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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 39      E-mail us
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A growing culture makes its presence known here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parque Morazán visitors got a taste of Chinese music Wednesday when a group of Chinese Costa Ricans gave a concert with traditional instruments.

The goal is for locals and tourists to learn more about the Chinese culture. The number of Chinese are increasing each day in Costa Rica, noted Sacgen Chan, an organizer of the first international festival of Chinese culture.

The activities Wednesday mainly were
in the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, the culture ministry. There visitors found demonstrations of Chinese cooking with deference to those food products that can be found here.

Then there was Sergio Liao, a master of calligraphy, a traditional Chinese art 
Chinese music
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Manuel Avendaño Arce
The whole familiy gets into this musical act.
form. He was setting down given names in Mandarin for visitors.  The art festival is in  the Centro Cultural one more day today. Friday and Saturday Avenida 4 pedestrian mall will be
calligraphy
Sergio Liao pens A.M. Costa Rica in Mandarin
the scene of a cultural and commercial fair for China. The Dance of the Lions also will take place there.

The Gimnasio Nacional will be the setting for the Latin American regional martial arts championships Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Parque Central a concert of traditional Chinese music will be presented.

The week of events is sponsored by the Municipalidad de San José and the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Chinese culture got a big boost when the Arias administration decided to recognize the People's Republic instead of Taiwan. The municipality also is planning a Chinese barrio along Calle 9.

There already is a substantial Chinese influence there.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 39

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4401-6/9/0
Mrs. Clinton will attend
minister's meeting here


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the sessions of New Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas next Wednesday and Thursday here as part of a Latin America trip.

The Costa Rican Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto announced Wednesday that she had accepted the invitation. At the same time, Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Public Affairs, outlined the proposed trip in Washington:

In Uruguay, Secretary Clinton will be attending the inauguration President José Alberto Mujica Cordano Monday. She will travel to Santiago where she will meet with President Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria and president-elect Sebastián Piñera. Wednesday Secretary Clinton will be meeting with President Luiz Inacio da Silva in Brasilia.

Mrs. Clinton will be a keynote speaker at the Pathways ministerial meeting and will meet separately with President Oscar Arias and President-elect Laura Chinchilla, said Crowley.

"In Guatemala, we are working to schedule a meeting with leaders of Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to discuss issues of mutual interest," he added. The secretary will also meet with President Álvaro Colom during her visit to Guatemala.

Mrs. Clinton is on record saying that Pathways to Prosperity can and will help spread the benefits of economic engagement and trade to women, rural farmers and small businesses, Afro-descendents, indigenous communities, and others too often left on the sidelines of progress.

Launched in late 2008, Pathways is designed to help countries learn from one another’s experience through the exchange of best practices for spreading the benefits of economic growth broadly to all of our citizens, said the State Department. The program dovetails with the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Treaty, and Mrs. Clinton is likely to be met by anti-treaty protesters during her visit here.

In addition to the United States and Costa Rica, Pathways countries include Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, El Salvador and Uruguay. Three countries, Belize, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago will attend as observers, according to the foreign ministry.

This is the third ministerial meeting of the Pathways countries, and typically the foreign minister and commerce minister of each country will attend. Mrs. Clinton is the U.S. equivalent of a foreign minister.

The goals of Pathways are to expand access to markets and financial services for small business people and farmers, to promote trade and regional integration, to promote competitiveness, to insure enforcement of labor laws and environmental laws, to promote private-public partnerships and to expand educational opportunities, according to the State Department.

Pathways had set up a conference for women business operators last October to learn about leadership and trade. The initiative also launched a regional mentoring network of women-owned businesses, said the State Department. There also was a workshop in Costa Rica in January on public participation in environmental decision making.

.
Tibás is told to repair
inadequate town hall


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not only does the Tibás municipal building have structural problems, but there also are barriers for the disabled. That is why the Sala IV constitutional court ordered the municipality to fix the problems.

The court, acting on an appeal from a resident, said that the municipal government must comply with a sanitary order issued in September and also must take steps to accommodate the disabled.

The sanitary order said that the municipal offices were inadequate and uninhabitable and ordered the relocation of workers within a month.

The Sala IV also ordered the Contraloría de la República not to approve the next municipal budget unless the financial document contains estimates to fix the structural problems.


Gynecologist convicted
of rape involving patient


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A San José gynecologist got a 13-year prison sentence for what amounts to a rape charge lodged by a patient.

The trial court ordered the man's immediate detention. He was identified as Teodoro Mangel León, who had a practice in the center of San José in Feb. 28, 2003 when the crime took place.

The court said that the physician took advantage of the woman during a consultation.


Cold front is on the way
for baked Costa Ricans


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Say goodbye to the hot weather. The weather experts say that a cold front is on the way and should make itself known in Costa Rica today.

Temperatures along the coast have been in the 30s or around 90 F. Although readings were less in the Central Valley, there was the humidity.

But with the arrival of the cold front, residents can expect a return to strong winds and rain in the northern zone and along the Caribbean coast. These conditions are expected to last at least through Friday.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional issues a small plane warning, particularly in the mountains, due to the expected winds.

