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Superstitious Argentine President Mauricio Macri hires exorcists.

It was the last days of December when Father Carlos Mancuso received a call at his La Plata home. A Ms. Gómez said she was calling on behalf of President Mauricio Macri with a specific request: to carry out a “cleansing” at the Olivos presidential residence.

The conversation outlined, in a brief, generic fashion, the task at hand, although Mancuso, 81, was cautious. He didn’t know whether it was about an “infestation” (a possessed spirit moving about the home), a “demoniacal obsession” (a demon pursues a person, causing physical discomfort) or “a possession” (the malignant force is inside the human).

Three days later, however, Father Mancuso was contacted a second time by the supposed Macri emissary - but just to apologize. According to Gómez, the president had opted for a different kind of solution. “She was hurt and upset,” the exorcist remembered, seemingly without a desire to blame anyone. Macri apparently opted for a Buddhist cleansing to dispel the bad energy that he believes his predecessor, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, left in the presidential offices.

While the identity of the cleansing hands were not confirmed, the “energy cleanses” took place in both the presidential office building (the Pink House) and the Olivos presidential residence according to a story published by journalist Santiago Fioriti in the prominent local news daily Clarín on Thursday.

Although the Catholic hierarchy is not comfortable speaking up about exorcist practices, Mancuso’s name is often uttered in parishes.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/207847/looking-for-the-exorcist

Macri is so narcissistic, he thinks the recession, soaring prices, and protests his policies are inflicting on Argentina are all because Cristina Kirchner (who's an atheist) put the whammy on him.

Former Presidents Isabel Perón and Carlos Menem were similarly inclined toward the occult. But all their exorcists and faith healers couldn't make up for their own disastrous right-wing policies either.

Donald Trump Foundation to receive all money raised from Veterans' fundraiser.

Source: Blasting News

After Fox News made it clear that popular host Megyn Kelly would remain as a moderator for last Thursday's debate, Republican front runner Donald Trump balked, and canceled his appearance. Blowing off the debate was an unprecedented move; but the former host of "The Apprentice" attempted to counter the bad press by holding a charity for United States military veterans. The Reverb Press reported on January 29, however, that the event isn't as clear as Trump would have you believe.

Skipping the debate, Trump spent time in Iowa just days before the caucus, holding a quickly planned fundraiser event. While Trump celebrated, and often bragged, about raising $6 million for veterans. Reverb Press notes that while the donation page claims "100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs," the fine print reads that all donations will actually be forwarded to Donald Trump's non-profit foundation.

While it's unknown whether or not Trump's foundation will donate part or all of the money to veterans, Reverb Press also showed that between 2009 and 2013, the billionaire real estate mogul donated over $5 million to charity; but only $57,000 to veterans' groups. In comparison, Trump sent as much as $250,000 to the Clinton foundation during that same time period.

While the Trump campaign continued to promote their fundraiser, many veterans weren't too pleased. Paul Riekhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), took to Twitter and promised to decline any donation from Trump's event, citing his use of veterans as a "political stunt."

Read more: http://us.blastingnews.com/news/2016/01/donald-trump-foundation-to-receive-all-money-raised-from-veterans-fundraiser-00762039.html

Zika outbreak epicenter in same area where Oxitec GM mosquitoes were released in 2015

Zika seemingly exploded out of nowhere. Though it was first discovered in 1947, cases only sporadically occurred throughout Africa and southern Asia. In 2007, the first case was reported in the Pacific. In 2013, a smattering of small outbreaks and individual cases were officially documented in Africa and the western Pacific. They also began showing up in the Americas. In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus — and the situation changed dramatically.

Enter Oxitec, a British company recently purchased by Intrexon, a synthetic biology company based in Maryland. Oxitec first unveiled its large-scale, genetically-modified mosquito farm in Juazeiro, in Northeast Brazil, in July 2012, with the goal of reducing “the incidence of dengue fever,” The Disease Daily reported. By July 2015, shortly after the GM mosquitoes were first released into the wild in Juazeiro, Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus, by reducing the target population by more than 90%.”

Northeast Brazil is now considered the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, which coincides with at least 4,000 reports of babies born with microcephaly just since October. Half of the workforce of the mining sector in the region is comprised of children. Without viable economic alternatives, most children must join their parents in rudimentary mining pits; children as young as two years transport, wash, and crush minerals to earn half a dollar a day.

