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forest444

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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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Argentine budget deficit triples as trickle-down tax cuts and recession far outweigh subsidy cuts.

The Argentine Finance Ministry reported that the nation's fiscal accounts recorded a total deficit of 57.6 billion pesos ($4.1 billion) - nearly three times as much as the 20 billion-peso deficit ($2.2 billion, at the time) recorded the same month last year.

The sharply higher deficit was mostly a result of lower revenues, which fell by 6.7% in June over the same time last year to 129 billion pesos ($9.1 billion). The decline in revenues is far more severe in real terms, however, because inflation in Argentina has doubled to 47% since the Mauricio Macri administration took office. Taking inflation into account, real revenues collapsed by over 36% - the steepest in modern Argentine history.

Deficits for the first six months of the year were up a more modest 24.4% to 133.2 billion pesos ($9.3 billion) - a figure described as an improvement by Finance Ministry officials because in real terms this represented an 8.1% decrease. The trend toward deteriorating public finances was underscored, however, by the fact that June accounted for nearly half (43%) of the entire budget deficit for the first half of 2016.

Argentina's federal revenue base also showed a marked shift away from income, corporate, and trade taxes (which are mostly paid by the wealthy). Former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna, a centrist opposed to both Macri and his populist predecessor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, estimated that the sharp export tax cuts decreed by Macri in December will cost federal coffers at least 46 billion pesos ($3 billion) this year alone.

The tax burden is meanwhile being shifted to average Argentines both directly and indirectly. The types of tax most often encountered by the majority of households - social security contributions and value-added sales taxes - actually rose by 35% and 40%, respectively. These two revenue streams (the most regressive) now account for over 70% of federal revenues.

Cutbacks of around 160 billion pesos ($10.5 billion) in utility and transport subsidies for FY2016, in turn, have led to fare increases of 100%, water and electric rate hikes of 300%, and gas bill hikes of close to 1,000% - a back-door tax increase estimated at close to $800 a year or nearly 6% the median full-time salary in Argentina.

Falling revenues therefore did not translate into lower taxes for most of Argentina's 43 million people - whose median earnings have fallen by at least 11% since Macri took office just eight months ago. A separate report by the CAME medium business bureau revealed that June retail sales fell 9.8% in real terms over the same time last year.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201607%2F15476-se-triplico-el-deficit-financiero-en-las-cuentas-publicas.html

50 Argentine Dirty War convicts transferred from prison to house arrest so far this year.

A series of federal court rulings in Argentina have resulted in transfers from prison to house arrest for some 50 former military and police officers convicted for crimes against humanity committed during the last dictatorship (1976-83), judicial sources said.

Up to 30,000 Argentines were killed during the state-sponsored Dirty War, primarily from 1976 to 1978.

The rulings have benefited Dirty War convicts who are over 70 years old and whose lawyers filed requests for house arrest based on health reasons. While these decisions officially depend solely on judges' discretion, Army Chief of Staff Diego Suñer - a Macri appointee - was confirmed to have actively lobbied on behalf of those seeking a transfer to house arrest.

According to Justice Ministry officials speaking to local news daily Clarín on condition of anonymity, this trend reflects "a change in court doctrine" from the one prevailing during the populist administrations of former Presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner (2003-15).

Their administrations made human rights a central political issue in Argentina, and Néstor Kirchner's signature of a 2003 bill rescinding two amnesty laws that since 1987 had shielded Dirty War suspects led to hundreds of trials and convictions.

The pace of prosecutions has slowed dramatically since President Mauricio Macri took office in December, however - a change foreshadowed by Macri's description of human rights as a "scam" during the 2015 campaign.

This change in policy was further underscored by Defense Minister Julio Martínez's decision to allow Dirty War convicts to be treated in military hospitals (which had been banned due to a numerous escape attempts), as well as by revelations that Justice Minsiter Germán Garavano had held secret talks in April with Argentina's leading Dirty War apologist, Cecilia Pando.

These developments mark a sharp departure from the Kirchner era, when 2,389 officers were accused, 1,132 arrested, and 681 convicted. This marked the fist time in world history that human rights abuses were systematically prosecuted (rather than a few top officials), something described by the dictator who oversaw most of the Dirty War, General Jorge Videla as "our worst moments."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.minutouno.com/notas/1499617-en-lo-que-va-del-ano-unos-50-ex-represores-obtuvieron-la-prision-domiciliaria&prev=search

Rio 2016: more than half of Athletes Village buildings still to pass safety tests.

