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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 4       E-mail us
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Heredia  train
will stop here


The bare bones of a train platform take shape just north of Parque Nacional where the roadway has been narrowed and a concrete pad installed. This, too, is supposed to be the area where a relocated Casa Presidential will be built.
train platform
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Fares for Heredia line appear to be an afterthought
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There may be a little hitch in the government's plan to begin rail service to Heredia in mid-February.

The nation's rate-setting agency said Tuesday that the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles, which runs the trains, has not yet applied for approval of fares. This process usually takes two months, said Carolina Mora of the agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

The rail line runs from the former Estación al Atlántico in northeast San José through Tibás to Heredia centro, and the line is in good enough shape so that President Óscar Arias Sánchez led a contingent of politicians and newspeople to Heredia to celebrate the province's birthday Dec. 12. The line was abandoned in 1995, and workmen have been putting the track back into shape for more than a year.

All is not perfect, as Arias found when a wheel of his train hit a switch and jumped the rail, causing the official party some delays.

A private firm ran tourist excursions from Heredia to Tibás over the Christmas holiday without incident.

Officials of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles have been unavailable for two days to explain how they plan to operate trains without fixed fares. One possibility is to provide initial passenger service for free as the agency did when the main valley urban line went into service Oct. 1, 2005.

Ms. Mora said that in November the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos sent a letter to the administration of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles suggesting that the process of rate fixing begin. As of Tuesday there still had been no reply, she said.
old station
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Former Atlantic station is now storage space

In order to set rates, Ms. Mora said that the agency has to hold public hearings over a month during which supporters and opponents of the suggested rates express their views. The agency needs another month to actually fix the rate, she said. As with other public services, the rate would be based on the cost of running the train. This is the same agency that sets water, taxi and electrical rates as well as gasoline prices.

The Heredia line is a priority for the Arias administration because vehicular traffic to Heredia centro results in massive jams each morning and evening. The government would like to put some of those motorists on trains instead.

The facilities for the San José station are being constructed. The existing Atlantic railway station will not be used because it has been converted into a museum and now serves as a storage facility for the  Museo de Arte Costarricense in Parque la Sabana, which is being remodeled.

Eduardo Faith Jimenez, museum director, said, however, that rail passengers will have the benefit of a gallery when work in the La Sabana facility is completed.

Meanwhile a concrete platform and ramp have been installed west of the former station building awaiting trackage and, eventually, the trains.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 4

Costa Rica Expertise
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4815-5/24/09
Defensora seeks reversal
of Sala IV violence decree

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The defensora de los habitantes has filed an appeal asking the Sala IV constitutional court to review and reverse its decision that threw out two sections of the law against violence against women.

The defensora, Lisbeth Quesada, received backing from a number of women in public office.

In October the Sala IV, in a split vote, overturned two key elements of the law. It had been designed to protect women.

One section provides six months to two years prison for anyone who attacks or physically harms a wife or live-in companion when the event is too minor to be handled by other criminal laws.

A second section provides the same penalty for someone who insults, devalues, frightens or embarrasses a wife or female companion in public or in private.

The law was passed May 30, 2007, after a series of murders of wives and live-in companions by men. At the time, the constitutional issue that the measure just covered women and penalized men was raised but the politics of the day prevailed.

Some women who support the law say that the insult measure would penalize a man who calls his wife stupid.

Ms. Quesada in her appeal said that the constitutional court decision infringes the fundamental rights recognized in the Costa Rican Constitution.


Hybrid cars take a hit
in U.S. marketplace


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Automobile sales have slumped around the world, with the latest data from December offering a grim outlook for some of the world's top car companies.

Already, auto giant Toyota has announced plans to close its Japanese factories for 11 days in February and March in an attempt to reduce its inventory of unsold vehicles. One model that has been hit especially hard is the company's highly touted, fuel-efficient gasoline-electric hybrid. 

In December, Toyota reported a 37 percent drop in sales.

Edmunds.com auto analyst Jesse Toprak said Toyota is struggling because of the types of cars consumers are willing to buy.

"In terms of the types of cars that sold in December, we've seen the consumer preference tilting back to SUVs and trucks again," he said.

