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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, July 16, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 140        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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assortmetn of pastries
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
A few dollars brings a colorful investment. A cone-like cacho rests on loaf of sweet-milk bread
This is where you really can exercise that sweet tooth
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The noise of traffic passing along the busy street outside is partially drowned by the low hum of refrigerators housing cold drinks and the occasional ring of the cash register that marks the sale of another pastry to a soon-to-be satisfied customer.

A mother enters the shop, her young son holding her hand and bouncing excitedly up and down by the counter. The boy immediately begins the chaotic, ritualistic children's dance: a youthful, energetic plea for sweets.

This is Lerners Panadería, a cozy, friendly bread and pastry shop just west of the Banco Nacional building in central San José where the mutual desire for something tasty transcends nationalities.

The air is ripe with the gentle, warm scent of baked breads stacked in rows under the register. Long loaves of melcochan and sweet-milk bread line the shelves behind the counter and the tantalizing cake and pie display seems to tempt passersby as it rotates slowly near the street entrance.

All in all, these tiny shops, which can be found throughout the central city, appear to have mastered the art of culinary seduction, and with their universally low prices, they are almost impossible to resist.

Cone-shaped cachos are a delight with their delicate, flaky bread surrounding a rich, smooth cream made of butter and vanilla. A casual window shopper may enter prepared to pay considerably
more than the 450 colons they cost.

With the Tuesday rate of 540 colons to the U.S. dollar, even a heavenly looking slice of lemon pie won't run a purchaser more than 93 cents. The surrounding shops are no different.

At the Panadería y Reposteria Richypan on the busier Avenida Central, a delicious rectangle of chocolate cake goes for 400 colons. At still another store on Calle 6, a bag of sugar cookies, a chocolate-filled doughnut and two heart-shaped cookies spread with jelly cost a total of 1,000 colons.

In the fast-paced capital of San José, with Burger King and McDonald's competing for business from opposite sides of the Plaza de la Cultura, it's nice to know that places like Lerners Panadería are still alive and well, offering Costa Ricans and foreigners alike a place to rest and sample the simpler side of life.

Back at Lerners, an older gentleman sips coffee as he chats with a cashier, his legs crossed and his back eased casually against the wall as the mother, her son satisfied with a newly-purchased cacho pastry, jets off into the hustle-bustle of Calle 8.

Temporary visitors to this oasis provided by the panadería are quickly lost in the faceless crowd. Another pair enters shortly afterwards, a man and woman, also holding hands. The man smiles happily as his companion orders two coffees, his eyes scan the shelves hungrily.

Another satisfied customer.

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Sam Stewart and Óscar Mafra Lamont, both 17, still carry the mud and dust of their work in Drake Bay when they had refreshments at a downtown hotel Tuesday.

Harrow School students
built a Drake Bay bridge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 13 students and three teachers from the Harrow School, one of England's original public schools, have constructed a 50-meter (about 164 -foot) bridge during a five-day stay in Drake Bay.

The project was sponsored in part by the Fundación Corcovado. The group leaves Costa Rica today to return to England.

Eliminating diesel fuel tax
on verge of being dumped

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers seem convinced that the Arias administration plan to eliminate fuel taxes on diesel and increase taxes on gasoline is dead on arrival.

The  Comisión Permanente de  Asuntos Hacendarios got the proposal Tuesday, but there is opposition from many quarters. Some lawmakers say they think the plan is unjust because it would penalize individuals with gasoline-powered vehicles and provide an unintended benefit to owners of diesel vehicles.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia, said when the idea first was proposed that the plan was to make fuel cheaper for truckers, bus companies and others who provide a service to the public.

Initially the plan would have doubled the annual registration fee for private diesel vehicles, but the measure had trouble almost immediately in gaining support among lawmakers, even those from President Óscar Arias' own political party. Some noted that the taxi fleet was mostly powered by gasoline.

The diesel fuel tax brings in about 130 billion colons (some $240 million) to the government each year, according to Evita Arguedas Maklouf, an independent lawmaker. She opposes the administration plan, in part because she said she thinks it wold be difficult to administer. Diesel is taxed at about 97 colons a liter or about 67 U.S. cents per gallon.

President Arias met with legislative leaders Tuesday to seek alternatives to the original plan. He said he had taken the first step in proposing the eliminate of tax on diesel and that he was open to other ideas.

