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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
July 30, 2022

Raphael Warnock has a 9-point lead over Herschel Walker for Georgia Senate; Kemp, Abrams are close

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia has a nine-point lead over Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the state's high-profile Senate contest, according to a new poll conducted by SurveyUSA for 11Alive News.

The survey showed Warnock with 48% support among likely voters in the Peach State, while Walker received 39% support; eight percent of respondents were undecided.

10% of Republican respondents crossed over to support Warnock over Walker in the survey.

Critically, Warnock has strong leads in both urban and suburban areas - whose firm support of Democratic candidates in recent cycles have turned Georgia from a Republican stronghold to a swing state highly coveted by both political parties.

He also led Walker with independents (44%-35%), a group that has backed fewer Republicans in statewide races in recent cycles.

In the gubernatorial contest, incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp led Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams by a razor-thin 45%-44% margin

At: https://www.businessinsider.com/warnock-leads-walker-georgia-senate-kemp-abrams-governor-poll-2022-7

July 29, 2022

The Bookseller Who Helped Transform Oxford, Mississippi

Richard Howorth is easy to talk to, even when he’s hard to hear.

“I was directionless,” Howorth, 71, said. “Luckily, my older brother always had these big ideas and schemes about what we ought to do, like joining the circus.”

David, that brainstorming big brother, had at least one slightly more realistic idea: all throughout their childhood, he had said that the town of Oxford really ought to have a bookstore, partly because of Faulkner and partly because of the university, but mostly because any town worth living in needed to have a place to buy books.

“David’s bookstore” became Square Books, in 1979.

It was his wife Lisa’s salary as a librarian at the University of Mississippi that kept their lights on during the first few years. By 1986, the store had outgrown its second-floor space and moved across the square into the stuccoed brick building it still calls home.

For the fortieth anniversary of Square Books, the Howorths opened Rare Square Books - in the same second-story space as their original store.

Whether it was the Eli Effect or the Howorth Effect, real estate was more expensive than ever: that building ended up costing Howorth over fifteen times more than 160 Courthouse Square.

At: https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-south/the-bookseller-who-helped-transform-oxford-mississippi

Famed Oxford, Mississippi, bookseller Richard Howorth puts finishing touches on the window display at Square Books - which he founded with his wife, Lisa, in 1979, and has since become a landmark among readers from the state and beyond.

Howorth attributes some of his success to his “kill'em with kindness” customer service ethos.

“You could get a cappuccino in Oxford when it was hard to find one in some major cities,” author William Ferris noted.
July 29, 2022

Argentina names House Speaker Sergio Massa 3rd Economy Minister in a month amid crisis

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández named Lower House Speaker Sergio Massa as the head of a new, expanded ministry after the country plunged deeper into political crisis in July.

Massa, 50, will oversee a new Economy Ministry which will include the duties of the Agriculture and Production ministries.

Beyond the economic volatility of the last few weeks, Massa inherits enormous challenges.

Economists see inflation reaching 90% this year, the central bank’s net reserves are razor thin and the country is behind on targets it must meet to comply with a US$44 billion refinance program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - the result of a bailout granted to Fernández's right-wing predecessor Maurico Macri, reportedly at Trump's behest.

Almost 38% of Argentines live in poverty, and a recent slew of protests have called for more social welfare.

The turnover is a sign of the deep divisions within Argentina’s ruling, center-left coalition.

The growing political crisis has caused prices to jump an estimated 7.3% in July, and the currency to plunge by one third over the past month in unofficial markets.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/argentina-names-third-economy-minister-in-a-month-amid-crisis.phtml

Argentine House Speaker Sergio Massa confers with President Alberto Fernández at the Casa Rosada recently.

Fernández's appointment of Massa as a "super-minister" with purview over the key Economy portfolio, as well as Agriculture and Production, was greeted positively by markets.

Known for his pragmatic approach, Massa inherits an economy which grew 6.2% in the first five months of 2022 - but which has since been derailed by soaring energy import costs, as well as a run on the currency which, while contained over the past week, continues to threaten the country's solvency.
July 22, 2022

Argentina: Foreign tourists can exchange up to US$5,000 at new, bargain exchange rate

Argentina unveiled a slew of currency measures for foreign tourists, importers and local companies that aim to shore up the currency amid a month-long slump in the country’s unofficial exchange rates.

