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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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Bernie Sanders says Pope Francis is a socialist.

Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, has termed Pope Francis a person with socialist leanings in a media interview. Reverend Thomas Rosica, from the Vatican press office, asked Senator Sanders whether he thought that the pontiff is a socialist and Sanders replied in the affirmative.

Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, said that he believes that the pope is like him in the Pope Francis talks about the use of money to serve the people and not an end by itself. Francis, Sanders said, has done a service by raising the subject of money worship, its idolatry and the saying that human life should not all be about money. He has made an extremely radical critique of the hyper-capitalist system, the world system which is present today. The Democrat further stated that since the pope is saying that human life must be greater than wealth accumulation, he agrees.

Sanders made an attack towards the large inequality concerning wealth and income all over the world. He suggested that at a time when the rich has become excessively greedy and greed has become their religion. The noticeable thing is that they do not apologize for it.

At: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/christianity/bernie-sanders-says-pope-francis-is-a-socialist

It's worth noting that Pope Francis himself endorsed Senator Sanders in October - the first papal endorsement on record for a U.S. presidential candidate. http://www.democraticunderground.com/128066589

Argentine holdout creditors reach $5 billion deal in bond dispute, lawyer for NML and Aurelius says.

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

Creditors fighting Argentina in US courts for more than a decade over defaulted debt have reached a $5 billion agreement to settle the dispute, a lawyer representing the investors said on Wednesday.

"We have had an agreement on economic terms with Argentina since Thursday," Matthew McGill, a lawyer representing lead holdout creditors Elliott Management and Aurelius Capital Management said in a hearing before a US Federal Appeals court in Manhattan.

McGill called it a "$5 billion transaction" but then added the parties needed more time to finish the deal.

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/209425/argentine-holdout-creditors-reach-$5-billion-deal-in-debt-dispute-lawyer-says

Paul Singer's NML (Caymans) and Aurelius (London) - suspected launderers of billions in dirty money - are getting $5 billion for bonds that, between the two, cost them no more than $150 million or so (a 3,000% return). Nice work if you can get it.

Narco Rubio's definitely happy: Paul Singer's his principal bankroller. So is Argentina's Macri, who I'm sure was well compen$ated for sweetening the deal by three fold at the last minute.

7,000 Argentine scientists sign open letter against Macri's trickle-down policies.

Over 7,000 Argentine researchers from all disciplines signed an open letter Saturday in opposition to the recently-inaugurated President Mauricio Macri's domestic policies. The letter emphasized three points: the "gigantic transfer of funds to the wealthy and monopolies," the "abuse of decrees of necessity and urgency to circumvent the democratic system," and an "ideological persecution carried out by state agencies" against opponents or those who simply do not share the Macri administration's right-wing outlook.

The signatures represented scientists from the National Research Council (CONICET), the Argentine Aerospace Agency (INVAP), National Industrial Institute (INTI), National Agricultural Institute (INTA), and the National University Council (CIN), among others. It was the first such open letter to an Argentine government by the country's scientific community since the one published in response to Gen. Juan Carlos Onganía's brutal purge of academics shortly after taking power in a 1966 coup.

We are concerned because the country is being taken down a political path opposite to that of national development, and in which individual liberties are threatened, Dr. Eduardo Dvorkin, head of the National Academy of Natural Sciences, said. "Our daily work is built on the foundations of critical thinking, such that we cannot look away while measures are enacted that are aimed at reversing socioeconomic gains behind the guise of conscience-numbing speech."

The Macri administration, the letter pointed out, is heading "a conservative restoration in the country which in two months has replaced a model aimed at self-development, with universities, research centers and small and medium business as the basis for growth," with "a corporate-sponsored model, which instead of promoting development promotes imports and a massive transfer of resources to the top."

We scientists do not live in an isolated world, they concluded. "There is a link between the model of development and scientific activity - for when there is no interest in the development of industry and sovereignty, there is no room for scientific development."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/elpais/1-292945-2016-02-21.html&prev=search

Citigroup to exit retail banking in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.

Citigroup Inc said it plans to exit its retail banking and credit card operations in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia as part of its efforts to cut costs and boost profitability. The bank has operated in these countries for just over a century; it opened its first branch in Argentina in 1914, in Brazil in 1915, and in Colombia in 1916.

Citigroup has been trying to slim down since the financial crisis to be as profitable as its rivals. Barely six months into his tenure as the chief executive, Michael Corbat counted at least 21 markets with exceptionally low returns on assets and substandard operating efficiency as candidates for restructuring.

