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Peace dove stands guard over the tents that will hold crafts from many countries
Vendors working hard for opening of art festival today
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elena Cedillo and her son organized beaded necklaces on a table inside a white tent in front of the Museo de Arte Costarricense in La Sabana. The interior of the tent gives the impression of an artisan marketplace in Guatemala filled with vibrant colored textiles. There are huipiles, a traditional garment, that hang from the walls. And purses that hang from the ceiling. She came all the way from Antigua, Guatemala, with her family to take part as vendors for the Festival Internacional de las Artes.

Ms. Cedillo and her family will sell artisan crafts from Guatemala as they are representing the country with their store, Típica Nebajense. She is the wife of Nicolas Alberto Cedillo, part owner of the store. This is the second year they will participate in the international fair.

She is one of many vendors who are participating in the artisan portion of the fair. Some of the other vendors represent countries such as Egypt, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, and the country of honor, Korea.

There are also artisans who represent Costa Rica. They are part of the Programa de Mejora Artesanal, a program to encourage creativity and improvement among Costa Rican artisans.

Some of these participating artisans took up to six months in the program to create their product, according to a press release from the Ministerio de Economia, Industria y Comercio.

The artisan improvement program was sponsored by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica and Café Britt.

The Festival Internacional de las Artes, or international arts festival, has lined up concerts for every day until March 25. This is part of a 10-day event celebrated in La Libertad in between Desamparados and La Únion, southeast of San José. And Parque La Sabana. All big concerts will be held in the La Sabana park.
Guatemalan woman
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Elena Cedillo with her son organizes a table with jewelry. Behind her son are the hanging huipiles and purses.

The festival is for all ages. Some of the activities  include workshops, music, concerts, dance, vendors, food, theater, and art.

The event is free and open to the public. There is a program available for the festival for 200 colons, approximately 40 cents. The program provides daily information on activities.

Bus routes have changed to cater to those that plan to attend the festival in both parks. The changes will only affect those traveling to and from Parque La Sabana and Parque La Libertad. The alternative routes are only in the evenings. And will end March 24 for La Libertad and March 25 for La Sabana.

The reason for the alternate routes are for pedestrian safety. And to offer alternate modes of transportation to alleviate expected heavy traffic, according to a press release form the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The temporary bus stops for La Sabana area will only be in effect after 9 p.m. and March 25.

The temporary stops for La Libertad will be today, Saturday, and March 24-25 with the times from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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Lawmakers OK tax treaties
with Australia and Canada

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature has approved tax information exchange with Australia and with Canada.

Both measures were approved with little opposition, and both will be sent for a review to the Sala IV constitutional court before a second and final vote is taken. The high court is likely to approve the bills.

Jeannette Ruiz Delgado is head of the legislature's Comisión de Relaciones Internacionales which studied the measures and sent them to the full Asamblea Legislativa. She said that the information exchange with the two countries was important because Costa Rica is on the verge of passing its own tax plan that provides for levies on foreign income.

Costa Ricans will be subject to a tax when money from abroad comes into the country, according to the text of the tax plan, which received its first approval Wednesday night.

Costa Rican tax authorities also are anxious to see exactly what the country's citizens have abroad.

Lawmakers also said that passage of these measures would counter the country's reputation as a tax haven.

$5 land and sea exit tax
still in legislative hopper

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the bills that has been put aside while lawmakers wrestled with the value-added tax plan is a proposal to charge anyone leaving Costa Rica by land or water $5. Air travelers already are assessed a $15arrival fee that usually is included in their airline ticket price.

Until now those crossing the border from Panamá or Nicaragua did not face a special tax.

Air travelers also have to pay a $26 departure tax. The amount was raised recently.   So a family of four tourists now would pay $172 in airport taxes. Some of the money is designated for the civil aviation agency and also for the airport.

