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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Recession feared in Argentina as cracks in economy grow

Signs are mounting that Argentina is headed toward recession, less than two years after emerging from the latest one, as a severe drought and currency crisis shakes Latin America’s third-largest economy.

GDP declined on an annual basis (-0.9%) for the first time in 14 months, the government reported Tuesday. Economic activity fell 2.7% in April alone - the largest monthly decline the December 2001 collapse.

Adding to the currency crisis, which forced the central bank to raise discount rates to 40% (the highest since 2002), is the worst drought in 9 years. Agricultural output plunged 30.8% in April from a record harvest last year, further weighing on economic activity.

IMF bailout

A recession would complicate budget cuts President Mauricio Macri agreed to with the IMF on June 8 in exchange for a $50 billion stand-by credit line.

Opponents note that besides unconstitutionally overriding Congress' budgetary authority, the terms do little to curb a record $31 billion current account deficit - projected to reach $40 billion this year.

Under Macri, these deficits have been largely financed with foreign debt - up 70% to $254 billion since taking office. Public sector foreign debt has doubled as of March to $176 billion.

Some $15 billion has since been drawn from the IMF credit line on June 22 - enough to finance just 10 weeks of capital flight at the current rate.

Macri is reportedly mulling reimposing some of the currency controls in force from 2012 to 2015. Banks have already been ordered to shed most dollar reserves, bringing the maximum (5% of assets) back to 2015 levels.

Second recession

This would be the 2nd recession since Macri took office.

Macri won the 2015 election promising to spark growth with deregulation and tax cuts; but devaluation and utility rate hikes of over 1000% have instead hampered the economy and contributed to stubbornly high inflation.

Prices have more than doubled, with real wages falling an estimated 13%. And despite recovering from the 2016 recession with 2.9% growth last year, per capita GDP remains below 2015 levels.

Signs of economic trouble have now returned. From the same time last year, industrial production slipped 3.3% in May and construction permits fell 20% in April.

Some 95,000 jobs have been lost from January to April alone, pushing unemployment up to 9.1%.

Chances of a recession in 2018 rose from 24.4% in April to 68.1% in May, according to a leading index published by Torcuato Di Tella University. Their consumer confidence index fell to an anemic 36 - a 30% drop from November.

Emerging emergency

Morgan Stanley surprised analysts by upgrading Argentina to "Emerging Market" status on June 20. The MERVAL blue chip index has since fallen 15%, with the dollar rising 7% to nearly 30 pesos as of Friday - a 60% jump so far this year.

"Budget cuts don't solve the capital flight problem - the source of most of the bloodletting," former National Bank head Delfina Rossi noted. "This isn't so much austerity, as an austericide."

At: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-28/recession-feared-in-argentina-as-cracks-in-economy-grow

Argentine labor on strike earlier this week against austerity cutbacks imposed by the IMF bailout agreed to by Macri on June 8.

The terms include public works cuts of 81% and the sell-off of some state assets - but no reversal of corporate and high-end tax cuts costing $4 billion annually, and no curbs on mounting capital flight.

NBC: Police Name Annapolis Shooting Suspect as Jarrod Ramos

Source: The Daily Beast

NBC News reported Thursday evening that law enforcement have identified Jarrod Ramos, 38, as the suspected gunman in a deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette's newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland.

According to NBC, Ramos sued the newspaper in 2012 for defamation, but the case was tossed by a judge.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/jarrod-ramos-annapolis-shooting-capital-gazette-newsroom-maryland

Ramos had a longstanding legal dispute with the news daily. While no political motives were apparent, a September 16, 2015, tweet defended then-candidate Donald Trump from a Capital Gazette editorial labeling him "unqualified."

"Referring to Donald Trump as 'unqualified' could end badly (again)," Ramos tweeted at the time.


Now the World Cup really starts: Here's the draw from the Round of 16 until the Final

After a hectic World Cup group stage full of emotion there is now the calm - but that will only be for a day, as on Saturday the Round of 16 will start.

There will be no second chances this weekend with France taking on Argentina and then Uruguay facing Portugal, both on Saturday.

The winners of these two games will face each other in the quarter finals, on the most difficult side of the draw. Mexico plays Brazil on Monday, as do Belgium and Japan.

Spain, who finished first in their group thanks to Video Assistant Referees (VAR), missed the most dangerous draw, and they do not meet a former World Cup winner until England, at the semi finals.

First up for Spain though are Russia on Sunday, and if they get through the host nation they would face the winner of the Croatia-Denmark match that same day.

Finally on Tuesday Sweden faces Switzerland, and Colombia are up against England. Of course the big absentee from the Round of 16 is Germany, while Uruguay, Croatia, and Belgium emerge from the group stage undefeated.

Who will win the World Cup? Who are favorites to lift the trophy on July 15th in Moscow?

At: http://www.marca.com/en/world-cup/2018/06/28/5b354502e2704e02238b461e.html

The World Cup Final bracket has been decided. Comments? Predictions?

