Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"El Tope" takes San Jose

Laura Collado takes part in the traditional holiday horse parade (known as "El Tope") with her Spanish pure-bred horses in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 26, 2005. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Soccer anyone?

Presidential candidate, Otton Solis, heads a ball as he plays with kids on a Cristo Rey neighborhood street, in San Jose, Costa Rica. As most candidates do this time of year, the Civil Action Party (PAC) candidate visited the zone to unofficially promote his electoral bid. Official political campaign activities and electoral propaganda are forbidden during the hollidays both in the streets and the media, but nothing can stop the candidates from going out and taking part in daily activities with common people.

(Picture courtesy of PAC)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Market Lunch

Presidential candidate, Oscar Arias (third left to right), enjoys lunch at a counter in San Jose's Central Market. Politicians are prohibited from campaigning during the holiday season, but nothing can stop them from mingling with the common folk. Johny Araya (first left to right), mayor of San Jose, and the legislative hopefuls of the National Liberation Party (PLN) also joined Arias during the activity.
(Picture courtesy of insidecostarica.com)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Looking after the homeless

A Salvation Army worker, left, tries to convince a homeless man to let them take him to a shelter in La Merced park in San Jose, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2005. Government officials gave medical attention and food in a campaign to bring Costa Rica's homeless into shelters for attention during the holiday season. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Laid to rest

Rigoberto Alpizar's brother Rolando Alpizar, mother- in-law Stephanie Martin, wife Anne Buchunner, brother Flory Alpizar brother, and father Carlos Alpizar , and brother Carlos Alpizar (R-L) attend the funeral service of Alpizar, who died in American Airlines Flight 924 after federal air marshals shot and killed him, in Cariari de Guapiles 70 miles of San Jose, December 13, 2005. Alpizar, a nationalized American, was shot and killed by air marshals after he bolted frantically from an American Airlines jetliner that was boarding for take off at Miami International Airport on December 7. (REUTERS/JUAN CARLOS ULATE)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chicken Little

Chics waiting to be sold are seen in a market near Heredia, Costa Rica. Costa Rican health officials met this week to discuss what measures to take to assure that bird flu does not affect Costa Rica. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Witnesses in Miami airport shooting differ on whether Alpizar made bomb threat

By John Holland, Brian Haas and Sean Gardiner

Sun-Sentinel Staff Writers

The investigation into Rigoberto Alpizar's final minutes aboard an American Airlines 757 that was to take off for Orlando is focusing, so far, on his wild rage and whether he said he had a bomb.

Federal officials from several agencies said Alpizar, 44, of Maitland, repeatedly made that claim and reached for a backpack, leaving the two air marshals little choice but to open fire on the jetway just outside the plane's doors.

Several of the 113 passengers who arrived in Orlando from Miami, however, said Alpizar may have been delusional and may have run out of the plane only because he feared a bomb was on board.

"I can tell you, he never said a thing in that airplane; he never called out he had a bomb," said passenger Jorge Borelli, an Orlando architect.

The task of sorting out exactly what happened falls mainly to the Miami-Dade Police Department, which is in charge of the homicide investigation. Miami-Dade police Lt. Veronica Ferguson issued a statement saying early indications point to Alpizar running frantically from the airplane "with a backpack strapped to his chest, yelling that he had a bomb."

Detective Juan Del Castillo said people on the plane other than the marshals also heard the bomb threats. Del Castillo said Alpizar's threats and the marshal's orders to him were all in English.

Police would not say whether he made the threats on the airplane, on the jetway or in both locations. The marshals, who were not identified, have been put on paid administrative leave until completion of the investigation.

Costa Rica elected as holding member of the WTO

Costa Rica will form part of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) as a result of being elected today as a holding member, for a period of four years, in the frame of the General Assembly of this organism which is taking place in Dakar, Senegal.

Rodrigo A. Castro Fonseca (pictured), Minister of Tourism, pointed out from Dakar “that this designation is going to help us strengthen our image and international relations; it must also be considered as an acknowledgement to the leading role Costa Rica has played in the region, mainly for its positioning as a destination and having promoted a responsible tourism development.”

In this election Costa Rica counted with the unanimous support of all the representatives of the Committee for the Americas (CAM).

For America were also elected Argentina, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The latter two countries will share the period of two years. The two other American representatives are Canada and Peru which were elected during the mid-term assembly.

The World Tourism Organization is an organ related to the United Nations’ system created in 1975. Its headquarters are in Madrid, Spain.

Witness: Passenger Agitated Before Shooting

Some passengers claim that Alpizar never mentioned the word bomb before being shot


The passenger shot to death by air marshals in Miami had been agitated before boarding the plane and was singing "Go Down Moses" as his wife tried to calm him, a fellow passenger said Thursday.

"The wife was telling him, 'Calm down. Let other people get on the plane. It will be all right,'" said Alan Tirpak.

"I thought maybe he's afraid of flying," Tirpak said.

Tirpak took his seat, and Rigoberto Alpizar, 44, and his wife eventually boarded the plane. Then, a few minutes before the plane was to pull away, Alpizar bolted up the aisle and onto the jetway, where two air marshals confronted him.

"He was belligerent. He threatened that he had a bomb in his backpack," said Brian Doyle, spokesman for the U.S. Homeland Security Department. "The officers clearly identified themselves and yelled at him to 'get down, get down.' Instead, he made a move toward the backpack."

Two passengers, however, said they did not hear Alpizar mention a bomb.

Passenger John Mcalhany told The Associated Press on Thursday that Alpizar bumped into him as he ran off the aircraft, and he did not hear him say anything about a bomb.

"The first time I heard the word bomb was when I was interviewed by the FBI," McAlhany said. "They kept asking if I heard him say the B-word. And I said, 'What is the B-word?' And they were like, 'Bomb.' I said no. They said, 'Are you sure?' And I am."

