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These stories were published Friday, April 16, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 75
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9:51 a.m.

10:32 a.m.
11:36 a.m.
Hey! Where did my shadow go???
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you couldn’t find your shadow Thursday morning, don’t worry. There’s an easy explanation.

Meteorologist Jose Manuel Montoya of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said the absence of a shadow is the result of an astronomical phenomenon that happens twice a year in Costa Rica.

A recent report of the Fundación Cientec points out that twice a year the rays of the sun are 

absolutely perpendicular. This takes place because the sun is moving from the southern to northern hemisphere or vice versa.

The perpendicular position of 90 degrees above Costa Rica greatly reduces and almost eliminates shadows. That happened Thursday exactly at 11:40 a.m. in the Central Valley. San José, Limón and Puntarenas are right at 10 degrees north latitude and the sun was at its zenith or highest point about 20 minute before noon.

The next time you will not be able to see your shadow will be Aug. 29.


 
The chance of getting stoned on Good Friday
There is a considerable difference between the Christmas and Easter weeks in Costa Rica, I discovered, again, this week. Both are official holidays and for at least three days of each week most businesses and government offices close down and almost everyone goes to the beaches. 

One Christmas time before I moved here, a friend and I arrived in Costa Rica and drove to Tamarindo (not the built-up Tamarindo of today). We arrived at night to this small, dusty, oceanside town and thought we had been dumped into a rock concert. It was one big jam of people and cars . . . and noise. Since then, I have stayed in town. 

Christmas week in San José is quite pleasant because of the decorations and the last minute shoppers and the general air of celebration. This year I went downtown on Holy Thursday, thinking I would see a movie, even if it was going to be "The Passion of the Christ" which would probably be the only thing showing. 

Instead I found a ghost town. Stores had their metal doors down. All of the casinos save one were closed. Restaurants were closed, although I didn’t check out McDonalds. And so were the theaters. There was a general air of dejection and the city reminded me of those movies of street scenes of cities after a plague. An occasional piece of paper would take flight stirred by the wind from where it had been thrown. There were few people on the street, and they all looked like they were in a hurry to be home. I was one of them. Besides, it was unusually hot, just as at Christmas it was unusually cold.

On Good Friday I never saw a car or heard any traffic all day, except for one ambulance. I can see several streets from my apartment. Nothing moved until 9 p.m. that night. Rafael, a Tico who now lives in California, writes

"…when I was a lad, on Good Friday, as a sign of respect, you would walk to wherever you 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

had to go. The streets and roads were emptyof all vehicles. Occasionally you would see an ambulance or a daring doctor driving to an emergency call. In rural areas, the town's folk would block the roads to prevent defilers, and every year there was a report from some town out there, about an infidel's vehicle being stoned for not showing due respect for the town's religious grief."

Things have not changed that much, although I have heard no reports from the campo of cars being stoned. 

Meanwhile this past week, with nothing happening in the city, with nowhere I felt like going, and with the 9/11 commission hearings, I spent most of the week watching TV (I am a news and political junkie). 

Watching the political news I heard the words "logic" and "logical" many times. My dictionary says that logic means the science of correct reasoning and logical, more or less, "necessary or to be expected because of what has gone before." These words were used by white Christian American males mainly regarding Iraq and what the Iraqis will logically do given the current circumstances. 

Living in Costa Rica I have often faced the reality that what is logical to one culture may be crazy thinking to another. I am sure that in the U.S. when people are given a three-day holiday, it is logical to have all stores open so that they can shop. This is a lame comparison. But one does wonder, when will we ever learn that not everybody in the world thinks the way we (whoever we are) do? 

 
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IBM opens center
for business services

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

IBM inaugurated its Business Transformation Center for the Americas Thursday. The expansion will mean 300 new jobs based at The Forum in Santa Ana.

The company will offer accounting, financial and human resource services. Procter & Gamble is the company’s first client here.

President Abel Pacheco attended the kick-off function Thursday and used the occasion to plug his tax package that is being considered in the Asamblea Nacional. He saw the $500 million in new taxes as one step for attacking underdevelopment.

