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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, April 4, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 67          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Work crews have spanned the Autopista General Cañas with a bridge for pedestrians who wish to cross in the vicinity of the Real Cariari. Pedestrians are sitting ducks on the highway, particularly at night — so much so that the Sala IV constitutional court ordered this and one other span to be constructed.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Canadian globetrotters challenged by biking Central America
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canadian couple who are going around the world report that they have arrived in Mexico after biking through Central America.

The pair said that the dangers of Central America have been all too apparent, and they feel very fortunate to have made it through unscathed.

The travelers are Julie Wafaei and Colin Angus, who arrived in Limón in late February after rowing the Atlantic. The pair then took off on bikes through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and now southern Mexico, they reported via the Internet.

Their goal is to reach a point Vancouver, Canada, where Angus will become the first person to circumnavigate the globe under his own power.
However, Central America proved scary, they said. "Nicaragua was the country most intimidating to pass through. It is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and civil violence has created a large number of desperate, jaded citizens with little regard for human life," said the Internet report.

They were most unhappy with machete- bearing men who would ride bicycles alongside and make comments to Ms. Wafaei, they said. At the Guatemala border with México they ran into protesters who blocked the road and burned tires.

They also were concerned with biking through the unstable Chiapas region of southern México and did so in two days, they reported. Other bikers have not been as lucky and have faced robberies in Chiapas, Honduras and elsewhere, they said.  The pair spent 156 days crossing the Atlantic and were featured in an A.M. Costa Rica article HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 67

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Interior of the TecnoBus has 16 computer stations

Customs agency has bus
to train for new system

By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The customs department is using a special bus now to train workers and those who might be major customers.

The so-called TecnoBus is another step in applying the System de Tecnología de Informacíón para el Control Aduanero.

The bus has been in operation for two weeks, and is being used for training in the new system that is computer driven.

The new customs system, dubbed TICA, uses a lot of technology to track incoming packages through the various ports of entry. The system is in service now at Caldera on the Pacific, the central customs agency in San José and the custom's center at Juan Santamaría airport. The idea is to connect all the customs centers together via the Internet so that any importation or exportations can be followed closely on the computer.

For that reason, the TecnoBus has 16 computer stations for training in the new system.

Alicia Avendaño, general manager of the new customs system, said that using the bus avoids the need to bring customs workers from all over the country to San José for training. The bus is off to Caldera next week. The vehicle cost 7 million colons or about $13,860, and was mostly constructed with materials and equipment available here.

The bus also will be used to indoctrinate school children in the need to pay taxes. This is one of the big projects that the Ministerio de Hacienda plans for the next administration, to create a spirit of cooperation among young people so they will willingly pay taxes. The customs department is an agency of Hacienda.

One technology project set up jointly with the customs agency and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte has suffered a setback. The agencies were applying electronic seals to incoming tractor trailers. The idea was to follow the shipments via satellite and computer to make sure loads passing through the country did not get detoured and that other loads ended up in the correct place.

The system used a device attached to the truck door that kept in contact with officials via satellite.

However, many truckers, including those from Panamá who blocked the highways two weeks ago, objected. So the project has been suspended for now.

The new TICA system might face similar rocky going. A spokesman for the customs workers union buttonholed a reporter Monday after he had toured the bus. The union official claimed that 1,000 persons in his union would lose their jobs if the new system went into full operation, and he also claimed that the system did not work well.

Bus, microbus collide

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Escazú-bound bus collided with a microbus in west San José Monday night, and 18 bus passengers  were injured, as was the driver of the microbus.

The crash took place about 6 p.m. at an intersection just off Paseo Colón. The microbus, used for tourism, was empty except for the driver, who was the most seriously hurt.

Our readers opinions
He thinks we are fooling
about lights in sky

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your article in the April 3 issue entitled "City witnessed a light show Friday afternoon" really ought to have been published on April 1st. A light show, indeed, but the photographs taken by Associate Editor Saray Ramírez Vindas seem to be the kind of light show that could be photographed every day from the same place and time.

To my eye, it's fairly obvious that the images are window reflections of recessed downlights in the ceiling behind her. Your caption  indicates "Light appears to hang over the offices." Very clever! I  just wonder if the phrase "hang over" was an intentional clue, as well!

Thank you, and April Fools!
Shawn Glen Pierson
Washington, D.C.
(UFO Headquarters)

EDITOR'S NOTE: We take lights in the sky seriously. Mrs. Ramírez took some of the photos while holding the camera outside the window to make sure she got true colors of the sunset.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 67


Vehicles show bullet holes and broken windows, the result of a shootout between businessmen in the grey car and bandits in the red car about noon Monday in the heart of San Pedro.

