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Killer Video of Killer Whales Eating Argentine Sea Lions

May 31st, 2008 | 09:55 AM

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Almost 600,000 people have watched this video, but if you’re not one of them you should check it out. National Geographic has a surreal video showing killer whales eating sea lions off Argentina’s Atlantic coast. If this were not a National Geographic video, I’m not sure I’d even believe it was real.

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New Game Allows You To Thump Argentina's Farmers

May 28th, 2008 | 04:06 PM

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what is a good dog food for allergies+2.png” border=”0″ alt=”" />Sick of the farmers and their protesting? Why not side with Luís D'Elía and punch them out of the Plaza de Mayo? You can do it here, virtually, in this fun little video game.

Kudos to Darío Gallo at Blocdeperiodista for the link.

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The Farmer's Limousine

May 27th, 2008 | 10:10 AM

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Opponents of President Cristina Fernández de

Kirchner have long criticized her seemingly extravagant use of public funds, her expensive trips to New York and Paris, her shopping habits, and her flashy use of luxurious designer handbags, among other things. But if anyone in the country is guilty of ostentatious displays of affluence, surely it is farm leader Alfredo De Angeli, whose limousine is pictured above. Damned oligarchs!

*Via multiple emails; also picked up by 100volando.

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Argentina's Teatro Colón Turns 100 Today

May 25th, 2008 | 04:56 AM

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El Teatro Colón, one of the great opera houses of the world, turns 100 today. Unfortunately, the majestic theater doesn't

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have much to celebrate. It is closed and undergoing dramatic reforms. It won't open again until May 25, 2010. I wrote a feature about the Colón for today's edition of the Miami Herald. Because of space constraints, the piece left out many fascinating behind-the-scenes aspects of life at the Colón and I will likely return to those in future posts. But the story does contain a lot of interesting information about the theater and its sad predicament. You can read all about it here.

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Cristina's Approval Rating Tanks To 26%

May 22nd, 2008 | 08:22 PM

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Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's approval rating has plummeted to 26%, according to a survey published Friday in newspaper La Nacion. That makes Kirchner even less popular in Argentina than President George W. Bush is in the U.S.

The poll, which is conducted

on a monthly basis by Consultora Poliarquía, also indicates that the percentage of people who view Mrs. Kirchner unfavorably has risen to 34%, meaning her negative rating has surpassed her favorability rating for the first time since she took office. The numbers represent a remarkable turnaround for Kirchner, whose favorability level neared 60% back in January.

As recently as March, when Poliarquía last published its survey in La Nacion, Kirchner had a 47% positive rating and a 19% disapproval rating. Those figures worsened in April, but Poliarquia suspiciously declined to publish its survey, citing technical problems. Privately, the polling firm said Kirchner's favorability level had dropped to 36% in April.

Kirchner's inability to tame inflation and solve an ongoing conflict with farmers has taken a serious toll on her reputation. Only 6% of people surveyed said they felt “very positively” about her. However, her husband, Nestor, who preceded her in office, remains relatively popular despite the fact that he is widely considered to be responsible for government policy. His favorability rating totals 49%.

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Cristina In The Soybean Fields

May 18th, 2008 | 07:59 AM

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Seven guys in Entre Rios Saturday decided to put a new face on the conflict between farmers and the federal government. So they woke up early and met at 8:30am in the middle of a soybean fie

ld. Their goal: Create a massive image of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the middle of the field. They wanted the image to be viewable from high up in the sky, just like those mysterious crop circles that appear every so often in UFO or Alien hunter magazines.

By the end of the day they had accomplished their goal and is the result is here for you to see. Go here to learn more about these guys and how they got the job done. Kudos to Bloc de Periodista for spotting this.

Link: Cristina In The Soybean Field

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Nonstop News In Argentina

May 16th, 2008 | 01:49 PM

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Argentina is the absolute opposite of a boring place. For journalists, especially, there is nothing quite like it. There is a nearly constant flow of news items, policy changes, unexpected events and surprises. This keeps things interesting. It guarantees that journalists have more work here than in, say, Switzerland, where life is predictable and, perhaps, not as interesting.

The past two months in Argentina have been a perfect case in point. Almost every day has been filled with unexpected announcements or events. The above video, entitled Two Months Of Craziness, encapsulates this perfectly. It is a wicked-fast summary of the key events over the past two months. It's in Spanish, and it moves very rapidly,

so you have to pay close attention to keep up. But it's worth it. Kudos to The Argentine Post reader Annik for passing this along.

In stark contrast, below is a recent BBC video that shows what the nightly news show might look like if there were no news in the world. It's called The Day There Was No News. Imagine that. The contrast is unbelievable. Kudos to Alejandro Rozitzcher over at 100volando for this one.

