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(506) 2223-1327          Posted Friday, May 13, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 94             E-mail us
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Workday ends with a strong shaking from quake
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 5:55 p.m. Friday

A moderate to strong earthquake took place at 4:47 p.m. Friday as Central Valley office workers were getting ready for the weekend.

Many described the quake as scary because it endured for more than two minutes.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica said the quake took place at a depth of about 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) from internal distortion inside the Coco tectonic plate that underlies much of the country. The magnitude was put at 5.9, and the location was about seven kilometers north of Puriscal

The U.S. Earthquake Information Center said the quake was a little deeper at 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) and said the location was 28 kilometers (17
miles) northwest of San José. The center said the magnitude was 6.0.

There were no immediate reports of serious damage even in Puriscal.

Recorder displays at the earthquake observatory showed that the strong quake endured for up to three minutes. Then there were 10 minutes of lesser movement. The quake was felt all over the country. In Puntarenas on the Pacific coast residents were reported to have run from their homes in the driving rain.

In San José multi-story office buildings shook and workers crawled under desks. The quake seemed to be in two waves with a second strong movement following the first. In the center of the city the quake was significantly stronger and longer than the one that killed 30 persons in Cinchona Jan. 8, 2009, although the experts rated that quake at 6.2.

Lillies in a hidden corner
A.M. Costa Rica photo
There are quiet corners of the city where flowers grow in great beds, cork trees provide the shadow and adjacent buildings sport old-time
architecture and tile roofs. This little spot is in Parque España just a few blocks from the busy center of San José.

Ticos held in lottery ploy that scammed U.S. elderly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained seven Costa Ricans who directed call centers here on allegations that they were scammers who used a lottery ploy to defraud the elderly in the United States.

This is believed to be the first time that Costa Ricans have been brought in under such circumstances. A handful of U.S. citizens who engineered such scams have been arrested and extradited to the United States. But Costa Rican law enforcement had not cracked down on such operations.

Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy were known to have been urging action by their Costa Rican counterparts.

The arrests Thursday were in Escazú, Pavas, a call center in Paseo Colón and a lawyer's office in the center of San José. Prosecutors are seeking a year of preventative detention. Arrested were five men and two women.

The key elements in such frauds is that the individuals making the calls speak nearly perfect English and that by using voice-over-Internet protocol recipients of calls think that the callers are in the United States. Agents said Thursday that voice-over-Internet systems were in use in this case and that many of the individuals were bilingual.

There has been an open secret for years that bilingual Costa Ricans with good accents could make a lot of money participating in such scams. At one point an estimated 200 Costa Ricans were employed in such jobs.

Typically the operation is international. Solicitors in the United States stake out supermarkets and department stores and seek to have older shoppers fill out forms to participate in what they describe as a lottery. Later these forms with telephone
numbers are turned over to callers who announce to the eventual victim that they have won a large sum of money.

The victim must first make deposits into bank accounts or via Western Union for what are described as fees, taxes or insurance.

The sums taken in this case range from $30,000 to $200,000, said the Poder Judicial.

The Poder Judicial said Thursday that the seven persons who were arrested are accused of scamming 80 retirement age individuals in the United States. Those detained were described as leaders of the operation.

A judge declared the case one of organized crime, which gives prosecutors more authority and increased the eventual penalties.

The men were identified by the last names of Céspedes Mora, Gutiérrez Alfaro, Calderón Ruiz, Gonzalo Villalobos and Maden Hernández by the Poder Judicial. A statement identified the women by the last names of Solano Gamboa and Sardí Cedeño.

Western Union has been for years a vehicle for transmission of proceeds of such operations from the United States, but the firm has never said it took any responsibility.

This is the same kind of scam that led to the arrest of Jaime Ligator, a well-known businessman, professional poker player and former casino operator. The U.S. Justice Department said Ligator was extradited Aug. 31, 2009 and pleaded guilty Sept. 1, 2009. He was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2009 to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $2.6 million. He was also ordered to pay $4.2 million in restitution, which was to be paid jointly and severally with his co-defendants, the department said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 94

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'Night at the Museum' benefit
is top weekend expat event


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend is shaping up to be a wet one through Saturday, but The Women's Club of Costa Rica plans "A Night at the Museum" Saturday as the major expat weekend event.

Unlike the movie with mystical tablets, little people and T-rexes, the women's club is promising wine and bocas or appetizers provided by local restaurants and live music by a Colombian band that is influenced by the llanos or plains of Venezuela.

The centerpiece, of course, is a guided tour of the Museo de Arte Costarricense in Parque la Sabana from 7 to 10 p.m.

The club also promises live and silent auctions.

The event is a fund raiser for the Women's Club's Educational Scholarship and Reading is Fun projects.  Founded in 1940, the club is one of the oldest, continuously operating service organizations in Costa Rica. Its English-speaking membership of 350 women of all ages represents 20 countries of the world. 

