Friday, September 19, 2008

Stolen Lives and Stock Markets

I reported two stories on-air this week for CNN, each very different from the other.

The first was a feature about "Stolen Lives," a popular Argentina soap opera based on the life of Susana Trimarco, who I interviewed in her apartment in Buenos Aires.

Susana has been searching for her daughter, Marita, since 2002, when she disappeared in Tucuman, likely at the hands of human traffickers. She is an amazing woman. Check out the foundation she started in Marita's honor to help victims of human trafficking.

I also visited the set of "Stolen Lives" ("Vidas Robadas" in Spanish) and interviewed actress Soledad Silveyra (in red dress, below), who portrays Trimarco on the show, and seems very committed to the cause and the character (although the day I met her she was out of character, because she was filming segments for her weekly journalism show, "Un Tiempo Despues," ). She was charming as hell.

To watch the feature on "Stolen Lives" click here.

To read the extended article I wrote for, click here. (This article got more than 1 million page views the first day it was posted).

On Thursday, I reported from the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange about the volatile South American markets in the wake of the chaos on Wall Street. You can watch two reports here and here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Busy Week....

It’s been a busy week here in BsAs.....

Newsweek Argentina celebrated its second anniversary with a cocktail party, attended by various local and foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador Earl Wayne (below).

Newsweek U.S. Managing Editor Daniel Klaidman and Ron Javers, Managing Editor for Foreign Editions (there are nine, soon to be ten, when Newsweek Turkey launches later this year), were also present.

I spent time with both Dan and Ron during their visit and learned a lot from both of them. Dan had just attended both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and had some great stories to tell from the Obama and McCain camps. Ron travels around the globe constantly meeting with the journalists of all the foreign editions. It's given him a unique perspective on news and culture; Ron is the kind of guy that could make fast friends at both the bowling alley and the ballet.

There was also wine to be imbibed at the opening night of the Vinos y Bodegas wine expo, the most important gathering of Argentina’s wine industry. Ballsy Argentine Vice President Julio Cobos was there to kick things off (check out the Wine Harvest Queens from Mendoza behind him in the photo).

I was invited to the “Alta Gama” section where Argentina’s top vineyards pull out their big guns and serve their finest wines. There were some awesome new Cabs, Malbecs and Syrahs. Oddly, it appeared to me that every wanna-be hipster in that VIP area seemed like they’d be more comfortable drinking a beer or Fernet and Coke. Money can buy access, but not knowledge, I suppose....

Friday night, the confidently ironic Swedish garage rockers The Hives were in town to film a special “MTV Live” concert at a studio in Almagro. The show was taped in HD and will be seen around the world soon. MTV’s Buenos Aires office is becoming a major player in the channel’s international configuration.

Monday, September 8, 2008


HelpArgentina is a non-profit organization that functions as a bridge between donors from around the world and social organizations in Argentina. They do the middle-man work to make sure donations gets from point A to point B. It works.

I count amongst my friends several former and current employees of HelpArgentina, both Argentines and ExPats. I have learned from them, and seen myself first-hand, the very good work that this organization does in alleviating poverty, encouraging education and stimulating social development in Argentina.

The concept of transparency that HA promotes has long-been missing from the social sector in Argentina. HA thinks outside the box. And when it comes to philanthropy, that can only be a good thing.

HelpArgentina holds two important events each year: The HelpArgentina Award and the Noche HelpArgentina. The HA Award recognizes the efforts of “Social Ambassadors” around the world. In 2005, I nominated my friend Rachel Martinez for this award for her ongoing work with Airline Ambassadors in association with HelpArgentina.

The Noche HelpArgentina is a series of dinners held throughout the globe during the month of September that raise money for HA’s various member organizations. I have attended these dinners, and always enjoy the concept and company. My wife and I will be hosting one later this month at our home in Buenos Aires, as will my parents at their home in Baltimore.

