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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, March 5, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 46            E-mail us
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Costa Rica's secret plan to repel any invaders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats worry about Hugo Chávez and his military ambitions, particularly if they result in operations in Central America. The bad news is that Chávez is rattling his sabers at the eastern border of Colombia, and some fear a full-scale Latin American war.

The good news is that Costa Rica, despite not having an army, is prepared to repel any kind of military aggression.

The first major problem an invading force from the south will meet are striking Panamanian truckers. Periodically the main southern access route is blocked by unhappy drivers. Sometimes they are joined by the Tico brethren.

Even if the truckers are on vacation, there still is the matter of crossing the boarder. Anyone who has taken the bus north from Panamá knows of the interminable delays at Costa Rican customs and immigration. Just imagine trying to get a whole bunch of invaders and their tanks across the border. How many stamps is that?

But the real secret weapon are the country's roads.
country's roads
Some think that the central government has just been neglectful with the nation's roads. Actually the state of the highways is a secret 
plan to bog down invaders so that the United Nations can thrown paper at them.
soldier and croc
tanks in traffic

Consider the case of a 46-ton AMX-30  battle tank trying to navigate the Interamerican highway. Passenger cars have a hard enough time. The tanks
lost invaders
will just fall off into the jungle.

Then there is the problem of fuel. Some South Americans are used to subsidized 10-cent a gallon motor fuel. Will the military commanders bring
their credit cards to keep the troops moving on $4 a gallon Costa Rican fuel?

Even after surmounting these defensive obstacles and avoiding disaster from wild Costa Rican motorists on the crowded autopistas, the aggressor force will face the reality of a country without street addresses.

Where the heck is Casa Presidencial anyway?

Even a modern military force is not prepared for the local sneak thieves. Invading troops will wake up without their pants, their wallets and their tanks reduced to skeletons, thanks to ladrones and scrap metal crooks.

And if all else fails, the invading troops have to face the well-outfitted, professional commando force based at the Hotel Del Rey.

14 arrests highlight adoption for pay scheme
By Elise Sonray
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained 14 people suspected of selling babies in an illegal adoption ring, said officials from the Judicial Investigation Organization, Tuesday.  Those detained included a family court judge from Liberia and a lawyer. More persons are being sought.

Agents from the Unidad de Tráfico de Personas raided 15 houses Tuesday morning said officials. Agents also detained a dentist and a publicist in areas including Escazú and San José. The Poder Judicial had not confirmed the names by Tuesday evening.

The ring operated by contacting pregnant women in difficult financial situations, said officials. Members of the ring would then propose the idea of adoption to the soon-to-be mothers, said officials. The illegal ring and the adoptive parents paid the biological mothers for the babies, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. The sums ranged between $2,000
and $10,000, said a judicial spokesperson.

Judicial agents raided houses located in Barrio la California, Guayabos de Curridabat, Moravia, Pavas, Hatillo, Barva of Heredia and Atenas, as well as Liberia, Excazú and San José. Liberia. Some of those detained are social workers.

Officials said they have linked the ring members to three adoption cases thus far, but expect that number to increase dramatically with further investigation.

To condition the adoption of a child on the payment of money is illegal in Costa Rica. Private adoptions still are legal but the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency, is trying to become the sole agency for adoptions. The agency known as PANI does not have a reputation for speedy action.

All the adoptive parents in these 2006 cases are believed to be Costa Rican, so there is no involvement of foreigners who would seek children here.

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Our readers' opinions
Reader doubts Mark Twain
is a good historic source

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
About Allan Mannheim's letter: I do not question Israel's right to defend itself. I do question some of the arguments in Mr. Mannheim's letter. Mark Twain is one of my favorite writers, but I would not quote him on historical facts. Mark Twain's travel writing in "The Innocents Abroad" is often very racist and highly inaccurate and self-contradictory. For instance, of the Hagia Sophia, which is one of the great architectural masterpieces in the world, he writes that it is "the rustiest old barn in heathendom."

The numbers I could find for Arabs moving into the Palestine area up to 1947 range from a maximum of 100,000 to less than 50,000 so that would account for a maximum of less than 10 percent of the (over 1,100,000) Arab population.
Also, in 1947 the Jewish population was not the majority. In fact the Arabs still outnumbered them two to one. I sincerely hope that both sides in this conflict will stop resorting to revenge and will find a way to peace.
Gus Linssen

Citizens must make choice
if they will carry a gun

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In the fall of 1976 or spring of 1977, a female employee of the U. S. Government was dropped off by helicopter near the Salcha River east of Fairbanks, Alaska. She had a two-way radio with her. She was subsequently stalked by and attacked by a black bear.

