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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
March 2, 2019

GOP's anti-Muslim display likening Rep. Omar to a terrorist rocks W. Virginia capitol

Source: NBC News

Angry arguments broke out in the West Virginia statehouse on Friday after the state Republican Party allegedly set up an anti-Muslim display in the rotunda linking the 9/11 terror attacks to a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota.

One staff member was physically injured during the morning's confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments.

The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.

"'Never forget' - you said. . ." read a caption on the first picture. "I am the proof - you have forgotten," read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab.

The display was set up as part of "WV GOP Day," which the party advertised on Facebook as a day when "Republicans Take the Rotunda."

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/gop-s-anti-muslim-display-likening-rep-omar-terrorist-rocks-n978371

The GOP's latest attempt at minority outreach.
February 28, 2019

U.S. economy grows 2.9% in 2018, missing Trump's 3 percent target

The U.S. economy fell short of the Trump administration’s 3% annual growth target in 2018 despite $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and a government spending blitz, and economists say growth will only slow from here.

A better-than-expected performance in the fourth quarter pushed gross domestic product up 2.9% for the year, just shy of the goal, Commerce Department data showed on Thursday.

Gross domestic product reached $20.5 trillion in 2018.

The economy grew at a 2.6% annualized rate in the fourth quarter after advancing at a 3.4% pace in the July-September period. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 2.3% rate in the fourth quarter.

Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a still strong 2.8% rate in the fourth quarter and 2.6% for the year.

Private investment grew at a 4.6% clip, and 6% for all of 2018. Residential construction, however, slipped 3.5% last quarter and 0.2% for the year - the first decline since 2011.

Growth in 2018 was the strongest since 2015 (2.9%) and better than the 2.2% logged in 2017. The expansion will be the longest on record in July.

At: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/u-s-economic-growth-in-2018-misses-trumps-3-percent-target-idUSKCN1QH0HO

February 28, 2019

Argentina's Macrisis: GDP falls 2.6% in 2018; 7% in December

Data published today by Argentina's Statistics and Census Institute (INDEC) show that the nation's GDP fell 2.6% in 2018, and 7% in December from the same time last year.

The contraction in the region's third-largest economy was the most severe since 2009, at the depths of a worldwide financial crisis.

The sharpest decline this year came from agriculture, which plummeted 15.9% amid the worst drought since 2009.

Steep declines for 2018 were also seen in retail/wholesale trade (-5.1%), manufacturing (-4.3%), and transport and communications (-2.7%). Real exports, despite a 51% devaluation, slipped 0.5% in 2018.

Over 191,000 jobs were lost in 2018 - a loss is equivalent to 1.5 million jobs lost in the U.S.

Downward trend

Data show that the current downturn, which began in April, worsened rapidly throughout 2018.

GDP reached a growth rate of 3.9% in the first quarter; but since April has averaged a decline of 4.6%. The recession deepened to -7.5% in November and -7% in December - the sharpest declines since the 2002 collapse.

December data, in turn, show an outright collapse in retail/wholesale trade (-15.7%), manufacturing (-14.2%), and construction (-12.7%).

Recurring recession

This is the second recession since President Mauricio Macri took office, and as of December, GDP was 4.6% below November 2015 levels - when Macri was narrowly elected promising to spark growth with deregulation and tax cuts.

But three sharp devaluations and utility hikes of 3000% have hampered the economy and caused already high inflation rates to double to 47.6% last year - with real wages falling 17% since 2015.

The current crisis began after the collapse of a $60 billion carry-trade debt bubble known in Argentina as the "financial bicycle."

High-interest (50%) notes are still being issued to local banks to shore up the peso, costing the treasury $28 million in interest outlays daily.

From plaudits to bailout

Costly corporate tax cuts have meanwhile failed to spur investment or exports, and $61 billion has instead left the country since Macri took office.

Macri resorted to foreign borrowing to cover said losses, doubling Argentina's public foreign debt to $175 billion.

The ensuing crisis forced Macri to borrow $29 billion from the IMF since June 22 - part of a $57 billion bailout agreed to with the IMF in exchange for deep budget cuts which opponents see as both unconstitutional and recessionary.

The IMF - vocal supporters of Macri throughout his tenure - is expected to approve another $10.7 billion loan this March despite a 2018 budget deficit of 743 billion pesos ($26 billion), or 5% of GDP.

During a monitoring mission to Buenos Aires last week, IMF South America division head Roberto Cardarelli reportedly admitted in private that his "sole mission was to help guarantee Macri's re-election, at Washington's request."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F177666-la-economia-sigue-en-rojo

Argentine President Mauricio Macri entertains IMF director Christine Lagarde and IMF South America head Roberto Cardarelli (second from right) during a recent visit.

