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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, May 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 102         E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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U.S. citizen surrenders after rooftop sniper attack
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 3:15 p.m. Friday)
A U.S. citizen who is suspected of killing a neighbor while firing an AR-15 from his rooftop late Thursday had done so in the past without fatal results, investigators suspect.

The man, identified as Frederick Kelch, 48, lives in an Vicente de Moravia and was a former U.,S. serviceman, said Jorge Rojas Vargas, director of the judicial Investigating Organization.

Rojas said Friday morning that another neighbor filed a complaint in September that someone was firing shots into a home, but investigators were unable to find out who did it.

Rojas said that  Kelch when to the roof of his home
shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and fired into the home of Harlen Fonseca Reyes, 28, a physician. The neighbor, who was with his family in the dining room, suffered a bullet wound to the head.

Rojas said that Kelch wore a ski mask when he was firing from the roof. Rojas said he did not know how many shots were fired.

When police arrived, Kelch, his wife and two children, remained inside the house. An investigative negotiating team finally convinced the man to leave his home shortly before 7 a.m.

Rojas said that Kelch had police cases in New York for possession of a weapon, drugs and robbery. Two more weapons, a 9 mm pistol and a .38-caliber handgun were found in the house, Rojas said.

Inland residents resent use for beach projects
Struggle for water triggers angry confrontations

By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Construction work on the aqueduct that would bring much-needed water to the communities in Playas Hermosa and Ocotal is suspended, and key members of the committee that funded the project were in a meeting in San José Thursday to try to resolve the crisis.

Pipelines were burnt in anger May 12 by citizens of Sardinal, the town whose aquifer is set to supply the water, and a confrontation between protestors and police left 11 injured Wednesday.

Around 75 percent of the infrastructure needed to deliver water from the inland town to real estate and development projects on the booming coastline has already been completed. A group of 32 private businesses formed a trust with the Banco de Costa Rica to collect $8 million for the project, which is named Coco Water.

Developers are desperate to deliver more water to coastal areas via the 9 kilometers (about 6 miles) of pipes. Without sufficient water it is impossible to obtain development permits, and the small aquifers in Coco and Ocotal cannot support demand.

The group formed a private public partnership with the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the first of its kind in Costa Rica's history. After the infrastructure has been built, it is to be delivered into the hands of the water institute, which will run it normally.

But now, two years after the first wells were drilled for the aqueduct, opposition to the project has escalated.

“Almost the whole village came out in protest on Wednesday,” said Felipe García, a Fuerza Publica officer in Sardinal, who estimated the population at 500 people. “They've already built most of the pipeline, but if they operate it, there won't be enough water for the village. The water will all be going to tourism and hotels on the coast instead of to local people.”

Studies made by the water institute this year say that the aquifer has a capacity of 2,134 liters of water per second. The aqueduct will demand 176 liters per second and provide up to 8,000 hook-ups to the pipes.

The water institute's director Guillermo Arce has said that the community need not be worried, as its water supply is guaranteed for at least the next 20 years.

“This project is going to be ok,” said Alex Picado, a project engineer for Grupo Mapache, which has invested in the aqueduct and has some 800 units waiting to be hooked up. “The water is state property and in reality there's nothing the residents of Sardinal can do to stop the aqueduct. It needs to be finished by January 2009 because developers need to sell their properties, and without water they can't sell, or continue to construct.”

“The Sardinal people need to be more conscious of the fact that this water is not just going to developers, it's going to normal residents too,” added his colleague Mario Solis.

Legality issues have arisen surrounding the project, with representatives of the Sistema Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento saying that the water institute did not carry out sufficient studies into the environmental viability of the project before construction started.
water faucet
Both the institute and the Municipalidad de Carrillo have stated that the project holds all the necessary permits.

Other worries include the fact that although the water institute knows how many wells it operates, the agency has no idea how many illegal wells are also extracting water from the aquifer.

Thursday's meeting was held to discuss the complaints of the Sardinal residents and try to come to a solution, said Juan Carlos Ramírez, director of public works at the Municipalidad de Carrillo.

Communities further up the coast are also finding it hard to get hold of enough water for construction projects. Residents in Playa Hermosa are working on a solution similar to that in Playas del Coco.

