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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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Transformative former New York Philharmonic conductor Kurt Masur Dies at 88.

Kurt Masur, the music director emeritus of the New York Philharmonic, who was credited with transforming the orchestra from a sullen, lackluster ensemble into one of luminous renown, died on Saturday in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was 88.

The death, from complications of Parkinson’s disease, was announced by the Philharmonic, which said it would dedicate its Saturday night performance of Handel’s Messiah to Masur’s memory.

Masur, born in Brieg, in the Silesian region of Germany (today Brzeg, Poland), was the Philharmonic’s music director from 1991 to 2002. When he took its helm, the orchestra had declined from its zenith under Leonard Bernstein, the Philharmonic’s music director from 1958 to 1969. It was roundly considered to be a world-class ensemble in name only, its playing grown slipshod, its players fractious and discontented, its recording contracts often going unrenewed.

“I remember when I asked one of the orchestra committee after my appointment here, ‘Why me?’ ” Masur told the newspaper Scotland on Sunday in 1999. “He said, ‘Because you do not fear orchestras.’ ”

Masur made his formal debut as the Philharmonic’s music director on September 11, 1991. But he had impressed the critics even before his tenure began. Over the 11-year marriage that followed, Masur would bring to the Philharmonic a restored musical vigor; new recording contracts and regular radio exposure; a populist approach that helped expand its graying, rarefied audience; and a determination to improve the dubious acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall, its longtime home.

He also brought to the podium the ardent conviction that music-making was a moral act that could heal the world. It was a belief he had put into spectacular public practice in 1989, when Communism in East Germany began to crumble and he used his singular renown there to avert bloodshed. Masur would put it into practice again, memorably and movingly, in the premiere performance of John Williams' theme for Schindler's List in 1994, and for a New York ravaged by the attacks of September 11, 2001.

At: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/20/arts/music/kurt-masur-new-york-philharmonic-conductor-dies.html?_r=0

Devaluation-driven inflation forces Macri to grant $30 Christmas bonus to pensioners, aid recipients

In a press conference at the Casa Rosada state house this afternoon, Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced a 400-peso ($30) bonus to be paid before New Year's Eve to pensioners and family assistance beneficiaries. The bonus covers 3.6 million children receiving the 837 peso ($60) monthly Universal Child Benefit (AUH), 70,000 women receiving aid for expecting mothers (Nacer), and pensioners who receive the basic state pension of 4,300 pesos ($325).

Speaking to reporters after returning from Asunción, Paraguay, where he made his debut at the Mercosur summit, President Macri noted that following the enactment of tax cuts for agricultural exporters, a sudden 40% devaluation, and other measures announced last week to "make Argentina work again," some "price fluctuations" have been observed.

"So while we'll keep working with the Production Ministry (to address wholesale price increases of 30% or more), we have decided to give a 400 peso bonus to all the AUH beneficiaries, to pregnant women, and to basic pensioners - which in all represent 8 million people," Macri said, concluding that "we think new jobs will be created."

At: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/205386/macri-announces-$400-bonus-for-auh-beneficiaries-pensioners

A $30 bonus to cover the price hikes caused by his own devaluation. It really is good to see Ebenezer Macri get into the Christmas spirit.

Trump demands Clinton apology for ISIS "best recruiter" jab

Source: USA Today

Donald Trump says he will "demand" an apology from Hillary Clinton for saying that his anti-Muslim comments have made him the Islamic State's "best recruiter," including the use of videos.

"She should apologize," Trump said Monday on NBC's TODAY show. "She lies about emails, she lies about Whitewater, she lies about everything. She will be a disaster about everything as president of the United States."

Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States until the government gets a better handle on the terrorist threat.

During Saturday's Democratic debate, Clinton said the U.S. needs to make sure that "the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don't fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists."

Read more: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-demands-clinton-apology-for-isis-jab/ar-BBnModR?ocid=ansmsnnews11

ISIS' best recruiter is demanding Hillary apologize for calling him its "best recruiter."

I for one agree. She should have called him their yoogest recruiter.

Macri's decree appointments to Argentine Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional.

Argentine Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla today ruled President Mauricio Macri's designation of two Supreme Court justices through decree to be unconstitutional. The judge, who presides over the Dolores, Buenos Aires Province, federal court, ordered the Supreme Court to abstain from swearing them in.

President Macri came under heavy criticism last week from even many of his allies after he decided to appoint two new acting Supreme Court justices immediately, without Senate confirmation hearings. Macri used an obscure provision in Article 99 of the Argentine Constitution that provides for the recess appointment by decree of federal judges for a term of up to one year.