A.M. Costa Rica/Walter Bibb

Shootout shatters midday calm in San Pedro
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gunmen in a stolen car cut off a vehicle containing two businessmen shortly before noon in the center of San Pedro Monday, and a gunfight broke out.

One man, identified as the administrator of a San Pedro gas station, suffered a bullet wound to the right side of the face and was hospitalized. He was identified as Alexander Pérez Quesada.

The driver of the BMW vehicle in which Pérez was a passenger was identified as the owner of the gas station. The vehicle is owned by a corporation, Inversiones Tsai de Oriente.

Both vehicles were riddled and had windows broken.

The bandits abandoned their stolen red Hyundai in the middle of the intersection and fled, some in
 another car and at least one on a motorcycle, said agents. Investigators said there were four. Some bystanders saw only three. The robbers did not get their hands on any money, although agents suggested that the two businessmen were carrying a large quantity of cash resulting from weekend activities at the gas station.

A passerby said that Pérez was bleeding heavily when rescue workers took him from the vehicle. The gunmen cut off the car with the businessmen when it tried to enter the main avenue from a side street, the passerby said. The car with the robbers collided with the left front of the BMW.

The robbers appeared not to expect that the driver of the BMW was armed with a 9-mm pistol.

The División de Asaltos of the Judicial Investigating Organization is in charge of the case.

Using odds to make your investment wisely
EDITOR'S NOTE: Starting tomorrow, Mr. Negreanu's column will be found on the Food and Entertainment Page.

When you watch poker on TV, you hear the term pot odds thrown around all the time.  What in the world does it really mean?  Well, hopefully, after you read this column you’ll not only know what pot odds are, but you’ll also understand how to quickly calculate pot odds and apply them to your game.

A simple generic definition of the term pot odds would be — the odds the pot is laying you in comparison to the bet you are facing.  In other words, if there is $500 in the pot and your opponent has bet $100, your pot odds would be 6 to 1.  Why 6 to 1?  Well, since there is already $500 in the pot and your opponent has bet an additional $100, that totals $600.  Since you need to call $100 to stay in the pot, your odds are 6 to 1.
Simple enough, right?

So how exactly do you apply this basic knowledge to a poker hand?  Here’s how to figure out your pot odds, compare them to your actual odds, and then assist you in making an informed decision as to whether or not you should continue playing the hand.

Step 1 – Figuring the Pot Odds

This is the easy part.  You count what's already in the pot and add it to the amount of the bet you are facing.  You then compare that sum to the amount your opponent has bet.  So again, if there was, for example, $200 in the pot and your opponent bets $20, your pot odds would be 11 to 1 ($220/$20= 11 to 1).

Okay, so now that you know what your pot odds are, it's time to figure out if you are getting the right price to continue playing the hand.

Step 2 – Figuring Your Actual Odds

This can be a little more difficult depending on the situation.  You can find a table of actual odds in almost any poker book on the market.  Another option is to pick up some simulation software that will calculate the odds for you.  But since you obviously won't have access to a book or software right there on the spot, here’s how to figure out your actual odds while seated there at the table.

The first thing you need to do is count your outs — meaning the number of remaining cards that will improve your hand.  Then compare that number to

the total number of unseen cards still in the deck.  Here’s an example.

Let's say the board reads Kc 7s 6d 2h, and in your hand you hold 8h 9h.  Now with just one card to come, you have eight outs – the four remaining 5's and the four remaining 10's - to make your straight.  There are 52 cards in the deck, and since you already know what your two cards are, as well as the four community cards on board, that leaves 46 unseen, unknown cards.  Of those 46 cards, eight will give you a winning straight, while 38 will miss.  So the actual odds of making your straight then are 38 to 8, or 4.75 to 1 (38/8= 4.75 to 1).

Since you know the pot odds are 11 to 1 and your actual odds of improving your hand are 4.75 to 1, you can see that you’re getting a great return for the investment and should call.  If, however, there were only $20 in the pot and your opponent bet $20 then the pot odds would be only 2 to 1, and you wouldn't be making a good investment at all by calling the bet.  In this example, even though you have eight outs, the correct play would be to fold the hand.

The goal in poker is relatively straight forward and simple. It's not about how many pots you win.  It’s about making good investments, much like you would in any business venture.  By understanding pot odds, you can make educated decisions as to whether calling or folding would be good long-term investments. 

As is true in the stock market, if you make good decisions in the short-term, you’ll make a decent profit in the long run.

Visit www.fullcontactpoker.com/news to submit your questions and comments to poker champion Daniel Negreanu.

© 2006 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 67

Vote in Perú Sunday is just a warmup for May 9
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sunday Peruvians will vote for a new president and congress.  None of the 20 presidential candidates is expected to receive more than 50 percent of the votes needed to win in a first round.  It is the May 9th runoff election that will determine Peru's future.