Importers of strategic sectors in the economy will have more access to dollars, the government said in a statement Thursday, as it seeks to avoid shortages of imported goods. Meanwhile, foreign tourists who are not residents in Argentina will be able to exchange as much as US$5,000 for pesos at a more lucrative exchange rate than the official one.

The new, tourist exchange rate will be based on the "MEP" dollar (Electronic Payments Market), currently trading at 314 pesos compared to the official rate of 136 - a 57% savings.

Argentina’s black-market "blue" exchange rate weakened further on Thursday to 337 pesos per dollar, according to the website Dolarhoy.com, marking a 30% drop so far in July.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/economy/argentina-unveils-currency-measures-as-black-market-peso-slumps.phtml

Pedestrians walk by a downtown Buenos Aires exchange bureau recently.

Amid a steady recovery in foreign tourist arrivals since October, the ready availability of a black-market "blue" exchange rate - often at half the official rate or less - has diverted an estimated US$1.2 billion in tourist hard currency from central bank coffers.

Today's measures may incentivize foreign tourists to exchange their currency through official channels instead.

A foreign debt crisis inherited from the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration was aggravated by massive hikes in oil and natural gas import prices this year - triggering the country's worst currency crisis since the 2019 "Macrisis."
July 16, 2022

In first, Pope Francis names three women to Dicastery for Bishops

Pope Francis named two nuns and a laywoman to the Vatican department that helps choose new bishops, the Holy See said Wednesday, the first time women have been allowed to serve on the body.

The appointment of the three women to the Dicastery for Bishops – nuns Raffaella Petrini and Yvonne Reungoat, and lay woman María Lia Zervino – comes as Francis seeks to usher in more gender equality within the Church's positions of government and responsibility.

The 85-year-old pope has repeatedly said that women should play greater roles within the Vatican's hierarchy and has broken centuries of precedent to place women in some key spots previously held by men.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/world/in-first-pope-names-three-women-to-dicastery-for-bishops.phtml

Raffaella Petrini (Italy), Yvonne Reungoat (France), and María Lia Zervino (Argentina) - the first three women appointed to the powerful Dicastery for Bishops in Roman Catholic Church history.

The Roman Curia's new constitution – the culmination of Pope Francis' effort to restructure the Vatican's powerful governing body – allows female Catholics to head up Vatican departments.
July 11, 2022

Joe Biden: Why I'm going to Saudi Arabia

Next week, I’ll travel to the Middle East to start a new and more promising chapter of America’s engagement there. This trip comes at a vital time for the region, and it will advance important American interests.

A more secure and integrated Middle East benefits Americans in many ways. Its waterways are essential to global trade and the supply chains we rely on. Its energy resources are vital for mitigating the impact on global supplies of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Middle East I’ll be visiting is more stable and secure than the one my administration inherited 18 months ago.

In Saudi Arabia, we reversed the blank-check policy we inherited.

I released the intelligence community’s report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, issued new sanctions, including on the Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force involved in his killing, and issued 76 visa bans under a new rule barring entry into the United States for anyone found to be involved in harassing dissidents abroad.

From the start, my aim was to reorient — but not rupture — relations with a country that’s been a strategic partner for 80 years.

At: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/09/joe-biden-saudi-arabia-israel-visit

Necessary evil? Then-Vice President Joe Biden visits Saudi Arabia in 2011. The late Senator John McCain is seen behind him.
July 11, 2022

Israeli and Palestinian leaders speak by phone for the first time in years

Israel’s new Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a phone conversation Friday morning, which is believed to be the first such contact between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for five years.

A short statement from Lapid’s office said the two men “spoke about the continuation of cooperation and the need to ensure quiet and calm.”

Abbas had congratulated Lapid on becoming Prime Minister, the statement said, while Lapid passed along his best wishes to the Palestinian leader ahead of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday which begins Friday.

At: https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/08/middleeast/lapid-abbas-phone-call-intl/index.html

New beginning? Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who took ofice last week, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
July 8, 2022

James Caan, an onscreen tough guy and movie craftsman, has died at 82

James Edmund Caan was an athletic kid from the Bronx, the son of German-Jewish immigrants who grew up to play tough movie guys: sailors, football players, gangsters and was one of the most recognizable screen actors of his era.

