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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
December 1, 2019

Six more countries join Trump-busting Iran barter group

Paris, London and Berlin on Saturday welcomed six new European countries to the Instex barter mechanism, which is designed to circumvent US sanctions against trade with Iran by avoiding use of the dollar.

“As founding shareholders of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex), France, Germany and the United Kingdom warmly welcome the decision taken by the governments of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, to join Instex as shareholders,” the three said in a joint statement.

The Paris-based Instex functions as a clearing house that allows Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange.

The system has not yet enabled any transactions.

Washington in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the international agreement governing Iran’s nuclear programme and reinstated heavy sanctions against Tehran.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/01/six-more-countries-join-trump-busting-iran-barter-group

A Tehran pedestrian eyes exchange rates between the Iranian rial and other currencies.

The Instex barter service may offer Iran a viable way to skirt Trump sanctions, and has caught on in Europe. But as yet, no transactions have been registered.
December 1, 2019

Not the Onion: Majority of Republicans think Trump a better president than Lincoln

The Economist and YouGov conducted a poll from Nov. 24-26 of 1,500 American adults. In the wide-ranging poll, researchers asked Americans to compare Trump to past U.S. presidents.

53% of Republicans said that Trump is a better president than Lincoln.

For Democrats and Independents, Lincoln is considered to have been the better president with 94% and 78%, respectively.

Republican adults were the only segment polled that considered Trump to be a better president than Lincoln.

At: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/poll-majority-of-republicans-think-trump-a-better-president-than-lincoln/ar-BBXxDF2

November 29, 2019

'The Irishman': Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci revisit the tyranny of the mob

In “The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s grand, droll, ruminative valediction to the gangster genre he has done so much to expand since “Mean Streets” (1973).

The story of Teamsters lifer and murder-for-hire hitman Frank Sheeran rests on a 1975 road trip two couples, the Sheerans and the Bufalinos of the Bufalino Pennsylvania crime family, once took together, driving west to Detroit for a politically obligatory wedding, with some business to be conducted along the way.

The movie is about that business, and how it haunts a man to the end of his days.

Scorsese’s production budget, estimated at somewhere between $150 and $200 million, represents his largest ever, and “The Irishman” is his longest running time to date.

The movie’s not trying to compete in sheer “GoodFellas” exuberance with Scorsese’s earlier gangster forays. It moves forward and backward and sideways, getting more unpredictable and compelling as it goes. Then, in the long sequence depicting Sheeran’s testimonial dinner, “The Irishman” turns into a different sort of compelling.

Here, stretching out, setting the fates of the major characters into motion, Scorsese delivers something akin to the bleak grandeur of Coppola’s “The Godfather Part II.” It’s also a tribute to films such as Visconti’s “The Leopard,” in its intimation of doom for a finite ecosystem of blood-stained royalty.

At: https://www.msn.com/en-us/movies/reviews/the-irishman-review-robert-de-niro-al-pacino-and-joe-pesci-revisit-the-tyranny-of-the-mob-%E2%80%A6-and-keep-getting-younger-and-younger/ar-BBXr1vY

Mob lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano), hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert de Niro), and his eventual victim Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) react to news of the assassination of President Kennedy in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.
November 29, 2019

'The Two Popes' proves to be charming buddy movie in vestments

Believers of all religions can agree on one thing: the Vatican is an unlikely place for a bromance.

The novelty of Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes is right there in its title. There has only been one leader of the Roman Catholic Church going back centuries except in trying times of, you know, schism.

But Meirelles’ film, from a script by Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) concerns a real moment in recent history during an unusual Vatican transition.

In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (played by Anthony Hopkins), resigned from the papacy, the first to do so since the 15th century.

The Two Popes takes place just before this momentous decision, as Pope Benedict is mulling it over.

In the film, he summons the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), his eventual succession as Pope Francis, from Buenos Aires to Rome for a tête-à-tête, or, if you will, a pope-à-pope.

The Two Popes might be an optimistic portrait of the Catholic Church and its leaders. But in these sweetly sincere scenes, you forget Benedict and Bergoglio are pontiff and pontiff-to-be. And the moment of respite from the world’s arguments and divisions feels like a benediction.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/culture/a-fantasy-of-impossible-intimacy-the-the-two-popes-a-buddy-movie-in-vestments.phtml

November 28, 2019

Lacalle Pou officially declared Uruguay's next president

Conservative presidential candidate for the National Party Luis Lacalle Pou will be Uruguay's next president, the country's Electoral Court confirmed today.

The National Party nominee won the presidential run-off on November 24, his narrow victory marking an end to a 15-year era of center-left Broad Front administrations in the South American nation of 3.5 million.

While the final vote count is still ongoing, as of 2:30 p.m. local time Lacalle added 7,188 votes to his preliminary total, compared for 3,361 for Martínez - bringing Lacalle's margin to 32,193, or 1.4%.