Abortion decriminalization bill clears key hurdle in Argentine Senate

The Argentine Senate approved the referral of a bill legalizing abortion on demand to three committees: Health, Justice, and Constitutional Affairs.

The referral dealt a significant procedural defeat to opponents of the bill, who sought to have it debated by a fourth committee (Budget) whose chairman, Senator Esteban Bullrich, is a staunch opponent of abortion rights.

The agreement would bring the bill up for a floor vote no later than August 8. Passed by the Lower House on June 14, it would legalize abortion on a woman's sole prerogative up to the 14th week, and with physician approval past that point.

The legislation has sparked heated debate in the largely Catholic nation of 44 million. No abortion rights bill had ever passed either house of Congress, despite seven previous efforts since 1983.

Asleep at the switch

President Mauricio Macri's right-wing PRO and their junior coalition partners, the centrist UCR, largely oppose the measure - though Macri himself has hinted that, despite his longstanding opposition, he'd sign it if passed by the Senate.

Critics charge, however, that the president is refusing to work towards passage of the bill, noting that during the marathon debate session on June 13-14, Macri had been asleep rather than on the phone with legislators.

"When the bill legalizing divorce was debated (in 1987) President Raúl Alfonsín didn't go to sleep," Congressman Axel Kicillof noted. "And when marriage equality was debated (in 2010), President Cristina Kirchner and Néstor (her late husband, then a congressman) didn't go to sleep."

The bill still faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where 27 senators are in favor, 27 are opposed, and 18 have not yet indicated how they'd vote.

Vice President Gabriela Michetti, who led efforts to steer the bill to Bullrich's Budget Committee, is also opposed moreover, and would cast the tie-breaking vote.

Up to 400,000 abortions are performed annually in Argentina despite current law, which since 1921 allows only for cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother's life. In Latin America only Cuba and Uruguay guarantee abortion rights.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Faborto-el-gobierno-da-marcha-atras-y-el-senado-aprueba-unanimidad-el-giro-tres-comisiones-n45729&edit-text=

The Argentine Senate: Poised to make history?

Ethel Kennedy, 90, joins Alec Baldwin and more in hunger strike against Trump immigration policy

Source: People

Ethel Kennedy, the 90-year-old widow of Robert F. Kennedy, has joined Alec Baldwin, Evan Rachel Wood, Sen.Elizabeth Warren and more big names in a hunger strike protesting President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

The human rights advocate, along with nearly 50 members of her famous family, will participate in the “Break Bread Not Families” hunger strike, which was organized by activist groups including the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights nonprofit.

The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy has resulted in more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents at the border since April. Last week, after intense public pressure, the president signed an executive order reversing his own administration’s policy.

Read more: https://people.com/politics/ethel-kennedy-hunger-strike-trump-immigration-policy/

Ethel Kennedy and Alec Baldwin: On hunger strike against Trump's family separation abuses.

UK Couple Wins Court Ruling in Fight for Civil Partnership

Source: US News & World Report

Britain's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the ban on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is "incompatible" with human rights laws — a decision supporters hope will pave the way for such unions.

Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, who say they wanted to avoid the "patriarchal baggage" of marriage, argued that they face discrimination because only same-sex couples are eligible for civil partnerships.

Britain's government has argued it needs time to study the impact of gay marriage on civil partnerships before deciding whether to extend them to everyone, abolish them or phase them out.

Gay couples in Britain have been able to form civil partnerships since 2005, giving them the same legal protection, adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual married partners. Same-sex marriage became legal in 2014.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-06-27/uk-couple-wins-court-ruling-in-fight-for-civil-partnership

A bachelor's life for them: Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who object to the institution of marriage, celebrate today's ruling.

Defending champion Germany knocked out of World Cup while Mexico survives

Mexico survived a nail-biting scare to advance to the World Cup’s round of 16 as defending champion Germany was stunningly dumped out of the tournament on Wednesday.

With Mexico falling 3-0 behind to Sweden in Yekaterinburg it was left with no choice but to hope that the Germans failed to win their game against South Korea, being played simultaneously in Kazan.

Despite a late onslaught, Germany could not find a breakthrough. Instead, it ended up flipping to a remarkable 2-0 defeat thanks to an injury-time goal from Kim Young-Gwon that was reviewed by VAR, followed by a goal on an open net from Son Heung-Min.

The loss capped off Germany's most disappointing campaign of recent times and continuing the mythical “curse of the World Cup champion.” Four of the last five winners of the previous tournament have now crashed out in the group stage the next time around.

At: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/soccer/worldcup/2018/06/27/germany-mexico-world-cup-grou-f/738098002/

Was ist los, Deutschland? Players react as Germany is knocked out of the World Cup...by South Korea.

Medical milestone: US OKs marijuana-based drug for seizures

Source: AP

U.S. health regulators on Monday approved the first prescription drug made from marijuana, a milestone that could spur more research into a drug that remains illegal under federal law, despite growing legalization for recreational and medical use.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the medication, called Epidiolex, to treat two rare forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood. But it's not quite medical marijuana.

