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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, March 5, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 45      E-mail us
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Hookers being recruited as intelligence operatives
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The statement may seem very obvious, but customers of prostitutes should not provide a lot of personal information.

Some of San José's more expensive call girls report that they have been approached by individuals they think are Mexican with offers to purchase information regarding their customers.

In México, officials have discovered that the Zeta narco military force has made offers of from $400 to $800 to working women and men for information that may be useful in a crime.  The narcos are interested in infiltrating public institutions, finding out which potential kidnap victim has ready money and a whole list of personal information on large groups of persons.

Costa Rican prostitutes say that similar efforts to obtain personal information have been made here.

Mostly unknown to the sex tourists who visit some of the local hotels is another tier of prostitutes who are involved with the movers and shakers of Costa Rican society. It is at this level that attempts have been made to obtain information
No one has admitted accepting the offers, and one individual said that $400 to $800 is not enough to destroy her business. She is one of those women who works from noon until 8 p.m. in places where the average expat cannot go. Patrons are mostly top businessmen, diplomats, judges and politicians. Discretion is the rule.

Sought are a whole list of information ranging from locations of bank accounts to the names of minor children. The questioners also are interested in the names of corporations in which the individual may have an interest. In addition to pillow talk, the questioners most certainly have taken advantage of the country's public record system that lists corporate ownership, vehicle titles, deeds and family relationships.

Some of the women who have been approached said that the volume of information that they receive is incredible because frequently their customers either simply want to talk or seek to feed their ego.

One woman said that she believed similar offers are being made to domestic employees who are situated much better to provide floor plans of homes and hourly schedules.


Annual festival of dogs is Sunday in Curridabat
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday a lot of people are going to the dogs because it is the day of the 13th Festival de Canes in Curridabat.

The event will be in the Plaza de Deportes José María Zeledón starting at 10 a.m.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their animal companions. In fact, the day is usually a social event not only for the animals but for the owners and those who would be owners.

The organizer, the 30-year-old Asociación Nacional Protectora de Animales, is promising contests for dogs as well as reasonably prices vaccinations and dewormings. There also will be 
sales stands for items related to pets.

Those who bring a photo of their dog can win a professional photo shoot for the animal, said the association.

There are various contest categories open for the dogs, including best disguise and the dog that looks the most like its master.

There also are categories for the most talented and even a king and queen contest. In order to be royalty, dogs must have a current vaccination and be castrated, said the association. 

The king and queen will be featured in the next edition of Guaus y Miaus, the magazine put out by the association.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 45

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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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.


Real estate agents and services

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with Great Estates of Costa Rica

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We offer real estate law, due diligence and escrow services,residency status, business corporations, estate planning. English, Spanish, German and French spoken.
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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the
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Accountants

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Hearing consultant

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Holocaust stamp
Proof of the Holocaust stamp has price obliterated.

Postal officials honoring
those who died in Holocaust

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Holocaust is not a myth in Costa Rica. The postal service has come out with a commemorative stamp honoring the millions who died under the Nazi yoke.

The stamp was issued on the International Day of the Victims of the Holocaust. The emission was done in conjunction with the Costa Rican Jewish community and the Yad VaShem Hebrew Holocaust martyrs organization.

The stamp is a simple Star of David outlined in barbed wire, evoking memories of the concentration camps where Jews and others were herded. The design is by Cristian Ramírez Vargas. The duotone background of the stamp contains stripes of the same colors of the uniforms worn by the concentration camp inmates.

Face value is 500 colons, about 92 cents.

The emission is a bold move by the Correos de Costa Rica because the executive branch is trying to repair relations with Muslim states, and some of the Muslim leaders deny that the Holocaust took place.

Our reader's opinion
Banking online is open
to cyber hacker attacks


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to your recent article on approaches to stem cyber hackers, while I am not psychic, I will predict that 2010 is the year that banks will change how they do business online. However, while we wait, what can we do to protect ourselves? Your article was correct that virus scanners are no longer sufficient, as the "trojan malware" which infects Internet browsers can no longer be distinguished from legitimate software needed to access financial and personal Web sites.

