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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, April 4, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 66             E-mail us
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Campaign launched to protect youthful criminals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A child welfare organization has embarked on a campaign to bury a legislative proposal that would reduce the age to 15 of lawbreakers exposed to adult penalties. The age now is 18 years.

"An adolescent in conflict with the law is not equal to an adult criminal," said the organization, the Defensa de Niñas y Niños-Internacional Costa Rica.

The bill has been languishing in the Asamblea Legislativa since 2009, but a wave of serious youth crimes has made this section of the proposal more likely to receive a legislative review.

Still, the organization said that lowering the age to 15 would be a violation of human rights. The organization said that a surge in crime causes the Costa Rican public to blame juveniles when 2009 figures show that only 3.9 percent of the serious crimes in Costa Rica were committed by persons under 18.

The legislation was put forward by Movimiento Libertario in the previous legislature. The bill has been sent to the legislative committee on drug trafficking and security for study. The measure also contains other changes in the criminal code that make sections stronger including penalizing receiving stolen property.

However, the campaign by the organization known as DNI Costa Rica concentrates on the section that lowers the age for cases in the adult courts. The penalties for adults who committee crimes are much heavier than those for youngsters.

The campaign is called  -18 ≠ + 18, meaning less than 18 is not equal to over 18.  The organization is seeking signatures on it's Web site. The bill is 17.615.
campaign slogan is math
Campaign slogan is expressed in mathematics.

One reason the organization said it opposes the law is because Costa Rica signed the Convention over the Rights of Children 20 years ago. This calls for the use of prison as a last resort, the organization noted. Costa Rica has established a separate criminal process for those under 18 regardless of the crime.
The organization admits that around 95 percent of the crimes commited by minors involve those greater than 15 years.

Bringing these defendants into the adult system would effectively eliminate the juvenile justice system because youngsters from 12 to 15 as a group commit far fewer crimes.

The organization also blames social inequities for the increase in crime and violence.

The organization also said that a new draft of the criminal code in 1994 doubled the maximum term of imprisonment for adults to 50 years and now two decades later the prison population has tripled and violence and crime continue increasing.

The goal of a juvenile justice system is to integrate the youthful criminal into society though restitution, community service, education and limited imprisonment, said DNI, which also opposes corporal punishment of children.

A.M. Costa Rica called editorially for a reduction in the threshold year to 14 March 17 after two murders attributed to young suspects and the slashing of a high school student by other juveniles.

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Seattle firm in Chapter 11 sells
luxury Windstar cruise ships

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ambassadors International, the Seattle, Washington, firm that operates the famous Windstar cruises that call at Costa Rican Pacific ports, is selling the three-ship fleet as part of a Chapter 11 reorganization plan.

The company said Friday it would sell the Windstar operation to Whippoorwill Associates, Inc., identified as a private investment organization, in about 45 days.

Ambassadors said that Windstar will continue normal business operations throughout this process and that all reservations will be honored.

Hans Birkholz, Windstar CEO, told investors late last year that the travel market continues to be challenging and that the company was being impacted by the economic downturn.

Windstar offers high-end, luxury cruises on sailing vessels carrying just 148 to 312 guests per cruise.

Restored train station seen
as anchor for Belén walkway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the passenger train to Belén begins Tuesday, the final stop will be at the 100-year-old Victorian train station that has been refurbished with public money.

The Municipalidad de Belén invested 74 million colons, about $148,000 to restore the wood structure. The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural advised on the work.

The municipality plans to use the facility as a cultural exchange facility and use it as an anchor for a pedestrian walkway that will have various art works and products for sale. The plan is for a pedestrian walk some 1.5 kilometers in San Antonio de Belén. That's about a mile.

Some 10 million colons (about $20,000) still is to be spent for the walkway and bus stops, said officials

12-year murder sentence
upheld by high court ruling

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala III of the Corte Suprema de la Justicia has confirmed a sentence of 12 years levied on a man who killed another who would not give him a cigarette.

The killing took place June 22, 2008, when the victim, identified as Dennis Salvador Almanza Gonzálas was accosted by men as he walked in the La Carpio district of La Uruca. The trial court said that the man identified by the last names of Rodríguez Flores shot Almanza at short range when the man declined to give him a cigarette. He was convicted July 23, 2010, said the Poder Judicial.

The court spokespersons said Friday that the conviction was upheld despite an appeal.

Phone, Internet users
awarded outage rebates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 1.3 million customers of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. and Amnet will get rebates because of interruptions in services.  That was ordered by the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos.

The state company known as ICE is being hit with 356 million colons in rebates due to cell phone outages last Oct. 20 and 236 million for Internet outages in February. Some 31 users of the RACSA firm will share $3,048, the regulating agency said. The Amnet case still is pending.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 66
Latigo K-9

U.N. says Japanese radioactivity not yet world health hazard
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

Radioactive material from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan is gradually spreading into the global atmosphere, but at extremely low concentrations that do not present health hazards, the United Nations reported Friday.

