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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 28       E-mail us
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An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Committee needs to look hard at immigration bill
A legislative committee will be taking testimony on the proposed immigration law today.

The major topic is whether the immigration agency will become independent or stay a dependency of the security ministry. Either way, we hope it becomes more efficient and responsive to the needs of its customers. It is a morass now.

The big issue, however, is whether the new law is retroactive and will require current foreign residents here to meet higher income requirements.

Cracker barrel lawyers quickly have said that a law in Costa Rica cannot become retroactive. Even Mario Zamora Cordero, the immigration director, said the law will not be retroactive.

We disagree. A transitory paragraph appears to require a foreign resident to meet current income requirements upon renewal of rentista or pensionado residency status. This needs to be changed, and we urge the committee, the  Comisión de Asuntos Permanentes de Gobierno y Administración, to take another look at that paragraph.

The paragraph should be changed so that there is no chance that the law will be interpreted to mean retroactivity. Otherwise, at best, there will be an extensive litigation on this point. And who knows how the Sala IV constitutional court will decide.

It is clear that lawmakers want to raise the monthly income standards for foreigners. The current minimum requirement for pensionado is $600. An increase is in order, but not the one
contained in the proposed law now that requires a monthly income of $2,000.

As reader after reader has pointed out, increasing the pensionado requirement by $1,400 and jacking the rentista monthly amount to $5,000 would be a slap in the face to North Americans and others considering relocating here. After all, rentista and pensionado categories are only a step on the path to permanent residency, which has no income requirements.

We see nothing wrong with requiring foreign residents to join the social services program of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, as the proposal provides. Many are members already, and many take advantage of the low-cost medical care provided by the state.

We see nothing wrong with the proposal to strengthen the immigration police. We  believe that the so-called perpetual tourist sometimes is an individual with good reasons not to provide fingerprints to INTERPOL. We would prefer that all foreign residents undergo a police check.

A panel of special interests put together the current version of the immigration law rewrite. No one was there to represent the interest of North American and European expats. There is an urgency to pass this bill because it is part of the citizen security package.

Haste makes waste, and we urge the legislative committee members to consider the possible impact of their actions before they send this proposal back to the assembly floor.



Parents can download public school calendar to keep track of events
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's public schools begin a new year Monday, and the education ministry has put a calendar online so parents can keep up with academic and cultural activities.

Students will be more interested in the Dec. 18 end of classes, and they also will be looking toward the midyear break from July 6 to 17.

The calendar is available in a .pdf format, or it can be printed out directly from the Web site of the Ministerio de Educación Pública. It's 36 pages and contains all the holidays, special programs and weekly and monthly emphases as well as when certain payments are due.

This is the third annual edition of the calendar. As Leonard Garnier Rímolo, the minister, points out in the preface, such a list of annual activities may be a bit boring but it also is vital. He noted that the pages of the various months have been illustrated with student artists who were successful in a mural contest.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 28

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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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Many still in shelters
as water begins to recede


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The waters are receding, and emergency workers said they believe that residents along the Caribbean coast may soon be returning to their homes.

Nevertheless, some 1,400 persons remained in government shelters Monday after storms spawned by a cold front drenched the area for five days. Hard hit was the southeastern part of the country at Sixaola and BriBri. But flooding also was a major concern in Matina and in parts of the northern zone, mainly Sarapiquí.

The national emergency commission said it distributed nearly 4,000 meal packs Monday. Some in Sixaola were critical over the weekend because they had not seen food for days.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said nearly 900 persons were in shelters in the Cantón de Talamanca in the Sixaola area near the Panamá border. However, 650 meal packs were distributed in Sarapiquí and 1,950 in Matina, the commission said. The road between BriBri and Sixaola was cut but was being repaired. The Río Bongo bridge to a native reserve was washed away but a temporary bridge was installed Monday.

The water line to Sixaola collapsed and was being repaired. however, the community, much of it still under water, was without a drinking source except trucked in bottles and tankers. In Matina work was under way to repair a damaged dike along the Río Chirripó.

Our readers' opinions

Chávez sells smoke, mirrors
in effort to be a dictator


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Here we go again, another dictator selling smoke and mirrors to the masses.  I know that the Costa Rican lawmakers are going to make a huge mistake rubbing elbows with Chavez.  If the country becomes anti-American then the Americans will stop coming, tourism will drop off, investments will cease and ex-pats will not be here to spend their pensions, build homes, open businesses, and hire the locals. 

I can guarantee you that there will never be plane loads of Cubans and Venezuelans coming to surf, visit the volcanoes, walk thru the jungle or anything else unless its free.  They have no pensions, they have no savings, they have no deep pockets because they have been forced to live without opportunities all their lives. 

Those who are fortunate to own a business and find a buyer will surely leave their dictator ASAP and move to Miami as they have been for years.  I meet people all the time from Central and South America who have had the good fortune to leave their homes with some cash.  Talk to them if you wish and find out what their plans are.  They would never move to another third world country and risk investing their nest egg in a socialist-oriented country. 

