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sandensea

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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Neil Gorsuch: No one can sue to stop government from establishing religion

One inherent danger of allowing a religious minority to install a puppet controlled by religious fanatics in the White House is the now unfolding threat of government officially establishing religion – the Christian religion.

Any American’s confidence that the U.S. Constitution is a protection against government establishing religion is grossly misplaced - and that belief is about to be disabused by the current religious conservatives responsible for adjudicating the law of the land.

Based on comments by Trump’s more vocal and radical theocratic justice, it is all but certain that the Court will uphold the so-called “Peace Cross” as the initial step in a long sought-after demolition of the so-called wall of separation enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment.

The case centers on a 40-foot tall Christian cross-shaped monument on government land in Maryland. A 2017 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was a victory for the American Humanist Association, which filed the initial lawsuit against it.

The reason the “Establishment Clause” is going to be found unconstitutional by the current Court’s Christian conservatives is crystal clear: they believe rulings prohibiting government establishment of religion are patently wrong.

At: http://churchandstate.org.uk/2019/03/neil-gorsuch-says-no-one-can-sue-to-stop-government-establishing-religion/?fbclid=IwAR2fNuEv9Rv8R7waX5BPFY61_jSlbjVXYOpOjmDbsw1bEo6BLPxAwkE0RpE



The Bladensburg, MD, World War I Memorial - more commonly referred to as the Peace Cross.

SCOTUS conservatives are expected to vote to overturn a 2017 appeals court ruling that the 1925 landmark is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

Here's hoping a Satanic monument is put up beside it, if they get their way.

Human Rights Watch: Macri's targeting judge probing extortion ring threatens judicial independence

The Argentine government’s request to investigate a judge who is looking into allegations of surveillance and extortion implicating government allies undermines judicial independence, Human Rights Watch said today.

President Mauricio Macri's administration - already reeling from a severe economic crisis - was rocked by reports on February 8 that an intelligence agent and close associate, Marcelo d'Alessio, ran a wide-reaching extortion and surveillance ring against political opponents, businessmen, and journalists.

An uncomfortable judge

On March 13, 2019, Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla, who arrested d'Alessio and is overseeing the case, testified before Argentina's Congress about the ongoing investigation.

Two days later, Justice Minister Germán Garavano asked the Judiciary Council to open an investigation into Ramos Padilla, while Macri allies have openly called for the judge's impeachment.

“Any judge can be investigated with good cause; but the government has not provided any convincing reason to investigate Ramos Padilla,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

“Instead, it appears to be retaliating against a judge who is pursuing an uncomfortable investigation.”

Losing control

The 19-member Judiciary Council investigates judges and has the authority to remove them from office.

But Macri lost effective control of the powerful Judiciary Council when, on November 17, Congress chose a member of the opposition to fill a vacancy rather than his hand-picked candidate.

The Argentine Supreme Court ruled unanimously on March 19 that Judge Ramos Padilla be given additional resources to probe voluminous documentary, phone, and computer file evidence gathered from a raid on d'Alessio's home and office on February 13 - assistance on which the Justice Ministry had denied him.

Extornelli

d'Alessio, 48, was arrested after 22 hours of incriminating tapes collected by farmer Pedro Etchebest, from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom, were published.

The tapes, made throughout January, show d'Alessio boasting that some $12 million in bribes had been collected since August, that political opponents had been “framed,” and that Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli - another close Macri associate - “managed” the enterprise.

Audio, video, and WhatsApp messages show a close working relationship between the two.

Etchebest, 70, had his photo leaked to Clarín by government staff on February 19, and has reported receiving numerous threats. He now lives in the U.S. with his son.

At: https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/19/argentina-inquiry-threatens-judicial-independence



Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the federal judge heading the Extornelligate investigation, Alejo Ramos Padilla.

Macri, who is seeking the judge's impeachment, has close ties to both principals in the alleged extortion ring:

To Carlos Stornelli through the Boca Juniors football club (which Macri headed until entering politics); and to Marcelo d'Alessio through d'Alessio's uncle (whom Macri appointed presidential notary public), and through d'Alessio's former law partner - who administers Macri's blind trust.

Argentina's Extortiongate: d'Alessio sought to link anti-Macri governor with drug gang

Evidence gleaned from intelligence asset and indicted extortionist Marcelo d'Alessio as part of the ongoing “extortiongate” investigation that has shaken Argentine politics, exposed an attempt last year to link Santa Fe Province Governor Miguel Lifschitz to a violent drug gang known as Los Monos as part of a smear campaign.