Monitoring on the ground in Japan is being done by the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Tourism Organization. These are in addition to Japanese agencies.

The release of radioactivity has caused some concern in Costa Rica, mostly among those expats who remember the above-ground nuclear testing of the 1040s and 50s. Before most First World nations accepted a test ban treaty above-ground nuclear explosions were produced by the United States, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and later Communist China.

Through 1962 a site in Nevada was the location for a number of nuclear tests that spread strontium 90 and radioactive iodine throughout the United States. The atom bomb blasts were tourists attractions but those living downwind, mainly in Utah, appear to have increased incidents of thyroid cancer and in children, leukemia.

A number of U.S. soldiers also were exposed when they were stationed close to the explosions.
Strontium 90 showed up in milk products through out the United States because cows ate grass covered with fallout. 

There have been some recent correlations that showed children exposed to radioactivity had a much higher rate of cancers. That was based on studies of radioactivity in baby teeth collected from the youngsters and compared years later along with their health histories.

Experiences in the Communist world were worst but mostly hidden.

The United States continued nuclear testing into the 1990s, but since 1962 the tests were underground. There also were efforts to use nuclear devices for land movement and for natural gas recovery through Project Poughshare. In a Colorado test, a blast liberated natural gas but it could not be used because it was radioactive.

U.N. officials told reporters in Vienna Friday that the overall situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious with efforts continuing to cool down the damaged reactors in an attempt to prevent a meltdown of the radioactive fuel.  

The restrictions on drinking tap water for infants remained in force in two locations in Fukushima prefecture, while radiation analytical data from three prefectures – Chiba, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Tochigi – show that contamination levels of vegetables, fruits, seafood, various meats and unprocessed milk remained above the levels set by the Japanese authorities, according to the U.N. 

rules the road

One of the hits of the Queen's Birthday Party Saturday was the British Embassy's electric car, a REVAi from the Reva Electric Car Co. of India.

Despite its place of birth there is no mistaking the nationality of this vehicle, which can seat two adults and two children, according to company literature.

British car
Photo by Sheldon Haseltine

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 66

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Employees accused of copying credit cards for own use

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Once again employees of firms that take credit cards have been accused of making copies of the cards customers gave them.

One suspect worked at a service station, A second worked in a company that sold vacation packages.

The Judicial Investigating Organization conducted raids that led to the arrest of four men Thursday.

The case once again reinforced the basic rule that customers should never let their credit card out of their sight.

The men are accused of using sophisticated equipment to copy the electronic information on customer credit cards and then using this information to make clones.
The suspects are a 23-year-old Costa Rican, identified as the leader, and three middle-aged Cubans.

The complaint was filed by the Credomatic firm that issues credit cards. Cardholders of the company were victims, agents said.

Agents said the credit card crooks ran up about $16,000 in bogus bills by making purchases with the cloned cards at retail outlets in the metro area.

Similar cases involved employees at restaurants and other retail outlets where customer's cards could be copied quickly without their knowledge.

Prosecutors asked that the three Cuban men were remanded to preventative detention for six months, said the Poder Judicial

New product may eliminate airport liquid prohibitions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There may be hope for those who do not like walking barefoot in the airport or having that soft drink confiscated at the boarding ramp.

Scientists have described development and successful initial tests of a spray-on material that both detects and renders harmless the genre of terrorist explosives responsible for government restrictions on liquids that can be carried onboard airliners.  The ink-like explosive detector/neutralizer was described at the American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim, California.

The material is a type of ink made of tiny metallic oxide nanoparticles so small that 50,000 could fit inside the diameter of a single human hair, said the chemical society. The ink changes color, from dark blue to pale yellow or clear, in the presence of very small concentrations of explosives. It also changes from a metallic conductor to a
 non-conducting material, making electronic sensing also possible, the society added.

The same color-changing material can also serve as an explosives neutralizer. Firefighters and bomb squad technicians could spray the ink onto bombs or suspicious packages until the color change indicates that the devices are no longer a threat, said Allen Apblett, who led the development team, according to a society press release. Technicians could also dump the explosives into vats containing the ink to neutralize them, it added.

Apblett is a chemist at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. He noted that authorities are concerned about peroxide-based explosives, made from hydrogen peroxide, which are easy to make and set off, the chemical society said. These explosives first drew public attention in 2001, when thwarted shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to use one such substance as the detonator onboard a commercial airliner.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 66

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Cybersquatting disputes rose
last year, U.N. agency says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Disputes over the practice of cybersquatting rose sharply last year, with nearly 2,700 cases filed for arbitration with the United Nations agency charged with protecting inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and copyright.  

The number of arbitration and mediation cases filed represented a 28 per cent increase over the previous year, according to a press release issued by the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization.

Cybersquatting general refers to the practice of registering, offering for sale or using a domain name with the aim of profiting from a trademark that belongs to someone else. It can also involve buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intention of selling the same names to those firms.  

