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(506) 2223-1327        Ppublished Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 39          E-mail us
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Recording industry wants to shame Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trade organization dedicated to protecting copyrights and other intellectual property has asked U.S. officials to place Costa Rica on a priority watch list, the so-called list of shame.

It would share the list with Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam, and even Canada.

The organization, the International Intellectual Property Alliance, issued a scathing six-page summary of copyright problems in Costa Rica. Most of the concerns are familiar to those familiar with Costa Rican criminal procedures: limited enforcement, a failed civil court system, hardly any prosecutors and a disinterested judiciary.

The alliance is made up of seven trade associations and made its report to the U.S. Trade Representative, which will have the final say.

Canada is on the list not because it is a hotbed of intellectual piracy but because it has laws the alliance said are substandard.

The alliance has a special concern for Costa Rica. That concern is a bill now in the legislature that would exempt Tico broadcasters from paying royalties when they play copyrighted music.

The alliance asked that a special intellectual property prosecutor be appointed, that penalties be stiffened and that government agencies cease pirating copyrighted software.

Said the alliance:

"The music industry reports that piracy of sound recordings and music continues to be rampant in Costa Rica, particularly in the form of optical disc (OD) piracy. The level of OD piracy is approximately 60 percent, which represents over 1 million illegal units sold every year in this relatively small market. Much of this OD piracy involves local CD-R burning. The downtown San José area, in particular, is the site of uncontrolled distribution and sale of burned CDs on the streets and in flea markets. Several groups are involved in the importation of blank media and equipment, but the local recording industry has not been able to develop a case yet. Local experts estimate that approximately 20 million units of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs enter Costa Rica annually."

The alliance also said that the percentage of pirated software in Costa Rica is an estimated 59 percent, still among the lowest in Latin America. A software trade group estimates that the commercial value of pirated U.S. software in Costa Rica was $20 million in 2010, the alliance said.

The alliance also expressed concern about Costa Ricans downloading pirated materials via the Internet. It said Costa Rica needs to take action in the near term to get ahead of growing online piracy, particularly because the country has obligations under the Central American Free Trade Treaty.

Costa Rican representatives of recording distributors have been fighting the proposal for Costa Rica to pass two exceptions to the Treaty of Rome on copyrights. "Those reservations effectively exempt broadcasters from performance rights payments to recording artists and record companies," said the alliance. It also noted that the Laura Chinchilla government published a decree in May 2010, almost as soon as she took office, incorporating these reservations into Costa Rican law "despite the president’s statements
Confiscated discs
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Police confiscated these discs, but sales of pirated audio and movie discs continue.

earlier  that year that she intended to reverse the reservations." Passing the law would strengthen the decree.

"The music industry’s business model is transitioning from sale of hard goods to the licensing of transmissions, and removing existing rights to be remunerated for the transmission of music could not be more poorly timed, the alliance said, adding that Ms. Chinchilla has maintained the same poor level of cooperation with industry as that characterized the previous government of Óscar Arias Sánchez

"The Costa Rican government should make every effort to ensure that performers and producers are being remunerated for the commercial exploitation of their music, and the United States should strenuously object to the introduction of practices that discriminate against U.S. interests," said the alliance.

The organization noted that Costa Rica faces a July deadline to comply with certain requirements of the free trade treaty.

The alliance said its member organizations "have encountered numerous copyright enforcement deficiencies in the Costa Rican legal and enforcement system. The main problem for copyright industries is at the prosecutorial level. Prosecutors maintain a poor level of cooperation due to the policy adopted by the attorney general not to pursue copyright piracy."

It added:

"Beyond the major problem at the prosecutorial level, enforcement authorities lack equipment (hardware and software) to investigate Internet piracy cases. The Costa Rican judicial system is very weak, and courts, both criminal and civil, lack the expertise and experience necessary to enforce the copyright and criminal laws. Training programs are necessary for prosecutors, judges and the police authorities. Police cooperation is positive but need more resources: Some municipalities with their own police forces have raided and confiscated hundreds and sometimes thousands of music and video CDs from street vendors, in response to pressure from local businesses. These efforts, however, do not go so far as to investigate the supply chain of the pirated and counterfeit merchandise or to initiate prosecution."

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 39

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Our readers' opinions
Mixing science and religion
reminds us of Galileo

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Is Global Warming A Religious Belief?
 
Why is it that the believers in the human causes of global warming are threatened by science and scientific facts to the contrary, such as presented by Mr. Clifford Dukes in his letter to the editor in Monday's edition?  A classic example is the response of your reader, Mr. H. Franz, in Tuesday's A.M. Costa Rica, that "the debate is over."  As your reader Bob Normand expressed in Wednesday's edition,"[m]aking assertions that a scientific fact is so does not make it so."
 
