El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Friday, September 30, 2011

Property of the Month September - Beach house

Cute house in Gated Community

PRICE: $62,000 Incredible price!!

This cute home is ready to move in... furnished and decorated...

Okay...it isn't quite $50k and it's not on the beach, but this is a close as it gets at this point in time. This home is just a three minute walk to the beach (I timed it...so no treks through the jungle for 30 minutes to get to the beach). This cute home sits on a 200 square meter lot, it has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and it comes totally furnished. The backyard is beautifully manicured and has a shower area too. It comes with satellite TV already installed and working. There is a community pool and the monthly dues for the gated community are only $30 per month. There are other 15 homes in this Gated Community and it has a guard and security cameras 24hs. The beautiful beach of Olon is a rare find and will not last at this price. So pack your bags and come to enjoy this beautiful home...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Talk to a Taxi driver in Latin America....and get a political science lesson.....

When Empires Change Hands
Bill Bonner

Reckoning from Buenos Aires, Argentina...

We got back to Buenos Aires last night. When we got into a cab, we found the driver curious and loquacious.

“You have an accent. Are you French?”

“No...but it’s a good guess. I’ve lived in France for the last 15 years.”

“Oh...I studied French for years. I was the best in my class. But I forgot it.

“My mother was an English teacher. But that was in the ’60s. You know, we’ve had two wars with the English. So, I didn’t want to study English. I decided to study French. And then I forgot it.

“I’m glad you’re not English.”

“No, I’m not English. My family is actually Irish. So, the English are our common enemies. Actually, they’re the common enemies of the French too. But at least in my family we’ve decided to let bygones be bygones.”

“You’re very generous. But we Argentines don’t forget. We hate the English. And the Chileans. And the Americans. And the Albanians, of course. Everybody hates the Albanians. Even the Albanians. It’s the only thing they’re right about.”

“Why the Americans?”

“Because they helped the English in the war.”

“You mean, the Falklands war?”

“Wait a minute. Whose side are you on? I mean the war of the Malvinas...

“We hate the Americans also because they are trying to push everyone around. They’re too big for their britches. But that’s how it works, I guess. I read Arnold Toynbee’s history. Every country tries to push its neighbors around when it can. There will always be a dominant country. And that dominant country will always fall. No country remains dominant forever. They get bigger and bigger. They take over more and more. Then, they go too far. And then they fall and another country takes the dominant position.

“It looks to me as though the US is about to fall. It is pushing too hard and in too many directions. Besides Americans are deep in debt. They can’t afford all they are trying to do. They have soldiers in almost every country in the world. Or, that’s what it seems like. It must cost a fortune. And the US doesn’t have any money.

“Down here we don’t have any money either. But we don’t spend any. No one will lend to us. Because if they lend to us they know we won’t pay it back. We made that pretty clear. So they don’t lend. And we don’t spend. It’s a happy balance. We’re poor. But we look poor. And when you live like a poor person you don’t have to worry about losing your money and ending up poor. You’re already poor.

“Of course, Christina [Kirschner, president of Argentina] tells us that we’re all going to be rich. She says the Argentine economy is working so well that it should be a model for the rest of the world. Maybe she’s right. It’s a model of a bad economy. Completely screwed up by the politicians.

“You know I couldn’t even buy a set of tires for my cab. They didn’t have them. Because they couldn’t import them. Christina owns a tire company. So she didn’t want any competition. She blocked the others from importing tires.

“At least we know our economy is screwed up. The Americans don’t know it. They owe everybody else money. We don’t owe much money. We don’t even mortgage our houses. They want 20% on a house mortgage here. It’s crazy. Better to pay in cash.

“But Americans can get a mortgage for what, 5%? So they borrow a lot. And when you borrow a lot you have less than nothing, if you follow me. I mean, if you don’t borrow anything at least you’re at zero. But the Americans are below zero. Am I right?

“China has the money. And China is smart. And there are a lot of Chinese. So I figure it’s just a matter of time before China replaces the US as the dominant power.

“The trouble is, if you read history you see that these transitions aren’t easy. There is usually a war. The dominant power doesn’t give up without a fight.

“By the way, that’s what WWI and WWII were all about. Germany and England fighting for the dominant position. And you know how many people died? Sixty million. Unbelievable.

“Each time there’s a fight for the top position, in history, the death toll goes up. And when war between China and America breaks out...there could be a billion casualties. I’m not kidding. I hope not. But you have to be realistic.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Next Time You're in Ecuador, Do This‏

Dear International Living Reader,
My favorite thing to do on a Sunday in Ecuador is a trip to Baños. Not the major spa town in the central sierra…but the little village in the southern sierra, 15 minutes from Cuenca.
In Catholic Ecuador, almost everywhere is closed on a Sunday and most places that remain open serve the local "weekend retreat" market. This includes country clubs and thermal baths.
The naturally hot volcanic waters of "little" Baños feed four bath houses in the village. As well as thermal baths, each one has pools and steam rooms...and some have other pleasant distractions like massages and mud baths. (The masseuse at the luxurious Piedra de Agua works in elaborate rooms carved out of red stone caves.)
Prices vary depending on what you do, but at Balneario Durán you can try the thermal baths for about $5; at Balneario Rodas and Agapantos it costs less. At Piedra de Agua it's a steep $10—this is where locals come when they want a treat…and you may bump into the occasional Dutch tourist. If you're not looking for hustle and bustle, Piedra de Agua has the quietest thermal waters.
Durán serves tasty meals. And at the restaurant at Piedra de Agua you can get a plate piled high with food for $4. Lots of places in the village serve meals for less.
Walk it off with a stroll along the river, or up to the pretty blue church overlooking the village.
A taxi back to Cuenca costs $3 or $4; as always in Ecuador, the bus is 25 cents (half price if you're over 65).
After a day like that, it would be a shame not to spend the night in one of Cuenca's restored colonial houses that now operate as boutique hotels: $25 - $120 a night, depending on how luxurious you like your digs.
Len Galvin
Managing Editor, IL Postcards

Friday, September 23, 2011

More FOOD....the Ecuadorian delicacy.....Cuye

Eating Guinea Pig In Ecuador

I would never admit this to the average third grader. But at an Ecuadorian cooking school, I dined on guinea pig.
It wasn't my favorite of the many dishes I learned to prepare at this out-of-the way cooking class in Panecillo, a tiny village outside Otavalo, but it was certainly the one that got my classmate's tongues wagging and cameras clicking.
In Ecuador, particularly in indigenous communities, guinea pigs are considered a delicacy. The furry creatures are roasted whole, cute little paws and all, over an open fire. In the local language, Kichwa, the name for this epicurean oddity is cuy, supposedly an imitation of their bird-like peep. They're so highly-prized that a mating pair is considered the ultimate wedding gift, and the parents of the family I lived with in nearby Quinchinche slept outside next to their cuy every night to discourage predators.

Ecuadorians also have a fondness for beetle larvae and a soup made from bull penis, but luckily Claudia Furez-Anrango, the anako-wearing beauty who hosted our cooking class, stuck with some of the more palatable specialties. A creative mix between Incan heritage and Old World dishes, Ecuadorian cuisine is known for its innumerable varieties of potato dishes, its incredible soups and the fiery heat of the aji pepper that's ground into a sauce and served at nearly every meal. To show off, a couple boys from the neighborhood gulped down a pair of the spicy aji peppers growing in the backyard. The resulting dancing and hooting made Spongebob Squarepants look almost catatonic.

Claudia reigns over a big indoor-outdoor kitchen in her family home, the same one used by her mom and three sisters for everyday cooking. Just to get there requires a 15-minute bus ride from Otavalo and a rather precarious walk down a hillside.

It's not only an authentic cooking experience, but a true cultural experience. While we were peeling potatoes for llapingachos, the traditional fried potato and cheese pancakes, adding raisins to the quimbolito batter and folding canna leaves into the packets in which they're steamed, Claudia's mother, sisters and adorable younger brother popped in to nod "hello," grab a spoon and giggle at our inability to properly pinch the sides of an empanada.

