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Today's History for July 23, 2020

Let's start with a little history, shall we?

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At six o’clock in the evening on July 23, 1914, nearly one month after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a young Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, ambassador of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Serbia, delivers an ultimatum to the Serbian foreign ministry. Acting with the full support of its allies in Berlin, Austria-Hungary had determined in the aftermath of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination to pursue a hard-line policy towards Serbia. Their plan, developed in coordination with the German foreign office, was to force a military conflict that would, Vienna hoped, end quickly and decisively with a crushing Austrian victory before the rest of Europe—namely, Serbia’s powerful ally, Russia—had time to react. According to the terms of the ultimatum delivered on July 23, the Serbian government would have to accept an Austro-Hungarian inquiry into the assassination, notwithstanding its claim that it was already conducting its own internal investigation. Serbia was also to suppress all anti-Austrian propaganda and to take steps to root out and eliminate terrorist organizations within its borders—one such organization, the Black Hand, was believed to have aided and abetted the archduke’s killer, Gavrilo Princip, and his cohorts, providing weapons and safe passage from Belgrade to Sarajevo. The Dual Monarchy demanded an answer to the note within 48 hours—by that time, however, anticipating Serbian defiance, Gieslingen had already packed his bags and prepared to leave the embassy. On receipt of the ultimatum, Serbia at once appealed to Russia, whose council of ministers met on July 24 to determine a course of action. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov voiced his belief that Germany was using the crisis over the archduke’s death as a pretext for starting a preventive war to defend its interests in the region. Defying Austro-German expectations that Russia would back down in the case of such a conflict, the council agreed to order four military districts to prepare for mobilization. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, beginning the First World War.

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On July 23, 1996, at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team wins its first-ever team gold. The 1996 U.S. women’s team, nicknamed the “Mag 7″ or “magnificent seven,” was made up of seven immensely talented teenaged girls: Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug. The team entered the Summer Olympics with the expectations of an entire country heaped on their young shoulders. They were considered America’s best shot ever at an Olympic team gold, something no American women’s gymnastics team had ever won. The American women’s best finish to that point had been a silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which were boycotted by the favored Soviet Union, winner of eight consecutive team golds between 1952 and 1980. The final event of the team competition for the U.S. was the vault. Fourteen-year-old Dominique Moceanu, the first American to compete, had a chance to clinch the gold for her team with a solid performance, but was unable to stick the landing on her first attempt. Moceanu took off for her second vault, and, again, slipped and fell on the landing. This left it up to Strug, America’s second and final vaulter, to seal the win. On her first attempt, Strug also fell on the landing, and heard an alarming pop in her ankle. The team and coach Bela Karolyi were unaware that the team had won whether Strug vaulted again or not, so Strug bravely readied herself to vault on her badly sprained ankle. After executing a perfect one-and-a-half twisting Yurchenko, Strug landed solidly on two feet. She then spun and hopped on one foot towards the judges’ table before collapsing in pain. When her 9.712 was announced, she celebrated in the arms of her coach, who would later have to carry the 4-foot-9-inch “Spark Plug” Strug to the medal stand.

On this day in 1878, Black Bart robs a Wells Fargo stagecoach in California. Wearing a flour sack over his head, the armed robber stole the small safe box with less than $400 and a passenger’s diamond ring and watch. When the empty box was recovered, a taunting poem signed “Black Bart” was found inside. This wasn’t the first time that Black Bart had robbed a stagecoach and left a poem for the police; however, it was the last time he got away with it. His next stagecoach robbery secured a lot more cash, $4,800. At yet another robbery, on November 3, 1888, though, he left behind a handkerchief at the scene.Through a laundry mark, Pinkerton detectives traced the handkerchief back to Charles Bolton, an elderly man in San Francisco. Bolton later confessed to being Black Bart but bitterly disputed his reputation as an outlaw. “I am a gentleman,” he told detectives with great dignity. How Bolton became Black Bart is unclear. What is known is that Bolton had tried to hit it big in the Gold Rush, but had ended up with a lifestyle beyond his means. Black Bart ended up serving only a short stretch in prison and spent the rest of his days in Nevada.

Futures open Thursday up fractionally. Crude is up 0.1% and Gold is up 0.8%.

Elon Musk is excommunicado. The Continental and its services are closed to him. The New Amsterdam is closed to him too according to Mr. Jones and me.

Seeking Alpha has Tesla covered as many ways as it can so I have decided to not comment on them today.

There was big news from India overnight as Amazon Pay (NASDAQ:AMZN) partnered with private firm Acko General Insurance to offer car and motorcycle insurance. It's the e-commerce giant's first market for the service, where it will compete with local rivals including Paytm and Policybazaar. Amazon is moving fast to become a full-fledged financial services platform, with Amazon Pay supporting a range of payments services, including the popular UPI, and debit and credit cards.

Warren Buffett scooped up 34M shares of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) over the last few days - at an average price of about $24 - taking his stake in the banking giant to over 11% (from about 7.4%). Big discount? The Oracle spent the $816M after BAC shares plunged nearly 32% since the beginning of the year.

Despite fiscal Q4 results that were largely positive, shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) fell as much as 3% in AH trading on Wednesday. The software giant easily beat analyst estimates, reporting a net profit of $11.2B and revenue that rose 13% to $38B. Traders may have been looking for more. The company's cloud computing operation saw sales growth under 50% for the first time, while transactional license purchasing continued to slow and subsidiary LinkedIn was negatively impacted by the weak job market.

Off to Google Finance-

The parent company of Ann Taylor and Loft, Ascena Retail Group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday morning, marking the latest apparel maker to be pushed to the brink during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shopify (SHOP -0.4%) is adding Affirm as a payment partner in an effort add more flexible partner plans for U.S. consumers, particularly on the younger side.

American Airlines Group Inc. AAL, -0.84% posted a big loss for the second quarter, as travel was decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. The carrier said it had a net loss of $2.067 billion, or $4.82 per share, in the quarter, after income of $662 million, or $1.49 a share, in the year-earlier period. Its adjusted per-share loss came to $7.82, slightly better than the FactSet loss-per-share consensus forecast of $7.84. Revenue tumbled 86% to $1.622 billion from $11.960 billion, ahead of the FactSet consensus of $1.437 billion. "This was one of the most challenging quarters in American's history," CEO Doug Parker said in a statement.

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