Sunday, December 30, 2007

Strunz & Farah - Capricho Nocturno

I found this video on YouTube and I thought you might like it. It features the guitar duo of Strunz & Farah. Their sound can be described as a cross between world fusion and flamenco.

Jorge Strunz, born in Costa Rica, and Ardeshir Farah, from Iran, met in the United States in 1979. Having both played guitar professionally since their early teens, they soon teamed up and released their self-produced first album "Mosaico" in 1980, which started their own label: "Selva Records".

Since then they have played on numerous recordings together, releasing several albums as a duo and collaborating with the likes of Ruben Blades and L. Subramaniam.

They also worked with Sting in the album The Living Sea: Soundtrack from the IMAX Film as Session Mussicians.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Toros a la Tica

Las corridas de Toros a la Tica (Costa Rican bullfighs) returned this year to the traditional location of Zapote.

There was a lot of excitement as Costa Rican bullfighters (which are nothing but the average Ticos you see on the street) entered the ring to try to touch the bull's horns without getting killed.

The Costa Rican bullfights have the peculiarity that no bulls are injured or killed during the celebration, as opposed to the Mexican and Spanish versions.

Since the middle of the 19th Century, people from all over the country attend this kind of rodeo at the end of the year as a traditional celebration to say farewell to the old year.

The event this year ran from December 25 to January 6. Here are some photos by Juan Carlos Ulate from Reuters News Agency:

Spectators watch as people run around a bull during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007. More than 200 bullfighters participated in the traditional end-of-year impromptu bullfight.

A man gestures to a bull during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007.

A bull tosses a man during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007.

A man runs away from a bull during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007.

A bull chases a man during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007.

A bull attacks a man that lies on the floor during the annual bullfight festival in San Jose December 29, 2007.

A rider tries to catch a bull during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007.

A man rides a bull during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose December 29, 2007.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Picture of the day

Spanish bullfighter Oscar Saenz makes a pass to a bull during the annual bullfight festival at the Zapote bullring in San Jose, December 28, 2007. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Note: It is important to point out that this isn't the typical type of bullfights that take place in Costa Rica. We only allow Spanish bullfighters to perform here as long as they agree not to kill the bull during the event.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

$6 million settlement in Big Dig accident

Angel Del Valle, husband of Milena Del Valle, who was killed when concrete ceiling panels in a Big Dig tunnel collapsed onto her car, wipes tears during a news conference in Boston, in this Aug. 30, 2006 file photo. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki, File)Family of Costa Rican victim still wants more answers about the cause of the accident.

By Rodrique Ngowi

BOSTON (AP) - A company blamed in the deadly ceiling collapse of a Big Dig tunnel last year has agreed to give the family of the woman killed not only $6 million, but something they really want: answers.

Still, representatives of the widower and children of Costa Rican Milena Del Valle said Tuesday the family needs even more information on the series of events, decisions and failures that ultimately caused 26 tons of concrete ceiling panels to come crashing down on her car.

The 39-year-old mother of three was crushed on July 10, 2006, as she and her husband drove through an Interstate 90 connector tunnel. Her husband, Angel Del Valle, escaped with minor injuries.

"The family's primary goal is to get to the bottom of the cause of Milena's death," attorney Bradley M. Henry, who represents the children, said Tuesday. "The family is willing to sit down with any party that is willing to answer their questions about how this tragedy occurred."

Investigators determined that the ceiling collapsed because workers secured it with a fast-drying epoxy that was not safe to use for overhead loads.

On Monday, a Brewster, N.Y., firm that supplied the epoxy agreed to settle a lawsuit filed last year by Del Valle's family, capping weeks of confidential negotiations.

Powers Fasteners Inc., one of 15 Big Dig contractors and agencies sued by the Del Valle family, did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the settlement.

Still, company representatives answered a string of questions from the family and their lawyers, describing in detail how the correct type of epoxy was ordered and shipped to Massachusetts for use in the installation of the ceiling panels, Henry said.

"No one can replace our mother, no one can replace Angel's wife — but, to have some of our questions answered about how this tragedy could occur, has great meaning and worth to us," the victim's eldest daughter, Raquel Ibarra Mora, said by e-mail from San Jose, Costa Rica.