Ingredients for the class are either plucked from the family garden or purchased hours earlier at the outdoor market. The cuy that -- dare I say it? -- tasted like chicken was donated by the family next door. And at the end of class, Claudia presented each of us with a hug to go with our pile of recipes.

When she's not arranging guinea pigs spread eagle on a spit, Claudia attends a tourism class. She's learning English and how to grow a small sustainable business that will benefit her family and the small community where they live. We heard about the class -- that isn't likely to show up in the back page ads of Cooking Light anytime soon -- through the Tandana Foundation.

This U.S. based non-profit offers volunteer opportunities in both highland Ecuador and in Mali's Dogon country. Started by motorcycle-riding Anna Taft, Tandana (it's a Kichwa word that means "to gather together") is not about "helping the poor unfortunates" or imposing a particular world view. Rather, it offers volunteers the opportunity to live with host families, participate in their communities and experience their culture firsthand. Sure, we taught vacation English courses, planted trees and worked in a health clinic, but the crux of the program was connecting with someone who looks at life through a different lens.
Sometimes that lens means eating guinea pig.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Your Smartphone Can See You‏

By Mark Nestmann, Wealth Preservation and Privacy Expert
The movie Minority Report depicts a world where a widespread facial recognition network tracks your day-to-day movements in public spaces.
Imagine individual cameras instantly scanning your face next time you take a casual stroll down the street.
Once the facial recognition software confirms your identity, it examines your personal and financial profile. It uses the information to tailor the advertisements you may hear the next time you enter a department store.
It can also identify your location for law enforcement purposes. As in the film, if an elite "pre-crime" police unit concludes that you're about to commit a murder, you'll be arrested, detained, and eventually placed into suspended animation - forever.
Minority Report was set in 2054. When I saw the movie, that date was far enough away to make me believe I wasn't likely to witness the events it depicted in my lifetime.
I was wrong.
Minority Report is here, today. But instead of a network of fixed cameras, every person carrying a smartphone with the appropriate application will be able to identify you through face recognition software.
Here's what could pop up next...

No, this isn't science fiction.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently photographed 93 students with a smart-phone - all of whom had Facebook profiles - entering a building. The software then compared those images with a database of Facebook photos of people on the CMU network.
One out of three people in the study was successfully matched to the Facebook photos, and for about one-fourth of the students, researchers retrieved their date and place of birth, along with fragments of their Social Security numbers.

This is Just the Beginning...

Face recognition technology is rapidly improving. Eventually, showing your face in public could mean that anyone you encounter can learn enough information to steal your identity simply by snapping a photo with a smartphone.
If you voluntarily post information on the Internet, available for anyone to retrieve, can those who do so make it available to others? The courts have ruled there is no "expectation of privacy" in such information, so I see no reason why they couldn't.
I'm not aware of any commercial application combining face recognition with online photos and databases. However, police are already using similar applications.
Meet "MORIS," the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System. MORIS is a handheld face recognition device that plugs into a smart phone. Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. have ordered 1,000 MORIS units, scheduled for delivery this month.
If a cop wants to find out who you are, he just snaps a picture with his smartphone. He then searches a database to learn if you have a criminal record. MORIS can also take your fingerprints, and match them to criminal history records.
The manufacturer of MORIS, BI2 Technologies, urges police not to use the face recognition feature without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. But if you're in a public place, the courts have concluded that you have a greatly reduced expectation of privacy. Just anyone with a camera, including a cop, can legally take your picture in a public space.
(The reverse, however, is definitely NOT true. If you photograph - or especially, record the voice - of a cop or any other public official, you might be arrested. Indeed, an Illinois man who recently recorded his interactions with a judge in an open court hearing now faces life in prison.)

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Short of never leaving your home, or living in a sparsely-populated rural setting, it will be impossible to avoid the Minority Report world completely. But, there are some steps you can take to lower your vulnerability:
* Delete your photos from social networking sites, dating sites, and especially Facebook. If you're unwilling to delete your photos, make sure to mark your profile as "private."
* Don't post photos of your friends or family members online. Not only does this jeopardize their privacy, it also helps marketers and investigators construct a social network of those with whom you interact.
* To minimize the amount of information about you available online, consider a service such as Reputation.com to remove personal information from websites that market it.
* Always use a post office box or a mail receiving service to send and receive mail and packages—never your home address. Even something as innocent as ordering a pizza delivered to your home address can result in that information recorded in an online database.
* If you have a website, copyright all information you post on it. That way, anyone using that information for any purpose beyond what copyright law defines as "fair use" may be subject to legal sanctions.
What about wearing a hat and dark glasses? That may work for now, but eventually face recognition software will evolve into body recognition and even gait software. Even if you've disguised yourself as George W. Bush and wear a big sombrero as you walk down the street, your body shape and unique walking pattern will eventually reveal your identity.
It’s a brave new world, folks...

Mark Nestmann
Wealth Preservation and Privacy Expert

When we saw THIS....I "cracked up"......

Kindergartener brings crack pipe, meth for show-and-tell

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - A kindergartener in rural Sweet Springs, Missouri, brought a bag of crystal meth and a crack pipe to school for show-and-tell, but an alert teacher kept the boy from sharing his treasure with others at the school, an official said on Tuesday.

"He was very excited when he got to school," Superintendent Donna Wright said of the September 6 incident. "But I don't think he knew what he had."

A teacher recognized the drugs and pipe and police were called to the elementary school. "It didn't ever get into the classroom," Wright added.

"That was a first for show-and-tell in this town," Police Chief Richard Downing said. He added that the boy's mother, Michelle Cheatham, 32, was arrested later on drug charges and released on bail.
"It was shocking," Wright said. "We're not experienced with dealing with this."

The town, located 66 miles east of Kansas City on the Blackwater River, has 1,500 residents and about 425 students in its school system.

(Reporting and writing by Bruce Olson, Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My second favorite topic....CHOCOLATE...Ecuador: El Republica del Cacao

Reconnecting cacao with chocolate

Publicado el 20/Septiembre/2011 | 10:59
By Lance Brashear 

The "Manual de la Cocinera," a cookbook published in Quito in the 1800s, offers one recipe for chocolate: an ice cream, under the section of "Helados Franceses," or French ice cream.

It may seem ironic that a French recipe for chocolate  would end up in a local, Ecuadorian  cookbook when the raw material for chocolate – the cocoa bean – is found naturally in Ecuador, not France.  But this  book, which was re-published last year by the city of Quito, offering  a testament to the cooking techniques of the time,  illustrates a reality from the 19th century:  the disconnect that had already developed between the final product, chocolate, and its raw material, cocoa.

It is a reality that  still persists today, but in recent years, Ecuador – the world's greatest producer of fine or flavor  chocolate beans – has worked hard to re-establish the link between cocoa and chocolate and gain recognition denied it for so very long.

The Changing Chocolate Scene

Author and chocolate expert Maricel Presilla, who visited Ecuador earlier this year, says that, "Ninety percent of the history of chocolate is the history of a drink."  More specifically, she says that before 1890 most recipes for chocolate were in liquid form.  And though the popularity of solid chocolate desserts would surpass drinks in the 20th century, recipes would continue to  characterize   chocolate in one of two ways: unsweetened and semi-sweet.

But as a sign of the times, today we commonly find recipes such as the chocolate fudge cake in the "1001 Foods to Die For," (McMeel Publishing), which lists as its chocolate ingredient: "bitter sweet chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids."

And if you read Presilla’s book, "The New Taste of Chocolate (Revised) A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes," she offers her recipe for Deep Chocolate Torte using dark chocolate: "preferably El Rey Bucare (58.5% cacao), Callebaut (56% cacao), or Cacao Barry Equateur (60% cacao), finely chopped."

The use and understanding of chocolate has become more sophisticated in recent years thanks, in part, to Presilla, herself.

Presilla's family tree is rooted in cocoa.  Her grandparents grew cocoa on the eastern tip of Cuba.  When she was young she relocated to the United States.  In the 1980s Presilla was hired by El Rey Chocolates to help re-establish a connection in the food community between cocoa beans and chocolate.

