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Brazil is governed by 'gang of madmen', says former President Lula da Silva

Speaking in his first interview since he was imprisoned a year ago, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva said the country is governed by a “gang of madmen.”

The leftist ex-leader, 73, is serving an almost nine year sentence for alleged bribery. He reiterated his innocence and told newspapers El País (Spain) and Folha de Sao Paulo he is “obsessed with unmasking” those behind his conviction.

“I know very well the place history holds for me,” said Lula, “And I also know who will be in the dumpster.”

“It can’t be that this country is governed by this gang of madmen,” Lula said of President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration. “The country - and above all the people - don’t deserve that.”

Bolsonaro took office in January, defeating Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad in an October runoff by 10%. Haddad replaced Lula after he was banned from running. Polls showed Lula winning handily, had he been allowed to run.

The former president was convicted as part of Operation Car Wash, a corruption probe into state oil firm Petrobras. Lacking material evidence, his conviction was based solely on testimony from jailed contractors.

The judge who oversaw the case, Sérgio Moro, was appointed Minister of Justice by Bolsonaro.


Lula also commented on neighboring Argentina's elections this year, where incumbent President Mauricio Macri - whom Bolsonaro recently endorsed - faces an economic crisis and 24% approval.

“I'm rooting for Cristina to win the elections,” he said in reference to former President Cristina Kirchner, who was recently revealed to be a target of a smear campaign by Argentine intelligence - and whom, despite not yet announcing, polls show she would win handily.

“I worked with Presidents (Néstor) Kirchner and Cristina, and they were very good for the people of Argentina.”

At: https://www.thesundaily.my/world/brazil-is-governed-by-gang-of-madmen-says-former-president-lula-EK826053

Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva makes a point during his April 26 interview - the first he's been allowed to give since his imprisonment a year ago.

Convicted last year solely on testimony from a contractor kept in a rat-infested dungeon until he incriminated him, the UN considers his detention arbitrary.

Poof, they're gone: Massachusetts coal power plant towers demolished in seconds

In a matter of seconds, two 500-foot cooling towers from Massachusetts’ last coal-fired power plant have been reduced to rubble.

The controlled demolition went off as scheduled at 8 a.m. Saturday at the former Brayton Point Station in Somerset. Live video showed the giant towers along Mount Hope Bay implode and a large cloud of dust rise into the air.

The plant had burned coal since 1963. It closed in 2017 as environmental groups pushed for cleaner sources of energy generation.

The new owners of the property plan to turn the site into a multi-use facility mainly dedicated to supporting off-shore wind farms.

At: https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/04/27/poof-theyre-gone-massachusetts-power-plant-towers-demolished-in-seconds

The two 500-foot concrete cooling towers at the former Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, during today's controlled implosion

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's memoir, 'Sinceramente', hits the shelves

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's eagerly anticipated new book, Sinceramente ('Sincerely'), has been released to the public.

Mainly an overview of her 2007-15 presidency, many are eager to see if Sinceramente confirms whether or not she's planning another bid for the presidency.

Sparking further speculation this week, the former president announced that she will present the book in person at the 45th Buenos Aires International Book Fair on May 9.

Kirchner, 66, has neither confirmed nor denied her candidacy. Despite a concerted media, government - and, it was recently revealed, intelligence-run extortion - campaign against her, recent polls show her besting incumbent President Mauricio Macri by 9 points.

The book, around 600 pages, went on sale on opening day at the book fair and at selected bookshops across the country. All other stores should be be stocking it today.

Its initial print run was said to be around 20,000, with many bookstores reporting having copies sold out within hours. Those selling the book at the fair said it was one of the best-selling items.

Local outlets reported Friday that another print run of some 40,000 had been ordered.

The book is also a needed boost for Argentina's publishing industry, which since Macri took office has fallen from 83 million books in 2015, to 43 million last year - the lowest since 2003.

Book sales were down another 12% in the first quarter of 2019.


"Macri is chaos, that's why I firmly believe that Argentina needs to be sorted out," Kirchner writes.

The peso has lost 56% of its value against the dollar since Macri's carry-trade debt bubble imploded a year ago this week, pushing inflation from 25% to 55%, central bank rates from 27% to 72%, and sending real wages down 17% and GDP down 6.2% - the second recession since Macri took office.

