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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Argentina: Witness against jailed opposition lawmaker indicted for false testimony

Argentine Federal Judge Sebastián Ramos issued an indictment today against an energy market analyst for providing "distorted, plagiarized, and outright false information" in a report used to indict and expel an opposition lawmaker.

The analyst, David Cohen, 70, authored a study on which Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío based his October 2017 indictment against Congressman Julio de Vido on alleged overpayment for natural gas imports during his 2003-15 tenure as Public Works Minister.

The Cohen study was shown within days to have been both erroneous and plagiarized from a paper written by Chilean college students on that country's gas import market - not Argentina's.

Cohen's indictment comes exactly a year after the gas overpayment charges against de Vido were dropped due to the fraudulent nature of Cohen's own report.

Critics note, moreover, that de Vido's expulsion from Congress contrasts sharply with that of pro-government lawmaker Aída Ayala, who retains her seat despite being convicted last May for racketeering and having said conviction upheld in October.

de Vido, 69, served as Public Works Minister during the center-left administrations of presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.

Mrs. Kirchner succeeded her ailing husband as president in 2007, and as senator is today a leading opponent of right-wing President Mauricio Macri.


Amid a imploding debt bubble and severe recession, Macri is facing job disapproval of 70% and has relied on corruption allegations against Kirchner and her former officials to boost his reelection chances this year.

But recent recordings suggest Macri and his chief media ally, the Clarín Group, have been working with Judge Bonadío and Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli to frame opponents - primarily by coercing witnesses to perjure themselves against former Kirchner-era officials and Kirchner herself.

The operative managing the extortion scheme, Marcelo d'Alessio, was indicted on February 25 by Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla.

The mercurial d'Alessio, 48, was recorded throughout January by organic farmer Pedro Etchebest (from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom), and provided extensive details on the scheme.

Some $12 million in bribes had been collected just since last August, according to d'Alessio. Other victims have since come forward.

Stornelli, who was charged on March 6 as a co-conspirator, was summoned to testify on March 7 by Judge Ramos Padilla but refused to appear.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fclaudio-bonadio%2Fcausa-gnl-procesaron-al-perito-trucho-bonadio-n57066

Court-appointed expert David Cohen, whose falsified market study was the sole basis for indicting - and later expelling - opposition Congressman Julio de Vido.

de Vido and at least two other former Public Works Ministry officials remain in prison despite the debunked study and Cohen's own indictment.

Cohen's indictment comes amid a massive extortion scandal involving the same judge and prosecutor, and the same ends: coercing false testimony against Macri's opponents - as well as at least $12 million in ransom payments.

France unveils plan to tax internet giants

Source: AP

The French government on Wednesday unveiled plans to slap a 3 percent tax on the French revenues of internet giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook.

The bill is an attempt to get around tax avoidance measures by multinationals, which pay most of their taxes in the EU country they are based in — often at very low rates. That effectively means the companies pay next to no tax in countries where they have large operations.

About 30 companies, mostly based from the U.S, but also from China and Europe, will be affected.

France is set to be the first European country to implement such a tax as the bill presented Wednesday in a cabinet meeting is likely to pass in the coming months in parliament, where French President Emmanuel Macron's party has a majority.

Le Maire estimated the tax will raise about 500 million euros ($566 million) a year this year but that should increase "quickly."

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/france-unveils-plan-to-tax-internet-giants/ar-BBUqKDw

'I'm not running': Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 bid for first time on camera

Hillary Clinton ruled out a 2020 presidential run for the first time on camera in an exclusive interview with News 12, pledging instead to take an active role by working with the candidates in the crowded Democratic field.

"I'm not running, but I'm going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe," she told News 12's Tara Rosenblum.

In her first local TV interview since the midterm elections, the former first lady and secretary of state opened up about 2016, 2020 and beyond. She expressed deep concerns about the state of American politics today -- and vowed to be vocal about those concerns.

Clinton pledged to take an active role in 2020 as the field of Democratic candidates continues to expand. She's already held private meetings with many of the candidates, and she revealed the substance of some of those closed-door discussions.

At: http://westchester.news12.com/story/40067049/im-not-running-hillary-clinton-rules-out-2020-bid-for-first-time-on-camera-in-exclusive-interview-with-news-12

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Not running in 2020 - but the real winner in 2016, always.

New election date set in North Carolina's 9th District following fraud investigation

Voters in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District now know when they will head to the polls, again.

The State Board of Elections met Monday and voted to set the dates for new general and primary elections in the district, after the results of November's midterms were tossed out last month. Those results were deemed tainted by the board after a months-long investigation into election fraud in the district.

