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(506) 2223-1327           Posted Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 17     Email us
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Dragon
A.M. Costa Rica pohotos/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
New Year's is not complete without a dancing dragon
Crowds turn out to celebrate Chinese New Year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The line for free arroz cantonés stretched more than a block Monday as chefs from Chinese restaurants all over the valley produced enough for 11,000 persons. It was the local observance of the Chinese New year in a place that soon will be called Barrio Chino.

A dragon danced as well as women dressed in the old Chinese style, and martial artists demonstrated kung fu. Monday marks the start of the Year of the Dragon in the 12-year rotation of the Chinese Zodiac calendar.  The Centro Cultural y Educativo Costarricense Chino will be holding more events next week.
chefs and arroz
Ismail Lam of the San Sebastian restaurant Mey Lai Shen gives a smile as he and other chefs stir the rice.


Two expats held hostage in botched home invasion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bold daylight home invasion in Escazú got worse Monday when a neighbor notified police. The result was a five-hour hostage situation in which two U.S. citizens were at the mercy of four gunmen, some of them with criminal records.

The bandits finally surrendered around 4:30 p.m. and released the two hostages. One is Tom Sweeney, a long-time expat here, and a woman identified as an employee. Sweeney runs an online matchmaking service at that location.

Negotiators from the Judicial Investigating Organization finally broke the stalemate, and the home invaders allowed Sweeney and the unidentified woman to leave individually. They were escorted to safety by teams of tactical squad members holding shields. Each was led to an ambulance for a trip to Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Judicial police said that Sweeney had been beaten in the face by the intruders. The woman suffered a blow to a cheek. The injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Home invasions are a frequent event in Costa Rica, and crooks seem to be targeting older residents more. Sweeney was reported to be 71 by a Cruz Roja attendant. Despite the frequency, this crime, because of the time and the hostage situation,  received running coverage on the area's major television stations.

Police said the initial notification of the crime came in about 11:30 a.m. from a neighbor in the 
Bello Horizonte section of Escazú. That brought Fuerza Pública and judicial police tactical squads to surround the home with Cruz Roja ambulances standing by. Eventually negotiators established contact with the hostage takers.

The home invaders arrived in a taxi that was parked in the driveway. Presumably they were going to leave that way until the police thwarted their plans.

The Fuerza Pública said that two of the men were Colombians and two were Costa Rican. Two had prior judicial encounters for crimes, and one had been convicted but was let out of the Puntarenas prison in a form of conditional release. He only had to report to the prison once a week.

Bello Horizonte is an upscale neighborhood that has been troubled with robberies, break-ins and other home invasions.

After the home invasion suspects were led to police transportation, officers searched the home for weapons and other possible suspects.

Sweeney runs Spanish Eyes Costa Rica, which is a matrimonial agency mostly for North American men and Latin women.

Late Saturday there was a home invasion in San Miguel de Escazú. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that two masked men entered the home and tied up a nurse who was attending an elderly couple there. The wife awoke about 1 a.m. Sunday to find the nurse tied up in the kitchen.

The couple appear to have slept through the crime.

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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.


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Women's Club book sale
will be Saturday in Belén

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Women's Club of Costa Rica is hosting its annual book and bake sale Saturday at the Pan-American School, San Antonio de Belén, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The group has hundreds of books for sale that have been donated to the club as part of its educational philanthropy. In the past, the funds raised have gone to help plant libraries in schools all over the country. And the organization plans to do the same with the money made at the sale this year.

Last year the book sale raised a couple thousand dollars said a spokesperson for the organization. The items range from languages to a variety of genres said the spokesperson. There is a little bit of everything.

There will also be magazines, DVD's, CD's, and baked goodies from Coffee Corner available for purchase at the entertainment rummage sale.

The Women's Club of Costa Rica is still accepting item and monetary donations. For drop-off locations those with books can call 2589-2037 or 2293-5118.


Animal adoption fair
is Saturday in Moravia


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An animal adoption fair will be held this Saturday at Auto Mercado Moravia from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Animales de Asís is the shelter holding the event for people to find a new pet and take a homeless animal into a loving home. The organization shelters cats and dogs from different ages and sizes.

Costa Rica has a slew of homeless animals that roam the streets in search of food and shelter. It is common to come across a dog nuzzling through trash for its next meal. Some of these animals are taken into a shelter and nursed back to health. Most of these saved animals have malnutrition, fleas, and other sicknesses that need to be addressed.