The bear spent the next couple of hours dragging her around, and eating her alive!! She finally was able to contact the helicopter with her radio. The helicopter promptly rescued her. If anyone thinks that this is a fairy tale, please feel free to contact Alaska magazine!!

This young lady had a choice! She had asked the women in charge about carrying a sidearm. The “boss,” was of the opinion that if you didn’t look for trouble, you wouldn’t have a problem. This young lady, I believe to her regret, took the advice!!

We are living in a rapidly changing world in which criminals, drug kings, gangs, (and now we have the possibility of Russian mob members appearing here, what with the Russian Casino), sociopaths, etc. are taking control of our lives (just as the bear with the young lady)! Law abiding citizens and their children are unable to walk the streets in safety. They are being stalked, ambushed, assaulted, robbed, kidnapped and shot!

All law abiding citizens should be aware that they have a choice (just as the young lady and the bear)! They should have the choice (without being unduly influenced) to freely make the decisions as to their safety!

I consider it abhorrent that governments and their leaders would be against the right of the honest citizen to choose his own path to his personal safety! The active endorsement of the limitation of a persons right to select their response to these types of crimes (and I include the right to take no action in one’s self defense) is horrifying!

In conclusion, with all of the law abiding citizens in Costa Rica purchasing sidearms, I find it interesting that the nightly news has no reports of these out-of-control citizens!!

P. Meister
Husband's fall generates
overwhelming responses

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The helpfulness and genuine concern for others in need by the Ticos overwhelmed me this week.  My husband and I, both Golden citizens, recently moved to Santa Ana.  As we have done for the last number of years, we were taking our daily walk when my husband missed a step and fell solidly to the concrete sidewalk. 

The absolute feeling of despair is hard to describe, but to see a loved one of 40 years lying on the sidewalk with blood spewing from his forehead, his eyeglasses having flown off (and a lens having popped out) and his saying that he felt as if he'd broken an arm was beyond words. 

Within seconds, God Bless them all, numerous people stopped by to give aid and offer assistance in any way (including one who popped the lens back into the glasses).  These kind people took over, got us to a wonderful doctor and stayed by my side as sutures were done to my spouse's forehead.  We were soon on our way with instructions from Dr. Hidalgo to watch our step.
If not for the wonderful people who stopped and rendered assistance and the fabulous doctor — now "our doctor," I truly don't know what we would have done.  The kind and gentle people of Costa Rica are truly a rare find, and to them all, we say a special gracias, and to Dr. Hidalgo: You are our hero!
Ann and John Boyd
Santa Ana

Foreign boats in ports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Boat lovers have two vessels to visit during the next few days. The Spanish navy tall ship, the Juan Sebastián Elcano, came into Puntarenas harbor Tuesday with a crew of 232.  The boat left Spain in January, on this its 79th training cruise. Meanwhile, Tuesday the Asamblea Legislativa gave approval for the Dutch warship Van Gales, to dock in Limón from Friday through Sunday. Such approval is required by the Costa Rican Constitution. That boat, a frigate, has 121 in the crew.

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Costa Rica's animals will have their big day today
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's four-legged citizens are to have their rights improved, in accordance to an international declaration that will be signed by the government today.

Laura Chinchilla, vice president of Costa Rica, will be among those showing their concern for Costa Rica's animals by attending the signing of the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare in the Plaza de la Cultura at 4 p.m.

Costa Rica is the first country that will actually sign this declaration, although organizer World Society for the Protection of Animals claims the official support of Kenya, India, the Philippines and the Czech Republic, and is confident that these will soon be joined by many more.

“Costa Rica aims to be a leader in the field of animal rights,” said Marcela Vargas, program manager for the Costa Rican branch of the society, Sociedad Mundial para la Protección Animal. “Our country already has some excellent measures in the protection of animals, such as the national parks protection system, but there are still many improvements to make.

“We must continue combating illegal trafficking of woodland animals and promoting responsible care of pets. We have a million dogs on our streets, which shows that we need to improve the consciousness of the country's citizens about the needs of animals. The declaration can set a precedent to better existing laws and create new ones where they do not exist.”

The society started the push towards an international
 declaration in order to set out clear international principles for the treatment of animals.

People must recognise that animals are sentient beings and deserve the same respect as humans, including the right to be spared suffering, according to the declaration.