The decree, Córdoba constitutional lawyer Miguel Rodriguez Villafañe explained, was meant for emergencies and harkens back to an era when senators from distant provinces often took weeks to reach Congress for extraordinary sessions called during the recess period. Macri is the first Argentine president, besides the numerous military dictators that ruled the country for 22 of the 53 years between 1930 and 1983, to name Supreme Court justices by decree since 1862.

Carlos Rosenkrantz and Horacio Rosatti were appointed to replace former justices Carlos Fayt, who stepped down on December 11; and Eugenio Zaffaroni, who retired from the Supreme Court a year ago upon reaching the legal retirement age for judges of 75. Fayt, who is 97, was exempt from the retirement age by a grandfather clause and waited until the day after Macri took office to retire. Former President Cristina Kirchner's nominee to replace Zaffaroni, Roberto Carlés, was blocked in April by a political agreement between the opposition caucuses in the Senate.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/205383/federal-judge-rules-sc-justices-appointment-unconstitutional

Devaluation-driven inflation forces Macri to maintain Cristina Kirchner's Price Care program.

The Argentine Ministry of Commerce, which had announced its intention to limit the Price Care program of price controls from 512 basic consumer goods to 70, backtracked on this decision after a demonstrations led by consumer advocacy groups in Buenos Aires end elsewhere. The Price Care program, it was announced today, would be maintained on 400 basic items.

The new list will be effective on January 1, 2016, and authorizes price increases of 5% on average. The Ministry of Commerce, however, announced to suppliers that there would be fewer controls to products outside the plan.

Enacted by former President Cristina Kirchner in March 2013 to cover 194 basic consumer goods, the Price Care care program was expanded to 512 goods the following year and had an average compliance rate of 64% on both price and availability; of the supermarket chains surveyed, only Chilean-owned Jumbo stores had compliance rates of less than 50%. The program's impact on overall inflation is a subject of debate because private inflation estimates deliberately exclude items covered by this program; the market share of items within the Price Care program increased substantially, however. Neighboring Uruguay, under former President José Mujica, enacted a similar program known as Protected Prices.

Inflation, which had been averaging 1.6% a month (20% at an annualized rate) prior to Macri's narrow November 22 runoff victory, has accelerated sharply as manufacturers and wholesalers, who use the official peso/dollar exchange rate as reference, rushed to raise prices by 30 to 50% to match the new exchange rate of nearly 14 pesos (a 40% jump); some had raised prices even further, fearing a new exchange rate of up to 16 pesos. While retailers have managed to absorb some of that, inflation is now projected to reach 5% a month in December, and 3% in January before stabilizing at earlier levels.

Wages, which in Argentina rise by an average of 2% a month (28%, annualized), are not expected to accelerate, given the Macri administration's opposition to collective bargaining rights (which were revived and strongly backed during the Kirchner era between 2003 and 2015).

University of Buenos Aires economist Ariel Setton believes that Macri's decree sharply reducing export taxes for most agricultural raw materials has contributed to the recent spike in prices as much as the devaluation itself has, since it creates inherent incentives to depress the domestic market for the sake of increasing export supplies. "In this context, added to the Macri team's lack of a plan to support the purchasing power of the working class, I see a trend in the short term towards a slightly smaller domestic market. There will undoubtedly be a recession as a result."

Dante Sica, head of the consulting firm Abeceb, explained that "the greatest impact is being seen in food prices, and I think that further strong prices increases may follow." He agreed with Setton's assessment that the removal of export taxes are contributing to the problem. "We must see how this price scenario impacts future price truce proposals by the government. The previous one failed; but the liberalization of imports might make a difference."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/271599/el-gobierno-refuerza-precios-cuidados-para&prev=search

Macri eliminates import limits, hurting small and medium industry and their employees.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced during the 21st Argentine Industrial Conference in North Park, Buenos Aires, that of the 19,000 imported product lines classified by Argentine ports and customs, 18,000 will now enter the country with no restrictions.

"We are going towards a Comprehensive Import Monitoring System, which is basically going to a simple mechanism of automatic and non-automatic licenses," Productive Development Minister Francisco Cabrera said. "Only 1,000 will remain subject to non-automatic licenses," he added, referring to the Advance Import Affidavits (DJAI) applied to the majority of consumer goods during the Cristina Kirchner administration.

The measure, according to Cabrera, "will not put jobs at risk;" but chambers representing small and medium businesses, which employ 75% of the Argentine workforce, begged to differ.

"The DJAIs, with all their shortcomings, helped contain excessive imports in defense of national industry. Eliminating them will mainly affect small and medium industries because we cannot compete with costs in low-wage countries and that creates an unsustainable situation," Daniel Moreira, Secretary of the AgePeBA Association, said.

