4. NOT ON THE BALLOT, BUT ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT HAS DOMINATED RUN-UP TO SUNDAY’S OPEN PRIMARIES (U.S. News and World Report)5. TANGO WITH CREDITORS TAKES A TWIRL — ARGENTINE OFFICIALS INDICATE POSSIBLE THAW, BUT A SETTLEMENT ISN’T YET IN SIGHT (The Wall Street Journal)7. PA. MAN UNEARTHED DINOSAUR NOW A PITT PROF, HE HELPED TO FIND PATAGONIAN GIANT (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)By Jonathan Gilbert10 August 2015BUENOS AIRES — Argentines voted to select presidential nominees on Sunday in a primary election that will gauge the nation’s desire for change after 12 years of the current president’s governing party.That party’s candidate, Daniel Scioli, is vying to succeed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who cannot run for a third consecutive term. Mr. Scioli is widely expected to receive the most votes of any candidate across all parties.Partial returns were not available Sunday, and conclusive results were not expected until Monday.Argentina switched to a primary system in 2011. Voters — not just party members or officials — now decide which candidate from each major party or alliance will run in the presidential election, which will be held on Oct. 25.To avoid fissures in the governing Front for Victory, Mrs. Kirchner endorsed Mr. Scioli, 58, a former powerboat champion who lost his right arm in 1989 when his boat flipped during a race. After her endorsement, other party candidates withdrew.Mr. Scioli’s main rival, Mauricio Macri, 56, was expected to easily overcome challengers within his Cambiemos, or ”Let’s Change,” alliance.Carlos Germano, a political analyst, said that if Mr. Scioli wins about 40 percent of the vote, ”he becomes an extremely difficult figure to overcome on Oct. 25.”Management and Fit, an Argentine polling firm, predicted this month that Mr. Scioli would win 36 percent of the vote and the Cambiemos candidates would receive a total of 31 percent. It surveyed 2,400 people nationwide, and the margin of sampling error was 2 percentage points.Mrs. Kirchner comfortably won elections in 2007 and 2011, but discontent with her administration has increased in recent years. ”The Front for Victory is very strong, but these elections are extremely competitive, unlike anything we’ve seen for a while in Argentina,” Mr. Germano said.To win in October without the need for a runoff, a candidate needs more than 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent with a lead of more than 10 points. Advisers to Mr. Macri believe he is more capable than Mr. Scioli of attracting voters from beyond his base. Attracting votes from supporters of Sergio Massa, a third candidate who lost momentum after rising to prominence in midterm elections in 2013, will be crucial, analysts said.Mr. Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina’s most populous, faces some challenges because of what are widely viewed as moves by Mrs. Kirchner to wield influence over him after she leaves office.Still, many voters here support the governing party because they believe the country is better off today than it was in 2003 after a severe crisis plunged millions into poverty.”The truth is that the country is fine,” said Alexia Charchabukian, 33, a jewelry seller who voted at a school in Chacarita, a gritty neighborhood here. She cited Argentina’s rising middle class and Mrs. Kirchner’s drive to expand social benefits.Mr. Macri, who is the mayor of Buenos Aires, has gained support among voters who have voiced discontent in recent years with what they see as Mrs. Kirchner’s imperious style and other concerns, including accusations of corruption, inflation and perceptions that crime is on the rise.”The country is not doing well,” said Patricia Caneva, 56, a private tutor of English who voted for Alejandro Bodart, a socialist. ”The first term was good, but the second has been a struggle,” she said, pointing to the high inflation and to her irritation with Mrs. Kirchner’s antagonistic tone.The pace of growth here has slowed significantly after a boom from 2003 to 2011.Mr. Macri has said that if he is elected he will maintain some of Mrs. Kirchner’s cornerstone policies, including child benefits, and the nationalization of an oil company and an airline. He would also strengthen public institutions, his aides said, including Argentina’s politicized judiciary and the national statistics institute, whose data has in the past been criticized by the International Monetary Fund.Mr. Scioli is offering continuity, although his aides said he would gradually forge his own policies. He has been helped by the nationwide political machinery of the Front for Victory, while Mr. Macri has had to battle to win recognition beyond Buenos Aires.Daniel Scioli, of the Front for Victory, voted Sunday in Buenos Aires. His party has been in power for more than a decade.By Benedict ManderAugust 10, 2015Argentina’s primary elections on Sunday in which all voters are obliged to vote, set the stage for a tight race in the October presidential elections that will bring an end to eight years of rule by the leftist government of President Cristina Fernández and see the country settle its long-standing fight for holdout hedge fund creditors.With 87 per cent of the ballots counted, Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province backed by the ruling Peronist party, had won 36.5 per cent of the vote, while the opposition alliance led by Mauricio Macri, the mayor of the city of Buenos Aires, had gained 31.4 per cent, with 40 per cent of the ballots counted.Argentina’s electoral system requires all voters, not just party members, to decide which candidate from each major party or coalition will run in the October 25 presidential election. As such its results are widely seen as an early look at the presidential contest’s result.Analysts said that Sunday’s close result raised the likelihood of a second-round run-off presidential vote in November. In order to win outright, the leading candidate needs either 45 per cent of the vote, or 40 per cent with a 10 point margin over the runner-up.Sunday’s tight result allowed each of the leading candidates to claim victory, with Mr Scioli boasting that he had won the most votes and the opposition highlighting that the majority had voted against the ruling party and wanted change as Argentines complain of a stagnant economy and high inflation.“Argentina has found a way. It is evident that with this result there is a clear will to continue advancing towards a great future,” Mr Scioli told supporters, praising Ms Fernández and her late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, for whom he was vice-president. Nevertheless Mr Scioli, who chose one of Ms Fernández’s closest advisers as his running mate, added that he would “change what needs changing”.Markets are likely to welcome the prospect of a second round, since it would be good news for the business-friendly Mr Macri, who has promised wholesale change. His top priorities include axing currency and trade controls, and reaching a quick solution with “holdout” creditors who are blocking Argentina’s access to international capital markets.The result of a run-off would depend to a large extent on the votes of Sergio Massa, a dissident Peronist whose coalition came third in the primaries with 20.5 per cent. It remains unclear whether Mr Scioli or Mr Macri would benefit more from Mr Massa’s votes in a second round.