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(506) 2223-1327                       Published  Wednesday, March 7, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 48                            Email us
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boat fire
Cuerpo de Bomberos  photo

Shrimp boats
incinerated


Two shrimp boats were destroyed and a third heavily damaged Tuesday by an afternoon blaze in part at Puntarenas.

See story HERE!

La Fortuna man's happy life shattered by his actions
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For weeks John Markus Pennisi has had a Dalai Lama quote stuck in his mind, he said. The quote is about helping others and not harming them.

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them,” said the Dalai Lama.

Pennisi, 50, said the quote stuck with him because he is a helper. He said he has helped many in time of need. He has also gone through rough times where someone else was kind and helpful to him, he said.

He is the proud owner of New York Grill in La Fortuna. The eating spot has been voted the No. 1 restaurant in that area by TripAdvisor for two months now. The restaurant has been open for four months. He said he and his wife started off with about $4 in the register and now they can finally start to pay their bills, he said.

At one point in his life he and his wife had to go to a shelter to receive free powdered milk and a meal for their children, he said.. And now everything was going great. He had even called his mother back in the United States and said if he died he wanted his ashes spread in Costa Rica.

According to the New Jersey native everything was falling into place.

But Sunday changed the life of Pennisi. What started off as a regular Sunday morning turned into what could be considered one of the worst days in his life. He killed a man who was trying to steal his vehicle across from his restaurant in La Fortuna, Judicial agents reported that day. 

Pennisi did not want to talk about the specifics Tuesday and noted he was deeply involved in a judicial process. Informal reports said that the thief was threatening the restaurant owner.


“I'm sorry for everything that happened . . . . I don't wish no ill or harm to anyone,” Pennisi said in a telephone conversation as his voice cracked while he was holding back tears.

He is still in shock and disbelief about his actions. During the interview he couldn't bring himself to say the words he killed a man.

“I don't want anyone to think I could do that,” said Penissi. “I just want my life back. It was so beautiful.”

If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in jail. According to Rigoberto Rodríguez, the local police chief in San Carlos, officers received a 911 call around 10:30 a.m. for a public fight in La Fortuna. When the officers arrived Michael Mendoza, 32, was severely injured from multiple stab wounds, including one that was on the left side of his chest next to his heart, said the chief. Mendoza died moments later at the scene.

Pennisi was held overnight in jail and released Monday around 3:30 p.m. said his lawyer from the Defensa Pública. Pennisi was released on certain conditions, such as he had to turn in his passport, he can't leave the country, and he has to check in with prosecutors every week. These are called medidas cautelares.

The police chief said Mendoza had prior encounters with police over drugs and robberies.

“Before Sunday, I felt like I was in the safest place in the world,” Pennisi said.

He has been in Costa Rica for 11 years. He met his wife the third day he came to the country. They now have two kids. He said he is non-violent and non-war.

“I moved to Costa Rica because there is no military. I know the meaning of pura vida,” said Pennisi. And now his actions and the homicide charge could end everything for him.

“I am so scared,” he said in a cracking voice.

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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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Wind today is on increase,
weather institute reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is supposed to be even more windy than the gust-filled previous days.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional report said that the wind was measured at 87 kph (54 mph) at Cerro de la Muerte on the Interamericana highway Tuesday and that wind at Juan Santamaría airport set a record at 75 kph.  The previous high at the airport was 67.2 kph that was recorded in 2004, the weather institute reported. The new airport record is 46.5 mph and the old record is about 41.7 mph.

Forecasters at the weather institute said that the winds would be strongest in Guanacaste and in the Central Valley. The forecast estimated winds of up to 90 kph or about 56 mph. The cause is high pressure in the Caribbean.

The forecast said that the wind would increase tonight with gusts perhaps higher than 90 kph.

There is another concern in the Caribbean and the northern zone where rain is falling. The weather institute report warned of possible landslides and slippery roads caused by the rain perhaps with fog. It also said residents should keep an eye on rising rivers and streams.

