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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, April 13, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 73             E-mail us
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Tourism meeting drew a full house at the legislature Tuesday
New tourism group finds backing from legislators
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 100 persons showed up to hear the plans Tuesday of a new organization that aims to support struggling small and medium tourism operations.

The session was in the legislative complex, and the organization, Asociación para Protección de Turismo, said it had received the backing from four opposition parties.

Gustavo Arias Navarro, a legislator with the Partido Acción Ciudadana, told the group that this organization, called ProTur for short, has the backing of more than 500 hotels and that the tourism operators are simply seeking justice.

Mireya Zamora Alvarado of the Movimiento Libertario characterized the tourism situation as serious.

Also supporting the effort are the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, the Partido de Accesibilidad sin Exclusión and Frente Amplio.

The complaints from the tourism sector would be familiar to any expat who does the family budget. Utility rates are high. So is the cost of credit. And the colon-dollar exchange rate hurts those whose income is in dollars but must buy goods with colons.

The organization also is seeking consideration and flexibility from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro
Social which collects the monthly assessments on employee salary. The organization also is concerned by the increase in insurance costs, taxes and other expenses.

As to electric rates, the group said that the cost of generating power during the low or rainy season is substantially lower when reservoirs are full than during what is called the Costa Rican summer from December to April. The organization is seeking special rates for tourism operations.

The organization already has been talking with banks about easing the industry's debt load by lengthening the term for payback and other changes.

The tourism group also said it would like to see an increase in promotion by both the government and the private sector outside the country.

The organization appears to have developed from the Asociación de Micros, Pequeños y Medianos Empresarios Turisticos de la Fortuna. PorTur also said that existing national tourism organizations are not doing enough for the smaller operators.

In addition to hotels, the organization has travel agencies and suppliers of services as members.

Although the short-term goals are mainly financial, the organization said that in the long run it would like to help develop tourism policy with direct contact with lawmakers.

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Nations meet not leaving
their own country's soil


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The scene Tuesday at the country's northern border seemed to be something out of a Korean War movie.

Nicaraguan diplomats sat at their own table in Nicaragua. Some 12 feet distant were Costa Rican diplomats also at their own table.

The setup blocked the main access for travelers. Nicaragua closed the border at 7 p.m. Monday. The meeting was at 11 a.m.

The meeting was more theater than action. The main result was that Walter Navarro, vice minister of Seguridad Pública, will meet with his Nicaraguan counterpart on neutral territory in Guatemala May 5.

The topic will be organized crime and drug trafficking. Guatemala and México agreed to serve as negotiators for the discussions between the two countries.

Carlos Roverssi, vice minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, calls the meeting a positive small step.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua are involved in a border dispute miles away at the Isla Calero. One stipulation for the meeting Tuesday was that this topic would not be discussed. The case is being litigated at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.


More traffic restrictions
will be outlined today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials are expected to release new rules for traffic restictions today, but many of the proposals have become known.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is expected to revert the downtown traffic restrictions to the earlier policy of prohibiting vehicles with the incorrect plate number for the center city all day. They also are expected to expand the program to other major population centers.

The goal is to increase the traffic flow and to reduct the consumption of motor fuels becasue of traffic jams. The country, which does not produce any petroleum, wants to reduce imports as the world price increases.

In addition, the country is expected to require some ethanol in motor fuels.


Dance company to audition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Danza is seeking female dancers for auditions Friday starting at 10 a.m. at the Centro nacional de la Cultura. Sought are ballet, contemporary and improvisational dancers, the company said.


Our reader's opinion
Lower-tech software vital
for kids' older computers


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your article "Computers at school not enough, study reports" in Tuesday's A.M. Costa Rica, here is one way to free up a lot of money for teacher training: schools here should avoid expensive computers and software and use freely available educational software and coursework that runs well on older computers. Yes, Microsoft does donate software to schools, but Vista and Windows 7 require expensive, high-end PCs to function properly.

