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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
July 1, 2017

Pope Francis Ousts Powerful Conservative Cardinal

Source: New York Times

Pope Francis earlier this year ordered Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the top doctrinal watchdog in the Roman Catholic Church, to fire three priests from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the keeper of the church’s orthodoxy and presides over investigations into sexual abuse

Cardinal Müller, an ideological conservative often at odds with the pontiff, was vexed by the order, and, in a recent interview, said he had made a case, in vain, for the priests to stay in Rome.

In a rarefied political atmosphere where personnel is policy, the replacement of Cardinal Müller, 69, who was appointed by Francis’ conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, amounts to one of the pope’s most consequential appointments.

“This gives the pope the chance to finally place his own man in a very important spot,” said the Rev. James Martin, an editor at large for the Catholic magazine America and a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication. “For many admirers of Benedict, Cardinal Müller was the last link to Benedict’s way of doing things.”

The appointment also potentially removed the most powerful ideological brake on the pope’s agenda to emphasize pastoral inclusion over issues of doctrine. The dismissal comes right after Francis granted a leave of absence to an ideological ally of Cardinal Müller’s who is facing trial in Australia on charges of sexual assault.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/01/world/europe/vatican-pope-doctrine-mueller.html

I trust Francis keeps his tea under lock and key.
July 1, 2017

WSJ reporter: No one will tell me how GOP source who tried to get Hillarys emails from Russia died

Source: Raw Story

Shane Harris, the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the bombshell story about Republican operative Peter Smith trying to obtain Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from Russian hackers, made a startling revelation on Morning Joe Friday morning.

During the interview, Harris explained that Smith reached out to him to tell him his story shortly before he passed away on May 14 at the age of 81. MSNBC’s Elise Jordan then noted that Harris never mentioned Smith’s cause of death in his story about his role in trying to retrieve Clinton’s deleted State Department emails from Russian state hackers.

“How did Mr. Smith die?” she asked him.

“It’s a great question, and I should say we do not know how he died,” he said. “We made multiple attempts, both with family members and with associates of his, as well as government officials in the town where he lived, to try and determine his cause of death, and we were unsuccessful.”

Harris did note that Smith was 81 years old, and he had seen no evidence of any kind of foul play involved in his death.

Smith’s obituary, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune last month, similarly never mentioned the cause of his death.

Read more: https://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/wsj-reporter-no-one-will-tell-me-how-gop-source-who-tried-to-get-hillarys-emails-from-russia-died/

The man who knew too much?
June 30, 2017

Argentine Economy Minister admits to 'Hood Robin' policies

Speaking in a Buenos Aires cable news interview, Argentine Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne described his economic policy as "a transfer from families to corporations."

"Hood Robin," he added.

It was an unusually frank response to questions by TN cable news' senior business anchor Marcelo Bonelli about a risky boom recently in carry-trade activity - the "financial bicycle," as it's known in Argentina.

The bicycle, made possible by a series of financial deregulation decrees issued by President Mauricio Macri within days of taking office 18 months ago, has been largely financed by the Central Bank itself through short-term bills known as Lebacs.

The Lebacs, issued in pesos and typically purchased for a 28 or 35-day maturity, pay an annualized 26% rate - over 10% in dollar terms. Attracting mostly domestic speculators, Lebacs are typically rolled over at the end of the month, with the profits used to buy dollars that are then wired to offshore accounts.

The value of Lebacs outstanding has nearly quadrupled since Macri took office to 940 billion pesos ($60 billion). The most recent payout, on June 19, suggests growing market unease over the Lebacs: a record 23% ($8 billion) were cashed in, rather than rolled over.

The scheme has drawn comparisons to the bubble created at the height of Argentina's last dictatorship in 1980, when the Argentine Central Bank paid up to 60% interest in dollar terms to attract investment - only to end in a financial collapse in 1981 after insiders "bicycled" some $20 billion in profits overseas.

Trickle down

Other Macri policies, issued likewise by decree, are estimated to have transferred at least $18 billion (3% of GDP) to the nation's powerful landowning, mining, and financial interests last year alone.

Tax cuts for these sectors helped push the nation's budget deficit up by 62% in 2016. Interest payments on Lebacs and other borrowing raised deficits by another 55% in the first five months of 2017.

