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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 29      E-mail us
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Big Semana Santa holiday is  approaching rapidly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The next major vacation period in Costa Rica is just 43 days away.

Easter is April 4 this year, and many residents will start the Semana Santa holiday Friday, March 26. This is a critical period for tourism that can make or break many hospitality and restaurant operations.

Due to the relationship of Easter with the vernal equinox, March 21, Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25, as the U.S. Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command notes online. So the religious holiday is somewhat early this year.

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Christian Lenten season. That is why residents of Esterillos Oeste are having their second annual Mardi Gras celebration this Saturday. The festival here and elsewhere always comes before the start of Lent. Martha Overton, one of the organizers of the event notes that with the new Autopista del Sol, the party is only an hour and a half from the Central Valley.

That is not only true for the party Saturday but for Semana Santa and the entire Pacific coast.

Tourism industry operators are expecting big things from the new highway, although the concession holder still has many kinks to work out.

The Costanera Sur is in the last stages of completion between Quepos and Dominical, so that highway will be ready to carry holiday travelers.

The downside to the Semana Santa holiday is that many Costa Ricans spend the time with relatives who live on the coasts, so they do not represent the windfall that a lot of hotel operators seek. The week-plus Semana Santa also represents a significant reduction in business and governmental activity that managers have to plan to endure.

An additional problem this year is the instability of the euro. When North Aemrican tourism diminished due to economic problems there, a lot
Mardi Gras 2009
If you did not go to Esterillos Oeste for the first Mardi Gras, you missed this!

of tourism operators said they were making up some of the slack with European tourists.

Financial problems in some of the European Union states have caused the euro to decline against the dollar, although the dollar still remains weaker against the Costa Rican colon.

In Esterillos, the party begins with a bowling tournament Friday night at El Vago Restaurant. There is a parade Saturday at noon with motorcycles, horses, bikes, cars, and some vehicles decorated for the occasion. The parade leads to the beach where there will be stands. Among these will be the Krewe of Sirena both selling hot dogs, beads, boas, t-shirts, tinsel wigs, face painting and fishing game for the kids, organizers report. All of proceeds from the Krewe of Sirena booths go to Esterillos Oeste School and Kinder, the local police and perhaps enough to help sponsor a spay and neuter clinic for the McKee Foundation. Music continues into the evening on the lawn at Lowtide Lounge.


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San José, Costa Rica Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 29

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Legal services

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Our reader's opinion
Another way to cheat
U.S. citizens living here?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just got off the phone with the U. S. Embassy, Social Security Department.

I called to find out why I haven't received that $250 check that President Obama said "would be sent to all Social Security recipients." The representative said that the payment is not being given to U.S. citizens who receive Social Security who live outside the U.S.

It was announced last November or December that instead of getting the usual annual cost of living increase we would get the $250 check instead. But we got niether, (That's right, we did not get the cost of living Increase or the $250) because we live outside the U.S. even though we paid into it for our entire lives.

Can that possibly be true or is it a mistake of the embassy? Is this just another way to cheat U.S. citizens?

Gene Mc Donald 
Escazú 


trio arested
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía  
y Seguridad Pública photo  
  Three men await transport to jail after the Policía de
  Control de Drogas raided their home in Barrio Curime,
  Liberia Centro, Wednesday. Agents confiscated 21 doses
  of crack cocaine and 2,000 colons.



Lawmakers give themselves
two week traffic bill deadline

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are trying to wrap up a partial rewrite of the nation's traffic law within two weeks.

In addition to technical problems with the law, there are substantive issues among lawmakers, including whether the stiff penalties for drunk driving should be lessened. These penalties already have been on the books for a year. The full traffic law is supposed to go into effect March 1.


Spanish minister to visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, the Spanish foreign minister for Iberoamerican affairs, arrives today in Costa Rica. He and his delegation will meet with Bruno Stagno, minister of  Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.



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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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For your international reading pleasure:


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San José, Costa Rica Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 29

    
Check out the printed version of the Top Story news feed and see what  you  missed.
Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountains.
Video security and alarm.  View your home from any computer anywhere.  24/7 monitoring and recording.


park cleanup
Ministerio de Cultura. Juventud y Deportes photo
Trash, brush and remains of past industrial activity have to be cleared from the park site.
Area's newest park will feature educational botanical garden
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is not a lot to see now at the Parque Metropolitano La Libertad. There are high weeds, trash, industrial remnants and a lot of dust. Workmen are preparing the site for a botanical garden and for reforestation of the entire 32 hectares, some 79 acres.

This is the park that is taking shape in both Desamparados and La Unión, south and east of downtown San José, where government officials hope to create a location similar to Parque La Sabana.

The 13-acre (32-acre) Jardin Botánico will be a major addition. The garden will not be just a collection of plants and trees, but a carefully planned educational area, officials said.

