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Universal de Idiomas

(506) 223-1327         Published  Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 2             E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Day for correcting calendar has its ups and downs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

February this year ends up with an extra day, thanks to the astronomers who want to keep things straight with the orbital rotation.

The extra day is called Leap Day, and for some it is a time of celebration. The whole year, leap year, has
sadie hawkins
The homeliest gal, Sadie
a traditional taboo against marriage, but the day, strangely, is one when women traditionally have the right to propose marriage to the man of their choice.

The problem is that the earth takes 365.25+ days to orbit the sun. So without leap year, the calendar would
become out of sync with astronomical realities.

Leap Year, called bisiestro in Spanish, also carries some taboos in the Latin world.

Some have confused Feb. 29 with Sadie Hawkins Day, the creation of U.S. political critic and cartoonist Al Capp.

Sadie Hawkins was a female character in the Al Capp cartoon strip "Li'l Abner." Many communities prefer to celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day in November which is when Al Capp first mentioned Sadie Hawkins Day. Capp Enterprises, Inc., said that the cartoonist first mentioned Sadie Hawkins Day Nov. 15, 1937, in the Lil' Abner comic strip.
In the mythical community of Dogpatch single women could chase eligible men with the object of matrimony. The day was to benefit Sadie, "the homeliest gal in the hills," according to the Web site. But the plot revolved around the eligible Lil' Abner trying to avoid the beautiful Daisy Mae. Eventually he failed, although Capp got four decades of mileage out of the idea.

Colleges and universities quickly picked up on the theme, and less than a year later, Nov. 1, 1939, The Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette sponsored the nation's first Sadie Hawkins Day celebration at Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston.

But the confusion of the days does not set well with The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, which argues against the fusion on its Web site. The organization notes that Leap Day has been correcting the calendar since 45 B.C.

Spanish speakers have picked up on the similarity between bisiestro and siniestro, which means disaster. There even are little poems using the rhyme and warning of the year's dangers.

There is a convergence between the English warning against marriage in a leap year and the Spanish taboo. Some say the superstition dates back to the Romans and that St. Valentine's Day was created in February to offset the ill omen.

Some new agers are not worried about this leap year but the next one, 2012, when the supposed end of the Mayan calendar presages the end of the world, they say.

Immigration fumbles with appointments when no one is there
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans with appointments to get new passports and foreigners with appointments for other immigration matters showed up at the central office Wednesday morning to find a locked gate.
The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, which has been in a perpetual state of confusion for the last two years, got the dates of the Christmas vacation listed incorrectly.

Despite appointments and other notices the offices
are closed until Monday, as are many other government offices.

Someone made a telephone call and by late afternoon the agency had issued a press release that said that those Costa Ricans with appointments for Wednesday, today and Friday to pick up passports could do so Monday.

Foreigners who were incorrectly slated for appointments this week can appear Monday through Jan. 11 from 8 a.m. to noon, said the release.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 2

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Motorist gunned down
after chase in Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two gunmen chased down another motorist Wednesday night in Cartago and then shot him at least eight times when he crashed at the end of the pursuit. The gunmen appeared to be heavily armed, and fired repeatedly into the driver and the body of the small passenger car.

The gunmen started chasing the man in the center of Cartago and followed him until his vehicle collided with a parked car. The killers used at least one military style rifle.

Composer will explain
his vision of universe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

John Parker, a music teacher and film and television composer, will be the guest at the Speaker's Forum, Jan. 15.

Parker taught at the University of Southern California and was the musical director for Arthur Godfrey, according to organizers. They said he later scored 60 episodes for the award-winning series “Dallas,” 87 episodes on  “Gunsmoke,” all of the music for “Trapper John, M.D.,” plus numerous television scores for “Love Boat,” “MASH” and many others.  Parker has arranged and conducted albums for Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, Merv Griffin, Carol Lawrence, Connie Francis and Rosemary Clooney, said organizers.

But it is not music that will be the topic of the 7 p.m. session in Los Anonos de Escazú. Parker subscribes to the idea of " The Great Return."

