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(506) 223-1327         Published Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 242               E-mail us
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Puerto Viejo acts to find out about stealth marina
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Puerto Viejo are organizing a gathering to discuss the controversial plans for a new marina in the nearby Playa Negro area that were announced Sept. 24.

A petition letter was organized and sent to the local municipal government in October asking for a meeting to be held in which the municipality would explain the plans to residents. But the request never received an answer.

Residents have therefore decided to inform themselves about the plans that will change the geography of their neighborhood, getting ahold of the documents presented to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo by the marina investors, and asking scientists to come and explain the environmental impacts that the project is likely to have.

Exact plans for the size and location of the marina, which is expected to cost around $40 million and 
provide 2,000 extra jobs in the area, do not appear to have been set. The investors' lawyer, Walter Coto, has said that maps are still changing.

Initial plans showed that the marina would involve 398 piers, a commercial district and a space to maintain and repair yachts.

Alaine Berg, who works for the Asociación Talamanqueña de Ecoturismo y Conservación, said: “We can't start to deal with this until we understand the impacts that the marina will have.

"We have organized this meeting so that residents can come and find out what we are facing and if it is something that will have any benefits for the area. If it does not, we will start to fight against.”

Investors in this project are both Costa Rican and American, and hope to begin building in the middle of next year. It is not expected that they will attend the meeting Saturday at the Casa Cultura in Puerto Viejo at 2 p.m.

The community is invited.

Country Day director leaves job after parents protest
By Bryan Kay
special to A.M. Costa Rica
and A.M. Costa Rica staff reports

The director of the Country Day School in Escazú has resigned amid a dispute with parents.

He is Robert Trent, who will serve out the remainder of this academic year at the school's Guanacaste campus, according to Woodson C. Brown, president.

The high school principal, Gloria Doll, has been named director.

The school has more than 800 students from over 40 countries with a kindergarten-to-high school annual tuition of about $10,000. Many of the students are dependents of employees of the U.S. and other embassies.

The dispute was between a group of parents and Trent, according to some at the school. The parents, including some from the United States, were unhappy with the academic progress of their children and academic resources, said the school source. Some parents were said to have withheld tuition payments as a form of protest.

Additionally, some parents were asking the school to institute the international baccalaureate program. A Web site announcement by Trent defends the current practice of offering advance placement programs but not the international baccalaureate program, which he said had higher fixed costs and examination fees.
Trent of Country Day
Robert Trent

gloria doll
Gloria Doll

Officially, the school administration had no comment beyond a laudatory message about Trent posted by Brown on the Web site. The message also said that the next director of the Escazú school no longer would supervise the Guanacaste campus and that a search is being instituted for a director there. Trent had dual responsibilities, both in Escazú and in Guanacaste.

Trent also posted his resignation letter, dated Monday, noting that he had been at the school for six years.

His resignation is effective in June but his functions are being limited to Guanacaste until then. He had supervised an ambitious building program in Escazú.

The school was founded in 1963. The Guanacaste campus came into being in 2000 at a site between Huacas and Brasilito. Both campuses are accredited by the U.S. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

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Managua cardinal to help
celebrate Purísima here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 81-year-old former archbishop of Managua will be in San José to help his countrymen celebrate one of the major religious festivals of the year. The event is the la Purísima Concepción de María, a unique Nicaraguan festival that celebrates the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary.

The former archbishop is Miguel Obando y Bravo, who is a cardinal in the Roman Catholic church. He recently resigned his position in Managua due to his age. Obando y Bravo also played a key role in the civil war that divided his country in the 1980s.

The churchman at first embraced the Sandinista government that had ousted the Somoza regime but then became disenchanted with the abuse of human rights and supported the cause of the contras, which were backed by the United States. He also ordered that Catholic clergymen resign from the Sandinista government.

He will be meeting with President Óscar Arias this afternoon. The two men last met Aug. 21 when the cardinal invited Arias to the Universidad Católica in Managua for a celebration of 20 years of the so-called Esquipulas II peace accords that began to end the civil wars in Central America.

The religious festival, also known as the gritería, will take place Friday beginning with a service in the Catedral Metropolitana with Hugo Barrantes, the archbishop of San José. Later the churchmen and those at the service will go into Parque Central west of the cathedral for the traditional celebration organized here by the Embassy of Nicaragua.