It enumerates five freedoms that should be extended to all animals, including freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition, freedom from fear, freedom from physical discomfort and freedom from pain, injury and disease.

Additionally, a universal agreement could bring benefits including a lessened risk of transmitable diseases such as rabies and bird flu, the promotion of biodiversity, an acknowledgement of the risks to animals caused by climate change, pollution and other environmental factors, and the provision of a benchmark for countries with little or no animal welfare standards to aim for.

In 2003, a conference was held in Manila in order to discuss the possibility of the declaration, and found support from 22 governments, including the United States and United Kingdom. After this a steering group was set up with Costa Rica as its lead country.

The worldwide aim is now to collect 10 million signatures in support of the declaration. These will then be presented to governments and the United Nations to demonstrate how important animal welfare is, considering that billions of people rely on them for livelihood and companionship.

Today's activity will involve the presentation of the first million signatures that the society has collected to Ms. Chinchilla, and various non-governmental organizations will participate in cultural activities.

The countdown to Holy Week is shorter than most think
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Easter vacation for many Costa Ricans begins in 10 days because the religious holiday is early this year.

Although Holy Week starts March 17, Costa Ricans who are not very religious or tied to a demanding job tend to sneak off to the beaches and mountains the Friday or Saturday before, which is March 15 and 16 this year.

Easter is Sunday, March 23, but nearly all of the activities associated with the day on which Christians mark the Resurrection of Christ happen earlier.

Many government workers will have three days off during Holy Week this year.  That means hardly anything official will take place that week.

Some agencies, like the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones will close from March 14 until March 24. The tribunal, which includes the Registro Público and regional offices, reported Tuesday that workers would be charged for three days vacation. Holy Thursday, this year March 20, and Good Friday, March 21, are Costa Rican holidays.

The executive branch is giving workers off from March 19 to March 21, but some there also will stack up vacation days.

Holy Week is a time for many Christian religious procession and rituals. It also is a time when Fuerza Pública officers seal up the sale of alcohol for two days, notwithstanding the fact that the traditional story of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ included wine.

Although Easter is linked to the Hebrew calendar, this year the Jewish celebration of Passover begins at sundown April 19 and ends at nightfall April 27.

The rumor Web site confirms that Easter is  
easter file photo
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Preocessions are the order of the day all over the country. This was shot in 2006 and pictures Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña near the Catedral Metropolitana.

extra early this year. The day always is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. The date is based on the Hebrew lunar calendar, so the date of Easter can range from March 22 to April 25. The last time Christians celebrated Easter on March 22 was in 1818. Snopes noted that the next time Easter will be this early will be in 2228.

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Uribe says Colombia will hale Chávez into world court
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe said his government is planning to file the charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Uribe said he ordered his nation's ambassador to the United Nations to explain the alleged links between Venezuela's government and leftist rebels.

He said Colombia plans to seek charges against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for sponsoring and financing genocide.

Monday Colombian officials released documents seized after a controversial raid inside Ecuador which killed a senior leader of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and more than a dozen other rebels. The officials said the evidence shows Chávez gave the leftist rebels $300 million and offered to supply rifles to them.

Venezuela's government has condemned Bogotá for launching the cross-border attack and ordered troops to the border with Colombia. Venezuelan officials claim Colombia fabricated the evidence about the payments.
At a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington Tuesday, Venezuela's ambassador, Jorge Valero Briceño, urged member states to condemn the attack.

He said the group can not allow war-mongers in Colombia to extend the armed conflict in its territory to other countries in the region.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa responded to the raid by cutting off diplomatic ties with Colombia, which he accused of violating Ecuador's national sovereignty. On a visit to Peru, Correa said the Colombian military strike threatened stability across the region.

Correa said the region should not tolerate the attack, and said it is not just a problem between Colombia and Ecuador. The Ecuadorian leader is set to travel to several other Latin American nations this week in an effort to rally support for his government in the row with Colombia.

Meanwhile both Venezuelan and Ecuadorian military forces have been ordered to their borders.

Bush backs Colombia and includes a plug for pending free-trade agreement
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush is backing Colombian President Álvaro Uribe in his stand-off with Venezuela and Ecuador.

Bush said he telephoned Uribe and told him that America will continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence, terror, and drug traffickers.

"He updated me on the situation in his country, including the continuing assault by narco-terrorists as well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela," said Bush. "I told the president that America fully supports Colombia's democracy and that we firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region."

Venezuela and Ecuador have ordered troops to their borders with Colombia and cut diplomatic ties after Colombian forces attacked rebels just inside Ecuador on Saturday. Bogotá has apologized for the cross-border raid, but said it was a necessary part of its struggle against the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaries de Colombia rebels.

