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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Wednesday, April 25, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 82                            Email us
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Marimba man
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 Small business
marimba maestro

He introduces himself as Maestro Beltrán. His specialty is the marimba, that musical instrument that was declared a national symbol in 1996.

Beltrán Mena Villalobos was on the job Tuesday night providing the traditional background for a small business exposition in San José. His group is Marimba India, and he even gives lessons to anyone who might want to begin the difficult path to become a  marimba musician.

He built the wooden instrument himself five years ago.  Although organizers perhaps did not see how appropriate was the marimba show, Mena certainly qualifies as a small business.

See story on the exposition

Changes in TV  technology may trump new format
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transition from analog to digital television has already begun in Costa Rica. But there are several questions still left unanswered by the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. And the technological landscape may change so quickly that answers today may not be valid in a few years.

A long-awaited reply from the ministry said that regardless of the premature problems the country's change to digital transmission will happen in 2017. Marcos Arroyo, vice-minister of Telecomunicaciones, in an email message, said that the country isn't ready for the digital transition. The entire country is supposed to run on a digital format only in 2017. That gives five years for Costa Ricans still getting shows out of the air to either buy a new television that is compatible to the new Japanese format, ISDB-T, or purchase a digital cable adaptor known as a set top box. The Subcomisión de Solidaridad, a commission from the ministry created to help the transition electronically, said the adaptors will be available in the country in the middle of this year. There is no specific date.

As far as commercial stores Monge, Gollo, and La Curaçao are not prepared for the change. One presumed television specialist at a La Curaçao in downtown San José said residents had five years to worry about that change, so the store had the televisions that they had and that was it. Workers at the electronic stores are not educated about the change. All they know is that there is a five-year deadline.

As for the differences in price, there was no answer provided by the vice minister. Arroyo replied the cost of the change was going to be broken into two parts. One, a television programmer is going to have to make an economic investment to have the new technology. And second, the mandatory update or replacement of the television to receive the new transmission will depend on the investment made.

The benefit of digital-ready television is a better quality of video and audio. With the new format, all programming will be in high definition. And digital television will reduce electric consumption as the digital format requires far less power. 
The government's approach applies only to television signals that are transmitted over the air. Many cable users already have translator boxes that make their older analog television set compatible with digital signals carried by cable. Other cable users have digital-ready televisions, although probably not using the Japanese format.

President Laura Chinchilla welcomed the change to digital transmission by Canal 13 of the Sistema Nacional de Radio y Television in late March and announced that the government transmitter was the first to use the Japanese-Brazilian digital format.

North American sets use the Advanced Television Systems Committee standards or ATSC. The Japanese-Brazilian system is called ISDB.Tb.

Ms. Chinchilla negotiated a grant from the Japanese to obtain the equipment for the Canal 13 transmissions. A committee had been set up to study the various digital systems and pick one for the country. Former president Oscar Arias Sánchez issued a decree in 2010 adopting the Japanese-Brazilian system.

Despite the government's pronouncements, there has been little explanation of what it would mean to the average citizen. There also is the possibility that by 2017 there will be far fewer television signals broadcast over the air because many stations will be available on a more flexible Internet with broader capabilities. Internet broadcasts is much less expensive than sending high-power signals over the air. There are thousands of Internet radio stations that only broadcast that way.

Local commercial television stations are now broadcasting news and some sports via the Internet, although the signal is sometimes spotty. Services like iTunes and YouTube have full movies available for viewing, as do other commercial services. The wireless Apple TV, which is available in Costa Rica, used a high-definition multimedia interface that is compatible with most digital television sets and also computer monitors.

Residents here who have a cable connection and a computer with a large-screen monitor will not have to worry about any changes in the format of commercial television broadcast formats.

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Our reader's opinion
Men and women degraded
by economic necessities

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Fifty years ago, when I lived in London, I used to listen to Fredrick Lohr’s oratory at Speakers’ Corner, in Hyde Park, London.  Fredrick would hold thousands spellbound and fascinated for hours on end.  When the audience ceased to be hypnotized and spellbound, then he had a technique that was guaranteed to arouse and unite every single one of his audience:  He would talk about sex.  At once every man, woman and even child would stand immediately to attention.  Everyone was identified with that one subject.

