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Valentina Briceno-Strocchia

See more by Valentina Briceno-Strocchia

Globovision's new owners aligned with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government

A TV Channel's Takeover Spells Bad News For Venezuela

With the ownership change of the 24-hour news channel Globovision, the last remaining television source for reporting that challenges the government is gone.

BUENOS AIRES — A statement recently issued by eight well-respected journalists characterizes Globovisión, a 24-hour news network in Venezuela, as “morally, ethically and journalistically inviable.” They stopped working for the channel after its new owners aligned with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government, which follows a left-leaning political ideology known as Chavista and associated with the late President Hugo Chávez.

The bloodletting started Aug. 16 when the channel announced it would cease broadcasting one of its most popular programs, Radar de los Barrios. The opinion and analysis program focused on current events and was hosted by Jesús Torrealba, who was summarily dismissed. Torrealba’s firing was followed by the resignation of another prestigious journalist, Leopoldo Castillo, who enjoyed high viewer ratings for his program Aló Ciudadano ("Hello Citizen") that was very critical of the Chavista model of government and its “abuses of power.” The show featured analysis and interviews during which Venezuelan citizens would call in to pose questions and offer their opinions. It was broadcast for 12 years.

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Riverside schooling

It Really Is A Jungle Out There For These Young Colombian Students

A school located in a remote stretch of the Amazon teaches indigenous children, many of whom come to learn Spanish, under extraordinarily rustic conditions.

MITU — This is a very different kind of education story, under circumstances far from your ordinary classroom.

The Rural Education Center Bocas del Yi is in the middle of Colombia’s Amazon jungle. And yet three of its students and three of its teachers have managed to achieve outstanding test scores in a nationwide program of academic and sports competitions.

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The next step for tango dancers

It Takes Two Dudes To Tango

Or dudettes. For the first time, the annual Tango World Cup features several same-sex couples - three teams of men and one pair of women.

BUENOS AIRES — Who knew that the tango used to be just a guy thing? Men danced at the brothels of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, practicing the steps and arm movements among themselves, the story goes. The idea was to polish their moves to impress the ladies at Argentinian dances knowns as milongas. Partner dance between men and women is apparently a phenomenon that began much later.

But either the tango is returning to its origins or the world is becoming more enlightened. For the first time, four same-sex couples are competing for the coveted tango World Cup. The 11th annual Tango Buenos Aires Festival and World Cup features three teams of men and one pair of women. It is apparently a reflection of what has been happening for some time now at the milongas.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

A Town Complicit: Dachau Faces Holocaust Past With Some Help From Auschwitz

Dachau politicians have been looking for a way to deal with the Nazi heritage of their German city. That eventually led them to the Polish town of Auschwitz. Notes from a difficult journey.

OSWIECIM, POLAND — They went unnoticed. And that’s what the Dachau town councilors had most hoped for. Among the mass of tourists who visit the former Auschwitz concentration camp near the Polish town of Oswiecim every day, the 26 local politicians from Germany stayed off the international press radar. When they arrived in Poland, the local city guide had tried to reassure them they would, saying they were visitors like any others.

It was a well-meaning sentiment but not entirely true. “Our visiting this place has a different significance than, say, if the Stuttgart city council were to visit,” says Dachau Town Councilor Christian Stangl. The name Dachau, a town of 43,000 inhabitants about 20 kilometers (11 miles) northwest of Munich, is associated worldwide with Nazi crimes.

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Easy crossing?

New York Postcard: A Two-Wheel Tour Through A Suddenly Bike-Friendly Big Apple

One writer discovers that a New York once suicidal for cyclists has given way to a city of bike lanes and cheap public access to this environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

NEW YORK — The sun's burning hot, without the faintest trace of a breeze. As early as 9:30 a.m. the temperature hits 30° Celcius (86° Fahrenheit), and it feels like 40° (104° Fahrenheit) because the canyon-like streets between Manhattan’s skyscrapers intensify the heat. But for New York in the summertime these are actually crisp temperatures. Whatever. I’m going on a cycling tour. From Zen Bikes on 24th Street, which many say is the best bicycle shop in Chelsea, I head out on a lightweight model toward the East River.