As a result, sales of Toyota's Prius hybrid — the best selling hybrid in the United States — tumbled 45 percent in December compared to the same time last year. And Toyota was not alone. Japan's No. 2 automaker, Honda, saw U.S. sales of its hybrid vehicles drop almost 70 percent in December, selling only about 1,000 of the high-tech, fuel-efficient cars.

Toprak said that while the slumping global economy has hurt all vehicle sales, trucks and sport utility vehicles outsold cars because of deep dealer discounts, lower gas prices and the fact that hybrids cost $3,000 to $5,000 more than conventional cars.

"If people know they're going to save money by buying a hybrid they will do so, otherwise it becomes a tougher sell," he said.

Toprak said that the December results could affect plans to help retool America's "Big Three" car companies — Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. He says that if U.S. policymakers do not give consumers a financial incentive to buy fuel-efficient vehicles, encouraging Detroit to produce hybrids will not save the U.S. auto industry.

   
License bureau staying
open longer in La Uruca


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry's driver's license bureau in La Uruca began extended hours Tuesday. The extra two hours a day, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., will continue through Feb. 20.

Normal hours of from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. will continue at the regional offices of the Departamento de Licencias.

The ministry, officially the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, said that with the proper paperwork a license can be renewed in 10 minutes.


2008 inflation reported
to be nearly 14 percent


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government's statistical office is reporting that inflation in 2008 was nearly 14 percent, three points more than 2007.

The inflation would have been greater if there had not been some cuts in fuel and some food products at the end of the year.

The report is from the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Censos. The institute said that the inflation was led by a 23 percent increase in the price of food and drink.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 4


Sala IV decision on Viagra less than a change in policy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has made a decision involving the use of Viagra or similar by a national health patient, but the court stopped far short of ordering the government to shove out the little blue pills to anyone who wants one.

The constitutional court decision was very specific and involved just one man who had had a prostate cancer operation. And the court did not prescribe Viagra or sildenafil, as the drug is known generically. The court ordered the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social to have a medical team review that man's case to see if the drug was needed.

At its base, the case is a dispute between a urologist who prescribed the drug and the Comité Central de Farmacoterapia of the Caja that said administering the drug
would not do the man any good. The man suffers from a  disfunction that is a secondary result of the cancer operation, the court decision noted.
The 46-year-old patient was not identified in the summary of the decision released Tuesday by the Poder Judicial.

In the event that the medical reevaluation determines that the man should have the drug, the court said he should get the dose originally prescribed, one pill every 10 days.

Some media outlets have been reporting the decision as an order for the Caja to provide viagra or the equivalent to its subscribers.

Most of the country who hold jobs or buy medical insurance are Caja patients. But the Caja already provides Viagra or sildenafil.

In fact, so much of the drug is provided that some ends up in a blackmarket that frrequently provides the pills to sex tourists via sidewalk vendors.

More than being a discussion of male disfunctions, the current court case shows the routine nature of some of the cases that reach the country's highest court.



Full moon will be celebrated at an expat gathering near Quepos Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The moon is full Saturday night, and some folks on the Central Pacific plan to celebrate with activities geared to those who they call spiritual people.

The moonbeam celebration will be at Finca Amanecer in Londres de Quepos, starting at 5:30 p.m. with a potluck, according to finca owner Elena Ross.

" Please bring a warm heart, good intentions, vibratory instruments . . .  and some food made with love," she said.

Ms. Ross said that the moon will be full at 9:28 p.m. local time when participants will celebrate.
The event is similar to those that have been held in the Escazú area by expats.

The Central Valley forecast for Saturday calls for a 20 percent chance of rain and cloudy with temperature around 16 degrees C, about 60 degrees F. A separate extended forecast for the Quepos area was not available.

Sunday morning Ms. Ross said she will share the sun salutations known as the PanEuRhythmy at 6 a.m.
Paneurhythmy is an effort to relate to the universe with harmonious, conscious movements.

The entire weekend is free but an offering will be accepted.  Ms. Ross said visitors are welcome to camp out on the finca's seven acres.



Bulls took their toll of would-be matadors at the 11-day Zapote festival
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja gave medical assistance to 231 persons in and around the bull ring at the 11-day Fiesta de San José in Zapote, the agency reported.

The statistics do not say, but the bulk probably are individuals who were in the ring with the bulls.

