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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 33      E-mail us
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Linked sales of TV and Internet will be studied
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Want internet but don’t need 82 television channels? While competition should eventually provide more options, at present heavy demand for Internet services allows a few providers to ignore consumer protection regulations, A.M. Costa Rica has learned.

A spokesperson for the new Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones said that the regulatory agency will look at the situation.

Multiple cable television companies offer internet coverage, with the signal coming from Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the entity known as RACSA, a subsidiary of the monopoly telephone company the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE. For many expats, cable is the best way to get broadband as ICE’s Acelera service has limited available capacity.

Monday the Superintendencia released official prices for Internet services. ASDL connections such as Acelera are temporarily lumped with other mediums like cable modems that provide similar connection speeds. The maximum monthly rate is $19. The agency made it clear that it is only fixing maximums, not setting a rate for all operators, and that they are welcome to charge less.

Also published in the government legal publication La Gaceta this week, telephone charges are confirmed at 1.5 colons for a text message, 30 colons for a peak period cell phone minute, and 23 colons for off-peak. In January 2009 the regulators rebuffed an attempt by ICE to raise text messages to 5 colons and increase cell tariffs as well.
The cable companies require a package subscription with television service in order to have Internet. The cheapest basic cable service is around 15,000 colons or $25 per month. The most basic internet connection is about $14 but the 512 Kbps most expats would consider minimally acceptable costs $17 to $19. These prices are controlled by the telecoms regulator. Acelera costs $19 for 512 Kbps

Salespeople at three cable companies agreed with the phrase condicionan la venta of Internet hookup on the purchase of television service.  However, Article 34, section h, of Law 7472 says sellers must abstain from monopolization, speculation, conditioning sales, and discrimination against consumers.

Furthermore, cable company Web sites lead the buyer into purchasing Internet without stating the requirement to purchase television service. No mention is made in pamphlets left in mailboxes. In one case, the salesman did call back to say he’d been given “permission” to sell just Internet, but starting at 1 megabyte for $26.

The telecommunications regulator will look at the issues, said Carolina Mora, spokesperson for the agency. She suggested the providers might be able to argue that the “package” is cheaper than the sum of its parts, but that new pricing guidelines to be released shortly will require a detailed list of components and their individual prices.

In other countries packages often are used to conceal extra charges and the Superintendencia intends to control this, she said. Ms. Mora also said the development of competition will likely stifle the practice anyway.


There are many reasons for not wanting dual cables
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are many situations where businesses may want Internet service but not want a television cable too.

Business offices is one such situation, but cable companies have resisted selling the Internet connection separately.

Amnet, the trademarked service of Dodona S.R.L., is one such company.

When A.M. Costa Rica tried to contract for Internet service at its new facilities in Barrio Otoya six months ago, the company said that the Internet would be available only as a companion service to basic television service. That was true even though television comes from one cable from the utility pole and the Internet hookup comes on a second cable. There is no requirement to get Internet when cable television is sold.
Although television might be an appropriate feature in a newsroom environment, other types of businesses probably would not want employees to have access to television shows during business hours.

In fact, some lawyers with offices near the newspaper offices have subscribed to a wireless connection with Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. to sidestep the mandatory related sale.

Bar and restaurant owners who might like to offer Internet service to customers might also like to subscribe to a satellite television service for extensive sports coverage.

The newspaper situation became moot a few weeks later when Amnet announced that it was withdrawing services from a large part of central and north San José because of a dispute with the municipality that wanted cable companies to put their lines underground.


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coke in cans
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública photo 
These are not your usual beer cans

These beer cans would give
drinkers quite a kick

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

No, it is not a new product put out by the national beer company. What anti-drug police found in cans of Imperial and Pilsen at Juan Santamaría airport was strictly homemade.

Agents said that the beer cans contained liquid cocaine, some 10.4 kilos in 19 cans.

The discovery led to two arrests: A German with the last name of Thalmeyer and a Serbian woman with the last name of Rozinra, said agents. He is 24 and she is 50, they said. The pair were embarking on a San José-Madrid-Geneva route.

No changes are proposed
in drunk driving penalties


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A majority of lawmakers agreed Tuesday to eliminate from new legislation any changes in the current stiff drunk driving law. That means that the current law which can mean jail for drinkers and confiscation of their vehicles will remain as it has for more than a year, if the decision holds up through other legislative procedures.

Lawmakers are trying to produce changes in the traffic law before the bulk of it goes into effect March 1, which is just 11 days away. The measure is being handled under special rules.

The majority also proposed a reduction in some of the fines and the elimination of the section that requires formal driving school training for new motorists. Also in the proposal is a section that eliminates toll payments for emergency vehicles at all the toll stations in the country. This has been a sticking point for firemen and the Cruz Roja who have been at odds with the operators of the new Autopista del Sol where emergency vehicles with lights flashing and some en route to fires have had to wait in a line at the toll stations.

The majority of lawmakers also is exempting from sales tax and import duties booster chairs and accessories for children 12 and under, which are required by the current law.

A minority wanted to make sure that driver training was included in the public school curriculum.
                 
