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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
July 27, 2017

Argentine Central Bank board member fired for opposing "financial bicycle" bubble

Argentine President Mauricio Macri ordered the removal of Central Bank board member Pedro Biscay for making "diverse manifestations" in opposition to Central Bank policies.

Biscay has expressed concern over an ongoing financial bubble in Argentina known as the "bicycle."

A specialist in prosecuting financial fraud, Biscay, 38, spearheaded investigations into alleged HSBC money laundering and tax evasion revealed by SwissLeaks in 2015 - a case dropped by the Macri administration last year.

He had been publicly critical of economic policy under Macri's right-wing administration, its promotion of the financial bicycle in particular.

Biscay, appointed in 2014 by former President Cristina Kirchner, was the sole remaining Central Bank board member not appointed by Macri, and the only one confirmed by the Senate (Macri installed the other nine by decree). His term was due to expire in 2020.

Pedal to the metal

The financial bicycle refers to the ongoing boom in carry-trade transactions made possible by financial deregulation enacted by Macri and his Central Bank president, Federico Sturzenegger, since taking office 18 months ago.

This trend 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 term, pay an annualized 26% rate - or 10 to 15% in dollar terms. Attracting mostly domestic speculators, Lebacs are typically rolled over, with the profits used to buy dollars that are then wired overseas.

The value of Lebacs outstanding has more than tripled under Macri to 940 billion pesos ($54 billion).

The largest recent maturity, on June 19, suggests growing market unease over the Lebacs: a record 23% ($8 billion) were cashed in and wired overseas, rather than rolled over. The dollar has since risen 9%, to 17.50 pesos.

Central Bank data show that of $60 billion in public foreign debt added in the last 18 months, $37 billion have gone to finance the "bicycle" and other capital flight.

The scheme has drawn comparisons to the bubble created at the height of Argentina's last dictatorship in 1980, when the Central Bank issued Lebacs paying 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 of the profits to offshore accounts.

Tax cuts decreed by Macri within days of taking office raised already high budget deficits by 62% in 2016, and higher interest payments have pushed deficits up another 43% in the first half of 2017. Cutbacks in utility subsidies for households and businesses have meanwhile led to a severe recession - but not lower deficits.

The OECD earlier today called on Macri to reduce Argentina's budget deficit, which may reach a record $40 billion this year (6% of GDP).

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ambito.com%2F891537-el-gobierno-echo-al-director-del-bcra-pedro-biscay-por-opinar-distinto&edit-text=

Pedro Biscay
July 26, 2017

Britain to ban gasoline and diesel car sales by 2040

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an attempt to reduce air pollution that could herald the end of over a century of popular use of the fossil fuel-guzzling internal combustion engine.

Britain's step, which follows France, amounts to a victory for electric cars that could eventually transform the wealth of major oil producers, car industry employment, and one of the icons of 20th Century capitalism – the automobile itself.

The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centers by 2025, while the French government also aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

A record 2.69 million motor vehicles were sold in the U.K. in 2016, of which 80,000 were hybrids and 10,000 were fully electric.

At: https://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2017/0726/Britain-to-ban-gasoline-and-diesel-car-sales-by-2040

July 23, 2017

A despot in disguise: one mans mission to rip up democracy

It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan.

She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch.

Her discoveries in that house of horrors reveal how Buchanan, in collaboration with business tycoons and the institutes they founded, developed a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich. The programme is now reshaping politics, and not just in the US.

Buchanan was strongly influenced by both the neoliberalism of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, and the property supremacism of John C. Calhoun, who argued in the first half of the 19th century that freedom consists of the absolute right to use your property (including your slaves) however you may wish.

James M. Buchanan brought these influences together to create what he called public choice theory.

Any clash between “freedom” (allowing the rich to do as they wish) and democracy should be resolved in favour of freedom. In his book The Limits of Liberty, he noted that “despotism may be the only organisational alternative to the political structure that we observe.”

His prescription was a “constitutional revolution”: creating irrevocable restraints to limit democratic choice. Sponsored throughout his working life by wealthy foundations, billionaires and corporations, he developed a theoretical account of what this constitutional revolution would look like, and a strategy for implementing it.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/19/despot-disguise-democracy-james-mcgill-buchanan-totalitarian-capitalism?CMP=share_btn_fb

James McGill Buchanan: his tireless advocacy for plutocracy earned him a Nobel Prize - and the admiration of egomaniacs everywhere.

July 20, 2017

Chile takes steps to legalize abortion in certain cases

Chile’s senate has narrowly passed a bill to legalize abortion in certain cases, in a win for President Michelle Bachelet’s center-left coalition and for rights groups that have campaigned for years against the country’s strict ban.