"The basic theme of my message: A great return to the Oneness of humanity"," he said in an e-mail message. "This shift has been in progress for eons; maybe beginning immediately after the original separation portrayed in the Bible as the mythical fall from Eden, the dualizing of what was the One, or in astronomical terms, The Big Bang. Since then, we have been living in the illusion of separation."

He said the visual evidence of this can be seen in the changes taking place on earth — tsunamis, massive earthquakes, global warming and crumbling glaciers. He added that he was not sure if the result would be catastrophic or wonderful but he is betting on the latter. Information about the talk is available at 289-6333 and 821-4708.

Osa vegan cookbook
covers more than food

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new cookbook, a life-long goal, has just been completed and released and is now available from author Tao Watts.  The book, “Every Day an Adventure and Every Meal a Feast,” is the product of over 25 years of cooking experience, inventing and collecting recipes and philosophies about food, the environment, health and the inter-relatedness of it all.

This collection of recipes is meat free and includes many that are vegan as well.  It presents delicious and easy desserts, appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, sides, and baked goods.  Some of the terms are written in Spanglish, and features a glossary/dictionary of terms in the appendix.  Tidbits of wisdom and quotes supporting the vegetarian choice are scattered throughout its 176 pages, a release said.

The author, Tao Watts, has been a long time resident of Costa Rica and the Osa Peninsula and uses many of the fruits and vegetables and other products that are readily available here for dishes that are fresh, wholesome, tasty, and eco-friendly, according to a news release.

“Every Day an Adventure and Every Meal a Feast" is a reflection on the lifestyle of the Osa Peninsula, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the programs of Women of the Osa, a volunteer organization in which the author plays an active role with conservation, education and environmental awareness, the author said. Information on the book, which is $18, is available at

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 2

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Spider central

They say 'Stop and smell the roses.' But in Costa Rica the phrase could be 'Stop and see the spiders.' The country has hundreds of varieties, and a typical garden can produce a half dozen at least.

The orange spider (inset) is believed to be a spiny-backed orb weaver or araña espinuda in Spanish, who uses its strange, unspider shape and spines as protection from predators.

The tightrope walker is unidentified. But both are believed to be harmless to humans.
spider central photos
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Ramp mishap halts ferry service at crucial holiday period
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ferry service between the lower Nicoya Peninsula and Puntarenas was suspended at exactly the worst time of year.

The organization that maintains the boarding ramp at Paquera on the peninsula said that the device was out of service from the New Year's eve night until 11 a.m. New Year's Day. They blamed the competing ferry system.

The ramp is an adjustable platform that matches the height of the ferry. The height may vary depending on the tides and the construction of the particular vessel. The ramp is maintained by the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera, which runs the Ferry Peninsula. The ramp and docking area also is used by the Tambor I and the Tambor II, run by Naviera Tambor S.A.

Maico Badilla Chávez, chief of operations for the association, said in a press release that the ramp mechanism suffered damage when the Tambor II was leaving for Puntarenas and the crew did not give workers on shore a chance to raise the structure.

Feelings have been tense between the two companies since
March when association members and friends blocked access to the ramp. Naviera Tambor won a concession to operate their newer and bigger ferries. But the association has prevailed on the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to continue operating its smaller Ferry Peninsular.

New Year's eve and New Year's Day are times when many vacationers are leaving the lower Nicoya to return to their mainland homes and jobs.

The association banned heavy vehicles for a time after passenger cars were allowed. A second release Wednesday said that heavy vehicles were being permitted as of midafternoon.

Last Dec. 10 a truck fell partly off the ramp when it was leaving Tambor I. Once again Chávez blamed the Tambor crew.

Despite the construction of the Puente de Amistad over the Río Tempisque to the north, the ferry still is the best method to reach the lower Nicoya because most roads are not hard-surfaced. The ferries are used by buses, too, as well as travelers on foot.

Merchant spends Christmas in the hands of kidnappers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A merchant from Concepción de Tres Rios spent the holidays in the hands of kidnappers, the Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday as agents announced the arrest of five suspects.

Kidnappers picked up the 55-year-old businessman outside his establishment about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 21, said agents. Soon his family got calls demanding money for his release, they said.

Finally New Year's Eve the man was let go near his home
 after the family paid about $50,000, agents said.

The Judicial Investigating Organization was involved in the case from the start.

