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These stories were published Friday, July 8, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 134
Jo Stuart
About us

London attacks raise hardly a ripple here
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A series of bombs in London during the morning rush hour killed at least 37 people and injured 700 more Thursday, but in Costa Rica the blasts hardly registered a bump. 

The world news spotlight was on London, but in San José, finding a bar with the news on a television set or hearing a conversation about the attacks was difficult. 

At the News Café, the Costa Rican national soccer team was getting ready to play the Canadians Thursday evening, and conversations among expats drifted through the air about motorcycle rallies and street fights.  In other bars the scene was much the same.  In a local hostel, workers expressed surprise: really?! when?! 

Earlier story HERE!

At the British Embassy, press officer Bruce Callow said that the ambassador was a little frazzled and things were pretty hectic.  He also added that officials at the British Embassy knew only what had been published in the international press. 

Earlier in the day, embassy staffers did field a flood of calls, and the the official Web site was updated with contact information in London.
However, there has been no indication that the bombings directly touched Costa Rica.

On government buildings here, the national flag of Costa Rica stayed at full staff.   President Abel Pacheco released a four-paragraph statement along with the officials from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panamá, Honduras and Nicaragua expressing that “it was with profound sorrow, that we were informed of the attacks on London.” They added that  “in this sentiment, we express a vehement condemnation of these terrorist acts.”

Roberto Tovar Faja, the foreign minister, released a separate statement expressing his “profound respect for the pain and sorrow inflicted upon Great Britain and the world.”

The attacks happened around 2 a.m. local time Thursday morning and the local Spanish language publications had already gone to press so nothing had appeared in print locally yet about the bombings. San José has no afternoon dailies.

Unlike the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the bombings in London did not affect Costa Rica tourism or commercial interests directly.  Four years ago, international flights were grounded and as a result thousands of tourists were stuck in San José while they waited for U.S. air space to open.  Thursday  planes were still flying.

Regulatory agency begins checking up on taxi meter use
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency that regulates taxi fares said Thursday that it has begun inspections of rural taxis to make sure drivers are using the meter.

In a surprising revelation, the agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, said that it has received only 25 complaints against taxi drivers this year and that nine of these were because the driver did not use the taxi meter, the so-called maría.

When undercover inspectors checked out taxis in Guápiles de Pococí, only one of the 10 drivers used the meter. The agency said that they can institute an administrative process against drivers who fail to use the meter, and the process might result in a fine or the loss of the taxi concession.

The agency said that it would continue checking out reports or irregularities in other parts of the country. In addition to the use of the meter, inspectors evaluate quality.

The agency said that taxi passengers should
take down the number of the taxi license plate if the driver does not use the meter and register a complaint with the agency, which is based in Sabana Sur.

The regulator authority said in a statement that the first kilometer in a taxi costs 285 colons and that subsequent kilometers are 160 colons in the metropolitan area and 165 colons in other parts of the country.

The trend toward not using the meter seems to have accelerated as fuel costs have soared. By not using the meter, drivers can set their own rates, which are higher than the official ones.

In addition, drivers who rent taxis like to keep the meter off so they can earn money they do not have to share with the vehicle owner.

Reporters verified that city taxi drivers are not using the meters. A story Wednesday recounted how a three-legged taxi trip in the city cost about twice the official rate and that not one of three drivers used the meter when the passenger appeared to be a young North American tourist.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 8, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 134

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               World leaders united in condemning terrorism: HERE!
Web page will carry information
British Embassy here getting lots of calls

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 11:30 a.m. Thursday)
British citizens and Costa Ricans with families or friends in London have been flooding the British embassy here with calls, as have been others offering their condolences.

Sheila Pacheco, vice consul, said that a number has been set up by British officials to receive inquiries about casualties from the multiple bomb attacks today in London.

That number is 0044-870-156-6344. Costa Ricans concerned about friends or family members should call the Costa Rican Embassy in London, she said.

In addition, embassy officials here have a Web site where they are posting the latest news of the bombing:

The Web site this morning carried the message from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who
said he and other Group of Eight leaders “condemn utterly these barbaric attacks.”

“All of our countries have suffered from the impact of terrorism. Those responsible have no respect for human life. We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation but on all nations and on civilised people everywhere.”