"What they wanted was to conquer the markets through chefs and food writers…I traveled all over Venezuela by plane with the owners of the company.  We invited chefs from all over the U.S. to come."

She says that all of the great chefs of the time knew nothing about cocoa.  "They didn't understand why the flavor was the way it was.  They didn't make the relationship between cacao and the flavor."

A Brief History of Cocoa

In her book, Presilla says that cocoa dealers from the earliest times, the Aztecs and the Mayans,  understood the nuances of cocoa and often identified beans by  the region from which they came.   The quality of the bean could be tasted in the final product, the chocolate, to which spices were always added for flavor.

After the Spanish discovery  of cocoa in the 16th century, chocoloate soon became an aristocratic drink in European society.  In the  19th century it became industrialized. Spices were abandoned, milk and sugar were added, and - like a child who thinks milk comes from the supermarket  rather than the cow - chocolate became something whose origins were generally nebulous.

Republic of Cocoa

Presilla worked to break down the barriers between chocolate and cocoa with a special kind of bean.  She used "criollo" cocoa, a chocolate genetically identified as a   "fine or flavor," bean.

The term fine or flavor is used by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) to distinguish from  bulk beans,  varieties that have a chocolate flavor, but lack certain properties, or tasting notes, found in fine or flavor beans.

Flavor beans represent a very small percentage of world cacao production – only five percent -   but the majority of those beans, 60 to 70 percent, are grown in Ecuador.  Ecuador, though,  is still principally an exporter of raw material.  Antonio Orozco, economist with the National Association of Cacao Exporters in Ecuador estimates  that only about three percent of the total production of cacao actually remains in Ecuador for the production of chocolate.  Last year, Ecuador exported an estimated 137,000 metric tons of cacao valued at more than $401 million.

Ecuadorian cocoa is  commonly known (and genetically classified) as "nacional," or national cocoa.   It  is often referred to as "cacao arriba," (arriba means 'up' in Spanish), a name derived from the location of its discovery centuries ago, "up river," from the coastal port city of  Guayaquil, along the Guayas River in the area of present day Manabi and Los Rios Provinces.

Lourdes Delgado, cocoa expert and producer of the Chchukululu Chocolate brand in Ecuador says arriba cocoa is described as having a floral and fruity fragrance and taste – distinguishable from cocoa grown in other places.  "[Arriba] starts with something special – special conditions to grow cocoa.  As a result we have a special product."

Leonor Zambrano, who works for the NGO, Conservacion y Desarrollo, talks of the  "terroir" of  chocolate,  a French word that refers to the characteristics of a certain geographical place that bestow particular qualities upon chocolate, much like the terroir of wine, tea, or coffee.

Conservacion y Desarrollo recently sponsored the first "Aromas and Flavors of Chocolate of Ecuador," Fair  with 11 cocoa growers associations at the National Agriculture Research Institute's (INIAP) Pichilingue Experimental Station, near Quevedo, Ecuador.  The organization is empowering growers who already produce great cocoa beans, to take their product and knowledge further

Alfredo Dueñas, also with Conservacion y Desarollos, says, "The market for Ecuadorian cacao is not the real problem [for the growers] .  Every single bean is sold already.  So what we are trying to find is better

markets, better options."   This includes the creation of chocolate bars to market the flavors, which are particular to each association, using symbolic packaging that lends identity to their final product.

A New Chocolate RepublicWhat Conservacion y Desarollo are showing is that countries like Ecuador, with their fine cocoa, are the reason countries like France have historically produced great chocolate.  But today the line between cocoa and chocolate producers is blurring.

Earlier this year the French Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with organizations like the Programa de Desarollo Economico Local (Prodel - a division of USAID), and local producers, hosted the "Salon de Chocolate,"a local, chocolate trade show, taking its lead from the French "Salon du Chocolat," an international chocolate show held annually in France

Edgar Leon, one of the event's coordinators in Quito says, "The Salon de Chocolate has been organized because Ecuador is one of the countries with the greatest quality of cocoa in the world and recently many producers of Ecuadorian chocolate are positioning their product as one of the best in the world."

Mauricio Freire, general manager for Hoja Verde,  a producer and exporter of fine chocolate, put it succinctly: "We want to convert from being a Republic of Cocoa to a Republic of Chocolate.  We have this capacity and quality."

Other producers have made inroads, not only into foreign markets, but into the industry's greatest halls of influence.

Drop by, unannounced, to the office of Santiago Peralta, founder of Pacari Chocolate, and you find scattered among the office clutter, raw cocoa beans and samples of different cocoa powders.  Peralta is wired and excited, perhaps because he is continually sampling the product he loves, or maybe because his  passion is to produce it like nobody else ever has.

From their beginnings less than ten years ago, Pacari has built a brand that competes with the best chocolates found worldwide.  He quickly turns to his computer to show me the website www.seventypercent.com, developed by famed, chocolate critic Martin Christy.  He scrolls down to the top dark bar evaluations, where Pacari Raw Chocolate 70% is currently in third place, sandwiched between the products from the Italian brand Domori and the French, Valrhona.

Peralta has helped to re-connect cocoa and chocolate, in part, with the help of the Danish government who, in 2009, sponsored a book about Pacari, to help showcase in Denmark the origins of chocolate.  Called "Raw Chocolate, Naked Passion," the book removes some of the mystery about chocolate and presents cocoa for what it is: an agricultural product.

Peralta talks about the book with pride:  "What we wanted to show is Ecuador…how the people live from cocoa…not the chocolate that is sensual and all that, but the worker sweating…to show the reality that is behind the chocolate."

And like Presilla, Peralta, too, saw a detachment between cocoa and chocolate, but not in the kitchen; he witnessed it in the fields among the growers in coastal, Esmeraldas Province.  "When we went  for the first time [to Esmeraldas] they saw chocolate for the first time in their lives…people that for four or five generations have produced cocoa, but never had eaten chocolate…they knew about it, but had never tried chocolate."

The French Connection RemainsAcross from the Pacari stand at the Salon de Chocolate was someone whose presence perhaps more than any other, speaks to the ongoing transformation  of  the  chocolate culture in Ecuador.

Cyril Prudhomme is a French pastry chef who came to Ecuador five years ago as an instructor in gastronomy at San Francisco University and worked as head chef at the Ambrosia chocolate and pastry shop near campus.  This week he is celebrating the grand opening of Cyril Boutique, a new chocolate and pastry shop in Quito. "This is something new in Ecuador…at a high level and totally French," he says. 

"In France there exists an art for pastry, for a lot of things….we do not go to the pastry shop just to purchase a cake.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to stay longer than 3 months in Ecuador - Ecuador Insider

3 months.  Non-extendable.

That’s how much time you get when you enter Ecuador as a tourist these days.  You can enter by just showing your passport upon arrival, no prior visas needed.

A few short years ago, at the end of the 3 months you could go to the immigration office, pay a few bucks, and get a 3 month extension.  Now, you can’t.

Plus, I heard rumors that we can no longer exit Ecuador and re-enter to get a fresh 3 months.

So how can you stay in Ecuador longer than 3 months without having to apply for a permanent residency visa?

As my initial entry stamp expired this past week, I opted for the 12-IX “Acto de Comercio Visa” (Act of Commerce Visa).  It’s the easiest option I found without having to leave the country.

Here’s what you need to do to get it (follow these instructions exactly or you’ll be making several trips, like I did):

1. Write brief letter in Spanish made out to the regional coordinator of immigration affairs, in Guayaquil right now it’s Ab. Eliana Larrea Marriot stating WHY you want to extend your stay in the country.  Your reason can be simply “tourism”.

2. Fill out visa application form and include two passport-sized photos.  Download here.

3. Make NOTARIZED copies of your exit air ticket, your passport photo page with at least 6 months of validity, and a bank statement proving you have sufficient funds to stay in the country ($1000 USD should do).  Translate the bank statement to Spanish with translator, you can find many outside the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores) offices.

