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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
July 1, 2020

House approves $1.5T plan to fix crumbling infrastructure

Source: NBC News

The Democratic-controlled House approved a $1.5 trillion plan Wednesday to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into projects to fix roads and bridges, upgrade transit systems, expand interstate railways and dredge harbors, ports and channels.

The bill also authorizes more than $100 billion to expand internet access for rural and low-income communities and $25 billion to modernize the U.S. Postal Service’s infrastructure and operations, including a fleet of electric vehicles.

Lawmakers approved the Moving Forward Act by a 233-188 vote, mostly along party lines. It now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a much narrower bill approved by a key committee has languished for nearly a year.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not attempted to schedule a floor debate and none appears forthcoming.

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/house-approves-1-5t-plan-fix-crumbling-infrastructure-n1232730

The Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, FL.

Though just 24 years old, it's been found to be at risk of collapse.
June 30, 2020

Argentina's Spygate: Macri aide Susana Martinengo, 21 others arrested

Argentine Federal Judge Federico Villena ordered the arrest of 22 intelligence agents and former public officials a part of an ongoing investigation into a massive surveillance scheme carried out under former Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

The scheme, carried out between 2016 and 2019, involved over 500 targets of warrantless surveillance and over $80 million in undeclared expenses by a Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) team known as the "Super Mario Bros."

Judge Villena described them as "a criminal organization with insertion in national, provincial and local governments."

The targets known thus far include at least 403 journalists, 58 businesspeople, 28 academics, 20 federal lawmakers, and numerous prominent lawyers and other influencers.

Among those also under surveillance were two former presidents - Cristina Kirchner (now vice president), and Eduardo Duhalde - as well as Macri's younger sister Florencia and her boyfriend, Salvatore Pica.

The most prominent officials arrested today include former AFI counterintelligence head Diego Dalmau Pereyra; and longtime Macri aide Susana Martinengo, who collected surveillance reports for the president.

Martinengo, 68, headed the Presidential Documents Office under Macri - who claimed he "didn't know" Martinengo, despite her being his office manager during his 2007-15 tenure as mayor.

She later worked at the Casa Rosada presidential offices, and in a 2019 interview Martinengo emphasized not only the importance of her job - but that "like a statesman, he controls you. I have to file monthly reports to him."

Macri, 61, who was defeated for re-election last October amid the worst recession in two decades, has been the focus of numerous scandals involving alleged warrantless wiretapping of both public figures and relatives since 2009 - including his sister, the late Sandra Macri.

Former Federal Judge Carlos Rozanski called on the judiciary to bar Macri's exit from the country; the former president is reportedly seeking a post at the International Football Federation (FIFA)'s Zürich headquarters.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F275587-espionaje-ilegal-por-que-el-juez-federico-villena-ordeno-det

Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his longtime secretary, Susana Martinengo, during Macri's 2015 campaign.

Martinengo, a onetime city council candidate on the far-right MODIN ticket, collected warrantless surveillance reports for the president from 2016 to 2019.

She was among 22 former public officials and intelligence agents arrested today as part of an investigation into a wide-reaching surveillance scheme against 500 - perhaps 1,500 - journalists, politicians, and other influencers.
June 30, 2020

Argentine GDP plunges record 26.4% in April amid pandemic and lockdown

Argentina’s economic activity plunged 26.4% in April, the country’s official statistics agency said on Monday - the worst monthly fall on record as the country reeled from the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic and a nationwide lockdown.

The April drop, after the South American grains producer imposed the lockdown on March 19, was worse than the 21% decline predicted by analysts polled by Reuters, underscoring how badly the pandemic has battered local industry.

Already mired in recession for two years and in default on foreign debts, Argentina is headed for an annual economic contraction in 2020 that the IMF has estimated at about 10%.

The worst-hit sectors included construction and tourism, which fell over 85%. Manufacturing fell 34.4%, and finance fared best with a 3.2% decline thanks in part to credit subsidies.

Subsidies and relaxed restrictions resulted in a 9.2% rebound in May, according to economist Orlando Ferreres - but GDP remains 14.9% below May 2019 levels. An economic relief package of nearly $20 billion (5% of GDP) has been earmarked since March.

Argentina’s government faces a tough balancing act between combating a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and reopening the economy.

President Alberto Fernández reimposed a quarantine in and around Buenos Aires on June 26 - but relaxed rules in other parts of the country. Some 90% of the nation's Covid cases reported thus far, have been in the Buenos Aires metro area (home to one third of Argentines).

