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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Argentina's Extortiongate: Right-wing journalist indicted

Argentine Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla, who oversees a case of a state-sponsored extortion scheme involving millions in ransom payments and false testimony coerced against political opponents, issued indictments against journalist Daniel Santoro.

Santoro, 60, was indicted for extortion and coercion in connection with the wide-reaching case, which implicates Argentina's Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) and President Mauricio Macri's hard-line Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich.

Santoro is alleged to have collaborated with indicted AFI agent Marcelo d'Alessio by writing hit pieces against those refusing to meet ransom payments and provide false testimony against Macri's political rivals.

The chief judicial affairs writer for the country's leading right-wing news daily Clarín, Santoro, the court found, "knew that d'Alessio carried out illegal intelligence, espionage, and criminal investigations - and used (the information) despite knowing of its illicit origin."

Audio, video, and WhatsApp messages and call logs show a close relationship between Santoro and d'Alessio - as well as with Bullrich and Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli, another close Macri ally.

Stornelli was charged with espionage but has refused to testify and has been in contempt of court since March 27. Several other AFI agents and a district attorney, Juan Bidone, have also been charged.

Amid an imploding debt bubble, Macri is facing job disapproval of 70% and had relied on corruption allegations against rivals to boost his reelection chances this year.


Among the victims listed in the indictment were Gonzalo Brusa Dovat, who as a local manager for Venezuela's state-owned oil firm PdVSA was found to have been extorted by Santoro to give false testimony against the firm to Stornelli.

A raid on d'Alessio's home on February 13 uncovered CIA, U.S. Embassy and Israeli Defense Ministry documents, and evidence of operations against neighboring Uruguay and PdVSA - allegedly part of the Trump administration's push to freeze PdVSA's overseas assets.

Both U.S. Ambassador Edward Prado and AFI chief Gustavo Arribas, a longtime business partner of Macri's, deny involvement.

Another victim listed in the indictment was public contractor Mario Cifuentes, who testified to being coerced by Santoro after d'Alessio failed to obtain a $1.2 million bribe - part of an effort, Cifuentes testified, to force him to sell his oil field equipment supplier OPS.

Santoro wrote an unsubstantiated hit piece against Cifuentes on April 6, 2018 - one week after footage shows Cifuentes in d'Alessio's car, seen running red lights in a busy Buenos Aires avenue and illegally sporting a police siren.

Etchebest tapes

Extortiongate surfaced when, on February 8, 22 hours of incriminating tapes collected by farmer Pedro Etchebest, from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom, were published by investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

The tapes, made throughout January, show d'Alessio boasting that some $12 million in bribes had been coerced from victims since August 2018, that political opponents had been “framed,” and that Stornelli “managed” the enterprise.

Etchebest, 70, had his photo leaked to Clarín by government staff on February 19, and has reported receiving numerous threats. He now lives in Florida with his son.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT1&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F210773-daniel-santoro-fue-procesado-por-coaccion-y-extorsion

The four extortioneers: Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío, Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli, Argentine Federal Intelligence agent Marcelo d'Alessio, and Clarín writer Daniel Santoro.

Argentine courts have implicated Bonadío, charged Stornelli, and indicted d'Alessio and Santoro (plus several others) in connection with the Extortiongate case.

President Macri has close ties to both alleged principals in the extortion ring:

To Carlos Stornelli through the Boca Juniors football club (which Macri headed until entering politics);

and to Marcelo d'Alessio through d'Alessio's uncle (whom Macri appointed presidential notary public), and through d'Alessio's former law partner - who administers Macri's blind trust.

Texas grandma heroically foils grandson's mass shooting plot by bringing him to hospital

A Texas grandmother was hailed as a hero by federal authorities after she foiled a potential mass shooting by taking her grandson to a hospital after he allegedly made threats.

William Patrick Williams, 19, was taken into custody by federal agents in Lubbock, Texas, after he told his grandmother about a plot to "shoot up" a local hotel and then commit suicide by cop, according to the Department of Justice.

According to a criminal complaint, the plot came to light on July 13, just weeks before a pair of mass shootings claimed the lives of at least 31 people in one weekend, when Williams told his grandmother that he'd purchased an AK-47.