“The water institute is not delivering water availability letters for multi-unit projects,” said Scott MacDougall, owner of Century 21 At the Beach in Playa Hermosa. “The letters are one of the first things necessary to start constructing a project. Our problem is that there is a tank on top of the hill between Hermosa and Panamá, and as there are two hotels down there in Panamá, when there is a water shortage, they just shut off the valve that lets water flow down to Hermosa, saving it for the hotels. To solve the problem we are making a public-private partnership also.

“The project is going to cost about $500-600,000, and will provide about 800 hook-ups. About 400 to 500 of these will be for multi-unit projects, the rest to help current users. It's a limited number, not an endless stream. We know what the immediate area can supply, and it's a problem of delivery not source.”

As yet, the Municipalidad de Carrillo has not received an application for the work to go ahead.
The project will be supplied by water from the aqueduct in Playa Panamá, and the overstretching of this resource is also a cause of concern for some. If too much water is taken out of a coastal aquifer, sea water flows in and salinizes the water, making the aquifer unusable.

“Everyone knows there's no water,” said Gadi Amit, leader of the Hermosa Activist Group and resident of Playa Panamá. “The Panamá aquifer is small, and still they keep granting concessions for mega-projects with hotels, golf-courses and condominiums such as that on Punta Cacique, all which take water away from residents. The development next door had to bring in water by truck from Sardinal, because it couldn't get any through the pipes.

“A national emergency was declared in this canton in 2007 for lack of water, it's crazy to me that they carry on building. Investors come into this area and feel tricked because there's no water for the houses they've bought.”

Officials of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados were unavailable for comment.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 102

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In northern zone the drought becomes a national emergency
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government declared the drought in the northern part of the country a national emergency Thursday.

The minister of the presidency, Rodrigo Arías, the health minister, and agriculture minister, all signed the emergency document granting more than $1 million in aid to the area. The majority of the money will go to farmers and ranchers who are losing their livestock as a result of the drought, said a presidential spokesperson. The drought is spread through Guatuso, Upala, Los Chiles and San Carlos. 

According to Rodrigo Arias, $300,000 will be immediately available to help communities and  farm areas affected by the crisis. That money will also provide drinking water for the
communities, said the presidential spokesperson.  The rest of the money is meant to revitalize agricultural and livestock production in the area, according to Casa Presidencial.

Private companies and banks have also pledged to assist the area, said the presidential spokesperson.

Truck and water supply tanks will deliver water to families throughout the day, said the spokesperson, who added water distribution is the top priority.

Different government groups including the national emergency commission and the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados will analyze existing wells and alternative water sources, said the presidential spokesperson.

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Yankee dollar continues
to put on more muscle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats on U.S. pensions and those with salaries denominated in dollars have gotten a 6 percent raise over the last two weeks as the once unrespected dollar staged a strong comeback against the colon.

According to the reference rate provided by the Banco Central, a dollar will bring 520.63 colons today, and one would have to pay 527.82 colons to get one. That is in contrast to the 491 colons that a dollar would fetch May 7. Some banks said they would charge 530 colons for a dollar today, according to their early morning report to the Banco Central.

The sharp rise in the dollar is a function of the demand as foreign debts, including petroleum, have to be settled in dollars.

The central bank had to dump dollars onto the wholesale market Thursday to stop the U.S. currency from edging even higher.

The dollar also is facing speculative pressure as Costa Rican individuals and businesses try to protect themselves from future increases by buying the currency. That is the reverse of what happened in late November when the Central Bank reduced both the buy and sell rate for the dollar.  Costa Ricans began to demand colons, and even some of the state banks declined to accept large dollar checks without getting a discount.

Cynics suggested that the central bank deliberately undervalued the dollar to take advantage of the flood of U.S. currency coming from tourists who visit during the December to March high season.
New storm alert extends
through much of country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission issued tropical wave and storm alert for the Central Valley and south and central Pacific zones of the country Thursday.

La Comisión Nacional de Emergencias said heavy rainfall was expected for the regions due to an incoming tropical wave from northern Panamá. The alert is in effect through Friday, said an emergency commission spokeswoman. 

Tropical waves, also called easterly waves, are low pressure areas that move east to west across the tropics causing heavy clouds and thunderstorms.