Parties filing cases with World Intellectual Property Organization last year took advantage of user-friendly online facilities such as the paperless procedure initiated by the entity’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre.  

“The WIPO Centre is the leading provider of domain name dispute services and provides a rich range of resources for users and the general public,” said Francis Gurry, director general of the agency.  

The cases – which involved some 4,370 domain names – were decided by 327 panellists from 49 countries in 13 different languages, namely English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Romanian, Swedish, and Japanese. In 91 per cent of the cases, panels found evidence of cybersquatting, deciding in favor of complainants.  

The top five areas of complainant activity were retail, banking and finance, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, Internet and information technology, and fashion. The World Intellectual Property Organization’s 2010 caseload featured well-known names from business and public interest sectors, and most of those concerned registrations in the .com domain.  

Arbitration requests related to country code domains rose to 15 per cent, while national registries designating the World Intellectual Property Organization to provide domain name dispute resolution services increased to 65 in 2010 from 62 in 2009.  

Based in Geneva, the Arbitration and Mediation Centre was established in 1994 to offer alternative dispute resolution options for the resolution of international commercial disputes between private parties.  

México reported lacking
policies on disappearances

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Impunity is still a major concern when it comes to tackling enforced disappearances in Mexico, a group of United Nations human rights experts said Friday as they outlined recommendations to the government on the prevention, investigation, punishment and reparation of this crime.    

Following their two-week visit to the country, which concluded Thursday, members of the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances noted that victims of enforced disappearances lack confidence in the judicial system, police and armed forces.    

“Impunity is a chronic and present pattern in cases of enforced disappearances and no sufficient efforts are being carried out neither to determine the fate or whereabouts of persons who disappeared, to punish those responsible nor to provide reparations,” they stated in a news release.    

They also highlighted a lack of a comprehensive public policy to deal with the different aspects of enforced disappearances, saying it appears that there is no coordination among federal, local and municipal levels or within the same level of government.    

In addition, they emphasized that while the state has a right and duty to respond to public security concerns, including organized crime, addressing this challenge cannot be done at the expense of respect for human rights, nor can the state condone the practice of enforced disappearances.    

During their visit, the experts examined the status of the investigations of enforced disappearances, steps taken to prevent and eradicate the problem, what is being done to combat impunity, and other issues, including matters concerning truth, justice and reparations for victims of enforced disappearances.   

As part of the mission, they met with a number of federal and state officials in several cities, including the capital, México City, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez and Acapulco.   

The experts, who work in an independent and unpaid capacity, will present their report to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council at a session in 2012.   
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San Antonio now embraces
all types of Latin artwork

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Members of the wealthy Rockefeller family of New York helped establish the Museum of Modern Art and revive the old Cloisters medieval museum, both in New York City. The Rockefellers contributed to the restoration of Versailles Palace in France. And the estate of former New York gov. Nelson Rockefeller made possible the most comprehensive collection of Latin American art in the United States in San Antonio, Texas.

Sixty percent of San Antonio residents have Spanish surnames. America’s seventh-largest city is full of colorful murals, window decorations, and wildly painted automobiles created by Hispanics. Yet the San Antonio Museum of Art, which is housed in a 225-year old refurbished brewery complex, built its reputation primarily on its antiquities collection from Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

But several years ago, the museum hosted a touring exhibition featuring 30 centuries of Mexican artistic splendor. Over three months, 300,000 people visited the exhibit.

This success story got the San Antonio Museum to focus on the Hispanic culture around it. Its board of directors voted to build a new center of Latin American art within the museum. When it opened in 1998, the center was named for Nelson Rockefeller, whose family contributed several pieces of Mexican folk art that Rockefeller had owned. He had scoured Latin America for unusual contemporary art and helped legitimize the Latin folk-art genre.

His collection includes a painting depicting Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s visit to Moscow in the 1920s. That’s ironic, since it was the Rockefeller family that commissioned the Marxist painter to create a fabulous mural in New York’s new Rockefeller Center, only to order it destroyed because Rivera included a depiction of Russian leader Vladimir Lenin, as well as scenes deemed to be socialist.

Other U.S. museums can boast of fine collections of pre-Columbian art -- that is, art created before Europeans explored the Americas -- or Spanish Colonial, republican, folk, or contemporary Latin art. But none covers all five categories as completely as the San Antonio Museum’s 3,000-square-meter Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. Its 8,000 pieces of art -- only a few hundred of which can be displayed at one time -- range from Peruvian textiles to Costa Rican stone warriors to a wide variety of religious statues and paintings.

Marion Oettinger, Jr., the collection’s first curator, told us that the Rockefeller center is, in his words, "a way of peering into the soul, the values, the perspectives, and the sense of well-being of Latin America through artifacts."

Two years ago, San Antonio extended its world-famous River Walk canal and strolling path three kilometers to the very door of the museum. That exposed even more visitors to the single-most comprehensive collection of Latin American art north of Mexico City.

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