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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
February 27, 2023

Marjorie Taylor Greene tells Tucker Carlson all about 'this war against Russia in Ukraine'

The Republican Party has been drowning in its own crapulance for some time now.

The long and drawn out takeover of the conservative movement by far-right MAGA and Tea Party-inspired aggrievement has been going on for some time now.

On Thursday, after two weeks where President Joe Biden scored domestic and global political points, Fox News host Tucker Carlson brought on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to speak.

Why would you want to do that?

Because Greene has been very vocal, and undeterred by reality, in her strange attacks on U.S. support of Ukraine against an invading Russian oligarchy.

The segment was as wild as you might imagine.

At: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2023/2/24/2154763/-Marjorie-Taylor-Greene-tells-Tucker-Carlson-all-about-this-war-against-Russia-in-Ukraine

Fish sticks and broomsticks: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Tucker Carlson's show, characterizing Putin's war as "this war against Russia in Ukraine."

February 27, 2023

Argentina reopens embassy in Bangladesh, after 45-year absence

Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero on Monday reopened his country’s embassy in Bangladesh – shut down during the military dictatorship of Jorge Videla in 1978.

“Today we are fulfilling a moral, ethical and historic duty by reopening this embassy. It seemed like Argentina and Bangladesh had succumbed to forgetting each other,” Cafiero told reporters after raising the Argentine flag in Dhaka.

He was joined by among others Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam – with a screen showing World Cup footage in the backdrop, celebrating the massive fan-following Argentina’s team has in the South Asian nation of 173 million.

“Our country was one of the first to recognize the independence of Bangladesh, declared in March 1971,” Cafiero recalled.

“President Juan Perón authorized the first (Argentine) diplomatic representation on October 30, 1973. The embassy was opened in the city of Dhaka in January 1974 - and was closed four years later by decision of the last civic-military dictatorship.”

It was soccer, an unexpected catalyst, “that brought out Bangladesh’s love for Argentina for the world to see,” Cafiero added.

Argentine exports to Bangladesh have been growing, and reached $743 million last year (0.8% of Argentina's total).

At: https://www.laprensalatina.com/argentina-reopens-bangladesh-embassy-after-soccer-world-cup-fever/

Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero (waving) and his counterpart from Bangladesh, Shahriar Alam, raise the Argentine flag at the country's newly-reopened embassy in Dhaka.

The embassy's reopening - closed in 1978 by Argentina's fascist (and euro-centric) last dictatorship - was an acknowledgment of the passionate support for Argentina's national soccer team among many in Bangladesh, as well as the country's role as a growing buyer of Argentine soy oil and other exports.
February 24, 2023

Argentina's economy grows by 5.2% last year

Argentina's INDEC statistics bureau reported that the nation's economy grew by 5.2% in 2022 - marking the first time in 11 years that GDP grew for two years in a row.

The Argentine economy, the third-largest in Latin America, posted a downturn in the fourth quarter however - with GDP sliding 1% in December, and 1.2% from a year earlier.

A near-doubling in inflation (95%) and central bank interest rates (75%) over the past year, led to a seasonally-adjusted 2.8% drop in monthly economic activity from August to December.

But annual GDP was up 4.6% from 2019 levels - after a foreign debt bubble under former President Mauricio Macri collapsed in April 2018, leading to a two-year "Macrisis."

Uneven recovery

Growth in 2022 was led by tourism (34.6%), mining and extraction (13.5%), recreational and other services (8.9%), and transport and communications (8.4%).

Retail and wholesale grew 6.1% - with online sales enjoying a 25.3% jump (the highest in the region).

Manufacturing was up 5.0% - with factories now running at their best pace since 2015, and auto and light truck output up 23.5% to 537,000.

Fixed investment in 2022 rose by 12.3% according to Orlando Ferreres, a top local macroeconomy consultant - to its highest level since 2017.

Only agriculture declined in 2022, down 3.9% amid severe drought.