As a retired software engineer who has done a lot of Web site development, I have spent many hours in recent months trying not only to find an adequate solution, but simply to find sufficient information to determine the real threats. Fortunately, there are finally sources for good information. Unfortunately, the news is not good for those of us who must bank online.

Advisories and warnings are being circulated quietly among the major financial institutions, but publicly they are still insisting that online banking is safe. Last August, Brian Krebs, a former reporter for the Washington Post who now writes independently, discovered that the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center — an industry group created by a U.S. presidential order to share data about critical threats to the financial sector — issued a confidential alert to its member institutions questioning the safety of online banking and confirming that criminals are winning the cyber war against financial account holders.

However, all is not lost. While searching for the details behind this story, I ran across a viable solution to this problem. It turns out there is a version of the Linux operating system that can be installed on a little USB memory stick and then used to start a personal computer in a way that almost certainly avoids hackers and their malware without in any way altering the PC for "normal" use. The process is reasonably simple, and I am currently working to create an even simpler approach to making this work.

While nothing can guarantee 100 percent security online, this may be as close as it gets. If any of your readers would like to try this process, I would appreciate hearing from them. Further details, including links to articles by Mr. Krebs and others, can be found at the following link. Please leave a comment if you are interested in participating:
http://ccobb.net/blahblahblog/?p=658

Christopher Cobb
Hills of Portalon
Costa Rica

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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.

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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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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, Friday, March 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 45

Mrs. Clinton criticized for lack of specifics on drug fight
By Manuel Avendaño Arce
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Spanish-language newspeople covering U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have coined the phrase diplomatic tourist to characterize the lack of substance that has come from her visit here.

That was prompted by the tightly controlled mini-press conference in which the U.S. official participated after she spoke at the regional meeting of Pathways to Prosperity. Only four questions were permitted, two from local media and two from international reporters.

The emphasis from reporters was on drug trafficking in Latin American and the possibility of more U.S. aid. Mrs. Clinton said that the United States was committed to the problem, but time ran out before any specifics could be mentioned.

La Nación quickly headlined an updated story on its Web site: "Clinton without concrete aid against narco."

The press conference happened on the same morning that police agencies here were arresting individuals believed linked to the Cartel del Valle in Colombia. Costa Rica is a major warehousing location for cocaine shipments.

In fact, the United States provides significant amounts of aid in money and material to Costa Rica, but officials here are seeking more. Much of the aid does not come from the State Department but from other branches of the U.S. government, like the Justice Department.

At noon, Mrs. Clinton met with Laura Chinchilla for lunch and at 7:30 p.m. she went to Rohrmoser where people who fight for gay civil unions were holding flags and signs. Demonstrators said they were kept far away from the house of President Oscar Arias Sánchez where the two met.

Mrs. Clinton was more specific in her morning Pathways speech.

Her theme was summed up in her statement that "Whether our countries are seeking to defuse threats to democracy, protect against the effects of natural disasters, or build long-term prosperity, it is vital that we spread the benefits of economic growth and integration to more people in more places."

She also said that efficient and effective customs practices are critical to attracting foreign investment and success in global markets, so Pathways will support modernizing customers procedures. 

She also asked the ministers of the Spanish-speaking countries to reciprocate with the U.S. programs to teach English to foreigners. She said that millions in the United States speak Spanish as a first or second language or are learning how to speak it.

"With your help, we can have even more U.S. citizens learning Spanish, and that will increase our trade and business ties," she said.

She also said that the United States is encouraging modernizing laws governing credit so that assets like machinery can be used to secure loans instead of just real estate. She gave an example of recent changes in the laws of Honduras that permit this.
 
Mrs. Clinton and Oscar Arias
Casa Presidencial photo
Óscar Arias and Mrs. Clinton chat in a corridor in his Rohrmoser home.

protests
Photo by Jeudy Blanco
Those demonstrating for a civil union law were kept blocks away.

And she said that small- and medium-sized businesses  need to reduce the amount of water, energy and raw materials they use to protect natural resources and save costs.