Less than two weeks ahead of the Olympics, the Rio 2016 organizing committee has acknowledged that 19 of the 31 buildings in the Athletes Village have yet to pass safety tests.

Close to 10% of the competitors have already arrived in Brazil and many are housed in the village, though the shoddy conditions – which include flooded floors, broken elevators, mold, holes in the ceiling, blocked toilets, and exposed wiring – have shocked some team managers, athletes, and volunteers.

The organizers promise to resolve the problems by Thursday, but in the interim the Australian team has decided to temporarily rehouse its athletes. The Argentine, Dutch, and Italian teams have also complained and hinted that there may be demands for compensation.

“While the apartments look finished outside, we found some problems that have to do with plumbing and electricity,” Argentine Olympic Committee President Gerardo Werthein said. “In our building, we have five floors and two of them are uninhabitable. We are renting a number of apartments outside the villa and will move the technical personnel and staff there to guarantee proper accommodations for our team.”

“We all know how difficult is to find accommodations outside the village at this point, and although Rio says they will be ready, we cannot take any chances.” The risks were evident on Saturday when a small fire broke out in building 26, which is the home of the Dutch team.

Although Rio2016 said the faults affected only 5% of the rooms, spokesman Mário Andrada admitted only 12 of the 31 tower blocks have been checked and proved OK.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jul/25/rio-2016-olympic-officials-athletes-village-unfinished

And: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/218717/coa-claims-rio-village-is-unfinished

Argentina's Macri to use all individual social security data for "mass communication" campaigns.

The embattled right-wing administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced a "cooperation agreement framework" between the Ministry of Communication and the ANSES social security agency that would give the executive branch have access to data on the country's entire adult population of 32 million people.

The database, which would be overseen by Communications Minister Jorge Greco and Chief of Staff Marcos Peña (both close personal friends of Macri), includes names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and places, National ID (DNI) and taxpayer ID (CUIT/CUIL) numbers, e-mail addresses, work and educational history, and other private data.

The database, according to the decree, would be utilized "in order to reach people with information about government actions."

This decree, enacted by way of Resolution 166 on June 22 but published in the Official Gazette only yesterday, was strongly rejected by numerous civil liberties NGOs as well as by lawmakers from the center-left Front for Victory and the centrist Renewal Front.

Resolution 166, they agreed, would violate both the Law on Personal Data Protection (enacted in 2000 to counter increasing identity theft) and habeas data and privacy rights guaranteed in Articles 19 and 43 of the Argentine Constitution.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/218718/government-could-use-anses-data-for-communication-campaigns

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.noticiasurbanas.com.ar/noticias/denuncian-al-gobierno-por-los-datos-del-anses/&prev=search

Argentina's Macri retaliates against popular comedian using secret, taxpayer-funded "troll centers."

A report published today in a Buenos Aires newspaper, Perfil, revealed that a massive wave of social network attacks against popular Argentine comedian Marcelo Tinelli after satirizing right-wing President Mauricio Macri were in fact directed by a secret, government-funded campaign.

"The work was done by specialized social networks," local social network consultant Pablo Sirvén concluded. "These systematic attacks were conducted by a task force directed by (Macri's party) the PRO, which specifically intervened in an attempt to discredit the subject (Tinelli) and then took down their accounts."

The consultant did a computer analysis of Twitter users who sought to popularize the hashtag #TinelliMercenarioK ("Tinelli, Kirchnerist mercenary" - a reference to Macri's populist predecessors, former Presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner. Sirvén's data showed that "less than 2% of those who spoke negatively were real people."

"Most of these social media accounts, additionally, had never posted any comments or other content on any website or account related to Tinelli," Perfil writer Damien Naboth noted. "But all had links to known PRO 'troll centers', which in turn would artificially create large numbers of new accounts to follow the accounts posting the hostile tweets."

Macri's use of taxpayer funds to coordinate smear campaigns against opponents or public figures critical of him is not new.

As mayor of Buenos Aires, he was known to maintain a "Special Projects Unit" at taxpayer expense. The office, led by PRO loyalist Paula Uhalde, would engage in similar, rapid-fire social media campaigns and were denounced on numerous occasions for physically threatening opponents putting up posters or handing out campaign leaflets.

Macri also came under fire in 2015 after the discovery of vaguely-worded city contracts worth millions of dollars to fund media hacks such as sportscaster Fernando Niembro and political writer Luis Majul - the latter becoming especially notorious for his "anonymous source" hit pieces alleging corruption by the Kirchners and other opponents. Niembro, like the Macri family, was among those named in the Panama Papers scandal in April.

