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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
March 30, 2022

Putin and Zelenskiy could meet soon, says Ukraine's top negotiator

Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy could meet “soon”, a senior aide to Ukraine’s president has claimed, even as the Kremlin downplayed hopes of an early breakthrough in the peace talks.

The head of Ukraine’s negotiating team, Mykhailo Podolyak, a key adviser to Zelenskiy, said on Wednesday that Moscow was scrutinising proposals submitted by Kyiv in Istanbul which he believed could lead to a presidential peace summit.

“We can expect a presidential meeting to be held some time soon,” Podolyak said. “When is too early to tell, but it is a logistical issue.”

Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said it was “positive” that Ukraine had set out its position, but he talked down expectations of a summit.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/30/putin-and-zelenskiy-could-meet-soon-says-ukraines-top-negotiator

Ukraine’s negotiating team director Mykhailo Podolyak (left) shakes hands with his Russian counterparts during negotiations earlier this month in neighboring Belarus.

Podolyak said today that “we can expect a presidential meeting to be held some time soon” between Presidents Zelenskiy and Putin.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov talked down expectations of a summit.

“We cannot state that there was anything too promising or any breakthroughs,” he said, adding that there was “a lot of work to be done.”
March 27, 2022

Enrique Pinti, Argentina's 'complainer-in-chief', dies at 82

Enrique Pinti, the Argentine humorist renowned in his homeland for his fast-paced stand-up comedy tirades against the many foibles he saw in his fellow Argentines, has died. He was 82.

Pinti had been battling diabetes, circulatory problems, and depression.

Born in Buenos Aires to a middle-class family in 1939, Pinti would credit the bullying he suffered as an overweight child for his early interest in comedy.

“I couldn't fight 30 classmates - or turn a deaf ear,” he explained in a 2016 interview. “So laughing at myself, I was able to get over the situation.”

Pinti joined the theater out of high school, and in 1967 achieved his first success with his children's musical My Beautiful Dragon.

He joined Buenos Aires' famed café-concert scene in 1973 with what later became his signature act: monologues.

With the return of democracy following a seven-year fascist dictatorship, Pinti returned to the genre in 1984 with his long-running stage show, Salsa Criolla ('Argentine sauce').

Salsa Criolla's fast-paced, sarcastic, and expletive-laden review of Argentine history endeared Pinti to millions of fans, running over 10 seasons and nearly 3,000 shows.

Besides numerous television specials and other shows, he followed with Pinti's Hell and Memories from the Future in the 1990s, and National Candombé and Argentine Prick in the 2000s - in which he directed his barbs at what he saw as the country's modern-day decadence, lampooning everything from politics to jaywalkers.

His last stage show, To the Bottom, and to the Right (2019-20) - a play on the word fondo, which means both 'bottom' and 'fund' (as in IMF) - slammed then-President Mauricio Macri for bankrupting an already brittle Argentina, and relying on the IMF to bail him out ahead of his failed re-election campaign.

“They labeled me a 'K' (a Kirchnerist, Macri's chief opposition), but I've always been impartial - I'm an anarchist!” he said in a 2020 interview. “None of the political parties convinced me.”

He had often described all politicians as “broken records.”

His longtime producer Carlos Rottemberg said today that Pinti “asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Casa del Teatro” - a Buenos Aires home for retired actors. “Until the end, he was thinking about the artistic community to which he belonged.”

At: https://www-telam-com-ar.translate.goog/notas/202203/587622-muerte-enrique-pinti.html?_x_tr_sl=fr&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Argentine satirist Enrique Pinti, 1939-2022.

Pinti became Argentine theater's chief chronicler of the country's often troubled post-dictatorship era.

“We're lucky in a way, because God only punishes what He can understand - and with us, He's long since given up!”
March 26, 2022

Argentina's birth rate plummets to record low

Data released yesterday by the Argentine Health Ministry confirms that the country's birth rate plummeted to record lows in 2020.

The Health Information and Statistics Directorate (DEIS) reported than in 2020, 533,299 births were recorded in the country of 45 million - a 14.7% decline, and the lowest yearly figure since 1968.

This record yearly decline left the country's birth rate at 11.8 per 1,000 people - or an estimated 1.6 children over an average woman's lifetime.

This is roughly half the rates prevailing in Argentina from the 1930s through the 1980s.

Approaching zero population growth

As in many other countries, Argentine birth rates fell in 2020 largely as a result of the economic impact from the early months of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic - which in Argentina saw GDP plummet by 10%.

But the country's birth rate had already declined by 22% (to 13.9 per 1,000) during former President Mauricio Macri's 2015-19 tenure - a period known for its "Macrisis."

And despite an economic rebound of 10.3% in 2021, data from early 2021 for Buenos Aires suggests that births may have fallen a further 8-10% nationwide last year.

