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Member since: Thu May 18, 2017, 12:36 PM
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Six South American nations suspend participation in UNASUR regional bloc due to U.S. pressure

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru announced this week that they would indefinitely suspend their participation in the meetings of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

In a joint letter sent to the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fernando Huanacuni Mamani, who assumed the rotating presidency of UNASUR on April 17, they stated that their withdrawal was related to the current lack of a secretary general of UNASUR.

The withdrawal was announced just 2 days after Bolivia assumed the presidency however.

The move can be seen as another move by the growing neo-conservative block in Latin America to break away from Latin American integration and move closer to a U.S.-backed agenda.

UNASUR was officially founded in 2008 in Brasilia to promote political and economic coordination between all 12 South American nations.

The project was one of the many that developed during the cycle of progressive governments in Latin America seeking to create a regional response to the efforts of U.S. interests to maintain unregulated access to Latin American labor, natural resources and markets - as well as to counter the Bush administration's political agenda.

“If UNASUR is dissolved the continent will be closer to a Free Trade Area of the Americas,” Argentine foreign policy analyst Martín Granovsky noted, in reference to a key Bush initiative.

“And this without Washington having needed to make the least effort.”

At: https://newsclick.in/six-south-american-nations-suspend-participation-unasur-regional-bloc-due-us-pressure

South American leaders inaugurate the Néstor Kirchner Building, UNASUR's headquarters, in Quito, Ecuador, in 2014.

Kirchner, who died in 2010, was instrumental in forming UNASUR - a move opposed by U.S. policy makers and neo-cons in particular.

GOP fears rise over West Virginia Senate fiasco

First Roy Moore, now Don Blankenship. Washington Republicans are worried about another potential GOP Senate nominee, this time in West Virginia.

Senate Republicans are escalating their attacks on West Virginia Senate GOP candidate Don Blankenship, increasingly worried that the coal baron and ex-prisoner will blow a winnable race against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Republicans see West Virginia as a prime pickup opportunity in November, given President Donald Trump’s huge popularity there. But they say the multimillionaire Blankenship, running in a tight three-way primary against Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is indefensible as a candidate after serving a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety violations.

Twenty-nine miners died at his company’s Upper Big Branch mine in 2010.

“Wasn’t he convicted of a crime?” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said in an interview Tuesday. “That sort of background doesn’t lend itself to public office, in my view. Being convicted of a crime is a real liability.”

At: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/17/west-virginia-senate-blankenship-republicans-530492

Blankenship getting away with murder at a West Virginia courthouse in 2015.

Wine enthusiasts celebrate World Malbec Day

World Malbec Day, designed to celebrate malbec in its various forms across the world as well as to promote the wines, is being celebrated by wine enthusiasts today.

The date commemorates the commissioning in 1853 of French enologue Michel Aimé Pouget to introduce new vines to Argentina's dry western foothills - which proved ideal for winemaking. The official who commissioned Pouget, Domingo Sarmiento, later became president of Argentina.

While they had been cultivated around Bordeaux for 800 years, the malbec grapes Pouget introduced did not grow well in France, where it is known as cot and where it can take years for the tannins to soften and the flavors to express themselves - hence its name, meaning "bad nose."

Nor was its Argentine varietal initially successful.

Around 1993, however, malbec's appeal began to grow among locals as well as internationally. Production expanded from just 283,000 quintals in 1993 (just 1.5% of Argentina's total) to 3.6 million in 2015 - one-seventh of the nation's wine output. Some 2.8 million quintals were exported, making Argentina the primary source for the increasingly popular red.

With 76,000 acres under cultivation Argentina now grows over half the world's malbec, with the best wines made from grapes grown in Mendoza Province, where 85% of the country's malbec is bottled.

Mendoza's high altitudes give the varietal its renowned freshness and vivacity, coupled with juicy, brambly black fruits and hints of tar and chocolate that make these wines so appealing and approachable, particularly when drunk with relatively little ageing.

What is also praiseworthy about Argentine malbec is the high quality at a low price and the overall reliability: indifferent wines seem rare.

It is simply fortuitous that malbec partners wonderfully with rare steak and roast beef, since that is also an Argentine specialty, as well as other roasted and barbecued meats – although its freshness makes them fine with a variety of fare.


Tourists enjoy malbec in the foothills of the Argentine Andes, where most of the popular varietal is grown.

Trump pick Gorsuch casts deciding Supreme Court vote against deporting immigrant

Source: The Hill

Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's first Supreme Court appointment, cast the deciding vote in a decision released Tuesday that sided with an immigrant fighting his deportation.

Gorsuch sided with court's four liberal justices in favor of the immigrant, James Garcia Dimaya, who the government sought to deport after his second first-degree burglary conviction in California.

The Justice Department argued his first-degree burglary conviction constituted a crime of violence, which is an aggravated felony that results in deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The court said Tuesday, however, that the law’s definition of a crime of violence is too vague.

Read more: http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/383512-supreme-court-invalidates-law-requiring-the-deportation-of

Justice Neil Gorsuch. The subject of Trump's next Twitter meltdown?

Key Macri ally, denounced for holding political prisoners, embroiled in bid rigging scandal

Gerardo Morales, the governor of Argentina's remote Jujuy Province and a close ally of President Mauricio Macri, has come under fire over a bid-rigging scandal involving the provincial tourism ministry.

E-mails revealed yesterday by the progressive news site El Destape detail a scheme by which the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Jujuy, Federico Posadas, diverted close to 5 million pesos ($245,000) to a political communication consultancy firm through rigged bids and in some cases phantom contracts.