“Tonight an alternative has been consolidated,” Mr Macri told supporters. “We have to unite, because united we are more.”About 32m people were eligible to vote in the elections, which were marred by heavy rain, especially around Buenos Aires, the capital. The elections will also see half of the chamber of deputies and a third of the senate renewed, as well as several provincial governors.By Hugh Bronstein10 August 2015BUENOS AIRES, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli was ahead in Argentina’s presidential primary on Sunday with 36.8 percent, early results showed, with voters favoring the Buenos Aires governor’s policy of gradual change after eight years of leftist government.Scioli is in outgoing President Cristina Fernandez’s Front for Victory party and has promised to slowly modify her policies, which include heavy state control of the economy.The presidential election, in which Fernandez is banned from running for a third consecutive term, is on Oct. 25.The No. 2 vote-getter on Sunday was Mauricio Macri, the business-friendly mayor of the capital city whose goal is to do well enough in October to force a November run-off. He had 24.7 percent of the primary vote with 24.5 percent of ballots counted. The early results were seen as neutral for the markets.Macri competed with two less popular members of his Cambiemos, or “Let’s Change,” coalition. Let’s Change as a whole captured 31.2 percent. Scioli ran unopposed in the Front for Victory primary.Ignacio Labaqui, who analyses Argentina for Medley Global Advisors, said Macri’s coalition needed at least 30 percent on Sunday for him to stay in serious contention.Each party chose its presidential candidate in the primary but, with voters free to cross party lines, Sunday’s vote served as a dry run ahead of the October election. To win outright in October, a candidate needs 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent with a 10-point margin over whoever places second.Both Scioli and Macri are former businessmen with more orthodox policies than Fernandez, whose high public spending has drained fiscal accounts and fueled inflation while currency and trade controls slowed investment.Macri vows to quickly free the markets. Scioli says “gradualism” is the best way to open the economy while preserving the strong social safety net weaved together by Fernandez since she first took power in 2007.Scioli said in a speech after Sunday’s vote he would “continue the programs that need to be continued and change what needs to be changed in order to keep advancing.”The governor has revealed few details of his program, as he treads carefully to lock in Fernandez’s left-leaning base without alienating the wider electorate.Macri vows to scrap currency controls and grains export curbs, and to negotiate an end to the U.S. court battle with holders of non-paying sovereign bonds that has hobbled Argentina’s finances by keeping it in default.Argentina is the world’s third-biggest soybean exporter and a major supplier of wheat to neighboring Brazil.The bond market had been set to rally at any sign of a stronger-than-expected primary performance by Macri. But Alejo Costa at Buenos Aires investment bank Puente said the preliminary results were in line with expectations and had already been largely priced into bonds.Fernandez’s policies have fueled one of the world’s highest inflation rates, but poor voters who have benefited from state largesse over the past eight years remain loyal to her. She could return as a presidential candidate in 2019.Congressman Sergio Massa placed a distant third in Sunday’s primary with 12.1 percent.Whoever is elected Argentina’s next leader will need to carefully loosen controls that Fernandez has put on Latin America’s third-biggest economy as it confronts tough trade condition, said Walter Molano, emerging markets analyst at U.S.-based BCP Securities.4. NOT ON THE BALLOT, BUT ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT HAS DOMINATED RUN-UP TO SUNDAY’S OPEN PRIMARIES (U.S. News and World Report)By Peter PrengamanAugust 8, 2015BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Cristina Fernandez isn’t on Sunday’s presidential primary ballot, yet the influence of Argentina’s leader is all around it.The populist president known for fiery rhetoric and withering critiques of political opponents has been dictating the tempo of the campaign, buoyed by rising popularity despite a sluggish economy and a scandal that rocked her administration. Barred from seeking a third consecutive term, she is making clear she will wield her clout through the Oct. 25 election and possibly beyond.Opposition candidates have gone from criticizing the spending behind Fernandez’s social welfare policies, including energy and transportation subsidies and perks for poor, single mothers, to instead talking about modifying the programs or even building on them.“Previous presidents at this point were lame ducks. Fernandez is not,” said Maria Victoria Murillo, a professor of political science at Columbia University and an expert on Argentine politics. “She continues to be very effective.”Sunday’s open primaries largely will be a trial run for the leading presidential candidates, who have all but won their party’s nominations. Voters also will select nominees for several governor and congressional seats. A candidate must get at least 1.5 percent of the total votes cast for that race in all the primaries to advance to the general election, effectively eliminating many minority party candidates.The vote comes at a time when the South American nation of 41 million people is struggling. Independent economists put inflation at more than 30 percent, the Argentine peso has devalued sharply against the U.S. dollar in recent months and a long-standing dispute with a group of U.S. hedge funds has left the country shunned by foreign investment.The major candidates have addressed these issues during heavily scripted events, but have been notably light on details about how they would solve them.Daniel Scioli, the governor of the Buenos Aires province and a former vice president, is the governing party candidate vying to replace Fernandez. Mauricio Macri, the outgoing mayor of Buenos Aires and former president of the Boca Junior soccer club, is leading the opposition. Sergio Massa, who has held Cabinet and elective posts, is running on his own ticket after breaking with Fernandez’s political movement, known as Kirchnerismo.Scioli is up by as many as 10 points over Macri in recent polls, a