"This was wrong," McAlhany added. "This man should be with his family for Christmas. Now he's dead."

Mary Gardner, another passenger, also said Thursday she not hear Alpizar mention a bomb.

A telephone message left with the Department of Homeland Security seeking comment late Thursday was not immediately returned. A person answering the phone at the Federal Air Marshals service said no one was available for after-hours comments and referred calls to Homeland Security.

Girl shmoozing

Miss Costa Rica Leonora Jimenez Mone gestures as she speaks to other contestants after a tree planting ceremony ahead of the Miss World Final to be held in the Chinese Island resort in Sanya, China, Friday, Dec. 9, 2005. China's tropical beach resort of Sanya is gearing up to hold its third consecutive Miss World finals, with 105 contestants from around the globe. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Costa Rica seeks answers over shooting

San Jose, COSTA Rica (AFP) - Costa Rica will seek an explanation from US authorities over the killing of a Costa Rica-born man by US air marshals on a plane in Miami, President Abel Pacheco (pictured) said today.

Rigoberto Alpizar, 44, was shot dead during an incident on a plane at Miami International Airport yesterday, apparently after shouting out that he was carrying a bomb.

Mr Alpizar, 44, was born in Costa Rica but moved to the United States 20 years ago.

"We are going to request an explanation, but we know they are going to respond that the United States is a country threatened by terrorism and that the man said that he was carrying a bomb," Mr Pacheco told the Monumental radio station.

"It was a painful event, but you have to understand the level of paranoia under which the Americans live regarding terrorism," the president said.

Brother of man shot dead in Miami demands answers

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - The brother of a man shot to death by air marshals at Miami airport expressed anger at the killing on Thursday and said his family in Costa Rica would demand an explanation from the U.S. government.

Rolando Alpizar (pictured), 46, said the federal marshals should not have shot his brother, 44-year-old Rigoberto Alpizar, whom he described as a peaceful man who never had problems with authority.

"I'm outraged at a situation that should have been handled in different manner," Alpizar told Reuters at his home in a working-class suburb of the Costa Rican capital, San Jose.

Officials say Rigoberto Alpizar indicated he was carrying a bomb in his bag as he boarded the plane for a flight to Orlando on Wednesday. Law enforcement officials later said there was no sign of a bomb.

The Miami-Dade police department issued a statement on Thursday saying Rigoberto Alpizar's wife had told them her husband had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental condition also known as manic depression.

Rolando Alpizar said he had no knowledge of his brother suffering any mental illnesses. He also said his brother was very different than the way he was described by the media.

"He was friendly, caring, happy, and always very responsible," Alpizar said. "He worked hard and was honest. He never had any kind of problem with the authorities, not even a traffic ticket."

Alpizar said he would ask Costa Rican authorities to request an official explanation from the U.S. government.

Rigoberto Alpizar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, lived in the United States for nearly 20 years.

Poison Dart Frog

Poison dart frogs are traditionally characterized by their brightly colored skin and small size. The skin color can range from bright orange and black to true blue, to yellow, blue, and black spots.

Poison dart frogs are only found in three geographical regions: Central America, South America, and on a few of the Hawaiian islands.

There are well over 100 different species of poison dart frog found in the wild, only a handful of which are actually toxic to animals and humans. It is believed the few species that are toxic become so through their diet, which consists in part of carpenter ants.

These ants are believed to eat an unknown wild plant which has toxic properties, which are passed from the plant to the ant to the poison dart frog, then digested and secreted on the outside of the amphibian's skin.

All species of poison dart frog raised in captivity have little to no toxicity, because their diet is not the same as in the wild. Frogs brought from the wild into captivity and fed a regular captive diet, usually fruit flies or pin-head crickets, eventually lose their toxicity.

Poison dart frogs range in size from 1/2" to 2 1/2" long when fully grown. Size depends not only on age of the frog, but also the species.

Poison dart frogs typically have a lifespan of 5 to 12+ years. Most species reach maturity around 1.5 to 2.5 years of age.

(Text: Wikipedia.org)

Neighbors, family stunned by Alpizar's violent death

Henry Pierson Curtis and Willoughby Mariano
Sun-Sentinel Staff Writers

Maitland man is remembered as a loving husband who 'was always nice.'

MAITLAND - They called him Rigo, speaking in whispers and shock outside a Maitland home illuminated Wednesday night by television lights and sudden national attention.

To neighbors, he was a jogger, an immigrant, a bicyclist, a loving husband. He was the paint guy at The Home Depot, the man who always waved hello.

And to the frightened woman talking through a mail slot in a red door, Rigo was her "darling son-in-law." She slid out his photograph, showing a smiling Rigoberto Alpizar against a star-filled background.

In the hours after Alpizar's name flashed across televisions and computer screens, friends, neighbors, and family members struggled to understand how someone so nice could be the same man who authorities said claimed to have a bomb at Miami International Airport.

"I can tell you he was very proud to be living in America," said brother-in-law Bradley Jentsch in Sheboygan, Wis. "He was a very loving husband," said Jentsch. "He loved to read and he taught himself English by reading."

Alpizar moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago after growing up on a farm near Golfito on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, according to his in-laws.

"He was very, very proud to become an American citizen and to vote," said Jentsch.

He and Anne Buechner, his wife of more than 18 years, regularly jogged and rode bicycles together through their Maitland neighborhood.

"He always said, 'Hi, how is your day?" said Alex McLeod, 16. "He was always nice."

Reports from the Miami airport shortly after the killing that described Alpizar as mentally ill left longtime neighbor Louis Gunther doubting media accounts. The friend he knew never showed any signs of a mental illness or aggression toward anyone.

An Orlando-area resident for more than 10 years, Alpizar worked at Home Depot on Colonial Drive near Semoran Boulevard, neighbors said. Home Depot spokesman Don Harrison said he could not confirm if Alpizar worked for the company.

