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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 05:11 PM
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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?



Matt Damon hits out at ‘xenophobic’ Donald Trump

Actor Matt Damon, the Hollywood superstar married to Argentine-born Luciana Barroso, launched an attack on Donald Trump yesterday, calling the Republican presidential candidate's recent comments on immigration “xenophobic” and “dehumanizing,” in an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE.

The 44-year-old, his wife and their daughters watched the recent GOP presidential debate together; but Damon confessed that when Trump’s speech became too nasty he turned the television off. “We are still laughing about the situation, but if you start analysing the things he (Trump) says are disgusting and dehumanizing,” he lamented.

Trump’s fiery discourse proposes the deportation of millions of illegal Mexican immigrants from the United States and the construction of a wall to prevent them from entering the country. Damon said in the same interview that he sincerely “doesn’t know how to respond” to Trump’s remarks when he refers to undocumented migrants as “rapists” and “drug-traffickers.”

“He is dehumanizing anyone who lives south from the border. He is talking about my wife, my daughters,” Damon complained.

The actor met his wife in 2003 in a bar in Miami where Barroso worked as a waitress to finance her interior design studies. They have three girls together and a fourth child from a previous marriage from Barroso. Until recently, the artist said he had been rather sceptical toward the billionaire tycoon’s presidential aspirations, but now says he is “surprised” that apparently there are so “many people willing to vote for him.” The US actor also expressed his astonishment at Trump’s impulsive decision to kick-out influential television anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference earlier this week after he posed a question about immigration.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/197418/matt-damon-hits-out-at-%E2%80%98xenophobic%E2%80%99-donald-trump

Professor Kenneth Scheve: Inequality in US is becoming similar to Latin America’s.

By Ignacio Portes
Buenos Aires Herald

Stanford academic Kenneth Scheve talks to the Herald about equality and protectionism.

“Taxing the rich” is both a controversial subject in Argentina and the region. It’s also the title of an upcoming book that Stanford academic Kenneth Scheve has co-authored with NYU professor David Stasavage. Following years of research into what drives support for or against income distribution and trade protectionism, Scheve has come to Argentina to present his work in local universities, and took some time to speak to the Herald in the lobby of his hotel. He argued that Latin America has had a long history of conflict over inequality in the 20th century, but little end product has emerged in terms of progressive change, as the broad consensus seen in post-war developed countries for tax reform was absent here.

Latin America seems to be an exception when compared to Europe, the US, Asia in terms of how it seems to favour wealth redistribution and protectionist policies over the last 15 years. Why is that?

I would say first of all it’s in part a function of the relatively high levels of inequality in the continent. This created a preference for a larger presence of the state in the economy, to correct these distributional problems. There are plenty of examples of countries with large states that have done very well, with healthy welfare states that support education, the integration of women into the labour market, social insurance, unemployment, pensions and so on. So it’s perfectly possible for Latin America to chose this path and have solid economic growth. The one thing I would emphasize, however, is that these are not countries that are closed to trade, they are quite engaged with the world economy.

The debate on trade protectionism has been very present over the last decade in Argentina. Those policies gained a lot of support after a decade of pro-market reforms (in the '90s) that didn’t end very well.

Integration with the world economy creates winners and losers, so in every country around the world there are protectionist pressures. They get stronger depending on the overall success of the economy. Given the economic crisis that took place in Argentina, it makes sense that there were a lot of people wondering whether this is a good model for the economy.

The worry among policymakers is what happens when, without protection, uncompetitive industries close down, as that can create unemployment and social unrest.

It is very difficult because job creation is the key to social stability. So one might argue that the priority should be making it easier for new firms to get started and ensuring the provision of public goods that make innovation and competitiveness possible such as education.

What’s your view on Latin America’s historical inequality?

Research suggests that levels of inequality were not that different in the middle of the 19th century when compared to, say, the US. What happened was that there were some increases in inequality in Latin America after that; but also they didn’t experience that compression that took place in Europe and the US when they became more equal over the course of the 20th century.


Appeals judges blast Griesa (again)

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

Two weeks away from a new hearing, a US Appeals Court harshly questioned United States District Judge Thomas Griesa again yesterday, marking the second time in 10 days that it has raised questions about the actions of the magistrate who has consistently ruled against Argentina in the long-running case against the vulture funds.

The appeals court once again opened the door to a reversal of Griesa’s decision that expanded the ruling on holdout funds to include the so-called “me-too” bondholders. Members of a three-judge panel of the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York showed discomfort with Griesa’s recent decision to expand the class action over a series of euro-denominated bonds to cover anyone who held them rather than continuous holders of the debt.

Circuit Judge Chester Straub, writing for a three-judge panel, said back then that Griesa must return to a narrower definition of the class, limited to those who have continuously held the eight series of bonds in question, and to hold a hearing to determine the proper amount of damages. “We have a district judge who is unable or unwilling to do what we tell him to do,” Circuit Judge Richard Wesley said.

