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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
April 29, 2022

U.S. GDP fell at a 1.4% pace to start the year as pandemic recovery takes a hit

Gross domestic product unexpectedly declined at a 1.4% annualized pace in the first quarter, marking an abrupt reversal for an economy coming off its best performance since 1984, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The negative growth rate missed even the subdued Dow Jones estimate of a 1% gain for the quarter, but the initial estimate for Q1 was the worst since the pandemic-induced recession in 2020.

A plethora of factors conspired to weigh against growth during the first three months of 2022, which fell off a cliff following the 6.9% gain to close out last year.

Rising Covid Omicron infections to start the year hampered activity across the board, while inflation surging at a level not seen since the early 1980s and the Russian invasion of Ukraine also contributed to the economic stasis.

Prices increased sharply during the quarter, with the GDP price index deflator rising an annualized 8%, following a 7.1% jump in Q4.

At: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/28/us-q1-gdp-growth.html

Worried but still shopping, both private consumption (2.7%) and investment (2.3%) continued to grow in the first quarter - though government (-2.7%) and exports (-5.9%) slipped.
April 29, 2022

Argentina's Spygate: Seven indicted in connection with 'Gestapo' meeting

Federal indictments have been issued in Argentina against seven officials close to former President Mauricio Macri, in connection with a 2017 meeting in which former Buenos Aires Province Labor Minister Marcelo Villegas expressed his desire for a "Gestapo with which to terminate all labor unions."

Federal Judge Ernesto Kreplak indicted Villegas, then-Provincial Justice Undersecretary Adrián Grassi, La Plata (provincial capital) Mayor Julio Garro, Provincial Senator Juan Pablo Allan - as well as top Macri-era Intelligence Agency (AFI) officials Juan de Stéfano, Diego Dalmau Pereyra and Darío Biorci.

de Stéfano and Dalmau Pereyra were already among dozens so far indicted as part of ongoing investigations into wide-reaching and warrantless surveillance against hundreds of critics and supporters alike of former President Macri during his 2015-19 term.

Biorci was Chief of Staff (and brother-in-law) of indicted Macri-era AFI Deputy Director Silvia Majdalani.

Four construction businessmen and another minister present at the meeting were not indicted.

Judge Kreplak noted in his 247-page ruling, however, that "the businessmen present were not only urged to file complaints (against labor union officials); but were instructed as to how and where - with the guarantee (by Villegas) of having 'checked' with judicial officials that 'this is going to work'."

To the moon

The scheme, Judge Kreplak concluded, "involved a high level of coordination between national, provincial, and municipal authorities" - a clear reference to Macri, former Governor María Eugenia Vidal, and Mayor Garro.

Villegas visited Macri at the Casa Rosada presidential offices shortly before and after the meeting.

His "Gestapo" diatribe, made public last December, was condemned by Argentina's Jewish community (Latin America's largest), and drew comparisons to the country's fascist dictatorship in 1976-83 - when of the 8,960 found to have "disappeared" in a 1984 report, 30% were union members.

The "need to build up cases" against labor unions, as expressed by Villegas, reflected Macri's alleged use of lawfare against opponents, as well as his call that year to have labor leaders and leftists "ejected in a rocket to the moon."

At: https://www-eldestapeweb-com.translate.goog/politica/gestapo-antisindical/gestapo-antisindical-kreplak-proceso-a-los-espias-de-macri-y-funcionarios-de-vidal-202242820290?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Surveillance footage showing then-Buenos Aires Province Labor Minister Marcelo Villegas (upper left) in a June 15, 2017, meeting with numerous Macri-era Intelligence Agency officials and other associates, in which he called for a "Gestapo with which to terminate all labor unions."

Villegas' words reflected an alleged policy of warrantless surveillance and outright lawfare against labor leaders and other opponents during former President Mauricio Macri's 2015-19 term.

Today's are the latest of so far over 50 indictments related to the Macri-era "Spygate" scandal - including Macri himself.
April 21, 2022

Supreme Court takeover of powerful Council of Magistrates rocks Argentine politics

Argentine politics were rocked this week by the takeover of the powerful Council of Magistrates by the country's Supreme Court.

Leopoldo Moreau, chairman of Argentina's House Intelligence Committee, denounced Monday's installation of Supreme Court Chief Justice Horacio Rosatti as president of the Council as a "soft coup" intended to guarantee impunity for former President Mauricio Macri and other leaders of his right-wing Together for Change ahead of elections next year.

In a unanimous ruling last December, the Supreme Court declared the current law governing the Council - passed by Congress in 2006 - "unconstitutional," thus raising the Council's composition of 13 members to the original twenty.

Established after the country's 1994 constitutional overhaul, the Council of Magistrates approves, oversees and removes federal judges.