The State Board voted to first hold a primary election on May 14. After that, Sept. 10 will either be the date of the runoff primary election, if it's necessary - or the general election. If a runoff primary is needed, the general election will be held Nov. 5.

Democrat Dan McCready, who trailed Harris by about 900 votes (0.3%) in the unofficial original tally, has been fundraising in preparation for the race since retracting his concession in early December.

Republican Mark Harris, who led in the unofficial results of the first election, has already announced that he will not run again for the seat.

At: https://www.npr.org/2019/03/04/699985857/new-election-schedule-set-in-north-carolinas-9th-district

Democrat Dan McCready and his 2018 GOP opponent, Mark Harris.

McCready, who lost in November by 0.3%, will try again this year for North Carolina's 9th District seat.

He faces as-yet undefined GOP opposition, as fraud scandal-ridden Mark Harris has declined to run.

Trump celebrates North Dakota football champs with fast food

President Donald Trump is again feting football champions with burgers and fries.

Trump is celebrating the Division 1-winning North Dakota State University football team at the White House with a lunch of Big Macs, french fries and Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

Trump served a similar spread that included hundreds of hamburgers to the college football champion Clemson Tigers in January, citing the government shutdown that was underway.

Trump says he could have offered the players chef-prepared food; but, "I know you people."

At: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-celebrates-north-dakota-football-champs-with-fast-food/ar-BBUmLwC

Cheeto and a cornucopia of cholesterol at today's White House reception for the winning North Dakota State University Bisons.

"I could have offered you chef-prepared food; but I know you people."

Pope Francis to open World War II-era Vatican archives to scrutiny

Source: Washington Post

The Vatican announced Monday that it would open up its secret archives on the World War II papacy of Pope Pius XII, whom some scholars have accused of keeping silent about the Holocaust.

Jewish organizations have long called for the Vatican’s archives from this period to be made accessible, saying Pope Pius turned a blind eye to the systematic persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. But Pius’ actions during this period are up for debate, and others say he worked behind the scenes to help Jews.

“The church is not afraid of history,” Pope Francis told members of the Vatican’s Secret Archives division. He said the period of Pius’s papacy from 1939 to 1958 would be opened to researchers on March 2, 2020.

“Pope Francis’s decision to make these materials now fully open and available for international scholarly research is enormously important to Catholic-Jewish relations,” Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, said in a statement.

“It is particularly important that experts from the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the U.S. objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as the valiant efforts made during the period of the [Holocaust].”

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/pope-francis-to-open-world-war-ii-era-vatican-archives-to-scrutiny/2019/03/04/2908ff80-3e75-11e9-9361-301ffb5bd5e6_story.html

Pope Francis and his wartime predecessor, Pius XII.

Pius' relationship with the Nazi regime, with which he had been acquainted since his days as Apostolic Nuncio (ambassador) to Germany, has been the subject of much study and speculation since his death in 1958.

Some credit him with helping thousands of Jews and others at risk leave Germany and Italy during World War II; but others have accused him of authorizing lucrative "ratlines" for Nazis and Italian and Croatian Fascists, through Croatia, after the war.

GOP's anti-Muslim display likening Rep. Omar to a terrorist rocks W. Virginia capitol

Source: NBC News

Angry arguments broke out in the West Virginia statehouse on Friday after the state Republican Party allegedly set up an anti-Muslim display in the rotunda linking the 9/11 terror attacks to a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota.

One staff member was physically injured during the morning's confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments.

The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.

"'Never forget' - you said. . ." read a caption on the first picture. "I am the proof - you have forgotten," read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab.

The display was set up as part of "WV GOP Day," which the party advertised on Facebook as a day when "Republicans Take the Rotunda."

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/gop-s-anti-muslim-display-likening-rep-omar-terrorist-rocks-n978371

The GOP's latest attempt at minority outreach.

U.S. economy grows 2.9% in 2018, missing Trump's 3 percent target

The U.S. economy fell short of the Trump administration’s 3% annual growth target in 2018 despite $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and a government spending blitz, and economists say growth will only slow from here.

A better-than-expected performance in the fourth quarter pushed gross domestic product up 2.9% for the year, just shy of the goal, Commerce Department data showed on Thursday.

Gross domestic product reached $20.5 trillion in 2018.

The economy grew at a 2.6% annualized rate in the fourth quarter after advancing at a 3.4% pace in the July-September period. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 2.3% rate in the fourth quarter.

Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a still strong 2.8% rate in the fourth quarter and 2.6% for the year.

Private investment grew at a 4.6% clip, and 6% for all of 2018. Residential construction, however, slipped 3.5% last quarter and 0.2% for the year - the first decline since 2011.

Growth in 2018 was the strongest since 2015 (2.9%) and better than the 2.2% logged in 2017. The expansion will be the longest on record in July.

