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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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New Uruguay leader takes over from pot-friendly farmer.

Tabaré Vázquez was sworn in as President of Uruguay Sunday, returning to office a decade after first leading the left to power and drawing a curtain on folksy farmer José Mujica's colorful rule.

Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter known for legalizing marijuana, gay marriage and abortion, handed the presidential sash back to his predecessor and Broad Front (FA) party colleague, reversing their roles from five years ago in this country that bars presidents from serving consecutive terms.

Vázquez, an oncologist with a more buttoned-down style than the outspoken Mujica, won 53.6% of the vote in a November 30 presidential run-off, reclaiming the office he previously held from 2005 to 2010.

After taking the oath of office before the National Assembly, he called for dialogue on issues facing the country, at a moment when the parties that long dominated Uruguayan politics, the Blancos (Whites) and Colorados (Reds), are reeling from a string of FA victories.

At: http://news.yahoo.com/uruguay-leader-vazquez-takes-over-pot-friendly-farmer-144354178.html

Restructured foreign debt bonds from Argentina quote above their nominal value.

Published March 1, 2015

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hailed the fact that restructured Argentine foreign debt bonds “quote today above their nominal value, despite the attack launched by the vulture funds against the State and the economy of our country, with the support of some domestic sectors of the Argentine political leadership”.

The President made the remark in her lengthy inaugural speech of the 133rd Congressional session. “Our country is the only one that managed to decrease its foreign debt - by 11 percent," she added. Referring to the information, President Cristina Kirchner quoted words of Joseph Cotterill, a Financial Times journalist, who Tweeted last Friday: “Argentina finally made it: Argentina's 2033 restructured bonds are trading above par."

At: http://www.telam.com.ar/english/notas/201503/4425-the-restructured-foreign-debt-bonds-quote-above-their-nominal-value.html


When Paulie Singer finally descends to Hell, the radio in his cell will run this speech on a continuous loop. He doesn't speak a word of Spanish, true; but he'll have plenty of time to learn. And if he tries to turn it off, a Caesar's bouncer will make sure he won't (http://nypost.com/2014/11/26/paul-singer-looks-to-send-caesars-to-bankruptcy/).

Argentine Gov't moves to nationalize railways

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that the Executive Power will sponsor a bill to nationalize the country’s railways during her speech at the opening of the 133th congressional period.

“I would like to tell all lawmakers that I will deliver a bill for the State to recover the management of Argentina’s railways,” Ms. Kirchner said. “I am not moved by a nationalization zeal. It is simply about improving efficiency.” “We will save additional 415 million pesos ($48 million),” she vowed.

Read more: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/183239/govt-moves-to-nationalize-railways

Argentina's railways - at 21,000 mi the most extensive in Latin America - were privatized by way of operating concessions 20 years ago. While most freight lines were kept running, all but 6,000 mi or so of commuter rail services were discontinued.

They were privatized gratis because the rationale at the time (heartily endorsed by the IMF and AEI types) was that privatizations would free the state from the rail system's $1-2 million in daily losses - but by 2011 "privatized" rail required $4 million in daily subsidies, with no improvement in quality and 100,000 laid off employees to boot. Numerous lines were already renationalized (i.e. the concessions rescinded) in 2013, and services in these lines have improved dramatically. This announcement just finishes a job long overdue.

Judge Rafecas dismisses AMIA cover-up charge against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas has dismissed the accusation made by a state prosecutor that claimed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and top government officials conspired to cover up Iran's alleged role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. Federal Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita is expected to appeal the decision to discontinue the investigation.

"The judge believes the minimum conditions to launch a criminal investigation have not been met, based on what the prosecutor presented," the Judicial Information Centre (CIJ) said in a statement.

Four days before he was found dead in his apartment AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused President Fernández de Kirchner of conducting secret negotiations to cover-up Iran’s alleged involvement in the 1994 attack that claimed the lives of 85 people and left hundreds injured. Pollicita later went forward with the criminal complaint, claiming Argentina would receive unspecified trade benefits from the deal.

