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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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James Levine, Metropolitan Opera music director for 40 years, to retire.

Conductor James Levine is citing ill health as his reason for stepping down as music director at New York's Metropolitan Opera.

In the coming months, the Met intends to appoint a new music director, one of classical music's most prestigious positions and a key figure at the largest performing arts organization in the United States. He will also continue to oversee the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, which nurtures emerging singers.

The Met said Levine had in recent years "struggled with the effects of Parkinson's disease, making it increasingly hard for him to conduct a full schedule of Met performances."

"Through 45 years of unwavering devotion, maestro Levine has shaped the Met Orchestra into the world-class ensemble it is today", clarinetist Jessica Phillips, chair of the orchestra committee, said in a statement. Levine, 72, has led 2,551 performances of more than 85 operas with the Met, by far the most by an individual in the company's history. He made his debut there conducting "Tosca" in 1971.

His final performance of the current season will be on May 26 in Carnegie Hall, where he will lead the Met Orchestra in excerpts from Wagner's "Ring" cycle: music he has championed, perhaps more than any other American conductor, over the long arc of his immensely distinguished career.

A successor will be announced in "a couple of months." He then suffered spinal stenosis, leading to surgeries in May and July 2011, and he had another operation that September after falling and damaging a vertebra, an injury that sidelined him until May 2013. He is withdrawing from next year's new staging of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier but remains slated for revivals of Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, Verdi's Nabucco and Mozart's Idomeneo.

At: http://farandulife.com/2016/04/james-levine-metropolitan-opera-music-director-for-40-years/

Argentina's Macri backtracks on austerity; announces $2 billion social benefits package.

In a bid to compensate for the recent increase in public transportation and utility rates and high inflation, Argentine President Mauricio Macri yesterday announced a set of measures to “improve the income” of the most vulnerable sectors, increasing funds for social programs and announcing a substantial increase the minimum wage and unemployment insurance in the coming months.

The bill being sent to Congress would reimburse retirees, pensioners, and pregnancy and universal child allowance (AUH) beneficiaries 15% of value-added tax (IVA) paid at the supermarket. This refund would be limited to 300 pesos ($20) a month. This same group of beneficiaries (8.4 million people, or 20% of the Argentine population) would receive one-time, 500-peso ($35) payment in May to help mitigate the effects of the recent run-up in prices.

Macri's announcement would also extend the AUH to self-employed workers, which make up nearly 25% of Argentina's work force. “The measure will benefit 514,000 children and their families,” Macri said, speaking at a senior center in the working class Buenos Aires district of Mataderos. “The state," he added, “is as active as it has never been before.”

The bill likewise includes a hike in unemployment insurance, set at 300 pesos ($20) a month since 2006 despite an over 7-fold increase in prices since then. The insurance, for which demand has risen sharply with the 70-fold jump in layoffs so far this year, may be increased to 3,000 pesos ($200) a month.

Other social programs from the Kirchner era, which many in Macri's right-wing alliance had called to be rescinded, will instead be increased by 20%; these include the 'Argentina Works' coop support program and the 'Women Make It' job training program for poor single mothers (with 200,000 beneficiaries).

President Macri announced that the Minimum Wage Council will meet as scheduled in order to discuss an increase in the minimum wage for July. The council, created by former President Néstor Kirchner in 2004, is a three-party committee formed by Labor Ministry, business, and trade union representatives. The minimum wage currently stands at 6,060 pesos ($410) a month for full-time work, still one of the highest in Latin America despite Macri's recent steep devaluation. The President is said to be seeking an increase to 7,600 pesos ($520), or 25%; the minimum wage hike could reach 30%.

The package, as announced, is estimated to cost 30 billion pesos the first year ($2 billion); of which 20 billion pesos would be for increased social benefits, and 10 billion for the value-added tax refund.

Mixed reactions

The announcement was welcomed by most of Argentina's wide political spectrum, albeit with caveats.

The head of the Buenos Aires Province Justicialist Party (Peronism) head Fernando Espinoza applauded Macri’s announcement. “Peronists will always agree with measures that benefit the most humble. Reimbursing the value-added tax to retirees was one of the campaign promises made by Daniel Scioli,” he pointed out, referring to the center-left Peronist candidate Macri narrowly defeated last November. Espinoza warned, however, that these measures “are just a patch - insufficient, given the difficult situation the middle class and the workers are going through.”