The forecast also said that the winds might impede aircraft operations and cause damage through the country.


Two men being questioned
in vacation club frauds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Dutch men were being questioned formally Tuesday by prosecutors who are investigating the sale of fake vacation club memberships.

The Poder Judicial identified the two men by the last names of Boassan and Oversteegen.

Prosecutors were expected to seek restrictions on the two men to insure their continued presence in the country, said the Poder Judicial. The two men showed up to talk with prosecutors after being asked to do so, said the Poder Judicial.

The Poder Judicial said that there are some 5,000 victims of fake travel club sales who have filed complaints.

 
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
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 7, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 48
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Consumers get a little more information starting this Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Starting Monday a new regulation goes into effect that requires vendors of food and personal hygiene products to express the prices in units of measurement, most likely centimeter, milliliter or gram, depending on the product.

The idea is to give the consumer a clear point of reference to compare prices.

Merchants met Tuesday at the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comerico to discuss the finer points of the regulation.

Small businesses are getting a break in that shops with two or fewer cash registers only have to post the prices there instead of pasting them on individual products.

As an example, the ministry's consumer section showed how a 2,500 milliliter bottle of carbonated beverage would be expressed.  The store would have to display the price for the
entire bottle and then break it down into price per milliliter.

Products that are packaged in oil or water should have to show the drained weight, according to the rules. That can be critical because a 115 gram can of codfish drains out to 72 grams of product. That is, four and one-sixteenths becomes two and nine-sixteenths. The difference is the vegetable oil in which the fish is packed.

Certain products that are sold as units are not subject to the rules. These include toothbrushes, razors and disposable diapers that will continue to be priced by the unit. Also excluded are products that weigh less than 50 grams, such as a package of two Chiclets.  Some food products, like French bread and fruit, that are sold by the unit also are excluded from the rule.

The regulations were published in September with a long lead time so merchants could comply.

The Dirección de Apoyo al Consumidor most certainly will do surveys to make sure the regulations are followed.


Barrio Chino
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
This is the former main drag that is being converted into a Barrio Chino
Six blocks of reconstruction for Barrio Chino snarls traffic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't get the local taxi drivers started on Barrio Chino. They have had about enough road reconstruction.

The latest impediment to rapid travel is on the Paseo de los Estudiantes, otherwise known as Calle 9. This was a main street one-way south, the principal exit to the south from the downtown. Now it is closed and torn up.

Earlier motorists had to face several detours as parts of Avenida 8 were reconstructed. More recently Avenida 3 westward from the downtown main Correos de Costa Rica was closed for reconstruction. All of these projects resulted in massive delays particularly at peak hours.

The six block Barrio Chino is conceived as a tourist attraction for visitors who seek a Chinese experience in Costa Rica. The government of the People's Republic is putting up money and Chinese-looking street lamps are being shipped in.

The benefits of the $1.2 million project are lost on some taxi
 drivers who see the effort as a way for Mayor Johnny Araya to ingratiate himself with the Chinese. Araya is a potential presidential candidate.

Some residents of the area are not happy, either. They protested at the dedication when the first sections of the street were pulled up.

The project is creating traffic upheaval from all sides because the route was a key one.

Students at the nearby Liceo de Costa Rica also are unhappy. They protested last month at the legislature. Araya met with representatives Monday. The students insisted that the name Paseo de los Estudiantes be maintained.

The meeting generated a false report that Araya was going to move the Chinese street a block to the east. Municipal officials discounted that possibility Tuesday.

The Liceo is celebrating its 125th year and the students from which the street is named are its alumni.

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Bombero Jeffrey Aguilar clears out some fire hose while he waits for his captain and fellow firemen to return with the fire truck. They went to refill the tank. This is on an empty lot in San Cayetano in  south San José.