Tickets are 20,000 colons and those interested can get more information and make purchases by calling 2239-8619 or sending an email to fundraising@wccr.org

During the daytime Saturday there is another edition of "Enamórate de tu ciudad" in the park complexes between Avenidas 3 and 5 near the tower of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

The Municipalidad de San José promises music, dance and theater beginning at 11 a.m..

The weather prediction for today and Saturday are for more rain with a probability of 70 percent in the city. However, Sunday is expected to be clear with no rain.

Another indoor activity could be visiting Expotur, the tourism marketplace. Vendors and tourism destinations have set up elaborate booths in the exposition center of the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura in San Antonio de Belén. Although the hall is closed to the public through Friday, organizers invite visitors Saturday and Sunday. There is no charge.


Call center here figures
in U.S. prostitution case


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Florida call girl ring used call centers in Costa Rica and Panamá to arrange encounters between prostitutes and customers, mostly in the United States, according to federal officials.

The case is in the news because Gregory Carr, who with his wife Laurie operated the ring, received a 14-month prison sentence in federal court in Michigan, this week. The case was there because federal officials said that the ring, called Miami Companions, had a large presence there.

The Carrs and two other persons were detained last July. The operation took 40 percent of the earnings of the prostitutes, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said at the time of the arrests that the Carrs transferred millions of dollars to overseas bank accounts in order to promote their prostitution organization by paying for employees to work in their call centers in Panamá and Costa Rica and rental payments for exotic beach houses where clients exchanged money for sex.

Carr was known by an alias, Paul Cutlass, investigators said.

The prostitution business continued for more than nine years and was considered one of the largest prostitution organizations in the United States.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary








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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 94
Latigo K-9

La Reforma probe will seek those who helped excapees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The jail break attempt Wednesday was a copy of the successful 2006 flight from the same penal institution.

In both cases there were vehicles provided by unknown persons awaiting the fugitives. Wednesday the seven prisoners never got that far. Although surrounded by hostages, tactical squads from three police agencies cut short their flight by killing two and wounding two more. At the same time a prison guard died from wounds suffered during the prolonged shootout.

The Fiscalía Adjunta de Alajuela has opened an investigation into the case. The prisoners who survived will face allegations of flight and murder. But the investigation is being expanded to see if the prisoners had help from workers in the maximum security facility. That was the case in 2006.

The seven prisoners involved in the escape attempt include Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez, a successful escapee in 2006. Araya and Johnny Rodríguez Moya killed a guard when they broke out of prison Oct. 9, 2006, and shot it out with agents when they were caught 15 days later. Araya was wounded six times then. At that time it appeared that someone was waiting for the fugitives in a vehicle nearby. Rodríguez died from bullet wounds Wednesday as did Erlyn Hurtado Martínez.

The 15-passenger vehicle that investigators found Wednesday was loaded with weapons, money and even gas masks. It was about 100 yards from the prison facility.

Investigators also disclosed that the jail breakers had keys to individual cells in the prison unit. The probe will try to determine how the prisoners received them. The locks had been replaced two weeks earlier.

There are many people visiting the so-called maximum security section every week. The prisoners took advantage of conjugal visits and took the companions of other prisoners as hostages. They also had at least two pistols and several types of grenades, including one military type fragmentation grenade.

The entire prison system is plagued by smuggling of alcohol, drugs and worse.

The Poder Judicial identified the other surviving prisoners Wednesday as Jesús Rojas Miranda, Tony García Jiménez,
wiating vehicle
Judicial Investigating Organization photos
This is the van that was waiting for the escapees

grenades
At least one of the grenades was plastic, but some were homemade.

Paris Hidalgo Mayorga, Juan Carlos Chaves Robles,  Randall Morales Navarro and Carlos Agüero Sánchez. Morales and Agüero are hospitalized as are some members of the prison staff.

The La Reforma complex is in San Rafael de Alajuela. There are five independent prisons there, including the maximum security unit. The dead guard was correctly identified Thursday as Francis Moisés Morales Fallas, 39.


Several instances of overturning the prevailing narrative
The Prevailing Narrative is a phrase I have read and heard a lot over the last months.  It seems to denote something stronger than conventional wisdom, but is not quite as forceful as prevailing paradigm. It is used in practically every context you can imagine:  politics, health, sports, world situation, the corporal whereabouts of bin Laden, climate change, drugs, religion, everything but fashion.  I am changing that.

In case you haven’t noticed, for quite a while the prevailing narrative regarding women’s hair is that all women have very long, very straight hair.  And if they don’t, they should have, and I am referring to women of all ages. Thus there are extensions and irons and waxes or whatever else is necessary to keep the hair flat and straight.  This is mostly in the world of entertainment and fashion.  But those worlds have a strong influence on the prevailing narrative of how women see themselves.

