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Argentina’s Fernandez: ‘Dig Up My Home But You Won’t Find Illicit Funds’

Argentina’s ex-President Cristina Fernandez said on Tuesday that she never received corrupt payments and challenged investigators to scour her home region of Patagonia if they believed she had hidden cash, a day after she was indicted on graft charges.

Using her immunity as a senator to refuse to answer any questions, Fernandez handed a written statement to the federal judge investigating a sprawling bribery scandal that has ensnared dozens of former officials and construction company executives. The statement was published on her party’s website.

“They can dig up all of Patagonia, but they will never find anything because I never received any illicit money,” the statement said, citing official allegations that cash was kept in underground vaults at Fernandez’s private residence or hidden in containers in the southern Argentina countryside.

Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio said in the indictment that officials had found empty vaults under the house, but no money.

Fernandez, president from 2007 through 2015, is accused of heading a network in which officials in her administration accepted bribes from construction companies in exchange for public works contracts.

Known as the “notebooks” scandal, the allegations arose in August after a local newspaper published diaries kept by a former government chauffeur, who said his notes documented hundreds of millions of dollars delivered to the offices of Fernandez and her late husband and presidential predecessor Nestor Kirchner.

“There is no evidence that links me to this alleged network,” Fernandez’s statement said.

Fernandez was previously indicted on corruption charges in 2016 after her former public works secretary was caught trying to hide bags of cash in a convent.

Fernandez’s current position as a senator grants her immunity from arrest, but not from investigation.

The probe has implications for next year’s presidential election. President Mauricio Macri is expected to run for a second term in October 2019, and his arch political rival Fernandez is among his possible challengers from the country’s Peronist movement. But the scandal is expected to limit her chances.

Some 85 percent of Argentines expect corruption to “decrease substantially within the next five years,” a recent survey by the International Federation of Accountants said.

“The optics do not look good for Fernandez’s re-election prospects,” said Jose Arnoletto, President of the Argentine Federation of Professional Economic Scientists.

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Argentina’s Fernandez: ‘Dig Up My Home But You Won’t Find Illicit Funds’

Argentina’s ex-President Cristina Fernandez said on Tuesday that she never received corrupt payments and challenged investigators to scour her home region of Patagonia if they believed she had hidden cash, a day after she was indicted on graft charges.

Using her immunity as a senator to refuse to answer any questions, Fernandez handed a written statement to the federal judge investigating a sprawling bribery scandal that has ensnared dozens of former officials and construction company executives. The statement was published on her party’s website.

“They can dig up all of Patagonia, but they will never find anything because I never received any illicit money,” the statement said, citing official allegations that cash was kept in underground vaults at Fernandez’s private residence or hidden in containers in the southern Argentina countryside.

Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio said in the indictment that officials had found empty vaults under the house, but no money.

Fernandez, president from 2007 through 2015, is accused of heading a network in which officials in her administration accepted bribes from construction companies in exchange for public works contracts.

Known as the “notebooks” scandal, the allegations arose in August after a local newspaper published diaries kept by a former government chauffeur, who said his notes documented hundreds of millions of dollars delivered to the offices of Fernandez and her late husband and presidential predecessor Nestor Kirchner.

“There is no evidence that links me to this alleged network,” Fernandez’s statement said.

Fernandez was previously indicted on corruption charges in 2016 after her former public works secretary was caught trying to hide bags of cash in a convent.

Fernandez’s current position as a senator grants her immunity from arrest, but not from investigation.

The probe has implications for next year’s presidential election. President Mauricio Macri is expected to run for a second term in October 2019, and his arch political rival Fernandez is among his possible challengers from the country’s Peronist movement. But the scandal is expected to limit her chances.

Some 85 percent of Argentines expect corruption to “decrease substantially within the next five years,” a recent survey by the International Federation of Accountants said.

“The optics do not look good for Fernandez’s re-election prospects,” said Jose Arnoletto, President of the Argentine Federation of Professional Economic Scientists.

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Venezuela Doubles Down on Chinese Money to Reverse Crisis

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that new investments from China will help his country dramatically boost its oil production, doubling down on financing from the Asian nation to turn around its crashing economy.

 

Already a major economic partner, China has agreed to invest $5 billion more in Venezuela, Maduro said following a recent trip to Beijing, adding that the money would help it nearly double its oil production.

