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(506) 223-1327               Published Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 226                  E-mail us
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Guess what you can get for free in the downtown
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The guy is standing on the pedestrian boulevard in San José holding up a sign that says abrazos gratis. That means "free hugs" in English.

The first inclination is to clutch the purse to your chest or put your hand on your wallet. And then maybe try to make him a reservation for a rubber room. But Michael Sánchez was serious Tuesday as he patrolled the boulevard reaching out and hugging strangers. His actions are the extension of a worldwide campaign that began in Australia and has just reached the Central Valley.

Sánchez said that he was impressed by the campaign when he read about it on the Internet. So he started his hug campaign Nov. 1 in San Pedro and later moved to San José. Others elsewhere have had legal problems giving hugs, but not Sánchez, perhaps because abrazos are already nearly an art form here among Costa Rican friends and acquaintances.

The originator of free hugs is a man named Juan Mann, who said he returned to Sidney, Australia, from London one day and felt lonely when he saw others at the airport getting hugs from loved ones. He said he sketched a sign and began offering free hugs.

The idea has spread via the Internet and those
free hugs Michael Sanchez
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Passersby are uncertain about Michael Sánchez

social interaction sites like You Tube. One site has a photo of Mann being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.

Sánchez said that he can do about 15 hugs an hour under the correct circumstances.



Ms. Jezek, back in U.S., launches critical e-mail
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Kytka Jezek, the central Pacific real estate broker grabbed by immigration, is back in the United States and has sent a critical e-mail attacking the Costa Rican government and persons here she said had conspired against her.

Ms. Jezek spent 59 days in the immigration lockup in Hatillo and now says she was deported illegally. She made the sensational Spanish-language press at the time of her detention because officials accused her of being a pedophile involved with a 16-year-old.

She denied that allegation later to a reporter and said that the young man was over 18.

The newspaper El Diario Extra published a photo of Ms. Jezek dressed in a latex outfit and carrying a whip. She said the photo was private. Others say it was posted on a Web site.

"Many government organizations are currently under investigation there including the Department of Immigration, who arrested me without a warrant, despite me having a habeas corpus and
legal proof of residency documents . . . .," she said in her e-mail. She fought deportation and said she would lose her assets if sent back to the United States.
She blamed her problems on business associates, but in an earlier telephone call she told a reporter that she was trying to get residency based on being a minister. She holds a minister's title from the Universal Life Church, which is liberal in granting such recognition. She added that she did not hold regular weekly church services.

Others in the central Pacific said they agreed to tell immigration that they were members of the church to help advance her residency application.

Although El Diario Extra accused Ms. Jezek of being a pedophile, there did not appear to be any law enforcement investigation on that topic. A U.S. citizen who is involved sexually with an underage individual anywhere in the world has broken U.S. law, but officials at the U.S. Embassy here do not appear to have conducted even the most cursory investigation.

Ms. Jezek said in the e-mail that she was  traumatized by her experience and still feared for her life. "There seems to exist a web of deceit which allows and encourages foreigners to invest and feel secure with their residency proceedings, and then all of a sudden, you are picked up and deported and have no recourse, she said in the e-mail. The message was directed to the Waldorf educational community that she has been involved in for years. She spent five years in Costa Rica. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 226

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dig they must
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Motorists have to skirt the major repairs being done on Avenida 2 where Acueductos y Alcantarillados employees are fixing a ruptured sewer pipe. Several holes have been dug in the middle of the main street.

Caribbean awaits more rain
despite seasonal changes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caribbean coast is bracing for more rains after a weekend that saw a number of communities flooded and heavy damage done to roads, bridges other infrastructre and crops.

The Instituto Metorológico Nacional said that there was a good chance for more rain overnight and into today. There were warnings out for the northern zone. Today rains are expected on the Pacific coast, too.

The rains just don't seem to be letting up even though the weather experts have said the season is in a state of change from rainy to dry.

Residents of communities in Heredia would doubt that. They were hit with a heavy downpour Monday night that caused extensive flooding in San Isidro, San Rafael, Barba and Santo Domingo de Heredia. In Santo Domingo some 80 persons were evicted from their homes when the Río Bermúdez ran out of its banks in Barrio Fátima.

Fans of famous national park
celebrating its 35 years


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio turns 35 years old  Thursday and a week-long celebration is running through Sunday.