Renewal Front head Sergio Massa, which represents centrist Peronists, largely dismissed the announcement, pointing to Macri's steep public service subsidy cuts and sharp increase in rates and fares. “We won’t be able to solve the economic crisis if we don’t do it together, workers and business leaders. But the largest effort has to be made by those with the most means, the business leaders and the state - not the workers,” he said on his Twitter account. “The Macri government,” Massa lamented, “is trying to lower inflation by reducing consumption.”

Federico Pinedo, the Provisional President of the Senate and leader of Macri's right-wing PRO party, praised Macri’s announcements, proclaiming that “the lie about Macri only ruling for the richest people is now over.” Referring to concerns over 100,000 mostly private sector jobs lost in the first two months of 2016 alone, Pinedo said that “these measures will boost the income of Argentines while looking out for employment.”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/212736/macri-trumpets-welfare-benefits

Panamá Papers: influential Argentine right-wing daily La Nación in the eye of the storm.

Just days after Argentine President Mauricio Macri was named as part of the massive offshore tax evasion scheme reveled by the Panamá Papers, the country's influential conservative daily La Nación was listed as a client as well.

Ironically, La Nación is one of 108 international media outlets working with the International Consortium of investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to organize and disseminate the leaked documents.

The newspaper, already facing fallout over op-eds in opposition to ongoing dictatorship-era human rights abuse trials, must now face news that the director of the La Nación SA media group, Luis Saguier, and other executives have been clients of the Panamanian corporate law firm Mossack Fonseca, which since 1977 oversaw a vast tax evasion and money laundering operation through the use of shell companies prepared and often managed by the firm itself.

The daily was thus put in the embarrassing position of having to report its own participation in the scheme, which it delayed until its Sunday edition of April 10, because, according to their article, "many of the 11 million documents to which La Nación was able to have access, through the ICIJ and the Süddeutsche Zeitung are still being processed."

The shell company was part of an apparent corporate inversion involving La Nación's sale of its lucrative classified ad division to Navent Group Ltd., one of whose subsidiaries is located in Panamá. The sale was paid for with Navent shares in January 2015 and deposited in the Panama subsidiary; La Nación's director, Luis Saguier, is on the board of both Navent Group Ltd and La Nación SA. The newspaper said that the information regarding this acquisition was recorded at the time to the Public Commercial Register.

La Nación, which openly called for the removal of both President Néstor Kirchner (by a coup) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (by impeachment), supported President Macri's right-wing campaign last year - which he narrowly won thanks in large measure to corporate media support. Macri, however, is now reeling from revelations that he was a principal in at least three offshore shell companies with his father, a public contractor with a lengthy record of defrauding the state.

Macri had frequently promised greater transparency and a fight against corruption both during his 2015 campaign and since taking office on December 10. In all, the Panamá Papers case involves some 600 Argentine nationals - including at least eight individuals in Macri's administration or inner circle (including his father).

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.lemonde.fr/panama-papers/article/2016/04/14/panama-papers-l-influent-quotidien-argentin-la-nacion-dans-la-tourmente_4902133_4890278.html&prev=search

As bad as this is, the Navent heist pales in comparison to La Nación's continued use of an expired tax credit which, over the last 12 years, has cost federal coffers around $50 million. The (heavily Opus Dei) Buenos Aires courts have sat on the case for years, effectively giving them carte blanche to continue claiming the credit.

Macri halts construction of Argentina's 4th nuclear power plant, laying off 2,400 and irking China.

Two weeks after Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced he would "reevaluate" the 2014 agreement between China and Argentina to cooperate on the construction of Atucha III (Argentina's 4th nuclear power plant), the Secretary General of the UOCRA construction union local in Zárate, Julio González, confirmed that the government had fired all 2,400 employees involved in the project.

"This is the sad reality we're living with today. Due to the change of government, there was a series of abrupt changes that affected work on the fourth nuclear power plant for political reasons. They (the Macri administration) did not consider that there are many heads of households that today are left out of work and with no employment alternatives," González said in an interview with Gustavo Sylvestre on Radio del Plata.