“We shall prevail, and they shall not,” Blair concluded. Blair is meeting with other heads of state in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Some 40 persons died and nearly 400 suffered injuries when the bombs went off in the London subway and on a double-decker bus during the morning rush hour. The attack took place at 1:51 a.m. Costa Rican time.

A group claiming to be affiliated with al-Qaida took responsibility.

Gold Cup soccer tourney
has educational side

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is hosting a soccer tournament with teams from 12 countries, including Costa Rica, participating in the event to call attention to the problems of HIV/AIDS and violence against children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a  statement, the U.N. Children's Fund said it has teamed up with a regional soccer association in the Americas for the tournament, which has as its theme "With Children We Win."

The 12 teams are battling for the Gold Cup trophy in games played in six U.S. cities in the joint venture between UNICEF and the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Football Association (CONCACAF).

Nils Kastberg, Children Fund's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that through the Gold Cup, "we have an opportunity to reach millions of soccer fans to educate them on the risks of HIV/AIDS infection, on the importance of stopping violent behavior, and other key messages to protect young lives."

The U.N. agency said the special focus on HIV/AIDS and violence against children is due to the particular importance these issues carry in the CONCACAF region.  The Caribbean region — with a prevalence rate of 2.3 percent — has the second-largest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world, after Sub-Saharan Africa.

Latin America, said the Children's Fund, is one of the most violent regions in the world, with children and women the main victims.  The agency said 16 percent of children in Latin America and the Caribbean say they are being maltreated in their homes, either through physical or verbal abuse.

Kastberg said that "we need to work in partnership to get girls and boys onto sports fields and playgrounds, and to educate children and their families about the benefits of sports."  Kastberg said his agency has a long-standing partnership with world soccer federations to develop programs "to guarantee children's right to play" without fear of being harmed.

Soccer is part of several U.N.-supported projects aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS and violence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  In Honduras, the "Football for Life" program promotes HIV/AIDS prevention and helps protect young people from sexual exploitation and child labor.  In Colombia, which has been wracked by civil conflict for several decades, "Football for Peace" helps communities reach out to all children, including current and former child soldiers.  Football is known in the United States as soccer.

Earlier in 2005, the Children's Fund and a Central American soccer federation formed a partnership to use soccer as a tool for promoting the rights of children and adolescents in the region.  A subsequent tournament in Guatemala was dedicated to the children of Central America.

In addition to Costa Rica, the countries competing in the Gold Cup are Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.

The Gold Cup matches are being played in the cities of Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle, Washington. The tournament, which started this week, ends July 24.

The United States won the inaugural Gold Cup competition in 1991, defeating Honduras before 40,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in California.  Mexico won the next three championships, followed by Canada capturing the title in 2000.  The United States won in 2002 and Mexico captured the last Gold Cup championship played in 2003.

Effects of hurricane
concerns officials here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is hunkering down to endure rains spawned by Hurricane Dennis.

Although the storm is now centered south of Cuba, this country is expected to get some increased rainfall.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias issued a precautionary alert Thursday afternoon after the Hurricane was upgraded from a category 2 to a stronger category 3. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., now classifies the storm as a category 4.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that heavy rains were expected in the Central Pacific, the Central Valley and in the lowlands of the Caribbean slope.

However, the weather prediction said that conditions likely would return to normal Saturday.

Tourists have been ordered to evacuate the Florida Keys, part of the southern U.S. state of Florida, as Hurricane Dennis continues to churn northwest over the Caribbean. Movement is northwest, and landfall in the United States is predicted somewhere west of the Florida Panhandle.

A hurricane watch is in effect for parts of Florida, while a more serious hurricane warning is in effect for the southwestern peninsula of Haiti, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba.

Residents in Jamaica moved to storm shelters as menacing winds increased to almost 170 kms. (105 miles) per hour.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said early today that a hurricane warning for Jamaica probably would be lifted today.

Last year, Florida was battered by four big hurricanes that caused deaths and billions of dollars of damage.

Woman, 22, murdered
in Ciudad Neily

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 22-year-old Panamanian woman died Wednesday night after her 39-year-old ex-boyfriend stabbed her at least six times in the chest and elsewhere, said agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization. 

