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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, May 22, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 101         E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Policeman dies attempting to arrest robbery suspect
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officers and robbery suspects engaged in a gun battle Tuesday in Limón, and one officer died. A suspect suffered wounds and was hospitalized under guard.

The dead officer, Germán Aguilar Maradiaga, 25, left behind a 4-year-old son and a pregnant wife. He was shot five times by a man attempting to rob a bus, said a security ministry spokesman. Aguilar entered the Fuerza Pública in 2001.

Wednesday evening Aguilar's mother, father, wife and siblings gathered with much of the town at the Fuerza Pública delegation in Limón to morn the young policeman, said fellow officer Marlin Dane Rayer.

Aguilar was on patrol in La Colina, Limón, when a group of youth ran up to him and his partner and said that two masked men on a motorcycle were robbing a bus, said the security spokesman. The two officers located the men they believed to be the robbers and gave chase.

The officers were in a patrol car, and the suspected robbers were on a Vespa, said Dane. One of the men jumped off the motorized scooter and ran into the woods, and the other continued to speed down the road, said Dane.
The Fuerza Pública officer driving the patrol car continued to chase the Vespa, and Aguilar went on foot after the other man, said Dane. “The guy hid behind some bushes,” said Dane, “I think he was waiting for the officer so he could shoot him.”

The man, who was dressed in black, shot the officer twice in the chest. Aguilar was using a bulletproof vest, but the sharp impact knocked him to the ground, said Dane. Then the masked man stood over Aguilar and continued to fire, said Dane. “He wanted to finish him off.” The man shot Aguilar in the head, in the left wrist, and the last bullet flew through his neck, said Dane.

While he was being shot Aguilar managed to shoot his killer once in the chest, said Dane. Cruz Roja workers brought a suspect with the last names Carby Vílchez to the local hospital. Carby is under police custody there, said the security spokesman.

The second officer was unable to catch the man on the Vespa, and returned looking for Aguilar.

“People who saw what happened told him that they ran into the woods, said Dane, “and he found his partner there dying.”

This is the second murder of a Fuerza Pública officer this year, said the security ministry. Felix Angel was shot 10 times at close range May 6 while off-duty in Torremolinos, Desamparados.

American Airlines says it will start charging for checked bags in U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

American Airlines said Wednesday that it would charge passengers $15 each way for the first checked bag on round trip flights and later within the continental United States, to Canada and to U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands. The fees will be assessed at checkin for passengers who purchase their tickets June 15 and after.

The company will charge $50 for the second checked bag and $100 per piece for the third, fourth and fifth checked bags. The sixth and subsequent bags will be charged $200 each, the company said.

The charges will not be levied on first-class, business class or those who pay a full economy fare. Also exempt are government and military travelers and members of the many frequent flier groups. Also exempt are wheelchairs, child car seats and strollers.
American, which has a presence in Costa Rica, also said that it has increased its fees for certain other services, ranging from reservation service fees to pet and oversized bag fees.

The increases mostly range from $5 to $50 per service.

The company said it estimates that new and increased fees announced this month will generate several hundred million dollars in additional annual revenue.

American said it paid $665 million more for fuel in the first quarter of the year than it would have paid at prices in effect a year ago.

Its first quarter fuel expense increased by 45 percent year over year, while its total revenue increased by 5 percent, the company said.  The price of jet fuel has increased by more than 10 percent since April 16, it noted in a press release.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 101

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Volcano and ocean tested
as sources of corrosion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who have vehicles on the coasts do not need to be reminded that the sea air encourages rust. But so does the sulfur emitted by Volcán Poás, according to a study being done by the engineering and materials department of the  Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica.

The studied showed the metals are attacked aggressively by the atmosphere around the volcano and from the humid sea air that contains chloride.

The project has been going on for five years. Researchers put various metals and even a computer card in the open air and in a closed area. Periodically the metals were studied in a lab.

The professors in charge are Juan Fernando Alvarez Castro and Galina Pridybailo. The school estimated that corrosion costs Costa Rica an amount equal to 4.5 percent of the gross domestic product each year.

Particularly vulnerable are electronic devices of any sort, the researchers said.

Communities getting funds
to promote small business

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 15 communities will get to share some $4.8 million that the Spanish government and the United Nations have pledged to help small business.

The donation also will be used to develop the new Parque de La Libertad in Patarrá south of San José. The program begins in July with a donation by the U.N. fund for development and from the Spanish government of $4.8 million.  Costa Rica is providing land and technical support valued at $5.7 million for the park.