Emergency workers will be on alert in the effected areas, said the spokeswoman. The commission is advising the public to be cautious and listen for further alerts in the coming hours. Officials also advise families to look for secure sites in case of an emergency.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional confirmed heavy rainfall due to the tropical wave. A spokesperson cautioned people to beware especially of flooding on roads in the Central Valley. Other parts of the country are also recommended to monitor rivers and roads in caution in view of possible landslides, said the weather spokesperson.

Three of four bodies found
as the search continues

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fishermen on a shrimp boat sighted the body of a woman floating off Playa Tambor Thursday morning. Hours later the body of a child was found just outside of Puntarenas, and at 6:30 p.m. rescue workers located a third victim in Río Guabo, said a Cruz Roja spokesman Thursday evening.

All were part of the group of four who went missing early Sunday, said Alexander Porras of the Cruz Roja. Those missing were two school teachers, a 12-year old girl and a 7-year-old boy.

The body found near Tambor was identified as school teacher Maureen Lucía Medrano, 32. The boy was Gabriel Jaén Castro, 7, and the third body had not yet been identified Thursday evening, said Porras. 

The teachers, Ms. Medrano, 32 and Kattia Vanessa Castro, 34, are assumed to have been traveling together with Ms. Castro's two children young Jaén, and Fabiola Díaz Castro, 12, when their vehicle was swept off a bridge in a heavy rain storm.

People found their vehicle, a small red Geo Tracker south of Quepos in the bed of Río Savegre. The coast guard participated in the recoveries of the bodies Thursday, said the security spokesman.

Firefighters, police men, and Cruz Roja rescue teams will continue to search today for the remaining victim, said Porras.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 102

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Ramos says Berrocal stretched truth on drug confiscations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rogelio Ramos, who was security minister in the Abel Pacheco government, Thursday accused his successor of playing politics with reports of confiscated drugs. He said his successor, Fernando Berrocal, was taking credit for drug confiscations made by other branches of law enforcement.

Ramos made his comments in his third and final appearance before a special commission of the Asamblea Legislativa. He was closely questioned about when he as security minister became aware that the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia had infiltrated the Costa Rican fishing fleet.

Lawmakers were not satisfied with his answers to that question and others relating to the role he played in the week before President Óscar Arias Sánchez fired Berrocal.

Ramos told lawmakers that he became aware of infiltration in January 2007 when the fishing boat "Captain David" was boarded on the high seas and searchers found 1,050 kilos of cocaine.

He also noted that eight days afterwards three Colombians were detained on allegations that they were recruiting fishermen for the drug trade.

Ramos reminded lawmakers that this same group had purchased four other fishing boats, the "San Mateo," the "El Rey," the "Monge" and the "Estrella del Sur." These boats were making 22-day trips and returning without fish, he said. Fishermen were being paid $3,000 to $3,500 to serve as crew members.

The Colombian connection with the fishing boats was well publicized at the time and the Judicial Investigating Organization provided photos of the boats to the press.

Ramos did not expand on his earlier understandings even when pressed by Mario Quirós of Movimiento Libertario. He did mention well-publicized cases.

Jan. 29, 2007, agents detained a Colombian in San José and a second at his home in Cartago. The man arrested in Cartago, Carlos Reina, is the leader of the gang running the boats, said Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, at the time. The other is Tito Reina, he said.
drug boats at dock
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Drug boats at Puntarenas dock January 2007

The same day agents found $161,000 in cash and a ship-to-shore radio at the Cartago home. In Grecia the next day agents arrested a third Colombian, this one with the last name of Bolaños, and confiscated 13 luxury automobiles and three motorcycles.

Ramos mentioned these arrests and also said that Carlos Reina had purchased 10 hectares of land in Dulce Nombre de Cartago and bought a large quantity of gasoline.

However the actual investigation, as is typical in such cases, came from the Judicial Investigating Organization and not the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, which Ramos headed. Ramos stepped down May 8, 2006, when Óscar Arias was inaugurated. Berrocal served from then until the end of March.

It was the division of law enforcement responsibilities that was at the root of claims made by Ramos that Berrocal was taking too much credit.