significant bump after the two spent months in a tight race. The rise partly coincides with Scioli’s June decision to name Carlos Zannini, one of Fernandez’s closest aides, as his running mate. In exchange for picking Zannini, Scioli received Fernandez’s endorsement and the two began campaigning together.For both Scioli and Macri, the primaries provide a chance to test their strategies. If Scioli wins by a big margin, he’ll likely continue to embrace Fernandez. By contrast, if Macri does poorly, he’ll likely return to stronger criticism of Fernandez’s spending in hopes of attracting more independent voters.Six months ago, few imagined Fernandez would be wielding such influence.Her administration was clouded by the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Nisman was found dead Jan. 18, hours before he was to appear before Congress to elaborate on his explosive accusation that Fernandez plotted to cover up the alleged role of several Iranian officials wanted in a bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in 1994.Fernandez denied the allegations and the courts later threw out Nisman’s case. Authorities have yet to charge anyone in the prosecutor’s death.The president’s clumsy handling of the scandal took a toll. In February, several polls put her approval rating in the low 30s. By May it had climbed to 40 percent and by the last weekend in July it topped 50 percent, said Roberto Bacman, director of the Center for Public Opinion Studies, a South American research firm.“We are witnessing a very peculiar phenomenon,” said Bacman, who attributed Fernandez’s revival in part to Argentines’ general fear of major changes in the economy.After months of promising to lead Argentines in a vastly different direction by attracting foreign investment, Macri did an about-face two weeks ago by saying he now supported Fernandez’s state takeovers of Aerolineas Argentinas airline and YPF oil company.The move was widely interpreted as an acknowledgement that Macri couldn’t run as an anti-Fernandez candidate when roughly half the electorate supports her.Fernandez was quick to highlight the flip-flop. The next day, while inaugurating a road while Scioli stood at her side, she said: “We could have saved so much time if (the opposition) had realized just a little sooner” the value of the policies.Scioli, a former powerboat racer who lost his right arm in competition, has walked a fine line between praising Fernandez’s policies and appealing to independent voters. He often talks of “gradualismo,” or gradual changes that he’ll make to the economy.He has promised to slowly lift unpopular restrictions on citizens’ ability to buy U.S. dollars. Earlier this year, Macri said he would immediately lift the limits if elected. He quickly backed off after drawing sharp criticism that it wasn’t realistic, but he began making the promise again this week.All the major candidates say they’ll solve the dispute with the foreign hedge funds, which Fernandez calls “vultures.” The issue goes back to the country’s $100 billion default in 2001. The group refused to accept lower-valued bond swaps and took Argentina to court in New York and won.Paula Alejandra Vasconcelos, a single mother who lives in a poor neighborhood in southern Buenos Aires, said she hadn’t decided how she’ll vote.She said she likes Fernandez’s policies but is turned off by the economic problems and recent scandals, including the death of Nisman.“This country is like a science fiction novel,” she said. “And as Argentines, we have become used to this.”5. TANGO WITH CREDITORS TAKES A TWIRL — ARGENTINE OFFICIALS INDICATE POSSIBLE THAW, BUT A SETTLEMENT ISN’T YET IN SIGHT (The Wall Street Journal)By Julie Wernau and Taos Turner8 August 2015Argentine officials are hinting at a thaw in a long-running standoff with hedge-fund creditors, boosting investors’ interest in the struggling South American nation ahead of a New York court date Wednesday.Daniel Scioli, a presidential candidate for the ruling Peronist party, told a radio talk-show host this past week that, if elected, his government would negotiate a deal with investors that have sued in New York to collect $1.7 billion they are owed on defaulted bonds.Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said this month that reaching a deal with the holdouts is a matter of time. “I think it’s a question of finding the precise opportunity,” he said.This past week, the price of Argentina’s benchmark notes due 2033 rose 4%, likely in anticipation of a deal following the Oct. 25 presidential election, analysts said.Considerable hurdles remain to a settlement. Even so, the statements could point to a drastic shift for a country whose administration refers to its hedge-fund adversaries as “vultures.”The standoff has sharply limited Argentine access to foreign capital at a time when its economy is struggling with rampant inflation, dwindling foreign reserves, hefty deficits and a slumping currency.“There is pressure to calm financial markets at home leading up to the elections,” said Arturo Porzecanski, distinguished economist in residence at the School of International Service at American University in Washington.Efforts to contact the Argentine embassy and government officials for comment were unsuccessful.The MSCI Argentina Index, which covers about 85% of Argentine shares, has nearly doubled over the past two years, amid investors’ hopes that the departure of President Cristina Kirchner would herald a more investor-friendly regime.All three major candidates in the presidential election have signaled to the local media a willingness for overhauls that would attract foreign investment to the country.“Investors are hopeful that after the October election there will be a significant policy shift that will not only reopen capital markets for Argentina but will also enable the country to grow in a sustainable manner,” Arthur Carvalho, an economist at Morgan Stanley said in a note.Still, no deal appears imminent. The administration of President Kirchner, which will remain in office through early December, isn’t actively seeking a settlement, and discussions with creditors led by Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. aren’t currently under way, said a person familiar with the matter.