Alpizar and his wife bought their four-bedroom house in 1998 on Gillis Court, where houses now sell for $250,000 and up. They had no children.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Alpizar and his wife left on a trip sponsored by their church to work with children in South America, said Gunther, who was taking care of their house while they were gone.

The couple first met in Costa Rica when Buechner, a social worker, was working in Central America. They regularly returned in recent years to his childhood home after the death of his mother to spend time with his aging father, relatives said.

The widow's siblings, including brother Steven Buechner of Milwaukee, had not been able to speak to her by Wednesday evening.

"Rigo was a loving, caring and gentle husband, uncle, brother, son and friend. He was born in Costa Rica and became a proud American citizen several years ago. He will be missed by all who knew him," Alpizar's sister-in-law, Jeanne Jentsch said.

The Roseate Spoonbill

Binomial name: Platalea ajaja

This wading bird is mainly a resident breeder in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Gulf coast of the USA.

Roseate Spoonbill nests in mangrove trees, laying 2-5 eggs. It does not usually share colonies with storks or herons.

This species is unmistakable. It is 80cm tall, with a 120cm wingspan. It is long-legged, long-necked and has a long, spatulate bill. Adults have a bare greenish head, white neck, breast and back, and are otherwise a deep pink. The bill is grey.

Sexes are similar, but immature birds have white feathered heads and the pink of the plumage is paler. The bill is yellowish or pinkish. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched.

This species feeds in shallow fresh or coastal waters on fish, frogs and other water creatures, swinging its bill from side to side as it steadily walks through the water, often in groups.

(Text: wikipedia.org / Photo: NASA)

Air Marshal Kills Man Who Made Bomb Claim

Mentally-ill passenger was a Costa Rica native


An agitated passenger who claimed to have a bomb in his backpack was shot and killed by a federal air marshal Wednesday after he bolted frantically from a jetliner that was boarding for takeoff, officials said. No bomb was found.

It was the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks that an air marshal had shot at anyone, Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said. Another federal official said there was no apparent link to terrorism.

According to a witness, the passenger ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757, flailing his arms, while his wife tried to explain that he was mentally ill and had not taken his medication.

The passenger, identified as Rigoberto Alpizar (pictured), "uttered threatening words that included a sentence to the effect that he had a bomb," said James E. Bauer, agent in charge of the Federal Air Marshals field office in Miami. He was confronted by air marshals but ran off the aircraft. Doyle said the marshals went after him and ordered him to get down on the ground, but he did not comply and was shot when he apparently reached into the bag.

Alpizar, a 44-year-old U.S. citizen, was gunned down on a jetway outside the American Airlines plane, which was parked at a gate at Miami International Airport. Alpizar had arrived earlier in the day from Quito, Ecuador, and Flight 924 was going to Orlando, near his home in Maitland.

Relatives said Alpizar and his wife had been on a working vacation in Peru. A neighbor who said he had been asked to watch the couple's home described the vacation as a missionary trip.

The shooting occurred shortly after 2 p.m. as Flight 924 was about to take off for Orlando with the man and 119 other passengers and crew, American spokesman Tim Wagner said.

After the shooting, investigators spread passengers' bags on the tarmac and let dogs sniff them for explosives but no bomb was found. Still, bomb squad members blew up at least two bags.

The concourse where the shooting took place was shut down for a half-hour, but the rest of the airport continued operating, officials said.

Passengers, family in shock

Mary Gardner, a passenger aboard the Orlando-bound flight, told WTVJ-TV in Miami that the man ran down the aisle from the rear of the plane. "He was frantic, his arms flailing in the air," she said. She said a woman followed, shouting, "My husband! My husband!"

Mike Irizarry, a passenger shown on CNN, added that Alpizar "just kept saying, `I got to get off, I got to get off' and then he ran off the plane."

Gardner said she heard the woman say her husband was bipolar — a mental illness also known as manic-depression — and had not had his medication. Bauer said he could not say whether Alpizar was ill.

Gardner said four to five shots were fired. She could not see the shooting.

Afterward, police boarded the plane and told the passengers to put their hands on their heads, Gardner said.

"It was quite scary," she told the TV station via a cell phone. "They wouldn't let you move. They wouldn't let you get anything out of your bag."

Lucy Argote, 15, said police kept passengers on the plane for about an hour, then eventually told them to leave with their hands behind their backs — and without taking any of their possessions.

Argote, from Codazi, Colombia, said Alpizar got up from his seat and ran toward the plane's door, with his wife yelling in Spanish. "Officers told him to stop and he said no. ... He was running like a crazy man," she said.

Passenger Mike Deshears, who works for the Marriott vacation club in Orlando area, said that as the couple ran, "a gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt immediately followed. ... It was a matter of seconds before there was six pops."

Alpizar's brother-in-law, Steven Buechner, said he was a native of Costa Rica, and met Buechner's sister, Anne, when she was an exchange student there. Relatives said the couple had been married about two decades.

"We're all still in shock. We're just speechless," a sister-in-law, Kelley Buechner, said by telephone from her home in Milwaukee.

Neighbors described Alpizar as a pleasant man who worked in the paint department of a home-supply store and spent his spare time tending to the lawn of his ranch-style house.

Air marshals fly undercover, and which planes they're on is a closely guarded secret. Until Wednesday, no marshal had fired a weapon, though they had been involved in scores of incidents.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cornell University Ensemble to visit Costa Rica

CU Students to donate instruments to young musicians

By Daniel Aloi

Children at a small rural music school in Costa Rica will receive like-new instruments and one-on-one lessons when the Cornell University Wind Ensemble (CU Winds) tours there in January.

Cornell student musicians have been collecting used instruments for the school and preparing music especially for the tour, including an arrangement of the Costa Rican national anthem.

Forty-four of the ensemble's undergraduate wind and percussion players will be traveling to Costa Rica, Jan. 12-20.

