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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, July 24, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 146       E-mail us
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Tomayko extradition case could cause internal rift
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A collision between the executive and judicial branches of government is possible after the security minister granted refugee status to a woman wanted by a U.S. federal court to face an international child-stealing indictment, said a lawyer Wednesday.

“After 26 years of practicing law, I've never seen something like this,” said lawyer Edgar Emilio León, who works in the firm supporting another side of the case.

After rounds of applause, the security minister, Janina Del Vecchio was greeted with hugs and words of thanks from supporters of Chere Lyn Tomayko after she announced her decision Wednesday. Ms. Tomayko, who has been wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for years, remained in Buen Pastor women's prison Wednesday evening, but television camera men waited outside and reported that she could be set free soon. Judges will decide when Ms. Tomayko is released, said Ms. Del Vecchio during the conference.

“If I had to bet, I'd say there are two possibilities,” said León, “the court does not follow through with the previous extradition ruling or they ignore the minister's decision and go through with the extradition anyway.” León emphasized the original extradition ruling made by a tribunal in Heredia was firm.  His firm represents Roger Cyprian, the father of Alexandria, the daughter who Tomayko is accused of spiriting to Costa Rica with 10 years ago.

Ms. Tomayko filed four Sala IV constitutional court appeals to delay her extradition.

Ms. Vecchio said that she had decided to grant Ms. Tomayko refugee status for reasons which included domestic violence and human rights. Refugee status protects Ms. Tomayko from the U.S. government and a trial on the child-stealing charge.  The fears of the family were well founded, said Ms. Del Vecchio "There is no doubt that domestic violence is one of the acts that cause more suffering and fear, causing mental and physical harm and that has been used as a mechanism of persecution."

When asked if she had spoken to the original Texas judge in the case before she made her decision, Ms. Del Vecchio responded that she had not, and that she did not need to talk to other countries to make these kinds of decisions. None of the other public officials involved in the case are believed to have sought information from Texas either. Cyprian denies abusing Ms. Tomayko and said he hardly saw her for the three years before she fled the country after he was awarded joint custody in Texas.

Ms. Del Vecchio's decision went against the views of the director of immigration, Mario Zamora Cordero,

cheering fans
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Two public officials cheer along with Javier Montero Umaña as decision is announced.
who had previously commented on Ms. Tomayko's case and the issue of refugee status. Zamora said numerous times that Costa Rica only grants refugee status to people in danger from armed conflicts. Zamora specifically said in a prepared statement Wednesday morning that domestic violence was not a qualification to become a refugee in Costa Rica. The   immigration law would have to be amended to accommodate a refugee plea such as escape from domestic violence, said Zamora. He works for Ms. Del Vecchio, and his statement was released before her announcement.

Ms. Del Vecchio said to ignore domestic violence as grounds for recognition of refugee status would simply ignoring the basic international doctrine of international refugee law. She said the international refugee agreement of 1951 supported her decision.

When confronted with the opinions of Cyprian: that the Texas judge had found no proof of abuse, and that Ms. Tomayko had also alleged sexual abuse which was discredited by physicians who examined the children, Ms. Del Vecchio said there were other reasons besides domestic violence which she considered in her decision-making. She did not say what those other reasons were. She did say they would be available in a copy of her final decision. Her written decision was not available Wednesday, said a security spokesman.
Ms. Del Vecchio said not all victims of domestic violence would be able to receive refugee status, but that this was a specific case. "Every case of domestic violence should be seen in the light of its own particularities. This does not open any doors," she said. 

A famous person who found safety in Costa Rica was Robert Vesco who was wanted by the United States for security fraud, Costa Rica did in fact create a law for him in. Vesco supposedly donated $2.1 million to Sociedad Agricola Industrial San Cristobal, S.A., a company founded by then-president José Figueres. Vesco, who was named by Forbes as one of the richest men in the world, was never extradited. A later president repealed the law known as the “Vesco Law,” and Vesco was forced to move elsewhere.