The woman, identified as Jazdenny Linday Pérez, was returning home near the Panamanian border after a shopping trip with a friend, when her ex-boyfriend attacked her, police in Ciudad Neily said.  The ex-lover, Gillermo Sanchez Rojas, also attacked Linday's friend, police said, adding that afterwards, he stabbed himself in the stomach and tried to light the house on fire with a can of gasoline.
Linday's body was taken to the judicial morgue for an autopsy, and the presumed aggressor and Linday's friend were taken to a local hospital. 

Presidents go bananas
over European tariffs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heads of state and their representatives from banana exporting countries said the European Union is discriminating against their products.

Five presidents and representatives of two more countries met in San José Thursday and urged the European Union to keep any import duties less than 75 euros per ton. The European union has set up economic preferences for Caribbean, Pacific and African former colonies.

Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica was the host. Attending were Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia, Oscar Rafael Berger of Guatemala, Alfredo Palacio González Perdomo of Ecuador and Martín Torrijos Espino        Midence of Panamá.   Ministers from Honduras and Nicaragua also attended.  
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The many rewards for fluency in a foreign language
I was sitting in front of my gynecologist on a routine visit.  He is a very kind man and has referred me to other specialists at a mere request on my part.
But he had just asked me how I was, and although I was fine, there was something I wanted to ask about.  But I couldn’t think of the words in Spanish.

I do just fine in restaurants and with taxi drivers, and even social chit chat, but I just have not studied any technical words that belong to different disciplines – especially medical words.  So once again I was mentally kicking myself for not doing so, or for not, at least, bringing a dictionary.  Every tourist’s dictionary has categories like, “At the Doctor’s,” for heaven’s sake.

I, like many expats, keep meaning to learn more Spanish but it seems I have other things that take up my time.  Of course, those other things, if they involve any communicating in Spanish, would go much more smoothly and rapidly if I were more fluent in the language. 

Just then the phone rang, and the doctor picked it up.  While he talked, I had the opportunity to figure out how I could say what I wanted to (how often do we have to beat around the bush to say what we want to say?)

The importance of learning the language of the country where you are living cannot be emphasized too greatly.  It brings so many bonuses with it.  Like understanding the culture of the people so much better.  Knowing the language is a giant step in that direction. It gives you a sense of confidence and well being that you can take care of yourself in most situations and that you will not be taken for a gullible or gauche tourist.  Because you are less apt to be a gullible and gauche tourist and you will be less apt to be taken advantage of. 

Speaking the language and understanding the culture helps you to be yourself, no longer fearful that you may do something culturally unacceptable. You can
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

relax and let your real personality come though. Not feeling like yourself (and sometimes actually feeling like a 3 year old who’s great accomplishment is that she can count), can lead to isolating yourself, or sticking to your own expat community, which gives you very little new insight about yourself or your own culture.

Becoming comfortable in another culture leads to being able to see the behavior of some one else from your own culture in a new light.  And perhaps for the first time to be able to view your own culture with a more objective eye (After all, if you have never left your own country, what do you have to compare it with?)

This then, offers the opportunity for introspection, for learning what part of your personality is culturally conditioned and who you are as a result of your genes and your own experiences that makes you unique.  That is really an aha! experience.

And finally, a big reward of speaking the language is the appreciation the person you are communicating with feels for your attempt to speak his/her language.

My doctor hung up the phone, and I had been thinking all of these profound thoughts instead of finding the word that I wanted.  I opened my mouth and stuttered and he said, “You can speak in English if you wish.” It turns out he had studied in the United States. 

We had a nice talk (doctors here never seem to be in a rush once you are in their office), and upon leaving, I told him how much I appreciated his speaking English to me.  But I vowed, next time it would be in Spanish.

The Caribbean is just  a short drive away
A friend asked if I liked Caribbean cuisine, and I gave a wishy-washy answer: “It depends.” With more than 7,000 islands in the Caribbean and culinary influences of African, British, Cajun, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Latin American, native, Southern soul and Spanish, I find it hard to conjure up a catch-all image of a single cuisine. The variety is endless.