The nine-day concert and outreach tour is a collaboration between Cornell's music department and Costa Rica's North American Cultural Center, along with other organizations and individuals, and is supported in part by the Cornell Council for the Arts.

The ensemble is bringing more than 80 donated instruments -- including brass, woodwinds, percussion, violins and a cello -- to the Escuela de Musica in the small Pacific Coast town of Matapalo. The school's pupils, ranging in age from 7 to 20, have been sharing instruments, limiting the possibilities for true ensemble performance. After three days in Matapalo -- filled with music lessons, a combined concert, a beach outing and a community picnic -- the Cornell ensemble travels to San Jose, the country's capital, for a series of concerts. The Matapalo students also will follow the ensemble to San Jose.

Cynthia Johnston Turner, director of the wind ensembles, says the ultimate goal is to have the program endowed for future humanitarian and cultural exchange opportunities for Cornell in Costa Rica. She noted that she doesn't see this tour as outreach but rather "relationship-building."

(Text and picture property of Chronicle Online)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Death penalty in the world

Double-murderer Kenneth Lee Boyd became the 1,000th prisoner executed in the United States since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1977. Boyd was put to death by lethal injection on Friday Dec. 2, 2005. Costa Rica, which abolished the dead penalty in 1877, is one of 91 countries in the world that has outlawed capital punishment for all crimes. (Graphic/Reuters)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One head too many

A two-headed Olive Ridley turtle hatchling is seen in this photo made available by the World Wildlife Foundation that was taken near Ostional, Costa Rica, on the northern Pacific coast , Nov. 20, 2005. Ostional is one of the three main beaches in the world where Olive Ridley turtle arrive in mass to lay their eggs. The turtle was set loose into the ocean on Nov. 25. (AP Photo/WWF/Carlos Drews)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tiquicia's tradition

Unidentified girls eat ice cream during the 9th parade of the traditional oxcart in San Jose, Costa Rica on Nov. 27, 2005. The oxcarts, a symbol of folk culture in Costa Rica, were recently recognized as intangible heritage treasures by UNESCO. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Costa Rican ox carts added to list of cultural treasures

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican ox cart traditions were among the seven intangible treasures from Latin America selected Friday by the U.N. cultural body (UNESCO).

Costa Rica, officials welcomed the inclusion of the country's ox cart traditions.

Decorated with brightly colored swirls and figures, the carts have long been a symbol of Costa Rica, even though their use has declined.

''Fifty years ago, the carts were used for everything, but not now,'' said 72-year-old Fido Rodriguez, who organizes a cart parade each Feb. 2 in Costa Rica.

Carlos Chaverri (pictured) still produces the carts in Sarchi, 25 miles northeast of San Jose, the capital. He says there is still demand for the simple, wooden vehicles, which have become popular with arts and crafts collectors in the United States, Europe and even Japan.

''People like the sound of the wheels,'' he said. "They say it's like music.''
The carts were originally used to transport coffee during colonial times.

''In many areas, they still use them because there are many regions that aren't designed for machines,'' Rodriguez said. "It's cheap, they don't have to build roads, and it doesn't erode the soil.'' (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Friday, November 25, 2005

CAFTA Supporters Demonstrate in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Thousands of supporters of a free trade pact for Central America marched through Costa Rica's capital on Thursday, an unusual event in a region better known for protests against the pact.

Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Yes to Jobs," and waving Costa Rican flags, the group of about 5,000 mainly workers and business owners urged Congress to approve the pact known as CAFTA.

Costa Rica has yet to join the trade bloc with the United States. Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have already joined.

"The free trade pact will create a lot of employment opportunities, more foreign investment and more choice for consumers," said Anabel Gonzalez, who served as a negotiator in CAFTA talks and joined the demonstration Thursday.

The march came just one week after thousands of union members and farmers demonstrated against CAFTA, saying it would hurt local businesses and farms by allowing unrestrained, unequal competition.

Costa Rica's president sent the pact to Congress in October. The free trade deal is expected to go into effect in early 2006, but Costa Rica will have two more years to join. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Last week those against CAFTA were able to take to the streets and let their voices be heard. This week was the turn of those in favor. Not surprisingly, both weeks the protests took place in a respectful and peaceful way, without skirmishes and arrests related directly to the political battle being waged.

Mr. Miyagi dead at 73

Pat Morita seen here as Mr. Miyagi.By TIM MOLLOY, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.

Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on "Happy Days," had "dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy."

In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.

He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in "The Killing Fields."

"The Karate Kid," led to three sequels, the last of which, 1994's "The Next Karate Kid," paired him with a young Hilary Swank.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters from a previous marriage.

Ok, ok, you may be wondering what this article has to do with Costa Rica, and the answer is not much. But this was one of my favorite movies growing up, and in Costa Rica, as in many other countries, this flick was a success at the box office. This is for all the "80's kids" out there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Over 200, 000 new voters for 2006 elections

According to figures disclosed by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), during the 2006 presidential elections almost 220, 000 Costa Ricans will be entitled to cast their ballots for the first time. The new voters represent 9.4% of the overall number of registered voters. The electoral register includes 2,550,613 citizens of which about 50 percent are women.
(Picture courtesy of the TSE)

For more info on Costa Rican presidential elections go to the TSE site. Unfortunately, available only in Spanish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Commuter train free on Tuesdays and Thursdays

(INSIDECOSTARICA.COM) - To boost ridership three private companies (television station Repretel, the Banco Nacional and Demasa) have made an agreement with the Costa Rican Railroads Institute (Incofer) to provide free urban train service on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Incofer says that the three companies will absorb the operational costs on those days, but did not offer more details on the agreement.

On November 11, the urban train started charging a fare of ¢300 colones to passengers for a trip from Pavas to the West and San Pedro to the East, this after almost a month of free service, as the Incofer was waiting on the fare approval by the Public Services Regulating Authority (Aresep).