Arias said the country will try to enter into the Petrocaribe agreement as soon as possible. Arias said he may have to talk with Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela. He said the country will have to see if it has to wait until a December meeting to become a full member.

Costa Rica is now in observer status for the Petrocaribe union of some 15 countries. Costa Rica gets most of its petroleum from Venezuela. Full membership would allow the country to finance some of its petroleum purchases and get extended payment terms for the rest. Under current agreements, the country has to settle its petroleum debts in eight days.

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Value of dollar takes an unexpected jump during the day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The colon took a hammering Tuesday when it lost about 2.3 percent of its value in just a few hours.

Banks took the unusual step of cranking up the rate against the U.S. dollar during the day. Usually the rate is constant at least for the business hours.

The explanation from the financial experts was that there were fewer dollars in circulation than the amount needed to settle domestic and international transactions, basically a supply and demand situation. Many were quick to blame petroleum prices. but that commodity took a $10-a-barrel hit itself on international markets.

The real story was the human one. Tuesday was payday for many Costa Ricans. In terms of buying power, they have lost 4.3 percent since June 16 when the dollar began creeping upwards.

The government just ordered a 6.58 increase in the minimum salaries. A good two-thirds of that is wiped out by the climb of the dollar in the last month.

"My lunch got cheaper as I was eating it," said one expat who paid his colon-denominated restaurant bill with a dollar-denominated credit card.
 On the wholesale money market restricted to banks and the Banco Central de Costa Rica, morning trading began at 535 colons to the dollar. By 4:30 p.m. the rate had gone to 549, some 20 colons more than the day before. About $7.3 million changed hands, the Banco Central said.

Friday someone selling a dollar  would get 521.20 colons, and the price to buy a dollar was 528.08 colons. By Tuesday evening a dollar would bring 538.91 and banks charged 551.31 colons to sell a dollar.

The market Tuesday still was distant from the rate at which the central bank is supposed to intervene. That is at 572.49 colons per dollar, according to the bank.

The average Costa Rican who does not travel or is not in international business probably was not aware of the market trend Tuesday. But the impact will filter down, not the least in the price of fuel and imported good.

For those who export, the erosion of the colon is good. They get dollars for their products and pay many bills in colons. Importers will have to come up with more colons to purchase dollar-denominated goods.

Meanwhile the U.S. dollar itself has lost ground to the euro since January, further diminishing the world buying power of the colon.

Three ambassadors present their credentials to president
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials welcomed three new foreign ambassadors to Costa Rica Tuesday.

The vice minister of exterior relations presented certificates to ambassadors from Thailand, Germany and Australia at a ceremony in Casa Amarilla at 9 a.m.
President Oscar Arias Sánchez accepted their formal credentials at Casa Presidencial later in the day

The newly appointed Australian ambassador, Katrina Anne Cooper,  holds a law degree and a certificate in international affairs and trade. Since 2006 Ms. Cooper has been the director general of the domestic law committee and has represented Australia in Papua, New Guinea and Chile. Ms. Cooper is the current ambassador for Australia in Mexico where she is based.
The new ambassador from Germany, Wolf Daerr, is a doctor of law and entered the diplomatic service in 1980. Daerr has held positions in India, Iran, Chile, France and Mexico. Since 2005 he served as consul general of
new ambassadors
Ambassadors Daerr, Cooper and Kidchob
Germany in Barcelona, Spain.

The Thai ambassador, Vimon Kidchob, holds a master's in political science from the University of Illinois. In 1984 she joined the Thailand foreign service and has served in Belgium and Switzerland. She currently serves in Chile.

Fuerza Pública manages to catch two suspects in tourist theft at Volcán Irazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police captured two suspects in Cartago minutes after a U.S. family was the victim of thieves near Volcán Irazú, said a security spokesman Tuesday.

At about 4 p.m. the family reported to Irazú park rangers that thieves had stolen their luggage. The family, with the last name of Blintch, had fortunately written down the plate numbers of the suspected getaway car as the men fled, said the spokesman.

Four patrol officers began searching for the car. They found a Hyundai Accent with matching plate numbers just
south of the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje in San Rafael de  Oreamuno. Officers intercepted the car in question and detained two suspects, said the spokesman from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Inside the car police found a knife, a car radio, two bags with new and used clothing, a radio used for communication, a satellite phone, two iPods, several credit cards and $100 in cash, said the spokesman.

