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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Friday, Feb. 15, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 33                Email us
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Jo Stuart

                Rica real estate

Hotel chamber says 2012 occupancy was 54 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new survey by the hotel chamber shows an industry that is just hanging on.The Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles got responses from 90 of its members, and the results show an occupancy rate for 2012 of just 54.1 percent.

That is slightly lower than the rate for 2011, which was 55 percent.

Hotels in Guanacaste showed an occupancy rate of 59 percent, but those in the south Pacific said their rate was 50 percent. Hotel operators usually strive for a rate in excess of 70 percent to make a profit.

Five-star hotels with a rate of 57.1 percent showed they had better business than the cheaper two-star
operations, which had 44.7 percent. The survey has to be taken as a general guide because there is no certainty that the same hotels responded each year, and hotels that went out of business due to low occupancy were not represented in the survey.

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the start of the Christian period of Lent, which ends in Semana Santa or Holy Week. That is a traditional vacation period in Costa Rica, and hotel operators are gearing up for much higher occupancies during the last week in March. Still, occupancies were down even during the Christmas period this year. In past years, many hotels have no vacancies over Christmas.

The hotel industry employs about 400,000, some 100,000 fewer than several years ago, the chamber said last month.

German Embassy says tourist lost arm unnecessarily
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The German government has called for an investigation by Costa Rica officials of the case of a young accident victim who had to have her arm amputated after a quadracycle accident on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

In a formal note to the foreign ministry, the German Embassy here recounted delays in getting the woman adequate medical attention and said that it would warn other Germans about the state of medical services here.

The embassy said it already investigated the Dec. 14 afternoon mishap involving Evelyn Jürgensen, 23, and concluded that private medical providers in Santa Teresa were more interested in getting an $8,000 payment than securing an ambulance flight for the injured woman. Emergency helicopter flights cost significantly less, said the embassy in its letter.

The embassy said it was not a mere suspicion that emergency workers tried to take advantage of the situation and "it is a sad certainty that the young German tourist had lost her right arm needlessly."

The incident began when the woman's boyfriend, identified as Lennart Leopold, rolled the quadracycle, and Ms. Jürgensen suffered multiple fractures when the vehicle landed on her upper right arm, said the embassy, giving this version of what happened:

A doctor and a nurse at the Emergencias Malpaís, Clinica Médica in Santa Teresa cleaned the wounds and applied bandages. But because the arm was turning purple, residents there suggested an air ambulance flight to San José. After a discussion about costs, a doctor said that a helicopter was coming. After about two hours in the clinic, the woman was placed in an ambulance for a trip to Tambor, where there is an airfield.

During the ambulance ride, the German tourists were told they would have to go to the home of a clinic office worker to charge the young man's credit card for $8,000. He agreed, but when the
 Map shows key points in the 12-hour medical
of injured German tourist.

charge was run, the card company declined the payment due to the amount and for security considerations.

"The additional stop in the home of the office worker cost the unnecessary loss of valuable time," said the embassy note, adding additional detail:

After the charge was declined, the ambulance took the woman to the public clinic, the ebias, in Cóbano. After medical personnel there looked at the wounds, the two tourists were taken by ambulance to Paquera and in a launch across the gulf of Nicoya to Puntarenas where another ambulance took them to Hospital Monseñor Sanabria, a public facility.

Physicians there said what needed to be done could not be done in Puntarenas and sent the pair to San José by ambulance.

The woman arrived at Hospital México by land at 5:45 a.m., some 12 hours after the accident, and physicians there said had she arrived just two hours earlier they may have been able to save the arm, the embassy said. The arm was amputated at the shoulder.

The embassy said that the unnecessary loss of the young woman's arm was reason to increase the travel warnings given to German tourists.

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Acueductos y Alcantarillados photo  
This is a hydrant installed at Piedades de Santa Ana

Program and tax for hydrants
produces many new units

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans have been living on the edge as far as fire hydrants are concerned. Many hydrants did not work, and no agency really was in charge.

That is why a law with a new tax on water use won approval in 2008. Oversight went to the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicio Públicos, and the maintenance went to the national water company, the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia and local water companies.

The Heredia utility now reports that during 2011 and 2012 456 hydrants were given maintenance and 201 new ones have been installed. Acueductos y Alcantarillados installed 121 new hydrants in the metro area and some 580 in the outskirts in 2012. And some 1,000 new hydrants have been acquired to replace existing, damaged ones.

