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(506) 2223-1327              Published Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 28      E-mail us
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Arias and Ms. Chinchilla
Casa Presidencial photo
Presidential pair

President Óscar Arias Sánchez praised Costa Ricans for having the political culture and civic maturity to elect a woman as president for the first time in history. He met with Laura Chinchilla Tuesday to discuss the transfer of power that will take place May 8.

Arias said that Ms. Chinchilla's election was a dream come true for him. Ms. Chinchilla, a former Arias vice president, said she realized in her visit to Casa Presidencial the enormity of the job facing her.

She has been criticized during the campaign as a marionette for Arias.




Child agency tricks Internet users to make a point
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia managed to snag the personal data and photos of some 800 Costa Ricans by promising them fame.

The scheme was an e-mail invitation to a Facebook page that the child welfare agency had set up to show the ease with which personal information could be obtained.

Tuesday, the International Day of Internet Security, the government agency displayed the photos and information by posting them along Avenida Central in the downtown. The faces were blurred.

Those who responded to the e-mail were told that they could be famous. Those who fell into the Patronato's trap may have thought they were getting involved in some kind of television show like "Latin American Idol." Many told about their talent, as the site suggested.

The Facebook site was up for only six days. The fame that was promised, of course, is in having faces and information posted on Avenida Central. The Facebook page contained a countdown that told those who posted information exactly how long it would be until they became famous.
Patronato scam
Patronato de la Infancia photo
Some of the photos and info that was posted.

The Patronato's reason for doing this was to stress what most Internet users already know, that material posted on a social network page might be available to the public, it said.

Mario Víquez Jiménez, executive president of the Patronato, noted that the Internet contains real dangers and that to protect youngsters, the adults must be instructed first.

A video of the display is available HERE!


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 28

Costa Rica Expertise
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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.


Legal services

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Rental car firms say Toyotas
here not involved in recalls


Special from Orbit Costa Rica

Rental car executives and those involved in the tourism business are concerned that problems that Toyota Motor Corp. is having elsewhere may have an effect on visits here. Many rental operations use Toyota vehicles, but nearly all are made in Japan and are not involved in the recalls that have embarrassed Toyota.

Purdy Motors, the Toyota dealership here, said Tuesday that the recalls involve vehicles in the United States, Europe, China and some other countries in Latin America. The recalls involve 12 Toyota models, Purdy said.

The company did say that it was importing five Tundras from the United States for customers, and these will have to undergo the procedures established for the recall. Some Toyota vehicles have had problems with the gas pedal. Research conducted by the company shows that this situation may present itself under certain weather conditions, as well as conditions related to operation and wearing out due to prolonged use of a certain piece in the accelerator, Purdy said.

Toyota  Rav4s, Forerunner and Landcruisers have been the mainstay of rental car operations over the years.

It's back to classes today
for public school children


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day that public school youngsters return to classes after the prolonged Christmas vacation.

The Fuerza Pública has launched a special program to provide officers at schools and along the principal routes. They also will be on the alert for drugs, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública said that about 1.1 million students will be attending classes. The official opening of the school year will be at a ceremony in La Rivera de Belén this morning with President Óscar Arias Sánchez and other government officials. The school year runs until mid-December.

Some private schools started classes earlier this week, and some will do so Thursday and Friday. Private schools that are on the U.S. calendar, of course, have been holding classes since the Christmas vacation ended.
 
No peak period surcharges
for now, vice minister says


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry is not now proposing an increase in autopista tolls during peak hours, said Guillermo Matamoros Carvajal, a vice minister. That idea was floated after the new Autopista del Sol became jammed a few days after it was opened officially.

However, in a press release from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes,  Matamoros said that raising the tolls would be the last alternative considered. He did not rule out the idea, but said that initiating a toll hike is the role of the ministry and not the holder of the autopista concession.

He noted that the Puntarenas carnival and Semana Santa are two events coming soon that will test the capacity of the new two-lane highway.

The key problem seems to be inadequate numbers of toll booths.  Officials are studying what can be done. Another possibility is raising the barriers when congestion develops.

Love is in the air Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José is offering its own St. Valentine's Day gift Sunday. A free dance is scheduled in Parque Morazán starting at 4 p.m.

