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(506) 223-1327         Published Wednesday, March 12, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 51            E-mail us
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Arias proposal seeks to create a bilingual nation
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Contrary to the prevalent belief among English speakers that all the world speaks the language, recent statistics show that only around 10 percent of Costa Ricans have a decent level of English.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez, however, wants to change this and launched a national plan for the teaching of English Tuesday.

Costa Rica's future is as a multilingual nation, Arias said during a ceremony in San José's Escuela Buenaventura Corrales, during which he signed a decree of national interest in creating a population that speaks many languages.

The plan is called “Costa Rica Multilingüe,” rather misleadingly, as its aims only involve the creation of a bilingual state. Reference was made to other languages only by saying that after English is well established in the curriculum, languages such as French may follow.

Arias said that currently, a high proportion of children are exposed to English teaching, but the quality of that teaching sometimes means that they do not advance far.

Students of the Escuela Buenaventura Corrales sat at the back of the hall while speeches followed by Leonardo Garnier, Minister of Educación Pública, and Franklin Chang, the Costa Rican-born former U.S. astronaut.

Natalie Bonilla, a 17-year-old student at the school, is one of those who had already recognized that English may be important to her future. “I study English at the American Business School, as well as at school at the Escuela Buenaventura Corrales,” said Miss Bonilla. “In the future I want to be an ornithologist, and English will open doors to better jobs for me.”

The government's plan aims to have 35,000 more people speaking English by the end of 2009, with 5,000 of these reaching level C1, indicating that they have an element of fluency to their use of the language. By 2017, all graduates will have ability in the language with at least 25 percent of those reaching the  C1 level.
Arias and school kids
A.M. Costa Rica/Helen Thompson
Óscar Arias poses with children at the Escuela Buenaventura Corrales in San José.

“With this plan, we will deliver the three most important promises to the nation: Employment, employment, and employment,” said Arias.

“It serves no one to elevate the expectations of Costa Rica's youth, offering them the chance to work in a big business, if we don't give them the tools to enter into business and grow in it,” he continued.

Attracting more direct foreign investment by having an English-speaking population that can operate in globalized businesses is one way that the plan will provide this. Currently, 40,000 Ticos are working for businesses that require them to speak English, with some 150 businesses giving them their jobs.

In order to get people speaking the language, the government intends to invest in educational facilities to give them the equipment needed to better the learning of languages. The Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje will incorporate English into its vocational courses, meaning that everyone from mechanics to doctors will speak a second language. A scholarship scheme will also be put in place with support from the private sector. 

Garnier will be starting a revision and diagnosis of current programs and methods of teaching Monday in order to reform and strengthen them in the future.

Paquera ferry ramp is still out of commission
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fixing the ferry ramp is taking longer than officials expected, so the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera now says the work will be done by 5 a.m. Thursday. The job was supposed to be done by early today.

The message come from Maico Badilla Chávez, chief of operations for the association. The Puntarenas ferry uses this ramp in Paquera. The boat is a vital link for supplies, tourists and locals who have to travel from the southern Nicoya  Peninsula to the mainland.
Badilla said early in the week that workman had to replace damaged parts of the ramp.

This is a complicated device because it has to be adjusted to the height of the ferry deck no matter how high the tide.

The ramp had been damaged twice this year when vehicle wheels slipped off it. Steel girders and wooden beams have to be replaced, Badilla said.

The passenger launch Don Bernardino will continue to make an extra round trip today to compensate for the loss of the ferry, Badilla said.

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Fake Fidel Castro e-mail
was computer virus portal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A fake e-mail that claimed President Fidel Castro is dead was circulating the web last week, according to an Internet security organization.

The virus e-mail even had a photo of Castro, who appeared to be in a coffin, said Websense Security Labs. The e-mail claimed to be from Univision, a major Hispanic TV network, but contained a dangerous virus, according to an Internet security spokesperson. According to the message, which was entitled “bad news,” Castro died of a heart attack in his home, Laguito.