The resulting debt crisis forced Macri to go to the IMF, where he secured a $56 billion high-access stand-by credit line - the most restrictive kind, and one which only three other crisis-wracked countries (Iraq, Jamaica, and Kenya) currently have.

"Today the country is in complete political, economic, social and cultural regression," Kirchner writes in the introduction. "And I hope that, by reading these pages, we can think and discuss without hate, without lies and without grievances."

At: http://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/cristina-fernandez-de-kirchners-book-sinceramente-hits-the-shelves.phtml

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her newly-published memoir, Sinceramente ('Sincerely').

The book, mostly reflections on her 2007-15 presidency, is seen by many as her candidacy announcement for this year's presidential elections, which recent polls show she'd likely win.

But despite the June 22 filing deadline, Mrs. Kirchner has remained non-committal, and may endorse a fellow center-left Peronist instead.

Salem's Satanic Temple: IRS has designated it a tax-exempt church

The Satanic Temple says it’s been designated a church by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Salem, MA-based organization provided The Associated Press with a notice it recently received communicating its new tax-exempt status. The letter used a code that classifies it as a “church or a convention or association of churches.”

The group is now listed in an IRS database for tax-exempt organizations. An email seeking comment was sent to the IRS.

The group says the designation will help in religious discrimination legal cases and allow it to pursue faith-based government grants.

The “non-theistic” group advocates for a stricter separation of church and state. It placed a statue of the goat-headed creature Baphomet at the Arkansas State Capitol last year to call for the removal of a Ten Commandments monument.

At: https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/04/25/salems-satanic-temple-irs-has-designated-it-a-tax-exempt-church

A statue of Baphomet at last year's free speech rally outside the Arkansas State Capitol.

The IRS today conferred the Satanic Temple the same tax benefits it has long afforded the likes of Jerry Falwell, Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn.

Argentina's Macri announces price truce until October elections

Facing en economic crisis, mounting inflation and unlikely re-election prospects, Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced a package of economic measures including a freeze on utility rates, a voluntary price truce, and new credit line for senior citizens.

The centerpiece of today's measures - the price truce - covers 60 basic items, mainly food. Sixteen retail chains, with 2,500 stores between them, have signed on to the agreement.

Other measures include additional lending for housing and small business - reeling under central bank rates of 67% - and a new credit line for the nation's 8 million retirees.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who belongs to Macri's right-wing PRO, joined the measure by suspending a 2-peso (10%) increase in subway fares planned for May 2.

Subway fares had already been raised 153% from the same time a year ago, from 7.50 to 19 pesos (44 cents).

Gentlemen's agreement

The six-month agreement comes into effect on April 22 - until the October 27 general elections, which polls show Macri would lose by up to 22 points, depending on the opponent.

The truce, on a voluntary basis, was described by Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne as a "gentlemen's agreement." Food prices, however, have reportedly jumped by an average of 10% in advance of the truce, first rumored a week ago.

Utility rate hikes, likewise suspended until the elections, have already reached an average of 3000% since Macri took office in late 2015.

The price truce recalls a similar - but more far-reaching - "Price Care" program launched in 2013 by Macri's populist predecessor, former President Cristina Kirchner to help slow what was then 25% inflation.

Kirchner's Price Care measure largely failed, and was described by Macri during his 2015 campaign as "something that won't be needed in our administration."

Falling bicycle

Macri's "Economic and Social Program" comes a day after Argentina's INDEC statistical agency announced that monthly inflation in March had risen to 4.7% - and 54.7% from the same time last year.

Inflation has risen steadily, from 25%, since the collapse a year ago of a carry-trade debt bubble known as the "financial bicycle" triggered a sharp devaluation from 20 pesos in April 2018, to 40 by the end of August.

While a record, $56 billion IMF bailout has since contained the devaluation (the dollar has hovered around 43 pesos since February), pressure on prices has persisted.

Consumer prices have tripled since Macri took office, with real wages down 18%. GDP was down 6.2% in the 4th quarter, with 263,000 jobs lost as of January.

That's equivalent to 2 million job losses in the U.S.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F188048-las-medidas-de-macri-para-la-crisis

Argentina's Macri beams at the child of a working-class family whose home he visited to "discuss" today's announcement.

The voluntary price truce is set to expire in six months - just as Argentines go to the polls.