The "Edubuntu" version of the Linux operating system, a derivative of the popular Ubuntu, is designed specially for students from kindergarten all the way through college, and comes loaded with interesting, educational games and other learning tools. And, of course, it is available in Español.

In addition, Scott McNealey, ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems, now that he has some free time on his hands after selling his company to Oracle, is devoting his efforts to Curriki, a worldwide education project that he co-founded. (Searching Curriki does find some good courses in computer administration and programming from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Barcelona, but more resources in Spanish are needed.)

These provide viable, high quality alternatives to expensive Windows computers and expensive technical textbooks that are soon outdated, and they give older, low-end computers a far better purpose than landfill.

Here are a few links for further reading.
. Edubuntu  http://edubuntu.org/
. Curriki  http://curriki.org/
. New York Times article about Curriki
  http://nytimes.com/2010/08/01/technology/01ping.html
. Don't toss your old PC, give it to a kid
  http://ccobb.net/edubuntu/

Chris Cobb
Hills of Portalon

 
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
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary





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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 73
Latigo K-9

Another child custody case spawns a protest in public
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Honduran mother carried her effort to recover her children to the Asamblea Legislativa Tuesday.

She is one of several mothers who have been battered by the judicial system here and elsewhere during a custody dispute.

In this case the woman is Osiris Anarda Villatoro Villalobos. She married a Costa Rican man and had two sons, Abner, now 8, and Enann, 4.

While she was discussing her case with legislative leaders, friends were outside the legislative complex carrying signs with masks over their mouths demanding justice.

With expats, the foreigner usually is the husband here or a father left in another country when the mother flees to Costa Rica. The courts here have not shown a clear understanding of an international convention that designates a jurisdiction for solving custody disputes.

Ms. Anarda, in a written statement, says she was handcuffed when she returned to Costa Rica from Honduras in the company of her two children in January. That is similar to the experience of a Costa Rican woman who also was handcuffed at Juan Santamaría airport in a similar case.

In the Anarda case, the husband obtained an order from a Costa Rican judge ordering the children back to Costa Rica, said the statement. She also said that the children had been taken from Costa Rica legally and with the permission of the husband.

A prosecutor in Goicoechea alleged that she abducted the children, her friends said. Although she eventually obtained physical custody of the children, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency, removed the children and placed them with the parental grandparents a short time later. That was Jan. 24.
protest
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Supporters of Honduran mother display signs and a banner at the legislature Tuesday.

Ms. Anarda said that the agency acted without any evaluation or investigation and that the Juzgado de Familia in San José never heard her side nor sent her any notification of any hearing. The family courts generate many complaints of unfairness.

The case also is wrapped up in claims of abuse, domestic violence and abandonment. The woman's husband was not at the legislature to give his side. However, the Fundación Defensoría de Derechos Humanos Costa Rica seems to have accepted her case. The mother probably faces years of litigation.

Legislators probably cannot do much to interfere with the court system. But they can consider changes in the law if they believe an injustice has been committed. For expats the lesson is clear: A custody case can quickly become an expensive, soul tearing tragedy.


Planning to begin for big music festival scheduled for June
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Music lovers are getting a chance to participate in the  Fiesta Internacional de la Música because organizers are holding an open meeting Thursday morning.

The festival itself is planned for Saturday, June 18. This is the festival where music happens in unexpected locations all over the center city.

The festival also is observed in 120 countries. The event was born in 1982 in France.  Alliance Française coordinates
the program. The meeting Thursday will be the first this year for volunteers and organizations that want to participate.

The music festival is a free event, and most of the music is in the open air. Organizations that participate promise to provide a sound system, legal authorization and other logistics for the event, Alliance Française said.

The meeting Thursday will begin at 8 a.m. in the auditorium of the Edificio Continex on Avenida 10 just west of the Muncipalidad de San José.


