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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, May 8, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 91         E-mail us
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warning signs at beaches
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray  
Florida warning sign tells swimmers what to do, but the one in Cauhita does not.
Lack of rip tide info leaves swimmers on their own
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

MIAMI, Florida — With deaths in Costa Rica due to rip currents, beaches here might have something to learn from more popular shores like those of Miami.

Miami beaches, which receive millions of visitors a year, are complete with hundreds of lifeguard towers, warning flags, and signs advising swimmers what to do if they get caught in a rip tide.

“Many visitors, especially those who didn't grow up in South Florida, don't know what to do if they get caught in a rip tide,” said a spokeswoman for Miami Dade Fire and Rescue.

A lifeguard on North Beach in Miami said he always sees people reading the signs about rip currents. Most people wouldn't know what to do if it wasn't for the signs, said, David Cupp, 36, who has 14 years of lifeguard experience. “Human instinct is to swim back to shore. But then you tire yourself out, and when you get tired you sink,” said Cupp, who is studying to be a paramedic.

The hundreds of beach signs advise people not to fight the current and, if unable to escape, to tread water or float.

Eddy Ballester, a lieutenant for the Miami Dade Fire and Rescue, said he believes the signs and the local news media have prevented many accidents. 

There are still frequent near drownings due to the rip currents, said Ballester, but the lifeguards are
there in these situations, and have all been well trained and gone through numerous tests.

Rip currents or rip tides are formed by wind and waves pushing water towards the shore. Oncoming waves can push the previous backwash sideways. The water streams along the shoreline until it finds a path back to the sea. The resulting rip current is usually located in a trench between sandbars or jetties.

Miami lifeguards watch for rip tides and warn swimmers of any serious danger by using blow
horns, loud speakers, or by talking individually to groups of swimmers, said Ballester. The national and local weather services provide additional information, and the media usually warns visitors about current dangers, said Ballester.

Most beaches in Costa Rica do not have any displays of information about rip currents. In Cauhita on the Caribbean there is one sign on the road near Playa Negra warning swimmers of rip currents. The sign does not give advice.

Police officers in the little beach town were unaware of the sign or when it was put up. One police officer mentioned that the red flags on the beach serve as a security warning, but the lonely red cloth on a tall stick does not make much sense to visitors. Few beaches in Costa Rica have lifeguards.

Rip tides can sometimes be spotted by sandy or darker colored areas in the water. The current stirs up the bottom of the ocean as is flows seaward. Sometimes a line of seaweed, foam, or debris extending seaward can be spotted in a rip current.

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Third person executed
in as many evenings

By Elise Sonray
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The third assassination in as many nights took place in Paso Ancho Wednesday.  Killed was a transport ministry architect who is related to two high-profile media figures.

Tuesday night a policeman was gunned down in Desamparados.

Monday men on a motorcycle executed a businesswoman as she drove through the eastern section of Zapote in San José. A motorcycle was involved in the killing Wednesday night, and one might have been involved Tuesday.

In each case robbery did not seem to be the motive.

The dead man Wednesday night is Fernando Rueda Ahumada, brother of Amelia and Alejandro Rueda. They are well known as journalists, and she is associated with Radio Monumental and Repretel.

Rueda was gunned down with multiple bullets as he got out of his car in the parking spot of his own home. He was said to be in his 50s. There did not seem to be any effort to steal the car.

In Nicoya, grieving family members waited Wednesday for the body of the police officer who was shot 10 times while on his way home in Desamparados Tuesday.

The victim, Félix Ángel Ruíz Matarrita, 28, worked in the Unidad Especial de Protección, a unit which provides protection to embassies, former presidents and other high officials.

Ruíz was on his day off and was walking home when someone murdered him, said Jesus Ureña, a security ministry spokesman. Police ruled that the case was not an attempted robbery, it was an assassination, said Ureña.

Police detained one man after the incident, said Ureña. Ruiz was killed in front of the small police station in Torremolinas, Desamparados. 

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Polícia y Seguridad Pública planned to bring the body of Ruíz to the police chapel before officials brought it to Nicoya, but the autopsy took a long time, said a security spokeswoman. Since Ruíz had 10 gunshot wounds the forensic investigation was taking longer than usual, said the spokeswoman.

