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Prolific Argentine actor Pepe Soriano dies at 93

Argentine actor José "Pepe" Soriano, a prolific performer on stage and film in Argentina and Spain, died on Wednesday at age 93.

Soriano, who retired just two years ago after a career spanning seven decades, received international awards as recently as 2021 for his role in Gonzalo Calzada's psychological thriller “Nocturnal” - for which he earned a Best Actor nod in that year's Screamfest.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1929 to a Jewish family, Soriano left law school to join the theater in 1950. Success eluded the young actor until 1968, when he was cast as the lead in Juan José Jusid's production of Roberto Cossa's tragedy, Tute Cabrero, and in Raúl de la Torre's character study, “Mr. and Mrs. Juan Lamaglia” in 1970.

But it was his portrayal of Schultz, a German labor organizer, in Osvaldo Bayer's “Rebellion in Patagonia” in 1974 that gave him his most memorable film role.

The depiction of the brutal repression of a 1920-22 sheep ranch workers' strike resulted in serious problems for those involved in the film - including Soriano, who left for Spain shortly after a fascist military coup in 1976.

Amid an easing of repression by the dictatorship, Soriano returned in 1979. That year, he reprised his best-known stage role on film: that of a senile but ravenous grandmother in Roberto Cossa's tragicomic La nona - which in some ways mirrored the country's sudden foreign debt crisis, with its ever-growing interest obligations.

Soriano's role in “Another Hope” in 1984, a dystopian film set in a factory where energy is generated from human bodies, was likewise a timely metaphor for the targeting of union members during the 1976-83 regime. He then portrayed the late reformist Senator Lisandro de la Torre in Juan José Jusid's “An Assassination in the Senate” - a historical drama based on de la Torre's 1935 attempted murder.

Among his better-known later roles were that of a dying idealist determined to stop the sale of a historic Uruguayan steam locomotive in Diego Arsuaga's “The Last Train” (2002), and as an elderly and struggling Argentine immigrant in New York in Rodrigo Fürth's “Through Your Eyes” (2006).

At: https://euro.eseuro.com/news/1014977.html

Prolific Argentine actor and playwright Pepe Soriano, 1929-2023.

Soriano was equally at home on stage as on film. “Cinema is the great medium. It is really the possibility of showing work for posterity,” he noted recently.

“Theater is like water in your hands: It begins and ends, and remains, in memory. Cinema, on the other hand, rescues (memories) from the greats.”

Argentine monthly inflation rate hits 12.4% in August, a 32-year high

Argentina’s monthly inflation rate was 12.4% in August, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Census (INDEC).

The figure is almost double that of July and represents the highest monthly rate since February 1991, when the country was mired in a hyperinflation crisis.

Food and beverages had the greatest impact on the index - with the cost of meats, derivatives, vegetables, and legumes increasing by 15.6%.

INDEC’s price report, the first since the nationwide primary (PASO) elections on August 13, is the first to reflect the 22% devaluation that raised the official exchange rate for the U.S. dollar from 300 to 366 pesos.

The parallel, "blue" rate jumped within days from 605 pesos before the primaries to 720, as worried Argentines rushed to buy dollars; exchange rates have since stabilized however.

Year-over-year inflation hit 124.4% - the highest since August 1991 - and for the first eight months of 2023 reached 80.2%.

Median wages as of June had risen 108.7% annually - but among unregistered workers (around a third of the total), only 82.4%.

Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who's running for president on the ruling, center-left Union for the Homeland ticket, enacted a 36% raise in pensions for September in response - among other measures including wide-reaching tax cuts.

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/economics/monthly-inflation-rate-hits-12-4-a-32-year-high

Argentine Economy Minister Sergio Massa announces a stimulus package in response to inflation numbers for August - the highest for the country in 32 years.

Massa, who's running for president on the ruling, center-left Union for the Homeland ticket, enacted a 36% raise in pensions and a 152% jump in income tax standard deductions among other measures.

The pragmatic Massa faces a stiff challenge from far-right candidate Javier Milei - who has tapped into popular discontent by pledging to "dynamite" the central bank and other institutions.

Biden, Modi, other leaders launch the Global Biofuels Alliance in clean energy effort

Source: The Hill

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new biofuels initiative at the G-20 summit in New Delhi, India on Saturday, signaling a push for more green energy globally.