Jailer finds himself facing jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man in charge of jail cells at the judicial building in  Goicoechea faces an allegation that he took money from the families of inmates with the claim that he could arrange their release.

The man was identified by the last name of Quirós by the Poder Judicial.

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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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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 39

Arias kicks off scaled-down police video project as a legacy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration is moving ahead with its plan to place 342 video cameras at strategic points in four of the country's major cities.

The project is in the hands of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which has the Internet capabilities to provide the hookups.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who leaves office May 8, participated in a session outlining the project Wednesday. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública has been working on the plan for years, but the coverage has been scaled down. Initially plans were to cover the entire country with video eyes. That would have been an $18 million project that would put 3,000 cameras in place.
The cameras, if they have sufficient definition, are a tool for capturing suspects when a crime is taped. Experience elsewhere shows that only infrequently do police break up a crime because of video monitoring.  Janina del Vecchio, the security minster, said she had visited London, which has extensive monitoring systems.

Casa Presidencial said that the video system would be in place and working in August. Some $9 million will be spent on the project. Additional costs will be maintenance and the salaries of those who are supposed to monitor the imagery. Cameras will be going up in Limón, Alajuela, Heredia and in San José.

Some of the British cameras contain tiny microphones that police use to rebuke petty law breakers, like those who litter or jaywalk. Costa Rica does not plan to have audio.


Gangland hit takes the life of two men in Heredia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Colombian men died in a classic gangland hit Wednesday in Heredia.

The pair had been escorted to a bar-restaurant by friends and were drinking when the two friends left suddenly. At the same time three gunmen entered the business from the rear and proceeded to shoot the victims multiple times, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

A man identified as Juvencio Mosquera Murillo died at the scene. He suffered four bullet wounds to the head.

His companion, Armando Emilio Herrera Saa, died a few minutes after reaching Hospital Calderón Guardia in San José.

The shooting took place in San Miguel de Santo Domingo de Heredia about 1:30 p.m. No one else in the restaurant
was harmed. Witnesses said that the crime happened quickly.

A spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday that agents have little to go on, no suspects and no clear motive.

However, the military precision of the killings and the way the victims were set up suggest participation by high-level organized crime. Agents certainly will investigate any foreign connections the men may have had.

At present several Mexican drug cartels are battling for dominance in Costa Rica. The country is important because of its drug routes and loose borders. A series of hired killings in the past involving Colombians living here was blamed on Jamaican drug traffickers.

Men were killed at their doorstep and as they traveled in traffic.  Those crimes never have been solved.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 39

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Stiff traffic law likely to enter into force untouched

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Based on events Wednesday in the legislature, it appears that the new traffic law will go into effect Monday in the same form it was passed nine months ago.

If this happens it will be despite the efforts by some lawmakers to modify certain fines and a big debate about drunk driving.

The lawmakers have 212 proposed changes before them.

Stiff fines are mandated for such traffic violations as passing on a curve, failing to have car seats for minors, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, driving without a license, talking on a cell phone while driving, making a U turn, failing to pay for a marchamo road tax sticker, failing to use a seat belt, failing to heed traffic signals and failing to yield to pedestrians at intersections.

Jorge Eduardo Sánchez said on the floor of the legislature
Wednesday that there are 57 lawmakers and each has his or her own opinion about the level of alcohol in the blood that should be considered drunk driving. Lawmakers have been arguing over whether the level should be .5 grams per liter of blood or .75 grams per liter. That is the difference between three and four beers within an hour.

Lawmakers discussed the measure in depth when they passed the law originally. The drunk driving and reckless driving sections went into effect a year ago. Monday the entire law goes into effect. Lawmakers had delayed the active date with a desire to review some of the penalties, which can bring fines of 200,000 colons, some $360, perhaps a week's pay from some Costa Ricans.

Drunk drivers can be jailed.

Sánchez, a Social Christian, said he was frustrated. He said many of the penalties were draconian and disproportionate. He said that lawmakers should have sought more expert advice.



Restraining order triggers a murderous rampage in Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An enraged man, ordered from his home Friday by a judge, went on a rampage Wednesday that culminated with the bloody murder of his estranged companion.

The dead woman was Ana Yaherlin Marín Guillén, 24, the mother of three. She successfully obtained a restraining order against her companion identified by the last names of Fonseca Ramírez, a 32 year old.

The Poder Judicial said that the order was issued by the Juzgado Contravencional de Paraíso de Cartago. It was the third time that the woman had obtained an order of this type.  The Poder Judicial said that one was issued in 2004 and in 2008.

The killer began his rampage by smashing the windshield  of a family car. The woman had moved into the home of
her parents. The killer then scaled a wall and broke through a window. As the woman screamed for help, the man took shards of glass from the window and stabbed her multiple times.

The children were watching, witnesses said.

Ironically it was the heavy security of the home with razor wire and locked gates that kept neighbors from helping the woman defend herself.