Once the man was freed, agents planned raids and arrests, which took place the same day.  Three men were detained as they rode in a vehicle in Desamparados. Agents picked up another man in San José. A fifth man waas detained in an undisclosed location.

Agents said they recovered the ransom money and that other individuals may yet be linked to the crime as suspects.

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GOP libertarian underdog maintains a strong, loyal core
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Among the Republican presidential candidates competing for caucus votes in Iowa is a man who has developed a small, but strongly committed following, even in Costa Rica.

He did it by voicing libertarian principles and opposing the war in Iraq.  Public opinion polls indicate that the man, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, is one of the most unlikely
Ron Paul
Ron Paul
candidates to win the Republican nomination, but he shows no signs of giving up.

Paul is greeted everywhere he goes by passionate supporters.  At 72 years of age, he is the oldest candidate in this year's contest, but he draws support from many young working people and college students.

Public opinion polls in the key primary and caucus states indicate he is no threat to the top-tier Republican candidates.  Two U.S. television networks
announced this week that he will be excluded from upcoming debates, because he has not broken out of single digits in nationwide polls.  But he is likely to remain in the race so that he can continue to champion the causes he says are neglected by other candidates.

Paul is a libertarian in terms of political philosophy, so he favors less government intrusion into people's lives.  He ran for president under the Libertarian Party banner in 1988.

As a Republican, he has represented a Texas congressional district on the Gulf coast south of Houston, serving from 1977 to 1985 and from 1997 to now.  While many Republicans identify with his views, especially when he advocates smaller government, polls show the majority reject some of his key ideas on foreign policy and defense.  He is the only Republican candidate who has opposed the U.S. effort in Iraq.
In an interview last year, Paul argued that he represents a more traditional Republican stance on foreign affairs than President Bush.

"Bush ran on the program of a humble foreign policy, no nation building and do not police the world," he said.  "Traditional Republicans and conservatives have had a much different approach to this.  We do not need to be doing this.  We should be concentrating on a strong national defense and dealing with our safety and our borders.  But here we forget ourselves and we are bankrupting our country."

Many other Republicans have also criticized Ron Paul's
approach to foreign policy.  A poll in Iowa last year showed 42 percent of Republican respondents viewed Paul unfavorably. 

But he has strong support in more libertarian areas of the country, like Montana, where supporters say he could win all 25 of that state's delegates in the caucus to be held on Feb. 5.

That would give him only about 1 percent of the total delegates at the Republican convention, but having delegates would bolster his participation and make him harder to ignore.

The other factor that will likely keep Ron Paul going for the whole stretch is the depth of support he has among loyal followers and the money he has been able to raise through the Internet and other unconventional means, which he says will allow him to fight on.

"We are competing and we do it quietly and steadily," he explained.  "Fundraising is very cheap on the Internet.  We raise a lot of money and it is gaining.  We raise more money every day and the numbers of people joining us every day are growing rather rapidly."

Ron Paul has a war chest of more than $18 million in campaign contributions that will allow him to buy television time and continue his quest to reduce the U.S. government and radically change U.S. foreign policy.

Venezuela's finance minister promises even more measures to fight inflation
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's government has promised new measures to combat the country's inflation rate, which is the highest in the region.

Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas said Wednesday that his country's inflation rate of 22.5 percent is "unsatisfactory." He promised new anti-inflationary measures but did not disclose any details.
Meanwhile, Venezuela has begun using a new currency system in an effort to slow the inflation rate.

The "strong bolivar" entered circulation Tuesday. It was created by taking three trailing zeros off the value of the former currency, the bolivar.

Officials say the new currency also will simplify transactions. But critics say they doubt it will stabilize rising prices.

Scores of tourists plucked from shoulder of erupting volcano in Chile
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean authorities say local troops have rescued at least 53 tourists from a wilderness park in southern Chile where the Llaima volcano erupted Tuesday.

Police say military vehicles had to be used to pick up the tourists Wednesday because access to the park's main
entrance was cut off after melting ice caused a river to burst its banks.

Some 150 persons were evacuated Tuesday from the base of the volcano, which is located inside the Conguillio National Park. Llaima, which is among the country's most active volcanos, sent huge plumes of smoke and ash into the air when it erupted.

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