To some, a belief that global warming is man-made has become a religious belief.  History teaches us to tread carefully when we confuse religion with science.  When Galileo in the 17th century expressed the view - supported by scientific facts - that the earth is not the center of the universe, he was convicted of heresy and given a life sentence of house arrest.  And, there are some today who continue to believe - contrary to scientific facts - that the earth is flat.  I wonder if adherents of the view that global warming is man-made have become contemporary examples of true believers, as described by Eric Hoffer in his book, "The True Believer"? 
 
Mr. Dukes' letter is a serious effort to present scientific facts in support of the view that global warming is not man-made, but is largely the result of other causes, primarily water vapor.  If he is correct, doesn't that suggest that we need to re-think our solutions to global warming, especially before we decide to impose a carbon tax on fuels?
David Jackson
San José

Environmental scientist seeks
clean sources of energy


Dear A.M. Costa Rica

The only thing that came to mind when I read the editorial by Axel Marquardt is that "ignorance is bliss." The editorial by Clifford Dukes has some relevant information, but his statement about "current means of determining temperature" gives me the impression that he is not aware of the numerous satellites that orbit the earth with sensors that measure surface temperature, surface albedo, aerosols, and numerous other variables that have a bearing on global climate change. Also, his example of an ice cube melting in a glass of water must be amusing to any scientist who understands the forcings (natural and anthropogenic) and the likely results of "global warming."

Although it would have little bearing on understanding the results of increased global warming, I suggest that he should melt an ice cube in a separate container then pour the resulting water into another container with water to see if the water level would rise.

I suggest that both Mr. Dukes and Mr. Marquardt read the book "Storms of My Grandchildren" by James Hansen (ISBN ISBN 978-1-60819-200-7) In addition to explaining some of the basic concepts of "global warming" and evidence thereof, Dr. Hansen documented the manner by which the Bush Administration suppressed his reporting of scientific research. Of course that was not surprising in consideration that both Bush and Cheney represent the petroleum industry.

Yes, I am one of the 17,000 plus "concerned scientists" who concur with the importance of developing clean energy sources rather to continue the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels. It seems to me that even the skeptics of global warming would also want to do this if only to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Armond T. Joyce, Ph.D.
Environmental scientist
Llorente de Tibás   
 
Layman asks some questions
that may provoke debate


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Being a writer without benefit of scientific education, training, background, or any other evidence of knowledge in the area of global warming, I have followed the "letters" page with interest as the various "experts" checked in. Since none gave education or vocational credentials, I must assume they are not certified "warming scientists" and, thus, I consider myself an equal in this fray — especially in that it seems tempers are fraying. After careful review of the letters by Messrs Dukes, Franz, Marquardt, and Normand, I pose the following. Sirs:

1. Has the presence and degree of salt in the seawater been taken into account when discussing the melting rate of the Antarctica? It seems to me that this may be of exceptional merit and have the potential for accelerating the mean temperature at the Meridian. As a follow-up to this postulation I ask why there has no consideration been given to the fresh waters of the Amazon River as a means of ameliorating said salinity and provide resistance to the global warming effect in that fresh water is of a higher temperature than is ice?

2. In that ice has a different specific gravity, could not that also influence the presence of algae when the ice was formed and subsequently released with melting? This could have a serious impact upon sea animals which in turn will affect and effect the human food chain. It seems to me that this should be given a priority in the presentation of any hypothesis.  

Although a layman in this field, I recognize that the above questions may provoke contentious debate among the warming elite, and I hasten to offer my services as a public conduit: one who can distill the gobbledygook of  "To warm, or not to warm, that is the question for this age."
Alfred W. Stites
General consultant at large
San Ramón

 
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 HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary






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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 39
Latigo K-9

President fights to salvage her ridiculed security proposal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla took to the television again Wednesday night in an effort to save her much ridiculed security plan. The president took her cue from her new minister of communications, Roberto Gallardo, who said he wanted to clarify the plan when he spoke with reporters Tuesday.

The security plan released last week was a big letdown for many who waited 10 months for the president to take decisive action against crime.

Gallardo told reporters that the security plan, being called POLSEPAZ for its name in Spanish, was supposed to be  a strategic document for the next 10 years and not a working plan. His explanation in Spanish is HERE!

Ms. Chinchilla adopted this point of view of her new spin doctor in her appearance on most of the local television stations last night. She said she already had achieved concrete actions, including hiring 1,000 of the 4,000 promised police and the dismemberment of 120 drug organizations. Her talk is HERE!

The president also made a pitch for her new series of taxes and said that the central government needed the money to obtain the resources to fight crime. A 14 percent value added tax has been the centerpiece of the Chinchilla security plan although there have been no specifics on how the money would be applied.

