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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
Number of posts: 5,902

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Freedom House: World Internet Freedom Keeps Eroding

Internet censorship around the globe continues to intensify. According to a report by the independent monitoring group Freedom House, for the fifth consecutive year, more nations are censoring information online and demanding that companies and individuals remove content or face retribution.

The annually released Freedom of the Net Report assessed 65 countries and identified China as the worst offender. Gady Epstein, former Beijing bureau chief for The Economist magazine, said China has become more aggressive with censorship in the last couple of years under President Xi Jinping. “They’ve blocked Google; they’ve blocked Gmail and other Google services. They arrested more online activists, people who comment independently on a range of issues, including corruption,” said Epstein.

Freedom House said China is only one nation in which this type of crackdown has been increasing. In Russia and Iran, people who post content deemed offensive by the government can quickly and easily land in prison. “Those countries tend to block materials of political and social relevance. They tend to arrest users for writing about human rights and opposition,” said Sanja Kelly, director of the report.

Syria is the second-worst performer in the study. Bloggers, journalists and activists face execution by armed groups in the country, according to Freedom House.

In Iran, rated the third-worst nation, Tehran’s conservative powerbrokers, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, keep extremely tight control over the Internet, despite better bandwidth and the increase of 3G cellular connections.

Social media’s role

Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, increasingly play a big role in the way people get access to information in countries with restricted Web freedom. These social media services, however, are banned from nations like China and Iran. That means citizens there have to find alternative ways to use them and have contact with family and friends abroad who post content they would not otherwise be able to reach.

Threats to companies

Freedom House said that during the research for the report, which focuses on events from June 2014 through May 2015, it stumbled upon a new development: Governments increasingly attack the source now. Kelly said authorities warn individuals that they must remove offensive content or face torture or imprisonment.

The watchdog group emphasized that this new approach also extends to technology companies. “The governments are actually going to the company and saying, ‘This type of information exists on your servers. Take it down. If you don’t take it down, we’re going to either block your services or we’re going to take away your license so you will not be able to operate in our country any longer,’ ” said Kelly.

At: http://www.voanews.com/content/freedom-house-world-internet-freedom-keeps-eroding/3027570.html

According to the 2015 Freedom on the Net report cited above, the countries with the most and least internet freedom in each region are (the higher the score, the more restrictive):

*Africa: South Africa, 27; Ethiopia, 82.
*Asia: Japan, 22; China, 88.
*Europe: Iceland, 6; Belarus, 64.
*Middle East: Lebanon, 45; Iran, 87.
*North America: Canada, 16; Cuba, 81.
*South America: Argentina, 27; Venezuela, 57.
*Australia: 19 (New Zealand not available)

Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez assists teen with allergic attack on plane.

Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez, who is an oncologist, assisted a 14-year-old French girl with a serious allergic reaction on board the plane that was taking Vázquez to Paris for a meeting with French President François Hollande.

The Uruguayan daily El Observador reported Thursday, citing the girl‘s mother, that President Vázquez and his personal physician, Dr. Mario Zelarayán, responded to a call for assistance from the crew and gave an injection to the girl, in an incident that happened Tuesday.

The teenager had eaten peanuts, and that triggered an allergic reaction that made it difficult for her to breathe.

At: http://en.europeonline-magazine.eu/uruguayan-president-assists-teen-with-allergic-attack-on-plane_420211.html

Scioli, Macri in tight race to first runoff in Argentine history.

According to provisional results released early on Monday Victory Front candidate Daniel Scioli advanced to a tight lead with 36% over Mauricio Macri, of the "Let's Change" coalition, who obtained 35%. With 89% of the polling stations counted, Sergio Massa, from UNA front, ended in the third place with 21%.

Before any official data was unveiled, the candidates admitted a second-round scenario, which will take place on November 22.

The National Electoral Court (CNE) reported that 79% of the electoral roll voted today, 5 points more than in the PASO primaries held in August and the highest turnout since 1999.

Six candidates competed today to become Argentines’ next president with 32 million people entitled to decide the successor of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who will be leaving office on December 10 after two consecutive terms in office.

The results of the PASO primaries held on August 9 and the polls carried out prior to Sunday's elections forecast Daniel Scioli and Carlos Zannini of the Victory Front (FpV) would be the leading presidential ticket among the six candidates competing today:

Mauricio Macri and Gabriela Michetti for the right-wing Let’s Change coalition;
Sergio Massa and Gustavo Saénz for the centrist UNA alliance;
Margarita Stolbizer and Miguel Angel Olaviaga for the Progressives;
Nicolás Del Caño and Myriam Bregman for the leftist FIT front;
and Adolfo Rodríguez Saá and Liliana Negre de Alonso for the centrist Federal Commitment.