South of Quepos on the Pacific Coast, the land was declared a national park Nov. 15, 1972, mainly to protect the area from foreign investors developing the area as a tourist center.  The park has been expanded twice, once in 1980 and again in 2000.  The area protects primary forest (16 percent of that in the region), secondary forest (51 percent of the region's total) and marine vegetation as well as 12 small barren islands.  Costa Rica's smallest national park, it is also one of the most popular regions for tourism due to the beauty and biodiversity.

The celebration includes a photography exhibit of Quepos at the Banco de Costa Rica, a soccer championship and volleyball match at Playa Espadilla and a martial arts exhibition at the Korea school gymnasium. 

More arrests for drugs
at international airport


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police reported Tuesday that they had detained a Costa Rican man and a German woman to undergo investigation involving the shipment of cocaine out of the country.

Both were bound for Madrid, Spain, with connections elsewhere.

The Costa Rican was identified by the last names of  Wyltshire Scoth. The Policía de Control de Drogas said the 33-year-old had hidden more than four kilos of cocaine in the figures of animals that he had attached to an elaborate series of mirrors.

The German woman had a substance police said was cocaine under the false bottom of a suitcase. She was identified by the last name of Barman.

Plant sale planned at mall

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Growers will be selling orchids and other ornamental plants at the Mall Internacional in Alajuela Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and 2, according to the Asociación de Mujeres Agroindustriales de Trojas de Valverde Vega. The seven-member organization is 10 years old. Members support themselves by growing plants.
 
Horses to meet in Limón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Horse owners will be riding through Limón centro Saturday as part of the annual Tope de Limón 2007 sponsored in part by the Asociación de Caballistas de Limón. Riders will go past the court building, the municipal market and end up at  Parque Vargas. The money collected for registrations will be donated through Banco de Costa Rica for its program for children.

New transit law is coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers in the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Jurídicos are expected to send to the floor of the full Asamblea Legislativa next week a revised Ley de Tránsito that includes stiffer penalties for drunk driving and other infractions. The measure is likely to win approval when that takes place.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 226




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Taking shape

The bull ring at the Zapote fiesta grounds is but a metal skelton today, but soon workmen will be getting it in shape for the hundreds of individuals who choose to enter the area with a fighting bull during the Christmas fiesta.

bull ring take shape
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas


Separated twins remain under sedation in California hospital
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 2-year-old twins Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha Arias of San José were still sleeping late Tuesday after their risky operation Monday to separate them, according to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

A hospital spokesman said that both still are under sedation although they remain stable in the intensive care unit. Little Yurelia is facing yet another operation this week, said the spokesman.

Teams of physicians separated the girls at the Palo Alto, California, hospital during a nine-hour surgery, said the spokesman. The girls were connected at the abdomen and chest and shared a liver and a heart. 

The extensive surgery began at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time. The procedures were complicated by the twins' fused hearts and shared blood supply.  Their fused livers were separated around 11 a.m., and the twins were completely separated from each other for the first time around noon, said a summary from the hospital, which is associated with Stanford University.  The girls were then moved to individual rooms to await their reconstruction surgeries.

Each twin had their own complete team of surgeons working, including nursing, anesthesia, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric general surgery, plastic surgery and cardiac bypass.  The medical staff began the operation as 
one unit working together and then divided into two teams after the separation, each working on a separated twin, the hospital said.  The surgery was completed at 3:30 p.m. local time.

Aside from the right atriums of their hearts being connected, each twin had a heart defect.  Fiorella had  pulmonary artery stenosis, narrowing of her left main pulmonary artery, and her condition was repaired after the separation.  Yurelia has a double outlet right ventricle, which was described as a serious congenital defect where the aorta and pulmonary artery are both connected to the right ventricle instead of the aorta connecting to the left ventricle. 

Cardiothoracic surgeon Frank Hanley will attempt to correct Yurelia's condition this week, said the hospital. 

“The separation went much better than anticipated," said lead surgeon Gary Hartman.  "Dozens of people worked together seamlessly, and the girls’ cardiac function actually improved when they were separated.” 

“We want to thank Mending Kids International, Costa Rica and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital for prayers, guidance and support, said María Elizabeth Arias, the mother of the children, after the surgery.  The physicians and the hospital donated their services, and Mending Kids is paying for living expenses and transportation.

According to the hospital spokesman, the girls are expected to stay in the hospital for another three to four weeks.


Meliá Cariari hotel becomes a Hilton property in January
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Hilton Hotels Corp. has announced that it has signed a multi-year management agreement with Desatur Cariari, S.A. for a full-service Doubletree by Hilton™ hotel outside of San Jose.

