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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, March 4, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 45            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Health officials to survey businesses on Caribbean
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hotels in Limón province could soon face the same treatment as the Hotel Allegro Papagayo in Gulfo de Papagayo, as the Ministerio de Salud turns the spotlight onto the Caribbean coast.

Every establishment that hosts travelers and tourists will be asked to open its doors to Ministry of Health officials, who will make inspections of the business' sewage systems to determine how many establishments are contaminating the environment.

The investigation is part of a nationwide attempt by the ministry to root out the sources of the widespread contamination of Costa Rica's waters that came to prominence in October, when the popular beach town Tamarindo was found to have dangerously high levels of fecal contamination in its waters. Eleven businesses were closed as a result of the ministry of health investigation that followed.

Instances of hotels contaminating everything from rivers to the ocean have been popping up with alarming frequency along the Pacific Coast since this discovery.

February saw the closure of Hotel Allegro Papagayo, located on Playa Manzanillo. It was accused of lacking adequate facilities to treat the 
waste waters produced by the four-star, 600-capacity operation. Instead it was depositing these in nearby streams and in under-equipped treatment plants.

The most recent offense discovered was in Jacó, in a pool known as “Charco Anita.” Blame has fallen on Condominiums Tropical and Paradise, which had not been turning in operational reports to the ministry of health for a year. Owner Randall Van Patten was ordered to block the pipes that carry the waste waters to the site, and has been given 20 days to correct the problems.

The study in Limón only has 30 days for completion, and Inez Muñoz, the departmental environment officer, said that it lacks adequate personnel and transport facilities.

“Each region within the province is helping by making an inventory of hotels and tourist facilities within their area,” said Ms. Muñoz. “We do not yet have these so we do not have an exact idea of how many establishments we will be investigating. Our aim is to make sure everything is in order, and at this point I am quite sure that we will find some things that are not.”

Limón province has not seen a study like this before. In the past, the department of health for Limón dealt with each case of contamination as it occurred.

Arias and other leaders urge diplomatic solution to Colombian crisis
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

President Óscar Arias Sánchez joined other world leaders Monday in calling for diplomacy to solve the problems generated by Colombia's cross-border attack against rebels inside Ecuador Saturday morning.

The United States also appealed for a diplomatic solution of the dispute, but Tom Casey, State Department spokesman, said the United States has long considered the rebels, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, a terrorist organization and supports the Bogotá government's efforts against it.

José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, noted “the seriousness of the situation involving Colombia and Ecuador” and stated that “it should be resolved within a framework of the respect of the principles that govern coexistence among American nations.”

Insulza said that the hemispheric organization's Permanent Council would discuss the situation this afternoon.

Arias applauded the calling of a Permanent Council meeting in Washington in his statement urging a peaceful solution.

Meanwhile Colombia's government said documents recovered from the computer of a slain rebel leader show links between leftist rebels and the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez.  Colombian officials said the evidence was recovered after the controversial military attack on a rebel base inside Ecuador, which killed 17 members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias.

Colombian officials say the information was contained on three computers and included letters from top rebel commander, Raul Reyes, who was killed in Saturday's attack.

National police chief Óscar Naranjo said the information shows Venezuela's government offered to supply rifles to the rebels and sent them $300 million. Naranjo said that officials were studying 
whether the money could be part of a deal to release several hostages held by the the rebels

The police chief said the only thing he can confirm now is that President Hugo Chávez paid $300 million to the rebels in support of its terrorist activities. Chávez supporters in Caracas labeled the claims fiction.

Chávez acted quickly Sunday to order his military to put 10 battalions of troops along the border. That's about 5,000 soldiers. International observers say that the Venezuelan military is under strength, under equipped and unlikely to be a serious threat to invade Colombia.

U.S. officials said they have not observed the military buildup President Chávez says he ordered and suggested his remarks on the issue were mainly political posturing.