Ruíz had no children, but occasional girlfriends, said the spokeswoman. He was born in Nicoya and previously served as a Fuerza Pública operations officer in Desamparados.

Monday the victim was Ana Quiros, 43, according to police. Just as Ms. Quiros stepped out of her SUV, a man shot her in the left side of the head, killing the woman who was with her her husband and father in Zapote, said a Fuerza Pública officer.

Ms. Quiros was the owner of a furniture store, and lived in Guachipelín de Escazú, said a judicial spokeswoman. The assassin only shot one time, and no one else was injured, said Gloría Alvarez of the Fuerza Pública in Zapote. “They wanted to assassinate her,” said Ms. Alvarez. The woman had reported telephone threats and a demand for money.

Officials were trying to figure out without success Wednesday if there was a connection between Ms, Quiros and the slain policeman.

Violent toys to be swapped

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Youngsters in schools in Limón and Guápiles will be asked to surrender their toys of violence in favor of notebooks and T-shirts.

The project is by the government, the Fundación Arias para la Paz and the U.N. development program.

José Torres, a vice minister in the Presidencia, noted that Limón has suffered much from violence, principally by guns.

Similar programs have been held at other schools.

Gold company ready to go

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Industrias Infinito S.A., a subsidiary of Vannessa Ventures Ltd., said Wednesday that it has received an official news release from the environment ministry that says Costa Rica authorizes the exploitation of the Crucitas concession as environmental, social and economic feasibility has been demonstrated.

This follows the company's announcement April 16 where it was reported that the environment minister said to the local media that the Crucitas project would be approved soon.  This authorization represents the final major approval required by the company in order to advance the development of the Crucitas gold project, it said.  The project is in northern Costa Rica and its proximity to the Río San Juan has generated controversy.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 91

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This home is inside the park boundaries, officials say

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Tribunal says this lot is not buildable.
Environmental tribune acts on properties at Parque Baulas
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Construction sites within the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas are facing closure by the government's Tribunal Ambiental, but local real estate brokers say that the situation is not as clear-cut as the tribunal suggests.

The tribunal confirmed Wednesday that it had paralyzed construction on three sites and had opened investigations into 17 more around the area of Playa Grande, near Tamarindo on the Pacific coast of Guanacaste.

The Real estate company Century 21 came under the spotlight for having up to 10 lots for sale located at least partly within the national park.

An agent from the company's office in Playa Grande said that he had not been contacted by the tribunal and that he does not believe the tribunal will be able to keep the targeted construction sites closed.

The land that Century 21's lots and the paralyzed projects are situated on is in the process of expropriation for use by the Las Baulas national park, and tribunal spokespeople said that they should not be offered for sale as buyers will not be granted permits to build on them.

A strip of land only 75 meters (246 feet) wide but 6 kilometers (3.8 miles) long, bordering the 50-meter public beach zone, is being expropriated. Properties with a small piece of their land situated inside this strip are finding it impossible to get permits to build on any part of the lot.

The park is administered by a coalition of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and a charity based in New Jersey, called the Leatherback Trust.

Signed in February 2004, the Convenio de Cooperación entre el MINAE y The Leatherback Trust has recently come under criticism by the Asamblea Legislativa, which ordered an investigation into how the trust's involvement in the park has benefitted the nation of Costa Rica. 

Locals of Playa Grande allege that the trust collected millions of dollars of funds in order to expropriate the land and fund park guards, but used some of it to buy its own scientific research center, situated within the expropriation zone, which it then operated as a bed and breakfast.

Park border issues have been a problem for years, although the park itself was established by law in 1995.
markers moved
Photos by the Tribunal Ambiental
Ministry worker shows the remains of a government boundary marker (mojone) that has been fractured. Others have been moved illegally, the tribunal said.

 Originally the park included a marine section and the 50-meter public zone, but suggestions arose that another 75 meters should be added as construction so close to the beach would disturb the nesting habits of the leatherback turtles.

“We are not in opposition to the expropriation, as we all chose this area for its beauty and believe the national park should be there,” said the Century 21 agent, who wished not to be named. “But this land has never belonged to the national park, and the Leatherback Trust that wants to expropriate it is now in court with 28 criminal charges.

