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forest444

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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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Niembro case (Argentina): Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri had similar arrangements w/ other firms

A report published by journalist Werner Pertot in local news daily Página/12 revealed that the methodology Mayor Mauricio Macri used to award Fernando Niembro's shell company, La Usina Productions, with 21 million pesos ($2.3 million) in municipal contracts for ads benefiting Macri, is common practice in his administration.

Two firms awarded 24 direct contracts for sidewalk repairs by the city have no employees registered and are listed at the AFIP revenue agency as small businesses with a monthly income of less than 15,000 pesos ($1,600) - while earning 47 million pesos ($5 million) by way of municipal contracts in the past five months alone.

These new cases involve two companies, Derby Eland SA and EcomLat SA, with no background in public works or even registered employees; but which are apparently associated and one of whose owners has a digital marketing company whose sole client is Macri.

Macri is currently running for president on the right-wing "Let's Change" ticket.

Macri privatized and outsourced numerous public services previously managed directly by the city, and by 2013 over $500 million in contracts was awarded annually. A survey of municipal contracts conducted by City Legislator (councilperson) Julieta Costa Díaz found that of all contracts signed by Macri in 2014, 69% were done on a no-bid basis.

The two firms named in the Pertot report, Derby Eland and EcomLat, are domiciled in residential addresses on Vuelta de Obligado Street, four blocks from each other.

Derby Eland SA was registered in 2013 as a residential refurbishment contractor - but no employees registered with the AFIP. The firm invoiced about 20 million pesos ($2.1 million) in three months in sidewalk repair contracts and by selling mobile applications to the city. Its owner, Héctor Santander, is listed in AFIP records as a monotributista - a self-employed small business owner earning within the lowest tax bracket, less than 15,000 pesos ($1,600) a month. Santander and his brother, Gustavo, own Santabros SA, a marketing firm whose chief client is Macri.

Ecomlat SA, owned by Alejandro Monti, was established in 2006 as a military contractor providing "machines, tools and special metallurgical items, optical and precision equipment, and other products required by the armed and security forces with the exception of arms and explosives." But in 2013 - the same year Derby Eland was established - EcomLat changed its stated rubric to "repair and enhancement of public works" and began receiving direct municipal contracts almost simultaneously with Derby Eland. Like Santander, Monti also filed as a monotributista and has no employees registered with the AFIP. His firm received the remaining 27 million pesos ($2.9 million) referenced in the investigation.

Costa Díaz also reported that tenders for these companies came in batches of four for 1,999,948 pesos ($210,000) each - structured to evade municipal no-bid limits of 2 million pesos per contract. "These two companies systematically placed winner and runner-up in the 24 contracts awarded between them since February," she said. The pattern of batches continued until July, and of the 47 million pesos awarded in total none of the contracts exceeded the figure above (52 pesos below the no-bid limit).

"There has been a move explicitly prohibited by law which is the splitting of contracts that have the same object," concludes Costa Díaz.

Macri has also come under fire for padded sanitation contracts (which cost Buenos Aires twice as much as Madrid) and for skyrocketing spending on publicity, which reached 1.2 billion pesos ($130 million) in FY 2015. This figure is three times what was spent by the national government (which governs 15 times more people), and three times what was budgeted for public school and hospital infrastructure and maintenance (of which the city typically spends two-thirds or less).

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201509/8559-nuevo-caso-niembro-el-pro-habria-realizado-el-mismo-tipo-de-negocio-con-empresas-que-reparan-veredas.html&prev=search

Pope Francis 'moved' by Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island flight.

Pope Francis on Saturday flew over the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the onetime gateway to America for millions of immigrants, by helicopter before leaving New York -- and was reportedly 'very moved' by the experience.

"As we circled Ellis Island, as we circled the Statue of Liberty, I could see he was very 'commosso' — as the Italians say, very moved," CBS Radio quoted Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was with the pope, as saying.

The impromptu tour came as the 78-year-old pontiff headed by helicopter to New York's John F. Kennedy airport for his flight to Philadelphia. Francis, the son of Italian immigrants who moved to Argentina, specifically asked the helicopter pilot to make the slight detour over New York Harbor.

Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said Francis had noted that Buenos Aires was "a city of immigrants too."

At: http://news.yahoo.com/pope-moved-statue-liberty-ellis-island-flight-200959939.html

ARSAT-2: Argentina consolidates as Latin American satellite leader

When Ariane 5 flight VA226 launches on September 30, the orbital slot for the 81 West geostationary position will finally get its long-term dweller that it has been promised for over 17 years. Riding along with the Sky Muster satellite, ARSAT-2 is the second geostationary satellite designed and manufactured in Argentina (and all of Latin America).

ARSAT-2 is the younger twin of ARSAT-1. It is a near copy of the first Argentinean geosynchronous orbit satellite, with the only difference being the payload and associated structures. The story begins with the separation of the Argentine military forces from the national space program in the early 1990s.

By 1998, DirecTV wanted to enter the local market, since it was the country with the highest per capital cable television penetration in the world. In exchange for that, Argentina gained the rights to a prime orbital real estate: the 81 West orbital slot.

Not only did it include both Ku and C band right, but instead of just allowing signals to Argentina and neighbors, it included all of the Americas from Alaska to Patagonia. Since Argentina is the biggest exporter of Spanish media content in the continent, it was a particularly attractive position for the country. Also given that the slot goes right through the center of the continental United States – and it was acquired as a trade for allowing DirecTV to enter the television market in Argentina – it could potentially enable to tap the satellite TV market in the United States.

With the imminent failure of Argentina's only orbital asset at the time (Nahuelsat), however, and without any actual willingness to invest in a replacement, after some negotiations the Nahuelsat stockholders accepted to transfer all assets and obligations to the newly created and government owned ARSAT.

‎Instead of ordering a couple of satellites from the international market – and thanks to the successful experience of the SAC-C (2000) and SAC-D (2011) – the national government decided that ARSAT should acquire the satellites from local companies. The only real choice was INVAP S.E., a technology company that has craved a niche in the research nuclear reactor market and had also been building the national LEO satellites.

The contract for the ARSAT-1 was thus signed by 2008. While INVAP was the prime contractor, the design rights would belong to ARSAT. While they did rely on foreign suppliers for some commodity elements, like propulsion engines, solar panels and on board computer hardware, over 50% of parts, and all design, qualification and testing was done locally. Also, every single piece of software was written from scratch by Argentine industry, as was the ground control segment.

With this development, the country could control the specification, design, manufacturing, testing and operations of GEO satellites.

Sophisticated modules like the ACE (the Attitude Control Electronics) and TCE (Thruster Control Electronics), the whole structures, and all software and algorithms were done by INVAP. This was no small feat since it is the critical part of design that usually more heavily covered by dual-use technology transfer laws -like the American ITAR- and geosynchronous orbital maneuvering is just a small step from interplanetary. Even the ground control station software and satellite control and telemetry system were built by Argentine contractors. This enables control of the whole technology stack of the satellite from production to control without foreign help.

ARSAT-2 will cover all the Americas offering data services as well as television content distribution. This is a strategic asset since Argentina is the leader on broadcast content production for Latin America and ARSAT-2 will enable it to distribute it directly through all the continent. This development also allowed Argentina to retain the West 81 orbital slot - which was almost lost to the UK in 2007 after a decade of British lobbying to obtain the coveted slot.

Being the clear leader in satellite design and manufacturing in Latin America was a national effort, and Argentina clearly believes in pushing this technology forward.

At: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2015/09/arsat-2-argentina-consolidates-latin-american-satellite-leader/

Argentina joins hands with China in developing clean energy

Argentina, whose energy trade deficit stood at $8 billion last year, has joined hands with China to develop renewable energy ranging from hydro and nuclear power to wind and solar power. For every percentage point increase in the share of renewable energy in the country's total energy supply, $500 million on energy imports will be saved according to the country's Renewable Energy Association

Two dams, named after former President Néstor Kirchner and former Santa Cruz Governor Jorge Cepernic, are being built along the Santa Cruz River, over 2,750 km (1,700 mi) south of Buenos Aires. Those projects were made possible by the assistance of Chinese engineers and machinery, as part of the two countries' growing partnership. The two dams reportedly have a planned construction investment of 4.714 billion U.S. dollars.