The day, called Día del Amor in Spanish, will feature the Banda Nacional de San José and the vocalists of the Orquesta de Lubín Barahona y sus Caballeros del Ritmo, the country's home-grown big band. Parque Morazán is the park with the ornate bandstand between calles 7 and 9 at Avenida 3 directly south of the Aurola Holiday Inn.

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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.

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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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San José, Costa Rica Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 28

    
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Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountains.
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Waffles keep tourists from sinking in the mud along trails at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. But they have to be maintained, as is being done here. Program participants names are kept confidential.
Rehabing the trail
Asociación Esfuerzos Humanitarios photo

Manuel Antonio fixup
Rehab project helps national park and its participants
By Clair-Marie Robertson
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An innovative rehabilitation and anti-litter project in Manuel Antonio is celebrating its fourth successful year. Based in Quepos, the Asociación Esfuerzos Humanitarios created the project to protect the second-most-visited area in the country by enlisting the help of people in the local community who have voluntarily entered into the association’s rehabilitation program.

Over the past three years, the successful rehabilitation program has offered assistance to over 95 men who once lived on the streets.  The project not only provides a warm bed and food but also an opportunity to tackle addictions, regain self-confidence and obtain stability by returning to work.  

With the coming of the new year, the association and members of the rehabilitation program with the help of the local Chamber of Commerce of Aguirre will take on the new task of improving the infrastructure of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, assisting with the installation of six eco-friendly lookouts and numerous bridges to ensure that tourists can safely get the maximum enjoyment out of their visit.

Manuel Antonio is recognized as one of the few areas in the world which has protected primary and secondary rainforest. It boasts expansive white sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife. Its popularity as an eco-tourist destination means that it can receive as many as 260,000 visitors in a year. This is not without consequence, as certain areas are not only subject to general wear and tear but also littering. Without a sufficient maintenance budget for the park, the association, known in English as the Association of Humanitarian Efforts, put forward a solution which would be beneficial to all parties.

Working jointly with the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energia y Telecomunicaciones and funded by donations from members of the local Chamber of Commerce, participants of the association’s rehabilitation program not only keep the park litter free but also its beaches and nearby towns of Quepos and Manuel Antonio.  All litter that is collected is sorted and separated for recycling. In addition, workers are helping to create green areas in Quepos by making gardens. 

Kim Stilwell is the president and founding member of the association. He said he recognizes the importance of a collaborative effort by many different parties in Quepos/Manuel Antonio to ensure the projects continued success. “Our mission cannot be accomplished by one person, one agency or even one committee," he said. "To adequately serve all of the clients of this project, both the concerns of the community at large and the needs of the homeless must be addressed.”

The Asociación Esfuerzos Humanitarios provides refuge for the homeless who have often been subjected to substance abuse with an experienced staff offering guidance and support to help along the road to recovery. Stilwell added:

“The overall goal is to restore, to every extent possible, the lives of people among this homeless population, returning them to their fruitful place in society to again be productive and healthy members of their families and their communities. It involves and includes personal health, spiritual, mental, and physical. This includes helping the client re-enter the workforce..”

The vision of the association is to acquire the current residence and develop it into a multi-faceted rehabilitation centre. The association rents a house in Quepos/Manuel Antonio which houses nine men. The work of Stilwell and his team has not only given many homeless a safe place to sleep at night but a safe passage back to reconnecting with their families and society. The program is designed to provide participants with essential life tools. Workshops have been created on Bible reading, spiritual and physical healing and the importance of hygiene skills combined with medical care, work ethic and household duties. Spanish and English courses have also been established alongside sessions with association counselors and Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings.   
fencing and overlook
Asociación Esfuerzos Humanitarios photo
Fencing goes in at an overlook on the Pacific

Stilwell said he strongly believes that Manuel Antonio is benefiting from these programs as, “Lives and families are being restored, and communities are being cleaned and made aware they can help solve this problem instead of ignoring it.”

Richard Lemire is the president of the local chamber, the Cámara de Comercio Industria y Turismo de Aguirre, whose members have financially contributed to the development of the Manuel Antonio national park improvement project. “We started with a small fund-raising lunch inviting all the members of the chamber to donate $50. We raised $750 and this helped pay for the production of the improvement project," he said.  The environmental ministry also has pledged money to pay for repair of the trails. A new building will also be installed that will house a new office and education center for the twenty rangers that work in the park, he said.
   
