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Buenos Aires To Get 'Electronic' Transportation Cards

January 30th, 2009 | 09:52 PM

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Peace in the Middle East? A man (or woman) on Mars? Free, non-polluting, renewable gasoline? Non caloric Krispy Kreme Donuts? 

Well, not quite. But the news we've confirmed is still pretty sweet:

The City of Buenos Aires is finally scrapping its anachronistic public transportation payment system and replacing it with a single “electronic” card system that will allow you to prepay for bus, subway and train trips. 

A Transportation Secretariat official confirmed the plan, but was unable to provide many details. In a radio interview Friday, however, Transporta

tion Secretary Ricardo Jaime said the new system should be up and running within three months. The Secretariat has mentioned plans for an electronic card system before, but this is first time (I know of) that anyone has publicly provided a time frame for its implementation.

If all goes according to plan, the system will be in place by May, meaning, presumably, that by then nobody will have to scramble to find coins. If it works, the government, in one fell swoop, will have eliminated one of its most embarrassing and persistent problems: a lack of coins that has been a source of frustration for countless commuters and the butt of jokes in countless newspaper and magazine articles. Truly, it will be a thing to celebrate.

The government is set to announce details of the plan Wednesday.

*Photo is of New York City's Metro Card

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Stunning 360 Panoramic View Of Buenos Aires

January 27th, 2009 | 08:20 PM

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Dakar 2009 Obelisco in http://www.360cities.net/area/buenos-aires-argentina

This stunningly cool 360 degree panoramic view of Buenos Aires will leave you dazzled. At least it did for me, so check it out. Be sure to check out the “Full Screen” mode. And don’t forget to follow some of the arrows, as doing so will take you around the city to various places that you surely know and have visited (such as the inside of the Galerias Pacifico mall). The arrows can be hard to see, but you can find them in the bottom left-hand corner of the above image. The full-screen mode option is located in the top-left part of the image. Enjoy!

Kudos to my buddy Julian Gallo for letting me know about this via his blog.

Link: BA Panoramic

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Argentines Feeling Good About Obama

January 27th, 2009 | 07:37 PM

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Obama's Expectations

An overwhelming majority of Argentines feel good about having Barack Obama as president of the United States. Almost 76% of Argentines feel positively about the new president, according to a survey released Tuesday by the consulting firm Ibarómetro. 

Less than 6% of those polled feel negatively about Obama while around 18% say they have neither positive nor negative expectations for him. 

Meanwhile, Obama’s election has done wonders for America’s image here.

As I have written before, Argentina has recently been one of the most anti-American countries on the planet. But now almost 63% of Argentines say they are “willing to favorably change” their view of the U.S. Around 9% of those surveyed say Obama’s election could negatively affect their view of the U.S. while a similar percentage say the election won’t change their views. Just under 20% say they don’t know how to feel about America.

Whether it’s fair or not, Obama’s victory has caused a potentially tectonic shift in the way people in Argentina feel about the U.S. and its government. The reasons for this may be debatable, but the underlying reality of this shift is not.

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The Inspiration of Obama’s Inauguration

January 20th, 2009 | 07:22 PM

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Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

Rosa sat so Martin could walk

Martin walked so Obama could run

Obama ran so our children can fly

–Attributed to Khari Mosley, reportedly a 19-year-old single mother in the U.S.. I’m not sure if the attribution is correct but it matters little given its beautiful interpretation of a country’s very real cultural history. Whatever the case, the phrase is being repeated over and over again in magazines, blogs, on posters and billboards across the nation. Such was the case when I saw it this week in the window of a clothing store in Boston, Massachusetts. My father, an 81-year-old Army veteran and Great Depression survivor who was with me, teared up upon seeing the message. Only the greatest of cynics could not be at least somewhat uplifted by the message.

Tuesday’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States was a remarkably powerful testament to the incredible capacity for renewal of a people and nation determined to overcome prejudice and other petty limitations of the human spirit. It was, among other things, an incredible testament to our human capacity for growth, for faith, for trust, for hope and, yes, for greatness.

Argentina’s potential for greatness is limited only by the cynicism of its politicians and the mutually destructive distrust among its citizenry.

The vast majority of my Argentine family members and friends thought Obama’s inauguration would never happen. But it did. May this remind us all that almost anything is possible when we set aside our egos and prejudices to come together as one people to achieve a common goal and meet a higher purpose.