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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 33

    
Check out the printed version of the Top Story news feed and see what  you  missed.
Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountains.
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Female companion, others held in murder of Parrita expat
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents and prosecutors blame the girlfriend of a Parrita businessman for arranging his contract murder nearly a year ago. The businessman was a U.S. citizen.
The motive is reported to be greed.

Investigators staged eight raids early Tuesday at homes and one business to gather evidence. They also detained five persons and said that two other persons, now in prison in unrelated cases, also were suspects.

The dead man was James Norris, 47 when he died and the operator of the dance club, the Bougainvillea. He was gunned down execution style outside a dance club in Los Angeles de Parrita Feb. 17, 2009, about 11:30 p.m.

Norris was hit with seven bullets, investigators said, suggesting that the motive of the crime was to kill him. There was no robbery, and the assailant fled after Norris fell to the ground. Investigators said that perhaps as many as 13 shots were fired from a 9-mm. handgun. The dance club or disco is on the main highway between Jacó and Quepos.

Norris previously operated a bar in the area, and he had lived in the central Pacific community for several years.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said at the time that he was the victim of an attack Jan. 9, 2009, in which he suffered a bullet wound of the arm from a small caliber weapon. That happened elsewhere in Parrita.

The Poder Judicial identified one of those detained by the last name of Vargas and said that she was the companion of the dead man. The Judicial Investigating organization said she was 49.
Two other women also were detained. The Poder Judicial identified them by the last names of Corella and Gódinez. A man with the last name of Casanova also was detained. All these arrests were in Parrita on the central Pacific coast.

A man with the last name of Barrantes was detained at his home in Hatillo where a search also was conducted. The two men already in jail were identified by the last names of Yamada and Tremiño.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the arrests Tuesday involved the presumed intellectual author of the killing, suspected intermediaries that helped arrange the crime and one of the two men involved in the actual shooting. That individual, believed to be Barrantes, was just 17 at the time of the killing, agents said.

Although the killers sought to make the crime look like a robbery-murder, agents dismissed that theory early because of the previous attack on Norris and because nothing was taken. The current theory is that someone wanted the man dead to take control of his property and holdings.

Norris was the third businessman to die that week as the victims of apparent contract killers. In Playa Hermosa one man was found dead within his establishment a few days earlier. He was Arno Phifer, a French citizen of Israeli origin, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was shot in the head.

Later that same day at 5:30 p.m. two men on a motorcycle pulled alongside a car driven by Adrián Castro Velásquez, president of the Puntarenas Fútbol Club, one of the nation's major league teams. Castro died from a bullet in the head fired by one of the men. Those last two cases have not resulted in arrests.


Airline plans daily flights to Mexico City starting March 26
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

AeroMéxico, a major Mexican airline, plans to start daily flights between San José and Mexico City just in time for the Easter vacation week.

The company said that it would begin the flights March 26 and said that Costa Ricans would have good connections to 40 locations in México as well as 23 international destinations in nine countries as well as many more options with its Sky Team partners. The company suggested that Ticos might like to visit and vacation at Los Cabos,
Cancún,  Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco or Guadalajara.

The company said that its flight to Mexico City would leave Juan Santamaría airport daily at 7 a.m. and arrive in the Mexican capital at 10:10 a.m. The line also plans a return flight that leaves at 8:30 p.m. to arrive at Juan Santamaría at 10:30 p.m.

The company said that the fight schedules gave business travelers the option of going to México and returning the same day. Service will be by Boeing 737-700 jets with a capacity of 124 passengers, the firm said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 33


Sala III decision on defamation draws international praise

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Related story HERE!

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the Costa Rican legislature to remove criminal defamation provisions from its penal code after a recent supreme court decision eliminated prison terms from its 1902 printing law.

The provisions were eliminated from the law known as Ley de Imprenta, which imposed prison sentences of up to 120 days for defamation in print media.

The court made the ruling while it was reviewing a defamation case against José Luis Jiménez Robleto, a reporter with the San José daily Diario Extra. Jiménez had been accused by a former Costa Rican official after publishing a news story on alleged embezzlement, the press reported. The journalist was sentenced in March 2004 to 50 days in prison based on the outdated 1902 press law.

His conviction was overturned by the Sala III criminal court of the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

The court's decision about the press law, issued on Dec. 18, was made public this week. Costa Rican journalists said it was a victory for freedom of the press. The daily La Nación described it as "historic." The paper's editor, Armando González, said that the court set an important precedent.
Under Costa Rica's penal code, anyone who libels, slanders, defames, or reproduces offensive statements against someone, even public officials, can be fined or placed on an official list of convicted criminals, but not imprisoned, CPJ research has found.

"We consider the supreme court's decision an important step forward toward what we hope will be the total elimination of criminal defamation in Costa Rica," said Carlos Lauría, the committee's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "We now urge Costa Rica's legislative assembly to eliminate defamation provisions from its Penal Code."

Laws that criminalize speech are incompatible with the rights established under Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which Costa Rica has ratified. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated in 1994: "Considering the consequences of criminal sanctions and the inevitable chilling effect they have on freedom of expression, criminalization of speech can only apply in those exceptional circumstances when there is an obvious and direct threat of lawless violence."