4. Take documents in manila folder to the nearest “Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores” and there you will pay the visa fee, $230.

The extension is good for 3 more months.  No lawyer needed.  I recommend applying 2 weeks before your visa stamp expires, just to be safe.

Saludos until next week,

Domenick Buonamici
Ecuador Investor, Entrepreneur

Friday, September 16, 2011

My favorite topic FOOD.....French cuisine in Quito

Classical Sundays at Le Petit Pigalle

Publicado el 16/Septiembre/2011 | 10:22

The clients who dine at Le Petit Pigalle, an intimate, French restaurant in the Mariscal District of Quito, generally know what to expect from owners Johan Ducroquet and Cristina Carranco.  Over the past two years they have worked to build their own distinctive, French cuisine.

But starting this month, they are offering something new – or rather traditional.  Every Sunday Le Petit Pigalle invites diners to re-discover classical, French cuisine.

Johan and Cristina are both classically, trained chefs.  Johan is from France and he began as a teenager learning to cook in top Michelin-rated restaurants.   Carranco, from Quito, also worked and studied under some of France's best chefs.

Their combined experience has brought them recognition not only from clients, but from their fellow chefs in Quito.   Earlier this year Le Petit Pigalle took home the golden rose award from the "Cena de la Rosa" competition, a fundraiser that brought together Quito's top restaurants.


Monday through Saturday Le Petit Pigalle continues to offer its own brand of French cooking.

Ducroquet has always said, "My recipes are not from books, they are mine." He refers to things like "mollejas de cordero" (lamb gizzards) flambéed in cognac with salted endives, ham and emmental cheese; or  pork loin in a reduction of Malbec with salted potatoes cooked in goose or duck fat.

Ducroquet also brilliantly combines Ecuadorian coastal products with French techniques  to create dishes like red tuna with "foie gras poele" in a raspberry vinegar, sea bass filet with a sweet potato puree and parmesan gnocchi, or cured prawns and ham in a leek fondue.

So six days of the week these are the kinds of discoveries you will make in Ducroquet's kitchen.  But Sunday is something different.


"Sunday is a day for families. We are going to strip things down, take away the table clothes and make it more casual."   And their cuisine will reflect this more relaxed approach.

Why the change on Sunday?  Besides the fact that he and Cristina are starting a family of their own, Ducroquet says, "There is a lot of demand [for classical dishes], so if a lot of people are asking for onion soup, we have to make it.  He also says it is a way to "lower the cost a little," and make it more affordable, but with the same care and quality as their other dishes.

The menu for Sunday remains simple:  five appetizers, five desserts, and seven main dishes.

For starters, onion soup is recommened and always garners the highest demand.  But if you are not in the mood for soup, consider the chicken ceasar salad, "Rafines" cheese plate with five different goat cheeses, made locally, or the "Rillete" de Cerdo – an amazing pork spread served with dried bread or crackers.  And for someone with a slightly non-French appetite, fried squid is available.

The main menu features two very classical dishes: steak tartar - finely minced raw beef topped with a raw egg - and "confit" duck – a duck leg that is first salt-cured and then poached in its own fat.   It is served with slices of apple and potato also cooked in duck fat.  Ducroquet says by far these are the two most requested, classical, dishes.  Both are served with French fries.

Because Sunday is family day, children are welcome.  But you will not find a kids' menu at Le Petit Pigalle – no burgers, no nuggets.  Ducroquet says, "In France we have the culture to eat well from childhood.  When I was born my mom said we have to try everything.  You have to give kids something good.  We will make smaller portions, but nothing  more.  Kids eat the same things."  And kids usually have no problems eating tenderloin with fries or chicken with tomato risotto -   kid-friendly entrees that are currently on the Sunday menu.

Two more Sunday options include  crab meat served "a la vasca" -  a Spanish culinary twist with pepper, onion, garlic, tomato, and sausage -  and a fish of the day served with organic vegetables.

Finally, for dessert, you can order a traditional crepe or caramelized brioche.  They also offer tiramisu, cheesecake, and an excellent chocolate mousse with strawberries.  The dessert menu is as simple and appealing as the ambiance, and now a bit more traditional for those with a taste for the classical.

Le Petit Pigalle is located at the corner of Carrion and 9 de Octubre. They are open Sundays from 10:30 am – 4:00 pm.  Appetizers average $7.50, main entrees $18, and $4 for dessert, taxes and service included.

Monday-Saturday Hours are 12-3pm and 7-10pm pm.  During the week starters average $13 while main dishes, range from $21-48.  For reservations or more information about their current menu call 252-0867 or visit the website www.lepetitepigallerestaurant.com.

New York Times Travel......36 Hours in Quito, Ecuador

FROM LEFT La Boca del Lobo has a lounge and glassed-in patio; musicians play and residents break into dance at Plaza San Francisco; ice cream for sale at Plaza San Franscisco.

NESTLED amid snowcapped Andean peaks, Ecuador’s capital has long been overlooked by travelers on their way to the country’s most famous destination, the Galápagos Islands. But visitors who bypass this lively historic city of some two million people are missing out. At 9,350 feet above sea level, on the eastern slopes of the Pichincha Volcano, Quito offers breathtaking vistas around nearly every corner. Its historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site, is one of the largest in South America, with 40 colonial churches and chapels, 16 convents and monasteries and picturesque plazas. In recent years, museums have been opened; mansions restored; hotels, restaurants and cafes opened and safety improved. And this year, in recognition of Quito’s rich mix of architectural heritage and cultural traditions, the International Cultural Capitals Bureau chose the city as its 2011 American Capital of Culture.

5:30 p.m.

Parque Itchimbía (Calles José María Aguirre N4-108 and Concepción; 593-2-322-8470) offers panoramic views, including Quito’s historic center and, in the distance, the winged Virgin of Quito statue. Check out the Art Nouveau Itchimbía Cultural Center (Itchimbía Centro Cultural, 593-2-258-4362; centrocultural-quito.com). The glass and steel structure imported from Hamburg in 1889 was on the other side of the city until it was moved to Itchimbía hill in 2004. Then, venture below the observation deck, where you’ll find Pim’s, an Ecuadorean chain. Order a cocktail and find a seat near one of the heat lamps on the outdoor deck to watch the lights come on in the city below.

7:30 p.m.

Theatrum Restaurant & Wine Bar (Teatro Nacional Sucre, Calle Manabi between Guayaquil and Flores; 593-2-257-1011; theatrum.com.ec), on the second floor of the National Theater, serves Mediterranean cuisine with a Latin twist in a high-vaulted room draped in red velvet curtains. The five-course tasting menu ($38 plus tax; the official currency in Ecuador is the United States dollar) includes specials like grilled octopus with olives and fava beans, crab ravioli and rabbit risotto, and a refreshing sorbet as a palate cleanser. The restaurant will also arrange free transportation to and from your hotel

10 p.m.

If the food and altitude haven’t sapped your energy, head to Plaza Foch at the intersection of Calle Reina Victoria and Mariscal Foch in northern Quito, where young people gather before hitting nearby night spots. A noticeable police presence makes it safe to explore the immediate area, but if you plan to party beyond the three-block radius of Calama, Juan León Mera and Pinto Streets, take a taxi. On Fridays, you’ll find live music after 10 p.m. at Q, a restaurant and bar at the base of the NU House boutique hotel (Calles Marsical Foch E6-12 and Reina Victoria; 593-2-255-7840; quitoq.com). Across the plaza, La Boca del Lobo (Calles Calama 284 and Reina Victoria; 593-2-252-7915; labocadellobo.com.ec) has a red lounge and a glassed-in patio with funky chandeliers, hanging bird cages and ceiling tiles featuring religious iconography. It serves a selection of fried appetizers for midnight snacking.

3 a.m.

Most bars close by 3 a.m. One after-hours option is the Metro Café (Avenida Orellana at the corner of Rábida; 593-2-255-2570), which prepares diner fare around the clock. It’s also a good breakfast option, serving up stacks of pancakes and greasy-spoon dishes like Cheddar scrambled eggs with hash browns and bacon. During the day, families with restless children will appreciate the outdoor playground.
9 a.m.