Lemire agrees that this is an innovative way of helping the local community and the environment, “It is very positive, putting people back in contact with nature and its beauty to help their rehabilitation. They are not only kept active and healthy, but revenue is also created for the center. This is the perfect example of a part solution to the drug problem we have in the country.” The chamber is interested in recruiting the help of the association to help with a turtle protection program in Playa Rey, he said. The success of the alliance has resulted in the chamber being open to explore other programs which are in need of support.

The local community and businesses recognize that Manuel Antonio national park is the heart of the local economy and therefore needs to be maintained in order to ensure that the eco-tourism industry of the area flourishes. 

The associations future is filled with exciting projects that include the beginning of a working sawmill and paint workshop for cars which will employ those who have been through the program. The creation of another site in Quepos with a working rehabilitation center and a sponsored back-to-work plan is also close to fruition.   Stilwell said the success of this rehabilitation model can be implemented in other areas of Costa Rica combining environmental conservation, positive rehabilitation and the strengthening of the local community.  

The Asociación Esfuerzos Humanitarios gladly receives donations of food and money for the center and is eager to create new alliances with individuals and groups who identify with the projects vision. More information is available from Stilwell at 2777-0249 or 8381-0708 or by e-mail: losstilwells@ice.co.cr. Lemire can be reached at richard@puntarenas.com


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 28


Eco conference at Lincoln seeking greater participation

By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

“Think globally, act locally” about climate change is the mindset to spread through Costa Rica and Central America with the third annual High School Ecological Conference, an event where organizers are seeking greater representation from the rest of Central America.

The conference will take place at Lincoln School just north of San José on the weekend of May 29 to 30.

This year’s focus is on climate change science and politics in the “post-Copenhagen, pre-Mexico” international summit period, said Joshua Sneideman, conference coordinator.

Last year’s session was attended by students of 44 high schools, both public and private, around the country, with contingents of five students and two teachers. Most were from the Central Valley of Costa Rica, with more limited representation from rural areas and regional cities.

Each group will bring the results of a project prepared before the conference, with guidelines to be published online later. Groups also will prepare presentations for the other students, using resources like video cameras provided by the organizers. Speakers on relevant subjects are presently sought, though all activities will be in Spanish. The conference is not open to the public.

For 2010 Sneideman aims for broader representation, both within the country and internationally. Elsewhere in Central America about 20 schools affiliated with the Association of American Schools of Central America have been invited, while high schools around Costa Rica can register at the conference Web site between now and April 1 when available space should be full, according to Sneideman. The goal of the organizers is to include 50 schools this year.

The organizers also plan to make some seed money available to students for local projects inspired by the conference. “How to be an environmental activist” will be a recurring theme in workshops and presentations, said Maggie Jacobus, another organizer.
Josh Sneiderman and baby
Joshua Sneideman has been in Costa Rica for three years. He taught in Trinidad and Tobago before getting a position at Lincoln. He is married to a Tica, Carolina Calderón. Daughter Mya is 6 months old.

With corporate sponsorship and the use of Lincoln School facilities, the conference is free for participants, but students and teachers must pay their travel costs and hotel stays, if needed. Local sponsors for schools farther from San José are welcome. Normally this involves bus fare and two hotel rooms over the Saturday night. Breakfast and lunch are provided during the event.



Lindora fuel tank mishap sends dark clouds towering into the sky

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A fuel pump hose became entangled in the wheel of a pickup truck Tuesday, and the result was a fire that sent dark columns into the sky.

The site was the Ouebrador Lindora, in the community of the same name in Santa Ana west of San José.

Firemen said the blaze was caused by a short circuit in one of the electrical devices that distributed fuel. The short circuit happened because the device was damaged by the mishap with the hose.

According to firemen, an employee of the quarry filled a
 500-liter tank with diesel fuel on the back of a pickup. The fuel was for machinery at work on the job site.

The hose s connected to a 3,000-liter rank and pump system. The hose was entangled with a wheel of the pickup so that when the driver pulled away the damage happened, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos.  The fire was reported about 12:23 p.m.

