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These stories were published Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 18
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Just who ya calling fat, ladies?
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Have you ever actually stopped to ask Ticos what they think of football? Not futból. Football, the northern religion that captivates millions of fans throughout the States every year. 

Have you ever sat down and asked a Tico whether he knows what the Super Bowl is, let alone who is playing in it?

"Super Bowl?" Javier Manuel asked skeptically. "Like a bowl for cereal?" Ticos can rattle on for hours about the local futból clubs. They can even tell you about every player in the Italian, Spanish, and British leagues. Ask them about American football, however, and you will receive a sea of blank faces and snickers. 

"La NFL corecto?" Miguel Pérez Carrera inquired. He had heard of it, even seen a game in passing on ESPN Desportes, but he hadn’t bothered to watch it. There was a futból game on the other channel.

"It’s so slow," Raul Araya groaned. "Every time they start going, they have to stop. Its boring." Well, at least he had seen a game. Many Ticos have seen the game at one point or another. Most of them have sentiments similar to those of Araya, however. 

A group of girls at a local hostel wondered why people like the sport so much. "They wear those ugly uniforms," Sophia Perez Sibaja said. "Oh you mean those fat guys that bang their heads against one another for fun," Daniela Rücher asked. 

Fat isn’t entirely correct. Granted, according to the National Football League, the two teams 

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Sofia Pérez Sibaja, Natalia Blanco Arias, and Daniela Rüchel 

in the Super Bowl this year have a combined 25 men on their active rosters weighing in at 300 pounds or more, but they can still run six second 40-yard dashes. Sumo wrestlers are fat, Chad Rowan, the first foreign born champion, weighed in at 510 pounds according to the Sumo Association. "Yeah, those wrestlers are fat too, but nobody claims that they are great athletes," Natalia Blanco Arias uttered.

The Super Bowl is just under two weeks away, and while Gringos are planning parties for the holy Sunday, Ticos remain oblivious. The bowl, one of the most watched programs every year, is apparently making up for the lack of a Costa Rican audience elsewhere. 

Bars throughout the San José area will be carrying the game. As Gringos continue to flock towards Costa Rica, the game is likely to become more and more well known. 

"They always watch it in the Gringo bars," Raul Araya said. "I guess I could watch a game two, though, if I was drinking beer the whole time."

 
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Banks tighten up rules
on corporate accounts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The anonymous corporation is becoming an endangered species in Costa Rica.

Worried about money laundering, Costa Rican private banks are tightening up their requirements so that even minority stockholders of corporations must disclose their interests and provide adequate identification.

Technically, anonymous corporations could still exist, but they could not open checking or savings accounts or even cash a check from a third party.

In the past, a Sociedad Anónima could be formed by intermediaries. The real owner of the corporation would not appear on any corporate papers. However, the anonymous real owner would control most or all of the corporation stock and have full voting power.

The attraction was obvious for persons who wanted to hide quantities of money from an ex-spouse, taxing authorities or law enforcement. Corporate stock ownership is not a public record, so the true owner could remain anonymous.

Even before Sept. 11, 2001, private banks here were cautious about opening bank accounts for corporations that did not have a track record. After the terrorist attacks, the United States embarked on a worldwide crusade against the finances of terrorists and drug trafficking.

In Costa Rica the failure of the high-interest borrowing operations of Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho, Louis Milanes and his Savings Unlimited plus a host of other similar operations have caused banks to tighten the application process. Companies that exchange currencies face even tighter restrictions at some banks.

Costa Rica has another reason for encouraging private banks to get complete information on corporate ownership. Officials expect that the new tax reform package soon will be passed, and they are trying to shut loopholes where those with money can evade local taxes.

Ownership records of corporations held by banks would be easily accessible to tax police and law enforcement.

The Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras, the regulatory agency, imposed additional requirements on private banks Oct. 9. That action came in the wake of the failure of Banco Elca, a high-profile private bank.

2004 was a bad year
for world’s journalists

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

PARIS, France — Seventy-one journalists and other media workers were killed because of their professional activities in 2004, with 23 of them killed in Iraq, the most dangerous place for journalists on the planet, the World Association of Newspapers said Tuesday.

The toll was the highest for a single year since 1994, when 73 were killed.

Journalists working in Iraq continue to be targets for kidnapping and murder, with 23 killed in 2004 after 15 deaths in the country in 2003.

The Philippines was the second most deadly place for journalists, with 11 killed in 2004, compared with seven killed the previous year.

"While war and terrorism accounted for a large number of deaths, many reporters who investigate organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption and other crimes also fell victim to assassins," said Timothy Balding, director general of the Paris-based organization known as WAN.

"Many of the killers are never caught or prosecuted, and WAN will focus its activities for World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, on "Impunity — Getting Away With Murder," Balding said.