A similar campaign was bankrolled by one of Macri's best-known overseas supporters, vulture fund owner and top GOP contributor Paul Singer, both in Argentina and the United States. His Buenos Aires contact, far-right Congresswoman Laura Alonso, received hundreds of thousands of dollars to stage social media attacks against the Kirchner administration over its refusal to award his Caymans-based hedge fund NML a 1,600% payout on old defaulted bonds he purchased from resellers for $48 million.

Shortly after Macri took office, Argentina paid NML over $2 billion on these bonds and Alonso was named head of the Federal Anticorruption Office.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.diarioregistrado.com/politica/un-informe-probo-que-el-macrismo-estuvo-detras-de-una-campana-en-redes-sociales-contra-tinelli_a5794fd1946db7f4250f3cb61&prev=search

'The Rolling Stones do not endorse Donald Trump,' according to tweet

Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune

A message on the venerable British rock band's Twitter account advises followers that Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie did not authorize the Republican National Convention to use one of their best-known songs as a political anthem.

The Rolling Stones do not endorse Donald Trump. 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' was used without the band's permission.[blockquote/]

According to a story by Lauren Craddock on the Billboard magazine website, it's the third time a rousing Stones' song has been appropriated during Trump's White House campaign.

"The Rolling Stones have continuously asked Trump to refrain from using their music," Craddock wrote. "In May, Trump walked out for his Indiana primary victory speech to 'Start Me Up' with a rep for the band telling Billboard at the time, 'The Rolling Stones have never given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs. [The band] have requested that they cease all use immediately.'"

The Trump campaign has also used the Jagger-Richards composition "Brown Sugar," according to Craddock.

Read more: http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2016/07/the_rolling_stones_do_not_endo.html



You can't indeed always get what you want, Donald Trump.

Economic crisis in Argentina prompts nation's principal labor federation, the CGT, to reunify.

At a meeting held on Thursday in Buenos Aires, the leaders of the three factions of Argentina's principal labor federation, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), agreed on a framework for reunification after four years of division.

The CGT, founded in 1930, has over 3 million members among its three factions - over half of all labor union membership in Argentina. Argentina's labor force is the most unionized, and by most measures the best paid, in Latin America.

The meeting, held at the Eva Perón Library, was attended by leaders of most of the unions that comprise the CGT, including Carlos Acuña (valets and gas station staff), Mario Caligari (bus drivers), Antonio Caló (steelworkers), Héctor Daer (health staff), Rodolfo Daer (food processing workers), Abel Frutos (bakers), Amadeo Genta (municipal staff), Omar Maturana (rail workers), Hugo Moyano (truckers), Andrés Rodríguez (civil servants), and Juan Carlos Schmidt (dredging and signal workers).

The framework would reunify the CGT under a triumvirate led by Rodolfo Daer, Juan Carlos Schmidt, and Carlos Acuña. Each represents the three CGT factions: Daer, the CGT Alsina (the largest and most politically progressive); Schmidt, the CGT Azopardo; and Acuña, the 'Blue & White' CGT (the most conservative).

The latter two factions split from the CGT after breaking with the center-left former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for largely political reasons.

Restaurant workers' union head Luis Barrionuevo, who rose through the ranks in the 1970s by way of the fascist Argentine Anticommunist Alliance paramilitary group, resented Mrs. Kirchner's leftist outlook and formed the Blue & White CGT in 2008 to protest the CGT's support for her administration. Hugo Moyano, for his part, was a staunch ally of Mrs. Kirchner until she passed him over as running mate for the 2011 elections (which she won in a landslide); he broke with the official CGT (now led by Antonio Caló) and formed the CGT Azopardo in 2012 in retaliation.

Barrionuevo and Moyano likewise broke with the CGT's longtime political ally, the Justicialist Party founded by the late populist leader Juan Perón, and instead endorsed right-wing President Mauricio Macri in last year's election. Their support proved decisive in Macri's narrow victory last November.

Macri, however, quickly reneged on reiterated campaign promises that he would not sharply devalue the peso or impose drastic public service subsidy cuts - all of which he later in fact enacted by decree. These policies earned Macri plaudits from the IMF and much of the business and right-wing press; but led to a doubling of inflation rates to 47%, a sharp recession, the loss of over 167,000 jobs in six months, and median purchasing power that has fallen by at least 11%.