Cardarelli reportedly admitted in private that the IMF bailout is "unsustainable" and that his "sole mission was to help guarantee Macri's re-election, at Washington's request."
February 26, 2019

New Cuban constitution gets 87 percent approval

Nearly 87% of Cuban voters approved a new constitution that preserves the island's single-party socialist system and centrally planned economy while updating some financial, electoral and criminal laws, authorities said Monday.

The new constitution recognizes private and cooperative businesses alongside state ones, creates the posts of prime minister and provincial governor, and introduces the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus to the justice system.

In recent weeks, President Miguel Díaz-Canel's government waged a non-stop campaign promoting a "yes" vote and tarring those voting "no" as counterrevolutionaries and enemies of the state. Aside from a few independent websites, all Cuban media is state-run and the airwaves were filled with messages urging people to vote "yes" for the sake of continuity on the island.

"This constitution establishes the best for the country, for the future of the Cuban people," said Miguel Álvarez, a 57-year-old technician for the Havana water utility. "It eliminates past mistakes and points us toward the future."

The "no" campaign, in turn, was amplified by the rapid spread of mobile internet across Cuba in recent months. Some 2 million Cubans on the island have contracted mobile data service since it was offered for the first time in December.

The largest block of "no" votes was expected to come from the growing ranks of evangelical Christians in Cuba, who object to language that eliminates a requirement for marriage to be only between a man and woman, paving the way for a future legalization of gay marriage.

At: https://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/New-Cuban-constitution-gets-87-percent-approval-13643581.php

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks to reporters after voting in Sunday's constitutional referendum.

The new constitution, which replaces the one enacted in 1976, would recognize private and cooperative businesses alongside state ones, as well as the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus.

It would, however, maintain the island's single-party socialist system.
February 25, 2019

Extortionist linked to pro-Macri prosecutor indicted, jailed

A federal judge in Argentina issued an indictment and remand against Marcelo d'Alessio, an associate of a federal prosecutor with close ties to President Mauricio Macri, after evidence surfaced of his central role in a large-scale extortion and shakedown scheme.

d'Alessio, 48, had been arrested on February 15, a week after over 22 hours of incriminating audio and video was submitted to investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky by Buenos Aires organic farmer Pedro Etchebest.

The tapes, made from December 28 to January 28, show d'Alessio describing the shakedown scheme in detail, including assertions that both Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli and Judge Claudio Bonadío - both close Macri allies - oversaw the scheme as part of their "notebookgate" investigation against Macri's opponents.

The recordings show d'Alessio demanding $300,000 from Etchebest in return for sparing him being framed by Stornelli, as well as being slandered by Clarín writer Daniel Santoro - a close d'Alessio friend and the author of numerous debunked claims against Macri's leading opponent, former President Cristina Kirchner.

Details on similar shakedowns against other Argentine businessmen were also discussed: Some $12 million in bribes had been collected this way just since last August, according to d'Alessio.

And while Stornelli denied being more than "slightly acquainted" with d'Alessio, tapes and WhatsApp messages show a close working relationship between the two.

Friends in high places

Like Stornelli, d'Alessio has close links to Macri - himself facing numerous tax evasion and self-dealing charges.

His uncle, Carlos d'Alessio, was appointed presidential notary public, and his law office partner, José Fernández Ferrari, is the trustee for Macri's blind trust - which are illegal in Argentina.

"Stornelli is Macri," d'Alessio told Etchebest, adding that "Claudio (Bonadío) will want a cut too."

The mercurial d'Alessio, until recently a frequent guest on right-wing media, had his gated community home and apartment in Buenos Aires' chic Puerto Madero raided by authorities on February 13, during which over $1 million in valuables, as well as unauthorized assault weapons, were found.

From shakedown to shakeup

The tapes have also led to calls that Bonadío and Stornelli be recused from the "notebookgate" case - the centerpiece of Macri's strategy of winning reelection this year by driving up negatives against opponents, amid 30% approval and the worst recession since 2002.

Notebookgate emerged last August after photocopies of notebooks belonging to a former Ministry of Public Works chauffeur were published, appearing to detail a long-running bribery scheme during former President Cristina Kirchner's 2007-15 tenure.

The notebooks, though, have never been produced, and by Argentine law photocopies are not admissible evidence in court.

The d'Alessio case has also focused attention into suspected U.S. and Israeli interference in Argentine politics in an election year.

d'Alessio mentioned being "congratulated" by the Israeli Embassy, and claimed in the recordings to be both a DEA and NSA asset - something U.S. Ambassador Edward Prado promptly denied. The February 13 raid on his home, however, found DEA credentials.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F177236-preso-por-servicio

Indicted extortionist Marcelo d'Alessio, Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli, and another Macri ally, Salta Mayor Gustavo Sáenz - the bagman, according to the d'Alessio tapes.

The public face of Macri's weaponized judiciary against opponents, Stornelli's role in recordings showing large-scale extortion by d'Alessio has led to calls for his removal and prosecution.
February 25, 2019

Oscars 2019: Green Book wins Best Picture

Source: Pitchfork

At the 2019 Academy Awards tonight, 'Green Book' picked up the Oscar for Best Picture.