The report on hydrants came from the Autoridad Reguladora .

Travelers aid company
called insurance vendor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An international company that provides assistance to travelers is really selling insurance and must register with Costa Rican authorities, the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo y Civil de Hacienda has decided.

The firm is known here as Servicios de Asistencia al Viajero Internacional S.A. with the trade name Assist-Card. The decision was in favor of the Superintendencia General de Seguros.

Assist-Card is all over the world offering all sorts of assistance to travelers, including medical help.

The company offered assistance to foreigners visiting here and to Costa Ricans traveling in foreign lands.

Tomás Soley Pérez, the head of the insurance regulatory agency, said that the case was a precedent to clear up what type of firms that affect the consumer should be covered by the insurance regulations. Many foreign firms offer insurance coverage within Costa Rica via the Internet.

Youngsters to graduate
educational program

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One hundred young students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will graduate today with credentials in technical support and English conversation thanks to scholarships from the Municipalidad de San José.

The municipality invested a total of 250 million colons for these youth to finish the program, which began in 2010.  That is about $500,000.

It is the hope that these students will be able to get jobs that otherwise would not have been possible without the training.

“An important thing to note is that this program is a model of social mobility which allows this youth population to overcome poverty by acquiring training to move into productive areas of the country,” said a release.  “Without it these young people would have no other opportunity of self-improvement and personal development.”

Graduation is at 10 a.m. in the Complejo Recreativo of the San José municipal building. 

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 33
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internet speeds
Akamai Technologies, Inc. graphic
Graphic shows peak connection speeds and quarterly and yearly changes in selected countries.
International firm agrees that Internet speeds here are improving
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An international company that measures Internet speeds reports that Costa Rica is improving.

The average Internet connection speed has tripled over the past three years, and peak internet speeds have doubled over the past two years, said Craig Adams, the local site leader here. The firm is Akamai Technologies, which opened a new operations center here in October.

Over the last three years, the average connection speed in Costa Rica, as measured by Akamai, has tripled, growing from 0.7 Mbps in the third quarter of 2009 to 2.1 Mbps in the third quarter of 2012, placing it just above the 2 Mbps target minimum download speed, the firm said. Additionally, 42 percent of connections to Akamai from Costa Rica were at speeds of 2 Mbps or above during the third quarter, it added.

The average connection speed represents an average of all of the measured connection speeds from all of the unique Internet provider or IP addresses observed in a given geography, the firm said.

The average peak connection speed represents an average of the maximum measured connection speeds across all of the unique IP addresses observed from a given geography, and is more representative of Internet connection capacity, the firm said. Over the last three years, the average peak connection speed in Costa Rica, as measured by Akamai, has grown by over 3.5
times, from 3.3 Mbps in the third quarter of 2009 to 11.7 Mbps in the third quarter of 2012, it said.

Mbps means megabits per second, a measurement of data transfer. It is a traditional measurement of Internet speed.

Among selected regional neighbors, Costa Rica’s average connection speed falls roughly in the middle of the pack, ranked 74th globally, according to Akamai.

The 11 percent growth rate for the quarter was among the highest seen in the region, as was the 43 percent year-over-year growth rate, it added.

Among selected regional neighbors, Costa Rica’s average peak connection speed is one of the lowest, ranked 92nd globally.
The 12 percent quarterly growth rate was among the highest seen in the region, as was the 50 percent year-over-year growth rate.

The data comes from Akamai's Third Quarter, 2012, State of the Internet report.  The report includes data gathered from across the Akamai Intelligent Platform about attack traffic, broadband adoption, mobile connectivity and other relevant topics concerning the Internet and its usage, as well as trends seen in this data over time. 

Akamai Technologies, Inc. describes itself as the leading cloud platform for helping enterprises provide secure, high- performing user experiences on any device, anywhere.

Perhaps the snake will lead the way for a year of renewal
Last Sunday it seemed like a good idea to visit San Jose’s new Chinatown.  It has been opened for a while now, and the mammoth painted gates are in place.  Besides, it was the Chinese New Year, the year of the snake.  I have friends in Costa Rica who are all too familiar with snakes. I fear and respect them, and if myth and literature are right, the snake has far more qualities than humans are aware of. The snake has figured in the myths and rituals of religion for millennium, and its role has varied considerably. The poet Shelley compared the earth to a snake, in its ability to renew itself. So maybe this is the year of renewal, for us and our beleaguered planet.