India will lead the Global Biofuels Alliance alongside the U.S. and Brazil, a move which is aimed to accelerate the shift to net zero emission targets by promoting plant and animal waste biofuels.

“The Alliance is focused on securing the supply of biofuels, ensuring these biofuels remain affordable and are produced sustainably,” the White House said in a statement.

Argentina, Italy, Mauritius, and the UAE also joined as members of the group, with Bangladesh and Singapore as observers.

“President Biden has made turning the tide towards a clean energy transition one of his Administration’s top priorities,” the White House said.

Read more: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/4195694-biden-modi-other-leaders-launch-the-global-biofuels-alliance-in-clean-energy-effort/

President Joe Biden joins Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other heads of state in the launching of the Global Biofuels Alliance, during today's G-20 summit in New Delhi.

The nine founding nations total over 2.2 billion people, a third of the world's GDP, and two-thirds of biofuels output.

America and China's $574 billion chip war has already scored 'extraordinary success' for Joe Biden

Last October was the starting gun in a whole new race between the U.S. and China, and this summer marked a midway point of sorts. From the vantage point of Kevin Klyman, a technology policy researcher at Harvard University, “it has gone quite well for the Biden administration in terms of getting foreign partners on board.”

He was talking, of course, about semiconductor chips, the magical tiny structures that power everything from computers to computerized cars and are becoming something like the oil of the 21st century.

President Joe Biden set the clock racing on Oct. 7 with a set of export controls that sought to restrict China’s procurement of highly advanced chips and the computers containing them. Also, they didn’t just target the cutting-edge chips but the tools that could be used to make them, such as Netherlands-based ASML’s state-of-the-art lithography machine.

That’s a serious barrier preventing China from developing its own models of the most advanced chips. And America’s Dutch and Japanese allies have come on board, stunning experts like Klyman.

“It has been an extraordinary success beyond anyone's wildest dreams that the Netherlands and Japan have joined U.S. export controls to the hilt.” Klyman told Fortune. “That was not what outside analysts expected.”

At: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/america-and-china-s-574-billion-chip-war-has-already-scored-an-extraordinary-success-beyond-anyone-s-wild-dreams-for-joe-biden/ar-AA1gaAxv

President Joe Biden signs the CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022.

The policy has been credited with reversing a longstanding trend toward growing U.S. dependence on Chinese-made chips and semiconductors.

Export controls, moreover, have impeded China's access to cutting-edge Western technology.

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran among six countries invited to join BRICS group

Oil powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been invited to become members of the BRICS group of developing nations in its first expansion in over a decade.

Also invited are Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday as he wrapped up the annual summit of the group in Johannesburg.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom was awaiting details from the BRICS group on the nature of the membership, and would take an “appropriate decision” accordingly.

All six countries invited had already expressed an interest in joining. The BRICS group currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“The membership will take effect from the first of January, 2024,” Ramaphosa said.

At: https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/24/business/saudi-arabia-brics-invitation-intl/index.html

Brazilian President Luiz "Lula" da Silva, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during yesterday's BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

The bloc of large developing countries - formed in 2006 as a counterweight to the Bush-era G-7 - agreed to add six members.

Totaling 420 million people between (compared to 3.2 billion in the current BRICS nations), the six countries include four with severe economic and/or balance-of-payments problems.

IMF frees $7.5 billion for Argentina, lowers bar for economy targets

The executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday approved the disbursement of $7.5 billion for Argentina after completing the fifth and sixth reviews of their $44 billion program, the IMF said.

Various economic targets included in the program were eased, as in the fourth review, and waivers for non-observance were also in place, the IMF said.

Total disbursements under the arrangement are now about $36 billion, the fund said.

IMF staff and Argentina had reached an agreement late in July, which had eased economic targets partly because a devastating drought has created a challenging environment for the grains exporter - costing it an estimated $20 billion in export income.

Most of the cash is being used to pay back the fund for the record, $44 billion bailout program - which the IMF granted in 2018 to right-wing former President Mauricio Macri, reportedly at the behest of then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/argentina-secures-75-bln-disbursement-imf-board-oks-reviews-govt-2023-08-23/

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Argentine Economy Minister Sergio Massa following today's meeting at the Fund's headquarters.