To win outright in the first round, and avoid a runoff election, a candidate requires 45 % of valid votes - or 40% and a 10-point lead over their nearest rival. For the first time since 2003 voters were faced with a runoff, and were without a Kirchner on the presidential ballots when they entered the voting booth.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/201672/scioli-macri-in-tight-race-to-first-runoff-in-argentine-history

Vatican synod holds line on gay marriage, but offers hope on communion for divorcees

Source: The Guardian

After a three-week marathon of Vatican talks on family issues, Roman Catholic bishops voted on a summary document which decided against overhauling the church’s teaching on gay Catholics but paved the way for greater openness towards divorcees.

Pope Francis described the Vatican summit as a way to “open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints. It's about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.”

A push for more welcoming language was evident, but the final text was by no means a triumph for progressives. There was, however, a greater openness towards Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the church, who under Vatican teachings are excluded from receiving communion. Bishops agreed divorcees must be “more integrated in Christian communities”.

The bishops also paved the way for clergy to decide whether to allow divorcees to participate fully in church life: “It is to be hoped that in the dioceses paths of discernment and involvement of these people will be promoted.”

The statements on remarried Catholics, however, lacked specificity, reflecting the difficulty of reaching consensus among the bishops, who voted paragraph-by-paragraph on a text that on Friday received 1,355 suggested changes. Although the clash of conservatives and progressives ran as an undercurrent through this year’s synod, perhaps the greatest challenge was marked by the hugely diverse experiences bishops have of family life.

Such splits may have played a role in Pope Francis calling for a “healthy decentralisation” of the church and the need for a “conversation of the papacy.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/24/vatican-synod-gays

Pope Francis overcame vocal Opus Dei opposition to this one, obtaining a victory of 178 cardinals to 80.

It's a small step, of course - but very meaningful to the millions of Catholics worldwide who are separated/living separate lives but can't, or won't, divorce because of Church doctrine.

He holds the patent that could destroy Monsanto and change the world.

In 2006, a patent was granted to a man named Paul Stamets. Though Paul is the world’s leading mycologist, his patent has received very little attention and exposure. Why is that? Stated by executives in the pesticide industry, this patent represents “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed.” And when the executives say disruptive, they are referring to it being disruptive to the chemical pesticides industry.

What has Paul discovered? The mycologist has figured out how to use mother nature’s own creations to keep insects from destroying crops. It’s what is being called SMART pesticides. These pesticides provide safe & nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects – and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms.

Paul does this by taking entomopathogenic Fungi (fungi that destroys insects), and morphs it so it does not produce spores. In turn, this actually attracts the insects who then eat and turn into fungi from the inside out. This patent has potential to revolutionize the way humans grow crops – if it can be allowed to reach mass exposure.

To tolerate the use of pesticides in modern agriculture is to deny evidence proving its detrimental effects against the environment. Such ignorance really can no longer be tolerated. For example, can you imagine a world without bees? Monsanto’s chemical concoctions which are being sprayed all over farmers’ fields around the world are attributed to the large-scale bee die off. While a growing number of countries are banning Monsanto, it’s still being used in nations who should be aware of its dangers. To say that new methods need to be implemented before it is too late is an understatement.

Monsanto presently generates $16 billion dollars per year (as reported in 2014), therefore you can be certain they do not want anything interrupting that flow of revenue. Such income gives them nearly limitless resources and abilities to suppress information that may be damaging their reputation. But by becoming educated on the benefits of growing sustainable, organic, and bio-dynamic food, sharing articles like this, and boycotting GMO & herbicide-sprayed crops, they may soon get the message.

At: http://www.getholistichealth.com/42450/he-holds-the-patent-that-could-destroy-monsanto-and-change-the-world/

Last Argentine polls before Oct. 25 election show strong lead for Daniel Scioli.

Ruling party’s pro-business candidate is expected to win presidential election in the first round.

The Argentine ruling party nominee, Buenos Aires Province Governor Daniel Scioli, is primed to win the presidential election outright on October 25th, with a commanding lead over his nearest rivals, two polls published in local papers yesterday showed.

To win outright in the first round, and avoid a run-off election, a candidate requires 45% of valid votes or 40% and a 10-point lead over their nearest rival.