 

“We are taking the first steps into a new economic era,” he said. “We are on track to have a new economy, and the agreements with China will strengthen it.”

 

A once-wealthy oil nation, Venezuela is gripped by a historic crisis deeper than the Great Depression in the United States. Venezuelans struggle to afford scarce food and medicine, many going abroad in search of a better life.

 

Venezuela’s inflation this year could top 1 million percent, economists predict.

 

After two decades of socialist rule and mismanagement, Venezuela’s oil production of 1.2 million barrels a day is a third of what it was two decades ago before the late President Hugo Chavez launched the socialist revolution.

 

Maduro says under the deal, Venezuela will increase production and the export of oil to China by 1 million barrels a day.

 

However, China is taking a strong role in its new agreements. Over the last decade China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment. Venezuela owes more than $20 billion.

 

The head of the National Petroleum Corporation of China will soon travel to Venezuela to finalize plans on increasing oil exports.

 

Russ Dallen, a Miami-based partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets, said the influx of money appears to be investments China will control.

 

“The Chinese are reluctant to throw good money after bad,” Dallen said. “They do want to get paid back. The only way they can get paid back is to get Venezuela’s production back up.”

 

Venezuela also agreed to sell 9.9 percent of shares of the joint venture Sinovensa, giving a Chinese oil company a 49 percent stake. The sale will expand exploitation of gas in Venezuela, the president said.

 

Maduro also recently launched sweeping economic reforms aimed at rescuing the economy that include a creating new currency, boosting the minimum wage more than 3,000 percent and raising taxes.

 

Economist Asdrubal Oliveros of Caracas-based firm Econalitica said he doubts that Venezuela can reach the aggressive goal to boost oil exports to China by one million barrels a day given problems faced by the state corporation PDVSA.

 

“Increased production I see as quite limited,” Oliveros said. “The Chinese companies alone have neither the muscle nor the size to prop up production.”

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Venezuela Doubles Down on Chinese Money to Reverse Crisis

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that new investments from China will help his country dramatically boost its oil production, doubling down on financing from the Asian nation to turn around its crashing economy.

 

Already a major economic partner, China has agreed to invest $5 billion more in Venezuela, Maduro said following a recent trip to Beijing, adding that the money would help it nearly double its oil production.

 

“We are taking the first steps into a new economic era,” he said. “We are on track to have a new economy, and the agreements with China will strengthen it.”

 

A once-wealthy oil nation, Venezuela is gripped by a historic crisis deeper than the Great Depression in the United States. Venezuelans struggle to afford scarce food and medicine, many going abroad in search of a better life.

 

Venezuela’s inflation this year could top 1 million percent, economists predict.

 

After two decades of socialist rule and mismanagement, Venezuela’s oil production of 1.2 million barrels a day is a third of what it was two decades ago before the late President Hugo Chavez launched the socialist revolution.

 

Maduro says under the deal, Venezuela will increase production and the export of oil to China by 1 million barrels a day.

 

However, China is taking a strong role in its new agreements. Over the last decade China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment. Venezuela owes more than $20 billion.

 

The head of the National Petroleum Corporation of China will soon travel to Venezuela to finalize plans on increasing oil exports.

 

Russ Dallen, a Miami-based partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets, said the influx of money appears to be investments China will control.

 

“The Chinese are reluctant to throw good money after bad,” Dallen said. “They do want to get paid back. The only way they can get paid back is to get Venezuela’s production back up.”

 

Venezuela also agreed to sell 9.9 percent of shares of the joint venture Sinovensa, giving a Chinese oil company a 49 percent stake. The sale will expand exploitation of gas in Venezuela, the president said.

 

Maduro also recently launched sweeping economic reforms aimed at rescuing the economy that include a creating new currency, boosting the minimum wage more than 3,000 percent and raising taxes.

 

Economist Asdrubal Oliveros of Caracas-based firm Econalitica said he doubts that Venezuela can reach the aggressive goal to boost oil exports to China by one million barrels a day given problems faced by the state corporation PDVSA.

 

“Increased production I see as quite limited,” Oliveros said. “The Chinese companies alone have neither the muscle nor the size to prop up production.”

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Oregon Using Facebook to Remind Inactive Voters to Register

In this era of manipulators using social media to interfere in elections, Oregon officials moved Tuesday to use Facebook to bolster participation by reminding as many as hundreds of thousands of inactive voters to update their registration.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn’t just something we can do — it’s something we must do if we’re serious about outreach,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said in announcing what he called the first-of-its-kind program.