"More answers are needed to get to the truth, but the Powers family was willing to take a first step. We can only hope that others, too, step forward and show such character," she said.

Karen Schwartzman, a spokeswoman for Powers Fasteners, said the company was unaware until after the accident that fast-set epoxy had been used for the ceiling panels in the I-90 connector, rather than the standard-set epoxy. She said while the fast-set epoxy was for provided for use on the vertical tunnel wall tiles, it was not appropriate for use on overhead sustained loads.

"The irony is that Powers Fasteners did not know that there was a problem with the epoxy because they assumed that what had been used was the product that was ordered," Schwartzman said.

Powers Fasteners is the only entity to be charged criminally in the case. The company was indicted on a manslaughter charge in August. Prosecutors accuse Powers of failing to warn Big Dig contractors that its fast-drying epoxy glue was unsafe to use to suspend heavy ceiling panels, and had a tendency to slowly pull away over time.

Powers is the first company to settle with the Del Valle family. There are no ongoing negotiations with any other contractor or agency, Henry said.

Associated Press Writer Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.

Other news: On Dec. 31, It's Official: Boston's Big Dig Will Be Done

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Costa Rica establishes diplomatic ties with Oman

(Xinhua) - Costa Rica has established diplomatic relations with Oman, the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The document on the establishment of ties was signed Wednesday, which said both countries wished to "strengthen the friendly and cooperative ties in the political and economic sectors based on mutual respect."

Both countries pledged to respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the international law and the United Nations Charter.

"The government of Oman and the government of Costa Rica express their conviction that the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries conforms to both states' national interests and will contribute to the strengthening of peace and international cooperation," said the document.

On Aug. 16, 2006, Costa Rica announced that it decided to move its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

The Central American country has ever since established or resumed diplomatic ties with several Arab countries, such as Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Costa Rican priest Minor Calvo acquitted in murder trial, but guilty of embezzlement

(Photo by Marvin Caravaca/La Nacion)His business partner was convicted on murder conspiracy charges.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, (Reuters) - A Costa Rican court acquitted a prominent Catholic priest on Wednesday of charges that he had hired a hitman to kill popular radio host Parmenio Medina.

In a trial that has gripped the largely Catholic nation, a three-judge panel ruled there was not enough evidence to convict the priest of conspiring to murder Medina, though judges did find him guilty of embezzling the donations of Radio Maria.

The court sentenced Calvo to 15 years in prison. The priest has steadily maintained his innocence since being arrested in 2003 and his lawyer said he would appeal the fraud conviction.

Omar Chaves, Calvo's business partner at Radio Maria, was convicted to 35 years on murder conspiracy charges, and 12 years on embezzlement charges.

Luis Alberto Aguirre, a.k.a "The Indian," was sentenced to 30 years on murder conspiracy charges after the judges determined he was one of the shooters firing at Medina.

Medina's family said it was disappointed with Calvo's acquittal in the murder case, but that the fraud conviction was some consolation.

"It shows that my father was telling the truth," Medina's son, Rodolfo Medina, told reporters outside the court.

Medina was shot dead outside his home in 2001 after accusing Father Minor Calvo on his program of pocketing donations at the priest's own church-affiliated radio station.

Before his death, Medina had told police he was receiving death threats. The shooting happened just hours after recording an edition of his popular satirical radio show "La Patada" (The Kick).

(Reporting by Brian Harris, editing by Jason Lange and Sandra Maler)

Note: This was the longest trial in the history of Costa Rica. It started on December 6, 2005 and it ended today, December 19, 2007.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Formerly conjoined twins leave California hospital

Outpatient care ongoing; "Twins are doing very well," said lead surgeon

PALO ALTO, Calif - Marking a major step in their ongoing recovery from separation surgery, formerly conjoined Costa Rican twins Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias were released from inpatient care last week at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

"The twins are doing very well," said Gary Hartman, MD, lead surgeon for last month’s separation surgery. "Yurelia is almost fully recovered. Meanwhile, Fiorella’s blood pressure is returning to normal through medication. All in all, we’re quite pleased."

The two-year-olds are now outpatients, and have daily appointments with occupational and physical therapists to improve their strength and mobility. In addition, the twins have cardiovascular appointments with Gail Wright, MD, every other week.

