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Eight Questions For The Man Who Took On Yahoo, Google

November 30th, 2008 | 07:58 PM

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By now many of you may have heard about the way Yahoo is blocking certain search engine results on computers with Argentine IP addresses. If you’re in Argentina and try to search Yahoo for information about Diego Maradona, for example, you’ll reach a dead end and be met with the following message: “Because of a court order sought by private parties, we’ve been forced to temporarily suppress all or some results related to this search.” 

Some of the details behind this situation have been highlighted in other articles, such as this one in Time Magazine. As a result, I won’t re-hash the story here. Instead, I’ve decided to post a Q & A I did with Martin Leguizamón, the Argentine lawyer responsible for the situation. What follows is a very interesting look at how and why all of this came about. 

(The Argentine Post) How did you get started with this?

(Martin Leguizamón) The first case began in April 2006 when a fashion model contacted me after losing her job as a marketing manager in Canada because her name had appeared linked to pornographic and sexual websites. These sites showed up through www.yahoo.com.ar and www.google.com.ar searches.

We analyzed the case and opted to ask a federal court here for an injunction that would use all means necessary to prevent her name from being linked to pornographic and sexual sites. The court followed through on this.

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President’s Approval Rating Drops To 28%

November 30th, 2008 | 06:49 AM

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Argentine President Cristina Fernández’s approval rating fell two points to 28% in November, according to a new survey by the consulting firm Poliarquia Consultores. The poll was carried out between November 3-18, or after Fernández announced plans to nationalize Argentina’s 14-year-old private pension fund system.

Fernández’s approval rating seems to have settled in at around this level, with a bit more than a quarter of the population saying they like what the president is doing. Though down, her favorable numbers are still up from a 20% low in June, but way down from her 54% high in December. Some 39% of the population views the president negatively, up from 33% a month ago.

Fernández is most popular among people aged 18-29 and least popular with those above 50. She is most popular in Patagonia and least popular in the country’s farming heartland, or the Pampas region. Fernández also is most popular among people who have gone to high school and least popular among those who have done college-level coursework.

Both Fernández and her husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, have repeatedly slammed public opinion polls, saying that these surveys merely reflect the perspectives of those who pay for them. Both have also said repeatedly that their own surveys show them to be much more popular. To the best of my knowledge, neither has ever released the details of such surveys.

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Blackouts Back As Heat Wave Hits Argentina

November 29th, 2008 | 09:04 AM

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It’s blackout season again in Argentina. Yes, it’s that delightful time of the year when it gets so hot, and so many of us turn on our air conditioners, that we strain the national power grid beyond its capacity to produce and distribute electricity. The result: darkness.

Traffic lights stop working, stores and kiosks have to close their doors and discard spoiled food, and thousands of people have to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

By Thursday afternoon, the third day of a heat wave in which temperatures hovered around 100° Fahrenheit (40° C), traffic lights failed to work at 83 intersections in Buenos Aires, wreaking havoc on the city’s transit just before rush hour. Local media reported Friday that the number of lights affected had risen to almost double that figure, though a city official I spoke with couldn’t confirm this higher number.

Television stations on Friday reported a rather fantastical claim that more than 20 tons (or more than 44,000 lbs) of carp and other kinds of lake fish had died because of the heat. What? Really? But the story appears to be true. I haven’t had a chance to confirm this strange tale, but enough of my local colleagues have done so to make it credible. La Nacion quoted the mayor of Lobos, a smaller town in Buenos Aires Province: “The heat wave increases the water’s temperature and that affects the development of a kind of algae which, after being ingested, gets stuck in the bronchial tubes and causes death.” Ranchers reported that hundreds of cattle also died this week.

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Happy Thanksgiving From The Argentine Post!

November 26th, 2008 | 08:41 PM

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The Argentine Post is grateful for you! Hundreds of you have recently signed up to receive email updates of this blog and more have signed up to follow the site through your feed readers. Thank you! I very much appreciate your feedback, your comments (even your critiques), your emails, and your continued readership. May your Thanksgiving be a joyful one.

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Néstor Kirchner Implies He’s In Charge

November 23rd, 2008 | 09:28 PM

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President Cristina Fernández & Vice President Julio Cobos
(when they were still on speaking terms)

“Sometimes in the mornings Cristina remembers, and she says to me, “What a vice president you gave me!” — November 21, 2008, former President Néstor Kirchner

With that simple line, the former president seemed to confirm, at least implicitly and perhaps without recognizing it, what many political analysts and businessmen say in private: Néstor, and not his wife, Cristina Fernández, is the person who is really pulling the levers behind the curtain of Argentine politics. Néstor, in other words, is the Wizard of Argentina’s Oz.

Of course, that may not really be the case. But it’s not an unreasonable interpretation of Kirchner’s odd and exceptionally antagonistic dig at Julio Cobos, the nation’s democratically-elected vice president.

Kirchner clearly doesn’t like Cobos. Nor does Fernández. Both have explicitly called Cobos a traitor in private, according to multiple local media reports. And both have elliptically referred to him as such in public. Meanwhile, Cobos, by all accounts, doesn’t feel much love for the Kirchners either.

Though the details of this petty political melodrama are interesting, if not disturbing, they aren’t nearly as interesting as the implication behind Kirchner’s off-the-cuff comment on Friday. Fernández has long denied that she is second in command to her husband, who ran the country from mid-2003 to late 2007. And nobody doubts that Fernández is a tenacious leader in her own right.

But many people who have dealt with the government on economic and business matters say off-the-record that it is the former president who has the ultimate word over economic policy. Many others who have had contact with Kirchner say he is also the person in charge of matters political. Fernández, so these people say, controls diplomatic policy and foreign relations while Kirchner is in charge of domestic matters pertaining to the economy and politics.