The country has reported 62,268 cases, and 1,280 deaths. Its death rate of 28 per million people compares favorably with 275 in Brazil, 288 in Peru, 292 in Chile, and 389 in the U.S.

At: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-activity/argentina-economic-activity-plunges-record-26-4-in-april-amid-pandemic-idUSKBN2402PX

A quiet weekday recently in Buenos Aires' normally bustling Corrientes Avenue.

A federal stay-home order issued on March 19 has helped curve the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Argentina - which has seen Covid deaths rates of one tenth that of most of its neighbors.

The restrictions, however, have led a sharp deepening of the country's two-year "Macrisis" - its worst debt and economic crisis in two decades.
June 28, 2020

Founder of ReOpen Movement Who Refused Masks Tests Positive for Coronavirus

The co-founder of a movement to reopen Maryland at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has tested positive for the virus after refusing to wear a face mask.

Tim Walters helped organize rallies with the group ReOpen Maryland, demanding that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan rescind his stay-at-home order in April.

Earlier this week, Walters said he had tested positive for COVID-19 in a series of Facebook videos, some of which have since been deleted.

"I was diagnosed yesterday at the ER with COVID-19 and here I am months after not wearing a mask at rallies, churches and so on and so it's funny how capricious this thing is," Walters said in a video on Tuesday, according to The Capital Gazette, who first reported on the test result.

At: https://www.newsweek.com/founder-reopen-movement-who-didnt-wear-mask-tests-positive-coronavirus-1513831

ReOpen Maryland founder Tim Walters: Absolutely positive.
June 27, 2020

California Democrats pass resolution calling for John Wayne Airport to be renamed

California Democrats in Orange County are demanding that the county’s John Wayne Airport be renamed and all likenesses of Wayne be removed from the airport, over “racist and bigoted statements” made by the American icon decades ago.

“The Democratic Party of Orange County condemns John Wayne’s racist and bigoted statements, and calls for John Wayne’s name and likeness to be removed from the Orange County airport, and calls on the OC Board of Supervisors to restore its original name: Orange County Airport,” the resolution, passed Friday, says.

The resolution, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, would reverse the 1979 decision to rename it after Duke.

At: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/california-democrats-resolution-john-wayne-airport-renamed

A monument to John Wayne, by sculptor Robert Summers (1982), greets passengers at Orange County's John Wayne Airport.

Wayne was a vocal white supremacist, stating in a 1971 interview (amid the Civil Rights struggle) that:

“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 judgment to irresponsible people.”
June 27, 2020

Argentina reimposes stay-home order for Buenos Aires metro area and Chaco Province

Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced the reinstating of stay-home orders for Buenos Aires, 40 surrounding counties, and Chaco Province for the July 1-17 period.

The order, affecting over 16 million of the nation's 45 million people, comes after a sustained increase in the number of reported new daily Covid-19 cases since the first stay-home order was loosened in stages starting May 7th.

Argentina had managed to limit the spread of Covid-19 by imposing a national shutdown from March 20th to May 7th that limited most activities to essential services.

The country's reported cases has since then multiplied ten-fold - from 5,371 on May 7th, to 55,343. New daily cases have ballooned from 163, to a record 2,886 today.

Some 1,184 fatalities have been recorded thus far, averaging 75 years in age, with daily deaths rising from 9 to 34. The number ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients has likewise tripled since May 7th to 472 - 90% of which are now in the Buenos Aires/La Plata metro area.

The March stay-home order deepened Argentina's "Macrisis" recession - a twin economic and debt crisis inherited from Mauricio Macri's right-wing, 2015-19 tenure.

With recession already entering its third year, GDP fell 19.2% in April according to local economic analyst Orlando Ferreres.

The lifting of restrictions resulted in a 9.2% rebound in May, according to Ferreres - but GDP remains 14.9% below May 2019 levels. An economic relief package of nearly $20 billion (5% of GDP) has been earmarked since March.

President Fernández reminded Argentines, however, that the economic crisis afflicting the country amid the pandemic is not limited to Argentina.

While the IMF projects Argentina's GDP to fall by 9.9% this year, similar declines are projected for numerous countries whose leaders were reluctant - or, in the case of Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, hostile - to imposing stay-home orders.

Argentina's rate of 123 cases per 100,000 people compares favorably to 602 in Brazil, 771 in the United States, 826 in Peru, and 1,378 in Chile.

"The problem is not the quarantine," he summarized, "it's the pandemic."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F274788-alberto-fernandez-sobre-la-nueva-cuarentena-en-argentina-la-

Argentine President Alberto Fernández announces the reinstating of a stay-home order covering 40% of the nation's population for the July 1-17 period in a bid to slow a recent spike in cases and ICU bed admissions.

