Friday, June 30, 2006

Dream is over

Depresion total.

Y ahora viene lo peor de todo. Los insufribles de siempre que van a decir que nos dejo afuera el arbitro (se equivoco muy poco en realidad, y por suerte no pito un penal claro de Ayala), los que van a decir que nunca tenemos suerte (esta es la cuarta vez que definimos por penales en un mundial, la primera vez que perdemos), los que van a putear a los jugadores y especialemente a Riquelme (ni eramos los mejores antes de perder, ni somos lo peores ahora que perdimos, Argentina tiene un equipo que me ha hecho sentir orgulloso por las bolas que ha puesto.)

Y ahora?

Espero que Pekerman se quede. Por su dedicacion. Por su etica. Por su serenidad. Y porque sino se viene el exgordo ex?droguix Maradona que es sinonimo de caos. Este equipo ha hecho un esfuerzo tremendo y ha puesto en la cancha de futbol toda la pasion y la garra que se tiene que poner para llegar a la final. No llegaron. Pero lo dejaron TODO. Mi aplauso interminable para cada uno de ese estelar grupo de jugadores.

Ahora hago barra a muerte por Brasil. O Portugal. Brasil es un pais en el que la gente vive y respira futbol. Es un pais en el que la gente llora de alegria y vive la pasion del mundial igual que la vive el pueblo nuestro que supimos concebir. Es un pais golpeado -como el nuestro- que encuentra un unico consuelo y una poca de distraccion en el futbol. Por esto y mucho mas, el amarillo es mi color a partir de ahora.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mexican Watershed

New vs. Old

WSJ, June 29

Mexicans head to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president, and the choice they face is notably stark: Accelerate the pace of modernization that began in the mid-1980s or, because progress has been achieved a little slowly, revert to the economically populist and insular ways of old Mexico.

While there are five candidates in the race, polls indicate the presidency will go either to Felipe Calderon of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), who represents the first alternative, or Andres Manuel López Obrador of the far-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), who represents the second. The two are running in a statistical dead heat, some eight to 10 percentage points ahead of third-place candidate Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Anything can still happen in a three-man contest, but the decline of the PRI candidate is remarkable given that that leftist party dominated Mexico from 1929 to 2000. But Mexico began to change some 20 years ago, chipping away at one-party rule and opening to the world. On the economic front, thousands of government-owned businesses were privatized and trade tariffs began to come down. Thirteen years ago Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. Six years ago it held free elections for president and unseated the PRI. Amazingly, that transfer of power was not accompanied by an economic meltdown, the usual Mexican pattern.

This is progress. But for many Mexicans the transition has been too slow. Over-regulation of business still damps animal spirits. Key parts of the economy -- telecom, oil, natural gas, electricity, cement and transportation, among others -- remain de facto monopolies, damaging productivity growth, job creation and Mexican competitiveness.

Mr. López Obrador has used this underperformance to tap into nostalgia for old Mexico, with its closed, centrally planned economy. He wants to renegotiate Nafta. He rejects the opening of Mexico's corn and bean markets to U.S. exports, now slated for 2008. He promises Mexicans an FDR-style New Deal that would include a massive public works program and a government-subsidized blitz to build one million homes for the poor. Critics also fear an authoritarian streak, based on his track record as a Mexico City mayor who defied judicial rulings and had a penchant for calling out the mob.

Left-wing populists are hardly new in Latin America, of course. In the worst case, they become more authoritarian and statist in power, like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Others discover they can't govern this way and turn pragmatic, as with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva. Mr. López Obrador has fallen in the polls as his opponents have compared him to Mr. Chávez, and he has rejected any connection. A López Obrador victory would nonetheless be a stern test of how committed Mexico is to joining the global march toward freer economic and political development.

Mr. Calderon -- energy minister before winning the PAN nomination -- offers a very different program. He promises to simplify the tax regime, allow private "partnerships" for deep water oil exploration, and rid the country of monopoly privilege. He's also committed to preserving fiscal and monetary stability, the one area where current President Vicente Fox's administration has done well.

Mr. Calderon draws most of his support from the northern half of Mexico -- traditional PAN strongholds and prime beneficiaries of Nafta -- as shown in the nearby map of areas where each candidate is leading in the polls. He also does well with the Mexican middle class, which is finally getting on its feet after three decades of profligate government spending, corruption and the devastating currency devaluations of 1976, 1982 and 1994.

A stable peso has since led to low inflation, and interest rates have followed. In recent years markets for consumer credit and mortgages have developed. Retail competition has given Mexican consumers a taste of what is possible. Still, the benefits have flowed slowly and unevenly, and Mr. López Obrador continues to draw support from the leftist intelligentsia, government bureaucrats and the country's impoverished south.

For Americans, the stakes in this election could hardly be greater. Tom Tancredo and friends may believe that the only thought the U.S. need give its southern neighbor is the height of the wall it plans to raise between them. But if Mexicans are able to build on the liberalizing trends of the past 20 years, their appetite for El Norte is bound, over time, to diminish. And if they revert to the populist habits of yore, no American wall will be high enough to keep the flood of desperate workers out.

Mas sobre el tema aqui.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pobre Paul

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (and Mr. Smith, and Ms. Jones, and Mr. Williams, and.....)

Lots of media are noting that today Paul McCartney turns 64 – notable chiefly because McCartney wrote and sang, as a Beatle, the song “When I’m 64.” Of course, many of these reports also mention Paul’s recent separation from his second wife, Heather Mills, and the fact that she’ll get a sizeable share of his fortune of $1.5 billion.

I don’t care about McCartney’s personal life, but I do love Beatles’ music. I’ve loved it since, as a five-year-old boy on February 9, 1964, I sat in my grandmother’s lap and watched the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

When I read of McCartney’s fortune, I’m struck by how puny it is compared to the amount of pleasure he’s contributed to humankind. Consider:

If each viewer of only the Beatles’ first two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show deposited $1 into an account in return for watching the Beatles on these telecasts, this account would have had in it, on February 16, 1964, $143.7 million. (The number of people who tuned in to the Beatles’ February 9, 1964, appearance was 73 million; the number who tuned in one week later for their second appearance was 70.7 million. These data are here.)

If this money were invested at the historical rate of return earned by U.S. stocks, it would have earned an annual return, on average, of eight percent. Today, this account would be worth about $3.5 billion.

Divided equally among John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Paul’s share today would be $875 million – more than half of his current net worth. And this from only a small payment made 42 years ago by each viewer of a mere two episodes of an American television show. Add the value of the pleasures McCartney helped to bring to us from the Beatles’ other appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – the value of the Beatles’ many live performances around the globe – the value of their many albums that continue (now mostly in CD form) to be played – the value of the Beatles’ movies such as "A Hard Day’s Night" – the value that McCartney’s music post-Beatles brought to countless people.

And the man is worth only $1.5 billion! Because no one forced him to write and perform and record music, I’ll certainly not argue that McCartney is undercompensated. But I do insist that his net worth of $1.5 billion is paltry, puny, insignificant compared to his contributions to humankind.

Quite a bargain.

Alluring scents, captivating flavors. At long last wood grilling, in all its nuanced glory, comes home.
L.A. Times Food Section

IN the beginning, there was wood. And it was good. But it was awfully inconvenient.

The appeal of wood smoke is almost primal. In fact, just those two words by themselves are enough to make you hungry.

Along with the smells of ripe tomatoes and perfect peaches, wood smoke is an integral part of summer's sweet perfume. It lends depth to the flavor of chicken, sweetens the taste of pork and helps give steak its sizzle.

It's so delicious that some restaurants even build their menus around it. But until fairly recently, unless you were a barbecuing insider, it was pretty difficult to get that bouquet in your backyard.

Now all that has changed. Cooking with real wood flavor has become so easy you can do it every day.

Finding wood for grilling has always been a problem — especially in urban Southern California. You can't just go lighting any old logs you find. Fireplace wood — mostly pine and cedar — contains sticky resins that will coat your food. Some woods will burn too fast to be any good; others will burn too slow.

Even if you did manage to find good wood, you'd have to add another hour or so to the cooking process to allow the fire to burn to coals and rid itself of the unwanted flavors most woods have.

And as a friend who is chef at a restaurant where a wood-fired grill is central to the kitchen says, to use it well you have to learn to cook not only the food, but also the fire at the same time. Getting the fire to the right point and keeping it there, and juggling the daily changes in hot spots are every bit as tricky as judging the exact moment a pork chop is done.

In the interest of convenience, most grillers use charcoal, which is wood that has already been burnt clean. You can find it either in its lump form or in briquettes — lump charcoal that has been ground down to dust and then stuck back together in uniform shapes so it burns evenly.

These are very convenient and work pretty well, if all you're interested in is generating heat. But they add precious little flavor to whatever you're cooking.

To get that wood-smoke flavor, the best solution for the backyard griller is wood chips. And there's good news on that front.

Picking the perfect chip

WOOD chips — they basically look like what you might sweep up off a carpenter's floor — have been around forever, but until not so long ago they could be found only at barbecue shops that catered to the hardwood hard-core. Lately, however, they've been showing up at even my neighborhood supermarket. And a visit to a gourmet grocery last week turned up six kinds of wood chips.

These are simple to use: Just soak them in water for a half-hour or so, then toss them on the fire once it's going. They work great, pumping out smoke like there's no tomorrow.