“We are not closer to a deal than a week ago,” said Sebastian Vargas, an economist at Barclays.At issue Wednesday is whether Argentina has been forthcoming with creditors in disclosing the whereabouts of assets it owns around the world. Hedge funds led by Elliott Management’s NML Capital Ltd. and Aurelius Capital Management Ltd. are seeking sanctions, saying the government has refused to show its assets.The hedge funds have chased Argentine assets around the globe. NML seized an Argentine navy training vessel in 2012 and tried to block the country from launching a pair of satellites. Other creditors attempted to seize the presidential plane in 2007.While 93% of Argentina’s bondholders have agreed to restructured offerings since 2001 that pay about 30 cents on the dollar, last year Argentina’s trustee stopped paying those bondholders after a New York judge ruled that Argentina couldn’t pay some bondholders without paying its holdout creditors. It defaulted on $29 billion in restructured debt.U.S. courts have jurisdiction over these lawsuits because Argentina had agreed in some of its bond contracts to resolve any disputes under New York law.Argentina then issued about $4.5 million in debt under Argentine law.But when domestic investors sold that debt to foreign investors, holdout creditors pursued the argument that the new bonds also fall within the court’s jurisdiction.By Benedict ManderAugust 9, 2015Miguel Galuccio’s easy charm is infectious. Even Vladimir Putin broke into a smile during a tête-à-tête earlier this year with the chief executive of YPF, Argentina’s renationalised energy company.“I asked myself: how am I going to break the ice with this guy?” says Mr Galuccio, recalling how the notoriously severe Russian president’s expression had barely flinched during an official lunch just before their meeting.But Mr Putin’s stern countenance quickly melted away when Mr Galuccio, who was 47 that day, played his opening gambit. “Mr President, this is my second birthday in Russia. The first was in Siberia. This time I am in the Kremlin, with you. I’m getting better,” joked Mr Galuccio, earning himself a jaunty slap from the Russian leader.Whether Russia’s Gazprom ends up partnering with YPF to develop Argentina’s vast, untapped shale reserves, as Mr Galuccio hopes, remains to be seen.But his ability to win the confidence of others has certainly gone a long way in helping him to reach the pinnacle of corporate Argentina, which he achieved when President Cristina Fernández gave him the top job at YPF after the government expropriated a 51 per cent stake in the country’s biggest company from Spain’s Repsol in 2012. “For a president who had taken such a complicated decision as to nationalise a company like YPF, and then put it into the hands of someone who is not a politician and who she doesn’t even know — that’s when I clicked,” said Mr Galuccio, who admits that he had been standoffish when he was first invited to meet the president.After all, taking the reins at YPF in 2012 following a highly politicised and antagonistic expropriation process was a risky proposition; venomous critics would be waiting to pounce at every false move. And besides, he had been very happy living as what he calls a “global nomad”, moving from the US to Mexico to Indonesia.At the time he was offered the job at YPF, he was based in London, where he was running a team for Schlumberger, the oil services company, in charge of more than 100 projects around the world. But the petroleum engineer was impressed that Ms Fernández — often derided by her critics as a populist — was convinced that YPF needed to be managed by a professional from the private sector. That sealed his decision: “If it was a risk for me, she was taking a risk that was 10-times greater. And we had a chance to do something really great.”Mr Galuccio was no stranger to YPF. Indeed, he insists that he would never have taken the job had he not started his career there.CVBorn: April 1968, Paraná, Entre Ríos province, ArgentinaEducation: Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos AiresCareer: 1992-99: Various roles at YPF, including managing operation and development of oilfields in the south of Argentina1999-2012: Various roles at Schlumberger, first general manager for Mexico and Central America, then London-based director of the Integrated Project Management division from 2005, until being named director of Schlumberger Production Management in 20112012: Returns to YPF as chief executiveFamily: Married with a son and daughterInterests: Polo, flying helicopters, boxingHe vividly recounts how chills were sent down his spine when he received a telephone call late one evening while he was a 24-year-old trainee working in Denver, where he knew no one. Although he had eaten, it was an invitation to dinner from a senior figure at YPF with whom he had had a long technical discussion earlier that day, which he was quite convinced had not gone well.“Today we are going to dine twice,” he excitedly told his wife, who was heavily pregnant with their first child. He accepted the job he was offered over dinner: “It was the most important decision I have ever taken.”Although going to work out in the field in Comodoro Rivadavia on the inhospitable southern coast of Argentina meant that, to his great dismay, he missed the moment of his son’s birth, it provided essential technical experience that laid the foundations for his career.Ironically, his first stint at YPF came to an abrupt end when it was acquired by Repsol in 1999, even though the Spanish company chose Mr Galuccio, after a lengthy selection process, as the face of their publicity campaign to relaunch their image in Argentina. A true oil man, Mr Galuccio was disappointed by the lack of oil and gas culture at Repsol, and took a job at Schlumberger instead.Of course, Mr Galuccio would eventually become the face of YPF again, but only once Repsol had gone. His return was partly thanks to his brother, who persuaded him to advise Sergio Urribarri, the governor of his home province Entre Ríos, about shale — even though, Mr Galuccio points out with a cheeky grin, he had to break it to him that there was no chance that the shale reserves in Entre Ríos would ever be commercially viable during the governor’s political lifetime.Nevertheless, Mr Urribarri, a close confidant of the president, was so impressed that he put Mr Galuccio’s name forward when candidates were being sought to lead the newly renationalised company, which was founded as a state enterprise in 1922.Before taking the plunge, Mr Galuccio admits that it was necessary to “align expectations” and be assured that the president shared his vision of YPF as a “hybrid” company — majority-owned by the state, but with a strong private sector culture. Since then, he insists that his success would not have been possible without the support he has received from the president and her inner circle, such as economy minister Axel Kicillof, a former university professor with a special fascination for Karl Marx.Indeed, the president’s gamble on Mr Galuccio seems to have paid off. Three years on, a declining trend in oil and gas production has been reversed, causing YPF’s profits and share price to soar, while important progress has been made in developing the Vaca Muerta shale formation in Patagonia, which contains some of the largest unconventional energy reserves in the world.Mr Galuccio is especially proud of the focus on technology that he has brought to YPF, which he says has traditionally been the domain of oil service companies, such as his former employer, Schlumberger.