Investors have nevertheless welcomed Argentina's return to global bond markets, with over $43 billion in bond issues in 2016 alone - compared to around $2 billion annually during the previous decade. Some $35 billion in speculative (portfolio) investment poured into Argentina in 2016 - a record.

Around 80% of foreign investment went to the short-term financial sector however. Foreign direct investment plummeted by over 50% last year to less than $6 billion, leaving little for the productive sector.

This trend, plus austerity policies including utility rate hikes of up to 1000%, has pushed unemployment from 5.9% in 2015 to 9.2% and real wages down by 11%.

Official data suggests that Argentina's 2016 recession may have turned the corner in March after Macri, whose right-wing coalition is trailing in polls for upcoming mid-term elections, approved a sharp hike in public works and social spending.

The recovery, even so, is so far one of the weakest in Argentine history, with GDP inching up 0.6% in April from the same time last year after falling by 3.1%.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.diarioregistrado.com%2Feconomia%2Fdujovne-admitio-la-economia-con-macri-es-como-robin-hood-pero-al-reves_a5954fad2d669e67b19cfae21&edit-text=

Bicycling in Buenos Aires' financial district, where the "bicycle" has made a comeback among speculators.

June 27, 2017

Argentine Finance Minister Luis Caputo charged with fraud over 100-year bond issuance

Argentine Federal Prosecutor Juan Pedro Zoni charged Finance Minister Luis Caputo on Tuesday with fraud related to the June 19 issuance of a 100-year bond.

The charges were pursuant to a complaint presented by 13 congressmen belonging to the opposition, center-left Front for the Victory; the case was accepted, and remanded to Federal Judge Ariel Lijo.

The issuance in question was unprecedented in Argentine history: a public bond with a 100-year term and an interest rate of 7.125%.

The $2.75 billion in principal, according to economist Alfredo Zaiat, will raise around $2.5 billion in capital due to a 10% market discount - which hikes the yield to 8% (nearly twice the emerging market average). The issuance will be amortized over 14 years; but cost public coffers nearly $17 billion in interest for the remaining 86 years.

The bonds, moreover, were issued with a trigger clause that would make the Argentine government liable for nearly $9 billion in payouts should a buy back be ordered in the near future.

Contrary to its fiscally conservative image, the 18 month-old Macri administration has come under fire for raising Argentina's national debt from $240 billion to $300 billion - and its public foreign debt (the most difficult to finance) from $85 billion to $150 billion.

Macri's issuance of $100 billion in dollar-denominated bonds with an average yield of around 8% has been particularly controversial, being that they were issued under New York law, with no pari passu or collective action clauses to guard against vulture fund extortion, and with the nation's mineral resources as collateral.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fimputaron-luis-caputo-el-bono-pagar-100-anos-n30359&edit-text=

June 23, 2017

Pope Francis says weapons manufacturers can't call themselves Christian

People who manufacture weapons or invest in weapons industries are hypocrites if they call themselves Christian, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

"It makes me think of ... people, managers, businessmen who call themselves 'Christian' and manufacture weapons. That leads one to doubt it, doesn't it?" he said to applause.

He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying "duplicity is the currency of today ... they say one thing and do another."

Francis also built on comments he has made in the past about events during the first and second world wars. He spoke of the "tragedy of the Shoah," using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

"The great powers had the pictures of the railway lines that brought the trains to the concentration camps like Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody. Why didn't they bomb (the railway lines)?"

At: https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-06-21/pope-says-weapons-manufacturers-cant-call-themselves-christian

June 22, 2017

Trump Buys Ton Of New White House Furniture, Goes On Taxpayer Spending Spree

Source: news.groopspeak.com

President Trump has just spent $133,000 in taxpayer money buying himself a bunch of new furniture in the White House – and he’s only been in office for five months already.

The news comes as the Trump administration has come under increasing pressure for his frequent trips to Trump-branded properties, trips that reportedly cost $3 million per visit.

It’s not completely uncommon for presidents to spend money on new furniture additions; but here’s an interesting statistic: Trump has spent twice as much as former President Barack Obama did during the same time frame ending in May, who he claims was spending the country into oblivion.