Colombia's government says documents recovered from the computer of the slain rebel leader show links between the leftist rebels and Chávez. Colombian officials said they plans to share the documents with the Organization of American States.

Rafael Correa, Ecuador's president, said Monday that his government arrests rebels who leave Colombia and enter his country.

In Bogotá, presidential spokesman César Mauricio Velasquez sought to ease tensions, saying Colombia had no plans to send troops to its borders. But he said the seized information raises questions about links between the rebels and the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador.

He said Colombia is concerned about possible agreements between the rebels and the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela which would violate their obligations against harboring terrorists, although Correa said his government has never characterized the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias as a terrorist group.

The United States blames the rebels for extensive drug smuggling. The rebels also raise funds by kidnapping and hold about 750 hostages.

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San José workers strike
briefly over insurance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José municipality workers went on strike Monday morning, according to officials. Members of the municipality park services, water services, road cleaning and garbage services demanded a better insurance policy, said a municipality spokeswoman.

The strike lasted from 6 a.m. to about 11:30 p.m., said Gloria Marín Durán, a spokeswoman for the municipality of San José. Johnny Araya, the mayor, and union members of the labor force, plus other representatives from the municipality met in a negotiation meeting during the strike, said Ms. Marín.

The representatives agreed to an 11 percent increase of the workers' current insurance plan. The risk insurance provides security against accidents and dangers on the job, said reports. The 11 percent increase will be initiated gradually in three separate percentage raises, said Ms. Marín.

Tamarindo cleanup set
for two local estuaries

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tamarindo will be having another cleanup as part of an ongoing program to change the community's outlook to a more green focus.

Residents of the district around the Pacific beach town will be asked to help out by removing trash from the Río San Andres, which flows through Santa Rosa into the Tamarindo estuary Wednesday, and from the San Francisco estuary Thursday, from 7 a.m. until midday.

The initiative is organized by the Comite Ambiental y Cultural Distrito de Tamarindo, which hopes to provide environmental education to people living around Tamarindo with the aim that clean-ups will become a thing of the past, as people will manage their trash responsibly.

The Municipalidad de Santa Cruz will also be helping out, but the organizers are asking for volunteers as well as supplies such as garbage bags, gloves and refreshments.

Our readers' opinions
He says we should dump
letters beyond the limit

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I was very disappointed by your decision to print the anti-Semitic screed in the March 3 A.M. Costa Rica.   While there is nothing wrong with fair criticisms, this author's anti-Israel vitriol (referring to the "slaughter" of Gazans and implying that Israel benefited by 9/11) is beyond the limits of respectful discourse.
Briefly to the point, what sovereign nation will sit by as its citizens are repeatedly injured and killed by bombs and missiles raining down?   Please keep in mind that in 2005 Israel completely, 100 percent withdrew from the Gaza strip.   There are no settlers, no army personnel, zero.  And yet the the rocket attacks and calls for Israel's destruction have actually increased. 
Israel would like nothing better than to have a peaceful relationship with all of its neighbors. However the terrorist organization Hamas, in charge of the Gaza strip, still calls for Israel's destruction.
Please, editor, be more careful in screening out inflammatory and insultingly ignorant comments from your newsletter.
Glen Love
Haverford, Pennsylvania
and Dominical, Costa Rica

Reader seeks to dispel
the 'myth of Palestine'

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Sam Dillon’s letter (published March 3rd) asks about  whether the Jewish community is concerned about the “daily slaughter” of (Arab) men, women and children and the cut-off of basic needs of the population of Gaza.

What would Mr. Dillon say if hundreds of rockets were fired into his neighborhood causing extensive damage, killing several people, blowing off the leg of an 8-year-old boy and other atrocities?  Would he not advocate using all force, including available superior technology, to stop the attack? 