Editors and staff will experiment with banana booze
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The recipes are coming in as responses to a story about the A.M. Costa Rica banana bush Tuesday.

A news story said that a cluster of bushes were producing more bananas and that within two months editors will have bushels of the fruit.
Some readers suggested alcoholic solutions to the many bananas. There is a recipe for banana liqueur and even one for banana wine.  A news source suggested using bananas to make newsprint, but there's not much need for that now that the Internet is here.

In keeping with respect for our readers. editors will try them all and make a report.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 73


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Scientific drilling ship will make a Puntarenas port call

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The JOIDES Resolution, a drilling ship, is expected to be in Puntarenas today to change scientific crews for another foray to study the earth's crust off the Costa Rican shoreline.

The boat is participating in a series of projects. The most recently completed one involved four weeks of work off the coast of the Osa Peninsula. More than 30 scientists participated.

The new mission will take samples 900 kilometers, about 550 miles, off the country's Pacific coast.

The results will help to address a fundamental question of geodynamics — the structure of the ocean crust, said the organization, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.

The 143-meter (469-foot) vessel is specially designed to remain stationary in the ocean while its drill penetrates hundreds of meters into the crust. The areas of the exploration are active earthquake zones.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional said that the next expedition would penetrate rock 15 million years old
Resoluition
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program file photo
This is the drililng ship that will be making a port call


nearly 5,000 feet under sea level. The vessel's crew is supposed to find an existing drill hole and deepen it.

The organization is international and draws its scientists from many universities and academic institutions. The vessel is scheduled to depart on the new expedition Sunday.



Censorship victims get tips on how to use Internet anyway

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As the Internet plays a major role in organizing protests and disseminating information across the Middle East and other parts of the world, a report released Tuesday by the human rights organization, Freedom House, tells how Internet censorship circumvention tools are effective in navigating around censors.  But the report warns about the security implications of such software.

The report gives Internet users guidelines for choosing effective and easy-to-use circumvention tools in countries with high degrees of Internet censorship.

Based on a survey of Internet users in Iran, Azerbaijan, China and Burma, the report found all 11 censorship circumvention tools to be effective, and outlines the advantages and disadvantages.  It recommends tools based on one's Internet habits, either as a downloader or uploader of information, one's preference for either security or speed and the level of privacy and security desired.

Cormac Callanan, head of Dublin-based Aconite Internet Solutions and an author of the report, urged caution when using censorship circumvention tools.

"Circumvention is not security," said Callanan. "Security,
 anonymity and privacy are important and do need to be addressed.  For end users, we can only repeat that security is more than a single circumvention tool.  And that it becomes a way of life."

Circumvention tools allow Internet users to bypass filters that block content, in this case by repressive governments, and to find an alternate path to access the information. 

In the report, users indicated that they preferred quick rather than secure Internet access.  Callanan says the finding surprised him, but says locals better understand the censorship situation and its consequences.

"They have more real time and local knowledge about what is happening in their government censorship system, or the local policing or the local monitoring than many of us do internationally," he said.

The U.S. State Department-funded report found that security is more important for users who are sending material rather than those accessing and viewing information on the Internet.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said restrictions on Internet activity that prohibit free expression is one of three worrisome trends concerning human rights.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 73

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. seeking to improve
visa service for tourism


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Anyone attempting to visit the United States as a student, businessman or tourist knows that getting a visa can take weeks or months, and involve several visits to a U.S. embassy or consulate.  U.S. officials say they are aware of the need to improve visa and other services for visitors, and that they are making concerted efforts toward that end. 

At a time of weak economic growth and fiscal austerity, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, says America cannot afford to take tourists and other foreign visitors for granted.

"This is about jobs.  Each foreign visitor to our country spends an average of $4,000,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “We are talking about some serious money.  In 2009 alone, spending by overseas visitors supported some 900,000 American jobs, and paid $23 billion in wages to American workers."