“In unconventional energy, technology is an extremely important factor. Whoever has that edge can change the future,” he says, jumping out of his chair to show off some special sand that could make “fracking” more efficient, made at his request with polymers in a laboratory by Y-TEC, the company’s research and development arm that he founded.“YPF is a showcase of what can be done by combining the public and private sectors,” says Mr Galuccio, who argues that the government’s objective to secure energy independence for Argentina does not conflict with the need to create shareholder value. Both require production and reserves to grow, and for that it is necessary to raise capital. “It is clear today that we have helped — and are helping — our country, and also that our investors are happy,” he says.But this is still only the beginning. Despite impressive results so far, Argentina’s goal of becoming energy self-sufficient remains distant and further jeopardised by the collapse in oil prices over the past year, which is putting a damper on the foreign investment that Argentina so desperately needs for its shale reserves to realise their full potential.Certainly, the epic nature of his task has not escaped Mr Galuccio. “The importance of YPF for the country transcends its importance as a business,” he says. “YPF could change the history of Argentina.”Second opinionThe former boss“YPF are lucky to have him,” says Andrew Gould, non-executive chairman of BG, who worked closely with Mr Galuccio at Schlumberger as its CEO.He commends Mr Galuccio’s role in the tough task of setting up the company’s Integrated Project Management division. “A good technical engineer with the capacity to define and implement business plans, he commands considerable loyalty from those around him but can also create considerable controversy.”7. PA. MAN UNEARTHED DINOSAUR NOW A PITT PROF, HE HELPED TO FIND PATAGONIAN GIANT (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)By Brian Schrock Somerset9 August 2015SOMERSET, Pa. – As a child, Chris Coughenour would sneak onto a strip mine a few hundred yards from his parents’ property in Brothersvalley to collect rocks and fossilized ferns.Now living in Richland, Cambria County, he still has boxes filled with his discoveries, some estimated to be 300 million years old.“Honestly, if I would have grown up somewhere else, I don’t know that I would have had that interest, at least in geology,” Mr. Coughenour, 34, said. “That kind of planted the seed for me.”That seed sprouted in 2005 with one of the biggest discoveries – quite literally – in the history of paleontology.Mr. Coughenour was a first-year graduate student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. His adviser, paleontology professor Kenneth Lacovara, invited him on an expedition to Patagonia, a sparsely populated region at the southern end of South America that is shared by Argentina and Chile. The region is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Giants” or the “Land of the Big Feet” because of 18th-century accounts of mariners encountering a race of 12-foot giants there.Mr. Coughenour, then 23; Mr. Lacovara, a representative from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh; and several Argentinians set up camp on a rocky slope. The camp was several hours from the nearest town. The weather was highly variable, with temperatures rising to 85 degrees in full sun and then plummeting 25 degrees under cloud cover. The previous year a dinosaur femur had been discovered about a half-mile away.On the first day of the expedition Mr. Coughenour found a piece of “float,” a term used to describe a fossil or artifact that is not associated with a larger specimen.“I found what looked to be a piece of a humerus or an arm bone just sticking out of the outcrop,” he said. “It was probably about 2 feet long or so.”The discovery was perhaps the most promising of the day until the Argentinians summoned the other team members to another section of the site.“The bone was actually exposed there. They had kind of picked around the surface,” he said. “We had no idea, of course, how big it was or what it was. It was mostly still buried. We just saw a little bit of bone.”The bone was on a small hill, so the team was fairly certain that it was not another piece of float that had washed down from a higher elevation.“We focused our efforts there for the rest of that day,” Mr. Coughenour said. “By the end of the day we had pretty much outlined the femur. As they excavated around it, taking away the matrix, which is just the rock it is encased in, it just kept getting bigger and bigger. It just kept going and going. And finally it ended up being about 6 feet long.”Although the entire fossil, and a smaller specimen, wouldn’t be unearthed for three more years, the team had discovered a new supermassive dinosaur species and one of the largest animals ever to walk the face of the earth.The dinosaur – which was dubbed “Dreadnoughtus schrani” after the early 20th-century battleships and financial supporter Adam Schran – was 85 feet long, stood 2 stories at its shoulders and weighed 65 tons, according to Mr. Lacovara. Its neck was 37 feet long, yet its skull, which was never discovered, was roughly the size of a horse’s head.“When these animals died, their heads just basically popped off,” Mr. Lacovara said.The gigantic plant eater probably spent much of its time anchored in one spot, using its giraffe-like neck to consume tens of thousands of calories from the surrounding vegetation, he said. Because of the dinosaur’s size, it had little to fear. The name Dreadnoughtus, in fact, means “fear nothing.”Mr. Lacovara believes the dinosaur died as a result of a storm that caused a river to break through a levee, turning the ground into something resembling quicksand.“It got mired in this crevasse splay and sank down quickly,” he said. “That’s what accounts for this great preservation. It made the transition from the biosphere to the geosphere very quickly.”Not only was the fossil incredibly large and well-preserved, it was also exceptionally complete. The team found about 45 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and roughly 70 percent of the types of bones in its body. The skeleton is more complete than that of any other supermassive dinosaur.“We never anticipated finding anything of that size or that kind of completeness, so we got overwhelmed pretty quickly just with the sheer volume and mass of the bones,” Mr. Coughenour said.The team spent 13 hours a day breaking rock to unearth the fossil. The work continued for about two months during the first of four field seasons. Mr. Coughenour was present for the first two seasons.“He was a very hard worker, very good at physical work, which is required in a setting like that,” Mr. Lacovara said.He said his student kept busy during breaks from manual labor.