Not thinking any of this, my friend Alexis and I found a parking place on 11th street.  We had been too late to get reservations for the restaurant Tin Jo’s annual New Year’s feast, Chinese dragons and, of course, firecrackers.  I don’t like firecrackers.  I don’t like pretending that I am in a war-torn city with bombs bursting in air, even if those bombs end up in many colored stars. 

We walked along the street that was still so familiar to me remembering when it was the Paseo de los Estudiantes. I did most of my business and shopping in the city on this street. It had everything; a post office, a bank, a supermarket and restaurants, some Chinese.  Even then there was a Chinese department store.  I smile as I call it a department store.   Now, I noticed, there are a number of them, one quite large, with the employees still unpacking items.  I led Alexis into a smaller one, two small stores connected by a passageway.

I get uncomfortable in warehouse-size stores with towering shelves, but I am very happy in a crowded, mini department store that has everything Chinese (and nothing too big) you can imagine from incense to fans to woks to frozen seafood and fresh vegetables and every imaginable type of teapot.  Oh, yes, and slippers and oils to burn, and spicy sesame oil to cook with . . . everything in a space about 12 feet by 24 feet on shelves no higher than I can reach. I am in my element with a perpetual baffled smile on my face as I wonder at the items the Chinese find useful and/or tasty and I am finding so inviting.

A plump Caucasian lady, was wonderfully helpful in explaining to us the use of everything we picked up and peered at questioningly. At first I thought she was a fellow shopper, but soon realized she was either a well-informed clerk or the owner.  She didn’t hover, like clerks often do here, she was just there when we needed her, full of smiles and understandable Spanish.

I was amused by some incense sticks labeled cannabis, so I bought a pack for 500 colons.  Another packet of incense had a scent guaranteed to bring money and prosperity (I’m not sure it was guaranteed, but the blurb sounded hopeful), and we decided those would be just right for James.

Alexis bought some bok choy, and we left with our purchases to continue our stroll down the street.  There was just a spattering of other pedestrians and finally Alexis asked someone when the dragon was going to appear and we learned
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
 Child enjoys her costume and balloon during the Calle
 Chino fried rice extravaganza.

that the New Year’s festivities were taking place Tuesday. 

On Tuesday the 52 Chinese chefs who prepared the record breaking recipe of fried rice out-numbered the pedestrians on Sunday.  They served 7,000 people.  Alexis and I were happy to have missed the crowds.  And after reading the ingredients in the recipe, which Kayla Pearson listed in her Wednesday’s article, I have a greater respect for fried rice, and think I will try some the next time I am in a Chinese restaurant.  I haven’t eaten fried rice since I was newly married and following a recipe given to me by a brave woman who was the survivor of a prisoner of war camp in Singapore, as I recall, so many years ago. 

The ingredients were fewer and the dish was much simpler and blander.  As was life back then.

Del Rey Hotel

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 33
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Infants appear to understand
difference in two languages

By the University of British Columbia news service

Babies as young as 7 months can distinguish between, and begin to learn, two languages with vastly different grammatical structures, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and Université Paris Descartes.

Published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications and presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, the study shows that infants in bilingual environments use pitch and duration cues to discriminate between languages – such as English and Japanese – with opposite word orders.

In English, a function word comes before a content word (the dog, his hat, with friends, for example) and the duration of the content word is longer, while in Japanese or Hindi, the order is reversed, and the pitch of the content word higher.

"By as early as seven months, babies are sensitive to these differences and use these as cues to tell the languages apart," says psychologist Janet Werker, co-author of the study.

Previous research by Ms. Werker and Judit Gervain, a linguist at the Université Paris Descartes and co-author of the new study, showed that babies use frequency of words in speech to discern their significance.

"For example, in English the words the and with come up a lot more frequently than other words – they're essentially learning by counting," says Ms. Gervain. "But babies growing up bilingual need more than that, so they develop new strategies that monolingual babies don't necessarily need to use."

"If you speak two languages at home, don't be afraid, it's not a zero-sum game," says Ms. Werker. "Your baby is very equipped to keep these languages separate and they do so in remarkable ways."

Swiss claim there are two
'Mona Lisas' by Leonardo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

New tests on a painting billed as the original version of the "Mona Lisa," Leonardo da Vinci's 15th century portrait, have produced fresh proof that it is the work of the Italian master, a Swiss-based art foundation said.