 

 

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Symbolism Vs. Substance In Cristina's Government

May 15th, 2008 | 05:20 PM

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Cristina Fernández de Kirchner cares a great deal about appearances, especially her own. She dresses impeccably, wearing only carefully chosen designer outfits. She exercises almost daily and carefully watches her weight. Before becoming president, she even had a Pilates machine installed at the presidential residence in Olivos. She has had collagen injected into her lips to give them a fuller, more vibrant look. She spends around an 1hr a day dressing and applying makeup, according to a person who used to work with her.

To get an idea of how much makeup the president uses, contrast the images you've seen of her with the following photo, which was taken, sans makeup, back in November.


Of course, none of this is particularly relevant to what kind of person Cristina is or how effective she may or not be as a president. Indeed, even discussing such things seems superficial and unworthy of serious reflection. Nonetheless, Cristina has received intense criticism for supposedly caring more about symbolism than substance. So the question arises: Is there any merit to the criticism?

Much of it dates back to the early days of Cristina's 2005 Buenos Aires senate campaign. Before that, Cristina was a national senator from Santa Cruz Province, where she had been involved in local politics since 1989. In 2005 she pulled a Hillary Clinton and carpet-bagged her way to Buenos Aires Province, where she trounced former first lady Hilda “Chiche” Duhalde. Cristina won the election without granting any interviews to local media. Nor did she offer any insight into what policies she might pursue as a Buenos Aires senator. This provided ammunition to critics who said she won the election based largely on her image. It was, they said, a triumph of symbolism over substance.

Since then, the criticism has mounted. Last year Cristina ran to replace her husband, Nestor, and became Argentina's first democratically elected female president. With the exception of a few interviews given in the last 48 hours of the campaign, she again managed to win an election without discussing any policies. What did she think about inflation? What did she think about Argentina's relationship with Venezuela and the U.S.? What did she think about the state of health care in public hospitals? How about her husband's handling of agriculture policy? What did she think about Argentina's little-mentioned energy crisis? Nobody knew because, as a presidential candidate, she said nothing specific about any of this. The answers were as unclear then as they are now.

What was known about Cristina was that she was articulate, intelligent, passionate, evidently angry and somewhat rancorous, hostile toward the press and, well, impeccably dressed.

Cryptically, her campaign slogan was limited to this: “We know what needs to be done. We know how to do it.” That left many people asking, “What needs to be done?” and “How will she do it?” Cristina did not answer. Five months after she took office, we still do not know. Apparently, nobody does.

“She has no plan,” the president of a large industrial company told me this week. “There are no plans. They don't exist. They (in the government) are managing everything on a day to day basis. Nobody knows what their plans are because they don't know what their plans are. It's not that they have a secret plan for everything. They have no plan for anything. Many of the things the government says are simply for the press, for mass consumption, for show.”

Symbolism appears to play an important role in everyday government decisions. This is true in all governments, of course. But in the Kirchner administration symbolism does not appear to be accompanied by any kind of substantive or strategic policy planning.

Last week the government carried out the most recent round of half-hearted and eventually fruitless negotiations with farmers over the country's agricultural conflict. (For those who have been absent for the past two months, the conflict's catalyst was a government decision to raise farm export taxes.) During the talks, Presidential Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernández told farmers that the president was willing to reduce export taxes. “But we can negotiate this only if you wait until May 25,” Fernández said. “We can't do that,” replied one of the farm leaders. “We've been waiting more than a month for you to give us an answer about this. Why should we wait any longer, especially if there is no guarantee that anything will change on the 25th?” Fernández had no answer.

The talks broke down and the rest is history. Farmers began a second major national strike and are now again protesting the export taxes. Fernández knew this would happen. Farm leaders told him explicitly that it would. Presumably, Fernández relayed their admonition to Cristina Kirchner, who also knew it would happen. So why did the government insist on waiting until May 25 to announce it w

ould cut export taxes?

There are myriad possibilities. First, perhaps Cristina was so focused on the symbolic importance of May 25, the country's anniversary, that she refused to budge. Second, maybe it was just pure stubbornness. Cristina reportedly has been waiting since January to announce cabinet changes that would distance her administration from that of her husband. She also has been planning for months to announce a grand social and economic plan, supposedly aimed at curtailing inflation and salary disputes while guaranteeing economic growth.

But those plans, if they ever existed, were interrupted by unexpected news that a U.S. prosecutor was investigating the illegal transfer of $800,000 from Venezuela to Argentina, allegedly for use in Cristina's presidential campaign. That news, as well as Cristina's explosive reaction to it, set off weeks of scandal that completely distracted attention from whatever plans she might have had for her cabinet and the economy. She may be tired of having other people and circumstances dictate her agenda.