The Fuerza Pública officers arrested two men with the last names of  Calderón Pérez  and Rodríguez Reyes. The men were at the prosecutor's office in Cartago, said the spokesman.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 16, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 140

new polie officers
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
New members of the Fuerza Pública applaud Janina del Vecchio, the security minister, at the Plaza de la Cultura Tuesday. Some 508 officers were graduated from the basic police course of 620 hours. They are now being
incorporated into the various police units around the country. The officers represent three separate groups that took their training at the  Escuela Nacional de Policía.

U.S. ready to approve $50 million program against AIDS, malaria and TB
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate is close to approving legislation to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world.  The House of Representatives passed the measure earlier this year, and President George Bush is expected to sign it once the Senate gives its final approval.  

The $50-billion measure includes efforts aimed at the prevention and treatment of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis over five years.  The bill reauthorizes and expands a current program, which is due to expire in September.

President Bush first proposed the program in his 2003 State of the Union address.  At the time, he sought — and Congress approved — $15 billion for the initiative.  The program has been widely praised for helping to treat hundreds of thousands of people suffering from AIDS and putting the United States at the forefront of global efforts to fight the disease.

Sen. Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led the debate in support of the bill.   A frequent critic of President Bush, Biden says he has no dispute with the president over this program.

"I am often critical of the president's foreign policy and his aid programs," said Biden. "But the president of the United States, George W. Bush, deserves great credit.  If the
president did nothing else in his administration, this is justification enough for his legacy to be looked back on favorably because of the phenomenal and dramatic impact this initiative has and will have on the rest of the world."

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, said there are a number of reasons why he supports the bill.

"They come down to the saving of hundreds of thousands of lives, the alleviation of extraordinary suffering on this earth, and I would simply say from the standpoint of our foreign policy one of the strongest ways in which the United States has made an impact on a number of countries in which our public diplomacy or diplomacy of any sort has not been very successful in the past," said Lugar. "We make an impact because people in those countries know we care."

Several Republican conservatives expressed concern that the legislation had expanded beyond the original intent of President Bush's proposal in 2003.  They unsuccessfully offered amendments to limit the scope of the bill.

The legislation authorizes the programs, but does not fund them.  The money will have to be approved by Congress in a separate appropriations bill.  Most of the funding would be spent on aids prevention and treatment, while $5 billion would go toward malaria programs and $4 billion to tuberculosis programs. 

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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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World Trade Organization
chief bullish on a deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The head of the World Trade Organization says chances of making a trade deal at a crucial round of negotiations on global trade next week have recently improved.

Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization said the chances of success for reaching a world-trade agreement have increased as a result of talks before trade ministers meet next week in Geneva.

Lamy made the remark while presenting a report in advance of the meeting in which ministers will decide the fate of the World Trade Organization's Doha Round of free-trade talks.

Lamy said that an agreement is even more important given the dire state of the world economy.

After seven years of negotiations, the director-general acknowledged the round has reached a decisive phase.

"What members achieve together next week will be judged as an indicator of the international community's willingness and ability to sharing the management of globalization in an effective and equitable manner," he said.

Lamy said that reaching a trade deal is key, but the world economy could overshadow an agreement. He said that economic research indicted that a Doha deal could boost the world economy by nearly $50 billion a year.

But Lamy said recent surveys on globalization show most countries are tentative about international trade benefiting their countries.

"Recent surveys on globalization in almost 50 developing and developed countries show that large majorities of people continue to believe that international trade benefits their countries, but accompanying this belief are fears about the disruptions, about the downsides of participating in the global economy, be it job loss, inequality or increased marginalization," said Lamy.

Brazil's oil field workers
start a five-day srike

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian oil workers have started a five-day strike at the country's main oil field, cutting production by at least 300,000 barrels per day.

Employees of Petrobras, Brazil's state-run oil company, are demanding additional pay. They say workers at 13 oil platforms in the Campos Basin are already participating in the strike. 

Union leaders say they expect production at more than 30 of the region's 42 oil platforms to eventually come to a near standstill.

Drilling in the Campos Basin accounts for 80 percent of Brazil's crude oil output, and concerns about the strike at one point pushed the price of crude oil to more than $146 a barrel in New York trading Monday. 

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After 110 years 'Faust' finally returns to the historic Teatro Nacional
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mephistopheles shall return to the Teatro Nacional this month with a performance of the Charles Gounod opera “Faust” to be put on by the Compañía Lírica Nacional.