"None of the two hypotheses of a crime put forward by prosecutor Pollicita in his writ stand up to the minimum level of scrutiny," Rafecas wrote in his ruling today.

Iran has long denied any involvement in the AMIA attack.

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/182999/judge-rafecas-dismisses-amia-coverup-charge-against-president-cristina-fern%C3%A1ndez-de-kirchner

It's worth noting as well that Interpol ruled out Iranian complicity in the 1992 Israeli Embassy and 1994 AMIA (Jewish community center) bombings a decade ago already. Forensic investigations conducted at the time showed that both were destroyed by bombs detonated from inside the buildings.

Bill O'Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem

Source: Mother Jones

By David Corn and Daniel Schulman.

The Fox News host has said he was in a "war zone" that apparently no American correspondent reached.

After NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams for erroneously claiming that he was nearly shot down in a helicopter while covering the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly went on a tear. On his television show, the top-rated cable news anchor declared that the American press isn't "half as responsible as the men who forged the nation." He bemoaned the supposed culture of deception within the liberal media, and he proclaimed that the Williams controversy should prompt questioning of other "distortions" by left-leaning outlets. Yet for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.

O'Reilly has repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands War and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina. He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could. As he once put it, "I've been there. That's really what separates me from most of these other bloviators. I bloviate, but I bloviate about stuff I've seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven't."

Yet his own account of his time in Argentina in his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone, contains no references to O'Reilly experiencing or covering any combat during the Falklands War. In the book, which in part chronicles his troubled stint as a CBS News reporter, O'Reilly reports that he arrived in Buenos Aires soon before the Argentine junta surrendered to the British, ending the 10-week war over control of two territories far off the coast of Argentina. There is nothing in this memoir indicating that O'Reilly witnessed the fighting between British and Argentine military forces—or that he got anywhere close to the Falkland Islands, which are 300 miles off Argentina's shore and about 1,200 miles south of Buenos Aires.

Read more: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/bill-oreilly-brian-williams-falklands-war

For those unfamiliar with the subject, the Falklands War (April-June 1982) took place entirely in the Falkland Islands themselves and the South Atlantic. He would have had to sail to the South Atlantic to have witnessed any hostilities (which of course he never did). Contrary to his assertions, moreover, no one was killed in the Buenos Aires protests that followed the June 14 surrender.

Argentina: Number of foreign tourists up 13 percent

The number of foreign tourists visiting Argentina in 2014 rose 13.1% to 5.9 million people; but their spending decreased 0.9% to US$2.6 billion, the INDEC statistics bureau reported yesterday. Meanwhile, the number of Argentines who travelled abroad dropped 3.4% last year to 6.5 million people, and their total spending consequently declined to US$3.075 billion.

The higher number of foreign tourists in Argentina is in line with the world tourism figures as the number of international tourists travelling the globe increased 4.7% last year to 1.1 billion people, according to the latest UN World Tourism Barometer. The Americas registered the highest increase in tourism with a 7% increase.

Domestic summer tourism grows

So far this summer, 16.8 million have traveled domestically, an increase of 7.6% when compared to the same period last year, according to a report by the Tourism Ministry released yesterday. Out of the 16.8 million, 11.2 million correspond to January, 6% higher than the same month last year.

“We are exceeding our goals set at the beginning of the season and thanks to the advertising campaign done throughout the year we achieved a high number of tourists travelling across the country,” Tourism Minister Enrique Meyer said.

Most chose to visit the Buenos Aires Province sea-side cities, Córdoba, and the Patagonia region. Mar del Plata welcomed 827,671 tourists, 7.7% more, during the second half of January and had a hotel occupancy rate of 85.6%, while Pinamar received 801,626 tourists, 8.3% higher than last year and had a hotel occupancy rate of 93%. A total 62,183 tourists traveled to Córdoba, which saw a 64.3% hotel occupancy rate. Villa Carlos Paz and Villa General Belgrano were the main tourist destinations in that province.