Ms. Chinchilla also said that her administration was opening up 300 new spots for inmates in the prison system. Some 800 prisoners are to be transferred from San Sebastián in San José to the prison near Liberia.

The Chinchilla administration was stung by a blistering seven-and-a-half minute editorial delivered by Teletica news director Pilar Cisneros Friday afternoon in which the broadcaster characterized the new security plan as "Blah, blah, blah, blah." There is absolutely nothing new in the plan, she said as she addressed the president directly. She also pointed out inconsistencies in what Ms. Chinchilla says now and what she said during her campaign. The editorial is in Spanish HERE.
security grpahic
            Ms. Cisneros                     Laura Chinchilla
Photos are from television appearances via YouTube

The phrase "Blah, blah, blah, blah" struck a note with the public and many online responses, even to Ms. Chinchilla's Wednesday talk, include it.

A YouTube link and a small photo of Ms. Cisneros even appeared on the presidential Facebook page until someone wisely removed it Wednesday.

The Integrated security plan outlined Feb. 14 by Ms. Chinchilla calls for a balanced intervention for prevention, attention and protection, control, reparation and reintegration in accordance with human development and democratic values of Costa Rica, she said at the time.

The responsibility for fighting crime is to be shared among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government. Representatives signed an agreement to that effect.

Specifically named are the Comisión de Seguridad Ciudadana of the executive branch, the Comision Especial Legislativa de Seguridad Ciudadana of the Asamblea Legislativa and the Comisión de Asuntos Penales of the Poder Judicial.

The plan was produced by the U.N. Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo at its San José office. The 128-page document is available on the Programa's Web site in Spanish. The title is "Política Integral y Sostenible de Seguridad Ciudadana y Promoción de la Paz Social," hence the acronym.


New study supports idea that lauguages keep mind working
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another reason has emerged for retirees to choose Costa Rica for a home.

A new study reports that people who speak more than two languages may lower their risk of developing memory problems.  That study from Luxembourg adds weight to findings last year in Canada that bilingualism can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by up to five years.

Retirees who make an effort to learn or improve Spanish would seem to be developing some protection that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s or other memory diminishing effects. Learning or knowing a third language would provide even more protection.

The most recent study was just released. It will be presented formally to other researchers in April at a meeting of the  American Academy of Neurology.

“It appears speaking more than two languages has a protective effect on memory in seniors who practice foreign languages over their lifetime or at the time of the study,” said study author Magali Perquin of the Center for Health Studies from the Public Research Center for Health in Luxembourg. Perquin is helping to lead the study which involves a consortium of partners from different hospitals and institutions. He was quoted in a release from the academy.

The study involved 230 men and women with an average age of 73 who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages. Of the participants, 44 reported cognitive problems. The rest of the group had no memory issues, according to the academy summary. It also said:

• People who spoke four or more languages were five times
less likely to develop cognitive problems compared to
those people who only spoke two languages.

• People who spoke three languages were three times less
likely to have cognitive problems compared to bilinguals. In addition, people who currently spoke more than two languages were also four times less likely to have cognitive impairment. The results accounted for the age and the education of the participants.

The research was conducted in Luxembourg, where there is a dense population of people who speak more than two languages.

The Canadian study was published in the journal Neurology in November. It found that lifelong use of two or more languages keeps symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia at bay, according to a summary from York University. Study co-author Ellen Bialystok is a professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health.

“All the patients in the study had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so clearly bilingualism does not prevent the onset of dementia,” said Professor Bialystok. “Instead, our results show that people who have been lifelong bilinguals have built up a cognitive reserve that allows them to cope with the disease for a longer period of time before showing symptoms,” she says.

While the brains of bilingual patients did show deterioration, researchers said they believe that the use of more than one language equips them with compensatory skills that keep symptoms like memory loss and confusion in check, according to the university summary.

The study was based on the records of more than 200 patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease in Toronto.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 39


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Judicial agents investigate an unusual case of identity theft

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man has been using a fake identity since 2002, agents alleged Wednesday when they detained him in Siquirres.

The man, identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of Belli Espinoza, is a 35-year-old Nicaraguan, who managed to obtain the identity cédula of a man named Alexander Rojas.

Rojas lives in Cajón de Pérez Zeledón in the southern part of the country. Siquirres is in the north.

The Poder Judicial said that both men appear similar. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that Roja lost his
 cédula about the same time the suspect was staying at his home.

A year ago, Rojas sought to open an account at a state bank but was told he already had an account in Siquirres. That is when the investigation began. The bank cooperated by inviting the suspect to its branch to close his account.

Judicial agents said that a number of credit purchases were made in the name of Rojas.

Identity theft is not as frequent in Costa Rica as it may be in other countries because each resident has a unique identity card, the cédula, which contains a photo and biometric data.