The twins are recovering not just from the successful separation on November 12, but also from follow-up procedures. Yurelia’s life-threatening congenital anomaly known as double outlet right ventricle (DORV) was corrected by Frank Hanley, MD, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, on November 14. Then, on November 19, Fiorella returned to surgery for a brief modification of her chest reconstruction and repair of her skin closure, a procedure led by Hartman and Peter Lorenz, MD, chief of pediatric plastic surgery.

"Through preparation, surgery and recovery, basically every discipline in the hospital has been involved with the girls and their care," said Hartman.

Now the family can begin planning their return to Costa Rica.

"We expect another 6 to 8 weeks of follow-up prior to going home,” said Hartman. “Mom Maria Elizabeth Arias and dad Jose Luis are thrilled with the girls’ progress, and thankful for everyone’s help."

For more information on the twins click here. To access a photo gallery and watch videos released by the hospital click here.

Information and photo provided by the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pre-Columbian stone sphere found in Costa Rica

(La Nacion) - In the final stage of excavation of the remains of an Indian pre-Columbian village in Palmar Sur, in the Costa Rican South Pacific, a National Museum team of archaeologists, led by Costa Rican Adrian Bonilla, found a 1.1 meter stone sphere, in exactly the same place where it was set some 1,000 years ago. He finding was exciting, particularly because the last of such spheres –world renowned because they are found only in the area– had been found in 1994. According to Bonilla, the sphere was a symbol of power.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Picture of the day

Abigail Araya, 9, picks ripe red coffee beans at a plantation in San Miguel de Naranjo, 37 miles (60km) from San Jose December 11, 2007. Araya accompanies her mother to pick coffee every year, but children are increasingly leaving the trade, a trend producers fear could lead to a labour shortage. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nasa and Ad Astra sign cooperation agreement

(La Nacion) - In an act that shows the interest of the U.S. space agency in the plasma engine developed by Costa Rican physicist and former astronaut Franklin Chang, NASA and Ad Astra Rocket signed a cooperation agreement. It is an umbrella agreement, that sets the legal guidelines for the joint work to be developed by the agency and the company from now on, Dr. Chang explained. According to him, this agreement paves the way that his company must follow from now through the year 2010, when it plans to test its plasma engine in space.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Costa Rica and China to explore for oil

(Inside Costa Rica) - Costa Rica and China announced Friday they have agreed to jointly explore for oil and natural gas in the Costa Rica. It wasn't clear if the proposed exploration would be on land or offshore.

Roberto Dobles, environment and energy minister, told a news conference with representatives of China National Petroleum Corp., China's biggest oil and gas producer, that Costa Rica hopes to guarantee its access to energy, considering soaring crude prices.

"We have the responsibility to ensure the development of the country, always meeting strict environmental standards," he said.

The announcement was immediately criticized by environmentalists, who argued the exploration would pollute the environment, though Dobles said the agreement stipulated that any exploration be done in a way that protects the environment.

He added that it may be four to six years before the project gets started and that the exploration process in general is not as environmentally risky as other aspects of the petroleum industry.

Arias signed the exploration agreement during a visit to China last October.

Representatives from the two countries are expected to meet again in February in China to discuss the agreement further. It includes plans to modernize Costa Rica's oil refinery so it can become a regional hub.

Environmentalists successfully pressured former Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco (2002-2006), to cancel a 1998 concession for oil exploration Costa Rica had granted Houston-based Harken Energy Corporation. A lawsuit is before the courts.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Costa Rica plants 5 million trees

A cyclist rides front Tapamti National Park in Orosi, Costa Rica, May 25, 2007. Costa Rica, a leader in eco-tourism and home to some of the world's rarest species, planted its 5 millionth tree of 2007 on Wednesday as it tries to put a brake on global warming. (Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rica, a leader in eco-tourism and home to some of the world's rarest species, planted its 5 millionth tree of 2007 on Wednesday as it tries to put a brake on global warming.

President Oscar Arias shoveled dirt onto the roots of an oak tree planted in the grounds of his offices, reaching the milestone in the Central American nation's efforts to ward off what some experts say are the first signs of climate change.