Take the dizzying Teleférico aerial tram up to the Cruz Loma viewpoint, some 13,000 feet above sea level (Avenidas Occidental and Fulgencio Araujo; 593-2-222-2996). Bring a hat (temperatures drop as you climb to the top) and spring for the express line ($8.50 for tourists, $4.90 for locals). At the top, stroll the nature paths threaded amid waving grasses and buy coca tea ($2.25) at the tea shop in the mountain lodge to help counteract the high altitude.
11:30 a.m.

La Capilla del Hombre (Calles Lorenzo Chávez EA18-143 and Mariano Calvache; 593-2-244-8492; capilladelhombre.com), which means Chapel of Man, is an impressive cultural complex conceived in 1985 by Oswaldo Guayasamín, one of Ecuador’s greatest artists, as a tribute to the resilience of the Latin American people. The three-story museum, in the Bellavista neighborhood, houses a heart-wrenching sequence of paintings, murals and sculptures that captures the miseries and victories of people struggling against political oppression.
1 p.m.

Settle in for lunch on the leafy patio of La Chillangua Verde Esmeralda (Calles Zaldumbie N25-165 and Toledo; 593-2-222-5313), which specializes in coastal Ecuadorean cuisine, including tasty ceviches (from $6 for a small calamari to $16 for a large langosta) and camarones encocadas, a rich seafood dish prepared with coconut juice.
3 p.m.

Folklore Olga Fisch (Avenidas Colón E10-53 and Caamaño; 593-2-254-1315; olgafisch.com) is a boutique with a selection of indigenous and Ecuadorean art, including handwoven tapestries, silver jewelry, straw fedoras and pottery. It’s a must-stop for shoppers. The small museum upstairs displays pre-Columbian artifacts and post-colonial art. Next, hone your haggling skills at El Ejido park, a short taxi ride away, where artisans in indigenous garb line the northern end on most weekends with stalls featuring handmade jewelry, alpaca scarves, wooden flutes and other crafts. Nearby, the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal (Calles Jorge Washington between Reina Victoria and Juan León Mera) has about another hundred stalls of similar souvenirs.
8 p.m.

Hold tight for a bumpy ride up the potholed gravel road to Hacienda Rumiloma (at the end of Obispo de la Madrid; 593-2-320-0953; haciendarumiloma.com), more than 10,000 feet up the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano, literally above the clouds. The jarring ride is well worth it for a romantic dinner overlooking the city. Outfitted in a hodgepodge of Baccarat chandeliers, booths made of thick slabs of worn wood and antique chairs covered in woven fabrics, the restaurant offers a luxurious, rustic feel, with a wood-burning stove in one corner and a baby grand piano in another. Specialties like the Asian-influenced camarones Rumiloma ($20) and cordero La Cantera, a savory lamb dish ($22), are served on heavy metal platters. Head downstairs to the Irish Pub for an after-dinner drink next to the fireplace. (There are also luxurious suites with fireplaces from $305.)
10 a.m.

Grab a pastry at the Swiss Corner’s deli/bakery (at the corner of Avenida De los Shyris N38-41 and El Telégrafo; 592-2-280-5360) or sit down in its cheery restaurant next door for yogurt and fruit parfaits or eggs and hash browns. Prices from $3 to $10.
11 a.m.

The cobblestone streets of Quito’s historic center are closed to traffic from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday — an ideal opportunity to explore. Start at the Basílica del Voto Nacional, (Calle Carchi 122 and Venezuela; 593-2-228-9428), Ecuador’s largest Gothic cathedral, adorned with gargoyles inspired by the country’s iguanas, pumas and Galápagos tortoises. Then take Calle García Moreno to the Plaza de la Independencia, Quito’s main square, surrounded by the cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Place and City Hall. Take a break at the Plaza Grande Hotel’s Café (Calles García Moreno and Chile; 888-790-5264; plazagrandequito.com) and order a creamy cup of Ecuadorean hot chocolate ($5). Continuing on Calle García Moreno, you will pass La Compañía de Jesús, with its gold-leaf altar. Entrance: $2. On Calle Sucre, head uphill to the Plaza San Francisco, dominated by a church and convent, where musicians gather and locals spontaneously break into dance. Next, make your way to the pedestrian street La Ronda (also known as Calle Morales), where balconies are decorated with flowers and flags, children play hopscotch and tiny restaurants serve up Ecuadorean specialties.
Taxis (typically $2 to $6) are recommended for getting around, especially at night. Or rent an air-conditioned mini-van with a driver, about $130 for a 14-hour day from JL Turismo, jlturismoecuador.com.
In Old Town, Hotel Patio Andaluz (García Moreno N6-52 between Mejía and Olmedo; 593-2-228-0830; hotelpatioandaluz.com) has 32 elegant rooms with antique-style furniture. Rates from $200 a night.
Casa Gangotena, a historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco in Old Town Quito (Calle Bolivar 541; casagangotena.com) plans to offer 33 rooms with painted tin ceilings, antique furniture and marble bathrooms beginning this month. Rooms will start at $425, with breakfast. There will be eight rooms with plaza views for $550 a night

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Donald Trump Accepts 96 Ounces of Gold as Payment for Real Estate Security Deposit

You may not be able to eat it, but gold has been used as a store of value and medium of exchange for millenia. We’ve previously opined that it may not be long before it once again becomes the world’s defacto currency. Governments, investment firms and individuals alike have been accumulating gold assets amid currency debasement, rising inflation and economic uncertainty.
The latest example of gold’s acceptance into mainstream consciousness comes to us from none other than one-time Presidential hopeful, reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who recently agreed to accept a security deposit for one of his properties in gold bars:
On Thursday, the newest tenant in Donald Trump’s 40 Wall Street, a 70-story skyscraper in Manhattan’s Financial District, will hand Mr. Trump a security deposit worth about $176,000. No money will change hands—just three 32-ounce bars of gold, each about the size of a television remote control.
The occasion will mark the first time the Trump Organization has accepted 99.9% pure gold bullion, rather than cash, as a deposit on a commercial lease. The tenant, precious-metals dealer Apmex, will sign a 10-year lease for 40 Wall’s 50th floor at a leasing rate of about $50 a square foot, according to Apmex Chief Executive Michael R. Haynes. The company is promoting the use of gold as a replacement for cash in some situations.
“Gold has been a valuable asset class for the last 10,000 years, but the world has drifted away from it,” Mr. Haynes says. “I figured, Trump is a smart guy, and he’ll realize that taking gold is a better idea than taking cash.”
Mr. Trump said he sees the deal as a repudiation of the Obama administration’s economic policies, of which he has been a vocal critic.
“It’s a sad day when a large property owner starts accepting gold instead of the dollar,” Mr. Trump said in an interview. “The economy is bad, and Obama’s not protecting the dollar at all….If I do this, other people are going to start doing it, and maybe we’ll see some changes.”
Mr. Trump said he has some gold in his personal portfolio, but declined to say how much.
Source: Wall Street Journal via All American Gold
As positive reports and acceptance of gold as a viable currency alternative continue to grow, we’ll no doubt see more people come to the conclusion that precious metals offer piece of mind in a period marked by crisis and confusion.
Author: Mac Slavo
Date: September 15th, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Ecuadorian Passport rules for our dual Passporte holders...


