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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 37      E-mail us
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Fishman emerges as a legislative winner in San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The up-and-down political fortunes of Luis Fishman were up Monday as the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones said that he had won a legislative seat from San José. Fishman, who also was his party's presidential candidate, bested José Manuel Bustos. by just 260 votes in the complex calculations that distribute legislative seats on the basis of total popular vote.

Fishman will be one of two members of his Partido Unidad Social Cristiana who will sit in the legislature from San José. Bustos did not make it, but two members of his Movimiento Libertario did. There are 19 total legislative seats for the province.

Fishman was elected a vice president under Abel Pacheco, but the new president quickly evicted Fishman from the administration for reasons still unclear. He spent four years as a vice president but with no office, no power and no responsibilities. He was, however, elected to head Unidad Social Cristiana.
The presidential candidate was supposed to be Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, a former president and the son of a legendary political figure. That was before Calderón was convicted of participating in payoffs for government contracts. He still is appealing but chose not to run.

That is when Fishman stepped up to the plate as the designated candidate. He quickly saw that personal security was a topic that resonated with the public. His campaign slogan was "Fishman gives me security."

The polls continually showed he had no chance, but Fishman soldiered on. His campaign came forth with a chorus of singing mothers-to-be and men in diapers and with baby bottles. The later part of the campaign seemed to leave many Costa Ricans mystified.

Despite the small number of his party members in the 57-seat legislature, Fishman, a savvy politician and dealmaker, is likely to wield power since the legislative makeup is so fragmented.


Policeman kills attacker during Aserrí gang fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A melee in Aserrí early Monday became fatal when those fighting turned on Fuerza Pública officers.
One officer shot and killed a man who had stabbed him in the face with a broken bottle, officials said.

Three men and a woman were detained, said the Fuerza Pública. No reason was given why two groups were fighting in the community south of San José. The gangs were described as rivals.

When police arrived, they became the enemy, and one man, later identified by the last names of Solano Parra, 23, took a chunk of wood and broke the windshield of a vehicle that was parked nearby, police said.

A companion, identified by the last names of Camacho Parra came at the officer and cut him in the face. Officers said that the policeman fired
his service weapon in self defense when the man tried to do it again, and Camacho fell.

The officer, who was not identified, was hospitalized, said officials.

The events played out at Puente Cañas in Aserrí.

Nils Ching, regional subdirector of the Fuerza Pública, said that Camacho was 25 years old and had prior arrests for aggravated robbery and for carrying a gun illegally.

He said that the officer acted in self defense and shot Camacho in the stomach and groin.

In addition to Solano, those arrested were a woman, identified by the last names and age of Sánchez Fallas, 22;  and two men, identified by the last names and ages of Pirras Picado, 32, and Cruz Peraza, 26, said officers.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 37

Costa Rica Expertise
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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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Legion to hear accountant
talk on tax code changes


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Randall Lindner, an accountant who is an enrolled agent with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, will be the speaker at American Legion Post 10 March 3.

Lindner operates the Escazú office of U.S. Tax International. The noon meeting will be held at the Bello Horizonte Country Club in Escazú.

Lindner was a co-founder of Executive Accounting and Bookkeeping in Florida and has been in Costa Rica for the past 15 years, specializing in International taxes. He receives daily updated informational notices from the IRS. In the past year he has had three clients audited by the IRS and they all came out with flying colors, he said. He maintains his professional credentials by completing 24 hours of continuing education every year, he noted.

Lindner, who has a bachelor's degree in accounting, will address members of the post and guests concerning recent changes in the tax laws and provide useful information concerning individual tax reporting requirements. All U.S. military veterans and members of the general public are invited to attend this meeting, the club said.


Teen pianist has two dates
at Teatro Nacional today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 16-year-old Canadian-Costa Rican pianist Jonathan Duarte has not one but two dates at the Teatro National today. The teen will be playing for the lunchtime crowd and return at 8 p.m. for a recital heavy with Frederick Chopin.

The evening works include "Polonaise Op. 26 No. 2" and "Scherzo Op. 54 No. 4." In all, there are eight works by the Polish composer.

