A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Jan. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 15          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Photo by Shifi Surf Shots
Diego Naranjo of Playa Jacó is airborne as he qualifies for the second round of the seventh
Panamerican Games in Perú. Two other Costa Ricans qualified and one may. Story is HERE!

When the trickle of spam becomes a flood
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hell hath no fury like an e-mail user spammed.

A Costa Rican real estate broker suffered the contempt and ridicule of thousands of e-mail users Thursday. And the fault really was with a nasty computer virus and a lot of people who, as one message said, are clueless.

The real estate broker, who probably is now hiding under a rock, was unfortunate enough to have a virus message penetrate the mailing list he maintains to send out a monthly bulletin.

So all 11,000 persons on his mailing list got a single virus message. Some of these have easily infected PC computers and limited anti-virus software, so they started to send out virus replicants to their friends and acquaintances.

But the worst was yet to come.

Some of the recipients took umbrage at getting a spam e-mail that obviously contained a virus. They hit reply on their E-mail program and sent off a sharp message — they thought — to the real estate agent whose name appeared on the virus e-mail.

The only trouble was that they sent the reply to the mailing list. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace.

This angered the other folks even more, so they shot off a sharp retort. To the list
address. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace.

By now it was getting out of hand. So some threatened to report the broker to Interpol, the CIA, the FBI or the Computer Police. To the list address. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace.

Others began to get nasty e-mail messages, so they sent off one demanding to be taken off the original mailing list. To the list address. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace.

By the time the cyberdust cleared, these unintentional spammers had generated hundreds of thousands of surplus e-mails that spanned the globe.

Then some folks decided to change their e-mail address and accidentally sent the new e-mail to the list address. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace.

By this time, some who had no idea how the Internet works were threatening the real estate broker with death.  To the list address. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace.

Then there were those who agreed that the real estate broker (whose business now was in a shambles) warranted death. To the list address. Another 11,000 messages shot off into cyberspace. And so it continues: A human virus of computer users.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 15

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Temperatures are frigid
by Costa Rican standards

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency commission officials announced Thursday that they have removed the yellow alert for the Caribbean Slope and Northern Zone after all of the last two shelters have been closed down and all the affected residents have returned home. 

But it's still cold.  Thursday night, temperatures in San José had dropped to 16 C (60.9 F), according to the weather institute and the cold front was affecting the rest of the country as well.  Ciudad Quesada in the Northern Zone was showing a low of 17 C (62.6 F).  The low in Liberia was 20 degrees Celsius (68 F) – frigid for Guanacaste.  The rest of the Pacific Coast was a little better.  Puntarenas was showing a low of 23 C (73.4 F), Quepos had dropped to 22 C and Golfito's low was also 22 C, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. 

On the Caribbean side, temperatures were even worse.  Limon's low was 20 C, and Manzanillo, near the Panamanian border, was showing a low of 21 C.  The five-day forecast shows the cold front sticking around at least through Tuesday.  Temperatures throughout the country are forecast to remain the same. 

Gasoline is going up
again about 8 percent

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price of gasoline is going up again. The fluctuating price will be 457 colons per liter of super once the decision taken Thursday by the price regulating agency is published in the official newspaper, La Gaceta.

The increase is about 8.29 percent for super gasoline and 8.46 percent for regular, which will be sold for 436 per liter. Diesel goes from 303 to 319 a liter, a 16 colon increase that is 5.28 percent. There are similar increases for kerosene and aviation fuels.

The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said the increases were the result of automatic computations that included a profit for service stations. The increase had been sought by the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A., the national petroleum monopoly.

There are about 500 colons to the U.S. dollar. And one liter is about 1.06 of a U.S. quart. So super will be about $3.45 a U.S. gallon. Regular will be about $3.29.

Two suspects on motorcycle
held in boy's shooting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Alajuela arrested two men who police say were involved in a Tuesday gang shootout in El Infiernillo that left an 11-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the leg. 

Since Tuesday, the Fuerza Pública has maintained checkpoints at the primary entrances to the barrio.  Wednesday, the two suspects, identified by the last names Arrieta Rojas and Bonilla Sánchez ran one of the checkpoints on a motorcycle. 

Police immediately followed them, officers said.  When the two reached the Gregorio José Ramírez subdivision, Arrieta threw Bonilla from the bike in an attempt to make an easier getaway, officers said.  When he arrived at Barrio Cristo Rey, Arrieta ditched the motorcycle and tried to enter a house, but officers arrested him before he could get in, they said.   Wednesday afternoon, police raided the home and came away with an AK-47 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, cocaine and crack-cocaine, officers said.  

Our reader's opinion

He wants president
to talk about road money

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Cannot remember the exact figures, but it appears that RITEVE SyC is saying that bad roads have nothing to do with autos not passing. Was it some 8 percent on suspension which they said was caused by roads and some 7 percent on brakes and the most by emissions?