Now we have had many points of view about sex recently in these columns.  Men and women have expressed their enchantment, their disenchantment and their sufferings and problems.  For, after all, doesn’t passion mean suffering?  Someone has said that sex is pain so intense it becomes pleasure — shades of masochism and sadism.  The passionate tortured facial expressions of lovers having sex verifies Woody Allen’s observation that sex is the most fun people can have without laughing.

D.H. Lawrence, who spent his life and all his writings obsessed with the problems of sex, finally proclaimed that "men and women have nothing in common except the bed."  "What drives men and women together," he insisted, "is the indomitable necessity of sex".

That being said, we have to recognize that women and men are not equal.  Two triangles may be equal, but mathematical equations are not applicable to human beings, least of all to men and women.  As the French say:  “Viva la difference!”

The fact is women are cultivated by men.  Women are cultivated by their fathers and by their husbands. A good cultivation produces “a pearl without price,” as described in the Good Book.  An ill cultivation and we have women with many problems, none of them of their own making.  The happiness of women on this planet depends upon the men.

In modern-day society, that women have to work alongside men as wage slaves in socialist societies is not because of equal rights and equal opportunity for women but because production has become a deity, an almighty god.  A woman has no choice but to work outside the home.  A man’s wage cannot any longer support a wife and family, so that a wife might choose whether to work outside the home or not.  So the wife is forced to work outside the home in order to subsidize the husband’s take-home pay so they can make ends meet, and the wife is thereby forced to neglect the home and the children.  She is forced to work outside the home and she has no choice.  Left-wing politics and maybe right-wing politics, too, (there is little difference these days) are both involved in the degradation of women in the industrial world, such that a woman has two jobs, one in the home and the other outside the home.   Is that progress?

And left-wing politics are involved in the degradation of men also for a man should earn a living wage enough to support his family without government subsidies from all kinds of welfare organizations and ever greater and ever-expanding bureaucracies that collapse under their own weight until we have a world economic and financial crisis and approaching world anarchy.  A man should earn enough so that his wife may choose whether she wants to work outside the home or not.

Karl Marx has a lot to answer for.  Millions have suffered and died because of his ideas, both men and women, not only in the former Soviet Union and Red China, but all over the world.  Marx is seldom the target of feminists, and I wonder why not?  The ideas of Karl Marx have exploited and degraded women all over the world and continue to do so.   Incidentally, income tax is also a Karl Marx idea but, to his credit, he intended it should only be used in times of war.
Desmond McReynolds
San José

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, Wednesday, April 25, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 82
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A chorus completely of flutes performed Tuesday night. The instruments included the floor-length contrabass flute. The group is the Coro de Flautas.

Flute chorus
A.M. Costa Rica photo

Small business resources are on display at Antigua Aduana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who attends the Expo Pyme 2012 should not expect to find displays of small and medium enterprises. The event is mainly to showcase some 50 firms that offer services to pequeñas y medianas empresas.

There were banks and extensive displays from the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, one of the sponsors. And Tuesday night there were a number of politicians and others who came to show their support for the smaller businesses that employe an estimated 51 percent of the nation's workforce.

President Laura Chinchilla was there to sign two decrees. One established April 24 as a national day for small and medium enterprises. A second decree reduced the paperwork and expanded the definition of what is a small or medium enterprise.  Such a designation exempts a company from the new annual tax, if it is established as a corporation. Some 60 percent of the businesses are operated as individual proprietorships.

Although the economics ministry was a cosponsor with the  Cámara de Industrias de Costa Rica, there was little economy. The arrival of President Chinchilla to the Antigua Aduana where the expo is being held through Thursday was punctuated by a 10-minute fireworks display. Inside there were young ladies in traditional dress, marimba players and a flute chorus. Waiters were ready to serve wine to the various dignitaries and visitors.

Few of the displays were staffed as Ms. Chinchilla made the rounds with Mayi Antillón, the economics minister. The
agency for special help to small and medium enterprises is within the economics ministry. Casa Presidencial announced that the number of such regional offices to help small business was being increased from 20 to 45.

