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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, April 28, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 82     E-mail us
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First swine flu case appears in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 2:20 p.m.
Health officials say they have detected the first case of swine flu in Costa Rica. The patient is a young woman who traveled to Costa Rica from México on an airplane Saturday. Health workers are trying to contact the other persons who were on that plane.

An earlier version of the news story below incorrectly said that the incubation period for swine flu was 15 days. That was the result of  a translation error. The correct period is up to five days, according to U.S. health officials, although sometimes flu makes itself known more quickly.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with wire service reports

Regardless of the impact of swine flu in Costa Rica, the tourist industry is bound to suffer as health officials all over the world encourage people to stay home.

The Mexican tourism industry already has taken a heavy hit because the disease is an epidemic there.

Worries about the spread of swine flu virus pushed down oil prices and stock markets in the U.S., Europe, and Mexico Monday.

At one point, major Mexican stock indexes fell more than 3 percent, European share prices were off as much as 1 percent, while U.S. stocks fell about one half of a percent. 

Prices for crude oil declined more than $3 a barrel on worries that the flu outbreak could curtail air travel.

News reports say European Union officials are urging their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the United States and México, while Washington may warn Americans to curtail visits to Mexico as well.

Costa Rica appears to be free of swine flu, but the incubation period for the disease is up to five days. So people could be carrying the disease and not know it. Health officials are keeping close watch at Juan Santamaría airport where three flights a day originate in México.

The World Health Organization has raised its swine flu pandemic alert up one level to Phase 4. That's two levels below the highest phase. The move comes after new cases of the virus that was first reported in Mexico were reported in several more countries.

María Luisa Ávila Agüero, the health minister, announced in the early evening that five suspicious cases came back negative from the agency's labs. Those were the last remaining cases of some 21 that were being investigated. All were negative for swine flu.

She also said that a new Web site had been set up to answer the questions from the public about the disease. The advice given by the Comisión Nacional de Preparación para la Pandemia Influenza can be pretty much summarized to wash hands frequently, cover your mouth if you cough and isolate sick family members.

The minister said that health workers at airports were paying special attention to persons coming from San Diego and the Imperial Valley of California, Texas and México because of confirmed cases there.

There also are confirmed cases in New York.

Anyone who shows a fever higher than 38 C, about 100 F, will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. This will be at Juan Santamaría, Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia and at Tobias Bolaños in Pavas.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is trying to make an emergency purchase of protecting clothing for health workers, and some anti-flu medicine is being sought from the Pan American Health Organization in Panamá, officials said.

U.S. officials have said existing flu medication probably will not do much to stem swine flu.  They said it may be six months before a vaccine is ready for the public.

The health minister urged Costa Ricans to avoid travel, with the emphasis on travel to México, unless the need was urgent.

It was swine flu that caused a panic in the United States in 1976 that led to then-president Gerald Ford ordering efforts to vaccinate everyone. Some who received the shots had serious complications, and no epidemic ever swept the country. There were some deaths.

The World Health Organization reported that there are confirmed cases in Canada, Mexico, Spain and the United States, and there are rumors of the infection spreading to others.

“We now have 40 reported cases in the United States and approximately 26 in Mexico, others in Canada and we now have a verified case in Spain,” a spokesperson told reporters in Geneva.

Frontier Airlines in Denver, Colorado, said it would waive some charges for booked passengers going to Cancun, Cozumel, San Jose del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta if they change or delay their flights.

The swine flu alert also may have an impact on attendance at the 2009 edition of Exportur, the tourism marketplace. It is scheduled for May 13, 14 and 15. Hundreds of tourism buyers usually attend the event from many countries.

Deals made there determine the country's tourism income for the coming year.

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We can professionally evaluate your hearing problem at Clinica Dinamarca off Paseo Colón or at Hospital CIMA.

We are affiliated with Widex hearing instruments because of their quality, natural sound and intelligibility over background noise. That means  no more echoing, feedback or interference.
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Animals and plants on Costa Rican coins and folding money will be on exhibit starting May 10 at the Museos del Banco de Costa Rica. That day the museums will host an exchange of bills and money for collectors starting at 10 a.m.

Bandits kill pedestrian
on public street in daytime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two bandits confronted a man and his wife about 9 a.m. Monday on the public street in Barrio Amón, then one crook took the man to a nearby lot where he killed him with a blow to the head.