After a long and sometimes fractious overnight debate, the senate voted to legalize abortion when a woman’s life is in danger, when a fetus is non-viable and when a pregnancy results from rape.

Chile is one of only a handful of countries worldwide where abortion is illegal without exception. The ban was put in place during the closing days of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-90 dictatorship, and Bachelet pledged reform when she took office for the second time in 2014.

The University of Chile estimates that up to 100,000 abortions are performed annually in the country, compared to around 250,000 live births.

The bill will now be returned to Chile’s lower house to be reconciled with a version passed there. That is expected to happen within the week, allowing it to become law.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/19/chile-abortion-mother-rape-life-legalization

July 19, 2017

Uruguay pharmacies start selling cannabis straight to consumers

Source: The Guardian

Pharmacies in Uruguay have begun selling cannabis directly to consumers, culminating a long and pioneering legalization effort that began over three years ago.

The nearly 5,000 users who have registered with the government in the small South American country of 3.5 million will be able to buy five-gram (0.18oz) sealed packets for $6.50 each.

Uruguay became the first country in the world to pass a law legalizing the recreational use, sale and cultivation of marijuana in 2013. But implementation has been slow, and since then several other countries have moved towards a more flexible approach.

In Uruguay, any citizen over the age of 18 can register to buy cannabis. Using fingerprint recognition, they can buy up to 40 grams (1.41oz) monthly for their personal use, choosing between two brands – “Alfa 1” and “Beta 1”.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/19/uruguay-marijuana-sale-pharmacies?CMP=share_btn_fb

July 19, 2017

US military reportedly paying $130,000 a month to lease space in Trump Tower

Source: CNBC

The United States government is paying more than $130,000 a month to rent a space in Trump Tower for a military office that supports the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Lease documents obtained by the Journal showed the government agreed to pay $2.39 million for a 3,475 square foot space from April 11, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 — above market rate for similarly sized high rise luxury apartments, the report said.

A spokeswoman at the General Services Administration said the space is owned by someone not affiliated with the Trump Organization, suggesting the rent money isn't going to President Donald Trump, according to the report.

Read more: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/18/us-military-reportedly-paying-130000-a-month-to-lease-space-in-trump-tower.html

"owned by someone not affiliated with the Trump Organization..."

July 19, 2017

Argentina's Macri mulls sale of ARSAT 3 to Hughes Network Systems

Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced on Monday that a letter of intent had been signed with Maryland-based Hughes Network Systems for the construction and operation of the ARSAT 3 satellite.

The broadband communications satellite was originally commissioned in 2015 and had been awarded to Argentine state-owned satellite developer INVAP - but the project was suspended last year by a Macri decree.

This new agreement would instead award the ARSAT 3 to Hughes, and grant it 51% ownership of the unit.

The letter of intent has been denounced by opposition lawmakers as illegal.

Guillermo Rus, former vice president of ARSAT, said that the agreement "lacks legality" because it violates Article 10 in the 2015 Satellite Sovereignty Law that forbids the privatization of any of its satellites - except through congressional approval.

Critics noted that the agreement would also jeopardize INVAP - which has already launched two satellites (ARSAT 1 in 2014, and ARSAT 2 in 2015), and is considered by NASA to be "the clear leader in satellite design and manufacturing in Latin America."

Technological sovereignty

Former University of Buenos Aires Exact Sciences Dean Jorge Aliaga believes the initiative surrenders Argentina's "technological sovereignty" over its satellites - in particular the Ka band essential for improving access to broadband internet service.

He also warned it would effectively cede control of the ARSAT program as well as sensitive information to Hughes - the CIA's top spy satellite contractor as early as the 1970s.

The coincidence has stoked suspicion among Macri's opponents. His administration has been criticized even by allies for its use of warrantless surveillance against the media and political rivals - particularly former President Cristina Kirchner, whose private calls are routinely collected and leaked by Macri's state intelligence.

Buyers and viability

Macri administration officials deny that ARSAT is being privatized. Its director, Rodrigo de Loredo, noted that its two existing satellites, the fiber optic network, the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTTV) infrastructure, the data center, and the rest of the company's assets will remain public - at least for now.

"We believe our satellite program cannot continue to be 100% financed by Argentine taxpayers," de Loredo said, adding that private investment would add to ARSAT 3's viability.

Dr. Aliaga rejected that argument.