The lunchtime event is part of the theater's Teatro al Mediodia that has a heavy following among downtown workers and tourists.

The pianist is a student of the Instituto Superior de Artes and the Universidad Nacional, under the direction of Alexander Sklioutovski. Students of this institute have won over 100 national and international piano competitions around the world, making it one of the most successful music schools in Latin America.

Duarte has been a strong competitor on the international scene. He has given concerts in New York and recently has been invited to study in Moscow, said the theater.

Admission for the evening performance is 2,500 colons, less than $5


Contraband cell telephones
confiscated by police


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers on the Interamerican highway managed to catch a truck they said was loaded with 662 cell telephones that had been brought in illegally from Panamá. Police stopped the vehicle at 11 p.m. Sunday and impounded the merchandise when the driver could not produce invoices showing that taxes had been paid.


Sun is baking the country
as winds become weaker


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is in the midst of a heat wave with the temperature expected to hit the 36 degree mark today in Liberia. That's 97 F.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that diminished winds and a lot of humidity in the air contributed to the warmer temperature.

A high pressure system is approaching the country and reducing the winds, the institute said.

The temperature was somewhat less at the beaches and on the Caribbean coast. In the Central Valley partly cloudy skies permitted the sun to provided unseasonable temperatures.


Barrio Escalante plan proposed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José will outline its plan for Barrio Escalante at a meeting at 7 p.m. today in Cine Magaly. The municipality has been working with a citizen's group and a local architect to create improvements and more open sapce in the barrio, which is in northeast San José.


Bus crash in Perú takes
at least 28 lives

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A head-on bus collision in northern Perú killed at least 28 people and injured 40 others Monday.

Police officials say the two buses from the Crisolito and America Express lines collided on the Panamerican highway near the town of Viru in northern Perú.

Authorities say the injured were taken to a regional hospital.

Officials say rescuers are still trying to reach people that are trapped in the mangled wreckage.

Fatal bus crashes are common in Perú, where government transportation regulations are lax and many mountain roads are in poor condition.

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A.M. Costa Rica 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 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.

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.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 37

Some Villalobos victims are starting to get payments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some victims of the Villalobos Brothers investment debacle will be getting some money. These are the creditors who persisted and filed civil cases parallel to the criminal fraud case against Oswaldo Villalobos, one of the brothers.

The office of Ewald Acuña Blanco is in the process of distributing the first payment to creditors. The first payment is 27.59 percent of the amount that was awarded by the same judicial panel that convicted Oswaldo May 16, 2007, of aggravated fraud, according to documents from the lawyer's office.

A spokesman for the Poder Judicial said that no judge had to approve the settlement because it was reached between lawyers for Villalobos and the creditors. It is a private matter, the spokesman said.

Still unknown is if creditors who were represented by other lawyers participated in the settlement. Judges ordered money awards to more than 100 persons. The e-mail letter from an Acuña aide listed 36 creditors or creditor couples.

Acuña's office is circulating letters to clients that they must sign. One allows him to take a 10 percent fee from the first payment. Another specifies into what creditor's bank account the first payment will be deposited.

A second payment of 10.88 percent is supposed to be paid in six months.  So creditors will be getting about 35.7 percent of the amount the court awarded them, based on the contents of the letters.

An investor contacted Monday said he was delighted to get any money back. He and others getting the money persisted in their court case even though they faced harassment and threats from other Villalobos creditors. Many creditors were convinced by an informal group of Villalobos friends and Web sites that if they just were patient the other brother, fugitive Luis EnriqueVillalobos, would return to pay them off. They have been promoting the fiction that the funds
they deposited with the Villalobos brothers somehow were tied up in international banking technicalities.

The trial court instead determined the Villalobos were running a ponzi scheme in which earlier creditors were paid high interests from the money deposited by new arrivals.

Luis Enrique Villalobos may have had $1 billion on his books when he left in October 2002. But most of that money appeared to be just bookkeeping entries from creditors who rolled over their 3 percent a month interest.

Oswaldo, the lesser-known brother, got 18 years for his part in the scheme. He also was convicted of illegal banking. Luis Enrique was the front man and it was only at Oswaldo's trial when paperwork was produced to show that he had an equal role in the operation. He generally was known to the public as the man running the Ofinter S.A. money exchange operations.