If true, it would make sense for Kirchner to say that it was he who chose Cobos to be Fernández’s former running mate and her current vice president. This tacit admission of responsibility for such a decision took nobody by surprise, but it did seem to confirm that it was he, and not she, who made one of the most fundamentally important decisions of her presidential career. It indicated that, from the very beginning, she was not calling all the shots, not even the most important ones.

Kirchner also implied something else in his comments Friday: that Fernández has “more balls” than anyone else. Of course, he didn’t say this explicitly and his implication was figurative, not literal. “I can’t use the word I need to use,” he said in a speech to labor union members, “but she’s got all she needs to have, even more than we have, to move Argentina forward.”

You can see a video of Kirchner making the relevant comments here.

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Argentine Tax Agency Releases Free Video Game

November 20th, 2008 | 04:59 PM

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The national tax agency, AFIP, on Thursday released a free video game for your entertainment pleasure. I haven’t had a chance to play the game, but I must admit it looks kinda cool. In the game, which in English would be called “Profile Risk,” you are an attractive, long-legged female tax agent named Martina. If all tax officials looked like her, it’s a good bet that AFIP would be far more popular. Your job is to solve tax crimes including, among other things, ”a dangerous hacker stealing confidential information.”

“Players take on the role of Martina and must guide this person through 12 missions while following a mysterious path of events that could lead to an international catastrophe,” says AFIP.

AFIP officials hope the game, which was designed for kids aged 10-16, will help teach them about the “social meaning of taxes,” “honesty,” and “solidarity.” Would kids learn any less about these things if Martina were actually a fat man named Fernando, who was bald and had raunchy nose hairs?

You can download the game here. (Windows only)

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Barack Obama Calls Cristina Fernández

November 18th, 2008 | 09:45 PM

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“Just when I was in a middle of a meeting with the president of Tunisia, Ben Ali, we received a call from President Obama, who wanted to talk with me. So, obviously, I had to get up from the meeting and go to a separate room where I could talk with him. He wanted to greet me, he wanted to talk to me, really. He said he was very interested in getting to know me. He said he knew that Argentina was a great country and that he was very eager to visit Buenos Aires because when he was in college he had read authors like Cortázar y Borges. And so then, obviously, I took advantage of the moment and invited him to Argentina. I told him that I was in Tunisia and he asked me to formally pass on his greetings to President Ben Ali and the Tunisian people. He seemed very warm and very desirous of meeting me personally so we could talk. He said he knew that I had bravely confronted challenges. Really, I found him to be very warm and we decided that we would meet up soon after he takes office, because he is very interested in meeting me personally.” — a clearly smitten Cristina Fernández, Tuesday from Tunisia, after speaking with President Elect Barack Obama

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Where Is The Argentine Peso Headed?

November 18th, 2008 | 08:30 PM

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Those of you who have U.S. dollars stashed away or make your living in a foreign currency may have been delighting at the peso’s decline in recent months. A weaker peso means your dollars go further when buying beef, Malbec or whatever else tickles your fancy. A 20 peso movie ticket on July 1 cost US $6.62 while today the same ticket goes for about $6.

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Kirchner Foams Over Pension Fund Investment

November 17th, 2008 | 09:19 PM

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“They really looted and used the savings of retirees to invest it abroad…. I ask myself, ‘How can that kind of money management be defended?’ … But today, in an act of dignity and responsibility, thank God, we’re returning to a state-run social security system of solidarity. We’re returning to the state-administration of retirement funds. No longer will those funds be invested abroad.” — former President Nestor Kirchner, November 17, 2008

On the same day that Argentine newspapers confirmed the first case of rabies in Buenos Aires since 1981, Nestor Kirchner said – in a speech in which he was literally foaming at the mouth – that private pension funds will no longer be invested overseas.

Kirchner, who as governor of Santa Cruz Province famously took around $500 million in taxpayer money and invested it overseas, indicated that investing peoples’ retirement funds abroad is a bad thing, a practice that must end. Since he took power in 2003, Kirchner, as well as his wife and successor, Cristina Fernández, have repeatedly told Argentines “to have a memory” and to remember what politicians have done in the past. The former president, evidently, failed to appreciate the irony of his own comments Monday.

Fernández announced last month that her government would nationalize Argentina’s 14-year-old private pension fund system. The Lower House of Congress recently approved the plan and the Senate is expected to pass it this Thursday or Friday.

Kirchner Audio:

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Google Maps Now Covers BA

November 17th, 2008 | 06:33 PM

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Starting today Google Maps includes this great city, sort of. The service still lacks features such as the one that gives you directions on how to get from A to B. But Google says this is in the works.

The City of Buenos Aires had a pretty good interactive map here and Microsoft offers its BA maps service here. Meanwhile, Buenos Aires Mapping, which usually works with addresses, is here.

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Elton John, James Blunt Coming To BA

November 17th, 2008 | 06:07 PM

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The legendary Elton John will play at Boca Juniors Stadium on January 22, according to his official site. His opening act: British star, James Blunt, best known for his hit “You’re Beautiful.”

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Perón And Obama In Their First Meeting

November 14th, 2008 | 04:40 PM

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If you’re not familiar with Dr. Lecter’s work, you should be. He’s a master at taking the reality of local politics and infusing it with his creative sense of humor. You can see his work here. In the above photo he gives us a glimpse of what a Perón-Obama meeting might have looked like. The photo, which was posted earlier this week by Darío Gallo over at Bloc de Periodista, was done for an article in the magazine Noticias, written by Pacho O’Donnell.

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