CGT leaders specifically referred to the current situation as having motivated them to reunify. They announced their intention to publish a "political document" denouncing Macri's austerity policies; the document, published jointly, will be called De Mal en Peor - "From Bad to Worse."

They agreed to hold a final unification conference on August 5 in order to work out the final details of the agreement. The new CGT triumvirate would then be sworn in on August 22.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.noticiasurbanas.com.ar/noticias/la-cgt-busca-ser-una-sola-aunque-no-esten-todos/&prev=search

Argentine GDP declines by 3.1% in June from same time last year.

Economic activity in Argentina, according to a report by the pro-business Center for Economic Studies (EEC), fell by 3.1% in June compared to the same time of 2015; GDP for the first half of 2016 was down by 1.1%.

The decline is in contrast to the 2.4% growth recorded in 2015, before the effects of a 40% devaluation, massive utility and fare hikes, and other austerity policies decreed by the new, right-wing administration of President Mauricio Macri.

The Macri administration had discontinued monthly GDP updates the day after taking office on December 10, and their recent report estimating GDP to have grown by 0.5% annually in the first quarter has been widely dismissed. Macri's claim that private consumption grew by 1.1% and public consumption by 2.7% lacked credibility, local economists pointed out, given the doubling in inflation rates and sharp cuts to public works since he took office.

"This decline resulted from a combination of a recession in manufacturing (0.8%) and of significantly lower crop yields compared to last year, which led to a decline in agricultural output of 8.7%," Orlando Ferreres, the longtime head of the EEC, said. "The fall in real wages locally and the recession in Brazil contributed as well."

Ferreres' manufacturing activity estimates were more positive than those of the National Statistics Institute (Indec), which admitted a decline of 4.3% in May and 3% so far this year.

Ferrered, however, was optimistic going forward. He projected "a partial recovery, especially in the last quarter of the year" - although he admitted such a recovery would be conditioned by "contingencies." "The prospects there are still positive with regard to the late harvests barring unusually bad weather, while public and private construction may begin to recover," he added.

Construction, according to Indec, was down 12.9% in May, and 10.9% so far this year.

Ferreres also pointed to Macri's financial deregulation policies as a possible boost for the economy. "Money laundering could have a positive impact by offering greater financing options; but it will be too little to alter the current trend, such that growth 2016 will still in negative territory."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201607/15478-para-privados-la-actividad-economica-descendio-31-por-ciento.html&prev=search

Argentina's spy agency wins back power under Macri as officials increase surveillance.

A little over a year since Argentina's spy agency was shackled in the wake of the mysterious death of a star prosecutor, President Mauricio Macri is backing its quest for broader powers that critics fear will revive unfettered domestic spying.

Argentina's spies are pressing Macri to remove restrictions imposed by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after public investigator Alberto Nisman was found dead in his home in January 2015, a source in the judiciary said.

Fernández de Kirchner accused a rogue agent (Antonio "Jaime" Stiusso, whom she had fired a month earlier) of playing a role in Nisman's possible murder. The incident came days after the outgoing head of INTERPOL, Ronald Noble, disproved the centerpiece of Nisman's accusation that she attempted to cover up Iran's alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Fernández overhauled the country's spy agency in response, branding it the Federal Intelligence Service, or AFI. But despite the new name, the agency is starting to look more like the former Intelligence Secretariat (SIDE) - with agents purged by Fernández de Kirchner moving back into old posts since Macri took power in December, according to an intelligence source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Macri then issued a decree in May that lifted controls Fernández de Kirchner had placed on the spy agency's funding, allowing it once again to spend most of its budget without any oversight.

Macri's administration has since floated the possibility of giving back to AFI control of wiretaps that have been run by the judiciary since last year - raising red flags with Argentines fearful of a return to its sinister role in the country's past.

The old SIDE spy agency helped the military dictatorship that ruled between 1976 and 1983 to target dissidents in the country's "dirty war," when thousands disappeared. Successive democratically elected governments were widely believed to keep using it to snoop on opponents.

"I'm worried" about AFI regaining wiretapping powers, said Juan Rodríguez, the director of the court-controlled department DCC that now conducts legal taps of some 3,000 phone lines in Argentina. Since Fernández de Kirchner's reforms, wiretaps must be authorized by a judge and registered for possible scrutiny. Standing before DCC's 17 wiretapping devices, Rodríguez said: "this is transparent ... we want to end the dark period that this system once represented."