The dams, which are set to generate 6,000 direct and 1,000 indirect jobs during their construction phase, will generate an estimated 5,000 GWh a year and will supply energy for over 1.5 million homes. Once completed, the projects will save Argentina $1.2 billion annually on importing fuels and will lower the cost of industrial electricity by 6%.

Nuclear energy cooperation with China plays a key role in guaranteeing Argentina's energy security and independence, according to the state-run nuclear energy company, Nucleoeléctrica Argentina (NA-SA).

During Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's visit to China in February 2015, the two countries signed an agreement to joint build two nuclear plants in Argentina. Argentina currently has three operational nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 1,755 MW (7% of the total), which use technology from Germany and Canada. The two new plants, with a total output of 1,800 MW, will therefore double the country's nuclear power capacity.

Under the agreement, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) will partner with Argentina's NA-SA to build the two nuclear reactors. The CNNC will contribute technology, equipment and services, and offer Argentina 70% of the funds and services needed for the project. This will be the first time for China exports nuclear technology to Latin America.

In addition to nuclear and hydropower, China has been playing an important role in other clean energy sectors in Argentina such as wind power by offering key technology and funds. Earlier this year, Chinese company Hydrochina International Engineering Co. signed a deal with the La Rioja Province worth of more than $300 million to raise Arauco Wind Farm's installed capacity by 104 megawatts.

"In Argentina, the energy matrix is mainly composed of fossil fuels and to a lesser extent hydraulic and nuclear energy. This makes the relative cost of energy fluctuate based on the quantity of fuel available. If we don't have it then we need to import it with a constant flight of capital to balance the matrix," said Juan Fernando Carbel, president of Arauco Wind Farm.

At: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-09/16/c_134627568.htm

City government of Buenos Aires wants Channel 5 (C5N) off the air; closes one of its facilities.

The government of the City of Buenos Aires has closed down a warehouse used to house mobile units from the C5N television station, in another attempt to silence the channel's news output. Two City inspectors later appeared at the studio, and offered to move the security tape marking the closure without presenting the necessary documents nor revealing who emitted the order for the measure.

The only explanation given by City authorities is that the closure was due to "safety failures and lack of permission," although the warehouse has been operative for more than eight years in the same conditions. An inspector then compared the site with a restaurant and that they would seek to remove the necessary items.

This latest attack comes two months after the administration led by the right-wing PRO presidential candidate, Mauricio Macri, removed all the City's advertising budget from the channel, in a clear effort to financially suffocate and control freedom of expression.

The channel has released a press statement in reference to the closure:


They want to see C5N off the air

First it was the economic gag, starting two months ago the City government has cut off all advertising money to the channel in a clear message of economic censorship aimed against the freedom of our journalists to report. Now the gag comes in the form of the closure, after the investigation and reports which are public knowledge and which aired on this channel, leaving a web of corruption which involves the government exposed (The Niembro case).

The persecution against C5N has begun by closing one of its facilities. Freedom of expression is a constitutional guarantee and the City government wants to control it by closing the channel. We will continue to report 24 hours a day in spite of these 'gags' that seek to keep silent the biggest asset a media outlet has: the freedom to inform the people.


At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198962/city-government-wants-c5n-off-the-air-closes-one-of-its-facilities

Chile’s Amnesty Law keeps Pinochet’s legacy alive

By Guadalupe Marengo, IPS News

“Many of them have died waiting for justice. Many have died in silence. We’ve had enough of painful waiting and unjustified silences. This is the time to join together in the search for truth.” With these words, one year ago, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 coup d’etat in which a defiant general Augusto Pinochet took power by force.

More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared and over 38,000 were detained arbitrarily and tortured during the 17 years of military regime that followed.

The Bachelet government promised to declare null and void the Amnesty Law, a decree passed by the Pinochet regime in 1978 to shield those suspected of committing human rights violations between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978 from facing the courts. The law sparked fierce debate in Chile, with many arguing it is nothing but a piece of legislation that hasn’t been used for many years. They are partly right.

