Argentina primary vote measures appetite for populist ex president


BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentines vote on Sunday in a closely watched mid-term primary election that will test their appetite for bringing back the left-wing populism of former President Cristina Fernandez.

Fernandez, who was indicted for corruption last year, is vying for a Senate seat in Buenos Aires province, home to nearly 40 percent of the country’s voters. She is running against business friendly President Mauricio Macri’s former education minister and other candidates from a divided opposition.

Investors and wealthy Argentines fear a Fernandez comeback in Congress could pave the way to her running for president in 2019. Her return to power would likely mean the end of Macri’s reforms and a resumption of rampant spending, protection of industry and isolation from trade agreements and international capital markets.

A seat in Congress would give the 64-year-old Fernandez immunity from arrest, though not from trial. She dismisses the corruption accusations as politically motivated.

The compulsory primary vote on Sunday will essentially serve as a detailed poll ahead of the Oct. 22 election for one third of the Senate and half the lower house of Congress, as no major candidates are being challenged from within their own parties.

Though her chosen successor lost to Macri in Buenos Aires province in 2015, Fernandez now appeals to many in its struggling industrial belt, where Argentina’s emergence from recession in the second half of last year has yet to take hold.

The final weeks of primary campaigning were marked by repeated headlines highlighting gaffes from Esteban Bullrich, Macri’s former education minister and scion of a wealthy Buenos Aires family. On Wednesday he apologised for calling the jailing of young people “progress.”

Bullrich had previously suggested craft beer as an alternative employment opportunity for Argentines who had lost their jobs and was criticized by feminists for a radical anti-abortion stance.

Fernandez, who broke with Argentina’s main opposition movement of Peronism for the election as some adherents form more moderate factions, meanwhile ran a relatively subdued campaign compared to her often fiery rhetoric and long speeches as president.

“We weren’t always as humble as we should have been,” she said of her presidency at her final rally.


Argentina’s peso has weakened around 9 percent since Fernandez, who was president from 2007 to 2015, formed a new political party and declared her candidacy on June 24 even as the central bank sold $1.8 billion to curb the currency’s drop.

In an interview for the Reuters Latin America investment summit, Macri admitted the race would be tight in Buenos Aires province but insisted that, more importantly, his coalition would win on a national level.

No matter how many seats his “Let’s Change” coalition picks up, Macri will still lack a majority in Congress and continue to need to build alliances to pass reforms.

An opponent like Fernandez representing the country’s most powerful economic district could make that all the more difficult.

“Labour, retirement and tax reform will require an agreement,” said political analyst Rosendo Fraga. “If it wins Buenos Aires, the government will go into these negotiations strengthened, if it loses it will be much weaker.”

Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Mary Milliken


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Facebook promises new fake news measures


A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logoImage copyright

Facebook is to step up its efforts to fight fake news by sending more suspected hoax stories to fact-checkers and publishing their findings online.

It follows mounting criticism of the social media firm for not doing enough to root out fake news on its platform.

It has also just launched a new feature in four countries that will publish alternative news links beneath problematic articles.

But several experts said the measures did not do go far enough.

“Presenting audiences with context is helpful,” said Tom Felle, a senior lecturer in digital journalism at City University.

“But it does nothing to stop the spread of this material, or to stop traffic going to fake news peddlers who are making money out of creating this material.”

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The new “related articles” feature will post alternative news links beneath potentially fake stories

Facebook has been criticised as being one of the main distribution points for fake news, which many think influenced the 2016 US presidential election.

Voters were also flooded with hoax stories during the French presidential election in May.

‘Updated AI’

The firm has previously been reluctant to take down potentially fake news stories, arguing that it does not want to be an “arbiter of truth”.

Instead it identifies potentially false stories through a mixture of artificial intelligence (AI) and user detection. These are then sent to independent fact-checkers who place a flag next to hoax stories to alert readers.

On Thursday, however, the firm said it would start using “updated machine learning” to enhance detection.

“If an article has been reviewed by fact checkers, we may show the fact-checking stories below the original post,” added Sara Su, product manager of News Feed, in a blog.

A spokesman later clarified that these stories would not be “direct responses” to fake articles, but factually accurate reports that offered an alternative.

‘Related articles’

On Thursday, the firm rolled out a new “Related articles” feature in the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The feature, which the firm has been testing since April, places links to other news coverage beneath highly popular or questionable stories, offering users “more perspectives and additional information”.

Brooke Binkowski, managing editor of fact-checking magazine Snopes, told the BBC: “I applaud their efforts to ‘flood out’ fake news, a method of which I have been a proponent for a long time.”

However, she said that while AI was “a good tool, it is also a blunt one”.

Mr Felle said if the firm really wanted to stop fake news, it needed to back the news industry in a better way.

“If Facebook wants to help journalism it needs to put its hand in its pocket and support quality, trusted news organisations to better reach audiences, and advertisers.”


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California struggles to implement new gun-control measures


California has faced a number of setbacks in implementing the state’s latest gun-control measures, causing a number of deadlines to be pushed back and leaving some measures in legal limbo.

After passing laws that expand the definition of “assault weapon” and make it illegal to possess gun magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, the state is facing myriad problems in trying to enforce the new laws. The first trouble came when the California Department of Justice (DOJ) attempted to draft their plan to register all of the rifles in California which have “bullet button” reloading devices and other rifles that would fall under the state’s expanded assault weapons ban. On June 26, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) determined that the DOJ had improperly sought to avoid the public comment period on the plan. That caused the deadline for registration to be pushed back six months.

Then, on June 29, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the state’s gun magazine confiscation plan.

“The regulation is neither presumptively legal nor longstanding,” U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez said in his ruling. “The statute hits close to the core of the Second Amendment and is more than a slight burden. When the simple test of Heller is applied, a test that persons of common intelligence can understand, the statute is adjudged an unconstitutional abridgment.”

Another troubled part of California’s new gun-control regime is a plan to require all ammunition sales be done through specially licensed dealers. By July 1 those who wanted to apply for the license to sell ammunition were supposed to be able to apply online, and the DOJ was supposed to have an online database of licensed dealers up and running. Neither the online license application portal nor the seller database were up and the regulations governing the licensing process were just made public on Monday. That means the process will likely take several more months to complete despite the fact that it will be illegal to purchase ammunition from anyone without the currently nonexistent ammunition dealer license on January 1, 2018.

Click for more from The Washington Free Beacon. 


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