Berrocal did not give credit to the North American forces working on the Pacific or to the Judicial Investigating Organization when he said hundreds of tons of cocaine were confiscated under his administration. Ramos also said Berrocal overlooked the Policía de Control de Drogas. The U.S. Navy with elements of the U.S. Coast Guard frequently stop drug boats and turn a sampling of drugs for evidence and crew members over to Costa Rican officials. Sometimes the total drug load is in the thousands of kilos.

Ramos also said that Berrocal was aided because drug traffickers from Colombia changed their routes and more drug-laden boats were being picked up along the Costa Rican shore.  Some 88 percent of the confiscated drugs could be attributed to forces outside of Berrocal's control, said Ramos.

New prosecutorial unit set up for organized crime cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's chief prosecutor is setting up a special unit to fight organized crime, starting June 1.

The unit, officially the Fiscalía Adjunta Contra el Crimen Organizado, will start with 83 cases, said the Poder Judicial.

The unit will have a prosecutor, five coordinating prosecutors (fiscales), 11 assistant prosecutors and six judicial assistants, said the judiciary.

The nation's chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall’Anese Ruiz,
set up the unit with funds provided in a special supplementary appropriate approved by the Asamblea Legislativa May 9, said the Poder Judicial.

The new union takes over for a smaller group that was set up in 2004 and concentrated on complex cases relating to murder for hire and kidnappings. The Corte Suprema de Justicia had to approve the new setup.

The new unit will investigate and prosecute any domestic and international crimes that involve criminal organization except those relating to drugs, which will continue to be handled by anti-drug prosecutors, said the Poder Judicial.

U.S. to mark Memorial Day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy will be closed Monday as Americans mark Memorial Day, originally a day to commemorate those who have died in the nation's battles. The day also is the official beginning of the North American summer season and to some extend the beginning of the second high season of tourism for Costa Rica.
Quake generated short shock

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A sharp shock felt in much of the country at 4:47 p.m. Thursday was an earthquake centered near Puriscal. The shock was estimated at from 4.1 to 4.7 magnitude.

The quake was a short duration, perhaps a bit more than a second. It was blamed on movement in a local fault.

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fourth news page

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 102

Dedication of directors, actors is incentive to tackle hospital
Recently on the news there was a little to-do over Barack Obama’s calling a reporter "sweetie."  It even led to his leaving her a message on her cell phone apologizing for his slip of the tongue.  The indignation would be far greater (that is, of those who get indignant over such things), to hear that taxistas (cab drivers) often call me mi amor, That is when they are not calling me Mamacita.  (little mother).

Workplaces would astonish them even more.  It is not unusual at all to see co-workers of the opposite sex greet each other with air kisses when they arrive at work.

There were no “sweeties” or air kisses on the stage of the Teatro Laurence Olivier this past weekend.  Twelve angry men were on stage for a compelling, emotional, thought provoking, two acts, that flew by.  They were deciding the fate of a young man accused of murder.  They, of course were the all-male cast and the play is  “Twelve Angry Men.”  It was a memorable ensemble performance.  Every actor was his character throughout the play, and their confrontations with one another were convincing and often explosive.

Because it was a jury room with a large table for all 12 to sit at, the play could have been a bunch of talking heads.  But the directors incorporated enough motivated action and movement to keep it anything but static.  The play provided conversation for me and my two companions both during intermission and for a long time after it was over.  The opinions the play deals with are as pertinent today as they were when it originally came out as a movie written by Reginald Rose in 1957.  They still, unfortunately, exist today.

The play had a strange effect on me.  I have been putting off taking my referral from my clinic to see a specialist at Hospital San Juan de Dios.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, because first I would have to get the proper papers and appointment card and then make an appointment.  I’ve been there before.  The hospital is huge, laid out in a warren of hallways in all directions, and every hallway is filled with people.

But I woke up Tuesday morning thinking about the effort that went into putting on the play, the travel and the time
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

everyone put in to rehearse and make it perfect.

Especially, I was the thinking of the directorial team of husband and wife, Tom and Lisa.  They live, where, to me is in Outer Mongolia of Escazu and had to make dozens of trips to rehearse and see to the production.  If they could do that, I could get to the hospital and doggedly follow directions until I got what I needed.  So I did that. 