The subcontractor overseeing the project, Nucleoeléctrica SA, had lobbied the administration to keep a minimum crew of 1,100 workers; but both the UOCRA union and Macri's Labor Minister, Jorge Triaca, rejected this proposal.

The decision to shelve the 750 MW Atucha III reactor, which was designed in Argentina and was to be partly financed and supplied by China, may have negative geopolitical as well as economic consequences. "The involvement of the Chinese is giving Macri's backers hives," said an industry source with knowledge of the Atucha III project. "They are bristling at the idea; but it would be foolish to say no to the Chinese."

He added that the decision to walk away from the project probably did not originate in the Macri administration; but rather "in U.S. business interests, which have been intensely lobbying Macri to nix the project."

The city of Zárate, an industrial hub of 100,000 people about 50 miles north of Buenos Aires, meanwhile is evaluating the possibility of taking over the construction phase of the project, including 12 different ancillary public works projects.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F287378

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.lapoliticaonline.com/nota/96578/&prev=search

Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz great and 'Last Tango in Paris' composer, dead at 83.

Leandro "Gato" Barbieri, the influential Latin jazz bandleader and saxophonist best known for his Grammy-winning score to the film Last Tango in Paris, died Saturday at a New York hospital following a bout with pneumonia. He was 83.

"Music was a mystery to Gato, and each time he played was a new experience for him, and he wanted it to be that way for his audience. He was honored for all the years he had a chance to bring his music all around the world," Laura Barbieri said. In 2015, Barbieri was awarded a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his musical contributions.

Born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1932, Barbieri broke into the American jazz world as part of fellow Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin's orchestra before immersing himself in the free jazz movement pioneered by Ornette Coleman; in the late 1960s, Barbieri worked primarily in the quartet led by trumpeter Don Cherry, another Coleman disciple.

In the Seventies, Barbieri shifted his sound toward the Latin jazz previously mined by Charlie Parker, the jazz great who first inspired Barbieri to learn his instrument, as well as the native music of his South American roots. That blending of styles led director Bernardo Bertolucci to recruit Barbieri to compose the score for his controversial 1972 film Last Tango in Paris.

"There is always tragedy in the Tango — she leaves him, she kills him. It's like an opera; but it's called Tango," Barbieri said in 1997 of his score. "The lyrics and the melodies are very beautiful, very sensual." The Last Tango in Paris soundtrack scored Barbieri a Grammy win for Best Instrumental Composition and made the saxophonist a star on the jazz circuit.

After recording prolifically throughout the 1970s, Barbieri's output slowed immensely following a dispute with his record label, which forced the saxophonist to tour more frequently. His discography ended a decade-long hiatus with 1997's Que Pasa, which he recorded while dealing with the death of his then-wife of 35 years. Barbieri's final LP was 2010's New York Meeting, which featured covers of Miles Davis' "So What" and Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser."

At: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/gato-barbieri-latin-jazz-great-and-last-tango-in-paris-composer-dead-at-83-20160403#ixzz45vviIMx4

Chau, maestro. It was an honor to have met you.

In political comeback, Cristina Kirchner calls for 'citizen front' to fight for 'lost rights'.

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner addressed thousands of activists that rallied outsider the Comodoro Py courthouse building where the former head of state arrived earlier today to give explanations on the dollar future probe conducted by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío.

The case stems from $3 billion in losses the Argentine Central Bank incurred after current President Mauricio Macri devalued the peso by 40% in a single day. Supporters of Mrs. Kirchner believe the case is a politically motivated attempt to distract from Macri's own devaluation.

“I want you all to be very calm. They can summon me 20 more times, they can put me in jail; but they won’t stop me from saying what I think,” Mrs. Kirchner said as she spoke to the cheering crowd in front of the courthouse.

“Don’t see this as an attack against a person; let’s remember our history, and you will see this is not the only case in which a former president was politically persecuted,” she said. “If they could prohibit the letter ‘K,’ they would do it.”

Former President Fernández de Kirchner also referred to the Panama Papers leak that revealed President Mauricio Macri’s offshore dealings. “They wanted Argentine to 'return to the world',” she recalled, using a frequent Macri slogan. “And we have, to the covers of all the international newspapers - although not the newspapers in Argentina.”