Capping weeks of negotiations, the IMF released a $7.5-billion advance to the hard currency-strapped nation - of which $3.4 billion will be available to fend off attempts to destabilize Argentina's fragile finances by the country's increasingly radicalized right-wing opposition ahead of elections this October.

A surprisingly strong showing by far-right figure Javier Milei in first-round elections on August 13th sent parallel currency markets in Beunos Aires reeling - and today's advance may help stem any future such maneuvers.

Argentina raises interest rate, devalues peso after shock primary election

Argentina's central bank will raise the benchmark interest rate to 118% from 97% previously, an official source said Monday, adding the country's currency will be devalued to 350 pesos per dollar in the aftermath of a shock primary election.

The Argentine central bank rate is now at its highest level since April 1991, when the country was just emerging from a hyperinflation crisis.

Sunday's primary vote, seen as a reliable bellwether for the upcoming presidential elections, propelled ultra-right outsider Javier Milei, who wants to axe the central bank and dollarize the economy, to first place with some 30% of the vote.

The official peso plunged nearly 18% on Monday morning to just over 350 pesos per dollar and the source said the exchange would be fixed at this rate until the October presidential vote.

The parallel, "blue" rate meanwhile jumped from 605 pesos to 685, as worried Argentines rushed to buy dollars.

Latin America's third-biggest economy is battling a severe economic crisis with sky-high inflation and dwindling central bank reserves - partly the result of a foreign debt crisis inherited from right-wing former President Mauricio Macri in 2019.

At: https://www.reuters.com/markets/currencies/argentina-raises-interest-rate-devalues-peso-after-shock-primary-election-2023-08-14/

Pedestrians walk by Argentina's Central Bank building in downtown Buenos Aires recently.

A surprisingly strong showing by far-right outsider Javier Milei yesterday in nationwide presidential primaries - where Milei garnered 30%, compared to 21% for center-left candidate Sergio Massa and 17% for hard-right candidate Patricia Bullrich (both, establishment figures) - sent Argentines rushing to purchase dollars on the parallel, "blue" market.

Argentines vote in primaries, with neo-fascist candidate ahead

Argentina voted in primary elections today that will determine the final candidates for a presidential ballot on October 22nd, and give a clear gauge on the likely final result as the country battles a swirling economic crisis.

Some 27 presidential candidates are running, as well as 4,168 contenders for 130 congressional and 24 senate seats. All candidates need a minimum 1.5% of the vote to be eligible for the general election.

Outgoing President Alberto Fernández decided not to run for re-election as he suffers from rock-bottom approval ratings amid annual inflation of more than 100% - partly the result of a foreign debt crisis inherited from his right-wing predecessor, Mauricio Macri, in 2019.

Headline candidates

The two main political blocs faced internal leadership battles, and the vote determined who will lead the main right-wing opposition coalition Together for Change - in which center-right Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, 57, lost to hard-line former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, 67.

With 65% of the vote counted, Bullrich bested Larreta by 17% to 10.6%.

Bullrich will run against the ruling, center-left coalition Union for the Homeland, where Economy Minister Sergio Massa, 51, trounced leftist challenger Juan Grabois, 40, by 20.8% to 5%.

The primary also revealed how much traction right-wing populist candidate Javier Milei, 52, has gained with voters - with the fiery economist garnering a stunning 32.2%. An admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, Milei has attracted voters with an anti-establishment message that has particularly resonated with the young.

Winter of discontent

Over 35 million Argentines were registered to vote in this year's primaries.

Popular discontent depressed turnout somewhat, which at 69% was some 7 points below the last presidential primary in 2019.

Widespread faults with the electronic voting system used in Buenos Aires for that city's local elections led to long lines in some precincts - prompting Federal Judge María Servini de Cubría to announce a criminal probe.

The Change primary in Buenos Aires' mayoral primary - almost tantamount to election outright - pitted right-wing candidate Jorge Macri, 58 (a cousin of the former president), against centrist Senator Martín Lousteau, 52.

With 95% of the vote in, Macri was ahead by 1.4%.

At: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/13/argentinians-set-to-vote-in-presidential-primary-what-to-know

Leading Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa (center-left), Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (center-right), Patricia Bullrich (hard-right), and Javier Milei (far-right).