U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters the Bush administration wants the dispute resolved through the Organization of American States. Casey would not
comment directly on Colombian charges of Venezuelan support for the rebels.

"It certainly would be very unfortunate if any other countries were actively aiding or supporting a group that is responsible for kidnapping, killings, participation in drug trafficking and all the other kinds of things . . . ," said Casey.

In a statement on the South Lawn of the White House, Bush said President Uribe told him that one of the most important ways the United States can demonstrate its support for Colombia is for Congress to approve a free-trade agreement between the countries.

"This trade agreement is more than a matter of smart economics," he said. "It is a matter of national security. If we fail to approve this agreement, we will let down a close ally, we will damage our credibility in the region and we will embolden the demagogues in our hemisphere. The president told me that the people across the region are watching to see what the United States will do."

The president is calling for Republicans and Democrats to act on the free trade agreement at what he calls a critical moment to show that America keeps its word.

Fidel Castro's column blames United States of complicity in Ecuadorian raid
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has accused the United States of complicity in the Colombian government's attack on rebels inside Ecuador Saturday.

In an essay published in the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, Granma, Castro said a monstrous crime was committed in Ecuador. He accused the United States of providing the weapons and the technology for Colombia to stage the attack on the rebels.

The comments attributed to the ailing Castro echoed accusations by his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez,
that Washington was responsible for the operation, as well as the growing regional dispute that has resulted.

Colombia and the United States classify the rebels, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, as a terrorist group. Castro said accusations against the rebels do not justify the attack.

The essay was one of many recent columns and announcements from Castro, who resigned as Cuban president two weeks ago. He transferred power to his brother Raúl, who had been serving as acting president since Fidel Castro underwent intestinal surgery in July 2006.

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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.


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.


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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new 5 dollar bill
New version of the U.S. $5 bill

U.S. launching new $5 bill
to frustrate counterfeiters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. five-dollar bill is getting a makeover intended to frustrate counterfeiters and help people with poor eyesight.

The redesigned bill has additional watermarks, a larger portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, some new print of very tiny size, and other features that are hard to fake.

It also has a very large numeral "five" printed in the lower right hand corner on the back of the bill in high-contrast ink, to make it easier for visually-impaired people to use the money.

The new bills will be put into circulation March 13.  Older bills are still worth $5 and are still perfectly valid.

Several other denominations have already been updated, and the $100 bill is next on the schedule.

About $770 billion of U.S. currency circulates around the world, more than any other currency. 

México acts to restrict
smoking in public places

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican lawmakers have approved legislation that restricts smoking in bars and restaurants and prohibits it in other enclosed public places across the country.

Under the new measure, smoking will be banned in indoor workplaces and public buildings. The law will prohibit the sale of individual cigarettes, which is common practice among street vendors. Smoking in bars and restaurants will only be permitted in separate rooms or ventilated areas.

Businesses that violate the anti-smoking law could be fined more than $40,000.

Other countries that have enacted restrictions on smoking include France, Thailand and Turkey.

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Prominent composer to diffuse Finnish culture in San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Finnish culture is not something you come across with ease in Costa Rica. Timo-Juhani Kyllonen, a well-known composer from the chilly Scandinavian country, is coming to San José to try to rectify this Thursday.

Kyllonen will give a completely free concert involving a program of his own compositions, which include suites for strings and voice.

Various Finnish organizations who decided it is time that their country's musical culture became better known in the Americas came together to make this happen. They include the Arts Council of Finland, the Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Music and the Embassy of Finland in Managua, Nicaragua.

First an accordian player, Kyllonen moved on to study composition in Moscow at the Conservatorio Tchaikovsky in the 1980s. He composes diverse types of music, and his 80 works include operas, symphonies, works for singers, soloists, orchestras and even film music.

These works have already been performed in a variety of countries, including Russia,  France, Israel, Perú, Germany, Brasil and the United States, but this will be the premiere of his work in Costa Rica.

Works chosen for the concert at the Teatro Eugene O'Neil, located in San Pedro's Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, are Suite for String Orchestra, Suite for choir, and Dies Irae, performed by string instruments and written in memory of the victims of the Tsunami of 2004. They will be performed by the Camerata Académica Bach, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday

Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano image 
Finnish composer Timo-Juhani Kyllonen will conduct a selection of his own works Thursday

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...

French youngsters to breathe new life into obscure comic opera

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.

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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.

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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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