The event is free but the shelter has asked for a minimal contribution of 6,000 colons for a cat and 10,000 colons for a dog. The fee covers the shots, and the cost to spay or neuter the pet. That's about $12 to $20.

The Web site for Animales de Asís has a section displaying some of the animals they are housing at the shelter in hopes of a new home. A picture, age, size and a cute description of the animal in first person is provided. Those interested can call 2267-6011.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 17
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Danger lurks in those clear skies, weather institute warns
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The high season brings blue skies but also possible overexposure to the sun and a wave of respiratory illnesses.

Meanwhile, U.S. scientists are reporting that La Niña, that periodic cooling trend in the central Pacific, might promote influenza.

The Instituto Meteorológico said Monday that the masses of dry air over the country and the moderate winds discourage the formation of clouds. That means the tropical sun can do bad things to the skin if residents here do not take precautions.

The weather institute also noted that the lack of a cloud cover can cause a wide variation in the temperature.  In the Central Valley the daytime temperature can reach 30 degrees C. (about 86 F), but in early morning the mercury may bottom out to 12 C or about 54 F. Although cold weather does not cause respiratory diseases, the lower temperatures can be uncomfortable particularly in homes that are not closed to the wind.

Even though school is out there appears to be an increase in respiratory problems in the Central Valley.  School begins next month, and children generally pick up germs and bacteria from social interaction there. There is no immediate explanation for a spike in colds, flu, headaches, chills and similar symptoms now. It may be that during vacations children forget the basics of hand washing and other anti-germ measure that are promoted in school.

Jeffrey Shaman, of the Columbia University School of Public Health, speculates that La Niña may indirectly cause flu. La Niña is a periodic cooling of Pacific ocean waters that triggers changes in global weather patterns. Among other things, that altered weather disrupts bird migrations, he notes.

Birds can carry flu virus, and when their migratory patterns change, they can come into contact with other avian species
headache

they don't normally meet, birds which might carry a different strain of flu virus.

In the process, the viruses’ genetic material can get intermingled to create new influenza strains in a process known as reassortment.

"And it's this reassortment, this creation of new sub-types that takes place, and we think it's in the bird population that generates, potentially, these pandemic strains that can infect humans and to which most of the world's population will be susceptible," Shaman says.

Shaman showed that the four documented flu pandemics in the past century began directly after a La Niña event in the Pacific. He presented his views in a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reports from NASA satellites say that La Niña is strengthening in the Pacific.


250 law officers deployed to rescue crime-plagued Limón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry has shifted 250 more officers to Limón to halt a wave of violent crimes that have taken place since the first of the year.

In addition to Fuerza Pública officers and tactical squad members, immigration agents and a dog unit have been assigned to the areas around Cieneguita, Pacuarito, Barrio Limoncito and other places where police have not been anxious to go.

There have been a handful of murders in the area since the first of the year. Most were done by persons in cars or on motorcycles shooting down someone walking or standing on the street.
Mario Zamora Cordero, the minister, said he has assigned a vice minister, Celso Gamboa, to direct the effort, which is called rescate Limón or “Limón Rescue.”

Zamora said that drastic action was required to bring peace and tranquility to the area. The ministry said the officers are assigned there until Zamora chooses to recall them. All the units are within Zamora's Ministerio de Gobernación y Policía y Seguridad Pública.  The deployment began at 10 a.m. Monday.

Police reported that they already found two motorcycles that have been reported missing, confiscated crack and a 9mm. pistol and located a Spanish citizen who has been in the country illegally, the ministry said.


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A.M. Costa Rica's 
Fourth news page
renes law firm
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 17
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Banco Anglo Costarricense
Banco Anglo Costarricense
Colegio Superior de la Señoritas
Colegio Superior de la Señorita
Escuela Metálica
Escuela Metálica
or Edificio Metálico
San Jose's neoclassical heritage to be showcased by walking tour
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Alianza Francesa says that about 1850 San José changed from a typical Latin American village into a city with European airs thanks to the construction of neoclassical buildings.

To demonstrate that point, the French cultural organization has another walking tour planned. This one is Feb. 11 at 9 a.m. with architect Andrés Fernández. The event is called appropriately  “San José Neoclásico.”

The tour includes buildings residents see every day but in a new light. The tour includes the Banco Anglo Costarricense building on the pedestrian walkway that was the scene of a financial disaster when the state bank failed.