Computer files recovered from d'Alessio's home during a raid ordered by Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla on February 13 detail an operation labeled “Rosario drug trafficking” - in reference to Argentina's third-largest city, where the Los Monos gang is based - whose stated goal was to obtain false testimony from convicted gang leader Ramón Machuca.

d'Alessio's files show that he offered Machuca, Ariel Cantero, and other leaders of Los Monos ('the monkeys') a possible reduction in their sentence in return for their cooperation in incriminating Governor Lifschitz.

Lifschitz, 63, is Argentina's sole Socialist Party governor, and has become a leading critic of right-wing President Mauricio Macri since the implosion of a carry-trade debt bubble last year led to a severe economic crisis.

Monkey business

“We've always suspected that there were intelligence services behind Los Monos and other gangs - but now we're sure,” Lifschitz said.

“There's ample evidence to show d'Alessio not only conspired to discredit Santa Fe's government and Socialist Party officials - but that he participated in the attacks committed last year on the homes of prosecutors and judges.”

Federal and provincial courts in Santa Fe ordered investigations on March 18 into d'Alessio, concurrent to those being overseen by Judge Ramos Padilla in neighboring Buenos Aires Province.

Justice Minister Germán Garavano asked the Judiciary Council on March 15 to in turn investigate Ramos Padilla, while Macri and his allies have openly called for the judge's impeachment.

Lifschitz described Macri's response as “an interference of the Executive branch in the Judicial.”

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, agreed, declaring on March 19 that while “any judge can be investigated with good cause, the government has not provided any convincing reason to investigate Ramos Padilla.”

“Instead, it appears to be retaliating against a judge who is pursuing an uncomfortable investigation.”

“I believe we must give all our support to Judge Ramos Padilla, as the Supreme Court has done,” Lifschitz concluded.

“We are sure that above D'Alessio there are more important figures in politics, the judiciary, and intelligence.”

Extornelli

d'Alessio, 48, was arrested on February 15 after 22 hours of incriminating tapes collected by farmer Pedro Etchebest, from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom, were published.

The tapes, made throughout January, show d'Alessio boasting that some $12 million in bribes had been collected since August, that political opponents had been “framed,” and that Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli - another close Macri associate - “managed” the enterprise.

Audio, video, and WhatsApp messages show a close working relationship between the two, as well as with Macri's hard-line security Minister Patricia Bullrich.

Etchebest, 70, had his photo leaked to Clarín by government staff on February 19, and has reported receiving numerous threats. He now lives in the U.S. with his son.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.lapoliticaonline.com%2Fnota%2F118166-dalessio-se-reunio-con-el-lider-de-los-monos-y-le-ofrecio-beneficios-si-comprometia-al-socialismo%2F



Indicted extortionist Marcelo d'Alessio and the Governor of Santa Fe Province, Miguel Lifschitz.

Argentina's Extortiongate began as an monetary extortion case linking d'Alessio to Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli - the public face of Macri's weaponized judiciary against opponents.

Evidence recently gleaned from d'Alessio's computers show a wide-reaching scheme to smear opponents such as Lifschitz and former President Cristina Kirchner, as well as private citizens such as a former lover of Stornelli's ex-wife, Jorge Castañón - whom d'Alessio discussed planting drugs on.

President Macri has close ties to both principals in the alleged extortion ring:

To Carlos Stornelli through the Boca Juniors football club (which Macri headed until entering politics); and to Marcelo d'Alessio through d'Alessio's uncle (whom Macri appointed presidential notary public), and through d'Alessio's former law partner - who administers Macri's blind trust.

IMF approves release of $11 billion loan for Argentina - part of a record $56 billion bailout

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved the release to Argentina of a $10.87 billion tranche from a credit line agreed to last year with the Mauricio Macri administration.

The disbursement, part of a $56.3 billion standby financing deal to help Argentina recover from a debt crisis that has rocked the South American nation over the last year, is subject to approval by the IMF executive board.

The latest tranche brings the total drawn from the credit line since June 22 to $39 billion. All but $5.9 billion of the remainder is scheduled to be disbursed by this October - when the deeply unpopular Macri faces voters in his bid for re-election.

The bailout, agreed to on June 8, gave the IMF far-reaching control over Argentina's monetary and budgetary policy - something opponents see as unconstitutional.

With today's announcement, the IMF also gave its approval to Macri's use of up to $9.6 billion of the loan to shore up the peso - which lost half its value between April and August but has since stabilized at around 40 to the U.S. dollar.

The peso lost 1.4% on today's news, to 41.59.

From bubble to bailout

The current crisis began last April, when a $60 billion carry-trade debt bubble known in Argentina as the "financial bicycle" ultimately collapsed.