Third, she may be seeking to wear out farmers through endless talks while she waits (and hopes) for public opinion to turn against farmers. Fourth, perhaps it was a combination of all three factors. Fifth, Cristina may have wanted to lower export taxes before May 25 but feared that doing so would have made her look weak, subjecting her to further protests from other groups who want concessions from the government.

Finally, perhaps Cristina is not actually in command. Many local analysts believe that it is Nestor Kirchner, not Cristina, who is actually dictating the government's approach to the farm crisis. “I want to see the farmers on their knees,” Kirchner has been quoted as saying.

I have no particular insight into the First Couple and do not know how, if at all, they divide power. But it is clear that many key political figures believe the former president retains much of the power he held when he sat in the famous Sillón de Rivadavia (the presidential chair). Meanwhile, two of the farm leaders who negotiated with Alberto Fernández said they believed it was Nestor, and not Cristina, who was the driving force behind the negotiations.

Regardless of which, if any, of these options explain the government's conduct, it is clear that the administration told farmers that if they wanted lower export taxes, they would have to wait until May 25 to find out how they would be reduced. Because of this, it seems reasonable to conclude that the government imposed a relatively arbitrary, but symbolically important, date on negotiations with farmers. This, even though the government knew that doing so would lead to a second farm strike and cost the government hundreds of millions in lost revenue.

Meanwhile, in another symbolic gesture, Cristina cancelled a planned visit to Cordoba, where she had planned to appear at an event alongside Fiat Argentina President (and celebrity photo hog) Cristian Rattazzi and Cordoba Governor Juan Schiaretti. The event, which was set for next week, was supposed to bring the three together to announce that Fiat would invest $300 million to produce auto parts and motors. Cristina declined to attend the event because she did not want to appear publicly next to Governor Schiaretti, who earlier this week said the government should lower farm export taxes.

Fiat suspended the event. Of course, this event was symbolic from the very outset. Fiat's investment will occur regardless of whether Fiat makes an announcement next week. But the symbolism is particularly important now because Argentina is having a hard time attracting investment. The event would have been a perfect opportunity for Cristina to show that:

1) despite political differences with Schiaretti, she is a democratic leader capable of working with people who disagree with her
2) the farm conflict has not brought everything in the country to a standstill
3) the government and private sector firms are still going about business
4) despite the strike, and a precipitous decline in the government's approval ratings, Argentina is able to attract investment

The benefits of appearing next to Schiaretti would have outweighed the risks. But Cristina, evidently, did not see it this way. Was she afraid that going to Cordoba would unwisely reward Schiaretti for his intellectual and political independence? Was she afraid that doing so would give other politicians pause and lead them to believe that they too might be able to think and behave independently? It is not certain, but this seems like a reasonable interpretation. What does appear clear is that Cristina cancelled a long-planned symbolic event because she did not like what it might symbolize. If this is not a triumph of symbolism over substance, what is?

Link: Brief Official Biography of Cristina Kirchner (in Spanish)

UPDATE: Argentine news site MinutoUno published the following photo, entitled “Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The worst dressed (leader) at the Summit?”. I'm posting it here just for kicks. If we're going to be superficial, we might as well admit that the grey pants are truly atrocious.

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Stunning Argentina Grafiti Animation

May 15th, 2008 | 01:39 PM

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dating advice for women993998″>MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

I first saw this exceptionally cool video over at Longhorn Dave's site, and immediately wanted to link to it here. But first I wanted to interview Blu so I could add value to the post. I haven't heard back from him yet and this video is just too cool to sit on for any longer, so here it is. Stay tuned for an update if I get an interview. I'm really curious to find out exactly how this was done and how long it took, etc.

Link: Blu's Site
Link: Blu's Blog

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9 Cool Cognates For Spanish & English Users

May 14th, 2008 | 11:20 PM

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If you are reading these words you probably live in Argentina, have been here or are thinking about visiting. But maybe not. This site gets hits from 98 countries, so maybe you've never been here and have no plans to visit. Whatever the case, for some reason or another, you are interested in Argentina. And if that's the case, you are probably at least moderately interested in the Spanish language. If you are, then this post if for you.

Below are nine cool cognates that are not commonly used in Argentina. That's partly why they are cool. They're not the standard daily dish of words that are tossed about everyday. But none is so rare or haughty that using it will make you sound like an egghead or faux intellectual. Cognates, of course, are words that are largely similar in two languages. Examples include conclusion (conclusión), psychology (psicología), and nation (nación). False cognates are words that are similarly spelled or pronounced but have deceptively different meanings.