The dead man was identified by the Judicial Investigating Organization as Martín Bonilla Guadamuz, 58. He and his wife were on their way to Tibás for a medical appointment. He lived nearby.

The murder happened in the vicinity of the Caribbean bus station in north central San José between Avenidas 11 and 13.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said one bandit pulled a gun on the wife while the other man escorted the victim into the overgrown vacant lot.

Bonilla worked in the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and was in the section in charge of repairing traffic signals.

Day of dance activities
in San José and Liberia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For those who need an excuse to dance, Wednesday is the International Day of the Dance, as established by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The culture ministry is planning programs in San José and in Liberia.

In San José there is a full program of workshops and demonstrations from 11 p.m. leading up to a public dance at 7 p.m. at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura just east of Parque España.

Other events will be in the Compañía Nacional de Danza, the Colegio Costa Rica and the Teatro de la Danza.

In Guanacaste the events are at either the Colegio Artístico Felipe Pérez or in the Liberia's Parque Central. Other dance activities there extend through the weekend.

U.N.'s Ban says structure
of world finances is flawed

Special to A.M. Costa Rica staff

The current global recession has revealed the shortcomings of global financial structures, Ban Ki-moon, U.N. secretary general, said Monday, calling for institutions to become more “representative, credible, accountable and effective.”

Addressing a meeting of the Economic and Social Council Ban said that “the current global economic and financial crisis is exposing dangerous weaknesses and flaws in the international economic system.”

The current system, the secretary general said, emerged through the 1944 U.N. Conference at Bretton Woods, and the world body, with its universal membership, must be fully involved in the reform process.

“Faith in financial deregulation and market self-regulation has been diminished, to say the least,” with a rise in commitments to effective international regulation and supervision, he stressed at the gathering, also attended by the World Trade Organization, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Ban appealed for nations to resist new forms of protectionism, and underscored the need to complete the development-oriented Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations.

“Peace, stability and prosperity are indivisible,” he told participants. “Achieving these goals will take visionary reform and decisive action by all members of the international community.”

The General Assembly Conference on the world financial and economic crisis and its Impact on development in June will provide an opportunity to make progress on this front, he said.

Man falls from bridge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man died Monday when he either fell or jumped from a bridge over the Río Virilla in San Rafael de Alajuela. The Judicial Investigating Organization identified him as Miguel Umaña Bermúdez, 21. Officials said he fell 180 meters, some 590 feet.

Our reader's opinion
Anonymous officers
encourage police corruption

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If the government did a better job of requiring police to identify themselves, this would be a major improvement in reducing police corruption.

Currently, and I cannot explain why, police do not wear nametags or badge numbers that individually identify them, which of course makes them anonymous and gives them the freedom to misbehave without repercussions.  Many police vehicles are also hard to identify, some with no license plates.

My personal experience has been that if you ask the police for some identification or their names, they get extremely aggressive and angry, so I don’t advise doing this.  On occasion I have written down their license plate numbers.  Again, if they catch you doing this, they will become very aggressive and angry, so be extremely discreet when you copy their license plate numbers.

It is somewhat ridiculous to offer the public a phone number to call when they cannot identify the corrupt police they are trying to report.

This anonymous police policy of the Costa Rican government is extremely dangerous and puts the public at great risk.  Since it is common here for police not to identify themselves, my 19-year-old daughter and her friends encountered an extremely dangerous situation.  When walking to the San Pedro Mall, they were stopped by so-called police who were very aggressive with them and wanted them to get into their unmarked police car.   Fortunately my daughter was smart enough to cause a scene and started screaming to attract attention which scared off the “so-called, self-identified police,” who were probably bandits or worse.

This is a very bad public policy which should receive more complaints from residents and citizens in Costa Rica, demanding a change in the government policy of supporting anonymous police. 
Edward Bridges

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Just when we all need a little humor, Bat Boy is here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when the future seems bleak with possible plagues, plunging markets and more than flat sales, there is a ray of light.

The Weekly World News is back.

The supermarket tabloid which provides the most detailed coverage of alien invasions and Elvis sightings has been reborn on the Internet.

The company Web site has as its logo Bat Boy, that half-human half bat creature scientists found in a cave long before the current owner, Bat Boy LLC, bought the rights to the newspaper name.

