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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 11:36 AM
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Argentina hikes interest rate to 60% as its currency plunges

Amid the most serious financial crisis since the 2001 collapse, Argentina's Central Bank raised its key interest rate by 15 points today to 60% - the highest among all emerging economies.

The move came as the dollar rose 15.6% in Buenos Aires trading, following a 7.3% rise yesterday; it had reached 41 pesos earlier today before closing at 39.87.

The discount rate, which had been 27% as recently as April, has risen steadily as Argentine officials seek to stop the collapse of the peso: it's lost 53% of its value so far this year.

Some $25 billion has left the country since January, and a recession that began in April has left GDP down 6.7% just as of June.

The gradual peso erosion accelerated yesterday after President Mauricio Macri announced that he had requested an $18 billion advance from the $50 billion, 3-year credit line agreed to with the IMF on June 8.

Macri had already borrowed $15 billion from the credit line on June 22.

This was followed by an statement today by Chief of Staff Marcos Peña ratifying the current cabinet and the laissez-faire policies followed by Macri since taking office three years ago.

"We shall not abandon the path of change," he said.

Financial deregulation, critics note, was followed by $100 billion in added foreign debt under Macri, as well as a record $31 billion current account deficit last year alone.

News of this deficit led in April to the first serious run on the peso - $4.3 billion in a week.

Excluding Macri's December 17, 2015, devaluation, the peso had its sharpest one-day fall today, in percentage terms, since a 24% jump in the dollar on March 22, 2002 - at the depths of the convertibility exit crisis.

That crisis - which like the current one was preceded by a speculative bubble, doubling of foreign debt, and an IMF bailout - resulted in riots and the resignation of then-President Fernando de la Rúa.

De la Rúa, who like Macri enjoyed the support of the IMF, is himself a vocal supporter of the right-wing Macri administration.

At: https://money.cnn.com/2018/08/30/news/economy/argentina-interest-rates-currency/index.html

A billboard outside a Buenos Aires currency exchange advertises yesterday's record of 34.50 per dollar; it closed today at 39.87 pesos.

The sign held by the senior citizen below reads "Macri: Enough!"

Amid a financial collapse, Buenos Aires mayor earmarks $14,000 for astrologer

Documents obtained from the municipal government of Buenos Aires reveal that Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta has earmarked 430,000 pesos ($14,000) this year for the services of an astrologer.

The astrologer, María Luján Brinzoni, is, according to documents, tasked with providing the mayor and 29 other city officials "psychometric evaluations in virtual modality, coordination of evaluators and the evaluated, and their corresponding reports."

The earmark, though a miniscule part of the city's $11.5 billion budget this year, is all the more controversial given the nation's current financial collapse.

GDP has plummeted 6.7% as of June, and so far this year $25 billion has fled the country with the peso losing nearly half its value as a $100 billion debt bubble from President Mauricio Macri's three years in office has led to investor fears of a likely bond default.

Rodríguez Larreta, 52, belongs to Macri's hard-right PRO party, and served as chief of staff to Macri during the latter's 2007-15 tenure as mayor.

Rodríguez Larreta is seen as the head of the PRO's moderate wing. He backs abortion rights, and has stepped up investments in public housing and other public works since becoming mayor in 2015.

Like Macri, however, he has reaped criticism for underutilizing health, housing, and education budgets passed by his own, PRO-dominated City Legislature - $211 million last year alone.

Numerous public schools have had to suspend classes this winter due to a lack of working electricity and gas.

The city nevertheless ran a $555 million deficit last year - a trend likewise inherited from Macri.

Good heavens

Rodríguez Larreta also shares an interest in astrology with his former boss.

Macri has employed the services of an Ecuadorian occultist, Shirley Barahona - who was on the presidential payroll as recently as last year.

Barahona was widely believed to be behind a fiasco surrounding Macri's December 10, 2015, inaugural, when Macri insisted on it being held at midnight, rather than at noon as scheduled.

Numerous astrologers noted at the time that auspicious Jupiter was 'rising' (i.e. on the eastern horizon) at midnight that day. Macri, however, was duly sworn in at noon.

The controversy also recalls former President Isabel Perón, whose chaotic, 1974-76 administration was highly influenced by her longtime secretary and astrologer, José López Rega.

Isabel convinced her husband, the late populist leader Juan Perón, to incorporate the "warlock" into his inner circle in 1965, and when Perón died in 1974, Isabel, who became president, retained the fascist-leaning López Rega as her chief adviser.