The proposed tax for marine visitors and those who leave by land would be just $5. The measure already has been sent to committee, and may surface after May 1.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 55
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Brewmasters toast St. Patrick's Day with an oatmeal stout
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

St. Patrick's Day has transcended land, water, and cultures. It has made its way to Costa Rica. March 17 isn't just for the neighbors to the North. The green beer and day dedicated to drunken debauchery will be celebrated in the country a-la-Tico.

For those that have looked above and beyond for a dark, Guinness-like beer to get that Irish holiday feeling in the tropics, look no further. The leprechauns heard the cries and located the pot of gold in an oatmeal stout only available in the land of Pura Vida. The beer is the product of the one and only microbrewery in the country, the Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Co. This is the firm's seasonal beer designed by their award-winning brewmaster, Christopher Derrick.

The dark brown stout is smooth and easy to drink. It's not too creamy or thick. And the beer has a distinct coffee-like aroma. There is no other commercially available in the country.

Unfortunately, the stout is only available for a limited time. The brewery only made 60 kegs, at 20 liters a container. That's approximately 300 gallons of the oatmeal stout.

Last year, stout fans called and complained to Peter Gilman, owner of the microbrewery, because the St. Patrick's Day beer was unavailable, he said.

There were people who called just to vent at him because they couldn't get any more stout anywhere, he said. He said he replied with an easy going answer:

“Thank you for the enthusiasm, but we have our two beers already available.”

The microbrewery offers two beers throughout the year, Libertas, the golden ale, and the Segua, a red ale. Gilman did confirm the firm plans to have a third regular beer to come out soon.

Only a few places will offer the stout, as it is only available on tap. And of those places only the following are celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a party, according to the microbrewery:

Galileo Hostel

This year for the Irish holiday the Galileo employees will host an early BBQ around 1 p.m. But they said to keep the festivities going as they have a 24-hour bar. There is no cover
almost guinness
Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Co. photo             
Almost Guinness

charge, and the party is open to the public. The hostel is located in La Sabana.

Stan's Irish Pub

The pub begins the festivities at 8 p.m. The menu will have traditional Irish food with live music and a man playing  bagpipe. The pub has permission to stay open for 24 hours, so the party can continue until the sun comes up. There is no cover at the bar. There will be drink specials all night. The pub is located in Zapote.

Timeout Tavern

Located in Escazú, the tavern will host an all-day party. The owners will have Irish music, food, and show the March Madness games all day. According to owner, Steven Graham, they like to party. There is no cover.

Barba Roja

The coast side bar in Manuel Antonio will have Fusion Funk San José perform at the bar for the Irish holiday party. The manager said the party won't start until later in the evening, but the green beer can be enjoyed over a nice sunset.

There is a 2,000 colon cover charge.

An expedition downtown turns up some interesting sights
On a not so windy day this week I took a taxi downtown so that I could enjoy a walk.  For some reason I find it easier and certainly more interesting, to walk in San José proper than in the semi suburb where I now live.  The pedestrians, the store windows, the street vendors, and the various impromptu entertainers, especially in the Plaza de la Cultura, all seem to give me energy.

It is getting more and more difficult to approach downtown from the west side.  If it is not ongoing repairs on a main street, it is a parade, a strike or a closed avenue for a fiesta.  Every now and then I dream of owning a Segway, one of those two-wheeled electric vehicles.

However, once there I was pleased to see that what was referred to (on a T-shirt) as Costa Rica’s Air Force, has landed.  There are beautifully painted larger than life doves everywhere.  First it was cows, now it is doves. I particularly liked the blue one in front of the Teatro Nacional.  But I have to admit, the dove on the northeast corner of Sabana Park makes me smile every time I pass it.  At its base are butterflies that flutter up the wings as they change into books.

There is a new casino on Avenida Central, just a few steps west of the fountain.  It is rather modestly marked on the outside and has a doorman.

Curious, I went in.  It didn´t take me long to come out.  Dimly lit, with a cold air conditioning wind blowing, it reminded me of a cave of iniquity.  It was all machines, slots, and a roulette machine that made no sense to me.  I was happy to get back out to the relative warmth of the street.