Gritería means shout in Spanish, and the celebration is prefaced with the cry Quién causa tanta alegría? ("Who causes such happiness?) The appropriate response is  La Concepción de María! "the conception of Mary."

The festival dates from colonial times when the church melded Catholic tradition with the existing Indian festivals.

In addition to the celebration in the park, many Nicaraguans hold fiestas in their homes at which an altar containing the figure of Mary is the central fixture.

The immaculate conception of Mary is a long-time tradition among the faithful, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that the then-pope Pius IX elevated the concept to dogma. Mary, due to her eventual motherhood of Jesus, is presumed free of the original sin that all other humans share at their birth.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said in a release that it saw the cardinal's visit as a way to deepen the brotherhood between the two peoples. This is his first visit here for this purpose. Frequently the celebration is more low-keyed and held at the embassy in Barrio California

Alajuela murder suspect
detained on Tamarindo street

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who was on the run for 12 days as a suspect in the stabbing death of a neighbor fell into police hands as he walked down the main street of Tamarindo Tuesday, they reported.

The victim, a 40-year old teacher and mother, was found by her 16-year old son on the floor of their Alajuela house Nov. 22. She had a knife in her neck and was already dead when police and Cruz Roja workers arrived, said a Fuerza Pública officer from Alajuela. 

The suspect, Henry Cordero Dodero, 29, was being tracked by officials from the Judicial Investigating Organization and had been spotted in various beach towns on the Pacific coast and Nicoya Peninsula. Officials received confidential information that Codero had been seen in Puntarenas and Mata de Limón. He was later spotted in Montezuma, Cóbano, once again in Mata de Limón, and then in Tamarindo. It was there Codero was arrested at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The organization released a photo of Codero last week and told people to call the Alajuela judicial police office if they knew any information. Officials say that Codero and the victim, Kattia Marote Blanco, were neighbors in Pueblo Nuevo de Alajuela and occasionally talked but did not have a close relationship.

Numerous neighbors saw Codero entering Ms. Marote's house earlier in the day of her death, and his fingerprints were found on the scene, said officials from the Judicial Investigating Organization. The case, a presumed robbery, gained headlines because the women's son came home from school to find the body.

Bank admits transfer freeze

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional confirmed Wednesday that it has put a freeze on electronic transfers to accounts that are not already listed on the customer's favorites list.

A bank spokesperson declined to mention that point Tuesday, although customers found that they could not make routine transfers to people who were not listed in their favorites files. This is part of the bank's response to rampant electronic theft. A spokesperson said that this rule will continue until the end of December but that there are procedures in place to add other accounts to the favorites list.

The bank on its Web site simply says that the service is discontinued except for favorite accounts temporarily. There is no further explanation.

Banco de Costa Rica has scheduled a press conference for this morning to discuss additional security measures.

Passenger lounges ready

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first section of new passenger lounges will be turned over to the Juan Santamaría airport operator and to the country in a ceremony Friday. The contractor has been rushing to get some of the lounges finished in time for the start of the high tourism season.

Disputes over payment and financing delayed the work.  The Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes did not say if the lounges will go into operation Friday.

Defensoría investigative target

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the Asamblea Legislativa to investigate a case in which a citizen says the Defensoría de los Habitantes blew off his complaint.
The legislature appoints the defensor de los habitantes, so it must form a commission to investigate the case.

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As the year nears an end, we have lots of questions!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Journalists do not know it all, although many pretend to be omnipotent. Here are a baker's dozen of questions A.M. Costa Rica staffers have that we hope to be able to answer in the coming year:

1. How come a country where they make such really great ice cream is so screwed up administratively.

2. What ever happened to the valley wide sewer project and the $130 million donated by the Japanese?

3. How come they only capture drug-laden boats this year in the Pacific and not the Caribbean?

4. Why does Eugenio Trejos oppose the free trade treaty when graduates of his Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica would benefit so much?

5. How come it takes the banks months to figure out and respond to the electronic thefts plaguing their customers?

6. Why does the overwhelmed Poder Judicial take off for weeks at Christmas when the judges and staffers should 
be working 10-hour days to convict the bad guys?

7. Why do public relations workers at the various ministries call themselves periodistas (journalists) when they really are spin doctors?

8. Where the heck is Enrique Villalobos now anyway, and why can't the cops find him after he sends so many letters to John Manners?