The e-mail, which was in Spanish, invited viewers to click on links for exclusive video footage of the deceased dictator and of Hugo Chavéz crying. According to Websense, the e-mail originated in Korea and contained a virus which could upload on computers when users clicked the link for more information. The e-mail began circulating on Feb. 28, said Websense.

Cocaine trafficking case
involves Alajuela couple

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A band in Alajuela was hiding hundreds of pounds of cocaine with chewing gum ingredients and then shipping it to Europe, said security officials Tuesday.

Officers from the Policía de Control de Drogas arrested four people in relation to the drug trafficking case, including the suspected leader in Alajuela, Tuesday morning, said officials.

The group hid cocaine inside of containers which held the base product for making chewing gum, said Gerardo Javier Láscarez Jiménez, vice minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The majority of cocaine was shipped to Spain, said Láscarez.

Agents seized 651 kilograms (1,435 lbs.) of cocaine hidden in two homes, said Láscarez. The suspected leader of the band, is a man from México with the last names Carillo León. He is 44. Carillo is married to a Costa Rica woman, 35, who has the last names of Rodríguez Segura, who was also arrested, said officials. Agents found 140 kilograms of cocaine stashed under the floor in the couples' home said, Láscarez . The couple lived in Romelia de La Ceiba, a residential area in Alajuela, according to the security ministry.

A company owned by the couple, called Multivid, in central Alajuela was also raided, said officials. The company was created simply to hide the illicit activities, according to the security ministry.

Agents seized 511 more kilograms of cocaine in a house near the Alajuela stadium, said Láscarez. Here the Policía de Control de Drogas arrested a Colombian man, 52, with the last names of Muñoz Ramírez. Agents also seized four vehicles and two recreation vehicles, 52 million colons ($104,000), nearly $10,000, and 10,900 euros ($16,753), said the security ministry.

The cocaine was brought to Alajuela in trucks, said Láscarez. He did not say however, where exactly it originated from. The ministry had been investigating this particular case for three months, said Láscarez. The first discovery was made in December, when agents found 128 kilograms of cocaine in an exportation terminal in Alajuela, said Láscarez.

Two teens are suspects
in Heredia murder case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents detained two boys Tuesday, one 17 and 18, accused of a murder in Heredia, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization.

On March 1, three men approached Andrés Fallas Vargas, 23, who was walking on a public walkway in Los Lagos, Heredia, said a judicial spokeswoman. The men were planning to rob Fallas, according to officials. One of the robbers took out a gun and shot Fallas in the chest, and he died on site, said the judicial spokeswoman.

Agents detained two young men with the last names Ramírez, 17, and Rivera, 18 as suspects in the case, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. Investigators found evidence in the suspects' houses, said a spokeswoman.

Arias opens conference here
along with Deepak Chopra

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The World forum of the Alliance for a New Humanity kicked off in the Museo Nacional Tuesday, the first time the event has been held outside Puerto Rico.

Principal speakers were President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Deepak Chopra, the physician, writer and motivational speaker who is the head of the alliance.

Arias promoted more investment in social efforts and education, encouraged the fight against armament and outlined his Peace with Nature plan.

The event continues through Thursday at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

The Human Forum is an inspirational gathering of humanity from many different cultures and communities, who come together to share personal stories of how they are actively making a difference in their communities: how they are being the change they want to see in the world, according to the organization.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 51

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Arias administration proposal finally given to lawmakers
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government presented a new security plan to the legislature Tuesday. The plan would change current laws, integrate security forces and create new programs.

Vice President Laura Chinchilla outlined the 123-page, six -section plan to a special committee of lawmakers. The national security initiative, she said, is not only about changing penal codes but about an entire integral process in which police, judicial, and immigration forces will work together to solve the nation's growing criminal problems.

Ms. Chinchilla added that the project has been in the works for over a year and and that Poder Judicial and the executive branch coordinated the proposal together under her guidance. The goal is to confront and diminish violence and criminal activity in the country, she said.