The Wall Street bank, like its peers, has had to resort to aggressive cost controls as near-zero interest rates, a slump in oil prices and investor cautiousness due to worries about slowing growth in China have hurt its revenue growth.

Citi's consumer business accounts for about half of the company and is heavily weighted towards U.S. credit cards. Citi executives have been paring the company's international consumer banking operations since at least 2012.

Brazil accounted for about 9% of Citigroup's total consumer loans in Latin America at the end of 2015, while Mexico accounted for about 80%; the bank has a 3% market share in Argentina. Citigroup has always struggled to compete with bigger Brazilian banks in the retail business, but things got worse in 2013 when the U.S. bank sold its profitable credit-card unit Credicard SA.

The businesses being sold are a part of its consumer banking operations and will be transferred to Citi Holdings. They will report financial results as part of Citi Holdings from the first quarter, the bank said. Citi Holdings is the division that holds all non-core assets that the bank is winding down or selling.

By shifting the Latin American businesses to the Citi Holdings run-off portfolio, Corbat will move closer to his target even before the units are sold or closed. At the end of the fourth quarter, Citi Holdings had $74 billion in assets, 43 percent lower than a year earlier, and represented about 4 percent of total Citigroup assets.

At: http://news.yahoo.com/citigroup-exit-retail-banking-brazil-argentina-121533337--sector.html

Macri shaves $3 billion off Argentina's 2015 export data to make 2016 look better by comparison.

The first statistical data release was published today in Argentina since President Mauricio Macri ordered a data blackout shortly after taking office in December. The country's census bureau, INDEC, reported that Argentina registered a merchandise trade deficit of $3 billion in 2015 on total reported exports of almost $57 billion - the first trade deficit for Argentina since 1999.

The announcement, made this afternoon by INDEC Director Jorge Todesca and the agency's new chief statistician, Fernando Cerro (who replaced Graciela Bevacqua after a fallout with the administration over its revision methodology), avoided mentioning that the latest data was not only the first statistical report since Mauricio Macri took office - but that it also included sharp, downward revisions of existing export data.

Data on Argentine exports from 2013 to 2015 were thus revised significantly downward: by $5.7 billion for 2013, $3.6 billion for 2014, and $3.1 billion for the first ten months of 2015 (the last figures released before Macri's data blackout decree). Interestingly, import data for those years were not significantly altered.

The new, revised export numbers, moreover, fall billions short not only of previously released data; but also of some of Argentina's trading partners' own data - particularly those pertaining to the EU and NAFTA.

In the case of NAFTA, the new INDEC data for Argentine exports to its three member countries (the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) falls over $1.3 billion short of the data provided by each of those countries' statistical bureaus. Similarly, exports to ASEAN (an alliance of 10 southeast Asian countries) were revised downward by $300 million, and are now over $700 million less according to the new INDEC estimates than the $5.9 billion reported by ASEAN Stats. Significant discrepancies were also in evidence for data on exports to Argentina's two largest trading partners, Brazil ($200 million less) and China ($400 million less).

The most serious discrepancy, however, is with data from the EU: there, Macri's new data show Argentine exports that are $3.6 billion short of both the INDEC's previous data, and Eurostat's own data (which, until Macri ordered foreign trade data revised, coincided almost exactly). The EU discrepancy accounts for most of the statistical shortfall in the new INDEC export estimates.

At the press conference, Cerro explained that exports were revised downward because of a "lack of documentation" for some exports - but he neglected to mention that the new data is sharply lower than not only the old INDEC data; but the trading partners' own data as well.

The statistical shortfalls notwithstanding, the report did make mention of the effect of the recent collapse in commodity prices worldwide on Argentine exports - which fell 17% in 2015 after a 10% decline in 2014. "The fall in international prices," Cerro explained, "were almost entirely responsible for the decline in exports, since the quantities exported last year declined just 1% from 2014, while prices of exported goods fell 17%."

Director Jorge Todesca, for his part, was unwilling to discuss the discrepancy further. "We've talked a lot about the state of INDEC, and should now start talking about statistics." Todesca likewise refused to address concerns about any issues not related to trade data.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.diariobae.com/notas/112454-balanza-comercial-registro-un-deficit-de-mas-de-3-mil-millones-de-dolares-en-2015.html&prev=search

While the agency's consumer price estimates have been the source of much controversy, most other INDEC data - including foreign trade and GDP - was considered reliable and was in fact quoted by the IMF, the World Bank, and statistical bureaus worldwide. As noted, the newly revised export data is considerably lower than not only the previous data; but also lower than data from Argentina's own trading partners (which matched Argentina's data pretty closely until this downward revision).