9. How can a big guy like Luis Milanes not show up after five years as a fugitive?

10. What happens to all the stuff that can't get through customs because of mislabeling, lack of permits, bad paperwork or excessive duties?

11. Where do all the policemen go after Christmas?

12. Where are all the trials of those people who are routinely picked up carrying illegal firearms?

13. Is it environmentally sound to have Central Valley residents drive all the way to Golfito and the free port facilities to buy cheaper tires?

Clear skies let valley see volcano letting off some steam
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As if on cue for the high tourist season, the Turrialba volcano gave forth with a morning burp of gas and vapor Wednesday.

The white column rose 2 kms. (6,500 feet) above the 3,340-meter (10,958-foot) summit. The plume was seen from as far away as Heredia. The volcano is just 24 kms. (15 miles) northwest of the city of the same name.

The volcano has been acting up for months with gas vents forming on the sides of the craters and destroying vegetation with their bursts of hot, acidic fumes.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that the plume might have been caused by heavy rain in the area which generated water that seeped into the mountain.

The area where the plume originated is not near any important vegetation or animals, said the commission.

The commission has a series of monitoring stations near the craters of the volcano. A report said that the situation might even be better than a few months ago because residents report less of the sulfuric odor that has been produced by the mountain.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico of
volcano lets off steam
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico/E. Duarte
Plume of steam can be seen in this photo taken in Heredia. Note the low cloud bank that exposes the summit.

Universidad Nacional said that the plume reached its greatest height at 5:40 a.m.  The observatory's report said that similar emissions had been seen in previous months. But Wednesday the sky was cloudless.

A team of experts flew over the mountain today, and both the commission and the observatory sent teams to the area. But they did not say that any preventative efforts were needed.

Have a Heart golf tourney again planned for St. Valentine's Day in February
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Golfers in the Tamarindo area will be getting their clubs ready for another Have a Heart charity golf tournament in February, as the Amigos de la Educacíon charity gets ready for their eighth annual event.

Each year the 18-hole tournament, held on Valentine's Day, raises thousands of dollars for schools and colleges in Guanacaste.

Around 25 volunteers and 100 golfers will descend on the
Hacienda Pinilla Golf Course in Tamarindo to help the charity raise funds to buy equipment such as desks, fans and musical instruments.

Last year $25,000 was raised for educational bodies including Colegio Villarreal, Colegio Tecnico de 27th de Abril high schools, La Garita Viejo grade school and La Paz community school.

The $125 entry fee includes a big breakfast and lunch. Raffles and silent auctions will be held throughout the day, and donations will also be accepted.

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Officials are concerned about Latin gangs spreading here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Both the security minister and the nation's chief prosecutor say they want to emphasize fighting organized crime during the next year.

Part of the concern is a growing presence of Latin gangs. Today, Federal Bureau of Investigation records show some Latino gangs could have tens of thousands of members in the United States and hundreds of thousands in Central America. Brian Truchon, with the FBI, says, "They travel between the U.S. and Central America so they have become a very difficult entity to get your hands around."

Truchon says the gangs have a destabilizing effect on Central American countries. "We already know that the gangs are involved in drug trafficking — drug trafficking for the purpose of producing income for the gang."

Truchon says the gangs' criminal activities include homicide, robbery and car theft, with many cars stolen in the United States ending up in Central America. The FBI estimates that perhaps half of the gang members in the United States are in the country illegally, but there are American-born gang members, too. "It's not an immigration issue as much as it is a gang issue, is an issue of individuals willing to commit violence."

Truchon says Latino gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, are transnational, with members traveling often between countries. "In this time and this day in age we are talking about an MS-13, we are really talking about a membership group that includes Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Mexicans."

Although gang membership is widespread in Honduras, El Salvador. Mexico and Guatemala, only a few individuals with gang tattoos are visible in San José and other population centers. Costa Rican law enforcement would like to keep it that way. However, the local gangs of unruly soccer fans represent a fertile field for recruitment.

Costa Rican officials are depending on immigration as the first line of defense. However, there is not as much intelligence available on individual Latin gang members as there is on, say, the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club that periodically has members barred from the country.
Francisco Dall'Anese has made fighting organized crime a major emphasis in his plan for his next four years in office. Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, has been meeting with U.S. officials on a number of topics, including gangs.

A wide range of governmental, social and private organizations are attempting to deal with crime and violence caused by gangs both in Central America and in North America.