"I was reminded again that wherever we live in the Americas, whatever our heritage, whatever language we speak, we all want the same thing: the chance to live safe and healthy lives; to see our families productive and moving toward a better future; to participate fully in our communities; and to do all that we can to extend those opportunities to others, she concluded.


Early return sought to normal relations with Honduras
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Latin American leaders Thursday it is time to move forward on restoring relations with Honduras after last year's coup. She holds a key meeting with Central American leaders on Honduras and other issues Friday in Guatemala City.

Mrs. Clinton, on a six-nation Latin American tour, has encountered resistance to an early return to normal relations with Honduras from officials in Argentina and Brazil.

But at a press event with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a critical mediator in the Honduran crisis, the secretary of State said last November's internationally-recognized elections in Honduras, and subsequent steps by new President Porfirio Lobo, should clear the way for the country's reintegration in the hemisphere.

"President Lobo has moved quickly to implement many of the recommendations that first came from President Arias' work on the San Jose accords, and were incorporated into the Tegucigalpa accord," said Hillary Clinton. "He has a unity government. He has a truth commission that will be stood up. He expedited the safe departure of former
President Zelaya. And we think that Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and the normalization of relations."

Brazilian leaders told Clinton earlier this week they had reservations about early normalization in the absence, of among other things, provisions for the return home of ousted former Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya, who has gone into exile in the Dominican Republic.

The Organization of American States suspended Honduras after the coup last June and the United States suspended most aid. Mrs. Clinton said she has sent a letter to Congress telling legislators the administration will resume aid, and said other states in the hemisphere should not delay normalization steps.

"Other countries of the region say that they want to wait a while," she said. "I don't know what they're waiting for, but that's their right to wait. We believe that President Lobo and his administration have taken the steps necessary to restore democracy. And we share the condemnation of the coup that occurred but we think it's time to move forward and insure that such disruptions of democracy do not and cannot happen in the future."


A Sunday full of the symphony orchestra and a British farce
This past weekend was a full one for me, all of it centered in downtown San Jose. 

Actually everything happened on Sunday because I didn’t get a chance to go downtown on Saturday for the various celebrations. 

Sunday morning at 10:30, the Teatro Nacional held its traditional second performance of Friday night’s offering.  It is a wonderful tradition — listening to beautifully played classical music in a jewel box of a theater on Sunday morning.  The theater was packed with an audience eager to hear American pianist Roger Wright play Tchaikovsky’s "Polonaise" from "Eugene Oneguin."

The rest of the program included Rachmaninoff. Smetana and Rimsky-Korsakov.  It was a satisfying morning. 

It was pushing 1 p.m. as I rushed out of the theater and caught a bus home to have something to eat and dress a bit more warmly for the windy afternoon. I wanted to get to the Laurence Olivier Theater by the 2:30 curtain of Little Theatre of Costa Rica’s version of that ridiculous long-running British farce, “No Sex, Please, We’re British.” (one of the marks of a British farce is its ridiculous plot, in my opinion).  Another mark of farce is that at a certain point hysteria takes over and nuance is forgotten. 

The purpose of the first scene is to set up the situation for the unfolding plot.  In this case, newlyweds are settling into their apartment above the husband’s bank and the husband, Peter Hunter (admirably played by Richardo Jimenez) is getting ready for his first day back at work.  He is informed by his wife, Frances (Stacey Auch) that she has ordered some glassware from a Swedish company, which she will sell to make some extra money.  Stacey Auch accomplished well the first two rules of acting: make sure the audience can hear you and make sure they can understand you.  But the lack of change in her tone or expression was a bit disconcerting.

However, by the time Brian Runnicles, Peter’s assistant in
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr


the bank, gets embroiled in her misbegotten plan, things look up.  Dave Nisson plays the easily intimidated Runnicles to perfection and manages enough nuances of facial expression and voice to keep the audience fascinated and laughing until the end of the play.  

Caroline Kennedy vies with the mother in ‘Two and a Half Men” on TV in her role as a self-centered and demanding mother and mother-in-law.  All in all, it was a good cast and the director, Ann Antkiw (a long-time friend of mine) choreographed her actors in and out and behind doors and up and down stairs on the relatively small stage, with the skill of a Bob Fosse.