During the period that the train was free of charge, 16.900 people took advantage of the service between September 10 and October 30. When Incofer began charging, use of the train dropped dramatically in the first few days, but has slowly begun to grow.

Incofer has also been working on improving the train stops, including building new ones like the stop at La Sabana. Infocer president, Miguel Carabaguiaz, recognized that they have fallen behind on the train stops in between the station points, but shortly that will be history.
(Photo: Allen Campos/AlDia)

Friday, November 18, 2005

CAFTA protest

Thousands of Costa Ricans march towards the Legislative Assembly (Congress) to protest against the proposed free trade pact between Costa Rica and the United States in San Jose November 17,2005. Opposition from labor groups, environmentalists, prominent academics and political figures brought together thousands to protest against Costa Rica's participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the U.S. With the exception of Costa Rica, all the Central American countries which have signed the trade pact with the United States have ratified the agreement. (REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Personally, I support the CAFTA and think all this is embarassing . The agreement should have been approved a long time ago. Although I wish and hope that by early next year Congress ratifies it, that is unlikely. With presidential elections looming in Feb. 2006, we'll probably have to wait for the new government to take office in May 2006 to decide CAFTA's future.

The City of Witches

The name Escazu derives from the indigenous word "Izt-kat-zu", which means "resting stone". The first inhabitants were natives from the Huetar or Huaca tribes.

Escazu is called "The City of the Witches", which explains its soccer club name and logo (which you can see on the left).

According to legend, all the witches of Escazu are "good witches". Several historians have looked at the tradition and suggested the reputation comes from the use of herbs and blends, prepared by the indian "witches" to cure all kind of ailments. They also dispensed mysterious love potions and magic objects to repeal the evil.

With thearrival of peasants from Galicia, Spain, the marriage of the old traditions and the indian legends gave birth to the late 19th century stories and characters that can be found in today´s literature.

Escazu is less than 5 miles west from downtown San Jose. It takes only about 25 minutes to drive to the Juan Santamaria International Airport.

The climate is beautiful and mild all year round, and the tropical rainy season (locally called "winter") lasts from April to November.

There are some neighborhoods where the residents are predominantly foreigners , because this beautiful areahas attracted people from North America, Europe and Asia. (Info provided by the The Rotary Club of Escazu)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Picture of the Day

A coffee taster takes part in the cupping competition at the XIX Sintercafe International Coffee Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 14, 2005. Coffee industry experts from around the world participate in the showcase event of the world's fine coffees. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Copperleaf provides great foliage contrast

Home Gardening

By Ed Bernhardt / The Tico Times

Here's a dazzler of an ornamental that adds lively warm colors to the home garden. The copperleaf plant (Acalypha wilkesiana) is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and is a relative of the poinsettia. It is native to the South Sea Islands, but is now found around the world in tropical regions. In Costa Rica, the plant is commonly found in just about any barrio, and many nurseries offer several varieties.

With its large, colorful leaves in shades of copper-red, purple, green and yellow, copperleaf is easy to recognize. This hardy, bushy shrub needs little in terms of fertilization or pest control, and grows vigorously in a wide range of soils, including red clay. During the rainy season copperleaf is immune to leaf diseases, and in the dry season it requires little or no irrigation, which places this plant high on the list of ecofriendly ornamentals.

Copperleaf is especially useful in landscaping for contrasting green foliage plants. Its bright colors highlight any garden arrangement. Ticos often use this plant as a privacy border hedge. However, overuse of this plant in a landscaping design tends to create a “hot” feeling, rather than the refreshing, cool, green sensation that is preferable in a garden environment.

Copperleaf is another plant that has evolved favoring vegetative, instead of seed, reproduction. You can use woody stem cuttings from mature plants to propagate new ones. Wood stems 20-30 centimeters long can be planted directly in the soil or in plastic nursery bags with regular soil.

If you plant directly, it's best to try it in the early part of the rainy season, so the cuttings will have plenty of time to form a good root stock before the dry season arrives – or be prepared to irrigate your plants.

When planting in the nursery, keep the newly planted cuttings in partial shade and water frequently. As they begin to sprout new leaves, move them into the sun. Be sure to transplant them early to prevent the roots from becoming overgrown in the containers.

Annual additions of compost to the soil around the plants and foliar spraying with natural fertilizers, such as seaweed extract and compost tea, will keep your plants vigorous and healthy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

San Jose designated Hispanic American capital of culture in 2006

On October 27th our capital was acknowledged as the Hispanic American Capital of Culture for 2006.

San Jose will be the meeting point of music, art, culture and fraternity among the Hispanic American Countries. The capital will offer a series of activities –such as the International Arts’ Festival- and other cultural gatherings will begin in January and end on December of the coming year.

These cultural activities want to promote the integration of Hispanic American peoples, and to make known the cultural and intellectual richness of this city.

To Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose, “our capital cities, possess a series of characteristics that grant them their own identity, not defined in their streets, monuments or public spaces, but rather by the people’s identities.”

The declaratory received by San Jose as Hispanic American Capital of Culture 2006 opens a gateway to attract tourists interested in knowing about the culture of Costa Rica and of the Hispanic American countries. (Photo and text by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Picture of the Day

A school child holds the flags of Costa Rica and Mexico as he attends a welcoming ceremony for Mexico's President Vicente Fox at Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, November 2, 2005. Fox is on an official visit to meet Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco to discuss commercial relations between the two countries, and will travel together to attend the summit of leaders of the western hemisphere from November 4 to 5 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Welcoming international dignitaries with groups of students waving colorful flags, instead of army troops presenting their weapons, is a tradition in Costa Rica. The country abolished its army in 1948.

Uri R.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Students' trip to Costa Rica builds character, homes

The Lantern (The student voice of Ohio State University)
By Veronica Walker

For 11 days of their summer 2005 vacation, a group of nine Ohio State students and three faculty advisers embarked on a service learning trip to San Ramon, Costa Rica, to help construct homes for families in need.