The Israelis left Gaza to avoid further confrontation with the Arabs and for their pacifistic efforts were met with rocket attacks and a build-up of Iranian and Al-Qaeda terrorists.  They are entitled to defend themselves and have done so with too much restraint to date.

Mr. Dillon also perpetuates the myth about “Palestine.”  There was no Palestine state prior to 1947.  It was an area ruled by the British since World War I and prior to that by Turkey for hundreds of years. 

Up until the 1880’s, when the Jews started to resettle the land, it was a sparsely populated backwater, as Mark Twain noted in his writings on his visit to the area at that time. 

Most of the Arabs moved into the area from surrounding Arab countries due to employment opportunities generated by Jewish development.  In 1947, the majority of “Palestinians” were actually Jews ruled by the British.  They were given a state by a United Nations resolution.  The Arabs were also given a state but rejected it and attacked the Jewish state and have been attacking ever since.
Allan Mannheim
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Baby abandoned in hole in Atenas remains in the hospital
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The abandoned newborn found in Parque de Atenas Sunday remained in the hospital Monday afternoon, said a spokeswoman from Hospital San Rafael de Alajuela.

A caller alerted Fuerza Pública officers that there was a body in the park, said Freddy Román Navarro, a spokesman for the Cruz Roja.  The call was then transferred to the the Cruz Roja, he added. “Reports said the baby was in a hole covered in dirt and leaves,” said Román.

The suspected mother of the baby, identified as María 
Dolores León Vasques, also remained in the same hospital, said the spokeswoman. According to various reports the woman entered the hospital before the baby was found.

A local court will take on the case of the abandoned child, confirmed the security ministry Monday. The court awaits reports from forensic and medical examiners and the Judicial Investigation Organization to clarify the mental state of the mother, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. It is fundamental that the court determines the level of fault the woman had and takes into account any mental illness or substance abuse that could have altered her actions at the time, said a spokeswoman.

Four suspects and shipment of suspected cocaine finally arrives ashore
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Coast Guard brought four men accused of international narcotrafficking back to land Monday, said a spokeswoman. The suspects operated a Costa Rican fishing boat which contained nearly one ton of suspected cocaine, according to the security ministry. The detained men arrived at a Puntarenas court for investigation Monday, said a spokeswoman.

The U.S. Coast Guard seized the fishing boat “Astec” in the Pacific Thursday, said a spokesman from the security ministry. The boat was registered in Puntarenas, said reports. The U.S. Coast Guard works with Costa Rica under a joint patrol treaty.

Today the Fiscalía Adjunta de Narcotráfico will ask the Juzgado Penal de San José for a preventative prison sentence against the accused. Those detained include the captain, who is also the owner of the boat, last names Castro Matamoros, and three sailors last names Ulloa Lara, López Bustos, and Gutiérrez Mayorga.
drug shipment
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Públicas/Humberto Ballestero
Drug agents, who do not like to have their faces pictured, survey the shipment of suspected cocaine.

One pilot dies and a second suffers injuries in collision of two crop dusters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two crop dusting planes collided near the airport at Roxana de Pococi Monday afternoon, and one of the pilots died. The second suffered serious injuries.

Killed was Francisco Chinchilla and injured was Carlos Madrigal, whom rescue workers took by helicopter to the Hospital de Guápiles.

He later went to Hospital México in San José.
Chinchilla's small yellow aircraft was ripped apart by the collision and his body was ejected from the craft at impact.

Both aircraft were employed in spraying banana plantations.  The collision happened at a low altitude causing officials to suspect that one craft was swooping to a point where spray would be released and the other was in a landing pattern for a nearby airport.

Chinchilla was from Moravia, and the other pilot also is from the Central Valley, officials said.

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Business leaders launch worldwide anti-piracy campaign
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Top corporate leaders from around the world gathered in New York Monday to unveil new strategies to fight worldwide piracy and counterfeiting. The business leaders say an epidemic of intellectual property theft undermines creativity, jeopardizes investments and creates consumer health risks.