Recruiting judges

Moreau accused the Court of "rushing to seize control the Council," in order to stop the renewal of judgeships in the high-profile Comodoro Py Federal Criminal Courthouse - where most cases against prominent federal officials are heard.

"All the cases that (Macri and his entourage) have," he noted, "are in Comodoro Py because there is the gang of accomplices who represent the real powers of Argentina and the U.S. Embassy."

Moreau recalled that Andy Camacho, Regional Resident Legal Advisor at the U.S. Embassy from 2019, left Argentina a year ago after accusations surfaced that he "recruited judges and prosecutors - in much the same way they recruited generals (for coups) in earlier times."

Among the Comodoro Py judges whose renewals were under Council review were Pablo Bertuzzi and Leopoldo Bruglia - whom Macri had hand-picked in 2018, and whose designations were never approved by either the Senate or the Council itself, as Argentine law requires.

Others include Mariano Borinsky, Gustavo Hornos, and Mariano Llorens - all whom were revealed by visitor logs to have met with then-President Macri dozens of times at the Quinta de Olivos presidential residence during his 2015-19 administration.


Many of their visits coincided with high-profile rulings against Macri's predecessor (and chief political rival), Cristina Kirchner, or officials in her 2007-15 administration.

Among them were her Vice President Amado Boudou, who was jailed in 2017 on testimony from Alejandro Vandenbroele - whom documents show to have received 4 million pesos in 2018 (over $130,000 at the time) in an apparent quid pro quo.

Similar doubts cloud the 2017 imprisonment of Kirchner-era Planning Minister Julio de Vido (whose conviction was based on a report shown to be fabricated) and his undersecretary Roberto Baratta - against whom proof later "appeared" in the form of numerous notebooks purportedly detailing hundreds of trips made to collect bribes.

The notebooks, however, were never subjected to a handwriting analysis by the presiding judge (the late Claudio Bonadío) - and when defense counsel for one of the businessmen implicated had digital copies analyzed, some 1,623 alterations were found.

Argentina's Congress is meanwhile wrangling over a new Council law - which passed in the Senate on April 7, and which would limit it to 17 members as well as bar the Chief Justice from presiding.

At: https://www-pagina12-com-ar.translate.goog/416395-leopoldo-moreau-denuncio-un-golpe-blando-de-la-corte-suprema?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Night at the Round Table: Argentina's powerful Council of Magistrates - which approves, oversees and removes federal judges - has been the object of frequent political wrangling since its 1998 establishment.

Critics charge that a recent Supreme Court ruling imposing the Chief Justice himself as presiding officer (as well as raising its composition from 13 to 20) amounts to a "soft coup."

The intent, they allege, is to guarantee the continuity of numerous federal judges shown to have engaged in "lawfare" against progressive federal officials, while providing cover for former President Mauricio Macri from numerous corruption and warrantless surveillance charges.

Macri would be the likely front-runner for the right-wing Together for Change nomination should he run next year.
April 17, 2022

Economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi dies at 79

French Economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi, long head of the French Observatory of Economic Conditions (OFCE) and professor at Paris' prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), died in Paris. He was 79.

A Keynesian economist and professor at Sciences Po, a specialist in theories of inflation, unemployment and the role of economic policies, he had also notably been a member of the Council for Economic Analysis (CAE), a body responsible for advising the French government.

Born in Tunisia in 1942, Fitoussi had also worked extensively in Italy, his other favorite homeland, where he taught at the Luiss University in Rome, and held a seat on the board of directors of Telecom Italia from 2004 to 2017.

A longstanding supporter of debt relief, in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis he participated with 22 international experts in a commission chaired by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and launched by then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the measurement of economic performance.

“A brilliant and committed economist, recognized by his peers internationally, respected and loved by generations of students, consulted and listened to by the highest political leaders, read and heard by a wide public, Jean-Paul Fitoussi is an eminent figure in his discipline,” Sciences Po declared in a press release.

At: https://westobserver.com/news/europe/economist-jean-paul-fitoussi-dies-at-79/

French Economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi, 1942-2022.

“We have to come to terms with it: wars were never financed by taxes but by debt; all wars against Covid require debt. It seems evident that we must learn how to erase debts - and especially those of emerging countries.”
April 15, 2022

Viewers flock back to MSNBC for Rachel Maddow's return

MSNBC has seen its 9 PM hour viewership nearly double in Rachel Maddow’s first week back.

Rachel Maddow’s return has caused the number of total viewers for the 9 PM MSNBC hour to go from 1-1.2 million to 1.9-2.1 million.

Without Maddow, the 9 PM hour performed on par with MSNBC’s other programming and worse than The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, which follows it at 10 PM ET.

The viewers came back when Maddow returned, which creates a problem for MSNBC, as Rachel Maddow is cutting back to one day a week of hosting starting in May.