Salvadoran President Antonio Saca met with President George Bush last week. Saca said that a regional approach, known as Plan Merida, is being developed to help Central American youth. He said some 60 percent of El Salvador's population is under 30. "The security ministers and justice, the Central American police directors, have been meeting and have designed a document, with a regional strategy against delinquency, against organized crime and against narcotrafficking," he said.

The Inter-American Development Bank has sponsored studies and projects in Central America for 10 years. Juana Salazar is with the bank. She says the cost of dealing with gangs affects social and economic development. "The cost and size of the violence is such that between 5 and 25 percent of the gross national product goes to security control. Most of that is dedicated to the control of gangs."

Ms. Salazar says that combating gangs is not a simple law enforcement problem: "The iron fist does not work if it is not combined with preventive measures. Repression by itself does not solve neither the causes nor the risk factors. The country with most gang members is Honduras, but the most affected country, with a third of the gangs is El Salvador."

Ms. Salazar says years of violence in Central America created a culture of war, a loss of cultural values and broken families. She says gang members have no education, no jobs, no opportunities and are often very poor. But she says poverty alone is not the problem.

"Huge inequalities, not poverty, is the problem, because there are countries much poorer that don't have that level of violence.

"But when there is inequality there is violence," she said.

Intel and Internet change face of a remote Amazonia town
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Mayor Frank Luis da Cunha Garcia needs just a few words to describe how technology has changed life for the better in this remote island city of Parintins, Brazil: "Intel opened a window in the middle of the Amazon forest for the people of Parintins to see the world."

A year after Intel Corp. and several technology companies installed a high-speed WiMAX wireless network in Parintins — giving 100,000 inhabitants access to medical, educational and information resources — Intel Chairman Craig Barrett returned to see the progress achieved to date. He also helped launch new initiatives to move the digital transformation forward.

In the past year, Barrett regularly referenced the digital village pilot project, describing it as a showcase of expanding what's possible through technology. The project involved providing high-speed Internet access to a primary healthcare center, two public schools, a community center and Amazon State University. Intel also donated and installed telemedicine equipment at the healthcare center and computer labs at the two schools.

While in Parintins, Barrett met with residents who have benefited from the project, including teachers, students, healthcare providers and patients. He also visited the healthcare center, which is expanding its telemedicine facilities, inaugurated a new public library that features wireless Internet access and donated computers to help local municipalities carry on the work Intel started.

"Intel planted the seeds for digital inclusion in Parintins a year ago by putting the technology resources in place," said Barrett. "It's inspiring to see local municipalities and community leaders expand these efforts. Together we're creating a sustainable model that can be deployed across Brazil and the world."

Barrett visited Centro de Saude Irmao Francisco Galliani, the clinic where Intel helped launch a telemedicine project last year.

The program allows the 32 doctors in Parintins to interact with colleagues at Amazon State University in Manaus and São Paulo University via the Internet, using telemedicine systems and videoconferencing technology to enable long-distance training, real-time consultation with specialists and remote diagnostics. To date, nearly 100 patients in Parintins have had the opportunity to be assisted by specialists in Manaus.

Springboarding on the project's success, local officials Wednesday announced that the municipality will build a
larger telemedicine facility on the site to accommodate program expansion. The telemedicine clinic's doctors, who currently focus on dermatology diagnosis due to a high incidence of skin cancers, hope to enlarge its scope to include health issues such as HIV, tuberculosis and diabetes. Barrett announced that Intel, with support from local PC manufacturer CCE, is donating PCs to support the expansion of the telemedicine program infrastructure, the new library and another community center.

Barrett also attended the opening ceremony of a new public library where citizens can access computers and other digital resources. The library features a PC lab, installed by São Paulo University, which will serve as a digital medical information center.

During the library dedication, Barrett and the mayor of Parintins gave awards to local students enrolled in a new Young Doctor Program. Sponsored by Intel and developed jointly with São Paulo University, the program engages high school students to teach basic preventive healthcare in their communities using resources such as the telemedicine lab, distance learning and a software application called the Virtual Human Body.

To see the impact that the Parintins digital makeover has  had on education in the past year, Barrett talked with students and teachers at Lila Maia School. Students demonstrated that they are benefiting from technology and Internet access by showing him a research project they completed using computers.

Suanam Sicsu, who teaches history at Irma Cristine Public School where Intel also installed a PC lab last year, said, "Parents have noticed that the students are starting to change the way they think about studying."