“We have made a model plan regulador that is perfect for Playa Grande, but the Leatherback Trust is trying to get it thrown out because it wants to control the beach. If someone wants to buy one of our lots that has land in the 75-meter zone, I tell them that I really do not know what will happen in the future, or whether they will be able to build on it.”

The tribunal also said that today it will be shutting down six construction projects in Playas Brasilito, Tamarindo, Potrero and in Zapotillal de Cabo Velas and Zapotal de Carrillo. Destruction of forest for construction of hotels and golf courses, burning of trees and the lack of environmental viability permits are among the reasons for these six closures, the tribunal said.

Two Principal Services victims wants quick action on arrest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two persons who lost money with Principal Services S.A. have asked U.S. Justice Department officials to expedite the arrest and extradition of two executives of the defunct company.

The two persons, Thomas Sweeney and John Kramer, said they were two of 200 who invested $100 million in the company.

They directed their message to Francisco Dall'Anese, the fiscal general, and the U.S. Justice Department.

Principal closed its doors in March 2003. Investors had been promised a 4 percent monthly return on investments. They were told that their money would be used for venture capital projects. The letter writers characterized it as a ponzi scheme.

Michael James Forrest,who said he was just a salesman for the Principal Services firm, was acquitted by a judicial panel last month. Sweeney and Kramer said that the court did find Principal responsible and ordered the firm to make restitution.

Gerard Latulippe and Elwyn Jacobs have been identified as the operators of Principal, and it is these men who the investors want to be extradited from the United States.

They noted correctly that two requests for arrests have been sent from Costa Rica to the United States and that Latulippe was detained for a day Jan., 7, 2007, but was released. The men said that the U.S. Justice Department did not process the request.

Another investor, Ram Rajpal, said several months ago that the translation of the supporting documents for the arrest were flawed and a judge threw out Costa Rica's request. A copy of the supporting documentation, translated into English by the official translator of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, is at least strange.
Investors are called moneylenders, victims are called offendeds and the money was going to be cancelled in Orlando, Florida. These are all common mistakes that Spanish speakers make in English because they use English versions of Spanish words.

Sweeney and Kramer said that a U.S. Justice Department employee helped revise the capture warrant and that a new warrant was issued via the International Police Agency (INTERPOL). It is that warrant the men want executed. They said agents know Latulippe's whereabouts. He is in his 60s and believed to be in Arizona. Jacobs is believed to be in his 80s.

The supporting documents said that Sweeney invested $1.3 million with Principal. There was no mention of the amount that Kramer invested.

"We read frequently of Costa Rica cooperating in the arrest and extradition of persons wanted by the U.S. Justice System," the men wrote directing their comments to Dall'Anese.  "Oftentimes, Costa Rica cooperates with U.S. government extradition requests even if not all the required documentation has been submitted, simply because it respects the credibility of the American law enforcement agencies.  If someone in the U.S. Government wanted to show good faith in the treatment of yourself as chief prosecutor and the Costa Rican judicial system, one positive step would be to reciprocate with the same efficiency, by processing this particular extradition request."
The decision in the Forrest case was unusual. Only he was on trial, but his lawyer said that the judicial panel awarded victims damages against the company, although Principal was not represented in the courtroom.

Seven persons were named for compensation in the decision. An eighth person did not receive any damages.

Neither Sweeney nor Kramer were awarded damages. Sweeney said that he and Kramer did not participate in the civil portion of the case that resulted in the money awards.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 91

Araya seeks investors in Chinatown (where else?) in China
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The San José municipality hopes to start building a Costa Rican Chinatown by the end of 2008 with the help of the government of the Chinese province Canton.

San José Mayor Johnny Araya traveled to China to search for foreign investors 15 days ago, said his spokeswoman. Araya spoke with Chinese government officials about the construction of a cultural neighborhood in downtown San José, she said.

The new Chinatown will take up four blocks downtown. It will be along Calle 11 south of Avenida 2, said Carmen Azofeifa, the spokeswoman for Araya.  Ms. Azofeifa said that the master plan includes a variety of Chinese stores which will sell traditional items and food. There are already some Asian restaurants on Calle 11, including Tin Jo and Don Wang.

A group of officials from Canton are expected to come to Costa Rica in the next few months to check the project
chinatown here
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Part of the area designated as the city's Chinatown

and finalize negotiatons for the creation of Chinatown.