Some judges appeared to accept the argument questioning how creditors could receive notice that they could opt out of the class and how the court could determine who ultimately was covered by the lawsuit, given secondary-market bond trading. “How is it going to be possible to ascertain the class when there’s going to be secondary market trading between the opt-out and judgment dates?” Circuit Judge Reena Raggi asked.

Argentina refused last year to heed Griesa’s orders to pay the holdout hedge funds, led by NML and Aurelius, at the same time as it pays bondholders who participated in the debt swap. That order came after the US Supreme Court declined to hear Argentina’s appeal of Griesa’s ruling and settlement talks went nowhere. The move led US credit rating agencies to declare Argentina was in partial default.

The judge subsequently blocked Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BoNY) from processing a US$539 million payment that Argentina destined for its restructured creditors, resulting in a legal limbo. The country then passed legislation that allowed it to remove the BoNY as its trustee and establish local payment mechanisms (which many affected bondholders have since accepted).

Read more: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/196949/appeals-judges-blast-griesa-(again)

It looks like Tea Party megadonor Paul Singer's bribes can only buy him so much love (I wonder if he'll yank Greasa's million-dollar Montana ranch now).

Oxford joins Starkville, Hattiesburg in furling Mississippi state flag.

By Clay Chandler
Clarion Ledger

Officials in Mississippi's big three college towns have taken action to remove the state flag from city property.

Oxford aldermen unanimously voted Tuesday night to remove the flag, which has the Confederate emblem in its canton, from city property.

Starkville aldermen did the same in late July, though that vote was split 4-3. In June, Hattiesburg mayor Johnny Dupree ordered the flag removed from that city's police and fire stations. The flag hasn't flown over city hall there for several years.

Oxford aldermen also unanimously passed a resolution asking state leadership – including Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves – to join efforts to change the state's official banner. Both have indicated a preference for the issue to be decided by a popular vote like in 2001, when more than 60% of those who cast a ballot chose to keep the flag.

Mayor Pat Patterson said he was on board, but would have preferred the resolution been available for public inspection until the Sept. 1 meeting before aldermen acted on it. By mid-morning Wednesday, the flag had been removed from most city installations, including city hall, Patterson said.

The flag still flies at county buildings, including the courthouse on the Oxford Square.

Oxford Ward 1 Alderman Jay Hughes, who supports the move, has qualified as a Democrat against incumbent Republican District 12 Rep. Brad Mayo. Mayo was one of a handful of Republicans to support changing the flag after House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, became the first elected GOP official to publicly call for its removal in late June. The move came days after a gunman, who had peppered social media with images of him holding the Confederate battle flag, killed nine worshippers in a Charleston church.

Mayo, first elected to the statehouse in 2011, said then that his family had flown the magnolia flag, adopted in 1861 as the state's first official flag, "for more than 20 years. It is historical unique and has not been co-opted by those preaching hate and violence because of one's skin color, religion or belief system."

At: http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2015/08/19/oxford-remove-state-flag/31985357/

For those not familiar with Mississippi, Oxford is the home of the University of Mississippi. A prosperous and ethnically diverse town of around 20,000, it's known for its culture and architecture - and for being one of the most progressive in the state.

Starkville and Hattiesburg are home to Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, respectively. Like Oxford, these two college towns also contrast fairly sharply with their more conservative surroundings.

The Confederate myths too many Americans believe

By James W. Loewen
The Washington Post

History is the polemics of the victor, William F. Buckley allegedly said. Not so in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War. As soon as Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done, and why. Their resulting mythology went national a generation later and persists – which is why a presidential candidate can suggest that slavery was somehow pro-family and the public believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.

The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about.

Take Kentucky. Kentucky’s legislature voted not to secede, and early in the war Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm as we imagined and hoped but hostility . . . in Kentucky.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones.

Neo-Confederates also won western Maryland. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy put a soldier on a pedestal at the Rockville, Md., courthouse. Montgomery County never seceded, of course.

In addition to winning the battle for public monuments, neo-Confederates also managed to rename the war, calling it “the War Between the States.” Nevermind that while it was going on, no one called it that. Even Jeopardy! accepts it. Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded for states’ rights. When each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights.

Texas also made clear what it was seceding for: white supremacy.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Despite such statements, during and after the Nadir, neo-Confederates put up monuments that flatly lied about the Confederate cause. Indeed, they were desperately trying to keep the federal government from enforcing school desegregation and civil rights. The one constant was that the leaders of South Carolina in 1860 and 1965 were acting on behalf of white supremacy.

Publishers mystify secession because they don’t want to offend Southern school districts and thereby lose sales. Consider this passage from “The American Journey,” the largest textbook ever foisted on middle-school students and perhaps the best-selling U.S. history textbook:

The South Secedes

Teachers and students infer from that passage that slavery was not the reason for secession. Instead, the reason is completely vague: (white) Southerners feared for their “rights and liberties.” On the next page, however, “Journey” becomes more precise: (White) Southerners claimed that since “the national government” had been derelict “by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying the Southern states equal rights in the territories – the states were justified in leaving the Union.”

“Journey” offers no evidence to support this claim. It cannot.

De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.

At: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article27000196.html
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