The firm in which León works was hired to represent Cyprian's interest in Costa Rica. He initially wanted to maintain a parental relationship with his daughter Alexandria. But after she turned 18 and her mother was arrested on an international child stealing warrant, the daughter said she did not want to talk with him.

Cyprian wanted to bring his side of the case to the news media here. No reporter for a Costa Rican Spanish-language news outlet has spoken with him. He was unhappy with being branded repeatedly as a violent aggressor.

Alexandria Cyprian was a key player in the public relations campaign staged by the family in an effort to block Ms. Tomayko's extradition. She appeared in television segments and in newspaper interviews along with Javier Francisco Montero Umaña, a Heredia veterinarian and the man who married Ms. Tomayko April 6. The couple have two small children who also were presented to the news media.

After Ms. Del Vecchio announced her decision, Alexandria Cyprian stood up and hugged her.

Although it may not be related, the U.S. Embassy canceled a ceremony for today in which what was called an important donation was to be made to the security ministry's air service.

Texas father says he is shocked by decision here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Roger Cyprian said he was speechless after hearing that his former girlfriend is now a refugee in Costa Rica.

“Are the people in Costa Rica that stupid or that backwards that they don't need evidence to make their decisions?” asked Cyprian Wednesday night by telephone.

This came after the news that Janina Del Vecchio, minister of security, had decided to give refugee status to Chere Lyn Tomayko, the U.S. woman accused of parental kidnapping in 1999.  Cyprian said he believed Ms. Tomayko, his former girlfriend and mother to his child, Alexandria, had purposely had two more children in Costa Rica and
gotten married in prison so she would not have to face U.S. courts.

When told that the security minister cited human rights in her decision-making process Cyprian asked “What about my human rights?”

He also said he did not understand why the minister of the Instituto Nacional de Mujeres, the women's institute, had said Ms. Tomayko could be murdered if she returned to the United States: “What does she think they are going to do? Call me up and tell me she's back so I  can go get her?”  Cyprian said he now believes he will never have a relationship now with his oldest daughter Alexandria.

“We need proof before we condemn anyone,” said Cyprian, referring to the U.S. court system.

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A pleasant park scene features a lake and some nice greenery — except that is not a lake but a big puddle created by a Wednesday downpour.

Wave of unstable air passing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another of those tropical low pressure waves is sweeping over Costa Rica from east to west,  but the instability did not produce much rain Wednesday.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that stronger than normal winds were keeping the heavy rains sporadic in the central and south Pacific and the Central Valley.

The weather institute predicted heavier rain in the northern zone and along the Caribbean coast.

Suspect held in robberies
of women at teller machines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization Wednesday arrested a man suspected of robbing at least seven women at automatic teller machines.

The suspect, Juan Carlos Argüello, 31, was detained in Cinco Esquinas, Tibás, Wednesday morning, according to an organization release.

Judicial investigators say the robber operated on Saturdays and Sundays, waiting outside  several bank machines in San José, usually from 9 p.m. to midnight, the release said.

The robber used a firearm to force the victims to empty their accounts and took other property, the release said.

Argüello fits the description of the primary suspect given by the complainants, the release said.

Arias off to Brazil to hear
of alternative fuel sources

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will be off to Brazil Monday to attend a session focused on the development and production of biocombustibles to reduce the effects of the energy crisis, Casa Presidencial said.

Arias will meet with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio da Silva and former president  Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

The delegation includes José León Desanti, executive president of the nation's fuel monopoly, Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. The Arias delegation also will meet with Brazilian business people.

Body of missing trucker found

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers at an electrical plant in Belén discovered the body of the truck driver who had been missing since Saturday, said a Cruz Roja spokesman.

At about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday phone company workers called to say they had found a body in the Río Tiribi, said Jonathan Sánchez a Cruz Roja dispatcher. At 2:30 p.m. the body was identified as that of José Luis Jiménez Castillo, the man whose truck  slid into the river during a landslide.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 146

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tribunal break in
Photos courtesy of the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo
The desk of José Lino Cháves, tribunal president, awaits an inspection by investigators as does an entry hole an intruder chopped in a wall.

