatively, you can edit this in the Budget & Schedule section at the ad set level.

Lifetime Budget is the most sensible setting. If you were to use a daily budget for a 6-hour campaign, Facebook wouldn’t spend more than 25% (6 ÷ 24) of the budget you specified so you’d have to take that into account.

More importantly, Facebook’s pacing algorithm (which optimizes delivery to get the best results available for your budget) isn’t designed to optimize daily budgets for shorter periods.

Target Ads to Your Warm Audiences

Once you’ve set up your campaign, you can create a number of ad sets to test your audience success rate and measure which audience targeting performed best.

Because you’ve been running your flash sale warm-up campaign, you can now set up several ad sets targeting different audiences. These should include:

If you set up your naming conventions correctly (as in the example below), you should instantly be able to see which ad set is performing best.

Choose Accelerated Delivery

Keep in mind that Facebook’s pacing algorithm can take some time to calibrate itself in the beginning. This clearly isn’t ideal if you want your campaign to start with a bang. In this case, use Accelerated Delivery. Selecting this option will disable the pacing algorithm altogether and enter you into as many auctions as possible.

Be careful, though; while this improves delivery and helps to gather data, it can also drive up costs. It might even spend your entire budget before the campaign is over.

You should always have a plan for monitoring results and reacting appropriately in various scenarios.

Some businesses choose to announce flash sales on the day of the sale. On its face, this approach seems to make sense. However, announcing the sale at least 1 week before will give you sufficient time to generate buzz around the offering.

Start by creating an event on Facebook and encouraging your audience to like, share, and comment. Also post organic content through a series of countdown posts and share Facebook and Instagram stories talking about what will be offered in the flash sale and emphasizing that stock levels are limited.

You’ll then want to run a pre-launch ad to promote your flash sale to your following or a cold audience that may have similar product interests.

Finally, on the day of the launch, run an ad for the duration of your flash sale using the optimization techniques discussed above.

Remember that your pre-launch efforts will frame your flash sale launch. If you nail the pre-launch, you’ll have your customers primed and ready for your sale. This will dramatically increase your conversion rate and you’ll see a much higher success rate.

Discover the latest tactics and master social media marketing in 2020! Don’t miss this event!
SALE ENDS
January 7th!

What do you think? Will you follow this plan to promote your next flash sale on Facebook and Instagram? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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19 of the Best Tech Companies to Work in the U.S. in 2020

19 of the Best Tech Companies to Work in the U.S. in 2020

If you’re looking for a job in the technology sector, you might want to look at these companies.

By 
Trevor English

Glassdoor, one of the world’s top employment rating websites, recently released its annual list of top places to work for 2020. For those of you who don’t know, Glassdoor is a site where you can go and rate your employer, see what other people are getting for financial benefits, and basically learn as much as you’d like to about a company’s culture without actually working there.

All of this data is user-submitted, and it gives the site access to a high degree of employee sentiment for companies across the U.S. and the world. Their list of the best places to work for 2020 is based on user-submitted reviews in the previous year. It takes into account compensation data, culture data, and virtually anything a user provides to create a holistic ranking structure.

While the list includes companies from any industry in the U.S., if you weed out companies only in the tech space, you’re left with the best technology companies to work for in the U.S. Let’s take a look and see just who those companies are. 

19. Yardi Systems

Top Company Ranking: 53

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.3

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “This company truly cares about its employees, everything from great benefits and perks to encouraging a wonderful work/life/fun balance.”

18. CDW

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.3

Industry: IT Services

What employees say: “Working with CDW has provided many opportunities to expand my knowledge and skillset while working with phenomenal co-workers.”

17. SAP

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.3

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “Incredibly well organized, great communication, good pay, and very professional colleagues.”

16. AppFolio

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “Great work-life balance, friendly management, fantastic training, dog-friendly, fun culture.”

15. Adobe

Top Company Ranking: 39

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “The workplace is nice – the gym is top-notch, the cafeteria is great, and other amenities which make it an enjoyable work environment.”

14. VMWare – Part of Dell Technologies

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “Work/Life balance is good, and people are smart and supportive.”

13. Kronos Incorporated

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “Amazing organization and overall management structure with great benefits and an incredible work-life balance.”

12. Salesforce

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software 

What employees say: “The people are great, the culture is amazing, and the workspaces have everything you could ever need!” 

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Internet

What employees say: “Employees are truly empowered, respected, and supported. Lots of opportunities to learn from smart, engaged people.”

10. Compass

Top Company Ranking: 32

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Enterprise Software & Network Solutions

What employees say: “You are encouraged to participate and share your opinions and experience to help continue to make Compass the pinnacle of the industry.”

9. Facebook

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

What employees say: “No day is ever alike, and I get to tackle challenging problems surrounded by the best and brightest minds.”

8. Microsoft

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software 

What employees say: “I love the culture and the people here. We are always learning and have a can-do attitude.”

7. Nvidia

Top Company Ranking: 20

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.4

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “Amazing culture, great work-life balance, and a strong drive to succeed in every area makes NVIDIA one of the best places I’ve ever worked.”

6. MathWorks

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.5

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “They care about training and ensure that everyone is treated well with amazing little benefits from fruits in the morning to free Wednesday breakfast.”

5. LinkedIn

Top Company Ranking: 12

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.5

Industry: Subsidiary or Business Segment

What employees say: “Super invested in employee development, great work/life balance, great benefits for working mothers and maternity/paternity leave.”

4. Google

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.5

Industry: Internet

What employees say: “Work/life balance, benefits, compensation, autonomy, and the quality of your co-workers are unmatched.”

3. Ultimate Software

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.5

Industry: Enterprise Software & Network Solutions

What employees say: “The unlimited PTO, amazing benefits, and feeling like part of a big family are my favorite parts about Ultimate.” 

2. DocuSign

Top Company Ranking: 3

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.6

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

What employees say: “They treat their employees fairly, are dedicated to the success of their employees, have great work-life balance, and very responsive management.”

1. HubSpot

Rating (stars out of 5): 4.6

Industry: Computer Hardware & Software

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Breakout prospects for 2020 | MLB.com

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Every organization takes pride in its ability to identify and develop talent. We’re the same way at MLB Pipeline, especially when it comes to predicting future breakout prospects.

