Friday, December 14, 2007

Video of the Day: Oscar Niemeyer – Architectural genius

This Saturday will be the 100th birthday of famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. He is best known for his design of numerous buildings in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia during the 1960s. Niemeyer has also been the brains behind edifices outside of Brazil such as the French Communist Party Headquarters and the Penang State Mosque in Malaysia.

In a 2006 interview, Niemeyer explained the impetus behind his architectural visions:

“I sought to make an architecture that I think should be done, a thing that creates surprise,” he said. “Even the poorest person, who doesn’t have conditions to enjoy architecture, stops for a moment in front of a new building and is surprised, is filled with a certain emotion.”

Below is the trailer of a 2007 documentary on Niemeyer entitled “Oscar Niemeyer- A Vida É Um Sopro”. It shows several of the buildings he designed and touches on his love for his native Rio de Janeiro.

(Video link):

Sources- International Herald Tribune,, Wikipedia, PopMatters, YouTube

News briefs – Soccer

* South American giants Boca Juniors will play European champion A.C. Milan on Sunday for the World Club Cup championship. The Xeneizes won over the Italian squad in the 2003 Intercontinental Cup.

* Brazilian striker Kaka can add another award to his mantel; on Thursday he was named as World Player of the Year by World Soccer magazine. Argentina’s Lionel Messi came in second though he was named as Sports Illustrated Latino’s 2007 Sportsman of the Year.

* For some teams, 2007 has been the year of the underdog:

* Though players like Juan Pablo Angel and Cuauhtémoc Blanco flourished last season in Major League Soccer, one Latin American player brought in under the “Beckham Rule” has been an utter disappointment. FC Dallas dropped the option of resigning Brazil’s Denilson; the former international tallied one goal and eight assists during the 2007 season.

* Speaking of designated players and MLS, Argentina’s Olé reported that Juan Sebastian Veron will stay with domestic side Estudiantes de La Plata instead of accepting a “lucrative offer” from D.C. United. (Hat tip: Soccer by Ives).

Sources-, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK, ESPN Soccernet,, The Sports Network, Wikipedia, Soccer by Ives

Image- CNN (“Neri Cardozo celebrates after scoring the winner for Boca Juniors against Etoile Sahel”)

“Terrorist” t-shirt makers acquitted

Seven Danes who sold t-shirts with the logos of rebel groups like Colombia’s FARC were acquitted of terrorism charges. The accused are members of an activist group- Fighters + Lovers- who sold their shirts online for roughly $30 and had pledged to donate about $5 per shirt to “humanitarian projects” run by groups like the FARC and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In their ruling, a slim majority of the magistrates agreed with the defense:

A panel of judges in Copenhagen's City Court voted 2-1 that although FARC and PLFP were engaged in murders and kidnappings, their actions were not meant to intimidate the population or destroy the local political and economic systems, and therefore were not guilty of terrorism.

Both groups are classified as terrorist by the United States and the European Union.

According to the Guardian UK, prosecutors are expected to appeal the verdict though one of the defendants said that he would try to “retrieve” t-shirt proceeds confiscated by the Danish police.

Image- Guardian UK

Sources- Guardian UK, BBC News, Reuters, Fighters + Lovers

“America” is Brazil?

All too often, the term “America” has been used to designate the United States; the song “God Bless America” is a famous patriotic tune applied to the U.S., for instance.

Yet a map that has been reportedly the earliest one to use “America” placed that name not in the U.S. or even north of the Equator.

Would you believe Brazil?

One of the main sources for his new work was the knowledge brought to Europe by the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

The word America - said by many scholars to be derived from the explorer's name - appears however not where the modern US is but where Brazil now is.

That was the region Vespucci had begun to explore.

The 500-year-old Waldseemueller map will be displayed by the Library of Congress who purchased the piece for $10 million in 2003. The map is stunning not only in that it has been so well preserved but also since it’s “80 percent correct” according to the head of the geography and map division at the Library of Congress.

Image- National Geographic

Sources- Wikipedia, BBC News, The Moscow Times, AFP

Argie prez denies “spy” links

Recently inaugurated Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has vehemently rejected accusations that the Venezuelan government illicitly paid her campaign. According to the New York Times:

“There is some garbage in international politics that holds back development and seriousness in international relationships,” Mrs. Kirchner said from the presidential palace here…

“This president may be a woman, but she’s not going to allow herself to be pressured,” Mrs. Kirchner said in a televised speech. She said she would “continue affirming our friendship with all Latin American countries and also with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Kirchner’s ire came from allegations made on Wednesday by U.S. prosecutors regarding the arrests of three Venezuelans and a Uruguayan man for “acting as undeclared agents of the Caracas government.” Prosecutors linked the arrested group with Antonini Wilson- a Venezuelan businessman arrested in August after trying to smuggle $800,000 into Argentina supposedly as a campaign contribution.

