Tuesday, December 10, 2013
As a teenager, I remember being fascinated by Mandela, but it wasn’t until I interviewed Johnny Clegg, the (white) leader of apartheid-era South Africa’s first interracial band, that I gained a greater understanding and appreciation of Mandela and his country. (I recall that my article on Clegg was published in The Baltimore Sun on July 18, 1996, Mandela’s 78th birthday).
Getting to South Africa became a goal of mine, and seven years later, when I was living in Argentina, I made it happen. I relied heavily on the advice of my colleague and friend Jon Jeter who had recently become The Washington Post's South America correspondent after four years as The Post’s Southern Africa correspondent. Jeter’s insights and contacts made sure I was able to see things both on and off the beaten path. Visiting Cape Town and Robben Island, and then Johannesburg and Soweto, were truly life-changing experiences, and I treasure the things I learned and the people I met there.
Later, I befriended South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina, Tony Leon. Despite his role as a vocal opposition party leader during and after Mandela’s presidency, Leon was made a diplomat by the ANC-led government, a move surely inspired by Mandela’s ethos of inclusion. (Interestingly, Leon’s successor in Buenos Aires is Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, Nelson and Winnie’s oldest daughter). Leon (who wrote an intriguing op-ed about Mandela today) and the many other South Africans who I have come in contact with over the years have led me to appreciate even more how their country produced such a wise, complex and gracious man.
The willingness to sacrifice your own self-interest for the greater good seems like such a distant concept these days; let’s hope that Mandela’s passing can remind us all that it is an ideal worth pursuing.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
I had spoken on the phone with a "GPS" producer in New York a few days prior to October 30th, and I passed the links to my reports and shared some stories and insights with him, so I knew that Zakaria was going to speak about Argentina on his show, but I was surprised at the extent of which he had borrowed from my reporting.
Granted, all of these stories aired on CNN, but I don't think CNN -- or any other media outlet -- would encourage or tolerate such borrowing from within its own ranks without giving proper credit.
At the time, I expressed this concern to some colleagues and family, but I did not pursue the matter. Given the recent developments questioning Zakaria's reporting, I thought it made sense to bring it up now.
I am not suggesting that this is full-on plagiarism, but the similarities are undoubtedly there.
"And it was disastrous for the Argentine people: many in the middle class had their entire bank savings wiped out, leading to deadly riots and widespread poverty."
Where was my article published? Newsweek International.
Who was the editor of Newsweek International at that time? Fareed Zakaria.
The New York Times never ran a correction, and to the best of my knowledge, Newsweek International editors didn't pursue one.
Friday, March 12, 2010
The food was surprisingly good, considering it wasn’t even prepared in a real kitchen. Greek salad followed by a rare-as-hell Roast Beef with horseradish sauce, potatoes and red cabbage. It’s a meal I ate countless times as a kid at my Irish grandmother’s house, and this was nearly as good. A superb peach cobbler finished things off nicely.
The Pale Blue Door is a truly multi-national operation: Tony is a Brit, the chef is from Austria, the waiters are from Chile, and the aforementioned transvestite hails from Greece.
A weird, entertaining and enlightening evening for sure. I’d recommend it.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I was the first reporter on the scene in Chile for CNN following the Feb. 27th earthquake and one of the first international correspondents to report live from near the quake’s epicenter in Concepción. Here's an account of my journey to the quake zone.
When the phone rang at 5:30am on Saturday, I was still slumbering with the sounds of the Coldplay concert I had attended a few hours earlier, so it was a quick change of gears when the CNN International Desk in Atlanta alerted me that there had been a major earthquake in Chile, and that I was to begin reporting on the story immediately.
