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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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Vatican launches rail service to Castel Gandolfo

If you've ever wanted to see the world from the viewpoint of a pope, now you can.

The Vatican has turned part of the lavish papal summer estate south of Rome - which the frugal Pope Francis has never used - into a museum and linked it to Rome via a train. Both were inaugurated on Friday and one of the main draws is a chance to stand at the window overlooking a large courtyard from where popes before Francis blessed crowds every Sunday for weeks during their summer breaks.

Pope Francis, a workaholic who has also renounced the papal apartments in the Vatican in favor of a suite in a guesthouse, does not take vacations. His shunning of Castel Gandolfo led to a drastic decline in tourism that hurt the local economy. Opening the palace doors "was the pope's initiative," said Antonio Paolucci, head of the Vatican Museums. "Francis said 'I won't go to Castel Gandolfo because I have too much to do at the Vatican' and so he told me to open the palace and the grounds to the public."

A special train will run on Saturdays from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo, about 35 km (20 miles) south of Rome. Tourists can see the Vatican Museums and gardens and then take the train to the estate and nearby museum. For the inaugural run on Friday, Italy's state railways used a 100-year-old, coal-powered locomotive that belted out dark clouds of smoke as it left the Vatican pulling antique carriages, including one used by Pope John XXIII in 1962.

At 136 acres (55 hectares), the Castel Gandolfo estate is about one fourth larger than Vatican City itself, with woodlands and a working farm with about 100 cows producing 1,300 liters of milk a day.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198592/vatican-launches-rail-service-to-popes-summer-palace-

Argentina hails UN vote on sovereign debt restructuring

Source: BBC News

Argentina has welcomed a UN resolution creating a new global framework for sovereign debt restructuring. Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said it was a resolution for economic stability, peace and development. The UN said countries should protect governments from minority creditors who refuse to go along with the majority in mutually agreed debt restructuring.

Argentina has been fighting US hedge funds who are demanding full payment on defaulted bonds. The hedge funds had refused to go along with the majority of the country's creditors and accept a restructuring deal. Argentina defaulted in 2001. The hedge funds scooped up its bonds years later at a fraction of the price and have since won US court backing to claim full payment.

Argentina struck repayment deals in 2005 and 2010 with more than 92% of its bondholders. The government argues that if it pays the hedge funds the full amount demanded (a payout of up to 1600%), it would undermine the basis for the repayment deals struck with its other creditors.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-34217115

UN General Assembly resolutions are non-binding; but this resolution formally puts vulture funds afoul of the international community - which is certainly fitting since they are mostly TARP babies and Caymans-based laundries.

Niembro case (Argentina): La Usina PR firm and Macri's Buenos Aires city government offices raided.

Five raids have been carried out in the last hours after an order issued by prosecutor Carlos Velarde, who is in charge of the investigation into alleged irregularities in contracts signed between the Buenos Aires City Government and a company owned by PRO/"Let's Change" congressional candidate and sportscaster Fernando Niembro. The raids were conducted at city government offices and at Niembro's La Usina production company.

Attorney Antonio Liurgo today confirmed the lawsuit he had filed days ago against Mayor Mauricio Macri and sportscaster Fernando Niembro. Mayor Macri is currently running for president on the same right-wing PRO/"Let's Change" ticket.

Niembro's legal situation became even more complicated when the AFIP tax agency informed that his production company, La Usina, has no registered employees and owes a tax debt of more than 20,000 pesos. Despite this, La Usina has since 2013 provided the City Administration with advertising services for 21 million pesos ($2.3 million).

A second contract signed with the Bank of City of Buenos Aires, the municipally-owned bank headed by former PRO councilman Rogelio Frigerio, jr., surpassed 1 million pesos ($110,000) and consisted in placing ads in Fox Sports, where Niembro worked as a longtime sportscaster until his candidacy was launched.

Last week, reports indicated Niembro lied about the date he dissociated himself from La Usina. He assured he left the company in March, 2014, when he decided to become more fully involved in politics. An investigation by local news daily Tiempo Argentino revealed that happened eight months later, however.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198210/niembro-case-la-usina-and-city-government-offices-raided

And this is just the tip of the iceberg where Macri's contracts concerned, because his administration spends 10 times as much on political ads and PR -about $80 million a year at taxpayer expense- as it does on school and hospital repairs (a municipal mandate).

Similarly, much of the $500 million a year his administration spends on outsourced services goes to his relatives (the Macris and Calcaterras built their fortune largely on padded public contracts) or to close friends of theirs (the Caputos, Cartellones, Plazas, and Roggios among others). Macri's policy and privatizing and outsourcing services the city once provided directly has led to a five-fold increase in Buenos Aires' municipal debt load to $2.5 billion; Buenos Aires was one of the few great cities of the world with almost no debt until he took office.