Sources- New York Times, Voice of America, the Latin Americanist, Reuters

Image- BBC News

Daily Headlines: December 14, 2007

* For a third year, Venezuelan oil officials will deliver discounted home-heating oil to impoverished U.S. homes.

* Good news: Juanes announced the U.S. dates of his 2008 tour.

Bad news: So did RBD.

* Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suffered a setback after the legislature rejected his latest budget initiatives.

* The International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Colombia over Nicaragua in the dispute over three Caribbean islands.

* Follow-up: A pair of moderate earthquakes struck northern Chile on Thursday nearly a month after a strong tremor in that area killed two people.

Sources (English)- VivirLatino, Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Reuters UK, International Herald Tribune

Sources (Spanish)- Voy Music

Image- The Boston Globe (“Citgo chief executive Alejandro Granado (right) and Joseph P. Kennedy II, Citizens Energy founder, were in Braintree. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)”)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Video of the Day: Viva San Marcos!

Apologies for the lack of posts today; I wasn't feeling too well (and on my birthday, no less!)

We hope to return to regular blogging tomorrow.

In the meantime, let's just be happy that no Latin American leader has yet to be as cuckoo as the president of San Marcos.

(Video link):

(The above clip came from the 1971 Woody Allen film Bananas).

Sources-, YouTube

Daily Headlines: December,13 2007

* Lucero is “the Mexican Britney Spears”? Oh really?!

* A Peruvian court found former President Alberto Fujimori guilty of having abused his authority and sentenced him to six years in jail.

* Gender inequality continues to be prevalent in Latin America, according to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

* Follow-up: Despite exchanging pleasantries with Spain’s Prince Felipe on Sunday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez repeated his request for an apology from King Juan Carlos.

Sources- Xinhua, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, The Daily Dish, MSNBC


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Video of the Day: Virgen de Guadalupe

Today’s VOTD looks at an event commemorating the yearly celebration of the Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th. Celebrations are held by practicing Catholics worldwide, especially in countries like Mexico.

A tipster told of us a special pageant held in Los Angeles entitled “La Virgen de Guadalupe: Dios Inantzin.” The following video talks about the pageant as well as the significance of honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe.

(Video link):

More information on pageant including future performances can be accessed by clicking here.

Sources- Wikipedia, Associated Press, UCLA

News briefs: Caribbean

* At least eight people have been officially declared dead in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic due to heavy rains and flash floods caused by Tropical Storm Olga.

* Presidential contender Mike Huckabee has been accused of flip-flopping after changing his stance to support the trade embargo on Cuba.

* A researcher has concluded that Jamaica is suffering from “brain drain” caused by specialized workers immigrating off the island.

* A U.S. appeals court will decide if a Haitian man convicted of murder should be deported despite needing special medical attention.

* In the aftermath of the massacring of pets in Puerto Rico, island officials pledged to improve the treatment of animals and “tell the world that Puerto Rico is a civilized society.”

Sources-Sydney Morning Herald, Los Angeles Times, Jamaica Gleaner, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News

Guatemalan dailies opine over adoption rules

On Tuesday, Guatemala’s legislature approved a bill that would create stricter requirements for new adoptions. Supporters of the proposal hope to curb a growing black market of adoptions to other countries, though it has raised the anxiety of thousands of prospective parents in the U.S.

Two of Guatemala’s main daily newspapers published editorials over adoption in that country. Below are excerpts from each of the columns. (Note that the articles are originally in Spanish).

ElPeriódico de Guatemala:

Adoption is one of Guatemala’s most beautiful laws…however, adoption has become so unnatural that is has been synonymous with “stealing or buying children”…

We have to point out that the irresponsibility of the Guatemalan state has caused an institution as noble as adoptions to become unnatural. Most common in our country is the deficiencies of several government agencies; the Public Ministry, the Prosecutor’s Office, and some courts, for instance. And some adoption centers are to blame in cases of illegal adoptions.

Therefore, it is clear that adoptions are not bad, much less detrimental. What is pathetic is the lack of efficient state controls so that adoptions may be carried out as God sees fit.

The main objective of this legislation is to eliminate or at least drastically diminish the immoral, dirty, and criminal business that has converted many adoption cases…

Yet this goal, which nobody can be opposed to, has the result of unnecessarily increasing the amount of time needed to legally adopt a child…Adoption experts note that the younger the age of an adopted child the easier it is for him to get used to his adopted family…

Those who have backed the law now have the task of monitoring and ensuring the correct application which would most benefit children. For its part, society must be optimistic and await positive results with the hope that illegal adoptions disappear from Guatemala.