By the end of the year, Costa Rica will have planted nearly 6.5 million trees, which should absorb 111,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, Environment Minister Roberto Dobles said.

The country aims to plant 7 million trees in 2008 as part of the newly launched program.

Along with other green-minded nations like Norway and New Zealand, Costa Rica is aiming to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero, and has set a target date of 2021.

"I don't know if we will end up being carbon neutral in 2021 as we have proposed, but the important thing is the audacity of the goal and the work we have to do," Arias said.

Costa Rica is a magnet for ecology-minded tourists who come to visit the lush national parks and reserves that cover more than a quarter of the country and are home to almost 5 percent of the world's plant and animal species including exotic birds and frogs.

Over the last 20 years forest cover in Costa Rica has grown from 26 percent of the national territory to 51 percent, though environmentalists complain that loggers continue to cut down old trees and that the national park system is under funded.

Costa Rican authorities have blamed the loss of more than a dozen amphibian species, including the shiny yellow "golden toad," on higher temperatures caused by global warming.

Experts also say climate change is behind a spike in mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever at high elevations where they were once rare.

The number of dengue fever cases so far this year in Costa Rica's high-altitude central valley stands at 3,487 -- 86 percent higher than in the whole of 2006.

(Reporting by John McPhaul, editing by Eric Walsh)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Costa Rica celebrates 59 years without an army

In 1948, Jose Figueres abolished the army of Costa Rica. This picture depicts Figueres in the symbolic action of destroying a portion of the military barracks. (Photo courtesy of the Arias Foundation)(Inside Costa Rica) - Costa Rica yesterday celebrated its 59th year without an army. The celebration was full of cultural events, tributes and a message from Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Prize winner and president of Costa Rica.

"Today we come to celebrate the abolition of the army in Costa Rica, and though it is motive to be happy, it is not motive to be satisfied", said president Arias in a speech given at the Museo Nacional (national museum), former barracks of the national army.

"How can we be satisfied, while our children walk to school, others children in the Sudan flee their villages where their parents have been killed? How can we be satisfied, while our young find work, while the job of other young is to go fight in Iraq?", Arias expressed in his speech.

Costa Rica was the first country in the world to eliminate its army, investing rather in social programs, health and education.

Jose Figueres Ferrer or “Don Pepe” as he known affectionately is responsible for the abolition of the military on December 1, 1948, weeks following the conflict of civil war that had gripped the country.

"War is the worst form of violence", said Arias.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Picture of the day

Miss World contestant Wendy Cordero Sanchez of Costa Rica leaves a hotel to head to rehearsals for the Miss World pageant at Yalong Bay in Sanya, Hainan, China, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. The pageant will be held in the southern resort city of Sanya on Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Twins continue to recover from separation surgery

Costa Rican conjoined twins Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha continue to recover well from their separation. Both girls have now been extubated and are breathing on their own in preparation to moving out of the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) and into a regular room the week of November 26.

Fiorella had a minor surgical procedure on November 19 to modify her chest reconstruction and repair her skin closure. During the one-hour procedure, Gary Hartman, MD, and H. Peter Lorenz, MD, trimmed and resutured the skin flaps used to cover the area exposed during the separation. The surgeons also replaced two bars used to stabilize Fiorella’s chest after the separation with a plate similar to the one used in Yurelia. The modification was made to make it easier for Fiorella to breathe on her own.

For more information on the twins click here. To access a photo gallery and watch videos released by the hospital click here.

Information and photo provided by the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Visitors from certain countries will require yellow fever vaccination

Entry to Costa Rica may be denied if they don't comply

(Inside Costa Rica) - Beginning on Friday November 30 Costa Rica's immigration service will be requiring visitors arriving from a select group of countries to have a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever before they can step on Costa Rican soil.

The countries affected by the regulation are Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and French Guyana from South America and from Africa, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, and Nigeria.

Affected by the regulations are Costa Rican residents who travel to countries on the list, requiring a certificate to re-enter Costa Rica.

The certificate has to be obtained at least 10 days before arriving or returning to Costa Rica, as this is the incubation period for the vaccine, according to Costa Rican immigration officials.

Residents in Costa Rica can get vaccinated in Costa Rica before they leave for a visit to a listed country. The problem is that the vaccine is not currently available in Costa Rica. Pharmacies and hospitals do not have a supply of the vaccine and health officials say it won't be available at least until next January when a shipment is expected.

