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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, May 12, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 92     E-mail us
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Guess who's paying to supervise the telecom firms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new telecom regulating agency is seeking about $1.2 million a year from the telephone company as the cost of supervision.

The regulating agency, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, found support Monday from the Contraloría de la República for the assessment, which will be levied on every user of telecom services.

The phone company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, is not happy with the assessment and says there are other ways to pay for the new agency, known as SUTEL.

As with most taxes, the end user, the telephone and Internet customer, will pay the cost as part of their bills. The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos has fixed the amount.

The supervisory agency said that the Instituto de Electricidad owes 463,970,000 colons for the last third of 2008 and the first third of 2009. The  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones was pleading poverty last week and threatened that it might have to shut down.

Every type of telecommunications from ham radio operators to independent telephone companies will
have to pay an annual assessment, according to the position of the Superintendencia. Based on the
amount that is now owed, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad would pay about 695,955,000 colons for supervision each year.

The Superintendencia is basically three board members and an alternate occupying an office in the Authoridad Reguladora building in Sabana Sur. The phone and Internet company makes the argument that the supervisory panel was not even selected until mid-December and that it should not have to pay an assessment for the last four months of 2008.

The assessment is stipulated in the new telecom law that opened up the market to private providers and eliminate the monopoly of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, according to the Superintendencia.

The Superintendencia threated to shut down the phone company Wednesday if the money were not paid. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad quickly responded and said that it would pay the money, but reluctantly.

The company said that there still were administrative actions for the Superintendencia to take before the assessment became due.

It also said that there were a number of others ways specified in the law to finance the Superintendencia, including donations and direct payments from the state.

Legislative push continues to reduce firemen's hours
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The battle over the work hours of firemen goes on in the legislature.

Now the firemen, the bomberos, work 24 hours and are off 24 hours.

One lawmaker, Carlos Gutiérrez, said Monday that this is not humane. He promised to wage a fight to reduce firemen's hours all the way to the International Labor Organization.

The director of the bomberos was before lawmakers recently and said that the organization does not have the funds to institute an eight-hour day. He is Héctor Chaves, who said he would have
to hire more firefighters if he had to reduce hours.

Gutiérrez said he had consulted with the  Procuraduría General de la República and said that this agency, the nation's lawyer, agreed that the firemen work hours were illegal.

It is well known that firemen manage to sleep during their shifts unless a fire intervenes.

Still, Gutiérrez said that the Instituto National de Seguros, which still is linked to firemen, has enough money to consider purchasing a Nicaraguan insurance company. So the institute should have enough so firemen could work less, he said.

He has introduced legislation to change the hours.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 92

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Boston chorus getting blame
for spreading swine flu

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Boston youth chorus is being considered something of Typhoid Marys and getting the blame for spreading swine flu in Costa Rica. But it is far from clear if the chorus spread the flu or if members were themselves flu victims.

The health minister, María Luisa Ávila, noted Monday that the chorus, Canta Mundi, came to the country April 17 and left 10 days later. She said she had received a letter from the United States reporting that three members of the chorus had shown symptoms of swine flu after they arrived back home.

The time frame suggests that the youngsters picked up the disease in Costa Rica, but La Nación had no trouble in reporting today that the chorus had infected a 13-year-old.

This is the same girl who was mentioned in a news story Monday. The story said that a private school in Moravia had closed after a student had shown probable symptoms of swine flu. It also noted that the chorus had visited the school as part of its program with the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Dr. Avila elaborated on the visit in a news conference Monday. she said that the chorus had visited many tourism sites, including Cartago, San Ramón, Liberia and Tamarindo. She asked individuals who had been in contact with the chorus to contact health officials. There were no other reports by persons in contact with the choir who had contracted flu.

The group's itinerary, as reported by a newspaper in Boston, said the chorus flew directly from the United States to Costa Rica and returned. There was no mention of side trips to, for example, México, where there are many more cases of swine flu. There also was no mention of members of the chorus showing symptoms before they left.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Health Organization  said Monday that the number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases has increased to 4,694 — nearly double the figure reported last Friday. The total includes 53 deaths.

Obama budget would end
oil exploration subsides

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Obama administration revision of the U.S. tax code includes a $36 billion elimination of tax breaks for oil companies, including special credits that subsidize oil exploration and drilling.

A Treasury Department summary Monday said that the administration also was proposing tax cuts for low- and middle-income families and small business.