“This government does not take care of Argentines. We have industries in crisis, closing businesses, hikes in public services that people can’t do without,” she said in reference to the austerity policies carried out by the Macri administration since taking office in December. “I have kept a democratic and respectful silence, respecting popular will; but the administration that promised wit would not devalue must respect it as well.”

Accordingly, Mrs. Kirchner called on Argentines to form a “citizen front” in which people “ask themselves if they are doing better or worse.”

Referring to the state of political rights under Macri, she dais that “Argentines are living a time of anxiety; I want people to be happy again, free again. I don’t want a social leader like Milagro Sola to be jailed without knowing what she is accused of. With regards to me, don’t worry. I don’t need privileges; I have the privileges of the people.”

“We should be unified by our lost rights,” she concluded. “Work together. We cannot allow setbacks because later it is more difficult to climb out again.”

As she concluded her address, sunlight appeared after what had been a rainy morning with dense fog. “You see?” the former president remarked, “The sun always comes out.”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/212512/in-political-comeback-cfk-calls-for-citizen-front-to-fight-for-lost-rights

Argentina wins WTO appeal in case targeting Panama tax practices

The World Trade Organization's appellate body on Thursday threw out a complaint from Panama about Argentina's efforts to combat alleged tax evasion and avoidance.

The case brought by Panama, now under global scrutiny because of a huge leak of secretive offshore accounts data from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, was the first WTO dispute over steps taken against "harmful tax practices."

Panama accused Argentina of discriminating against suppliers of financial services based in "countries not cooperating for tax purposes", and it won a partial victory in a ruling last September.

Panama claimed in 2012 that Argentina discriminated against countries that did not exchange information with Argentine authorities for the purposes of fiscal transparency. Argentina countered that its measures were in line with recommendations by the OECD and the Financial Action Task Force, which combats money laundering and terrorist financing.

The appeal ruling found Argentina's measures did not break WTO rules; but it did not go so far as to say Argentina was definitely within WTO rules, either. Instead, it decided there had been insufficient analysis of Panama's original complaint, leaving the way open for similar disputes in future.

The Appellate Body did rule that countries could restrict trade with tax havens for "prudential" reasons or to comply with national laws, as long as they did so in a consistent and non-arbitrary manner.

At: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-panama-wto-idUSKCN0XB2D4

Please note that Argentina's policies targeting offshore tax evasion were enacted during the center-left administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Like Bernie Sanders and many other progressives, she saw Panama Papers coming years before the scandal broke.

The current president, Mauricio Macri, is a GOP clone that opposed these measures at the time, and as mayor even attempted to make Buenos Aires into an offshore tax haven in direct contravention of federal laws.

Macri is one of only five current world leaders implicated in the Panama Papers scandal.

Legendary Tango composer and pianist Mariano Mores dies at 98.

Pianist, composer and conductor Mariano Mores died today at the age of 98, his grandsons Gabriel and Mariana Fabbiani informed in social networks.

Born Mariano Martínez in Buenos Aires in 1918, he made his professional debut at the age of 14 at Café Vicente on Corrientes Avenue. He created the Mores Trio with two sisters, Margot and Myrna Morales; he and Myrna married in 1943.

Mores had his first Tango hit with his 1939 composition Cuartito azul, so named for the little blue room he rented as a young man. His best known compositions were written with the iconic Tango lyricist Enrique Santos Discépolo; these include Uno (1943), Sin palabras (1946), and Cafetín de Buenos Aires (1948).

While he was considered one of the last surviving old school Tango musicians, Mores is credited with creating the modern tango sextet (organ, piano, bandoneón, electric guitar, keyboard, drums, and bass). Mores was also well known for his interpersonal skills, and was one of the few artists who were not persecuted for their Peronist affiliation after the overthrow of the populist President Juan Perón in 1955.

He later composed extensively for film and television, and in 1963 created a hit theater production, Buenas noches Buenos Aires. His best known stage production in later years was Todo Tango, which toured internationally in 1985. Mores was reunited in 2006 with many of his fellow old school Tango greats in Gustavo Santaolalla's acclaimed documentary, Café de los maestros. He continued to both conduct and perform until age 94 when he handed the baton to his grandson, Gabriel Mores.