Looking at last year’s list of breakout candidates, we see many examples of players who realized their potential en route to becoming some of the sport’s premier prospects. White Sox outfielder Luis Robert shot up from No. 44 to No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list thanks to a 32-homer, 36-steal campaign across three levels, while Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson, another three-level climber in ‘19, ascended from No. 90 to No. 10.

With the start of the 2020 season around the corner, MLB Pipeline once again is picking one breakout candidate from each organization. And while some of the names on this year’s list might be more recognizable than others, they all have the potential to jump on the scene during the upcoming season and establish themselves as can’t-miss prospects.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (No. 6) — The Mets’ second-round pick from the 2018 Draft pitched better than his numbers suggest he did at Class A Columbia, and he made six impressive starts for Class A Advanced Dunedin after joining the Blue Jays in the Marcus Stroman Trade Deadline deal to finish his first full season with a 126/24 K/BB and .238 BAA in 106 2/3 innings. The 19-year-old righty is a high-ceiling pitching prospect, armed with a plus fastball-curveball combo, an advanced changeup and a mature overall feel for his craft that could help him move quickly through the Minors.

Orioles: DL Hall, LHP (No. 3, MLB No. 60) — Baltimore’s 2017 first-rounder boasts some of the best pure stuff in the Minors among left-handed pitching prospects, with a plus fastball-breaking ball pairing and a promising changeup. Hall’s overall control, however, leaves much to be desired after the 21-year-old southpaw issued 6.0 BB/9 over 80 2/3 innings last season at Class A Advanced Frederick. The good news is that Hall has never had any issues missing bats (11.1 K/9 across his first 185 1/3 pro frames) and continues to be tough to barrel (.201 BAA), so it’s easy to envision him taking a step forward in 2020 with improved strike-throwing ability.

Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (No. 7, MLB No. 94) — Acquired from the Pirates as the PTBNL in the lopsided Chris Archer deal, Baz spent all of 2019 at Class A Bowling Green in the Midwest League, pitching to a 2.99 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 37 walks in 81 1/3 innings (17 starts). He was especially good down the stretch, too, posting a 2.22 ERA over his final six regular-season starts for the Hot Rods before turning in an eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League. With a fastball that can touch triple digits, a devastating slider and a raw but promising changeup, the 20-year-old right-hander could develop into a front-of-the-rotation force if he can improve his control and command.

Red Sox: Gilberto Jimenez, OF (No. 7) — A $10,000 steal from the Dominican Republic in 2017, Jimenez skipped a level last season and led the short-season New York-Penn League in batting (.359) in his U.S. debut. The best center-field defender and one of the fastest runners in Boston’s system, he’ll make the jump to full-season ball in 2020.

Yankees: Clarke Schmidt, RHP (No. 5) — Schmidt had Tommy John surgery as a South Carolina junior a month before New York made him a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft. Though he has been brought back slowly, taking that summer off and totaling 114 innings in 2018-19, he already has reached Double-A and shows the makings of four plus pitches.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Aaron Bracho, 2B (No. 13) — Bracho’s advanced bat earned him a $1.5 million bonus out of Venezuela in 2017, but he didn’t make his pro debut until last season because he fractured his right arm in May 2018. A switch-hitter who possesses deceptive power and precocious command of the strike zone, he hit .296/.416/.593 in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer.

Royals: Kyle Isbel, OF (No. 8) — The Royals were excited after Isbel’s exceptional pro debut after they took him in the third round of the 2018 Draft, but his 2019 season was interrupted by injuries and he played in just 59 games. He made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League and should use his impressive .315/.429/.438 (leading the league in OBP) showing to catapult him to the upper levels of the system

Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 12) — The Tigers knew that Meadows — Rays outfielder Austin Meadows’ younger brother — would need time to develop when they selected the athletic prep outfielder in the second round of the 2017 Draft, and his .221/.296/.312 showing over 126 games at Class A West Michigan in his first full season only confirmed that assessment. However, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder’s five-tool profile offers reason to be optimistic about his future, as all the raw qualities are in place for the 20-year-old to develop into an impact player.

Twins: Wander Javier, SS (No. 7) — While it’s true the Twins didn’t protect Javier on their 40-man roster this offseason, that was a relatively low-risk move given the shortstop hasn’t played above A ball. A torn labrum cost him the 2018 season and he struggled once he got to full-season ball for the first time in late May of 2019 (.177/.278/.323). But he still has tremendous tools, the ones the Twins saw when they gave him $4 million to sign in July 2015.

White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP (No. 13) — Before Chicago selected Thompson 45th overall last June, it had spent just two picks that early on high school pitchers in the previous 17 Drafts (Gio Gonzalez in 2004, Spencer Adams in 2013). Though he was inconsistent as a senior last spring, the White Sox love his athleticism and quick arm, which could result in a mid-90s fastball and plus curveball once he’s fully developed.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Marcus Smith, OF (No. 30) — The Kansas City high schooler was a bit of a surprise third-round pick, one who wasn’t on our Draft Top 200 list in 2019, but he sure made the A’s look smart during his relatively brief pro debut in the Arizona League (.361/.466/.443 in 29 games). That advanced approach should serve him well and let him use his 70-grade speed to his advantage in his first full season of pro ball.

Angels: Jeremiah Jackson, SS/2B (No. 4) — He’s yet to reach full-season ball, but he set the stage for the jump by leading the Pioneer League in home runs and RBIs in 2019. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts (33 percent rate), but he’ll also only be 20 for all of 2020, so there’s time for him to refine his approach and become a truly impactful middle infielder.

Astros: Jeremy Pena, SS/2B (No. 8) — The son of offensive-minded second baseman Geronimo Pena, Jeremy was one of the best defensive shortstops available in the college class of 2018, when Houston popped him in the third round out of Maine. His glove was as good as advertised in his first full pro season, when he exceeded expectations by batting .303/.385/.440 with 35 extra-base hits and 20 steals between two Class A levels.

Mariners: George Kirby, RHP (No. 6) — Kirby made a name for himself as a control artist at Elon University and parlayed that into being a first-round pick last June. He showed just how good that command was by not walking a single batter in 23 innings during his pro debut. Seen as a safe pick who could ride his pitchability quickly up a ladder, his first full season could show that he’s more than that, with the potential to join others from his class on our Top 100 in 2020.