Federal procurement records for the Executive Office of the President show that through May 31, Trump spent $133,053.95 on office furnishings versus the $51,204.25 clocked by Obama’s office during his first five months on the job.

Read more: http://news.groopspeak.com/breaking-trump-buys-ton-of-new-white-house-furniture-goes-on-taxpayer-spending-spree/

Another interesting fact: Trump ordered a Kittinger custom conference table, THE SAME ONE Nixon had.
June 22, 2017

Mexico's monthly murder rate reaches 20-year high

Mexico marked another murderous milestone in its conflict with organised crime as the monthly homicide rate hit its highest level in 20 years.

Government statistics showed that 2,186 murders were committed in May, surpassing the previous monthly high of 2,131 in May 2011, according to a review of records that date back to 1997.

Mexico recorded 9,916 murders in the first five months of 2017, roughly a 30% increase over the same period last year. The corresponding murder rate - 19.3 per 100,000 persons - is nearly four times that in the United States.

The situation has hit such calamitous levels in states such as Guerrero, to south of Mexico City – where armed groups are fighting for control of the heroin industry – that morgues there have been unable to handle the dead bodies.

Analysts say the surging violence stems from various factors, including the increased cultivation of heroin to meet US demand and the legalisation of marijuana in some US states, which has caused cartel profits to plummet and prompted criminal groups to diversify into crimes such as kidnap and extortion.

Last month, the federal government boasted of neutralizing 107 of its 122 top criminal targets since President Enrique Nieto took office in December 2012, though the efficacy of the strategy of killing and capturing cartel kingpins has raised questions.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/21/mexicos-monthly-rate-reaches-20-year-high

June 22, 2017

Trump nominee for Inter-American Commission on Human Rights board rejected

The Organization of American States (OAS) met in Cancún this week to elect new commissioners for the IACHR - the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights - for the 2018-2021 period.

The OAS elected the candidates proposed by Mexico, Brazil, and Chile - but rejected, among others, the Trump administration's nominee, Notre Dame Human Rights Law Professor Douglass Cassel.

Cassel, 70, had admitted in 2015 to receiving payment from the Houston-based oil giant Chevron to publicly attack Ecuadorian villagers and their lawyers after they won a historic $10 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador in 2013 for deliberately discharging billions of gallons of toxic waste into the country’s rain forest.

Professor Cassel was criticized by representatives for Amazon communities for being an example of “corruption in academia” and for violating Notre Dame’s conflict of interest policy by not being transparent about his financial relationship with Chevron.

“It is pretty clear that Cassel is allowing himself to play a central role in a classic oil industry subterfuge,” Ecuadorian lawyer Julio Prieto said. “Since the corporation (Chevron) that dumped billions of gallons of oil waste into the rain forest has no credibility, it tries to enlist a third party academic to launder its agitprop."

Also rejected was Argentine President Mauricio Macri's nominee, Carlos de Casas.

De Casas, 62, served as defense attorney for retired Lt. Col. Enrique Gómez Saa, in a case of multiple kidnappings and torture committed during Argentina's brutal last dictatorship in the late 1970s.

"The nominee lacks any experience in the defense of Human Rights," Argentina's leading human rights organizations pointed out in a joint open letter. "Indeed, his only role was as defense attorney for one of those accused of perpetrating abuses."

De Casas succeeded in having Gómez Saa found mentally unfit to stand trial in 2015 based on a report prepared by Gómez Saa's own son-in-law.

Critics pointed out as well that de Casas' law career has been largely spent defending corporate clients against fraud charges.

Perhaps the most infamous was that of the Peirano Basso brothers, whom de Casas defended from extradition proceedings after the collapse of Banco Velox in 2002. The three brothers, who transferred $800 million from Velox to a Cayman Islands offshore bank, were later extradited and convicted of aggravated fraud.

Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups had opposed the nomination. De Casas was, moreover, the only candidate rejected by the IACHR as "unsuitable."

The elected IACHR representatives were Joel Hernández García (Mexico); with 28 votes; Flávia Cristina Piovesan (Brazil), with 21; and Antonia Urrejola Noguera (Chile), with 19. Cassel and de Casas obtained 16 and 11 votes, respectively.