"The evolution of the vote scrutiny does not change the trend, so we greet President-elect Luis Lacalle Pou with whom I will hold a meeting tomorrow. I thank those who trusted us with their vote from the heart," Broad Front nominee Daniel Martínez tweeted this morning.

"We will continue to defend democracy with more force than ever."

Martínez, 62, won the first round on October 27 by 11%.

But Lacalle secured endorsements from the center-right Red Party - as well as the far-right Open Cabildo Party, whose nominee, retired Gen. Guido Manini Ríos, exhorted fellow officers to vote against the Broad Front to "close the door on communism and gender ideology."

Lacalle, 46, inherits one of Latin America's strongest economies, with GDP growing 4% annually during the Broad Front era - compared to 1.5% in the previous 50 years - while poverty fell from 40% to 8.1%.

The "Macrisis" in neighboring Argentina has pushed Uruguay's small economy into a downturn however, with GDP inching up just 0.1% year-on-year in the second quarter.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/latin-america/lacalle-pou-officially-declared-uruguays-next-president.phtml

An exultant Luis Lacalle Pou greets reporters after his narrow victory this Sunday, confirmed today by the provisional count vote.

Lacalle's win ends the 15-year center-left Broad Front era, during which the economy grew strongly and previously widespread poverty declined sharply.

Martínez, who conceded defeat this morning, has compared Lacalle to neighboring Argentina's Mauricio Macri, whose "Macrisis" has pushed Uruguay into a downturn.
November 28, 2019

Argentina's Fernandez won't seek remaining $11 billion from IMF Macri bailout

Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernández said Tuesday he would he will not request the remaining $11 billion from a record, $57 billion credit line with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“What I want, is to stop asking (for money) and for them to let me pay,” said Fernández, who takes office on December 10.

“I have an enormous problem. And I'm going to ask for $11 billion more?”

There was no immediate response from the IMF, which granted outgoing President Mauricio Macri the bailout after a carry-trade debt bubble known locally as the “financial bicycle” collapsed in April 2018.

Amid the worst recession in two decades, Macri on October 27 became the first Argentine president to lose re-election.

Fresh faces

The IMF yesterday named a new head of mission in Argentina, Venezuelan-born head of the IMF's Open Economy Division Luis Cubeddu, to replace Roberto Cardarelli.

Cubeddu, 53, was part of the IMF's Argentina office between 2002 and 2004 - in the aftermath of the collapse of similar IMF-sponsored policies in 2001.

Among the Argentine officials he met at the time was Alberto Fernández - who served as cabinet chief for then-President Néstor Kirchner.

Kirchner rejected the IMF's austerity policies, and amid a strong recovery went on to pay Argentina's entire $9.5 billion IMF debt in 2006.

Fernández now faces a $45 billion IMF debt - plus another $160 billion in other public foreign debt, most of which is due within the next four years.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/economy/fernandez-says-he-wont-seek-remaining-us11-billion-from-imf.phtml

Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernández greets U.S. Ambassador Edward Prado yesterday.

Fernández inherits twin economic and debt crises from his IMF-backed predecessor, Mauricio Macri - whom the IMF granted a record, $57 billion bailout against the advice of its own economists, and reportedly on U.S. President Donald Trump's orders to bolster Macri's re-election chances.

Trump however, according to Fernández, has “instructed the IMF to work with (Argentina) to resolve the debt problem.”
November 25, 2019

Uruguay awaits final vote count, with Lacalle Pou holding a thin lead

Uruguayans will have to wait several days for final confirmation of who will be the next president, after a tighter-than-expected runoff on Sunday triggered an official recount.

As of the latest count on Monday, the center-right National Party, led by Luis Lacalle Pou, has 1,168,019 (50.6%); the ruling center-left Broad Front, led by Daniel Martínez, with 1,139,353 (49.4%).

Authorities will start an official count Tuesday that may not yield final results until November 29.

"There has never been such a tight result," Electoral Court President José Arocena told reporters.

Not right

The winner will start his five-year term on March 1. Should Lacalle's lead hold, it would mark the end of the 15-year Broad Front era, during which GDP grew 4% annually - compared to 1.5% in the previous 50 years - while poverty fell from 40% to 8.1%.

Martínez, 62, won the first round on October 27 by 11%.

But Lacalle secured endorsements from the center-right Red Party - as well as the far-right Open Cabildo Party, whose nominee, retired Gen. Guido Manini Ríos, exhorted fellow officers to vote against the Broad Front to "close the door on communism and gender ideology."

Lacalle Pou, 46, sought to distance himself from Manini's statements, calling them "not right" before voting on Sunday.

Martínez had compared Lacalle to neighboring Argentina's right-wing President Mauricio Macri, who last month became the first Argentine president to lose re-election amid an economic crisis that has in turn pushed Uruguay into recession.

At; https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/latin-america/uruguay-awaits-final-vote-count-with-lacalle-pou-holding-a-thin-lead.phtml

Their paths crossing often in Latin America's least populous country, Daniel Martínez greets Luis Lacalle Pou shortly before the first round in October.