The Cruz Roja said that they helped 305 persons who were attending the fiestas but were not participants or spectators at the bull fights.

The rescue workers have their own small clinic constructed as part of the bull ring structure. There is a small window through which the broken bodies of informal bull fighters are passed when they have been mauled by bulls.

There were no deaths this year but 52 persons went to the hospital from the fairgrounds.  Eight of those were in serious condition, the Cruz Roja said. Some bull fighters broke arms, and one fractured a clavicle.
That no one died in the bull ring is a small miracle because a television summary of bulls managing to get a horn on a human showed bodies flying through the air.

One station, Channel 7,  carried the bull fights live. Then video editors selected the seven most aggressive attacks by a bull.

The resulting video is a montage of young men being trampled, propelled through the air and bruised by horns.

In the Costa Rica version of a bull fight, 50 to 100 persons get in the ring and then the bull is released. Fortunately for the human participants, bulls have short attention spans and are easily distracted, even when bouncing a human on its horns.  So other participants, some with capes or even bath towels, come to the aid of those being mauled.

Some individuals also try bull riding mimicking U.S. rodeo cowboys. One brave person displayed his abilities in somersaulting over the horns and back of a bull in the way made famous in ancient Crete.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 4


Bush designates large Pacific tracts as national monuments
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George Bush is launching one of the biggest conservation efforts in the world. He is designating large tracts of the Pacific as national monuments — meaning they are protected from commercial fishing, mining and other uses.

With just two weeks left in office, the president has taken action to safeguard parts of three remote Pacific island chains that are U.S. possessions.

All will be designated as marine national monuments under provisions of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which is used to protect scientific and historical sites.

"The monuments will prohibit resource destruction or extraction, waste dumping and commercial fishing," Bush said.

President Bush says the goal is to keep these delicate ecosystems intact, while gradually opening them up to scientific research and recreation.

"For sea birds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive. For scientists, they will be places to expand the frontiers of discovery. And for the American
people they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty's creation," he said.

Freedom of the seas will be unaffected in the three monument sites, as will U.S. military operations. Bush said the military will also keep watch out for those who violate restrictions in the protected areas.

White House officials say these locations are among the last pristine marine areas left on earth. The three new marine monuments together equal an area roughly the size of Spain and are made up of islands, reefs, atolls and underwater mountain ranges that are home to countless species. Bush noted the protected zones include parts of the Mariana Trench — the world's deepest canyon.

"This unique geological region is five times longer than the Grand Canyon. It is deeper than Mount Everest is tall. It supports life in some of the harshest conditions imaginable," he said.

Aides to the president said Bush has protected more of the marine environment than any of his predecessors. And some environmentalists agree he has ushered in a new era of ocean conservation in the United States. But others argue his efforts to protect the oceans must be weighed against his stands on other environmental issues.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 4


A.M. Costa Rica
users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


French president pushing
commercial-free television


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Commercials on French public television will soon become a relic of the past under President Nicolas Sarkozy's media reform plans, which many French broadcasters oppose.

French Channel 2 presented its first commercial-free night Monday, eliminating advertising between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. All advertising on all four public television stations would be phased out by 2011.

The staff at one French station walked off their jobs Monday to protest the changes. More strikes are planned Wednesday when the French Senate begins debate on the broadcast reform bill. The lower house of parliament has already passed it.

The bill would give Sarkozy power to hire public television bosses and make funding decisions.

Supporters of the advertising change say broadcasters would no longer have to worry about trying to get high ratings and could put on better quality shows. The government has also promised to make up for lost revenue when commercials are eliminated.

Broadcasters fear job cuts and say the president would control content.

Search for dead abandoned
at scene of landslide


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Guatemalan rescue workers have suspended their search for victims of a landslide that buried a road in the northern part of the country Sunday, leaving at least 35 people dead, 15 injured and dozens missing.

Authorities made their decision Tuesday, citing unstable terrain and the risk to rescue workers. The landslide happened when part of a mountain collapsed in the department state of Alta Verapaz, sending tons of earth and rock crashing down onto the road. Since then, search teams have been working in the midst of falling rock.  

Officials said the victims apparently ignored warnings not to use the road, which was closed in December after a similar rock fall left two people dead.


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