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(506) 2223-1327          Published Wednesday, May 25, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 102             E-mail us
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July 4th celebration will be at Avenida Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The American Colony Committee is collaborating this year with Avenida Escazú for a July 4 celebration. That means the traditional morning picnic will not take place.

The news came in a letter to picnic patrons. These are the individuals and firms that have donated money or products to the picnic in years past. In a separate email, Margaret Sohn, co-chairwoman of the celebration's patron's committee, said that no donations will be collected this year.

"We do plan to return to the morning event next year and hope our patrons will continue their support," she said.

"After our successful 50th picnic celebration in 2010, the American Colony Committee decided the time had come to do some much needed brainstorming and basically re-engineer the picnic with the objective of improving the event and making it financially more sustainable," said the letter to patrons. 

"During this process we were approached by the management of Avenida Escazú, with a proposal to collaborate on a special celebration they are organizing for July 4th, 2011.  We are very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the cultural element of this program which will be held on Monday, July 4, at Avenida Escazú from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.   And, best of all, the celebration will include fireworks, which have always been at the top of our wish list!

"The event is open to the public with plenty of activities for all ages, including lots of live music.  There will be a parade down the avenue complete with Uncle Sam, a playground, magicians and clowns for the children.  There will also be the square dancing that you can join in on as well as the traditional patriotic ceremony."
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The picnic in the past was held in the morning to avoid the probable afternoon rains. It has been held at the grounds of the Cervercería de Costa Rica west of San José. The picnic has been the major gathering place for U.S. expats in Costa Rica. Some come from distant communities just for the picnic.

However, there have been criticisms that only U.S. citizens and immediate families were permitted to attend. The reason was that free food and beer were part of the attraction. Lately the committee has been charging a small admission fee.

Nationality will not be a factor this year, since the letter said that all are welcome. Avenida Escazú is south of the Autopista Próspero Fernández and the Hospital CIMA. It is an upscale shopping area with office buildings and other attractions..


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Sales executives will provide existing clients full details. They also will point out that the company will stand behind advertising agreements made between now and June 1 at the current rates for a period of up to one year.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 102

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Some public officials
are ducking asset reports


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 1,000 officials in government have failed to present the legally required sworn statement of their possessions, said the Contraloría de la República.

The watchdog agency said that 12,328 persons are obligated by law to present the statement of their goods, but only 11,155 did in the period that ended  Friday. The law is designed to prevent corruption.

Some 335 persons presented their statements digitally, the agency said.

After a warning, those who did not file could be subject to administrative action, the agency said.

Police sweep of buses
seek failings for disabled


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Tránsito, some disabled persons and representatives from the Consejo Nacional de Rehabilitación
y Eduación Especial were out in three locations in the Central Valley Tuesday morning checking to see if buses complied with a law providing access for those with physical handicaps.

More than three dozen bus drivers got 150,000-colon tickets, police said.

Police will repeat the inspections today at Parque Desamparados. The inspections Tuesday were in La Uruca, El Coyol and in Heredia.

Seating for the disabled is supposed to be clearly marked in buses, and there are various other accommodations the law demands.

Dispute halts bananas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A labor dispute at United Fruit Company – Dole kept 300,000 kilos of bananas from being shipped out for a time, said the  Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social. The ministry said that it intervened and managed to reach agreement between the company and its workers. Shipments are normal now, said the ministry.

 
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.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 102
Latigo K-9

Bulk of Milanes investors appear to have accepted his deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most former investors with Savings Unlimited who have filed legal cases will get about 18 percent of their money back. That appears to be the conciliation deal worked out between casino owner Luis Milanes and most of the lawyers representing those who lost funds.

Some former investors are not happy with this deal and will continue to press criminal charges against Milanes and his associates, according to emails received by A.M. Costa Rica.

The conciliation hearings, which ended Monday were private, and even some of the former investors found that they could not attend because the session had been reduced to one room instead of the usual two in order to accommodate an unrelated trial.

Some who attended said that Ewald Acuña, who represents more than 100 clients, and representatives of the Oficina de la Defensa Civil de la Victima said they accepted the deal. Other lawyers did, too.

Basically Milanes will turn over properties and money, perhaps as much as $10 million, to the court, and these will be placed in a trust. Proceeds from the sale of properties will be distributed among the former investors based on how much they could document that they had invested.

That will be after expenses, brokerage fees and lawyers are paid.

The 18 percent figure was an estimate by an investor.
Those who accept the deal still have to sign off formally. There does not appear to be a written version of the deal, just verbal commitments made before a judge and recorded by the court.

Some lawyers who favor the deal are cutting loose their clients who want to see Milanes go to jail. The investors have to find other representation. Theoretically Milanes will now face trial because all investors did not take the deal. However, prosecutors have not shown strong urges to present a fraud case.