Security officials Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigation Organization, Fernando Berrocal Soto, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, and Francisco Dall'Anese, the fiscal general of the Republic, all emphasized the importance of the plan. “I hope that you will pass it as rapidly as possible,” said Dall'Anese addressing the committee members. The committee was the Comisión Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana that was set up by lawmakers specifically to consider legislative proposals relating to citizen security.

Ms. Chinchilla laid out a number of problems facing Costa
Rica and how the proposal would address each one. Main
security problems listed included “a growing phenomenon of organized crime.” Immigration laws and other violent activities were also discussed. The proposal mentioned that firearms cause more than 50 percent of violent deaths in the country.

The plan stated that the criminal justice system should be balanced to favor the rights of the victim. Witness protection programs should be developed, said the plan.

The plan also listed problems to contribute to crime like poverty, unemployment, dysfunctional homes, lack of municipal funding or security organization, immigration problems, illegal marriages, drug trafficking, and assassination risks, among others. 

The security plan proposes changing numerous laws including immigration codes, firearms codes and laws concerning organized crime. A police platform of information and communication would also be created if the proposal were approved. Municipalities would also get better funding and have more opportunities to train their security forces, said Ms. Chinchilla.

Committee members asked about the cost of the project to which both Ms. Chinchilla and Dall'Anese replied that it would be expensive but a vital measure for the future of the country.

Some legislators said that it was a step in the right direction, but slightly unrealistic when considering all the coordination that would have to be done between police and judicial units.

Vice President Laura Chinchilla, security minister Fernando Berrocal Soto, and Jorge Rojas and Francisco Segura, both of the Judicial Investigating Organization.
secruity presenters
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

123-page security plan gives lawmakers a smörgåsbord
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security measure presented Tuesday to lawmakers is called an integrated version of some six measures that already are in the legislative in-basket.

Included is the administration revision of the immigration law and the revision of the firearms law.

Still, even the 123 pages of the proposal outlined Tuesday stop short of containing all that the existing proposals contains. But there are some sections that, if enacted, would change the existing proposals.

And the 123-page document also includes a separate chapter on the rights and protection of crime victims and witnesses.

An analysis of the news

In order to produce an integral measure for citizen security, lawmakers will have to pick and choose from the six existing proposals as well as from the measure presented Tuesday, sort of a legislative smörgåsbord.

The new security measure stresses a favorite theme of President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. That is strong measures against firearms. The proposal advanced Tuesday actually specifies by caliber and type weapons that would be permitted. And magazine capacities are limited to 10 for all but rimfire munitions.

The proposed firearms law already in the hopper would allow citizens to have three weapons in their homes for personal safety. The update outlined Tuesday would only allow one weapon. And the categories of persons who could not have weapons is expanded.
Whereas the existing bill contains a long explanation of how the presence of firearms result in deaths and injuries, the new measure is less expansive and relies, in part, on a positive correlation that shows the number of registered weapons is related to violent deaths and aggression with weapons.

In effect, the administration is trying to show causality with a correlation, something that is a basic error in statistics. In fact, citizens may be registering guns because of a rise in violent deaths and aggression rather than more registered guns causing death and aggression.

The administration also is promoting a platform of police information, an electronic method of sharing data on crime and criminals within the country and internationally. With this system an investigator would be able to access any data base in any state entity except those specifically protected by law and that require a judicial order. Although the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization is empowered to limit access by various police agencies, there still exists a problem of security that is not addressed in the proposal.
Corrupt policemen have been known to obtain investigatory data and give it to criminals or their lawyers.

Motorcyclists are not forgotten in the measure unveiled Tuesday. Many murders are committed by gunmen on motorcycles. The proposal would require those driving a motorcycle to wear a reflective vest that includes the plate number of the motorcycle on the back.

And foreigners are not forgotten either. The proposal says that those expelled from the country would not be able to return for 15 years, instead of the five years that is enforced now.