The particular strain of Oxitec GM mosquitoes, OX513A, are genetically altered so the vast majority of their offspring will die before they mature — though Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher published concerns in a report in September 2010 that a known survival rate of 3-4 % warranted further study before the release of the GM insects. Her concerns, which were echoed by several other scientists both at the time and since, appear to have been ignored — though they should not have been.

Those genetically-modified mosquitoes work to control wild, potentially disease-carrying populations in a very specific manner. Only the male modified Aedes mosquitoes are supposed to be released into the wild — as they will mate with their unaltered female counterparts. Once offspring are produced, the modified, scientific facet is supposed to ‘kick in’ and kill that larvae before it reaches breeding age — if tetracycline is not present during its development. But there is a problem: as a confidential internal Oxitec document divulged in 2012, that survival rate could be as high as 15% — even with low levels of tetracycline present.

Even absent this tetracycline, as Steinbrecher explained, a “sub-population” of genetically-modified Aedes mosquitoes could theoretically develop and thrive, in theory, “capable of surviving and flourishing despite any further” releases of ‘pure’ GM mosquitoes which still have that gene intact. She added, “the effectiveness of the system also depends on the [genetically-designed] late onset of the lethality. If the time of onset is altered due to environmental conditions … then a 3-4% [survival rate] represents a much bigger problem.”

As the WHO stated in its press release, “conditions associated with this year’s El Niño weather pattern are expected to increase mosquito populations greatly in many areas.”

At: http://www.healthfreedoms.org/zika-outbreak-epicenter-in-same-area-where-gm-mosquitoes-were-released-in-2015/

Jeb! campaign pulls the plug on itself.

It seems that Jeb Bush, now reduced to an asterisk in the 2016 Republican Presidential contest, has concluded that the best way to quickly burn through those millions upon millions of dollars in campaign donations he received is to perform a supreme act of self-immolation, by resurrecting the infamous Terry Schiavo fiasco in a new campaign ad, paid for, morbidly enough, by a Bush PAC that calls itself “Right To Rise."

In addition to touting his high score with the NRA, the voice-over in Bush’s new ad celebrates how then-Florida governor Bush “fought time and again for the right to life," with an image of someone leaning over Schiavo, lying in a helpless vegetative state in her hospital bed.

And while the general electorate will likely recoil in horror at this kind of crass opportunism, Bush apparently hopes the Republican base will be shocked and awed as they are reminded of his role in forcing the irreversibly and profoundly brain-damaged Schiavo to cling to life in direct contravention of what her husband explained would have been her own desires, simply to bolster his credentials among the ghouls who demanded that the poor woman be kept resuscitated at all costs, no matter how much pain it caused to others. Because abortion or something.

The Schiavo episode served as a teachable moment for the rest of the country to see just how extreme the Republican Party could be in attempting to impose and enforce its twisted sense of values upon the rest of us. Schiavo, a Florida woman who lived in a medically irreversible, persistent vegetative state for 15 years, became a huge cause célèbre for social conservatives in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although her husband insisted that his wife would not have wanted to live that way and would instead opt for euthanasia, her parents fought this course of action.

For anyone who may have forgotten, Bush, enabled by a GOP-dominated Florida State Legislature which had passed something called “Terri's Law," spearheaded the effort to maintain Schiavo’s feeding tubes against multiple Court rulings. That law, and Jeb Bush's actions, were ultimately repudiated by a unanimous Florida Supreme Court.

This was a textbook example of right-wing overreach. One would have thought that Jeb Bush would have learned his lesson and avoided this episode like the plague.

At: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/01/28/1475883/-Jeb-Campaign-Pulls-The-Plug-On-Itself?detail=email

Joseph Stiglitz and Martín Guzmán: Argentina’s Uncertain Prospects.

Mauricio Macri’s election as Argentina’s president brought to an end 12 years of government led by Néstor and Cristina Fernández Kirchner. Macri’s administration inherits a delicate economy. If he is not careful, Argentina could face a balance-of-payments crisis, owing to deteriorating external conditions and macroeconomic mismanagement, especially since 2011.

Some aspects of Argentina’s economic situation, however, are highly desirable – not least its low debt-to-GDP ratio. As a result, Macri’s government faces a much less daunting task than the one confronting Kirchner in 2003, after a decade-long experiment with Washington Consensus policies (financial deregulation, trade liberalization, and privatization), together with the peso’s peg to the U.S. dollar, ended in disaster. When Kirchner took office, Argentina had just experienced its most severe economic crisis ever. Unemployment, inequality, poverty, and the national debt had all risen to record levels. Massive deindustrialization and deep weaknesses in its underfunded educational system did not bode well for the future.