The first test of courage is immediate. Because 24th Street has no cycling lane, I must navigate between the fenders of cars and cabs. It goes surprisingly well if I make sure not to break the flow of traffic, which means giving clear signals and no dithering. New York drivers seem to be a lot more relaxed and considerate — and they drive more slowly — than the aggressive Munich drivers to whom I’m accustomed.

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Kidnapping was a favorite tactic for the leftist insurgents.

Are The Victims Of FARC The Key To Finding Peace For Colombia?

With talks on in Havana to end the decades-old civil war in Colombia, a push is on to force negotiators to meet face-to-face with victims of the violence.

It used to be that peace was negotiated with a pardon exchanged for a surrender of weapons. Now, respect for human rights has become a requirement of any settlement, which leaves no room for a negotiation without truth, justice and reparation.

In other words, negotiation must include a guarantee that there is no impunity. In this national and international dynamic, the victims or the “forgotten ones” of yesterday are the essence of today's peace. And this is finally now becoming the backbone of the peace process that the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are carrying out in Havana, Cuba.

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Future Pince Charming

Warts And All: In Defense Of Frogs

Considered the ugliest of them all, frogs are far more helpful to the environment than cuddly kittens or charming princes. It's time to start showing some serious amphibian amour!

There are some animal species that seem destined for rejection. Typically, they are the ones that look very different from us, and are often arbitrarily classified as ugly animals.

In the United States and Britain, animal protection activists have coined a word to define the discrimination by humans against certain species of animals: “specism.”

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Kids in Cusco, Peru

Peruvian Teachers Make The Grade Despite Hostile Working Conditions

The country’s best and brightest teachers celebrate what they’re able to achieve under less-than-ideal conditions. Here, the government is the enemy.

- Analysis -

LIMA — Did you know that the chanchito (woodlouse) you find in the garden, that little grey animal children play with by making ground paths and organizing races, is a crustacean? Like a lobster and not a bug? That it produces urea, which is a great fertilizer?

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Israel Releases Palestinian Prisoners Just Before Peace Talks



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Thank you for the music, Sweden

Not Just ABBA: From Pop To Death Metal, Sweden Rocks The Music World

A vast number of planet music's cash cows - including a little act named Madonna - originated on the synthesizer keyboards of Swedish songwriters, but can the country hold its high note?

STOCKHOLM — "Sometimes people wonder if there isn’t something in the water here in Sweden", says Johan Fridell. “We seem to have an innate sense of melody. I can’t explain it. Our compositions end up in everything from folk to traditional music, although God knows I never listen to that shitty stuff!”

Fridell has black-dyed hair so long it comes down to his hips. Although he’s only 37 years old, his face looks older, probably because of his hard-drinking lifestyle. To compensate, today he’s chosen an ageless outfit: threadbare T-shirt, tight-fitting jeans and ankle boots. Fridell is a Satanist who uses the professional name Nephente when performing with his death metal group Netherbird. But he’s a Satanist in the romantic sense of the word. Clearly highly intelligent, this jovial man speaks perfect English, quotes 19th century British occultist poets, and argues that the real message of Satan is the most liberal there is — an invitation to do whatever we want.

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Fire in Plottier

In One Argentine City, Explosive Growth And Oil Don't Mix

Modest working families forced to live next to oil and gas wells fear for their families' safety after a nearby explosion.

PLOTTIER — When the modest working families here were told years ago that they would finally be able to have a house of their own for very little money, they felt fortunate. They didn't care that the area had no asphalt or was between a clandestine rubbish dump and hundreds of gas and oil wells. They were assured that there was no risk of any kind. And they believed it.

But then, what supposedly could not happen in this Argentine city, happened. Now, in this neighborhood of dry land, the residents feel as though they effectively live in a minefield. If one gas well could explode just over a block away from the houses, as it did last week, who's to say others won't too?

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