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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
June 10, 2017

General election 2017: DUP 'in positive talks' with Tories

The Democratic Unionist Party says it has had "positive talks" over a "confidence and supply" deal to support a Conservative government.

Theresa May was left eight seats short of an overall majority in the general election, while the DUP won 10 seats.

Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson went to Belfast on Saturday for talks with the Northern Irish party.

The DUP said talks would continue next week to "work on the details" and "reach agreement."

At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40236152

June 10, 2017

Argentine presidential offices raided by investigators for first time in history

Argentine Federal Judge Sergio Torres ordered a massive raid on Wednesday at thirteen Buenos Aires offices belonging to President Mauricio Macri, his family conglomerate, and numerous officials in his administration.

The raid, pursuant to conflict of interest investigations over Macri's decision last year to open more domestic air routes, included three offices in the presidential office building known as the Casa Rosada - among them those of Chief of Staff Fernando de Andreis (a Macri relative) and Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich.

This was the first such incident in the Casa Rosada's 131-year history.

Approved by Judge Torres in March, the investigation was triggered by a series of decrees signed by Macri beginning June 2016 that granted Colombian airline Avianca broad access to Argentina's air routes at expense of its own national airline, Aerolíneas Argentinas, and its domestic subsidiary, Austral.

Avianca was given access to Argentina's domestic air market two months after the Macri family's SOCMA conglomerate sold its small charter airline, MacAir, to Avianca Holdings.

The raid, which took place Wednesday, was kept secret; it was reported this Friday by the conservative Buenos Aires news daily La Nación.

The nation's largest daily, Clarín, and its cable news outlet, TN - whose support helped elect the right-wing Macri administration 18 months ago - has made no mention of the raids.

Members of Macri's administration and his family have also come under scrutiny over a bribery scandal involving Brazil's largest builder Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying nearly $800 million in bribes across Latin America - including at least $20 million to secure a lucrative Buenos Aires rail tunnel contract in partnership with the Macri family's contractor IECSA.

IECSA's offices were themselves raided for evidence on June 5.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.diarioregistrado.com%2Fpolitica%2Fescandalo-avianca--allanaron-las-oficinas-de-la-casa-rosada_a593aa7f9d669e67b19cf680e&edit-text=

The Casa Rosada

June 8, 2017

The 81-year-old woman inspiring a nation to recycle

An 81-year-old who set up an all-woman rubbish collection team in her village in Lebanon now has a stream of visitors asking how she did it. For nine months in 2015 and 2016 rubbish piled up on the streets of the capital, Beirut, and even now a lack of landfill sites means some of the city's waste is being thrown in the sea.

Zeinab Mokalled has shown that when government fails, do-it-yourself local initiatives can work. "There used to be dirt everywhere and the kids were filthy," Mokalled says.

She is remembering the 1980s and '90s, when Israel occupied part of the south of the country for 15 years, and waste collection came to a halt in her village, Arabsalim. As the years went by, it piled up, and Mokalled went to the regional governor to ask for help.

Mokalled called on the women of the village to help, not the men - partly because she wanted to empower them, and partly because she thought they would do a better job.

They had no equipment, and no infrastructure. So how to begin?

Mokalled's friend Khadija Farhat bought a lorry out of her own pocket. Mokalled herself turned her back garden into a storage area for recyclable waste.

It didn't seem likely that the 10,000 villagers would pay to have their rubbish collected, so the volunteers paid for it themselves. Nineteen years later they still do, each of 46 members putting in about $40 each year.
"Household recycling was the best way forward," says Mokalled, who named the organisation Call of the Earth.

At: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-40191270

Zeinab Mokalled

June 6, 2017

A Support Thread for Reality Leigh Winner

Putin didn't simply interfere in our elections - he stole them outright.

So here's to her, for letting us know what we most needed to know. A real winner, in my book.