The hospital was just as I remembered it.  I was sent from one window to another and even back again.  Finally, I got to the window where I was supposed to make an appointment, but was told the appointment card I had wasn’t valid and I would have to get another.    I was about to give up when the patient following me said that she would show me where to go if I would wait.  I did, and she did, walking with me to three more windows, waiting and helping me, and returning to one of them. 

I walked out of the hospital with an appointment card, an appointment and a spring in my step.  Had I taken a taxi home, I am sure I would have been called mi amor, but my spring was so great I boarded a bus (well, two buses) instead.  Thank you, cast and crew of  “Twelve Angry Men.”

Like you, I did the thing, and now I have the power to do it again – and will have to – and fortunately for others, so will you.   “Twelve Angry Men” is running weekends through June 1 with matinees on Sundays.  For reservations, you can call 8355-1623.

Jo Stuart’s book, "Butterfly in the City," is available at 7th Street Book Store, the locations of Liberia Internacional and souvenir and book store, La Campesina in Cariari.  E-mail:

Some easing in high price of rice predicted by U.N. agency
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations food agency says the high prices of rice may begin to come down amid predictions of excellent harvests this year. But the agency warns overall food prices will remain high.

Experts say rice prices rose about 76 percent from December to April.

Economists at the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization say, the price pressure will remain high at least until October or November, when the bulk of this year's paddy crops will reach the market.

Abdolreza Abbassian presented the agency's food outlook report.

"The speculation, and it is a pure speculation, is that once the wheat prices begin to decline after the main harvest in the northern hemisphere and the summer, with the greatest likelihood, many countries which are fighting food inflation today will feel more comfortable to let the rice be exported," said Abdolreza Abbassian. "And should that happen the likelihood of rice prices coming down then increases."

The report said the earthquake in China and the cyclone in
Burma, while adding to the uncertainties about rice production, are likely to influence only domestic markets.

In its report, the Food and Agriculture Organization said this year's cereal production is forecast to increase by 3.8 percent compared with last year, assuming favorable weather. Rice output is set to rise this year by 2.3 percent.

But despite the prospects for good harvests, the agency says rising demand, high fuel costs and the need to replenish stocks will prevent prices from collapsing or even falling to pre-2007 levels.

Hafez Ghanem, the organization's assistant director-general, said what the world needs now is to take some long-term measures:

"What we need to look at are ways of producing bio-fuels that have the least impact on food prices. At the same time we also need to look at our agricultural system around the world and see how we can improve productivity, increase production so that agriculture can actually meet the demand, this new demand."

Escalating food prices have triggered protests around the world in recent months. The United Nations has blamed  factors including high oil prices, growing demand, bad trade policies, poor weather, panic buying and speculation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 23, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 102

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save our forests

Our readers' opinions
Here's a climate change solution that ranchers will not like

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The article on climate change campaign was to bring awareness to the fact of the importance of the rainforests throughout the world.  It touched on the significance of cutting down and burning these forests and how much global warming it contributed. 

One of the statements from the president of Conservation International, was:  Burning forest contributes an estimaterd

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20 percent to global emissions — more than cars, trucks and planes combined. Conservation International's president, Russ Mittermeier says he hopes the ad will catch people's attention.   

The ad may catch people's attention but so many of these ads don't educate people on how they can help prevent this from happening.  I would like to share a bit about how we can make a difference saving the rainforests.
Over 80 percent of the dry tropical rainforests from northern Costa Rica to Mexico have been cut down.  Areas of this size and larger of rainforest have been cut down throughout the world including the Amazon, Indonesia, the Congo and other rainforests.  The ground temperature after removing the rainforest has risen dramatically in these large tracts of land.  The weather pattern also changes from this deforestation in each locality and they become drier.  When these huge areas have their trees removed, erosion dumps millions of tons of sediment into the rivers that flow into the oceans.  This sediment slowly suffocates the polyps of the precious coral reefs in the tropics.

What is the main reason for cutting these rainforests down?  The main reason is to make room to raise cattle, not logging as many people think.  With logging they generally cut down large hardwoods.  To raise cow meat they cut down everything.  In Central America much of the beef is exported to the United States.