But the sudden availability of all of these choices is a little overwhelming. Apple, cherry, mesquite — even chips made from old wine barrels. Which one to choose? Should you go with hickory, the traditional choice of most pit barbecuers? Or would oak — the California wood of choice — be better? Should you use the same wood for a beefy tri-tip as for a delicate chicken breast? And what about fruit woods, such as apple and cherry?

To find out, I fired up a couple of grills in my backyard one day and worked my way through seven types of wood chips, using each to cook pork, chicken and beef. By the end of the afternoon I was sweaty and pretty well smoked myself, but at least I had some answers.

The first thing that needs to be said about using these wood chips may seem obvious: Smoke tastes like smoke and that is the dominant flavoring. If you're expecting dramatic differences from one variety to the next, you may be disappointed. It's not a mustard and ketchup thing, but more like the differences between different types of mustard.

But there are differences, even if they are nuanced, and they do affect the way the smoke flavors the meat.

The first big difference is intensity. Some chips make foods taste profoundly smoky, whereas others add only a grace note. The smokiest woods, in roughly descending order, are hickory, oak and cherry. The mildest are the wine cask chips, pecan, apple and mesquite.

Another difference is an elusive quality that I suppose you could call "sweetness," though that seems like an odd attribute for something such as wood smoke. This isn't true sweetness — like sugar — but maybe the absence of the harsh qualities you sometimes find in wood smoke. The sweetest woods are mesquite and apple. That same quality is also there in cherry and hickory, though it's a little harder to discern because they are so smoky.

Also, some chips have distinctive flavor notes. I found a peculiar nuttiness in pecan wood, but to me it tasted more like peanuts than pecans. The wine cask wood actually did carry an undertone of red wine.

There was an elusive characteristic in the flavor imparted by oak smoke that I found appealing but had a hard time describing. Finally, it occurred to me that what I liked about it was that it seems to be smoky but always in a graceful way. It's more Chanel No. 5 than Brut 33.

So which woods go best with which meats? For strong-flavored beef and lamb, I'd recommend hickory, oak, cherry and apple. For mild chicken and fish, use mesquite, apple or pecan — and because of the others' fruity qualities, probably only mesquite for fish. For pork, use cherry, hickory, pecan or apple.

I started the fires in the usual way. As far as I'm concerned, a chimney starter is the only way to go. These are nothing more than bigger and slightly fancier versions of the old coffee can starters your dad may have used.

As for the charcoal, grilling purists usually prefer lump because it burns a little hotter and leaves less ash to clog the grill's vents. Briquettes don't get to quite as high a temperature, but they last much longer. The bottom line is that for the 30 minutes it takes to grill most foods, the two work about equally well.

When the coals are ready, spread them evenly if you're cooking something small, which will cook quickly. That gives you the most surface area exposed to the greatest amount of heat.

More often, though, you'll probably be cooking things such as steaks, pork chops or even roasts, which are thicker and will take a little longer. For these foods, pile the coals against one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. This gives you a hot spot on which to sear the meat, and a cooler area where it can cook to an even doneness.

A big part of the art of grilling is juggling these two zones — moving meat from high heat to low, and occasionally back again, in order to get it perfectly cooked. If you want to add more coals, scatter them across the top of those that have already been lighted. They'll be ready in less than 10 minutes.

Match your meat

AFTER all my experiments with wood chips, it was time to turn theory into practice (and dinner), coming up with three main courses that highlight the best combinations of wood smoke and meat.

Butterflied leg of lamb is one of my favorite cuts for grilling. Have the butcher bone it for you, and if you're not getting a full leg, make sure you get the half that comes from the butt, not the shank. There's much more meat and a lot less sinew.

One of the great advantages to a butterflied leg is that there is a wide range of thickness in the meat. This translates into a wide range of doneness. When the thick part from the back of the leg is rosy medium rare (about 115 degrees), the thin parts from the front will be medium. Perfectly cooked meat for both you and Uncle Earl.

Grill it over oak or cherry or — even better — the chips made from wine casks; you really do pick up a subtle flavor of red wine. The tapenade served with the lamb is an especially good complement; it gets an herbal complexity from fennel seed and a little bit of Pernod liqueur that is stirred in right at the end (add it too early and it loses its fragrance).

Because halibut is so lean, it can be a tricky fish to grill. It dries out almost instantly. And with so little fat to lubricate it, it tends to stick to everything it touches. That's an easy problem to solve, though: Wrap it in a sheet of prosciutto.

The prosciutto renders a little fat, moistening the meat and keeping it from sticking. More important, the salty pork taste is a wonderful complement to the subtle flavor of halibut. Mesquite is the best wood for this recipe, because it adds a mild, slightly sweet taste of smoke that doesn't overwhelm the fish.

Serve the fish with a bright salad of gold and red grape tomatoes. These are among the earliest varieties of tomatoes to ripen, and considering all of the weather-delayed planting this spring, they are among the best-flavored in the market right now.

Pork tenderloin has to be among the most underappreciated cuts of meat for grilling. It has good flavor, is reliably tender and stays moist (especially when brined).

And it takes only minimal preparation. The main thing you have to do is remove the tough, shiny silverskin that coats part of the muscle. Leave it on and the tenderloin will become misshapen during cooking. It's easy to remove: Slip a paring knife under one end of the silverskin, grab a good hold and then pull up, scraping against the silverskin with your knife. You'll have to repeat a few times until it's all gone.

Use cherry, pecan or apple for the tenderloin. These are slightly sweet woods that are just a little smokier than mesquite, so they balance perfectly with the flavor of the pork.

Serve the pork with this Tuscan version of home fries. Cook quartered potatoes on the stove top very slowly with red onion until the onion caramelizes and the potatoes crisp and brown on the outside. For the last 10 minutes, add just a hint of rosemary to balance the sweetness of the onions.

Though steaks and hamburgers are great for every-night meals off the grill, these dishes are worthy of being the centerpieces at your next big-deal dinner party, and without requiring much additional effort.

Early in the day, prepare the meat and fix whatever side dishes you choose. Then just before the guests arrive, start the fire — it'll be ready to cook on by the time you're done with drinks and appetizers.

Put the meat on the grill and breathe in that mingled perfume of wood smoke and sear. That's the sweet — and now even convenient — smell of summer.

Wood chips are available at selected barbecue supply stores, hardware stores and supermarkets including California Charcoal & Firewood in Commerce, (323) 780-6000, ; Barbecues Galore stores; Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) stores; Lowe's stores; Ralphs markets; and selected Bristol Farms markets. Online sources include and .


Grilled butterflied leg of lamb with olive-fennel tapenade

Total time: 55 minutes, plus 2 hours marinating time

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Use wine cask chips for this, or oak or cherry. Prepare the tapenade while the meat is marinating.

Grilled leg of lamb

1 (2 1/2 -pound) butterflied leg of lamb

3 to 4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup red wine

1. If the lamb has been tied into a roll, untie it and lay it flat, skin-side down. There will be a range of thicknesses to the meat, with some areas fairly thin and some very thick. Slice partway through the thickest portions to allow the meat to lie flat.

2. Slice the garlic into thin slivers. Turn the lamb over so that the skin side is facing up. Use a paring knife to cut slits all over the skin side roughly a half-inch deep and a half-inch apart. Stuff a garlic sliver into each slit (it's easiest if you use the tip of the knife to hold the slit open; don't worry about everything being perfectly neat).

3. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with salt and pepper and place it in a zip-lock bag. Pour the wine over the lamb, press out all the air and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to marinate.

4. When you're ready to cook, soak about 2 cups of wood chips in water to cover. Light the coals and when the coals are glowing hot, empty them into one side of the grill, banked against the side. Drain the wood chips and place on top of the coals.

5. Pat the lamb dry with a paper towel and place it skin-side down over the hottest part of the fire. Sear the lamb 3 to 5 minutes per side, until browned.

6. Turn the meat again and move it to a cooler part of the grill and cover. Cook 10 minutes on one side, turn and cook about another 10 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into a thick part of the meat reads 115 degrees. That makes about 30 minutes cooking total. After allowing the lamb to rest, this will give you a range of doneness from medium-rare to medium.

7. Remove the meat from the grill and set aside 10 minutes to rest before carving against the grain. Serve with tapenade on the side.


Olive-fennel tapenade

1/2 pound pitted black olives in brine

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Pernod

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1. Rinse the pitted black olives, shake them dry and place them in the bowl of a food processor.

2. With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and the fennel seed into a coarse paste and add it to the black olives along with the vinegar and the olive oil.

3. Pulse into a coarse paste that holds together; add a little more olive oil if the mixture is too dry. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. When almost ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and stir in the Pernod and parsley. Makes 2 cups.

Each of 8 servings: 254 calories; 27 grams protein; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 14 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 85 mg. cholesterol; 390 mg. sodium.


Prosciutto-wrapped halibut with grape tomato salad

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Use mesquite wood chips.

6 halibut fillets (2 pounds), about 2 inches thick

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices thinly sliced prosciutto (about 3 ounces)

1 1/2 pounds yellow and red grape tomatoes

6 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1. Cut the fillets into equal-sized pieces about as wide as a slice of prosciutto. Because of the size of a halibut fillet, you will probably end up cutting across the fillet, making pieces that are roughly square.