River bank fire
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

Fires are breaking out all over the country in this dry season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The contained brush fire at Chirripó is only one of a number of blazes challenging the Cuerpo de Bomberos. In Puntarenas three boats ignited Tuesday from a welding torch, fire fighters there said.

High winds are making life difficult for the crews that are on the job at Parque Nacional Chirripó. And there are four other similar fires in the country.

In San José fire fighters are tackling a series of fires in lots that have the potential to damage adjacent property.

The boats in Puntarenas were shrimpers. The blaze started about 1:30.p.m. Tuesday, according to the Cuerpo de Bomberos. A spark from a welding torch ignited flammable residue on the deck of one boat, a report said.

Two boats, one 60 feet and one 40 feet were destroyed while a 20-foot boat suffered damage. This was the seventh blaze this year caused by welding, said the fire agency. That is 7 percent of all fires, a report said.

The main job of fire fighting crews in Chirripó now is to make sure the fire does not spread beyond a three-meter fire break. Officials also said they were worried about the physical condition of some of the crew members because they have been on the fire line for more than a week in the rugged national park.

In all, there have been 63 blazes in wooded areas since Jan. 1, the fire agency said. The blazes involved 1,340 hectares (about 3,300 acres), the fire agency said. The Chirripó blaze covers about 150 hectares or 370 acres.

Major brush blazes also are reported in La Roca, Puntarenas, in Las Juntas, Guanacaste, La Cieba, Orotina, and Agua Buenas, Acosta.
smoke in boat
Cuerpo de Bomberos photo
Fire fighters try to extinguish fire on Puntarenas boat.

Large white smoke spread through San José Tuesday afternoon as an empty lot caught fire in the south part of the district. The lot was located in Barrio San Cayetano along Calle 7 perpendicular to a bridge over the Rio Cañas.

Three fire fighters from the Barrio Luján station put out the fire in an hour. That includes the time of a trip Capt. Rafael Alcazar had to make with a fire truck to refill the tank.

Alcazar calculated the lot measured approximately 10,000 square meters (more than 100,000 square feet) and about 200 meters (about 2,150 square feet) were burned. The blaze crawled down the bank of the river. There was no evidence of arson. But the fire captain did say because there is a lot of trash on the lot, it is possible the fire ignited with a piece of broken glass that focused the sun on flammable material.

According to Alcazar this is the dry season when the agency receives a lot of calls for fires on lots. He said there have been a few this year in San José, but all minor. He said the area with the biggest problem is in La Carpio in La Uruca since it is harder to stop the fires and to get there.


Percentage rules on shark fins reported to be too liberal
By the University of British Columbia news service

Shark fins are worth more than other parts of the shark and are often removed from the body, which gets thrown back into the sea. To curtail this wasteful practice, many countries allow the fins to be landed detached from shark bodies as long as their weight does not exceed 5 per cent of the total shark catch. New University of British Columbia research shows that this kind of legislation is too liberal.

A study published this week in the journal Fish Biology analyzes the fin to body weight ratios for 50 different shark species.  The authors find the average fin to body mass is 3 per cent  – considerably lower than the 5 per cent ratio currently legislated by the European Union and other countries.

“The five percent ratio provides an opportunity to harvest extra fins from more sharks without retaining 100 per cent of the corresponding shark carcasses,” says Sea Around Us Project researcher Leah Biery, lead author of the study. “It does not prevent waste or overfishing, as the law intended.”

Currently, the EU and eight other countries use at least a 5 per cent shark fin to body weight ratio for landed catch. Only 59
 countries in the world have any legislation related to sharks. Costa Rica requires the fins to remain attached to the shark, although some fishermen are able to circumvent this law by tying fins to carcasses.

“Sharks are sensitive to overfishing and it’s embarrassing how little we have done to protect them,” says Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the university’s Sea Around Us Project and co-author of the study. “We would like to see more science in the management and protection of sharks in the coming years.”