Image- BBC News

Sources (English)- Guardian UK, BBC News. Associated Press

Sources (Spanish)- ElPeriódico de Guatemala,

Paging Doctor Bachelet (again)

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet interrupted her speech to attend to a woman who collapsed nearby. Bachelet- who graduated as an M.D. before entering politics- took care of the woman who fainted under the intense heat in the Chilean capital of Santiago. According to the Chile's La Tercera, the woman was taken to a local hospital while Bachelet returned to her speech defending the government’s social policies.

This has not been the first time Bachelet has sprung into action over a nearby medical emergency; in February, she helped a boy who fainted and fell of a stage where she had been speaking (image).

Image- La Nacion

Sources (English)-, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia

Sources (Spanish)- La Nacion, La Tercera

Sports Illustrated Latino's Sports Hombre of the Year

Sports Illustrated's Latino version, SI Latino, has chosen futbolista Argentino Lionel Messi as their 2007 Sportsman of the Year. The issue with Messi gracing the cover also features 12 other Latino athletes including David Ortiz (no relation) and Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox, WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, and the 2007 LPGA Player of the Year, Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa.

Story and Image Source : Latin Gossip

Brazilian Jail Rape Victim Highlights Larger Issue of Violence Against Women

Brazil has a reputation for its violence, much of it caused by huge wealth disparities and poor public planning contributing to the growth of favela culture. The highly publicized rape of a 15 year old girl in jail, has brought attention to the troubled penal system in the Southern Cone nation, but in a much less obvious way, has also called attention to growing violence against women, especially poor women.

The 15 year old girl, arrested on suspicion of petty theft , was placed among 34 male inmates and for almost a month was tortured and raped by them. According to an article in today's New York Times, authorities didn't try and stop the abuse, instead they tried to cover their asses, shaving the girl's head to make her look more like a male and then saying that the girl lied about her age (as if an 18 year old, legal adult woman deserved to be in that position).

By law men and women (who make up about 5 percent of the prison population) should be separated but that's just not happening. This could be interpreted of a lack of caring about the quality of life of women, especially those already at the margins.
What has been particularly disheartening to federal human rights officials in the case of the 15-year-old girl is how many people had the chance to protect her. Ms. Soares, the lawyer, said the police, the judge and a public defender who had visited the jail all knew the teenager was in an all-male setting.
The jail is set to be torn down and replaced with a women's facility.

Story and Image Source : The New York Times

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The blog doesn't like my Mac and won't let me post pictures, so my witty blogs will have to be enough. More to come if my Mac and the blog can work it out.

Kirchner a Kirchner

A lot of news article on the Kirchner-Kirchner presidential hand-off, but this one's thorough and has a pretty picture (although shouldn't she, the new president, be in front?).

The Kirchners have promised that Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will be the sole decision-maker, not her husband and former president nestor Kirchner.

Cristina is Argentina's first elected woman president, drawing comparisons to Eva Peron and Hillary Clinton. However, she has said she is happiest that just being herself is enough.

Cubans smuggle through Mexico

Nearly 90 percent of Cubans who are granted asylum in the United States travel by land instead of water, the Associated Press reported, citing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This is interesting because apparently Cuban immigrants, who are allowed to stay if they reach U.S. soil, are coming to the country through Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula via violent smugglers.

Read the brief here.

Source: Star-Telegram in North Texas

Bankin' on Bank of South

Six countries signed an agreement to create the Bank of the South, a development bank between Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Uruguay will sign on later.

The bank is supposed to improve economic growth with credit for infrastructure and private projects, and also, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, to eventually replace the U.S. dollar and accordingly the IMF and World Bank.

Head offices will be in Caracas, Venezuela.

Read more here.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?

Source: The Hindu

Photo:, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, whose wife recently won the presidential election, and George Bush

Caution with the “Blog Readability Test”!

Remember the “Blog Readability Test” we discussed last Friday? An eagle-eyed commenter wrote the following this morning:

By the way, looks like this Blog Readability Test is a spam trojan horse. Any blogger out there who has put the embed code on their blog, may want to reconsider after reading this:

According to that link:

The real concerning part is that they have added a hidden link in the embed code pointing to an Online Cash Loans website - and the font size is in small so most people are likely to miss that hidden link.

The test might be fun to take the readability test but if you decide to display the badge on your site as it it is, that could prove very harmful to your site rankings in Google.

Thus, please be very careful if you’re thinking of embedding the “test” result badge on your blog/website. The last thing any blogger needs is more spam!

Daily Headlines: December 11, 2007

* “It makes me very sad that in our country justice was never seen” said a Chilean judge regarding today’s one-year anniversary of the death of ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet.

* Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that he would be “willing to do ‘anything’” to negotiate the freeing of hostages held by Colombian rebels.