Barrett, who also chairs the U. N. Global Alliance for Information and Communications Technology and Development, is in Brazil finishing a global tour focused on digital accessibility that spanned 17 cities in Asia, Africa and South America in the past 100 days.

Barrett is also meeting with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brasilia. They are expected to discuss outcomes from the CEO Forum Barrett participated in two months ago and progress achieved in Parintins through public-private partnership. Intel's chairman will also highlight the need for local governments to view communication technology as a national priority and develop public policies to help accelerate social and economic opportunities.

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, has facilities in Belén west of San José.

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'Sharkwater' calls for more sharks in the water
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Passion is contagious.  Inspired work from someone who is emotionally invested provokes similar commitments from those lucky enough to witness it. 

Rob Stewart's "Sharkwater" documentary inspires this kind of passion.  Stewart is an underwater photographer and biologist which is immediately obvious to the viewer with his stunning imagery and knowledgeable facts about shark life. 

"Sharkwater" is visually astonishing.  It was filmed in high-definition and effectively incorporates historical U.S. government-issued public service announcements that are among the best comic fodder from old-school footage reels. 

Obsessed with sharks since childhood, Stewart realized that the world's shark population is estimated to have declined by 90 percent and commited himself to saving them. 

Illegal shark fishing occurs predominantly because of the demand in Asia.  The animal's fins are the base of sharkfin soup, a delicacy served as a way of displaying wealth and prestige.  It is a lucrative black-market field, second only to drug-trafficking. 

The fins are cut off and the shark is left to bleed to death.

Stewart teamed up with “renegade conservationist” Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to fight sharkfinning and documented their controversial encounters with poachers in Costa Rica and Ecuador in 2002. 

Their boat, the "Ocean Warrior," left from Puntarenas for Isla del Coco and later the crew met "Varadero I," manned by Costa Rican fishermen poaching sharks with long lines in Guatemalan waters.  After a chase, a scuffle, a serious plot twist and a government-demanded return to Costa Rica, Stewart secretly filmed thousands of shark fins drying in plain view on rooftops in Puntarenas. 

The film strikes close to home: In Puntarenas the pervasive, pungent stench of rotting sealife could be the odor from fish markets. Is the smell that of the shark fins sun-drying? 

Sharkfinning touches on many topics, particularly the shrinking size of the world and pervasive corruption.  The film claims that money is funneled into Puntarenas from Taiwan and has built much of their modern infrastructure, including highways.

Local environmentalists blame the government for not enforcing existing laws against the use of private docks where the fins are off-loaded.

Perhaps most shockingly, the film states that there are no
A.M. Costa Rica/Sharkwater footage   
Sharks, feared as man's enemy, are praised in new film

international regulations on shark fishing, despite many shark species being listed as endangered.

The whaling regulations that came about in the 1980s occurred due to public pressure, and Stewart is attempting to dispel the common perceptions of sharks as brainless killers in hopes of riling the masses to end poaching.

Watson emphasized his belief that it is always passionate individuals who change the world, not governments or establishments, citing Nelson Mandela as an example.  Other individuals interviewed in the documentary believe that future generations will consider the current population as barbarians, similarly to how current citizens reflect on slavery.  The worst part, one expert stressed, is not the lasting environmental damage that is being inflicted but that those doing it know they are doing it.

Aside from the documentary's breathtaking beauty, it's cinemetography is creative and effective.  At one instance, a boat chase scene is interspersed with time-lapsed shots of sharks pursuing schools of fish.  Some of the best visual footage occurs between the end of the movie and the credits, where a time-lapsed Stewart appears to be flying underwater. 

The writing and narration is the only weak point.  It is slightly repetitive to listen to and some of the ideas are not fully developed.  Stewart stated, “I needed to find out . . . ” so frequently that it could be the tagline of the film.

Additionally, he kept going on about how “perfect” sharks are that a viewer wished that he elaborated more on his belief.  Stewart definitely is not a voice-actor and the film would have been greatly aided if narrated instead by someone with a more compelling voice, such as Morgan Freeman's vocal assistance with "March of the Penguins" or Robert Redford's many environmental films. 

Ultimately, "Sharkwater" is a visual tribute to Rob Stewart's passion for sharks.  The few weak points are outweighed by his talented camera work and the rebel factor can seduce anyone's adventurous side.