Intruder ransacks San José offices of environmental tribunal
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The office of the chief environmental enforcement unit was the target of intruders Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Those who work there are not sure the event was a simple break-in.

The agency is the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo of the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía. All that was stolen was a laptop, but the offices near the San José court complex were left in partial disarray.

José Lino Cháves, tribunal director, Mario Leiva, the vice president, and Jorge Bonilla, tribunal secretary, have said they received numerous threats after their inspections of various construction projects where they assessed environmental damage on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

The single laptop stolen from the director's office, along with the trashing desks seem to indicate the crime was another threatening message, according to tribunal representative Gabriela Hernández.

“We think either they were looking for specific information, about what we don't know, or they were
trying to send a threatening message.” Ms. Hernández said. She sent out a press release about the burglary.

The laptop contained information regarding several different residential and tourism-related projects the tribunal has been investigating, including photographs and inspection notes, Ms. Hernández said, adding that, pending an investigation, there are no suspects: “For the moment, there are only speculations.”

The tribunal was closed Wednesday while officials waited for the Judicial Investigating Organization to conduct their investigation, which was postponed until today, according to Ms. Hernández.

In related news, a German man living in Miramar, Puntarenas, has reportedly been attacked and threatened for speaking out against construction projects he claims will harm the local ecosystem. The man, Julio Müller, claims that on July 1 and 16 the front left wheel of his car was sabotaged, followed by the delivery of a threatening letter made of newspaper clippings that was left on his property.

Müller appeared before local security and judicial representatives in Montes de Oro, Puntarenas, Monday to complain about the alleged threats made against his life and he sent out an e-mail about the threats. 

Millicom paying $1,457.14 per customer to purchase Amnet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Each Amnet cable customer here is worth $1,457.14 to Millicom International Cellular S.A. The company has agreed to purchase Amnet for $510 million and said that Amnet has 350,000 corporate and residential accounts in Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador.

The purchase price is a bit more than 3.5 times Amnet's 2007 revenue of $143 million. Amnet, a private firm, provides cable service in Costa Rica and also provides telephone service in Honduras and El Salvador as well as television cable and Internet hookups. Millicom is expected to enter the telecom market here on the strength of the Amnet purchase.

Millicom said it expects to complete the transaction in three
months, subject to regulatory approvals.

 Millicom said it has 8.8 million subscribers, mostly under the Tigo brand in Central America. The firm is the leading supplier of mobile services in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, it said. Millicom is a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq and reported $1.2 billion in income in 2007.

Millicom was the company that pioneered cell telephone service in Costa Rica until the constitutional court shut down the service and allowed the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad to eventually begin cell operations.

Millicom will have more flexibility in Costa Rica now because the telecommunications market has been opened to private companies as condition of  the enabling legislation for the free trade treaty with the United States.

Holiday Monday would be a good time to start pilgrimage to basilica in Cartago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials expect some 2 million persons to make the trek to Cartago this year. Because Monday is a holiday, many are getting started early.

The bulk of the pilgrims or romeros, as they are called in Spanish, will be on the road Aug. 1. That includes Central Valley residents who may have only a 15 to 20 mile walk. Some San José churches will be starting their pilgrimages the afternoon of Aug. 1. Major highways will be closed and traffic will be detoured at other locations for several days.

The idea for the pilgrims is to spend  the night of Aug. 1 in the plaza of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles to be there for the religious services the next morning. Aug. 2, this year a Saturday, is the Roman Catholic feast day of the Virgin Mary in her manifestation as Our Lady of the Angels.

