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(506) 2223-1327              Published Wednesday, April 28, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 82        E-mail us
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Musicians and composers will march May Day, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday is May 1, the Día del Trabajador in Costa Rica and May Day in many other parts of the world.

This is the time that any individual or group with a gripe hits the streets with signs and posters to present a case. Because the day is a Saturday, there likely will be greater participation this year. The event approaches a tourist attraction.

One group that has not marched before are the musicians and composers. But this year they have a trio of gripes. Their contingent promises to be entertaining because there are national level musical artists and singers planning to attend and perform.

The musicians' march is being organized by the Asociación de Compositores y Autores Musicales de Costa Rica and the Asociación de Intérpretes y Ejecutantes Musicales. They are unhappy because President Óscar Arias Sánchez trashed their copyright protection for their works.

The group and supporters will be gathering at 8:30 a.m. at the Parque de la Merced. Then they will march to the Plaza de la Democracia where they will put on three or more hours of performances.

Arias signed a decree in October that removed the obligation of operators of bars, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and similar from showing that they are current with their payments for the use of music.

Without the obligation to show proof of payment to renew their business licenses some firms have declined to pay the artists, the organizations said. They want Arias to junk the decree.

Arias also issued what is called an exception to the Convention of Rome that regulates payments to artists and composers. The particular article involved requires radio and television stations to buy a license to pay for the music and songs they use. The authors and performers say that without the treaty article being in force, the way is open for a national law to abolish their rights.

Arias was quoted saying that the free use of music and musical performances by radio and television stations was important to the culture of the country. Others saw the move as highly political. The performers and composers want the exception to be withdrawn.

The organizations also want rejected a proposed law that would exonerate radio and television stations from having to pay for the use of the copyrighted material.

The organizations said that music produced here represents just 3 percent of the programming. But the actions by Arias also diminish the protection provided foreign artists whose works are used here.

Still uncertain is the effect that an intellectual property measure that is about to be passed by the legislature will have on composer and author rights.
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A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce

Back to the scene of the grime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmental activists of Bloque Verde who protested last week over an open pit gold mine returned Tuesday to repair damage the demonstration caused.

The site was the grassy area inside the Rotenda de Hispanidad, which is in front of Mall San Pedro. Demonstrators April 21 dug large holes in the dirt to signify open pit mines that they oppose.

Tuesday trees were planted.

The mine will be a major topic in the May 1 march.


The bill, which is the last of 14 free trade treaty  bills, contains criminal penalties.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados
Públicos y Privados will be getting a jump on the May Day march. Public employee members of the union plan to march Thursday in opposition to an omnibus labor law they say will eliminate some of their rights.

Among other benefits, the proposed law eliminates the salario escolar and reduced the Christmas bonus, the aguinaldo, for public employees. The salario escolar is a payment made to employees free of taxes ostensibly to help pay for the education of their children. In fact, it is a way to obtain untaxed payments.

The proposed law also endangers some types of incentive pay, according to the union.

The public employees plan to march again Saturday. The march Thursday will begin at 10 a.m.

In addition to the union members, the musicians and composers and assorted persons with individual gripes, university students, anarchists and others will be out in force opposing the Las Crucitas open pit gold mine near Cutris in northern Costa Rica. Although the mine has received all of its legal approvals, including a go-ahead from the Sala IV constitutional court, environmental organizations still are fighting.


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Vote this week can make
free trade a done deal


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will leave office with the free trade treaty with the United States completed.

The Sala IV constitutional court has given the green light to the 14th and final measure in the free trade package. That opened the door for lawmakers to consider the matter sometime this week. The Asamblea Legislativa already passed the measure on the first reading, but action was frozen when opponents asked for a high court review.

The measure covers intellectual property rights, including songs and other types of creative works. Part of the law establishes criminal penalties for infringement. There also are stiff fines for violation.

Arias spent nearly all his four-year term engineering passage of the free trade treaty. The pact got the nation's approval in an October 2007 referendum after a bitter campaign.

The United States pushed for an intellectual property section in the treaty because of the wholesale counterfeiting of music and movie CDs. The law that got the approval Tuesday implemented the concepts outlined in the free trade treaty and brought national law into conformity.

The United States has frozen some sugar import quotas until the final law gets approval.
 

Wildlife abounds on bills
announced by Banco Central


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banco Central de Costa Rica plans to introduce new currency in a few months. The new bills are dominated by graphics of a monkey, sloth, a bird, butterfly, a shark and a Guanacaste tree.

The brightly colored bills are different in width so that the blind can recognize a denomination. The smallest denomination is the narrowest.

The bank said that new denominations of 20,000 colons and 50,000 colons would be introduced.