The department released the General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 Revenue Proposals, known as the Greenbook.

The outline provides details of plans to cut taxes for small businesses and middle class families and close what the administration considers to be unfair corporate tax loopholes. 

The plan includes $736 billion in tax cuts for working families over the next 10 years and provides almost $100 billion in tax cuts for businesses, providing support to the entrepreneurs who will help drive an economic recovery, the Treasury Department said. The plan also closes hundreds of billions in loopholes, including the $36 billion in tax breaks for oil companies and the $86.5 billion “check-the-box” loophole which allows U.S. companies that invest overseas to shift income to the jurisdiction of other countries, said the department.

“We believe in a level playing field, but we currently have a tax Code that gives businesses that invest and create jobs overseas a competitive advantage over those who invest and create jobs at home," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “By providing tax cuts to small businesses and middle class families, as well as for investments in innovation, we are investing directly in our communities, creating new jobs, and putting our nation on the path to recovery.”

The administration’s budget proposes $736 billion in tax cuts for individuals and families. It increases and extends the Making Work Pay Credit to provide tax cuts for 95 percent of working families, saving a typical couple $800 per year, the department said.

The Budget proposes to significantly expand the existing Saver’s Credit for Americans who work.  The new credit will match 50 percent of the first $1,000 of savings for the typical family and will be refundable to ensure that even low-income workers have the chance to save for the future, the department said.  The budget also includes plans to set-up automatic enrollment in retirement accounts.

In addition, the budget makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth up to $2,500 per year for up to four years, so everyone who gets into college can afford to attend college.  Together these tax cuts could save a middle-class family with a child in college $4,300 per year, the department estimated.

The budget provides $99 billion in tax cuts for businesses, not counting the Making Work Pay Credit which already provides an additional tax cut to the vast majority of small business owners, said the department. 

The plan also eliminates the capital gains tax on investments in small business stock, with the goal of helping small businesses attract capital.

The budget would generate more than $103 billion in government income by ending tax preferences for international investments, including the rule that allows firms to take an immediate deduction for their overseas investment expenses while delaying paying taxes on overseas income and the rules that allow firms to claim excessive tax credits for their overseas investments, the department said.

The full text is available here.

Our reader's opinion
Obama, Arias win praise
for Internet and bilingualism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

All presidents of the world should embrace this goal:  Affordable high speed internet access to their entire population. 

I applaud president Obama for his enlightened vision [as reported Friday].  I applaud president Óscar Arias for his vision to make Costa Rica a bilingual nation.

For years I have listened to Costa Ricans who lament the lack of economic opportunity in Costa Rica for themselves and their children.  We have an excellent educational system but domestically we do not have the jobs for these bright graduates who often end up leaving Costa Rica to pursue their professional dreams.  I have nephews here who graduate with degrees in computer science and end up working at Burger King because there are not enough jobs.  The one nephew of mine who also learned English has a great job.  Óscar is right.

Access to high-speed internet and the ability to speak English will allow the people of the world to live anywhere they want and find a good job.  I hope I am able to see this happen in my lifetime.  The injustice of a minimum wage worker in China earning 25 cents per hours just to survive will disappear.  U.S. jobs moving to China will slow and then eventually stop.  The people of the world will have a solution to perpetual poverty with better education and the ability to search world wide for the job that best meets their abilities and fairly pays for it.

What a utopia, when we can live in the country of our dreams and also have the job of our dreams sitting out on the balcony in our slippers and earning a great salary and providing a great service to the world.

I have lived in Costa Rica for nearly 18 years. and I could have never survived without the Internet.

Edward Bridges

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 92

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Study will assess avalanche danger in Río Sarapiquí basin
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About all emergency officials can do is plan for problems in the Río Sarapiquí watershed.

Representatives from a number of agencies met Monday with the goal of keeping as low as possible the damage that the rainy season will inflict on the region where an earthquake struck Jan. 8.

The quake caused hundreds of landslides. Some destroyed homes and businesses. Some were fatal. But what is left are large scars on the rolling landscape that will give way under the wrong circumstances.

The Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad will join forces with the Universidad de Costa Rica to create a number of scenarios based on two variables: the amount of rain and the amount of loose sediment, officials said.

Emergency workers worry about avalanches and floods generated by temporary earthen dams in the river. In addition to the open scars from the earthquake there are scars where heavy machinery sought to make repairs. There has not been enough time for a protective coat of vegetation to emerge.