A.M. Costa Rica/Sharkwater footage
Sharks circle in huge groups in the Pacific Ocean

Christmas Entertainment ...

Time to get into the Christmas Spirit

The run-up to Christmas is a time of panicking about
where you're going to find fresh cranberries, deliberating
about whether you can really buy socks for your aunt
for the fourth year running, and struggling through
Multiplaza in Escazú like a packhorse, dodging the toy
train and cursing the dancing Christmas tree.

Amid all the hassle it can be difficult to get yourself into
the Christmas spirit until you finally sit down on
Christmas Eve, down a swift sherry and breathe a sigh
of relief that the only obstacle you have left is the cooking.

Opportunities do, however, abound in San José for a
bit of old-fashioned festivity during Advent, from
getting hooked on an epic cinematic adventure to joining
in some Christmas carol singing with tinsel in your hair.

 Nutcrack scene

The Nutcracker at the Teatro National Dec. 7

Click here for more ideas on Christmas
entertainment - read the full article

Art Galleries ....

Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

It is not new to propose that identity is an insecure,
many-faceted thing that shifts with each person's viewpoint, but the concept is explored very effectively by the interactive "Las posibilidades de la mirada" (the possibilities of the glance).

A fat, Hawaiian shirt-clad, red-faced Gringo, lifting his hand to guard his eyes from the tropical sunlight, greets the museum's visitors at the entrance.

He stands next to a placard that describes the exhibition as a consideration of cultural identity and national territory, encouraging people to think about the way ideas of Costa Rica are formed and to see that interpretations of identity are endless and open.

Read more - click here

Oriental engravings brighten up Semana
in Calderón Guardia

Japanese artOriental engravings that have travelled half way across the world from Japan have ended their journey in Museo Calderón Guardia, where an exhibition of 75 works was inaugurated Thursday.

Subjects from autumn trees to high-rise apartments chart the growing influence of the West and development on post-war Japan.

Read more - click here

Banco Central exhibit brings out the animal
in art

free standing art 200The Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica is running "La Animalística en el Arte Costarricense" in its temporary 
exhibition space below
the Plaza de la Cultura. The collection presents the varying uses and depictions of animals by Costa Rican artists throughout history.

The exhibition signage placed at the entrance said that the presented works depict animals from two perspectives.

Read more - click here

Dramatic Arts ...

Minotaur theme wins contemporary dance festival

bull headed man The search for happiness within ourselves rather than in superficial external objects was the theme of the winning dance at the 24th Festival de Coreografos this weekend.  A bull-headed dancer took the centre of attention of Antonio Corrales' piece “Solo sueña un minotauro,” presented in front of an international board of judges Sunday.

The judges said that the composition stood out from the other nine contemporary dance acts for its "good choreographic approach, good line, good idea, excellent lighting design,  continuity with symbols and finally poetry.”

Corrales was both the choreographer and the dancer of the piece, which is the first entry he has made into the competition as a choreographer.

Four other acts were also chosen to participate in the opening night of next year's festival: “Imágenes imaginadas para imaginar, serie I,” by Rogelio López, “Mil kilómetros” by Nandayure Harley, “MIA ZOI,” by Iréni Stamou and “4 a.m.” by  Silvia Ortiz and David Hernández.

Symphonic Conductor is a big supporter of music education

A mugging at gunpoint could have robbed Costa Rica's Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional of its new conductor just as he was beginning the job, but the conductor, Chosei Komatsu,
did not turn his back on San José, and now the next generation of musicians is feeling the benefit.

Eating ice cream in the same hotel outside which he was mugged in 2004, the sweet-toothed conductor recounts how the media assumed that he would flee the country immediately.

"I told them I would fulfill my job," he said. "Musical education conductor Chosei Kamatsu can help to abate the rising violence in this country. I want to put violins instead of guns into the hands of the children."

Last month Komatsu saw a big step forward, as the government of his home country, Japan, finally agreed to a $500,000 donation to the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and the Instituto Nacional de Musica.

The money, which Komatsu asked for when he was appointed in 2003, has gone towards replacing 25-year-old tubas and other important instruments for the orchestra, as well as getting better facilities for the educational institute.

Komatsu said he knows that it is important to get children interested from a young age, as he first became determined to follow a career in conducting as a 4-year-old watching Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan in action on television.

Read all of our interview with Chosei Komatsu here

Food ...