The group worked alongside members of the three families receiving help with newly constructed homes and Habitat International. They helped complete the foundations of three houses, dug huge holes for septic tanks, painted walls and helped with roofs and floors.

Before heading for San Ramon, the group took Family Resource Management 694 last spring quarter to teach them about the history, politics, economics, substandard housing and demographics of Costa Rica and other countries around the world.

Jason Wimmert, a senior in transportation logistics and marketing, formed the class along with Andrew Hong, director of international programs for the College of Human Ecology. Students received credit for taking the class. "As a group, we became much closer by taking the class," Wimmert said.

Wimmert is coordinator of the Global Village program, and was the Costa Rica trip leader. Through the Global Village program, this was the first international trip for the OSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity. He said they donated $4,200 to the affiliate in Costa Rica. "Most houses in Costa Rica cost about $4,500," he said.

Wimmert said he is working with the Office of International Education to incorporate the class and trips into OSU's curriculum. He said Global Village is planning three international trips for this year - to Argentina, Romania and Honduras - which he will be leading.

"When you look domestically at housing needs, conditions here in (the) U.S. don't even compare to those in other countries," he said.

He said people came back from the trip with a new interest and grander picture of life. "People know that they've been blessed and a lot of people were humbled by the experience," Wimmert said.

Katie Siros, a sophomore in exercise science, said she thought Costa Rica was beautiful and the people were extremely friendly. "I spoke some conversational Spanish. It comes to you so fast. It's exciting," she said. "It's such an amazing trip and it broadens your horizons."

Siros said it was impressive to see how hardworking the families were. She said some people who are not familiar with Habitat have the false belief that the organization gives houses away to people. "

The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to eliminate impoverished housing throughout the world," she said. Families in need go through a selection application process with Habitat for Humanity, and put in a certain amount of hours of help, known as "sweat equity." Siros said the families also pay money, which goes toward paying for materials for the house. " Habitat's motto is 'We give a hand up, not a hand out'," she said. Siros will be leading the trip to Argentina next summer.

Erin Hutfilz, a sophomore in dance, said she had been getting information about volunteer opportunities from Habitat for Humanity. She said she always wanted to be able to travel and work."It was really rewarding to get to work with the families. One of the mom's gave a speech and we all ended up in tears because she was so grateful," Hutfilz said. Hutfilz will be leading the international trip to Romania at the end of August 2006. "I'm very excited but nervous at the same time because it will be a lot of work," she said.She said she feels she will become totally prepared for the trip as time grows nearer. Britany

Hoeffer, a junior in social work and Spanish, said she has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity since she was in high school. She is the volunteer coordinator for the OSU chapter."Habitat (for Humanity) is one of my favorite organizations and Spanish is my area of study, so I thought the trip to Costa Rica would be an awesome opportunity," Hoeffer said. She said her Spanish speaking skills helped her and the group get from place to place while they were in San Ramon.

"I have been studying Spanish for about eight years now. My Spanish skills allowed me to talk with the Habitat (for Humanity) families and I developed great friendships with some of the women. (Basically), everything needed a translation!"Hoeffer said she had the opportunity to speak with two students from the University of Costa Rica and translate a meeting between OSU professors and the head of the Department of Education at the university.

She said that during rest and relaxation times, the group saw an active volcano, hot springs and ate at authentic Latin American restaurants. Hoeffer said they went bungee jumping off a 300 foot high bridge, zip-lining through the rainforest, surfing and swimming in the Pacific Ocean by Punta Arenas and dancing to salsa, meringue and reggaeton music. "

I loved the people and their culture. These people are living in a third world country and are still extremely content with the little they have. They value and take pride in their family, hard work, dancing and music, authentic food and their beautiful environment more than anything else. This, to me, is amazing. The people reminded me of what is important in life, and I believe that is what I was supposed to take out of the trip," she said.

(Text: Veronica Walker / Photos: Habitat for Humanity) Pictures used for illustrative purposes only, individuals shown are not those involved in this article.
I have always praised and appreciated all these exchange programs that come to help Costa Rican people while forming the character of the students involved.

Thank you!

Uri R.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Scarlet macaw

The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a large, colourful parrot.
It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics, from extreme eastern Mexico locally to Amazonian Peru and Brazil, in lowlands up to 500 meters (at least formerly up to 1000m).

It is about 81 to 96 cm (32 to 36 inches) long, of which more than half is the pointed, graduated tail typical of macaws.

Average weight is about a kilogram (2 to 2.5 pounds). The plumage is mostly scarlet, but the rump and tail-covert feathers are light blue, the greater upperwing coverts are yellow, the upper sides of the flight feathers of the wings are dark blue as are the ends of the tail feathers, and the undersides of the wing and tail flight feathers are dark red with metallic gold iridescence.

There is bare white skin around the eye and from there to the bill. The upper mandible is mostly pale horn in color and the lower is black. Sexes are alike; the only difference between ages is that young birds have dark eyes, and adults have light yellow eyes.

Scarlet Macaws make loud, low-pitched, throaty squawks and screams.
Wild Scarlet Macaws eat mostly fruits and seeds, including large, hard seeds. A typical sighting is of a single bird or a pair flying above the forest canopy, though in some areas flocks can be seen.

Like most parrots, the Scarlet Macaw lays 2 to 4 white eggs in a tree cavity. The young hatch after 24 to 25 days. They fledge about 105 days later and leave their parents as late as a year.
(Text: Wkipedia.org / Photo: Juan Amighetti)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Costa Rican president unfazed by death threats

"There have been threats, some strong, others weaker. I came with a commitment to Costa Ricans to do a job and I will do my duty. If it costs me my life, so be it."

Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco on the death threats that he has received for sending the CAFTA to Congress.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

EU banana tariff declared illegal

A Costa Rican worker harvests bananas on a plantation near La Guacima, Costa Rica, some 120 miles east of San Jose, in this Oct. 1, 2005 file photo. The World Trade Organization ruled today that a new European Union tariff on imported bananas is illegal, siding with eight Latin American banana producing countries who said Brussels' proposal would seriously limit their ability to export the fruit. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert, file)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Costa Rican movie in contention for Oscar

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Movies from a record 58 countries are in contention for this year's foreign-language Academy Award, including the first entries ever from Iraq, Costa Rica and Fiji.

The previous record was 56 films for the 2003 Oscars. Each country is allowed to submit one film.

From Costa Rica comes director Esteban Ramirez's "Caribe," about oil development that threatens a tropical paradise.

Caribe played for over 12 weesk in Costa Rican box offices, where it far surpassed any other Costa Rican-made movie in sales and critical praise. It was also lavished with international awards, including four in Spain's 2004 Huelga film festival, where it was given the people's choice award for the best movie, and has shown well in film festivals throughout Latin America.


Information from the AP and the Tico Times was used for this blog entry

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Picture of the Day

A Costa Rican Borucua Indian plays a musical instrument during the second day of an indigenous rite known as "the little devil's game" in the village Rey de Curre, 200 miles south of the capital San Jose, February 7, 2004. Residents of this small indigenous community perform each year "the little devil's game" dressed with banana leaves, sacks and traditional masks they've made since colonial times when they were known as one of the groups in south Costa Rica that most resisted the Spanish Conquistadors. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Monday, October 24, 2005

Things to remember while driving in Costa Rica

You must be 18 years of age to drive in Costa Rica. A driver's license from your home country is valid for three months.

Traffic proceeds on the right-hand side of the road. Speed traps are common on the Pan-American highway, and speed limits are enforced rigorously in many areas of the country.

Unless otherwise indicated, minimum speed on highways is 40 kilometers per hour (k.p.h.). The speed limit varies and is posted by the road. On highways and secondary roads the speed limit is 60 k.p.h., unless otherwise indicated.

In urban areas, the speed limit is 40 k.p.h., unless otherwise indicated. Around school zones and in front of hospitals and clinics the speed limit is 25 k.p.h.

Driving on beaches is strictly prohibited everywhere, except when there is no other path connecting two towns.

Motorists with expired licenses and vehicles that have not undergone the mandatory vehicle inspection, (revisión tecnica) will get a ticket.

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is strictly prohibited. The law enables police officers to perform alcohol test on drivers. Officials issued a reminder that more than two beers can put someone over the legal limit of 0.49 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. If a motorist registers between 0.50 and 0.99 grams per liter of blood, he or she is considered to be pre-ebriedad, the Costa Rican equivalent of driving while abilities are impaired.

Drivers who register 1.0 grams of alcohol per liter of blood are considered drunk and run the risk of having their vehicle confiscated and losing their license for six months, officials said.

Talking on a hand-held cellular telephone while driving will earn you a ticket. Motorists have been encouraged to use a hands-free type of cellular telephone device.

The law requires all car passengers to wear a seat belt.

Pull over if a police officer signals you to do so. Police officers may ask you to stop if there is an accident ahead, a checkpoint or if you are violating the law by not carrying a license plate or exceeding the speed limit, for example.

Your personal documents and the vehicle's registration papers are private property and may not be retained by police officers for any reason.

If you are involved in an accident, always wait until a police officer arrives. Do not move your vehicle. The officer will prepare a report. You may also report the accident by calling 911 or 800-0123456.

Under no circumstances give money to traffic police or other police officers. If you believe a traffic police officer or any other police officer acted inappropriately or you have questions regarding their behavior, call 257-7798, ext. 2506, and ask to be referred to the nearest police station.

If a police officer insists on stopping you or retaining your documents for no apparent reason, ask him to escort you to the nearest police station to clear the problem.

Drive defensively and stay alert. Do not stop for people making signals and never stop for hitchhikers.

Do not drive through or park your car in poorly lit areas. Never leave your car on the street; always park it in a safe parking lot. Do not leave any belongings in the car where they might be spotted by passersby.

Keep your car doors locked at all times. If you are driving in downtown San Jose, keep the windows shut.

Check your car and make sure you are carrying the proper documents before you begin to drive. If you are given a ticket, please pay it at the nearest stateowned bank and present a copy of the receipt to the car rental agency when you return the car.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Picture of the Day

Baby turtles are seen crawling into the sea after being freed by residents of Ostional Beach in Santa Cruz, 350 miles north of the capital San Jose, Costa Rica in this October 23, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate/File

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Homegrown cas for a delicious fruit drink

by Ed Bernhardt - Tico Times Newspaper

This time of year, many sodas (mom-and-pop cafés) and homes around Costa Rica serve a natural fruit drink called fresco de cas.

The cas fruit is blended with a sweetener to make a creamy, delightful, sweet-acid drink that has a hint of guava flavor. That's because cas belongs to the guava family.

Known as Costa Rican guava in English, Psidium friedrichsthalianum has many different names in Latin America, including guayaba ácida (Guatemala), guayaba agria (Colombia), guayaba de danto (Honduras), guayaba de agua (Panama), guayaba del Choco (Ecuador), guayaba montes (Mexico), guayaba (Nicaragua) and arrayán (El Salvador).

To read the whole article click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

United Airlines launches service to Liberia

CHICAGO, Ill. (PRNewswire-FirstCall) - United is launching a new service from Dec. 17 through April 29 from Chicago to Liberia, Guanacaste in Costa Rica, just in time for the winter holidays.

"The new service is exactly what our customers in the United States are seeking, particularly during the winter vacation season," said Greg Taylor, United's senior vice president-Planning. "The Pacific side of Costa Rica and its growing resort community is an extremely popular vacation destination."