The emergency officials also are considering which areas will be safest if problems develop. They have considered Chilamate, La Virgen and Puerto Viejo to be areas where the populations may go when serious problems arise.  Some residents still are living in temporary housing because their homes were destroyed by the quake.
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Emergency commission photo
This is the type of electronic monitoring devices that will keep officials informed of weather developments.

The area of concern, mainly the upper and middle of the river is being watched by residents designated to the task. In addition, automatic stations have been installed to keep an eye on the weather and other factors.

The area is north of Heredia and Alajuela centros.

Ecoonomic impact of dengue assessed in eight countries
By the Brandeis University news service

Dengue fever costs billions in healthcare, lost productivity, and absenteeism, a new study says.

Researchers at Brandeis University, in collaboration with several other institutions worldwide, have pinpointed for the first time the multi-country economic costs of dengue fever, the endemic and epidemic mosquito-borne illness that is a rapidly growing public health problem in tropical and sub-tropical countries.

The study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, assessed the direct and indirect costs of dengue cases in eight American and Asian countries, tallying the collective economic burden of dengue in those countries at about $1.8 billion annually.

About 2.5 billion people, two-fifths of the world’s population, live in parts of the world affected by dengue, and an additional 120 million people travel to dengue-affected areas annually. Between 50 and 100 million people are infected each year, and the World Health Organization says the number is rising due to human population growth and the increased spread of vector mosquitoes.

Unlike malaria, dengue is more prevalent in urban than rural areas. Dengue illness involves sudden severe headache, muscle and joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and a high fever typically lasting about a week. In a small number of cases, it develops into dengue hemorrhagic fever and proves fatal.

Costa Rica has between 8,000 and 12,000 dengue cases a year, and officials have complained that the disease is an economic burden on the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, the operator of the hospitals.

The study set out to estimate the true economic costs of a case of dengue, whether the patient was treated at home or in the hospital, including school absenteeism, lost
 productivity, and the unpaid time of caregivers.

“This study shows that a case of dengue affects not only the patient, but also other household members who must take off from work or school to provide care,” said coauthor Donald Shepard, a health economist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis.

Five countries in the Americas participated in the study: Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and Venezuela, along with three Asian nations: Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

“We found that the economic cost of this disease is high — at least $1.8 billion yearly in these eight countries after adjusting for price differences and under-reporting of cases,” said lead author Jose Suaya, a visiting scholar at the Heller School.

Because mosquitoes transmit the disease, patients come from all age groups and economic levels. While 29 percent of patients came from households with less than primary education, 27 percent were from households with some college or equivalent. The study followed 1,695 patients. The average illness lasted about 11 days, whether the patient was hospitalized or treated in clinics, although hospitalized cases averaged about three times the cost of ambulatory patients.

“Our study shows that dengue poses a very heavy economic burden to the health system and society, and it underscores the need for full development of preventive measures, such as a dengue vaccine and vector control,” said Suaya.

Costa Rica has an extensive governmental program of dengue control, which includes spraying in vulnerable areas. The organization Tierra Nostra and the Cervercería Costa Rica, the beer company, have joined to do more than 40 cleanups in vulnerable areas this year alone. The idea is to eliminate the breeding areas of the vector mosquitos, which must have standing water to reproduce.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 92

Congress considers giving a helping hand to paper press
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Major American newspapers have been hit hard by a shift in readership to free Internet sites and a sharp decline of advertising revenue.

Since the beginning of the year, Denver, Colorado's 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News was forced to close and the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer stopped printing and went online.  Other major newspaper companies, including the owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, have filed for bankruptcy protection.

The plight of the newspaper industry has elicited the concern of Washington's politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

At the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington Saturday night, the president noted the impact that sweeping changes in technology and communication are having on the field of journalism.

"I know that each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond to these changes, and some are struggling simply to stay open," said President Obama. "But it's also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy."

On Capitol Hill, Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, recently chaired a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on the subject.

"Today, it is fair to say that newspapers look like an endangered species," said Kerry.

U.S. lawmakers are considering legislative action to sustain the newspaper industry.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, is proposing that newspapers operate as nonprofit organizations, making them eligible for the same tax breaks given to charities and churches.

"We need to save our community newspapers and the investigative journalism that they provide," said Cardin.

But representatives of online media outlets say concerns over the state of journalism are overblown.   Arianna Huffington is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the news Web site, The Huffington Post.

