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Piqueteros From Buenos Aires To Denver

June 28th, 2008 | 11:31 PM

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Claims for justice, human rights, fair treatment and decent labor conditions are universal. They know no political or geographic boundaries. This was brought home to me, and six of my Argentine relatives, on a visit to Denver, Colorado, last week. I had just begun giving my relatives a tour of Denver and they were commenting about how modern and orderly it was. “It’s so beautiful, and so clean,” one of them said. “And there are no protesters here. It’s so peaceful. You don’t have noisy traffic and piqueteros like we do in Argentina.”

Then, lo and behold, just as we were walking down the sidewalk, hundreds of protesters began marching down the 16th Street Mall, one of Denver’s main commercial streets. They crossed our path and, with chants (“¡Si Se Puede!”), songs and cardboard signs, they demanded “Justice for Janitors.” They were protesting for better pay and benefits. The protesters, who were members of the Service Employees International Union, provided a perfect reminder that claims for social justice and decent working conditions are universal. They are limited neither to Argentina nor to South America nor even to developing countries in general. And even in the heart of Denver, a wealthy, developed city, these claims can be made manifest, reminding us that modern politics has yet to reach its potential as a means to resolving social inequality.


New Map Helps You Get Around Buenos Aires

June 20th, 2008 | 12:31 AM


Have you ever been disappointed by how hard it can be to get detailed, user-friendly mapping information about Buenos Aires? Well, fret no more. Ahmed Farooq, a Canadian who came to visit the city with his wife, has developed a fantastic map that can help you navigate your way around the city. Ahmed’s new map, which can be found here, includes restaurant information from Guia Oleo and

The site also has a helpful tool for bloggers. As Ahmed explained it to me, the map also “lets you embed any single address on your website. Just search for an address, click on (‘Put on your website’) and follow the easy steps. In less than 30 seconds you can have a mapped point on your blog for any place you mention.” Ahmed says the site was meant as a “personal project” and was not created as a “commercial venture.”

“The site is not perfect,” he says, “and so sometimes the data will be wrong.” It may not be perfect, but it’s sure a good start and it should be helpful to many people.

Link: Map


Cristina's Popularity Plunges Further

June 19th, 2008 | 08:58 PM


President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's approval ratings have suffered yet another blow, according to the results of a new survey published Thursday in La Nación. The poll, which is conducted on a monthly basis by Consultora Poliarquía, indicates that just 20% of Argentines approve of Cristina's work as president. The survey also shows that the per

centage of people who view Mrs. Kirchner unfavorably has risen to 46%. One month ago, the president's favorable rating totaled 26% while her unfavorable rating was 34%.

The numbers represent a rapidly deteriorating perception among Argentines that Cristina is capable of governing the country and solving its problems. Perhaps the president can take comfort in the fact that she is not the least popular president so far this decade. Fernando de la Rua's approval rating plunged to just 8% in the second week of December, 2001, according to a study by the think tank Nueva Mayoria. Days after the poll was conducted, however, De la Rua was forced to abandon the presidency in a helicopter, precipitating what was arguably the greatest political and economic crisis in Argentine history.


CQC Seeks English-Speaking Audience

June 11th, 2008 | 10:31 PM


Caiga Quien Caiga, one of Argentina’s most popular comedy-news-entertainment shows is looking for native English speakers to fill its audience on June 19th. CQC will be shooting a U.S. pilot for the show. Additional information follows:


To be a part of a live studio audience for the shooting of the U.S. pilot of
“Caiga Quien Caiga,” a world-wide hit TV show.

CQC reports on current events, show business, and sports with good humor and
a touch of irony.

Thursday, June 19th. 14 hrs – approx. 20
Telefe Studios, Matheu 1539

To get on the list, please contact indicating your name and passport number:

Tete: 15-4086-4417 /
Carolina: 4119 2621 /


Court Says Marijuana Grown For Personal Use Is Legal

June 11th, 2008 | 07:36 AM


A federal court in Buenos Aires ruled Tuesday that a law banning personal pot plantations is unconstitutional. The court said that pot farms are legally kosher as long as the plants are potted for personal use only. The law in question calls for up to two years in prison for those who plant, cultivate or even store marijuana seeds with the aim of producing drugs.