It has become a problem for me because I am beginning to have trouble telling women on TV apart.  Maybe I am just dazzled by their great big white implanted teeth.  I think this is going to change (the narrative of the hair, not the teeth) because lately I have seen a few women who obviously have not pressed their hair, and it seems to be going awry. 

I think it is proving too time consuming, expensive as well as unhealthy for their hair to keep it straight. 

We will see.  I have been wrong before. But like other pundits, it will matter little a week from now if I am wrong.

On a more serious vein of concern to women, the prevailing narrative for sometime has been that it’s a woman’s own fault for being raped if she dresses or acts like a slut.  In this case, you could say that slut is like porn to men: They know it when they see it.

 I say if men would accept the paradigm that they have absolutely no control over their own sexual behavior, women will be more considerate and strive to protect them from themselves.
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

And also in a serious vein:  Prince Charles of Wales was in the United States meeting with President Obama to talk about organic farming.  He spoke at Georgetown University on the subject.  He talked about agriculture as opposed to agro-business or agro-industry.  He made a convincing argument (to me) that the reason non organic produce is cheaper than organic is that the industry does not have to pay for the damage and pollution their fertilizers do to the water and land or for the water that they waste.  Governments are left to clean up after them.  His message:  to get the healthiest food possible from the healthiest environment possible.  Although a few people responded with “he is right, of course,”  most of the responses were in line with the prevailing sentiment that anybody with any connection to any government, stay out of our lives… and especially our food.

And finally, dare I touch on religion?  Another prevailing narrative seems to be that people who are religious or believe in God (here, put in the God of your choice) are more moral and ethical and charitable than atheists or disbelievers. That it is our love of God and desire to go to Heaven and our fear of Hell that pushes us to do good deeds.  Well, lately, according to statistics, agnostics and atheists and non believers, or more positively, Humanists, are growing in number and can be just as good, honest, kind and charitable towards their fellow humans, even other animals without an eternal beacon or dire threats.

There may not just be a change in the water levels in the world; there may be a sea change that is occurring among the inhabitants that will result in what Martin Fleck calls counternarrative.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 94


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mother and baby whale
Dalhousie University/ Shane Gero
A mother whale and an offspring swim together off the
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Sperm whales have dialects and regional accents, studies say

By the Dalhousie University news staff

When they dive together, sperm whales make patterns of clicks to each other known as codas. Recent findings suggest that, not only do different codas mean different things, but that whales can also tell which member of their community is speaking based on the sound properties of the codas. Just as humans can tell friends apart by the sounds of their voices and the way they pronounce their words, different sperm whales make the same pattern of clicks, but with different accents.

Caribbean and Pacific whales have different repertoires of codas, like a regional dialect, but the five regular call — a pattern of five evenly spaced clicks — is thought to have the universal function of individual identity because it is used by sperm whales worldwide. 

These discoveries were recently published in the journal Animal Behaviour, in an article authored by University of St. Andrews doctoral student Ricardo Antunes, Dalhousie alumnus Tyler Schulz, another Dalhousie doctoral student Shane Gero, Dalhousie professor Hal Whitehead, and St. Andrews faculty members Jonathan Gordon and Luke Rendell.

Gero and Whitehead said that the sperm whale’s biggest threat is human pollution. Not only do humans introduce toxins into the ocean, but they also generate harmful sound pollution. Increased shipping traffic, underwater explosions caused by searching for oil, and military sonar all contribute to ocean noise that masks communication between whales, they said.

“No one wants to live in a rock concert,” said Gero, adding that noise pollution is especially troublesome in the ocean
because “it is a totally different sensory world.” The sperm whales can dive to depths of more than 1,000 meters and depend on sound for communication and navigation in the pitch black of the deep water.

The university's Dominica Sperm Whale Project hopes to understand more about sperm whale society because, as Gero says, “it is infuriating that we know more about the moon than the oceans.” He hopes to communicate a better understanding of life in the oceans to people by using these beautiful whales as examples, and by placing an emphasis on how similar their lives actually are to that of humans.

The whales live in matriarchal social units composed of mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. Once males reach adolescence, they are ostracized from the group and travel towards the poles until they are ready to breed. Consequently, little is known about the males, but the roles of females in relation to their young have been studied extensively by Gero and Whitehead. Female whales will baby-sit each other’s offspring while mothers are diving, forming a strong community that revolves around the upbringing of calves.

“They are nomadic,” explained Whitehead, “so the most important things in their lives are each other.”

Whitehead said he enjoys researching sperm whales because of their fascinating and complex social lives.
He said he hopes the Dominica Sperm Whale Project will be able to trace how whale communities change through time.