Macri has not said why he lifted oversight rules on AFI's budget; but critics point to corruption cases in recent decades that have been traced to the spy agency, which was assigned a $100 million budget for 2016.

Both the Macri administration and its main ally, right-wing Governor María Eugenia Vidal of Buenos Aires Province (the nation's largest), have come under fire in recent days for revelations that millions in taxpayer funds are used to fund pro-Macri "troll centers" and "social media analysts" that monitor social media activity by teachers and other public sector employees unhappy with Macri over sharp cutbacks and layoffs.

At: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-argentina-spying-idUKKCN1002K7

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.diarioregistrado.com/politica/vidal-destinara-un-millon-y-medio-de-pesos-para-espiar-a-docentes-por-las-redes-sociales_a578d0133cfe4c87c72d79151&prev=search

The attempted coup in Turkey: Hell hath no fury like a teflon Sultan.

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport early Saturday morning, he declared the attempted coup against his government a failure, and a “gift from God.”

Ankara’s official version is that the coup was perpetrated by a small military faction remote-controlled by exiled-in-Pennsylvania cleric Fethullah Gulen, himself a CIA asset. As much as responsibility remains debatable, what’s clear is the coup was a Turk remix of The Three Stooges: the actual stooges in fact may have been the already detained 2nd Army Commander Gen. Adem Huduti; 3rd Army Commander Erdal Ozturk; and former Chief of Air Staff Akin Ozturk.

As over-excited former CIA ops were blaring on US networks – and they do know a thing or two about regime change — rule number one in a coup is to aim at, and isolate, the head of the snake. Yet the wily Turkish snake, in this case, was nowhere to be seen. Not to mention that no top generals sounding convincingly patriotic went on the TRT state network to fully explain the reasons for the coup.

Erdogan must have been 100% sure that to board his plane and stay on Turkish airspace was as safe as eating a baklava. What’s even more startling is that the Gulfstream managed to land in Istanbul in absolute safety in the early hours of Saturday morning – despite the prevailing notion that the airport was occupied by the “rebels”.

Round up the usual suspects

The US position was extremely ambiguous from the start. As the coup took over, the American embassy in Turkey called it “Turkish uprising”. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Moscow to discuss Syria, also hedged his bets. NATO was royally mute. Only when it became clear the coup was in fact smashed President Obama and the “NATO allies” officially proclaimed their “support for the democratically elected government”.

The Sultan went back to the game with a vengeance. He immediately went live on CNN Turkey demanding Washington hand over Gulen even without any evidence he masterminded the coup. And that came with a threat: “If you want to keep access to Incirlik air base you will have to give me Gulen”.

This hypothesis was supported by the firing on the part of Turkey’s top judicial body, HSYK, of 2,745 judges after an extraordinary meeting post-coup. This can only mean the list was more than ready in advance.

The major, immediate post-coup geopolitical consequence is that Erdogan now seems to have miraculously reconquered his “strategic depth.” For all practical purposes Erdogan now controls the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary – and is taking no prisoners to purge the military for good. The Sultan is in the house.

This means the neo-Ottoman project is still on – but now under massive tactical reorientation. The real “enemy” now is Syrian Kurds – not Russia and Israel (and not ISIS, which Erdogan coddles).

So what’s the CIA been up to?

Needless to add Ankara and Washington are now on a certified collision course. If there is an Empire of Chaos hidden hand in the coup – no smoking gun yet — that certainly comes from the Beltway neocon/CIA axis, not the lame duck Obama administration. For the moment Erdogan’s leverage only amounts to access to Incirlik. But his paranoia is ballooning; for him Washington is doubly suspicious because they harbor Gulen and support the YPG.

Hell hath no fury as an underestimated Sultan as well. For all his recent geopolitical follies, Erdogan’s simultaneous ballet of reconnecting with Israel and Russia is eminently pragmatic. He knows he needs Russia for the Turkish Stream and to build nuclear plants; and he needs Israeli gas to consolidate Turkey’s role as a key East-West energy crossroads.

And Europe?

Turkey might reinstate the death penalty – to be applied to the coup plotters. This means, in essence, bye bye EU. And bye bye to the European Parliament approving visa-free travel for Turks visiting Europe. Erdogan, after all, already got what he wanted from chancellor Merkel: those 6 billion euros to contain the refugee crisis that he essentially unleashed.

Merkel bet the farm on Erdogan, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

At: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/18/the-attempted-coup-in-turkey-hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-teflon-sultan/
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