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(506) 223-1327        Published  Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 18          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Chinese will usher in the Year of the Dog

By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For those who have already broken their new year's resolutions, there's good news.  The Chinese new year is Jan. 29, but the 15-day holiday has more rules and regulations than the Caja. 

Although the holiday is a major one, the Embassy of Taiwan in Costa Rica has no festivals or events planned to celebrate the new year because, traditionally, the day is passed exclusively with one's family, the embassy said. 

Still Chinese and other Asian restaurants are not shy about promoting the holiday.

In the few days remaining of the old year there's a lot of work to do to usher out the old and bring in the new.  First, the entire house has to be cleaned before New Year's Day.  On New Year's Eve anything that cleans – brooms and mops and such — must be stashed in the closet, otherwise all the new year's good fortune will be cleaned as well.   

Once that day is over, sweeping can begin again.  However, beginning at the door, all dust and other junk must be swept to the middle of the room, than placed in the corners and not taken out until the fifth day.  And no trampling on the dirt.  This is important.  The superstition says that dirt swept out the front door will take a family member with it.  The dirt must be carried out the back door.  This is according to the University of Victoria, B.C., Chinese Department's Web site, which adds:

When New Year's Day does arrive, all the windows and doors of the house must be left open to let out the old year.  Fireworks are also encouraged, but no lending any.  Those who lend something on the first day of the year will continue to do so for the rest of the year.  This theme continues with creating debts and crying so for one time a year, naughty children can do whatever they want because if the child is spanked or punished and begins crying, they will do so for the rest of the year, the Web site said.  And every parent knows that one day of mischief is worth avoiding a year's worth of endless bawling.   

Other no-nos include four letter words and other foul language.  In fact, the word

“four,” is taboo because it sounds like the Chinese word for death.  Anything to do with death or the year in the past is not to be uttered to allow the new year to begin properly, said the Web site.

These are just some of the superstitions that govern the first of the year.  There are more. 

The Chinese calendar is broken up into a 12-year-cycle.  This year is the Year of the Dog.  According to the calendar, a person's personality is based on what year they are born.  Those born in the year of the dog are extremely loyal, honest, and inspire confidence because of their ability to keep secrets, according to the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco's Web site. 

However, dog people can also be somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn and eccentric, the Web site said.  They generally don't care for money but have plenty of it.  They can also be cold, distant at parties and find fault with many things.  They are also noted for their sharp tongues and make good leaders, the Web site said. 

Once the superstitions are out of the way, there will be major logistics to attend to.  New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are traditionally a time to honor the family both living and dead.  Those relatives past are recognized in New Year's Eve with a large dinner set for them at the family table.  Thus, the dead relatives can celebrate the new year with the current family, the Web site said.  So to properly celebrate the new year, it's important to cook a lot of food. 

The Chinese New Year, this year Jan. 29, starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The last day of the new year is the Lantern Festival.  That night, children carrying lanterns fill the streets and form a parade.  When all this is over, those who have broken their new year's resolutions can renew them, but this time, there's no second chances.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 18

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Crash killed Iowa pair,
autopsy report says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The airplane crash that killed U. S. citizens Conrad and Nancy Randall was not a result of medical problems, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.  Autopsy reports say that both died on impact, said Francisco Ruíz Mejía of the organization.   

Randall was supposed to be flying the Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft towards Tobias Bolaños airport when it crashed near Volcán Irazú Jan. 15.  Rainy weather and a low cloud cover hindered the search effort for two days before the crew of some 70 workers were able to locate the bodies of the Des Moines, Iowa, couple. 

The Volcan Irazú is about 15 miles east of San José.  Low clouds covered the area the day the plane went down.

Nancy and Conrad were alone on the plane.  They were flying through Latin America and Mexico on a two-week trip with the Baja Bush Pilots, a national group of recreational pilots that has sponsored the trip for more than 25 years, said Angela Gwinn, one of the couple's three children.  

Although this was their first time on the trip, the couple had been to Costa Rica before.  The 69-year-old Wes, as Conrad is known to friends, has been flying since he was 16 years old, Mrs. Gwinn said. 

Victim of accident identified

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States citizen that died Sunday near Puntarenas when her rental car struck an oncoming truck was identified as Rebecca Hall, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. 

The passenger in the car was identified as Janice Matia, the organization said.  She was hospitalized.   The accident appears to have happened when Ms. Hall turned her car across traffic and was struck by the cab of the truck. 

Our readers' opinions

Politicos urged to action
to end road slaughter

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Recently I have read a couple of articles in the local Spanish language press bemoaning the high accident rate and slaughter on the roads of Costa Rica. The proposed remedy is to raise the fines to where they really are painful, thus acting as a deterrent to breaking the traffic laws. I agree that this would, and does work, in other countries where the law enforcement officials are less prone to corruption. However, I think that probably what we would have here in Costa Rica would just be more encouragement to pay the chorizo rather than the fine.