2. Lightly salt and pepper the fish. Lay a prosciutto slice on the work surface and put a piece of halibut in the middle of it. Fold the ends around the halibut. It will look a little messy on the side where the ends meet, but don't worry; you'll serve it with that side down. Refrigerate the halibut until ready to cook.

3. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl. Add three-fourths teaspoon salt and toss to coat well. Set aside to let the salt draw out some of the tomato juice.

4. When you're ready to cook the fish, soak about 1 cup of wood chips in water to cover. Light the coals in a chimney and when the coals are glowing hot, empty them into the center of the grill. If there aren't enough coals, add more on top and wait until they are glowing as well. Drain the wood chips and place on top of the coals.

5. Toss the tomatoes with the basil, olive oil and vinegar.

6. Spray a grill basket with nonstick cooking spray or rub lightly with oil. Place the halibut packages in the basket and place over the fire. Cook, uncovered, on one side until the prosciutto has lightly crisped, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook until a knife inserts easily into an uncovered part of the halibut, another 4 to 5 minutes. Don't overcook the halibut; even with the prosciutto wrapping, it will dry out pretty quickly. Total cooking time should be about 10 minutes.

7. Carefully open the grill basket, making sure the prosciutto doesn't stick to it. Place the halibut packages on a large platter with the neatest side facing up. Spoon the tomato salad around the outside of the platter, sprinkle with black pepper and serve immediately.

Each serving: 253 calories; 37 grams protein; 6 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 9 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 60 mg. cholesterol; 760 mg. sodium.

Brined pork tenderloin with `Tuscan home fries'

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus overnight brining time

Servings: 6

Note: Use cherry, apple or pecan wood chips.

2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 gallon water

1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes

1 large red onion (about 2/3 pound)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1. Trim the pork tenderloins, removing any loose pieces of meat. Remove the silverskin: Slip a paring knife underneath it and cut one end free. Grasp that end tightly and lift up, scraping the silverskin with the knife to separate it from the meat. Repeat until all silverskin is removed. Place the tenderloins in a zip-lock bag.

2. In a large bowl, stir together one-third cup salt, sugar and water until completely dissolved. Pour the mixture over the tenderloins, seal tightly and refrigerate overnight.

3. About 90 minutes before serving, cut the potatoes into pieces about the size of walnuts. Cut off the top and bottom of the red onion and cut the onion into half-inch wedges. Place the potatoes and onion in a heavy skillet, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat well.

4. Place the skillet over medium-low heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to stir. Stir gently to keep from separating the potatoes from the browning surface: shaking the pan from side to side will free most of the potatoes; those that stick can be gently pried loose with a thin spatula.

5. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue cooking, carefully stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are well-browned and crusty, another 30 to 40 minutes. Add the minced rosemary, reduce heat to very low and continue cooking another 10 minutes. The potatoes will hold this way until ready to serve.

6. While the potatoes are cooking, start the pork. Soak about 1 1/2 cups of wood chips in water to cover. Light the coals in a chimney and when the coals are glowing hot, empty them into one side of the grill, banked against the side. Drain the wood chips and place on top of the coals.

7. Pat the pork tenderloins dry with paper towels and place the meat directly over the flame to sear for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn and sear on the other side for another 3 to 5 minutes. Move the tenderloins to the cooler part of the grill, cover and cook 6 to 10 minutes or until the temperature reaches 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

8. When the tenderloins are done, remove them to a carving board and let them rest 5 to 10 minutes. Slice them into half-inch thick medallions and put them on a warmed platter along with the crusty fried potatoes. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 348 calories; 32 grams protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 84 mg. cholesterol; 426 mg. sodium.

Secondhand Smoke: It's All Bad

The surgeon general says findings are 'indisputable': No level of exposure is safe, and the children of smokers are especially at risk.

June 28, 2006

Twenty years after the first surgeon general's report on secondhand smoke, the evidence is now "indisputable" that the noxious fumes are a major health threat that kills an estimated 50,000 people each year, a new federal study said Tuesday.

There is no level of exposure to smoke that is safe, and the children of smokers are at special risk, Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said in releasing the new report.

"I am here to say the debate is over, the science is clear," Carmona said during a televised news conference from Washington. "Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard."

Studies in the two decades since the first federal report confirm that secondhand smoke is linked not only to heart disease and lung cancer, but also to breast cancer, childhood cancer, nasal sinus cancer, ear infections and asthma. Recent results have also shown a clear link to sudden infant death syndrome.

The only way to combat the health threat, he said, was to follow the lead of California and 15 other states and ban all smoking in public buildings.

The report estimated that about 30% of indoor workers are not protected by smoke-free laws.

Carmona said parents should protect the health of their children by stepping outside their homes before lighting up.

"So many children are exposed in the home," said Thomas Glynn of the American Cancer Society. "If we do nothing else, we need to protect children because they are more vulnerable and the effects are lifetime effects."

For everyone else, Carmona said, the best advice is simply "stay away from smokers."

Among the report's major conclusions:

• Exposure of nonsmokers to tobacco smoke increases their risk of both heart disease and cancer by as much as 30%.

• Even a brief exposure to tobacco smoke can increase risk, especially for people with heart and respiratory diseases.

• Segregating smokers is not an effective technique for preventing exposure of nonsmokers, and even the best available technology does not cleanse the air adequately.

• There is no evidence that smoke-free laws have significantly reduced sales at bars and restaurants.

The number of smokers in the U.S. has declined sharply since the 1964 surgeon general's report linking smoking to health problems.

The report eventually led to warnings on cigarette packages, advertising restrictions and health education programs that have helped reduce the smoking prevalence rate among adults from 42.4% in 1965 to 20.9%, or 44.5 million people, in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.

The drop in smoking has been accompanied by a decline in cancer rates, although until recently, that decline has been overwhelmed by the growth in population. But the American Cancer Society reported in February the first decline in the absolute number of cancer deaths since 1930. The decline was small — a drop of only 369 out of about 557,000 in 2003 — but the results were attributed in large part to the smoking decreases.

Between 1988 and 2002, the report said, the percentage of adult nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke has been halved to about 43%. That exposure was determined by measuring blood levels of a key nicotine byproduct called cotinine.

Even among those exposed, the median level of cotinine has dropped about 70%. About 20% of children have been exposed to secondhand smoke at home, and their cotinine levels are twice those in adults.

The report is simply a compilation of research conducted in the last two decades. Nonetheless, experts hope it will galvanize public sentiment in much the same way that the 1964 report on smoking and health did, accelerating the momentum toward an extension of smoke-free laws to cover nonsmokers who are now unprotected.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Carta abierta

de un profesor de Michigan State University a la Asociación Musulmana de la universidad en relación a las protestas por las caricaturas de Mahoma

Visto en el opinador:

Dear Moslem Association:

As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intend to protest your protest. I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey!), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France.

This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many, many of my colleagues. I counsel you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceeded with your infantile "protests." If you do not like the values of the West — see the 1st Amendment — you are free to leave.

I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option.

Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.


I. S. Wichman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

De Juan Pablo Varsky

No podía fallar otra vez. Repleta de frustraciones, su historia en la nazionale no le admitía un fracaso más. Hace cuatro años lo habían expulsado en octavos contra la Corea de Hiddink. El impresentable árbitro ecuatoriano Byron Moreno le mostró la segunda amarilla y la roja por simulación de penal. Luego, los azzurri perdieron por un gol de oro. Ni siquiera sacaron del medio después del cabezazo de Ahn. Volvió a decepcionar en la Euro 2004. En pleno partido ante Dinamarca, escupió como guanaco al rival Christian Poulsen. Fueron tres salivazos, como un geiser. Recibió tres fechas de suspensión y no pudo ayudar al equipo, eliminado en la primera etapa. Hasta ayer Francesco Totti la pasaba mucho mejor en Roma que en Italia. En el club tiene currículum con títulos. En la selección, prontuario con condenas.

Nacido en la capital italiana, siempre vivió allí y rechazó cualquier oferta de mudanza. Milan lo sedujo en su etapa adolescente con escuela privada, casa y un gran contrato. Ya consagrado, Real Madrid lo cortejó para sumarlo a su grupo de galácticos. La respuesta fue siempre la misma: no, gracias. Nadie me mueve de mi lugar en el mundo.

Así define la revista alemana Spiegel su vínculo con la Ciudad Eterna: Totti es a Roma lo que Woody Allen a Manhattan. Cambia el tema recurrente en sus vidas. Lejos del psicoanálisis y el judaísmo, el de Francesco es el gigantesco Edipo que tiene con su mamma Fiorella, toda una celebridad. “Podría sobrevivir mucho tiempo sin comida, sin agua y sin aire. Pero no duraría ni un minuto sin mi hijo”, dijo la persona más temida por el fantasista.

Hasta hace muy poco tiempo, todos los Totti vivían juntos. Ahora, Fiorella habita la casa de al lado y suele cocinar pasta para los compañeros y amigos de su bambino . Está prohibido criticar su obra maestra, los bucattini alla matrisciana . El delantero Antonio Cassano, hoy en Real Madrid, lo sabe. Se animó a semejante afrenta y salió eyectado del hogar que lo había cobijado durante unas cuantas semanas.