In short, Macri is trying to understate 2015 data in order to make 2016 look better by comparison (which will take some doing since this has turned into a recession year thanks to his neocon policies).

President Obama will visit Cuba in historic trip next month, sources say.

President Obama is planning a trip to Cuba some time next month, marking the first time in more than 80 years a sitting U.S. president will visit the country, according to sources with knowledge of the plan.

A National Security Council official plans to make the announcement tomorrow at the White House briefing. The trip is planned for March 21-22, before the president flies to Argentina.

The move comes roughly 15 months following the president's pledge with Cuban President Raúl Castro to reopen diplomatic channels following a prisoner exchange and the humanitarian release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross in December 2014.

Since the announcement, the two countries have had a series of diplomatic talks, leading to the reopening of embassies last summer and the recent deal restoring commercial air traffic.

The last and only sitting U.S. president to visit the island nation only 90 miles south of the Florida keys was Calvin Coolidge, in 1928, to address the Sixth Annual International Conference of American States in Havana. He met with Cuba's President Gerardo Machado, who was in office from 1925 to 1933, until he was forced into exile.

President Jimmy Carter traveled to Cuba in 2002, 20 years after leaving office, at the invitation of President Fidel Castro. Carter also made a trip in 2011.

At: http://abcnews.go.com/US/president-obama-planning-trip-cuba-month-sources/story?id=37015093

Robert Reich: The GOP died in 2016.

I’m writing to you today to announce the death of the Republican Party. It is no longer a living, vital, animate organization.

It died in 2016, and has been replaced by warring tribes:

Evangelicals opposed to abortion, gay marriage, and science.

Libertarians opposed to any government constraint on private behavior.

Market fundamentalists convinced the “free market” can do no wrong.

Corporate and Wall Street titans seeking bailouts, subsidies, special tax loopholes, and other forms of crony capitalism.

Billionaires craving even more of the nation’s wealth than they already own.

And white working-class Trumpoids who love Donald. and are becoming convinced the greatest threats to their wellbeing are Muslims, blacks, and Mexicans.

Each of these tribes has its own separate political organization, its own distinct sources of campaign funding, its own unique ideology – and its own candidate. What’s left is a lifeless shell called the Republican Party. But the Grand Old Party inside the shell is no more.

I, for one, regret its passing. Our nation needs political parties to connect up different groups of Americans, sift through prospective candidates, deliberate over priorities, identify common principles, and forge a platform.

The Republican Party used to do these things. Sometimes it did them easily, as when it came together behind William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt in 1900, Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Sometimes it did them with difficulty, as when it strained to choose Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Mitt Romney in 2012. But there was always enough of a Republican Party to do these important tasks – to span the divides, give force and expression to a set of core beliefs, and come up with a candidate around whom Party regulars could enthusiastically rally.

No longer. And that’s a huge problem for the rest of us. Without a Republican Party, nothing stands between us and a veritable Star Wars barroom of self-proclaimed wanna-be’s.

Without a Party, anyone runs who’s able to raise (or already possesses) the requisite money – even if he happens to be a pathological narcissist who has never before held public office, even if he’s a knave detested by all his Republican colleagues.

Without a Republican Party, it’s just us and them. And one of them could even become the next President of the United States.

At: http://www.salon.com/2016/02/17/robert_reich_the_gop_died_in_2016_partner/

Macri retaliates against Pope Francis by banning radio program that aired Francis' speeches.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri ordered that a daily radio program that aired speeches and homilies by Pope Francis be suspended indefinitely. The now former director of the public station Market Radio 90.9 FM, Martín García, reported that the new authorities banned the program, known as Pope Francis' Message, Anytime, on the rationale that "it is not appropriate." García revealed that Macri's appointees demanded that the station "stop airing that" and fired the technician responsible for producing the broadcasts.

The order comes days after Pope Francis expressed concern over the imprisonment of indigenous rights activist Milagro Sala, who has been in jail by order of a governor closed allied with Macri since January 16 with no charges. Francis sent the jailed activist a blessed rosary over the weekend by way of a church emissary.

The ban on papal broadcasts also comes just eleven days before President Macri's first state visit to the Vatican, a meeting touted by the administration as proof of a good relationship between the conservative Macri and the progressive Pope Francis. "The aspiration on the part of the President is to launch a mature and institutional relationship with the top hierarchy of the Church," Macri's Chief of Staff, Marcos Peña, said.

