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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

New Label Defends Family Farming in Argentina

By Fabiana Frayssinet, IPS News

It’s pouring rain in the capital of Argentina, but customers haven’t stayed away from the Bonpland Solidarity Economy Market, where family farmers sell their produce. The government has now decided to give them a label to identify and strengthen this important segment of the economy: small farmers.

“Our vegetables are completely natural. They are grown without toxic agrochemicals,” farmer Norma Araujo told IPS. She is a member of the Florencio Varela Family Farmers Cooperative, which also sells chicken, eggs, pigs, and rabbits. Across from Araujo’s stand, Analía Alvarado sells honey, homemade jams, cheese, seeds with nutritional properties, natural juices, olive oil, whole grain bread, organic yerba mate – a traditional caffeinated herbal brew – and dairy products. “The idea is to give small farmers a chance, and here we have people from all around the country, who wouldn’t otherwise have the possibility of selling their goods,” Alvarado said.

The Ministry of Agriculture took another step in that direction with the creation in July of the “Produced by Family Farms” label, “to enhance the visibility of, inform and raise awareness about the significant contribution that family farms make to food security and sovereignty.” According to the ministry, there are 120,000 family farms in this country of 43 million people, and the sector is “the main supplier of food for the Argentine population, providing approximately 70 percent of the daily diet.”

In the category of family farmers the government includes peasants, small farmers, smallholders, indigenous communities, small-scale fisher families, landless rural workers, sharecroppers, craftspeople, and urban/suburban producers. In his interview with IPS, Family Agriculture Program Director Raimundo Laugero said the label will not only identify products as coming from the family agriculture sector, but will “guarantee health controls, chemical-free and non-industrial production, as well as production characterized by diversity - unlike industrial farming.”

Laugero noted that besides accounting for 20% of agricultural GDP, family farming in Argentina represents 95% of goat products, 22% of cattle products, 30% of sheep products, 33% of honey, 25% of fruit, 60% of fresh vegetables, and 15% of grains.

“But that doesn’t always translate into profits,” he said. “We need to work hard on those aspects so that income also ends up in the hands of family farmers.”

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/new-label-defends-family-farming-in-argentina/

Polls close in Argentina with Scioli projected winner; Macri, Massa complete podium

The Victory Front's Daniel Scioli has triumphed in the PASO (first round) presidential elections, with exit polls predicting a victory margin of around 12 points over the right-wing PRO candidate, Mauricio Macri. Sergio Massa, of the centrist UNA front, takes third place.

The first formal results will be available around 10 pm (9 pm, EST), electoral authorities have confirmed, after a day of voting that was carried out "with complete normality" across Argentina.

32,064,323 citizens were eligible to vote today in Argentina, with almost 12 million registered in the Province of Buenos Aires, the country's largest electoral district.

A total of 15 presidential hopefuls were seeking a place in the October 25 general election with the ruling Victory Front (FpV) party bringing only one candidate to get the party’s nomination: the outgoing governor of Buenos Aires Province Daniel Scioli, joined by longtime presidential adviser Carlos Zannini as his running mate.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri (PRO - right wing), Congressman Ernesto Sanz (UCR - center-right) and Congresswoman Elisa Carrió (Civic Coalition - right/left umbrella) were competing to win the nomination of the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) coalition. In the UNA front (centrist Peronists), the contenders are suburban Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa (Renewal Front) and the outgoing Governor of Córdoba Province, José Manuel de la Sota.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/196020/polls-close-with-scioli-projected-winner-macri-massa-complete-podium

Peru a Shining Example for South America’s Climate Action Plans

By Chris Wright - IPS

This week, Peru became the first South American nation to publicly announce its Climate Action Plan, or INDC. In doing so, it may have set the scene for a new wave of highly transparent and ambitious INDC submissions from the continent.

This most recent plan comes after 12 years of collective planning, as Peru developed a suite of regional and national strategies to address climate change. As a result, the government of Peru has come out with an ambitious proposal to cut business as usual emissions by 31 per cent. However, it is the carefully constructed road map towards this goal that displays what Tania Gullen from Climate Action Network Latin America describes as its true “leadership.” Gullen, who is also from SUSWATCH, has welcomed the new draft action plan “as an example for other Latin American countries who are still developing or haven’t started their national planning processes.”

This is because Peru’s target of 31% is backed up by 58 clearly outlined different mitigation projects. These projects cover energy, transport, agriculture, forestry and waste management. While two of these projects involve a shift from coal to natural gas, rather than renewables, each of these options has been carefully identified and their emissions reduction potential quantified. This makes it very easy for Peru to ask for support from developed countries to help improve on its commitments. In fact, the government has even outlined how it can increase emissions cuts to up to 42 % with an extra 18 projects. Considering the planning that has gone into creating this additional scenario of a 42% reduction by 2030, this could also be released as a twin-track conditional and unconditional pledge.