Perhaps it is a journalistic fascination, but The Weekly World News was a continuing parody on newspapering and reporting.

The editors loved aliens. And when one dropped by, editors featured the visitor on the front page. Back when the newspaper still was owned by Generoso Pope, who also owned the National Enquirer, the paper seemed to cater to the readers who drooled a lot.

The Enquirer took the high road and wrote about celebrity affairs. That was market segmentation.

The beauty was that The Weekly World News never suggested it was a parody, even though the type of fiction that filled its pages is much harder to write than straight news.

One issue featured the capture of an alien, a mostly humanoid body dressed in a white body stocking with bulging, sparkling eyes. Now generally if police arrest a space alien, except in California, there might be some interest shown by folks in the Pentagon and other security agencies. Editors had to figure out what to do with the handcuffed figure.

So two weeks later when the next supermarket edition appear, the sensational news was that the alien mysteriously escaped.

The fixation with aliens continues. The current issue reports that the government of Kazakhstan is building an 
Bat Boy

alien embassy and there is a link to a report that alien ghosts haunt Roswell, New Mexico.

Like its predecessor, The Weekly World News online is as fresh as today's headlines. A feature story on swine flu shows a victim whose head has turned into that of a pig.

The sports enthusiast might be interested to know that Sarah Palin shot a bigfoot from a helicopter. Both old and new versions make heavy use of Photoshop. That's how there can be a photo of Gov. Palin, her rifle and a slain Harry from "Harry and the Hendersons."

The print version of The Weekly World News usually started with a shocking or surprising photo and then constructed a news story to match. In one case, editors found a photo of an 88-year-old newspaper delivery woman. The photo was a few years old, and editors figured the woman had gone to that golden paper route in the sky. They published a story that she had been made pregnant by a youngster on her route and ran the photo to illustrate the exclusive.

Lawyers for the now-90ish paper delivery women quickly made contact and arranged a generous settlement.

No one is off limits. The online Weekly World News reports that the Vatican announced that the Pope received an angelic visit confirming that April 22nd, Earth Day, is in fact the anniversary of the creation of Earth.

Of course the newspaper, which suspended printed copies in 2007, does have its friends. The Men in Black considered it reliable information. But now they have to use the Internet.

beach cleanup
Asociación Terra Nostra photo
Volunteers work on some of the three kilometers (nearly two miles) of beach that they cleaned up Friday at the mouth of the Río Grande de Tarcoles.

Lawmaker wants to outlaw plastic bags in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least one lawmaker wants to prohibit the use of plastic bags in Costa Rica.

He is Alexander Mora of the ruling Partido Liberación Nacional, who has introduced a proposed law to do just that.  The measure would prohibit the importation, sale and production of plastic bags.

The measure not only addresses the small plastic bags distributed by groceries. Some companies are trying to get rid of those anyway. The measure also addresses the ubiquitous plastic garbage bag.  Homeowners would have to use biodegradable materials for bags in which garbage is placed.

The law would go into effect six months after it is published, if passed. The law is a companion measure to other bills that stress recycling.
There was no shortage of plastic Friday when some 400 volunteers cleaned Playa Guacalillo and Playa Azul and picked up 4,400 kilos, about 9,700 pounds, of trash, much of it recyclable.

The cleanup was organized by Asociación Terra Nostra and many employees of Wal-Mart Centroamérica participated.

The beaches are at the mouth of the Río Grande de Tarcoles, which carries the trash from the Central Valley into the Gulf of Nicoya. So there was no shortage of garbage.

Also participating were students from the Colegio Turístico de Jacó, from the Liceo de Quebrada Ganado, from the Escuela de Bajamar, from the Telesecundaria de Tárcoles, workers of the Municipalidad de Garabito, members of the Asociación de Recicladores del Pacífico, senior citizens from the Centro Diurno María José Ugalde and students from Colegio Lincoln in San José.

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U.S. and Cuban officials carrying on talks in Washington
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The State Department says U.S. diplomats are holding talks with officials of Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington on possible follow-up measures to steps President Barack Obama took earlier this month to ease restrictions on the island nation. The Obama administration says it wants to see an easing of political conditions by the Havana government.

The State Department says its top official for Latin America met with the head of Cuba's diplomatic interests section in Washington Monday for the second time in as many weeks for exploratory talks on prospects for improving the historically chilly U.S. Cuban relationship.