The initiative comes as Facebook tries to recover from a privacy scandal in which a political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

In addition, California-based Facebook stepped up policing of its social network after authorities said Russian agents ran political influence operations on its platform aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook applauded the Oregon initiative.

“We’re glad the Oregon Secretary of State’s office is able to use Facebook to help reach inactive voters and let them know how they can cast a ballot this fall,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Oregon law

Oregonians can become inactive voters after being mailed a ballot or other election material that is returned as undeliverable; not voting or registering in 10 years or as few as five years in some counties; if their ballot has been challenged; or if they’re imprisoned on a felony conviction.

Under Oregon law, the right to vote is restored upon release from incarceration. Oregonians receive ballots by mail and can either mail them back completed or deposit them in drop boxes.

Richardson’s chief of staff Deb Royal said the inactive voter list was cross-referenced with Facebook users who are Oregon residents.

“Facebook users who meet those two criteria will see the placement,” Royal said in an email. Oregon has 447,000 inactive voters, Royal said.

Having inactive status means a person is still registered to vote but won’t receive a ballot unless he or she provides a county with updated registration information to return their registration status to active. An inactive-status voter can also complete an online voter registration form at OregonVotes.gov to become active again.

Video outreach

As of August, 2.7 million people were registered to vote in Oregon — a 3 percent increase over 2017, according to elections division statistics. Oregon’s total population is around 4.1 million.

The video outreach features Richardson speaking directly to voters who have been listed as inactive, encouraging them to update their registration to receive a ballot in the mail. A link will be included for voters to take care of their registration, Royal said.

“Recent digital advances have created voter outreach opportunities never previously imagined,” Richardson said. A Republican, he holds the second-highest state office, second only to Democratic Governor Kate Brown in this predominantly blue state.

The outreach will run until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 16, his office said.

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Oregon Using Facebook to Remind Inactive Voters to Register

In this era of manipulators using social media to interfere in elections, Oregon officials moved Tuesday to use Facebook to bolster participation by reminding as many as hundreds of thousands of inactive voters to update their registration.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn’t just something we can do — it’s something we must do if we’re serious about outreach,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said in announcing what he called the first-of-its-kind program.

The initiative comes as Facebook tries to recover from a privacy scandal in which a political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

In addition, California-based Facebook stepped up policing of its social network after authorities said Russian agents ran political influence operations on its platform aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook applauded the Oregon initiative.

“We’re glad the Oregon Secretary of State’s office is able to use Facebook to help reach inactive voters and let them know how they can cast a ballot this fall,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Oregon law

Oregonians can become inactive voters after being mailed a ballot or other election material that is returned as undeliverable; not voting or registering in 10 years or as few as five years in some counties; if their ballot has been challenged; or if they’re imprisoned on a felony conviction.

Under Oregon law, the right to vote is restored upon release from incarceration. Oregonians receive ballots by mail and can either mail them back completed or deposit them in drop boxes.

Richardson’s chief of staff Deb Royal said the inactive voter list was cross-referenced with Facebook users who are Oregon residents.

“Facebook users who meet those two criteria will see the placement,” Royal said in an email. Oregon has 447,000 inactive voters, Royal said.

Having inactive status means a person is still registered to vote but won’t receive a ballot unless he or she provides a county with updated registration information to return their registration status to active. An inactive-status voter can also complete an online voter registration form at OregonVotes.gov to become active again.

Video outreach

As of August, 2.7 million people were registered to vote in Oregon — a 3 percent increase over 2017, according to elections division statistics. Oregon’s total population is around 4.1 million.

The video outreach features Richardson speaking directly to voters who have been listed as inactive, encouraging them to update their registration to receive a ballot in the mail. A link will be included for voters to take care of their registration, Royal said.

“Recent digital advances have created voter outreach opportunities never previously imagined,” Richardson said. A Republican, he holds the second-highest state office, second only to Democratic Governor Kate Brown in this predominantly blue state.

The outreach will run until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 16, his office said.

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Mattis Dismisses Reports He May Be Leaving Trump Administration

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday flatly dismissed reports suggesting he may be leaving President Donald Trump’s  administration in the coming months, saying flatly: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”

“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Just the way the town is,” he added. “Keep a sense of humor about it.”