"Around the world, hundreds of journalists have been killed in the past decade. In more than two-thirds of the cases, no one has been brought to justice, much less convicted," he said.

Details of all the murders, listed by country, are available on the WAN web site at http://www.wan-press.org/rubrique512.html

The 2004 death toll compares with 53 killed in 2003, 46 killed in 2002, 60 killed in 2001 and 53 killed in 2000. Seventy journalists died 1999 and 28 in 1998.

Journalists and other media workers were also killed in Bangladesh (4), Belarus (1), Brazil (2), Colombia (1), Dominican Republic (1), Gambia (1), Haiti (1), India (3),  Israel and the Occupied Territories (1), Ivory Coast (1), Mexico (4), Nepal (2), Nicaragua (2), Pakistan (1), Paraguay (1), Peru (2),  Russia (3),  Saudi Arabia (1), Serbia and Montenegro (1), Sri Lanka (3), and Venezuela (1).

Several press freedom organizations track the number of journalists killed each year. The numbers vary based on the criteria used by different associations. WAN’s figures include all media workers killed in the line of duty or targeted because of their work. It also includes cases where the motive for the killings is unsure or where investigations have not been completed.

WAN, the global organization for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers. Its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 10 news agencies and 10 regional and worldwide press groups.

English teachers meeting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 650 English teachers from all over the country were to kick off a three-day meeting this morning at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses. The teachers will hear from several North American language experts, including one via videoconferencing.

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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German tourist story less sensational than initial tale
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The story of Ronal Jurisch, the German professor whose leg was amputated in Costa Rica, made its way through hundreds of online newspapers and chat boards last week. Tuesday the director of Hospital CIMA, Dr. Hugo Villegas, confirmed the substance of the story but not elements that would cause tourists to shun the country.

Jurisch was admitted to hospital CIMA in Escazú last Feb. 24 after he asked to be transferred from Hospital San Rafael in that Alajeula community, Villegas said in a telephone interview. "The doctors had diagnosed him with gangrene and had amputated his leg in order to stop the spread of the infection," he said.

The story that originally appeared in the German press seemed inconsistent and suggested that Jurisch, a tourist, was victimized by aggressive physicians who cut off his leg without his knowledge. The story turns out to be less sensational.

According to Villegas, when Jurisch was admitted to CIMA, he was diagnosed with severe blood poisoning, a result of the gangrene. "The condition is called septic shock," Villegas said. "The infection had entered his blood stream and was compromising major organs, including the heart."

Jurisch remained at CIMA for four weeks recovering from the blood poisoning before hospital officials 

decided that he was well enough to take a plane back to Germany. "Septic shock normally comes with a 40 to 60 percent mortality rate," Villegas said. "We were happy he recovered, and nurses noted in their reports that Jurisch was feeling happy about returning home."

Original reports stated that Jurisch awoke in an airport and realized for the first time that his leg had been amputated.  The original story, published in the German newspaper Bild, claimed that Jurisch was then taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with blood poisoning. 

"I can’t really comment on those statements, other then to say that Mr. Jurisch was never at the airport other then when he left to go back to Germany," Villegas said. "Septic shock can affect the entire body, even the brain. Sometimes septic shock can cause some forms of mental suffering."

The original story suggested that Jurisch’s leg did not need to be amputated. "It would be hard to say whether or not the leg needed to be amputated for sure without having seen it first hand," Villegas said. "Sometimes you can try to localize the infection and prevent the spread with antibiotics, but in general you need to get rid of it immediately. Given his level of infection afterwards, it seems like the doctors might not have had much choice." 

Jurisch returned home to Germany March 22. 


 
Tax waviers for tourism industry are suspended
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Businesses involved in the tourism industry will now be required to pay tax on all purchases. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has suspended the incentive for tourism companies after the Contraloria General de la Republica objected to certain articles relating to the tourism incentive law. The decision was made by the Contraloria after an audit of the Institute during October 2004.

The result will be higher costs for certain tourism businesses and higher costs for tourists when the costs are passed along.

The implication for rent-a-car companies is that they will no longer get a 50 percent reduction in duties when they import vehicles every three years.  In addition, hotels will have to pay tax on all articles such as lamps, bedding and cooking utensils. Tour companies that import microbuses will also be paying full tax. 

The Contraloria informed the Asamblea Legislativa 

Sept. 6 that deputies should review all aspects relating to the exoneration law. In response, Rodrigo Castro Fonseca, the minister of Turismo said that the institute would be appealing against the decision. Castro said that the tourism industry has been exonerated from over $23 million in taxes and duties

Castro said that the decision by the Contraloria will affect the tourism industry that in 2004 generated more than $1.5 billion with the arrival of more than 1.4 million tourists. He also said that he will be meeting with the Procuraduria, the nation’s lawyer. 