In 2004, the International Chamber of Commerce launched  Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy, to stem the surge in intellectual property theft. Business Action's leadership group of top corporate executives issued a set of recommendations for a global anti-counterfeiting treaty being negotiated by major trading nations. They also called on the G-8 industrialized nations to lead the way in enforcing laws already on the books.

The corporate executives announced plans for an international campaign to educate consumers to the high cost of piracy. Guy Sebban, the head of the International Chamber of Commerce, said the education campaign represents an evolution in the group's thinking.

"We have recognized that we cannot limit our actions only on the supply side," said Sebban. "We have to take into account also the demand side. We are launching different
actions to convince the consumers of the importance of this problem, especially at the forefront the question linked with health and safety."

The group says health and safety issues are an important part of the anti-counterfeiting message. In northern Africa, for example, the executives say 90 percent of spare parts for automobiles are fake, leading to a large number of car accidents.

Alan Drewsen, head of the International Trademark Association, says counterfeit drugs often send their own message: "When you are dealing with people who are buying counterfeit baby food and counterfeit food products and counterfeit drugs, I am not expert on who to get the message out, but I can tell you that that message is fairly persuasive," said Alan Drewsen. "The statistics on the number of people in Africa who are dying from counterfeit anti-malarial drugs is very, very shocking. So I think that is the message that has to be gotten across."

Business Action said its public awareness campaigns to call attention to the risks of piracy must be created on a country-by-country basis taking into account cultural differences. One of the best ways to get the message across, according to the group, is to work with creative people in local communities who are victims of piracy themselves.

HSBC writes off $17 billion and still posts a profit
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Britain's largest bank, HSBC, has written off $17.2 billion in bad debt after the U.S. housing market slide hit the value of its loans in 2007. The annual loss is the largest reported amongst Britain's big five mortgage lenders.

The record HSBC write off is larger than the next four British banks combined.

HSBC Chairman Stephen Green admits the global financial system had come under what he calls 'extreme strain' in 2007.

As to 2008, he says the outlook is uncertain, but he warns the economic slowdown and the credit difficulties in the United States may get worse before getting better.

Despite the massive write down due to the U.S. credit problems, gains elsewhere around the world kept HSBC in profit.
Market analyst David Buik from the London brokerage firm BGC Partners says wise choices outside of the U.S. more than covered the debt damage.

"Strong in Asia; China, India and also other emerging nations and a terrific presence in the United Kingdom as well and this is why unlike the other banks, particularly Royal Bank of Scotland and to a lesser degree Barclays, they produced such a stellar set of number for the second half of the year where profits were up by 17 percent," he said. "Whereas everybody else has been scuttling around trying to work out these provisions for bad debt, HSBC has done that but despite it, managed to do very well."

For the year in total, HSBC profits rose 10 percent to $24.2 billion.

Given the problems in the U.S. market, HSBC is restructuring its operations there. It has reduced the amount of credit it extends and it is closing about 400 of its U.S. branches.

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Padre Pio's body exhumed
to be put on publc display

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The body of mystic monk Padre Pio, one of the world's most popular saints, has been exhumed in preparation for public veneration. The body of the Capuchin friar will go on display next month to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.

About seven million people each year visit Saint Padre Pio's tomb in San Giovanni Rotondo, in the southern Italian region of Apulia. The friar, born Francesco Forgione, died at age 81 in 1968, and this year marks the 40th anniversary of his death. He is to be put on public display in a glass covered coffin.

In preparation for the veneration by pilgrims, the body of the saint, who is credited with more than 1,000 miraculous cures, was exhumed during a three-hour service Sunday that ended after midnight.

A large crowd of pilgrims who learned of the exhumation had gathered outside the sanctuary in prayer.

Among them was a lady who said it was a very emotional moment for her. She said it represented something she could not express in words.

The monk's body will be on display for several months, starting April 24.

