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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
March 2, 2020

James Lipton, 'Actors Studio' host, dead at 93

"Inside the Actors Studio" host and veteran TV writer James Lipton has died. He was 93.

Lipton passed away peacefully Monday morning at his New York City home. His wife, Kedakai Turner, tells TMZ James had been battling bladder cancer. She adds: "There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with."

The man had a storied career in and around television and film - as well as executive producer of President Jimmy Carter's Inaugural gala in 1977.

Lipton served as the Dean Emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in NYC for several years. He was probably best known for spearheading his famous talk show, "Inside the Actors Studio" - where he interviewed actors, big and small, to pick their brains about the craft.

It was filmed in front of a live audience full of student actors, some of whom got a chance to ask questions from time to time. He started the show in 1994 and finally retired in 2018 after 22 seasons.

The program continues to this day.

At: https://www.tmz.com/2020/03/02/inside-the-actors-studio-james-lipton-dead-dies-age-93/

James Lipton, 1926-2020.

"I criticize those critics. The reason being that they're doing one of the worst things that ever can be done to an actor - which is to say: Look, you do what we like you to do or else."
March 2, 2020

Ken Cuccinelli unlawfully appointed to lead US immigration agency, judge rules

Source: The Guardian

A federal judge has ruled that Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed to lead US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and as a result lacked the authority to give asylum seekers less time to prepare for initial screening interviews.

Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and an immigration hardliner, was named to a new position of “principal deputy director” in June, which made him acting director because Lee Francis Cissna had just resigned.

The agency grants green cards and other visas and oversees asylum officers.

The US district judge Randolph Moss in Washington found Cuccinelli’s appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 law governing who is eligible to lead federal agencies in an acting capacity.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/02/ken-cuccinelli-unlawfully-appointed-federal-judge

February 29, 2020

First coronavirus death in the U.S. happens in Washington state

Source: NBC News

ealth officials in Washington state said on Saturday a coronavirus patient has died.

The death is the first from coronavirus illness COVID-19 in the United States.

"It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

President Donald Trump said during a press conference Saturday afternoon the person who died was in their late 50s and was "medically high-risk."

Officials also said at the news conference that the person was not known to have traveled recently, which suggests they may have contracted the infection in the U.S.

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/1st-coronavirus-death-u-s-officials-say-n1145931

February 29, 2020

Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. MIT research found no reason to suspect fraud

As Bolivia gears up for a do-over election on May 3, the country remains in unrest following the Nov. 10 military-backed coup against incumbent President Evo Morales.

A quick recap: Morales claimed victory in October’s election - but the opposition protested about what it called electoral fraud.

A Nov. 10 report from the Organization of American States (OAS) noted election irregularities. Police then joined the protests and Morales sought asylum in Mexico.

The military-installed government charged Morales with sedition and terrorism. A European Union (EU) monitoring report noted that some 40 former electoral officials have been arrested, and 35 people have died in the post-electoral conflict.

The media has largely reported the allegations of fraud as fact. And many commentators have justified the coup.

However, as specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia’s October election.

At: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/26/bolivia-dismissed-its-october-elections-fraudulent-our-research-found-no-reason-suspect-fraud/

Deposed Bolivian President Evo Morales and his party's nominee for elections this May, former Economy Minister Luis Arce.

Bolivia's military forced Morales to resign in November after the right-wing opposition and the U.S.-dominated OAS loudly alleged electoral fraud - but statistical models by the MIT and other researchers found no such proof.

Arce, the current-front-runner, has denounced a campaign to stymie his own candidacy this year by the far-right Jeanine Áñez dictatorship.
February 29, 2020

New sense discovered in dog noses: the ability to detect heat

Dogs’ noses just got a bit more amazing. Not only are they up to 100 million times more sensitive than ours, they can sense weak thermal radiation—the body heat of mammalian prey, a new study reveals.

The find helps explain how canines with impaired sight, hearing, or smell can still hunt successfully.

“It’s a fascinating discovery,” says Marc Bekoff, an ethologist, expert on canine sniffing, and professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who was not involved in the study.

“[It] provides yet another window into the sensory worlds of dogs’ highly evolved cold noses.”

The ability to sense weak, radiating heat is known in only a handful of animals: black fire beetles, certain snakes, and one species of mammal, the common vampire bat, all of which use it to hunt prey.

At: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/new-sense-discovered-dog-noses-ability-detect-heat

The nose knows.
February 29, 2020

Argentine Congress passes anti-trust 'Supermarket Aisles' law

Argentina's Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill this afternoon seeking to limit anti-trust practices in the country's supermarket and grocery store chains.

The 'Supermarket Aisles' Law was passed 56-0 - three months after the Lower House passed the bill by 180-1. President Alberto Fernández, who took office in December, strongly supports the legislation.

The law establishes that grocery chains may grant any one firm or supplier 30% of the space in any given aisle, which must be shared with at least five other suppliers.

It also determines that 25% should be reserved for small/medium business products, and 5% to those of family farming.

In display stands and end caps - the most coveted sectors - 50% of the space must be reserved for products from small/medium businesses and cooperatives.

Predatory practices

The law seeks to curb predatory practices by both supermarkets and larger suppliers. Some 84% of the country's $14 billion in supermarket sales last year were rung up by just 8 firms.

Food and beverage prices rose 4.7% in Argentina in January alone - over twice the 2.3% rate for consumer prices as a whole.

Over the past 12 months, food prices have jumped by 58.8% - outstripping both overall inflation (52.9%) as well as wage growth (40.9%).

Today's bill follows legislation passed on December 23 to distribute 4 million EBT cards (covering 9% of Argentina's population), and a January 7 agreement expanding the number of items in the voluntary - but legally binding - 'Price Care' program from 70 to 310.