Those pilgrims who live far away have to start earlier, hence the opportune holiday Monday. The day commemorates the decision by Nicoya residents to join Costa Rica in 1824 instead of Nicaragua.
The pilgrimage is a major undertaking for police and emergency units. In addition to the Fuerza Pública, these agencies are involved: Policía de Tránsito, the Cruz Roja Costarricense, the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias, the Cuerpo Nacional de Bomberos, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the Municipalidad de Cartago, the Ministerio de Salud, Hospital Max Peralta and the Comisión del Santuario of the basilica.

Although the pilgrimage is a religious event, so many marchers also attract thieves and worse. So police officers generally are stationed within shouting distance all along the route.

The ceremony Aug. 2 at the basilica normally is attended by the nation's politicians.

The object of the worship is a small rock, discovered 400 years ago, that is believed to have mystical powers. It resembles the Virgin and child, and the faithful call it La Negrita due to its black color.

Its home is high above the altar of the basilica where the faithful can only enter the middle aisle on their knees.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 146

New study says many bank Web sites have security flaws
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and the University of Michigan News Service

The news will not come as a shock to expats in Costa Rica: Security flaws in online banking sites found to be widespread. That was the finding of a University of Michigan survey.

More than 75 percent of the bank Web sites checked in the study had at least one design flaw that could make customers vulnerable to cyber thieves after their money or even their identity, according to the university.

Costa Rican bank customers have been plagued by thefts from their accounts. Representatives of the nation's public banks blame the customers for letting thieves get their account information and passwords. The university study puts the thefts in a new light.

Atul Prakash, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and doctoral students Laura Falk and Kevin Borders examined the Web sites of 214 financial institutions in 2006. They will present the findings for the first time at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security meeting at Carnegie Mellon University Friday.

These design flaws aren't bugs that can be fixed with a patch, according to the researchers. They stem from the flow and the layout of these Web sites, according to the study. The flaws include placing log-in boxes and contact information on insecure web pages as well as failing to keep users on the site they initially visited. Prakash said some banks may have taken steps to resolve these problems since this data was gathered, but overall he still sees much need for improvement.

"To our surprise, design flaws that could compromise security were widespread and included some of the largest banks in the country," Prakash said. "Our focus was on users who try to be careful, but, unfortunately, some bank sites make it hard for customers to make the right security decisions when doing online banking."

The flaws leave cracks in security that hackers could exploit to gain access to private information and accounts. The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation says computer intrusion, while relatively rare compared with financial crimes like mortgage fraud and check fraud, is a growing problem for banks and their customers.

A recent federal technology incident report, compiled from suspicious activity reports banks file quarterly, lists 536 cases of computer intrusion, with an average loss per incident of $30,000. That adds up to a nearly $16 million loss in the second quarter of 2007. Computer intrusions increased by 150 percent between the first quarter of 2007 and the second. In 80 percent of the cases, the source of the intrusion is unknown but it occurred during online banking, the report states.
The design flaws Prakash and his team looked for are:

• Placing secure login boxes on insecure pages: A full 47 percent of banks were guilty of this. A hacker could reroute data entered in the boxes or create a spoof copy of the page to harvest information. In a wireless situation, it's possible to conduct this man-in-the-middle attack without changing the bank URL for the user, so even a vigilant customer could fall victim. To solve this problem, banks should use the standard secure socket layer (SSL) protocol on pages that ask for sensitive information, Prakash says. (SSL-protected pages begin with https rather than http.) Most banks use SSL technology for some of their pages, but only a minority secure all their pages this way.

• Putting contact information and security advice on insecure pages: At 55 percent, this was the flaw with the most offenders. An attacker could change an address or phone number and set up his own call center to gather private data from customers who need help. Banks tend to be less cautious with information that's easy to find elsewhere, Prakash says. But customers trust that the information on the bank's site is correct. This problem could be solved by securing these pages with the standard SSL protocol.

• Having a breach in the chain of trust: When the bank redirects customers to a site outside the bank's domain for certain transactions without warning, it has failed to maintain a context for good security decisions, Prakash says. He found this problem in 30 percent of the banks surveyed. Often the look of the site changes, as well as URL and it's hard for the user to know whether to trust this new site. The solution, Prakash says, is to warn users they'll be moving off the bank's site to a trusted new site. Or the bank could house all of its pages on the same server. This problem often arises when banks outsource some security functions.