For residents in Costa Rica it will mean they will need to obtain a certificate of exemption prior to travel since there is no vaccine available, otherwise they will have to obtain one in the country of origin and may have to extend their visit to wait for the incubation period.

Mario Zamora, director of Migration, said that the measure will be strictly adhered to and his officials will refuse entry to anyone who does not present the certificate.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cancer center may go global

Dr. Silas CharlesDoctor eyes site in Costa Rica

By Susan Jenks
Florida Today

Dr. Silas Charles, the founder of Cancer Care Centers of Brevard, said he recently met with the president of Costa Rica to discuss the creation of a regional cancer treatment center in that nation's capital.

"He's a phenomenal guy," Charles said, referring to Oscar Arias Sanchez, the Costa Rican president, who is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Albert Schweitzer prize for humanitarianism.

Charles said Arias expressed an interest in the San Jose project, whose estimated initial cost would be $50 million over five years, or $10 million annually - a cost to be met largely through donations.

The center, which would offer comprehensive cancer care from medical and surgical oncology to diagnostics and radiation therapy, may be up in running in about 11/2 years, according to Charles.

It would employ between 75 and 100 people, and involve oncologists, or cancer physicians, from Brevard County as well as across the United States.

The goal is to serve cancer patients from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama.

"These are all dreams," Charles said, stressing the preliminary nature of discussions. "But it is a good thing, and I am happy about it."

The Cancer Care Centers of Brevard has three locations throughout the county, with a fourth center under construction in Titusville and another site outside Brevard in Sebastian.

Charles opened the first center on Merritt Island in 1990.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

CAFTA becomes law in Costa Rica

A CAFTA supporter waves a sign that reads 'CAFTA YES' in San Jose Costa Rica, October 7, 2007. Photo by ReutersSan Jose, Costa Rica - Costa Rica's president on Wednesday signed into law a free trade agreement with its Central American neighbors, the United States and the Dominican Republic.

At the signing ceremony, President Oscar Arias called on lawmakers to pass a package of 13 complementary laws that need to be approved before March 2008 for the Central American Free Trade Agreement to take effect.

Since a thin majority of Costa Ricans backed the pact in a national referendum on Oct. 7, "the country is asking Congress to respect its choice made at the polling booths," Arias said.

Protests had been expected outside the president's residence, but only a small number of people gathered nearby holding anti-pact signs.

Costa Rica was the lone holdout among the six Latin American nations now party to the agreement. The pact has already taken effect in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The White House fought a bruising battle to get the deal ratified by the U.S. Congress in 2005, when it passed the House of Representatives by just two votes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mana rocks Costa Rica

Mexican rock band Mana performed in San Jose, Costa Rica on Tuesday, Novermber 20 as part of their tour "Amar es Combatir." The concert took place at the Ricardo Saprissa stadium and lasted for over two hours. Despite a light rain and low temperatures the band's fans warmed themselves singing and dancing to the hits of the Mexican group. Here are some photos of the event:

(REUTERS/Monica Quesada)

(REUTERS/Monica Quesada)

(REUTERS/Monica Quesada)

(REUTERS/Monica Quesada)

(Mario Rojas/La Nacion)

(Mario Rojas/La Nacion)

(Mario Rojas/La Nacion)

(Mario Rojas/La Nacion)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lining up for work

Nicaraguan construction workers line up to register for work in Costa Rica in Managua, Monday, Nov. 19. 2007, after Costa Rica's Chamber of Construction announced that private Costa Rican construction companies were looking for 10,000 workers for tourist projects. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Formerly conjoined twins doing very well

(AP Photo/Packard Children's Hospital)SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Formerly conjoined twins have "excellent" chances of survival after a grueling separation surgery, and one of the toddlers is even breathing on her own, doctors said Friday.

Two-year-olds Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias of San Jose, Costa Rica, were conjoined at the chest and abdomen and shared an oversize liver until Monday, when doctors in Palo Alto separated them during a 9-hour surgery.

Fiorella - who has always been slightly larger and stronger than Yurelia - was taken off her ventilator Wednesday and has been breathing on her own for two days.