The donors say they hope that the money will give a push to creative and cultural businesses.

Eligible locals include communities around the 37-hectare park, the former Holcim concrete facility. The tract straddles the line between Desamparados, which contributes 11 hectares or 27.1 acres, and the Canton of La Union, Cartago, which contributes 64.2 acres. The land is adjacent to the former Río Azul landfill site.

Eligible communities are: San Antonio de Desamparados,  Lomas, Linda Vista, Río Azul, Patarrá, Tirrases, Guatuso, San Lorenzo, Fátima, Desamparados Centro, Gravilias, Calle Fallas, San Francisco, Curridabat y Zapote and the rural communities of Talamanca on the southern Caribbean coast, Coto Brus in the southern zone and Aranjuez de Sardinal in Guanacaste.

Arias has to stay mum
for at least four weeks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has to stay quiet for four weeks, according to doctor's orders. The president is at an ear, nose and throat clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has been diagnosed with a benign cyst on a vocal chord, according to Casa Presidencial.

Physicians told him that after four weeks they would determine if an operation is needed. The condition of Arias was relayed to Casa Presidencial by Silvia Eugenia Arias, his daughter who is with him.

Arias has had trouble talking for several weeks and a physician here told him to avoid speaking, too. He went to the United States for a second opinion.

Interamerican work set for Mirimar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists can expect delays on the Interamerican highway at Mirimar today through Sunday, according to the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

The consejo said that a water line is being installed by Constructora MECO at Cuatro Cruces, Mirimar, and the work is being done from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kidnap suspects sent to jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men with the last names and ages of Gonzalez Obregón, 37, Vargas Estrada, 57, and Vargas Huertas, 26, are in preventative detention for four months while a double kidnapping Tuesday is investigated. The victims were two Nigerian visitors, a woman with the last name of Jjimi and a Nigerian man named Nga.

Two of the suspects were captured at the Hotel Clarion in Barrio Amón where the woman was freed. The man was released later in Escazú.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 101

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Garlic sold here is a symbol of globalization of foods
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is hardly a more Costa Rican vegetable than garlic. Nearly every great Tico dish uses a little bit to a lot of the onion-like product — from cerviche to a lip-smacking steak sauce.

So it might be a shock to learn that much of the garlic sold in Costa Rica comes from China, the world's top producer. That is true in other countries, too, except that many do have a competing commercial garlic industry. Costa Rica does not.

With the world's food supply coming under the microscope, the garlic bulb has emerged as an icon of globalization. There are other staples that could be but are not grown commercially in Costa Rica.

The Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería confirmed Wednesday that there is no significant commercial production of garlic, although some may be found at local ferias.

There are some agricultural, economic and cultural reasons for this, not the least being that Costa Rica is not known for innovation.

Like many apple species garlic bulbs usually require a dose of winter to grow properly.

But Philipp Simon, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who is an expert in the genetics and biochemistry of culinary and nutritive factors in carrots and garlic, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the vegetable is grown commercially in Brazil and even in Bangladesh.

Garlic generally is planted in areas more
 temperate than Costa Rica, said Simon. In Brazil, most garlic production is along the cooler southern border. But there are exceptions, he said. Some garlic is cultivated in northern Brazil where it is hotter. In Bangladesh garlic is rotated with rice in lowland cultivation, he said.

China is a source for garlic even in the United States because it has a steady supply, looks good in the market and carries a good price, Simon said, noting that in his opinion the quality of garlic is better elsewhere.

He speculated that some climates in the Costa Rican mountains might be agreeable for garlic.

In fact, other sources confirm that garlic is grown in Venezuela in the mountainous Merida region.

The University of Minnesota notes that most garlic in the United States is grown in the mild climate of northern California but that bulbs grown in cold climates often have better flavor than the varieties grown in mild climates.

The key is what scientist call vernalization, which is critical to shoot and bulb development. Some California producers put garlic for planting in a refrigerator to simulate winter weather.

The irony is that the Santa Ana region is known for its onions. There even is an onion fair there every year. Although garlic is a member of the onion family, it has yet to gain a serious commerical foothold in the agricultural scheme. Garlic purchased at roadside stands in Santa Ana are local.
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Rice growers win a 21.17% increase to stimulate production
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government has authorized an increase of 21.17 percent in the price paid to rice producers.