Scioli, a moderate Peronist from left-wing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Front for Victory Party (FpV), is set to garner 42% of votes, according to a poll published in Perfil. His closest rival, Mauricio Macri, the right-wing mayor of Buenos Aires, is getting 28% of the vote, according to the poll.

Similarly, Scioli is obtaining around 41% and Macri a little over 28%, in a CEOP poll released in Página 12. The same two polls showed that Sergio Massa, a suburban mayor who defected from the FpV in 2013 and is running as a center-right Peronist alternative to Scioli, would receive 23 and 22% respectively.

Governor Scioli, who owes much of his support to Fernández loyalists, is promising pro-business policies to spur growth and has made attracting new investment to Argentina a pillar of his campaign.

At: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/argentinian-polls-show-strong-lead-for-daniel-scioli-1.2396657

Macri's would-be Economy Minister Carlos Melconian: "There are $2 billion for the vultures"

In an interview with Radio Mitre, the economic policy adviser to right-wing PRO/'Let's Change' candidate Mauricio Macri, Carlos Melconian, referred to the dispute affecting the country with the holdouts who did not enter the 2005-10 debt restructuring (92% did). In this regard he stated that if Macri were elected President, US$2 billion of Central Bank reserves would be designated to cancel liabilities with the vulture funds. "You have to pay Griesa," stressed the economist.

It is not the first time that Melconian has spoken of the vulture funds and the need to solve problems in accessing the capital markets. What is striking is that this opinion is contrary to what had stated by the PRO candidate, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, in numerous campaign speeches. Assurances of immediate cash payments to vulture funds are also quite generous, considering that since the beginning of this year (when the RUFO clause that limited Argentina's options expired) they've stated willingness to accept bonds as payment.

The alleged "hard stance" vis-à-vis the vulture funds promised by Mauricio Macri on the stump is similarly contradicted by Melconian's recent statrements. "If we have to, we will negotiate with the hardest. I take care of the confidence that people give me and I will get the best possible conditions so that Argentina can grow again," promised Macri in a recent Radio 10 interview.

The original claim by vulture funds of US$ 428 million today represents more than US$ 1.6 billion, including principal, interest, and penalties awarded unilaterally by Griesa. More than half of that amount is claimed by Paul Singer's Cayman Islands-based NML Ltd., which originally bought defaulted bonds on the black market for $48.7 million in 2008, and, in the case of a Macri victory this October 25, now stands to receive a payout of 1,608%.

Who is this economist?

Carlos Melconian was head of the Department of External Debt of the Central Bank during the Carlos Menem administration in the 1990s, when foreign debt more than doubled despite massive privatizations. He was Menem's choice for Economy Minister in the 2003 election, which Menem forfeited.

According to official documents published in the news daily Página/12 he was one of the main architects of the policy that nationalized over $15 billion in private external debt in 1982 and 1983, during the last days of the dictatorship. During his tenure in the Menem years a decade later, Melconian also shelved investigations against multinational and local economic groups for billions in fraudulent debts discharged in the early eighties.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201510/9009-melconian-hay-us-2000-millones-para-los-buitres.html&prev=search

And more than a few million of that for you and Signore Macri, eh Carlos?

Pope Francis slams GMOs for destroying health and the environment.

A controversial new encyclical by Pope Francis set for release by the Vatican casts blame for worsening environmental damage on technology that is in common use today. In particular, the pontiff blames agricultural and fossil fuel technology for destroying ecosystems and changing the planet’s climate patterns.

Biotech companies claim their products are keys to solving hunger, but the Pope knows this isn’t true. No commercial GE crops are engineered for increased yield. Five of every six acres of GE crops are engineered for herbicide-tolerance, i.e. to survive being drenched with what would normally be a toxic dose of herbicide, usually Round-up, or glyphosate.

Pope Francis’s encyclical didn’t just cover climate change, he denounced pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, declaring “the spread of these crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and the future of regional economies.”

Pesticide use is at an all-time high. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says glyphosate use on corn and soy increased from 10 million pounds in 1996, the year Roundup Ready crops were introduced, to 204 million in 2013. The U.S. Geological Survey routinely finds glyphosate in our water. The Word Health Organization just declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen.

At: http://www.enlightened-consciousness.com/pope-slams-gmo-for-destroying-health-and-environment/

Where do Argentina's candidates stand on the Political Compass?

According to the Political Compass test, PRO/'Let's Change' nominee Mauricio Macri is the candidate of the economic right.