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Tourism Declines Again In November

January 15th, 2009 | 09:57 PM

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The number of people visiting Argentina declined for the second consecutive month in November, falling 8% to 188,705 people from a year earlier, the national statistics agency, INDEC, reported Thursday. The decline comes after a 6% drop the previous month and, unfortunately, seems to be yet another indication that Argentina will find it hard to escape negative fallout from the global economic meltdown this year.

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Public Transportation Prices Rising This Week

January 11th, 2009 | 11:25 PM

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By now many of you know the cost of public transportation is going up this week. Subway tickets will rise to 1.10 pesos from 90 centavos. The same will happen to bus tickets. Train tickets will also rise, though by varying amounts. Prices have been absurdly low since 2002, when Argentina devalued its currency. (more…)

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Covering Argentina’s Police Problems

January 7th, 2009 | 09:57 PM

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critica-policiaCrítica de la Argentina, the newspaper run by Jorge Lanata, often has fantastic covers. Like the similarly formatted Página 12, which used to be run by Lanata, Crítica uses exceptionally creative graphics to tell its front page tales in visual form.

Wednesday’s edition was no exception. But this time the paper’s brilliant effort was a sad reminder that Argentina has a dark underbelly.

It’s a reality I’d rather not think or write about. But avoiding the issue does nothing to make it go away and does a great deal to trivialize and simply one’s understanding of Argentina’s more complex yet sometimes unsettling reality.

Crítica’s cover satirically used the image of a yellow “caution” road sign to say, literally, “Danger, Police Kidnapping.” The expression immediately conjures up images of those pervasively placed orange road signs so often seen across the U.S. that say, “Caution, Men Working.” But while humorous and certainly clever, Crítica’s graphic was also a bitter reminder that sometimes even police, the guardians of public safety, simply can’t be trusted. 

The cover story gives details about how two policemen – a commissioner and a lieutenant -  are suspected of participating in the kidnapping of Leonardo Bergara, a 37-year-old local businessman. Bergara was nabbed two weeks ago and his kidnappers are reportedly seeking a $500,000 dollar ransom. Clarín, Argentina’s top-selling daily, tells a similar story on its more traditional cover. Clarin’s story comes accompanied with a breakaway box that includes this gem:

clarin-police“This isn’t the first case in which police have been involved in kidnappings. In 2001, a federal court condemned a band of kidnappers comprised of at least four policemen. They were known as ‘The Commissioner’s Band.’ This is the band that in 1991 kidnapped (current Buenos Aires Mayor) Mauricio Macri – among others – and collected a $6 million dollar ransom.”

When my wife’s aunt and uncle were kidnapped a few years ago, the kidnappers told them not to report anything to the police because “they’re with us.”

The kidnappers were probably lying. After all, most police are decent people. But the mere possibility that they could be telling the truth scared the victims and made them feel even more vulnerable, unable to seek help from the very people – the very institution – charged with protecting us.

It’s hard to know if crime is getting worse, or better, or if it’s simply unchanged. I saw two arrests in front of my downtown office building yesterday and another one today. This could be sheer coincidence. But since the government doesn’t regularly publish updated and comprehensive crime data, it aggravates the sense of uncertainty arises when stories like these are published.

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Starbucks Opens Fourth Store In Buenos Aires

January 6th, 2009 | 07:07 PM

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starbucksStarbucks, that little mom and pop coffee shop, has opened a fourth store in Buenos Aires, indicating that even persnickety Porteños have given the famous brand their seal of approval.

The newest store opened last week in the city’s upscale Belgrano R neighborhood, on Avenida Elcano 3179.  Starbucks representatives declined to say if the company plans to open other stores. Nor would they say how many customers they have here in Argentina. 

They did say that in Buenos Aires the most popular drinks are the Caramel Macchiato, Mocha and Cappuccino. 

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What Cristina Is Doing Right

January 4th, 2009 | 08:43 AM

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Argentine President Cristina Fernández made a lot of mistakes in her first year in office, but she has recently made several moves that could help Argentina stay above water even as the global financial crisis threatens to push the world into a recession.

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Up And Running Again

January 3rd, 2009 | 04:31 PM

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A NOTE TO READERS:

For reasons still somewhat mysterious to me, this entire site was deactivated by my U.S.-based hosting service. I’ve contacted the hosting service, as well as my very good local site programmers – Citricox, a Cordoba Province-based company – and believe the problem is close to being permanently solved. My apologies for the inconvenience. If this happens again and you need to contact me for whatever reason, feel free to do so at taos AT argentinepost.com.

NOTE: This email address is for personal correspondence. Please don’t send me mass mails or add this address to some commercial bulk mailing list. I get enough junk email as it is.

Thanks for your patience and best wishes for a wonderful 2009,

Taos

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