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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Memphis jazz great Harold Mabern has died

Memphis jazz great Harold Mabern, a product of the city's fertile high school music scene who became a master of soulful "post-bop" piano, has died. He was 83.

He was known for playing with such legends as Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.

Mabern's death was announced Thursday by his current record label, Smoke Sessions Records, based in New York, where Mabern lived much of his adult life. A cause of death was not announced.

Attending Douglass and then Manassas High School (which was famed for its music program), Mabern belonged to an unparalleled generation of Memphis jazz musicians that came of age in the 1950s.

Although Mabern studied music at a Chicago conservatory, "I say that I got my knowledge from the university of the streets," he told the Knoxville News Sentinel in a 2012 interview. "You don't have to go to school to learn how to play this music."

At: https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/2019/09/19/memphis-jazz-great-harold-mabern-dies/2380287001/

Harold Mabern, 1936 - 2019.

UN calls on Argentina's Macri to repeal 2017 immigration decree

A UN rights watchdog has urged the Argentine government to repeal a 2017 decree that hardened immigration policy, saying it "contravenes the principles" of the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrants - ratified by Argentina in 2007.

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers, composed of 14 international specialists, called on Macri to "take immediate measures to repeal" the decree, which tightened immigration policy and expediting deportation proceedings.

The body said it had "raised concern about Decree No. 70/2017, which contravenes the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrants, and therefore requests its urgent derogation."

Macri's January 2017 decree superseded a 2004 law passed by Congress, and signed by the late former President Néstor Kirchner.

The 2004 law already allowed for the detention of immigrants for specific violations (mostly felonies) and for deportations - though only with a court order.

Macri's decree rescinded the right to due process for immigrants once felony charges were filed. A district court in March 2018 ruled the decree unconstitutional - though the Argentine Supreme Court has delayed issuing a ruling.

Xenophobic and discriminatory

The group also criticized the "xenophobic and discriminatory statements made by authorities, leaders and the media" in Argentina.

Macri's hard-line Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, justified the decree by claiming that "20% of the prison population are foreigners" - a claim she and others in the Macri administration repeated this year.

The actual figure is 6%.

Macri's running mate this year, Miguel Pichetto, has repeatedly called immigrants "criminals," "drug traffickers," "mafias," and "trash."

While Argentina was largely populated by European immigrants who arrived between 1870 and 1930, only 5% of its 45 million people today were born abroad (compared to 14% in the U.S.).

But since 1960, most immigrants in Argentina have come from neighboring countries and are largely indigenous or mestizo.

Many face discrimination and poor living conditions.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/un-calls-on-argentina-to-repeal-2017-immigration-decree.phtml

Paraguayan immigrants - Argentina's largest foreign-born community - celebrate a recent Immigrants' Festival in Buenos Aires.

Anti-immigrant sentiment rose sharply in Argentina from the 1990s onwards - a trend President Mauricio Macri has been accused of exploiting for political gain as mayor of Buenos Aires and then president.

His choice of hard-line senator Miguel Pichetto - whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has led critics to brand him the "Argentine Bolsonaro" - appears to confirm this image.

Federal probe launched against Argentina's Macri for politically motivated devaluation

A federal court in Argentina today authorized an investigation into allegations that President Mauricio Macri ordered the central bank not to intervene during an August 12 selloff in the peso for political reasons.

The probe, filed by Federal Prosecutor Pamela Ochoa on Thursday and authorized today by Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, is based on statements by former Argentine Central Bank President Martín Redrado.

Redrado, 58, asserted on August 16 that "there was a political order on Monday (August 12) to allow the exchange rate to float, creating a megadevaluation."

Government sources, according to Redrado, disclosed to him that "the president said that 'the dollar will go where it has to, such that Argentines may learn who to vote for'."

Sore loser

Macri's alleged decision was made the morning after a drubbing in the first round of presidential voting on Sunday.

Confounding most polls, Macri lost by 16% to center-left candidate Alberto Fernández - making the pragmatic Fernández the likely winner of a second round on October 27.

The dollar climbed 23% that Monday, from 46.55 to 57.30 pesos - its sharpest since Macri's own, December 17, 2015, devaluation in his first week in office.

But trading volumes were moderate in Buenos Aires' official foreign exchange market (MULC): $550 million (including public sector sales), compared to an average the prior week of $800 million a day.