While stay-home orders and other pandemic-related restrictions are still supported by over 70% of Argentines, Fernández asked for understanding.

"We're doing this so no Argentine will go without the care they need and deserve," he pleaded.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (left), of the opposition party, agreed: "I, too, believe that this quarantine has prevented a public health collapse like that in other countries and cities."
June 19, 2020

Florida gov blames coronavirus rise on 'overwhelmingly Hispanic' workers

Source: New York Post

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed to clusters of “overwhelmingly Hispanic” day laborers and agriculture workers driving the state’s recent coronavirus spike — but farmworkers and industry associations argue that resources and testing came too late to those communities, according to new reports.

“Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Tallahassee.

Florida on Thursday reported the largest single-day spike in coronavirus cases since the pandemic started.

The number of new infections in the Sunshine State soared to 3,207 — dwarfing its own previous highest single-day increase of 2,783 on Tuesday.

The record-high illness rate comes as some parts of the state report zero available ICU beds, and as scientists predict Florida has “all the markings” to become the new epicenter for the pandemic.

Read more: https://nypost.com/2020/06/19/desantis-blames-covid-spike-on-overwhelmingly-hispanic-laborers/

Florida Governor Ron de Santis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez during their 2018 campaign.

Nuñez was part of a massive de Santis effort to woo Cuban-Americans in 2018 - but amid 90,000 Covid cases and mounting, his tune has changed.
June 19, 2020

Brazil to exceed 1 million COVID-19 cases as virus rages

Brazil was on track to surpass 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, second only to the United States, with total deaths fast approaching 50,000 as the country struggles with a tense political climate and worsening economic outlook.

It has spread relentlessly across the continent-sized country, eroding support for right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and raising fears of economic collapse after years of anemic growth.

The true extent of the outbreak in Brazil far exceeds official figures released after 6 p.m. (2100 GMT) on most evenings, according to many experts, who cite a lack of widespread testing in the country as a factor adding to many uncertainties about the disease.

“That number of 1 million is much less than the real number of people who have been infected, because there is under-reporting of a magnitude of five to ten times,” said Alexandre Naime Barbosa, a medical professor at the São Paulo State University.

The true number is probably at least 3 million and could even be as high as 10 million people.”

At: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-brazil-idUSKBN23Q35R

São Paulo pedestrians throng a downtown shopping area on June 10th as the city re-opened amid the ongoing pandemic - partly due to pressure from President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil's new daily Covid-19 cases have exceeded the United States' for 15 of the last 23 days - despite testing rates of roughly one eighth that of the U.S.
June 19, 2020

Ian Holm, 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Chariots of Fire' star, dead at 88

Ian Holm, an actor best known for starring in Chariots of Fire and as Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, has died at the age of 88.

Holm died Friday in the hospital surrounded by family, his agent confirmed to The Guardian, noting that his illness was Parkinson's related.

Holm was a longtime member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and won a Tony award for portraying Lenny in Harold Pinter's The Homecoming.

He started his film career in 1968 with an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Holm portrayed Ash, the decapitated android in 1979's Alien and was track coach Sam Mussabini in 1981's Chariots of Fire, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Holm was the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy and appeared again as the character in 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and 2014's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

At: https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2020/06/19/Ian-Holm-Lord-of-the-Rings-and-Chariots-of-Fire-star-dead-at-88/5911592568711/

Sir Ian Holm, 1931-2020, as the amiable mismanager Mr. Kurtzman in Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
June 19, 2020

Wirecard chief executive resigns after 1.9 billion euro hole in the balance sheet discovered

Markus Braun has resigned as the chief executive of German payments processor Wirecard, a day after the company said it couldn’t account for roughly a quarter of the cash on its balance sheet.

In a terse statement, Wirecard WDI, -35.06%, WCAGY, -28.71%, said Braun resigned by mutual agreement and with immediate effect.

Banks have the ability to terminate €2 billion worth of loans if Wirecard can’t finalize its 2019 accounts on Friday, according to Wirecard. Analysts at UBS said that is likely a reference to a €1.75 billion syndicated loan, on which Wirecard has drawn down €1 billion.

Wirecard sold a €900 million convertible bond to SoftBank Group in April.

At: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/shares-of-wirecard-plunge-for-a-second-day-on-deadline-for-accounts-to-be-published-2020-06-19

Wirecard's Markus Braun: I know nothing.

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