The strawberry-flavored syrup is a purified form of a chemical ingredient found in the cannabis plant — but not the one that gets users high. It's not yet clear why the ingredient, called cannabidiol, or CBD, reduces seizures in some people with epilepsy.

British drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals studied the drug in more than 500 children and adults with hard-to-treat seizures, overcoming numerous legal hurdles that have long stymied research into cannabis.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/medical-milestone-us-oks-marijuana-based-drug-for-seizures/ar-AAz9x8A

Argentines hold general strike against Macri, IMF austerity

Argentina was brought to a standstill on Monday as labor federations and social advocacy groups led a general strike against the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration.

The 24-hour general strike, the third since Macri took office in late 2015, was organized in response to austerity policies imposed as part of his June 8 agreement with the IMF for an unprecedented $50 billion bailout.

The IMF has tied the bailout, a stand-by credit line, to draconian budget cuts which include an 81% cut in public works outlays as well as further devaluation of an already weakened peso - a move likely to push inflation above 30%.

Also included are renewed utility rate hikes, which have already risen by over 1000% since Macri took office - helping lead to 8,000 business closures and a rise in unemployment from 5.9% in 2015, to 9.1% currently.

"This strike is decisive, and there is a reality that cannot be hidden," Transport Union leader Hugo Moyano said. "It is very difficult for this administration to bring solutions because they have given themselves to the IMF - which now governs the country."

From plaudits to bailout

The IMF bailout was precipitated by a record, $31 billion current account deficit resulting from trade and foreign exchange deregulation enacted by Macri early in his tenure.

The moves earned him plaudits from Wall Street and the IMF; but, by 2017, led to a record $8.5 billion trade deficit, $10 billion tourism deficit, as well as $22 billion in capital flight.

Trade deficits are up by 151% so far this year, pushing industrial production down 3.3% despite higher demand from neighboring Brazil.

Capital flight, in turn, nearly doubled to a record $6.2 billion in May alone - a trend that forced the Central Bank to raise its key interest rate last week to 47%.

These losses were financed with a record $52 billion in added foreign debt last year, the sharpest such increase (29%) since a similar debt bubble during the last dictatorship led to a financial collapse in 1981.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F124143-todo-parado-contra-el-ajuste&edit-text=

"IMF out": Argentines rally against austerity program imposed as part of its $50 billion bailout - a bailout equal to eight months of capital flight.

The IMF remains among Macri's most prominent cheerleaders.

Cambridge Analytica head admits to "anti-Kirchner campaigns" in 2015 Argentine election

During testimony before a parliamentary committee last week, Cambridge Analytica head Alexander Nix admitted to have prepared a campaign against the governing center-left administration in Argentina in 2015, to influence that country's presidential elections.

Initially evasive, Nix admitted his firm's involvement after committee chairman Damian Collins cited documents from Cambridge Analytica's parent company, SCL, referring to an "anti-Kirchner campaign" - in reference to then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her party's nominee, Daniel Scioli.

The campaign, according to SCL documents, was presented to an unnamed client on May 27, 2015 - six months before current Argentine President Mauricio Macri defeated Scioli in the narrowest runoff victory in Argentine history.

Nix refused to name the client, citing "confidentiality" - but specified it was not Paul Singer, the Caymans Islands vulture fund head who sought a 1600% payout on old, defaulted Argentine bonds (Singer obtained an 1180% payout from Macri in 2016).

The proposal, according to documents cited by Collins, touted SCL's team of "retired intelligence agents from Israel, the U.S., the U.K., Spain, and Russia."

Silent partner

Documentation linking Cambridge Analytica to Macri first emerged shortly Britain's Channel 4 revealed the London-based consultancy firm to have illegally influenced over 200 elections worldwide.

Macri's relationship to Nix was reportedly established through Argentine businessman Juan Pepa, with whom Nix shared ownership in a London-based firm as well as a personal friendship.

SCL opened an office in Buenos Aires (since closed) during the 2015 campaign season. At least two top Macri officials, Chief of Staff Marcos Peña and Macri's longtime "fixer" and current Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) head Gustavo Arribas, reportedly met with Cambridge Analytica managing director Mark Turnbull.

Tip of the iceberg

"Nix is no stranger to Argentina," Congressman Leopoldo Moreau, an ally of Mrs. Kirchner, pointed out. "He lived in Argentina for a time, and has worked as consultant to other firms here."

He noted that congressional subpoenas of Nix, as well as officials in Macri's newly-created "Public Opinion Analysis" office, have been ignored.

"This," Moreau believes, "is the tip of the iceberg."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.infobae.com%2Fpolitica%2F2018%2F06%2F09%2Fel-ex-ceo-de-cambridge-analytica-admitio-que-planifico-una-campana-anti-kirchner-para-argentina%2F

Argentina's Macri and Nix's local connection, Juan Pepa.
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