“When we were in Patagonia, to relax, most of us sat on a rock and threw little rocks at a big rock,” Mr. Lacovara said. “He would sit on a rock, take out a notebook and derive calculus equations, which I don’t find particularly relaxing, but apparently Chris does.”After being unearthed, the bones were placed in burlap and plaster, loaded into a cargo container and shipped to Philadelphia. The fossil material was divided into thirds and transported to Carnegie Museum, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Lacovara’s lab for scientific preparation and analysis.Mr. Coughenour eventually returned to Drexel, where he earned his doctorate in geoscience. He Mr. Coughenour went on to teach at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., the University of Toledo in Ohio and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he is an assistant professor and coordinator of the university’s energy and earth resources department.He and his wife will celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary in September.As a geologist and outdoor enthusiast, Mr. Coughenour said he enjoys the area for its beauty, recreation and natural history. “It’s really a great place to teach sedimentary geology,” he said.But his days of finding one-of-a-kind dinosaur fossils are probably over, at least in Western Pennsylvania.“Part of the issue is there are no rocks from the right time periods that have been preserved here,” he said. “Here we basically jumped from 300 million years ago pretty much to the present, with nothing in between.”“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime find,” he said of his work on Dreadnoughtus. “I’m sure I won’t find anything of that magnitude again.”By Bianca FernetAugust 9, 2015We’re getting closer and closer to the long-awaited presidential elections this October, and the closer we get the more volatility and surprises we’re seeing in the currency markets. So to make things easier to understand, I prepared a quick guide to the different “dollars” you may come into contact with in Argentina. Obviously the prices quoted are at the time of writing, close of market on Tuesday afternoon.Blue Dollar: 14.9 ARS/USD(AKA: Dolar Blue, unofficial dollar, parallel dollar)This is the cost of buying and selling a physical dollar bill in a cueva, or clandestine financial house in Buenos Aires. This is the best price you’ll get if you are buying or selling physical bills, and the transaction is done with no involvement of any government-sanctioned or licensed entity (like a bank).Green Dollar: Slightly worse than the Blue DollarThis is the rate you’ll get if you buy or sell dollars from an arbolito, or a shady looking guy running around Florida Street downtown muttering “¡Cambio! ¡Cambio! ¡Cambio!”. This is also the rate you’ll get if your neighborhood hardware or jewelry store runs a cheeky little currency business on the side. As a rule of thumb, when a smaller entity provides a currency exchange service but no money transfer service, you’re dealing with a smaller fish who simply buys and sells from one or more cuevas, but spreads out the margins a little. You’ll pay a few more pesos to acquire each dollar, and receive fewer pesos per dollar sold, but this guy is likely to accept your wrinkled sweaty 20 dollar bills.Contado Con Liquidación: 13.18 ARS/USD(AKA: CCL, Blue Chip Swap, Dolar Cable)This is the rate that is implied when people use securities (bonds or stocks) that are priced in US dollars in the United States and pesos in Argentina to move currency between markets. This operation is used by individuals or companies that need to legally move money in and out of Argentina. For money that is currently in Argentina, this is the only way to legally move the funds out of the country such that the paper trail is fully visible and declared on both ends of the transaction. For money outside of Argentina, this is how to move funds legally into the country and take advantage of a preferable exchange rate (compared to transferring the money via a bank and only getting the official rate of 9.10 ARS/USD)Contrary to popular belief, this transaction is not as easy as snapping ones fingers. You need a brokerage account with a sociedad de bolsa in Argentina, and have to demonstrate the source of the funds as well. The securities must be held for two to five business days before being liquidated into cash. Finally, this transaction consistently faces scrutiny from the National Government and is the first stop when the government wants to keep the blue dollar down – sociedades de bolsa are frequently suspended, fined, or shut down.Dollar MEP: 13.20 ARS/USD(AKA: Dolar Bolsa, Liqui Casero, Dolar Casero)This is one that foreigners will rarely come across, but it is a way to turn legally acquired Argentine pesos into US dollars within Argentina via a transaction involving dollar-denominated securities. Companies also use this operation. When an individual or company has pesos in white in Argentina, and needs US dollars in Argentina to, for example, purchase a property or even save the dollars, they undertake this transaction. You need a dollar-denominated account in Argentina, a brokerage account in Argentina, and at least ARS $35,000 declared and justifiable. Meep.Dollar Tarjeta: 12.43 ARS/USD(AKA: Credit Card Dollar, Dollar Gold, Dolar Turista)Tourists sometimes mix this one up and that’s ok. This is the rate that Argentines with peso credit cards receive when they spend money abroad. In normal countries that aren’t trying to emulate the Soviet Union, when you go abroad your bank converts foreign currency into your home currency at the official rate, sometimes with a modest fee. In Argentina, the government charges 35 percent on top of the official rate, bumping the rate up to actually quite close to the blue rate.So when Argentines go abroad, they burn holes in their credit cards because it translates into close to 20 percent savings. But only up to a certain point, because Argentine banks report to the AFIP tax agency. And if an Argentine reports a minimal income but then runs around Miami buying up the entire Apple store with their credit card, they shall have some ‘splainin to do!Dollar Ahorro: 11.05 ARS/USD(AKA: Savings dollar)This little puppy has been on the news quite a bit in the past few weeks – so much, in fact, that I wrote an entire article about its function in injecting cash dollars into the blue dollar market to keep the rate down. To rehash, you’re pretty much locked out of this market unless you fulfill the following requirements:· You must be an employee fully in white, all income declared, and have all tax information up to date with the AFIP and the Ministry of Labor· You can go online to the AFIP website, where you fill out a form and receive authorization to convert an amount equal to 20 percent of your monthly declared earnings (no more) into US dollars· Once you receive the authorization you complete the transaction by presenting this authorization online to a bank in which you hold a US dollar bank account.