There are a few things that will have to change before we are going to see much difference in the way Ticos drive.
One, respect for the law is going to have to be instilled in people from an early age.  Respect for the law, any law, is pretty much nonexistent here.

Two,  skilled driving is about more than good coordination in steering, braking and shifting gears. There is also good judgement, situational awareness, and knowledge and respect for the rules that allow fast moving objects (vehicles) to travel safely in close proximity to each other. Can you imagine what would happen if you turned 10,000 Tico drivers loose on the 405 in California at rush hour?

Three, we will have to change the way our traffic cops operate. Pay them well enough so they don’t need to accept bribes, and fire the corrupt ones. Get them out on the road making traffic stops, watching the traffic lights for the red light runners. The speed traps and other traps may make some money, but I know of at least two traffic lights in Pavas and Rohrmoser where they could really clean up on red light runners.

The dangerous drivers are the weavers, the tailgaters, the ones who never signal, the drunks, the light runners. Hard to get these guys when you’re parked under the shade tree with your radar gun. What about all the big trucks on the road now? Ever seen one of them pulled over?

With the daily increase of cars on the road in Costa Rica things are just going to get worse until the politicos pull their collective heads out of the sand and really do something. Let’s hope it’s soon, and that the carnage will diminish.

Pete Todd

He's just not impressed
by road repair contracts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
The Pacheco administration said Monday that it will contract with seven private companies to maintain some 4,500 kilometers (2,795 miles) of highways that have been in bad shape.
President Abel Pacheco said the highways will be repaired by the time he leaves office May 8.  The investment will be $36 million.
-A.M. Costa Rica Jan. 24, 2006
PULEEZE ..........
How about a plan that insures that Costa Rica has a road system that is SAFE and reflects the beauty of this country.  4,500K of roads in just over  3 months? Sounds like another botched job of shoddy repairs that may last as long as one season.  Sounds like throwing money away to me.
Seven companies and $36 million? Was this work put out to bid and how much of the money will ACTUALLY be spent on equipment, materials and labor?   Wink! Wink!
Garry Wiersum
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 18

Several Friends of Mar y Sombra, armed with Costa Rican flags, keep a frontend loader idle during a protest Monday.

Municipalities all over Costa Rica are under orders to clear the 50-meter public area of the beach of illegal buildings and other obstructions.

Photos by James Passey

Protesters halt restaurant demolition . . . for now
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An outpouring of support by locals and tourists prevented a frontend loader sent by the Municipalidad de Aguirre from demolishing one of Manuel Antonio's oldest restaurants Monday.

The restaurant has been a popular beach spot for nearly 40 years, said Reymar Ramírez, son of owner Federico Ramírez.  According to witnesses, a frontend loader rolled in and started scooping up the cement tables and chairs in the restaurant area, but several people sat down in front of the heavy machinery and the operator stopped working. 

Some of the protesters chained themselves to tables and support beams in the restaurant, said the witness, James Passey.  Other people showed up with Costa Rican flags and the protest eventually moved up the road, Passey said.  More supporters joined the protesters and eventually the machine was taken away.  Locals began to take pictures of the protest and police tried to confiscate their cameras, Passey said.  However, when Passey himself began to document the events, the police let it go on, he said.   

According to Ramírez, the municipality was enforcing Costa Rica's 1977 maritime zone law which makes construction illegal within 50 meters of the high tide mark.  However, Mar y Sombra is exempt because the restaurant was built before the law was passed, Ramírez claimed.  Ramírez added that a judge has issued an order exempting the rest of the restaurants on the beach but for some reason Mar y Sombra was excluded, Ramírez said. When pressed, he couldn't recall the judge's name or the reason Mar y Sombra doesn't enjoy the same privilege. 

This is not the first time the Mar y Sombra has had a run-in with the municipality. 

In April 2003, police and demolition workers visited

Patrons continue with beers as demolition is halted
the restaurant with intentions of bulldozing it, but the elder Ramírez talked them out of it by agreeing to move some of his property further off the beach.  He said then that he had not had any problems with the restaurant since the law was passed and was troubled that the municipality was only then choosing to enforce it. 

The younger Ramírez echoed his fathers sentiments Tuesday. 

“This restaurant was the first one in Manuel Antonio 39 years ago,” he said.  “Everyone loves it.” 

Although the bulldozers have been kept at bay for now, the younger Ramírez said that he has heard through the grapevine that the municipality is planning to return with Fuerza Pública officers from San José and Puntarenas to enforce the order. 

“It could be tomorrow, it could be the next day, it could be a week or a year from, now.  Nobody knows,” he said. 

National poetry day celebrations are planned for Limón and San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the tenth year, the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes will celebrate national poetry day. 

The Día Nacional de La Poesía is celebrated Jan. 31 to celebrate the birth of Costa Rican poet Jorge Debravo that same day in 1938.  He died only 29 years, later but in his short life, he was dedicated to words, rising at 3 a.m. at his home in Guayabo for the four-hour journey to the closest school in Santa Cruz.  He wrote his first poems on banana paper and worked with his father to earn the money for his first book, a
 dictionary.  He was killed shortly after he graduated from a university when a car driven by a drunk hit him.  