The film won over Bradley Cooper's 'A Star Is Born' (starring Lady Gaga), Spike Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman', the Queen biopic 'Bohemian Rhapsody', Marvel's 'Black Panther', 'Vice', 'ROMA', and 'The Favourite'.

Earlier this year, Green Book won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.

Directed by Peter Farrelly, Green Book is about Dr. Don Shirley (portrayed by Mahershala Ali), a pianist who recruits Tony 'Lip' Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) as his driver and security for a 1962 tour in the South.

Ali also took home the award for Best Supporting Actor; this marks his second Academy Award following 2017's 'Moonlight' win.

Read more: https://pitchfork.com/news/oscars-2019-green-book-wins-best-picture/

February 23, 2019

Ecuador agrees to $4.2 billion financing deal with IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to support the economic policies of Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno with a $4.2 billion credit line over the next three years.

The arrangement is expected to be brought to the IMF Executive Board for its final approval in the coming weeks.

The IMF said the agreement is part of a broader effort by the international community that totals $10 billion and includes financial support of almost $6 billion over the next three years from the Development Bank of Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Reserve Fund, and the World Bank.

Ecuador faces a fiscal deficit of $10 billion (9.3% of GDP), leading to delays in paying salaries to government employees and suppliers. The country's adoption of the U.S. dollar in 2000 has limited its ability to finance deficits domestically, relying instead on dollar-denominated debt (some $32 billion).

The agreement reportedly requires Ecuador to cut, among other expenses, 10% from its public enterprise work force and $2 billion in annual fuel subsidies, as well as raise value-added taxes from the current 12% to 15%.

It also marks the end of at least a decade-long estrangement between nation with the IMF since then-president Rafael Correa kicked out the IMF mission short after taking office in 2007.

Skepticism of the IMF runs strong in Ecuador and throughout Latin America, where many blame Fund-imposed austerity policies for economic hardship.

At: http://www.batimes.com.ar/news/economy/ecuador-agrees-us42-billion-financing-deal-with-imf.phtml

Ecuadorean president Lenin Moreno and the IMF's Christine Lagarde: A leaded life jacket?
February 22, 2019

The House will vote Tuesday on blocking Trump's national emergency

Source: Vox

Congressional Democrats have a way to potentially stop President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency without going to court, and they’re planning to use it.

As part of the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the law that details the president’s ability to make emergency declarations, there’s also a legislative check that’s given to Congress. After the president declares an emergency, Congress can pass a resolution that terminates it.

House Democrats, led by Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX), have introduced this very measure, and the House is set to vote on it next Tuesday.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/the-house-will-vote-tuesday-on-blocking-trumps-national-emergency/ar-BBTUHRd

Facing a real emergency against the rule of law, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff address reporters in a recent Brussels conference.

February 20, 2019

John Wayne's racist and homophobic 1971 Playboy interview resurfaces: 'I Believe in White Supremacy'

John Wayne, who died at age 72 in 1979, made headlines on Tuesday, February 19, after his racist and homophobic remarks resurfaced via Twitter.

Wayne expressed his views after taking aim at African American political activist Angela Davis. “With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent and rightfully so,” he told the publication. “But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks.”

He added: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgement to irresponsible people.”

Wayne also claimed that “the academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically,” and “some blacks have tried to force the issue and enter college when they haven’t passed the tests and don’t have the requisite background.”

Although he expressed his support for African American actors, he told Playboy that he casts them in what he deems to be “proper” roles.

Wayne, who was known for his Western films, also slammed Native American Indians for their role in history. “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Wayne also made insensitive remarks about LGBTQ representation in Hollywood, telling Playboy that he considers films like Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider to be “perverted.”

“Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?

At: https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/john-waynes-racist-homophobic-playboy-interview-resurfaces/

John Wayne and his friend Ronald Reagan during Reagan's 1976 campaign.

As brash and brazen as his Hollywood persona, Wayne was in some ways a pioneer of the extremist New Right movement that took over the GOP after 1980.
February 19, 2019

Raffle prize offers killing animals with Donald Trump Jr.

A hunting advocacy group is offering what it has called a “once-in-a-lifetime” raffle prize of killing elk with Donald Trump Jr., but it has faced some criticism online.

Hunter Nation promoted the chance to win a five-day guided fall hunt in Utah with President Donald Trump’s son ― who it dubbed “the modern-day Teddy Roosevelt” — on Instagram Monday. Tickets cost $10 each.

Organizers say the chance to share a hunting camp with Donald Trump’s son is “truly priceless.” Twitter users disagree.

At: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/donald-trump-jr-hunt-raffle_n_5c6bcc18e4b0e8eb46b9592f

Cheeto jr. and "prize": Most of the world's ugliness, rolled up in one person. Like his father.

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