La fama no logró alterar sus rutinas. Toma capuchino en la cafetería de sus amigos, se corta el pelo en la peluquería de toda la vida y compra los zapatos en la zapatería de siempre. Por eso lo quieren tanto en Roma. “Sigue siendo el mismo de siempre”, diríamos en la Argentina. Con una cuenta bancaria millonaria y una esposa tan famosa como él. Ilary Blasi era presentadora de TV cuando llegó el flechazo. Se casaron hace un año y ya son padres de Christian, un bebé de siete meses que le inspiró el festejo del chupete.

Cuando confesó que nunca había leído un libro en su vida, empezó a ganarse la fama de tonto e ignorante. Proliferaron los cuentos: sabías que Totti tardó cuatro meses en armar un rompecabezas que decía “de 2 a 3 años” y dijo que era un genio porque lo había hecho en menos tiempo ¡Durísimo!

Primero se enojó y después tomó la inteligente decisión de reírse. Publicó dos volúmenes de “Los mejores chistes sobre Totti contados por mí mismo” que rompieron el mercado literario en Italia. Las ganancias fueron destinadas a obras de caridad.

Ningún futbolista italiano dona tanto dinero en beneficencia como Totti. Pero su contribución más importante se produjo durante la invasión norteamericana a Irak, apoyada por el gobierno de Berlusconi. Insurgentes iraquíes habían secuestrado a la periodista italiana Giuliana Sgrena. Una marcha con miles de manifestantes no logró conmoverlos. Ese domingo, Totti salió a la cancha con una remera blanca que decía “Free Giuliana”. El custodio iraquí vio esa imagen y liberó a la periodista. Totti era su héroe y obedeció su orden.

Después del vergonzante salivazo a Poulsen, se tomó en serio su profesión. Estaba haciendo su mejor temporada hasta que le rompieron el tobillo. Se recuperó en cien días y llegó al Mundial. Discontinuo ante Ghana, invisible con Estados Unidos e insoportable ante República Checa, Lippi lo mandó al banco contra los australianos. Entró por Del Piero, tocó dos pelotas con clase y otro impresentable árbitro le dio la oportunidad de cambiar su historia azzurra con un penal. La clavó en el ángulo y anotó el gol dorado. Australia ni siquiera pudo sacar del medio. Esta vez, Francesco Totti no falló.


With NBC Pact, YouTube Site
Tries to Build a Lasting Business
Internet Video Service Sketches

June 27, 2006

Over the past decade, large media and tech companies have tried to build mass-market services offering video over the Internet. Someone has finally succeeded big: a startup with 35 employees and an office over a pizza restaurant.

Through YouTube Inc.'s Web service, consumers view short videos more than 70 million times a day, ranging from clips of unicycling jugglers and aspiring musicians to vintage Bugs Bunny cartoons and World Cup soccer highlights recorded from TV. Users post more than 60,000 videos daily, with a limit of 10 minutes for most clips.

The big question for YouTube now: Can it turn this loose bazaar of videos into an enduring business?

It will take a step in that direction today when it gets a big endorsement from General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. NBC plans to announce that it will make available on YouTube promotional video clips for some of its popular shows, such as "The Office," "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." NBC plans to market its new fall lineup using clips on YouTube, and is holding a contest for consumers to submit their own promotional videos for "The Office." It will also buy ads on the site and promote YouTube with mentions on television. That's a significant step for NBC, which earlier had demanded that YouTube take down clips of its programming. (Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. has made a deal1 to distribute movies and TV shows via
[Steve Chen]

YouTube is a classic Silicon Valley garage-to-glory tale. Two friends, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, started a company in a garage to tackle an issue they were grappling with personally: how to share home videos online. They maxed out Mr. Chen's credit card on business expenses before a financier bankrolled them. They built a huge consumer following under the noses of richer, better-known companies with vastly larger payrolls. The young company burst forth as the dominant player.

But for every Apple Computer Inc. or Google Inc., Silicon Valley's history is filled with dozens of hot startups that gained 15 minutes of fame but couldn't sustain their brief success. YouTube's executives, including some alumni of Internet flameouts, are now furiously planning strategy and making deals to sustain their upward arc.

YouTube's 29-year-old chief executive, Mr. Hurley, and its 27-year-old chief technology officer, Mr. Chen, see two big challenges. The first is to figure out how to make money. The second is to address concerns of copyright holders that many of their TV and movie clips, music videos and songs are available through YouTube without permission.

Messrs. Hurley and Chen, who worked together at eBay Inc.'s PayPal electronic-payment unit, are trying to tackle both issues with a major stroke. They're quietly building an online-ad system with Google-scale ambitions, which they intend to use to entice producers to post their best videos on YouTube. When the system rolls out later this year, YouTube will share revenue from ads that appear alongside some videos with the producers of those videos. Messrs. Hurley and Chen hope that Hollywood will come to see YouTube much as it now views network TV: a legitimate means of distributing content with revenue and promotional payoff.

With stepped-up ad sales, YouTube could become a bigger target for lawsuits. While much of its content consists of home-shot videos, critics say the most-viewed items often involve some type of copyright infringement. On a recent day, top-viewed videos included clips from "Today" and "The Daily Show," a shaky "Radiohead" concert video and World Cup soccer highlights recorded from TV.

YouTube says it removes clips when content owners request it, under a procedure outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. In some cases, copyright owners such as TV producers put the clips on its site themselves in order to generate buzz or to test ideas.

NBC has been among the media companies most actively requesting YouTube to take down videos that users have uploaded without permission. With today's agreement, NBC seeks to promote its shows to YouTube's audience while getting assurances that material it doesn't want on the site will be removed. "YouTube has done their work on protecting copyright and we have assurances from them they will continue to do so," says NBC Universal Television Group Chief Marketing Officer John Miller. "They are a bright light, they have a lot of traffic," he adds.

Based in San Mateo, Calif., YouTube got its start in February 2005, after a dinner party attended by Mr. Hurley, who studied design in college and sports shoulder-length hair, and Mr. Chen, a Taiwan-born engineer with small hoops in each ear. They took videos of the party, but grew frustrated when they tried to share the footage with friends. They set out to build an online service that would let them do just that. At the time, Mr. Chen was still working at PayPal. Mr. Hurley, who had designed PayPal's current logo during his 1999 job interview there, was doing consulting work.

They set up shop in Mr. Hurley's Menlo Park garage. In May 2005, they released a test version of the site on the Web with no marketing. Early videos available prominently featured Mr. Chen's cat, PJ.

Building a Following

The site quickly built up a following. It stood out from the growing corps of online video services, including an offering from Google, for its simplicity. YouTube serves up videos from its Web site directly or from other sites where people insert them, generally not requiring users to download any special software. To accomplish this technical feat, YouTube drew on open-source software and wrote its own code. The service can handle about 110 video formats and 64 audio formats used by digital photo and video cameras and cellphones.

It also let consumers display its videos on other sites, such as blogs or personal pages on News Corp.'s popular MySpace social networking service. Users could easily upload the video and email links to YouTube videos to each other. The influential techie site Slashdot's mention of YouTube helped boost traffic.

After seeing Mr. Chen at a party last summer, former PayPal Chief Financial Officer Roelof Botha put some clips from his honeymoon in Italy on the site. Now a partner at venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital -- known for backing Apple, Cisco, Google and Yahoo, among others -- Mr. Botha invited the YouTube co-founders to his office in mid-August. Mr. Botha says that their project shares a key attribute with some of those tech legends: "building something for a personal need that winds up being universally useful."

By September, users were viewing YouTube videos more than a million times a day. Plotting strategy with Mr. Botha in October, the YouTube founders still believed their main business opportunity involved individuals sharing home videos. The next month, they announced Sequoia had injected $3.5 million to help finance the company.

But it started becoming clear to YouTube that users were sharing more than just their own videos, and viewership stretched far beyond circles of friends. By the time of the site's official public release on Dec. 15, consumers were viewing YouTube videos more than three million times daily. Millions of users had watched clips starring Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho posted by sneaker giant Nike Inc. A few days later, someone posted to YouTube a skit from NBC's "Saturday Night Live" dubbed "Lazy Sunday," featuring two grown men rapping about cupcakes, red licorice candy and "The Chronicles of Narnia" film.

After it turned up among user favorites on the site, Mr. Hurley on Dec. 28 emailed a contact at NBC. He asked whether NBC had provided the clip itself, and volunteered to remove it from YouTube if the video had been shared without NBC's permission. The NBC staffer replied that he didn't know the answer, but would look into it, Mr. Hurley says.

Consumers viewed "Lazy Sunday" six million times before NBC on Feb. 3 contacted YouTube to request that it be removed, along with hundreds of other clips including Jay Leno monologues and video from the Winter Olympics.

Run-In With MySpace

YouTube's rising popularity led to run-ins with others. In December, MySpace blocked users from playing YouTube videos on their MySpace pages. Consumer outcry followed and MySpace activated the YouTube feature again. A News Corp. executive later said MySpace was concerned that the YouTube videos contained porn, and only reactivated them once YouTube had given it assurances about porn filtering. (YouTube says it removes any pornography after users point it out.) Shortly after the incident, MySpace released its own video service to compete with YouTube.

As YouTube users began complaining that the system was slowing, the company spent more on technology. In January, it began displaying limited advertising to help offset its rising costs for computer equipment and telecom lines. Mr. Chen predicts YouTube will open one new data center with computers to run its service each month this year.