• Allowing inadequate user IDs and passwords: Researchers looked for sites that use social security numbers or e-mail addresses as user ids. While this information is easy for customers to remember, it's also easy to guess or find out. Researchers also looked for sites that didn't state a policy on passwords or that allowed weak passwords. Twenty-eight percent of sites surveyed had one of these flaws.

• E-mailing security-sensitive information insecurely: The e-mail data path is generally not secure, Prakash says, yet 31 percent of bank Web sites had this flaw. These banks offered to e-mail passwords or statements. In the case of statements, users often weren't told whether they would receive a link, the actual statement, or a notification that the statement was available.

A notification isn't a problem, but e-mailing a password, a link or a statement, isn't a good idea, Prakash says.

Prakash initiated this study after noticing flaws on his own financial institutions' Web sites.

Three suspected drug boats fall into official hands in Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coast guard and other security ministry forces seized three boats and 49 packets of cocaine early Wednesday near Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula.

The operation began Tuesday when U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats spotted two suspicious looking vessels, a fishing yacht and a sportfishing speedboat, near Punta Burica in the southern Pacific, according to Janina Del Vecchio, the security minister.

Early Wednesday morning Costa Rican coast guard crew members spotted two similar boats and halted a Costa Rican yacht with five suspects, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The second boat, a Colombian-made speedboat, fled to the 
shore near Playa Potrero and was later found deserted with several packets of cocaine, according to the ministry spokesman.

The crew of the boat likely fled into the nearby forest, and security forces began searching for them shortly afterwards.

Officers of the Policía de Fronteras encountered a third speedboat about 20 kilometers from the area of the first detention, abandoned on the shore with several more packets of drugs floating nearby, according to Ms. Del Vecchio.

A total of 49 packets of cocaine were seized throughout the operations, each containing about 20 kilos of the drug according to a ministry release. Fuerza Pública and other security ministry officers were still searching for more suspects later Wednesday.

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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.


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Rebels should negotiate,
Uribe's defense chief says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's defense minister says the country's leftist rebels are greatly weakened and should negotiate an end to the decades-old civil war while they still have a position from which to barter. The minister made the comments in Washington, where he had scheduled talks with U.S. military officials.

Recent months have brought a flood of welcome news for Colombia's government in its battle against rebels of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

March saw a successful cross-border raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador that netted valuable rebel computer files. In May, reports surfaced of the death of the group's commander, Manuel Marulanda. Most recently, Colombian forces tricked the rebels into handing over 15 long-held hostages, including Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos says the rebels no longer control vast swaths of territory, are experiencing significant command and communications problems, and have lost whatever legitimacy they may have once enjoyed among certain sectors of Colombian society. But he says the Fuerzas Armadas continue to refuse to negotiate with the government of President Alvaro Uribe.

"They have never wanted to negotiate," said Santos. "They are the ones who have said, 'We do not talk with President Uribe.' If they do not seize the moment, the opportunity, in a year, two years they would have no bargaining chips. Because the momentum is on our side."

Santos stressed, the rebels are not yet defeated and pressure must be maintained on them until the battle is won decisively or until they agree to lay down their arms and rejoin civil society.

The defense minister noted it was not long ago that much of the country had been lost to the rebels and Colombia came perilously close to being declared a failed state. He said President Uribe deserves credit for successful military campaigns, the return of law and order in Colombia, and the professionalization of security forces, including a renewed focus on human rights.

"The respect for human rights: the way the military treats the population," Santos said. "We have been telling them in every way possible, 'Your success depends on the approval, the support that the population gives the military.'  Today, and I am very proud to say this, the most popular institution in Colombia, by far, is our military and police."

Yet human rights groups say Colombia's record under President Uribe is far from stellar, noting that extra-judicial killings by security forces remain commonplace. The Washington Office on Latin America notes that more than 300 such killings were reported in Colombia last year.