IBM officials said that Costa Rica was selected for the regional operation because of the high quality of the employees here.
 

Distinctive dwelling
wins restoration prize

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A residence in Mata de Plátano de Guadalupe was named this year’s winner of the Salvamos Nuestro Patrimonio Arquitectónico award.

The award, this year 30 million colons, some $70,000, helps restore distinctive Costa Rican homes.  The competition is supervised by the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The structure picked this year is the home of José Cubero Muñoz, which has indisputable architectural and historical value, according to the jury that made the selection.
 

Legal challenge filed
on concession law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Acción Ciudadana has filed a constitutional challenge to a law that allows the government to award concessions to private companies.

The political party is challenging specifically the awarding of private concessions for docks, but the legal action is based on a challenge of the law that covers all government concessions.

The party announced its action Thursday. At the same time the party’s deputies introduced legislation to change the sections of the law to which they object.

The matter was presented to the Sala IV constitutional court based on a section of the constitution that says docks may not leave the dominion of the state.

Partido Acción Ciudadana also opposed the free-trade treaty with the United States and the opening of certain state-operated monopolies for foreign firms. The challenge to the state’s right to grant concessions can be viewed as part of a long-term strategy.
 

Rodríguez gets backing
from U.S. for OAS job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former president Miguel Angel Rodríguez received the long-awaited backing of the United States Thursday in his quest to become secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Rodríguez met with Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state, Thursday morning in Washington, D.C.. Officials in San José said that Powell promised full support when the position comes up for a vote in June.

Rodríguez has been the strongest candidate, and managed to accumulate support from 32 of the 34 voting nations. He has been the only candidate for two months.

Police get training
to help tourists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 65 members of the Fuerza Pública have completed a short course in tourist safety conducted by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the Escuela Nacional de Policía.

They heard Luis Grunewald of Argentina, an expert on tourism, point out that tourist safety is a major priority today after the terrorist attacks on New York and the bombing of a commuter train in Madrid, Spain, last March 11.

The short course graduates join some 600 others who have taken similar courses, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

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MORE THAN A MILLION!
Last month A.M. Costa Rica registered 1,051,118 hits.
Your business could get hit here, too.
Deputies wonder where the ¢189 million went
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative commission is looking into the finances of the Junta de Desarrollo del Sur, a key player in the effort to improve roads and build an airport in southwestern Costa Rica.

The Comisión Permanente Especial de Control del Gasto Pública heard Thursday that some 189 million colons that were supposed to be invested in a hydroelectric project appear to have vanished. That’s about $440,000 at today’s rate of exchange.

Deputy Rafael Varela made the complaint and told the public expenditure commission that the money was paid to a firm called La Casa del Constructor, which has failed to deliver the materials that have been paid for.

Deputy Luis Gerardo Villanueva said he believed that there was great disorder, bad management 

and bad administration in the junta, which is known by its acronym JUDESUR.

President Abel Pacheco met with the junta last Jan. 22 when he announced that the government would construct a new international airport in the southern zone and that the planning for the new airport will begin immediately.

The new airport would generate a flow of more  tourists to the area, which is considered to be  economically depressed. The area includes the communities of Golfito, Palmar Sur, Drake,
Laurel, Carate and Puerto Jiménez.  Right now Juan Santamaría  International Airport in Alajuela is the principal  arrival point for persons going to the south. From there they can travel by smaller planes or by  highway. 

The Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia  services the north Pacific. 


 
U.S. working toward joint energy pact with Brazil
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham will travel to Brazil this week, where he will meet with senior government officials in order "to further cooperative energy efforts between the two countries," the U.S. Department of Energy has announced.

The Energy Department explained Thursday that Abraham's visit to Brazil is a direct result of the June 2003 meeting of President George Bush and 

President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva during which the two presidents agreed to launch a broad energy partnership focusing on hydrogen energy, energy-sector investment, electricity modernization and offshore drilling-project safety.

Abraham said he looked forward to meeting Brazilian officials to expand areas of cooperation and discuss future activities that will allow the two governments to continue this important relationship, especially in the areas of hydrogen and scientific collaboration.