Padre Pio was said to have had the stigmata — the wounds of Christ's crucifixion — on his hands and feet.

Followers believe he exuded the odour of sanctity — a sweet flower odor — and that he could appear in two locations at the same time — the gift of bilocation. They also believe he healed the sick and could prophesy the future.

Following the late-night exhumation, Monsignor Domenico D'Ambrosio said the Capuchin friar's body had been removed from his tomb to check on its state and to carry out all the necessary work to guarantee the best conditions for its conservation. His body, which was buried under marble in a crypt, was found to be in fair condition and some parts intact.

A spokesman for the monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo said he believed morticians would be able to conserve the face of the bearded monk well enough for it to be recognizable.

Spokesman Stefano Campanella said experts hope to recompose the monk in the best possible way using particular conservation techniques.

Padre Pio was declared a saint by the late Pope John Paul II in 2002. His face and name are well-known in Italy and abroad and his image is often seen displayed in piazzas and private homes.

Although Padre Pio was dogged with accusations in life and after his death that he was a fraud, church officials have repeatedly denied this.

Now, many hope that during these anniversary celebrations Pope Benedict too will go and see the saint.

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French youngsters to breathe new life into obscure comic opera
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The next generation of French singers will revive an old, almost forgotten comic opera in the Teatro Nacional Wednesday night.

A spoof of the better-known play by Goethe and opera by Gounod, the operetta “Le Petit Faust” tells the story of the serious student Faust who makes a bargain with the Devil. He will give the Devil his soul in return for eternal life.

Coming to Central America for the first time, 38 youngsters, ages between 12 and 15, will make up the cast of the operetta. The singers are part of the Coro de los Niños de la Ópera de París, and the group visits a different country each year under the direction of Gaël Darchen.

During his career, the French composer Hervé, whose real name was Florimond Ronger, wrote some 60 operettas, but they are all but unperformed in today's theaters. "Le Petit Faust" made its premier in 1869 to decent success, but was already little known by the time The New York Times reviewed it in 1902.

“Hervé's 'Le Petit Faust' (was) nominated a comic opera on the bill, but is simply and entirely a burlesque. (It) is a thoroughly worked out and capital burlesque of Gounod's familiar opera,” read the review, based on a performance at the Victoria Theatre.

Although the operetta is in French, organizers, including the French Embassy and Alianza Francais, emphasize that the elaborate costumes, scenery and singing will make the work enjoyable to all. The show will move on to Paris after its premiere in Costa Rica.
petit faust
Teatro Nacional image  
French children ages between 12 and 15 will perform the operetta 'Le Petit Faust' in Teatro Nacional

The performance takes place Wednesday and Thursday at San Jose's Teatro Nacional. Tickets range in price from 4,000 colons ($8) to 20,000 colons ($40) depending on the seat chosen.

Tickets can be bought from the theater's box office, by calling 221-5341 or by logging on to

Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

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Chicken suits, foot photos brought to Galeria Nacional by art colony residents

nancy ennisThose with a sharp eye who look closely at Nancy Ennis' collages will find a man in a chicken costume haunting each one.

In some, he is the main focus of the piece, and in others he is as invisible as a smudge behind a layer of material.

“One of my kids gave me this photo of their Dad when younger,” said Mrs. Ennis, as she pointed out the eerie figure, standing amid her as-yet unhung exhibition in the Galeria Nacional. “I like it because my ex-husband was a very funny man, although very irresponsible.”

Mrs. Ennis, an American who lives in New Jersey, has been creating artwork on Costa Rican soil for the last six weeks, working in a private artists colony in Ciudad Colon.

She is one of several dozen who seek out Costa Rica's tropical climes each year to spend a residency in the Julia and David White Artists' Colony.

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Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

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Exhibit condemning illegal fishing would be better elsewhere

For a while now, a large marquee has been standing outside the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporaneo in San José.