Historians believe his interference to have been a key cause for the March 1976 coup.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F318044%2Fmanochantas-la-ciudad-derrochara-430-mil&edit-text=

Mayor Rodríguez Larreta (right) and the crisis-ridden Macri: Faulting the stars, not themselves.

What the @%#!? Obscene language on Myrtle Beach could get you a fine

Here’s a four letter word for using profanity in Myrtle Beach: don’t.

Doing so is a misdemeanor and falls under the city’s disorderly conduct offense, according to the Sun News, a Myrtle Beach local paper.

The penalty for using lewd, obscene and profane language toward others in a public place is a fine or even jail time, Sun News reported. Offensive words include “libelous expletives” or “fighting” words, Sun News said.

Last year the city collected over $22,000 from profane language citations — which amounted to 289 tickets, each of them a $77 penalty, Sun News reported.

In the last three years, the city has seen the amount of money collected from the citation rise by $6,000, Sun News showed.

At: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/gone-viral/os-obscene-language-myrtle-beach-fines-20180829-story.html

Jeez, Myrtle Beach! Oops, another four-letter word.

Argentina: Three hospitalized by toxin in Cristina Kirchner's home the day after a police raid

Three women were hospitalized yesterday in Buenos Aires after coming into contact with an unspecified toxin in the home of former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner following a police raid.

The women - Mrs. Kirchner's housekeeper and two of the housekeeper's family members - had been cleaning and tidying up the day after a 13-hour search on the apartment ordered on August 23-24 by Judge Claudio Bonadío, a close ally of Kirchner's main political opponent, President Mauricio Macri.

While cleaning the bedroom, they began feeling symptoms including dizziness, intense itching of the eyes and throat, skin and nasal irritation, and breathing difficulties.

The symptoms persisted overnight, and the following morning, on August 26, they sought medical attention at the nearby University of Buenos Aires Hospital.

The attending physician, Dr. Federico Cairoli, determined that the ailments were caused by a "contact toxin," and advised "avoiding, by all means, any further exposure."

The incident underscored a complaint filed on the day of the raid by Kirchner's attorney, Carlos Beraldi, who was improperly barred from witnessing the search as mandated by Argentine law.

Beraldi noted that counsel was also barred from a concurrent raid on the former president's home in Río Gallegos, in the country's southern Patagonia region, which was instead "witnessed" by two known local figures in Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" coalition.

Neither search uncovered any evidence.

Macri, like Judge Bonadío, has repeatedly expressed his desire to see Kirchner behind bars - though as Bonadío himself admitted last year, in over six years of investigations no offshore accounts, undeclared assets or other evidence of corruption has surfaced against her.

The same, critics note, cannot be said for Macri, who has been materially linked to 50 undeclared offshore accounts since the 2016 Panama Papers scandal, and whose family retains a large stake in electric utilities - chief beneficiaries of rate hikes of up to 1400% decreed by Macri himself.

Kirchner, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, is eligible to run for president again next year and would, according to recent polls, defeat Macri by at least 8 points if she did.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fdiariolarepublica.com.ar%2Fnotix%2Fnoticia%2F05600%2Fcristina-denunci-que-dejaron-sustancias-txicas-en-su-departamento-pero-la-polica-lo-neg.html&edit-text=

The building housing former President Cristina Kirchner's Buenos Aires apartment - rendered indefinitely uninhabitable after a police search, by a contact toxin that hospitalized her housekeeper and two of the latter's family members.

Kirchner leads in polling ahead of next year's election despite not having announced, and was seen as President Macri's chief obstacle to re-election - until the implosion of Macri's $100-billion debt bubble that began in May.

Spurs' Manu Ginobili announces retirement after 16 seasons

Source: ESPN

San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, 41, announced Monday that he is retiring.

"Today, with a wide range of feelings, I'm announcing my retirement from basketball," he said in a tweet. "It's been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams."

The Spurs had been hopeful that Ginobili would want to return for a 17th season and allowed him to take all the time he needed to decide, league sources had told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The team thanked Ginobili in a tweet and video Monday.

His decision brings a historic 16-season run with the Spurs to an end. He is one of the most decorated international players in basketball history, a four-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist for Argentina and a Euroleague MVP.

Ginobili played 1,057 regular-season and 218 playoff games with the Spurs, ranking in the franchise's top five all time in games, points (14,043), assists (4,001) and steals (1,392). He averaged 8.9 points and 20 minutes a game for the Spurs last season.