Most of the burning diesel was contained within the dike that surrounded the fuel tank. Firemen said that two vehicles and a metal structure were heavily damages.

Lesser damage took place with the windows of a nearby office, they said.


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San José, Costa Rica Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 28

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Wave overturns Osa boat
and at least one man dies


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators suspect that a strong wave overturned a sport fishing boat that had headed to the Isla El Caño Saturday from Sierpe on the Osa Peninsula.

Two of the four on the boat survived, and one still is being sought.

The two survivors and a dead companion were located by a National Geographic vessel early Tuesday, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The two men and the body were taken to Golfito.

The dead man was identified as Santos Espinoza Cerdas, 52, by the Fuerza Pública. Officers also identified the survivors as César Franco Rojas, 40, and Erni Daniel Montoya Gómez, 22. Montoya suffered burns, officers said.

The men were located on the semi-sunken boat, the "Tornado," about 35 miles from Golfito. The missing man, Daniel Villalobos Valverde is believed to have attempted to swim to shore.


Man's face in bathroom
turns out to be a Rembrandt


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A small antique etching discovered by the president of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., has created quite a cultural stir.  "I don't think, in my 12 years as president, that
print
anything has attracted so much attention so quickly as this piece of art," said the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell.

The 17th century black-and-white print shows an elderly bearded man wearing a hat. It measures less than 12 by 13 centimeters, so it's not
entirely surprising that it was overlooked until O'Connell discovered it in a bathroom cabinet in the building that serves as both his residence and office.

"I opened the cabinet, took some paper towels out and noticed the frame jutting out of the bottom under some junk, some papers and things," he recalls. "I pulled the frame out and there was this picture. I recognized the style of the picture right away, and I turned the picture over, and there was a certificate of authenticity on the back of the frame. It said 'original etching by Rembrandt.'"

That was 12 years ago. Father O'Connell says he showed the etching to some of his staff, then took it upstairs to hang in his bedroom. "I showed it to people over the years as a Rembrandt. I didn't see any particular reason to do anything with it."

Until one day in January 2009, when he invited the university archivist, Leslie Knoblauch, to see some of the artwork in his residence. When he showed her the etching, Ms. Knoblauch says, "He said, 'I think it's a Rembrandt.'  I said, 'I think it is, too.  We should probably get it appraised.'"

The official verdict from an appraiser here in Washington was yes, it was created by the Dutch master Rembrandt Van Rijn.

"Its value, monetarily, is not worth that much," O'Connell said.  "I think we had it assessed at about $4,000 because there are so many like this, but only one here."

O'Connell says he assumes the etching ended up in the cabinet when the bathroom was painted before his arrival. Now it is the centerpiece of an exhibit in the university library.
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San José, Costa Rica Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 28


Latin American news
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New southern zone quake
estimated at 5.0 magnitude


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Southern Costa Rica got another shot Tuesday. An earthquake estimated here at a 5.0 magnitude took place at 12:22 p.m. That was only fifteen and a half hours after a quake estimated at 4.4 magnitude took place near Quepos.

The latest quake was estimated to be about 20 km west of Laurel south of Golfito and near the Panamá border.

The U.S. Geological Survey only estimated the magnitude at 4.7. The 5.0 measurement comes from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

Three other quakes have been reported in that area since Jan. 23.


Latin leaders meet in Quito
to map out plan to help Haiti


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

South American leaders have held a summit in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss coordinating aid efforts in earthquake-devastated Haiti.

Members of the Union of South American Nations gathered Tuesday for the talks. The group includes the presidents of Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and host nation Ecuador, among others.

Haitian President Rene Preval attended the meeting, which took place exactly four weeks after the earthquake struck Haiti, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead and about one million others homeless.

The gathering was to have included Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, but he canceled at the last minute. Chávez has criticized the U.S. aid operation in Haiti.

He has also had disagreements with Colombia over its decision to allow the U.S. access to seven military bases for anti-drug operations.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia Tuesday said he hoped the region could work together as a bloc to help Haiti.

Chávez has problems of his own. Monday he announced an electrical emergency that he blamed on drought conditions. The country has been suffering continual blackouts.





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