I like most of what I have tasted, particularly the picante recipes – from Jamaican pork and jerk, to Puerto Rican stew called “old clothes,” to coconut milk rice and beans, to Cuban black bean soup, to rondon, to paella-like asopao, to Creole sausages, to akee rice, to picked mackerel scobiech, to smothered chicken, to green soupy gumbo-like callaloo, to spicy fresh seafood. Although I enjoy the flavor of chilies in dishes from all over the world, my worst experiences of serious tastebud burns have been from excessive use of Scotch Bonnet chilies in Caribbean dishes. Nor do I care for salt cod dishes.

Akee is a fruit that is often compared to bland scrambled eggs. It is not offensive, but its typical partner, dried salt cod, is a taste I have never acquired. It boggles my mind that countries surrounded by oceans full of fresh fish (Portugal, the Azores, Jamaica, Brazil, Sicily) favor it so.

The rustic joints and fancier places in Limón, Cahuita and Puerto Viejo are less varied than the rest of the Caribbean. Still, they are nice for a change of Central Valley pace and palate. Coconut milk is the basic liquid for sauces, soups and stews. Curry, chili peppers, allspice and ginger provide substantially more flavor than the food of the rest of the country. Although more spicy than standard Tico cuisine, Limón-style food is not as hot as its island neighbors.

Among the common dishes are the following:  Pan bon, which is yuca flour and cheese muffins in other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, but a dark sweet wheat flour bread flavored with nutmeg, ginger, raisins, cane sugar and, at times, rum in many places here. Patty, pati or paty are savory and spicy meat turnovers. Rondon is a piquant mix of meat and/or fish with breadfruit, plantains and yam. Scobiech is pickled fish in a coconut milk sauce.
Barbecued ribs, all sorts of seafood and Caribbean rice and beans, serve as a side or main course mixed with chicken, pork, beef or fish.

If they were only closer — Today's tip is about two places, one in San José and one in Heredia, where you can have your Tico Caribbean fix without the extra three hours each way in the car.

Whapin —  200 meters east of the Farolito in Barrio Escalante, is a softly lit den festooned with kitchen and bar gear hanging from every nook and cranny.
The colors, red, green and yellow suggest Jamaican rustic. Despite the informality, it is a cozy quaint place for couples to hold hands and linger. Prices tend to be higher than they are on the coast. The chili pepper index falls well short of painful.

Soup and salad starters cost from ¢ 1,300 to
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


¢ 2,900 except for the large size seafood rondon (¢ 4,200) which is more a main course than a starter. Rice and beans in coconut milk with chicken, fish or tenderloin run ¢ 2,900 to ¢ 5,400. Our party enjoyed pati (¢ 600), breadfruit chips with bean puree dip, rice & beans with spicy pork (¢ 3,900), pork loin (¢ 4,400), tilapia Miss Wendely (¢ 3,900), Cahuita red snapper and lemon and coconut pies. Beer, batidos and sodas were about  ¢ 700. There were no complaints. Flavors, were robust. Service was good. Serving sizes were generous.
**    $$-$$$.

Delicias Caribeñas de Mami —  50 meters south of Cruz Roja in Heredia. No soft lights here. In the hustle and bustle of this place, the only reason to come is for the great food. We weren't rushed, but with every table occupied and another half dozen parties waiting for seats outside the door, we weren't about to have a second cup of after-lunch-coffee. Mami lives in Limón as do many of the food preparers and servers. Mami's recipes reign supreme, and the menu is about to receive an update.

The clientele are working people and families out for a very affordable and filling treat. We started with pati
(¢ 260) and a salad which we didn't finish even though we shared it. The pati recipe mixes meat with bread crumb, savory and spice in a nice pastry. Joan had two pieces of steak with more salad and spicy spaghetti, soul food style (¢ 1,450) which she loved. My main course was a little like southern smothered chicken
(¢ 1,450).

The chicken was first fried in a skillet in a shallow layer of oil then re-cooked in a dark onion, garlic and chili pepper sauce. It came with rice and veggies. For dessert we had hot pink fruit-filled turnovers (¢ 300) and the dark sweet pan bon (¢ 300) with rich coffee. Drinks were ¢ 350. We bought a sack of takeout goodies for dinner that night, but didn't regain our appetites until the following day. What a treat and a bargain at that. The two meals we ate there plus another two we brought home cost a little more than ¢ 8,000. It will be interesting to see if the prices hold on the new menu. The current one offers the usual Limón panoply.