They will replace James L. Cavallaro (USA), José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez (Mexico), and Paulo Vannuchi (Brazil).

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F308538%2Fla-oea-dejo-afuera-al-candidato-de-macri

June 22, 2017

The Long-Lost 8th Wonder of the World May Have Been Found

They were called the Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana, and they were in the Rotorua district of New Zealand. There were two lakes nearby, called Rotomakariri (Cold Lake) and Rotomahana (Warm Lake) by the local Maori. Lake Rotomahana was home to the spectacular Travertine terraces caused by mineral deposits from nearby hot springs.

Both sets of terraces were fed by water from two geysers on a hill above Lake Rotomahana. It carried silica that crystallized over hundreds of years, forming the pair of terraces through a geologic process called “sintering.”

The Pink Terraces — Otukapuarangi, or “fountain of the clouded sky” — were the largest of their kind anywhere, and were referred to by some as the “8th wonder of the world.” At least they were, until Mount Tarawera erupted through the center of Lake Rotomahana on June 10, 1886, and obliterated them. Or did it?

The terraces were the premier tourist attraction of New Zealand in the 1800s, with visitors reportedly coming from across the world to see them. Locals must’ve navigated for the tourists, because the exact location of the terraces was never recorded.

Now two researchers, Rex Bunn and Sascha Nolden, have published research that suggests the terraces are still there beside the new lake, but hidden under 10-15 meters of ash.

Their confidence is based on the discovery of a 19th-century diary belonging to geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter. His field notes, from 1859, detail a compass survey he conducted of the area around old Lake Rotomahana.

But the Tarawere eruption mangled the landscape so badly that everything’s been moved around, rendering straightforward navigation from von Hochstetter’s coordinates impossible. Instead, Bunn and Nolden have been developing a conversion algorithm to make sense of things.

“We would have put in 2,500 hours of research in the last 12 months,” Bunn said. "We're confident, to the best of our ability, we have identified the terrace locations. We're closer than anyone has ever been in the last 130 years."

At: http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/the-long-lost-8th-wonder-of-the-world-may-have-been-found

New Zealand's Pink and White Terraces, shortly before being buried by an 1886 eruption.

June 21, 2017

FBI Missed Texas Judges Role In Rigged Lottery Jackpot Scheme

Investigators were suspicious in 2006 when they heard that a rural Texas judge was trying to exchange $450,000 in consecutively marked bills.

But Tommy Tipton, a Fayette County magistrate, told the FBI that his actions were innocent, if odd: He won the Colorado lottery but couldn’t tell his wife because gambling was against their Christian faith. The FBI accepted the story and dropped its inquiry of Tipton, who soon bought a new truck and more property around the town of Flatonia, 110 miles west of Houston.

A decade later, the inquiry stands out as a missed chance to stop a jackpot rigging scandal that would corrupt the $70 billion lottery industry for years while enriching a tiny group of insiders. The FBI didn’t uncover one fact that its informant knew but didn’t see as significant: that Tipton’s brother, Eddie Tipton, was a lottery industry employee. In fact, he’d built the machine that picked the winning combination for the Colorado Lotto game.

Eddie Tipton, 54, admitted in a plea agreement with multiple states this month that he long profited off his position at the association, which helps run dozens of lotteries. Investigators say he designed and installed code that allowed him to predict winning numbers drawn every May 27, Nov. 23, and Dec. 29 of non-leap years. He conspired with his younger brother, friend Robert Rhodes and others to buy and claim winning tickets in five states between 2005 and 2011.

The brothers have agreed to tell investigators the full extent of their involvement in jackpot-fixing under the deal, which requires they pay back $3 million. Prosecutors will seek 25 years in an Iowa prison for Eddie and 75 days in a Texas jail for Tommy, who worked as a sheriff’s deputy before being elected Justice of the Peace in 2002, presiding over traffic enforcement, misdemeanors and some civil disputes.

The scandal has roiled state lotteries, which have vowed to tighten their security and face lawsuits from players claiming they were cheated.

The $4.5 million Colorado jackpot in late 2005 is the first prize suspected of being fixed.

At: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2017/06/19/fb-texas-judge-rigged-lottery-jackpot/

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