I also managed to see the Oscar-winning movie “The Artist” at the Sala Garbo.  It has been a while since I have been in that theater, which is comfortable and not freezing cold like some movie houses.  There is also plenty of room to find exactly the right seat.  The acting was fine tuned, and there is a lesson to all of us who have been replaced by technology — move on, stay relevant  — or maybe just that the love of a good woman can perform miracles.

Afterwards my friends and I adjourned to the Shakespeare bar next door.  It has been years since I have enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine with friends in a bar.  Not years, decades. No wonder I used to enjoy it in New York.

I will be returning this weekend to the same bar, but also the Laurence Olivier theatre next door to see “The Mousetrap,”Agatha Christie’s period piece and longest running play in modern times.  I read in the LTG newsletter that she is still the bestselling author in the world.  I am not surprised.  I recall that several of my foreign students at the International House had a copy of one of her mysteries, telling me that the books were very helpful in learning English because they were interesting, and easy to read.  It also makes good sense that in its ongoing work with students of English, LTG members are giving a tutorial on
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

“Mousetrap” and theater etiquette to students at the Centro Cultural in Sabana.  The students will then attend a showing of the play. Christie is easier to understand than Shakespeare – even for native English speakers.

Years ago I was in Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” presented by LTG.  It has been years since I have been actively involved, but I am delighted to read that there will be quite a few new members, both expats and English-speaking Ticos, involved in this production.  Every organization needs new blood and new talent.

Ann Antkiw directed the play.  We met when I became a member almost 20 years ago.  Not only is Ann a talented director, she is one terrific cook.  I know because we were roommates for a time before she left to go on safari in Africa.  After she returned, she became food critic for The Tico Times. Ann is a great role model of how to stay relevant with ease, grace and creativity.

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Search for missing historical book now in investigators' hands
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization has issued an all-points bulletin for a book. This is not just any book but the famous “Libro Violeta” by José María Figueroa Oreamuno.

This is the last in a series of books and other material that was in the personal library of former president Rafael Iglesias Castro.

The Archivo Nacional said in January that it had received complete control over the existing notebooks of the famous chronicler of the lives and times of 19th century Costa Rica.

The Archivo Nacional already had “El Álbum de Figueroa,” a Figueroa compilation of the author's years of traveling and observing Costa Rican society. The new documents are five notebooks on which the album is believed to have been based. The Archivo called them drafts of the final book.

But still missing was the “Libro Violeta” and a large drawing of a woman. Since the Archivo considers all the Figueroa books to be its property, the judicial police are now involved. 

However, in a news release, the law enforcement agency said candidly that there are no suspects.

As A.M. Costa Rica reported in January, many consider Figueroa an ethnographer and cartographer because he traveled into less-well-known areas of the country, such as Talamanca, Térraba, Boruca and Guatuso in the middle of the 19th century and produced a number of maps, including one that was displayed in Spain to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.

Figueroa also was a caricaturist and wit. He once was brought into court on a pornography charge relating to his drawings.

His album is about 200 pages, and it was delicately restored by experts. He did not pull punches. Once he wrote of the relationship of a priest and a mistress. Figueroa, himself, never married but did father a daughter.

He was from the highest level of Costa Rican society because his Spanish immigrant father married into the Oreamuno family. Figueroa was born in Alajuela in 1820 and died in 1900. So he was a witness to the highly serious politics of the mid 19th century when political opponents and even presidents were shot.

Edgardo Richards, writing for the Asociación Costarricense
Figueroa book
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
This is a photo that exists of the 'Libro Violeta.' The page shows Tómas Guardia, the president, seated on a throne in what appears to be the legislative chamber.

de Filosofía, said that Figueroa wrote and drew a lot of the political class, particularly under the administration of Gen. Tomás Guardia and of practices of the church hierarchy, the corruption, the press, the militarism, Masonry, gambling, alcoholism, and the customers and prejudices of the privileged classes. Figueroa was influenced by 18th century French philosophy.