The municipality wants other investors in Costa Rica to contribute to the project because the local government can't provide the money and only would facilitate the construction permits, said Ms. Azofeifa. She added that she did not know how much the proposed project will cost.

Arias declines to join food declaration at Managua meeting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Citing "serious conceptual discrepancies," President Óscar Arias Sánchez declined to join other heads of state Wednesday in approving the final declaration of a meeting on food sovereignty and security in Managua, Nicaragua.

A statement from Casa Presidencial did not expand on the decision but other sources said that some participants favored a state-centered solution. The session also had its share of criticism of the United States and globalization.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez had said he would not attend the session due to illness. The meeting was organized by Daniel Ortega, the Nicaragua president, who is no stranger to state expropriation of land.

Arias did say in a speech that Costa Rica is trying to insert itself into the world economy and hoping to finalize negotiations with the European Union in 2009 and reach further accords with India and China.

Arias also said that Costa Rica would invest $70 million to avoid an agricultural crisis. The money would go for technical aid and credits to finance machinery.

Others at the session wanted a larger fund and more taxes.

The price of basic foodstuffs has increased dramatically in the last year.
In Washington, D.C., the head of the United Nations World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, Tuesday said the current food price crisis is the first global hunger emergency. She called for cooperative action to alleviate the problem.

Ms. Sheeran said the increase in food prices is costing the lives of 250,000 people every 10 days. Up to 100 million people are being pushed back into poverty by what has been often a doubling of food prices over the past year. Ms. Sheeran, who heads the Rome-based World Food Program, said the world's poorest are the most vulnerable.

"Countries that are most at risk are developing nations that are import dependent and already experiencing an additional shock from conflict, drought, floods or storms," she said. "Think here: Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Burundi, Mauritania, and others."

Ms. Sheeran said that the cyclone that has ravaged Burma may have devastated that Asian nation's principal rice-producing area. Rice prices have gone up 250 percent in the past year while wheat has doubled and corn is up 50 percent. While world grain stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, Ms. Sheeran said much of the price spike is due to panic buying and export bans in several countries.

Others have cited increased demand by countries like China that are demanding more and better foods as well as the much higher price of petroleum, which is essential to fertilizers and agricultural production.

Art museum director blasts ministry upon leaving his post
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An open letter alleging that one of San Jose's top art museums is in a state of financial paralysis that leaves it struggling to hold exhibitions and events has been made public by the museum's director upon his resignation.

The director, Ernesto Calvo, who has been in charge of the Museo de Arte y Diseño Costarricense since August 2004, said that the museum's last few exhibitions had been funded by outside sources as the museum had “no money to buy so much as a nail.”

He communicated his resignation to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes Friday, but wrote a public denunciation of the financial situation that has driven him to resign.

Calvo wrote that the problem has been provoked by two things: “The new administrative rules which mean the institution must authorize all its transactions and buying permissions through the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud (even though the museum has an autonomous law); and also a deficient internal administration that has negatively affected the museum's functioning throughout the last two years, and which it has been impossible to solve despite all the efforts made in this respect.”

Calvo's second reason to resign is a disciplinary procedure brought against him, concerning his work giving university
courses outside of his work at the museum.

He says that these activities are supported by the Fundación ProMADC and by Costa Rican law, and that they have led to a growth in the number of visitors to the museum and inter-institutional links. 

The letter includes the opinion that the museum has for some years been “the institution with the most dynamic program, best variety and with the best international projection in the country, in spite of having one of the lowest budgets of all of the institutions of its type in the Ministerio de Cultura.”

Calvo adds that he must resign as under the circumstances he cannot guarantee the continuing prestige and recognition that the museum has been gaining.

The last few paragraphs indulge in literary allusions, advising Costa Rica's cultural scene to “shoot arrows at the horizon”, as written by Cuban poet José Lezama Lima, rather than to “enclose themselves in cages of iron” wrought of bureaucracy, as written by Max Weber.

Calvo's resignation comes just two months after a reshuffle by the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud y Deportes saw the replacement of the directors of the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar, Teatro Nacional and Museo Nacional.  The shake-up left Ana Carboni, ex-director of Teatro Popular Melico Salazar, unhappy with her treatment.