In his remarks, Defense Minister Santos admitted thorny human rights issues remain unresolved in his country, but maintained that significant progress has been made and the country is on the right path.

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One-woman show treats the horrors of Rwanda genocide
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For 91 days, a woman stayed locked in a bathroom as hundreds of murderers combed through the house over and over searching for blood.

Killers slaughtered the family of the woman, Immaculée Ilibagiza, during the Rwandan genocide. But Ms. Ilibagiza and six other women hid inside the 5-foot by 7-foot foot room and survived.

The true story will come to Costa Rica Aug. 26 and 27 in an  English-language play. The one-woman show features actress
 Leslie Lewis Sword, a Harvard graduate whose performance has been called brilliant and captivating. 

The show echoes themes of  forgiveness and deep peace amid atrocity, according to a summary.

Ms. Sword debuted as Dorothy Dandridge in a solo show at the National Black Theater of Harlem. She is the writer and co-creator of the show. The show coming to Costa Rica is entitled “Miracle in Rwanda” and was presented first Feb. 8, 2007, in Naples Florida. Other performances have included Stanford University and New York. Theater in Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses Aug. 29 and 30.

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.

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.

Wild man style can be very useful when stacks are deep
Rarely is it correct to play a hyper-aggressive style of poker.  But there are certain situations where a seemingly reckless approach will actually be the most profitable strategy to employ, like at the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.

That’s because the Main Event features a unique combination of variables that must be present in order to make a hyper-aggressive poker style pay off. 

The most important variable to consider is stack size.  Hyper-aggressive poker works best in deep-stack tournaments.  Tournaments where stack sizes are small in relation to the blinds and antes aren’t the time to play like a maniac.  The goal of hyper-aggressive poker is to create a wild and crazy image that will return dividends when you’re eventually dealt a monster hand.  You can achieve that table image by frequently making small raises with marginal hands that don’t jeopardize a large percentage of your chips. 

Another factor to look for is the presence of weak players that call too many big bets.  There are a swarm of these types at the World Series of Poker Main Event.  They are precisely the kind of players who are most confused by hyper-aggressive play.  Look for these players to give you an early Christmas gift when you do pick up a monster hand.  Be sure to avoid big bluffs against them, however, because they’ll call too often.  Instead, wait until you have the best hand and then bet it strong.  

Also, look for a game with minimal pre-flop reraising.  Hyper-aggressive poker is most effective in games where players are happy to just call rather than reraise.  You’ll be able to take control in these situations.  However, if other players start reraising you before the flop, you’ll need to tighten up.  At this kind of table, keep your bets on the small side. 

There’s no need to bet too much on speculative hands.  Your goal is to reel in a big fish on the river and take all of his chips when you have a made hand.
You can also play hyper-aggressive poker against tight opponents when antes are introduced into the game.  Picking up two or three sets of blinds and antes each round will help get you to the chip lead.  But you have to stay out of trouble. 

Be very careful when one of the tight players calls your big bet.

Also look for situations where your opponents play poorly after the flop.  Weak, lose, predictable and overly-aggressive players make the perfect targets.  A hand that you wouldn’t normally play against solid players, like Jc-6c, is a hand that might have value against players who tend to make mistakes after the flop.

One more thing:  If you also happen to have position against these same weak players, you can make a good case for playing virtually any two cards that you’re dealt!  

The bottom line is that the Main Event draws the weakest field of the year in terms of caliber of player.  The tournament is littered with novices who are bound to make at least one catastrophic mistake.

You’ll have to beat more than 6,000 players to win this tournament.  My advice is to play as many hands as you can early on and hope to benefit from the inevitable mistakes that others will eventually make against you.

Sure, a conservative approach is the safer alternative.  But in order to dominate a table and compete for the title, you’ll need to amass a lot of chips early.  A hyper-aggressive style is well-suited to attain that goal.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Power Hold’em Strategy"
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