Researchers estimate about 26 to 73 million sharks are killed each year to feed the growing demand for shark fin.  Sharks are sensitive to overfishing because they often grow slowly, mature later, and have very few offspring.

Fin Donnelly, a member of the Canadian Parliament, introduced a bill last December that would ban the import of shark fin into Canada, but it has not been voted on.

The Canadian municipalities of Brantford, Mississauga, Oakville, Pickering, London and Toronto have all banned the sale and possession of shark fin.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Many more in world
have safe drinking water


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The world has reached the Millennium Development Goal of cutting by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. A report by the U.N. Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization says 89 percent of the world’s population or more than six billion people now use improved drinking water sources.

The United Nations reports most people in the world now have access to safe drinking water. It says between 1990 and 2010, more than two billion people gained access to piped water supplies, protected wells and other improved drinking sources.

That is the good news. The bad news, the U.N. says, is that at least 11 percent of the world’s population, or a staggering 783 million people, still are without access to safe drinking water. 

And it says efforts to provide sanitation facilities for billions of poor people are lagging woefully behind. The U.N. says the Millennium Development Goal of providing improved sanitation access to 75 percent of the world’s population by 2015 will not be reached.

The U.N. report notes it is not just the large middle-income countries that have improved water and sanitation for their people. It says some of the poorest countries in the world, which started off at a very low base, have also achieved amazing results. 

For example, it says since 1995, Malawi has provided safe drinking water to half of its population, which is now approaching 15 million. Burkina Faso, it says, has achieved similar results.


Worms in sardine cans
present a kosher quandary


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Some 21st century technology has come to the aid of 2000-year-old religious dietary laws. Orthodox Jewish rabbis in New York recently called in DNA experts to help them answer an unusual question: Are worms found in a sardine can kosher?

Let's say one day you're opening up a can of sardines and you come across a worm.  It is not as unusual as you might think.

"Unfortunately, recently, it hasn't been unusual at all," noted Rabbi Chaim Loike with the Orthodox Union, an organization that certifies whether products conform to Jewish dietary law. Loikea says these worms were showing up in about one out of every six cans. He does not know why they have become so common, but he says it is not necessarily a new phenomenon.

"The Talmud, which was written 2,000 years ago, described a number of worms, which, even though they're not something you would want to eat, if they were accidentally consumed, would be kosher," Loikea explained.

The Talmud, a compilation of rabbinic opinions, debates and analyses, lays out the framework for Jewish law. It says if the worm comes from the intestines, it is generally not kosher.

"However, if a worm is found to have grown its entire life in the flesh of the fish, it is considered to be the same as the fish," said Loikea.  "And therefore, it's kosher." Intestinal worms might show up if the sardines are not handled properly.

But why would it matter if the worm is kosher? Most people would still find it disgusting.

Well, if the rabbis decide that these worms, which have become so common in sardines, are not kosher, the Orthodox Union would no longer give the fish its seal of approval. That's a big deal, because even many non-Jews look for that certification as a sign of quality. Kosher foods are a $12.5 billion market.

"We're not advocating that people should eat worms. We're just researching whether or not we would have to de-certify all these things," Loikea added.

But Loike is a rabbi, not a parasitologist. He can't tell a gut worm from a flesh worm. So he went where anyone would go to find an expert: the Internet search engine, Google.

"And we saw all the names of people who published papers on them and we started cold-calling them," said Loike.

Mark Siddall at the American Museum of Natural History in New York is one of the world's top experts on parasites. Siddall invited Loike to his office. The rabbi came with some cans of sardines, some tubs of fish eggs.

"[He also brought] a bag of previously frozen whole sardines, as well, that were dripping on the floor as we were walking to the elevators," recalled Siddall.

To figure out what kind of parasites Loike's fish had, Siddall used a technique called DNA barcoding. The genetic code of certain genes varies enough between species that researchers can use them to tell one from another.