At: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/u-s-economic-growth-in-2018-misses-trumps-3-percent-target-idUSKCN1QH0HO

Argentina's Macrisis: GDP falls 2.6% in 2018; 7% in December

Data published today by Argentina's Statistics and Census Institute (INDEC) show that the nation's GDP fell 2.6% in 2018, and 7% in December from the same time last year.

The contraction in the region's third-largest economy was the most severe since 2009, at the depths of a worldwide financial crisis.

The sharpest decline this year came from agriculture, which plummeted 15.9% amid the worst drought since 2009.

Steep declines for 2018 were also seen in retail/wholesale trade (-5.1%), manufacturing (-4.3%), and transport and communications (-2.7%). Real exports, despite a 51% devaluation, slipped 0.5% in 2018.

Over 191,000 jobs were lost in 2018 - a loss is equivalent to 1.5 million jobs lost in the U.S.

Downward trend

Data show that the current downturn, which began in April, worsened rapidly throughout 2018.

GDP reached a growth rate of 3.9% in the first quarter; but since April has averaged a decline of 4.6%. The recession deepened to -7.5% in November and -7% in December - the sharpest declines since the 2002 collapse.

December data, in turn, show an outright collapse in retail/wholesale trade (-15.7%), manufacturing (-14.2%), and construction (-12.7%).

Recurring recession

This is the second recession since President Mauricio Macri took office, and as of December, GDP was 4.6% below November 2015 levels - when Macri was narrowly elected promising to spark growth with deregulation and tax cuts.

But three sharp devaluations and utility hikes of 3000% have hampered the economy and caused already high inflation rates to double to 47.6% last year - with real wages falling 17% since 2015.

The current crisis began after the collapse of a $60 billion carry-trade debt bubble known in Argentina as the "financial bicycle."

High-interest (50%) notes are still being issued to local banks to shore up the peso, costing the treasury $28 million in interest outlays daily.

From plaudits to bailout

Costly corporate tax cuts have meanwhile failed to spur investment or exports, and $61 billion has instead left the country since Macri took office.

Macri resorted to foreign borrowing to cover said losses, doubling Argentina's public foreign debt to $175 billion.

The ensuing crisis forced Macri to borrow $29 billion from the IMF since June 22 - part of a $57 billion bailout agreed to with the IMF in exchange for deep budget cuts which opponents see as both unconstitutional and recessionary.

The IMF - vocal supporters of Macri throughout his tenure - is expected to approve another $10.7 billion loan this March despite a 2018 budget deficit of 743 billion pesos ($26 billion), or 5% of GDP.

During a monitoring mission to Buenos Aires last week, IMF South America division head Roberto Cardarelli reportedly admitted in private that his "sole mission was to help guarantee Macri's re-election, at Washington's request."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F177666-la-economia-sigue-en-rojo

Argentine President Mauricio Macri entertains IMF director Christine Lagarde and IMF South America head Roberto Cardarelli (second from right) during a recent visit.

Cardarelli reportedly admitted in private that the IMF bailout is "unsustainable" and that his "sole mission was to help guarantee Macri's re-election, at Washington's request."

New Cuban constitution gets 87 percent approval

Nearly 87% of Cuban voters approved a new constitution that preserves the island's single-party socialist system and centrally planned economy while updating some financial, electoral and criminal laws, authorities said Monday.

The new constitution recognizes private and cooperative businesses alongside state ones, creates the posts of prime minister and provincial governor, and introduces the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus to the justice system.

In recent weeks, President Miguel Díaz-Canel's government waged a non-stop campaign promoting a "yes" vote and tarring those voting "no" as counterrevolutionaries and enemies of the state. Aside from a few independent websites, all Cuban media is state-run and the airwaves were filled with messages urging people to vote "yes" for the sake of continuity on the island.

"This constitution establishes the best for the country, for the future of the Cuban people," said Miguel Álvarez, a 57-year-old technician for the Havana water utility. "It eliminates past mistakes and points us toward the future."

The "no" campaign, in turn, was amplified by the rapid spread of mobile internet across Cuba in recent months. Some 2 million Cubans on the island have contracted mobile data service since it was offered for the first time in December.

The largest block of "no" votes was expected to come from the growing ranks of evangelical Christians in Cuba, who object to language that eliminates a requirement for marriage to be only between a man and woman, paving the way for a future legalization of gay marriage.

At: https://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/New-Cuban-constitution-gets-87-percent-approval-13643581.php

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks to reporters after voting in Sunday's constitutional referendum.

The new constitution, which replaces the one enacted in 1976, would recognize private and cooperative businesses alongside state ones, as well as the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus.

It would, however, maintain the island's single-party socialist system.
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