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(506) 2223-1327      Published Wednesday, March 11, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 49      E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Voting bill would remove reminder of skin color
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In what might be considered an excess of political correctness, lawmakers are considering again a change in the internal legislative rules to replace black and white balls with gold and silver ones.

The change is being called an effort to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. The full legislature began discussing the proposal Tuesday.

Usually lawmakers express their approval to a parliamentary motion by standing at their desk in the assembly room. Those who are against remain seated.

However, there is a provision for secret votes. Sometimes this is done when the lawmakers are picking legislative leaders. Other times are when the vote is on a sensitive provision.

When such secret votes are done, each lawmaker can express approval by depositing a small white ball into a container. The black ball is a no vote.

Evita Arguedas was one legislator who
two negative votes
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A silver ball would be a negative vote

supported the change. There ought not be any discrimination in a country that subscribes to the Declaration on Human Rights, she said. The measure was introduced during a previous legislative term.

Lawmakers and workers at the legislature were also cautioned to watch their language and avoid common negative expressions containing negro.

Education ministry gets OK to issue direct contract to fix school
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After several years of student protests, educational officials have recognized the deterioration and safety and health threats at the Colegio Superior de Señoritas.

Tuesday the nation's budget watchdog, the  Contraloría General de la República, authorized the Ministerio de Educación Pública to seek a no-bid contract to fix up the sprawling high school building. The cost will be 1.2 billion colons or about $2.1 million.

The Contraloría said that a direct, no-bid contract was the best way to satisfy the public interest quickly.

However, students have been demostrating for years. In May 2007 students skipped classes and demonstrated. A march started outside the school at
Avenida 6 between Calles 3 and 5 and then moved
to the ministry near Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Students complained of plagues of rats and flies that endanger their health. But it was an overflow of sewage that really got the students upset.

The school, started in 1888, won status as a national heritage site in 1981, so any work must be supervised by the Centro de Patrimonio of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The Contraloría ordered that estimates be sought from at least three companies that will be invited to make the submissions.

School officials have been looking elsewhere for the funds. Last year the ministry entered the school in an annual contest run by the culture ministry. The winner receives a large grant to do repairs on an historic building. But Correos de Costa Rica won the grant to repair its downtown postal headquarters.

Twin southern zone quakes felts in whole country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(posted at 3:45 p.m.)
Two earthquakes hit the southern zone of Costa Rica Wednesday.  The first was at 11:24 a.m. The second came at 3:04 p.m. Both were within the 5 to 6 magnitude range.

The 11:24 a.m. quake was estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey at 5.7.  The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia estimated the intensity slightly less at 5.2.

The epicenter was reported to be 15 kilometers (10 miles) west southwest of the community of Golfito. That would put the location in the western side of the Gulfo Dulce not far from the Osa Peninsula.

No damage was reported by the Fuerza Pública or the Cruz Roja in Costa Rica. Police did say that
school children were sent home as a precaution.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated the depth of the quake at 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). It said the epicenter was about 175 kilometers (110 miles) south of San José.

The second quake at at a magnitude of 5.9, said the Geological Survey. The  Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico said 5.8. The epicenter was within a few miles of the earlier quake and still in the Gulfo Dulce.

In both cases, the quake activity could be felt all over the country. No damage was reported by the Fuerza Pública in Golfito from the second quake either, but a spokesman for the Cruz Roja said that the free trade area where residents go to purchase appliances and other items was evacuated as a precaution.

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Discussion begins today
on changes to Constitution

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers and others in the political realm are starting a series of three sessions on possible constitutional reform today.

The 10 a.m. session is in the Salón de Expresidentes in the legislative complex.

Casa Presidencial promised in a bulletin Tuesday that Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the president's brother and minister of the Presidencia, would make some concrete suggestions of changes the executive branch would like to see made to the Costa Rican Constitution.

Rodrigo Arias, and his brother, Óscar, have been talking about constitutional changes in a general way since December. The president said he was frustrated at barriers that keeping turning up to slow law making. But there have been no specific proposals.