Rangers: Cole Winn, RHP (No. 4) — One of the most polished high school pitchers in the 2018 Draft, Winn went 15th overall but struggled more than expected while being kept on a tight leash in his first full pro season in 2019. But he finished the year with a 2.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings over his final 12 starts, showing signs of a quality four-pitch mix once he dials in his command.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Bryce Ball, 1B — Ball spent two years in junior college before transferring to Dallas Baptist for his junior year. The Braves nabbed him in the 24th round of last June’s Draft after he hit .325/.443/.614 with 18 homers and then he hit 17 more combined in the Appalachian and South Atlantic Leagues during his pro debut. He might have the most power in the system and has already shown the ability to get to it.

Marlins: Braxton Garrett, LHP (No. 7) — The seventh overall pick in 2016, the Alabama high school product required Tommy John surgery after just four pro starts, costing him all of 2018. Garrett looked like his old self last season, pairing a low-90s fastball with a plus curveball in high Class A, and could move quickly in 2020 as he puts elbow reconstruction further behind him.

Mets: Francisco Alvarez, C (No. 5) — Alvarez’s $2.7 million bonus in July 2018 was one of the top totals handed out during the 2018-19 international period, and it wasn’t long thereafter that he began to receive rave reviews from those inside the organization. The Mets challenged Alvarez last summer in his pro debut, assigning him straight to the Rookie Gulf Coast League before a quick promotion to the Appalachian League, and the then-17-year-old backstop responded by slashing .312/.407/.510 with seven homers in 42 games between the two stops. The Venezuela native is already perhaps the best pure hitter in New York’s system, with defensive chops behind the plate that could make him an impactful two-way catcher.

Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 3) Taken with the No. 17 overall pick in last year’s Draft, Rutledge, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, has some of the best pure stuff among college pitchers from his class with an explosive mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider that front his four-pitch mix. Harnessing his stuff to throw more strikes and developing a better changeup will be developmental keys for the 20-year-old in his first full season, though he’s exactly the type of power pitcher the Nats have successfully developed in the past.

Phillies: Francisco Morales, RHP (No. 6) — One of the top pitchers in the 2016-17 international signing class, Morales has tremendous raw stuff. In many ways, it played well during his full-season debut in 2019, as he struck out just over 12 batters per nine innings and held hitters to a .226 batting average. He needs to refine his command to reach his very lofty ceiling, but here’s betting he takes a big step forward in 2020.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Tristen Lutz, OF (No. 2) — Tabbed as the Brewers’ top breakout candidate a year ago, Lutz advanced to Class A Advanced Carolina in 2019 and produced a nearly identical line (.754 OPS, 13 HR, 137/46 K/BB) compared to his first full season (.742 OPS, 13 HR, 139/46 K/BB). The elevated strikeout rates fuel questions about the 21-year-old’s hit tool, but there’s a lot to like in his blend of right-handed power potential and patience at the plate. Lutz has the makings of becoming an everyday corner outfielder if it all clicks for him, and a strong showing at Double-A in 2020 would mark a significant turning point in his development.

Cardinals: Ivan Herrera, C (No. 6) — Signed out of Panama for $200,000 in July 2016, Herrera was pushed up to full-season ball at age 18 in 2019 and responded to the challenge by slashing .284/.374/.405 with nine home runs in 87 games across two levels, including Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Herrera continued to impress on both sides of the ball after the season as one of the Arizona Fall League’s youngest players and will enter 2020 with a big up arrow next to his name.

Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 3) — Though scouts considered Davis one of the better prep athletes in the 2018 Draft, a hamstring injury slowed him as a senior and helped Chicago grab him in the second round. More advanced than expected, he batted .305/.381/.525 and flashed 30-30 upside in low Class A last season — albeit while limited to 50 games by multiple finger injuries.

Pirates: Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11) — A seventh-round pick out of Arizona in 2017, Oliva has had a solid, if unspectacular, first two full seasons of pro ball with a career .274/.348/.403 line, to go along with an impressive 84 steals. He opened a lot of eyes by leading the AFL with 11 steals (in 12 attempts) and hitting .312/.413/.473, setting the stage for a big 2020.

Reds: Tyler Stephenson, C (No. 7) — The 2015 first-round pick got hit by the injury bug quite a bit during the first stages of his career, but he’s going to look back at 2019 as the year it all started to click. After a solid regular season in Double-A, the backstop had a very strong AFL campaign (.347/.372/.410 in 49 at-bats) to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. A big follow-up campaign should vault him onto the top catching prospects list and have him ready for Cincinnati.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 2, MLB No. 71) — Signed out of the Bahamas for $2.5 million in July 2017, Robinson offered a glimpse of his potential in 2019 as he slashed .282/.386/.514 with 14 homers and 17 steals while ascending from Class A Short-Season Hillsboro to Class A Kane County in his age-18 season. The 6-foot-3 outfielder’s massive right-handed power highlights an all-around exceptional set of tools, and, overall, it gives him one of the higher ceilings in the Minors among teenage prospects.

Dodgers: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 11) — MLB Pipeline’s top-rated international amateur in the 2018 class, Cartaya signed for $2.5 million out of Venezuela. Often compared to Salvador Perez, he has the tools to make a difference offensively and defensively and hit .281/.343/.432 between two Rookie-ball stops in his 2019 pro debut.

Giants: Alexander Canario, OF (No. 7) — Signed for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, Canario possesses the quickest bat in San Francisco’s system and batted .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between the Rookie and short-season levels last year. He fits the right-field profile well and could have even more value if he’s able to stick in center.

Padres: Reggie Lawson, RHP (No. 21) — The Padres’ second-round pick in the 2016 Draft, Lawson spent much of the ’19 season on the injured list with a balky right elbow, but he returned late in the season to make six starts for Double-A Amarillo, then dominated while making three impressive outings in the Arizona Fall League (0.82 ERA, 14 K, 11 IP), where he operated with a mid-90s fastball, a sharp, 12-to-6 curveball and a promising changeup. With his blend of size and stuff, Lawson could break out in earnest with a healthy 2020 campaign.