The statute of limitation will allow Luis Enrique to return to public life in a little more than two years. He will be immune from prosecution. If he is caught before that deadline, he will be brought to trial, and creditors will get another chance to press claims for money damages and losses.

Meanwhile, two other legal cases still are unresolved. A group of mostly Canadian investors brought an action against the government of Costa Rica at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank agency. The claimants say Costa Rica did not exercise adequate oversight to prevent the failure of the Villalobos operations.

A more recent case is being organized by the United and Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica. This is the group that supports the Villalobos brothers. They seek some kind of court action or suit against Costa Rica and have hired lawyer David Eugenio Romero Mora to press the case. Romero has said he plans a case against Costa Rica for acts that resulted in the collapse of the Villalobos operation. No papers have yet been filed in court.


Don't mess with press, Sala IV tells soccer federation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has expanded the concept of freedom of the press to include the administration of the national soccer team.

The case involved reporters for the popular newspaper La Teja, which is published by Grupo Nación.

The Federación Costarricense de Fútbol denied credentials to two reporters for La Teja because of a depiction of players that had been published in the newspaper.

The reporters wanted to cover the Costa Rica-Uruguay game in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás. The newspaper had depicted the national soccer team Oct. 17 with the face of a dog.
The soccer federation refused to give credentials unless the newspaper issued a public apology and printed something positive about the team, according to the Sala IV summary.

The magistrates unanimously declared that the soccer federation had violated the newspaper's liberty of opinion and engaged in prior censorship. The federation was ordered to abstain from doing the same thing again. The federation also had to pay costs.

La Teja is the lowest common denominator of the newspapers circulating in Costa Rica. At the same time, the national soccer team was having its troubles. The team was playing Uruguay because it failed to win a World Cup berth within its own division. The team dropped two games to Uruguay and failed to get a ticket to South Africa and the World Cup matches.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 37


With four days to go, lawmakers still divided on traffic law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the March 1 deadline moves closer for lawmakers trying to restructure the country's new traffic law, more differences are showing up in the legislature.

Principal topics disputed are the proposed point system under which a repeat offender can lose the right to drive, alcohol levels and the amount of the fines that may be assessed.

In addition, the Cámara Costarricense de Restaurantes has weighed in and said the tough law that went into effect more than a year ago hurt business. The drunk driving law allows for stiff fines, impounding of the vehicle and possibly jail.

Monday lawmakers were arguing whether the drunk driving limit should be .5 grams of alcohol for each liter of blood or .75 grams. That is the difference between three beers and four beers within an hour for the average man.

The current law specifies .5 grams as being under the
influence and .75 grams as drunk. The Instituto de Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia would like to see .5 grams as the level for drunk driving.

The restaurant chamber said that the stiff alcohol law contributed to the closing of some 325 businesses and the loss of 6.000 jobs.

The alcohol parts of the new traffic law went into effect at Christmas 2008, but lawmakers postponed the effective date of most of the law so they could study the issues anew.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes urged lawmakers Monday to maintain the system of points to avoid jeopardizing the entire law. Marco Vargas, the minister, said that without the points system there would be no way to keep track of bad drivers or to require reeducation of repeat offenders.

The Automóvil Club de Costa Rica will be putting on a demonstration at 9 a.m. today of simulated traffic accidents. The organization is pushing for adoption of certain aspects of the law.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 37

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

coral photo
Todd LaJeunesse, Pennsylvania State University
Acropora retusa is a common species of coral found throughout the world. Researchers collected a tiny fragment from this specimen.

Some corals seem to endure
harsh sun and warm water

By the Pennsylvania State University news service

In the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand, not only is the water warm and murky, but the tidal flux is so great that many of the corals can spend hours out of water, exposed to the harsh sun and dry air.  Penn State researchers said that the coral thriving in a place that is so warm gives hope that coral reefs and the ecosystems they support may persist -- at least in some places -- in the face of global warming

Corals are colonies of tiny animals that derive nutrients and energy from golden-brown, photosynthetic algae that live inside the corals' cells.