The highest denomination now is 10,000 colons (almost $20), so a large amount of cash can be a big bundle.


Panamá to open a base
in Bocas del Toro


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Panamá is opening a military base at Bocas del Toro to try to stop drug trafficking in the Caribbean.

In addition the country is setting up a base in the Darian province on the Pacific. Bocas del Toro is just south of Costa Rica's Limón province.

The country has set up a handful of such bases in the last few months with the goal of stemming the drug trade.

Some leftist leaders to the south suggest that the bases will be used by U.S. forces to reverse popular revolutions, but Panama denies this.

The action is another sign that the Caribbean is handling more of the drug traffic because the Pacific is so well watched.  Anti-drug agents have expressed concern about the possible presence of drug bases in the lightly guarded eastern Nicaragua. Honduras to the north also is known as a stopover point for traffickers who use the Caribbean routes.


Slide closes highway
on route to Limón


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A hillside slide onto Route 32, the San José-Limón highway, Tuesday morning effectively closing the road in Parque Nacional Braulio Carillo north of San José. Workers for the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said that the road probably would not be opened until this morning.

The slide, prompted by wet weather, was hundreds of cubic meters of dirt, rock and trees. There were no injuries because a smaller slide preceded the larger one and warned motorists.


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A.M. Costa Rica 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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

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.


For your international reading pleasure:


News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Panamá

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 82

Sean and Ingred Hobba and daughter Kate are pictured on the road near Arenal.
Biking family

Costa Rica in the midpoint for a family trip of a lifetime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A family trio from Scotland is peddling somewhere between Arenal and Grecia today as they continue on what they call a trip of a lifetime.

The family, Sean and Ingred Hobba and daughter Kate, 7, have biked here from the Yukon Territory in Canada. Their goal is to reach the tip of South America.

The daughter rides double with her father on a bike built for two. They have been on their trip for nine months now and have blazed a path through Canada, the United States, México, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In Grecia they plan to spend a few days with new friends and then push on to Jacó and then south to Panamá.
Also on the trip are Kate's three teddy bears. The family enjoys taking photos along their route, and the daughter tries to get the well-traveled bears in shots at major points of interest.

"So if any of your readers happen to see these three brave travelers on our mountain roads in the next month as they make their way to Panamá, I hope they will please slow down and pass respectfully," said Janet and Bob Hoegg, who will be their host and hostess in Grecia.

"Maybe give a little toot and a wave, but keep these very special cyclists safe.  And if they are parked at a rest stop or camp ground, how about a friendly 'Hi there' just to let them know Costa Rica is a country full of happy friendly people who admire adventurers."


Clear morning skies set country up for afternoon downpours
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the driving forces behind the rapid, early change to the rainy season are the clear skies in the morning.
Weather experts note that this provides a lot of heat that warms the air and allows it to suck up more moisture. That plus dueling low pressure systems that sweep moist ocean air into the country result in the afternoon storms that have made for cloudy and rainy afternoons since Friday. The low pressure areas have moved to the south.

The Instituto Meteorológico nacional continues to produce daily warnings of coming afternoon storms and the possibility of rain-caused problems. There was isolated flooding and some slides Tuesday.

For the most part, the damage came from homeowners kicking themselves for not fixing the roof or the rain gutters when the skies were clear. And it was not just homeowners.
A storage room full of medical supplies and equipment at La Carid maternity hospital in San José became flooded, and firemen had to come to pump out the water. The amount of the loss to the public hospital had not been calculated.

Hardware stores reported greater than normal numbers of customers looking for waterproof paint, some of the special liquids that are used to seal gutters, aluminum tape for patching leaks and caulking.

The prediction seems to be a little less wet for today. The weather institute said that unstable atmospheric conditions would again bring in moisture during the early hours of the day. The sultry weather would give way to afternoon storms on the Pacific coast and the Central Valley. In some cases there will be thunderstorms, the institute said. In the Caribbean and the northern zone, the rain would be mostly in the mountains, said the forecast. But some locations may see partly cloudy afternoon skies, it added.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 82

Arias chats briefly with the head of ICE via a device designed for Internet voice and video communication.
Arias and voice over
Casa Presidencial photo


Telecom giant ICE trying to create an integrated Web

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, freed of some constrictions by a new law, is struggling to make up for lost time.

Tuesday with fanfare and a visit from the president, the national telecom company displayed a voice-over-Internet system. Costa Ricans and expats have had Internet telephone calls for at least 10 years, even though the company known as ICE sometimes would crack down on Internet cafes offering the service and choke off the Internet ports for private parties.