Two weeks ago, on the eve of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Obama eased travel restrictions and remittance rules for U.S. citizens with relatives in Cuba in keeping with the new administration's stated commitment to reach out to U.S. adversaries.

Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs called in Cuban mission chief Jorge Bolaños to brief him on those actions April 13, the day they were announced, said a State Department spokesman.

They had a follow-up discussion Monday at an undisclosed location here in Washington, the spokesman, Robert Wood, said.

Wood said the Obama administration would like to see the Communist government in Havana reciprocate the U.S. opening with steps to ease political restrictions in Cuba.  
"We want to see the Cuban government reciprocate," said Wood. "We'd like to see a release of political prisoners.

There are a host of steps that the Cuban government can take and we'd like to see. I'm not going to put conditionality on things. Clearly there are some steps the Cuban government needs to do with regard to its own people, allowing the Cuban people to have some of the freedoms that are enjoyed in other countries in the hemisphere."

Wood downplayed the significance of Shannon's meetings with the Cuban official, saying the two sides have had discussions in the past when events warranted them. But another official here said he was aware of only one such meeting during the last year of the Bush administration.

After easing the U.S. embargo on Cuba two weeks ago, Obama said that it was up to Cuba to take the next step.
Cuban President Raúl Castro said in apparent response that his government is ready for dialogue on all issues, including human rights, provided that the talks occur on equal terms and without challenging Cuba's sovereignty.

Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro later appeared to roll back his brother's overture, saying his stated willingness to discuss all issues had been misinterpreted.

The United States and Cuba have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961, but they opened interests sections in each others' capitals in 1977 to handle consular issues, visas and other routine matters. The interests sections are technically part of the Swiss embassies in Havana and Washington. 

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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.

About half of U.S. adults change religion, survey says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new survey says about half of all American adults have changed their religious affiliation at least once during their lifetime.  The survey indicates a fluid and diverse religious life in the United States marked by people moving among faiths and denominations.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, says Americans change religious affiliation early and sometimes often.

The survey found that most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and a majority joined their current religion before turning 36. 

John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, says those surveyed reported many different motivations for changing their religious affiliation.

"Overall, most people reported just gradually drifting away from their childhood faith," said Green. "Another common reason was that the respondents stopped believing their religion's teachings.  Specific complaints about religious leaders and religious institutions also mattered to many people who changed."

The new report, titled "Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.," seeks to answer questions about widespread religion changing identified in a 2007 Pew poll of 35,000 Americans.

The latest survey is based on interviews of more than 2,800 people from the original survey and is focused on religious populations that showed significant movement, such as former Catholics, former Protestants or Protestants who have changed denominations.

Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew organization, says many people who are currently not affiliated with any denomination have stopped believing in the teachings of their former religion.

"And many also become unaffiliated due to disillusionment or disenchantment with religious people or organizations, saying that religious people are hypocritical and judgmental rather than sincere or forgiving or that religious organizations focus too much on rules and not enough on spirituality," said Smith.

Smith says two-thirds of former Catholics who are not currently affiliated with a denomination say they left the church because they stopped believing in its teachings.

"More than half expressed discontent specifically with Catholic teachings on issues like abortion and homosexuality," he said. "About half expressing displeasure with the religion's teachings on birth control and one-third expressing dissatisfaction with Catholicism's teachings about divorce and remarriage."

Smith says among those surveyed who switched denominations within the Protestant church, beliefs were less important as a reason for change.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 28, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 82

Latin American news digest
money from tourist
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía  
y Seguridad Pública  
Money confiscated from tourist

Incoming tourist found
with cash stash in suitcase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 30-year-old Nicaraguan man has $192,500 in his suitcase when police detained him near the Peñas Blancas border crossing, they said. The man was trying to cross at an illegal location, they added.

This is the first case of suspected money laundering that has come to light in the country this year.

In 2008, $554,000 were confiscated at Juan Santamaría airport and $359,950 were found at the same Peñas Blancas crossing, police said. An additional $372,100 were confiscated at the Sixaola crossing at the border with Panamá, police said.

Rural tourism bill stalled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative proposal to promote rural tourism failed to win a required second approval in the Asamblea Legislativa Monday because lawmakers wanted to discuss the project more. José Merino del Río of Frente Amplio argued that the measure should assist more smaller enterprises.

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