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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 11:36 AM
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Despite rate hikes of 1400%, Argentines suffer 66% more power outages

A report published by Argentina's Energy, Technology, and Infrastructure for Development Observatory (OETEC) revealed that power outages affected 66% more Buenos Aires metro area users last December compared to the same month last year.

The average daily number of affected metro area users, despite slightly milder temperatures, rose from 82,891 in December 2016 to 137,266 last month - equivalent to roughly 400,000 people. The Buenos Aires metro area is served by two private power companies, Edenor and Edesur, with a total of 5.3 million household and non-residential customers.

The outages, which so far in January have affected an average of 120,000 users daily, have renewed calls for Energy Minister Juan José Araguren, a longtime Shell executive listed in November's Paradise Papers scandal, to resign.

OETEC notes that December 2017 temperatures were an average of 2 °F cooler than the same time last year. Daytime highs in Buenos Aires exceeded 82 °F during 17 days last month, compared to 24 days the previous December.

While power outages are common in Argentine cities during the Southern Hemisphere summer months, their much higher incidence this summer has become especially contentious in light of massive rate increases authorized by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration.

Residential rates since December 2015, when Macri took office, have risen by an average of 1400% from .08 to 1.28 pesos (6.8 U.S. cents) per Kwh - and will have risen by 1700% by February. Electricity consumption has fallen by 4.6% over the last two years as households and industries have reduced usage.

The Macri administration defends sharp rate hikes for power and other utilities as cost-saving measures designed to incentivize investment by utility firms.

But while revenues at Edenor and Edesur have ballooned in 2017 to $1.5 billion and $1.2 billion respectively from around $420 million each in 2015, rate deregulation has also brought about much higher power supply and distribution costs.

This - plus the loss of $1 billion in federal subsidies between them - has led to a two-thirds decline in profits at Edenor, and an outright reversal from a $146 million gain in 2015 to a $54 million loss at Edesur in the first 9 months - a $200 million difference.

The resulting decline in investment led to what the OETEC report calls a "marked deterioration in the quality of service at Edenor and Edesur."

Maurizio Bezzeccheri, president of Edesur (run by Italy's Enel) acknowledged the problem in an interview with the conservative news daily La Nación. Marcelo Mindlin, whose Pampa Energía conglomerate controls Edenor and who's a close business associate of President Macri, declined to comment.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oetec.org%2Fnota.php%3Fid%3D3024%26area%3D1&edit-text=

A pragmatist in partisan times: Ralph Northam becomes Virginias 73rd governor

Ralph Shearer Northam took the oath of office Saturday as Virginia’s 73rd governor, invoking the state’s “complex” history of both slavery and patriotic leadership to call for a new “Virginia way” forward.

“This unique heritage endows us with a responsibility to shape the future, to leave this place better than we found it,” said Northam, a 58-year-old Democrat.

A former state senator and lieutenant governor, Northam succeeds his friend and benefactor, Terry McAuliffe, after leading a wave election last fall in which Democrats made dramatic gains in the state legislature.

Although his win was powered by Democratic resistance to President Trump, Northam issued a call for civility before some 4,000 guests gathered in the cold outside the state’s historic Capitol building.

Calling on lawmakers to refer to their “moral compass,” Northam noted the disparities of Virginia’s past and present. Just across the city, he said, Patrick Henry — a Founding Father and former Virginia governor — had called for liberty or death atop a hill while human beings were sold as property at its foot.

Today, residents of low-income neighborhoods on one side of the Capitol might expect to live only 63 years, he said, while affluent people in the other direction enjoy life spans 20 years longer.

At: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/a-pragmatist-in-partisan-times-ralph-northam-becomes-virginias-73-governor/2018/01/13/86982592-f7d4-11e7-a9e3-ab18ce41436a_story.html?utm_term=.bd0d6e6ad533

The doctor is in the house: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and his wife, Pam, dance at their inaugural ball.

Sen. Patrick Leahy urges State Dept. to grant former Argentine Foreign Minister Timerman a visa

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement urging the State Department to reverse its decision to deny former Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman a visa.

Timerman, 64, had scheduled a flight to New York on January 9 to seek treatment for liver cancer. He was, however, informed upon boarding that the United States Government had denied him entry.

Leahy noted Timerman's efforts “to create an international commission of jurists with powers to review evidence against Iranians accused by the Argentine judiciary of responsibility for the bombing, and to interrogate some suspects,” as well as his delicate health.

Timerman has been under house arrest since December 14 on the orders of Argentine Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío on “treason” charges. The treason charges were overturned on appeal, though a separate charge of concealment was upheld.

The charges stem from the Memorandum of Understanding Timerman signed with Iran in 2013 for a joint investigation of the AMIA bombing, a still-unsolved 1994 incident in which 85 died in a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.

Timerman noted, however, that before the agreement “the investigation into the attack was so flawed and corrupt that in 2004 the entire trial was annulled and the judge who led it was put under investigation. Judge Bonadío — who now accuses me of treason — led the investigation into that cover-up but was removed from it in 2005.”