Legal scholars and supreme court justices have long maintained that the personal consumption of drugs is legal under Argentina’s constitution. Courts have frequently ruled against attempts to penalize personal possession. Despite this, law enforcement officials in various parts of the country have at times cracked down on individuals for the personal use and transportation of drugs.

Argentina is not a major drug producer or exporter. However, in recent years the country has become a key gateway for the transportation and triangulation of drugs produced in elsewhere in Latin America for export to the US and Europe. A drug enforcement official told The Argentine Post that almost everyday at least one flight out of Ezeiza contains a drug smuggler. Officials often allow the smugglers – or mules – to reach their country of destination so that they can then be arrested and tried for violating drugs laws in both countries.


The Day Argentina’s Media Protested

June 9th, 2008 | 09:57 PM


Argentina’s farmers have been on strike for most of the past three months. Among other things, they are protesting because they say the government does not talk with them. The government, farmers say, is “autistic” in its approach to governance. The government, they say, has difficulty relating with others and its perception of reality is more fantastical than realistic. Government officials impose policies on the agriculture sector, farmers say, without any kind of previous consultation or notice. The government is closed to dialogue and consensus.

Some of this behavior also prevails in the government’s relationship with the media. The government does not hold press conferences. It does not grant interviews. Like her husband and predecessor, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner refuses to engage the media. She scoffs at interview requests. So do most of her cabinet members. It is almost impossible to get any high ranking government official to speak openly and on the record about anything of significance. Since 2003 government contact with the media largely has been limited to episodic interactions with comedians from Caiga Quien Caiga (CQC), a popular TV show hosted by Mario Pergolini. President Kirchner has a press chief. His name is Miguel Nuñez. He is a spokesman in name only. He does not speak with the press. He does not grant interviews or help journalists get interviews with anyone in the government. It is not clear exactly what he does, but one thing he certainly does not do is engage the media.

But the government’s distaste for the press does not stop here. Both Cristina and Nestor Kirchner slam journalists for writing articles or columns that question government policies. Moreover, the government spends millions each year to put paid advertisements in newspapers large and small. Oddly, some of the smallest, least read papers have received a disproportionately large amount of advertising money. Writing earlier this year, dissident journalist, and founder of the newspaper Crítica, Jorge Lanata, said this about the matter: “The great majority of local and national media companies receive an extortive amount of advertising money that the government reminds them about any time they express even minimal dissidence.”

Cristina has complained often that local newspapers say only negative things about the government.. “It seems like there is a prohibition against telling Argentines that things are going better for us or that good things are happening in the Republic…,” the president said recently. In an effort to better control the media, Cristina proposed creating a Media Observatory. The idea has been widely criticized by many in, well, the media.

Famed Argentine political cartoonist Sábat published this drawing in Clarin in April. Cristina reacted furiously, and accused Sábat, who has long been know as a defender of democratic liberties, of trying to silence her through this a “mafioso-like message.” She said that Argentina’s “multimedia generals” were similar to the tank commanders who in 1976 had overthrown the country’s democratic government. The cartoon could have been interpreted in several ways, none of which had anything to do with a mafioso-like message. One interpretation was simply that it was Cristina’s husband, Nestor, who actually spoke for the government (and determined policy) and not the president herself.

The government’s refusal to speak with reporters hinders their ability to gather accurate and objective information. It makes it harder for them to accurately and objectively present all sides of all stories. How can a reporter write accurately and comprehensively about the government’s approach to the farm conflict, for example, if government officials refuse to answer questions about the problem? The government’s hermetic approach to communication also makes it hard for citizens to measure the reliability of media reports.

When government officials talk to the press, they typically do so off the record and anonymously. But if the only stories that make it into the papers are stories based on comments from anonymous sources, how can citizens (or the government itself, for that matter) confirm the story’s accuracy? This presents a problem for society at large. It also makes it easier for malevolent journalists, editors and media companies to publish information that is fictional. After all, if a reporter invents a quote from a certain unnamed official, how can anyone know that the quote is, in fact, real? This problem also affects the private sector, where business leaders hesitate to give on-the-record interviews because of fear that the government will castigate them for expressing even minimal disagreement with official policies.