I have a newer auto 2001. I have replaced frontend bushings, ball joints and linkage. I also replaced bearings with the hubs as the car has ABS brakes, and all is one unit. The cost to me now on just this is about $1,000 in parts imported. Now under the Napoleonic law system I would say that the local canton is guilty for not maintaining the roads and providing passage under Costa Rican Law. Now they would have to prove they are not guilty or pay for my repairs.

RITEVE wants to say bad roads have nothing to do with brakes. Well, what am I suppose to do when this big pothole is in front of me — of course I hit the brakes. I can be on a road without traffic, but I have to hit the brakes. These roads are full of dirt which gets into the brake linings and causes premature failure. So therefore the bad roads do have an impact on the brakes, so now 17 percent of autos fail because of roads.

I have a car with a diesel engine and yesterday changed the fuel filter. I worked as a chief engineer for many years and never have I seen a filter with so much crap. So now do we blame the poor emissions on the poor quality of fuel supplied by RECOPE? Maybe we can blame this also on the BAD roads as all the dirt that gets into the engine and also hitting so many potholes causes other problems. I have not seen as many cars as I do here with light bulbs burnt out. Why because the bad roads vibrate the filaments so much that pre-mature failure occurs.

So whose pocket is RITEVE into?? I heard that the previous inspections which was just an emission test had one supplier for the equipment, and guess who? I watch CNN news in English and wonder if the same is in Spanish. They have an ad that pops up and says "What is the greatest killer?" “Corruption.”

I wonder if President Pacheco would like to make a final statement before leaving office and would that be telling everyone how much money was collected for marchomos to fix the roads. I challenge you, Mr. President. Let us know
Richard Vienneau
Playa Potrero
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

Real estate agents and services

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Third news page

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Classifieds Real estate  Food About us
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 15

They don't come here for the wings and the burgers
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first problem with the new Hooters restaurant in Escazú arises when it's time to explain the pun to Ticos. The word means owls right?  Actually, the word hoot comes from houten or huten which both meant to call out, at one point.  Maybe a man's reaction as he walked by a particularly busty woman one day caused the world to adopt its current slang form in English.

Either way, it's still not apparent yet whether native Spanish speakers understand the other meaning, even after a reporter made two visits to the new restaurant.  Many of the male patrons Wednesday night had their girlfriends in tow which tends to defeat the purpose of going there in the first place.  Because, let's face it, the restaurant didn't become an international chain and form its own airline because the food or service is good. 

The franchise in Plaza Itzkazú follows the formula established by its counterparts in the United States.  Television sets blare the latest sporting events — although in Costa Rica, “sports,” only means “soccer.”  Scantily clad waitresses in orange Daisy Duke shorts and hooterrific tank tops flirt openly, although Angie, the waitress the first night, claimed it wasn't in the job description to do so.  However, Hula Hooping is, and several of the popular 50s toys hang just by the entrance for that purpose. So when it's slow, waitresses Hula Hoop, and the male patrons forget about soccer.   

"We're just supposed to be really nice,” Angie said.  The interior is decorated with what appears to be wood paneling, Christmas lights and road signs that read “Caution, Blondes Thinking,” and “Bumps,” under a pair of what could be speed bumps but more closely resemble the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

It would seem that the priorities for such an establishment would be threefold: keep the waitresses smiling, the sports on the television and the beer glasses full.  Being in Hooters merits a tall pitcher, and although Angie got that order right, Jackie, the waitress for the second visit, brought a couple of smaller mugs by mistake.  In both instances, service took awhile. 

After a couple of glasses, it's time to eat.  The menu is a bit perplexing.  It's entirely in Spanish except for the headings for the different items and two notes from management.  One reads: “Dear Guests: Our girls are not waitresses, they are local celebrities.  Help us keep their lifestyle.  We encourage you to tip accordingly.  Thank you.”  The other reads simply:

A.M. Costa Rica photo
'Local celebrities' in traditional uniforms
“We love it when you tip.  Tip a lot.”  There is no
mention of the impuestos servicios that is included in the bill. 

For the most part, prices are comparable to those in the United States.  A plate of wings smothered in Hooter's sauce goes for 3,550 colons, about $7.  Luckily, there are paper towel dispensers on every table to deal with clean-up.  A Philly cheese steak
sandwich costs 3,739 colons and a grilled chicken sandwich costs 2,682.  The menu says that the chicken sandwiches are marinated in teriyaki sauce, but that fact is not substantiated by the taste buds.   One other cultural difference is that sandwiches in the United States – at least in sports bars – come with french fries.  In Costa Rica, the side dish is beans.  They don't quite cut it.   