"It is a lie that ARSAT generates an expense to the State," he explained. "The Satellite Law stipulates they must be self-financed. Its costs are more than compensated by its data and communication service sales, and INVAP and its network of suppliers depend on it."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F50857-en-el-arsat-3-flameara-una-bandera-extranjera

July 14, 2017

A Misguided War On The United Nations

In the wake of World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took noble action to ensure that the unrelenting conflicts that had defined the early 20th century wouldn’t doom future generations.

His vision was clear: “to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice” in their own lands, the global community would need to come together and create a post-war organization that would protect the sovereignty of all nations.

It was American leadership that mobilized the international community to create the United Nations. Its successes are many: eradicating smallpox and fighting famine; responsible arms control, disarmament, and preventing nuclear proliferation; ending conflicts and preserving peace in fragile states; and ultimately, preventing another World War.

Supporting the United Nations is both a moral imperative and aligned with our own national security interests.

But you wouldn’t know that from listening to some of the reckless rhetoric from the White House and on Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration proposes a 27% cut to U.S. assessed contributions to the U.N. regular budget and U.N. specialized agencies, and a 37% cut to peacekeeping operations. The budget elminates funding for the UNICEF, as well as the U.N. Development Program, Women's and Humanitarian Affairs offices, Population Fund, High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

When I asked Ambassador Haley what point was being made with this budget, she replied “to build up our military” - but decreasing U.S. support for U.N. peacekeeping efforts will actually end up costing us more in the long run.

The U.S. only pays $24,500 per year for each deployed peacekeeper, compared to $2.1 million per year for an American service member deployed to a war zone – about 86 times as much.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D - VA)
At: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-misguided-war-on-the-united-nations_us_595cfc05e4b0da2c73265f46?vg7

July 13, 2017

Police evict workers at shuttered PepsiCo plant in Argentina

Several workers, journalists, and 15 officers were injured in Argentina during an eviction of a shuttered PepsiCo plant occupied by around 20 laid off employees objecting to what they consider "the fraudulent closure of the establishment."

The eviction was carried out by Buenos Aires Province Police Infantry units, with assistance from the National Gendamarmie militarized police force. They advanced on the factory with tear gas and rubber bullets, while the workers responded with stones.

Numerous journalists, cameramen, and others reported being clubbed by police. Seven workers were arrested.

The shuttered plant, located in West Florida, a working class suburb northwest of Buenos Aires, was occupied by its former workers on June 26, six days after PepsiCo Argentina shuttered the facility.

The company reported downsizing its snack production by limiting it to a plant in Mar del Plata (250 mi S of Buenos Aires). They announced that of 691 workers affected, 155 will be relocated and the rest laid off and indemnified with two months' wages.

Union delegates, however, denounced that since the closure "not one worker was transferred" and that production was instead being substituted with imports from neighboring Chile, where labor costs are around 30% lower.

They pointed as well to the secret manner in which the eviction order was issued. "They are advancing after the judge gave in to the eviction request in a meeting held in the middle of the night," said delegate Camilo Monesm.

The plant closure is one of 3,200 factory shutdowns since President Mauricio Macri, a supporter of free trade and deregulation, took office 19 months ago - an average of seven a day. At least 45,000 workers have been affected as of March.

The CAME business chamber notes that while most shutdowns are of small or medium businesses, 105 larger factories (those with 100 or more employees) have closed as well. Many others have suffered partial layoffs.

Industrial production, CAME says, declined 5% in 2016 and 3% so far this year. Unemployment in the heavily industrial Greater Buenos Aires area, where this plant is located, jumped from 6.7% in 2015 to 11.8%.

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%2Frepresion-pepsico-balas-goma-desalojaron-la-planta-y-detuvieron-trabajadores-n30869&edit-text=

July 12, 2017

Lula's conviction to be appealed in Brazil and the United Nations, lawyers say

The law firm in charge of the defense of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that he will appeal the sentence to nine and a half years in prison for corruption in Brazilian courts and the United Nations.

"We are appealing and we will prove his innocence in all the impartial courts, including the United Nations," an aide to the office said in a message to AFP.

Lula was accused of receiving R$2.4 million ($740,000) in illicit benefits from public contractor OAS through improvements on an apartment owned by the former president in Guarujá, on the coast of São Paulo State.

If he is convicted on appeal, he may be arrested and made ineligible to run again for the presidency in 2018.

At: https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=auto&sp=nmt4&tl=en&u=http://blogs.ne10.uol.com.br/jamildo/2017/07/12/condenacao-de-lula-tera-apelacao-no-brasil-e-na-onu-dizem-advogados/&usg=ALkJrhgFTpE6OtoTQmC_1O2G7JcyQLktJg

Former Brazilian President Luiz "Lula" da Silva

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