Read more: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24493528/manu-ginobili-san-antonio-spurs-retiring

Mayor Sergio Varisco, a close ally of Argentina's Macri, indicted on drug-trafficking charges

The mayor of the Argentine city of Paraná, Sergio Varisco, had an indictment on drug-trafficking charges upheld by a federal appeals court yesterday.

Varisco, 58, had been indicted by Federal Judge Leandro Ríos on June 18 on charges of heading a marihuana trafficking operation as well as purchasing three kilos of cocaine for personal use in at least one transaction.

He was elected mayor of Paraná, the country's 18th largest city, in 2015 on President Mauricio Macri's "Let's Change" coalition.

Other city officials indicted were Councilman Héctor Hernández (of Macri's hard-right PRO party), and former Assitant Municipal Security Secretary Griselda Bordeira.

Numerous other Varisco officials were implicated.

Also indicted was Daniel “Tavi” Celis, the operative head of the gang. Celis, who is already serving a 7-year sentence for armed robbery, had contributed 100,000 pesos (around $10,500 at the time) to Varisco's 2015 campaign.

He provided the first link to the mayor when after his arrest in 2016, he posted a Facebook message threatening to tell “the whole truth about how (Varisco) came to be mayor of the city.”

The investigation deepened in May 2017, when authorities intercepted a plane carrying 300 kilos of marihuana (around $400,000 local retail value) from neighboring Paraguay - Argentina's principal source - and arrested two men close to Celis, including his brother, Miguel Ángel.

Authorities reportedly found names of the mayor and other city officials listed next to different amounts of money while searching Miguel Ángel Celis' home.

Varisco will, despite the upheld felony indictment, remain free on bail of 1 million pesos ($32,000).

Critics note that over 20 political opponents of Macri's are currently in federal prison despite still having indictments under appeal - indictments which, in many cases, were based on hearsay but lacking in material evidence.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=zh-CN&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.unosantafe.com.ar%2Fpoliciales%2Fconfirmaron-el-procesamiento-del-intendente-parana-sergio-varisco-n1663766.html&edit-text=

Varisco and President Macri campaigning in last year's mid-terms.

The president's party is currently under investigation for laundering at least $3 million in campaign contributions. Varisco's activities may help explain the source of some of those proceeds.

Scientists create a mineral in the lab that captures carbon dioxide

Scientists are one step closer to a long-sought way to store carbon dioxide in rocks.

A new technique speeds up the formation of a mineral called magnesite that, in nature, captures and stores large amounts of the greenhouse gas CO². And the process can be done at room temperature in the lab, researchers reported August 14 at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference, held in Boston.

If the mineral can be produced in large quantities, the method could one day help fight climate change.

“A lot of carbon on Earth is already stored within carbonate minerals, such as limestone,” says environmental geoscientist Ian Power of Trent University in Canada, who presented the research. “Earth knows how to store carbon naturally and does this over geologic time. But we’re emitting so much CO² now that Earth can’t keep up.”

Researchers have been seeking ways to boost the planet’s capacity for CO² storage. One possible technique: Sequester the CO² gas by converting it to carbonate minerals.

Magnesite, or magnesium carbonate, is a stable mineral that can hold a lot of CO² naturally: A metric ton of magnesite can contain about half a metric ton of the greenhouse gas.

But magnesite isn’t quick to make — at least, not at Earth’s surface.

Another option is to try to make magnesite in the laboratory — but at room temperature, that can take a very long time.

Under very high temperatures, scientists can quickly create magnesite in the lab, using olivine as a feedstock. But that process uses a lot of energy, Power says, and could be very costly.

The problem with making magnesite quickly, Power’s team found, is that water gets in the way. “It’s difficult to strip away those water molecules,” Power says. “That’s one of the reasons why magnesite forms very slowly.”

To get around this problem, Power and his colleagues used thousands of tiny polystyrene microspheres, each about 20 micrometers in diameter, as catalysts to speed up the reaction. The microspheres were coated with carboxyl, molecules with a negative charge that can pull the water molecules away from the magnesium, freeing it up to bond with the carbonate ions.

Thanks to these microspheres, Power says, the researchers managed to make magnesite in just about 72 days. Theoretically, he adds, the microspheres would also be reusable, as the spheres weren’t used up by the experiments.

That result doesn’t mean the technique is ready for prime time, Power says. So far, the scientists have made only a very small amount of magnesite in the lab — about a microgram or so. “We’re very far away from upscaling,” or making the technology commercially viable.

At: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/lab-mineral-magnesite-captures-carbon-dioxide

A Magnesite mine in China. Can manufacturing the highly absorbent mineral help slow climate change?