Rockies: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (No. 25) — Olivarez made his United States debut in 2019 and missed a lot of bats in the Pioneer League (11.76 K/9 in 46 2/3 IP), largely with a very lively fastball. He’ll need to improve his command (4.63 BB/9) and tighten up his secondary stuff, but the ingredients are all there for him to take a big step forward, perhaps with a move to full-season ball.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

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Jacob Stallings grows with 2019 starting reps | Pittsburgh Pirates

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PITTSBURGH — The Pirates’ next general manager is going to have to figure out the club’s immediate future and long-term plan behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli is gone. Elias Díaz, once a well-regarded prospect, followed up an encouraging 2018 campaign with a stunningly poor season. There isn’t a catcher among the club’s Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

It’s entirely possible that Pittsburgh’s next starting catcher isn’t currently on the roster. But part of the solution might have emerged amid the disappointment of this past season.

Jacob Stallings spent the past four years as the Pirates’ third or fourth option at catcher, which means he’s familiar with the road between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis. But this season, Cervelli’s concussion and Díaz’s struggles opened the door for Stallings to receive more regular playing time.

Stallings’ offensive performance was fine, especially compared to the Pirates’ other catchers. But the 29-year-old earned the club’s trust with his diligent preparation and his performance behind the plate. By the end of the year, most of Pittsburgh’s starting pitchers had asked to work with Stallings.

Where that leaves Stallings going forward is anybody’s guess. Maybe a new GM will view him as a short-term starting option for a team focused on the future or perhaps as a spiritual successor to Chris Stewart: a quality, defensive-minded backup on a potential contender.

Before looking forward, though, let’s review Stallings’ season.

What went right?
His defensive work, primarily. It’s tough to quantify everything about catchers’ defense, but Stallings graded out well in the areas we can measure and those in which we depend upon the word of his teammates.

Stallings has long been praised by pitchers for his preparation and game-calling, and that showed this year. By late May, Chris Archer worked exclusively with Stallings. Joe Musgrove soon followed suit. Most of Trevor Williams’ and Mitch Keller’s starts down the stretch came with Stallings behind the plate.

Joe Musgrove, on working with Jacob Stallings tonight: “Stalls was spot-on with everything. It makes my job a lot easier when I trust my catcher to call the game. It’s almost like he’s the brains and I’m the muscle. You just tell me where to throw it, and I’ll throw it there.”

— Adam Berry (@adamdberry)

Catcher ERA is a flawed statistic in some regards, but it can paint part of the picture here. Consider how Pirates pitchers performed when throwing to Stallings (4.47 ERA), how similar that was to their work with the veteran Cervelli (4.42) and how different it was with Díaz behind the plate (5.95).

There are more advanced metrics to consider, too.

Stallings ranked eighth among all Major League catchers in adjusted Fielding Runs Above Average, according to Baseball Prospectus, and 11th in Framing Runs. The latter was a focal point for Stallings this season, as he committed himself to the skill of framing pitches with former bench coach Tom Prince and bullpen catcher Jordan Comadena.

Stallings did all the necessary drill work, catching weighted balls and properly positioning his body behind the plate and his glove around the strike zone. He watched video of elite pitch-framers and noticed how well they were able to keep their gloves in the zone, rather than letting the ball move them, so he strengthened his body in the weight room.

“It’s been a continual growth process. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better as the year’s gone on,” Stallings said in late September. “It’s been more this year than ever in the past.”

What went wrong?
This is not a knock on Stallings, but the answer is probably his games played total (71) and the fact that he had more plate appearances (210) than Cervelli.

Stallings started 53 games for the Pirates this year, which is not how you draw it up for your third catcher leaving Spring Training. Díaz started 75 games behind the plate despite having a brutal year overall, and Cervelli made 32 starts before he was sidelined and later picked up by the Braves.

Offensively, Stallings was more or less who he’s always been. The 29-year-old batted .262 with a .325 on-base percentage and a .382 slugging percentage. The good news is he tapped into a little more power to hit six home runs, as many as he’s ever hit in a professional season. He credited hitting coach Rick Eckstein for that improvement.

“Working with him, learning about my body and my swing,” Stallings said. “Pulling the ball in the air with backspin was something I struggled with. I used to always just topspin the ball because I wasn’t putting myself in a good position to hit. I really dove into that. It’s something that I will always struggle with because I’m so big and lanky with a lot of moving parts, but body position to hit has been the biggest change for me this year.

“I feel like I have a good swing. I just don’t put myself in position to hit all the time. So we worked a lot on that, and it’s something we always have to work on. Putting myself in a more consistent position to hit has helped a lot.”

Best moment
How about June 27, when Stallings had three hits and a homer and caught a shutout against the eventual American League champion Astros in a 10-0 Pirates win at Minute Maid Park?

Or how about the Pirates’ September series in San Francisco? Stallings hit two of his six homers in a historically pitcher-friendly ballpark while catching a pair of victories.

2020 outlook
Stallings is under club control, so he should be back in some role. But will the next management group take another shot on the upside Díaz showed in 2018?

There are plenty of free agents available, and the Pirates picked up recent contributors like Cervelli and Stewart through smart trades. How would that decision or another acquisition affect Stallings? Stay tuned.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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Forget Succession, Because Watchmen Has ArrivedAnd It Is GOOD

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletterThe Daily Beasts Obsessed,written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week,sign up for it here.

Youre Going to LoveAnd Be So Confused ByWatchmen

Remember when everyone was like, Whats going to happen to HBO when Game of Thrones ends? And, like, Is TV dead as we know it?

I mean, I guess its understandable to want to stage a funeral for great television while watching that final season of Thrones. (Burn!) But two drama series have aired on the network in the time since Kings Landing fell, each of which I would rank leagues above Thrones on any year-end Best of TV list: Years and Years and the second season of Succession.

The former found a near-miraculous way to be topical about todays rabies-ridden sociopolitical discourse, while the latter took the mantle when it comes to watercooler buzz and, especially, with media and Twitter obsession. In addition to those two, the second season of Big Little Lies was a major ratings and press boon.

But with Watchmen, theres not just a third drama series of excellence entering the mix, but one that I think will, if not quite have the same reach as Thrones, fuel a fanbase of people who just will not stop talking about it.

Watchmen premieres Sunday and shares two unmistakable characteristics with that show: It is visually astonishing, with each frame more ambitious, stunning, and remarkable than the one before. You also have no idea what the hell is going on at any given moment. If you liked that about Game of Thrones, youll LOVE it about Watchmen.