I encourage anyone who has any connection to or curiosity about Argentina, and wants to make a difference for the country, to host a dinner in their home.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Anatomy of an Article

I wrote an article in the Periscope section of this week's Newsweek International (Sept. 15, 2008 issue) about rising global inflation related to bad bookkeeping by governments around the world.

I learned a lot while writing this story, mostly because the final product is much different than what I had originally envisioned and pitched to my editors in New York.

I had heard that the employees of the national statistics agency, INDEC, had launched an online petition last week asking for more transparency in their organization, following 21 months of supposed meddling from Guillermo Moreno, the Kirchner-appointed crony who has been accused of cooking the books to mask a rapidly rising inflation rate here. I thought the fact that the INDEC employees had taken up their fight online (and received more than 11,000 signatures in a week) was a great way to begin an brief exploration of Argentina's ongoing (and seemingly constant) economic woes. My editors agreed. However, as is often the case with stories I write for Newsweek, they wanted to take a more global approach, and asked that I look for examples of other countries where leaders have been accused of fudging the numbers. They suggested I start with China and the U.K.
Admittedly, I knew nothing about how these nations (or any nations, really) tallied their inflation statistics, but a deadline loomed, so I began a frenzied search for information on the topic. I read scores of analytical pieces and articles, interviewed economist Howard Archer of Global Insight in London (whose obervations got cut from the final piece, unfortunately) and basically became an expert (sort of) on inflation statistics.

I went back and forth with my editors through at least five drafts of the article. On each draft they asked me for additional insight and analysis to help convey the 'big picture' of this issue.

Much of the copy was edited from the final piece, both for brevity and space reasons. (The articles in the front-of-the-book Periscope section are typically shorter than other articles). This is always a frustrating part of the editing process, especially when you work so hard to understand, and then explain, a topic to readers. But that's the way it works.
I imagine none of this is apparent to the reader when reading the final 230-word article, but I think it's interesting to note the long process and hard work that goes into producing (what I feel to be) quality and insightful journalism.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Leroi Moore - RIP

I was bummed when I heard that Dave Matthews Band sax player Leroi Moore passed away on August 19th following complications from a June ATV accident. The news came just days after DMB announced plans for their first-ever appearance here in Argentina. I am planning to attend; as of now, the show is still scheduled for October 3rd.

Leroi was a brooding bad-ass with serious sax chops. Some say that Boyd Tinsley's harmonic violin licks gives DMB its unique sound, but for me it is Leroi's deep - and often dark - grooves that provide the groundwork for the band's most exploratory and exciting live moments. He will be missed.

Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck and The Flecktones fame (also scheduled for an upcoming Buenos Aires visit) is currently filling in.

A bit of nostalgia now: Amongst my first -- and undoubtedly most exciting -- assignments as a freshman reporter for the UVM student newspaper, The Vermont Cynic, came in January 1995 when I covered the Dave Matthews Band/Big Head Todd + The Monsters show at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington. I got to interview Boyd, watch the show (with a surprise appearance by local hero Trey Anastasio) from the first-row, swig from a bottle of Jack Daniels with Dave and Trey in the green room afterwards AND my article was the cover story of that week's Cynic; not a bad first gig for an 18-year-old journalist. It was an amazingly exciting experience for me, and pretty much cemented my desire to make my living documenting what is happening around me.

Countless concerts, rock-star interviews and boozy backstage encounters have followed, and they've all been awesome, but that cold night in Burlington was what started me on this path. Leroi was a part of it, and now he's gone....a bummer, indeed.

Taming Timerman

My first-ever post. Let's start with some politiKs.....

La Nacion reports that Argentine President Cristina Kirchner is super-pissed at her ambassador to the U.S., Hector Timerman, after he voiced his concerns over her gushing remarks about U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama during her first-ever press conference on August 2nd. Her praise for Obama was the only real substance that came out of the question posed to her by yours- truly about Argentina/U.S. relations in the wake of the $800K suitcase scandal (for which a trial starts this week in Miami). I was planning to ask her for additional details, but I was quite literally pushed away from the microphone by one of her handlers. Clearly, follow-ups were not on the agenda on this historic day of the Kirchner era.