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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Jan. 11, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 6         E-mail us
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Volcan Turrialba
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica photo
Photo of Turrialba caldera shows the creation of a new outlet
Experts believe that Turrialba is returning to normal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ash put out by the Volcán Turrialba last week is not very acidic or caustic, according to an analysis done by scientists at Universidad Nacional.

The ash, collected Wednesday in La Silva and La Central, two communities near the volcano, tested nearly neutral at 6.7 and 7.1 pH,  said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, based at the Heredia university.

Not only is this good news for farmers in the area, but this also means that the ash that the volcano is continuing to produce does not contain magma, suggesting that a full-scale eruption is not likely, said the scientists.

A pH of 7 is neutral. Small numbers mean that the samples are acidic. Higher numbers mean the material is caustic. The experts concluded that the effect on vegetation and other exposed surfaces from the ash would be minor, they said.

Rain is another matter. The volcano observatory said that an analysis of rain in the same vicinity shows an acidity of from 3.01 to 4.2. The experts attributed this to the mixing of escaping acidic gases with the rain.  The gases contain carbon dioxide, sulfur and hydrogen sulfide, all natural components of the volcano.

The pH levels of the rain are similar to those collected in prior years, said the observatory in a report. This means that there has not been an increase in volcano materials, a good sign, said the report.

The weather cleared Friday exposing the peak of the volcano, and a geology expert was able to fly
over the mountain and take photos. The photos confirmed that a new opening had been forced at the summit and that blocks of rock, some a meter in diameter, had been ejected from the caldera.

The observers were Frederico Chavarría and Miguel Ángel Dib of Film & Picture Helicopters S.A. They noted changes in the summit brought about by the eruptions Tuesday and Wednesday. Gases and some ash still were coming from the volcano but much less than earlier in the week.

The national emergency commission reported Sunday that the volcano appeared to be returning to its normal state that has been typical for the last few years. The commission reduced the level of alert. Only the canton of Turrialba remains on yellow alert. Oreamuno, the central canton of Cartago and Alvarado are now listed at green alert, that is the lowest level. The cantons of Montes de Oca and Desamparados in the province of San José are no longer under any alert.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez visited some of the volcano refugees at a shelter in Santa Cruz de Turrialba Saturday and assured them that there was no need for alarm. There are about 35 persons in the shelter, mainly from La Central and La Silva. Arias told them that the state would help them. The Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social can provide monthly subsidies. Arias also promised help for the dairy farmers and others in the area.

Marco Vargas, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, said that his agency would fix 11 kms of road on Ruta 230 that had deteriorated.

The Arias administration has been criticized for dragging its feet on helping victims of the Jan. 8, 2009, earthquake in Cinchona.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 6

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y Seguridad Pública photo 
Crooks made quick work of this truck

Market for vehicle parts
better than for whole cars

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Stolen cars quickly become stolen vehicle parts because crooks find it easier to sell components.

That's what the Fuerza Pública said three persons were doing in La Colonia Cubujuqui, Las Horquetas, Sarapiquí, Saturday. Officers said they came upon the three on a little-used road while they were dismantling a truck with a cutting torch. As part of the investigation, policemen found two license plates, both listed as having been affixed to vehicles that were stolen.

The men were identified by the last names and ages of Gamboa Gámez, 27, Selva Romero, 19. and Arroyo, 16.

Police said that they also found other vehicle parts in the area.

Meanwhile, the Judicial Investigating Organization said it located a garage in Las Ángeles de San Ramón where they believe vehicles were either taken apart or had their identifying marks changed.

The owner of the shop was taken into custody, and agents said they recovered a Mitsubishi Montero Sport taken in Jacó Dec. 31, a Toyota Corolla taken in Alajuela Dec. 22 and a Rav 4 taken in San José Dec. 29.


Prices of gasoline cut,
but increases are proposed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone confused by the gasoline prices should not feel that they are in the minority.

The nation's price regulating agency said Friday that it had to suspend an increase in super gasoline and a slight decrease in the price of diesel because the Sala IV constitutional court agreed with an appeal.

So now the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos will compute the price increase for February and include the increase that was proposed for January, it said. To do otherwise would jeopardize the financial stability of the government petroleum monopoly, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo

The result is that the agency is proposing a 37-colon (about a seven U.S. cent) increase in the price of super gasoline. The price would go to 625 per liter (about $1.12).  Plus gasoline would go up 24 colons (a bit more than four cents) to 597 colons (about $1.07). Diesel would go up 22 colons to 533, the agency said. That's about 96 cents.

There are 3.785 liters in a U.S. gallon, so the per gallon price of super gasoline would be about $4.25. The proposed prices are subject to public hearings and will not be fixed until the second week of February, the agency said.