The other two sessions are scheduled for March 18 and 25.

Speaking today, in addition to Rodrigo Arias, will be Francisco Antonio Pacheco, president of the Asamblea Legislativa; Luis Paulino Mora, the head of the Poder Judicial, and Luis Antonio Sobrado, president of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

The discussions are to mark the 60 years the current Constitution has been in force.

Our readers' opinions
Tree-cutting for cattle
gets the blame for floods

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We continually hear about the flooding on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  We also hear about it in many other regions of this country and other Central American countries too.

Unfortunately we are not addressing the core of the problem.  What is the core of the problem?  Well it isn't too much rain.  These types of rains have been going on for millenniums, but it isn't until recently, the past 100 years or so, that more and more of these catastrophes occur. 

The main culprit for these disasters are the cutting down of rainforests.  When there is sufficient rainforest, the absorption of these heavy rains are controlled by the trees and plants of the forest.  Without the rainforest the heavy rains just run right off and flood rivers and cause huge landslides and lots of erosion.  There is only two ways to eventually control the problem:  Stop cutting down the rainforest and start planting trees to help absorb the rains.

Why are we cutting down the rainforest?  The main reason is to make room to raise cattle or to grow huge mono cultures like bananas and pineapples.  As responsible humans, we need to not be part of the problem.  The best way to stop this continued practice of destroying the rainforest is to cut back or stop eating the above mentioned foods, especially cow meat (beef). 

Help do your part to help stop the continued degradation of the Costa Rican rainforests and eat sustainably.  We need to think in a worldcentric way instead of our typical egocentric way.  The amount of global warming pollution from the entire world beef industry, which includes cutting down rainforest all over the planet to the amount of methane gas produced by cows and much more, is worse than the total emission pollution caused by all of the cars on the planet yearly. Eat to live, don't live to eat.
Henry Kantrowitz
nature guide and conservationist

Good news might help
fortify readers' spirits

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I am a consistent reader of your publication and part-time resident of Guanacaste.  It is encouraging to see you bringing out good news such as the story of the Canadian couples positive visit for dental work in Costa Rica, and the lead story too! Keep it up. 

Things are difficult enough without the constant reminders by the vast majority of the news being doom and gloom. If more news organization would balance the good with the bad, our current economic turmoil would likely moderate much more quickly.

Most people are moved by their perception of reality as distinct from actual reality based commonly on what they see and hear on a casual basis.  It would be interesting to see the impact if stories titled OVER 8% UNEMPLOYMENT IN CALIFORNIA were balanced by stories like OVER 92% STILL EMPLOYED IN SPITE OF ECONOMIC STRESS!
Alan W. Ziff
Santa Rosa, California and
Nosara, Guanacaste

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 11, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 49

Police have tightened security on Heredia bus routes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have been making spot checks of buses and bus stops mainly on routes that involve Heredia.

But officials admit that the best ways to provide security  for passengers would be to have the operators of the lines put security guards on the vehicles or figure out some way so that money would not be used for fares.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that police have conducted more than 100 spot checks of buses in the last month and have confiscated two pistols and two toy pistols. They also have trained 50 drivers on how to recognize possible bandits, the ministry said.

A bus driver,  Sigifredo Maroto Vargas, died Feb. 18 when a bandit shot him during a robbery of an Heredia-San José bus.

A waiter died Oct. 24 on an Heredia bus when two men stuck up the passengers. The man, Jorge Muñoz, was a former policeman. One bandit saw Muñoz go for his own pistol and shot him once in the chest. Muñoz still managed to return fire and wounded a bandit. A suspect was detained a short time later at Hospital San Juan de Dios, said police. The bus stickup was the second that night along that stretch of road between Parque la Sabana and Hospital México.

An Alajuela-bound bus suffered the same fate earlier.

Police said they are patrolling continually the Autopista General Cañas and routes between Belén and the Centro Comercial Real Cariari as well as the stop across the street in front of the Hotel Ramada Herradura.

