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(506) 223-1327                Published Tuesday, May 8, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 90           E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Registro is planning to outsource its key data bases
By Arnoldo Cob Mora
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

 The Registro Nacional, the government agency that holds all the property descriptions, automobile records and corporate ownership information, will be outsourcing its computer storage system at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

That was the word from  Dagoberto Sibaja, Registro director. Although the Registro has threatened to do this in the past,  Sibaja said that this time plans for a bidding process already were in the works.

The Registro has been plagued by computer problems.  Sibaja blamed much of the problem on the age of the system, the interface with the Registro Web page and the more than 1 million requests for information the system handles each business day.

He said that the internal system was working just fine but that the Web page is constantly under attack from companies that want information.

That wasn't the case Friday when four real estate consultants went to the Registro at 7 a.m. to obtain copies of plat plans. They were there all day trying to get their documents, and counted two blackouts and two crashes by the Registro main computer.

The Registro holds all the sensitive property information and other ownership records. But  Sibaja did not seem concerned by the plan to put all this one-of-a-kind information in the hands of a private company.

Without adequate and speedy property information, the chances of fraud are increased.

The trouble-plagued Registro was to be in the forefront of the Costa Rican government's digital administration.

Recent problems with the Registro Web page were caused by migrating property data to a $250,000 system of Visual Age 4.5, said the director. Web information had been unavailable online for weeks.

With the migration to the new system, workers at
BM server
A.M. Costa Rica/Arnoldo Cob Mora
This is the IBM server being phased out

 the Registro expect an increase in speed of about 90 percent. Also planned is an upgrade by  factor of 10 the access to the computers, said the director. This will include some anti-hacker software.

Jhonny Chavarría, director of Informatica at the Registro, said that hackers, viruses and companies seeking massive amounts of information presented big problems.

Access to the Registro data base now is controlled by codes that only humans can read. So each information seeker is limited to one request at one time.

Chavarría said that the data base was running on an IBM server but that a Hewlett Packard server is taking over.

Meanwhile, the company  Flecha Roja Technologies S.A. has a 23 million-colon contract for maintenance. That's $44,000. The contract began about a year ago, and the firm said it is helping the Registro by migrating one of their Web applications to a new look and incorporating new features.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 90

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Electric rates will go up
about 5 percent for homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Electric rates in the San José area are going up. The  Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos approved a 5 percent increase in residential rates Monday to the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz.

The company has not had an increase for a year.

The rates a disproportionately higher at low usage. For example, the increase  for 200 kilowatt hours is 11.8 percent. At 550 kilowatt hours the increase is just 2.23 percent.

The company has about 455,000 customers.

Robber suspect to stand
trial for home invasions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who was linked to the home invasion and robbery at the residence of a Dutch diplomat will go to trial Wednesday. He has been identified by the last names of  Alfaro Castro.

Investigators have linked him to a gang that was involved in a number of home invasions and other crimes in 2005. The gang operated in the Escazú, Santa Ana and Pavas areas.

Investigators said that Nov. 10, 2005, the gang targeted the home of the diplomat, identified by the last name of Grijns. The man was not at home, but the gang terrorized his wife and three children, said the Poder Judicial. All they took was 10,000 colons (some $19.25), tools, a cell telephone, jewelry and household appliances.

The gang also has been linked to a home invasion involved the residence of another foreigner, this one identified by the last name of Frederick, said the Poder Judicial.

There are at least six other persons who say they have been robbed by the same group, the Poder Judicial said.

Suspicion in the country:
Paying a taxi with $100

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Trying to pay a taxi driver with a $100 bill qualifies as acting suspicious in the countryside.

That's why Fuerza Pública officers in Abangares heard about a man with the last name of  Durán Quesada. He also tried to change $100 bills in a gas station and in a restaurant, they said.

When police approached they said he fled and threw away his wallet. Police recovered it, and investigators said it contained $500 in funny money. He will be going to court Wednesday in  Cañas to answer the charge.

Union that helps migrants
worries about security

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A union that helps Mexicans get temporary U.S. work visas has asked Mexico's government for protection after the killing of an employee in its office in northern Mexico.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee says local police have made no progress in solving the April 9 killing, which happened after the same office had suffered repeated burglaries of the union's files.

The union has asked the government for closed-circuit video monitoring of the office and says it believes the killing and prior break-ins are related to the union's work in protecting migrants' rights.

The group is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions in the United States. It fights abuses by unscrupulous Mexican recruiters who overcharge migrants to process their temporary visas.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 90

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Young croc has its mouth taped for this stunt
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A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Guide Sergio Arturo Méndez shows how an ant can hold a hat

Language students get great tour at TEC Santa Clara campus
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The month is May and that means the waves of students from the north will be gracing Costa Rica.

A typical group from  Lexington, Kentucky, visited the  Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica campus in Santa Clara de San Carlos over the weekend and got the tour of a lifetime. The school is know as TEC.

The eighth graders are from  Bryan Station Middle School, and like many school groups, the youngsters had to come up with their own money to make the trip. In this case it was $2,400 plus parental approval.

Because they are Spanish language students, English was off limits. Sergio Arturo Méndez  was the guide who showed them all over the zoo-like setting. The institute has a number of insects but also deer, crocodiles and caiman

Victor Ballestero, an associate professor from Morehead, Kentucky, State University was in charge. He heads the international program at his school and frequently comes with student groups.