By the time I left the Laurence Olivier I felt as if I had had my healthy daily dose of laughter.

The play continues this weekend.  Make reservations for the Sunday matinee and you will painlessly contribute to the Women’s Club’s charities.   

But there was more to follow.  I went with four friends, three of whom are Ticos, to Soda Tapia on Sabana East for their famous dish, fruit salad with ice cream and Jello.  It is an amazingly tasty combination, but with three scoops of ice cream, it was more than I could eat.  We discussed the origin of the dish and wondered if we were correct in remembering that the Soda Tapia was originally at the Central Market.  Wherever it has been, it has always been crowded with customers, and since I have been critiquing actors, I might as well say, the men who were playing the waiters at Soda Tapia were so convincing and some of the best, most efficient and pleasant I have found anywhere. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 45

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church



11 firms authorized to provide cable television service

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The telecom regulating agency has authorized 11 companies to provide cable television service.

Two, Amnet and Cable Tica, seek to provide broad coverage. Amnet, the trade name of Dodona SRL, said it seeks to provide service in all of the national territory. Cable Tica, the trade name of Televisora de Costa Rica S.A., said it wants to provide service in 51 cantons of the seven Costa Rican provinces.
The other nine companies are local or regional. Cable Centro S.A., for example, seeks to provide service in Golfito and Corredores. Cable Televisión Doble RSA only will provide service in Cañas, Guanacaste.

Cable Zarcero S.A. is seeking to provide service in San Ramón, Naranjo, Poás, Grecia, Alajuela Centro, Paraiso, Cartago Centro, Alvarado, Turrialba and Jiménez.

The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones said that the authorizations were for 10 years.



Agents detain four who they link to Colombian cartel

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police and prosecutors cracked down on the local wing of the Colombian Cartel del Valle Thursday and detained four persons, including a lawyer.

The cartel has been in disarray since its leader, the Colombian Silvio Montaño Vergara was jailed there in January.

In Costa Rica Thursday there were eight raids. Detained was Rigoberto Corrales Sánchez, 45, reputed to be the Costa Rican leader;  his daughter, Joanna Corrales Álvarez, 22;  Víctor Manuel Fernández Cordero, 38, and the lawyer Jorge Eduardo Bustamante Chavez.

The Cartel del Valle operations here have been under investigation since at least October 2008 when large amounts of drugs were found being stored here.

The cartel shipped drugs by sea in the Pacific and air to Costa Rica where they were warehoused until the packages could be shipped north.

The cartel del Valle also has a strong presence in Honduras where the drugs arrive via the Caribbean.

The organization did extensive work here renting properties, maintaining sophisticated communications and keeping track of the tons of cocaine coming through the country. There also was the work of handling personnel who were working with the organization, such as drivers and other types of drug smugglers.

Agents said that the lawyer was in charge of setting up many corporations under which the organization here did business. In addition they allege that he contracted fake marriages so that Colombian members of the
lawyer detained
Paul Gamboa/Ministerio de Gobernación, Policías
y Seguridad Pública photo
Lawyer Bustamante Chavez goes into custody

organization could obtain residency in Costa Rica.  Among these was Montaño who visiting here extensively.

Corrales was detained in Ciudad Cariari. The lawyer was detained in Heredia. There also was a takeover at a large farm at Guacalillo de Garabito. The organization also used a foundation, called Fundación Ecológica de Aves y Medio Ambiente, said agents.

Also raided Thursday was an Internet cafe in downtown San José at Avenida 1 and Calle 11. Another raid took place at the Galería Ramírez Valido, also in downtown San José.

The Cartel del Valle has suffered a number of setbacks, mostly in Colombia, and the drug buisness in Costa Rica is gradually being taken over by Mexican cartels.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 45

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10 films are in running
for best picture Oscar


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hollywood is gearing up for the Oscars.  The annual honors, officially known as the Academy Awards, will be presented on Sunday evening in Los Angeles.  This year's Oscar race has an expanded competition in a key category: 10 films are in the running for best picture.