Bonadío's charges rest on allegations that Timerman petitioned Interpol to lift Red Notices against Iranian officials implicated in the AMIA attack - a claim rejected by the former Secretary General of Interpol, Ronald Noble.

The three year-old claim, dismissed by Argentine courts in seven instances - including two appeals - was revived on December 6 by the judge.

“A biased Judge Bonadío report cannot change the truth,” Noble tweeted. “INTERPOL was never asked by Argentina or Timerman to remove the AMIA Red Notices!” He offered to testify in Argentina to that effect.

CELS, a prominent Argentine human rights organization, condemned the “use of the penal system to persecute political opponents” by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration.

“Sadly, it is not the first time my family has been a victim of political persecution,” he said. “Forty years ago, my father, the journalist Jacobo Timerman, was kidnapped and tortured in clandestine centers run by my country’s last dictatorship.”

Senator Leahy was instrumental in securing the elder Timerman's release in 1979.

At: https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/statement-on-hector-timerman

Former Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman

Former Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou freed after appeals court slams "unfounded" ruling

Former Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou was freed yesterday following 70 days in prison after a federal appeals court overturned his detention as "utterly unfounded."

Boudou was detained at his home on November 3 but was not under formal investigation by the courts. Judge Ariel Lijo reportedly explained to him that he "was given no choice" - in reference to the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration.

Boudou, 55, had served as social security agency director, economy minister, and vice president in the center-left administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Macri's predecessor and chief political rival.

His nationalization of bankrupt private pension funds during the 2008 global crisis was widely credited with saving the nation's pension system; but his 2011-15 tenure as vice president was dogged by influence peddling allegations over the 2010 federal bailout of a printing contractor.

His recent arrest was on no specific charges, but instead on a presumption of “possible future obstruction of justice” - a concept so novel in Argentine jurisprudence, Judge Lijo could only cite the arrest of Congressman Julio de Vido, a another prominent former Kirchner official, on the same grounds a week earlier as precedent.

"The detention was utterly unfounded," the court stated in its ruling, noting that the defendant has complied with all court orders.

"The judge (Lijo), in 70 days, has not so much as issued a clear indictment - such that he either had no probable cause with which to link the accused to the alleged crimes, or had no real urgency to act as the judge claims."

Both Boudou and Congressman de Vido, who's 67 and diabetic, were denied the customary benefit of house arrest - a benefit Macri and close allies like Congresswoman Elisa Carrió, who spearheaded de Vido's expulsion from the House, have been actively seeking for the 733 officers convicted of human rights atrocities during the 1976-83 dictatorship.

"What matters is what's at stake for the country," Boudou said. "We are dealing with a system that is overturning the presumption of innocence and has more to do with denigration than with justice. The judiciary is committing abuses."

Boudou joined his fiancée, Mexican-born Mónica García de la Fuente, at their Buenos Aires home, where she's expecting twins.


Former Vice President Amado Boudou leaves jail. The presumption of innocence, he said, is being overturned.

Argentina fails to tame stubborn inflation

Argentina significantly overshot its inflation target in 2017 as prices rose around 25% from the previous year, raising questions about the country’s ability to tame a problem that has plagued it off and on for decades.

Consumer prices surged 3.1% in December from the previous month, pushing the annual inflation rate to 24.8%, far beyond the central bank’s target of 17%. The City of Buenos Aires measured inflation at 26.1% - in line with private estimates.

Last month, officials relaxed the inflation targets for the next two years, acknowledging they have been unable to combine stronger economic growth of about 3% last year with a significant decline in the inflation rate.

Consumer prices have meanwhile risen by 85% since Macri took office, while average wages have done so by around 70%.

The problem has been compounded by a decision to raise public utility rates by up to 1700% since March 2016, which the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration defends as a way to cut $4 billion of dollars in subsidies.

The nation's budget deficit, however, has more than doubled in peso terms since Macri took office in late 2015 as tax cuts for agroexporters, mining, and other sectors erode revenues.

Record interest payments - some $15 billion in 2017 alone - have also pushed budget deficits upward mainly due to the issuance of LEBAC 30-day bills, which until December yielded around 13% in dollar terms.

A record, $27 billion LEBAC maturity on December 18 was largely redeemed (63%) rather than rolled over. The resulting purchase of dollars, whose trade was deregulated by the Macri administration, devalued the peso by 10% in a week, from 17.50 to 19.50.

Consumer prices, accordingly, are expected to rise another 4% in January alone.

At: https://www.wsj.com/articles/argentina-fails-to-tame-stubborn-inflation-1515708458

Owner of city's famed Strand Book Store, Fred Bass, dead at 89

Source: New York Daily News

Fred Bass, a lover of literature who transformed the Strand Book Store into one of the world’s most famous, died Wednesday morning. He was 89.

Bass died at his Manhattan home surrounded by relatives. The cause was congestive heart failure, according to Leigh Altshuler, the Strand’s director of communications.