Observers noted that the family, who had already appeared in a 2018 Macri spot, lived in a smaller apartment today than they did during their last "chat" with the president just a year ago.

Sen. Bernie Sanders unveils new 'Medicare for All' plan with support from some 2020 rivals

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont unveiled a new version of his “Medicare for All” plan on Wednesday, shaking up the 2020 presidential race by reopening the debate over his call to eliminate private health insurance.

“It is not a radical idea to say that in the United States, every American who goes to a doctor should be able to afford the prescription drug he or she needs,” Sanders said. “Health care is a human right, not a privilege.”

Four of Sanders’ fellow senators and rivals for the Democratic nomination are set to sign onto the updated single-payer health care proposal. The bill’s reintroduction promises to shine a light on Democratic presidential candidates’ disparate visions for the long term future of American health care.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, supports a so-called public option, versions of which would allow Americans to buy into Medicare or Medicaid.

Four other Democratic senators also running for president — Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — back Sanders’ single-payer plan, which would replace the current mix of private and government health insurance in the U.S. with a new system run by the government. But they also have signed onto at least one version of a public option.

Warren pointed to “a lot of different pathways” to universal coverage during a CNN town hall last month: “What we’re all looking for is the lowest cost way to make sure that everybody gets covered.”

At: http://time.com/5567621/bernie-sanders-medicare-for-all-plan/

Health care: A Yooman right.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs 'Red Flag' Gun Control Bill into law

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed into law a bill that will give judges the power to take firearms from people they believe are at a high risk of harming themselves or others, making Colorado the 15th state to adopt a "red flag" law.

The measure was fiercely debated in the Colorado legislature and passed the state Senate by just one vote.

Supporters say the measure could help prevent suicides, mass shootings and other acts of gun violence while opponents argue that the new law will violate citizens' Second Amendment rights.

The law is set to take effect Jan. 1, according to The Denver Post.

"This law will not prevent every shooting, but it can be used in a targeted way," Polis said Friday, according to The Denver Post. "Today we may be saving the life of your nephew, your niece, your grandchild."

At: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/colorado-gov-jared-polis-signs-e2-80-98red-flag-e2-80-99-gun-control-bill-into-law/ar-BBVT9BV

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs Red Flag Gun Control Bill into law.

Life sentence for ex-Argentine Army general for summary execution of guerrillas in 1989

Retired Army General Alfredo Arrillaga, 85, was sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday for the summary execution of guerrillas surrendering after the recapture of the La Tablada Army barracks in early 1989.

Arrillaga was found guilty of aggravated homicide in the case of José Diaz, 29, who was photographed at the time with his hands up and showing a white flag, although at least three similar cases of shooting prisoners are suspected.

The far left Movimiento Todos por la Patria ('All for the Fatherland Movement') overran the La Tablada barracks on January 23, 1989, on the pretext that they were heading off a military coup against President Raúl Alfonsín.

The battle lasted two days, with 32 dead guerrillas, nine soldiers, two policemen, and two civilians left dead.

Arrillaga is already serving five other life sentences under house arrest for human rights violations during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. He is serving those terms under house arrest.

At: http://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/life-sentence-for-ex-army-general-for-summary-execution-of-guerrillas-in-1989.phtml

Retired Argentine Army General Alfredo Arrillaga

The January 1989 La Tablada barracks attack, the last serious incident of far-left violence in Argentina, left 32 of the 46 assailants dead - plus four disappeared, including the rebels' attorney, Jorge Baños.

The incident, 30 years later, remains little understood. Many link it to the 1989 elections, held just four months later - though its effect on the results was minimal.

No credible explanation has been given by the Argentine government for the four disappearances.

Argentina's Extortiongate: Three former intelligence operatives indicted

Former Argentine Intelligence Agency (AFI) operatives Ricardo Bogoliuk, Aníbal Degastaldi, and Rolando Barreiro, were indicted today on charges of illicit association and espionage.

The three were indicted by Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla as part of an ongoing probe into a massive extortion scheme involving millions in ransom payments, warrantless surveillance on political and media figures, as well as false testimony coerced against opponents of Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

The Extortiongate case took an international turn when a raid on AFI asset Marcelo d'Alessio's home on February 13 uncovered CIA, U.S. Embassy and Israeli Ministry of Defense documents, and evidence of operations against Uruguay and Venezuelan oil company PdVSA - part of the Trump administration's push to freeze PdVSA's overseas assets.