New Rules pertaining to Dual Nationals
(U.S. and Ecuadorian citizens) trying to Depart Ecuador

Are you a Dual National of Ecuador and the United States?
Is this is the case, new regulations by the Ecuadorian government may affect
your trip.
All individuals born in Ecuadorian territory are automatically considered Ecuadorian
citizens at birth. Therefore, an individual born to U.S. citizen parents in Ecuador
— regardless of whether he or she qualifies as a U.S. citizen — is an Ecuadorian
citizen and must depart Ecuador for the first time using an Ecuadorian passport.
In order to do so, parents, or the actual Dual National in the case of adults, should first
obtain an Ecuadorian birth certificate at their local Civil registry office and then obtain a national ID card (“cedula”). With this
document, parents, or the actual Dual National in the case of adults, can apply for an Ecuadorian passport.
Subsequent to the first trip out of the country, a dual national may re-enter Ecuador either as an Ecuadorian citizen or as a tourist.
If a U.S. passport states that the person traveling was born in Ecuador, Ecuadorian immigration authorities will treat him or her as
a dual national and will allow the person to enter Ecuador on the U.S. passport alone, provided the Dual National presents their
Ecuadorian passport as well upon departure. Whether or not a Dual National enters Ecuador on a U.S. or Ecuadorian passport,
they will need the Ecuadorian passport to depart Ecuador.
For additional information, visit the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Travel Documents website at:
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Banks, Governments Move To Restrict Personal Gold Bullion Purchases

This week we returned from a trip to the Eurozone where we met with a host of different people across many countries and several industries. All of the indicators we’re seeing – construction starts, bank lending, personal borrowing habits, economic growth, and even the (lack of) items in grocery store carts – suggest that Europe is on the brink, though as is generally the case, the average European has no clue what’s coming their way.
The most alarming situation we identified is one relating to the purchase of gold coins and bullion – specifically in the country of Austria – but one that will likely make its way across the EU if it hasn’t already. Unlike the United States, where gold and silver can be purchased through traditional methods like visiting a local dealer directly, or even placing an order on the internet, it is much more difficult to find a gold/silver dealer outside of Germany or Switzerland. As a result, those individuals interested in acquiring gold are left with purchasing directly from local bank branches.
Had you visited an Austrian bank three months ago, you would have had absolutely no problem purchasing a large quantity of gold/silver from the bank. You’d simply call the bank about 24 – 48 hours in advance, let them know you’re coming and how much you needed, and you’d personally pick up your order within a couple days

A new trend in Austrian (and perhaps the rest of Europe’s) banking policies suggests that certain interested parties are attempting to control the sale and personal acquisition of gold/silver as safe haven assets. What we experienced first hand should be a wake up call for not just Europeans, but Americans as well.
The policy change was quiet, has not been reported by any media outlets that we’re aware of, and no mention of the new policies is made on the web sites of Austria’s largest banking institutions (though it is clear they vehemently comply with U.S. anti-money laundering measures and the Patriot Act)
According to the bank representatives and manager we spoke with, Austrian banks have now been ordered to restrict the sale of gold and silver bullion purchases and are limiting personal acquisitions of precious metals to 15,000€ (approximately $20,700 USD) at a time, or 11 ounces of gold at today’s prices.
Upon further discussion we learned that these policies were implemented over the course of the last 30 days, and they are now standard operating procedure. The reason given was the banks had come under pressure from EU, Austrian and U.S. officials, with this particular manager specifically citing U.S. money laundering initiatives and the EU’s Third EU Money Laundering Directive which was implemented across the zone in December of 2007.

The idea that these restrictions have been put in place as anti-money laundering measures is laughable. As we all know, if a drug cartel or other criminal organization wanted to launder money, they wouldn’t do it in person purchasing bullion coins at a local banking branch. They’d simply pick up the phone and contact a too-big-too-fail bank (video), as we’ve seen with the billions of dollars recently laundered through U.S. banks. You may remember there was very little reporting on this issue from mainstream media and it has been ignored by U.S. prosecutors.

As Austria is one of the more developed nations in the Euro Zone, there is a strong likelihood that they are not the sole country implementing these new policies – and that this has been, or soon will be, implemented across the entirety of EU nations.

To the average European and American this may not mean much. But if you’ve been paying attention to the events unfolding over the last several years, it’s becoming clear that the economies of the EU and US are under threat of a significant and potentially permanent financial collapse. This morning, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying that the situation is so dire, “policymakers should stand ready, as needed, to take more action to support the recovery, including through unconventional measures.”
The new gold and silver purchasing limits would certainly qualify as unconventional, along with other recent proposed measures by EU officials and business leaders. One such proposal from Italian business leaders calls for all cash transactions over 300 Euro (About $400 USD) to be banned, and to be permitted only in electronic format.

The global trend across industrialized nations for the last twenty years has been to move towards a cashless society, but one that still utilizes centrally planned currencies. While central banks, large institutional funds and wealthy private investors across the world continue to buy up gold, governments seem to be moving quickly to restrict the ability of average people to do the same – and they are rapidly implementing policies to either restrict or track these types of transactions.

Many cities around the country, such as Houston, TX, have passed identification requirements that force sellers of precious metals to present a valid form of ID at the time of sale. Like Europe, the U.S. is expeditiously implementing direct methods of tracking these transactions, as well as indirect methods that target those who may be engaging in suspicious activities, namely using cash, as per FBI and Homeland Security bulletins issued last month.

The noose is tightening. Governments, large financial institutions and political chess players know exactly where real value exists. And it’s certainly not in the currencies that are being printed with reckless abandon.

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: September 9th, 2011
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

The worlds best retirement haven...for the second year in a row

Ecuador – The World's Best Retirement Haven
By Eoin Bassett, International Living
Flowers bloom everywhere, and not one but four rushing rivers bubble over rocks to feed the lush vegetation. In Ecuador—the country that tops this year's Global Retirement Index—nature is ever-present. And you can enjoy it fully in the city of Cuenca, where those rivers trail amid mountain surrounds.
The colonial churches, grand mansions, shady parks, and fountain-anchored plazas have earned Cuenca world-wide recognition for its beauty. A mild climate makes for comfortable living year-round. Average daily temperatures reach into the 70s F, and the nights are cool and fresh.
And Ecuador is one of the most affordable countries in the world. You can rent a furnished, two-bed apartment in an historic center for $220, or buy a large condo for $66,000. You can live well for $600 a month…and like royalty for double that.
For retirees, colonial Cuenca is Ecuador's most attractive city. The third largest in the country, it offers the relaxed pace of a smaller town with the first-class amenities and health care of a bigger one. But Cuenca is by no means your only option in Ecuador. This is a country with something for everyone—beaches, rural highlands, jungle escapes, and colonial cities.
"No matter where you choose to live in Ecuador, there is no better place on earth to discover the simple abundance of health, tranquility, adventure, and beauty," says expat Patricia Farmer.
"We chose Bahía de Caraquez on the coast to begin our Ecuador adventure. There are plenty of amenities, including a hospital, restaurants, and frequent expat get-togethers."
Patricia, her husband Ron, and their two nervous cats arrived at their new beachfront home in February of this year. "We knew no one. And yet we immediately felt at home," says Patricia.
"Living in Southern California, we were spoiled by the warm climate and beautiful beaches. Retirement would—or should—have given us time to enjoy all that more fully. And yet we had no realistic chance of retiring anywhere near a beach in California.
"Looking back now, we're glad we needed to look elsewhere to fulfil our retirement dreams. Otherwise, the chance of living in one of the most beautiful and exotic retirement havens in the world might have passed us by."
For Douglas Willis and his wife Lisa, Cuenca became the haven of choice. "We love the fact that Cuenca has preserved its Old-World feel. It has excellent medical facilities, too, and we can find just about anything we need here in the way of shopping," says Douglas.
Douglas and Lisa have been in Cuenca for four years and say that the city's extensive public transportation system makes it easy to live there without a car.
Plus, "we've been extremely pleased with the quality of the health care offered in Cuenca. In our experience, it is superior in almost every way to the U.S. Doctors here are more accessible and hands-on than doctors in the U.S. They are very well-trained and qualified. There are a number of new medical facilities in Cuenca that rival anything available in the U.S.," says Douglas.
But there's more to Ecuador than affordable beach life and vibrant highland cities. After weighing their options, Jack Moss and his wife Debbie opted for smalltown Cotacachi.
"We read about Cuenca but didn't want the larger city. And we didn't want the heat of the beach. We visited the mountain-valley village of Cotacachi three times. On the last visit, we stayed for a month and decided that the tranquility, the weather, the small expat community, and the low cost of living were what we were looking for."
Since Ecuador's official currency is the U.S. dollar, you have no problems determining the cost of goods or services. "Although imported goods are more expensive, local products and labor are quite reasonable," says Jack.
Patricia says that, on the coast in Bahía, the living costs for her and Ron average out to a fifth of what they spent in California. "We live in a nice highrise condo overlooking the ocean. Even with two spoiled cats in need of gourmet food and our love of eating out with friends, we enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle—even more luxurious than we had in California. You can live on less, no doubt, but including everything except rent ($500 a month), we are currently spending about $1,500 a month."
This value represents Ecuador's number one retiree benefit. Costs are just plain low. In Cotacachi, "many expats say that they have trouble spending over $1,200 a month for all expenses per couple," says Jack. And in Cuenca, Douglas says he, his wife, and their children live on about $1,000 a month. "That's a quarter of the budget we lived on in the U.S."
And health care in Ecuador is cheap, too. An appointment with a doctor averages $25 (without insurance). "I've visited an English-speaking doctor here in Bahía and was very pleased," says Patricia. "For insurance we chose Cruz Blanca, the least expensive with the most coverage. We pay $40 each per month (no exam needed under age 65); this jumps to $95 each at age 65 and remains there for life."