"We are very happy with the outcome so far," said lead surgeon Dr. Gary Hartman of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. "These are two very strong little girls."

Although Yurelia is still on a ventilator and heavily sedated, the twins' cardiovascular intensive care physician said chances for survival are higher than the 50-50 odds doctors gave them earlier this week.

"Current chances for survival are excellent," said Dr. Gail Wright, who would not provide a specific odds for survival.

On Wednesday, surgeon Dr. Frank Hanley performed a six-hour surgery on Yurelia to correct a life-threatening congenital heart defect that prevented enough oxygen from getting to her tissue. Doctors then reconstructed her chest wall.

The girls' parents, Maria and Jose Luis Rocha-Arias, have requested privacy and declined to comment.

The girls arrived in San Francisco on July 25 and received weekly injections of sterile saltwater into balloons placed under their skin. The procedure stretched their skin to compensate for the holes surgeons cut into their abdomens.

Packard doctors are donating their time to treat Yurelia and Fiorella, who have nine older siblings. Mending Kids International, a faith-based nonprofit based in Santa Clarita that helps sick children, arranged transportation and housing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Costa Rica's Ramirez wins La Ruta for fourth time

Costa Rica's Federico "Lico" Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut) and American Susan Haywood (Trek-Volkswagen) took overall wins at the 15th annual La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain-bike stage race in Costa Rica.

It was Haywood's first visit to La Ruta, while Ramirez, also an accomplished road racer, became the only person to claim four La Ruta titles. Both riders took three stage wins en route to overall victory.

After the race Ramirez said he would be back to try for number five.

Central America's largest bike race concluded on Saturday with the 125km fourth stage from the mountain hamlet of Aquiares to the Playa Bonita beachfront in the coastal town of Limon.

To read the whole article click here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Costa Rica's Wanchope calls it quits

Costa Rican international striker Paulo Wanchope retired from football Friday, ending a 12-year career plagued by injuries after completing the Major League Soccer season for the Chicago Fire.

Wanchope, 31, has played for nine teams in seven nations but said his body can no longer handle the punishment.

"I always gave 100 percent to do things as well as possible," Wanchope said. "Sadly, my last performances were far from good enough and I have taken the decision to retire.

"It was a difficult decision to take, but it has to be taken. The truth is that in the last six months, I had to make a great effort to recover after games and training."

Knee injuries slowed Wanchope, who scored 45 goals in 75 caps since starting his pro career in Costa Rica in 1994.

Wanchope played for Derby County starting in 1997 before shifting to English Premiership rivals West Ham United and Manchester City. He also played for Malaga, Al-Gharrafa, FC Tokyo and Rosario Central.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chinese, Costa Rican legislators conclude first official exchange

Chinese and Costa Rican legislators concluded their first official exchange in San Jose yesterday since the two countries established diplomatic ties in June.

A Chinese legislators' delegation led by Jiang Enzhu, director of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), paid a four-day visit to Costa Rica, and held talks with congress president Francisco Antonio Pacheco (pictured) and Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno.

Speaking highly of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez's October visit to China, Jiang expressed his appreciation for the Costa Rican government and congress's decision to establish diplomatic ties between the two countries.

He said China is willing to make joint efforts with Costa Rica to promote their practical cooperation and implement the consensus reached between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Arias and the agreements signed by the two countries.

The NPC attaches great importance to developing friendly exchanges with the Costa Rican congress at all levels and in all fields, he said.

Pacheco said the Costa Rican congress firmly supports the government's decision to open diplomatic ties with China, saying the move is in the interests of both countries and peoples.

Stagno, on his part, expressed his satisfaction with the development of bilateral ties, saying President Arias' successful China tour, which has attracted wide attention both in and out of the country, bore out the fact that establishing diplomatic ties is the right thing that should be done.

Both Pacheco and Stagno said the Taiwan issue is China's domestic affair and the trend of China's reunification is irreversible.