The announcement came after Marco Vargas Díaz, the minister of Economía, Industria y Comercio, met with the board of the Corporación Arrocera Nacional, which represents the rice producers.

The minister said that the increase would help stimulate production. Producers were getting 14,827 colons (about
$29) for a 73.6-kilo (162-pound) bag of rice. The new price, which will go into effect "within several months," will be 17,981 colons per sack. That's about 22 U.S. cents a pound.

The ministry had proposed a price slightly less, and the rice board wanted slightly more.                                           

Vargas Díaz noted that the amount paid for rice was below the international price but said that prices elsewhere reflects a certain amount of speculation that Costa Rican consumers do not have to pay.

Costa Rica shows a slight dip in use of pirated software
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The software piracy rate continued to fall in 2007 in Costa Rica as it did in many countries, but an industry association still estimates losses here of some $22 million a year.

The estimated piracy rate for Costa Rica was 68 percent in 2003. In 2007 it was 61, according to the fifth annual global PC software piracy study released today by the Business Software Alliance.

The piracy rate is computed from the number of new computers brought into service in the year and the number of computer programs sold in the company over the same period. The numbers suggest that 61 percent of the programs on new computers in 2007 were pirated. The methodology takes into account freeware and shareware.

Although piracy of software on personal computers declined in many countries in 2007, fast growing markets in some of the world’s highest piracy nations caused overall numbers to worsen — a trend that is expected to continue,
said the alliance. Moreover, dollar losses from piracy rose by $8 billion to nearly $48 billion, it said.

Of the 108 countries included in the report, the use of pirated software dropped in 67, and rose in only eight. However, because the worldwide personal computer market grew fastest in high-piracy countries, the worldwide software piracy rate increased by 3 percentage points to 38 percent in 2007.

By the end of 2007, there were more than 1 billion personal computers installed around the world, and close to half had pirated, unlicensed software on them, said the alliance. Among the nations studied, Russia led the way with a one-year drop of seven points to 73 percent, and a five-year drop of 14 points, according to the study.

The three lowest-piracy countries were the United States (20 percent), Luxembourg (21 percent), and New Zealand (22 percent). The three highest-piracy countries were Armenia (93 percent), Bangladesh (92 percent), and Azerbaijan (92 percent).   

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 101

Concern grows that cartels might win drug wars in México
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón continues his fight against powerful drug cartels as the death count mounts. More than 1,300 people have died this year in Mexico in violence connected to the illicit drug trade.

In recent weeks some high-ranking police officials have been targets of drug gangs, leading some analysts to wonder whether the Mexican government or the criminal gangs will win the fight.

Since taking office in December 2006, President Calderón has sent 25,000 Mexican troops into the field in an all-out battle with drug trafficking cartels. He says the sovereignty of the nation is at stake.

He vows to keep up the fight against those who threaten the state, especially the criminal organizations.

But the stakes in the fight have gone up since the May 8 murder of Edgar Millan Gómez, chief of the Mexican federal preventive police, who was gunned down at his home in México City.

Political analyst George Friedman, who heads the Stratfor private intelligence company in Austin, Texas, says Mexico could become a failed state if the government does not make a strong counterattack on the drug cartels.

"If Calderón does not respond effectively to this killing, any minister of his government is going to see himself at risk and that is going to change their behavior," said Friedman.

Friedman says Mexico could turn into the kind of battleground that existed in Colombia in the 1980's when drug cartels held sway over several cities and operated with impunity. He said the private armies of the Mexican drug cartels resemble the militias that have undermined governments in other parts of the world.

"What we are seeing in Mexico looks more like Lebanon, which are militias that are stronger than the Lebanese army," he said. "This issue that we are facing here today is can the Mexican state with all of its power outfight the 
militias of the cartels? Now, it is not clear that they cannot, but, at this moment, it is also not clear that they can and that is really the crisis that is facing México."

President George Bush is trying to help Calderón with a package of aid and training that came out of a meeting between the two leaders last year in Merida, México. Bush's request has been reduced by the U.S. House of Representatives and has yet to pass in the Senate, but the president continues to support it.

But Friedman says even if the $400 million in aid currently in the proposal is approved, it may be too little, too late.

"It puts the United States on the line in México without anywhere near sufficient resources to make a decisive difference in a short period of time,"noted Friedman.
Friedman says, however, that the stakes are high for the United States in any case because violence in Mexico is bound to spill over the border and disrupt vital trade between the two nations.