The City Council passed a Transparency Law in 2013 (over Macri's veto) to make details of all such contracts public - a law he mostly disregards. This Niembro scandal is instant karma, I guess.

Former Brazilian President Lula 'banking on Scioli' to win Argentine election

Former Brazilian President Luis Inácio 'Lula' da Silva has made public his endorsement of Daniel Scioli in the upcoming presidential elections, stating that the Victory Front candidate would maintain strong relations with Argentina's neighbor to the north.

"I have a very dignified, respectful relationship with Argentina. I understand perfectly Argentina's role. I had an extraordinary relationship with Néstor Kirchner and I have the same with Cristina," the Workers' Party (PT) activist signaled in an interview with Página 12.

"From Brazil then I am obviously banking on Cristina to make sure her favored successor is chosen to the presidency. Even more so when that successor is Scioli." Lula explained today that the Buenos Aires governor would fulfill his desire for the next president to be someone who "wants to keep a good relationship with Brazil, someone who sees Brazil as a partner and not an adversary."

"Also someone who wants to increase the political, commercial and scientific relationship between the two countries. That is why there should be no going back. We have already suffered the military era, we went through Carlos Menem and Fernando Henrique Cardoso's time, when the Argentine and Brazilian states were dismantled. After that we had difficult moments, but after that happiness arrived for our people," he affirmed.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198129/exbrazil-president-lula-banking-on-scioli-to-win-election

When Lula mentioned that he appreciates "someone who sees Brazil as a partner and not an adversary," it's no casual remark: the Argentine right has a long history of blaming Brazil for all kinds of historic grievances - most, of their own making. The Fox News mentality.

Argentina's YPF signs production deal with Gazprom

State-controlled oil company YPF sealed an agreement yesterday with Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to develop tight and shale gas in Argentina in what marks the latest deal that the firm has signed with an international firm to boost local production in an effort to cut back on energy imports. The deal sets out the principles for cooperation for a final accord that would be signed before March 2016.

The agreement comes after President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin took part in the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two companies in April to explore and produce hydrocarbons jointly. It also marks the latest example of Moscow’s involvement in Argentina’s energy sector.

“We clearly said in our business plan that we needed large partners to develop our resources as it wasn’t going to be possible to do it by ourselves,” YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio said after meeting with his Gazprom counterpart Alexey Miller in Vladivostok, Russia, yesterday. YPF was the only Latin American firm to seal a deal with the Russian energy giant, which also signed agreements with three additional foreign firms.

Argentina has 30 times more unconventional gas and nine times more unconventional oil than traditional reserves, according to YPF figures. The country has the world’s second largest shale gas reserves, after China, and the fourth largest shale oil reserves, after Russia, the United States and China, according to estimates. Since 2013, YPF has invested more than US$2 billion in Vaca Muerta, the country’s massive shale oil and gas formation that is mostly located in Neuquén province. But because of the magnitude of the resources and the country’s difficulties in obtaining financing from abroad YPF is looking for foreign partners — a task that has become even harder over the last year amid plunging oil prices. The block is already producing 43,000 barrels of oil daily (6% of the nation's total).

YPF managed to increase natural gas production by 14% and oil production by 6% during the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year. Nationwide, gas production rose 3.5% and oil production 0.4% in the first half of the year.

The deal between YPF and Gazprom marks the latest example of how the CFK government has been trying to boost ties with Moscow over the past few years. Fernández de Kirchner travelled to Russia in April to meet with Putin and expand the economic ties between the two nations, signing a set of agreements that included the MOU with Gazprom, the construction of a sixth nuclear reactor in Argentina by Russian firm Rosatom and the supply of nuclear fuel for reactors currently producing energy in Argentina.

Gazprom has rights over the largest natural gas reserves in the world, 18% on a global scale and 70% only in Russia. It’s the only producer and exporter of natural gas in Russia and has the world largest network of natural gas transportation with more than 161,000 kilometres (100,000 miles) of pipelines.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198021/ypf-signs-production-deal-with-gazprom-

Pope makes surprise visit to Rome optician for new glasses

Buenos Aires Herald

Pope Francis slipped out of the Vatican to make a surprise visit to a Rome optician's to get a new pair of eyeglasses, insisting that his old frames be re-used and that he would pay for them. Francis was driven to Ottica Spiezia, at Via del Babuino 199, in the small Ford Focus car he normally uses, drawing a large crowd of curious tourists and Romans outside, footage on Italian television showed.

The shop owner, Alessandro Spiezia, who has made eyeglasses for the pope before but always delivered them to the Vatican though aides, said he did not know that the pope would come to the shop himself. "He had told me to use the old frames again because he did not want to spend much money and insisted on paying for them," Spiezia said on Italian television.

The pope arrived with one of his secretaries and a driver and several plainclothes police. He remained inside the shop for about half an hour as Spiezia explained the use of the new eyeglasses to him. Francis then greeted crowds outside before returning to the Vatican on the other side of the Tiber River.