Most financial institutions have money earmarked for small business. In addition there is the Sistema de Banca para el Desarrollo that has access to $360 million specifically for small business loans, said Casa Presidencial.

Two schools had displays of the small businesses they are creating. Both were seeking funds. The Colegio Tecnico Profesional Piedades Sur in San Ramón is growing butterflies.
There was a small, enclosed butterfly garden at the school's exhibit.

The Colegio Tecnico Profesional Vázquez de Coronado has a project to give tours of the canton.

In addition to the exhibits, there are workshops and seminars for small businesses. Admission is free. The Antigua Aduana is in east San José northwest of the Estación al Atlántico and south of the Iglesia Santa Teresita on Calle 23. The sprawling structure has just received a $6.5 million makeover, in part to reinforce it against earthquakes.

Three firms were honored for their work as part of the celebration. Manejo Profesional de Desechos S.A. of Curridabat handles medical waste. Milenio Tres S.A. in Guachipelín, Escazú, produces biodegradable plastic products. Exenos Costa Rica S.A. of Carmen de Alajuela produces biodegradable chemicals.

Regional director of traffic police snared in tow truck abuse
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Calling for a tow truck is not usually a crime, but it can be if you are a traffic police official and the tow truck comes from your agency.

Last March 11, a regional official of the Policía de Tránsito dispatched an agency tow truck to aid an employee who was on a day off and enjoying the countryside with her family. She had a problem with her personal vehicle near the Río Tárcoles north of Jacó.

A police tow truck took the employee's ailing car to Desamparados.

Doing a favor for an employee takes on a different aspect when public funds or public equipment is involved.
That is why the official, identified by the last name of Jiménez,was detained Tuesday morning by agents of the Sección Especializada en Tránsito of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The allegation is embezzlement or misuse of public funds.

The regional director went to the Juzgado Penal de Hacienda in Goicoechea where a judge suspended him from his job for three months and ordered other restrictions, said the Poder Judicial.

Police agencies have a heightened awareness of such allegations now after a month of scandals involving public officials.

The latest involved the mayor of Coronado who made the mistake of driving a municipal vehicle to a sexual encounter at a San Francisco de Dos Ríos motel Friday. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 25, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 82
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rain forests
Aarhus University graphic
Graphic shows where there were rainforests millions of years ago and today.
Rainforest differences attributed to climate millions of years ago
By the Aarhus University news service

Tropical areas provide similar conditions with high temperatures and humidity regardless of whether the location is in Asia, Africa or South America. And one can find lush rainforests in all these places. However, tropical rainforests are not the same. There are fundamental differences in the species composition in the rainforests on the different continents.

Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark have spearheaded research results that shed new light on the processes forming the composition of species assemblages in the tropics. There are actually more than 2,400 species of palms and, by studying them, the researchers have shown that the palm assemblages in the tropics today are to a large extent formed by climatic changes of the past, taking place over millions of years.

“It comes as a surprise to us that climate change over millions of years still leaves a signature in the composition of species assemblages we see today. If species are severely affected by current and future climate change, it’ll mean that there are long-lasting consequences for biodiversity, maybe over many  millions of years to come – at least much longer than we’ve ever dreamt of before,” says Daniel Kissling, who initiated the
 ground-breaking research results shortly to be published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

South America has had a relatively stable humid and warm climate for the last 50 million years, and rainforests have been widespread throughout this entire period. This is where species diversity is highest. There have been good living conditions and plenty of space for many new species to arise. As species formation has been concentrated in particular groups, the species-rich South American palm communities are now dominated by closely related species.

Africa, on the other hand, has been hit by severe drying during the last 10 to 30 million years. The area of rainforest has thus diminished dramatically, until it reached a minimum during the cold, dry ice ages that have repeatedly affected the world over and over again during the last 3 million years. As a result of past climatic changes, many species have simply disappeared entirely from the continent. There are therefore far fewer palm species in Africa than in South America.

The poor palm flora of Africa consists of species that are often not closely related to each other.

Agents make four arrests in case of stolen traffic police pistols
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents have made four arrests in the case of the pistols stolen from the traffic police storage facility Jan.30.