June 6, 2017

Macri family firm IECSA raided by authorities in connection with Odebrecht bribery case

Argentine Federal Judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi ordered a raid on the Buenos Aires offices of construction firms IECSA (Argentina), Odebrecht (Brazil), and Ghella (Italy) in connection with charges that the three firms conspired to run a massive bribery scheme to secure a lucrative rail tunnel contract in Buenos Aires.

IECSA, Argentina's third largest public contractor, was founded by the Argentine president's father, Francesco Macri, and was led since 2007 by the president's first cousin Ángelo Calcaterra.

Amid mounting investigations, the Macri family sold IECSA to Marcelo Mindlin, a leading electric utility executive, in March for a reported $60 million.

Members of Macri's administration and his family have also come under scrutiny over a wider scandal involving Brazil's largest builder Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying nearly $800 million in bribes across Latin America.

Odebrecht e-mails from 2010, uncovered in Brazil in February, revealed that at least $20 million in bribes were arranged jointly with IECSA in a scheme to win the rail tunnel contract.

Among the beneficiaries was Macri's longtime adviser and current intelligence chief Gustavo Arribas. Leonardo Meirelles, a Brazilian “doleiro” (bag man) for Odebrecht, testified in May that Arribas had been bribed with $850,000 in 10 transfers to two Swiss bank accounts in 2013.

The controversial $3 billion project to convert the Sarmiento commuter rail line, which connects Buenos Aires to its western suburbs, into an underground line, was awarded in June 2016 to the IECSA-Odebrecht-Ghella consortium, and is the centerpiece of President Mauricio Macri's $7 billion federal public works program.

Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced by a Brazilian court to a 19-year prison term in March 2016 for his role in the scandal.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201706%2F21263-lava-jato-ordenaron-allanar-3-empresas-por-el-soterramiento-del-sarmiento.html&edit-text=

June 5, 2017

Air traffic control privatization: A risky corporate giveaway that will harm consumers

Current U.S. law states that "a citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace." The central message is that our airspace should be viewed as valuable public resource to be maintained for the safety and benefit of the many, not the few.

Yet, in the last few weeks, United Airlines’ deplorable assault on a paying passenger can make us all wonder if passengers have any legal rights at all, and certainly has reminded us all of the need for more congressional oversight of the airlines.

Unfortunately, the big airlines are now pushing a risky air traffic control (ATC) privatization scheme that would do just the opposite. Under this proposal, the FAA would hand over control (for free) to an unelected, unaccountable non-profit corporation, likely to be dominated by the airlines themselves.

This would give the airlines nearly limitless power to raise taxes and fees on consumers without any congressional oversight or public accountability which has been a hallmark of our aviation system since its inception. In addition to likelihood of new fees and taxes, access to airports and gates for general aviation and low cost competitors would be driven by the airlines’ priorities over the common interests of the public who have invested tens of billions into the system.

Maintaining FAA oversight of our air traffic control system is likewise critical for national security.

The Department of Defense Policy Board stated that ending the FAA role in managing the ATC system “raises serious concerns” regarding shared infrastructure with the military given that “DOD relies on FAA’s command and control capabilities in the execution of the National Defense mission.”

According to the non-partisan GAO, privatizing air traffic control would also create problems with how the FAA and DOD cooperate on security. Another report raised serious questions about how easily safety roles and responsibilities could be split between a privatized entity and the FAA.

The airline oligopoly has resulted in record profits for the industry. And now, the industry wants even more power.

Unfortunately, those billions in profits have come at consumers’ expense. In 2015 alone, the Department of Transportation logged over 20,000 passenger complaints, and over 40,000 people are “bumped” out of their legally purchased seats every year. Passengers now even have to be concerned about being physically assaulted or literally dragged off of their flight.

Whether it is cramming more passengers into ever smaller spaces, losing baggage, cutting routes to small cities and rural communities, and endless fees ($6.8 billion in 2015); the airlines’ practices and customer satisfaction surveys demonstrate that passengers often come last.