What can the average person do?  Stop eating beef. Start eating soy, beans, seeds and nuts as a protein source.  If that is too difficult, then eating chicken will help save the rainforests. This is a better way to practice sustainability.  If the beef is grown in the United States, sorry that isn't sustainable either.  A person who eats cow meat (beef) as their main protein source requires about 20 acres of land each year and over 2,500 gallons of precious water to raise that steer for protein.  That is not sustainability. 

A person eating soy, legumes, nuts and seeds for their main source of protein only requires one acre of land and about 100 gallons of water each year to grow it.  Also, soy doesn't add millions of tons of methane gas each year to our atmosphere.  Whereas cows do produce over 50 million tons of this global warming gas in the U.S alone.  Cattle excrement also is adding to major pollution problems in our water systems today.  So a way to save the rainforests, coral reefs and reduce global warming stop eating beef.

Also there is a big stink about using bio fuels like ethanol instead of gasoline.  The complaint is that it drives the price of corn way up.  Seven times more corn is used to raise our meat sources in the United States.  If we stopped eating beef we could easily produce much more bio fuels in the future without having an effect on the cost of corn and other bio fuels.
Henry Kantrowitz
Nature guide
Past curator of Zoo Ave,
breeding center of endangered animals.
Co-founder and past president
of the Birding Club of Costa Rica
Boletos are a great idea

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

To all those who complain about the boleta system for parking in San Jose.  First I think it is a brilliant system invented by Costa Rica.  It saves a ton of money not having to buy parking meters which in Costa Rica would have to take a dozen different sized coins. Second, regarding the inconvenience of having to locate where they sell boletas.  Hello, ever think about buying more than one ticket and keeping extras in the car?   The tickets never expire.
Edward Bridges

A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 102

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 102

Young Costa Rican pianist to play recital of European compositions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A young Costa Rican pianist who is studying for her bachelor's degree in Ohio will play a recital in the Teatro Nacional Tuesday.

Sofía Chaves is a 17-year-old who has been playing the piano for over 11 years. She has already pursued studies in the Instituto Superior de Artes and the Universidad Nacional, but now studies at the Kent State University in Ohio.

Although she is young, this is her second time playing in Costa Rica's premier theater. Her program will include pieces by European composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Liszt.

The recital is part of the Temporada Pianística organized by the Universidad Nacional and the Instituto Superior de Artes.

“The program is relatively new, as I started studying it in January for a presentation in the University,” said Miss Chaves, adding:

“I hope that the recital in the theatre will be more mature, and that the public, which is very different to that of the university, will also enjoy it.”

The performance will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are 2,000 colons ($4), and are on sale at the Teatro Nacional box office.

They can also be bought by calling 2221-5341 or logging on to
sofia chaves
Teatro Nacional image       
      Sofía Chaves, who will play solo piano at the Teatro   
      Nacional Tuesday

Delay in World Series showdown to add sophistication
The World Series of Poker, poker’s most prestigious event, will kick off in a few short weeks.  The World Series features world championships in various forms of the game, all leading up to the granddaddy of them all, the $10,000 buy-in main event.

This year, however, the main event will be just a little bit different.

Harrah’s, the operator of the World Series of Poker, with input from the Players Advisory Council, decided to postpone the final table of the main event until Nov. 9, 2008 – a delay of more than three months.  That’s right; more than 7,000 players will start play on July 3 and battle down to the final nine on July 14 at which time play will come to a stop. 

Some players love this idea and think it will create tremendous buzz about poker’s biggest showcase event.  Others believe that the lengthy delay will compromise the integrity of the final table. 

I think both camps make valid points.  The extended build up will definitely create promotional opportunities and excitement about the final table.  It will also give the finalists unprecedented time to work on their game, study their opponents, and develop winning game plans.

Others, however, argue that winning the main event is a test not only of poker skill, but stamina too.  I don’t agree.  The main event wasn’t always a test of endurance.  The ability to play winning poker on little sleep is not something that needs to be rewarded. 

As far as I’m concerned, the schedule change will benefit those players that study video of their opponents, seek expert coaching advice, and work on their game plans.  Let me explain.

Professional football was revolutionized when teams began to study their opponents by watching game tape.  Today, all NFL coaches work long hours studying video leading up to game day. 