Representing the governing coalition, the pragmatic Massa will face off against the hard-line Bullrich and the neo-fascist Milei in general elections this October.

Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio assassinated at campaign event

Source: CNN

An opposition candidate in Ecuador’s upcoming presidential election, Fernando Villavicencio, was assassinated at a campaign event Wednesday, President Guillermo Lasso confirmed on social media, vowing the killing will not go unpunished.

Villavicencio, 59, was shot dead at a Movimiento Construye political rally at a school north of the capital Quito, campaign team members Cristián Zurita and Rodrigo Figueroa told CNN.

He was gunned down 10 days before the first round of the presidential election was set to take place on August 20.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/09/americas/ecuador-presidential-candidate-fernando-villavicencio-assassinated-intl-hnk/index.html

Fernando Villavicencio, 1963-2023.

Villavicencio, a centrist, was one of eight candidates vying to replace disgraced President Guillermo Lasso, who was forced to call early elections after dissolving the National Assembly on May 17 - just days from a likely impeachment.


Argentina's 'notebook' scandal: police confirm calligraphic alterations and dictation

On the fifth anniversary of the dissemination of the “notebooks” scandal that shook Argentine politics, two calligraphic analyses ordered by a federal judge confirmed irregularities detected by two previous, privately-commissioned studies - and determined that these alterations, and extensive dictation, had been the work of former police officer Jorge Bacigalupo.

Bacigalupo, 77, is close to Oscar Centeno, 68, a former government chauffeur and erstwhile intelligence agent who claims to have written the eight journals - which purported to chronicle a long-running bribery scheme by Public Works Ministry officials under former Presidents Néstor Kirchner (2003-07) and his wife Cristina Kirchner (2007-15).

The studies, ordered by Judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi, were conducted by the Argentine Federal Police's Scopometry Division and the University of Buenos Aires pursuant to a complaint filed by wholesaler Armando Losón, 76 - who was repeatedly cited in the notebooks.

A private study commissioned earlier by Losón and published in April 2022 detected “over 1,600 alterations of the original text: 1,373 overwrites, 195 white-outs, and 55 amendments - among other anomalies.”

A second study published in October showed that much of the text had been “dictated” to Centeno.

No proof - but no doubt

The notebooks scandal emerged on August 1, 2018, when Diego Cabot of the right-wing La Nación published excerpts of the eight notebooks turned over to him by Bacigalupo.

Submitted to Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli - later indicted for his role in a massive espionage and extortion case known as d'Alessiogate - the notebooks allowed Stornelli to promptly issue indictments against 136 public contractors, 14 associates, and 22 Kirchner-era officials.

The news was widely seen as a boost to then-President Mauricio Macri's re-election campaign - which was saddled by severe foreign debt and economic problems known as the “Macrisis.”

The notebooks themselves, however, were never subjected to forensic examination. Cabot admitted to having only “photocopies” of the originals - which Centeno claimed to have “burned.”

The case for which they were originally used - alleging overcharges for liquefied natural gas imports - was dropped after it was shown to be based on fabricated estimates by a court-appointed expert (Daniel Cohen) later convicted of perjury.

They were, however, cited in Cristina Kirchner's conviction last year on bid-rigging charges - which a federal court described in its ruling as “there being no proof of - but no doubt.”

The conviction led Mrs. Kirchner, 70, to opt out of running in this year's presidential election - leaving the ruling, center-left coalition without its most popular, if controversial, figure.

At: https://www-infobae-com.translate.goog/judiciales/2023/07/31/causa-cuadernos-un-peritaje-caligrafico-confirmo-que-el-amigo-de-oscar-centeno-manipulo-los-anotadores/?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Disgraced Argentine Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli (left) parades purported “notebooks” author Oscar Centeno after their bombshell publication on local right-wing media in August 2018.

The notebooks - never subjected to forensic examination - were touted as proof of a long-running bribery scheme by Public Works Ministry officials under former Presidents Néstor Kirchner (2003-07) and his wife Cristina Kirchner (2007-15).

But two private studies and two court-ordered ones have confirmed generalized alterations, third-party dictations and other forms of tampering.

The notebooks have nevertheless been “recycled” as evidence against numerous public contractors and Kirchner-era officials - including Vice President Cristina Kirchner herself.
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