Bamboo roofs cover the food prep and cash register areas and bright colors adorn the walls. The servers wear wall-to-wall smiles and are very accommodating. ***  $.

World leaders united in condemning terrorism
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International leaders from Europe to the Middle East to the Western Hemisphere spoke out swiftly to express sympathy, solidarity and condemnation following a series of terrorist attacks in London Thursday.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said Spaniards well understand the suffering of the British people.  “We unite with their grief as they and so many other people united with ours,” he said, referring to the train bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid in 2004.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer referred to the London attacks -- which injured many hundreds and killed more than 37 -– as “heinous crimes.”  He said the London attacks “underline the need for the international community and members of the alliance to remain united in the fight against terrorism.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the apparently coordinated attacks in London show that too little is being done at the moment “to unite our efforts in the most effective way in the battle against terrorism.”

The European Parliament observed a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks, and EU President Joseph Borrell sent a message of solidarity to the British people:  “We all stand with you today, and we will never let the atrocities of terrorism defeat the values of peace and democracy in Europe.”

Italian European Commissioner Franco Frattini said the explosions that ripped apart one of London’s famed red double-decker buses and gutted portions of the underground subway system amounted to a terrorist strike against Europe.

At the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, its chairman, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, said "If the worst reports are confirmed, such an attack represents one of the most brutal terrorist crimes since the explosions in Madrid, a year ago. All such acts violate every human principle and are to be denounced in the strongest possible terms."  Speaking on behalf of the 55 participating states, he assured the British government of the full support of the organization in its efforts to combat international terrorism.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin described the latest attacks in Europe as “odious acts” and expressed his nation’s solidarity with Great Britain.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said what happened in London has a special resonance for the American people because the United States has no stronger, closer ally than Great Britain.  Both nations are bound together by their common heritage and language, he said, as well as their deep commitment to freedom.

Echoing an earlier statement by President George Bush, the secretary said “the United States will stand with the British people with unflinching resolve.”

U.S. Charge d’Affairs David Johnson said the U.S. Embassy in London is working closely with British officials.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said Canadian security forces are also working closely with their British counterparts.  “We stand ready to provide any assistance that may be required at this difficult hour and in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.  “Our collective freedom has come under attack today by those who would use violence and murder to force extremism upon the world.  We must and … will stand against these terrorists.  We will do so together.  And we will prevail,” the prime minister added.

From Italy, Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement calling the London bombings “barbaric acts against humanity.”

London Mayor Ken Livingstone put the issue in perspective when he said: “This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful.  It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers.  It was aimed at ordinary, working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old.”  What occurred, he said, was representative of neither ideology nor faith, but “an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder.”

Reaction from Middle Eastern leaders expressed similar outrage. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said the London terror highlights “the need to stand up to the evil of terrorism in any country,” while Lebanese President Emile Laoud said his country shares the British pain that these attacks have caused. Syrian President Bashir al-Assad described the attacks as “detested acts,” and Saudi Arabia also labeled the London bombings “a heinous act.”

The attacks came only one day after Britons celebrated the selection of London to be the location for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The attacks also came as world leaders were meeting in Scotland at the Group of Eight Summit.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said each nation around the summit table has had some experience with the effects of terrorism and all the leaders share a resolve to defeat it.  In addition to the G8 nations, leaders from Brazil, South Africa, China, India and Mexico were attending when a summit communiqué was issued saying the terrorists would not achieve their objectives. 

“We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation, but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere,” it said.

The G8 meeting continued after Blair flew to London to deal with the aftermath of the bombings.  Blair said the terrorists' bombings would not weaken resolve.  “We shall prevail and they shall not,” he said.

While British authorities worked to analyze crime evidence, a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks was posted on the Internet. 

The Secret Organization Group of al-Qaida of the Jihad Organization in Europe said it was time to rejoice in the revenge that it was taking against the British government for massacres it alleged were committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The group’s statement also indirectly threatened action against Italy and Demark unless those nations withdraw troops from the Middle East and South Asia.

Jo Stuart
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