Sen. Klobuchar is chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion.  She says that from 2000 to 2009, America’s share of global tourism fell by almost a third, costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act, which set up a public-private partnership to attract more visitors to the United States.  At a hearing last week, Sen. Klobuchar said the initiative can work only if U.S. visa-granting procedures are improved.

"It doesn’t do much good to promote the U.S. to foreign travelers when those foreign travelers can’t get a visa for months to visit the United States of America.  In a recent survey, 73 percent of respondents said they would not visit the U.S. if they knew it would take them two to three months to get a visa,” Sen. Klobuchar stated. “Well, sadly, in several countries, that is how long it is taking."

U.S. officials testifying before the subcommittee spoke of efforts to expedite visa applications and boost consular staffing levels.  They also pointed to a growing number of countries, currently three dozen, taking part in a visa waiver program that eliminates the need for a U.S. visa for many types of travel.

David Donahue, State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for visa services, says these efforts have helped reverse the decline in the number of foreign visitors to the United States.

"In 2010, 60 million international visitors entered the United States — a 17 percent increase from 2006.  Demand for visas climbed at a dramatic pace in the world’s fastest-emerging economies.  Since 2005, visa issuance in China has doubled, and increased by 50 percent in India, 52 percent in Russia, 24 percent in Mexico, and more than 50 percent in the Middle East and North Africa.  In Brazil, visa issuance has nearly tripled," Donahue explained.

But Donahue added that the need for prompt visa processing must be balanced against America’s need to scrutinize everyone entering the country following the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.   For instance, he noted that some have suggested adopting video conferencing technology so that U.S. officials can interview visa applicants from afar, rather than forcing them to visit U.S. consulates.  Donahue said that from a security standpoint, that idea is ill-advised.

China and Brazil sign deal
for sale of business jets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil and China have signed deals for the sale of 35 Brazilian Embraer commercial jets to two Chinese airlines and for Embraer to begin assembling business jets in China.

The deals were announced Tuesday as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with her Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao in Beijing.  Ms. Rousseff is on her first visit to China since taking office in January.

The two countries also signed agreements to boost cooperation in areas ranging from energy to agriculture.

China has recently passed the United States as Brazil's largest trading partner and is now the South American country's biggest source of foreign investment.  Brazil is Latin America's biggest economy.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 73

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Walmart praised for policies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Alberto Ebrard, executive vice president of Walmart de México y Centroamérica met with President Laura Chinchilla to outline the company's plan to build 24 more stores in Costa Rica and generate 839 new jobs, said Casa Presidencial.

The company will invest $160.5 million, Casa Presidencial said.  The president expressed pleasure at this investment, and said that Walmart has shown good practices in purchasing from small producers.


Night of tango tonight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Alianza Française will present an evening of tango tonight as part of the Art City Tour 2001.

The program is titled “La vida es una milonga," referring to what a program for tango is called. A musician identified as  Oscar López Salaberry will play the bandoneon, the traditional accordion that accompanies tango songs.

The French cultural center on Avenida 7 in Barrio Amón will also offer discussions and mini-courses in an effort to recreate Paris in the 1930s when the tango was at its height. The program starts at 5 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.

The Art City Tour seeks to have residents rediscover the city with trips to cultural events, art galleries, parks and musuems. Points of departure are at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, the Museo Nacional, the Museo del Banco Central and the Museo de Jade where residents have the option of taking a bus. Buses leave at 4:30 p.m. and they are identified by colored signs.

Some 15 museums are participating but each bus will not go to all of them.

At 8:45 p.m. a DJ is scheduled in Plaza de la Democracía as well as a demonstration of Capoeira.



Power out in Heredia, Aserrí

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz will cut off power to the southern part of Urbanización Bosques de Doña Rosa today from 8 a.m. to noon to relocate utility poles.

The company also will cut power today from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Barrio Santo Cecilia in Aserrí, it said. Workmen will be installing more lines.







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