Exports rose 13.5% to a record $88.4 billion last year, on higher prices (16%). But imports jumped 29%, to $81.5 billion - halving the nation's critical trade surplus to $6.9 billion.

The trade surplus might have fallen further - but for tighter import restrictions since Economy Minister Sergio Massa took office in August.

High inflation - a fixture of the Argentine economy for most of the past 75 years - was pushed up sharply by commodity price hikes brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and business uncertainty, with consumer prices up 94.8%.

Inflation and real wages, which fell 2.3%, have become a top re-election liability for center-left President Alberto Fernández: real pay has slipped 3% since taking office, after plunging 22% under Macri's 2015-19 term.

Worse yet, real wages for unregistered workers - over a third of Argentina's total, and a key voting bloc for the ruling Peronists - fell 15% last year, and are now over 40% below their 2015 high.

Job growth nevertheless remained strong, with 631,000 net registered new jobs created (equivalent to 4.5 million in the U.S.) and unemployment, at 7.1%, the lowest since 2015.

Macri-era debt looms large

For the third year running, central bank reserves did not recover - as much of the trade surplus must now service Argentina's $191 billion public foreign debt, which had doubled under Macri.

This includes $43 billion still owed to the IMF on a record, $45 billion bailout granted to Macri ahead of his failed, 2019 campaign - a bailout reportedly granted at the insistence of former President Donald Trump.

Argentina and the IMF refinanced the debt - some 29% of the IMF's outstanding loans, and the largest by far.

The agreement, which was supported by President Joe Biden, was lauded by economist Joseph Stiglitz as "not insisting, as (the IMF) usually does, on austerity - instead providing Argentina with room to continue its economic recovery."

At: https://www-baenegocios-com.translate.goog/economia/La-economia-crecio-52-en-2022-pero-cerro-con-tendencia-negativa-20230223-0046.html?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Residential high-rise construction goes up in Buenos Aires last November.

While Argentina's economy grew strongly for the year, higher inflation and interest rates led to a downturn in the last four months.

This trend has stifled re-election prospects for President Alberto Fernández, who inherited a debt crisis from right-wing predecessor (and Trump friend) Mauricio Macri - but who many Argentines see as having failed to deliver on 2019 campaign promises to recover living standards.
February 22, 2023

Messages of Peace & Comfort for Jimmy Carter

If you'd like to leave former President Carter a message, the Carter Center has graciously made this board available to the public:


February 17, 2023

China's Chery announces $400 million electric auto plant in Argentina

Chinese automaker Chery announced that it will invest US$400 million in Argentina to establish a production plant for 100,000 electric vehicles (EV) annually.

The plant is slated to generate 6,000 direct jobs, and comes on the heels of plans by steel and nickel giant Tsingshan to increase lithium carbonate output in its NW Argentina site to 50,000 tons annually.

The announcement was made after the meeting held yesterday in the city of Wuhu between the vice president of Chery International, Zhang Shenghan; Argentina's Secretary of Industry, José de Mendiguren; and the Argentine Ambassador to China, Sabino Vaca Narvaja.

The company's objective by the end of 2030 is to manufacture 100,000 vehicles per year in Argentina - a sizable addition to the country's current auto output of around 550,000 units annually.

Founded in 1997, Chery is currently the ninth largest auto manufacturer in China - with around a million units annually. It already operates a plant in Brazil since 2014 - though Argentina's would be its first in the region for EVs.

At: https://infonews-com.translate.goog/autos-electricos-un-fabricante-chino-invierte-us-400-millones-en-argentina.html?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Argentina's Secretary of Industry, José de Mendiguren (middle, in screen), joins a teleconference with officials from Chinese automaker Chery and the Argentine Embassy, for Chery's announcement Thursday of an Argentine plant for 100,000 EVs annually.