That a series which poses such a fascinating narrative conundrum would count Damon Lindelof as its creator should come as no surprise; as the man behind Lost and The Leftovers, hes proven a penchant for a certain kind of dazzling befuddlement that evolves into brilliance. The series is an adaptation inspired by the revered DC Comics 12-part series from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, but which the HBO creative team involved refers to as more of a remix.

I have not read the comic series, so I have no idea what that means, but I can say that I didnt feel like I needed to have read it to enjoy the episodes of the HBO show that I watched. I also saw the notoriously maligned 2009 Zack Snyder film adaptation, but dont remember anything about it besides its insane sex scene: as Patrick Wilsons legendary bottom thrusts and a fully-nude Malin Ackerman gyrates, Leonard Cohens Hallelujah plays.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that you dont need to be familiar with these things to watch the show.

The show itself presents a sort of sci-fi alt-history, set in a contemporary America where Robert Redford is serving the longest presidential term in history. He has signed into law reparations for black Americans. Vietnam is a state. Things are…different. But as a jolting reminder of how not-different things are, or at least have been through history, the series starts with a violent, brutal dramatization of the very real 1921 Tulsa massacre, in which as many as 300 black citizens were killed.

That real history haunts the shows alt-history, where, in the present day, white supremacists are hunting down police officers. These officers now wear masks to conceal their identities for their own safety, and are working alongside masked vigilantes, like Regina Kings Sister Night, who is a former cop named Angela.

Theres a lot to say and untangle about the ties between white supremacy and institutions like the police force, as well as the very ideas of policing and justice in general, which are coming untethered among escalating racial tensions. What lands and what doesnt land is subjective in Watchmen, and you cant shake the feeling that you need to watch the series unfold entirely before ruling one way or the other.

Of course, the journalists and critics (hi!) telling you to watch this because its really damn good have had the luxury of seeing six full episodes. Id go ahead and comfort you by saying if youre intrigued enough by all of the huh? in episode one, you get many answers in episode twothough, my god, not all, not even close. Quote Kings Angela after a particularly baffling, though thrilling, moment: What the fuck?

Same, girl. And often. But by the time Jean Smart enters in episode three, you know I was on board, full-stop. She gives one of my favorite performances of the year as a former superhero-turned-FBI agent, a perfect complement to my nightly bingeing of her work as Charlene Frasier on Designing Womena TV series I have mentioned in this newsletter far more often than I really should.

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Pendulum : Social Media And President Buhari’s Imaginary Wedding Of The Century By Dele Momodu

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Fellow Nigerians, these are very interesting and humorous times indeed! Barely one week after the Big Brother Naija show was concluded, ending our light relief, some restless Nigerians have started their own nebulous reality show in earnest. To say Nigerians are well endowed with fecund imaginations and fantastic creativity would be an understatement. This is why rumourmongering is big business in this climate.

Let me reassure you that it didn’t just start today. Many are blaming the proliferation of social media and the affordability of internet data for this unusual surge in the wild speculations and stories flying everywhere today, but I wish to disagree with this theory. This is a major aspect of my research work at The African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

Society Journalism is not new to Nigeria or Africa. This genre thrives on wild rumours and fertile imaginations. It was once described as junk journalism. And society loves junk generally because it is like fast food. People love to read and hear and discuss society people. Society people or newsmakers themselves love to gobble up junk stories, no matter how ridiculous they may be or sound. More often than not, the stories are untrue, but society still feeds on them.

Let me take you down memory lane. In May 1989, a wild rumour surfaced that nearly sent the government of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida packing. The content of the rumour was so bizarre, but even intelligent people still believed the story. It was what led to what was tagged THE SAP RIOTS. SAP was the acronym for Structural Adjustment Program which President Babangida had introduced at the time. Then came the news, which was made believable by the participation of the famous social critic, Dr Tai Solarin, who swore by Jove that the story was impeccably true. What was it all about? It turned out that this tale was what he had learnt from a brief but hasty trip to a public toilet where he had overheard a conversation in which the lurid allegations were made.

It was reported that while Nigerians were being asked to tighten their belts and lives, Babangida’s family allegedly owned some of the most exclusive and expensive boutiques in Europe. Since there was no social media to help project, propel and distribute the gossip, the promoters had to improvise by typing the tales by moonlight on stencils and printing them as leaflets.

Unlike today, that was a time when we had no social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, it therefore remains a mystery how they were able to make those leaflets go so viral in 1989. From Lagos to Edo State and around the South West axis, the stories developed wings and began to spread across Nigeria like wildfire in harmattan. The more people tried to douse the fire, the higher the fire took a major leap of its life. And sadly, people believed the campaign of calumny against the government of the day which led to the youths taking to the roads and streets screaming “Babangida must go…” Anyone who said anything contrary was instantly considered an enemy of the people and friends of the looters. The situation was not so much different as it is today, but social media has since made such stories readily available to a willing, gullible and sometimes ignorant market.

I was away from our office at the Weekend Concord newspaper when the news broke on a horrible Wednesday. I returned on Friday afternoon by which time the first edition of the tabloid had gone to bed and already printed. The screaming headline was BLACK WEDNESDAY IN LAGOS. I immediately disagreed with my boss, Mr Mike Awoyinfa, that the headline was rather weak for a Saturday paper. He then challenged me to come up with a better headline and I picked up the challenge and came up with my own: RUMOURS THAT FUELLED THE RIOTS! My Editor was over the moon with his Deputy Editor, Mr Dimgba Igwe (now of blessed memory).

The next problem was how to write a good story to justify my new headline without getting into trouble with the military government of the day. Trust me, I offered to be the lamb of God who would carry the sins of the world. Interestingly, this was 30 years ago, in 1989. I ordered a bottle of beer and raised one of my legs on the table while I pumped the alcohol into my brains to emit some powerful words for one of the biggest stories of my journalism career. That was when the famous columnist, May Ellen Ezekiel, who had just lost her job at Quality magazine and was now working on her own publication, Classique magazine, but kept a column in Weekend Concord, which I edited, sauntered in and saw me drinking while writing. First it was strange, and almost sacrilegious, to find anyone drinking in the main offices of Concord newspapers, except at the popular Bush Canteen, earmarked for such purpose, and then to be writing a satanic story at that. May Ellen approached me and said “shuo, what’s going on here?” I explained the delicate story I was working on and she was excited too. That was the day her respect for me quadrupled and she started making moves to headhunt and poach me to her magazine, to which I fell yakata about a year later.