Real supermarket sales fell by 26% between 2015 and 2019, during the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration - a period known locally as the "Macrisis."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telam.com.ar%2Fnotas%2F202002%2F435906-senado-ley-de-gondolas.html

The mayor of Pilar, Argentina, Federico Achával, verifies compliance in the voluntary - but legally binding - 'Price Care' program, which commits suppliers and stores to limit price hikes in the products included.

Today's bill complements the program by banning monopolization of supermarket shelves, currently dominated by around 20 distributors and 8 supermarket chains.

Food and beverage inflation had reached 59%, pushing nearly 10% of Argentines into hunger - in a country known for its agricultural wealth.
February 28, 2020

Wisconsin court overturns ruling that ordered removal of up to 209,000 people from voter rolls

Source: Chicago Tribune

A Wisconsin appeals court on Friday overturned a ruling that ordered the removal of up to 209,000 people from the state's voter rolls, handing Democrats a victory in a case they said was intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots in November.

The court last month put the ruling, and the purge, on hold while it considered the case. The 4th District Court of Appeals ruling overturned the decision of an Ozaukee County judge who had initially ruled in favor of a conservative law firm that was seeking the purge.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/midwest/ct-wisconsin-voter-purge-20200228-iniql4y3gjcgdopayhz7twoz6a-story.html

February 25, 2020

Tex Harris, U.S. diplomat who helped bring Argentine dictatorship's crimes to light, dies at 79

Allen “Tex” Harris, the United States diplomat who helped save the lives of Argentines during the brutal 1976-83 military dictatorship, has died.

The tall, robust ex-U.S. official, who commanded great respect in the human rights community, passed away on Monday, sources close to the family confirmed. He was 79.

Beginning his service in 1965, Harris served in the U.S. Foreign Service for over 35 years.

Sent by President Jimmy Carter to monitor Argentina's military dictatorship and its nuclear ambitions, Harris arrived in Buenos Aires in June 1977 - where he served as a junior officer in the U.S. Embassy.

But after learning of the human rights abuses at that time, efforts to combat state-sponsored terror quickly became his primary focus.

Receiving thousands of complaints denouncing abuses perpetrated by the Jorge Videla regime (1976-81), Harris opened the doors of U.S. Embassy to relatives of the missing and their details of the disappearances.

After two years, Harris compiled a comprehensive report on the fate of some 9,500 known victims, as well as the structure of the regime’s repressive apparatus.

Harris informed the U.S. government that the dictatorship had “a clear intention to exterminate” its enemies - angering both the dictatorship and U.S. defense contractors who saw $400 million in arms sales nixed by President Carter following Harris' 1978 report.

In 2000, he established the “Tex Harris Award” for creative dissent by a Foreign Service specialist, honoring those who broke ranks to denounce crimes.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/world/us-activist-for-disappeared-tex-harris-dead-at-79.phtml

U.S. diplomat Allen "Tex" Harris, 1940-2020.

Harris marshaled U.S. Embassy resources to document and draw attention to the Argentine military regime's campaign of torture, disappearances and state terror in the late 1970s.
February 24, 2020

Dow closes down 1,000 points as coronavirus fears slam Wall Street

Source: CNBC

Wall Street was rocked in a volatile trading session on Monday that ended with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 1,031 points — the worst day in two years for the blue-chip index, as fears increased over the global economic shock of coronavirus.

The market selloff came amid a significant uptick in reported cases of the disease in Europe, pushing investors to ditch stocks and buy up safe haven assets such as gold, which hit a seven-year high.

Read more: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/24/reuters-america-us-stocks-snapshot-dow-briefly-falls-over-1000-points-as-pandemic-worries-grow.html

Traders fret over falling prices on Wall Street amid heavy trading today.

A combination of fears over coronavirus' spread into Italy, as well as already overvalued equities, contributed to the steepest loss in stocks since February 2008.
February 23, 2020

Argentine Central Bank caps credit card interest rates

Argentine Central Bank President Miguel Ángel Pesce announced that interest rates on outstanding credit card balances would be limited by law to 55%.

Argentines, who hold a modest $8 billion in credit card debt, had been paying an average of 150% on unpaid credit card balances - and as high as 224%.

These rates had risen far above inflation- which reached 53.8% in 2019 - or wage growth, which reached 40.7%. Credit card delinquency rates have risen to 25%, the highest in 15 years.

"In an attempt to align interest rates to inflation projections, we're also lowering credit card rates," Pesce explained. "These had reached superlative levels, and had not been declining despite lower central bank rates."

Pesce, 57, was appointed by newly-elected President Alberto Fernández upon taking office on December 10. He has since lowered the central bank's reference rate from 63% to 40% amid the deepest recession in two decades.

Under Fernández's predecessor, Mauricio Macri, central bank rates ballooned from 27% in early 2018 to 63% for most of 2019 after a brief carry-trade debt bubble known locally as the "financial bicycle" burst in April 2018.

The move - and a $45 billion IMF bailout - failed to stop the collapse of the peso, which lost 68% of its value in just 18 months.

These rate hikes instead contributed to a 7% decline in GDP and a loss of 220,000 registered jobs - the equivalent of 1.6 million jobs in the U.S.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F248451-tope-a-la-tasa-de-las-tarjetas

Argentine Central Bank President Miguel Ángel Pesce and Economy Minister Martín Guzmán during a G20 meeting in Riyadh yesterday.

Pesce and Guzmán have made interest rate relief for domestic borrowers a policy centerpiece as part of a broader recovery plan enacted by the new Fernández administration.

Economic recovery is seen by both Fernández and the IMF as key to normalizing the country's $195 billion foreign debt - much of which has been in arrears since September.

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