In it hangs what has variously been described as an enormous bee hive, a throwback to sixties glow lamps or a swarm of schooling fish.

The last explanation is the one that the artists propound. Huge, blue, glowing and transparent, the structure extends almost four meters down from the ceiling, nearly equaling its height with its width. It tapers towards the end, putting one in mind of a chrysalis, and its outside is made totally of clear nylon wires.

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Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

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Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

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Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

Click here to read the full review

Festivals ...
International acts to make rare festival appearance in Costa Rica

Excitement is rising over the announcement of headline acts for Festival Imperial, Costa Rica's most highly anticipated music festival of the year.

Costa Rica is often missed off the list when world-famous bands are compiling their top international touring spots, but the second edition of the beer-backed festival is set to attract a few top names.

Two years ago, the first Festival Imperial brought Sting and Jamiroquai to Costa Rica, while also promoting national bands such as Gandhi and Malpais, and April 2008's edition of the event promises similar quality.

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Duran Duran in concert

British group Duran Duran will headline Festival
Dramatic Arts...

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura for the first concert, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29, with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.


Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

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New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more

Playing Hot and Cold Hands Late in a Tournament

Playing hot and cold hands refers to the strategy of entering into a pot solely on the basis of the hand’s merit before the flop. Running a hand hot and cold generally means that you’re willing to play out your cards with no more betting after the flop.

Knowing how and when to play a hot and cold hand is especially important late in a tournament when escalating blinds and antes force players to move all-in rather than make standard-sized raises. When that happens, adjust your starting hand requirements by only playing hands that have a decent chance to win with no more betting after the flop.

Say, for example, you’re sitting at a nine-handed tournament table with a large stack in relation to the blinds.  In this situation, even a hand like 4h-5h has value because if you hit a straight, flush, or better, you stand to win a substantial pot by getting fully paid off on your later bets.

A hand like, K-8 offsuit, though, would have negligible value -- unless your goal is to steal the blinds.  And in that case, your hand is totally irrelevant anyway.

Let’s tweak the scenario a bit.  You’re still at the nine-handed table but now it’s much later in the tournament and your stack is taking a beating.  Any raise will essentially commit all of your chips.  That’s not good.  In this situation, you’re going to have to wait for a hand that you can semi-confidently move all-in with.

The question is:  With which hand would you rather gamble for all of your chips, 4h-5h or K-8 offsuit?

If you answered 4h-5h, you just might be too in love with suited connectors!  The correct answer K-8 offsuit because that hand plays much better hot and cold.

Playing a loose-aggressive style with small suited connectors can be effective early in a tournament.  Later, though, as blinds increase and your chips start to dwindle, stick to high card hands.  True, 4h-5h plays better than K-8 when there’s a lot of post-flop action, but the K-8 will fare much better in this classic hot and cold scenario. 

Face it, sometimes you’ll have to make a desperation move late in a tournament in an attempt to steal the blinds.  You’ll need cards that compete against a range of hands that any other player would likely call with.  Small suited connectors will almost always be a substantial underdog. 

In our example, you’d be in huge trouble against any pair, fives or higher.  And though you’d still likely be the underdog playing K-8, you’d actually be in much better shape.  If your opponent has any pair, sevens through queens, spiking a king on the board will probably win you the pot.

Though I’ve used K-8 in this example, hands that increase most in value in hot and cold situations are those that contain an ace.

With an ace in your hand, you’ll only be a monster underdog against pocket bullets.  Even ace-deuce could be a slight favorite against an opponent who holds a seemingly more powerful hand like K-Q.  Get lucky with an ace coming up on the board and your opponent is pretty much cooked.  Didn’t catch an ace?  Well, he still needs to pair his king or queen to beat you.

So here’s the bottom line.  When you’re forced to move all-in late in a tournament, adjust your thinking away from playing pretty hands with implied odds.  Instead, stick to hands that have a decent chance to win hot and cold.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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