Deception is a perfect example. “Decepción” in Spanish is more related to something being a “disappointment” than it is to someone being deceived. Sensible is another good one. It refers not to something that is reasonable, but rather to someone who is sensitive. She's very sensitive = Es muy sensible. Sensible (in Spanish) can also mean notable or manifest, as in, “La inflación registró un sensible aumento.” Carpet is hugely deceptive. Its Spanish equivalent, “carpeta,” means “folder.” Finally, perhaps the worst false friend of all is embarrassed. In Spanish, “embarazada” means pregnant. Confuse these two and surely you will end up embarrassed.

The following are cognates I've heard used within the past month. They caught my attention because they are so uncommonly used. At least I am not used to hearing them frequently (frecuentemente). Enjoy, and let me know if you think using these would make you sound like a snob (o, un snob).

Neophyte – NeófitoHe's a total neophyte. Es un neófito total. (A novice, or a beginner)

Vehement – VehementeShe's vehement in her opposition to farmers. Es vehemente en su oposición al campo. (Strong, passionate)

Truculent – TruculentoTruculence seems to be one of her character traits. La truculencia parece ser una de sus carecteristicas principales. (Eager to fight or argue)

Pusillanimous – Pusilánime – He who is afraid to speak his mind is truly pusillanimous. Aquel que tiene miedo de expresarse es un verdadero pusilanime. (Cowardly, timid, too weak to attempt bold things)

Ramification – RamificaciónThe possible ramifications are frightful. Las posibles ramificaciones son temerosas. (Consequence, result)

Malleable – Maleable - Marble is not a malleable material. El marmol no es un material maleable. (Easily influenced or bent or shaped, but in Spanish the term usually refers to physical objects. )

Putative – PutativoJoseph is the putative father of Jesus. José es el padre putativo de Jesus. (Generally considered to be or reputed to be something. The nickname PP is more common in other countries like Spain.)

*This expression is said to be the reason why some people named José go by the nickname Pepe (or PP), which in Spanish historically stood for “padre putativo” because Jose was “reputed to be” the father of Jesus.

Pompous – PomposoAlec Baldwin is an awesome actor, but he seems like a pompous jerk. Alec Baldwin es un actorazo, pero parece ser un tipo pomposo. (Self-important, arrogant)

Peculiar – PeculiarThings are really peculiar in Argentina now. Everything seems to be normal, but people are really nervous about the future. La cosa es bastante peculiar ahora en Argentina. Las cosas parecen andar bien, pero todos están muy preocupados por el futuro. (Strange, odd, weird, unusual)

*There is some debate among lexicologists (nerds like me who compile and write dictionaries) about the meaning of peculiar in Spanish. The dictionary Real Academia Española's dictionary says the definition is limited to “something that belongs to a private person or thing.” But Spain's El Mundo dictionary says it also means something that is “special or infrequent.” Here in Argentina it is typically understood to mean “rare” or “strange.”

Link: The Royal Spanish Academy online dictionary (Spanish's equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary)
Link: El Mundo dictionary

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Historic Audio Recordings From Argentina

May 14th, 2008 | 04:27 PM

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I just came across a treasure trove of audio recordings of historical Argentine speeches, songs and other events.

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The list is pretty impressive. Many of the recordings are shorter than you might want, but they're still worth checking out. You can hear everything from speeches by General Juan Domingo Perón and (a partially Cuban-accented) Che Guevarra to the Boca Marching song. There is even a version of the Argentine national hymn by Charly Garcia and another by Los Piojos. The recording are organized chronologically and are easy to find. You can find them all here.

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Most Argentines Want Gov't To Cut Farm Taxes

May 11th, 2008 | 08:41 AM

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An overwhelming majority of Argentines say the government should back down and lower export taxes on farm products, according to a new survey by consulting firm Felipe Noguera y Consultores.

The poll, which surveyed 1,080 people and was published Saturday in newspaper La Nacion, shows that 78% of Argentines believe “the government should reverse course on export taxes so farmers lift the agriculture strike.” Just 14% disagree.

These numbers bode poorly for government officials who have been hoping farmers would lose popular support and soften their opposition to the tax

es.

In March the government created a sliding scale for exports of corn, wheat, soybeans and other goods. At one point the duty on soybeans rose to 45%, infuriating farmers who had not anticipated such high taxes when they planted the crop. The export taxes rise or decline in accord with commodity prices. Higher prices mean higher taxes.

Prior to March, the tax on soybeans, which are Argentina's top export, was fixed at 35%. Before that, it was 27.5%. Farmers have been complaining about export taxes since they were first introduced in 2002, shortly after Argentina devalued its currency.

The taxes provide the government with billions of dollars in revenue each year. But economists say the government loses between $35-$55 million in revenue for each day that the farm strike continues. Farmers began their second strike last week and say it will last until at least May 15. If the government does not budge on taxes, farmers may extend the protest.

Link: The original government resolution raising export taxes (in Spanish)

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