Critics, however, point out that Pope Francis' broadcasts, which often included subjects such as exclusion, globalization, neocolonialism, the importance of social organizations, labor issues, and the moral need for an equitable distribution of resources, ran counter to the Macri administration's "pro-market" outlook.

Like much of Argentina's public sector, the station has suffered from a wave of layoffs since Macri took office two months ago. Located in the Buenos Aires Central Wholesale Market, in the working-class suburb of Tapiales, the station has already lost five employees - including its music director and the technician who aired Pope Francis' program.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/280882/a-once-dias-de-la-visita-de-macri-al-vaticano&prev=search

Macri's approval ratings already under water after two months as President of Argentina.

After two months in office, President Mauricio Macri maintains a positive personal image; but has seen approval for his administration decline significantly in the last 40 days, and for the first time since taking office has a net negative job approval rating.

According to a survey published February 14 by local pollster CEOP, President Macri's job approval rating has lost ten points since December: 48.1% of respondents in the poll approved; but 49% disapproved. The factors weighing on Macri's approval most signifacantly, according to the CEOP poll, all concern the economy: rising prices, sharply higher rates and fares, attacks on collective bargaining, and the sudden rise in unemployment. They particularly disapproved of Macri's handling of rising prices, with 82% saying they were dissatisfied.

The same poll found, however, that Macri remains personally popular despite growing job disapproval, with 53.9% of respondents saying they have a positive image of him. CEOP director Roberto Bacman found that respondents generally "wish Macri well because they feel that if he does well this is good for us all."

The poll found strong support for collective bargaining, which is currently ongoing between trade unions and large employers. Asked what the percentage for 2016 cost-of-living increases should be, 35.7% said it should be "between 30% and 40%;" 18.9%, between 40% and 50%; and 12.3% indicated that raises should exceed 50%. On average, respondents believed that raises for 2016 should be 36.8% to cover the impact of rising prices. President Macri, however, has indicated that his administration will endorse raises of no more than "20 to 25%."

At: https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=es&u=http://www.laarena.com.ar/el_pais-ya_son_mas_los_que_desaprueban_que_los_que_apoyan_-155613-113.html&usg=ALkJrhixsbZU37-9FbJr8ji9whKaB5DGFQ

Buenos Aires’ new-look love hotels: book ardor by the hour.

A diplodocus-size steak, a live football match, a late-night tango lesson: it’s the classic Buenos Aires tourist tick list. But for a really authentic experience, no visit to the Argentine capital – if you are travelling as a couple – is complete without a cheeky visit to a “telo”.

Found in every neighbourhood, the ubiquitous by-the-hour love hotel (telo is a botched anagram of hotel) occupies an intrinsic place in the lives and lusts of the city’s inhabitants. “Other countries have drive-in motels and cheap hotels on the highway, but few places have telos like ours that are oriented explicitly for couples looking to enjoy an ‘intimate experience’ in private,” says José Rosell, manager of Faraón, a well-known love hotel.

While short-stay hotels are prevalent elsewhere in Latin America, few offer the five-star treatment that has emerged in Buenos Aires since the late-noughties. Gone are the garish lighting and grubby sheets of old. For the new-look telos, it’s now all slick minimalist furniture, plasma TVs and free mini-bars. Not that they’ve lost their kitsch, of course: expect faux fur and sparkly erotica aplenty.

Their client list is slowly changing too, says Daniel Fridman, owner of the Albergues Transitorios, an online directory of over 150 telos in the city. Couples enjoying an extramarital fling still make up a good portion of the telo market (forget trying to get a room on Day of the Secretary – celebrated every year on September 4 – as every telo is booked).

But the capital’s short-stay hotels are becoming increasingly popular with married couples looking to spice things up a bit or simply wanting to escape the kids for a few hours. “In response to public demand, there’s a good number of love hotels that are modernising and adopting new styles. The spaces are bigger, they have more natural light and the carpets are being replaced by wooden floors,” Fridman says.

Discretion is one element of the telo experience that isn’t about to change soon though. There are no namechecks. No requests for documentation. And definitely no communal bar or restaurant where you could bump into a neighbour (or, worse still, a spouse). Just drive in off the street, collect you key and, well, get on with it.

Buenos Aires’ love hotels are gay-friendly in legal terms. Age (over 18), not gender, is the single stipulation under municipal law. Oh, and no staying over 24 hours, however much fun you’re having.

At: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/feb/14/buenos-aires-love-hotels-telos-argentina
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