Fortunately, that evening, our Chairman, Chief Moshood Abiola, returned from a trip to Europe and brought us copies of the Ebony magazines which was allegedly supposed to have carried the stories of the Babangida’s outlandish ownerships of expensive shops and choice properties abroad while Nigerians languished in excruciating pains. Nothing of the sort was ever published by Ebony. That was not the type of gossipy stuff Ebony would normally disseminate. So, I first regurgitated all the fictional anecdotes before revealing that we had laid our hands on recent editions of Ebony and nothing of the sort was contained therein. And we published a bromide of the Ebony on the cover to prove the authenticity of our claims. I believe our second edition on Saturday morning reportedly sold over 80,000 copies in Lagos and its environ alone. And I earned a double promotion that May 1989, when I moved straight from Staff Writer to Literary editor. Six months later, I was promoted News Editor, and it was such a meteoric rise for me. Our Managing Director, Dr Doyinsola Hamdat Abiola, who had handpicked me for the job at weekend Concord as a pioneer staff, from my former post at the African Concord magazine, was very proud of her decision.

Thus, you can imagine how I feel today, 30 years after, with another round of incredible fictionalisation, this time, about a former military ruler, now a civilian President, Muhammadu Buhari. The difference this time, I must reiterate is that the youths of today are much more audaciously creative, and largely emboldened by their smartphones from where they can operate even more clandestinely and incognito.

No one knows how the rumours of President Buhari’s supposed whirlwind romance with one of his new Ministers surfaced and blew out of proportion such that everyone is talking about it authoritatively. Different versions of invitation cards have been designed and printed online. Some people claimed the wedding was definitely taking place and procured their own “aso ebi”, a special uniform dress for special guests, friends and relatives. By Thursday night, I had reached out to several impeccable sources within and outside the Presidential villa and was told categorically that no such event would take place on Friday, October 11, 2019. I also confirmed that the supposed bride was not even anywhere near Nigeria. She was away overseas on national assignments.

But some new videos, purportedly showing the supposed arrival of the reportedly estranged First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who has made England her new home and base these past months, were going viral. One of them was a loud voice lamenting how some parts of the villa had been locked up and the woman in the video was practically stridently lamenting and soliloquising about how she was being treated shabbily. “Enough is enough” was her bitter assertion in that particular video. There were other videos of the new bride dancing and being sprayed with crispy notes in what looked like a traditional wedding party. All the videos of the alleged returnee wife and the supposed incoming bride turned out to be old footage obtained from God knows where and how.

My investigations further revealed that the First Lady was also out of the country. I therefore, tweeted that there was no way such a wedding would take place in secret, but many still disagreed with me. President Buhari is a man well known for his strong convictions and would not hide behind one finger, if and when he decides to take another wife. It is not an offence against his culture and religion to marry more than more wife, so there is nothing that can stop or discourage him, if he really wants another wife. What I find odd and strange is that his handlers allowed the silly rumours to fester beyond redemption. A simple statement would have killed the unbridled rumour in its infancy.

By yesterday afternoon, the rumour came up with renewed vigour as the day of reckoning loomed with some people running commentaries like football commentators from the “wedding venue”. I have never felt so entertained and titillated in my life. My name even came into one of these spoofs. These guys are downright hilarious!

Someone created the account, Uncle Demola @OmoGbajabiamila, and ran this commentary:

“Burna Boy is giving us ‘when the gbedu de enter body’ “…

“Oshiomhole don off shirt.”

“LMFAOOOooo… Chris Ngige is doing breakdance to Burna Boy’s song. Anambra people can disappoint sha!”

“Adebayo Shittu is finally here.”

“When Baba see strippers, E just de shout ‘Astagafurillahi, Astagafurillahi, Astagafurillahi!’ “

“I’m hearing noise outside. Let me go and check what’s happening.”

“There is a serious problem outside between Rochas and DSS.”

“Apparently, Rochas Okorocha came with a giant statue of Buhari and he wants to bring it inside but the DSS guys won’t allow it. Where’s Abba Kyari FFS???

Rochas just came in and he’s complaining bitterly about the DSS guys not allowing him bring the statue in.”

“Wait! Dino Melaye has been allowed to enter as Naira Marley’s backup singer. Smart man!” #BUSA19

“Naira Marley has not even started singing, Lauretta Onochie is already twerking… DSS, heissss DSS. Do your job naaau!”

“Shehu Sani is on low cut. Baba wan disguise enter. ABBA Kyari catch am. DSS is taking him away already!”

“Apparently, someone told Dele Momodu that the party had been called off. So, he didn’t bother to come. Baba dey Twitter now de lament as e see say groove don begin.”

“LMFAOOOOooo… ABBA Kyari don bounce Dino Melaye.”

“Elrufai don show!!!”

“Goodluck Jonathan came with his own Sapele water. Ijaw man himself. Hennessy na like Sprite for am.”

“Garba Shehu de in charge of Barbecue.”

“Be like Femi Adeshina de suspension.”

“…Dem don wake Ganduje, make E come go sleep upstairs. Be like Baba don de snore.”

“Amaechi and Wike are also here but the two of them are on handcuffs so that there won’t be any fighting between them.”

“Akeredolu with this his baggy trousers sha. Who is his tailor nitori Olorun?”

“Buhari has collected the mic from Naira Marley. Looks like he doesn’t like the Soapy song. Not sure Abike Dabiri will like this!”

“Rauf Aregbesola is drinking Malt.”

“Fashola is calling NEPA boys to bring light. Be like fuel don low for gen and Mele Kyari nor remember to buy fuel.”

“Femi Gbajabiamila is here on a Gucci up and down. Iyalaya anybody!”

“Femi Otedola and Dangote are forming big boys. Nonsense!”

“I think I have been reported. The DSS guys are looking at me wan kain…” That’s the narrator, Uncle Demola himself.

For me, that was the height of comic relief that attended this silliness and maybe it came at the right time of acute stress everywhere. It certainly alleviated my feeling of gloom and doom. The solution is certainly not to ban or criminalise fake news. That was not done in 1989 by the more authoritarian, dictatorial military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. It should not be done now, when we are in a constitutional civilian democracy! For me, as a journalist, the freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution is sacrosanct and, in any event, there are extant laws available to deal with any abuse or infraction. Any new law will only be used by those keen to muzzle critics and presumed opponents of government like the so-called “wailing wailers”!