The pandemic likewise saw a rise in deaths of 10.1% in 2020, to 376,219 - the sharpest increase since a 1957 polio epidemic, and at 8.3 per 1,000 the highest rate since 1984.

This left the country's natural increase for 2020 at 157,080 - the smallest figure since 1921, and at 3.5 per 1,000 the lowest rate on record.

A near-halt in immigration - compared to an average of over 80,000 annually in recent years - likewise left total population growth in 2020 at its slowest since World War I.

At: https://www.americaeconomia.com/politica-sociedad/tasa-de-natalidad-cae-25-en-buenos-aires-tras-la-llegada-del-covid-19

Musicians entertain toddlers at a labor union day care center in Buenos Aires.

Despite numerous pregnancy and maternity benefits, Argentine births fell by a record 14.7% in 2020 amid a Covid-related recession that year that hit Argentina especially hard.

Long home to one of Latin America's lowest birth rates, the sharp decline in natality in Argentina - by around a third since 2015 - may present both social benefits and challenges to economic growth in the coming decades.
March 25, 2022

IMF board approves Argentina's $45 billion refinance program

The board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday approved a new agreement with Argentina for $45 billion - clearing the final hurdle to refinance the country's debt with the Washington-based lender.

The agreement, which was reached by consensus according to two of the sources, marks the 22nd IMF program for Argentina and comes after more than a year of negotiations - capped by approval from Argentina's Congress last week.

It replaces a failed $57 billion program from 2018, for which Argentina still owes over $40 billion.

The record IMF bailout had been granted to former President Mauricio Macri on the eve of his failed, 2019 re-election campaign - reportedly at the insistence of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Argentina accounts for some 28% of the IMF's outstanding loans - currently the largest by far.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/imf-board-decide-argentinas-key-45-bln-program-2022-03-25/

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Argentine President Alberto Fernández during a meeting last year.

Today's historic agreement averts Argentina's default on a record, $45 billion IMF bailout granted to former right-wing President Mauricio Macri during his failed, 2019 re-election bid.

The bailout was reportedly granted at former President Donald Trump's behest - over the IMF board's objections - during Christine Lagarde's tenure.
March 22, 2022

Peter Bowles, British actor in 'To the Manor Born,' dies at 85

Peter Bowles, a dapper British character actor who was best known for his role as an arriviste in the popular British television sitcom “To the Manor Born,” died on Thursday. He was 85.

In a six-decade career, Mr. Bowles, who was the son of servants and grew up without indoor plumbing, appeared in a merry-go-round of productions in television, film and onstage, alternating between comedy and drama, hapless heroes and villains.

Whatever character he played, he often projected the air of what his agent called “the archetypal English gent.”

Mr. Bowles’s well-known television credits included roles in “Rumpole of the Bailey,” “The Bounder,” “Only When I Laugh” and the recent series “Victoria.”

He wrote and starred in “Lytton’s Diary,” about the life of a newspaper gossip columnist. And he achieved success in “The Irish R.M.,” in which he played a British Army officer sent to Ireland as a resident magistrate.

The New York Times called the 1985 show “devilishly hilarious.”

At: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/18/arts/television/peter-bowles-dead.html

Prolific British stage and film actor Peter Bowles, 1936-2022.
March 18, 2022

Argentina's Congress approves bill to refinance $45 billion in Macri-era IMF debt

Argentina's Senate approved a bill tonight that authorizes an agreement reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the refinance of a $45 billion debt.

The bill, passed last Friday by the Lower House by 202 to 37, was approved by the Senate by a similarly lopsided 56 to 13.

The agreement, reached between Argentine Economy Martín Guzmán and IMF staff on January 24, would, if approved by the IMF's board, avoid default on the $45 billion lent from a stand-by credit line to former President Mauricio Macri on the eve of his failed, 2019 re-election campaign.

The record IMF bailout was reportedly granted at the insistence of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

President Alberto Fernández, who strongly backed the agreement, enjoyed a rare bi-partisanship in Congress.

The opposition, center-right Together for Change coalition largely backed the bill - reportedly after intense lobbying by business leaders, who fear a default would derail the country's strong recovery from three years of deep recession.

And while two-thirds of Fernández's Front for All voted in favor, many in the Front's more intransigent wing - including his own Vice President, Cristina Kirchner - opposed it on grounds that it “imposed austerity.”

“Where is the austerity?” the president asked rhetorically during a ceremony to inaugurate subsidized housing earlier today. “With this agreement with the IMF there is no austerity.”

“Austerity is what we would have had if we had fallen into default!” he added. “There we'd have no way out, and no escape.”

“We achieved a radically different agreement from all those that were historically had with the IMF,” Guzmán explained.

“There is no removal of rights from workers or retirees; investment in infrastructure and education is to be expanded. We managed to put the interests of the real economy first.”

Argentina had earlier refinanced $66 billion in privately-held foreign debt - around a third of the total - but remains largely shut out of global credit markets.