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new relief map
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Ramón Mena, president of Librería Francesa, shows Vice President Laura Chinchilla an official relief map of Costa Rica handled by his store. It is the first new official map in 34 years and has been approved by the Instituto Geográfico Nacional. The bookstore is providing each of the country's 55 libraries with a free map.

Rancher acquitted in killing
of activist U.S. nun in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Brazilian court has acquitted a local rancher previously convicted of ordering the 2005 killing of a U.S. nun who had campaigned to save the Amazon rainforest.

The rancher, Vitalmiro Moura, had been sentenced to 30 years in prison during a trial last year, but was acquitted Tuesday in a retrial. Under Brazilian law, a retrial is automatic for a defendant sentenced to more than 20 years.
The nun, Dorothy Stang, was gunned down at close range near the town of Anapu in February 2005. She had worked for years as an advocate for the poor and to prevent the destruction of the rain forest.

A man who confessed to the killing, Rayfran das Neves Sales, was sentenced to 28 years in jail. He has said he killed the 73-year-old in self-defense.

Right-wing trafficker extradited

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia has extradited right-wing paramilitary leader Carlos Jiménez to the United States to face drug charges.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's office says Jiménez was flown to Washington Wednesday after Colombia's supreme judicial council overturned a previous court decision that had blocked the extradition. Jiménez, also known as "Macaco (monkey)," faces charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and financing terrorist groups.

The U.S. Treasury Department has called Jimenez one of Colombia's most dangerous narcotics traffickers.

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Surreal circus art leaves circle of life question open to onlookers
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wandering around the Museo Calderon Guardia, looking at austere historical artifacts about the socialist former president complete with wax-work statue, the last thing a visitor expects to come across is a circus tent.

Until May 22, that is precisely what museum-goers can expect when they enter the small temporary exhibition space.

A colorful toy snake curls around the bottom of a notice board announcing “Introvoco” with two clown shoes fastened to it.

The floor is covered in a carpet of hay, giving the room a barn-yard smell, and most of it is obscured by a blue tarpaulin.

Walking past the board and pulling back the tarpaulin, the visitor feels like they are indeed about to open the door to an archaic but surrealist circus scene.

A bizarre spider-like ring master hangs from the ceiling, his wide clown smile bearing down on the room, a top hat perched on his round black head. Next to him is a colorful umbrella.

But the focus of the exhibition is not there. In the middle of the room sits a red and gold cage, its small door broken open. The inhabitant, whatever unimaginable creature it may have been, is long gone.

The Costa Rican creator, Gloria Rivero Roch, says that her aim was to get spectators to stand in the space and encounter themselves.

The circus image symbolizes the cyclical nature of life, attractive to both children and adults, representing a return to primitive human nature.

A.M. Costa Rica/Helen Thompson
Ringmaster Fedes hangs from the inside of Gloria Rivero Roch's exhibition 'Introvoco'

Fedes is the name of the ringmaster, a character that Roch says symbolizes the human spirit.

“Monsters do not have to be ugly,” said Roch. “Our human condition is full of contrasts, not all is good, not all is bad.”

His serpent friend, Ouroboros, chews his own tail, signifying self-regeneration, a moment which Roch says is very important for self-knowledge and acceptance, two things that are lacking in a violent society.

Her explanations do not, however, give any answer to perhaps the most interesting question posed by the exhibit: What it was that has escaped from the cage, and from the circus' circle of life.

“Introvoco” is open to the public free of charge in Museo Calderón Guardia, 100 meters east and 100 meters north from the Santa Teresita church in Barrio Escalante. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Play it safe in tournament poker
There’s a misconception about tournament poker that goes like this:  Players need to try frequent sophisticated bluffs and make lots of risky moves to maintain an unpredictable image and to win. 

Well, there might be some truth to that in small buy-in tournaments, or even online poker tournaments where the blinds and antes escalate quickly.  But on poker’s biggest stage, the World Series of Poker, nothing could be further from the truth.

The best tournament players actually try to avoid risky plays altogether.  They prefer to wait for their opponents to make the risky moves.  They’ll wait patiently until they catch a strong hand.  When they do, they’ll take down their overly aggressive foes.