"The announcement was made before the UIA (large manufacturers' lobby), because they, especially multinational corporations, are the only ones that might benefit. Multinationals in particular can now import from their affiliates around the world the products they would rather not manufacture here because of higher labor costs," Moreira explained. "The liberalization Macri is implementing in all economic areas, aims to benefit the largest companies and the wealthiest people. Small and medium businesses and farmers will be the first to pay with measures such as this one and the reduction of export taxes."

"Every small and medium business that closes leaves a real void in their neighborhood, sometimes even their city," he pointed out, warning that "This has the potential of triggering a recession that spirals in on itself until it implodes, as it did in 2001."

"This obsession the right has with liberalizing imports also ignores the fact that international market conditions are currently down. When overseas manufacturers find that market demand is scarce, liberalizing imports in a relatively high-income market like ours - which was protected for a long time - is quite a Christmas gift for them," he said.

Moreira also recalled that the contempt of the Macri toward small and medium business was evident during his election campaign itself.

"Unlike the Front for Victory team (of runner-up Daniel Scioli), this new administration has not called us now or during the campaign. Nor did Macri have a small business policy during his tenure as Mayor of Buenos Aires; he always ignored us and our workers."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://eldepartamental.com/noticia/nacionales/politica/mauricio-macri-elimina-las-djai-un-golpe-mortal-para-las-pymes-y-sus-trabajadores-9025&prev=search

The race to the bottom. Policies that flood the market with cheap imports from slave-wage countries are something we know of only too well here in the U.S.

Macri's money laundering abatement director worked in IMF & law firm tied to Nazi money laundering

Argentine President Mauricio Macri nominated Mariano Federici, a lawyer who works for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to head the Financial Information Unit (UIF), the office in charge of investigating money laundering.

Federici’s proposed number two is María Eugenia Talerico, a member of the conservative lawyers' organization Será Justicia, which has a history of initiating politically-motivated lawsuits against officials in the administration of former President Cristina Kirchner; these lawsuits, though ruled frivolous in each case by the courts, were highly publicized at the time by the media.

The move comes less than a week after current UIF Director José Sbatella stepped down at Macri’s request even though his term was not scheduled to expire until 2018. Under Sbatella's tenure, Argentina was removed from the Financial Action Task Force's 'gray list' of countries with money laundering problems - making it one of the few countries to have improved their standing in recent years.

Federici, 42, studied Law at the Argentine Catholic University (UCA) and has a master at the University of Virginia. At the IMF, he has worked as an adviser for the Latin America and the Caribbean division. He participated in numerous investigations into money laundering in Peru and Uruguay.

Between 2001 and 2002, Federici also worked for Sullivan & Cromwell, an international law firm based in New York.

Sullivan & Cromwell gained notoriety during the period around World War II for serving as legal counsel, through its managing partner Allen Dulles, for Brown Brothers at the height of their money laundering activities for the Nazi Party, Krupp (the top Nazi weapons manufacturer), and I.G. Farben (the German chemical company which produced the Zyklon B gas used in concentration camps); as partner at Sullivan, Dulles signed his letters to Nazi officials with “Heil Hitler.” Other notable Sullivan & Cromwell clients at the time included United Fruit (which later called on Dulles to overthrow duly elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz) and Prescott Bush, who used Dulles' services at Sullivan to hide proceeds from Nazi banking activities instead of divesting them as government regulators had required.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/205102/eximf-official-to-head-moneylaundering-unit

Macri's devaluation could have major impact on Argentine prices.

The decision to lift currency restrictions announced yesterday, and where precisely the exchange rate will settle after trading begins today, could have a major impact on prices. Prices have in fact already risen since the November 22 runoff in light of President Mauricio Macri’s repeated pledges to undo the Kirchner-era policy of limiting access to U.S. dollars and maintaining a crawling-peg devaluation.

While official inflation estimates have not been released for November, prices since then for certain basic goods have spiked between 20 to 30% according to major consumer union and business chambers. Supermarkets and retailers have already been bracing for what many believed would be a sharp devaluation of the peso once Macri took office.

Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said yesterday during the announcement that “the law of the jungle would not apply to consumer prices” following any shifts in the exchange rate in today’s trading. But announcements that beef exports will no longer have any kind of restrictions sent prices soaring before Macri took office, with some reporting increases of 30%; the cut of meat known as asado would be priced between 100 and 130 pesos a kilo ($3 to $4 a pound) during the summer holidays. The mid-range cut is a standard on Argentine grills. Agriculture Minister Ricardo Buryaile said on Monday that the government would “try” to bring prices back to what they were in November.

After a series of increases in the price of new automobiles last month (with some reaching as much as 40% over the last model year's basis) auto industry leaders have suggested the a devaluation would not have a major impact in the short-term. Manufacturers of industrial inputs for finished products, however, have already been increasing prices to reflect an exchange rate at 16 pesos to the dollar (rather than at the roughly 10 peso rate prevailing until yesterday).