At: https://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-grandma-heroically-foils-grandsons-mass-shooting-plot/story?id=64785245

Dow plunges as China punches back in trade war

Source: The Street

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled nearly 700 points Monday as China hit back at President Donald Trump's move to accelerate tariffs on China-made goods by allowing the yuan to slip to the lowest levels against the dollar in more than a decade.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 695 points, or 2.6%, to 25,789. The S&P 500, which last week had its worst week of the year, fell 2.62%, and the Nasdaq dropped 3.21%.

The decline Monday was the Dow's biggest single day decline of the year and the most since Dec. 4, 2018.

The People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, let the so-called onshore yuan fall past the psychologically important threshold of 7 in early Monday trading, citing in a statement "unilateralism and protectionism," as well as the expectation of additional tariffs from the United States.

Read more: https://www.thestreet.com/markets/dow-plunges-as-china-retaliates-on-trade-by-devaluing-its-currency-15044583

Tough guys: Trump and Xi Jinping during the recent Osaka G20 summit.

Trump's trade war will cost the average U.S. household an extra $767 this year, according to trade group estimates.

U.S. exports to China have already plummeted 31%.

Georgieva tapped as EU candidate to lead IMF after bitter vote

Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank‘s chief executive, was selected by European governments as their candidate to head the International Monetary Fund following an acrimonious process in which the result was initially contested by some member states.

If Georgieva wins the backing of the IMF board in the autumn, she will succeed Christine Lagarde and confront a world economy at its weakest since the aftermath of the financial crisis and threatened by escalating trade tensions.

Friday’s voting came after European Union governments struggled to rally behind a single candidate during weeks of talks.

The conservative Georgieva, 65, succeeds interim director David Lipton, who like Lagarde, has reaped criticism for a record, $57 billion bailout of Argentina - 61% of the Fund's total loan portfolio.

Of the $45 billion disbursed since June 2018, 77% has been used to finance capital flight - against the IMF's own rules.

At: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-02/eu-fails-to-name-imf-candidate-as-process-thrown-into-confusion

Georgieva and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

If confirmed, Georgieva inherits one of the most complicated situations in the IMF's 73-year history:

A $57 billion bailout of Argentina's right-wing Macri administration - granted at Trump's insistence to promote Macri's unlikely re-election this year - is considered unpayable by most analysts, without converting the 4-year standby credit facility into an extended fund facility (with much longer repayment terms).

The Argentina bailout represents 61% of the IMF's loan portfolio, creating a major solvency risk for Fund should Argentina default - as 30 other countries have in the past, albeit for smaller loans.

Body found in France's Loire River confirmed as music fan missing since police raid

A body found in the River Loire is that of a man who went missing after French police raided a music festival last month, local officials say.

They say Tuesday's autopsy on the badly decomposed body found close to the festival site in Nantes confirmed it was Steve Maia Caniço, 24.

Fourteen other people were rescued from the river soon after falling in during the police crackdown on 22 June. An inquiry has found no link between the raid and Caniço's disappearance.

Since Caniço's disappearance, posters have been put up in the area around the western French city that read "Où est Steve?" (Where is Steve?).

At: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49171906

Steve Maia Caniço, 1995-2019.

Caniço disappeared 38 days earlier during a violent police raid on a Nantes music festival, in which tear gas and rubber bullets were fired.

He apparently drowned in the Loire, near the site of the raid - though previous searches had failed to uncover the body.

California governor signs bill on presidential tax returns

California's Democratic governor signed a law Tuesday requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the state's primary ballot, a move aimed squarely at Republican President Donald Trump.

While aimed at Trump, the law also applies to candidates for governor. Newsom said California's status as one of the world's largest economies gives it "a special responsibility" to require tax returns from its prospective elected officials.

"These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence," Newsom wrote in his signing statement.

Courts will likely have the final say.

The bill's author, Democratic state Sen. Mike McGuire, said lawmakers made sure the law only applies to the state's primary ballot because the state Constitution says the state Legislature does not control access to the general election ballot.

At: https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/California-governor-signs-bill-on-presidential-14259433.php

California Governor Gavin Newsom to President Donald Trump: No tax returns, no spot on the CA primary ballot.

Arizona state senator criticized for remarks on immigrants, birthrates of Hispanic women

Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen is facing criticism, following recent comments she made about immigration, white birth rates, the "browning" of America, feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment.