Thanks partly to its use on MySpace and the Saturday Night Live clip, YouTube quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Amateur video enthusiasts created their own video tributes to "Lazy Sunday" that they titled "Lazy Monday" and "Lazy Muncie." Videos of young people, including two Chinese students, hamming it up in front of Webcams while lip synching to popular songs were viewed millions of times.

Along the way, the entertainment world began exploring how it might benefit from YouTube's audience. The Weinstein Co., a movie company run by producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, in April premiered the first eight minutes of the film "Lucky Number Slevin" on YouTube. Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Vantage movie unit last Friday posted exclusively on YouTube an 83-second animated clip poking fun at Al Gore to promote its "An Inconvenient Truth" film. By midday yesterday, it had been viewed nearly 600,000 times. "As a marketer you almost can't find a better place than YouTube to promote your movie," says Andrew Lin, vice president for interactive marketing at Paramount Vantage. Viacom owns YouTube rival ifilm.

Still, there were bumps. C-SPAN asked YouTube to take down popular clips of an appearance by television personality Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. C-SPAN distributed the clips free through Google's video service.

Some top tech and entertainment executives have lambasted the company -- while others have showed grudging admiration. Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates in May told attendees of The Wall Street Journal's "D" technology conference that, given the copyright issues and the lack of a clear path to profitability, his company would be "in a lot of trouble" if it did what YouTube has. But he also acknowledged spending time on the site. "I saw a bunch of old Harlem Globetrotters movies up there the other night, it's great," he said.

Google and other YouTube competitors also stepped up their games. Google simplified its video-upload interface to match what YouTube had been offering. Yahoo this month upgraded its video service to allow consumers to submit videos directly to it, competing more squarely with YouTube.

Rumors have circulated in recent months that some major media companies have expressed interest in buying YouTube. In response Mr. Hurley says the company is not for sale. He says an initial public offering in the future is a possibility.

The YouTube co-founders decline to provide many specific details of the ad system they expect to gradually begin rolling out next month. But they say they're not fond of commercials that play before a user can watch a video, known in the industry as "prerolls." YouTube recently hired Yahoo sales executive Tony Nethercutt to build its sales team.

Submission by Cellphone

Consumers can now submit videos from their mobile phones, and Messrs. Chen and Hurley say they one day should be able to view YouTube clips on phones and other devices. They say they'll potentially expand beyond video to audio and other content.

For now, YouTube remains by far the most-visited video site on the Web. It attracted more than 20 million U.S. users in May, compared with 11.1 million for Microsoft's MSN Video and around seven million for both MySpace's video site and Google Video, according to research firm NetRatings Inc. YouTube says behavior indicates that users are most interested in viewing clips three minutes or shorter.

"We're at the fork in the road where Google was at maybe four or five years ago before they rolled out" their current ad model, says Mr. Chen.

A big question is whether more advertising and promotions will drive away some users who like the site's edgy feeling. Consumers spoke up earlier this year when YouTube's home page began to highlight in yellow links to videos from official content partners, questioning the preferential treatment. In response, YouTube quickly removed the yellow highlighting from the page.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lo peor del mundial:

No. No son los arbitros. Lo peor del mundial es la posicion ortodoxa y cada vez mas dificil de entender que ha tomado la FIFA respecto del uso de la tecnologia en el futbol.
En el año 1930, cuando se realizo el primer torneo en Uruguay, un italiano, para saber que ocurrio en una jugada discutida, tenia que abrir el diario del dia siguiente y confiar en la veracidad y el criterio de un periodista apostado en Uruguay. Este hacia de ojos y oidos para todo un pais. La decision del arbitro en una jugada clave que transcurrio en una milesima de segundo era juzgada por un reportero que, vaya uno a saber desde que angulo panoramico (y pasional), vio la jugada. El mundo cambio desde entonces. Hoy desde todos los rincones del planeta se ve una jugada clave desde todos los angulos imaginables. Todos quienes estan siguiendo el partido analizan una jugada dudosa una y otra vez en un periodo de 15 segundos, enfocada esta desde 4 o 5 angulos diferentes.
No se entiende como a esta altura del partido la FIFA se niega a abrir la posibilidad de que un segundo arbitro desde una cabina con veinte pantallas pueda asistir al arbitro principal, quien seguiria contando con la ultima palabra a la hora de la decision final.
Despues del fracaso del 2002 por la forma en la que Italia, España y Estados Unidos se despidieron del torneo, solo para contar los errores mas gruesos, la FIFA mantiene una posicion ridicula que pone un manto de injusticia e incertidumbre constante en un juego que podria ser mucho mas transparente sin perder el dinamismo que lo caracteriza.
La FIFA pretende eximirse de toda responsabilidad tirando todo el peso sobre los arbitros. Blatter ayer dijo que el arbitro ruso que dirijio Portugal - Holanda deberia haberse sacado una amarilla a si mismo. Los arbitros no son peores ahora, siempre existe un gran margen de error humano en un juego tan rapido en el que un jugador tiene que controlar la conducta y el accionar de otros 22. La gran diferencia hoy es que la tecnologia reduce ese margen de error a un minimo para todos quienes siguen el partido. Para todos menos uno, el arbitro.
Yo le sacaria roja a la FIFA.

Messi y Tevez de arranque

Es la propuesta del Victor Hugo del futbol. Nada me parece mas acertado.
Este es su analisis del partido contra Mexico:

El diablo anduvo dando vueltas, pero fracasó una vez más. Flotaba en la ciudad en la que Goethe imaginó a Mefistófeles sacando vino de la nada en las mesas de la Auerbachs Keller (hechizando a un grupo de estudiantes que al despertar creían que había sucedido un milagro) la idea de que lo imposible, para el gran engañador, era conseguir que México derrotara a la Argentina.

Más todavía durante los 90 minutos, cuando los jugadores de La Volpe mejoraron sensiblemente lo hecho en el Mundial. Al mismo tiempo, entre los argentinos algunas respuestas individuales demasiado modestas confundían a los espectadores.

El "milagro" futbolístico de Leipzig amenazó al torneo. Pero al diablo le quemaron la cola Messi, Tevez y Aimar, los tardíos y, sin embargo, trascendentes cambios que vinieron a darle a la Selección de Pekerman un perfil decididamente ganador. Y la noche de la seductora ciudad de los pasajes que unen deliciosas plazas, la que daba un pasaje a cuartos, terminó como Dios manda...

No porque sea argentino, sino porque de vez en cuando el fútbol deja hacer a la justicia y nadie dudaba antes -ni dudó luego del partido- de la superioridad material de la Argentina. Aun en los pocos momentos complicados, cuando se estuvo en desventaja, al principio, y en un par de salvadas del Pato que fueron decisivas, la Argentina era más.

Menos que lo esperado, pero evidentemente un equipo de distinta categoría. Si hasta más de un suplente albiceleste sería titular en los verdes, mientras que, salvo Rafael Márquez, ningún mexicano de los actuales sacaría de su puesto a los muchachos de Pekerman.

No obstante estas apreciaciones, México demostró que tenía mucho más para dar. En términos tácticos y anímicos el equipo dio magníficas respuestas, jugó con aplomo, astucia, amparado en el paraguas del aceptado favoritismo argentino. Y para disuadir a cualquiera que imaginase a México apichonado, salió a pelear en el centro del ring y aplicó el primer golpe importante.

El mérito albiceleste fue la compostura, el buen estilo que, aun jugando nada más que regular, le permitió acomodar el partido a sus necesidades. Y tuvo más la pelota y fue más agresivo, no porque estuviera pugnando por el empate, lo cual había llegado con afortunada premura, sino para ganar el partido.

En eso se apoyaba la confianza que el equipo seguía provocando. Pero no se hacía la diferencia y los cambios (los ingresos de Messi y Tevez) se demoraban sin que pudiera entenderse por qué José quería seguir teniendo razón con Saviola y Crespo a cualquier precio o había imaginado un partido de 120 minutos. Afortunadamente, al decidirse, lo hizo con un plus muy valioso como Pablo Aimar. La película que se vio entonces pareció continuar la saga del partido con Serbia.

Dicen que no hay mal que por bien no venga y este podría ser un caso más. Messi y Tevez estarán desde el comienzo ante Alemania, o estamos entendiendo todo mal.

Berlín, la más melancólica de las capitales del mundo, con la atmósfera de esa ciudad que supo de la fiesta, la decadencia y la resurrección, aguarda por un partido entre dos potencias futbolísticas, una de las cuales tiene la enorme ventaja de ser local. Una forma de contrarrestarla es oponer a la supremacía de la tribuna adversa una superior condición técnica en el terreno.

Saviola y Crespo podrían ser "alemanes". Tevez y Messi, en cambio, son diferentes y superiores en sus calidades. Juegan a otra cosa -no solamente con relación a sus compañeros- y las complicaciones que generan no son las que enfrentan los alemanes.

Si Alemania, como México, logra acotar a Riquelme (sedado por el asalto inmediato de varios rivales cuando le pasan la pelota) los goleadores no participarían. En cambio, Tevez y Messi pueden abrirse camino por si solos y aliviar la carga que, en solitario, pesa sobre Juan Román.

No tanto el resultado como la forma en que se dé el mismo, si es una derrota, definirá la nota del seleccionado de Pekerman. Tiene parciales brillantes, buenos y regulares. Pero necesita hacer una gran presentación para que si se tiene que volver a Buenos Aires sea dejando instalado el aprecio más alto.