Celebrations are planned for Jan. 31 at the public library in Limón and also the Plaza de las Artes, which is across the street from the iglesia de La Soledad in San José.  The Limón exhibition will feature 12 Caribbean poets who will each have five minutes to perform their works.  The activity begins at 3 p.m.  ,

A similar performance will take place in San José at 5 p.m., however, that event is preceded by a book sale and exhibition that starts at 10 a.m.

Three are dead and one child is missing in river tragedy near Sarapiquí
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons drowned and one was still missing Tuesday night in the river La Virgen de Sarapiquí after a woman and three children went swimming early that morning. 

Workers with the Cruz Roja de Sarapiquí recovered the bodies of 62-year-old Adela Alvarez Peñaranda, her 5-year-old granddaughter identified by the last
name Araya Obando and 9-year-old Ugalde González, said Joanna Salas Guerrero of the Cruz Roja de Sarapiquí.  The body of 5-year-old Estefanny Carmona is still missing, Ms. Salas said. 

Apparently, the four were bathing when the river washed them away, Ms. Salas said.  

The Cruz Roja is planning to continue the search for the last victim at 6 a.m. today, she said.   

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 18

EU Parliament worried about World Cup
Legal prostitution raises concern of trafficking in June

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The European Parliament is warning about the trafficking of women and children during the 2006 World Cup of Soccer, being hosted by Germany.

Soccer's world championship, in which teams from the United States and 31 other countries will compete from June 9 through July 9, is expected to attract not only soccer fans from all over the world but also traffickers of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The European Parliament, a body of the 15-nation European Union, expressed its concern last week about the trafficking problem during the World Cup because prostitution is legal in certain zones of German cities.  The tournament will be played in 12 German cities, ranging from Berlin to Stuttgart.

The statement calls on all EU member states, “especially Germany, to take appropriate measures in the course of the World Cup football tournament in 2006 to prevent trafficking of women and forced prostitution.” The Parliament calls for member states to enforce the law and strengthen prosecutions of traffickers, accomplices and those seeking sexual services from minors, as well as prosecuting money laundering of the proceeds from trafficking.

The Parliament quoted a U.S. State Department report that said about 80 percent of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year are women and girls.  More than 100,000 women are the victims of trafficking in the countries that comprise the European Union, according to the report.
President George Bush signed legislation earlier this month that strengthens U.S. efforts to fight human trafficking at home and abroad.  Bush reiterated American determination "to fight and end this modern form of slavery." 

The European Parliament said it had adopted a report proposing strategies to tackle human trafficking, including measures to deal with the supply and demand sides as well as the traffickers.

The Parliament called for research into the underlying causes of what puts people at risk for human trafficking, and for research on the factors that affect demand for sexual services and sexual exploitation of women and children.

The Parliament's report suggests practical action, such as awareness-raising campaigns about the dangers of trafficking and educating the "vulnerable members of society in the countries of origin, to alert and sensitize the public about the problem and reduce demand in the countries of destination."

Other measures envisaged by the Parliament include national and international telephone help-lines.  The Parliament also highlighted the need to curb the use of the Internet for sexual exploitation.

The U.S. team starts its World Cup play June 12 against the Czech Republic in the city of Gelsenkirchen.  The World Cup, which is played every four years, last was won by Brazil in 2002. 

The Brazilians open their 2006 tournament in Berlin June 13 against Croatia. Costa Rica opens against host Germany June 9.

New Canadian prime minister is a fiscal conservative
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Canada's next prime minister, Stephen Harper, is a trained economist who united two right-of-center political factions under a Conservative Party banner three years ago.

Born in Toronto in 1959, Harper began working as a computer analyst for an oil company in western Alberta province when he was 18. He was first elected to Parliament in 1993, but left four years later to head a conservative lobbying group. He was re-elected in 2002, but lost the 2004 elections after Prime Minister Paul Martin painted him as a hard-line, right-wing opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Mr. Harper is a married father of two. He describes himself as a cautious politician who believes "it is better to light one candle than to promise a million

Stephen Harper on the campaign trail

lightbulbs." An avid ice hockey fan, he has been writing a book on the history of the sport

Cubans march against electronic messages posted by U.S. diplomats
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of Cubans gathered around the U.S. diplomatic office in Havana Tuesday to demonstrate against what President Fidel Castro has called provocations from Washington.

The marchers are protesting an electronic message board posted on the side of the building that since last week has been displaying passages from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and quotes from slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Castro called for the march Sunday during a speech on national television, accusing Washington of human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tuesday's march also was timed to coincide with the court appearance of Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who is being held at a U.S. federal detention center on immigration charges.

Cuba says the Bush administration is protecting Posada Carriles, who is wanted for his alleged role in the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976.

Jo Stuart
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