A great meal is not all in the presentation

With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes. There is no direct theme and the menu seems somewhat scattered.


Fondue, chips and mussels at Saga Restaurant, Escazu

Click here to read the full review
Festivals ...

Quepos to get it's own international music festival

costa bazooka 175The usually sedate sportfishing town of Quepos is awaiting a greater inundation of visitors than usual this high season, as a gang of rock bands will descend on it for aclaim will put Quepos on the international music festival map.

Experienced American promoters and their rock star friends have taken a gamble on the festival, even though they said they were warned that it was doomed to failure by prominent Costa Rican promoter Marvin Cordoba.

Five American bands, a Panamanian group and a Canadian band will be flown in to play alongside a line-up of around 10 Costa Rican bands that is rumored to include both Gandhi and Malpaís, currently the country's most popular home-grown talent.

Read more here

First International Blues Festival

Texas blues bands are heading down to Santa Ana for an afternoon of live music. BBQ's and cold beers will accompany artists including Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Robbie Clarke & the Live Wire Blues Band.

Two stages at Motorpsychos Bar and Grill will host a total of seven bands during the afternoon of Feb. 9. Tickets cost $25 and can be found by contacting

Identidad Art Festival

Fifty artists will have the enviable job of displaying their work on a warm beach in Guanacaste this February, as part of the Identidad Art Festival.

Hosted by Playa Conchal Reserve, the festival aims to revive the cultural values of the area, promoting local art as a tourist attraction.

Painters, sculptors and musicians are all welcome to participate and show of Costa Rican talent to the high season tourists during Feb. 2-4.

Organisers Jaguart are on the lookout for artists to participate in the show. Interested parties should visit the site

How much should your buy-in be? Again, it depends
Whether it’s a Friday night game with your buddies, a weekend trip to Vegas to play in a casino, or a daily cardroom game where you’re trying to make a living, the amount of your buy-in can have a significant long-term impact on your results. 
When playing in a no-limit cash game, the appropriate buy-in amount will actually differ from person to person.  You need to consider several factors.
Are you an experienced player or a beginner?  

Be honest with yourself.  This can be difficult, especially if you let your ego get in the way.  Unless you have at least 1,000 hours of play under your belt in any particular game, lean toward buying in for the minimum amount.  In a typical $5-$10 blind no-limit game, the minimum buy-in would be $200.  That’s just where a beginner should start. 
How do you handle pressure? 

This is an extremely important factor that is too often ignored.  Always remember that the more chips you start with, the more likely that you’ll end up facing large bets on the river. 

So, if money is a concern, or if you don’t trust yourself to make the right decisions under pressure, buy-in for the minimum.  Alternatively, if you thrive under pressure and like to push around your opponents, go with the maximum buy-in.  If there’s no maximum, buy-in for an amount so that no one at the table has more chips than you.
How tough is the table in comparison to your skill level? 

Okay, you’re a solid, winning player.  But if you find yourself at a particularly tough table, protect yourself by buying in for less than you normally would.  The more chips that are in play, the greater the advantage is to the most skilled players at the table.
How big is your bankroll? 

It can be a scary proposition when you’re trying to build a bankroll in no-limit hold’em.  It’s imperative that you limit your maximum loss on any given hand to achieve that goal. 

Let me illustrate that point with a very unlikely scenario.

Suppose I’m dealt a pair of deuces and you’re sitting on pocket aces.  You have $100,000 to your name, and I decide to put you all-in on this one hand.  It appears to be an excellent bet for you as you’ll double your money four out of five times as A-A beats 2-2 approximately 80 percent of the time.
But there’s a problem.  If you take this bet every time that it’s offered, you’re destined to go broke.  When your aces get cracked – and trust me, eventually they will – you’ll be left with nothing. 

Sure, calling the bet is a fast way to double up, but you’d get there with much less risk by making ten smaller bets of $10,000 each.  You’d only risk 10 percent of your bankroll on each wager as a 4-to-1 favorite.  Over the long haul, that’s the way to safely build a bankroll.
Who has the big stack at the table? 

Your buy-in should take into consideration the amount of money in front of every player at the table.  So, if two highly-skilled players at the table have $2,000 each and four novice players each have between $200 and $500, how much should you buy-in for? 

If you’re a solid player, buy in for $500.  Make sure you have the weak players covered while limiting your risk against the real threats at the table.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2007 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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