Gounod's interpretation of the classic was the first performance put on by the theater for its inauguration Oct. 21, 1897. The opera company released the following synopsis of the opera:

Faust, played by José Luis Sola, is an aging scholar who offers his soul in the afterlife to the demon Mephistopheles (Vesselin Stoykov) in exchange for youth and good looks.  Smitten by the enchanting Marguerite (Birgit Beer), a rejuvenated Faust vies for her love with the noble protector Siebel (Joaquín Yglesias) and eventually seduces and impregnates her, only to abandon her to the torments of the devious Mephistopheles in her hour of desperation.

In an exciting climax, Faust does battle with Marguerite's brother, a returning soldier named Valentin (Fitzgerald 
Ramos). The tale concludes with a dramatic reunion between Faust and Marguerite, wherein she faces her final temptation, and Faust must contemplate the price of his bargain with Mephistopheles.

Scene design, costumes and lights will be arraigned by Stefano Poda while Ramiro A. Ramírez is music director, according to the opera company release.

The songs will be performed in French. The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and the Coro Sinfónica Nacional also will participate.

The opera will open July 27 at 5 p.m. Repeat performances will be July 30 at 7:30 p.m. and again Aug. 1, 3, 5 and 7. The performances Aug. 1, 5 and 7 will be at 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 3 at 5 p.m., according to the release.

Prices vary depending upon the seating, but the range is between about $40 for premium seats to as little as $2 for side gallery options, according to a theater ticket guide. Tickets are available in the theater ticket office or at the theater Web site.

Those high hole cards can be a bit tricky to playt
A common mistake made by amateurs is the way they play overcards after the flop when the flop misses completely.  Overcards are hole cards that are of higher rank than any card on the board.

In deep stack no limit hold’em tournaments, players start with a lot of chips.  In these tournaments, the most important decisions are the ones made after the flop.  That’s not the case in tournaments where the average stack is shallow.  In these tourneys, pre-flop decisions are essentially all you have.  It’s an easier form of poker to play.  With fewer decisions to make, it’s essentially a two-card game where you’re hoping for the best.

So let’s look at a sample hand in a deep stack tournament where you call a raise with K-Q and the flop comes 9-7-3.

If your opponent bets on the flop, fold your hand right there.  Don’t try to be a hero. You have nothing!

But you decide to call anyway.  Even if you do manage to improve your hand by catching a king or a queen, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll win the hand.  Your opponent could have pocket nines, or even A-A or K-K.  He’d have you dominated, and you’d be destined to lose a decent-sized pot. 

Besides that, you’d only have a 14 percent chance of catching a king or queen on the turn.  When you combine that slim possibility with the fact that even if you did get lucky, you still might lose, well, folding your hand should be the obvious decision.

And there’s another reason to dump this hand.  Say you did catch a king or queen.  The fact is that one pair hands are rarely good enough to win big pots in no-limit hold’em.  Trust me. Even if you were to pair up your king, the best play is still to proceed with caution.

The only situations where you might want to play after the flop with overcards are if you’re taking a stab at stealing the pot on a bluff or when you have additional outs to go along with your overcards.
For example, say you decide to raise before the flop with K-J.  The big blind calls and the flop comes 2-2-7.  Your opponent checks.

There’s no way for your opponent to know that you missed the flop completely.  So, make one more bet on the flop hoping to get him to fold his hand on your bluff.  Now, if he calls, or worse, raises, put on the brakes; there’s no need to lose any more chips than necessary.

You can also safely play your overcards when you flop a straight or flush draw.

In this example, you call a raise with Qd-Jd and the flop comes 8s-9h-4d.  You’re obviously hoping to catch a ten to complete a straight, or even a jack or queen to give you a possible winning hand. 

If a ten comes on the turn or river, you’d play your hand aggressively in a big pot.  But if a jack or queen hits, again, play your hand cautiously.

If instead of a straight draw you flop a flush draw, you’ve got the green light to play your two overcards.  This situation yields a very powerful drawing hand.  In some cases, it will even be a favorite over a pair on the flop.

Say you’re dealt the As-Ks and your opponent holds Jh-Jd.  The flop comes 9s-6s-2d.  While the pocket jacks might appear to be the best hand, your suited A-K will actually win the pot over 50% of the time.  Go ahead and play this hand with a big bet.

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

Jo Stuart
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