A Decade Later

The Daily Reckoning Presents

We are now getting close to the 10th anniversary of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Although a decade is an insufficient period for most historians to comfortably draw firm conclusions about anything, it is possible to look at our world today and see how it appears to have been affected by that disastrous event and the ensuing decade.

It is critical to remember that terrorism is not designed to overwhelm. It is designed to undermine. In that context, whatever it does to cause or initiate anxiety in targeted populations and governments, it relies on the reaction of those populations and governments equally as much to achieve its final goals. And America has reacted in ways that have haunted us and will continue to haunt us for decades. Al-Qaida could not have wished for more.

Domestically, we have seen major changes in our lives. Think of our color-coded terrorist warning system, our current airport controls, our paranoia over anyone who “looks like a Muslim” (whatever that is), or “acts differently.” What is that paper bag doing in the subway? Airport? Train station? Movie?

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans were clearly prepared to and ultimately did surrender their civil liberties and individual rights in the hope that doing so would add to their own physical security. We forgot Benjamin Franklin’s injunction that “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The Patriot Act, where it was designed ostensibly to increase our security here at home, did many other things that have negatively affected the way we lead our lives. It increased the government’s ability to spy on us, to monitor our activities in a very broad and general way. It introduced warrantless wiretapping and the monitoring of fund transfers and Internet communications. It also initiated the national security letter process that required any person or organization to turn over records and data pertaining to individuals without warrant, and all this without probable cause or judicial oversight.

The other major domestic impact of the decade has been financial. During that period, we have gone from what was verging on a national surplus to a deficit that is now approaching $15 trillion and increasing at the rate of $3.95 billion every day. We got there through a combination of factors, including tax cuts, the “War on Terror,” and unfunded military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and now Libya. Brown University’s comprehensive June 2011 “Costs of War” project, factoring in all the costs associated with the decade, arrives at close to $4 trillion. Tax cuts add $2.8 trillion. There seems virtually no doubt that in the absence of our reaction to 9/11, we would be fiscally relatively healthy.

In addition to the foregoing difficult domestic situation, which we largely created for ourselves in the aftermath of 9/11, the changes we have seen in our foreign policy will haunt us for years to come. In that arena, our move to military-based, unilateral policy was a radical change. Yet our invasion and defeat of Iraq and the ascendance to power of the Iranian-allied Iraqi Shiites will likely prove to be our most egregious blunder.

It’s not that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in any sense enlightened; it is very simply that Saddam’s Iraq was the only effective impediment to Iranian control over the Persian Gulf. From 1980-88, Iran and Iraq fought a war for supremacy in the gulf. In the absence of a clear resolution of that conflict, the fact that Iraq survived served as a critical deterrent to Iranian dreams for hegemony there.

Our invasion and defeat of Saddam’s Iraq was something the Iranians could never have accomplished on their own. With Shiites now assuming power under our new order in Iraq and Iran threatening the old Sunni positions in the Gulf States, Iran has come even closer. We have destroyed the last real impediment to Iranian dreams for the gulf.

We have had our chances to deal with 9/11 in ways that would have better favored our own national interests. Instead, we panicked, invoked questionable practices at home and became involved in military adventures abroad that will almost certainly ultimately be viewed as disasters.

Without the active, witless involvement and acquiescence of our government and Congress over the past decade, al-Qaida terrorism would have caused us far less pain than it ultimately has and we would be a great deal safer, richer, wiser and internationally more powerful and respected than is now the case.


Haviland Smith,
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who served in eastern and western Europe and the Middle East and as chief of the counterterrorism staff. He lives in Williston.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How a $50 "tip" saved me thousands in lawyer fees - The Ecuador Insider


That's what I saved last week on lawyer's fees when buying a property in Ecuador because I handled the paperwork myself.  Now you can too.

In Ecuador, the Title (Escritura) of a property is registered in three places... a notary's office, the local Municipal, and in the Property Registry Office (Registro de Propiedad).

When buying a property in Ecuador you  have to go to a notary with the seller (preferably one where the old Title of the property is on file) and sign a new purchase agreement which then serves as the new title.

The notary itself will often write up the document of the purchase agreement itself and check out the old Title.

After that, the signed purchase agreement (new title) needs to be registered in the Property Registry's Office and local Municipal to become official.  When registering the document in your name both the Municipal and Registry will charge taxes.

The Notary will charge a fee too.  Last week I mentioned the amounts I got charged.

But many, apart from the fees mentioned above, pay a lawyer thousands to handle the whole process and do the "run-around" paying the fees in the Municipal and Registry office, etc... when often it isn't necessary.

I did it solo.  And I didn't do the "run-around" myself.

What was the trick?

I paid the secretary of the notary $50 cash to do the "run-around", wait in the lines and register the property.

She did it.  And a week later I went to get the official certificate of Registry from the Registry's office myself to prove all was registered correctly.  Done.

And if you need extra guidance during the purchase often the notary itself will tell you what needs to be done next.

So now you know how to buy property in Ecuador skipping the intermediary lawyer most overpay when buying property in Ecuador.

Saludos until next week,

Domenick Buonamici
Investor, Reporter, Entrepreneur

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where to Pick Up a Bargain Beach Home in Ecuador

Where to Pick Up a Bargain Beach Home in Ecuador
By Dan Prescher
When Suzan and I bought our condo in the mountain town of Cotacachi, Ecuador, we figured we were done shopping.
After all, we had a modern apartment in a thriving little craft town with absolutely perfect weather year-round. When we’re there, we spend less than $1,500 per month, and we have all the benefits of an active and growing expat community.
Then we met Ron and Terresa Moore.
Not long ago, Ron and Terresa were having a tough time back in the U.S. They’d both lost their jobs and were watching their hefty nest egg evaporate before their eyes, thanks to a global economic downturn.
So they pulled up stakes and moved to Ecuador.
Today, Ron and Terresa are our neighbors in Cotacachi. They live in a 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom condo they bought for less than $50,000. It has a balcony and big windows with views of the majestic Andes.
Not only that…they’ve also just taken possession of a new two-bedroom beachfront condo in Crucita. Their building is directly in front of the beach, and their balcony looks right out over the community swimming pool to the vast blue Pacific Ocean.
The cost for this condo? Just $61,000.
You read that right. It means Ron and Terresa now have a snug little mountain hideaway and a Pacific beachfront condo, and they paid less than $120,000—for both of them!
Though we’d spent time in Crucita back in 2001, after talking with Ron and Terresa, we decided to check things out there again.
Thankfully, Crucita hasn't changed much. We found a few more homes and a couple new high rise buildings on the southernmost end of the long, sandy, crescent bay.
Here, real estate prices can suit any budget. We found condos in one new high rise development starting from $66,275…that was for an 860-square-foot unit with an oceanfront balcony looking onto the Pacific. It comes with access to a large community area with a BBQ and swimming pool.
We found land for a snip. Like a 6,456-square-foot walled beachfront lot selling for $50,000—and construction costs here are just $65 per square foot for high-end finishes. Ocean-view land is still available high in the hills above the bay for $1 per square meter (about nine cents a square foot).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Restaurants on Food Stamp List?