Watch any tournament on television and you’re sure to see some no-name player at the final table.  Chances are you’ll never see him again.  Sure, you’ll occasionally you’ll see an unknown player win using ultra-aggressive tactics, but trust me, that kamikaze style just doesn’t work consistently.

You see, great players will play a wide range of dealt cards but they’ll never risk a large percentage of their chips on a marginal hand.  When they do push in their chips, they’ll have a premium hand to back up their bet.  In situations where it’s unclear whether they have the best hand, the best players will choose to play it safe. 

To be sure, playing it safe isn’t a flashy style of poker.  Some even claim that it’s too weak and passive.  That being said, playing safe poker is still a proven recipe for success in the world’s biggest poker tournaments.

That’s because the goal in high-stakes tournaments is to win lots of small pots without the risk of going broke.  Of course, you’ve got to occasionally win a big pot too.   Just stay patient.  Eventually, some hyper-aggressive player will go crazy with a bluff when you do have a premium hand.  Or, he won’t believe you when you have a strong hand and he’ll call your big bet.  It’s bound to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, bluffing is a critical part of the game.  It’s a weapon all pros use in tournament play.  They just won’t bluff nearly as often as you think.

Also, professionals will tend to make smaller, more controlled bluffs to minimize their risk.  If they get caught, well, that’s not the end of the world.  A failed bluff could easily payoff later in a much bigger pot when the pro has the unbeatable hand. 

Now, you will have to change up your game when you become short-stacked in a tournament.  You’ll be forced to make more risky plays.  Just be sure you don’t push the panic button too quickly!  Skilled players realize that a short stack doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on patient play.  In poker, unexpected situations can occur at any time but you have to wait for the right opportunity.

If you do choose to run a bluff, don’t be afraid to put your table image to work.  When other players observe that you don’t bluff often, that’s the time to confuse them with a little well-timed deceit.

And always pay attention to the skill level of your opponents.  Big buy-in events attract players with a wide range of poker ability.  If you find yourself seated at a table full of bad players, running a risky bluff would be foolish.  Instead, wait for a good hand and hope you’re called.

That same approach won’t be quite as effective against highly skilled players; they’ll know just what you’re up to.  Against tough players, you’ll have to bluff occasionally, but again, not as often as you think.

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

Art Galleries ...
Art Biennial breaks down national stereotypes

A work of art that involves only a metal key is among the most acclaimed piece in the Museo de Arte Costarricense's latest exhibition.

Also on display are old Caterpillar boots, a patchwork quilt and a foosball table, all aimed at breaking down the stereotypes that exist between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans.

As Nicaraguan migration into Costa Rica continues, so do tensions between the two national groups.

The U.S. Department of State's most recent estimate was that up to 15 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of Nicaraguans who have migrated here mainly in search of work.

Read more - click here


"Cuenca Compartida" by Ruth Morenco Wasserman, showing the Rio San Juan which divides the countries
Dramatic Arts ...
Russian and Uruguayan artists invited to play with symphony

A Uruguayan conductor and a Russian pianist are the invitees for this weekend's Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional concert in the Teatro Nacional.

Famous Russian pianist Andrei Pisarev, whose style of interpretation has been said to closely coincide with that of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, will be performing works by Berlioz, Smetana, Chopin and Mussorgsky.

He will be conducted in these pieces by the Uruguayan Giséle Ben-Dor, who has conducted with symphony orchestras all over the world and who is now the Conductor Laureate with the Santa Barbara Symphony, in California. She has held the post since 2006.

This year she is also invited to conduct with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Jerusalem Symphony, Israel Symphony, and Bern Symphony Orchestras, among others. In the past she has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops orchestra.

Read more - click here

Salsa and big band collide in a night of dinner and dancing

Music students of Pérez Zeledón and salsa-dancing fans of the group Son de Tikizia are preparing for a night of dinner and dancing to be held in the capital of the province.

The big band of the town that calls itself Pérez Zeledón, but whose actual name is San Isidro del General, will join dancers from the Universidad Nacional to present Cena Bailable May 23.

A concert by the 25 members of the big band will start off the evening, which will continue with a buffet-style dinner and end up with dancing.

The big band musicians are all students of the Escuela de Música Sinfónica de Pérez Zeledón, Universidad Nacional, and will be interpreting everything from jazz to popular under the  direction of  Leonel Rodríguez Cambronero.

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

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

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