· If you want to receive physical dollars on the spot you get the official rate minus a 20 percent tax. Otherwise you can keep the dollars in the bank for one year and not be taxed. AFIP reports that 92 percent of these “savings” buyers opt for physical bills.As most of these dollar bills dance their way back into the blue dollar market anyways, the name “savings dollar” is a bit of a misnomer.Official Dollar: 9.21 ARS/USD(AKA: Libre [hahahahaha], white, blanco)This is the number that comes up if you google the exchange rate. Basically it’s what a bank will give you in pesos for your dollars. I personally don’t know anyone who can buy dollars at the white rate, but I would assume that state-owned companies like YPF and Aerolíneas Argentinas can in some instances. If you import into Argentina, you’ll end up paying the official rate plus whatever bribe you had to pay to get your goods through customs (going rate is 10 – 15 percent).Dollar Soja (Soy): 5.99 ARS/USDThis is worth including in order to understand how truly fucked producers and exporters of commodities are in Argentina. Anyone exporting from Argentina has 90 days to repatriate foreign currency earnings and convert them into pesos. So if you happen to export soy, for each dollar of soy you sell you will only receive 5.99 pesos (official rate minus 35 percent tax). That’s less than half of the 14.9 pesos that same dollar would fetch on the streets of Buenos Aires. If the exporter wants to then send some of those gains out of the country, they are left with the blue rate or contado con liquidation to once again acquire dollars.So there you have it – your official cheat sheet to understanding Argentina’s currency regime.Don’t have too much fun.By Bianca FernetAug. 8, 2015Economy Minister Axel Kicillof strutted his economic stuff on Monday in a 35-minute interview with La Nación. Besides the fact that the interview took place on the Conversaciones platform, which looks suspiciously like a transporter platform from Star Trek, Kicillof stunned many by admitting that a negotiated payoff to the so-called “vulture funds” is inevitable.President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administration has garnered vitriolic political support by repeatedly vowing never to negotiate with Paul Singer’s investment funds and vilifying political opponents as willing to sell the country and it’s people to foreign powers, with references to Hitler thrown in. Heavy accusation. So it came as a surprise when Kicillof, currently campaigning for a seat in Congress, openly admitted that “to pay is a trap. To pay nothing is impossible. I understand. So we are working in a negotiation.”Kicillof explained that Argentina’s strategy with the holdouts can be compared to what was done with Repsol following the nationalization of now state-owned oil company YPF. He opined that no reasonable person or country agrees with Griesa’s ruling, and that Argentina is currently gathering negotiating strength and clout by waiting for the right time to return to the table. He referred to presidential candidate Mauricio Macri, alleging that Macri has promised to pay the holdouts the full amount demanded, thus removing the incentive for the holdouts to negotiate with the current administration.So according to Kicillof, the current administration’s outspoken vow to never pay the “vultures” is a tactic to weaken the negotiating position of these holdouts to reach a more favorable settlement. Conveniently, the president who will have to put his face on this politically unpopular decision will not be Cristina – it will be her successor.The rest of Kicillof’s interview is well-worth listening to because Mr. Kicillof shows himself to be a competent statesman who will be with us well after the end of Cristina’s presidency. The Economy Minister is famous for his Marxist economic leanings, and in this interview he skillfully left politics aside and defended Argentina’s current dismal fiscal deficit as countercyclical spending rather than populist pandering.Let’s take a step back. Most economists agree that the economy moves in cycles – growth and recession. British economist John Maynard Keynes is credited for introducing the concept that in times of recession, the government has a role and indeed responsibility to act counter cyclically by spending in deficit to shorten the recession. In plain English, even when revenue is down due to fewer taxes, the government should ramp up spending on infrastructure and other growth inducers, and maintain social safety net measures like unemployment that logically become more expensive during recessions. For those of you who think you hate Keynesian economics, I highly encourage you to give it a closer look.Kicillof makes a fair argument, if Argentina’s current economic predicament were not self-imposed and a product of damning populist policies that only serve to maintain political support and will be near impossible for this administration’s successor to dismantle.The logic underlying Keynesian deficit spending relies on two elements that Argentina miserably fails:· Recession is an externally imposed situation, rather than the product of the government’s own actions· Deficit spending is a temporary situation, to be paid for out of past and future surplusesKicillof blasts devaluation as inflationary, yet Argentina’s current economic trajectory is inarguably inflationary.Kicillof refers to measures such a price controls as Keynesian countercyclical measures, yet this government has gone so far to permanently engrain these in the minds of the populace as to teach very young children to play video games in which they hurl balls with these policies at cartoon vultures in the style of angry birds. That’s not countercyclical spending, that’s indoctrination in a fairly sinister sense.Argentina’s persistent and widening dual currency market, capital controls, and autarkic trade policy are neither countercyclical nor Keynesian in nature – they are unwanted byproducts of unsustainable decision making.In this interview, Kicillof relied on multiple prominent economists’ predictions that Argentina’s economy will grow next year without attributing that prediction to across-the-board expectations that whomever succeeds Cristina will take steps to unravel the economic mess that has been made.You can talk about Argentina’s economic woes as if they were cruel externalities all day, but they are political and self-inflicted, making them all the more difficult to cure.Beam me up, Axel.August 10, 2015There will be no rapid upturn in the sluggish economy, regardless of the election outcomeThe governing Frente para la Victoria (FPV) received 37.9% of the votes in yesterday’s simultaneous open primaries (PASO), giving its candidate Daniel Scioli an edge in the October presidential contest. Although Scioli, who stood unopposed, was the most-voted presidential candidate, the distance between the FPV and the Cambiemos alliance, which received 30.6% of the vote, was narrower than expected. Mayor Mauricio Macri of the centre-right PRO was the easy winner of the Cambiemos primary, setting up a likely run-off against Scioli in November. The primaries came in a gloomy economic context: real output figures for the first half of 2015 showed that the economy remains stagnant, as most consumption and investment decisions have been postponed until the next government takes office.What nextThe prospect that Macri could reach a second round may encourage some investors, although Scioli remains the likely winner. In either case, a significant medium-term adjustment is expected, given the accumulation of macroeconomic imbalances, and a less benign global context.Subsidiary ImpactsØ The PASO results provide no greater political certainty.