At: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/330635-air-traffic-control-privatization-a-risky-corporate-giveaway

June 4, 2017


June 4, 2017

Pinochet's widow receives luxury rents from the Chilean military pension fund

Lucía Hiriart, the widow of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, receives a sizable pension from the military pension fund (Capredena) according to the authorities.

Hiriart, who is being investigated for illicit enrichment, is currently receiving approximately $ 4,600 from Capredena. Hiriart, 94, has been paying her pension since the death of her husband in 2006; Pinochet, who was charged with crimes against humanity in several cases dating from 1973-90 dictatorship, died before his trial.

His widow, who inherited his retirement fund, is at the moment being investigated for alleged insider trading. In her role as lifelong president of the CemaChile foundation, she is said to have made tens of thousands of dollars.

It was also announced that 95 former generals and officers of the Chilean army who were convicted of murder, torture, and the disappearance of people, received similar monthly pension payments of up to $ 4,700. Nearly 2,300 people disappeared during the dictatorship, and 30,000 more were tortured.

On average, the military receives five times as much ($ 1,500) as people who receive their pension from the national pension insurance system (IPS) or private funds - even if they have worked twice as long.

The Chilean pension insurance system, in its current form, was privatized in 1980 from the pay-as-you-go system to one based on market capitalization; the change is often cited as the most significant change enacted to Chile's economy enacted under Pinochet.

Chile's private pension funds (AFPs), however, usually collect 30% commissions off the top. Consequently 80% of Chilean contributors retire with little in their pension accounts, and thus depend on a state subsidy to cover the minimum $200 pension Chilean law guarantees.

Members of the military, however, were exempted by the 1980 reform, have their own pension scheme (on a pay-as-you-go basis), and do not have to pay into the general pension system or the AFPs. The state, moreover, finances 75% of military pensions, with only 25% of funding coming from Capredena itself.

A recent transparency law signed by President Michelle Bachelet has forced Capredena to publish its payments for the first time.


Señora Pinochet

June 3, 2017

Chile convicts 106 former intelligence agents

Source: CNN

A Chilean judge sentenced 106 former intelligence agents for their role in the kidnappings and disappearances of 16 leftist militants during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. The sentences range from 541 days to 20 years.

The convictions are the result of one of the largest mass prosecutions in Chile related to human rights abuses during Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990. The cases centered on 16 leftist militants who were abducted by agents of the National Intelligence Directorate between June 1974 and January 1975, transported to various detention centers and never seen again.

The secret police then tried to cover up the deaths of the 16 militants - and more than 100 others - by planting stories in foreign newspapers to imply that they were killed while fighting abroad, and not at the hands of the government.

Government investigations since the end of Pinochet's rule have found that nearly 2,300 people disappeared during the dictatorship and 30,000 more were tortured.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/03/americas/chile-secret-police-convicted/index.html

June 2, 2017

Nigel Farage is 'person of interest' in FBI investigation into Trump and Russia

Nigel Farage is a “person of interest” in the US counter-intelligence investigation that is looking into possible collusion between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former Ukip leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March.

WikiLeaks published troves of hacked emails last year that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign and is suspected of having cooperated with Russia through third parties.

Farage has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not a suspect or a target of the US investigation. But being a person of interest means investigators believe he may have information about the acts that are under investigation and he may therefore be subject to their scrutiny.

Sources who spoke to the Guardian said it was Farage’s proximity to people at the heart of the investigation that was being examined as an element in their broader inquiry into how Russia may have worked with Trump campaign officials to influence the US election.

“One of the things the intelligence investigators have been looking at is points of contact and persons involved,” one source said. “If you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange and Trump associates the person who comes up with the most hits is Nigel Farage.

“He’s right in the middle of these relationships. He turns up over and over again. There’s a lot of attention being paid to him.”

At: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/01/nigel-farage-is-person-of-interest-in-fbi-investigation-into-trump-and-russia

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