Part of Gero’s doctoral studies includes how calves acquire their dialect. Baby sperm whales babble at first, and Gero is interested in discovering how the babies’ diversity of calls gets narrowed down to the family repertoire.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 94

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Air France black boxes
give hope to find cause


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French investigators say they are hopeful about recovering data from the flight recorders of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil almost two years ago. 

Officials from the French Transport Ministry said Thursday they are optimistic that the recorders, or black boxes, will yield at least some information that can help them determine why the plane crashed. Authorities say it will take at least three days to learn if they can retrieve the information, but interpreting it could take months.

French officials announced last week that the flight recorders had been located and brought to the sea surface after a lengthy search.

Forensics experts will examine tissue samples from a pair of bodies brought up from the crash site earlier this month to determine whether DNA can be used to identify the crash victims.  Authorities say they may continue search and recovery operations if the DNA is found to be usable. 

Air France Flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic in June 2009, not long after taking off from Rio de Janeiro for Paris. The disaster killed all 228 people on board.

Obama asks Hispanics
to back immigration reform


By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

U.S. President Barack Obama says he will continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

In an address to the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast Thursday, Obama said reforming the nation's immigration system is not just an economic or security imperative, but a moral imperative.

The president said immigration is a subject that can feed people's fears of change, but he called on Americans to show empathy and not forget that the nation's population is rooted in immigrants. He urged Hispanic community leaders to keep building the movement for change.

Tuesday, President Obama challenged lawmakers to overhaul the immigration system, calling it broken and saying better laws would lessen the number of people illegally attempting to work in the U.S.

Speaking in the city of El Paso, Texas, on the border with Mexico, Obama proposed giving a path to citizenship to the nation's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and making it easier for students from other countries to work and start businesses in the United States.

Observers say it is unlikely President Obama will get a comprehensive immigration bill passed in Congress.  Republicans control the House of Representatives, and the party is adamantly opposed to providing legal residency for undocumented immigrants, saying it amounts to an amnesty. 

The president has faced intense criticism from the Hispanic community for failing to promote the immigration issue during his first two years in office and for the deportation of nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants last year. In his speech in El Paso, the president acknowledged deportations are a source of controversy, but said enforcement efforts were focused on violent offenders and convicted criminals.

Hispanics, a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population, gave crucial support to Obama's 2008 election. 

In his speech Tuesday, the president blamed Republican lawmakers for delaying reform by demanding border security measures be completed first, and said he expected Republicans to continue blocking reform efforts despite the fact that, "all the stuff they have asked for, we have done."

But many Republican lawmakers are insisting that more be done to improve border security first. Many states have passed their own laws on the issue. 

Last year, the border state of Arizona passed a measure that would have allowed police officers to check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. Officials there say the law is needed to crack down on violent drug trafficking they say is spreading over the border from Mexico.

The Obama administration filed a federal lawsuit against Arizona's law, saying border security is a federal issue. A federal judge blocked key parts of the law in a ruling last year, but Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vowed to take the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 13, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 94

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Latin American news
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Traffic policeman faces
extortion allegation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 49-year-old traffic policeman is facing an allegation that he tried to extort money from bus company operators in San Vito, Coto Brus. The man, identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of Hernández Masís has worked at the job for 15 years.

The Poder Judicial said that the traffic officer noticed that some buses did not have the proper paperwork, so he demanded 200,000 colons a month, about $400. That sum was reduced to 50,000 colons, about $100. The bus operators immediately reported the extortion demand to judicial officials, agents said, and the man was detained after receiving the money.


Two minors among three
held in San Ramón stickup


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two minors, one 14 and the other 16, have been detained during an investigation of the holdup of a building materials store in San Ramón. The Judicial Investigating Organization also said that a 25-year-old man also was being held.

The stickup took place Monday afternoon, and four bandits were present. Police were able to detain a car containing the suspects en route to San José. However, they were unable to locate the 10 million colons (about $20,000) taken in the robbery. The three live in Tibás.


Haiti's election council
asked for an explanation


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti has called on the country’s electoral authorities to explain as soon as possible why their results from three districts in recent legislative elections do not match the figures of local and international observers.

In a statement released yesterday, the mission said it took note of the final results announced Tuesday by the Provisional Electoral Council in the 18 districts where the original results were contested.

The council set up a special office to re-tabulate and verify the results in those cases, in cooperation with observers from Haiti’s National Human Rights Defence Network, the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community.

In 15 of the 18 cases, the office’s results matched those of the observers, but not in the cases of the other three districts.

The peacekeeping mission called on the council to post as soon as possible the decisions of its special office and to explain to all concerned parties, including the candidates, the reasoning that led to these decisions.

President-elect Michel Martelly is scheduled to be inaugurated Saturday after he won the run-off round earlier this year, but his party did not win many of the legislative races.







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