Villa La Angostura was one of the most visited cities of Patagonia during the second half of January with 19,857 arrivals, 7.5% more, and a hotel occupancy rate of 92.3%. Bariloche, Las Grutas, El Calafate, Esquel and Puerto Madryn were also on top of the list. In the North, Salta was the most visited province; and in Cuyo, Mendoza was the most chosen destination.

At: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/181401/number-of-foreign-tourists-up-13-percent


I first visited Argentina in 1999 while still in school, and I try to go back every three to four years. I recommend it if you haven't already; it's inexpensive, safe as foreign travel goes, and probably has the most diverse geography in the region.

The British judiciary ordered the release of Argentine funds held by Griesa

Source: Télam

Published February 13, 2015

British judge Guy Newery ordered the release of 226 million euros of Argentine debts under European law, withheld by New York judge Thomas Griesa.

The ruling accepted the request made by George Soros and Perry Capital.

The 226 million euros were deposited in June last year by the Argentine Government in the Bank of New York Mellon, that following Griesa's order, withheld the payment.

Read more: http://www.telam.com.ar/english/notas/201502/4337-the-british-judiciary-ordered-the-release-of-funds-held-by-griesa.html

Good news for Argentina and its bondholders: vulture funds can now only hold bondholders' payments hostage in lawless (bribed?) Wall Street courts.

Argentina's been paying its bondholders religiously for 10 years; no one has a right to intercept their payments. Least of all vulture funds, many of which are Caribbean laundries that should have no access to U.S. courts - but plenty of access to U.S. jails.

They are also - no surprise - huge contributors to GOP slush funds.

Oil slump triggers North Sea crisis

By Steve James
5 February 2015

Demand for OPEC oil in 2015 is anticipated to be about 28.8 million barrels per day (bpd), compared with a production figure of 30 million bpd. As a result, there is a growing surplus of oil on the world market and prices are collapsing. Oil is selling for well under $50 a barrel, less than half the price six months ago.

One of the most exposed regions is the British sector of the North Sea. Production, which began in the 1970s, has been in decline since 1999, with a sharp slump following 2010. New discoveries tend, year by year, to be smaller, in deeper water, with more complex extraction. While new techniques have raised the percentage of recoverable oil, this is ever more costly. With oil at over $100 a barrel, advanced methods still allow huge profits to be recouped. At below $50, few North Sea fields, currently the most expensive offshore locations in the world, are profitable. By contrast, production in Saudi Arabia costs less than $10 a barrel.

An extended price slump poses an existential threat to much of the British North Sea-based industry, as exploration of smaller, deeper fields becomes unviable and existing fields run dry. In December, Robin Allan of the oil industry explorers’ association Brindex, told the BBC that North Sea exploration was “close to collapse.” Allan, a director of Premier Oil, complained that even at $60 a barrel, exploration was unprofitable.

Labour’s new leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, agreed, warning, “The oil crisis is the biggest threat to jobs in Scotland since Ravenscraig.” The 1992 closure of the Ravenscraig steelworks indirectly cost up to 10,000 jobs. In Aberdeen, 13 percent of all jobs are oil-related and the northeast of England hosts a number of production sites, but oil-related jobs are scattered across the UK. In total, estimates of oil-related jobs in the UK run as high as 450,000. Of these, 35,000 are said to be imperiled, including 16,000 in Scotland.

At: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/02/05/scot-f05.html


Thatcher's legacy lives on. The irony of it is that the Iron Lady owed the boomlet of the late 1980s largely to North Sea largesse - which resolved Britain's longstanding balance-of-payments difficulties. But BP overextracted, without regasifying, and exported most of the oil when prices were in the $20-a-barrel range, leaving the U.K. dependent on imports in this era of expensive oil (the recent slump notwithstanding). After peaking at 2.7 million barrels per day in 1985 (the year BP was privatised), British oil output today is merely one fourth of that - and falling.