Absent official intervention, the dollar rose sharply in early hours to an intraday record of 63 pesos - until a $105 million central bank dollar sale at 1:30 p.m. reversed the trend, helping ease the dollar to 57.30.

Delayed action, delayed payments

The probe also targets Central Bank head Guido Sandleris and former Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne, who resigned on August 17 - the day after Redrado's disclosure. Both spent the morning of August 12 in a closed-door meeting with Macri - but refused to intervene in the early hours of the crisis.

Reserves have fallen by $16 billion (24%) since August 11 - led by $10 billion in dollar withdrawals (30%) by Argentines worried over possible banking limits similar to the infamous Corralito in late 2001.

Currency controls enacted on September 1 have stabilized the peso, which closed today at 59.06.

But a six-month deferral ordered on $13 billion in public debt payments, and a ban ordered yesterday on servicing private and provincial debts owed abroad, have further strained corporate, mutual fund, and public-sector finances.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F325382%2Fmacri-dujovne-y-sandleris-en-la-mira-de

Davos darlings until just last year, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, his recently-dismissed Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne, and Central Bank head Guido Sandleris now face charges of deliberately allowing the peso to fall 19% on August 12 "in order to teach Argentines who to vote for" - and for possible self-enrichment, given their own highly-dollarized assets.

Macri had been trounced the day before in first-round elections by center-left candidate Alberto Fernández, who if elected will inherit an economic collapse and debt crisis.

"Creditors themselves are becoming aware of the problem they and all of us are in, and are showing good will," Fernández noted.

"They themselves have shown me (debt) rescheduling proposals."

Pentagon puts brakes on 3 border barrier projects because of cost

Source: Politico

The Defense Department is no longer moving forward with three border barrier projects in California and Arizona, according to a court filing Monday.

The move is a reversal of an earlier Pentagon authorization for about 20 miles of fencing, lighting and other border infrastructure that would have used $2.5 billion in funds redirected from a counter-drug fund.

That authorization, announced Aug. 27, was based on what was then determined to be "lower-than-expected contract costs." But the Defense Department revealed in the Monday filing that the department would not be able to cover the costs of the project.

The Defense Department initially authorized the funding after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that it would likely be able to afford the projects using the counter-drug funds; but the Army Corps said it would not know the full financial situation until later in the fiscal year.

Read more: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/16/defense-department-border-wall-projects-1499466

Trump and a prototype of his much-touted border wall in San Diego last year.

The president declared a national emergency to divert the money from the armed forces - but the Pentagon has begun to resist the increasingly brazen diversions of funds.

On late night show, Stephen King says it's time for someone new to replace Susan Collins

Maine author Stephen King made an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to promote his new book, “The Institute,” and took a jab at his senator, Susan Collins.

Host Stephen Colbert asked King about a recent tweet in which King said Collins “has to go.”

“Let’s put it this way,” King said when Colbert brought up the tweet. “Susan Collins has been there for about a thousand years and it’s time for somebody a little newer and somebody who’s got a little bit more of a liberal bend.”

This isn’t the first time King has voiced his opinion about Maine’s Republican senator. In July, King tweeted, “Susan Collins has buckled before the Trump idiocracy. Time for her to go.”

At: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/09/12/late-night-show-maine-author-stephen-king-says-its-time-for-someone-new-replace-susan-collins/GVy1R5ICEkR1MrzX7jcdRI/story.html

Maine author Stephen King and his “Creepshow” senator, Susan Collins.

Argentina's opposition parties unite to call for 'Food Emergency' amid growing protests

Lawmakers from various opposition parties have formally presented a request for a special session in the lower house to discuss the declaration of a "Food Emergency" in Argentina.

Politicians from across the opposition agreed Monday to unify their legislative drafts on the topic into a single bill, in a bid to ensure that House Speaker Emilio Monzó will move forward with an emergency session.

A Food Emergency declaration, the first since 2002, would increase federal nutrition assistance spending by 50% over already budgeted figures, from 16 billion pesos ($275 million) to 24 billion pesos ($412 million) and would remain in effect until the end of 2022.

The bill, co-sponsored by 15 center-left legislators, reportedly has majority support in both houses of Congress - but may be vetoed by President Mauricio Macri, who has expressed opposition to the measure.

Macri, who's seeking re-election despite job approval of 25%, lost the first round on August 11 to center-left candidate Alberto Fernández by 16% and may lose the second round by at least 20% according to recent polls; Fernández has pledged to sign the bill should he be elected.