Carlos Roesch, the ex-minister of tourism and president of the Camara Costarricense de Hoteles, said that the suspension will represent a change in the rules for the private tourist sector and it will jeopardize any future investments. 

William Rodriguez, the president of the Camera Nacional de Turismo, said that the tourism insider will lose its competitive edge on an international level now that hotel prices will have to rise to accommodate the extra costs. 


 
Reduced distances between passenger jets praised as a money-saver
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON D.C. — A new procedure will cut in half the minimum vertical airspace required between airliners at high altitudes —  saving airlines flying in Latin America and the Caribbean about $400 million over 15 years while still maintaining passenger safety, said the International Civil Aviation Organization.

In a statement, the organization, an agency of the United Nations charged with developing international standards for aviation, said the reduction in vertical airspace that went into effect Thursday will also result in a savings of $5.3 billion for airlines flying in North America over the same 15-year period.

In addition, the airspace reduction will result in more efficient flight operations and related benefits for airlines, passengers, and the environment, said an organization spokesman.

According to the organization reduced vertical separation minimum, from 2,000 to 1,000 feet for airlines flying at an altitude between 29,000 feet and 41,000 feet, provides "access to more efficient cruising levels when responding to changing operating conditions."  This leads to less fuel burn, with related savings for airlines and less pollution from engine emissions.

The civil aviation organization also said that the creation of six additional high-altitude flight levels would increase the overall efficiency of airspace management — leading to better on-time performance and fewer delays on the major air traffic routes between North and South America, as well as through the Caribbean and Central America.

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Romeo con man preyed on older women with money
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 60-year-old Los Guidos man faces seven allegations that he is a love bandit.

Investigators say the man is suspected of placing personal ads in the local Spanish-language press seeking women older than 40, single and economically well off to establish a relationship.

Women who answered the advertisement complained that once they had established a relationship, the man would suggest making a trip to Panamá to purchase goods for import into Costa Rica. He would ask the woman to come up with substantial cash as working capital.

Some had the money, and others took out a loan to further the business deal, agents said.

The con man who took advantage of women would take them first to San José on the pretext of completing some business transaction. He would seek a parking place in areas where spaces are had to find. He then would ask the woman to step out of the car and wait for him near the place of supposed buisness while he found a parking place.

The man never returned, and the women left their luggage and cash inside the vehicle, said investigators.

Investigators said they suspect there are other victims, and they would like to hear from them.


 
Government will relocate yet another town on coast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials will try to relocate yet another community to spare it future problems with flooding.

Officials already announced general plans for relocating Sixaola in extreme southeastern Costa Rica. That community was ravaged by floods from the Río Sixaola, and homes were under water up to the rooftops.

Tuesday, the government gave more details on Sixaola and said that Corina de Matina, near Limón, also would be relocated. An interinstitutional committee made up of selected ministers has been working a week to devise plans for the Caribbean region. Some of those plans were presented to the Consejo de Gobierno, the presidential cabinet, Tuesday. 

In addition, Fernando Trejos, minister of Trabajo y Seguridad Social, said that two programs would be set up to help some 1,200 displaced banana workers. The crop suffered serious damage in the January flooding, so workers will get 50 percent of a minimum salary from 

the government for two months in order to feed their families, Trejos said.

The government also has created 500 jobs in reconstruction and cleanup. These jobs will pay 70,000 colons a month for three months. That’s  about $152 a month. Jobs will be open from Sarapiquí to the north and in all the six cantons of the Province of Limón.

Officials are now estimating that the loss to flooding may be as high as $74 million.

Helio Fallas, minister of Vivienda y Asentamientos Humanos, explained the plan to relocate the two towns.

Two possible locations exist for the new Sixaola, and each will be evaluated, he said. A suitable spot exists to relocate Corina, but the approval is pending a report from the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

Discussions also will be held with residents, officials said.


 
U.S. planning to use high tech radio frequencies to track visitors
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is about to test radio technology that will allow the automatic recording of visitors’ arrivals and departures at U.S. borders.

If successful, the technology will be incorporated into the US-VISIT system, which strives to simultaneously make borders more secure and allow foreign visitors efficient processing as they enter the United States.

"Through the use of radio frequency technology, we see the potential to not only improve the security of our country, but also to make the most important infrastructure enhancements to the U.S. land borders in more than 50 years," said Asa Hutchinson,  Homeland Security undersecretary Tuesday. 

Radio frequency technology is what allows a car owner to unlock his vehicle from some distance away. It is also employed at highway tollbooths to allow frequent travelers faster passage through the gates. 


 
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