The botanical garden has been planned with the help of the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, known as INBio, according to Tobías García Fernández, a biologist. The plantings are in several areas, including domestic crops like lettuce but also plants that are insecticides, used in art work, like bromelias, ground covers and soil protectors, those that produce dyes and medicinal and aromatic species.

The park has a strong educational emphasis. In fact, the first
arrival was a school connected with the national music system that opened there more than a year ago.

Apart from the botanical garden, workmen are using heavy equipment to clear the ground for reforestation with native tree species. The planning of La Sabana has been criticized because the trees put there are eucalyptus. The trees are aromatic, and a run through the park after a gentle rain is a treat, but the trees are getting old and will have to be cut down. They also lose branches endangering park users. That park is on the site of the former international airport.
 
Parque La Libertad will have a mixture of fast- and slow-growing species. Like La Sabana, there is water. The Río Damas and some of its tributaries drain the park. There also is a small lake in the area of the botanical garden.

Plans also call for building structures for art expositions and classes, space for technology training and areas for the performing arts.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez, a strong proponent of the park, toured the site Wednesday. Traditionally presidents cut a lot of ribbons and preside at many inaugurations as their term winds down. Now there is little to see at the park, but Arias wanted to see what had taken place while he still was president.


Ms. Chinchilla to join Arias at Cancún presidential meeting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What do you do when you have just been elected president?
Disneyland is out of the question, but there always is the gathering of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state in Cancún, México.

That is where Laura Chinchilla, the president elect, is going next week after being invited by President Óscar Arias Sánchez.  He said in a press statement that the meeting in
Cancún is an ideal opportunity to present the president elect to the international community. Ms. Chinchilla was a vice president to Arias, and he has not been shy about saying that he is happy she was elected.

The election of Ms. Chinchilla, has given the country significant positive publicity.

The session in México will be Feb. 21 to 23, and the host is Mexican President Felipe Calderón.


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San José, Costa Rica Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 29


100 tons of supplies
to begin the trip to Haiti


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friday the Cruz Roja will send about 100 tons of food, personal items and first aid supplies to Haiti via the Dominican Republic.

All of the shipment comes from donations by individuals, companies and groups here who chose to help Haitians after the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed about 200,000 persons.

The supplies are in storage now at Rex Cargo in San Joaquin de Flores, Heredia, and Friday the tons of donations start the trip to Limón where the containers will be put on a ship.

Cruz Roja is crediting APL Logística for moving the containers and coordinating transport.

The goods are estimated to be worth 170 million colons or about $303,000.

In addition the Cruz Roja said it has received money donations, the bulk of which were sent to the aid agency's international organization for use in Haiti.

The agency also said it was awaiting the delivery of money that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad collected in a campaign that used the telephones.
donations for Haiti
Cruz Roja photo
Young volunteers help pack a container for Haiti.



Older investors seem to make mistakes in value decision

By the Stanford University news service

Old age traditionally brings with it respect, experience and wisdom. But when it comes to making risky financial investments, an older mind is likely to make more mistakes than a younger one, Stanford psychologists say.

In a paper published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers show that older investors make more errors when picking stocks compared to younger people playing the market.

And that's not because of senility, memory lapses or other cognitive declines often associated with growing older.

Instead, the problem rests with a senior's ability to estimate value.

After having 54 men and women between the ages of 19 and 85 play an investment game while their brains were being scanned, the researchers found that older subjects were more prone to mental misfires while deciding to invest in one of two stocks.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging results showed that greater variability or "noise" in a subcortical region of older people's brains was related to making the investment mistakes. This subcortical region – the nucleus accumbens – is critical for evaluation, while higher cortical circuits are more important for storing symbolic information like numbers and words.

"When we looked at their neural activation we didn't see problems in memory circuits, but we saw a noisier signal
in value circuits," said Brian Knutson, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Knutson conducted the research with fellow Stanford psychologists Gregory Samanez-Larkin and Daniel Yoo, along with Camelia Kuhnen, assistant professor of finance at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Their subjects played a game in which they repeatedly chose to invest in either stocks or bonds. Some of the stocks performed well and had positive earnings over time, while others performed poorly.

The study showed that older people were just as willing as younger investors to make the riskier choice of buying stocks instead of bonds. But the seniors more frequently picked the stock with worse performance, usually because they made their choices before having a full picture of the stock's ups and downs.

While 20-year-olds made those mistakes 20 percent of the time, 80-year-olds made the errors 30 percent of the time.

The older subjects didn't seem to forget information about a company's gains and losses when it came time for them to pick a stock. Instead, their brain signals seemed to wander more while they were making their decisions.

"We don't know what causes the noise," Knutson said. "The subjects might have been thinking about their grandchildren or something else of value. The problem is that this signal variability may be leaking into the financial risk-taking task at hand."