The remarks were the most direct by Mattis to date about intensifying rumors about his future as Trump approaches the half-way mark of his four-year term amid speculation about changes to his cabinet after upcoming November mid-term elections.

Mattis has become a focus in media stories in recent weeks about the Trump administration, particularly after the release of a book this month by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.

Mattis strongly denied making any such remarks. Trump on Sept. 5 said he defense chief would remain in his job, adding: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”

But a New York Times report on Sept. 15 said Trump had “soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room.”

It also noted this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who now has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and who current and former officials tell Reuters is believed to dislike Mattis.

Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inside-The-Beltway Journalism

Mattis has a dim view of journalism about inside-the-beltway politics in Washington, using the word “fiction” to describe Woodward’s book and similar reporting about closed-door conversations among U.S. national security leaders.

Asked about the recent reports speculating about his departure, Mattis said: “It’s like most of those kinds of things in this town.

“Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in. They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he said.

Still, Mattis is not political by nature, and previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.

The retired Marine general had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.

After answering questions about his future, Mattis was asked whether he never considered life after the Pentagon. Mattis joked: “Of course I don’t think about leaving.”

“I love it here,” he said with a smile. “I’m thinking about retiring right here. I’ll get a little place here down on the Potomac.”

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Mattis Dismisses Reports He May Be Leaving Trump Administration

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday flatly dismissed reports suggesting he may be leaving President Donald Trump’s  administration in the coming months, saying flatly: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”

“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Just the way the town is,” he added. “Keep a sense of humor about it.”

The remarks were the most direct by Mattis to date about intensifying rumors about his future as Trump approaches the half-way mark of his four-year term amid speculation about changes to his cabinet after upcoming November mid-term elections.

Mattis has become a focus in media stories in recent weeks about the Trump administration, particularly after the release of a book this month by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.

Mattis strongly denied making any such remarks. Trump on Sept. 5 said he defense chief would remain in his job, adding: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”

But a New York Times report on Sept. 15 said Trump had “soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room.”

It also noted this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who now has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and who current and former officials tell Reuters is believed to dislike Mattis.

Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inside-The-Beltway Journalism

Mattis has a dim view of journalism about inside-the-beltway politics in Washington, using the word “fiction” to describe Woodward’s book and similar reporting about closed-door conversations among U.S. national security leaders.

Asked about the recent reports speculating about his departure, Mattis said: “It’s like most of those kinds of things in this town.

“Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in. They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he said.

Still, Mattis is not political by nature, and previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.

The retired Marine general had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.

After answering questions about his future, Mattis was asked whether he never considered life after the Pentagon. Mattis joked: “Of course I don’t think about leaving.”

“I love it here,” he said with a smile. “I’m thinking about retiring right here. I’ll get a little place here down on the Potomac.”

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European Nations Plan to Use More Hydrogen for Energy Needs

Dozens of European countries are backing a plan to increase the use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels to cut the continent’s carbon emissions.

 

Energy officials from 25 countries pledged Tuesday to increase research into hydrogen technology and accelerate its everyday use to power factories, drive cars and heat homes.

 

The proposal, which was included in a non-binding agreement signed in Linz, Austria, includes the idea of using existing gas grids to distribute hydrogen produced with renewable energy.

 

The idea of a “hydrogen economy,” where fuels that release greenhouse gases are replaced with hydrogen, has been around for decades. Yet uptake on the concept has been slow so far, compared with some other technologies.

 

Advocates of hydrogen say it can solve the problem caused by fluctuating supplies of wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energies. By converting electricity generated from those sources into hydrogen, the energy can be stored in large tanks and released again when needed.

 

Electric vehicles can also use hydrogen to generate power on board, allowing manufacturers to overcome the range restrictions of existing batteries. Hydrogen vehicles can be refueled in a fraction of the time it takes to recharge a battery-powered vehicle.

 

On Monday the world’s first commuter train service using a prototype hydrogen-powered train began in northern Germany.

 

The European Union’s top climate and energy official said hydrogen could help the bloc meet its obligations to cut carbon emissions under the 2015 Paris accord. Miguel Arias Canete told reporters it could also contribute to the continent’s energy security by reducing imports of natural gas, much of which currently comes from Russia and countries outside of Europe.

 

Kirsten Westphal, an energy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said encouraging the use of hydrogen as a means of storing and transporting energy makes sense, but added the overall goal for should be reducing fossil fuels rather than pushing a particular energy alternative.

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