Raids took place in El Alto de Guadalupe and Desamparados Tuesday morning. Arrests were made on public streets in  Torremolinos, Alajuelita and Sagrada Familia Monday night.

The four arrests brings to five the number of persons detained. One man was captured Feb.2 when agents raided his home in Alajuelita. There they recovered 58 of the stolen guns.

Police in Panamá recovered 22 of the pistols.

In all 215 Glock pistols were lost when robbers took over a relatively insecure storage facility in Plaza González Víquez in the center of San José.

Officials suggested then that the robbery was likely a sophisticated network of criminals with an existing market connection to distribute such firearms. The stolen government
firearms are clearly identified with serial numbers and “MOPT” logo, signifying Ministerio de Obras Publicos y Transportes, which is the mother ministry of the Transit Police. But identifying markings on guns are often destroyed for distribution on the black market.

The guns had been left for a significant time under minimal security conditions, with only the protection of one private security official. The total worth of the equipment stolen was estimated at 83 million colons ($165,000) by officials. Left behind by the thieves were 165 more guns as well as radios, bulletproof vests and other police equipment stored in the same facility.

Following the robbery the traffic police director, César Quirós and two other ministry workers were suspended from their posts.

The type of weapon stolen, a Glock 19, is a compact pistol with a 15-round magazine. It is slightly smaller than the Glock 17 that is a standard with many U.S. police agencies. The Glock 19 only weighs 21 ounces or about 595 grams.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Panetta praises progress
in Colombian drug fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Colombia, a nation once battered by drug wars, is becoming a leader in efforts to crack down on drug trafficking in Latin America. The U.S. defense chief on Monday began a week-long tour of South America that will also take him to Brazil and Chile.

Eleven years after the signing of a military cooperation agreement with Colombia under which Washington has provided billions of dollars in equipment and training, the United States is praising the gains that Colombia's military is making in its war on drug-traffickers.

Officials say Colombian forces in recent years have dealt a big blow to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, a Marxist guerrilla group that for decades has conducted a campaign of kidnappings and executions. Colombian forces have also made gains in their fight against drug gangs responsible for bombings and murders.

Now, residents of Bogota are seen at restaurants and night clubs well after dark, a scene not common during the height of the violence a few years ago.

Monday, Panetta flew to the Colombian army's Tolemaida base in the central part of the country, where U.S advisors train Colombian troops. He had praise for the progress Colombia has made in improving security.

"Colombia has moved from a nation under siege, from guerrillas and drug-trafficking mafias and paramilitary groups to a country that is a force for security and prosperity in South America," said Panetta.

The troops demonstrated helicopter hostage rescue tactics and other maneuvers for Panetta.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno said Colombian forces are now in a position to train others to fight drug-traffickers.

The Colombian official said his country can now offer the experience it has gained to other nations in the region, as well as in Central America and the Caribbean.   A plan is already in place for Colombians to train Mexican helicopter pilots.

The United States says it wants to enable its partners in the region to take the lead in fighting drug-trafficking rings that Washington fears may easily become channels for terrorism.

Supporting its regional partnerships is part of the U.S administration's vision for a slimmer, more agile force at a time of severe budget cuts. Panetta said Washington will continue to offer support to its allies.

Monday, the defense secretary announced the United States will facilitate the sale of 10 helicopters to Colombia, including five advanced Blackhawks.

Dismissal sought in case
of WikiLeaks Army leaker

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Lawyers for the U.S. Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret documents to website WikiLeaks are asking a military judge to dismiss all charges.

Oral arguments on Bradley Manning's dismissal motion were scheduled at a pretrial hearing that opened Tuesday at the Fort Meade military base in Maryland. The hearing is expected to span three days.

Manning faces 22 counts, the most serious of which is aiding the enemy.

His legal team says prosecutors have failed to meet their obligations to share information that could help the defense, and that therefore the entire case should be dismissed.

Manning's lawyers are also filing a specific challenge to the aiding the enemy charge. His attorney, David Coombs, says Manning is not specifically accused of planning to give intelligence to the enemy. He also wrote in a defense motion that his client "expressly disclaimed any intent to help any enemy of the United States" in online chat logs. 