If the foreigner is expelled for a crime against a minor or a woman, a handicapped person or a senior citizen, the term of banishment is 25 years, according to the proposal.

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Costa Rica gets good marks but others don't in rights report
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department has released its annual report on human rights, shining the spotlight on governments around the world it says are repressing their people while attacking champions of democracy and the rule of law.

Costa Rica received good marks in most areas, but the report said that the following human rights problems were reported: substantial judicial process delays, particularly in pretrial detention and civil and labor cases; antiquated libel laws and excessive penalties for violations; domestic violence against women and children; child prostitution, and child labor.

The 2007 report says countries where power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable rulers remain the world's most systematic violators of human rights.

In that category the report lists North Korea, Burma, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says in those nations and others, aspirations of freedom and human rights common to all people are being denied.

"In too many countries champions of human rights are denounced and persecuted, vilified as traitors or targeted for repression just for insisting upon the freedoms enshrined in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.

The report names China, the host of this year's Olympic Games, as an authoritarian country undergoing economic reform but still denying citizens basic human rights.

Jonathan Farrar, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said the Chinese government continues to deny fundamental freedoms.
"The reports highlight that the human rights record remained poor," he said. "There were efforts to tighten controls in some areas including on religious freedom and on the Internet. The increasing difficulties of some human rights dissidents in China and in general the human rights record remained poor."

The report highlights Iraq and Afghanistan as countries where deadly insurgencies and weak governments have resulted in severe abuses of human rights.

In Russia the report says the centralization of power in the executive branch, corruption and other problems are eroding the government's accountability to its citizens.

The report singled out Pakistan as a country where human rights deteriorated.

"Indeed in 2007 the countries that captured the headlines were those that regressed in human rights and democracy," said Farrar. "Pakistan, under the state of emergency, suspended the constitution and approximately 6,000 opposition political party workers, human rights advocates, lawyers and judges were arrested. By the end of the year the state of emergency was rescinded and most detainees released."

Secretary Rice says the human rights report was written with the confidence that no corner of the Earth is permanently condemned to tyranny.

"Change may, indeed, change will take time, but change will come," she said. "As long as citizens around the world champion the universal values of human rights there is hope and we in the United States continue to believe that it is our duty to support these courageous men and women."

The U.S. Congress requires the State Department to submit the annual report so lawmakers can evaluate the human rights record of countries being considered for aid.

British group says minorities feel pinch of climate change disproportionally
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A British rights group says ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples across the globe suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change — and that their plight has not been recognized by the international community.

The London-base Minority Rights Group International, in a report published Tuesday, cites evidence from several recent environmental disasters in developing nations to bolster its premise. The document notes the example of humanitarian relief to Dalits (untouchables) in the flood-ravaged Indian state of Bihar last year. It cites
"blatant discrimination" in the post-flood aid distribution process, which led to rioting by locals angered by the slow pace of relief.

The report says the Roma Gypsies of Slovakia, the Rama (native residents of the Caribbean coast) of Nicaragua and the Inuit Eskimos of the Arctic have also suffered disproportionately from the effects of global warming.

The document also cites the widespread evictions of native peoples from rural communities in Columbia, Brazil and Argentina to clear large land tracts for planting biofuel crops.

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The few surviving World War I vets make up photo project
Buckles and Bush
White House photo by Eric Draper
Former corporal Frank Buckles with George Bush.

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By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The large, vivid photos are remarkable. A man in red with a wide smile, holding his World War I medals mounted in a frame. Howard Ramsey, age 108.

A bright-eyed woman in white wearing a veteran's cap, posed in front of a large American flag.  Charlotte Berry Winters, age 109.

And the youngest of the group, a gentleman with a red, white and blue tie and a fancy cane, posed with his old photos and his history books. Frank Buckles, who just turned 107.

"It is an honor to be here to represent the veterans of World War I. I thank you," he said.