The tests, one by a specialist in sacred geometry and the other by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, were carried out in the wake of the Geneva unveiling of the painting, the "Isleworth Mona Lisa," last September.

"When we add these new findings to the wealth of scientific and physical studies we already had, I believe anyone will find the evidence of a Leonardo attribution overwhelming,'' said David Feldman vice-president of the foundation said.

The "Mona Lisa" in the Paris Louvre for over three centuries has long been regarded as the only one painted by Leonardo, although there have been copies, and claims for the Swiss-held one were dismissed by some experts last year.

But it also won support in the art world, encouraging the Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation, an international group which says it has no financial interest in the work, to pursue efforts to demonstrate its authenticity.

Feldman, an Irish-born international art and stamp dealer, said he was contacted after the public unveiling of the portrait, which shows a much younger woman than in the Louvre, by Italian geometrist Alfonso Rubino.

"He has made extended studies of the geometry of Leonardo's "Vitruvian Man," a sketch of a youth with arms and legs extended, and offered to look at our painting to see if it conformed,'' Feldman said.

The conclusion by the Padua-based Rubino was that the Isleworth portrait, named for a London suburb where it was kept by British art connoisseur Hugh Blaker 80 to 90 years ago, matched Leonardo's geometry and must be his.

The Zurich institute, the foundation said, carried out a carbon-dating test on the canvas of its painting and found that it was almost certainly manufactured between 1410 and 1455, refuting claims that it was a late 16th century copy.

Earlier brush-stroke studies presented last September by U.S. physicist and art lover John Asmus concluded that both the original version and the Louvre crowd-puller were painted by the same artist.

The authenticity of the foundation's painting, discovered by Blaker in an English country house in 1913, has been fiercely challenged by British Leonardo authority Martin Kemp, who argued last year that "so much is wrong with it.''

Feldman and foundation colleagues retort that Kemp has never followed up on invitations to come to see it.

Documents show that a painting of his wife, Lisa, was commissioned around the turn of the 16th century by Florentine nobleman Francesco del Giacondo. In French, the Louvre version is known as "La Giaconde" and "La Giaconda" in Italian.

Supporters of the younger version say it was almost certainly delivered unfinished to del Giacondo before Leonardo left Italy in 1506 and took up residence in France, where he died in 1519 in a small Loire chateau.

From the Giacondo house, it probably eventually found its way to England after being bought by a traveling English aristocrat, this account runs, while the Paris version was probably painted by Leonardo around 1516 in France.

Nasal spray shows possibilities
in fighting some types of cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A promising new vaccine, administered as a nasal spray, is being developed to treat head and neck cancers.  It is one of a growing number of vaccines developed in the last few years to fight cancer.

When a person develops cancer, the body mounts an immune response against the renegade cells but it is often too weak to halt their spread.  So, to supplement radiation and chemotherapy treatment, scientists have been working to develop vaccines to boost the body’s natural defenses against the tumors.  Two promising vaccines in late-stage human trials target prostate cancer and metastatic melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Another vaccine in the pipeline is designed to treat solid tumors that form in the mucosal tissues that line passages in the head, neck, lungs and genitals.  The tissues produce a thick lubricating fluid containing powerful chemicals that normally protect against infection.  Unfortunately, they also block the immune cells that would otherwise fight the cancerous tumors.  Now researchers have developed a nasal spray vaccine which overcomes this resistance, activating and mobilizing a specific type of immune cell, called a CD8+ T-cell, in the tissue at the tumor site.

Eric Tartour, a researcher with the Universite Paris Descarte, led a team studying the effectiveness of the intranasal spray on solid mucosal tumors in mice.

He says the tumors developed after the mice were infected with a strain of human papilloma virus that’s known to cause cancer.

“The tumor shrank," said Tartour. "And we also analyzed the tumors after they shrank.  And they were heavily infiltrated by immune cells which destroyed the tumors.”

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in Costa Rica: $300/month

Available now and please see the video!
New construction includes some wooden stairs to the main gate and a small pavilion above the house overlooking the village. The distance to Golfito harbor/downtown is 7 kms and you can get there by car, taxi or bus. The rent is $300/month, which is very reasonable for those who want to live near sea and Panamá in an inexpensive lifestyle. It was so nice to live near Panamá where people can shop for much lower prices including for groceries. Please contact me at for more details. Thank you.