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San José, Costa Rica Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 29

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Five Canadian firms visit
to offer high tech products


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A commercial mission of five Canadian high tech companies is in San José through Friday seeking to establish relationships with firms here.

The Canadian Embassy said that the visitors are meeting potential distributors in the Hotel Corobici. Alexander León, the commercial attaché at the Canadian embassy, is scheduling interviews, the embassy said. He can be reached at 2242-4467 or 8811-7851.

Some of the products being offered by the Canadian firms include equipment for accessing wide band wireless transmissions as well as equipment and software for call centers and business management software.

The firms being represented are Vecima Networks Inc., Mentum S.A., Curo Interactive Inc., VisionMAX Solutions, Inc., and Interfacing Technologies. The firms already visited the Dominican Republic.

The steadily growing information technology market of Costa Rica will receive an estimated investment of over $1.5 billion in 2010, and with telecom leading the international investments, Costa Rica offers competitive advantages for Canadian entities like Interfacing wanting to expand their presence in the region, the company said in a news release.

Another storm paralyzes
eastern U.S. states, cities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Another fierce winter storm struck the U.S. capital Wednesday, closing schools and government offices, then moved north to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. Major airlines canceled most flights in and out of those cities.

In Washington, heavy snow and high winds virtually shut down the nation's capital. Snow removal crews worked to clear streets and sidewalks, and the federal government was closed for a third straight day.  Some people who braved the elements couldn't believe the conditions. "I have never seen it this bad. I have been here for 20 years and never seen it this bad," one person said.

Snow crews worked around the clock in an attempt to clear streets. But it was still a difficult ride for drivers who ventured out. "Let me tell you the truth. You have got to have a four by four. If you don't have a four-wheel drive don't even try because all the cars get stuck out there and they cannot go nowhere," another person said.

In New York, most of a light snowfall was only slush by mid-morning. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already ordered public schools shut in anticipation of the heavy snow and winds expected later. Subway trains sped uninterrupted into Manhattan. At Times Square, where snow plows and trucks were being readied for the expected blizzard, taxi and bus traffic flowed at a normal rate. City transportation workers said the real storm was yet to come.

"Actually, this is the pre-storm. The actual storm starts at 4 o'clock. Eighteen inches," said one worker.  When asked if he was going to be around, he said, "Yeah, till 12 o'clock at night. No seven o'clock, actually. All right - enjoy!"

Outside the United Nations, which was closed due to the storm, disappointed tourists from China contented themselves with taking snapshots. Libraries and courts also were closed, but most city offices remained open. So did the New York Stock Exchange, even as the sleet began to thicken and stick again to the ground. Reports predicted the blizzard would leave up to half a meter of snow on New York streets in the evening.
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San José, Costa Rica Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 29


Latin American news
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Reviving Mexican music
became a career by accident


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leading a Mexican folk music revival was the furthest thing from Eugene Rodriguez's mind while growing up in a white middle class suburb of Los Angeles. The third generation Mexican-American earned a master's degree in classical guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory. But, just as Rodriguez was about to embark on his career in classical music performance, an unexpected family crisis made him rethink his plans.

"Our baby was born but he ended up having a heart defect and died in surgery. It required a lot of soul-searching. It's a sign that life is very short and you need to do what is most important to you." Rodriguez enjoyed playing classical guitar, but admits it felt isolating. "It was a lot of practice and little opportunity to be on stage connecting with people."

So, in 1989, with a grant from the California Arts Council, Rodriguez started what became the Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center in San Pablo, an impoverished town northeast of San Francisco plagued by poverty, drug dealing and gangs. It soon became a safe place for local kids to hang out, do their homework and learn about Mexican culture. Los Cenzontles means "the mockingbirds" in Nahuatl, the ancient Aztec language of Mexico.

"I have seen many, many young people fall through the cracks," Rodriguez says. He and the center's teachers have tried to intervene in many cases but are not always successful. "You see people dropping out and there's really nothing you can do about it. It's sad and it's heartbreaking. But you work with the ones who stay and you try to create more and more success to create a stronger magnet for others, for the up-and-coming kids."

Every week, hundreds of young students attend Los Cenzontles classes in dance, voice, guitar and arts and crafts, in a safe haven away from the town's crime and violence.

Over the past 20 years, that effort has cultivated dozens of young musicians and music teachers. "Many of our musicians have been here for a great deal of time. We have a 15-year-old girl who's performing with us now who started when she was four. We have 30-year-old teachers who started with us when they were eight years old," says Rodriguez. 

Students from Los Cenzontles have visited parts of Mexico where the music they're learning originated. Rodriguez says they learned that many of the indigenous folk traditions, corridos, rancheras, and old-style mariachi music, were dying out and are no longer being played by Mexicans themselves.

So Rodriguez's mission now includes revitalizing old musical styles by teaching them to young students and then performing them in Mexico with the Los Cenzontles touring band.






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