This is the fourth Hilton hotel development in Costa Rica this year. Prior to its anticipated opening in January 2008, the 222-room Doubletree Cariari by Hilton will undergo a series of renovations featuring upgrades to guestrooms, public areas, restaurants, meeting facilities, and more.

"The Doubletree Cariari by Hilton San Jose and Doubletree by Hilton Puntarenas Resort will complement each other and support the brand’s recognition as we continue to grow,” said Danny Hughes, area vice president for the Caribbean and Central America.

The Doubletree Cariari by Hilton San Jose is just five minutes from Juan Santamaría airport and 10 minutes from
the city center on the Autopista General Cañas. The hotel will feature 174 guestrooms and 48 suites, including 24 suites with specialized butler service. Recreation options will include two swimming pools, fitness center, and casino, while business travelers will have access to a fully equipped business center, and 11 meeting rooms, Hilton said.

In January, Hilton Hotels Corp. announced multi-year agreements to manage a 202-room property in Papagayo and a 410-room property in Puntarenas as the first Hilton and Doubletree by Hilton branded resorts in Costa Rica. Both resorts are anticipated to open in January 2008. Earlier this year, Hilton also announced the signing of a franchise hotel agreement for a Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Liberia, which is expected to open in Fall 2008.

Yukiko Nakayama is president of Desatur Cariari, S.A. That company owns the Meliá Cariari which becomes the Doubletree Cariari by Hilton in January. The parent company is Corporación Hotelera Cari-Coro, S.A., a Japanese corporation that owns a second hotel in Costa Rica.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 226

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Arabic fuels big jump in U.S. language study, report says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new study shows significant increases in foreign language study in the United States since 2002. Arabic is leading the surge.

The survey by the Modern Language Association of America finds that the study of Arabic has increased a whopping 127 percent, and the number of schools offering Arabic study has doubled since the last nationwide survey in 2002.

Spanish continues to be the most studied language at U.S. higher education institutions, but interest in Asian languages is growing with Chinese up more than 50 percent.

The Modern Language Association has been tracking language enrollment for half a century. The group's executive director, Rosemary Feal, says the number of enrollments is now at an historic high. She says the increase reflects a growing recognition on the part of students and government that languages play a role in an ever smaller world.

"First of all, we think that they know that they are going to be better prepared in their careers and in their lives as citizens. And we also know that there is a lot more support 
for language study today, support in the form of federal dollars, support also in the form of technology," she said.

The study finds that students continue to study traditionally taught languages such as Spanish, French and Italian and that interest in classical languages such as Greek and Latin remains strong.

Karin Ryding, a professor of Arabic at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., says she is pleased that the survey found growth both at introductory and advanced level courses in foreign language. She says practicality is one of the motivations.

"I don't think this is just a temporary spike in enrollments. I think these figures indicate a real shift of interest on the part of American students. Young people today understand that the world is now truly and inevitably smaller. They are coming to the study of Arabic and other languages with serious professional goals in mind. I include work with international organizations, diplomatic service, global environmental efforts, humanitarian relief efforts, security studies, international communications and media studies," she said.

The survey's findings are based on language study enrollments at 2,800 colleges and universities. 


Spanish downplay Chávez encounter with King Juan Carlos
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Spain says it is hoping for a swift resolution to a diplomatic spat with Caracas over a confrontation in which Spain's King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to shut up.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos made his comments before senators in Madrid Tuesday, saying he hoped "diplomatic normality" will resume shortly.

The dispute started last week during an Ibero-American summit of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking leaders in Santiago, Chile. At Saturday's closing session, Chávez tried repeatedly to interrupt a speech by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. That's when King Juan Carlos turned to Chávez and tried to silence him.

Zapatero was criticizing Chávez for calling former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar a fascist.
The Venezuelan leader has suggested King Juan Carlos had prior knowledge of a 2002 coup in Venezuela.

Chávez says Spain's ambassador showed support for the coup plotters who ousted him for two days in 2002. Chávez said he thought the ambassador had acted with the king's approval.

Chávez supporters have been conducting a campaign against the king on the Internet. One e-mail contains photos of the King with U.S. President George Bush and calls Bush a murderer.

Another photo shows the king with Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator. Another shows him with Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator.

Separately, Chávez said Tuesday that while Spain has many investments in Venezuela, the South American country does not need them.


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