* The port of Uruguay’s capital was shutdown yesterday after a cruise ship and barge crashed.

* Cuba will sign two U.N. human rights agreements, according to remarks made by the island’s foreign minister.

* Follow-up: The pair of Mexican singers killed last week were both posthumously nominated for Grammy Awards.

Sources- Reuters Africa, the Latin Americanist, Xinhua, Reuters, Monsters & Critics, Reuters

Image- Guardian UK (a 2000 protest used crosses to mark those killed under Pinochet’s regime)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Video of the Day: Fujimori on trial

On Monday the trial of Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori began with prosecutors requesting that he be convicted to a 30-year jail sentence for human rights abuses. Fujimori took advantage of the opportunity to speak in order to loudly proclaim his innocence and defend his ten years as head of state.

At times the proceedings became contentious as Fujimori quarreled with the trial's lead judge. An example of this occurred in a brief, heated exchange shown in the following video:

The trial was suspended early and will continue on Wednesday after Fujimori claimed to be affected by high blood pressure.
Sources- YouTube, Xinhua, CNN, Reuters

Mexican impresario “Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff”

A Mexican entrepreneur that trademarked and sold Duff Beer in Mexico plans to expand into South America. Since 2006, Rodrigo Contreras Diaz has been producing the beer best known as the preferred booze of Homer Simpson on “The Simpsons.” According to Colombia’s El Tiempo website, Diaz will create a South American subsidiary of his beer enterprise and has made numerous offers for expansion:

(Diaz) is in conversations with Brazilian and Colombian breweries like ImBev and Bavaria to produce and even distribute the beer... “They have yet to respond but have shown interest,” said Diaz. Duff is a premium beer with 5% alcohol that would cost between 1400 and 1700 pesos [ed. between 60 and 80 cents], depending on ether domestic production or importation. [ed. Personal translation]

Diaz is not afraid of possible legal troubles with the Duff Beer brand though he has not shied away from controversy in the past. In 2005, he published 5000 copies of a book entitled “Achievements of President Vicente Fox”; all the pages of the book were blank.

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal, El Tiempo,,


Chavez, Spanish prince meet under “total normalcy”

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Spain’s Prince Felipe of Asturias met briefly yesterday hours before the inauguration of Cristina de Kirchner as President of Argentina in Buenos Aires. Despite the diplomatic tensions caused by November’s “Why don’t you shut up?” incident, Spain’s minster for Iberoamerica Trinidad Jimenez emphasized the “normalcy” of yesterday’s exchange:

Jimenez explained to the Spanish press that the greeting between Chavez and Don Felipe was “cordial”…

Don Felipe was in one of the salons of the Palacio San Martín…when Chavez arrived and greeted him and other dignitaries such as Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

Jimenez said that after the “diplomatic” greeting she spoke with Chavez…(and) he listened “attentively” and without insisting that King Juan Carlos apologize (for the incident in November). – [ed. Personal translation]

The meeting between Chavez and Prince Felipe was announced last week by the Spanish government; a move praised by Chavez as a “positive sign”.

Sources (English)- El Universal, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK

Sources (Spanish)-

Image- (Hugo Chavez and King Juan Carlos of Spain meeting before their infamous spat)

Bank of the South launched

Representatives of seven South American countries met on Sunday to formally launch the Bank of the South- a new regional development bank. In a ceremony in Buenos Aires, the bank was established with an initial capital of $7 billion and with the goal of acting as a viable alternative to other financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Though most of the countries allied to the Bank of the South are led by left-leaning presidents, one analyst told the BBC News that the bank shouldn’t be rejected merely over politics:

Michael Shifter, Latin American expert at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said that while it was "tempting to dismiss the Banco del Sur because of the political agenda behind it", he would advise skeptics to wait and see.

"Chavez's political agenda is undeniable, but so is the money he has at his disposal right now," he said.

"Over the longer run, the initiative will have real problems because of politicization, but in the meantime it would be a mistake to underestimate its possibilities."

The Bank of the South’s founding members are Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador.

Sources- BBC News, Xinhua, Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg

Image- Al Jazeera

Daily Headlines: December 10, 2007

* Venezuelans voted in a constitutional referendum earlier this month, and so will Bolivians next year.

* Brazil’s government pledged nearly $7 million to samba schools featured in Rio de Janeiro's Carnival parade.

* In a pair of noteworthy events later today:

Sources- International Herald Tribune, the Latin Americanist, BBC News, Times Online, AFP

Image- MWC News

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Video of the Day: The wonders of Photoshop

With all due respect to Mr. Tancredo, it's really difficult to take your campaign seriously with "ads" like these:

More details on tonight's Spanish-language Republican presidential debate coming up on Monday.

Source- YouTube