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These stories were published Tuesday, May 10, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 91
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Embassy yard sale moves into electronic realm
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The days of prowling through the U.S. Embassy storeroom in Pavas looking for a good deal are over. The traditional embassy yard sale has gone high tech.

An embassy spokesperson said Monday that an online firm has been contracted to conduct electronic auctions of the surplus goods from the embassy.

The company is Zona Quinientos Seis S.A., which operates the Web site rematico.com from its offices in The Forum in Santa Ana. The site is new, having been registered just April 14. In fact, the embassy is the first customer to put items for auction on the site, said a spokesman for the firm Monday.

Some 93 items are offered, including computers, chairs, tables, desks and household electric items.

The one problem is that the would-be buyer cannot examine an item closely to determine the condition. However, the seller characterizes an item. A Pentium III CPU without cables or a hard drive was called good. An electric water distiller was listed as almost new.

The company is making sure that the items on the Web site were not snatched out of someone’s home the night before. Only established companies can offer items for sale on the Web site. But anyone can be a buyer as long as the company can verify the name and location.

Companies are rated by the firm. The U.S. Embassy is called "trusted’ on the Web site.

The company also has a very long agreement 

Homepage shows surplus computers

posted on its site that basically absolves it from anything. It collects the money via bank deposit or credit card, but the buyer has to pick up the merchandise. For the embassy sale, the buyer has to go to the Pavas warehouse where auctions were held in the past on Friday afternoons.

The company is compensated with a percentage of the action.

Similar to an eBay auction, the item is displayed on the site with an initial price, perhaps 10,000 colons (about $21). A closing date for the sale is posted. The best price during the auction period gets the merchandise. The closing dates for the embassy items generally are from May 20 to May 25.

Embassy workers have been criticized in the past because of their off-handed marketing efforts for surplus items. An embassy spokesman admitted last year that workers just want to get rid of surplus items. In addition, any money generated goes into the U.S. general fund and not to the embassy, he said.


 
Four new three-day holidays enter into law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica now has four official three-day weekends. A law specifying that was published Monday in La Gazeta, the mandatory step before a law goes into effect.

The Asambela Legislative passed the measure April 13, and President Abel Pacheco signed off on it, in part because the measure is expected to benefit tourism.

The new law specifies four days that will be celebrated on the following Monday instead of on the day of the week the holiday date falls.

The days are April 11, the Battle of Rivas; July 

25, the Annexation of Nicoya; Aug. 15, Mother’s Day, and Oct. 12, Day of the Cultures. When any of these days fall on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, the holiday is moved to the next Monday.

However, school children will recognize the day on the actual date with obligatory commemorations in class, says the law. However, they still will have the following Monday off.

When the date falls on a Monday, as July 25 does this year, school children will have the day off but will conduct the appropriate commemorations the previous Friday, says the law.

 
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 10, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 91

 
Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-9393

 
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A.M. Costa Rica photo 
The 75-year-old Gran Hotel Costa Rica has been designated an historical and architectural heritage site and has undergone an ambitious face-lifting effort. The photo is shot from a top floor of the Ministerio de Hacienda across the street.

Long reach wireless phones
are said to be illegal here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wireless telephones that have a reach of more than 200 meters are illegal, a spokesman for the Departmental de Control Nacional de Radio said Monday.

Such radios are being sold in the country and advertised for their "long reach," the spokesman said. However, these devices use a frequency that is allocated here to ham radio operators and various private communication services, said the spokesman.

Melvin Murillo, head of the department of radio control, said that typically wireless phones have no more than a 200-meter (650-foot) reach. Radio interference is a problem, he said, but added that those who use the telephones with the strong signal are spewing their conversations all over the country and losing confidentiality because anyone with a radio with the correct frequency can pick up the signal.

In fact, nearly all wireless telephones are subject to eavesdropping. Just because the signal dies 50 or 100 feet from the base telephone that is plugged into the wired system does not mean persons with better receivers cannot pick up the signal.

A ploy by drug control agents elsewhere is to present a wireless telephone to a suspected drug dealer as a gift, perhaps a prize from some undefined lottery. Then the agents camp out near the suspect’s home monitoring the frequency of the telephone, gathering evidence for the arrest of the individual.

Second season starts
as well as the rain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The second tourist season has arrived along with the afternoon rains.

The end of university classes in the United States and elsewhere is freeing backpackers and other low-budget travelers for visits here.

At the same time, the weather has changed. May usually is a transitional month between the dry Costa Rican "summer" and the rainy "winter," which runs until mid-December.

However, there has been nothing transitional about the rain that has fallen the last couple of days in the Central Valley. More is predicted.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says that a tropical low pressure area is causing instability throughout the country and provoking a lot of rain. Afternoon rains are predicted for today with some isolated strong showers on the Pacific and in the northern zone.

The rainy season is consolidating over the entire country except the Nicoya Peninsula, which always is the first to welcome the dry season and the last to admit the rainy season.

With the rainy season comes lower fares and hotel rates to benefit the budget travelers.
 
Karl 
Schmack 

of the Centro Cultural Costarricense-
Norteamericano

New director appointed
for cultural center

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A former tobacco company executive is the new executive director of the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano. He is Karl Schmack, who worked as director of marketing for the British American Tobacco Co. with responsibilities for Spain, England and the United States, according to a release from the center.