Following devaluation and default in 2002, Argentina experienced a spectacular recovery. In a severely demand-constrained economy, the Kirchner government pursued policies that led to a massive reduction in unemployment, poverty, and inequality. A deep debt restructuring (including full repayment to the IMF, thereby increasing the government’s policy making autonomy) greatly contributed to the restoration of macroeconomic sustainability. In a favorable global environment, the more competitive exchange rate set the stage for reindustrialization, creating jobs for many who had been excluded from labor markets during the previous decade. As a result, from 2003 to 2011, GDP growth averaged more than 7% per year.

During Mrs. Kirchner’s presidency, the country navigated the global financial crisis with relative success. But, after 2011, instead of carefully designing macro and micro policies to favor a consistent increase in supply and demand, most policies fostered sustaining aggregate demand in a context that was no longer purely Keynesian. Demand grew, but supply didn’t keep up. Some sectors (particularly energy) experienced bottlenecks, causing inflation to accelerate (to over 20%). Her leadership brought about significant improvements in the lives of many, a more egalitarian income distribution, an economy close to full employment, and a much lower debt-to-GDP ratio. But the fiscal surplus she inherited from her predecessor Néstor Kirchner turned into a sizable deficit of 4% of GDP by her last year in office, and the erosion in the external balance (smaller trade surpluses) now threatens to reverse part of that progress.

Macri’s task is to address the external and fiscal imbalances and reduce inflation, without undoing what has been achieved. In its first weeks, his government eliminated or reduced taxes on commodity exports and abolished exchange controls, resulting in a sudden devaluation of around 35% against the dollar (from 9.80 to 14 pesos).

There are four key uncertainties: the pass-through to consumer prices of the removal of export taxes and exchange controls; the effects of this sudden devaluation; foreign investors’ response to the new environment; and access to “bridge” finance, which depends on a settlement with holdout creditors (the so-called vulture funds). The immediate winners are agricultural and other commodity exporters, who will receive much more for what they sell. If the devaluation does not cause significant inflationary pressures, it will boost competitiveness without decreasing real wages. But that seems to be wishful thinking. If higher prices for domestic goods previously subject to export taxes and higher import prices (as a result of devaluation) are passed on to consumers, real wages will fall, in which case workers are likely to demand larger pay increases, pushing up inflation.

The government’s initial actions are worrisome: In particular, the permanent cut in export taxes is a large transfer to the wealthy, at great cost to ordinary workers. Whatever the efficiency benefits, the distributive consequences and development implications cannot be ignored.

At: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/macri-argentina-economic-uncertainty-by-joseph-e--stiglitz-and-martin-guzman-2016-01#9MpHODl0jI4r3w06.99

Professor Stiglitz was very kind to give Macri's GOP-issued policies as much benefit of the doubt as he did, as they have indeed already led to the erosion of real wages of close to 10% in just two months and recession. http://www.democraticunderground.com/110847152

Macri's draconian cuts in public payrolls and subsidies - which led to 500% higher utility rates and a jump in unemployment from 6 to 10% - will save around $4 billion this year. But those savings are dwarfed by his $10 billion tax cut for big agro and the landowning elite (the very people that put him in office).

Argentine bonds succumb to global bond market turmoil as Macri euphoria cast aside.

Argentina managed to sidestep an emerging-market bond rout late last year on optimism that newly elected President Mauricio Macri would end the nation’s financial isolation. But now, the deepening selloff roiling global markets is proving to be too much for investors to ignore.

The country’s dollar-denominated notes have lost 3.9% this month - more than three times the average in emerging markets, data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co. show. Argentina's benchmark bonds due in 2033 have slid 4.1% from a nine-year high of 115 cents on the dollar reached December 30 and are now trading at 110 cents. The same bonds had risen over 20%, to an above-par price of 112 cents on the dollar, during former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's last year in office.

While Macri has followed through on promises to dismantle currency controls and start negotiations with disgruntled holdout bondholders since taking office last month, the turmoil in global markets fueled by plunging commodity prices upended a plan to sell local notes and fueled the decline in overseas notes as investors dumped risky assets. Argentina’s foreign debt is rated Caa2 by Moody’s Investors Service, eight levels below investment grade. Standard & Poor’s has a SD, or selective default, grade on the debt since Judge Thomas Griesa blocked payments for most of Argentina's bondholders at the behest of minority vulture fund investors in 2014.