The new flights are timed for convenient connections in Chicago. The service will be operated with an Airbus 320 aircraft, configured with 12 United First and 126 Economy seats.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New Guanacaste luxury hotel to open in 2007

The construction of a new luxury hotel in the province of Guanacaste will begin in 2006. The project will be launched in June the coming year and end by September of 2007.

The complex will feature 180 exclusive rooms, Spanish colonial style buildings and an 18-holes golf course, of use for international tournaments in an area of 1,800 hectares.

It will also have 4 restaurants, bar, swimming pools, convention centers and service areas, among others.

Grupo Real, in charge of the development, announced that the new hotel will be part of the Hacienda Pinilla Complex. The initiative will unite hotels already established in the capital, San Jose, as the Real Intercontinental and Quality.

The firm counts with 14 hotels in North and Central America.

The company chose the province of Guanacaste for being one of the tourist zones of greater success in the country.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Public school calendar for 2006 released

October 11, 2005

By Uri Ridelman

Classes for Costa Rican public schools will start on February 7 and end on december 20, according to the official calendar for the 2006 school year released yesterday by The Board of Public Education.

There will be no classes from July 3 to July 14 due to the mid-term vacations, nor from the 10 to the 14 of April due to Easter.

The national exams, administered to students of 6th, 9th and 11th grade, were scheduled as follows:

October 3-11: 9th grade.
November 1-9: 11th grade.
November 28 - December 1: Sixth grade

The date for the test of ortography and writing was set for August 8th, while graduation will be December 21.

Manuel A. Bolaños, head of The Board of Public Education, announced that for the first time ever the calendar will be printed in "La Gaceta", the goverment's official newspaper.

The 2006 school calendar, released four months ahead of schedule, will have a total of 205 days (43 weeks)of classes.

Bolaños said that the calendar was released ahead of schedule, taking into account a request from the academic unions; which asked for an open dialogue regarding matters such as total days of classes, teachers' preparation, among others. The dialogue between the unions and the Board of Public Education should begin in the next few days.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sarapiquí adventure race

Do not miss the best opportunity to experience the thrills of the first edition of the adventure competition “Sarapiqui Adventure Race: Let’s Aid the Green Macaw,” to be held the days of October 14, 15 and 16 and will take place in the Sarapiqui area, province of Heredia.

This activity is the first of its kind to be held in Sarapiqui and its goal is to promote the area and its great natural attractions including pristine water rivers, mountain areas and private forest reserves.

Competitors will have to cross inhospitable areas and cover great extensions of land to be able to admire the most beautiful places of Sarapiquí.

This adventure may be experienced by amateurs, cyclists as well as persons with a good physical condition. There will be a special category for beginners and those who are interested.

The place where it begins will be the community known as Chilamate, Puerto Viejo, 5 km west of the center of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. The finish line will be known by competitors when they receive the details for the last stage of the race.

The Elite category, the race will begin Friday October 14th at 12:00 midnight and end on Sunday October 16th. It is expected that the first teams begin arriving to the finish line approximately by 12:00 noon. The competition is programmed to last approximately 36 hours, counting the dark zone.

The Adventure category (rookies) will compete on Sunday October 16th at 7:30 a.m. It will last approximately 6-8 hours. The route for the adventure category is marked and includes the following disciplines: mountain biking (25 kms), hiking in the forest (3 kms), horseback riding (1 km), canopy and rafting (11 km).

More information on the web page http://www.sarapiquiadventurerace.com/ and e-mail sarapiqui@racsa.co.cr

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Central America will be promoted in Europe

The Central American Tourism Council announced it will strengthen the promotion of the Isthmus as an attractive tourist destination in Europe.

To support the Central American brand and its tourist attractions marketing actions will be implemented, including a greater direct contact with tourist operators, travel agencies and the media.

A stronger participation of Central America in tourist fairs as the World Fair will be furthered.

According to data recently published in the year 2004, a total of 5.7 million tourists visited Central America, 15% more than the 4.9 million visiting the region in 2003. European visitors in 2004 were around 640,000 while for 2003 this figure was 560,700.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tortuguero’s environmental richness is acknowledged

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchling at Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica. (Photo:Kevin Shafer/Getty Images)During the celebration of the National Parks Day Tortuguero’s environmental richness was acknowledged.

Also that same day two agreements were subscribed in order to count with the resources for management of the green turtles and to consolidate a geographical information system allowing the location of each of the areas in Tortuguero.

These agreements have as goal the conservation of the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

The Tortuguero National Park is located on the Caribbean Coast, province of Limon, approximately 80 km northeast of the city of Limon.

It’s the most important area, on the Caribbean’s west side, since the green turtle comes here to spawn. Other marine turtle species, such as the leatherback and the hawksbill come too.

There are many lagoons and canals crossing the park. They are navigable and are habitat of many crocodiles, turtles, manatees, crabs and 52 species of river fish.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Three new flights to Liberia, Guanacaste

American Airlines and Continental Airlines will offer three new flights whose destination is the city of Liberia’s airport, on the province of Guanacaste, starting on the coming month of December.

Continental Airlines will offer a non-stop flight service from New Jersey, United States, while American Airlines is offering two flights in the Dallas-Liberia route.

Monday, August 29, 2005

What to bring to Costa Rica

When coming to Costa Rica a camera is definitely a must.When travelling to Costa Rica for adventure and ecological tourism make sure to bring:

-One good flashlight, normal size (This is a must)
-Locks for all parts of your pack (Another must)
-Camera (Yet another must)
-One pair of hiking shoes, one pair of tennis shoes, and sport sandals for water
-Two short sleeve, quick-dry shirts with lots of pockets
-One quick-dry long sleeve shirt, one pair quick-dry long pants
-One pair of shorts with pockets
-Bathing suits
-Four pairs of quick dry socks (white cotton tube socks do not dry overnight!)
-One large REI type towel
-Gortex rain coat
-A photocopy of your passport's front page (the one that identifies you as the holder)
-Collapsible bottle of water
-Pocket calculator ( to make currency calculations)

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