Palacio condo
Beautiful 2-bedroom, 2-bath modern condo for rent.
(Only 6 years old).
Great Secure Area, Next to 5-Star Hotel Palacio (La Uruca). Gated community, 24-hour security, 5 minutes to San José. Swimming Pool, washer/dryer, covered parking, high-speed Internet, cable TV, home phone! $900 per month, fully furnished, 6-Month minimum! Please Call: 001-954-782-0200 or email

Volcano View!
Santo Domingo de Heredia, gated community
Fully furnished, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, cable, internet, hot water tank. 300 meters from Mas x Menos supermarket. 700 meters from farmers' market. Bus stop at gate. $600 all utilities paid. Available Jan. 1.

Villas Casa Loma has everything you are looking for.  Best vistas, climate, value.  Four unique homes in a secure private compound on a ridge near Alajuela overlooking the entire Central Valley.  Two are available fully furnished and equipped, each a complete home accommodating 4 persons in two bedrooms with ensuite baths.  Pool, rancho, mirador, other features.  Ask about part-month rates.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See virtual tour of accommodations HERE!
Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.


Business wanted (free category)

Also see business opportunity section on main classified page.

Accommodations offered (free category)
I am a 39-year-old Gringo who has lived in Costa Rica for 4 years (in my current condo for 2 years).  I am looking to share my fully furnished (washer and dryer, Color TV, 2 refrigerators, microwave, beds, appliances, utensils, everything), 850 square feet, 2 bedroom condo in  San Rafael de Escazu with someone of either gender, Gringo or Tico/Tica. My condo is located 800 meters north of KFC (Florencia Condominio). Pictures of the condo are available upon request. If you are honest, responsible (i.e. pay the rent on time), and have no criminal record, feel free to call me (8618-5657) or e-mail me. Rent is $300 per month plus 1/2 utilities (average - $75/month total - electric/power, water, maid, high speed internet, Cable TV with 90 channels). No pets allowed (owners' rule, not mine). Rent is paid from the 8th to the 8th!

Accommodations, property wanted (free category)

Established Costa Rican company is looking for office space of about 8000 sq. ft. (750 sq. meters) to lease on a long term basis in the Pavas-Rohmoser area.  Must have ample parking available.  Prefer one level but will consider two. Please call Bobby at 8534-8122.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 33
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Republican block Hagel vote
seeking more Benghazi info

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Senate Republicans have blocked a vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as the new U.S. Defense secretary.

The Senate fell two votes short Thursday of Democrats' demand to end a Republican debate on the nomination and bring it to a final vote.

The Senate now goes on a 10-day recess, and Hagel will have to wait at least until then to find out if he will be the next Pentagon chief.

President Barack Obama calls the Republican debate to block the nomination unprecedented.  He said it is unfortunate that the senators are using this kind of politics while the nation is still at war in Afghanistan.

Republicans have been holding up the Hagel nomination, demanding the White House provide more information about the attack last Sept. 11 on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says the administration has given Congress plenty of details on the attack.  He calls the Republican delaying tactics unconscionable.  He says U.S. troops and the country need a Defense secretary.

Obama chose Hagel, a former Republican senator, to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

But some Republicans accuse Hagel of being too critical of Israel and too soft on Iran.

Statistics of deaths, jailings
show grim year for reporters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The year 2012 was one of the deadliest years for journalists, said the Committee to Protect Journalists on Thursday, with a total of 70 killed.

The high death toll was attributed to the conflict in Syria and violence against reporters in countries including Somalia and Pakistan. In its annual review of the dangers of journalism, another 232 reporters were jailed for their work.

​​​​Most of those targeted are local journalists reporting about human rights, politics, conflict, crime or corruption, said Robert Mahoney, the committee deputy director.

“From Mexico to Syria, Russia to Pakistan, journalists are on the front lines confronting violence and repression as never before," said Mahoney.

Syria was the deadliest country for reporters, with 28 killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces.  All but four of them were Syrian nationals covering their country’s conflict. Another 13 so-called citizen journalists, who used their cameras and mobile phones to document the conflict in that country, also lost their lives.

In Somalia, it was the arrest and conviction last month of reporter Abdiaziz Abdinuur that has attracted international attention.  He received a one-year prison sentence for insulting the government by interviewing a woman who said she was raped by government forces.  The woman was also sentenced to one year in jail.

But in addition to the arrests, the Committee to Protect Journalists says at least a dozen reporters were murdered last year in Somalia.  The militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for four of them.