In 1998 Chile’s Supreme Court ruled that the law should not apply to cases of human rights violations. This brave decision allowed for crucial investigations to move forward. Around 1,000 cases, 72 relating to allegations of torture, are active, according to data from the country’s Supreme Court from 2014. By October of the same year, 279 people had been found guilty in trials before ordinary civilian courts in connection with these crimes, and 75 were serving prison sentences. In May 2014, 75 former agents of Pinochet’s secret police (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, DINA) were sentenced to between 13 and 14 years in prison in connection with the disappearance of student Jorge Grez Aburto in 1974.

Other members of the DINA, including its former head Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, were sentenced last October to 15 years in prison for the disappearance of Carlos Guerrero Gutiérrez and Claudio Guerrero Hernández, in 1974 and 1975 respectively. Contreras died while serving the sentence of 500 years in prison for his responsibility in human rights violations committed during the Pinochet years. And on 16 August, Chile’s Supreme Court announced the prosecution of 15 members of Pinochet’s secret police for the killing of Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria Espinoza in 1976.

This ruling marked a U-turn on an earlier decision to archive the case, as it fell under the scope of crimes protected by the Amnesty Law. The fact is, however, that the Amnesty Law is still valid. It was for many years a shameful wall behind which torturers and murderers were able to hide.

This archaic decree is a shocking reminder of Pinochet’s tragic legacy, one that has no place in a country that claims to stand for justice and human rights. Further, it is an affront to victims who are still desperately seeking answers and justice. Declaring the Amnesty Law null and void would force Chile to come face-to-face with its troubled past and finally send the message that the abuses of the Pinochet era will never be tolerated again.

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-chiles-amnesty-law-keeps-pinochets-legacy-alive/

Vatican launches rail service to Castel Gandolfo

If you've ever wanted to see the world from the viewpoint of a pope, now you can.

The Vatican has turned part of the lavish papal summer estate south of Rome - which the frugal Pope Francis has never used - into a museum and linked it to Rome via a train. Both were inaugurated on Friday and one of the main draws is a chance to stand at the window overlooking a large courtyard from where popes before Francis blessed crowds every Sunday for weeks during their summer breaks.

Pope Francis, a workaholic who has also renounced the papal apartments in the Vatican in favor of a suite in a guesthouse, does not take vacations. His shunning of Castel Gandolfo led to a drastic decline in tourism that hurt the local economy. Opening the palace doors "was the pope's initiative," said Antonio Paolucci, head of the Vatican Museums. "Francis said 'I won't go to Castel Gandolfo because I have too much to do at the Vatican' and so he told me to open the palace and the grounds to the public."

A special train will run on Saturdays from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo, about 35 km (20 miles) south of Rome. Tourists can see the Vatican Museums and gardens and then take the train to the estate and nearby museum. For the inaugural run on Friday, Italy's state railways used a 100-year-old, coal-powered locomotive that belted out dark clouds of smoke as it left the Vatican pulling antique carriages, including one used by Pope John XXIII in 1962.

At 136 acres (55 hectares), the Castel Gandolfo estate is about one fourth larger than Vatican City itself, with woodlands and a working farm with about 100 cows producing 1,300 liters of milk a day.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198592/vatican-launches-rail-service-to-popes-summer-palace-

Argentina hails UN vote on sovereign debt restructuring

Source: BBC News

Argentina has welcomed a UN resolution creating a new global framework for sovereign debt restructuring. Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said it was a resolution for economic stability, peace and development. The UN said countries should protect governments from minority creditors who refuse to go along with the majority in mutually agreed debt restructuring.

Argentina has been fighting US hedge funds who are demanding full payment on defaulted bonds. The hedge funds had refused to go along with the majority of the country's creditors and accept a restructuring deal. Argentina defaulted in 2001. The hedge funds scooped up its bonds years later at a fraction of the price and have since won US court backing to claim full payment.

Argentina struck repayment deals in 2005 and 2010 with more than 92% of its bondholders. The government argues that if it pays the hedge funds the full amount demanded (a payout of up to 1600%), it would undermine the basis for the repayment deals struck with its other creditors.


Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-34217115



UN General Assembly resolutions are non-binding; but this resolution formally puts vulture funds afoul of the international community - which is certainly fitting since they are mostly TARP babies and Caymans-based laundries.

Niembro case (Argentina): La Usina PR firm and Macri's Buenos Aires city government offices raided.

Five raids have been carried out in the last hours after an order issued by prosecutor Carlos Velarde, who is in charge of the investigation into alleged irregularities in contracts signed between the Buenos Aires City Government and a company owned by PRO/"Let's Change" congressional candidate and sportscaster Fernando Niembro. The raids were conducted at city government offices and at Niembro's La Usina production company.

Attorney Antonio Liurgo today confirmed the lawsuit he had filed days ago against Mayor Mauricio Macri and sportscaster Fernando Niembro. Mayor Macri is currently running for president on the same right-wing PRO/"Let's Change" ticket.

Niembro's legal situation became even more complicated when the AFIP tax agency informed that his production company, La Usina, has no registered employees and owes a tax debt of more than 20,000 pesos. Despite this, La Usina has since 2013 provided the City Administration with advertising services for 21 million pesos ($2.3 million).

A second contract signed with the Bank of City of Buenos Aires, the municipally-owned bank headed by former PRO councilman Rogelio Frigerio, jr., surpassed 1 million pesos ($110,000) and consisted in placing ads in Fox Sports, where Niembro worked as a longtime sportscaster until his candidacy was launched.

Last week, reports indicated Niembro lied about the date he dissociated himself from La Usina. He assured he left the company in March, 2014, when he decided to become more fully involved in politics. An investigation by local news daily Tiempo Argentino revealed that happened eight months later, however.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198210/niembro-case-la-usina-and-city-government-offices-raided
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And this is just the tip of the iceberg where Macri's contracts concerned, because his administration spends 10 times as much on political ads and PR -about $80 million a year at taxpayer expense- as it does on school and hospital repairs (a municipal mandate).

Similarly, much of the $500 million a year his administration spends on outsourced services goes to his relatives (the Macris and Calcaterras built their fortune largely on padded public contracts) or to close friends of theirs (the Caputos, Cartellones, Plazas, and Roggios among others). Macri's policy and privatizing and outsourcing services the city once provided directly has led to a five-fold increase in Buenos Aires' municipal debt load to $2.5 billion; Buenos Aires was one of the few great cities of the world with almost no debt until he took office.

The City Council passed a Transparency Law in 2013 (over Macri's veto) to make details of all such contracts public - a law he mostly disregards. This Niembro scandal is instant karma, I guess.

Former Brazilian President Lula 'banking on Scioli' to win Argentine election

Former Brazilian President Luis Inácio 'Lula' da Silva has made public his endorsement of Daniel Scioli in the upcoming presidential elections, stating that the Victory Front candidate would maintain strong relations with Argentina's neighbor to the north.

"I have a very dignified, respectful relationship with Argentina. I understand perfectly Argentina's role. I had an extraordinary relationship with Néstor Kirchner and I have the same with Cristina," the Workers' Party (PT) activist signaled in an interview with Página 12.

"From Brazil then I am obviously banking on Cristina to make sure her favored successor is chosen to the presidency. Even more so when that successor is Scioli." Lula explained today that the Buenos Aires governor would fulfill his desire for the next president to be someone who "wants to keep a good relationship with Brazil, someone who sees Brazil as a partner and not an adversary."

"Also someone who wants to increase the political, commercial and scientific relationship between the two countries. That is why there should be no going back. We have already suffered the military era, we went through Carlos Menem and Fernando Henrique Cardoso's time, when the Argentine and Brazilian states were dismantled. After that we had difficult moments, but after that happiness arrived for our people," he affirmed.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/198129/exbrazil-president-lula-banking-on-scioli-to-win-election
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When Lula mentioned that he appreciates "someone who sees Brazil as a partner and not an adversary," it's no casual remark: the Argentine right has a long history of blaming Brazil for all kinds of historic grievances - most, of their own making. The Fox News mentality.
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