I was thinking about all of this over the weekend as Argentina celebrated the Day of the Journalist. It wasn’t much of a celebration, really. Nobody really knows about the day except for journalists and PR types. Nevertheless, as a journalist, this was my day and I gave my due attention to pondering its significance.

The Day of the Journalist is officially recognized on June 7th. In 1938 Argentina’s Congress founded the Day of the Journalist to commemorate the day in 1810 that Mariano Moreno founded the Gazeta de Buenos Aires, which was the newly independent country’s first newspaper.

All of this led me to wonder what it might look like if Argentina’s media companies, reporters and journalists, decided to protest the government’s treatment of the press. What would happen if – like the farmers – writers, reporters, newscasters and radio talk show hosts decided to highlight the silent treatment they get from the government? Imagine if they decided to protest for just one day. News radio stations would fall silent. Broadcast news networks would show nothing or possibly show an empty television studio, with empty seats and blank background TV screens. Newspapers would publish the paper, but it would have no content, just blank pages, one after another, all designed to focus the readers’ attention on the government’s refusal to communicate and to be held accountable for anything publicly.

*CQC is on Monday’s at 10:30pm on TELEFE


Apple Launches New 3G IPhone, But Argentina Will Have To Wait

June 9th, 2008 | 06:36 PM


Apple introduced its new 3G iPhone Monday. The phone will be released July 11 in 22 countries and will cost $199 for the 8GB version and $299 for the 16GB model. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, Argentina is not one of those countries. The good news is that Argentina is among the countries included in Apple's “Coming Soon” category.

Claro will sell the phone in Argentina later this year. The new 2.0 iPhone will have a host of new features, including much faster download times. The faster downloads will be available to users in Buenos Aires thanks to a 3G network that currently covers the city. Claro also has 3G coverage in cities including Rosario, Cor

doba, Asunción, Montevideo and along the Atlantic Coast. The phone, which also contains a built-in GPS unit, contains push email and works with Microsoft Exchange.

Unfortunately for early adapters, the new phone will be harder to unlock. Until now, Argentines and expats living here have been able to buy iPhones in the US and crack them for use in Argentina. (See my previous post for instructions on how to do this.) But under a new commercial agreement, future iPhone activations will have to take place in-store. This is a departure from the current system that allows customers to activate the product from home. This latter process has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to unlock the phones from the comfort of their homes without having to pay any fees or penalties. Meanwhile, Reuters reported Monday that iPhone customers who do not activate their phones within 30 days will have to pay a penalty. But this may not be a deterrent to south-of-the-border hackers because any fees incurred will likely be offset by the phone's lower sale price.


Argentine Women Dominate House Chores

June 5th, 2008 | 12:12 PM

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It's 2008 and Argentina has a female president, but married women here continue to dominate household chores as if it were the 1950s and Leave It To Beaver were the most popular show on television. According to a Gallup Poll published Thursday in La Nación, Argentine women are many time

s more likely than are their husbands to make the bed, wash the dishes, scrub the toilet and cook dinner. In many ways, Argentine men, according to the survey, are virtually useless on the home front.

Around 90% of women surveyed said they make the bed at home. Just 15% of men do this. Almost 73% of women clean the bathrooms while only 6% of men say they scrub the tub. And when it comes to doing dishes, just 15% of men lend a hand while 87% of women say they do. The smallest behavioral gap is related to family shopping habits. Some 76% of women said they usually buy the groceries and other goods while 38% of men said they do this.

Oddly, perhaps, women said they were least involved in taking care of the kids. About 58% said they watch over the kids while 19% of men said they take care of the children.


Madonna Coming To BA In December

June 4th, 2008 | 08:53 PM


Pop Goddess Madonna is coming to Buenos Aires in December, Rolling Stone reported late Wednesday. The dyed-blond, wrinkle-resisting 49-year-old super sensation will give two or three concerts at, you guessed it, River Plate Stadium.