Mahoney noted that most of the time no one is ever prosecuted for a journalist’s murder, either in Somalia or elsewhere, creating an atmosphere of impunity. “It sends a terrible message to the journalism community if one of its own can be killed and nothing happens," he said.

​The Committee to Protect Journalists said seven reporters were killed in Pakistan, including Mukarram Khan Aatif, who contributed to Voice of America’s Pashto-language Deewa Radio.  He was gunned down in a mosque north of Peshawar.  The Taliban claimed responsibility for that January 2012 attack.

In Latin America, journalists are harassed, intimidated and face serious threats from organized crime syndicates and corrupt officials. 

The committee's Americas director, Carlos Lauria, said four reporters were killed doing their work last year in Brazil. In Mexico, the situation is even more dangerous.

“In the last six years, more than 50 journalists have been killed or disappeared," he said. "Many reporters have been brutally attacked.  Others have gone into exile.  But perhaps the most devastating consequence of this wave of unprecedented violence is the climate of fear and intimidation in which journalists have to do their work, which is leading to rampant censorship.”

The report also expresses concerns about the widespread jailing of journalists under antiquated and restrictive laws used to silence anti-government dissent. The report cites Turkey, Iran, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Syria as major jailers.

Perhaps the report’s one bright spot is that for the first time since 2003, the rights group did not confirm a single work-related death among reporters in Iraq.  Between 2003 and 2008, Iraq was one of the most dangerous places for reporters in the world, with a total of 151 journalists dying while covering that conflict.

New device will provide
the blind limited sight

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the nation's health regulator, has approved the first artificial retina, an implantable electronic device that can restore limited vision to people blinded by a rare genetic eye disease.

The device, which has been in human clinical trials in the U.S and Europe for several years, offers new hope for people with advanced retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition that damages the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye known as the retina.

Called Argus II and built by California-based Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., the artificial retina is essentially a sheet of 60 tiny electrodes that surgeons implant directly into the eye. The patient is also fitted with a pair of dark glasses that have a small attached video camera and portable video processor. The battery-operated system sends digitally-generated video signals past the patient's damaged retina, directly to their brain.

The electronic retina does not restore full vision, but allows users to sense light and dark contrasts and to detect movement and important shapes, such as crosswalks in the street, nearby cars or people and some large-type numbers and letters. The images they perceive are in black and white, not color. Eventually, the manufacturer hopes to implant the device not in the eye but in the brain's visual cortex, which could remedy blindness from all causes.

The Argus II was approved in Europe in 2011 to treat a broader group of people, with severe blindness caused by a variety of retinal diseases. Additional clinical trials will be needed in the U.S before the company can seek broader F.D.A. approval.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 33
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robbery arrests
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
Five of six detained individuals are under guard

Six are held in robberies
of business locations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers detained six persons Thursday who are believed connected with a series of robberies of businesses. At the same time officers discovered two trailers loaded with new vehicle tires. The tires had been stolen in Limón Wednesday morning.

Two of the detained individuals have convictions for robbery and similar crimes. The arrests were in San Tomás, Santo Domingo de Heredia.

Police said they got a tip about the activity at the site.

Colombian senator left
country for Panamá

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Colombian senator, Piedad Zuccardi, has left the country and is not seeking refugee status here, said the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. Ms. Zuccardi is wanted in her country to answer questions about links to paramilitary groups.

The immigration department confirmed that the woman entered the country last Friday at Juan Santamaría but would not say where she went when she left Tuesday. Some Spanish-language news reports said she was seeking refugee status.

Reporters caught up with her in Panamá Thursday, and she said she had been conducting private business in Costa Rica and would return to her country to answer the allegations.

Paddleboard races planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Federación de Surf de Costa Rica said Thrusday that the first date of the Circuito Nacional Surftech will be held March 2 and 3 in Playa Manta in Punta Leona near Jacó.

The competition features standup paddleboards, a relatively new innovation in ocean sports. The event features races in both amateur and competitive categories of distances of from 1.5 to 6 kilometers. Another date in Costa Rica is April 7 at Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste.