The price of flour has also jumped by 100%, as producers have expected that increased exports and reduced export duties will result in greater prices for the products. Emilio Majori, who represents bakeries in Buenos Aires Province, said that the price of a 50-kilo wholesale bag of flour for bakery use had jumped from a range of 110-130 pesos to 240-250 pesos after the runoff and that as result bread would likely retail around 30 pesos per kilo (around 50% higher).

Unions have already taken note of the price increases, and Antonio Caló of the UOM metalworkers’ union (the principal union leader within the CGT, Argentina's largest trade federation) has said that the loss of purchasing power will have to be compensated. Caló said last night that his union will be seeking a 5,000 peso end-of-year bonus in light of what he expects to be a 50% devaluation. Even Hotel and Restaurant Union leader Luis Barrionuevo, who endorsed Macri, is now demanding a 50% raise.

Whether a devaluation would affect the price of consumer goods emerged as a sharp debate ahead of the presidential runoff, with economists supporting center-left candidate Daniel Scioli insisting it would while right-wing economists supporting Mauricio Macri contending companies had already adjusted the prices of their products according to the black-market exchange rate. Scioli was narrowly defeated by Macri in the runoff.

“What (Macri’s economists) are arguing is that 'if food is not imported then why would it be made more expensive by a devaluation?' But the problem is that most basic goods can also be sold abroad. A bottle of cooking oil costs 10 pesos in an Argentine supermarket and one dollar abroad; but a sudden devaluation would mean that now a producer can get 15 pesos for that same bottle by selling it in Europe, for instance. Why would he then keep selling it at 10 pesos here?” said Daniel Scioli’s chief economic adviser Miguel Bein.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/205128/measure-could-have-major-impact-on-prices

A real windfall for dollar hoarders though - including Finance Minister Prat-Gay himself. http://www.democraticunderground.com/110845605

Argentine Finance Minister announces end of currency controls and devaluation.

Argentine Finance Minister Alfonso Prat Gay is expected to announce during a press conference to be held at 6 pm the implementation of two campaign promises by right-wing candidate Mauricio Macri: the lifting of dollar restrictions and a devaluation of up to 50% he refers to as "exchange rate unification."

President Mauricio Macri had already announced he would start lifting restrictions this week to access to U.S. dollars that had been imposed by the previous administration nearly four years ago. He has not specified the speed at which he will lift the restrictions.

Freeing capital controls will likely weaken the official peso exchange rate. Sources said they expect a speculative selloff to weaken the exchange rate to between 13.5 and 15 pesos to the dollar, versus the current rate of 9.83.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/205080/end-of-currency-controls-to-be-announced-today
The "Finance" Minister, of course, is the same one holding millions in put options against the peso in a Swiss account (confirmed by Swissleaks). http://www.democraticunderground.com/110845605

This, then. isn't so much a devaluation as it is his writing a check to himself - at everyone else's expense: http://www.democraticunderground.com/110845684

Open letter by Argentine musician Charly García leads to dismissal of openly fascist Macri official

Following the controversy over Security Minister Patricia Bullrich's appointment of an openly fascist writer, Carlos Manfroni, as Secretary of Legislative Affairs (congressional liaison) for the Ministry of Security, sources close to his office confirmed that he has resigned.

Manfroni, who had also been recently denounced by Security Ministry employees for his alleged persecution on account of employees' "political, trade union, and ideological affiliations," resigned following a public outcry over his openly fascist magazine columns - and in particular after an open letter addressed to the Macri administration by Argentine rock musician Charly García.

García, one of the best known singer/songwriters in Argentine rock since 1973, reminded Manfroni in the letter that they had once met when the latter attended a performance of his in the Opera House and that they got on well. "If you think we (rock musicians) are all animals, perverts, drug addicts, homosexuals, etc. - and some of us are," García wrote, "do me a favor - for me, and all those who work for the love of the art and do so with the best intentions: tell me, what is it about public office that ruins some people?"

"I deserve an apology. I sang of dinosaurs, and I fought against the dictatorship and against assholes who are against the French Revolution, John Lennon, and love," he said, in reference to Manfroni's past columns on the anti-Semitic monthly Cabildo condemning all three as "filthy, satanic, and masturbation," respectively.

"Don't count on me to support simpletons. I feel that the fight was in vain; but we will still put out our music and lyrics, just as we did in those dark times."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201512/10479-finalmente-patricia-bullrich-dio-vuelta-atras-con-el-polemico-ministro-de-seguridad.html&prev=search

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201512%2F10466-la-carta-abierta-de-charly-garcia-a-hernan-lombardi.html

A little more about Manfroni: http://www.democraticunderground.com/110846152
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