This will be Madonna's second concert tour that includes Argentina. The pop diva turns 50 on August 16th. Scientists at Cal Tech have calculated that at exactly 12am on the 16th, her body fat percentage will drop to zero, making her the single most physically fit person on the planet. Last year the Material Girl spent four months on a 16-nation tour of Africa, where she donated body fat to starving children. “I just have no need for it anymore,” she was quoted as saying.

Link: Madonna's Homepage
Link: Hard Candy Site
Link: 4 Minutes (the video, which already has 26mln views on YouTube)
Link: Weird Al Yankovic Like A Surgeon Video (5.2mln views on YouTube)

Comments Off on Madonna Coming To BA In December

Argentine Holidays For Your Mac's iCal

June 2nd, 2008 | 04:34 PM


For Mac users out there, I just discovered a useful “Argentine Calendar” tool that can be downloaded straight to your Mac's iCal program. The tool is free and it allows you to see Argentina'

s feriados easily on your computer. You can download it here. My apologies to Windows users. I have not yet found a similar tool for Microsoft Outlook. If anyone knows of one, please let me know and I'll post it here. Meantime, the Interior Ministry posts an updated list of holidays in Spanish here. (The Ministry's site was down when I tested it.)

Type rest of the post here


Wine Snobs Anonymous

June 1st, 2008 | 09:49 PM


By John D Farr

Wine Snobs Anonymous

Wine is a wonderful and diverse drink that is changing rapidly. I am a Foodie and a cook – even a competitive BBQ cook – but wine was not high on my taste buds list until I started coming to Argentina a decade ago. Wine is sold everywhere in Argentina and is popular at every meal. I drink a lot of wine on my annual three-month tour of duty in the country.

This exposure plunged me into learning about wine. I have visited wineries, tasted many wines and also studied wine. Over the years I have toured some 250 food-production operations in both North and South America. It is a hobby. My family was in the livestock, farm and grocery business, and I have all of this in my genes. I would like to share a bit of what I have learned about wine with you here.

People have different tastes. Some of this comes from where you live and some comes from habit. But then, you have a whole different category of people: wine snobs. I’ll get to them in a minute.

People are capable of eating weird things. There are people who enjoy eating horse, dog and even rat meat. Some of the condiments that we enjoy today were actually developed specifically to cover-up the taste of tainted meats and other weird foods. Horseradish is such an item. The English invented in the 1800s to hide the taste of tainted roast beef.

Food laws, as well as sanitation and freshness standards, have changed immensely in a relatively short period of time for virtually all food products. Wine is no exception.

Originally wine was made to preserve fresh fruit juice into the winter season. The only method of storing it was to put it in casks or wooden barrels. These barrels gave wine a wooden flavor that depended on the number of times the cask had been used. Many casks are charred before wine is added. This system worked well for many years.

Then wine snobs started talking about the taste of tannin in wine as if it were a good thing. Tannins occur naturally in some grapes and in wood. Tannin is a chemical agent that binds proteins. When tasted, it tends to make the mouth pucker. Tannins themselves cannot really be tasted, so don’t get hung up about their taste like wine snobs do.

Generally casks are made of oak and used only a few times before being discarded. These barrels cost several hundred dollars each. They are an environmental disaster. To use them, you have to cut down forests, haul around empty barrels and then burn them to obtain largely unnatural flavors in a fresh fruit product. Economically, this makes no sense and it is not good for the environment. It adds immense cost to a naturally fresh and healthy product. If you are addicted to that “taste” of tannins, then you have a problem with “fresh,” and you should consult the nearest Wine Snobs Anonymous and get help.

Another weird taste that wine snobs talk about is leather. Leather is beautiful and functional. It smells and feels good. But nobody eats leather. Unless you grew up chewing on a leather pacifier, you’ve probably never developed a taste for leather. It is OK to laugh out loud when wine snobs talk about the taste of leather or tobacco or wet paint in wine.

A recent wine review featured an attractive blonde wine snob from Canada talking about wine that had a “hint of tobacco” in it. She didn’t look like the kind who chewed snuff, but apparently she did. How else would she know a foul taste like that in a glass of fine wine?