Mores lost his wife Myrna two years ago after 71 years of marriage. He died in Buenos Aires today at age 98.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/212511/legendary-tango-performer-mariano-mores-dies-at-98

Mores' ode to Buenos Aires café life, Cafetín de Buenos Aires:

Appeals Court opens way for Argentina to end battle with hedge funds.

The United States Court of Appeals paved the way on Wednesday for Argentina to raise billions of dollars to pay a group of hedge funds, bringing it one step closer to re-entering international markets for the first time in 15 years.

In a ruling from the bench, three judges on the court of appeals in New York upheld a ruling by Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan to lift an injunction that has barred Argentina from paying most of its foreign bondholders since 2014. In March, the United States government weighed in on the battle, lending its support to Argentina in a “friend of the court” or amicus curiae brief.

The ruling caps years of bitter legal wrangling that goes back to 2001, when Argentina defaulted on nearly $100 billion of bonds. Over 92% of bondholders accepted two debt restructurings by Argentina in 2005 and 2010; but a small group of holdout investors refused to take part. Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, the principal litigant, bought defaulted Argentine bonds at a steep discount in 2008.

Argentina agreed on February 29 to pay $4.65 billion to four hedge funds including Singer’s Cayman Islands-based NML Capital, which would receive around half of that. As part of the deal, Argentina’s Congress had to repeal domestic laws that prevented the government from paying the holdouts, which it has now done. Argentina was also required to pay the investors by April 14, after which the hedge funds could walk away from the deal.

Argentina asked that Judge Griesa’s original injunction be lifted after it made an offer to pay $6.5 billion to settle lawsuits from other holdout bondholders on Feb. 5, which the Appeals Court today did. There are still some disgruntled bondholders who were not part of the $4.65 billion deal with the four hedge funds. They have argued that they will receive far worse terms if they agree to Argentina’s $6.5 billion proposal.

Argentina is now poised to raise more than $12 billion through bond sales, the proceeds of which will pay its holdout cbondholders. Top officials from Argentina will travel to New York and other American cities this week to meet with potential investors.

“This is going to be settled next week,” Alfonso Prat-Gay, Argentina’s economy minister, told journalists in New York, where he is pitching Argentina’s multi billion-dollar bond sale to investors, according to news media reports in Argentina. Prat-Gay, according to the reports, said Argentina would issue the bonds on Monday and Tuesday and that the holdout creditors would receive payment by Friday.

At: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/business/dealbook/court-opens-way-for-argentina-to-end-battle-with-hedge-funds.html?_r=0

Singer no doubt had a word with these judges to make sure they don't get in the way of his 1,180% return. If only some of that could at least go toward reimbursing taxpayers for the $7 billion in TARP money he extorted from the U.S. Government in 2008.

Taxi drivers block streets in Buenos Aires after Uber launch.

Uber, the smartphone app that connects riders and drivers, launched on Tuesday (April 12) in Buenos Aires without authorization, triggering protests by taxi drivers who blocked major avenues and snarled traffic.

"The Uber smartphone app will be available as of 4:00 p.m today Buenos Aires time, and can be downloaded at the App Store," the San Francisco-based company said on Twitter.

Although ride-hailing apps have risen rapidly to become a booming industry, they face stiff resistance from traditional taxis and bans over safety concerns and questions about legal issues including taxes.

Taxi drivers often complain that Uber drivers do not pay for permits or taxes; Uber argues it is not a transport company like taxi firms - just an app. "What they are doing is illegal. They are not delivering transport under existing laws," Buenos Aires Transport Secretary Juan José Méndez told TN cable news.

The Buenos Aires metro area is home to 13 million people, around 2 million of whom commute in and out of Buenos Aires every day. The city proper alone has some 38,000 taxis.

Uber does not employ drivers or own vehicles; but uses private contractors with their own cars instead, allowing them to run their own businesses. Licensed taxi drivers, who must undergo hundreds of hours of training in some countries, accuse Uber of endangering their jobs by flooding the market with cheaper drivers who need only a GPS to get around.

At: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/international/taxi-drivers-block/2690792.html

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