Ø The need to remove macroeconomic imbalances raises the chances of a steep devaluation in the medium term.Ø The restoration of a more market-friendly business environment might favour an economic rebound, but this will be gradual.AnalysisWith some 88% of votes counted, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s FPV garnered the highest level of support in the presidential primaries, with 37.9% to 30.6% for Cambiemos and 20.5% for the Unidos por una Nueva Argentina (UNA) coalition led by Sergio Massa (who defeated rival Jose Manuel de la Sota for the nomination).In the lopsided Cambiemos contest, Macri received 24.7% of the national vote, to 3.6% for Radical Ernesto Sanz and only 2.4% for Elisa Carrio of the Coalicion Civica.Elsewhere, in other key primaries, Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez won the FPV primary for the governorship of Buenos Aires, with 21.1% to 18.7% for rival Julian Dominguez. The FPV primary attracted 39.9% of voters to 30.5% for Cambiemos and 18.7% for UNA, although Cambiemos’s unopposed nominee Maria Eugenia Vidal was the most-voted single candidate.In the Kirchners’ home province of Santa Cruz, an incomplete vote count suggests that the FPV list of legislative candidates headed by the president’s son, Maximo Kirchner, was losing narrowly to an opposition alliance headed by Radical candidate Hector Roquel.Given the narrower-than-expected margin between the FPV and Cambiemos in the presidential primaries, and the fact that the FPV got less than 40% of the vote, a November run-off between Scioli and Macri appears increasingly likely.However, the assumption that the opposition will unite behind Macri (or unite at all) is highly questionable; in particular, Massa’s dissident Peronists are more likely to vote for Scioli in a run-off.Moreover, most surveys show that public opinion is strongly in favour of maintaining many of the current government’s policies, albeit while showing signs of dissatisfaction with its confrontational leadership. The fact that Fernandez de Kirchner’s leadership shows signs of weakening could even benefit Scioli among non-FPV voters.
1.1%Q1 GDP growth year-on-year
After a poor 2014, economic activity improved slightly in early 2015, with real GDP up 1.1% year-on-year in the first quarter, according to the National Statistics Institute (INDEC).Government consumption rose by 8.0%, compared with increases of only 0.8% and 0.5% in private consumption and fixed capital formation:Ø Private consumption growth reflected consumer use of credit card loans in pesos. The government’s programme ‘Ahora 12, allowing consumers to purchase a range of products in fixed monthly installments, has helped to sustain private consumption, reflected in the 44.4% annual growth in credit card loans in June.Ø The renewed dynamism of construction activity, which rose by 5% mainly fuelled by pre-election public works, was the chief driver of capital formation growth.At the same time, exports dropped by 1.4% in the first quarter, driven in particular by weaker demand from Brazil, which undermined manufacturing exports, and by lower fuel and energy sales. Imports declined even further, by 6.1%, due to weak domestic demand and import controls.First-quarter growth was driven by electricity, natural gas and water (6.0%), construction activity (5.0%) and agriculture (4.6%). However, by contrast, manufacturing and transport and telecommunications declined by 0.4% and 0.2% respectively, and commerce rose by just 0.6%. These three sectors jointly account for 47.9% of real GDP.Private estimates showed some improvement in the second quarter: the general activity index (IGA) produced by economic consultant Orlando Ferreres rose by 0.4%, its first quarterly increase since January-March 2014.China currency swapThe modest improvement in economic activity was accompanied by a worsening of external accounts.The first quarter balance of payments current account deficit rose 12.3% year-on-year to 3.7 billion dollars, driven by a lower trade surplus, down 13.2% to 730 million dollars, and a higher deficit on the incomes account, which increased by 10.5% to 3.2 billion dollars, owing to higher profit remittances abroad.
The currency swap agreed with China in 2014 was the main driver of capital account inflows, helping to prevent a greater deterioration of the balance of payments and a new drop in international reserves. Capital account net inflows reached 5.4 billion dollars in the first quarter, compared with outflows of 2.8 billion in the year-earlier period.Although export earnings (and thus the trade surplus) show a seasonal rise in the second quarter due to the soya harvest, this year this was insufficient to avoid a new fall in the trade surplus, which dropped to 1.1 billion dollars, representing only one-third of the year-earlier record.However, the stock of international reserves expanded by 7.3% to 33.8 billion dollars by end-June, driven by new foreign debt issues by provincial governments and local companies (such as state oil company YPF, which issued a 1.5-billion-dollar bond in April) and funds worth 1.3 billion dollars from 4G auctions.Medium-term adjustment?
Growth is set to fall next year after a poor 2015Given that the second half of 2014 marked the worst of the slowdown, in the coming quarters economic activity should show higher growth than in the first half, though only due to the low comparison basis.Political uncertainty and external constraints, which raise doubts about the ability of the next government to avoid a sharp devaluation, will inhibit consumption decisions and discourage new investments.According to IMF on July 15, the Argentine economy will record meagre 0.1% growth in 2015 and 0% growth in 2016. (On July 29, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicted 0.7% growth this year.)As in other South American countries, weak commodity prices will continue undermining economic activity. However, growth will not only be much slower than most South American countries, but it will worsen in 2016 — unlike the overall regional trend.The IMF’s poor economic outlook for Argentina resembles that of Argentine households: according to a poll conducted by consulting firm CCR, around 66% of households expect an economic crisis next year, regardless of the election outcome.