Buckles stole the show at a Pentagon ceremony, attended by several hundred staffers, many of them in uniform, and hosted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"Projects like these are important because in many ways and for many reasons the First World War is not well understood or remembered in the United States. Yet few events have so markedly shaped the world we live in as the epic blood struggle we know as The Great War," Gates said.

Gates noted that 116,000 Americans died in World War I, more than in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Photographer David DeJonge says he hopes officials like Gates will see the portraits from time to time, and reflect on the impact of decisions they make.

For DeJonge, this was an emotional project, and an emotional ceremony. "I gained nine new friends. And of those nine, seven have died in the past eight to 10 months. I ask not for applause, but for honor for Mr. Buckles and the 4,734,991 veterans that served with him," he said.

DeJonge calls the survivors "icons of America." "Icons who lived quiet, American lives of service to our country, icons that walked, fought and experienced one of the most evil wars this planet has seen, icons that stood their ground so each of us could be here today," he said.

Buckles was the only one of those icons who was healthy enough to make it to the Pentagon ceremony, and to the White House for a visit with President George Bush. "It has been my high honor to welcome Mr. Buckles, and his daughter, Susannah, here to the Oval Office. Mr. Buckles has a vivid recollection of historic times. And one way for me to honor the service of those who wear the uniform in the past and those who wear it today is to herald you, sir, and to thank you very much for your patriotism and your love for America," he said.

At the Pentagon, Gates pointed out that Buckles had lied about his age to be able to enlist in the Army when he was just 15 years old. But Buckles took exception to that when a reporter repeated it later. "I didn't lie [laughter]. Nobody calls me a liar!," he said.

Then he told the story. "I had added some years onto my age and was 18. He [the recruiter] said, 'Sorry, but you have to be 21.' So I came back later and I had aged. I was 21," he said.

Buckles went to Europe as an ambulance driver at age 16. And maybe he's still lying about his age, just a little bit. "I don't feel that I'm any older than you are," he said.

But he is. In fact, he was more than twice as old as any of the Pentagon reporters who interviewed him after the ceremony.

Photographer DeJonge has now done portraits of all the known surviving American World War I veterans. But his project is not finished. "I'm expanding the project to the globe and will be pursuing every veteran on the face of the planet, every corner. There are 14 left on the face of the planet. We just discovered one in Ukraine. So it's going to be a monumental task," he said.

And he is looking for veterans from both sides of the war. In fact, one of the Americans in the new exhibit, William Seegers, fought for Germany in World War I, before deserting and making his way to the United States. He fought in the U.S. Army in World War II.

Buckles would likely have also fought in World War II, but he was in The Philippines as a civilian when the United States entered the war. He was captured by Japanese troops and kept in the notorious Los Baòos prison camp for more than three years.

The cup he ate out of for all that time is in the background of his portrait, unveiled at the ceremony to a standing ovation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 51

Flamingo Beach to be filled with magic this Easter
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Easter celebrations will take to the beach on Easter Saturday as Playa Flamingo is filled with bonfires, BBQs and art.

An event called “Magic Playa” will be held by Asociación CEPIA, as a follow up to events it has held on the Guanacaste beach for the last two years running.

More than 400 people are expected at the event, where the summer delights of slightly charred BBQ food and outdoor drinking will be complemented by music, dancing, and a fire show.

Decoration is also not forgotten, with art group JAGUART putting on a display of local artists.

The charity that is putting on the show works with  children in the Guanacaste area, giving them the chance to participate in cultural and educational activities that they would otherwise not have access to.

It has held a circus and a fashion show in past years in order to raise funds.

It is hoping to raise $10,000 from selling the $20 entrance fees ($25 on the door) and fundraising during the evening, which would represent almost a tenth of the charity's annual turnover.

The event will take place on the beach directly in front of Hotel Flamingo Beach Resort, Saturday March 22 from 5 p.m. onwards. Tickets are being sold at various outlets, such
fashion show
CEPIA image          
Past beach fundraisers have included a fashion show

as Petit Paris Beauty Salon in Flamingo, Super Massai in Flamingo, Centro de CEPIA in Huacas and Restaurante La Palapa in Tamarindo.