Hay jugadores con los que parece que ni el diablo puede y la Argentina los tiene. Hay jugadores que permitirán festejar en la mismísima puerta de Brandeburgo, abriéndose camino a todo, empezando por las semifinales del Mundial.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

In Brazil, Unpaved Path to Excellence


How does Brazil do it? Year after year, World Cup after World Cup, soccer stars seem to roll out of here like cars off a factory assembly line.

First came the generation of Pelé, Garrincha, Tostão and Rivelino, followed by Zico, Falcão and Socrates. Since the mid-1990's, Romário, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and now Kaká, Adriano and Robinho have further burnished Brazil's reputation for unmatched excellence. To the average fan around the world, Brazilian soccer appears to be a powerful, well-oiled machine.

But those who know it best are aware that the reality is far more complicated, that the country's record five World Cup championships are more a result of popular passion for the beautiful game, as it is often called here, than of any organized apparatus that methodically finds and develops players.

"There is no system in Brazil," said Carlos Roberto de Oliveira, who, playing as Roberto Dinamite, was a member of the Brazilian national team in the 1970's and early 1980's. "Everything happens on a random, haphazard basis."

To hear Brazilians tell it, organized professional soccer here is chaotic, corrupt and in perpetual disarray. But the game itself is so deeply ingrained in daily life — and in Brazilian identity and self-esteem — that its strength at the grass roots more than compensates for those deficiencies at the top.

Familiarity with soccer begins early, producing a bottomless pool of talent. By age 3, a boy has probably learned how to dribble the ball, and by 7 he is playing the informal sandlot version of the game with his pals in any open space they can find — a clearing in the jungle, an empty lot in a large city, a pasture or on the beach — and maybe sleeping with the ball, if he is fortunate enough to afford one.

Despite the considerable economic advances it has made over the last generation, Brazil is still a country with millions of poor among its 185 million people. And it is the poor who have traditionally seen success in soccer as their fastest ticket to prosperity and prestige.

Of the 23 players on the national squad competing in Germany this month, only three come from a background that would be considered middle class here. Most of the players, whether they were born in cities or in the countryside, come from families that are humble, the preferred term for poverty here.

Their success breeds only more success, especially now that the globalization of soccer has made Brazilian players increasingly in demand for teams all over the world. When a poor boy sees that a player like Ronaldinho, considered the best in the world going into the World Cup, can earn 28 million euros (about $35 million) a year, it encourages him to aim high and devote himself to the game.

"There are now so many role models, and no glass ceiling," said Alex Bellos, the author of "Futebol: Soccer, the Brazilian Way." "Go into any shantytown or urban center, and you're sure to find someone who had a mate at school who played with Ronaldo or knows someone else who is a pro footballer. The idea is more than a dream, it's a reality."

That hunger for success, however, does not explain the extraordinary inventiveness and fluidity with which Brazilians play the game. Some of the country's most knowledgeable analysts see that skill as a response to the confusion and unpredictability of daily life here, which has made Brazilians adept at what is called dribbling around rules and barriers.

"We Brazilians are accustomed to having to improvise, to being creative when we are in a tight spot," said Tostão, now a popular commentator whose real name is Eduardo Gonçalves de Andrade. "It's the foundation of our music and art, too, and that intuitive ability to sidestep the rules and improvise on the spot is what distinguishes the great player from the excellent."

As Brazil urbanizes and as it becomes harder to find open spaces, the game is also moving indoors, to gymnasiums in a form known as futsal. Ronaldinho and Robinho came out of that setting — the soccer equivalent of arena football in the United States.

"Futsal teaches players a capacity to create in a small space," said Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil's most influential and outspoken soccer commentators. "Then, when they get to play on the grass, on that larger stage, they can glory in really having room to create."

Traditionally, the path of a Brazilian player was clearly defined from the moment he was spotted playing sandlot ball, usually by an amateur scout who was often a fan of a local team. He was signed by that team as a teenager, passed on to a larger regional club if he showed promise, sold to one of the 20 or so teams with large national followings, and finally, if he was very lucky, ended his playing days in Europe.

Throughout his career, however long it lasted, a player was little more than a piece of merchandise. If he offended management or wanted too much money, he could easily be replaced because he had few contractual rights and there was always more talent waiting in the pipeline.

But when Pelé, the country's greatest player, became sports minister in the mid-1990's, he made an effort to change the system. Using his prestige, he managed to push legislation through the Brazilian legislature that was meant to reduce the power of clubs and give players more control of their careers.

The so-called Pelé Law has weakened the clubs, commentators agree, but it has also ended up benefiting agents more than the players. The agents, or impresarios, as they are known, have increasingly assumed responsibility for finding promising players, who are signed to personal management contracts and parked at clubs willing to showcase them until their value increases and they can be sold to a European club, sometimes while still teenagers.

"In the last decade, this has become an industry," Tostão said. "The clubs don't have as many scouts out there as they once did, people who will call out of love for a club and tell them they have to see a kid. Today, it's all the impresarios and their personal networks of scouts, which I think is a bad thing because they grab the kids and put them under their personal control."

In hopes of getting an early look at future stars, teams in Italy, England, Spain and Belgium have either bought pieces of Brazilian clubs or signed development deals with them. They are also bypassing the clubs and the player agents by sending their own scouts to scour the backlands and the urban slums for exportable talent, as Major League Baseball teams do in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Brazilian law and international rules forbid teams to sign players who have barely entered their teens. But to get around that restriction, European teams are now offering jobs as drivers or cooks to the parents of promising young players, who are then taken to Europe and enrolled on their junior squads.

Private soccer schools are also growing in importance as sources of players. These operate independently of clubs and for the most part do not receive support from the Ministry of Sports or the Brazilian national confederation. The confederation has a $165 million contract with Nike, but is widely criticized for contributing little to development programs for Brazilian youth.

Roberto Dinamite is one of several former players who operate such academies. Born and reared in Duque de Caxias, a working-class suburb of Rio, he has established the headquarters of his Roberto Dinamite Institute across the street from the rutted field where he was first spotted at age 10 by a scout for the Vasco da Gama club.

His school in his old neighborhood has functioned for little more than a decade. But it has produced one player who is on the Brazilian national junior team, another who plays for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands and two who are signed to teams in Rio.

More than 150 boys, ages 7 through 16, participate in the program. On a cool and windy afternoon the day before Brazil's debut in the Cup, a group of 13-year-olds was going through a drill that required them to run a zigzag among a row of traffic cones, then take a pass with the right foot, dribble and finally kick the ball with the left foot.

"All of these kids know how to play, and every one of them wants to be the next Ronaldinho," Roberto Dinamite said. "But if there is even half a Ronaldinho here, or at some other school like this, then Brazil is going to remain atop the heap."

Friday, June 23, 2006


36 Hours:Hollywood

Del NYT:

"Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood, and you'll find the real tinsel underneath," Oscar Levant, that Algonquin wit, once observed. And though the lights do shine brightly for the fabulous here, the back streets of this gritty pocket of Los Angeles hold hidden gems for the everyman. Wander a recently dolled-up stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and cut into side streets that lead to unexpected pleasures. Discover restaurants stylish enough to make West Hollywood blush, or head to the rising hills and discover Hollywood's most becoming angles. Try something wacky — don't even look at Mann's Chinese Theater. Hollywood is on the rise again, and the granddaddy of glamour and glitz has never looked better.


5 p.m.

1) Quiet on the Set

Tucked into the last curve of a residential street in the Hollywood Hills, where Weidlake Drive dead-ends, a plain white sign marks an entrance. Open the gate, make a hard left, and you will stumble on the striking landscape of the Hollywood Reservoir. From this spot at the Mulholland Dam, you can take in sweeping views of the deep blue reservoir, the rolling mansion-lined hills and the legendary Hollywood sign. The reservoir was built in the early 1920's by William Mulholland to try to ease Los Angeles's water shortages, but the history doesn't end there. That enormous pinkish-orange house on the hill to the right of the sign was Bugsy Siegel's and later belonged to Madonna. "Chinatown" was filmed here. Most recently, landslides closed parts of the hiking path that circles the lake; so for now, just sit back and savor the silence.

7 p.m.

2) Try the Elvis

In East Hollywood, a Thai Town is rising. And along the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Bronson and Normandie Avenues there is no shortage of Thai restaurants — but only one has a Thai Elvis impersonator. At Palms Thai Restaurant (5900 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-462-5073), locals knock elbows over steaming noodles to tunes courtesy of a man they call the Thai Elvis. He's Kavee Thongpricha (you can call him Kevin), and he punches in on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 sharp. Culinary nerds will want to head straight to the back of the menu. Listed under Wild Things are peppery, garlicky frogs' legs ($15.99) and crispy fish maw — fried air bladder — salad ($7.99).

10 p.m.

3) Heels on the Bar

There's plenty of scene to be found in the Hollywood night, which is exactly why Birds Cafe (5925 Franklin Avenue, 323-465-0175), a rotisserie chicken-cum-local watering hole, sounds so much better once 10 o'clock rolls around. Sitting on a leafy block of Franklin Avenue, Birds fills up late with spillover from the Upright Citizen Brigade Theater (5919 Franklin Avenue, 323-908-8702; next door and 20-somethings unwilling to cough up the gas money to go to the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood. Slip into an oversize leather booth for a couple of pints or grab a table on the patio and watch the passing hipsters — or, as one regular calls them, Charlie Browns. Word has it that if you stay late enough, you may be pulled onto the bar to dance.
Video: 36 Hours in Hollywood
Cindy Price spends 36 hours in Hollywood and experiences a side of the city that most people never see.