Both U.S. Ambassador Edward Prado and AFI chief Gustavo Arribas, a longtime business partner of Macri's, deny involvement.

Shakedown scheme

Today's indictments follow those for d'Alessio on February 25, 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 coerced from victims since August 2018, that political opponents had been “framed,” and that Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli “managed” the enterprise.

Audio, video, and WhatsApp messages show a close working relationship between the two - as well as with Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and the the chief judicial affairs writer for the right-wing daily Clarín, Daniel Santoro.

Santoro, according to d'Alessio, wrote hit pieces at his behest against those refusing to pay.

One alleged victim, public contractor Mario Cifuentes, testified on March 26 that Santoro did so last year after d'Alessio failed to obtain a $1.2 million bribe.


Carlos Stornelli was charged with illegal espionage against his own ex-wife on March 6 but has refused to cooperate; he was declared in contempt on March 27.

The alleged mission, entrusted to d'Alessio, according to the Etchebest tapes included "planting drugs" on her lover's baggage - a plot similar to one found in d'Alessio's files involving a 2018 plan to link Santa Fe Governor Miguel Lifschitz to a violent drug gang known as Los Monos as part of a smear campaign.

Spies like us

Bogoliuk and Degastaldi - both former police captains recruited by the AFI - reported to d'Alessio, according to the latter's statements to the court.

The two are also under investigation by Buenos Aires Governor María Eugenia Vidal - a top Macri ally - for allegedly investigating her personal life at Macri's behest.

Barreiro's testimony prompted Giselle Robles, former attorney for convicted tax evader Leonardo Fariña, to reveal his client had been coached by the AFI to provide false testimony against former President Cristina Kirchner.

Fariña, according to d'Alessio, received 200,000 pesos ($4,600) monthly from Bullrich in return. The racketeering case against Kirchner, known as the "K Money Route," was dismissed as without merit on November 12.

Another prosecutor charged in the d'Alessio case, D.A. Juan Bidone, testified on April 10 that he improperly implicated a candidate for governor in 2015, Aníbal Fernández, on d'Alessio's instructions.

Fernández lost that year to Vidal.

Too close for comfort

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

To Stornelli through the Boca Juniors football club, which Macri headed until entering politics.

And to d'Alessio through d'Alessio's uncle (whom Macri appointed presidential notary public), as well as through d'Alessio's former law partner, who administers Macri's blind trust.

Macri had already been indicted in 2009 for using Buenos Aires city police to illegally wiretap both critics and allies - even a brother-in-law; the case was dismissed when he became president in 2015.

The case has become an unforeseen political headache for Macri, already facing unlikely re-election prospects this year amid an economic crisis and job approval ratings of 24%.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Flas-coimas-stornelli%2Framos-padilla-proceso-ex-agentes-la-afi-y-amplio-los-cargos-contra-dalessio-n58561

Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla (left), faces not only stonewalling from the Macri administration; but also attempts from another Federal Judge, Claudio Bonadío (right), to have the Extortiongate case transferred to his court - where, critics believe, the case would quickly be buried.

Bonadío, known as Macri's "napkin" judge for his willingness to follow the president's agenda, is the public face of Argentina's weaponized judiciary against opponents.

Intelligence operative Marcelo d'Alessio played a key role by coercing false testimony (and payouts) from witnesses, coaching others, and helping concoct evidence.

Monsanto loses appeal in French farmer's poisoning case

Source: AFP

A French court on Thursday upheld a guilty verdict against chemicals giant Monsanto over the poisoning of a farmer who suffered neurological damage after using one of its weedkillers, the latest legal setback for the company over its controversial pesticides.

Cereal farmer Paul François has been fighting Monsanto, a formerly US company which was bought by Germany's Bayer last year, for the past 12 years.

In the first ruling of its kind against Monsanto anywhere in the world, a French court in 2012 found it guilty of poisoning François.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/monsanto-loses-appeal-in-french-farmers-poisoning-case/ar-BBVQoLm

French farmer Paul François, left, and his lawyer François Lafforgue.

François said he hopes French President Emmanuel Macron takes note of today's ruling.

"Macron had said that he would seek a different agriculture, without glyphosate."

"But he has not done so, so now we know who he is riding with: he rolls for Bayer."
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