"This symbiotic relationship is sensitive to changes in the environment," said Todd LaJeunesse, research team leader. "For example, because the algae are photosynthetic, they are very sensitive to changes in light. They also are sensitive to temperature," he said. "An increase in sea-surface temperature of just a few degrees Fahrenheit for a period of several months can cause many of the coral-algal symbioses to break down and the algae to be expelled. This process is known as bleaching because it leaves behind the clear animal tissue and the white skeleton underneath. When bleaching is severe, due to either high temperatures or low light availability, corals soon die without their symbiotic partners."

According to team member Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, coral-dominated reefs may become scarce within the next 30 to 50 years, given the increase in the number of bleaching events that recently have taken place.

"The fact that the Andaman Sea and other regions around Southeast Asia are home to such a high diversity of corals is surprising because the water there is so warm and sometimes murky," said LaJeunesse. "The inshore locations we surveyed are not the sort of places where you would expect to see thriving coral communities. Not only is the water warm and murky, but the tidal flux is so great that many of the corals can spend hours out of water, exposed to the harsh sun and dry air."

In the Andaman Sea, the scientists found a variety of seemingly thermally tolerant algae species, with one species being particularly abundant. Called Symbiodinium trenchi, the species is a generalist organism -- one that is able to associate with a variety of hosts. Corals harboring this symbiont appear to be tolerant of high heat. LaJeunesse found the same species in the Caribbean Ocean during a bleaching event that took place in 2005.

"Symbiodinium trenchi, which normally occurs in very low numbers in the Caribbean, was able to take advantage of the warming event and become more prolific because of its apparent tolerance of high temperatures," he said. "The species appears to have saved certain colonies of coral from the damaging effects of unusually warm water."

In contrast, the scientists found very few thermally tolerant algae species in the cooler western Indian Ocean and Great Barrier Reef area. According to LaJeunesse, the Andaman Sea is on average three or four degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the western Indian Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef area.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 37


Latin American news
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Orchid show draws fans
to display in Washington


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

For centuries, orchids have cast a quiet spell. They have been hunted and collected on nearly every continent.  Books, movies, paintings, and photographs document one of the most sophisticated flower markets.  Every year the U.S. Botanic Garden and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., assembles an orchid exhibit that attracts collectors and fans from all over.  This year it runs for three months until April.

Clive Atyeo has been breeding orchids for 48 years. Over the last 17,  he's been taking care of the orchid collection at the U.S. Botanic Garden.  "And I am still in love with my wife and the orchids, the orchids are part of my family," he said.

The orchids in the Botanic Garden's greenhouse belong to about 5,000 species and there are more than 8,000 plants. It's the Botanic Garden's largest collection. "I think when most people come in contact with orchids, I think the orchids take hold of them, it's like you get hooked on them. How can you not like that?"

Atyeo moves through the greenhouse like it's his own house. "This one has been blooming for awhile, beautiful," he says.

He knows every plant, its health, awards and history.  He also has tricks up his sleeve: how to care for each, especially when when it comes to re-potting them. "Orchids are prone to virus and what I am going to do is sterilize the cutters, so I use a flame, to sterilize the tool," he says.

And so, with tender, loving care, hundreds of orchids are groomed for the Garden's annual exhibit. "We have a lot of orchids set aside for the show," he says.

From the greenhouse, these orchids are carefully transported to the Botanic Garden, at the base of the U.S. Capitol.    

About two thousand plants in bloom are being shown there.

Eric Leavitt supervises the operation.  He explains how the orchids are made to bloom in time for the show. "We run temperatures according to what helps them initiate flower buds.  Last fall we turned down temperatures, down into the 50s in this greenhouse, which initiates flower buds," he says.

After months of preparation, the show is open to the public. Cam Rankin came from New Hampshire and has spent the morning admiring the flowers. "They almost seem like they are reaching out wanting to kiss you.  I love them all. They  are fantastic," he said.

Monica Jiménez and her daughters came from Colombia, a country that has a large number of orchid species. "This is a beautiful exhibit. Everybody should come see it," she said.





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