The bank that failed due to internal corruption in the 1990s. The central government has restored the building that is on the pedestrian mall that is Avenida Central downtown.

Other sites includes the Edificio Metálico or Escuela Metalica,
 Parque Morazán, the Colegio Superior de las Señoritas, the Catedral Metropolitana and the Teatro Nacional. All are within short walking distance of each other.

Neoclassical refers to art and design movements that are based on Greece or Roman traditions. It was popular in the mid-19th century here.

Alianza Francesa released undated photos of each structure. Some appear to have been taken at the turn of the 20th century or earlier. The structures seem identical to what they are now except that the exterior has changed with more vegetation or landscaping or fences.

The tour admission is 15,000 colons or about $30. That includes the guided walk, discussions and brunch in the cafe of the Teatro Nacional.

This is the third such excursion sponsored by the cultural center. The first explored Barrio México. The second concentrated on the downtown churches.

Parque Morazán and bandstand
Parque Morazán and bandstand
Catedral Metropolitana
Catedral Metropolitana

Teatro Nacional
Teatro Nacional


Back-to-schoool needs show a wide variety of price differences
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican parents are going to drop from 62,169 to 76,813 colons to send each of their children to public school Feb. 8.

That is the minimal estimate by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio. The differences depend on the grade level of the child. The amount is from $122.23 to $152.26 at the current rate of exchange.

The ministry conducted another survey of the marketplace, this time from Jan. 9 to 13 of items needed for school. The survey was by the Dirección de Apoyo al Consumidor.

Although Costa Rica has mostly free public education, the materials and uniforms are not free, and some children do not attend school because their parents cannot afford the outlay.

The ministry also urged shoppers to compare prices. When the ministry did, its surveyors found differences of up to 919 percent for similar items. They checked 909 types of products, the ministry said. Surveyors went to 14 stores selling school uniforms and 123 that sell school needs like notebooks.

The biggest variation was between a young man's school shirt
 that sold for 7,190 colons (about $14.25) in La Gloria in San José and one that sold for 795 colons ($1.58) at Walmart in Guadalupe.  The ministry noted that similar articles may be of vastly different quality. Still, the price differences in five other top items ranged from 860 percent to 344 percent.

Identical clothing items were much closer in price. School socks showed a difference of 68 percent in the survey of Central Valley stores. Other identical items differed from 3.1 to 67.60 percent.

Identical school supplies showed a wider variation. Identical erasers ranged form 808 colons to 1,695 colons. That is from $1.60 to $3.36.

The survey used the list of minimum required supplies provided by the Ministerio de Educación Pública for the various grade levels. The survey did not include the fees for enrollment, textbooks or other costs that depend on the individual institution.

The full survey is on the ministry Web site with names of stores and the prices listed. The central government provides lower-income families with financial aid for students in school under the Avancemos program.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Fashion CR
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 17
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Big solar storm will peak
with polar light shows


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The biggest solar storm in seven years currently is hitting the Earth, but does not pose a threat to life on the planet.

The U.S. National Weather Service says the blast of solar radiation, known as a coronal mass ejection may disrupt some satellite and electric ground communications as it peaks today.  The inclement space weather is expected to last until Wednesday.

The U.S. weather agency says this week’s coronal mass ejection originated from a moderate x-ray flare that erupted on the surface of the Sun early Monday.

The last time the Sun produced a storm of this intensity was May 2005.  

The Sun is entering an increasingly violent period of its normal 11-year cycle.  This interval of high activity, known as the solar maximum, is expected to peak in 2013.

Coronal mass ejections are billion ton clouds of super-heated gas and charged particles that are blasted into space from the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, at several million kilometers per hour. 

When the storm’s plasma and particles strike the Earth’s protective magnetic field, the interaction produces colorful auroras, the beautiful, harmless light displays that are seen shimmering across the night skies near North and South poles.  


U.N. rights chief criticizes
Guantanamo's jail facility


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U. N. human rights chief Navi Pillay is voicing deep disappointment that the U.S. government has failed to close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as President Barack Obama pledged on taking office three years ago.

Ms. Pillay, in a statement Monday, noted the 10th anniversary of the prison opening and the third anniversary of Obama's inauguration promise to close the facility within 12 months.  She also said that prisoners remain arbitrarily detained indefinitely, and called the detentions a clear breach of international law.

Ms. Pillay said she also remains disturbed by the government's failure to allow independent human rights monitoring of detention conditions at the facility.