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/peru-a-shining-example-for-south-americas-climate-action-plans/

Digital Era Here to Stay in Argentina’s Classrooms

By Fabiana Frayssinet - IPS

The showcases in the Colegio Nacional Rafael Hernández, a public high school in La Plata, Argentina, tell the story of the stern neoclassical building which dates back to 1884. But the classrooms reflect the digital era, thanks to the computers distributed to all public school students as part of a government social inclusion program Conectar Igualdad (Connecting Equality), run by the National Social Security Administration.

Since 2010, 5.1 million laptops – referred to here as notebooks – have been distributed, reaching all of the students and teachers in the country’s secondary and special education schools and government teacher training institutes. The computers, with Internet connection, are used in all of the courses, both in school and at home.

The program’s administrators see creative initiatives like La Plata high school teacher Fernández Troiano’s combination of diverse disciplines as a reflection of how universal access to a computer is a powerful educational tool.

Silvina Gvirtz, executive director of Conectar Igualdad, explained to IPS that the program emerged from a decision by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as part of an integral educational policy that in 2006 made secondary education compulsory until the age of 18.

Conectar Igualdad has also given a major boost to the national computer industry. Ten computer factories have opened, and in each public tender, more domestically produced parts have been required, as well as more and more advanced technologies, such as greater memory and better video definition, Gvirtz said. Along with Windows, the notebooks use Huayra, a Linux-based open source operating system developed locally for the programme, which unlike proprietary systems can be modified and improved, she noted.

When they started saying that every student would have a notebook, nobody believed it – people said that would be the day when cows fly,” said a student, María Elena Davel. But the cow, which today is the Huayra symbol, is now flying and plans to go even higher. The next step is to add a computer programming course in schools. “This is key because we want to move towards technological sovereignty,” said Gvirtz. “We want to form both producers and intelligent consumers of technology.”

The laptops are distributed to the students under a loan-for-use agreement with the parents. The youngsters can then keep them if they graduate. One challenge is training the teachers, who must adapt to the new e-learning and digital culture in this country of 42 million people, where there are nearly 12 million students in the educational system (pre-school to graduate school).

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/digital-era-here-to-stay-in-argentinas-classrooms/

Civil Code that modernizes rules for everyday life comes into effect in Argentina

Same-sex marriage, assisted fertilization, the right to choose the order of the surnames that a child will have, and the protection of the environment are some of the rights consecrated in the new Civil and Commercial Code that will come into effect today and change several key laws and rules on everyday life.

“This is the Code of democracy,” said Justice Secretary Julián Álvarez, one of several government officials who celebrated the enactment of the Code that was drafted by a commission that was led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti over one year. “There are no longer differences between men and women. The new Code has an updated language,” Álvarez said. “If someone wants to get divorced, he or she will be able to do it without needing to feel ashamed.”

Álvarez also said that the Code expands the rights of children and youth in line with international conventions. “You can’t start to have rights only when you turn 18,” he explained.

The Code — which unified the Civil and Commercial Code — was welcomed by several sectors as it brings order to a reality that did not exist when Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield wrote the original version in 1869. It did, however, come under fire from conservative sectors — such as the Catholic Church — and also criticized by progressive groups for having left behind several issues.

The new Code incorporates the right of same-sex couples to get married in tune with a law passed in 2010 by the ruling Victory Front (FpV) and its progressive allies. “The Code not only respects the idea of equality and non-discrimination for sex or gender orientation but also incorporates regulations to assisted fertilization techniques,” expert Marisa Herrera explained to the Herald last year.

The Code also simplifies divorce, which was one of the issues that angered Catholic leaders.

Adopting a child has been an onerous process for people over the past few years. Reformers sought to simplify the paperwork and grants unmarried couples the right to adopt a child. The new Code highlights that the child’s right to identity has to be preserved as is his or her right to have a voice in the adoption process.

A heated controversy emerged when the Senate decided to modify Article 19 of the bill, which makes reference to the origin of life. In order to gain conservative votes, an essential part of it was removed, leaving only the idea that life starts since conception and removing the previous idea that life also starts when the embryo is implanted in a womb.

The changes are a result of a request from the Catholic Church. That was something that really annoyed many as it is necessary to divide the state from Catholic authorities and was seen as contradictory with the ongoing human rights policy,” Herrera said.

Lawmakers also decided to remove the idea of surrogacy amid criticism from conservative groups, though it was ultimately included in the bill submitted by the drafting commission in March 2012.

In conversation with the Herald last year, former Mendoza justice Aída Kemelmajer conceded that the Code was conservative in some aspects. “This is the Code that was possible,” the well-know jurist said.

Last year, the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) called the Code a “classist bill,” as it did not include the idea of the social purpose of private property. “Housing deficit is a worrying problem and incorporating this to the Code was a way to make it visible,” CELS Executive Director Gastón Chillier told the Herald last year.

The human rights organization also complained due to the idea that the state civil liability was going to be discussed in a separate law. “That law did not include the idea that the state is liable for human rights violations and has to pay compensations,” Chillier also explained. The government decided to remove that chapter from the bill and to discuss it as a separate law, which was passed by the Senate in 2013.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/195373/civil-code-that-modernizes-rules-for-everyday-life-comes-into-effect
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