The guide led the group to an encounter with deer.  Next was the butterfly enclosure where students fluttered about attempting photographs.  The large iridescent blue butterfly never stopped moving, so it seemed pretty much impossible to get a picture.  Later the students were shown the cages with the butterfly pupae.  Then they walked on a trail through the institute's own natural forest, going alongside a river, using man-made bridges and concrete stairs here and there. 
Along the way one could hear a student gasping now and then, saying, “Oh, there’s a poisonous frog,” or, “Oh, there’s a giant ant.” 

The guide provided various lessons along the way:  He demonstrated how rubber starts to flow from the rubber tree after a simple prick with a knife;  He “called” giant ants from their underground nest by hitting rocks together on the ground, and later held one in his fingers while the ant held the entire weight of his baseball cap.  Méndez next showed the type of giant ant which is poisonous and therefore dangerous, called the balas ant.  The ant is the largest in Central America, and the guide correctly pointed out that the bite is very painful.

Next was the termite nest attached to a tree.  The students were invited to eat the termites, apparently harmless.  A few students accepted the invitation, saying there wasn’t really any taste.

The end of the tour was at the crocodile and caiman pools.  The guide explained how to differentiate one from the other, saying that the crocodile has two rows of spines across its back and has a long, narrow snout. The caiman has a short, wide snout, and is smaller than a crocodile. 

Méndez said that the only way to learn if either species is male or female is to poke a finger inside its body on the belly side, and one student accepted an invitation to do just that. 

The students have many more activities to cram into their eight-day visit. They end up in Manuel Antonio and the beach.  Ballestero said he has another group coming in June.

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 90

Turtles attracted by fishermen's lightsticks get snagged
By the  University of North Carolina news service

Thousands of loggerhead turtles die every year when they get tangled or hooked in commercial fishing longlines meant for tuna or swordfish.  New research suggests a possible reason why turtles swim into the lines. The glowing light sticks that lure fish to longlines also attract turtles, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

The light sticks used in longline fisheries resemble the disposable plastic tubes popular with children on Halloween. The steady glow draws fish, which then find baited hooks and are caught on the lines. The lights also seem to fascinate turtles, however, which are equally likely to chomp on fish bait, or get snagged in the hooks and lines.

“Juvenile turtles are indiscriminant eaters and bite nearly everything small that they encounter,” said Ken Lohmann, a professor of biology and senior author of the study.  “Under natural conditions, most small objects floating or swimming through the sea are potential sources of food.  But nowadays, with fishing lines, plastic, and garbage in the ocean, biting everything is not such a great strategy.”

The study appears in the May 2007 issue of the journal Animal Conservation. John Wang, a former graduate student at Carolina and now a research associate with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, was the lead author of the study.

The new findings may help fisheries decrease the number of turtles caught on lines, the researchers said. Most longlines deploy their hooks below the depths where turtles usually swim, so shading the lights to direct illumination downward instead of upward might make the lights harder for turtles to see.

Similarly, switching to colors that turtles can’t detect very well might also reduce turtle deaths, they said.
All sea turtles are endangered species. A recent estimate published in the journal Ecology Letters suggests 200,000 loggerhead and 50,000 leatherback turtles may die each year in commercial fishery longlines. Total populations have declined in the past 20 years, Lohmann said.

While it’s difficult to separate the impact of longline fisheries from other threats turtles face, researchers say that the loss to longlines is significant because the turtles caught are often adolescents, which die before they have a chance to reproduce. Only about one in 5,000 turtles ever survive to adulthood. In the past, those lucky enough to last a few years in the ocean could expect a long life and would replenish the population. With the advent of longline fishing, the number of survivors has dwindled. “A lot of turtles that beat the odds and would otherwise have lived long lives are now being caught on longlines,” Lohmann said.

Lohmann, Wang and their team tested loggerhead turtle’s response to light sticks in a large, water-filled tank. Turtles were placed into a soft cloth harness and tethered to an electronic tracking device that monitored their movements. Safely encased in the soft fabric and released in the tank, the turtles swam as if in the open ocean, apparently unaware that they aren’t going anywhere, Wang said.

When glowing light sticks were introduced to the tank, the turtles swam toward them, as if curious about the lights, Lohmann said. The color or type of the light stick did not seem to matter. The turtles paddled toward green, blue and yellow light sticks, as well as toward both plastic chemical lightsticks and newer models based on reusable LEDs.

Both captive-raised and wild-caught juvenile turtles were attracted to glowing light sticks, whether in total darkness or underneath a night sky, Wang said. When the lights weren’t activated, they were unappealing. The experiments were conducted at the National Marine Fisheries Services’ Galveston Laboratory in Texas and in south Florida.

U.N. report blames Caribbean crime on the proliferation of the drug trade
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The highest murder and assault rates in the world are undermining economic growth in the Caribbean region, according to a report published by the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The report blames the illicit drug trade and calls for international measures to address the problem.

According to the report increased crime severely hinders financing, causes a decline in worker productivity and makes governments, business and individuals spend precious resources on security measures.

“The report clearly shows that crime  and  violence are
 development issues,” according to Caroline Anstey, World  Bank  director for the Caribbean, who called for assistance from the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development, which promotes democratic governance and the market economy.

The primary cause of skyrocketing crime in the region is illicit drug traffic, particularly in cocaine, and the proliferation of guns that accompanies that trade. Since Caribbean countries are transit points and not producers of cocaine, the report states, interdiction needs to be complemented by other strategies outside the region.

Policies should also focus on limiting the availability of firearms and on providing meaningful work alternatives to youth, according to the report.

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