"Despite all the dire news about the state of the newspaper industry, we are actually in the middle of the Golden Age of news consumers, who can surf the net, use search engines, access the best stories from around the world, and be able to comment, interact, and form communities," said Ms. Huffington. "Journalism plays an indispensable role in our democracy, but it is important to remember that the future of journalism is not dependent on the future of newspapers."
Amendment I
of the U.S. Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
(emphasis added)

Marissa Mayer, a vice-president of the Internet
search-engine company, Google, says her firm is helping enhance newspaper readership.

"Google News and Google search provide a valuable free service to online newspapers specifically by sending interested readers to their sites at a rate of more than one billion clicks per month," said Ms. Mayer.

But Google does not pay newspapers for the links to articles it posts on its Web site.

James Moroney, publisher and chief executive officer of the Dallas Morning News, called on lawmakers to revise antitrust law to allow newspapers to group together to seek a larger share of revenues collected by online news aggregators.

"If the newspaper industry acted in concert, there might be an opportunity then for all of us to have our own intra-industry level playing field, and then be able to go to, en masse as an industry, to the Googles and so forth, and say we want to be paid for consent to take our information," said Moroney.

Moroney questions whether Internet sites could cover expensive newsgathering events, such as wars.  Steve Coll, a former managing editor at the Washington Post, is equally skeptical.

"Not even the most optimistic practitioners of the new models tend to accept a world in which web-based publishers or aggregators could afford, for example, to simultaneously fund and operate professional journalism bureaus in Baghdad, Kabul, Islamabad, Europe and Asia is simply not foreseeable at present," said Coll.

David Simon, a television producer and former reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, said Web-based publishers are not filling the gap left by the closure of community newspapers in the coverage of local politics.  He warned about the potential for local politicians to run amok without the press acting as a watchdog.

"The next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a halcyon era for state and local political corruption," said Simon. "It is going to be one of the great times to be a corrupt politician."

Kerry is promising to hold additional hearings on the future of the newspaper industry in the coming months.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 92

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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.

Unusual flooding ravages
northeastern part of Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials in northeastern Brazil say 40 people are dead and some 300,000 others are now homeless following the area's worst flooding in recent memory.

One aid group there says that although water levels have begun to recede in some areas, they are still rising in places such as the jungle state of Amazonas.

Forecasters say the unusually heavy rain has been falling for more than two months across the region, and the pattern is expected to continue.  The severe weather has isolated communities, flooded highways and hampered efforts to get emergency aid to trapped, fleeing and displaced residents.

But in the hard-hit state of Maranhao, officials expected to begin distributing tons of food, medicine and other supplies airlifted in by military planes.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva said Monday that the bad weather is a sign of climate change.  He was quoted as saying places that are normally dry are receiving rainfall, while the opposite is happening in other areas.

A drought in southern Brazil has affected the famed Iguazu falls, which border both Brazil and Argentina.  The lack of rain has reduced the amount of water flowing over the falls.

Jersey man pleads guilty
to Scientology cyber attack

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a cyber attack on Church of Scientology Web sites in January 2008 that rendered the Web sites unavailable.

The man, Dmitriy Guzner, 19, of Verona, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to computer hacking charges originally filed in Los Angeles for his role in the denial of service attack. Such attacks occur where a large amount of malicious Internet traffic is directed at a Web site or a set of Web sites. The target Web sites are unable to handle the high volume of Internet traffic and therefore become unavailable to legitimate users.

According to the criminal information filed last year in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles, Guzner participated in the attack because he considered himself a member of an underground group called Anonymous, a group that has led protests against the Church of Scientology at various locations across the country.

Guzner is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 24. He faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, officials said.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 92

Latin American news digest
marijuana delivery
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Judical police discovered these 18 packages of marijuna under the false floor of an Isuzu Trooper in San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón Monday. The 30-year-old driver was detained.

Body of tourist still sought

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue workers still are seeking the body of Jermaine Zimmerman, 25, who is presumed to have died in a surf accident that also killed his brother Darnell, 24, said the Cruz Roja.

The two men got in trouble in the surf Sunday in front of the Hotel El Santuario in Playa Azul, said the Cruz Roja. Both men were from the Boston, Massachusetts, area and were tourists, officials said.

San José council to pick leaders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José municipal council members will vote tonight to select a new president and vice president. Former president  Rodrigo Solís Umaña resigned his post but not his membership in the council. Antonio García Alexandre resigned both his vice presidency and his seat in the 13-member body.

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details