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.”

There is no sheepskin involved in this exhibition, as some of the finer materials are too fragile to export for exhibition in humid tropical countries like Costa Rica. The collection does, however,  but include something from each of Rembrandt's main themes.

Read more - click here

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.

Read more - click here

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.

Read more - click here


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.

Click here to read more

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

Dramatic Arts ...
Prize-winning contemporary dancers to explore environmental issues

Dance takes on the environment this week, as prize-winning contemporary group Metamorfosis premieres its show “70% Agua.”

The Costa Rican dance group, which was honoured with 2007's national culture prize for best dance group, will bring together elements of theater, circus, video, photography and music to amplify the theme.

Water, its vital importance to human beings, and the problems that the world faces in finding enough water for all of its inhabitants is the idea that inspired the composition.

Read more - click here

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.
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.

Read more - click here

Duran Duran in concert

British group Duran Duran will headline Festival
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.

Click here to read more

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

Teaching poker is like teaching golf
I’m terrible at golf but I love the game with a passion.

Some golf instructors get overly technical and teach the mechanics of the ideal swing.  That approach didn’t work for me.  So, I found a pro that didn’t insist that I learn Tiger’s swing.  He accepted my physical limitations and improved my game by focusing on the minimal golf skills that I have.

That same teaching approach applies to poker, too.  That’s why the online instructional course that I designed for addresses the learning needs of both beginning and advanced players. 

In golf, no one learns to hit a draw, a fade, or a cut shot until they’ve been taught how to hit the ball straight.  Similarly, novice poker players need to learn how to “hit it straight” before taking on more difficult concepts.

While sophisticated plays can work in poker, if attempted by an inexperienced player, they’ll usually backfire.  Elaborate bluffs and check-raises are best left to experienced players.  It’s just like golf; don’t try to hit a tricky flop shot with that 25-handicap of yours!

You see, poker players are not all created equal.  Some learn faster than others because they have better people skills, card sense, or maybe they’re just downright smarter.  But all players should learn the game from the bottom and work their way up.  Don’t skip the valuable lessons that you’ll need to learn in order to improve your game.

A big mistake beginners make is that they jump ahead too quickly, looking for bigger, tougher games where they are simply outclassed.  You have to pay your dues in poker.  The game is just as much about bankroll management, ego, psychology, and emotional control as it is about learning starting hand requirements and basic probabilities.

In golf, some pros succeed because they can hit the ball a mile while others rely on their deadly putting skills.  On the pro poker circuit, some players win because they are super-aggressive while others succeed by playing a more controlled game.  There are many paths to success.  You just have to pick the one that works best for you.

I’m naturally aggressive so adopting an assertive poker style works best for me.  That approach won’t work for everyone, though.  That’s okay. 

But whatever poker style you do adopt, you must learn how to adjust your game in response to different situations.  In golf terminology, use all of the clubs in your bag.

Here’s one important distinction between golf and poker. In golf, it doesn’t really matter what your swing looks like as long as you get the ball in the hole.  In poker, your style does matter.  How you decide to play a hand greatly impacts the decisions that other players will make against you.

That’s because poker is a cat-and-mouse game.  Your objective is to play to your comfort level while injecting enough deception to cause your opponents to make mistakes.

For example, if an opponent thinks I bluff excessively, I’ll make an adjustment and will bluff less.  If another player believes that I’d never bluff on the river, well, you’d better watch out when I throw out that last big bet.

Golf and poker can be frustrating.  Golfers can struggle because they lack basic physical skills that limit their ability to succeed.  Poker players can face similar challenges on the felt.

You may never play poker like Doyle Brunson or golf like Tiger Woods but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to improve your game and have more fun.  Just find an instructor who will teach you a style of poker play that accentuates your strengths and de-emphasizes your shortcomings.

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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