Manning is alleged to have leaked a trove of diplomatic cables and military documents related to Iraq and Afghanistan. If found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Prosecution experts testified during a preliminary hearing in December they found evidence Manning downloaded diplomatic cables onto compact discs that were sent to WikiLeaks.

Manning's lawyers have described their client as a troubled man who should not have been allowed access to classified material while serving in Iraq between November 2009 and May 2010. His attorneys also said the military's oversight of its computers was lax.

The leaked documents, published by WikiLeaks starting in July 2010, infuriated many in the international community, often providing blunt and unflattering U.S. views of world leaders' private and public lives.

U.S. officials say the WikiLeaks publication of the stolen documents put lives in danger, threatened national security and undermined American efforts to work with other countries.

U.S. sales of new homes
fall slightly in March

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sales of new homes in the U.S. fell last month, but still are edging higher than in the last months of 2011.

The government's Commerce Department said Tuesday that buyers in March bought new houses at an annual pace of 328,000, off more than 7 percent from a spurt in sales in February. The sales pace is slightly higher than in the last quarter of last year, but less than half the 700,000 figure that analysts consider the sign of a healthy market. 

The U.S. housing market is perhaps the weakest part of the American economy, the world's largest. Millions of homeowners, many of them laid off from jobs in the recession, lost their houses to bank foreclosures when they were unable to make loan payments. As a result, there is a glut of homes for sale in the country and even record-low interest rates on loans have not boosted sales much.

A separate survey showed home prices in 20 U.S. cities in February dropped at a slower pace than in recent months. But the index indicated property values still declined 3.5 percent from a year earlier.  
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Latin America news
New report spotlights gap
facing Latin rural poor

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America has the highest inequality in the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the poorest rural territories in the region, according to the “Poverty and Inequality 2011: Latin America Report” released Tuesday in Mexico City by RIMISP – Latin American Center for Rural Development.

In Mexico for instance, nearly 60 per cent of the nation’s extreme poverty is concentrated in rural areas, according to the report, and the rural illiteracy rate is 15.6 per cent, while it’s only 4.3 per cent in urban areas.

Latin America’s poorest rural territories also have limited access to healthcare. In Mexico’s Mixtla de Altamirano Municipality, 700 of every 1000 live-born babies will die in their first year of life, according to the report. In 530 other municipalities across the country, the rate is less than 1 in 1000, and the national average is 17.6 children in every 1000.

The report – made possible through funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Development Research Centre - Canada (IDRC) – highlights the causes of extreme inequality, territorial achievement gaps and lack of opportunities in Latin America’s rural sector, analyzing socio-economic indicators in health, education, economic dynamism and employment, income and poverty, citizen security, and gender equality from 10 Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.

The in-depth study paints a picture of a region of extreme haves and have-nots, of nuanced territorial differences – even within the rural sector – and of failed and successful national policies for rural poverty reduction that have both contributed to overall poverty reduction and – in some cases – exacerbated the issue.

“Overall much of Latin America is making solid advances in reducing extreme poverty and closing the inequality gap,” said Josefina Stubbs, director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Nevertheless, much work needs to be done in closing these gaps and in creating dynamic public policies.”

According to the report’s analysis, Mexico’s public policies of the last 20 years have actually served to increase poverty and inequality in rural Mexico. For example, in Mexico’s 10 richest municipalities, the average per capita earnings are around $32,000, while in the poorest they are just $603 per year.

“When we see, for example, that the average GDP per capita of the richest municipalities is 50 times higher than that of the poorest, we need to ask ourselves how we are distributing the wealth of our country,” said José Antonio Mendoza, technical secretary of the Rural Dialogue Group. This is a program that is bringing top-thinkers from Latin America together to discuss issues of poverty and inequality across the region.

According to Mendoza, the figures from the Latin America Report “harshly illustrate the extensive territorial inequalities that relegate many of our compatriots from the rural areas and future generations to a life of deficiencies and lack of opportunities. We hope that this study will be a tool for decision makers in the design of solutions and public policies for development in rural Mexico.”

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