When he DNA-barcoded Loike's sardine worms, he found five species.

"And in all cases they were species we would normally expect in the muscle tissue or the ovarian tissue of the fish, and thus there was no indication whatsoever that there was improper handling," Siddall explained.

So the Orthodox Union issued a decision: the sardines remain kosher.
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Banker Stanford convicted by federal jury of multiple counts
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Houston federal jury Tuesday convicted Robert Allen Stanford, the former board of directors chairman of Stanford International Bank, for orchestrating a 20-year investment fraud scheme in which he misappropriated $7 billion to finance his personal businesses. 

Following a six-week trial before U.S. District Judge David Hittner, and approximately three days of deliberation, the jury found Stanford guilty on 13 of 14 counts in the indictment.

Stanford, 61, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to obstruct a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, one
count of obstruction of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  The jury found Stanford not guilty on one count of wire fraud.

At sentencing, Stanford faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for the count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, each count of wire and mail fraud, and the count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and five years for the count of conspiracy to obstruct an SEC investigation and the count of obstruction of an SEC investigation.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Houston Field Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.


Latin America news
Woman's institute plans
sports event this Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres has prepared for an all-day extravaganza to cater to women at the Estadio Nacional for Thursday. The institute has more events planned throughout the week to celebrate the international day dedicated to women.

Hundreds of women are expected to show up for the sports-themed celebration for the International Day of the Women Thursday. The theme of the event is to commemorate the difficulty women face in sports. President Laura Chinchilla, and Maureen Clarke, director of the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, will be at the 10 a.m. opening. They will be accompanied by Alba Quesada Rodríguez, director of Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación, and Henry Núñez, president of the Comité Olímpico Nacional de Costa Rica.

At noon, girls and female adolescents will play in a tournament with the Costa Rica national female soccer team. The game is dedicated to the president, who is scheduled to make the initial kick to begin the game.

During the day President Chinchilla will sign an agreement in cooperation with the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres and the Comité Olímpico Nacional to recognize women who have paved the way for female athleticism in the country. These women are from the decades of the 1960s and 1970s.

At 6 p.m. the institute is hosting a homage to Costa Rican writer Carmen Naranjo at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

The Caribbean regional office, the Institute is holding a fair on rights and services for adolescent females at the Primera Iglesia Bautista del Caribe in Limón. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday the institute will have an event where participants will take over the streets between the Plaza de la Cultura to Mercado Central. This is from Avenida Central to Calle 8. They plan to provide information about themes on women rights, such as wage equality, paternal responsibilities, and the right to non-violence.

Sunday morning there will be a walkathon at the Estadio Nacional that will begin at 7:30 a.m. In order to participate one must register at the Centro de Sport de Avenida Segunda and Deportes Tibás.

All festivities are free and open to the public.

Anonymous leader helps
feds arrest other hackers


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Several alleged leaders of the international hacking organization Anonymous are not anonymous anymore.

U.S. officials Tuesday announced the arrests of six high-profile hackers, including Hector Xavier Monsegur. Documents filed in a federal court in New York indicate that Monsegur, known in the hacking community as Sabu, cooperated with the investigation, leading to the arrests.

The documents say Monsegur pleaded guilty last August to charges of computer hacking and conspiracy. He currently is free on $50,000 bond.

Monsegur claimed responsibility for attacks on the Web sites for Visa and Mastercard, two large credit card companies, and the online payment service PayPal, as well as on government computers in Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Zimbabwe and the U.S. Senate.

Court papers also identified Monsegur as a member of two other hacking groups, "Lulz Security" and "Internet Feds."

Another top hacker was identified in court papers as Jeremy Hammond. Authorities arrested him in Chicago.

Officials say the arrests should deal a major blow to Anonymous, which has wrecked havoc on a range of government agencies and private corporations. A group that sends out a Twitter feed for Anonymous assured followers and supporters that the group is okay and will continue hacking.







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