There is growing international consensus that journalists should not be jailed for criminal defamation. In November, the Argentine congress repealed criminal defamation provisions in the penal code. In April 2009, Brazil's supreme federal tribunal annulled the 1967 press law, a measure that had imposed harsh penalties for libel and slander.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 33

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2009 was a terrible year
for reporters and bloggers


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire seervices

A press advocacy group says 2009 was a deadly year for reporters around the world, with at least 71 killed. But the Philippines saw the deadliest single attack ever on the press, with the execution of 31 journalists and media workers by militiamen loyal to a powerful political clan. Meanwhile, China and Iran topped the Committee to Protect Journalists' list of countries that have the most reporters in their jails.

The advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, says in its Attacks on the Press report that 2009 was the worst year for journalists' deaths in the nearly three decades since it started keeping records. 

"It was a bad year for journalist deaths, it was also a bad year for authoritarian and repressive governments putting journalists behind bars," said the organization's deputy director, Robert Mahoney. "We saw an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned. Some 136 were imprisoned when we did our census in December, and since then, things have got worse."

He cited the media crackdown in Iran that began after the disputed June presidential election that returned President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to power and saw scores of reporters and bloggers thrown into jail. As of the end of December, 23 remained behind bars, making Iran the second largest jailer of the media after China.

Maziar Bahari, a correspondent for the U.S. magazine Newsweek, found himself part of that crackdown. He spent 118 days in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, most of it in solitary confinement, accused of spying for the foreign media.

"The function of my arrest and the function of myself was supposed to be connecting the reformist opposition to the Western governments," said Bahari. "So, many hours of interrogation spent on asking me about different reformist politicians that I didn't know really. And they wanted to force me to confess that yes, I was spying for foreign government and yes, I was in touch with different reformist politicians, and I was giving them guidelines in regards to what they should do based on what I heard from that western government."

Bahari warned that the Iranian authorities have also stepped up their campaign against the country's Internet bloggers.

"I think the government of Iran in the beginning it did not pay attention to the cyberspace, but recently they have passed a series of cyber crime laws and digital crime laws, that also includes the mobile texts and any kind of digital, as they call it "misinformation," that can be criminalized," he said.

Bloggers are also under attack in China. The committee's Asia expert, Bob Dietz, said that although China has the most Internet users in the world, it also has the largest and most overt Internet censorship apparatus.

"The vast majority of Chinese journalists who are in jail at this point, are in jail because of on-line activity. I think we put the number at 24 journalists imprisoned at the end of this year. I think the figure is two-thirds, isn't it, of those people in jail are in jail for Internet activity," he said.

The CPJ report also singled out abuses against the press in other parts of the world.
 
In Africa, the report said high numbers of local journalists have fled or been forced into exile after being assaulted, threatened or imprisoned. While in the Middle East and North Africa, journalists that are reporting on human rights violations are under pressure from their governments. In Latin America, reporting on crime and corruption can be a dangerous occupation. And the committee warns that the northern Caucuses of Russia remain one of the most dangerous regions in the world for journalists to work.

The advocacy group credits its work with contributing to the release of 45 jailed journalists last year.

Wine producers plan seminar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

California wire producers will be back in San José Thursday promoting their products.

The event will be at the Hotel Intercontinental in Escazú and the organization is called the California Wine Institute.

The U.S. Embassy said that the organization represents more than a thousand wine businesses in that state. A 5 p.m. seminar is planned.

Wine in bottles is free of import duty under the Central American Free Trade Agreement
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 33


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Making products from fruit
is topic of short course


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cartago technical university has scheduled a short course in producing products from Costa Rica's fruits. Classes will be March 8, 15 and 22 at 4:30 p.m. in the university's central campus.

The training is provided by the Escuela de Ingeniería Agropecuaria Administrativa of the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica.

The course is directed at small and medium-size businesses and covers the theory, manipulation, processing and differences among products, said the university in a release.

In addition students will simulate the creation of a small business to produce and market the fruit product, the university said.

The price of the course is 30,000 colons or about $54.


French president Sarkozy
plans visit to Haiti today


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to tour earthquake-ravaged Haiti today.  The French leader is expected to announce a substantial aid package to help Haiti rebuild. President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Haiti will be the first by a French president to the former French colony since Haiti became a republic more than two centuries ago.

The French leader is expected to offer what Sarkozy's office calls "extremely significant proposals" to Haiti, when he meets with his counterpart, Rene Preval.  News reports say Sarkozy will also announce the cancellation of Haiti's $77-million debt to France.

France was among the first nations to send aid to Haiti when the devastating earthquake struck last month, killing at least 217,000 people. Soon afterward, Mr. Sarkozy expressed France's sorrow and dismay and vowed to do more. The French president called the earthquake a national tragedy that demanded compassion and solidarity.

Sarkozy's visit will follow that of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who pledged $11.5 million Tuesday for aid and a temporary headquarters for the Haitian government.  



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