Former president George W. Bush set up the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, after U.S.-led forces went to war in Afghanistan against al-Qaida, the militant group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Supporters say the facility is vital to the war effort, while critics say harsh interrogation procedures and several reported inmate suicides have damaged U.S. prestige abroad.

President Obama signed an order on Jan. 22, 2009, temporarily suspending military court proceedings at the base and promising its closure.  But in May of that year, the U.S. Senate blocked funds needed for the transfer of prisoners from the facility.  U.S. officials have since said prospects for closing the prison are small, given broad opposition in the U.S. Congress to such a move.


World newspaper association
says Correa shuns democracy


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers issued a report Monday that illustrates how the government of Ecuador is carrying out “a sophisticated strategy of marginalizing all voices independent of state power.”

The report, built on the organization’s research and on the findings from a mission to Quito and Guayaquil from Oct. 26 to  Nov. 2, reveals that the Ecuadorean government is “establishing a strict control over all arenas of public debate, while couching this in a debate centered around media plurality.”

The report reveals contradictions between the official discourse, which calls from greater media plurality, and the authoritarian practices of the president of the republic, Rafael Correa, and his government.

“The government appears to have decided to follow a path that distances it from democracy,” said Christoph Riess. “Not only is it the wrong path, but it is a dangerous path as well”.

The report comes out only a day before the national court of justice hears an appeal from El Universo. The newspaper’s former opinion editor, Emilio Palacio, the newspaper and its executives Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, were sentenced in July 2011 to three years in prison on defamation charges and ordered to pay $40 million to the president. The sentence was upheld by an appeal court in September. The case has caused international indignation at the president’s pursuit of a criminal case to intimidate voices critical to his administration.

“With upcoming elections in one year’s time, to which Rafael Correa will most probably be a candidate, we must be ready for more violations to freedom of expression,” said Riess. “The international community will closely follow events.”

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, based in Paris, France, represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

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Latin America news
Municipalities lag on action
over cell tower requests


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cantons of Coronado, Dota, Flores, Garabito, Heredia, Limón, Pérez Zeledón, San Isidro and Sarapiquí have not yet passed regulations for installing cell telephone towers for the benefit of the two private companies that have set up their operations in the country.

Even those cantons that have regulations are moving slowly.  The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones said that the two private telephone companies, Movistar and Claro, only have 65 percent coverage of the country because of the absence of cell towers.

The towers are controversial, and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, as a government agency, did not need municipal permission to erect its towers. But it will not share them with the private firms.

The cantons of Barva, Flores, Santa Bárbara, Santo Domingo, Curridabat, La Unión and Montes de Oca have 100 percent of their cell tower requests pending, said the Superintendencia.  Tibás, Escazú, Santa Ana, Alajuela, Oreamuno, Aserrí, Carrillo, Corredores, Esparza and Zarcero still are considering 70 percent of their requests, it added.

At this point 62 of the country's 81 cantons have regulations about cell towers, up from 29 when the contracts were signed permitting the two firms to operate here in May 2011, the Superintendencia said.

Some 17 cantons have approved the requests presented to them. A total of 136 applications have been approved in these areas.


Two sets of prison terms
handed out in murders


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men who shot and robbed a competition cyclist got 37 years in prison Monday in the Tribunal Penal de Cartago. Also Monday, two men each got 55 years in prison for the robbery and murder of two men in a Guachipelín de Escazú apartment in August 2010.

The cyclist, John Mauricio, 25, was practicing one Sunday a year ago with friends when armed men confronted them on a rural road in Linda Vista de Patarrá in Coris de Cartago. That was Jan. 30.  The men who have the last names of  Barrantes Sánchez, Membreño González y Mora Morales got the prison term for murder and robbery.

The Tribunal Penal de Pavas-Hatillo imposed the 55-year term on two men with the last names of Alfaro Moraga and Ávila Acuña. They were judged guilty in the murders of  Luis Salas Fernández and Ezry Cambronero Ureña at the end of a party in the condo.


Train collides with bus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A packed San José-bound bus collided with a passenger train Monday morning and 20 persons suffered injuries.

The mishap took place at a crossing in Barrio Cuba east of the complex of municipal cemeteries. The bus was bound from Alajuelita. Train crossings in the Central Valley do not have gates that descend when a train is near, but engineers usually blow their horn loudly at intersections. The train was headed west.








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