The Archivo Nacional waged a battle to obtain the album of Figueroa and than it did so again to obtain the notebooks. The notebooks were found in 2007 in the Iglesias library.

The president's granddaughter, Manuela Tattenbach Iglesias, offered the presidential documents to the Archivo Nacional. The Archivo and Ms. Tattenbach entered into an agreement in 2008, but when the material arrived at the Archivo, it was reported to be incomplete. There were no Figueroa notebooks.

What followed was a lengthy legal proceeding between the Archivo and the person who was by then the executor of Ms.  Tattenbach's estate. Last year, the Archivo obtained legal custody of the notebooks and eventually entered into an agreement for ownership. The Archivo notes that the missing “Libro Violeta” was part of the collection that was catalogued in 2007. So it has been only missing for four years at most.

Anyone with information about the book is asked to call  2295 - 3307, 2295 – 4355, 800-8000645 or email, which is the address of the Centro de Información Confidencial, said judicial agents.

Early morning quakes rattle
central Pacific communities

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake estimated at 3.7 took place early today about 4.7 kilometers (about three miles) north northeast of Playa Hermosa on the central Pacific Coast, said the Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The time was reported to be 13 minutes after midnight. The epicenter was a few miles inland. A second quake, this one of 3.4 magnitude, took place at 4:23 a.m in about the sameplace, said the Laboratorio.

According to automatic reports, the both quakes were felt strongly in nearby Jacó and also in Puerto Caldera, San Ramón and Palamares as well as Paquera across the gulf of Nicoya on the peninsula. The intensities in Jacó was such that there might be damage.

The Pacific area has seen a number of quakes, including a flurry over the last month in the Pacific off Dominical further south. There was a 4.0 quake near there at lunchtime Tuesday.
Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica/A.M. Costa Rica
 Arrows show nearby communities and the estimated
 epicenter. Red lines are known faults.

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Prosecutors seek to tie
Manning to terrorists

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. government prosecutors are detailing the charges facing an Army intelligence analyst accused of passing classified documents to the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks.

Military prosecutors gave their written answers Thursday to a series of questions about the accusations facing 24-year-old Bradley Manning.

Manning faces 22 counts, the most serious of which is aiding the enemy.  A military judge told the hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore, Maryland, that prosecutors will argue Manning's alleged actions indirectly aided al-Qaida, specifically al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Manning was arraigned last month. 

Prosecution experts testified during a preliminary hearing in December they found evidence Manning downloaded diplomatic cables onto compact discs that were sent to WikiLeaks.

He is alleged to have leaked a trove of diplomatic cables, and military documents related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning's lawyers have described their client as a troubled man who should not have been allowed access to classified material while serving in Iraq between November 2009 and May 2010.  His attorneys also said the military's oversight of its computers was lax.

Manning could spend the rest of his life in prison if found guilty. 

The leaked documents, published by WikiLeaks starting in July 2010, infuriated the international community, often providing blunt and unflattering U.S. views of world leaders' private and public lives.

U.S. officials say the WikiLeaks publication of the stolen documents put lives in danger, threatened national security and undermined American efforts to work with other countries.

Atheists target non-believers
with billboard campaign

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The message, in English and Arabic, is blunt. “You know it’s a myth. You have a choice,” declares the billboard in a Muslim community in Paterson, New Jersey. An identical one, with a Hebrew translation, was erected in Brooklyn, New York. Both were installed by American Atheists, a private organization with 4,000 members, to publicize its upcoming national convention in Washington.

David Silverman, president of the group, said the billboards are meant to reach secret non-believers in Muslim and conservative Jewish communities. He said those communities repress the nonbelievers among them.

“These billboards are here to tell them they are not alone,” he said in Paterson recently. “To give the message that people do have a choice, that even if their friends and family are all of the same religious beliefs, and are all part of their insular communities, they still have a choice. There’s nothing forcing them to live the life of a lie.”