Buenos Aires Province School Infrastructure head fired on padded contract allegations, two deaths

The Director of School Infrastructure for Argentina's Buenos Aires Province, Mateo Nicholson, was dismissed today amid a brewing scandal over allegations of submitting padded contracts, and following two deaths in a public school gas explosion.

Governor María Eugenia Vidal has faced mounting calls to dismiss Nicholson since audio emerged on June 15 which appears to show him arranging a padded contract - particularly after the August 2 death of a principal and substitute teacher during a gas explosion in a grade school west of Buenos Aires.

"I'm meeting María Eugenia tomorrow, and I need to invent the missing budgets," he can be heard saying. "Give me the total on those 79 ovens and make it for 80 million (pesos), which is what I requested - because what you gave me worked out to 700,000 pesos each for the first 17. Overshoot that number."

Nicholson's order, which implies an overpayment of 300,000 pesos ($12,000 at the time) per oven, came with a detailed instruction as to how to avoid suspicion:

"Don't make it a round number: give me a quote for, say, 1,064,000 pesos each. And don't worry about the exact figure; we'll fix it in the draft proposal."

The corruption scandal and subsequent tragedy have created a new political headache for Governor María Eugenia Vidal, an ultraconservative member of President Mauricio Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" alliance.

Vidal, widely rumored to being groomed by the unpopular Macri to run in his stead in next year's presidential elections, is already facing a federal investigation over evidence uncovered since June that her party's 2017 mid-term campaigns in Buenos Aires Province laundered around 45 million pesos ($3 million at the time) in illegal contributions.

Possible campaign finance ties to Nicholson's overpayments are also being investigated.

As head of the nation's largest province (home to 38% of Argentines), Vidal, 44, became a media darling after winning the 2015 governor's race in an upset.

One of the nation's most popular politicians just last year, her job approval has declined to 34% amid violent crackdowns on protesters, a series of scandals, and the worst recession since 2002.

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%2F137511-eyectado-tras-la-explosion&edit-text=

Nicholson and his political mentor, far-right governor María Eugenia Vidal.

Facing an imploding debt bubble, Argentina's Macri was believed to favor tapping Vidal to run in his stead next year. Recent events may have forced him to reconsider.

Second Fox News reporter exits this month: 'Unhappy with the tone of the conversation'

Fox News is down another seasoned reporter after news emerged that longtime correspondent Adam Housley would be leaving the network. The story was first reported by Politico late Thursday evening.

In its report, Politico said that Housley, who had been with Fox News since 2001, was displeased by the growth of pro-Trump opinion content.

“He’s not doing the type of journalism he wants to be doing,” a person familiar with the situation told Politico. “And he is unhappy with the tone of the conversation of the channel.”

At: https://www.thewrap.com/second-fox-news-reporter-adam-housley-exits-this-month-unhappy-with-the-tone-of-the-conversation/

Adam Housley. Resigned, or fired?

The stock market's latest sell signal has happened only 5 other times since 1895

Would you be interested in an indicator with more 100 years of history, an excellent record at calling multi-generational tops in the U.S. stock market, and which has just flashed only its sixth sell signal since 1895?

The “Sound Advice Risk Indicator,” the brainchild of Gray Cardiff, editor of the Sound Advice newsletter, is derived from the ratio of the S&P 500 to the median price of a new U.S. house. For the first time since the late 1990s, and for only the sixth time since 1895, this indicator has risen above the 2.0 level that represents a major sell signal for equities. (See accompanying chart).

Over the 20 years through July 31, for example, according to Hulbert Financial Digest calculations, Cardiff’s model portfolio has beaten the S&P 500’s total return by 2.4 annualized percentage points.

It’s also worth emphasizing that Cardiff’s indicator does not represent an after-the-fact retrofitting of the data to coincide with past major stock market peaks. On the contrary, he has made this indicator a centerpiece of his newsletter at least since the early 1990s, which is when the Hulbert Financial Digest began monitoring its performance.

The investment rationale underlying this indicator, according to Cardiff, is that it “measures the struggle for capital” between the two major asset classes that compete for capital at the riskier end of the spectrum — stocks and real estate. When the indicator rises above 2.0, he argues, it means that the stock market has absorbed “a larger proportion of available investment capital than economic conditions can justify” and, therefore, it is in “imminent danger of falling.”

At: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-stock-markets-latest-sell-signal-has-happened-only-5-other-times-since-1895-2018-08-21

The Cardiff Index over time. A pretty good record, though it's worth noting it couldn't predict the 1974 sell-off or the 2008 disaster.
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