Lacalle holds a narrow lead in what would be the first shift to the right in Uruguay since 1999. President Tabaré Vázquez, 79, is retiring after two non-consecutive terms; he has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Martínez touted a record of economic growth and reduced inequality during the last 15 years under the Broad Front, while Lacalle hammered at rising crime rates.

"I live in Argentina," a voter said to Lacalle before he cast his ballot. "Don't make Mauricio Macri's mistakes."
November 23, 2019

Alabama jury convicts police officer of manslaughter for killing unarmed black man

Source: Fox News

Former Montgomery, Ala. police officer Aaron Cody Smith was convicted of manslaughter Friday for fatally shooting Gregory Gunn, an unarmed black man, in 2016.

Smith was charged with murder, but the jury was given the option to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.

District Attorney Daryl Bailey said he would ask for Smith to receive the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to WBRC.

Smith shot Gunn, 58, as he was walking home late at night. The officer had called Gunn over for a stop-and-frisk, at which point he fled.

Read more: https://www.foxnews.com/us/alabama-jury-convicts-police-officer-of-manslaughter-for-killing-unarmed-black-man

Montgomery, AL, police officer Aaron Cody Smith and his victim, Gregory Gunn.

Prosecutors described Smith as a "bully with a gun."

November 22, 2019

Argentine Health Secretary resigns over Macri's opposition to abortion rights

Argentine Health Secretary Adolfo Rubinstein offered his resignation today after President Mauricio Macri repealed Rubinstein's resolution seeking to improve access to abortion in cases of rape or risk to a mother's health.

The resolution would have freed girls age 13 to 16 from parental/guardian notification requirements when seeking an abortion in cases of rape or health risk, in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

But its publication yesterday caused an immediate uproar among Macri's largely right-wing supporters - with many reportedly threatening to boycott the president's December 7 "farewell" rally.

Amid a severe economic downturn, Macri was defeated for re-election on October 27 by Alberto Fernández - who is strongly pro-choice.

A century of limited abortion rights

Argentina's restrictive abortion laws, which date from 1921, have statutory health or rape exceptions - though these are often flouted by conservative judges and even doctors.

Despite legal hurdles, over 300,000 abortions are performed annually - up to 50,000 of which result in dangerous complications, and, in 2017, in 30 deaths.

A bill legalizing abortion on demand up to the 14th week was passed by the Lower House in June 2018 - but was defeated in the Senate that August.

Macri, who has long opposed abortion rights, at the time signaled support for "a debate."

But Senate President Federico Pinedo and Congresswoman Elisa Carrió - both of whom, like most of Macri's caucus, voted against the bill - later revealed that the president had intended to veto the legislation should it have passed in the senate.

Lone voice

Rubinstein, 61, was the sole prominent pro-choice figure in Macri's right-wing administration.

Appointed Health Minister in 2017 amid growing criticism over federal health cutbacks, his portfolio was demoted to a sub-cabinet secretariat in September 2018 - marking the first time since the last dictatorship in 1980 that the country lacked a health ministry.

His dismissal further strains relations within the "Let's Change" coalition between Macri's hard-right PRO and the centrist UCR, to which Rubinstein belongs.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT1&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F232455-rubinstein-renuncio-tras-la-derogacion-del-protocolo-de-abor

Argentine Health Secretary Adolfo Rubinstein and Social Development Minister Carolina Stanley during senate testimony in July over cutbacks to vaccines.

Stanley, who shares President Macri's opposition to abortion rights, clashed with the pro-choice Rubinstein - who resigned earlier today.

Rubinstein's adoption of WHO guidelines protecting basic abortion rights for girls age 13 to 16 in cases of rape or health risk, was considered "unilateral" and "wrong" by Macri.

Macri, who immediately repealed the guideline in a bid to preserve his largely pro-life base, was defeated for re-election and leaves office in 18 days.
November 21, 2019

Netanyahu indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust on Thursday, making him the first Israeli premier to be indicted while in office and sending Israel’s already stalemated political system into further disarray.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit capped almost three years of investigation and months of speculation by handing down a 63-page indictment against the country’s longest-serving prime minister and its center of political gravity for the last decade.

The cases against Netanyahu center on allegations that the prime minister and his wife, Sara, accepted more than $260,000 worth of luxury goods in exchange for political favors and that Netanyahu interceded with regulators and lawmakers on behalf of two media companies in exchange for positive news stories.

At: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-indicted-on-charges-of-bribery-fraud-breach-of-trust/2019/11/21/ef396fee-0bc2-11ea-8054-289aef6e38a3_story.html

Two of a kind: Netanyahu and Trump celebrate the latter's pro-Golan Heights occupation statement this March.

Netanyahu's indictment today, and his possible succession by centrist opponent Benny Gantz, undermines Trump's lock-step support for right-wing Israeli policy.

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