The name of the game in the food today is freshness. Old, stale, “oak tasting” wines may fetch high prices from wine snobs. But most wine certainly does not come from oak casks. An honest winery cannot afford to have old casks racked up in a damp basement while their bungholes face upward as people check barrel conditions and adjust oxygen exposure levels. It is just too expensive and too many things can go wrong.

Even the old cork is giving away to new airtight sealers, which are better for the wine, for wine purity, and for the environment. Ironically, scientists have demonstrated that natural corks add real taste and allow bottles to “breathe.” It is the one taste that really exists that wine snobs never admit to tasting. Yet they often ask you to smell the cork!

Wine is produced from grapes that are harvested and brought directly to wineries, where they are processed into juice. Virtually all wine juice is clear. The squeezing of the skins gives the wine its color and much of its flavor. Modern plants are built with stainless steel and wine is processed and chilled in gleaming tanks whose temperatures are precisely regulated by refrigeration. Tank temperatures are monitored carefully to ensure that each grape variety develops its proper flavor. Many modern wineries have only wines that are between 18 months to two years old. Despite what wine snobs will tell you, the only thing that really, noticeably changes with older wine is the price.

Many wineries are just like food processing facilities. Grape crops and flavors vary from year to year and some people think global warming affects flavor. Much wine today, just like fine whiskey and quality orange juice, is blended. Each winery has a laboratory with wine chemists who know the exact flavors and DNA of each batch of juice they are fermenting and processing. They can blend them to obtain uniformity in taste. People like consistency in taste in all foods. You have certain expectations for Swiss cheese or Blue cheese, and if they taste like onion cream cheese or Limburger, you end up disappointed. Wine is exactly the same. Blending helps create uniformity in each wine.

So when a winery produces a large amount of virtually identical wine, they tend to label it with their signature brand, with private labels, and with a host of unknown names to move it at different prices. I personally never enjoyed a high priced bottle of wine when I considered my options for the money or thought about how many other wines I could have tried for the same price. But marketing is marketing, and wine snobs and tannin, leather, and tobacco tasters will be out there like used car salesman making a pitch for this label or that one – especially if it is highly rated. These hucksters will never give you inside information about how they market their wines under different labels at different prices, even if the same wine has different prices points. You have to find that on your own.

Wine Snobs Anonymous, or WSA, may be the fastest growing organization in the world. Wine is made everywhere these days and has fantastic fresh tastes that are delightful with many meals. Check out your local wines. Go to wine shops or wine bars and taste a variety of wines to find out which flavors you like. Many vineyards do not have a winery and not all wineries are open to the public. It takes time, space, effort and money to cater

to visitors in a winery.

One of the best secrets in the wine business: Rose wines. Much like the first pressing of olives for extra virgin olive oil, the Rose wine of any type of grape is the first taste of a new wine harvest. It is a taste that almost everyone involved in wine production savors to find out how good the new crop is that year. I learned this secret from the vintners in the wineries. A fresh Rose of a dark grape variety can be as sensual a wine as about anything you may experience.


The wine of choice in Argentina is Malbec. Malbecs vary by winery. This wonderful wine goes with any meal, served cool or warm, and is just delightful. It grows exceptionally well in the Andes region of Argentina. A few years ago some good friends and good wine tasters visited Argentina and tried a different Malbec every night for 30 days. There favorite ended up being the cheapest one.

The reality is that good wineries cannot afford to export poor wine. Big wineries produce a great amount of wine each year – it is a fresh product. They market the SAME wine under different labels at various price points. There is more variety in wine labels and pricing than there are wines!

A fine Malbec Vinegar can make a salad dressing dance. There is also a big difference between wine vinegar and specific grape vinegar. A fine Balsamic Malbec vinegar is worth bringing home for your kitchen.


Mendoza is the center of the wine region in Argentina, but there are other valuable production zones. Fine wine is also produced north of Mendoza and the hot new expanding area for wine is the Rio Negro area in Patagonia, east of Bariloche in the heart of the apple and fruit production region. Some marvelous fine wines come from this area. The Argentine secret for grapes is lots of water, long sunny days and cool nights. Argentine wine is now on the world scene because of the country’s cheap exchange rate, but Argentines have been producing fine wine in these areas for years. Old European wine families from France, Germany, Italy and Spain have been here for a long time.