Fonseca was treated at a hospital for wounds that were believed to be self-inflicted.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man was presented the judicial order about 4:30 p.m. that told him to have no contact with the woman. It also ordered him to stay away from where she was living. That attack took place about four hours later.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 39

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Small-scale tropical farms
praised as biodiversity aid


By the University of Michigan news service

Conventional wisdom among many ecologists is that industrial-scale agriculture is the best way to produce lots of food while preserving biodiversity in the world's remaining tropical forests. But two University of Michigan researchers reject that idea and argue that small, family-owned farms may provide a better way to meet both goals.

In many tropical zones around the world, small family farms can match or exceed the productivity of industrial-scale operations, according to researchers Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer. At the same time, smaller diversified farms are more likely to help preserve biodiversity in tropical regions undergoing massive amounts of deforestation, Ms. Perfecto and Vandermeer conclude. Their work is in a paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Most of the tropical forest that's left is fragmented, and what you have are patches of forest surrounded by agriculture," said Ms. Perfecto, a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment on the Ann Arbor campus. "If you want to maintain biodiversity in those patches of forest, then the key is to allow organisms to migrate between the patches.

"And small-scale family farms that adopt sustainable agricultural technologies are more likely to favor migration of species than a huge, monocultural plantation of soybeans or sugar cane or some other crop."

Some ecologists have suggested that the history of eastern North American forests provides a preview of what's likely to happen in the tropics. European colonization of eastern North America led to massive deforestation that accompanied the expansion of agriculture. Later, industrialization drew people to cities from the rural areas, and the forests recovered.

This scenario is known as the forest transition model. It has been argued that if a similar progression occurs in the tropics, then the decline in rural populations would make more land potentially available for conservation. A corollary of the forest transition model states that if you consolidate agriculture into large, high-tech farms, productivity increases and more land is freed up for conservation.

But after reviewing case studies from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, Ms. Perfecto and Vandermeer conclude "there is little to suggest that the forest transition model is useful for the tropics" and that it "projects an overly optimistic vision."

Instead, the researchers propose an alternative model, which they call the matrix quality model. They say it provides a solid foundation for conservation planning in tropical regions.

If you think of the fragments of remaining tropical forest as islands in an ocean of agriculture, the ocean is what Ms. Perfecto and Vandermeer call the matrix — it's the area between the patches of undisturbed natural habitat.

A high-quality matrix is one that enables plants and animals to migrate between the remaining patches of forest, increasing the likelihood that a given species will be able to survive, helping to preserve biodiversity.

Small, family-owned farms that use agroecological techniques come closest to mimicking natural forest habitat, thereby creating corridors that allow plants and animals to migrate between forest fragments. Agroecological techniques can include the use of biological controls instead of pesticides, the use of compost or other organic matter instead of chemical fertilizers, and the use of agroforestry methods, which involve growing crops beneath a canopy of trees or growing crops mixed with fruit trees such as mangoes or avocados.

"If you're really interested in conserving species, you should not just concentrate on preserving the fragments of natural habitat that remain, even though that's where many species are," said Vandermeer, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. "You also need to concentrate on the areas between the fragments, because those are the places that species have to migrate through."

Vandermeer said he advocates the break-up of large-scale farms in the tropics, as well as incentives to encourage "a large number of small-scale farmers, each managing the land to the best of his or her ability, using agroecological techniques."
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 39


Latin American news
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Google execs in Italy lose
case over demeaning video


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An Italian court on Wednesday convicted three Google executives of privacy violations. The court ruled the Google employees failed to act quickly enough to remove a video online showing a boy suffering from Down syndrome being bullied.

In the first such criminal trial of its kind, Italian judge Oscar Magi sentenced the three Google executives to a six-month suspended sentence. They were acquitted of defamation charges.

An advocacy group for people with Down syndrome, "Vivi Down," had sought the charges against the Google executives. The group had alerted prosecutors to the 2006 video, which showed a boy with Down syndrome in Turin being beaten and insulted by bullies at school.

Google Italy, which is based in Milan, argued that it removed the video immediately after being notified and that it cooperated with Italian authorities to help identify the bullies and bring them to justice.

But the advocacy group disagreed and prosecutors accused Google of negligence saying the video remained online for two months even though many users had asked for it to be removed. They said Google executives failed to react swiftly to complaints.

The ruling came at a significant time in Italy as there is much debate over the need to regulate and restrict hate pages and wrongful content on the Internet. Prosecutors insisted the case was not about censorship.

Prosecutor Alfredo Robledo said the verdict was a clear statement that a company's rights cannot prevail over a person's dignity.

Google executives said the decision was astonishing and deeply troubling. Senior Communications manager Bill Echikson said they would appeal the Milan court ruling.

"We are going to appeal this decision because we believe that it poses a crucial question for the freedom on which the Internet is built," said Bill Echikson. "None of these three employees had anything to do with this video, they didn't upload it, they didn't film it, they didn't review it and yet they have been found guilty". 

Google has expressed concern over the ruling because it will force providers to pre-screen thousands of hours of footage that is uploaded onto sites like YouTube.

But there are many users who think this is the right way to go. Just this week in Italy, an Italian Facebook group appeared proposing that children with Down syndrome be used for target practice. The site was forced to shut down and Italy's equality minister said such content would not be tolerated.




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