If Mexico's government were to be overwhelmed by the drug gangs, Friedman argued, there would be people in both the United States and Mexico favoring direct U.S. intervention. That would undoubtedly stir Mexican nationalist resentment over past incursions by the United States. But, he says, that is not the only reason the United States should avoid such a drastic action.

"The problem is I don't know that an American intervention would work," he said. "As we saw in Iraq, putting 125,000 troops into a country of 25 million is not a particularly effective solution. Mexico is a country of over 100 million. I don't know if the U.S. has the resources to impose a settlement."

Friedman says the drug cartels are powerful because of the estimated $40 billion they take in each year from narcotics smuggling. He says legalization of drugs in the United States would deprive them of that profit. But he says that is politically unacceptable in the United States at this time. The other option is to reduce demand through drug treatment programs and campaigns against drug use, but he says decades of trying those approaches have failed to have much effect.

Bush allows U.S. shipments of cell telephones to Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George Bush marked a day of solidarity with the Cuban people by allowing people in the United States to send cellular telephones to family in Cuba.
But Bush said a series of economic and political reforms announced by Cuba's new president Raul Castro have not improved life on the island.

"Political dissidents continue to be harassed, detained, and beaten," said Bush. "And more than 200 prisoners of conscience still languish in Castro's tropical gulag."

Raúl Castro took power in February when his brother Fidel became too ill to rule. Among the changes made by the first new president in 49 years is a lifting of the ban against Cubans staying in tourist hotels. People can now purchase computers and DVD players and may own a cell phone in their own name.

"If the Cuban regime is serious about improving life for the Cuban people, it will take steps necessary to make these changes meaningful," he said. "Now that the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones, they should be trusted to speak freely in public."

Now that Cubans are allowed to buy DVD players, Bush
said they should be allowed to watch movies and documentaries produced by Cuban artists who are free to express themselves. He says greater access to computers should come with open access to the Internet.

But most of those products are still too expensive for many Cubans. So Bush is changing some of the rules governing gift parcels to the island to allow Americans to send cell phones to family in Cuba.

White House officials say the change should take several weeks to implement and does not affect America's long-standing trade embargo against the Communist state.

With cell phone handsets costing about $120 in Cuba, it would be a significant savings as handsets in the United States cost as little as $20.

Asked if the White House believes those U.S.-purchased phones will be allowed on the Cuban network, Dan Fisk, National Security Council director for the Western Hemisphere, said that is up to Raúl Castro.

The first day of solidarity with the Cuban people comes in a week when Cubans celebrate their independence day and mark the death of Jose Marti, a leader of Cuban independence from Spain.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 22, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 101

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Our readers have their say on board game and light bulbs
He says he's not a low life

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I appreciate your letters to the editor even though I don't always agree with them, which I am sure is the case with most people.

I have several comments on the articles and the letter written by Mark Sydney in your 5/21/08 edition. To clarify things I spend about half my time in Costa Rica and the other half in Montana in the United States.

I laughed at your board game. I have a college degree and am an ex-aerospace engineer and did not appreciate being called a "low life" by your reader for doing so. I would agree with him that the tone of your news has become somewhat negative, but, unfortunately, this reflects the reality of the situation. However, as we all know Costa Rica has many positive aspects as well.

I also am a technical reader and the entire article on the Puerto Viejo marina was due to someone not looking closely at the statement made by the representative of the marina. What he said was that the "techniques" being used to build the marina were approved by Greenpeace. That is a whole world of difference from Greenpeace approving the marina. Whether his statement concerning the techniques is correct, I have no idea.

And finally I have a comment on the article about the environmental judges receiving death threats. I am sure many projects are harming the "environment," but aren't we all doing that to some degree? Having considerable experience with environmentalists in the U.S., unfortunately releasing false or questionable data to the press is one of their favorite techniques. On the other hand, I'm sure many developments need to take more environmental considerations into account and should be forced to do so.
Guy Moats
Playa de Coco
Superior, Montana, U.S.A.

We are called 'wonderful'

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to the article by Mark Sydney, not only calling the wonderful and humorous staff of A.M. Costa Rica lowlifes with half a brain for the game board that made my day and that of all my expat friends has made me very angry. This is my very first editorial response.

Calling most of our readers as well lowlifes with half a brain and then signing your name with your title real estate broker leaves us all to believe who has half a brain?