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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 weekday.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 6

   
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Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountain behind.
Elegantly built to your specifications. Delivered and set up at your home in Costa Rica.

Only way out

A taxi driver, threatened by three bandits, crashed his vehicle into a wall Sunday night in Lomas de Desamparados.

Two of the assailants fled. Fuerza Pública officers captured one suspect who was confined to the taxi until transportation arrived (see inset). Police said later they managed to capture two more suspects.

Damage to the front of the taxi was substantial. The driver, as yet unidentified, suffered a bullet wound to the arm and a leg broken in three places.

The scene was near the La Capri community where Cruz Roja emergency crews refuse to go.

taxi driver safe
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas


Agents say baby abductor murdered Desamparados woman
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators claim that a Desamparados woman pretended to be pregnant and then killed a young mother and took her baby as her own.

The case came to light in San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados over the weekend. Dead is Evelyn Granda Leiva, 20. Her body was found in a plastic bag near the Río Jorco in Desamparados.

Investigators found the two-month-old child and also
detained a neighbor of the principal suspect to face a charge of assisting in the crime. Both individuals are belived to be in preventative detention.

Meanwhile, a man seeking something to eat in a garbage dumpster came upon the body of a murdered newborn Sunday near a supermarket in Alajuela. The child had been strangled. It appeared to have been born prematurely.

Some individuals who work in the area said they saw a young woman put a plastic bag in the dumpster earlier in the day.


New ambassador takes oath and heads for Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy said Friday that the new U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica had been sworn in at a Washington ceremony.

The new ambassador, Anne Slaughter Andrew, becomes the 57th U.S. envoy to this country. She was scheduled to arrive Sunday. She is scheduled to present her credentials to President Óscar Arias Sánchez Tuesday.

Mrs. Andrew and her husband are both lawyers and
lobbyists. Her husband, Joseph, was chairman of the Democratic National Committee and both were contributors to Democratic political campaigns.

The embassy did not mention that nor did a press release mention that Mr. Andrew switched his political allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama before the Indiana political primary.

There was no official word if her husband would join her in Costa Rica. The couple has two children and make their U.S. home in Potomac, Maryland, said the embassy.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 6

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BetOnSports executive Carruthers gets 33 months in prison

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

David Carruthers, the former director and CEO of BetOnSports, the Costa Rican offshore sports wagering business, was sentenced to 33 months in prison Friday.

This sentencing concludes a lengthy investigative and prosecution effort by several law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Michael W. Reap, acting U.S. attorney.

Carruthers was the first major defendant in the case to plead guilty and he had agreed to testify against his co-defendants, if necessary, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Carruthers, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was hired by BetOnSports founder, Gary Kaplan, in approximately June 2000, as CEO of BetOnSports.com, an existing sportsbook organization based in San Pedro. In July 2004, Carruthers began serving as a director of BetOnSports, PLC.

"The prosecution and conviction of Carruthers is significant to the government’s efforts at enforcement of U.S. laws against offshore Internet and telephone sports wagering businesses, because Carruthers was both a foreign national and a top executive of BetOnSports," said Steven E. Holtshouser, assistant U. S. attorney.  "Previously, executives, owners and investors believed that they were immune from the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Even their business plans were directly aimed at the U.S. market.  Both the conviction of and sentence handed down against Mr. Carruthers should send a message to any foreign business conducting illegal activities in the United States, that geography does not render it untouchable."  
 
"The successful investigation and prosecution of this case not only put this group of criminals in prison, but can indirectly help solve other computer-related crimes," said Roland J. Corvington, FBI special agent in charge of the St. Louis Division.  Some of the millions of dollars previously forfeited from this case have already been granted to a regional computer crimes task force, which provides local law enforcement free technical and legal assistance to investigate such cases as child predators online, he said.

In furtherance of the conspiracy, members of the BetOnSports organization made false representations to the targets of its advertising campaigns and customers, said the Department of Justice, by:

• Creating and disseminating advertising throughout the United States which represented that its Internet and
telephone gambling operations were legal and licensed. They failed to disclose known material facts, namely that the U.S. government and most state governments viewed such operations as illegal, and that they did not have a license to operate legally anywhere in the United States.

• Representing to potential customers that money transferred by them to BetOnSports on account was safe and readily available to be withdrawn at anytime. BetOnSports was actually using the funds to support and expand its operations, including the purchase of Easybets. When BetOnSports ceased operations in July 2006, it could not repay its customers over $16 million held on account.

"Gambling is not a victimless crime, especially when the Internet is used with its global reach," said Toni Weirauch, special agent-in-charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. "IRS has focused its attention on offshore activities through the enforcement of tax, money laundering and other related financial criminal statutes within its jurisdiction."