Proposed Defense Budget For Fiscal 2016 Brings Cheer To Lockheed

Source: Forbes

Published February 6, 2015

President Obama has proposed a significant hike in the country’s defense budget for the fiscal year 2016, bringing cheer to major defense contractors such as Lockheed and Boeing. Over the past few years, as the government slashed its defense spending due to spending limits mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, overall contract volume fell for most defense contractors including Lockheed.

The budget proposes an increase in the overall defense budget by about 4% to $585.2 billion in fiscal 2016, from $560.3 billion in the current fiscal year. However, the base defense budget in this overall budget has been proposed to grow at a much higher rate, as the allocation for overseas contingency operations has been proposed to decline to $50.9 billion, from $64.2 billion. The decline in OCO was expected, as troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan. After accounting for this decline in OCO, the base defense budget, which includes military personnel and procurement costs, has been proposed to grow by a whopping $38 billion or 7.7% in the fiscal year 2016.

If this budget is approved by Congress, the increase in weapons procurement will benefit Lockheed, which is the largest defense contractor of the U.S. government. Specifically, the defense budget for fiscal year 2016 proposes spending $10.6 billion on purchasing 57 F-35s. Lockheed is the main contractor developing this fighter jet. The company produced and delivered 36 F-35s in 2014.

Read more: http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2015/02/06/proposed-defense-budget-for-fiscal-2016-brings-cheer-to-lockheed/

The article mentions 57 new F-35s - a product already shown to be the worst boondoggle in military aircraft history.

My thanks to NobodyHere, who first brought this article to my attention in an earlier post.

The dark side of Winston Churchill’s legacy no one should forget

Washington Post
Published February 3, 2015
By Ishaan Tharoor

The dark side of Winston Churchill’s legacy no one should forget

There’s no Western statesmen — at least in the English-speaking world — more routinely lionized than Winston Churchill. Last week marked a half century since his funeral, an occasion that itself led to numerous commemorations and paeans to the British Bulldog, whose moral courage and patriotism helped steer his nation through World War II.

The power of his name is so great that it launches a thousand quotations, many of which are apocryphal. At its core, Churchill’s myth serves as a ready-made metaphor for boldness and leadership, no matter how vacuous the context in which said metaphor is deployed.

But there’s another side to Churchill’s politics and career that should not be forgotten amid the endless parade of eulogies. To many outside the West, he remains an unvarnished racist and a stubborn imperialist, forever on the wrong side of history. Churchill’s detractors point to his well-documented bigotry, articulated often with shocking callousness and contempt. “I hate Indians,” he once trumpeted. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” He referred to Palestinians as “barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung.” When quashing insurgents in Sudan in the earlier days of his imperial career, Churchill boasted of killing three “savages.” Contemplating restive populations in northwest Asia, he infamously lamented the “squeamishness” of his colleagues, who were not in “favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.”

Churchill’s racism was wrapped up in his Tory zeal for empire, one which irked his wartime ally, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a junior member of Parliament, Churchill had cheered on Britain’s plan for more conquests, insisting that its “Aryan stock is bound to triumph.”

India, Britain’s most important colonial possession, most animated Churchill. He despised the Indian independence movement and its spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi, whom he described as “half-naked, seditious fakir.” Most notoriously, Churchill presided over the hideous 1943 famine in Bengal, where some 3 million Indians perished, largely as a result of British imperial mismanagement. Churchill was both indifferent to the Indian plight and even mocked the millions suffering, chuckling over the culling of a population that bred “like rabbits.”

Leopold Amery, Churchill’s own Secretary of State for India, likened his boss’ understanding of India’s problems to King George III’s apathy for the Americas. Amery vented in his private diaries, writing “on the subject of India, Winston is not quite sane” and that he didn’t “see much difference between (Churchill’s) outlook and Hitler’s.”

At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/02/03/the-dark-side-of-winston-churchills-legacy-no-one-should-forget/
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