Players at the main event final table will have three months to study footage of their opponents.  Not only should they search for physical tells and predictable betting patterns from their opponents, they should look for their own bad habits too.

The schedule delay will also benefit those players who seek

out coaching advice.  Now, this is something that might seem at odds with being a poker player.  After all, poker is an individual game -— one player to a hand.  But why pass up the opportunity to improve one’s game?  Hey, if I don’t make the final table, I just might take on a student who could benefit from my poker experience.

The presence of pro coaches will undoubtedly add a new dynamic to the main event.  While you might not see Phil Hellmuth actually playing at the final table, it’s possible that he’ll be visible in the stands as he cheers for his amateur protégé.

In fact, even the big name pros will probably hire coaches to help gather information on their opponents and help devise final table strategies.

Lastly, the delay will allow ample time to develop winning game plans.  Just like an NFL coach might draw up the first 20 plays, finalists at the main event can do the same.  But in addition to Plan A, finalists should also be prepared with backup Plans B and C.  Maybe you’ll win a big pot and become the chip leader, or perhaps you’ll lose a monster pot and find yourself on the short stack.  Players should establish game plans for a wide range of scenarios.

The main event schedule change will add an element of sophistication to the final table that will surely benefit those players that are best prepared.  If I make it to the final nine, you can bet that I’ll be as prepared as anyone.

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

Art Galleries ...

Surreal circus art leaves circle of life question open to onlookers

introvocoWandering 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.

Read more - click here

Art Biennial breaks down national stereotypes

ticosynicasA 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

Dramatic Arts ...

Poets from 15 countries come to San José

Latin America is renowned for its literature, and this weekend marks the inauguration of a festival that unites poets from across the region, not to mention from Europe, Africa and the United States.

The VII Festival Internacional de Poesía will bring prize-winning writers from all over the world to venues all over Costa Rica, including hospitals and prisons, with the grand opening scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.

It claims to be the second most important poetry festival in the Americas, and is organized by Fundación Casa de Poesía, who said getting visas for all the artists to enter the country proved rather difficult.

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.

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Café culture uncovered in San José

Moving to a foreign country is always going to leave people craving at least something of what they have left behind. For a European, this is often the laid-back café culture — having a croissant in the sunshine on a French plaza, or hiding from the British rain with a hot mocacchino, cuddled up on a sofa.

In San José there are plenty of places to catch a coffee. A soda will give you a coffee on the run, but it won't have a nice selection of frapucchinos, and the most European lunch on offer will be the ubiquitous ham and processed cheese sandwich.

The plastic atmosphere of the proliferation of coffee shops found in city malls doesn't cut it in comparison with the artsy, individualistic establishments in which musicians, revolutionaries, poets and artists got together next to the river Seine. After one casado too many, there are, however, a few places to go for a brief retreat towards the European ideal.

Claudio's Delicafé


Arguably one of San José's most attractive buildings, this café is attached to an art school and is not afraid of letting the creativity filter through into the café itself. Previously known as Café Arte, the French owner of San Pedro restaurant Le Chandelier recently took over the café and has restyled the entire thing, very much to its benefit.

One corner of the café is a tower-like extension, its cylindrical shape and many windows giving an airy atmosphere. Wicker-backed chairs, wooden sofas and arty photography give the interior an understated style.

Click here for more café reviews

Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food courtFor 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. 

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.

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.

Click here to read the full review

Books ...

Heredia author mixes teen romance with leatherback turtles

book coverA 15-year-old girl who is infatuated with buff surfers and Gucci shoes is setting out to convince other teenagers her age that caring for leatherback turtles and saving the environment is just as cool as going to the mall.

Penelope, as she is called, is the creation of Heredia resident Marina Kuperman, a New York native who has recently finished the “eco-adventure” novel “Turtle Feet, Surfers Beat.”

Written to target girls aged 9-14, the 86-page novel is printed entirely on eco-friendly paper and follows the story of Penelope and her family as they relocate to Tamarindo for a month.

Forced to work as a volunteer at the Leatherback Biological Centre, Penelope, who has been recently dumped by her quarterback boyfriend, falls in love almost simultaneously with leatherback turtles and a blonde surfer called Kendall Brown.

Click here to read more

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 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.

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.

Click here to read more

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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