These people have been beat up and they are looking for freedom and stability.  Our problems in America will take a few years to fix, but the fix for these socialist countries will take forever as usual and also what is normal for them is totally unacceptable in the free world.  They wish and have the right to freedom of choice and that does not come with a dictatorship. 

Many of my friends family members were imprisoned in Cuba for as much as 18 years just for speaking out against Fidel after the revolution.  Yes they supported him and were active in the overthrow of the Batista regime but then found themselves being tortured and imprisoned by one man who crowned himself King of Cuba. 

The crowning of Chavez will once again set back the progress of all Latin America. As a mercenary back in the 70s I landed on Grenada with a handful of others for my first encounter with communism.  The people were full of fear because the existing regime was busy being suspicious of all its citizens and suppressing all rights.  This was long before Reagan sent in the 82nd Airborne. 

The world can only take so much before criminals who hide behind rigged elections are sent down the road.  I was in Panamá several days after the invasion, and the people were happy to see change coming to their country.  I walked the streets at night, lost in neighborhoods that could have been a problem, but the people were so happy that everyone wanted to talk to me and help me. 

Once again let freedom ring so these people can breathe.  I love my country even though I lost my pension and my house is in foreclosure.  God bless the good people on Carbon Road Hone Creek.
Bruce Simpson
Hone Creek and Miami, Florida

All decisions have risks,
long-time physician says


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I should know better than to get into this discussion, mainly because the advocates of alternative medicine will never change their minds — that is until they become ill when they all drop alternative medicine and rush to modern treatment.

Alfred Stites wants back to the good old days a few hundred years ago when the the air was not polluted, the water was pure, all food was organic, medicine was herbal, everyone got lots of exercise  — and no-one lived to be over 30. And those were the ones who survived the 40 percent infant mortality rate.  This is still the case in parts of the world today.

Jo Stuart last week was lauding placebos. Placebos do work well, especially for illnesses which will get better anyway. The entire multi-million dollar alternative health industry is based on placebos. Doesn't Ms. Stuart know that all pharmaceuticals are rigorously tested against placebos in double blind studies, conducted at at least five different sites? All side effects are listed, and yes, the people taking the placebos get side effects too. Herbal remedies are not tested at all, relying on "claims" and anecdotes. There are thousands and thousands (? millions?) of people alive today because of modern medicine. Is it perfect?  Of course not, and corrections have had to be made, and sometimes drugs withdrawn.

This writer was heavy on the "my friend got a side effect from a drug — therefore all drugs are bad." Almost all drugs have side effects. They also have benefits, so the decision on treatment is a risk-benefit ratio. Most things in life have risks. Zero risk is not an option. Every day we weigh these risks against benefits. Shall I drive my car to the store and risk being killed on the way? We all take these small risks.

Among the many factual errors  "the highest cause of death is the medical system" is plain untrue. I am delighted that Alfred has made it to 83 with no illness, but I would consider genes and luck to be responsible. A fervently held opinion is not proof. These extreme views are dangerous if they stop one person from getting timely and appropriate treatment.

Have your fun with your placebos, but please, please, see a real doctor when you get ill.
John Cocker
(Long retired physician)
Tres Rios,  Uvita
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 28


Price regulating agency decrees a rate cut for nation's taxis
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The drivers of the nation's 13,500 taxis are getting a rate cut.

The drivers took a financial hit when the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos raised their rates 50 colons (9 U.S. cents) to the current 470 colons (84.5 cents) for the first kilometer in October.

Customers were fewer, but the drivers were also wrestling with soaring fuel prices.

The charge for the first kilometer is being cut to 430 colons (77.3 cents). The price regulating authority figured that this was an 8.51 percent reduction.

The rate for the subsequent kilometers is being cut 10.47 percent from 430 colons to 385 (69.2 cents). Rural taxis
can charge a bit more for the additional kilometers, some 430 colons (77.3 cents).

The authority said that the new rates were based on a formula that incorporates fuel prices, salaries and also the dollar exchange rate.

Taxi drivers got a 3 percent raise in April.

The rate for awaiting customers hardly changes, so the authority said that the overall decrease was 6.17 percent, but that number does not consider the usual routine of taxi drivers.

The impact is probably closer to 9 percent because few taxis spend long periods waiting at the request of customers.

Like all rate changes, these will not come into force until published in the la Gaceta official newspaper.


Arias administration expresses pleasure at reported upturn in public opinion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration, with 15 months left to go, has expressed pleasure at two opinion polls that gave favorable reports on the government.

Casa Presidencial cited a CID-Gallup and a Unimer poll and quoted President Óscar Arias Sánchez saying that the public approval shows that the administration is on the right road.

Eight of every 10 respondents in the Gallup poll could mention at least one achievement of the administration. Some 69 percent of the respondents in the Unimer poll had a favorable opinion of the work of the government.

The polls come after the nation rallied to help those who suffered from an earthquake Jan. 8.

Rodrigo Arias, the president's brother and minister of the
Presidencia, noted the solidarity of the people in providing help to earthquake victims. Unimer reported that the people thought the government responded rapidly to the earthquake emergency and also responded to the financial crisis by making $117.5 million available to state banks.