The legislative push follows days of demonstrations by social activists and labor unions.

A protest camp organized six days ago in front of the Ministry of Health and Social Development was violently dispersed by police today, leading to several injured protesters.

Activists regrouped this evening, however, and will continue their protest camp.

Poverty has increased since Macri took office four years ago - rising from an estimated 27% in 2015 to a projected 40% this year.

Amid 54% inflation, the National University of Avellaneda (UNDAV) estimates that hunger now affects 10% of the population - up from 4.8% in 2017 and 6.7% last year.

The FAO had declared chronic hunger in Argentina "erradicated" in 2015.

Socioeconomic conditions have worsened since the April 2018 collapse of a carry-trade debt bubble known locally as the "financial bicycle," which forced Macri to turn to the IMF for a record, $57 billion bailout.

"If there's a state of siege they should let us know," activist Eduardo Belliboni, who was injured in today's incidents, said, "because it should be declared against those ferreting the money out of the country - not against those asking for a plate of food."

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/opposition-unites-to-call-for-food-emergency-session-amid-more-protests.phtml

An injured protester is assisted during today's violent dispersal of a protest camp in front of the Social Development Ministry.

Congressional opposition parties have joined calls by social activists to declare a "food emergency" in Argentina - the first since financial deregulation policies similar to Macri's led to the country's 2002 collapse.

Macri has indicated he'll veto the legislation.

H&M stops buying leather from Brazil over Amazon fires

Low-cost fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) said Friday it is suspending leather purchases from Brazil to make sure it is not supporting cattle farming that may be contributing to the fires in the Amazon rainforest.

The move by the Stockholm-based company follows a similar decision by the maker of Vans and Timberland shoes.

Some international investors are also trying to put pressure on the Brazilian government, which has been seen as too lax in its approach to protecting the rainforest.

Hennes & Mauritz AB said its temporary ban on leather from Brazil will remain in place “until there are credible assurances ... that the leather does not contribute to environmental harm in the Amazon.”

At: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/handm-stops-buying-leather-from-brazil-over-amazon-fires/2019/09/06/360f40a4-d083-11e9-a620-0a91656d7db6_story.html

Cattle and their ranchers in the São Marcelo Ranch in Brazil's Mato Grosso state.

The São Marcelo Ranch in 2012 became the first in the world to earn Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainable cattle production.

Most other Brazilian cattle ranches, however, operate with little regard for either waterways or, if near the Amazon, the rainforest around them.

The powerful cattle lobby is believed to be behind far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's push to allow increased rainforest burning - leading to this year's Amazon fires crisis.

California becomes the first state in the nation to outlaw fur trapping

California has just become the first state in the nation to outlaw fur trapping.

The Wildlife Protection Act of 2019, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday, will prohibit the trapping of native animals including grey fox, coyote, beaver, badger and mink, along with the sale of their pelts, which often end up in foreign markets.

The new legislation will officially end an industry that lawmakers argued was too small and costly to regulate.

Only 133 trapping licenses were bought in California in 2017 according to the bill. Along with just four fur dealer licenses sold in the same year, just over $16,000 in revenue was generated for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

During the same year, 68 trappers killed more than 1,500 animals, among them, grey fox, coyote, beaver, badger and mink.

The pelts collectively sold for less than $9,000, a sum far beneath the costs accrued by the state to oversee the industry.

At: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/09/04/new-california-law-protects-animals-being-killed-their-fur/2214791001/

Killed off: California's fur trade, a marginal industry that costs far more to regulate than it adds to the economy, has now been banned.

In a dramatic policy about-face, Argentina's Macri decrees currency controls

Amid the worst economic crisis in nearly two decades and facing a likely default, Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced strict currency controls.

Today's decree limits dollar purchases (though not account withdrawals) to $10,000 monthly, establishes a system of permits for corporate and banking purchases, requires exporters to sell dollar earnings locally, and curtails the use of 'spot settlement' transactions - a popular method of skirting the last period of currency controls (2012-15).

The new policy, which follows an August 28 decree delaying payments on as much as $101 billion of debt, marks a dramatic about-face for "pro-business" President Mauricio Macri - who was narrowly elected in late 2015 on promises to scrap similar currency controls enacted by his center-left predecessor, former President Cristina Kirchner.