They said the Costa Rican government and congress will stick to the one-China policy, vowing not to have any official exchanges with Taiwan.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hard-to-swallow hooks saving turtles

A fisherman measures a Ridley turtle caught off Costa Rica's Pacific coast in Puntarenas, the west of the capital San Jose, November 12, 2007. The turtle was returned alive to the sea because of an innovative hook being introduced to long-line fish fleets to reduce the by-catch of turtles, birds and marine mammals. Picture taken November 12, 2007. (Miguel Imbach/WWF/Handout/Reuters)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bush picks Costa Rica ambassador to run presidential library

By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – President Bush has picked a former Dallas neighbor – now his ambassador to Costa Rica, Mark Langdale – to run the presidential library being planned at Southern Methodist University, the library foundation announced Friday morning.

"Ambassador Langdale brings strong leadership skills to the library effort," Mr. Bush said in a statement issued Friday morning.

Mr. Langdale will serve as president of the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation starting Jan. 1, overseeing daily operations, hiring staff, managing construction and coordinating with the National Archives.

He and Mr. Bush met more than two decades ago when they lived near each other in Dallas. The president called him a "good friend" and said his experience in business and real estate development will prepare him for the complexity of the project.

Mr. Langdale has served as ambassador to the Central American nation since 2005. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston law school, he has worked as a lawyer in Houston and co-founded CapRock Communications Corp., a satellite communications provider.

During Mr. Bush's second term as Texas governor, he served as chairman of the Texas Department of Economic Development.

"I look forward to overseeing the library foundation as it develops a presidential library that will provide historians access to important documents and information about the American presidency and our 43d president," Mr. Langdale said in the statement issued by the foundation.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

L.A. Times takes notice of Costa Rica's messed up address system

Postal carrier Roberto Montero Reyes, a 27-year veteran, chats with a resident of Tibas, Costa Rica. Delivering mail means deciphering addresses that read like treasure-hunt clues. (Maria Dickerson/L.A Times)Back in March I told you that Correos de Costa Rica (Costa Rica's Postal Service) was planning to implement a new address system. Yesterday the newspaper Los Angeles Times published an interesting article about our traditional address system (where it comes from and why we use it) and the struggles of changing the mindset of the Ticos to accept a new system.
I advise you to read Maria's Dickerson article if you want to have a better understanding of how to find your way in our country.

Monday, November 05, 2007

China plans to build refinery in Costa Rica

China National Petroleum Corp. plans to build a refinery in Costa Rica to supply Central American markets, according to Chinese state media.

The official Shanghai Securities News, citing CNPC sources, said the agreement was concluded during a visit of Costa Rica President Oscar Arias to China.

Before his trip, Arias told Costa Rica's La Nacion newspaper that one of the most important goals of his visit would be to reach a refinery agreement.

Arias said the refinery proposal would allow Costa Rica to meet its own fuel needs and to export products.

The Shanghai Securities News report said the proposed refinery will process heavy oil from Venezuela.

Arias told Mexican Reforma newspaper, in an interview that the agreement with China means the chances for completion of an earlier Mexican refinery project in Costa Rica "have now been significantly reduced."

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox was planning to build an oil refinery in Costa Rica as part of a regional energy program during his six-year tenure that ended in 2006.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

President Arias gains momentum in Costa Rica

Photo by Reuters(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Costa Rican president Oscar Arias gained a significant amount of public support last month, according to a poll by CID-Gallup. 60 per cent of respondents think Arias has done a good or very good job leading the country, up eight points since July.

On Oct. 25, Arias and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao agreed in Beijing to bring bilateral relations "to a higher level." Arias, who recently severed his country’s long-standing ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with mainland China, declared: "The successful visit proved to me once again that we have made the right decision."

Arias —a member of the National Liberation Party (PLN)— won the February 2006 presidential election with 40.92 per cent of all cast ballots. Arias headed the government from 1986 to 1990, and was able to run again after the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly opted to bring back presidential re-election in 2003. He was sworn in for the second time in May 2006.

In 1987, Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in a peace deal that ended years of bloodshed in Central America.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Day of the Dead in Costa Rica

On November 2 Costa Ricans celebrate the Day of the Dead, however they way they do it differs from the way Mexicans celebrate it. In Tiquicia the Day of the Dead is when family members visit cemeteries to make flower offerings to their deceased loved ones, which is very similar to what Brazilians do. Here are a few images:

A man visits a cemetery during celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Atenas, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. The Day of the Dead honors the deceased, a tradition which coincides with All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

A couple visits a cemetery during celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Atenas, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Family members place flowers on the grave of a relative at a cemetery during Day of the Dead celebrations, in Tierra Blanca, Cartago, November 2, 2007. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Iron Maiden's summer tour to include Costa Rica

The British heavy metal band Iron Maiden announced their visit to Costa Rica for the first as part of a massive 21 city tour that kicks off in India and ends in Canada.