The Arias administration also has embarked on an aggressive public relations campaign and promoted a legislator to the rank of minister to handle the promotion of the center government's works. A recent speech that outlined efforts the government was making to mitigate the effects of the world financial crisis was replayed on local television at peak hours.

Óscar Arias suffered some erosion in his public image during the prolonged battle to win approval of the free trade treaty with the United States.

That controversial treaty went into effect Jan. 1 and no longer is No. 1 on the political agenda.


More butterfly species found living in park along the border with Panamá
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A pair of researchers have identified 38 more species of butterflies that live in the Parque Internacional la Amistad in Altamira, Talamanca. These join the 1,572 species already reported there.

The researchers, Roger González and Manuel Solís, did the work as part of their licenciatura or master's program at the Universidad Estatal a Distancia.

The object of the study was to determine the current state
of butterflies there because the creatures are vital to pollination and help maintain the ecological equilibrium, said the university.

Gonazález had a head start because he worked in the area for four years before beginning the study. Both now work at the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad.

In all, there are between 1,200 to 1,400 difference species of butterflies in Costa Rica. Some 33 species seem to be only found in the park, which straddles the Costa Rica-Panamá border.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 28


Breakthrough announced in treatment of malaria victims
By the Monash University news service

A team of Australian researchers has made a major breakthrough in the international fight against malaria.

The research  provides a new approach to treating and controlling the disease that is contracted by half a billion people and causes around a million deaths a year.

The team, based at the Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia, has been able to deactivate the final stage of the malaria parasite's digestive machinery, effectively starving the parasite of nutrients and disabling its survival mechanism. This process of starvation leads to the death of the parasite.

Professor James Whisstock said the results had laid the scientific groundwork to further develop a specific class of drugs to treat the disease.
"About forty percent of the world's population are at risk of contracting malaria. It is only early days but this discovery could one day provide treatment for some of those 2.5 billion people across the globe," Whisstock said. The research was performed in collaboration with John Dalton, a professor at the University of Technology, Sydney.

"Drug-resistant malaria is an ever increasing problem, meaning that there is an urgent requirement to develop new therapeutic strategies," said Whisstock.

Researchers used the Australian Synchrotron, located adjacent to Monash University's Clayton campus. The results are being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences US.

A single bite from an infected mosquito can transfer the malaria parasite into a human's blood stream, researchers noted.


World Bank economist wants stimulus money channeled to poorest nations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Bank's chief economist, Justin Yifu Lin, Monday repeated his call for coordinated global stimulus to get the global economy out of deep recession. 

Lin told an audience in Washington that two major issues much be addressed to prevent the global downturn from becoming even more serious.

"One, is whether we can overcome the threat of protectionism, or not," said Lin. "And second, is whether we have the wisdom to come up with some kind of decisive, large enough, coordinated fiscal stimulus."

Lin expressed concern that the commitments to avoid protectionism made by the leaders of 20 high income and developing countries last November might be eroding.  A follow-up summit to the November Group of 20 meeting is scheduled for April in London.

Lin is the first World Bank chief economist to come from a developing country.  Prior to assuming his position in June,
he headed a research agency at China's Beijing University.  He earned an advanced degree in economics from the University of Chicago.

The World Bank official wants 0.7 percent of the value of each country's economic stimulus package to be committed as assistance to the world's poorest countries.  Lin said these countries need infrastructure projects that can promote economic growth.

"It's because high income countries don't have so many opportunities of those kinds of investments," he said. "You make those investments in high-income countries, and the case of Japan is going to be repeated."

Lin said Japan found that its program in the 1990s for combating a weak economy and deflation through government spending was stymied by consumers who cut back even further on spending.

Lin did not say whether he thought the same might occur in the United States, which is finalizing a program of some $800 billion in tax cuts and government spending.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 28


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.


79-year-old held to begin
his prison term for rape


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators said they have detained a 79-year-old man now of Santa María de Dota who has been convicted of raping a 5-year-old relative.

The man had been sentenced to four years in prison, but officers could not find him because he moved from San Marcos de Tarrazú where the 2005 crime was committed, they said.

The man was found on a bus Monday.

Highway closed for repairs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry is clearing slides, stablizing the ground and constructing terraces between Vara Blanca and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. So officials are closing the road during the daylight hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for a half hour between noon and 12:30 p.m.

This was an area hard hit by the Jan. 8 earthquake. The work is being done by the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

Youth shot to death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 16-year-old died Sunday night at Hospital Calderón Guardia after being shot five times, including once in the head, in Purral de Guadalupe.  Investigators said they still were unsure of what happened but they identified him by the last name of Reyes.

Action movie star visiting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Steven Seagal, the action movie star, has a date with President Óscar Arias Sánchez Wednesday at Casa Presidencial.

The 56-year-old actor is known for his martial arts in the films he makes.

Typically visiting Hollywood visitors visit Arias when they vacation here. Some, like Mel Gibson, are scoping out the landscape for a future film. Gibson has a home here, too.

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