Schmack has an economics degree from the University de Costa Rica and a master’s in business administration from West Georgia College in the United States, the announcement said.

Schmack, 36, took over the job in April but the appointment was not announced until Monday.

The 60-year-old center, which used to be under the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency, now is an independent organization with its own board. 

The announcement said that Schmack will be working to consolidate the 2-year-old center branch in Cartago and to consider expansion in new areas of the country.

The center is a leader in the teaching of English as a foreign language. The primary location is in Los Yoses east of San José, but a second location is in Sabana Norte.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.
James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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FAX: (506) 223-1190

   In Costa Rica:                       From elsewhere:

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with the observations of Dr. Lenny Karpman
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A time to slow down
to figure out this puzzle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sometimes even a hummingbird has to slow down — like when the exit is blocked by a transparent piece of glass.

That’s what happened to this fellow when he zipped into a San José home. The birds are known for their rapid flights and the hovering in the air while sipping from a flower. They almost never pose for the camera.

Known as colibrí in Costa Rican Spanish, the hummingbird has nearly 50 different types in Costa Rica. It is an important pollinator for certain plants.

Some expats like to hang feeders with sugar water. But you better take them in overnight because bats like sweets, too.

P.S. The bird quickly found a way out.
 


 
Sunday is the day of the farmer and the farmer's saint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is the Day of the Farmer in Costa Rica and the feast day of 12th century farmer San Isidro Labrador or St. Isidro the Laborer.

Here the day will be celebrated in la Garita with a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the agricultural experiment station Estación Agrícola Fabio Baudrit of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The program is being planned by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

Elsewhere, particularly in communities bearing the name of the saint celebrations will be held.

This is a big day in the Spanish-speaking world because the saint also is the patron of the City of Madrid.  St. 

Isidro is well known throughout the former Spanish territories of the United States. He often is represented as a man driving a pair of oxen.

The story of the saint is an unusual one, even for 12th century Spain. Isidro was so taken with going to church that an angel used to take his place in the field and guide the oxen as they ploughed so the job would get done even as Isidro prayed.

The saint, long dead, was believed instrumental in the recovery of Phillip III of Spain from a serious illness in 1598.

San Isidro Labrador also happened to be married to a saint, Santa María de la Cabeza. 

He may enlist angels into the farming ranks, but she is believed to be able to bring rain during a drought.


 
Brazil and Venezuela lead hemisphere in gun deaths
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.N. report says Brazil ranks second in the world for deaths by firearms, behind Venezuela. Officials attribute much of the gun violence to illegal drug and gang activities. A senior lawmaker is calling for swifter action to ban firearms. 

According to the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization survey of 54 countries, Brazil averages nearly 22 gun-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, second only to Venezuela. 

The president of Brazil's lower house of Congress, Severino Cavalcanti said the report is a wake up call for authorities. "It is deplorable this is happening," said Cavalcanti after receiving the report. "We need to do everything we can to safeguard our society."

Officials say many of Brazil's gun deaths are drug and gang related. Here in Rio de Janeiro, drug gang 

members often roam the streets of the city's hillside slums, known as "favelas," toting assault rifles and other firearms. 

Brazilian lawmakers are considering a national referendum that would ask Brazilians if the sale of guns and ammunition should be prohibited. Cavalcanti says he is working to speed the process along. The referendum is scheduled for October. 

Brazil has taken steps to try to curtail gun violence. A new gun-control law went into effect in September. It includes stricter control of weapons imports and mandatory registration of all firearms. Gun licenses will also have to be renewed every three years.

In July, Brazil began a nationwide campaign that compensates citizens for turning in firearms, whether registered or not. Those who give their guns to federal police receive between $40 and $120, depending on the size and caliber of the weapon.


 
Historic meeting today between Latins and Arabs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Latin American and Arab leaders are in Brasilia for a summit on trade and other issues. Among the 22 Arab region representatives attending the summit is Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern the meetings could serve as a platform to launch attacks on the Middle East peace process.

Latin American and Arab leaders began arriving in the Brazilian capital Monday for a historic summit between the two regions. 

Leaders were greeted by Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim who called the meeting historic. Amorim said, "It's a cultural and spiritual promotion, but we also would like to see practical results from the beginning of this historical movement." 

In their two-day meeting, which opens today, the Arab and Latin American leaders are expected to discuss trade, poverty reduction and other shared goals. The summit was the brainchild of Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who first proposed the meeting during his visit to the Middle East in 2003. 

Among the attendees in addition to Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, will be Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas. Most Arab 

leaders will not be attending. Some 10 Latin American countries will also be represented. 

While Mr. da Silva has promoted the summit as primarily a way for both regions to establish new trade ties, U.S. and Israeli officials expressed concerns the meetings could serve as a platform to launch attacks on both nations' policies in the Middle East. 

Last week the Israeli embassy in Brazil released a statement saying the positions and worries of Israel regarding the summit "have been expressed directly to the government of Brazil and other South American governments."

A U.S. government official said he hopes the summit does not undermine the peace process in the Middle East. 

A draft copy of the summit declaration published in the Brazilian press and scheduled for release Wednesday has both U.S. and Israeli officials worried. 

According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, both Lebanese and Palestinian leaders want the final declaration to include language saying acts of national defense are not considered terrorism. Venezuela reportedly supports the wording. The United States has asked for an observer status at the summit, but the request was denied. 


 
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