My conclusion is that nothing can ever shock Nigerians again so that even if this story had been true, we would have taken it in our stride. Our proclivity for absorbing shocks is infinitesimal. The world is waiting and watching how alleged family feuds, rebellion and relationships involving the leadership, domestic and other staff would end eventually.

Will this national drama ever lead to a denouement? Time will tell.

The post Pendulum : Social Media And President Buhari’s Imaginary Wedding Of The Century By Dele Momodu appeared first on TheNigerialawyer.

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Trump wanted to release his taxes in 2013 to show how smart he was for paying so little

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New York (CNN)President Donald Trump’s fight to keep his tax returns private is at odds with his own thinking in 2013 and 2014 that releasing them as part of a presidential bid would make him look like a smart businessman who had spent years lowering his taxable income, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of conversations at the time.

Sam Nunberg, Trump’s political adviser from 2011 to August 2015, tells CNN that during a meeting he had with Trump in the summer of 2013 at Trump Tower, the future president said he was comfortable releasing his tax returns and, even, that he thought it would be a good idea. Nunberg assumed this was because of how little Trump must pay in taxes.
“He thought he could defend the return,” says Nunberg, who did not himself view Trump’s returns. “I inferred from the conversation that he believed that it was a low number and he’d look savvy.”
    A second person, a former senior adviser to Trump, who also joined them for lunch that day, recalls Trump being enthusiastic about releasing his returns for this reason.
    Nunberg remembers that at the time Trump had recently returned from delivering a political speech in Iowa and that his motivation to look like a scrappy businessman was fueled by the failed presidential bid of Mitt Romney. “He felt that Romney had avoided looking successful,” says Nunberg. “Romney had posed beside a shopping cart in his jeans. Trump wanted to appear to be the opposite of that. He was proud of his business track record.”
    In May 2014, Trump told an Irish television station that he would “absolutely” release his tax returns if he entered the race. “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely,” he said. “And I would love to do that.”
    It wasn’t until November 2014 that Trump abandoned the idea, according to Nunberg. At that point it was still eight months before Trump announced for president. At another one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, Nunberg says he convinced Trump to change tack, and told him that federal election rules obliged him to release only a broad financial statement, rather than his full tax returns. Trump liked the idea because he could show how rich he was, says Nunberg.
    “He wanted to look rich rather than smart,” Nunberg says.
    Neither the White House, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, nor the Trump Organization responded to a request for comment.

    A losing fight

    That change of heart nearly five years ago has had massive repercussions. During the 2016 campaign, Trump became the first major party nominee not to release his taxes in more than 30 years.
    As President, he has faced numerous legal challenges seeking the release of his tax returns, including from House Democrats and the New York district attorney.
    In fighting to keep them private, Trump has deployed an assortment of arguments both legal and prosaic, ranging from claims he’s under audit by the IRS to simply stating his taxes are “none of your business.” Trump has also acknowledged that he has fought to “very hard to pay as little tax as possible.”
    But after a string of court losses, Trump’s unprecedented struggle to block the release of his tax returns is looking legally tenuous and appears more likely to head to the Supreme Court.
    On Friday, Trump lost his appeal to stop House Democrats from subpoenaing his taxes from his longtime accountant Mazars USA. In a 2-1 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld a lower court ruling saying the firm must turn over eight years of accounting records.
    Trump can appeal to the Supreme Court to stop Mazars, but courts, including the Supreme Court, previously have refused to curtail Congress’ subpoena power.

    A matter of vanity

    Speculation has swirled around why Trump hasn’t released his taxes, including that they could reveal long-denied ties to foreign interests or that he has donated embarrassingly little to charitable organizations. Trump’s critics have also suggested that a full public airing of his tax records might prove that he has exaggerated his wealth and isn’t as rich as he claims to be.
    It’s this last reason that is closest to the truth, according to Nunberg, who told CNN it’s his impression that Trump’s real motivation for not releasing his taxes was a simple matter of vanity.
    A tax return of a New York real estate developer typically makes them look much less wealthy than they really are, on account of complex rules that include the ability for owners of profit-making buildings to write them off as losses.
    Nunberg says the reason he suggested Trump not release his tax returns came down to three factors. First, by then Trump had told him that he was in fact under audit by the IRS. Secondly, he and Roger Stone, a mentor to Nunberg and himself a former Trump adviser, had started to realize that some of Trump’s business history — the bankruptcy of the Trump Organization in the 1990s in particular — would come under attack and the returns might highlight that.
    Third, Nunberg assumed, given his knowledge of the common tax practice of New York real estate magnates, there would likely be a vast discrepancy between Trump’s net worth and what his tax returns showed — and that this might be difficult to explain to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Nunberg knew that tax laws for commercial real estate developers are notoriously riddled with loopholes peculiar to that industry.
    “I wanted him to run. I wanted him to feel as comfortable as he could. I didn’t want any complications or hiccups. I tried so that this wouldn’t hurt the Trump brand in any way,” Nunberg said.

    Changing his story

    By early 2015, Trump was starting to slightly change the way he answered questions about his taxes. In February of that year, he told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would “certainly show tax returns if it was necessary.”
    By October, he was hedging even more, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was considering releasing his tax returns. “I’m thinking about maybe when we find out the true story on Hillary’s emails,” he said of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
    The financial statement Trump filed with the Federal Election Commission in July 2015 was 92 pages long and claimed $1.4 billion in assets and $265 million in liabilities.
    Nunberg was fired from the campaign in August 2015, shortly after the financial statement was released.
    During the presidential campaign Trump used the excuse of being under audit as the chief reason he could not release his taxes. He’s repeated that defense as President. It’s true that every president is audited every year, but there is no law that forbids them from releasing their returns while under audit.
    “The President has fought releasing his tax returns since the early days of his campaign,” said the former senior Trump adviser who says they still regularly speak with the President. “He has no interest in showing them or he would have released them. As usual I expect the Democrats will be disappointed if they are released, as they might just show Trump is a savvy, successful wealthy businessman.”
    But in May The New York Times reported that 10 years of Trump’s tax records the paper had viewed, starting in 1985, appeared to show the exact opposite, and that Trump had lost $1.17 billion during that period.
    The paper reported that, according to the tax records, Trump would have “lost” more money than any individual taxpayer in the entire country. Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, told the Times that statements about the records were “inaccurate” but pointed to no specific inaccuracies. He later added that IRS transcripts “are notoriously inaccurate.”
      In a response to the Times, a senior White House official said, “The president got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments. That is why the president has always scoffed at the tax system and said you need to change the tax laws. You can make a large income and not have to pay large amount of taxes.”
      In other words, Nunberg’s assumptions about why Trump’s tax returns would be damaging to the Trump brand were spot on.