During a speech to Republicans earlier this month, Allen said America would "look like South American countries very quickly" - and warned that immigrants were "flooding" the United States at a rate that didn't allow for them to "learn the principles of our country," according to audio published by the Phoenix New Times on Friday.

"We have a right in our country to have people come in an organized manner so we know who's coming, so we can provide jobs for them, so we can provide education for them and health care and all these things people need," she said.

"We can't provide that if people are just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us."

In her comments, Allen noted declining white birth rates compared to Hispanic birth rates, saying it was an issue "because of immigration."

She referred to a "browning of America."

At: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2019/07/26/arizona-sen-sylvia-allen-criticized-remarks-immigrants/1841526001/

State Representative Sylvia Allen: Obsessed with the "browning of America."

She represents Snowflake, AZ.

Obama says he's 'proud of' former staffers who slammed Trump for 'poisoning of our democracy' in fie

Former President Obama tweeted Saturday that he is "proud of" how former staffers of his administration are "continuing to fight for an America that's better" after they penned an op-ed blasting President Trump for his "poisoning of our democracy."

"I've always been proud of what this team accomplished during my administration," he tweeted with a link to the op-ed, which was published by The Washington Post on Friday.

"But more than what we did, I'm proud of how they're continuing to fight for an America that's better," he continued.

The op-ed, titled "We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by," was penned by 149 African American alumni of the Obama administration in support of congresswomen of color who were recently attacked by the president and told to "go back" to their home countries.

At: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/obama-says-hes-proud-of-former-staffers-who-slammed-trump-for-poisoning-of-our-democracy-in-fiery-op-ed/ar-AAEX4y2

Former President Barack Obama: Standing up for those who stood up.

GDP slows to 2.1% in second quarter - but beats expectations thanks to strong consumer spending

Growth decelerated in the second quarter, but not by as much as Wall Street thought, as tariffs and a global slowdown weighed on the U.S. economy, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

GDP increased 2.1%, down from the first quarter’s 3.1% and the weakest increase since Q1 of 2017 when President Donald Trump took office. GDP grew 2.3% from the same time last year, and 2.5% so far this year.

Dow Jones Q2 estimates were for 2% growth.

However, the underlying numbers in the report seemed to take steam out of the recession fears that have been much of the talk among economists and policymakers at the Federal Reserve.

Personal and business spending grew at a 4.3% annual rate - led by durable goods, which surged at a 12.9% rate after two weak quarters.

Fixed private investment (construction, machinery and software) slid 0.8%, led by a 10.6% fall in non-residential construction. Residential construction slid 1.5% - the sixth-straight quarterly decline in homebuilder activity.

A 38.2% slowdown in inventory accumulation resulted in a 5.5% drop in total private investment.

Real exports fell 5.2%, largely the result of sharply lower shipments to China amid the most serious trade dispute with the Asian giant since the post-war upheaval years.

Government grew at a 5% clip, led by a 15.9% jump in non-defense federal purchases.

At: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/26/us-gdp-second-quarter-2019.html

A modernist dealership awaits customers in North Carolina.

A 15.9% annualized jump in motor vehicle and parts sales (after a 10.2% drop in the first quarter) helped propel private consumption by 4.3%.

But declines of 5.5% in private investment and 5.2% in exports resulted in an anemic 2.1% GDP reading for the quarter, the slowest in two years.

TN pastor refuses to host funeral since dying man's son is gay

A 71-year-old man in Tennessee will probably die in the coming days.

He made two final requests of his son, Jessie Goodman. He wanted his funeral at Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church in Sweetwater, TN, which was the first church he ever attended, and he wanted Jessie to sing the hymn “The Anchor Holds” at the service.

Simple enough… until Pastor Jay Scruggs found out Jessie was in a same-sex relationship. Now Scruggs is refusing to hold the funeral — for the straight father.

“As long as I was going to take part in any way, he (Jessie’s father) could not have his service there,” said [Jessie] Goodman.

Goodman says the church’s pastor, and some of its members, don’t want him or his fiance [Brandon Smitty] to be involved in the service because they’re gay.

At: https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2019/07/25/baptist-church-to-dying-man-you-cant-have-a-funeral-here-since-your-son-is-gay/

Jessie Goodman (right) and his fiancé Brandon Smitty.

Goodman's ailing father is being refused his dying wish by the local pastor, who objects to his son's same-sex relationship.
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