The system shown Tuesday was not remarkably different than Yahoo messenger or similar services. President Óscar Arias Sánchez spoke via the Internet to Pedro Pablo Qiuirós, the executive president of ICE. They were just rooms apart, but it was a made for television moment.
The telecom giant is attempting to integrate voice and data transmission with e-mail and fax. This unified system of communications was touted as the largest of its type in Latin America run by one company. This communication system is supposed to extend to the entire country. Tuesday's presentation was described as the first step.

Arias noted that passage of a law strengthening ICE provided the impetus for the new development.

ICE has had a love-hate relationship with voice-over-Internet, and there was no indication how the company would handle competing technologies. ICE no longer has a monopoly on Internet services.

In addition to its subsidiary, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., one private firm already is hooked directly to the international cables. However, ICE still has a monopoly on land-line telephone systems.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 82

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Mexico issues travel alert
for citizens visiting Arizona

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Mexican government continues to react to the U.S. state of Arizona's new immigration law, issuing a travel alert and canceling an annual meeting with the state's government.

Mexico's ministry of foreign affairs issued a travel warning Tuesday for Mexicans going to or residing in Arizona. In a statement, the ministry urges Mexicans to "act with prudence and with respect to the local legal framework."

The statement says that once the law takes effect, every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time. The new law requires immigrants in Arizona to carry registration documents with them at all times and requires police to question people if there is reason to believe they are illegal immigrants.

Monday, the government of the Mexican state of Sonora announced it has canceled the annual Sonora-Arizona Commission meeting scheduled for June to protest the new law.

Monday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon condemned the new immigration law, saying it opens the door to intolerance, hate and discrimination.

Opponents say the law will result in racial profiling in which police target people because of their race or ethnic background. Supporters say the measure will help combat a wave of crime blamed on illegal immigrants.

Our reader's opinion
Arizona immigration law
may be a wakeup call


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I took pleasure in seeing a rational response to the situation in Arizona. 

Unfortunately it had to come from a Costa Rican newspaper. Political correctness has taken over in a big way here in the U.S. The Arizona law may not be perfect, but it is a start. The people of Arizona have been characterized as xenophobes, racists and worse. Not fair for a people who want to keep their streets safe and life secure.

My son's friend lived there for a while, and most people have to keep their cars behind gates in their driveways lest they get stolen only to be driven over the border into Mexico.

One of the things about Costa Rica which I find admirable: At the airport you are better screened when taking a flight to the U.S. than when you leave it.   I've seen people pulled off the line as you are about ready to enter the gangway to board the plane. They were pulled off because they looked shady, were unkempt or were traveling alone. They were profiled. It was done in a country that has little resources to spare, but one that knows tourism is important and takes the extra step to insure safety.

We were screened no less than three times ourselves before boarding, and we are a family of four.

The U.S. has a lot to learn about protecting our borders. Maybe this move by Arizona will wake those in Washington up.
Al Loria
New York
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 82


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Bloggers on front line
of world freedom fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Media advocacy groups say the Internet is becoming the new battleground for press freedom as authoritarian governments around the world crack down on growing expressions of dissent on the Web.

From China to Iran, bloggers have provided voices of dissent in places where few, if any, were heard before.

But a group of U.S. congressmen and press freedom activists are drawing attention to the growing censorship of online journalism around the world.

One, Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said bloggers are often more vulnerable than traditional journalists.

"Whereas in the past journalists worked usually for a newspaper or a broadcasting company and had some kind of institutional-corporate protection. They had colleagues and on staff. They had lawyers who could help them when they got into trouble. Now more and more of these bloggers are independent, freelancers even, they have no backing, they are on their own when they're up against these huge oppressive government bureaucracies," Mahoney said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says last year it found at least 68 bloggers, Web-based reporters and online editors under arrest worldwide.  That was half the total number of journalists in jail.

Journalism groups worry that even those who are not jailed may be censoring themselves as a consequence of the crackdowns.

Iranian blogger Omid Memarian was imprisoned in 2004 for his work as a journalist.  He later left Iran and monitored the bloody repression of street protests that followed the elections in June 2009.

"If it was not for the Internet, God knows how many more people would have been killed on the streets of Tehran and other cities," Memarian said.

The Internet is being used to expose torture, organize public protests, and push the limits of acceptable speech in repressive societies.

Blogging has taken off in China in recent years.  Tienchi Martin-Liao of the Independent Chinese PEN center estimates there are now tens of millions of bloggers.  But the government is using technology developed in the West to monitor everything from e-mail to voice-over-the-internet. 

She said Western companies should follow Google's lead and stop cooperating with the Chinese government.

Freedom of speech activists say there is an increasing arsenal of software that helps online journalists circumvent attempts at censorship.  But countries like Iran and China have become increasingly sophisticated at using technology and blogging propaganda.




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