The e-mails, dated as recently as March 8, include detailed instructions as to how to skirt public contract bidding laws - including confidential data on competitors' bids.

The firm, Reale-Dalla Torre (RDT), received massive publicity contracts in 2014 and 2015 from Macri as mayor of Buenos Aires - of which 9 million pesos ($1 million at the time) remains unaccounted for.

RDT's owners contributed over $35,000 to Macri's 2015 presidential campaign - a violation of Argentine campaign finance law. The case against them for fraudulent contracts, filed in September 2015, remains stalled in the courts.

Double standards

The scandal highlights a pattern by the right-wing Macri administration and its allies of using courts to pursue only political opponents, leading to accusations that Mr. Macri is using the judicial system to neutralize the opposition.

One of the most emblematic such cases is in Morales' Jujuy Province, where indigenous rights activist Milagro Sala has been imprisoned for 27 months - first without charges, and then on charges of embezzlement but without evidence.

Critics note that prosecutors have offered no proof substantiating the charges, relying only on hearsay from individuals including an illiterate man who was later awarded a public contract and an ex-convict who was released despite serving a sentence for murder.

Citing lack of evidence and serious irregularities such as the use of bribed witnesses, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in October 2016, that Sala's detention is in fact arbitrary, and urged Macri and Morales to release her immediately. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) did likewise in December.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Flos-correos-que-comprometen-morales-las-licitaciones-truchas-jujuy-n42322

Governor Gerardo Morales: Not a fan of e-mails.

North, South Korea mulling over plans to officially end Korean War

They're ready to give peace a chance.

North and South Korea are mulling over plans to officially end the state of war that has existed on the Korean peninsula for the last 68 years.

Leaders of the two countries, which are still technically at war, are preparing for a historic meeting next week.

Ending the military tensions between the neighboring nations could become a major part of the summit between South Korea President Moon Jae-in and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, the Munhwa Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified South Korean official, according to Bloomberg News.

U.S., North Korea planning Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting in secret
Pyongyang and Seoul have been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The heavily-guarded demilitarized zone separating the countries, known as the DMZ, serves as a physical buffer and symbol of the stalemate.

At: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/north-south-korea-mulling-plans-korean-war-article-1.3938847

Jeremy Corbyn: Launching Syria air strikes on humanitarian grounds legally debatable

Or rather: strikes on “humanitarian grounds” legally debatable.

Democrats slam Trump for refusing to consult Congress before Syria strikes

Source: Newsweek

Senior Democrats criticized President Donald Trump Friday for launching air strikes against the Syrian government without first consulting Congress.

Trump announced Friday that the U.S. and its allies the U.K. and France were launching "precision" air strikes in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on civilians in Douma, eastern Ghouta, a week ago.

Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Syrian government’s use of poison gas was a “brutally inhuman war crime.” “Yet one night of airstrikes is no substitute for a coherent strategy.”

“The President must come to Congress and secure an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians,” Pelosi added.

Read more: http://www.newsweek.com/democrats-slam-trump-refusing-consult-congress-syria-strikes-886185

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “The President must come to Congress and secure an Authorization for Use of Military Force.”

Republican candidate caught on tape explaining how he's banking on terrorist attack to help him win

Source: Daily Kos

A South Dakota Republican congressional candidate is trying to walk back the truly insane, recorded statement he made claiming that an Islamic terrorist attack on U.S. soil would propel him to win the Republican nomination in South Dakota’s June primary.

In the recording, he says: “And then all that has to happen is that there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then and I will be the, just by the Trump effect, I will be the candidate. That’s the way I look at it.”

Read more: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/4/12/1756614/-Republican-candidate-caught-on-tape-explaining-how-he-s-banking-on-terrorist-attack-to-help-him-win?detail=emaildkre

South Dakota GOP House candidate Neal Tapio: Waiting for "the Trump effect" - or is it the Bush effect.

Argentina's Macri removes prosecutor in postal service fraud case involving his family

Argentine President Mauricio Macri ordered the removal of Juan Pedro Zoni, the federal prosecutor investigating allegations of large-scale fraud committed by his family conglomerate, SOCMA, against the nation's postal service.

SOCMA, which controlled the Argentine Postal Service between its privatization in 1997 and its renationalization in 2003, owes $268 million to the postal service - a debt Commercial Court Prosecutor Gabriela Boquín alleges to have been fraudulently amassed while diverting the proceeds to other Macri interests.

Macri attempted to rescind 98% of his family's postal service debt by decree in February 2017 - a decree he was forced to retract due to the resulting political scandal, known locally as the Curreo Argentino (a play on the Spanish word for mail, correo, and the slang term currar - to embezzle).

Boquín's complaint was referred to Zoni's office, who reportedly remained active in the investigation despite the disinterest of Federal Judge Ariel Lijo - a Macri ally who oversees the stalled case.

Zoni's removal was signed by Chief Federal Prosecutor Eduardo Casal, whom Macri appointed in December after forcing Alejandra Gils Carbó out eight months before the end of her tenure.

Gils Carbó, nominated by Macri's predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was confirmed by the Argentine Senate in 2012; Casal was named on an "interim" basis, thereby skirting Senate approval.

Their removal has been compared to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's firing of that country's chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, last August following her criticism of crackdowns on anti-government demonstrators.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F106482-en-linea-con-el-interes-de-los-macri&edit-text=

Argentine prosecutors Alejandra Gils Carbó and Juan Pedro Zoni, removed by President Macri amid fraud investigations involving his family.
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