Carruthers, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson, who also gave the sentence Friday.

Kaplan was sentenced Nov. 2.  As part of the plea, Kaplan has forfeited to the United States $43,650,000 in criminal proceeds. An additional amount of approximately $7 million has been forfeited in related proceedings, bringing the total forfeiture in this case to over $50 million, the government said.

Carruthers was detained in the United States when he was returning to Costa Rica from London where he attended a board meeting.

He was highly visible and had authored opinion pieces in U.S. newspapers defending offshore gambling.

BetOnSports thumbed its nose at the federal government by setting up a trailer in the parking lot of a professional football stadium in Florida where individuals could place offshore bets.

BetOnSports is one reason the free trade treaty with the United States recognizes Washington's right to prosecute offshore gamblers. Antigua won a major case against the United States in the World Trade Organization on the grounds that Washington was hurting the gambling business there.

When Carruthers was detained, BetOnSports said it had 2,000 employees here during the high sports season. All lost their jobs when the company folded shortly after a federal indictment was handed up.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 6


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Chávez devalues currency
to boost nation's exports


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, announced a 50 percent devaluation of the country's bolivar currency against the U.S. dollar. The government blamed a 2003 strike in the oil industry, among other developments. Chávez said the idea was to reduce imports and increase exports.

Certain exports will benefit from a more liberal exchange rate. Instead of 4.3 bolivars to the dollar, those importing food, books, machinery and educational items will be about to obtain a dollar at a price of 2.6 bolivars. But it also appears that remittances from family members overseas also will be subject to the 2.6-bolivar rate. Also getting the favorable rate will be imports for government purposes. A black market provides much more favorable rates for those selling dollars.

Chávez said in a speech that he was trying to make the economy benefit the majority. He said the capitalistic structure benefited the elite and exploited the majority.

Venezuela's economy shrank 2.9 percent this year, with the oil sector helping pull the country into recession.

Central bank President Nelson Merentes said in his end-of-year report that a 6.1 percent decline in the oil industry hurt the economy.

The sector has earned less due to lower prices and production cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Venezuela is a member. Venezuela was last in recession in 2003, when the economy shrank 8 percent due to a failed coup against President Hugo Chávez the year before and a subsequent opposition-led strike that paralyzed the oil sector.

In November, the central bank said the Venezuelan economy contracted 4.5 percent in the third quarter from the same period last year.  The bank attributed the economic slippage to the effects of the global economic crisis and weakening oil prices.

U.S. denies that warplane
entered Venezuela air space

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. military is denying a claim by Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez that a U.S. military plane entered his country's airspace.

Chávez says that he ordered two F-16 jets to intercept what he said was a U.S. P-3 aircraft over his country Friday.  The Venezuelan leader says the American plane twice entered his country's airspace from the nearby Netherlands Antilles.

But a spokeswoman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Air Force Sgt. Shanda De Anda, said Saturday that no U.S. plane flew into Venezuelan airspace. She said the U.S. does not fly over another nation's airspace "without prior consent and coordination."

Last month, Chávez accused the Netherlands of allowing the U.S. to use the Dutch-owned Caribbean islands to prepare an attack on Venezuela.  The United States has called that assertion baseless.  Venezuelanalysis.com, an online news source friendly to Chávez, said that last May 17 a U.S. war plane took off from Curacao and entered Venezuelan air space. A transcript of the pilot talking to Venezuelan air controllers was played on national television over the weekend.

Venezuela's president also accused the United States of launching a spy plane from Colombia in December into Venezuelan airspace.  He vowed then to shoot down any such aircraft in the future.
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rope walker
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Puppets were not the only attraction in Parque Morazán Sunday. An acrobatic group taught the brave of heart how to tightrope walk. Successes varied but the ground was close. The event will be repeated Jan. 23 in Heredia, Feb. 13 in Parque Central de Cartago and Feb. 20 at Parque Juan Santamaría de Alajuela.

Banco Nacional online
hits 10 million transfers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional said that its customers made 10 million transactions in 2009 without going to a human teller. The transactions were via the Internet, either through an intrabank transfer or to another bank via the Sistema Interbancario de Negociación Pagos Elecrónicos.

Anyone who has stood on a bank line while a customer pays a stack of monthly bills one by one can appreciate the announcement.

The bank noted that it also has introduced BN Celular that allows customers to make transfers via the cell phone or check their balance with text messaging. An Oxford University study suggests that cell telephones might become the instant credit card of the future.

The Sistema Interbancario, known as SINPE, recently announced that it would make its service available 24 hours a day. Now it is available only during business hours. The service is run by the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

The entire state bank system's undergoing a change as   Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional move closer to consolidation. Now customers may make transactions for accounts in either bank with one visit.




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