The show in Costa Rica will be on February 26, 2008 at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in Tibas. Ticket prices have yet to be announced.

The band is known for their outlandish shows that requires a Boeing 757 to carry the 12 tons of equipment and the 70 person crew.

The tour (Somewhere Back In Time) will open in Mumbai, India on Feb 1, and continue through Australia, Japan, Los Angeles and Mexico, followed by the band's first ever concerts in Costa Rica and Colombia, and then on to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rica and New York, before finishing in Toronto, Canada, on March 16th.

Over the 45 day period it is anticipated that Maiden will play to well over 400,000 fans in 21 cities in 10 countries, flying close to 50,000 miles in the specially refitted plane.

Map of the tour

Iron Maiden's plane

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

China and Costa Rica seek free trade agreement

Costa Rica's president Oscar Arias, left, meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, at the Zhongnanhai in Beijing, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Takanori Sekine, Pool) (China Daily) - China and Costa Rica said they will conduct a feasibility study on a free trade agreement - four months after the two established formal diplomatic ties.

The move was announced by top officials from the two countries on Monday during Costa Rican President Oscar Arias' ongoing visit to China.

"Costa Rica could be an ideal place for outward Chinese investment, as well as a good base for Chinese businesses to penetrate the vast markets in Latin America, the Caribbean, North America and Europe," Vice-Minister of Commerce Ma Xiuhong told a forum on China-Costa Rica economic and trade cooperation yesterday.

She said Costa Rica has a solid political environment, robust economic growth and an educated workforce.

"For Chinese businesses, Costa Rica is a very attractive market, not only because of the education level of its workers, but also for the potential to export to the United States tax-free," Arias said.

Arias' trip to China follows his country's vote to join the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the US. The country is also in free trade talks with the European Union.

China is Costa Rica's second biggest trading partner after the US. Two-way trade between China and Costa Rica hit $2.16 billion last year. China accounted for $409 million in exports and $1.75 billion in imports. China mainly exports electronic products, integrated circuit parts, computers and communication products while it imports electronic and hi-tech products and machinery from Costa Rica.

Trade ties were strengthened after the two nations set up formal diplomatic relations.

Ma expects bilateral trade to hit $3 billion this year, with China importing $2.5 billion worth of goods from the Central American country.

"The establishment of formal diplomatic ties has spurred more Chinese firms to tap the Costa Rican market," she said.

China will also establish a joint commission with Costa Rica for economic cooperation, investment protection and inspection and quarantine on China's imports of bananas from the nation.

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican Export Products Exhibition was held in Beijing yesterday, with 28 Costa Rican exporters showcasing products and services in sectors including tourism, residential and hotel projects, agriculture, flowers, coffee, food and hi-tech products.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Endangered Costa Rican frog focus of study

MANCHESTER, England, Oct. 29 (UPI) - British biologists are studying a Costa Rican leaf frog, Cruziohyla calcarifer, to save it from extinction and learn how to care for it in zoos and aquariums.

Scientists from The University of Manchester and the Chester Zoo - Britain's largest zoo - said the brightly colored frog, a native of the Costa Rican rainforest, is being threatened by a combination of environmental change and disease.

"This research aims to contribute to our understanding of the basic factors that influence the development and survival of these frogs," said Richard Preziosi, the project's lead investigator.

"For instance, with the exception of certain mammals, we know surprisingly little about what animals should be eating. And yet the diet of splendid leaf frogs affects their coloration which, in turn, determines their mating behavior.

"The global decline in amphibian populations means research such as this, carried out ex situ, is therefore critical for both conservation projects in the wild and for maintaining and successfully breeding the frogs in zoos and aquariums," he added.

The research is being complemented by field studies in Costa Rica that include examining the effect that ultraviolet rays have on the fitness and viability of captive-bred frogs.

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