The crisis cut off Argentina's access to foreign credit markets, forcing Macri to turn to the IMF and to raise the central bank discount rate from 27% a year ago, to 64% currently.

This rate hike has in turn exacerbated the country's recession - the second since Macri took office in late 2015: GDP fell 7% as of December, with fixed investment falling 19.2% and 191,000 registered job losses.

Inflation has meanwhile risen to 51.3% - the highest in 27 years.

Default worries

The short-term profile of much of this debt has led to concerns of a future bondholder default similar to that of 2001.

A report from the UMET External Debt Observatory noted that between 2020 and 2023, bondholder repayments alone (mainly domestic) will average $34 billion annually - plus $12 billion annually for five years until 2025 for the IMF.

At: http://www.batimes.com.ar/news/economy/imf-staff-approves-release-of-us1087-billion-tranche-of-loan.phtml



IMF South America division head Roberto Cardarelli and IMF Argentina division head Trevor Alleyne during their review mission in February.

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

Argentina's Macrisis: Inflation exceeds 50% for the first time in 27 years

Data published today by Argentina's Statistics and Census Institute (INDEC) show consumer prices rising by 3.8% in February, and 51.3% from the same time last year.

The annual rate of 51.3% is the highest such reading since January 1992, as Argentina was emerging from a hyperinflation crisis. INDEC's 'basic basket' inflation was even higher: 55.8%.

Price increases last month were led by food and beverages (5.7%) and housing and utilities (6.4%).

Utility rates have increased sharply since President Mauricio Macri cut subsidies and deregulated rates in April 2016: rates are up 3600% for electricity, 2400% for gas, and 1000% for water - leading to unpaid debts of $450 million for light bills alone, according to wholesale power administrator CAMMESA.

February's rate hikes sparked nationwide protests. An entire town (seaside Villa Gesell) was threatened on February 28 by CAMMESA with having their electricity shut off over a $4.5 million debt.

These hikes far outstrip overall price increases of 188% since Macri was elected in November 2015. Real wages have fallen by 18% since then.

February's 3.8% monthly rate, compared to 2.9% in January, came despite a relative stability in the U.S. dollar exchange rate since September at around 40 pesos (currently 41.76) - the result of short-term rates of 64% and some $29 billion borrowed since June from the IMF.

Central Bank head Guido Sandleris reacted to today's news by promising to "flight inflation with no shortcuts." He pledged to slow monetary base growth (30.6% as of February) even further, leading to concerns Argentina's recession could deepen.

GDP had already fallen 7% as of December - the worst reading since the 2002 collapse.

The easiest thing

Macri was narrowly elected in 2015 by promising to beat inflation - already running at 25% annually under his center-left predecessor, Cristina Kirchner.

It's the easiest thing, he boasted at the time. "Inflation is a sign of government incompetence, and with us it won't be an issue."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201903%2F28510-inflacion-por-las-nubes-se-disparo-38-en-febrero-y-la-interanual-rompio-un-nuevo-record.html



The seaside resort town of Villa Gesell.

Villa Gesell became an unexpected poster child of Argentina's ongoing Macrisis when, on February 28, the national wholesale power regulator CAMMESA threatened to turn the lights off over a $4.5 million debt.

CAMMESA admitted that nationwide, some $450 million in power bills remain unpaid - just at the wholesale level.

Argentina: Judge overseeing Extorsiongate case testifies in Congress

Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla, who oversees a case involving a massive extortion scheme involving millions in ransom payments and false testimony coerced against political opponents, testified in front of Argentina's Congress yesterday.

Ramos Padilla discussed the developing extortion case against Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli and his close associate, Marcelo d'Alessio.

Evidence gleaned from d'Alessio's mobile phones and hard drives implicate two pro-government congresswomen, the nation's leading right-wing daily (Clarín), Argentina's intelligence agency AFI (headed by a business partner of President Mauricio Macri), and elements in the U.S. Government.

"This is a para-state network of ideological, political and judicial espionage of great magnitude," the judge said before the Committee on Freedom of Expression. "A web of illegal intelligence operations linked to the judiciary, government, security forces, political powers, and the media."

He was invited to testify by committee chairman Leopoldo Moreau after the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Senator Juan Carlos Marino - a staunch Macri loyalist - refused to do so.

Other members of Macri's "Let's Change" caucus avoided the hearing altogether, including congresswomen Elisa Carrió and Paula Olivetto - both of whom are implicated in the scandal.

U.S. intelligence links

d'Alessio, the judge explained, claimed to work for U.S. intelligence, and had embassy documents, CIA manuals, and U.S.-issued weapons in his possession.