Chery plans to make Argentina the regional base for new energy cars, given the lithium reserves available in the country's mountainous northwest.
February 16, 2023

Uruguay president's ex-security boss jailed in passports for Russians scam

The former security chief to Uruguay's president was sentenced Wednesday to more than four years in prison, the prosecutor's office announced, in a scandal involving the issuing of fake passports to Russians.

Alejandro Astesiano, who was the head of right-wing President Luis Lacalle Pou's security detail, was found guilty of an array of crimes including influence peddling, criminal association and revealing state secrets, the office said in a statement.

He had also been investigated for allegedly spying on opposition politicians.

A judge on Wednesday ratified a plea agreement and sentenced Astesiano to four and a half years in prison and a fine of some $4,000.

Astesiano, 51, was arrested in September, accused of participation in a scheme to falsify documents to allow the issuing of Uruguayan passports to Russians, according to prosecutors.

At: https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230215-uruguay-president-s-ex-security-boss-jailed-in-passports-for-russians-scam

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou (right) and his disgraced former head of presidential security, Alejandro Astesiano.

Astesiano, who has worked for the Lacalle family since 1999, is also facing a extortion probe after evidence of political spying and blackmail against opposition politicians was published in the Montevideo press.
February 16, 2023

Retail sales surge 3% in January 2023, in clear sign the economy is still growing

Sales at U.S. retailers jumped 3% in January — the biggest increase in almost two years — as Americans flocked to stores at the start of the new year.

Retail sales are a big part of consumer spending and offer clues about the strength of the economy. Sales had been forecast to rise 1.9%, based on a Wall Street Journal poll of economists.

Receipts increased a still-strong 2.6% when auto dealers and gas stations are excluded.

The sterling January report could help generate a better-than-expected increase in first-quarter GDP.

At the same time, though, it could ramp up pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates to try to tame inflation. Strong economic growth tends to add to inflation presssures.

Sales of new vehicles and parts, an up-and-down category, jumped 5.9% last month. That’s the biggest increase in 22 months.

At: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/retail-sales-surge-3-at-start-of-2023-in-clear-sign-the-economy-is-still-growing-53d14a41?mod=search_headline

Shoppers browse albums at the Criminal Records store in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday.

U.S. retail sales rebounded by a seasonally-adjusted 3%, after a 1.1% slide in December - much higher than a 1.9% average forecast.

From a year earlier however, retail sales were up 6.4% - matching a 6.4% inflation rate in the same period.
February 10, 2023

Beinusz Szmukler, a leading Jewish-Argentine progressive lawyer, has died at 91

Prominent Jewish-Argentine lawyer and human rights activist Beinusz Szmukler died this Tuesday in Buenos Aires; he was 91.

Born in Kletsk, a village then in eastern Poland, in 1931, Szmukler's family emigrated to Argentina in 1937 - just four years before the Nazi occupation led to the genocide of most of the region's Jews, including many of the Szmuklers' relatives.

He earned his law degree at the University of Buenos Aires, and from 1960 to 1976 headed the Argentine Human Rights League (LADH) - representing, among others, political prisoners amid a steadily-tightening crackdown against labor and leftist dissent.

Szmukler co-founded the American Association of Jurists (AAJ) in 1975, which works with UNESCO to represent disadvantaged communities in Latin America, and headed its Continental Advisory Council until his passing.

A lifelong Communist, he later headed the Swiss-based International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) - which the CIA described as a "Communist front."

When asked about the principles that guided his practice, he described it as "action against imperialism, fascism, colonialism, and discrimination against women, aborigines and minorities."

After the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, he taught law and was eventually elected to a four-year term in the powerful Council of Magistrates in 2002 - which oversees the federal judiciary.

That year, he filed a malfeasance complaint against the country's notoriously corrupt Supreme Court - a complaint which, with the support of populist President Néstor Kirchner, led to their impeachment in Argentina's Congress in 2004.

