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)

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