However, most patrons – at least in the United States – don't go to Hooters for the food.  They go because the waitresses have to talk to them.  And for the most part, the girls in Escazú were good at that.  Angie was very friendly.  She was working at Hooters because the tips were good, and, yes, Gringos generally tipped the most. 

Contrary to what one would infer, the owner of that particular establishment is from Guatemala where a franchise already existed.  Angie liked her job, she said.  Jackie, on the follow-up trip, tried gamely to be friendly but my associate got a bit grumpy when she forgot to bring fries and the beer glasses got empty.  By the end of the night, she appeared to be scared of him. 

At the end of two trips to Hooters, two things were certain: That  I wasn't going back without lots of peer pressure and more alcohol, and that some things simply shouldn't have left the United States.  Hooters is one of them. 

A little coffee and a lobster tail for under $10
My son has left. Now I have to make my own coffee in the morning. After he tried my coffee the first morning and told me it was the worst coffee he had ever tasted, I realized I had not been happy with its taste, either. Usually Volio, a very reasonably priced coffee works just fine, but this latest batch had the flavor of cardboard.

My top of the stove espresso pot needed cleaning, too, so I perked some white vinegar through it. I have no idea if that is recommended, but my motto when it comes to cleaning is "When in Doubt, Try Vinegar." The coffee still tasted like cardboard, so I bought some Britt espresso coffee beans. Justin said he would grind the beans and make the coffee. So for over a week I awakened to the delicious aroma of fresh coffee brewing.

Now I get up and make my own coffee. But I am getting back to my old routine, which fits into an early-to-rise and early-to-bed parameter. No games of scrabble, no watching movies on my computer, no watching C-span and having someone to discuss politics with. No laughing at someone else's funny comments. Once, in Sao Salvador, Brazil, I spent a week alone without talking to anyone except to order food in a restaurant. By the end of the week I was rubbing the sore muscles in my cheeks. I finally figured out that those muscles must be atrophying from not laughing or smiling. Sometimes I smile at my thoughts, but I seldom laugh out loud.

And there are no more evening dinners out. My one problem with guests is that most of them cannot adjust to dinner in the middle of the day and just a snack at night, so I have to eat again at night. With my upstairs neighbor Doug, Justin and I went to the Princessa Marina in Sabana West where they serve lobster tails for under $10. That's hard to beat. The first time I tried the broiled lobster with garlic, and it was a bit tough. So the next time I had the steamed (or maybe it was boiled) lobster with butter. Worth every penny.

It is a no frills restaurant with paper table mats and mashed or French fried potatoes, and a simple salad on the same plate as the lobster. It does a high
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

volume business and probably every Tico in the Central Valley has eaten there at least once.

We also, after reading Dr. Lenny's review, went to Machu Pichu. We each ordered the house seafood soup and two potato dishes -- causa limena and a papa rellana. When the two huge bowls of soup filled with seafood arrived we cancelled the other dishes and settled for sharing a suspiro limeno dessert. This pudding, which has to be made with sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream, was enough to make one swoon.

In spite of a careful check, Justin left some things behind, and that meant a trip to the post office. A trip downtown made me realize that one of the most irresistible lures is someone pointing at the sky. I was in a pharmacy when outside a small crowd had gathered, all looking up with a few pointing into the almost cloudless blue sky. I joined them, looking up but seeing nothing. The crowd grew. Some people were nodding, others (like myself) continued to be baffled.

When I walked to the next block another group of people were still looking skyward. I tried to follow the direction of the pointed fingers and finally asked someone what it was they were looking at. One man said it was a "vela de metal." A metal sail.

I returned home having never seen what was up there,* but thinking what a good way to draw everyone's attention. To what end, I had no idea. But given that I now have all of this time to myself, I can sit quietly and think about it and perhaps come up with an answer.

*EDITOR'S NOTE:  Some weather balloons sailed over the capital Friday, prompting some Costa Ricans to report flying saucers.

A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

Home Calendar Place a 
classified ad
Classifieds Real estate  Food About us
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 15

International Monetary Fund positive on Nicaragua
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The International Monetary Fund is giving generally favorable assessments to the economy of Nicaragua.

The assessment on Nicaragua was issued Wednesday in a review of its poverty reduction and growth agreement with the Central American nation.  In that review, the IMF said economic developments in Nicaragua were "broadly positive" in 2005, "notwithstanding pressure from higher oil prices."  In addition, the IMF said Nicaragua's fiscal deficit has been contained, but that the country's high level of inflation remains a concern.

Efforts to strengthen Nicaragua's investment climate will need to continue, the IMF said, to take "full advantage of the opportunities" afforded by the recently enacted U.S. free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic, known as CAFTA-DR.  Nicaragua is one of the five Central American nations involved in the trade pact with the United States.