Messages gleaned from his phone showed d'Alessio discussing espionage against Uruguay, his coercing false testimony from a lawyer for Venezuela's PdVSA, and his reporting via diplomatic pouch to "our headquarters in Maine."

d'Alessio also boasted in messages to using data stolen from the state energy agency ENARSA as an NSA spy to help frame former Public Works Minister Julio de Vido and his deputy, Roberto Baratta. David Cohen, who prepared the falsified report, was indicted on March 8.

Other documents suggest offers from U.S. President Donald Trump's political staff to provide "media coaching" to Macri for his 2019 re-election campaign. Help with potential judicial and media operations was also mentioned.

The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, which denied ties to d'Alessio, refused to cooperate with Judge Ramos Padilla, and refused to comment.

Extornelli

d'Alessio, 48, was arrested on February 15, a week after 22 hours of incriminating audio and video collected by farmer Pedro Etchebest, from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom, was submitted to journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

The tapes, made throughout January, show d'Alessio boasting that some $12 million in bribes had been collected by Stornelli since August.

The recordings also implicate among others Clarín writer Daniel Santoro - a close d'Alessio friend and author of numerous debunked claims against Macri's leading opponent, former President Cristina Kirchner.

And while Stornelli denied knowing d'Alessio, video and WhatsApp messages show a close working relationship between the two - as well as with Macri's hard-line Security Minister Patricia Bullrich.

Stornelli, charged on March 6 as a co-conspirator, was summoned to testify by Judge Ramos Padilla but refused to appear. He has likewise refused to turn in any cell phones - though Gustavo Sáenz, another close Macri ally and reputed bag man in the scheme, has.

Running on empty

Federal authorities have meanwhile refused to transport d'Alessio and two co-defendants (both former AFI agents) from Buenos Aires to Judge Ramos Padilla's court in Dolores, just 125 mi away, claiming "a lack of fuel." They informed the judge that they do not intend to take him to Dolores until March 23.

"We've been denied assistance and resources," the judge testified, "and they inform the public when I am without security."

Amid a severe economic crisis, Macri is facing job disapproval of 70% and has relied on corruption allegations against Kirchner and her former officials to boost his reelection chances this year.

"This is the gravest institutional scandal since democracy returned to Argentina (in 1983)," Committee Chairman Leopoldo Moreau said.

"This is a mafia dedicated to framing opponents, coercing false testimony, and espionage."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F180623-es-una-red-ilegal-de-grandes-magnitudes



Argentine Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla presenting evidence gathered from extortionist Marcelo d'Alessio during his testimony yesterday as Committee Chairman Leopoldo Moreau looks on.

The judge described "a web of illegal intelligence operations linked to the judiciary, government, security forces, political powers, and the media" as well as U.S. intelligence.

Besides illicit enrichment, evidence points to the goal of framing opponents in order to boost Macri's flagging re-election chances this year.

Mexico's AMLO enjoys highest approval in Americas; Maduro, Guatemala's Morales, and Macri, the least

A report by Mexico-based polling firm Mitofsky shows that, among 20 heads of government, Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Peru's Martín Vizcarra enjoy the hemisphere's highest average job approval ratings with 67% and 63% respectively.

Three presidents, in turn, are enduring the lowest approval ratings of not only the Americas but of all 31 countries surveyed: Argentina's Mauricio Macri (19%), Guatemala's Jimmy Morales (16%), and Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro (15%).

Mitofsky analyzed recent polling averages for 18 Latin American nations, the United States, Canada, Australia, and 10 nations in Asia and Europe.

The right-wing Macri and left-wing Maduro are presiding over deepening economic crises, while Jimmy Morales, a conservative, has faced mounting corruption allegations.

The 20 Western Hemisphere leaders, weighed by their countries' population, averaged a job approval of 43%.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had job approval ratings of 44% and 42% respectively.

The data were as follows:


At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201903%2F28476-ranking-de-presidentes-de-america-macri-ocupa-el-puesto-18-sobre-20-mandatarios-evaluados.html



"Like two bald men fighting over a comb," as writer Jorge Luis Borges might have put it, Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro and Argentina's Mauricio Macri have traded periodic barbs and are ideological opposites.

But they share key similarities:

Economies in deep crisis, increasingly authoritarian tactics, and a fondness for SmartMatic voting software - which international election observers consider easy to manipulate, and unverifiable if it were.

They - and Guatemala's Jimmy Morales - hover at the bottom of job approval rankings for Western Hemisphere leaders.