Buenos Aires Herald staff writer Federico Poore, applied the test to each of the six presidential candidates based on his or her stated positions (or approximate ones where no exact stand has been taken) to determine whether each is more socially liberal or authoritarian, and to left or right economically. The test, as conducted by Poore found that the PRO/'Let's Change' candidate, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, proved to be the one that comes closest to the economic right.

The Political Compass test is often used in political science to sort or classify ideologies generally based on two axes. One qualifying between authoritarianism and freedom, the axis that measures social views based on personal freedoms. While the other expresses the ideological distance in terms of left and right, as pertains to economic policy.

This was the result:
|***********Rodríguez Saá|**********************|
|Del Caño****************|**********************|

At: http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201510/8969-segun-test-macri-es-el-candidato-de-la-derecha-economica.html

It should be noted that Macri has deliberately moderated his campaign rhetoric on a number of issues, and this most likely skewed Poore's results.

In practice, however, his advisers are in favor of everything from ending most export taxes, sharply devaluing the peso (sudden drops in the peso automatically benefit the wealthy, while wrecking the rest of the economy), deregulating finance (Argentina collapsed twice, in '81 and '01, on account of that already), ending most welfare benefits, privatizing social security (while kicking millions of seniors out), privatizing all renationalized firms (the ones that had been run into the ground by profiteers in the late '90s), caving to vulture fund demands for a 1600% payout (Paul Singer is a leading campaign contributor to Macri's PRO), and while they're at it pardoning all 1,000-odd Dirty War criminals convicted or currently on trial.

The "social liberal" rating is equally dubious: Macri is staunchly pro-life and anti-gay rights; has a history of using the Metropolitan Police to wiretap opponents and violently quash protests (even of disabled people); and as mayor has starved public schools, cultural centers, and hospitals of funds while doting on private and religious - particularly Opus Dei-owned - institutions.

Revealed: the 10 countries toughest on tax evaders.

It is becoming harder than ever for expats to avoid paying the tax they owe thanks to international efforts to stop tax evasion. A year ago the OECD coordinated an agreement to automatically swap tax information, with finance ministers from 51 countries signing up to the deal.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said at the time that tax evasion was “not just illegal, it is immoral” and that because a tax evader was robbing their fellow citizens, they should be treated like “a common thief.”

A recent survey by CXC Global, the contractor management specialist, identified the 10 most aggressive countries of the 51 signed up to the OECD agreement in terms of their pursuit of avoiders. The survey, based on information from offices across the CXC network, found that five countries in particular have ramped up their efforts in an attempt to reclaim the billions of pounds lost in revenue every year. The UK did not make the top five list:

1) Spain is taking the lead with investigations into the tax affairs of footballers Lionel Messi, Xabi Alonso, and Javier Mascherano. Even the monarchy is not escaping the gaze of the taxman. Princess Cristina has been stripped of her title as Duchess of Palma de Mallorca as a result of tax-related allegations that have embarrassed the monarchy.

2) Argentina is taking a different tack, and targeting the banks that it believes are not playing fair. For example, HSBC has been charged in Argentina with helping more than 4,000 Argentines to evade around $3 billion in taxes, including via accounts in Switzerland. Despite having been confirmed by recent SwissLeaks reports, HSBC denies any wrongdoing.

3) Germany is taking high-profile action too. Last year the World Cup-winning footballer Uli Hoeness was jailed for three and a half years for tax fraud, and failing to disclose his accounts within the rules of Germany’s voluntary disclosure system. The fraud cost the state more than €27 million. Germany has also taken the lead in the investigation of the Swiss Coutts scandal, as it is under investigation for allegedly helping wealthy clients evade tax, and is also taking a hard line on domestic tax evasion.

4) Brazil – hosting the Olympics next year – has suffered considerably at the hands of tax evaders in the past, said CXC Global, and is now tackling high-profile cases in a bid to show it is toughening its stance. Footballer Neymar has been accused of evading around $16m in taxes between 2011 and 2013, although his parents have denied that he has done anything wrong.

5) Russia – which is suffering from the falling oil price – has also brought in a new "de-offshorisation" disclosure policy. This aims to prevent those with foreign assets, or assets in offshore shelters, from avoiding tax.

At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/expat-money/11927295/Revealed-the-10-countries-toughest-on-tax-evaders.html

Meanwhile, the neo-fascist party currently controlling our Congress is doing everything it can to make sure the U.S. becomes the tax evasion capital of the world - if you're among the elite, that is.

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