Best known for his explosive turn as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and as a dying professional football player in the made-for-TV-movie Brian's Song (which earned him Oscar and Emmy nominations, respectively), Caan lent an eminently watchable machismo to dozens of films and shows.

In Misery, he was a famous author held captive by Kathy Bates. In Gardens of Stone, he was a heartsick Vietnam vet reluctantly guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In Elf, he played against type as a failing children's book publisher who is also the main character's dad.

After starting in theater and television, Caan burst into Hollywood like a comet, appearing in films by some of the most renowned auteurs of the era, including Howard Hawks (El Dorado), Robert Altman (Countdown) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Rain People).

His burst of early success led to a period of difficulty, both personal and professional. Caan married and divorced several times, got into on-set arguments and publicly struggled with substance abuse and depression.

At: https://www.npr.org/2022/07/07/1110286405/james-caan-died

Tough guy and legend: James Caan, 1940-2022.
July 4, 2022

Argentina taps Silvina Batakis as Economy Minister to tackle crisis

Argentine President Alberto Fernández tapped Silvina Batakis as the country’s new economy minister Sunday after her predecessor Martín Guzmán resigned Saturday, deepening a political crisis boiling over into the economy and markets.

Batakis inherits a long list of economic challenges - including inflation projected to exceed 70% this year, as well as market doubts over the government’s ability to service a $44 billion refinance program agreed on between Guzmán and the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF debt had been inherited from the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration - which reportedly obtained the record, election-eve bailout in 2018 at the behest of former President Donald Trump.

The announcement capped more than a day of suspense and uncertainty sparked by Guzmán’s resignation following two and half years in the top economic job.

Batakis, 53, was the economy minister of Buenos Aires province from 2011 to 2015 under then-governor Daniel Scioli, a center-left coalition leader who recently became production minister.

Scioli, who narrowly lost the 2015 election to Macri, had tapped Batakis as his Economy Minister had he won.

At: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-04/argentina-taps-batakis-as-economy-minister-to-tackle-crisis

Incoming Argentine Economy Minister Silvina Batakis.

Batakis' designation was supported by both Production Minister Daniel Scioli and Vice President Cristina Kirchner.

Kirchner had come to oppose Batakis' predecessor, Martín Guzmán, over what she saw as overly tight monetary policy and fiscal conservatism.

Guzmán, however, is widely credited with averting an outright collapse in Argentina's economy - including defusing a debt crisis inherited from the right-wing Macri administration, navigating the 2020 global Covid crisis, and returning the country to strong growth after nearly a decade of stagnation.
July 3, 2022

Argentine Economy Minister Guzman resigns as divisions grow

Argentine Economy Minister Martín Guzmán resigned Saturday, marking the biggest departure of President Alberto Fernández’s government after infighting within the center-left ruling coalition escalated.

Guzmán announced his decision in a seven-page letter published on Twitter. No replacement was immediately announced.

The minister had come under pressure as Argentines battle heightened inflation of more than 60%.

The shakeup also raises doubts over whether Argentina can comply with a $44 billion refinance program with the International Monetary Fund, whose goals and objectives for the second half are seen by private economists view as too challenging to reach.

Guzmán, a 39-year-old economist who worked at Columbia University alongside Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, lost support over the last months from the far-left wing of the coalition led by Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Lawmakers loyal to her in Congress voted against the IMF agreement he negotiated, even though the deal was approved with ample backing.

Under Guzmán, the country refinanced debts of $44 billion with the IMF and $66 billion with foreign bondholders - and saw 10.4% growth last year and 5.7% so far this year, after three years of deep recession.

At: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-02/argentina-economy-minister-guzm-n-resigns-as-divisions-grow

Argentine President Alberto Fernández and Economy Minister Martín Guzmán during a June 6 press conference - their last joint appearance before Guzmán's resignation today.

Guzmán, a protégé of Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, earned plaudits for refinancing over half the country's public foreign debt and for strong growth following an inherited "Macrisis" (2018-19) and the 2020 global Covid shutdown.

But he had angered the governing coalition's left wing by resisting calls for looser monetary policy and more generous energy subsidies.

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