“There’s been a strong risk-off in emerging markets, and even if Argentina has been separate from other global trends, it’s not immune,” said Joaquin Almeyra, a fixed-income trader at Bulltick LLC. “You’ve seen a lot of pain across Latin America and this was a question of contagion.”

At: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-26/argentina-succumbs-to-bond-turmoil-as-macri-euphoria-cast-aside

President Truman famously noted that "if you want to live like a Republican, you have to vote for a Democrat." The same is true in Argentina: the more "pro-business" they are, the worse they usually are for business (not to mention people).

Real wages in Argentina down 10% in the two months since Macri's election.

Acoording to a study published by the CTA labor federation, the purchasing power of workers in the private sector in Argentina fell from 7.6 to 10.1% between November and January. Accelerated inflation prompted by the 40% peso devaluation decreed by the newly-elected right-wing administration of President Mauricio Macri on December 17 was, according to the study, the biggest factor behind what's been the sharpest decline in real salaries since the 2002 crash.

"The current decline in real wages is part of a plan of economic austerity which seeks to control inflation only by reducing consumption and wage costs. The new economic team seems to believe that this would reinvigorate investment and economic growth," Pablo Manzanelli, head of the CTA's statistical office, told local news daily Página/12.

The CTA warned that while the nation's labor unions debate as to how to react, the ongoing macroeconomic changes are inevitably leading to an increase in unemployment and an even larger contraction in real wages as the Macri administration seeks to dismantle the domestic market.

Wage erosion has been a fixture in right-wing governments in Argentina over the last four decades, with real wages falling by around half between 1975 and 2002. They recovered during the Kirchner era, however - growing by 72% by 2013 even using private inflation estimates (which are higher than official ones). The only significant fall in real wages during the Kirchner era took place after a speculator-driven devaluation in early 2014, when real pay slid 4.5% between December 2013 and April 2014. The CTA noted, however, that "since then, the wage recovery was almost systematic, recovering to December 2013 values in real terms by mid-2015."

"There seems to be no economic justification for these policies. It is difficult to attract new investment with falling domestic consumption when exports stagnate due to the global crisis in general, and the recession in Brazil and China's slowdown in particular. Given this scenario, the recession being provoked in Argentina by devaluation and austerity is unlikely to be reversed in the near future," said Manzanelli.

"Regardless of his rhetoric promising 'macroeconomic balance and restored investor confidence' at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Macri's policies are not laying the groundwork for growth," concluded Manzanelli. "If there is to be a significant increase in investment, there must be a good level of consumption in addition to profitability; but with measures like these Macri hits domestic consumption at a time external demand shows no sign of growth."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201601/11260-la-perdida-del-poder-adquisitivo-de-los-ultimos-dos-meses-seria-del-10-por-ciento.html&prev=search

U.S. economy slows to 0.7% in fourth quarter as inventories, trade weigh.

Source: CNBC

U.S. economic growth braked sharply in the fourth quarter as businesses stepped up efforts to reduce an inventory glut and a strong dollar and tepid global demand weighed on exports. The nation's GDP increased at a 0.7% annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The fourth-quarter growth pace was in line with economists' expectations and followed a 2% in the third quarter. The economy grew 2.4% in 2015 after a similar expansion in 2014.

The report that showed a further cutback in investment by energy firms grappling with lower oil prices. Excluding inventories and trade, the economy grew at a 1.6% pace in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, businesses accumulated $68.6 billion worth of inventory. The decline from $85.5 billion in the third quarter was a bit more than economists had expected, suggesting inventories could remain a drag on growth in the first quarter. The small inventory build subtracted 0.45% from the first estimate of fourth-quarter GDP growth.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S.economic activity, increased at a 2.2%. Though that was a step-down from the 3.0% pace notched in the third quarter, the gain was above economists' expectations. Income at the disposal of households after accounting for taxes and inflation increased 3.2% in the fourth quarter after rising 3.8% in the prior period. The savings rate rose to 5.4% from 5.2% in the third quarter.

The downturn in energy sector investment put more pressure on business spending on nonresidential structures. Spending on mining exploration, wells and shafts dropped at a 38.7% rate after plunging at a 47.0% pace in the third quarter. Investment in mining exploration, wells and shafts fell 35% in 2015, the largest drop since 1986.

Business spending on equipment overall contracted at a 2.5% rate last quarter after rising at a 9.9% pace in the third quarter. Investment in residential construction remained a bright spot, rising at a 8.1% rate.