When we saw this headline.....we honestly could not believe it. I REALLY have been gone to long!

Posted: Sep 06, 2011 8:37 PM EST Updated: Sep 06, 2011 9:20 PM EST

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cuenca: Best For Climate and Safety

Dena moved to Ecuador from Canada with her husband and young daughter only after carefully weighing up all the options.
They considered several places in Belize, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, too…but Cuenca won them over in the end thanks to its safety and climate.
Of course, another big draw was the low prices—take a look at some of the costs Dena details below...........
By Dena Haines
Cuenca, Ecuador is a jewel nestled in amongst the amazing beauty of the Andes Mountains. The climate is temperate year-round. The medical facilities are excellent, and the atmosphere is that of a quaint European town.
The cost of living is significantly lower than in the U.S. or Canada. Your grocery bill will be about a third of what you pay back home. A new three-bedroom, two bath apartment (with an amazing view of the surrounding mountains) costs us $180 a month.
The electric bill is around $20 per month, and the water bill is $1.80 per month. The hot water, kitchen stove, and clothes dryer run on propane—$2 per tank.
For 25 cents the bus system gets you anywhere you want to go. If you need a taxi, you'll pay $1.50 for a short trip or up to $5 for a ride clear across the city.
The latest movies—$3. You can treat a friend to a coffee and snack for less than $3. A typical 3-course lunch costs between $2 and $4.
Cuenca is a center of education so you can find all the latest medical facilities here, and get the care you need or want at a fraction of the cost you might expect. Some people travel here because of the savings on certain procedures, especially dental and cosmetic.
It's never too hot or too cold; warm during the day and cool at night. The growing season has no end, so a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables are always available. The climate is also easy on the wardrobe—with a pair of jeans, t-shirt, and light jacket you're set to get out and explore this beautiful city.
The four rivers that run through Cuenca provide a lot of beautiful green space. It's very peaceful to walk along their eucalyptus lined banks, or pack a picnic and relax with friends while listening to the soft babbling as the river flows by. The city has a definite European feel, with its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. The parks, quaint cafes and restaurants all over the city add to its small-town feel.
Cuenca has retained a strong culture and cosmetic beauty that people are falling in love with. The expat community is steadily growing so if you are thinking about making a move, now is the time to join us!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Is Your Property Safe from Seizure?

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported how federal agents seized about $19 million during a fraud investigation last year. That sum included $392,000 of cash belonging to New York businessman James Lieto, an innocent bystander who was not involved in the crime.
Mr. Lieto is just one among thousands of Americans who have been victimized by the federal system of “civil asset forfeiture.” This doctrine empowers the U.S. government to seize assets from innocent people never charged with any crime.
Over 400 federal statutes - double the number since the 1990s - have been buried in hundreds of criminal laws adopted by Congress during the last 25 years.
And as the example with Mr. Lieto demonstrates, police use and abuse of civil asset forfeiture today is very much alive in Police State America - and you and your property could be the next victims.
Property confiscation by federal, state and local police is now widespread, aimed not just at suspected pot-growers or even major drug traffickers, but in the majority of cases, at more convenient police targets - average people, many of them minorities, whose only "crime" is ownership of real and personal property.
In 2010, forfeiture programs confiscated condominium units, homes, cars, boats and cash in more than 15,000 cases, worth a combined $2.5 billion - an amount that has doubled in five years, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

How Civil Forfeiture Works...

The legal doctrine underlying forfeiture holds that property implicated in crime can be seized even if its owner is never charged or tried. In 80% of such cases in America, the property owner is never charged.
That is because the civil forfeiture law lets government and police take property that is merely suspected of having been used in or related to a crime. This legal standard is known as “probable cause.” Unlike criminal asset forfeiture, however, with civil forfeiture, a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime, or even charged, to permanently lose your cash, car, home or other property
Seizures can be based on mere rumor, gossip, a police hunch, or self-serving statements from disreputable people with an axe to grind like anonymous paid informants, accused criminals begging for leniency, or jailed convicts seeking early release.
The U.S. pays cash rewards up to $100,000 per assignment to informants out of the cash or property seized. Around $15 million is spent annually for this purpose by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Police at all levels of government have an even greater incentive than informants to seize assets - they get a large cut of the cash or they keep the cars and other property they grab. 
Under a 1984 federal law, state and local law enforcement agencies that work with the U.S. agents (i.e. FBI, Customs) on seizures get to keep up to 80% of the proceeds. Last year, under this "equitable-sharing" program, the federal government paid out more than $500 million, up about 75% from a decade ago.

Property Forfeiture is a Threat
to Innocent Americans

Forfeiture's unique police power depends on musty legal theories spawned by the petty tyranny of English monarchs. These ancient laws were refashioned by Congress to strip property from blameless Americans under the guise of fighting the “drug war.” 
Constitutional “due process” guaranteed in other areas of U.S. criminal law is virtually unknown in asset forfeiture cases. 
Procedure is stacked against an innocent owner and in favor of government. The basic presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” is turned on its head. The burden is on the owner who, in order to reclaim the property must prove a negative, showing it was not used in a criminal act.
Under threat of great financial loss, forfeiture law forces property owners to act as police agents and incriminate others. Innocent owners are defenseless unless they prove not only that the alleged illegal activity occurred without their knowledge or consent - but also they did all they reasonably could be expected to do to prevent the proscribed use of the property. 
Consider what this means... Owners who lease apartments, cars or boats risk losing valuable property because of renters' uncontrollable illegal conduct.
In unrelated Minnesota and Connecticut police actions, family homes were seized because a child or grandchild was found to have pot stashed in their room.
The home of an elderly widow in Montgomery, Alabama was confiscated even though she repeatedly reported to local police drug sales in and near her house by her own adult children.
Similarly, the government has been able to claim successfully that one illicit dollar deposited in a bank account along with a million other “clean” dollars taints all the money, subjecting it to forfeiture.
The 2000 Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, or CAFRA, adopted protections for individuals and increased the government's burden of proof. But CAFRA also extended forfeiture powers to additional crimes.
What’s more, CAFRA's safeguards failed to win a broad guarantee that poor people would have access to a lawyer. “It isn't much good to say you have the right to get your property back if you can't afford a lawyer,” said the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), a champion of forfeiture reforms. Unfortunately, after the 9-11 terror attacks many of the CAFRA reforms were weakened by provisions slipped into the 2001 PATRIOT Act with no notice.
It was my privilege to “ghost write” for Rep. Hyde, my good friend, a special Cato Institute report, Forfeiting Our Property Rights: Is Your Property Safe from Seizure that is still available online.

Is Your Property Safe from Seizure?

To this day, most Americans don't realize the U.S. government can take people's homes, land, cars, and money without charging them with a crime - and the reason could be as mundane as violating an outdated law.
As a Pulitzer Prize-winning series exposing forfeiture in the Pittsburgh Press so aptly put it: “The billions of dollars that forfeiture brings into law enforcement agencies is so blinding that it obscures the devastation it causes the innocent.”
One source of defensive measures against civil forfeiture can be found on the website of Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR), an excellent anti-forfeiture group founded by California attorney, Brenda Grantland. They also provide a list of forfeiture defense attorneys.
But the most effective way to keep your wealth out of harm’s way is to diversify your assets offshore. Stash your gold securities and cash in a safe deposit box in Switzerland or Austria... set up an account at a top private bank overseas... ensure your economic survival by acquiring a second passport... open a brokerage account in Hong Kong.
I’ve been helping people take these simple steps to protect their property for over two decades. It’s the only way I know to truly safeguard your assets from government seizure.
Get started with your own contingency plan here.
Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman JD
Chairman, Freedom Alliance