At: https://www.politicususa.com/2022/04/15/viewers-flock-back-to-msnbc-for-rachel-maddows-return.html

Ms. News: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow
April 15, 2022

Britain plans to send migrants to Rwanda under tougher asylum policy

Britain could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the East African country of Rwanda, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, aiming to break people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants across the Channel.

Concerns over immigration were a big factor in the 2016 Brexit vote, and Johnson has been under pressure to deliver on his promise to "take back control" of Britain's borders.

But his plan drew swift criticism from opponents of his Conservative Party and from charities.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uks-johnson-seeks-put-fine-behind-him-with-immigration-plan-2022-04-13/

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a recent visit to a Royal Navy surveillance station.

Johnson's plan to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the impoverished African nation of Rwanda drew criticism from among others the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which slammed the Prime Minister for treating refugees as "merchandise."

Even members of his Conservative Party voiced opposition.
April 7, 2022

Two California men arrested with enough fentanyl to kill 4.7 million

Source: Independent

Two men have been arrested in Orange County, California, after they were allegedly found with enough fentanyl to kill 4.7m people.

Edgar Alfonso Lamas, 36, and Carlos Raygozaparedes, 53, were arrested when officers from the Buena Park Police Department allegedly recovered a haul of illegal substances in their minivan on March 17.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said both men have been charged on multiple counts, in what is the biggest drugs find in 16 years.

Police allegedly found enough fentanyl to kill 4.7m people. Images released by the office showed the alleged substances in sealed bags and containers.

According to the statement, the haul included 821 pounds of meth, 189.7 pounds of cocaine and 20.5 pounds of fentanyl pills.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/two-california-men-arrested-with-enough-fentanyl-to-kill-47-million/ar-AAVY8Qc

April 6, 2022

Greece repays IMF debt two years ahead of schedule

Greece has paid off its entire debt from the financial crisis to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two years ahead of schedule.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said the repayment “closes the chapter” that was opened in May 2010.

“[This is] a very positive development,” Staikouras, 48, stated, adding that the country could save around €230 million in interest.

Greece’s European Union bailout lenders gave the formal go-ahead last week for the early repayment of the outstanding loans worth €1.86 billion.

Three successive bailouts totalling some €260 billion between 2010 and 2018 prevented Greece from going bankrupt and exiting the shared euro currency - of which the IMF lent €28 billion between 2010 and 2014.

But successive Greek governments were forced to implement painful budget cuts and tax hikes that led to a surge in unemployment and poverty - with GDP still 25% below 2008 levels.

At: https://www.euronews.com/2022/04/05/greece-repays-imf-debt-two-years-ahead-of-schedule-says-finance-minister

Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras during a recent press conference.

The early repayment to the IMF of nearly €2 billion of some €28 billion borrowed from the Fund during the country's economic crisis in 2010-14 was described by Staikouras as “closing the chapter.”
April 5, 2022

Colorado governor signs bill to protect access to abortion

Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on Monday that codifies the right to an abortion in the state.

House Bill 1279, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, states that "every individual has a fundamental right to make decisions about the individual's reproductive health care, including the fundamental right to use or refuse contraception; a pregnant individual has a fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion and to make decisions about how to exercise that right; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state."

Polis' signature follows a flurry of recent restrictive abortion laws advanced by Republican state legislatures across the country.

At: https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/04/politics/colorado-abortion-rights-bill-governor-jared-polis-signs/index.html

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, front, signs into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act during a ceremony outside the governor's mansion today, in Denver.
April 3, 2022

Review: 'All Hail' tells an emotional tale of self discovery

Directed by Marcos Carnevale and distributed by Netflix, All Hail (Granizo) is an offbeat and emotional Argentine drama that is streaming now on the OTT platform.

Written by Nicolás Giacobone and Fernando Balmayor and starring Guillermo Francella in the central role, the dark comedy has a runtime of two hours with subtitles and audio available both in English as well as Spanish.

All Hail revolves around the life of Miguel Flores - Argentina's most popular meteorologist.

A sensation in the world of weather forecasting, Miguel is never wrong when it comes to weather. Having studied in the discipline for six years, and working in the field for 20 years now, if Miguel "guarantees" it it ought to happen the way he predicted it.

However, his inaugural weather prediction for the first episode of his much-touted new show goes completely wrong - turning people from reel to real against him.

Thus begins Miguel's true journey: to see his stardom biting him in the rear - but also, being the sail keeping his boat afloat.

All Hail walks us through Miguel’s success and setbacks, his meeting with a mysterious rural weatherman, Bernardo, and his rekindled relationship with his estranged daughter.

At: https://www.leisurebyte.com/netflix-all-hail-review-guillermo-francella/

Laughter with a chance of tears? Veteran Argentine comedian Guillermo Francella portrays Miguel, a celebrity Buenos Aires meteorologist whose first mistake in 20 years rains on his career - but opens his eyes to the value of family, true friends, and mystic wonders.

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