Wine Snobs tend to say that Argentine wine has just arrived on the scene. That is because they do not know their history. In the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was first opened, Argentina built the 16,000 square-foot Argentine Pavilion to showcase Argentine products, including a selection on fine wines that were very well regarded. That was 120 years ago!


Members of WSA do not like to hear about wine that tastes old and stale. They like to hear about the taste of things that were never in the bottle in the first place! Have you ever heard about how a wine tastes when it is “full of life and good cheer?” Or how about one that tickles “your tonsils “(just for fun) or “awakens all the senses” of the mouth? Toothpaste ad writers have better definitions of how your mouth should feel after a nice sip of vino than do the old Wine Snobs. These ad writers do not discuss old and odd flavors in your mouth.

The quaint view of a little boutique winery is almost like a fairy tale. The good wineries today are very clinical and clean. They are carefully managed with the finest computer wine-science available, just like most fine food processing plants. Outstanding quality control and purity of product does not happen by accident or by a group of elves sprinkling stardust on the harvest. Quality wine is produced only after being subjected to carefully thought-out scientific processes. To some extent, a winery’s standards and cleanliness does more to determine if a wine will be “fine” than anything else, and this is true regardless of where the wine is produced.

The careful growing of grapes is also critical to good wine. Like any good agricultural product, the final product set often set the day the vine is planted. Agriculture is a science today and good grape production is tied to plant quality and product handling standards – be it grapes or potatoes or apricots – at harvest time.

You can be sure that the various wine magazines and ratings are all based on personal taste and all are designed to sell wine. Do not be snookered by these pitches. Be your own wine taster. To thy own self be true, be a your own Wine Snob. Most wine shops will help you find some fine fairly priced wines to try and discover what appeals to you. You should concentrate on figuring out the taste and type of wine that you like.

If you are looking for something with a taste of raspberries or strawberries, go to the fruit section of the produce department and get them. I prefer cream on mine. If a wine has a hint of blueberries, maybe the grape picker got drunk and picked blueberries instead of grapes. If you are looking for a fine vino in a variety of grape types that wakes up your taste buds, then stay in the wine department and explore around.

Some labels look and sound so nifty and homey that you want to buy them just to support the folks picking those delectable little grapes. Many of those labels are owned and produced by giant beverage companies. Do not let their marketing fool you. You would be astounded to know how intertwined ownership is in alcoholic beverages industry around the world. Mega corporations produce a lot of wine, just like they produce a lot of our food. Wineries are expensive businesses.

Set yourself free and be your own WS. Be true to yourself. Your own taste buds will tell you a lot more about a wine than a label or a trumped-up magazine review will. And it is a lot more fun finding out what you like on your own than it is to read what some sanitized wine snob in a faraway place has to say.

If aging really counted for much in wine, they would tell you the number of years certain years were in certain barrels. They would also tell you how often those barrels had been used previously. Whiskey makers do this regularly. In fact, they are often required to do so by law. Most wineries only use a barrel a few times and then pass them off to other uses, like cutting them in half and selling them as flower containers for the patio. It’s time for you to get over the old image of dusty barrels in a basement.

In early 2008 Stanford University and Cal Tech released a study showing how people’s perceptions are changed by the pitch they get on wine. The tests used the same exact type of wine in blind tasting surveys. They asked tasters primarily about price. In every case, people thought the higher priced wine tasted better. The old snob appeal works wonders. The ultimate test was for a $10 wine. Testers pitched it as a $90 wine. Across the board, every tester thought it was a superior wine. There was a cross section of people from wine fanatics to the casual wine drinker in this big study. I rest my case!

Friends, do not let the Wine Snobs ruin your budget or your own idea of good taste. Explore different wines, look for the bargains, find out what you like and enjoy.

Think and taste “fresh” in wines. Avoid musty, old, non-food tastes in wine. They don’t really exist, or at least they don’t exist naturally. Set your palate free and enjoy the fruit of the vine as it was meant to be, fresh and alive.

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