11 a.m.

4) The Egg Man

Right next to the looming presence of a Church of Scientology building, you'll find the charming Square One Dining (4854 Fountain Avenue, 323-661-1109), a three-month-old restaurant that serves a fantastic breakfast all day. Though the menu has more complex offerings, Philip Fox, the owner, prides himself on directing rookies to the straightforward egg dishes to showcase his farm fresh, and often organic, ingredients. "The eggs we'll serve next week are in the chicken today," he swears.

1 p.m.

5) Easy, Trigger

You are welcome to head out on foot through Griffith Park for a distant glimpse of those famous nine letters, but nobody walks in Los Angeles. Opt for a horseback ride at the Sunset Ranch (3400 North Beachwood Drive, 323-469-5450;, Hollywood's last dude ranch. The guided one-hour trip ($25) wanders along canyon edges to allow for stunning views of the park, the Bronson Caves and the inescapable sign. But the horses are gentle, and the guides confident and funny as they punch up the trip with bits of history and legend — and all the gray areas between.

3 p.m.

6) Toxins Out

Ever wonder what West Coasters are going on about with all their sage oils and chakras? Lord knows, but it's high time someone found out. Celebrities and laymen alike flock to Golden Bridge Yoga (6322 De Longpre Avenue, 323-936-4172; for classes, but it's still easy to book a massage at its recent addition, the Amrit Davaa Wellness Center. It offers almost a dozen different treatments, but if you closed down Birds Cafe the night before, it's best to book Hari Narayan. In just over an hour, Ms. Narayan's raindrop-technique massage ($90) pledges to detoxify you physically — and mentally. 5 p.m.

7) Fat of the Land

All right, wheat-grass warrior. Let's get some chili dogs into you before you pass out from clean living. The venerable Pink's still reigns with the fanny-pack set, but Skooby's Hot Dogs (6654 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-468-3647), above, a relative newcomer, has some frankfurter connoisseurs saying it surpasses Pink's. After eating your fill, follow the trail of Hollywood stars and take a left at La Brea. Two Iranian brothers do ice cream with panache at Mashti Malone's (1525 North La Brea Avenue, 323-874-6168), a Hollywood haunt seriously dedicated to uncanny flavors. Celebrities order in bulk, craving Mashti's concoctions of rosewater saffron, or faludeh, a rice-starch sorbet. Dig into a bowl of full-fat orange blossom, and watch the parade of Size 0's file past. Ah, to be young, happy and not looking for an acting job.

7 p.m.

8) Chiller Theater

If the weather is good, snag a bottle of wine and head over to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, 323-469-1181; Every Saturday night in the summer, a kinetic crowd descends on the lawn for Cinespia's ( film screenings. The creepy magic here is undeniable: the palms swaying against the velvet sky, the safety-in-numbers spookiness of walking among the graves, the crystal-clear screenings of classics like "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Birds." Doors open at 6:30 for the 8:30 show, and the lawn fills up fast.

11 p.m.

9) Bowery West

Hollywood is suddenly awash in so many trendy late-night restaurants, you'd think you'd died and gone to Manhattan. Speaking of which, right next door to the hipper-than-thou Magnolia on Sunset Boulevard, is the Bowery (6268 Sunset Boulevard, 323-465-3400), a discreet little joint fitted out to replicate a New York bar. Check out the tin ceilings, which the owner, George Abou-Daoud, notes were shipped in from Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The burger ($9) is top-notch, but more important, how is the Manhattan at the Bowery? Served over rocks on a hot summer night, it's just a touch sweet. But hey, so is the service.


10:30 a.m.

10) After the Big Sleep

Are you tired of being fabulous yet? Even superstars need a day of rest, and so the City of Angels declared: Let there be brunch. Off Vine (6263 Leland Way, 323-962-1900), above, might be the prettiest little restaurant in Hollywood, mostly because it doesn't feel Hollywood at all. Tucked away in a bright, century-old bungalow and surrounded by flowers, Off Vine's large garden patio is the kind of place that persuades you to linger over Bloody Marys ($7) and eggs Benedict ($10.95) all day. And you know what? This is Hollywood, kid. You go right ahead.

The Basics

Besides Los Angeles International, there are several smaller airports near Hollywood, including ones in Long Beach, Burbank and Ontario, that are used by low-cost airlines including JetBlue and Southwest. Check for a comparison of prices.

In a pinch, anyone can find a room in Hollywood — Super 8's and Holiday Inns abound. If you book ahead, though, there is also some nice midrange lodging.

The Hollywood Roosevelt (7000 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-466-7000; was recently overhauled. Weekend rates start at $189. From the dim lobby to the minimalist rooms, the hotel has a young, urban feel. A stroll down to the über-trendy pool will have you dropping your jaw at the scene or giggling — depending on your sensibility. Either way, welcome to Los Angeles.

Just a couple of blocks away, the Magic Castle Hotel (7025 Franklin Avenue, 323-851-0800; starts at $169 a night and has a near-perfect track record among the quarrelsome users of TripAdvisor ( Situated just off the touristy section, this boutique hotel has a residential feel; in fact, the pool area bears an uncanny resemblance to the set of "Melrose Place."

A Vote for Venezuela Is a Vote for Iran


There are elections taking place this fall that will have a major impact on Americans. But we're not talking about congressional races at home. This balloting is for the five non-permanent U.N Security Council seats that will open up in 2007.

In Latin America, the competition between Guatemala and Venezuela for the U.N. Security Council seat that Argentina will vacate at the end of this year is of particular importance.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has made it clear that when it comes to geopolitics, his preferences lie with hostile states like Iran, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea. A seat on the Security Council, where the presidency also rotates monthly, would give the Venezuelan strongman ways to make those preferences operational at the multilateral level.

Five of 15 seats on the Security Council are permanent (held by China, Russia, France, Britain and the U.S.). The other 10 slots are two-year terms (see our table). Only permanent seats have veto power but to pass a resolution requires nine ayes. That means every seat matters and if Venezuela gets on the council, it could help block a resolution -- that has not been vetoed -- against its much-admired ally Iran.

Guatemala announced its candidacy for this seat in 2002, but in 2005 Venezuela also threw its sombrero in the ring. U.N. rules say that each region can select its own candidate for an open seat. But if "consensus" around one candidate cannot be reached regionally, the full U.N. general assembly votes in secret ballot. Both Guatemala and Venezuela are working hard to shore up votes for that eventuality.

The Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. warned the world recently that a vote for Guatemala is a vote for the U.S. There's a grain of truth to that since Guatemala is an American ally, with a government that shares our world-view on multilateral efforts to contain despots. But what is truer still is that a vote for Venezuela is a vote for Iran, which shares the current Venezuelan values of tyranny and aggression.

Guatemala points out that it is a founding member of the U.N. but has never had a seat on the council. It also argues that small countries with valuable experience in the region are too often overlooked for the Security Council and that the last time any Central American country had a seat was in 1997-98.

Yet the Guatemalan campaign goes well beyond arguments about bureaucratic musical chairs. In its drive to win approval from the U.N. membership, it has been accumulating an impressive record of international cooperation by pitching in on a variety of U.N. efforts.

Chief among its qualifications is its active role in international peace-keeping. Coban, in Guatemala, is now home to a Central American regional peacekeeping school and training center. Today, Guatemalan peacekeepers are in the Congo and in Haiti, and military observers and officers are in five other African nations, including Sudan. In January eight Guatemalan peacekeepers were killed in the Congo. In expressing U.S. support for Guatemala's candidacy this week, a State Department spokesman noted the fact that "Guatemalans have shed blood for the U.N.," making the country "a strong candidate, and deserving of support."

Guatemala says it would also bring to the job invaluable lessons from its own bitter 35-year civil war and its success in finding peace since 1996. By sharing this history, it maintains that it can help strengthen U.N. peacekeeping efforts, help countries resolve conflicts and play a positive role in postconflict activities. The U.N. membership seemed to acknowledge the seriousness of Guatemala's efforts recently when it voted the tiny country onto the new human-rights council with 142 votes.

Guatemala emphasizes its democratic credentials, as well as its view that the seat is a voice for the region, not for its own national interests. Compare this to the Venezuelan campaign, which rests largely on oil "diplomacy" and the capacity to push anti-American buttons around the U.N.

It may seem strange that Venezuela has any support in the region. Over the past seven years, its meddling in its neighbors' domestic politics have earned it a reputation as a bully. Mr. Chávez is persona non grata in more than a few Latin nations. Many countries are worried about Venezuela's big spending to acquire fighter jets and 100,000 kalishnikovs from Russia. Yet, despite all this, the Chávez government has money, and this has allowed it to advance its cause.

Of the 33 members in the region, 12 are from English-speaking Caribbean islands. These poor economies (many of them crime-ridden) have become heavily dependent on subsidized Venezuelan oil and on Cuba's legendary traveling doctors and teachers. It wouldn't be surprising if some of these countries were to line up with Venezuela.