Read more: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/29/us-q4-gdp.html

Happy 260th birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have been 260 today. He died in 1791 at the age of 35, which means for the citizens of Vienna and the world, there has been a void of 225 years without a new Mozart composition.

Visitors to Austria quickly learn that in Vienna, there is no such thing as too much Mozart - or Strauss for that matter. For many travelers museums are frequently an acquired taste, but when they capture the essence of a personality or a particular era, they take on a new life. Vienna’s Mozarthaus is one of those places.

Don’t expect flashing neon signs or dozens of signposts saying “This way to Wolfie’s house.” In fact, you may wonder at first if you are in the right place. That’s because the apartments above the museum are still in use today, creating an atmosphere that makes it feel as if Mozart still lives at the site that was his home some 250 years ago. In a sense, the spirit of the great composer continues to thrive in a city that boasts such a rich musical heritage.

To walk up the ancient stone steps and see the sign over the door that simply says “Mozart” gives goose bumps to just about any visitor. Here, life goes on in the building just as it did two and a half centuries ago. As such, there is an aura about the museum that captures the imagination.

Curators have been unable to find most of Mozart’s original furniture and furnishings. For that reason the rooms of the apartment/museum are appointed as accurately as possible from written accounts of the composer’s life. When combined with other elements surrounding this unique venue, it becomes practically impossible not to feel a sense of being in the maestro’s presence during a visit. The design is intentional. It is meant to be an interactive venue rather than a stuffy memorial that fails to capture the spirit of the man who lived there.

It was in this location that Mozart wrote his world famous comic opera, “The Marriage of Figaro” (Le nozze di Figaro”). It was also in Mozarthaus where three of the six Haydn Quartets were written. But the back-story makes the main narrative even more intriguing. Already friends with Michael Haydn, during the time Mozart occupied this particular Viennese home, he was often visited by Michael’s more famous brother, Joseph Haydn. It is said Mozart and his friends would hold “jam sessions,” which must have seemed like an 18th century version of the Beatles, as such geniuses improvised music during the era of powdered wigs and silk knickers.

The Mozart apartment itself consists of four large rooms plus two smaller ones and a kitchen. Among the treasured artifacts at Mozarthaus is the stunning Flute Clock, a magnificent timepiece made around 1790, which plays the “Andante for a Cylinder in a Small Organ.” Many experts believe Mozart composed the music specifically for the clock.

In a city enveloped by music, Mozarthaus is a treasure to discover. Vienna’s tribute to one of the greatest composers of all time is tucked within narrow streets that must be very much as they were more than 200 years ago. As the British novelist once wrote, “There is nothing perfect in this world except Mozart’s music.” As if to verify this statement, the Mozarthaus still stands today as a museum in tune with the times.

At: http://www.commdiginews.com/entertainment/happy-260th-birthday-wolfgang-amadeus-mozart-56511/

Outcry as World Sailing CEO, who would have overseen sailing at Rio Olympics this year, is sacked.

The former CEO of World Sailing says he was fired for pushing to get rid of polluted Guanabara Bay as the sailing venue for this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.Peter Sowrey tried to change the venue, or at least have a “Plan B” but says “I was told to gag myself on the subject.”

Andy Hunt took over just two weeks ago as the new CEO, and sailing is still scheduled to begin in August in the sewage-filled bay. In interviews with The Associated Press, Sowrey and Hunt said the bay — overlooked by the famous Christ the Redeemer monument and Sugarloaf Mountain behind it — may give sailing the kind of television coverage it seldom enjoys.

It could also bring unwanted attention if sailors fall ill, or if floating rubbish (including plastic bags, door frames, and animal carcasses) fouls rudders and costs someone an Olympic gold medal.

Sowrey proposed moving the event to Buzios, a coastal resort city about 160 km (100 miles) south of Rio that has been host to several large sailing events. Officials have said it’s too late now for that change. “The board felt I was way too aggressive,” Sowrey said. “They basically voted me out. I didn’t resign. The board finally told me to leave.”

Sowrey said looking at Guanabara Bay on “fact-based, data-driven model we would never consider sailing in that quality of water.” Independent testing of Guanabara Bay conducted by the AP over the last year shows disease-causing viruses linked to human sewage at levels thousands of times above what would be considered actionable in the U.S. or Europe. The tests include the venue for sailing, but also Rio’s Olympic venues for rowing, canoeing, open-water swimming and triathlon.

About 1,600 athletes will compete in these venues during the Olympics, which open August 5, and hundreds more during the subsequent Paralympics.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/207557/outcry-as-rio-sailing-chief-sacked
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