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      How my son went from gamer to compulsive gambler

      The NHS has opened its first clinic for young people addicted to gaming and gambling, a year after a Gambling Commission report found that 55,000 11-to-16-year-olds in the UK were problem gamblers. For some the path to gambling begins with playing online games, as the BBC’s Becky Milligan heard from the father of one young man now getting help for his addiction.

      “Not in a million years, not in a million years did I think that gaming could lead to compulsive gambling.”

      Steve is sitting on a bench in a churchyard. He’s agreed to talk to me about his son’s gambling addiction. He’s nervous, he hasn’t done an interview before and I can feel his anxiety.

      His son, now in his early 20s, is in recovery and doing well, “but we take one day at a time” he says.

      “We’ve had a terrible three years. We wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through. When we first discovered our son had the compulsive gambling disorder we didn’t know what to do.”

      I tell Steve that I’ve spoken to other parents whose children have developed gambling disorders, and they also paid off the debts at first, not realising the extent of their children’s addiction.

      “We thought this was just a little glitch, this is what kids do,” one father told me. And that’s what Steve thought at first.

      He and his wife had known for some time that their son enjoyed having the odd bet. But lots of their friends enjoyed a flutter and it didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary.

      A year later, though, Steve was shocked to find out his son was gambling with other people’s money and losing large amounts.

      “It was online roulette. That was his downfall,” he tells me.

      Now Steve realised it was a very serious problem. He and his wife didn’t know what to do. They began to isolate themselves, avoid going out or seeing friends. They were worried what people would say.

      “We were pretty helpless. We didn’t know which way to turn. We spent months finding the answers and doing our own research,” Steve says.

      Last year, he and his wife went to a GamAnon meeting for families. Earlier this year his son also began to get help.

      Steve has had a few months to do a great deal of research and he now believes his son’s addiction was sparked when he was 12 or 13 and was obsessed with playing online games, particularly football games.

      He would play for hours and hours in his bedroom, Steve tells me, and all his mates were into to it as well. Steve didn’t really understand what the games were about, let alone the new technology the games used. And anyway, at least his son was occupied, he says.

      “We all want an easy life, a quiet life. Parents can be lazy. If he was playing upstairs I would think, ‘It’s not doing any harm is it?'”

      Steve now thinks that the football games promoted habits, including spending hours online, that “developed into gambling”.

      Crucially, Steve’s son was encouraged to pay for extra products, such as “ultimate team packs”.

      The identities of the players in these packs would only be revealed once he had paid, which Steve says introduced his son to the “thrill of gambling”, the game of chance and risk – including the chance of acquiring a star player who would make him unbeatable.

      Steve thinks the difference between online gaming and gambling is very subtle, and that those children who excessively game online, like his son, are at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers later in life. It doesn’t matter, he says, whether the game involves winning or losing real money.

      Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a psychiatrist at the new NHS treatment centre, says no link between gaming-related activities “that may be toxic for young people” and gambling has yet been established. It’s currently a “big controversial conversation”, she says.

      “I believe so little is known in this country about both these behavioural addictions in children, that we need to hear it on the ground, we need to understand what these people are doing then work with policy makers, politicians and public health professionals to change the environment they live in,” she told the BBC.


      It has been a very hard few years for Steve and his family. He recently decided to leave his teaching job and set up a charity, GamFam, to help other parents who might be in a similar position.

      However complicated it is, Steve says that parents need to know what their children are doing online, they need to become the experts in order to protect them.

      “Do research, put the barriers in place, take control of the device, set up family time. Screen [the child’s activity] so that you are in control of what’s going on. And most importantly do not have any of your credit cards, debit cards linked to the account,” he says.

      “There are horror stories where children are spending excessive amounts of money on in-game purchases. Many of these games promote themselves as free games but the loot boxes in the games [are not].”

      Like the “ultimate team packs” that Steve’s son used to buy, loot boxes may contain virtual items such as weapons or shields that help a player win the game – and gamers don’t know what’s in them until they have bought them.

      MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee recently recommended that the sale of loot boxes should be regulated as gambling, and that selling them to children should be banned entirely.

      In a statement to the BBC, the association for UK interactive entertainment, Ukie, echoed Steve’s call for parents to monitor their children’s behaviour online.

      “Alongside robust age-ratings for games, all major consoles and mobile devices offer smart and simple parental controls. Above all, we recommend that parents and carers engage directly with players, talk to them about the games they are playing and even join in,” the statement said.

      Wes Himes, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, said it was very difficult for children to get through the verification process to gamble online. He added that the industry was not allowed to advertise near schools, or to target under-25s with its advertising.

      Steve Ginnis of Ipsos Mori, however, told the BBC that focus groups conducted by his company showed that children and young people found aspects of existing gambling advertisements appealing – “in terms of promotional offers and use of celebrities and presenting it as fun or skilful”.


      ‘Part of the game’

      Stewart Kenny, the Paddy Power founder who resigned in 2016 over what he saw as the failure to tackle problem gambling, says advertising is “normalising” gambling for children, and that it has become “nearly part of the game” when watching football.

      “That is dangerous, because it is promoted by well-known people, it’s a constant barrage of advertising they see it before, during and after the match… It’s become normal for children to think gambling and soccer are the same thing.”


      Steve says his family is now doing better. His son’s last bet was in February. They are not ashamed any more about what happened, but in order to protect his son, Steve doesn’t want to give his full name.

      He hopes his new charity will be able to visit schools and talk to parents.

      Steve says the problem of children’s gambling addiction has to be addressed. If nothing is done, he believes we will have an “epidemic on our hands of catastrophic proportions”.

      At present, he says, the only help these youngsters have got is their parents.

      “For me, if I don’t do this now, then I will never do it, I feel it is a calling, I need to do, I need to be putting the message out there and support the parents. I wouldn’t wish what we have been through on my worst enemy.”

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