“It is with a heavy heart we share that Strand's owner, Fred Bass, passed away early this morning at home surrounded by loved ones at the age of 89,” the Strand said in a statement.

Bass spent more than 70 years at the East Village literary haunt founded by his father Benjamin Bass in 1927. The younger Bass first began working at what was then a little-known used bookstore on Fourth Ave. in the early 1940s at the age of 13.

“We can't overstate what Strand Bookstore means to the literary community of NYC,” the National Book Foundation said in a tweet.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/owner-of-city-e2-80-99s-famed-strand-book-store-fred-bass-dead-at-89/ar-BBHPTEX

Fred Bass, 1928-2018.

'Make them taste their own blood': Sheriff David Clarke sends graphic tweet slamming press

Source: Business Insider

Former Milwaukee county sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. tweeted out a graphic post on Saturday unleashing on a frequent target: the news media.

The tweet was one of many that Clarke sent bashing the press after an FBI affidavit that was unsealed on Thursday alleged that he used his official position as sheriff to detain a fellow passenger on an airplane.

"BREAKING NEWS! When LYING LIB MEDIA makes up FAKE NEWS to smear me, the ANTIDOTE is go right at them," Clarke wrote. "Punch them in the nose & MAKE THEM TASTE THEIR OWN BLOOD. Nothing gets a bully like LYING LIB MEDIA’S attention better than to give them a taste of their own blood #neverbackdown."

He also attached a doctored photo to the tweet depicting President Donald Trump's face superimposed on that of a wrestler, who was holding another wrestler labeled "CNN," while a smiling and triumphant Clarke was shown kicking "CNN" in the face. The photo was reminiscent of a doctored video Trump shared of him body slamming CNN in July.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/david-clarke-graphic-tweet-slams-press-amid-fbi-probe-reports-2017-12

Don't shoot the press: Argentine photojournalists protest in front of Congress

Argentine photojournalists held a demonstration this morning in front of the nation's Congress in Buenos Aires to protest police violence against members of the press.

The demonstration, called a Camarazo - a show of force by camera - was called by ARGRA (Association of Argentine Graphic Reporters) and SIPREBA (Press Union of Buenos Aires).

The event sought to highlight efforts by journalists to cover last week's protests against a pension reform bill sponsored by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration - and the attacks suffered by the press and peaceful demonstrators alike at the hands of federal forces commanded by Security Minister Patricia Bullrich.

A reported 36 members of the press were injured on the day of the bill's passage on December 18, including 24 by police rubber bullets and one (Suyai Serrano of the state news agency Télam) who was run over by a police motorcycle.

Another five were injured by what ARGRA and SIPREBA consider inciting agents - a tactic previously shown to have been used by Bullrich during protests in September over the apparent murder of activist Santiago Maldonado.

Seven journalists were also detained.

"Macri and Bullrich are responsible for at least 30 police attacks against the press," SIPREBA Human Rights director Tomás Eliaschev said. "They fire at the press because they wish to trample people's rights with impunity."

Eliaschev added that radio journalist Oscar Delgado was detained four days ago while covering a protest by sugar workers in the northwestern province of Jujuy seeking better wages, and remains in prison without charges.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concern over the inappropriate and indiscriminate use of force by federal security agents in Argentina

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.diarioregistrado.com%2Fsociedad-%2F-camarazo--frente-al-congreso--no-disparen-contra-la-prensa_a5a43cf26a4d76178ffbd538a&edit-text=

Argentine photojournalists protest in front of Congress over police attacks on the press during last week's protests against Macri's pension cutbacks.

Some 30 journalists were wounded and seven were detained.

IACHR expresses concern over police actions in protests and attacks on journalists in Argentina

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression express concern over the inappropriate and indiscriminate use of force by federal security agents in Argentina.

According to information received by the IACHR, on December 14 the Police and the Gendarmerie violently broke up demonstrations headed toward the National Congress in Buenos Aires to express opposition to a law reforming the pension and retirement system.

On December 18, new protests culminated in violent disturbances and left more than 183 people injured, including at least 88 police and 95 citizens - among them seven members of Congress. At least 70 individuals were arrested and complained that they had been harassed during the arrests. Four protesters - including a schoolteacher - lost an eye due to rubber bullets.

In addition, purported groups of protesters used violence during the demonstrations, throwing rocks and blunt objects at the police. Numerous undercover security agents were photographed throwing rocks, and then detaining protesters.

During the protests, at least 26 journalists and media workers were reportedly attacked by police forces while they were covering the demonstrations on both days. Of this group, 18 journalists reported being hit multiple times by rubber bullets. Several journalists were also reported to have suffered the effects of the tear gas launched by the police.

The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur call on the authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate the conduct of the police during these demonstrations and establish the appropriate penalties.

They also urge the State to ensure strict adherence to the general principles of legality, exceptionality, proportionality, and absolute necessity in the use of force in contexts of social protest.

At: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2017/214.asp

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on tax reform, Trump, and Bitcoin

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