He later headed the Buenos Aires Bar Association (2007-09), during which he was a prominent advocate for then-President Cristina Kirchner's efforts to curb media monopolies. In 2012, he co-founded the Buenos Aires progressive lawyers' association Legitimate Justice - a favorite target of right-wing media in Argentina.

More recently, he successfully represented noted film-maker Osvaldo Bayer in a libel lawsuit brought against him by the powerful Martínez de Hoz family over a 2016 documentary.

José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz (1925-2013) served as the dictatorship's Economy Minister in 1976-81, when Argentine manufacturing and living standards collapsed amid a foreign debt bubble that burdens the country to this day.

Szmukler remained a vocal critic of the country's highly-politicized judiciary, joining a rally this February 1st in support of ongoing impeachment hearings in Congress against the current Supreme Court over corruption and abuse of power allegations.

The LADH saluted Szmukler on his passing as a "people's lawyer, and profoundly humanist."

At: https://www-pagina12-com-ar.translate.goog/522154-un-luchador-por-los-derechos-humanos?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Noted Jewish-Argentine lawyer and activist Beinusz Szmukler, 1931-2023.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel noted that "We just saw him in Buenos Aires" - during last week's Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit.

"Lucid, affectionate and happy, despite his discomfort, Beinusz Szmukler came to see us. Cuba will be eternally grateful to him for his firm position on the side of the truth."
February 9, 2023

Jamie Raskin drops the hammer on Republicans after Oversight hearing turns up 'absolutely nothing'

In a fiery statement concluding today's Twitter testimony at the House Oversight Committee, ranking member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) tore apart the entire premise of the hearing and chided Republican members for failing to focus on more serious problems in social media.

The hearing, which included three former Twitter executives, focused on the decision by the company to briefly suppress a New York Post story detailing information about Hunter Biden's laptop ahead of the election as disinformation — a decision the company has freely admitted was a mistake, as many of the details of the story subsequently proved to be true.

Republicans have claimed, without any evidence, that the FBI or the Biden campaign pressured Twitter into suppressing the story.

"I want to start with a simple point," said Raskin. "We have members threatening witnesses with arrest and prosecution for clearly imaginary offenses, or at least offenses that might make sense in their mind - but I don't know what they would be."

"Twitter is a private, First Amendment protected media entity, and you make your own decisions, like Fox News — and I might get kicked off of Fox News or they might not cover me — or the Wall Street Journal or MSNBC. I've got no constitutional right to go there, so I think there is legal fallacy and logical fallacy that pervades most of the questioning today."

At: https://www.rawstory.com/jamie-raskin-2659390571/

February 8, 2023

Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay launch World Cup 2030 bid

Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay on Tuesday officially launched their joint bid to stage the FIFA World Cup tournament in 2030, exactly 100 years after the event was first held in South America.

"We are convinced that FIFA has an obligation to honor the memory of those who organized the first World Cup," said Alejandro Domínguez, president of CONMEBOL, South American football's governing body, in Buenos Aires.

Competition is intensifying before FIFA chooses a host in 2024. The so-called Mundial Centenario, or Centennial World Cup project faces a packed field in the bid for hosting rights.

The South Americans' main challenge is a joint bid from Spain, Portugal and Ukraine, which has the backing of European football's governing body UEFA.

Saudi Arabia is also considering bidding for the right to stage the tournament, lining up an ambitious bid with Egypt and Greece.

While three of the four countries (except Paraguay) have previously hosted a World Cup, none have done so since Argentina in 1978.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/sports/argentina-chile-uruguay-paraguay-launch-wc2030-bid.phtml

Argentine Tourism and Sports Minister Matías Lammens (fourth from right, with beard) joins counterparts and football officials from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay to present the Southern Cone 2030 World Cup bid.

The bid - which, if chosen in 2024, would be the first to include four nations - was presented "to honor the memory of those who organized the first World Cup" in 1930, which was held in Uruguay.

The four-nation group, home to 76 million people between them, faces stiff competition from a Spain/Portugal bid which added Ukraine at the last minute.

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