I certainly would not want to deal with anyone who calls me those names. Yet I have nothing but praise for A.M. Costa Rica for not only amusing us in an educating way but publishing this response.
Steve Grodin

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Sydney signed his letter with URLs to a sports fishing operation and a real estate development. It was A.M. Costa Rica that called him a real estate broker in lieu of publishing the URLs.

A.M. Costa Rica

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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.

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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.

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We are not conspirators

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Your slip is showing Mark!

Relax, take a deep breath. A.M. Costa Rica is not part of a conspiracy set to destroy and ruin your real estate interests on the Pacific coast. The piece is called humor, like in funny and that it is. To suggest that it can only be appreciated by "lowlife" and as such written by "lowlife" or expats without an ounce of gray matter is disrespectful to its authors and A.M. readers who have enjoyed the piece. It is also very pretentious coming from as you declare: a regular reader of Diario Extra.
Get a life Mark
Andre Bruneau 
(A French Tico)

We are too forgiving

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to respond to the letters of John French and that of Mark Sydney.

Mr. French, we did, for many years, have parking meters in both San José and Heredia. Perhaps in a few other places as well. They were stolen or broken along with street signs so many times that we did away with them in favor of chaos and now semi chaos with the "boletos."

There are places in San José where sellers of "boletos" are difficult to find, do not exist or do not have the authority sell them. It's Costa Rica.

What I like about Mr. Mark Sydney's letter is that he let us know right off the bat that he is some sort of implied authority having lived here for 17 years and he must be civilized because he uses French words and sees French movies. For those who do not know, when Mr. Sydney says that he, ". . . enjoys a good story, bon mot or a comic twist," bon mot means a one liner.

I, too, found the A.M. Costa Rica game sans queue ni tete, so to speak (Nonsensical).

I also found it irritating that the editor, in defense of the goofy game notes that Mr. Sydney has something to do with real estate, ergo to wit that must be his motive to critique. Mr. Editor, maybe he just did not like your game? Is that possible?

Here is where Mr. Sydney and moi we differ greatly.

I have always perceived, except on occasion, that A.M. Costa Rica is like Larry King: The Zen master of softball journalism. It is too kind, too forgiving and too friendly to Costa Rica. It is supposed to be an online daily (O.K. five days a week in Costa Rica is a daily) and not a "good news" or "no news" journal. So Mr. Sydney put down your copy of Diario Extra, crank up your Mr. Coffee espresso machine, sip a "cortadito" and read La Nación, La República and El Fianciero if you want to really scare the hell out of yourself about living, doing business or investing in Costa Rica.

And exactly why has the colon been devalued so much, so fast in two weeks? The reasons being conjured and not published online by A.M. Costa Rica would give any rational investor pause to think. Could it be that our dollar reserves dropped off by a surprising $147 million in the first two weeks of May? (Can't wait for week three numbers!)
John Holtz
Santa Ana

Game was basically true

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My husband and I got a real chuckle from your "game." I guess we don't have anything to "sell," as Mr. Sydney does, so we looked at it with the humor it was intended to provide.

On the other hand, a possible visit to the "local downtown  hotel," the outlying beach area casinos and resort areas, robberies, etc will show that the game is based quite a bit on the truth.

We also have lived here 16 years, but the truth is the truth and some times it hurts. The way to get better living conditions is to face the facts, realize we have problems and try working together to improve them.  Also, let us try to do it with a sense of humor.

Cathy Knorr
Santa Ana

Environmental concern
over new CFL light bulbs

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
It seems that the big push in conserving electrical power is to change our light bulbs from incandescent to the new fluorescent CFL bulbs.
Fluorescences last a long time, but when they’re dead, they have to be properly disposed of. CFLs, like all florescent bulbs, do contain a small amount of mercury, which means they definitely can’t be thrown in the trash.
I wonder what means are being put into place for the proper disposable of CFLs? I also wonder what informational programs are in the works to alert the public about the proper disposable of CFLs?
Here in Costa Rica where trash is not separated in any form in most communities and in many places not even collected, mercury from CFLs can become a bio-hazard.
How long will it take for the mercury from broken CFL bulbs to find it's way into our land and rivers?
They could try adding a deposit on each bulb. Or have ICE offer a free exchange CFL bulb for every dead bulb turned into ICE. The government needs to be proactive on this one! 

Like Kermit the frog said..."It's not easy being green." 

Gene  Foltuz
San Pablo de Heredia.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 101

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