At: https://www-eldestapeweb-com.translate.goog/politica/acuerdo-con-el-fmi/martin-guzman-sobre-el-acuerdo-logramos-poner-por-delante-a-los-intereses-de-la-economia-real--202231723440?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Argentina's Senate convenes for today's vote on the passage of legislation authorizing an agreement with the IMF for the refinance of a $45 billion debt.

The record bailout, dating from former President Mauricio Macri's failed, 2019 re-election campaign, was reportedly granted at the insistence of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Unlike past IMF programs, the agreement envisages no labor law deregulation, state layoffs, or changes to public pensions.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz lauded the agreement for “not insisting, as (the IMF) usually does, on austerity - instead providing Argentina with room to continue its economic recovery.”
March 13, 2022

William Hurt, Oscar-winning actor for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman,' dies at 71

William Hurt, an acclaimed actor best known for his Oscar-winning performance in 1985’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and his work in “The Big Chill” and “Body Heat,” died Sunday of natural causes. He was 71 years old. Hurt’s death was confirmed to Variety by his friend, Gerry Byrne.

Hurt was nominated for four Oscars over the course of his long career, scoring two best actor nominations for “Broadcast News” and “Children of a Lesser God” and a supporting actor nod for less than 10 minutes of screen time in “A History of Violence.”

He was one of the most heralded performers of the 1980s, becoming something of a cerebral sex symbol and a reluctant, albeit bankable, movie star.

Hurt later transitioned into character roles in the 1990s and successfully alternated between big screen projects and television shows, scoring Emmy nominations for his work as a whistleblower in “Damages” and his portrayal of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in “Too Big to Fail.”

At: https://variety.com/2022/film/news/william-hurt-dead-kiss-of-the-spider-woman-1235203576/

Acclaimed actor William Hurt, 1950-2022.
March 11, 2022

Chile's Boric sworn in as president in sharp political shift

Chilean leftist Gabriel Boric, 36, was sworn in as president on Friday, marking the sharpest shift in the Andean country's politics since its return to democracy three decades ago after the bloody dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

At the Congress building in the port city of Valparaiso, Boric, a tattooed former protest leader and lawmaker, took the presidential sash from outgoing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera, making him the country's youngest ever elected leader.

The leader of a broad leftist coalition including Chile's communist party, he has vowed to overhaul a market-led economic model to fight inequality that sparked violent protests in 2019, though he as moderated his fiery rhetoric in recent months.

The copper-producing country is also in the midst of redrafting its Pinochet-era Constitution, which supporters credit for underpinning growth - but has also been blamed for stoking inequality that led to months-long violent protests that gripped Chile in 2019.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/hope-uncertainty-chile-shifts-left-under-boric-2022-03-11/

Chile's new President Gabriel Boric thanks attendees at his inaugural today, as his predecessor Sebastián Piñera applauds.

Boric, who defeated far-right candidate (and son of a Nazi fugitive) José Kast by 12% last November, has pledged to reform healthcare and pension systems many in Chile believe mostly benefits higher-income families.
March 11, 2022

India says it accidentally fired missile into Pakistan

India said on Friday it had accidentally fired a missile into Pakistan this week because of a "technical malfunction" during routine maintenance, giving its version of events after Pakistan summoned India's envoy to protest.

Military experts have in the past warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller armed clashes, usually over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Tensions have eased in recent months, and the incident, which may have been the first of its kind, immediately raised questions about safety mechanisms.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/india-says-it-accidentally-fired-missile-into-pakistan-2022-03-11/

Guards from Pakistan (left) and India (right) perform the daily Beating Retreat ceremony at the Wagah Border Post in Kashmir.

Today's admission by Indian authorities that a supersonic missile was fired into Pakistan by mistake has stoked worldwide concerns over tensions between the two nuclear weapons nations - the 2nd and 5th most populous on Earth, respectively.
March 9, 2022

Shipwreck Endurance still 'bold and beautiful' after a century in Antarctic waters

The wreck of one of the world’s most legendary exploring ships was just found in icy waters off Antarctica — and the pictures from the expedition are incredible.

The discovery comes more than 100 years after the ship Endurance was crushed by sea ice, leaving explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew to find an alternate (and brutal) route home.

The ship’s final resting place was discovered by the expedition Endurance22, which used high-tech underwater search vehicles to find and document the wreck.

“In a long career of surveying and excavating historic shipwrecks, I have never seen one as bold and beautiful as this,” Mensun Bound, the expedition’s director of exploration, wrote in a blog post.

At: https://www.theverge.com/2022/3/9/22968758/shipwreck-endurance-antarctica-shackleton-sea-ice-underwater-sabertooth

The stern of the barquentine Endurance, which has remained remarkably intact since its sinking in Antarctica's Weddell Sea in 1915.

A documentary of the expedition is expected to premiere on National Geographic this fall.

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