 
Top  French defense official visiting troops in Haiti
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie is in Haiti for a visit with the country's president and French troops serving in a multi-national peacekeeping force.

Ms. Alliot-Marie arrived here Thursday for a one-day visit. She is expected to meet with President Boniface Alexander, and travel to the 

northern town of Cap Haitien, where  French troops are stationed.

It is Ms. Alliot Marie's first visit to Haiti since  President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country  under pressure from rebels at home and  governments abroad. Aristide, who is currently in Jamaica, said he was forced out of office by the United States and France - an accusation both  countries have denied. 


 
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U.N. rights commission criticizes Communist Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

GENEVA, Switzerland — The top United Nations human rights watchdog has criticized Cuba's rights record and called on the Communist island country to accept a visit by an international monitor.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission, based here, narrowly passed the resolution Thursday, 22 to 21. There were 10 abstentions.

The resolution was sponsored by Honduras and backed by the United States and the European Union. It urges the government of Fidel Castro to respect freedom of  expression and other fundamental civil liberties. It also deplores the heavy prison terms imposed on 75 political opponents and journalists last year. 

In addition, the resolution calls for Cuba's cooperation with a U.N. monitor, Christine  Chanet. So far, Cuba has refused entry to the U.N. envoy. 

Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque  dismissed the resolution as "ridiculous."

Moments after the vote, witnesses say a Cuban  official assaulted an elderly anti-Castro activist outside of the meeting room. 

The motion had prompted strong lobbying from  both Washington and Havana, with Cuban  officials accusing the United States of pressuring  Honduras to sponsor the resolution.

Speaking before the vote, the United States urged other member states to stand with the people of Cuba and support the resolution. Ambassador 

Richard Williamson, head of the U.S. delegation to the commission, noted that just a year had passed since Cuba carried out a "brutal crackdown on independent journalists, economists, trade unionists, and human rights activists."

The arrests and detentions were "one of the worst acts of political repression against advocates of peaceful change in that country's 24-year dictatorship," he said. 

Ambassador Benjamín Zapata, Honduras' representative at the commission, noted that the resolution is the first action by the Honduran delegation in its first year as a member of the Commission on Human Rights. 

Zapata said Honduras wanted to make it clear that the resolution does not question the "integrity of Cuba."

"This is an appeal, a constructive suggestion, urging the government of Cuba to consider freedom of expression, democracy and pluralism," he said. "It is an appeal that full civil and political rights be granted to the Cuban people with full participation and freedom of opinion without fear of reprisals, as was the case with the 75 citizens who were imprisoned last year."

Cuban Ambassador Jorge Mora Godoy lashed out at the United States in an 11-minute statement contesting the validity of the resolution, which he described as typical of "hegemonistic behavior and power politics."

Cuba's human rights record comes under regular  scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Commission. A similar resolution also was narrowly passed by the body last year.


 
Cheney endorses legitimate dissent and opinion
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SHANGHAI, China— Vice President Cheney praised China for its expanded cooperation on counterterrorism efforts but cautioned that "the war on terror must never be used as an excuse for silencing legitimate dissent and expressions of opinion."

The United States and China have been working together closely to stop the spread of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said in remarks Thursday at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. "Today we are sharing information and working together to strengthen the U.N.'s counterterror capability and on a vital container security initiative to protect ships and ports," he said. 

The vice president warned, however, that as the United States and China deepen their cooperation 

on counterterrorism efforts, "we must also be mindful of the rights of the innocent." Cheney also thanked China for its contributions to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We welcome China's contributions to reconstruction efforts in these lands, so that their people may live in security and freedom, never again victimized by despotic regimes that breed or support terror," he said.

"While democratic processes are sometimes untidy and unpredictable — as any close observer of American politics can attest — they permit the peaceful expression of diverse views, protect the rights of the individual, check the ability of the state to abuse its power, and encourage the kind of debate and compromise that leads to lasting stability. And this much is certain: free societies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole nations," Cheney continued.


 
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