I quickly learned that an 8.8 magnitude quake had hit south central Chile and that tremors had rattled cities as far away as Buenos Aires, where I live, although I didn’t feel any. I soon began monitoring Chilean media online and did a few live phone reports for CNN International about the developing situation. I then started making plans to get into Chile. It wouldn’t be easy. The Santiago airport was closed, so I considered my quickest bet would be to fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, the wine-growing city in western Argentina that lays 180 kms east of Santiago. That option would require an overnight odyssey crossing the rugged Andes Mountains on a high-altitude road full of switchbacks. A few hours later, I was on a plane, and by midnight I had made my way through the Cristo Redentor tunnel and to the border crossing at 3,500 meters. The air was cold, and the road was curvy, but fortunately a full moon helped guide our way and at 2am on Sunday morning -- less than 24 hours after the quake -- cameraman Juan Pablo Lanciotti and I were in Santiago, where darkness blanketed neighborhoods for miles and where we saw people camping in tents in front of roaring fires.
About four hours from our destination, our luck started to sour too. Our two-car convoy became one when the engine of our van ceased up. We had to abandon it and scramble to consolidate all our gear and pack five tired, sweaty and anxious men into a small sedan for the final stretch into Concepción. When we arrived around 8pm, what I saw truly shocked me. Thousands of people were running in the streets, looting stores and scavenging for water inside a dirty public fountain. At gas stations, people were dipping long tubes into tanks below, siphoning fuel to power their cars, water pumps and generators. Dusk was setting in and the 9pm curfew was just minutes away. It was clear that authorities had zero control over the city. As we approached the Rio Alto Building, I quickly recognized it from the cover of the morning’s papers; it was a 15-story apartment building that collapsed with more than 100 people inside. I knew that CNN Chile had their satellite truck stationed nearby and I was anxious to get on the air as soon as possible to report all that I had seen. With the wrecked building and busy rescue workers as a backdrop, I went on the air on CNN International in the 7pm ET hour on Sunday night and described the destruction that I had been witnessing all day. I reported live throughout the night and into the morning and following afternoon, speaking to CNN U.S., CNN International and CNN affiliate stations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Early Monday morning, other CNN crews began showing up, all of whom had also had long and difficult journeys arriving to Concepción. Everyone looked ragged, but they soon set out to tell the story of the earthquake’s devastation, traveling to neighborhoods in Concepción city and to coastal villages wiped out by the ensuing tsunamis.
In downtown Concepción, the street fronting the collapsed Rio Alto building quickly turned into a makeshift media center, with journalists from around the globe descending there to do live reports and get updates from Chilean officials. The CNN team has had to live exactly like the residents of Concepcion, without electricity, running water or heat. No toilets or showers has meant that hygiene has taken a hit, and we’ve had to subside on granola bars, tuna and water.
As Chile continues to dig out from the wreckage, more sad and also inspiring stories are being revealed. Many media outlets have insisted on comparing Chile’s earthquake to the one that occurred in Haiti the month before. I don’t think this is necessary or fair. Each tragedy deserves its own reporting, analysis and response. Chile is a strong country, but it needs the world’s help to respond to this crisis; I think CNN is doing its part to let the world know just that and I am proud to be a part of it.
Monday, February 1, 2010
As previously noted here, Argentine women possess a certain charm that has seduced even the most eligible of bachelors, many of them from the world of entertainment. Now add to the list two guys from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but both of whom are are known around the globe.
First, Canadian crooner Michael Buble, who just announced his engagement to bubbly Argentine actress/model/former teen starlet/purveyor of products Luisana Lopilato, who he met during a tour stop in Buenos Aires, then picked to star in one of his videos, and then asked to be his wife. Apparently, neither of them speaks the other’s language very well (yet, at least) but I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Congrats.
The second in James Hetfield of Metallica, who I just found out is married to an Argentine women. (I’m surprised I didn’t know this earlier; it’s exactly the kind of useless information that I have a knack for retaining). Hetfield is married to Francesca, a former wardrobe designer for the band, whom he married in 1997 and is the mother of his three kids. Los Hetfield spent the holidays in Punta del Este, Uruguay in December before Metallica embarked on the first leg of their Latin American tour, which ended Sunday in Sao Paulo. Metallica played two shows here in Buenos Aires (I didn't attend, but I have seen Metallica live before) and in this clip you can hear Hetfield getting the crowd fired-up during “Seek and Destroy” with an impressive locals-only pronunciation of Buenos Aires ("Let's make some history Bwanoss Ayress!"); clearly he’s had plenty of practice.