Argentina, once a haven for Nazis and more recently a harbor for accused Spanish and Chilean terrorists, is also a Venezuelan pawn now. The country has been so incompetent about managing its resources that it too needs charity from Mr. Chávez, making it about as independent from the oil dictatorship as Bolivia and Cuba. More surprising is Brazil's decision to side with Mr. Chávez, who as Bolivia's unofficial energy adviser orchestrated the confiscation of Brazilian assets there recently. Apparently, the eternal Brazilian struggle to prove that it can challenge U.S. "hegemony" in the region trumps the need to regain dignity and protect its investments abroad.

In spite of all this, Guatemala has the solid backing of the more serious democracies in the region -- such as Colombia and Mexico -- and insists that it will not withdraw its candidacy. That means that in all likelihood the vote will probably go to the General Assembly. Guatemala believes it can win that ballot. Let's hope so. If not, Latin America will have handed Iran a victory that is likely to threaten world peace.

Organización de Naziones Unidas

Visto en el Opinador:

por Alejandro Tagliavini

El Secretario General de la ONU, Kofi Annan, acaba de anunciar una "nueva era en los derechos humanos" Sin duda, de rojo o de negro, Hitler estaría de acuerdo.

Por primera vez se reunieron en Ginebra los miembros del recién creado Consejo que reemplazó a la desprestigiada Comisión de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas, disuelta en marzo pasado después de 60 inútiles años de existencia. El siglo XX fue marcado por la victoria sobre dos totalitarismos, el nazismo tras el triunfo aliado, y el estalinismo, con la caída del Muro de Berlín. En nada de esto tuvo la ONU mérito alguno, desde su rimbombante "Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos" en 1948.

¿Que haría que este nuevo Consejo funcione? Organismos de defensa de los derechos humanos lamentaron que formen parte de este nuevo organismo países como China, Argelia, Arabia Saudita, Azerbaiyán, Bangladesh, Cuba, Nigeria, Pakistán, Rusia y Túnez. Estados Unidos decidió no participar.

Frente a los representantes de los 47 países miembros Kofi Annan, abrió los debates. Esta primera sesión, que continuará hasta el 30 de junio, estará destinada fundamentalmente a elaborar los métodos de trabajo. Es decir, estos “capeones de los derechos humanos” establecerán los procedimientos para monitorear el respeto a las personas. ¿Admitirán las cámaras de gas?

Para mostrar hasta qué punto es pura hipocresía, el Canciller argentino, Jorge Taiana, presentó la iniciativa franco-argentina para crear una Convención para la Protección de Personas contra las Desapariciones Forzadas. Informó el diario bonaerense La Nueva Provincia que, el viernes 4 de julio de 1975, una bomba estalló en el bar porteño El Ibérico. La finalidad del atentado fue asesinar a un oficial naval. Murieron un mozo y una mujer; fueron detenidos Jorge Enrique Taiana y su esposa. Taiana, quien hace treinta años se dedicaba a poner bombas y matar gente, como canciller se llena ahora la boca con la defensa de los derechos humanos. Hay hipocresías siniestras.

Pero las mentiras de la ONU no terminan aquí. La Asamblea General deberá elegir, en octubre, a los cinco miembros no permanentes del Consejo de Seguridad para 2007-2008. Venezuela competirá con Guatemala para obtener el asiento que Argentina dejará y que, tradicionalmente, corresponde a América Latina.

Guatemala anunció su candidatura el 11 de junio de 2002. Desde entonces ha estado trabajando para conseguir apoyo. Se presume que la mayoría de los países Centroamericanos la favorecerán, al igual que Perú, países de la Unión Europea, de Africa y Asia. México, Colombia y Estados Unidos ya anunciaron que la apoyarán.

En cambio, Venezuela presentó su candidatura en febrero. Argentina, Chile y Brasil le darán su voto. Además de otros “pacíficos” países, como Siria y algunos miembros de la Unión Africana. Y ya Chávez anunció que realizará una gira por Vietnam, Rusia, China y las muy “seguras” Irán y Corea del Norte, a fin de promover su ingreso al Consejo de Seguridad.

Según el vicepresidente venezolano José Vicente Rangel, las naciones que voten por Venezuela "contarán con el apoyo de un país dispuesto a servir a los intereses de la paz”. El embajador de Venezuela ante la ONU aseguró que "ésta (la ONU) será una trinchera: trabajaremos para denunciar, para desenmascarar". Ya se ve a qué se refieren con paz: trincheras. Para los simulacros de guerra que se organizan en muchos estados venezolanos, por orden de Chávez quién asegura que Estados Unidos planea una invasión, se reclutan civiles que reciben entrenamiento militar: trotan, aprenden el manejo de armas, tanques y minas. Los niños son entrenados para esconder comida y las personas ancianas pueden colaborar en tareas de retaguardia. Según cifras oficiales, hay aproximadamente 100.000 reservistas. Inspirados en los combatientes del Vietcong, han cavado túneles en donde se guardarían alimentos y armas.

Así pues, van los derechos humanos y la seguridad internacionales. Eso sí, los ciudadanos que observamos a la ONU hacer la vista gorda y hasta legitimar a estos dictadores militaristas, tenemos que pagar (por vía impositiva) la vida, al mejor estilo príncipes medievales, de estos funcionarios multiestatales que conforman las Naziones.

Bonding, Buenos Aires-Style


June 23, 2006

Argentine President Néstor Kirchner today concludes his four-day visit to Madrid, where he hopes to finish his country's dangerous tango with delinquent debt of over $1 billion owed to Spanish investors. The rest of the world, however, remains a wallflower. What about the $5 billion owed to Italian pensioners, the $5 billion owed to German and Dutch investors, or the well over $10 billion owed to Americans?

Still, Mr. Kirchner's Madrid visit signals an about-face in Argentine debt politics. With the largest debt default in history -- $143 billion -- on his hands, suddenly he is willing to deal with investors who refused to accept the meager terms of his country's 2001 restructuring. Speaking with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero yesterday, Mr. Kirchner said Spain's debts will be honored "because it is our economic and moral obligation." The rest of the world must wonder, to paraphrase Napoleon, if Argentine morality ends at the Pyrenees.

In the 1990s, Argentina saw a period of dramatic growth after years of political and financial turmoil. This renaissance was not fueled by domestic investment; sufficient funds simply did not exist. Nor would enough funding have come in from the IMF or World Bank. Rather, Buenos Aires looked outside its borders for sources of hard currency. Given its penchant for not honoring its debts, Argentina was forced to offer high-interest bonds to lure new investors -- even with the guarantee of a government-issued bond.

The Argentines found takers primarily in their European brethren -- hundreds of thousands of Italian, Spanish, German and Dutch pensioners and individual investors. All told, Europeans bought more than $28 billion worth of the bonds, fueling Argentina's wild ride.

Sadly, history tends to repeat itself. Reserves rapidly diminished as Argentina's foreign debts matured. Instead of difficult but necessary belt-tightening, Argentina's political leaders refused to slow the train down. Instead of honoring its international obligations, Buenos Aires chose to give its debt a "haircut" by offering its creditors an unprecedented 70% reduction in face value -- the largest such default in history.

In typical bond-default restructurings, nine in 10 bondholders are willing to accept a new deal. But only three-quarters took Argentina's offer of a paltry 30 cents on the dollar.

Not surprisingly, Spaniards aren't the only ones demanding that Buenos Aires honor their debts. Earlier this week Italians protested in front of the Argentine Embassy in Rome, calling on new Prime Minister Romano Prodi to demand repayment of their investments. An estimated 450,000 Italian families, investors and pensioners bought into the promise of billions in Argentine bonds offering relatively large returns for a seemingly safe investment in government-issued debt.

With a new government in Italy, President Kirchner has an opportunity to heal the wounds of having defaulted on the savings of thousands of Italians. Mr. Prodi won with such a small margin that he cannot afford to avoid any issue affecting Italian voters. And with Italians holding some $5 billion in Argentine debt, much is at stake.

Actually gaining access to these funds is not going to be an easy task for Mr. Prodi's fledgling Italian majority. It will not be easy for Mr. Kirchner either. When the Argentine Congress approved the debt renegotiation package in 2005, it strictly forbade any new opening of the process. The idea was to encourage as many bondholders as possible to participate, avoiding future speculation. In order to reopen the deal the Argentina Congress would have to repeal this "padlock" bill.

Buenos Aires may not have a choice. Even though the Argentine economy has shown a steady budget surplus of around 3.5% of GDP over the last three years, this growth is not enough to service all of the debt payments currently due. This is true despite the fact that the Argentine government was able to cancel all of the debt it owed the IMF.

The Kirchner administration plays to the masses as well as any government. But the Casa Rosada must understand that the Argentine economy is reaching ominous capacity constraints. Further growth -- and political success -- will require new foreign direct investment. And once-bitten investors will think twice about pouring money into Argentina again unless the government takes positive, market-friendly action to soothe its existing, disgruntled bondholders. For starters, Mr. Kirchner could abandon the reckless market interventionism that has led his government to impose price controls on utilities, tax exports and sometimes suspend beef exports to the U.S.

Savers around the world have one good reason to hope for economic sanity in Argentina: political self-preservation. Mr. Kirchner has a keen eye on how his policies will affect both his re-election prospects in next year's polls, as well as his legacy. Barnstorming foreign capitals proves that Mr. Kirchner is seeking investment to keep his economy growing. With foreign investment lagging, he surely knows that he must eventually return to the bond markets he burned in 2001.