Silverman calls atheists the most hated minority in America. He debated the point on the street with Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of a nearby mosque, the Islamic Center of Passaic County.

“I think it is a kind of not-acceptance, a kind of converting people,” the imam said. “You want to convert people that God is a myth, but God is not a myth.”

Silverman said that was not the case. “I don’t think I’m trying to convert anybody,” he said. “I’m trying to talk to people who already know it’s a myth. I’m not going to convert anybody with a billboard. Does this billboard shake your faith?"

Imam Qatanani said that there is no compulsion in Islam, that it can only be freely chosen. He said that many Muslim scholars now believe that punishment for Muslims who leave the religion cannot be justified, and that there is no such requirement in the Quran.

The billboard in New York was originally set to be installed atop a building in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. But local residents objected, and the sign was moved to an expressway, where it is mainly visible to people in passing cars.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a heavily Christian community, a different billboard caused an outcry, with its graphic image of a black man in chains suggesting that the Bible endorsed slavery.

To some, the image was racist. But officials with the state chapter of American Atheists, which paid for the message, said it was to protest the state legislature's declaration of 2012 as the “Year of the Bible.”

In Paterson, Qatanani told Silverman that the billboard could serve Islam, by creating opportunities to talk with nonbelievers.

He said that his religion calls on him to share it with others, because it is “the best thing in our life. The gift that we have is religion. I like it to be for everybody, not just me,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to accept each other.”

“So, you know for a fact I’m never going to convert to Islam, never. Can we still be friends?” Silverman asked.

“Absolutely,” Qatanani answered, handing him a copy of the Quran and a pamphlet about Islam. “But I will give you this to convert you. Please, read them and come back.”

The atheist and the imam laughed and shook hands.

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Municipal workers strike ends
with accord in Ciudad Colón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a three-day strike, municipal workers in the  Municipalidad de Mora have reached an accord with the local government, according to the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados.

The strike was in Ciudad Colón, the municipality's administrative center, which is west of San José.

Employees were seeking payment of what is called the  salario escolar. For government workers this is a bonus paid to provide funds for children returning to school.

Union officials had been trying to negotiate such payments for the workers in Mora for two years, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said. Union negotiators blamed the mayor, Gilberto Monge Pizarro, for failing to move on the issue.

The heart of the agreement is the establishment of a joint committee to set up a mechanism so that the funds could be paid to the workers, said the union association.

Graphic anti-smoking ads
seek to reduce U.S. smokers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. government is starting a major new effort to cut the country's smoking rate by showing graphic images of people who have sustained life-altering health problems after smoking for years.

The U.S. smoking rate peaked at more than 40 percent of the adult population in the mid-1960s, but government health officials say the rate has stubbornly leveled at about 20 percent in the last decade, a rate substantially lower than in some European and Asian countries, but still higher than in other places.

Millions of people die annually throughout the world from smoking-related illnesses, with many of them in the United States. With that in mind, the government says that next Monday it is starting a $54 million advertising campaign to try to shock smokers into quitting and keep impressionable teenagers from starting what often turns into a lifetime habit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it will place the ads on billboards, radio, television and social media sites in a three-month effort. One recent study showed that one out of four high school seniors in the country is a regular cigarette smoker, a rate the government described as a "pediatric epidemic."

One of the ads depicts a 31-year-old man who is a double amputee who lost his legs because of a rare blood disorder caused by smoking. The ad says: "Allow extra time in the morning to put on your legs."

Other ads show people with gaping holes in their necks where they were forced to undergo tracheotomies because of smoking-related cancers.

The ad campaign comes at a time when the government, at least for the moment, has been thwarted in its effort to force cigarette makers to place graphic anti-smoking images on half of the front and back of each pack of cigarettes they sell. A federal judge recently ruled the requirement unconstitutional, but the government is appealing the decision.

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