More than two-thirds of Peruvians are of Indian or mixed descent. Still, current President Alejandro Toledo, a free market centrist, who was elected in 2001, is the first Peruvian Indian to hold the office. Toledo is not running for re-election, but another South American Indian is. He is retired general Ollanta Humala Tasso, a radical populist who is expected to reach the second round ballot. But many analysts say that ethnicity will not be a prominent factor in this election.

"A lack of jobs is a key problem — a lack of employment throughout the Andean region, but also a sense that income distribution remains highly skewed," says Peter DeShazo, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"The Peruvian economy, in macroeconomic terms, has performed very well in past years. It's been one of the top performers in Latin America with a very dynamic agricultural and mining, and now energy sector — very oriented toward export-led growth and has attracted substantial foreign investment. So that's all been very positive," says DeShazo.

Yet job growth has proven elusive in an economy that expanded nearly 7 percent last year and is expected to record robust growth this year.

President Toledo has promised that the benefits of economic growth will soon spread to ordinary Peruvians. But for most of them, it is not happening quickly enough and so the president has lost most of their support.

Bruce St. John, an analyst for the Washington-based research organization Foreign Policy in Focus, says a quest for change explains the rising popularity of Ollanta Humala, whose only political experience is his involvement in a failed military coup.

Polls show populist Ollanta Humala heading the presidential race with support from about one third of the electorate.

"Ollanta Humala Tasso is a pretty interesting fellow, a very charismatic retired army officer. He first drew attention internationally six years ago when he led a failed month-long military uprising against the regime of then President Alberto Fujimori. He was briefly imprisoned, eventually pardoned by the Fujimori government, remained in the army, but was forced out or forced into retirement December of 2004, after the Toledo administration passed him over for promotion, probably because he was obviously a popular character and they could see him running for the presidency in 2006," said St. John.

Ollanta Humala, a candidate of the nationalist Union for Peru party, favors state control of industry and
the economy. He proposes renegotiating contracts with foreign enterprises and says he will not sign a recently negotiated Free Trade Agreement with the United States. He says he would suspend the eradication of coca plants, the prime source of cocaine.  Andean people have used coca for centuries, but the United States has spent millions of dollars to eradicate the plant in the region to curb the illegal drug trade.

According to public opinion polls, Humala's support has grown from about 10 percent in November, when he entered the presidential race, to about one third of the electorate. His growing popularity is causing dismay in Peru's business community and among international investors.

Many analysts say Peruvian voters would do well to remember that similar strategies by authoritarian leftist President Juan Velasco in the 1970s sent the economy spiraling into a 30-year slide.

Humala's closest rival, lawyer Lourdes Flores Nano, entered politics in 1986 and was elected to the Peruvian Congress in 1990 and in 1995. She also ran for president in 2001 and finished in third place with about 23 percent of votes.

A pro market candidate, Ms. Flores Nano is expected to run against Humala in the May 9th run-off election.

Ms. Flores Nano's current campaign is a frontal attack on poverty that stresses expanded agricultural production and improved education and health care. Many analysts say she has proven leadership skills and point out that for many months she was the frontrunner in this year's presidential race. But Ollanta Humala seem to be pulling ahead in the polls.

Steve Johnson, a Latin America analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, says Ms. Flores Nano's campaign has been undermined by outside interference.

"Flores managed to keep her lead throughout most of January, February and the beginning of March. And it's only recently that Humala has been able to come up from very close to begin to overtake her. Part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that he did go to Venezuela and he visited with President Chávez.

"Chávez gave him a public endorsement. And then Chávez came out and labeled Flores the candidate of the oligarchs. And that had some effect that resonated in the Peruvian countryside and some of the poorer barrios," said Johnson.

But many analysts also say that Peru has neither the social movements that brought to power Bolivia's Evo Morales nor the disciplined and coherent party organizations that have sustained the left in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.

So, most observers say, the first round of elections is not likely to produce a clear winner. This, they add, will give Peruvians more time to examine what the two leading candidates are promising and how likely they are to fulfill their promises once they get elected.

Argentina's Kirchner reaffirms country's sovereignty over Falklands
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner has reaffirmed his country's claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

He made the comments at El Palomar air base Sunday, where he spoke to military veterans on the 24th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the remote South Atlantic islands.
Kirchner said the claim to the island group is a permanent objective and undeniable right of the Argentine people.

Argentina claims sovereignty over what it calls the Malvinas Islands, although Britain has occupied and administered them since 1833. In 1982, Argentine forces invaded the Falklands but were defeated by the British in a two-month war. The two governments re-established diplomatic relations in 1990.

Jo Stuart
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