Every year, the awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honor the best in movie-making.  Academy president Tom Sherak says that Oscar voters, including top actors, directors and others in the business, are considering films of many genres this year for best picture.

"The fact that our 5,777 voting members gave us 10 such wonderful, diversified movies, we have almost something for everybody," he said. 

Since 1943, best picture nominees have been limited to five films.  But this year, the academy expanded the roster, in part to generate interest and raise ratings for the awards television show.  The Oscar presentation is seen around the world by hundreds of millions of viewers, but the U.S. audience had been sinking until last year.

One leading contender for best picture this year is the science fiction tale "Avatar" from director James Cameron.  The film, which is being shown in some theaters in a three-dimensional version, has smashed box office records.  It is set on a fictional planet called Pandora.  

Another contender for best picture is "The Blind Side," a story about a teenage football player with a troubled background who is helped by a woman and her family.  The film's female lead, Sandra Bullock, is a best actress nominee.

"District 9," another best picture nominee, is a science fiction film with a social message, set in South Africa.

Another best picture nominee is a coming-of-age film set in 1960s London, called "An Education."  Carrie Mulligan, who stars in the film, has been nominated for best actress.

The Iraq war tale "The Hurt Locker" is also a top contender. 

Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow is a nominee for best director for "The Hurt Locker," and its star, Jeremy Renner, is a nominee for best actor.

A World War II film from Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds," is another top contender for best picture.  Tarantino is a nominee for best director, and Christoph Waltz is considered a front-runner for his supporting role as a suave, but sinister Nazi colonel.  

A film about a troubled African-American teenager, "Precious," is another best picture nominee, and it earned acting nominations for star Babourey Sidibe and supporting actress Mo'Nique.  Filmmaker Lee Daniels is a nominee for best director.

"A Serious Man," a dark comedy from filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, is also a nominee for best picture.

So is the animated feature "Up," which is about an elderly man and an uninvited young guest who set off an airborne journey.

The final best picture nominee, "Up in the Air," is about a traveling corporate consultant who has trouble connecting with people.  The film earned Oscar nominations for director Jason Reitman, lead actor George Clooney and two supporting actresses, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.

Sherak, a veteran studio executive, says the expanded competition, with 10 films instead of five, is good for the award show.

"Of all the years I've been involved in this, I don't remember so much conversation about movies, whether it's people who think this is a mistake or people who think this is a great idea, they're talking about movies," Sherak said.

Academy voters cast only one ballot in most categories.  But this year, the Best Picture category uses a preferential voting system, with voters ranking their favorites from one to 10.  The rules are complicated, but a film with many second- and third-place votes could beat a film selected by more voters for the top spot.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 45


Latin American news
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Contraloría reports park
is in disarray, mismanaged


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría de la República has issued a scathing report on the administration of the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas. In short, the Contraloría, the budgetary and procedural watchdog, said the administration and a program of expropriation of private lands were messes.

The report said that there did not even exist an accurate map of the park. The location is in Playa Grande, near Tamarindo on the Pacific coast of Guanacaste.

The report was critical of the Sistema Nacional de Área de Conservación and the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

This is the park where residents, many of them expats, are fighting to keep their homes and land while the government seeks to incorporate the properties into the park.

The Contraloría study found grave deficiencies in the expropriation property, including the same property being the subject of two different actions because of misidentification.

The Óscar Arias administration has sought to downgrade the park into a category where mixed uses would be permitted. The courts have ordered the administration to proceed with expropriations. However, one resident has even carried his case to the World Bank's center for arbitration.

The report said there even were some lands in the park boundaries that were owned by the municipality. These should be turned over to the park, it said.

The report also said that the estimated value for some of the lands had skyrocketed and that various calculations using different resources show variances of 6,037 percent. A square meter was listed at 7,200 colons and at 442,000 colons, the report said.

The park itself suffers from inadequate management, the report said, citing lack of regulations for the public and poor controls on access and entrance fees. Domestic animals and exotic species are present and should not be, it said.

The area is a breeding ground for turtles.

The Contraloría issued a litany of recommendations to the two agencies, it said.





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