The unpopular measure, enacted by Mrs. Kirchner in response to a widening current account deficit as well as a loss of access to global credit markets due to a highly-publicized "vulture fund" dispute, depressed real estate sales (though not home values) and led to sharply lower growth.

Macri quickly deregulated finance and cut corporate (particularly export) taxes in a bid to attract foreign investment and revive sluggish growth.

Instead, public foreign debt more than doubled to $200 billion in just three years as dollars were borrowed to finance a carry-trade debt bubble known locally as the "financial bicycle" - by which outsized yields on peso-denominated notes were dollarized and wired offshore.

The April 2018 implosion of the "bicycle" effectively shut Argentina out of global credit markets, forcing Macri to seek a record, $57 billion bailout from the IMF.

The peso has since lost 68% of its value, with GDP down 6.9% despite a record harvest this year.

The prospect of account withdrawal limits similar to ones imposed in late 2001 that led to riots, have over the past two weeks prompted the withdrawal of $3.5 billion from banks and the loss of $12 billion in Central Bank reserves.

Wednesday's debt payment "reprofiling" has already strained finances at the social security fund, mutual funds, and many corporations - all of which earned sizable interest income from the affected short-term treasuries.

"There has never before been a default on peso-denominated debt," Claudio Belocopitt, CEO of Argentina's largest private hospital chain, Swiss Medical Group, noted.

"Reprofiling is just a new word they invented to keep from admitting they stole it all."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F215774-macri-termina-con-control-de-cambios

Pedestrians walk along a reflection from a currency exchange in Buenos Aires' financial district.

Today's currency control decree marks a dramatic policy reversal from the "pro-business" Macri, who widely deregulated finance within days of taking office in late 2015 in a bid to turn Buenos Aires into "another Panama City."

Instead, an estimated $75 billion left the country by using borrowed dollars to cash in outsized interest yields in pesos and then offshore the dollarized proceeds - a heist known locally as the "financial bicycle."

A previous financial bicycle bankrupted Argentina in 1981, after the dictatorship at the time enacted similar policies.

Argentina's credit rating cut to Selective Default by S&P

S&P Global Ratings cut Argentina’s foreign- and local-currency credit ratings to “selective default” after Argentine President Mauricio Macri issued a decree delaying payments on as much as $101 billion of debt.

“Following the continued inability to place short-term paper with private-sector market participants, the Argentine government unilaterally extended the maturity of all short-term paper on Aug. 28,” the ratings firm said in a statement.

“This constitutes default under our criteria.”

The downgrade was temporary, however. Since new terms for the short-term debt came into effect immediately, S&P considers the default “cured” and will raise Argentina‘s long-term sovereign credit rating to CCC- on Aug. 30, it said.

The government will meanwhile postpone $7 billion of payments on short-term local notes held by institutional investors this year and will seek the “voluntary reprofiling” of $50 billion of longer-term debt, Economy Minister Hernán Lacunza said.

Hot potato

The rescheduling raised concerns locally over its effect on the national social security fund (FGS) and mutual funds, which have billions in short-term notes affected by postponed payments.

Morgan Stanley estimated Argentina needed $12.9 billion for repayments on bills and bonds in the last four months of the year. Most of those payments have now been pushed back to 2020 - when a new administration led by center-left Peronist Alberto Fernández is expected to be in office.

Tierra del Fuego Governor Rosana Bertone described the situation Fernández is likely to inherit in December as a “hot potato.”

Lacunza will also start talks over repayments on $45 billion borrowed from the IMF as part of a record, $57 billion bailout granted on June 2018.

Argentina has been largely cut off from global money markets since the April 2018 implosion of a domestic carry-trade debt bubble, promoted by Macri and known as the “financial bicycle.”

The peso has since lost two-thirds of its value, with GDP down 6.9% despite a record harvest.

At: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-29/argentina-s-rating-cut-to-selective-default-by-s-p

A cyclist rides down a street in the financial district in Buenos Aires.

The collapse of a $60 billion carry-trade debt bubble known locally as the “financial bicycle” led to Argentina's being mostly shut off from global bond markets - and what's widely considered a “disguised default.”

In effect, an inability to service its $200 billion public foreign debt (which more than doubled in just 3½ years) disguised only by $45 billion in IMF loans since June 2018.

The bailout was reportedly granted at the insistence of U.S. President Donald Trump, who shares both an ideological affinity and a 35-year friendship with Macri.
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