Ministry goes high tech to put identification marks on guns

weapon marker
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
A technician demonstrates how the new device functions.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry now has a device that can cut numbers into its inventory of weapons.

The device is from Schmidt Marking Systems in Niles, Illinois. The machine uses a tungsten pin to deeply etch metal and then it stores the information in an attached computer.

The device provides a sequence of numbers that are in addition to the numbers placed by gun manufacturers on their products.

The device also is capable of etching bar codes, dates or unique designs, according to the manufacturer's Web page. The device will be used by the ministry's Dirección de Armamento to keep track of the weapons.

The device came from the Organization of American States. In the past, ministry workers used a metal scribe to etch numbers by hand. The new machine makes a deeper cut, officials said.

Technicians of the Organization of American States will train six ministry employees in the use of the device.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 39

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. says it cracked down
on Sinaloa cartel figures

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States says it has imposed sanctions on a six-nation network of drug traffickers linked to Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it has designated as drug traffickers Colombian native Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa and more than 70 individuals and entities in his organization.

The action freezes any assets the named parties have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits people in the U.S. from conducting business with them.

A Treasury Department official, Adam Szubin, said Cifuentes Villa will no longer be able to "masquerade as a legitimate businessman while supplying cocaine to the Sinaloa Cartel." The sanctions are intended to prevent Cifuentes Villa from using the other people named in the order to launder his drug trafficking money.

Cifuentes Villa is believed to own or control companies ranging from an airline in eastern Colombia to a real estate company in Mexico. Treasury experts say his organization also operates in the U.S., Ecuador, Panama and Spain.

Among those sanctioned Wednesday was a man allegedly operating as liaison between the Cifuentes Villa organization and the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Family members of Cifuentes Villa were also designated for what the Treasury Department said was materially supporting his drug trafficking, or for helping manage his companies.


Calderón blames rivalry
for failing to stop drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has rejected accusations that a lack of coordination in Mexico is undermining the fight against drug cartels, saying rivalry within U.S. intelligence agencies is to blame.

President Calderón made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in Mexico's El Universal newspaper. 

The Mexican leader told the paper the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement do not coordinate with each other on security matters, and said the agencies were rivals.

President Calderón also said U.S. President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, had shown a willingness to help fight Mexico's drug war.  But he said cooperation at an institutional level has been notoriously insufficient.  He called for the U.S. to cooperate in reducing drug consumption and in putting a stop to the flow of arms to Mexican drug gangs.

In the same interview,Calderón said leaked diplomatic cables show U.S. diplomats are ignorant about Mexico's security situation and are prone to distort and exaggerate. 

In December, the British newspaper The Guardian printed details of a classified U.S. cable in which American diplomats voiced concern about the Mexican army's ability to win that nation's drug war.  The details were leaked by the website Wikileaks. 

President Calderon's interview was published the same day mourners in Brownsville, Texas attended the funeral of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who was shot dead last week Tuesday in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.  The agent, Jaime Zapata, was killed and fellow agent Victor Avila, Jr. was shot in the leg during the attack.  U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and ICE Director John Morton delivered remarks at the service for Zapata.

Mexican military forces are engaged in a struggle against the country's violent drug cartels.  At least 34,000 people have been killed in the drug war since President Calderón took office in late 2006 and began a crackdown on the cartels.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 39

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Latin American news
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Symphonic orchestra in Jacó
for two concert programs


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional plans a concert tonight in Jacó and another Friday.

The concerts will include the participation of the Banda Infantil-juvenil de Garabito. The concert tonight is at 7 p.m. in the Parque de Jacó. Friday the concert is at 5 p.m. in Los Sueños Resort y Marina.

On the program is a Rossini work, "End of the World" from "Pirates of the Caribbean" by Hans Zimmer and a  selection from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. Marvin Araya, is the guest conductor.

The programs have been arranged by leading hotels in the area.


Employer chamber urges
quick action on Moín


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The employers chamber urged officials Wednesday to quickly make a decision on the Limón Ciudad Puerto project which would put out for a concession a new terminal for containers at the port of Moín.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado said this would generate more employment on the caribbean coast.

Chamber officials met with President Laura Chinchilla Wednesday afternoon.

The Limón ports are generally considered to be inefficient, but the dockworkers union there opposes the plan for a concession even though they would be in line for big payoffs.
 
The chamber noted that the average cost of shipping out a container is $1,190 while in Panamá the same process would cost $805.


Contract drivers fizzle
in effort at blockades


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite their threats, the blockades by the porteadores were limited Wednesday.  Traffic police were out in force and kept a lot of the unlicensed taxi drivers from reaching key points.

The Federación Nacional de Porteadores is one group of contract drivers that opposes a proposal in the legislature that would require them to meet many of the same standards as permitted taxi drivers.

They promised more demonstrations if the bill was approved. It is in committee now.






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