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Seventh Newspage

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 33
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The grim luxury ocean voyage is ending

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Reeking of rotting food and sewage from overflowing toilets, a crippled cruise ship carrying more than 4,200 people was limping into Mobile, Alabama, Thursday as passengers awaited the end of a vacation voyage some described as hellish.
The Carnival Triumph was being towed into port by tugboats as the drama played out live on U.S. cable news stations, creating another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy, with 32 people killed.
Passengers described an overpowering stench on board the ship four days after an engine room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the 893-foot (272-meter) vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.
After the mishap, toilets overflowed, soaking many cabins and interior passages in raw sewage.
"Let's just say that I had a pair of shoes that I will not be bringing home with me,'' Julie Morgan told CNN.
"It is revolting,'' Morgan added, referring to the smell aboard the ship. ``It's a mixture of sewage and rotting food.''
But Terry Thornton, a senior Carnival Cruise Lines vice president, told reporters in Mobile that additional provisions were laid in on Wednesday and the ship was now ``in excellent shape.''
Passenger Donna Gutzman said those aboard the ship were treated to steak and lobster for lunch on Thursday afternoon.
"Our basic needs are being met. For the most part, they are making us happy,'' Ms. Gutzman told CNN.
The ship was expected to arrive in port around midnight, Carnival said. A senior Carnival official said it could take up to five hours to remove all the passengers from the ship, which has only one functioning elevator.
Carnival Corp spokesman Vance Gulliksen said a tow line on one of four tugboats helping the Triumph get into port snapped on Thursday. But the tug was later reattached to the vessel.
Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp, the ship left Galveston, Texas, a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.
A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilos) of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph when they contacted relatives and media before their cell phone batteries died. They said people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use plastic ``biohazard'' bags as makeshift toilets.

Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement late on Wednesday that the company had decided to add further payment of $500 a person to help compensate passengers for "very challenging circumstances'' aboard the ship.
"We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure,'' Cahill said.
Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph Monday, rejected Cahill's apology in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.
"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that,'' Poret said.
Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise shop operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.
The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance since Sunday was courtside Tuesday at a game played by his Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.
"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively,'' said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based public relations firm.
"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival,'' she added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day.''
Carnival Corp shares closed down $0.11 at $37.35 in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents a share off its second-half earnings.
The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the primary agency investigating the cause of its engine room fire.

Critics rips Obama over death by drones

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama this week pledged to develop a clear policy framework to guide U.S. counterterrorism operations, including targeted killings of terrorist suspects.  But the promise in his State of the Union address has not satisfied critics. 

Obama chose his words carefully on the methods the administration uses in fighting terrorism, including the use of remote-controlled drones against terrorist suspects.

Without using the word drone, he said "a range of capabilities" will be used against terrorists.  And he used his speech to address concerns members of Congress have.

"In our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way," said President Obama. "So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."

He spoke of a need for a "durable legal and policy framework" for counterterrorism operations.

Controversy over the legal justifications for targeted killings was reignited after the recent leak of a Justice Department report. 

It said Americans working overseas for al-Qaida or an affiliate could be targeted if a high-level U.S. government official determined they pose an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.

That document triggered a wave of criticism on Capitol Hill.  Lawmakers, including Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, demanded that the White House turn over legal opinions used.

Human rights and civil liberties organizations continue to press for more transparency from the Obama administration.

Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA's security and human rights campaign, says Obama's State of the Union remarks fell short.

"What he should have done is made it clear that the U.S. government will follow its international human rights obligations when it comes to the use of lethal force, when it comes to detention, when it comes to the issue of torture," said Johnson. "There are very clear obligations under law for the U.S. government and President Obama should recommit to meeting those obligations."

The White House says conversations continue with Congress on a legal architecture. 

Press secretary Jay Carney says there will be a need for "combined actions" with Congress.

"The president understands the gravity of these issues," said Carney. "That is why he is committed to taking very seriously his responsibilities in this, and committed to the kind of process that you have seen in an effort to communicate publicly about it."

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, challenges the administration's use of a law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks to justify targeted killings.
Useful links
Foreign Embassies
in Costa Rica
Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
after hours call
506 8863-4895

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Click for Web
British logo
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Apartado 815-1007
Edificio Centro Colón
(Piso/floor 11)
San José
506 2258 2025

Oficentro La Sabana
Building 5, Third floor
Box: 351-1007,  San José
506 2242-4400
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Dutch flag
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Oficentro la Sabana,
P.O.Box 10285-1000
San José
506 2296-1490

Torre Sabana, 8° floor,
Sabana Norte.
Box 4017-1000,  San José
506  2290-9091
After hours 506 8381-7968

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