In addition there is a constant motorized patrol between the Centro Comercial Paseo de las Flores and La Valencia as well as the route from the shopping center to  Guararí, said the ministry.

The season has been an open one for bus robbers. Off-duty policemen do not carry weapons, and robbers can make a good haul by taking fares and shaking down passengers. A bus stopped alongside the highway does not arouse suspicions immediately. There are about 100
Heredia bus security
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Policeman makes his presence known on a bus that travels the Heredia route.

reports of bus robberies each year, but many companies do not report all such incidents.

 Another murder took place on a bus headed from Multiplaza in Escazú to Piedades just before Christmas in 2006. The victim was Evelyn Alfaro Alegría, 22, an employee at the mall, who received the fatal shot whan a passenger wrestled with an armed robber.

The main advice from police to passengers is not to resist an armed robbery, the ministry said.

Billfish Foundation wins management go-ahead from all isthmus nations
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

After nearly a year, all seven countries of Central America have approved an agreement with The Billfish Foundation to create a sustainable management plan for billfish and other popular game fish vital to growing sport fishing and tourism in the region.

The announcement comes on the heels of similar work this past year by The Billfish Foundation to enhance recreational sport fishing in México, Perú and Costa Rica. The foundation has been working with the governments — some for more than a decade — for the expansion of conservation measures and laws to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing coastal fisheries by commercial interests, while implementing tag and release programs.

Russell Nelson and Herbert Nanne of the foundation met in
Managua, Nicaragua, in late February to formally adopt a Central American agreement to develop a sustainable management plan for marlins, sailfish, dorado, swordfish and other highly migratory species important to the regions’ sport fishing tourism sectors. 
The agreement between The Billfish Foundation and the organization of fisheries and aquaculture for the isthmus of Central America. Nelson presented the Nicaraguan institute of fisheries and aquaculture with a computer and programs for use in collecting and analyzing sport fisheries data.

Nanne is the foundation's Central American conservation director, and Nelson is its scientific director. Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama make up the seven countries in the region.

The text of the agreement can be found in Spanish and English at   “Billfish have a very high potential in these waters and high economic and social value if the responsible practice of sport fishing ethics and conservation are fostered,” said Nelson.

Established in 1986 by the late Winthrop P. Rockefeller, The Billfish Foundation works to conserve and enhance billfish populations worldwide. Headquarters are in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Members and supporters includes anglers, captains, mates, tournament directors, clubs, sport fishing and tourism businesses.

Adam Smith meets the Happy Hooker in university study of sex workers
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Researchers from the Universidad Estatal a Distancia have been keeping track of 58 female San José prostitutes since 2007 in an effort to apply economic theory to what they do.

The university is releasing a report of the work today. The
study appears to be an exhaustive analysis of prostitution.

The university said that some of the research centered on how prostitutes make their economic decisions and their personal conditions and perceptions. The study also looks at market conditions and the types of services the women offer, the university said.

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Featured artist draws on her pre-Colombian ancestry
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional Saturday begins an exhibit of paintings by a Guanacaste woman who draws on her Mayan ancestry to honor nature.

She is Guadalupe Urbina and the exhibit is in the museum's new temporary gallery where the kitchen and dining areas were when the structure was the Cuartel Bellavista and housed troops. The exhibit will run until March 14.

According to her Web site, Ms. Urbina paints with acrylics and oils using paper made from natural tropical fibers, including mango, tobacco, tamarindo and rice. The biggest source of inspiration for her paintings are the creation myths of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. She paints images of beings and things that have deep philosophical meaning within rural native or mestizo peoples, such as quetzals, butterflies, snakes and trees in both distant and present time, the Web site says. 

The exhibit, “Los colores de Guadalupe Urbina,” includes 25 works. They all promise to be colorful with some inspiration from the pre-Columbian codices.

 Northwestern Costa Rica was linked closely to Mexican cultures, and some of the colorful pottery attributed to
colors of Ms. Urbina
An example of the work that will be exhibited

these cultures came from there and still does.