First-time voters for Bernie Sanders don't care about his age, say he speaks to what matters to them

College students who support Sen. Bernie Sanders and will be voting for the first time in 2020 say the senator's age is not an issue to them.

Sanders, 77, has faced questions as to whether he's too old to run for president since the senator announced he's running again.

Young supporters of Sen. Sanders say they're not concerned about his age as he makes another run for president.

At Sanders' rally in Iowa City, IA, on Friday night, students from the University of Iowa could be overheard talking about how the senator has "always" had the same values.

One such student, Sam Johnston of Forsyth, Illinois, told INSIDER he supports Sanders because he's "fair," "reliable," and he trusts the senator to "follow through" on his campaign promises.

Johnston, 18, who will be a first-time voter in 2020, said "age range doesn't matter" when it comes to Sanders because he "just knows our values and shares them."

When asked if they would support the ultimate Democratic nominee even if it's not Sanders, the trio hesitated to respond.

Johnston, appearing deep in thought, said "most likely, yes" but added that there's "so many" candidates to choose from and it's early. If it came down to it, Johnston said his second choice would would be Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

At: https://www.businessinsider.com/first-time-2020-voters-bernie-sanders-age-not-an-issue-iowa-2019-3

Argentina: Witness against jailed opposition lawmaker indicted for false testimony

Argentine Federal Judge Sebastián Ramos issued an indictment today against an energy market analyst for providing "distorted, plagiarized, and outright false information" in a report used to indict and expel an opposition lawmaker.

The analyst, David Cohen, 70, authored a study on which Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío based his October 2017 indictment against Congressman Julio de Vido on alleged overpayment for natural gas imports during his 2003-15 tenure as Public Works Minister.

The Cohen study was shown within days to have been both erroneous and plagiarized from a paper written by Chilean college students on that country's gas import market - not Argentina's.

Cohen's indictment comes exactly a year after the gas overpayment charges against de Vido were dropped due to the fraudulent nature of Cohen's own report.

Critics note, moreover, that de Vido's expulsion from Congress contrasts sharply with that of pro-government lawmaker Aída Ayala, who retains her seat despite being convicted last May for racketeering and having said conviction upheld in October.

de Vido, 69, served as Public Works Minister during the center-left administrations of presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.

Mrs. Kirchner succeeded her ailing husband as president in 2007, and as senator is today a leading opponent of right-wing President Mauricio Macri.

Extornelli

Amid a imploding debt bubble and severe recession, Macri is facing job disapproval of 70% and has relied on corruption allegations against Kirchner and her former officials to boost his reelection chances this year.

But recent recordings suggest Macri and his chief media ally, the Clarín Group, have been working with Judge Bonadío and Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli to frame opponents - primarily by coercing witnesses to perjure themselves against former Kirchner-era officials and Kirchner herself.

The operative managing the extortion scheme, Marcelo d'Alessio, was indicted on February 25 by Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla.

The mercurial d'Alessio, 48, was recorded throughout January by organic farmer Pedro Etchebest (from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom), and provided extensive details on the scheme.

Some $12 million in bribes had been collected just since last August, according to d'Alessio. Other victims have since come forward.

Stornelli, who was charged on March 6 as a co-conspirator, was summoned to testify on March 7 by Judge Ramos Padilla but refused to appear.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fclaudio-bonadio%2Fcausa-gnl-procesaron-al-perito-trucho-bonadio-n57066



Court-appointed expert David Cohen, whose falsified market study was the sole basis for indicting - and later expelling - opposition Congressman Julio de Vido.

de Vido and at least two other former Public Works Ministry officials remain in prison despite the debunked study and Cohen's own indictment.

Cohen's indictment comes amid a massive extortion scandal involving the same judge and prosecutor, and the same ends: coercing false testimony against Macri's opponents - as well as at least $12 million in ransom payments.

France unveils plan to tax internet giants

Source: AP

The French government on Wednesday unveiled plans to slap a 3 percent tax on the French revenues of internet giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook.


The bill is an attempt to get around tax avoidance measures by multinationals, which pay most of their taxes in the EU country they are based in — often at very low rates. That effectively means the companies pay next to no tax in countries where they have large operations.

About 30 companies, mostly based from the U.S, but also from China and Europe, will be affected.

France is set to be the first European country to implement such a tax as the bill presented Wednesday in a cabinet meeting is likely to pass in the coming months in parliament, where French President Emmanuel Macron's party has a majority.

Le Maire estimated the tax will raise about 500 million euros ($566 million) a year this year but that should increase "quickly."

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/france-unveils-plan-to-tax-internet-giants/ar-BBUqKDw
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