On the negative side, the IMF said Nicaragua continues to face "important economic vulnerabilities, in particular from a still-high public debt, a large external current account deficit, and widespread financial dollarization."
"Dollarization" occurs when a country surrenders its own currency and uses as its medium of exchange the currency of a foreign nation.  The danger in this, economists say, is that a "dollarized" country may have no independent money supply, hampering that nation’s efforts to form a monetary policy.

The IMF said Nicaragua's key economic challenge is to strengthen its "fiscal framework to assure sustainability, and preserve the space for needed investment and poverty-reducing spending."  In this vein, the IMF said Nicaragua's tax administration will need to be strengthened, including revisions to the tax code.  The country also needs to focus on returning the public pension system to "actuarial soundness" and developing a "credible fiscal responsibility framework."

Nicaraguan authorities are to be "commended," said the IMF, for their "strong commitment" to a reformed economic agenda, "which has helped to maintain a stable macroeconomic framework and set the stage for the implementation of structural reforms that will be key to growth and poverty reduction."

The IMF said the Nicaraguan authorities' focus on good governance and the fight against corruption is also "essential to achieving strong and lasting growth and poverty alleviation." 

Proponents seek to spur lagging world trade talks
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Doha Development Round of world trade negotiations should have been completed at a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Hong Kong last month. But amid recurrent wrangling between rich and poor countries the talks are still far from complete.  Some experts expect the talks to fail, others are more optimistic.

The Hong Kong talks produced only modest results, its principal achievement being a commitment from wealthy nations to end agricultural export subsidies by 2013.

The Doha Round was launched to modernize trade rules and bring the benefits of globalization to more countries. The implicit premise was that if Europe and North America end their trade-distorting farm subsidies, developing countries would open their protected markets to more services and goods from advanced economies. But Europe and America have been unable to agree among themselves on ending farm subsidies and that has held up the Doha Round.

Trade experts in Washington have been contemplating what can be done to save the negotiations. Trade lawyer Gary Horlick says a political lightning bolt, such as leadership from a major trading nation, is required to jump-start the negotiations. One skeptic, trade specialist Jeff Schott, identifies the WTO's own rules, the requirement that an agreement be unanimously approved, as a hindrance to success.

"Any small pipsqueak country can go and slow up the works. Or stop a result from happening. And what this means is that it is harder to do business in the WTO," he said.

In Washington, some participants at the International Law Institute's trade forum Wednesday predicted that the 28 nations that account for 90 percent of all world trade might negotiate their own agreement and present it to other WTO members on a take it or leave it basis. Others stressed that if an agreement is to
emerge, progress will have to be made in the next few months.

Trade lawyer Charles Verrill says a major positive fact at Hong Kong was that India and Brazil were strong advocates of a WTO agreement. "That emergence gave me confidence, more so than for some of the other people here, that something can be done as Brazil continues to play a very powerful, and I would say, intellectually very well driven role in these negotiations," said Verrill.

Now a major exporter of farm products and jet aircraft, Brazil is a much bigger player in trade than it was a decade ago. Brazilian diplomat Aluiso Campos is pleased with the constructive role his country played in crafting the interim agreement that emerged from Hong Kong.

"It was difficult and it was hard," he said.  "There were some very difficult moments when tables were banged and people left the room. It was very difficult. But in the end everyone came out of there saying, you know, this text is the will of everyone."

India also played a constructive role in keeping the trade talks going. Now a major call center for businesses in Europe, America and Australia, India has an interest in removing restrictions on global services trade.

Grant Aldonas, a former trade official in the Bush administration, says the goal of unfettered trade should be presented as a basic freedom.

"When we're liberalizing things, even down to the level of tariffs, what we're really doing is affirming the freedom of contract for individuals in countries to deal with the rest of the world," he explained.  "That is a powerful freedom we're talking about.  And it isn't reduced to just the tariff line items."

Trade ministers from the major trading nations will hold informal discussions next week on how to move the Doha Round forward.

Three and maybe four Costa Ricans to reach surf quarterfinals in Perú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three of Costa Rica's representatives at the seventh Juegos Panamericanos de Surf made the cut to be included in the tournament at the opening events in Perú Thursday.

Federico Pilurzu of Playa Tamarindo, Diego Naranjo of Jacó and Jason Torres of Garabito were able to qualify for the quarterfinals of the tournament.  Pilurzu and Naranjo qualified in the open division, while their colleague, Luis Vindas is not yet eliminated and still 
may qualify as the heats go on.  Pilurzu also qualified in the longboard competition.  

“In this competition, I have felt strongly that we could move up in the rankings.  The conditions were helping us and if everybody surfs well, we have an 80 or 90 percent chance of putting a Costa Rican in the final of the open,” Naranjo said.     
Their teammate, Jason Torres, was able to reach the quarter finals in the junior division after a strong performance against Peruvian Javier Swayne.

Jo Stuart
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