In an interview with Mexican television last year, the Argentine pope said that since his election in 2013 he missed being able to walk around Rome alone and that he particularly missed not being able to go out for a pizza.

At: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/197913/pope-makes-surprise-visit-to-rome-optician-for-new-glasses

One of these days, someone in Rome should create a disguise good enough to allow Francis to go out for his pizza!

Prestigious Argentine actress and human rights activist Cipe Lincovsky dead at 85.

Celebrated and multiple award winning Argentine actress Cipe Lincovsky died yesterday in Buenos Aires after suffering a cardiac arrest, reported the Argentine Actors Association (Argentores). She was 85 years old.

Born Cecilia Lincovsky on September 21, 1929, she worked extensively in cinema, television and theatre in both Argentina and Europe from 1953 to 2012 with figures such as Jorge Donn, Lindsay Kemp, Maurice Bejart, Liv Ullmann, and Vittorio Gassman.

Devoted to the epic German theatre, in 1960 she acted in the Berliner Ensemble, the famous group created by Bertolt Brecht in the East Germany, where she established a good friendship with Helene Weigel, the playwright’s widow. A pioneer of the café concert genre popular in Buenos Aires in the 1960s and '70s, she was threatened by the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance during the administration of Isabel Perón and her fascist handler, minister José López Rega, and lived in exile in Spain between 1975 and 1980.

On her return to Argentina, she became a leading member of the emblematic Teatro Abierto (Open Theater) movement, which was born as a cultural resistance tool against the last military dictatorship. Lincovsky was also an active participant in cultural activities of the Argentine Jewish community.

Lincovsky was honored with many important prizes worldwide, including among others best actress nods from the Dramatic Impact Awards (West Berlin, 1959), the Martín Fierro Awards (1963), San Sebastián (1988), the Cóndor de Plata (1989), the Nijinsky International Festival (Moscow, 1990), and the Habima Theater (Tel Aviv, 1998). She was named a Distinguished Citizen of the City of Buenos Aires in 2007.

She last appeared in public on July 7 in the Argentine Actors Association, when Defense Minister Agustín Rossi published the secret black lists drawn up by the last military dictatorship; Lincovsky's name was among them.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/197725/cipe-lincovsky-a-performer-to-remember-

Lincovsky was probably best known outside Argentina for her 1988 film role opposite Liv Ullmann in Jeanine Meerapfel's La amiga (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girlfriend_(film) ). A life well lived.

Argentine Central Bank revokes license of local HSBC president

The Central Bank of Argentina has revoked the license of Gabriel Martino as President of HSBC Argentina, forcing him to step down from his post. The entity headed by Alejandro Vanoli considered Martino responsible for failing to establish necessary control mechanisms to prevent clients from evading taxes and moving capital abroad (see below).

“Mr. Gabriel Diego Martino did not direct the necessary actions to mitigate and address suitably the risk of prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” the BCRA said today in the resolution, adding the decision followed “the criminal case in which Mr. Martino was implicated by the Federal Administration of Public Income (AFIP).”

“In such cases, crimes such as fiscal illicit association and aggravated tax evasion, as well as the eventual laundering of assets, are investigated,” the resolution said.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/197748/bcra-revokes-license-of-hsbc-president

HSBC Argentina was revealed by the 2014 SwissLeaks scandal to have facilitated tax evasion on US$3.8 billion by over 4,000 local account holders. One such account, owned by wealth manager Miguel Abadi, accounted for at least US$1.4 billion of this total. http://news.yahoo.com/argentina-seeks-arrest-advisor-tied-tax-scandal-204605884.html

A similar, but much larger, scandal was revealed a year earlier by former JP Morgan Chase executive Hernán Arbizu, who detailed tax evasion worth at least US$8 billion by many of the country's most prominent executives and numerous right-wing politicians - including one (Alfonso Prat-Gay) who was the odds-on favorite as Economy Minister-designate in the event of a Macri victory this October. http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/175941/swiss-accounts-60b-pesos-in-evasion

Pope Francis to allow priests to forgive abortion

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

Pope Francis will give all priests discretion to formally forgive women who have had abortions and seek absolution during the Roman Catholic Church's upcoming Holy Year, in the Argentine pontiff's latest move towards a more open and inclusive church.

In a letter published by the Vatican today, Francis described the "existential and moral ordeal" faced by women who have terminated pregnancies and said he had "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision".

In church teaching, abortion is such a grave sin that those who procure or perform it incur an automatic excommunication. It can usually only be formally forgiven by the chief confessor of a diocese -- known by the Italian term penitenziere -- or a Christian missionary, Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said.

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/197737/francis-to-allow-priests-to-forgive-abortion-

But will some of his more recalcitrant flock listen?


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