The museum quoted the artist describing her inspiration thusly:

"When I started painting I was moved by an impulse which I did not understand, but recognized as its own. In artistic creation I have always liked to be surprised for the unusual past, so incomprehensible, the occult, which dwells in my genetic code as a primary molecular dance which I do not resist."

Construction work will mean night restrictions on highway in Sabana Sur
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials are warning motorists to stay away from the old road to Escazú in Sabana Sur for the next 11 days.

Workmen will be putting in a pipeline, and travel will be restricted from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. This is the section of road that runs east from the Ministerio de Agricultura y
Ganadería past the Contraloría de la República. It is the site of many traffic jams during the day.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad suggested that motorists travel along the north side of Parque la Sabana. The highway is formally known as Ruta 167, and the work is being done by Consorcio Santa Fe–Holcim S.A., the consejo said.

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A.M. Costa Rica
users 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 week day.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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

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

Passenger on Coral Princess
says crew member raped her

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Portuguese crew member on a Princess Cruise Lines ship was charged Tuesday with sexually assaulting a female passenger in a dining room while the ship was at sea off the coast of Mexico. The ship is the Coral Princess, which makes frequent stops in Costa Rica.

The crew member, Jorge Manuel Teixeira, 38, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles. The complaint charges Teixeira with aggravated sexual abuse, a federal offense that carries a potential life prison sentence, said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office there.

Teixeira was taken into custody Monday by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, the attack occurred late on the evening of March 5 on the Coral Princess. The ship was on a 14-day cruise between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Los Angeles, California. The victim reported to officials aboard the Coral Princess, and later to the FBI, that she had agreed to meet Teixeira in a dining room where he worked as the head waiter. The victim shared some wine with Teixeira at a table in a corner of the dining room, according to statements that both people made to authorities. Once the wine was finished, Teixeira assaulted the victim, according to the affidavit.

Following the incident, the woman filed a written incident report in which she described being assaulted by “George from Portugal.” Security officials collected evidence from the woman and from Teixeira, secured the site where the incident took place, and restricted Teixeira to his room until the ship arrived at the Port of Los Angeles Monday morning. Once the ship docked, special agents with the FBI boarded the vessel, interviewed the victim and Teixeira, and collected evidence.

“While this attack took place far from the borders of the United States, federal authorities have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes that take place on the high seas,” said U. S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “The attack alleged in this case warrants a thorough and swift prosecution to vindicate the rights of the victim and to inform the world that crimes like this will not be tolerated.”

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Latin American news digest
wind farm
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Costa Rican Tejona wind farm near Tilarán

Wind power museum holds
hints for modern usage

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One of the key sources of renewable energy being developed today is wind power, utilizing giant turbines to generate electricity. These work best in windy places like the U.S. Great Plains that stretch from west Texas in the south to the Dakotas in the north. Wind power is nothing new in this region, where windmills have long played an important role in pumping water from underground aquifers and in milling grain.

Windmills were once seen on almost every farm and ranch in the American heartland. The expansion of electrical service and the use of electric pumps brought an end to the windmill era, but visitors can still see dozens of these classic devices at the American Wind Power Center and Museum in Lubbock, Texas. Around 90 windmills of various sizes and types are maintained inside the museum's massive building in Lubbock, on the Texas panhandle.

Executive director Coy Harris says machines that harvest wind power make a lot of sense in this part of west Texas. "We see the wind blow a lot around here and it is a shame to just see it blowing dust," he said. "We might as well do something with it."

The Wind Power Center obtains most of its operating power from a wind turbine atop a 50-meter-tall tower in its windmill park. On good, windy days the turbine often produces more electricity than the center needs, so the excess is sold to the local power company. On days when the turbine is not producing enough power, the center draws electricity from the local grid.

T. Boone Pickens, who made many billions of dollars in the oil and gas industry, is investing in a large wind farm to be built in the Texas panhandle. Pickens estimates that more than 20 percent of the electrical power used in the United States in coming years could be produced by wind power.
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Jo Stuart
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