Many lawyers appear to be happy that the conciliation is over and that they can take their fees and put the long-running case behind them. Milanes closed down his high-interest operation in November 2002 and fled.  At the time the estimate was that his investors lost about $200 million. Many choose not to pursue legal action. Some died. The case gained new life when Milanes surrendered himself in June 2009 and returned to Costa Rica.

Milanes' network of casinos continued to function in his absence. They are not part of the conciliation deal.

Some investors who are declining to accept the results of the conciliation hope that Milanes will be convicted and that judges award them a much higher percentage. When Oswaldo Villalobos was convicted of aggravated fraud, some investors in that high-interest operation were awarded about 30 percent of what they had given the Villalobos brothers. However some assets seized by the court were real estate, and efforts to convert the property into cash have been slow due to the current market situation.


Lawmakers vote to investigate Libertario campaign funding
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature voted Tuesday to set up a special commission to investigate and report on the financing of the Movimiento Libertario campaign in the last presidential, legislative and mayoral elections.

Prosecutors are investigating Olman Rimola, the unsuccessful Libertarian candidate for mayor of Escazú and others who donated money to the political party. In one case the donation was $1 million.

Rimola is a 40-year-old businessman associated with  Innovative Data Solutions, a Rohrmoser call center that was involved in online poker. Some employees of poker companies have been detained in the United States for violating a law that prohibits such online games in that country. Others, including U.S. citizens who were in Costa Rica, are being sought.

The U.S. government alleged money laundering and conspiracy, which is why the Costa Rican investigators are involved.

The Partido Liberación Nacional was the motivating force behind the legislative investigation. Libertarios abandoned
Liberación to form a coalition with former opposition parties to capture the legislative leadership at the beginning of the month.

Luis Gerardo Villanueva Monge, the legislative leader of Liberación, said that the ruling bloc, called Alianza por Costa Rica acted to protect the Libertarios.

Liberación will have seven lawmakers on the seven member investigative committee.

The Liberación leader said that the investigation might broaden to include checking on the financing of other parties.

Otto Guevara Guth was the Libertario candidate for president.

Political campaigns in Costa Rica get government money based on the number of votes earned. But that is after the election. So parties usually borrow money from banks to finance the campaign until the government money comes.

Movimiento Libertario appears to have accepted financing from individuals. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones also is looking into the situation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 102


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Another truckload of cocaine comes into hands of police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The truckloads of cocaine just keep coming.

The latest to come to the attention of police was a bold effort to transport some 560 kilos of cocaine, presumably to the Nicaraguan border in northwest Costa Rica.

The truck carrying the drug stopped at a police checkpoint near Cuajiniquil, La Cruz, in Guanacaste Monday night. The driver made no effort to hide the drugs.

The packages simply were stacked inside the enclosed box of the Chevrolet truck.

Police and anti-drug agents detained the man identified by the last names of Alvarado Torres.

Less than a week earlier police stopped a vehicle and found kilos of cocaine hidden in the truck box wall. That arrest in Miramar came from a telephone tip.

In both cases, security officials brought the cocaine to the Central Valley by air under heavy security.
drug haul
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
Officers unload drug flight in Alajuela Monday night.




Kids learn new words in abrupt steps, Penn study suggests

By the University of Pennsylvania news service

New research by a team of University of Pennsylvania psychologists is helping to overturn the dominant theory of how children learn their first words, suggesting that it occurs more in moments of insight than gradually through repeated exposure.

The research was conducted by postdoctoral fellow Tamara Nicol Medina and professors John Trueswell, and Lila Gleitman, all of the Department of Psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences and the University’s Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, and Jesse Snedeker, a professor at Harvard University.

Their work was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week.

The current, long-standing theory suggests that children learn their first words through a series of associations. They associate words they hear with multiple possible objects or actions in their immediate environment.

Over time, children can track both the words and elements of the environments they correspond to, eventually narrowing down what the word must be referring to.

“This sounds very plausible until you see what the real world is like,” Ms. Gleitman said. “It turns out it's probably impossible.”

“The theory is appealing as a simple, brute force approach,” Ms. Medina said. “I've even seen it make its way into parenting books describing how kids learn their first words.”

Experiments supporting the associative word learning theory generally involve series of pictures of objects, shown in pairs or small groups against a neutral background. The real world, in contrast, has an infinite number of possible referents that can change in type or appearance from instance to instance and may not even be present each time the word is spoken.

A small set of psychologists and linguists, including members of the Penn team, have long argued that the 
sheer number of statistical comparisons necessary to learn words this way is simply beyond the capabilities of human memory.  Even computational models designed to compute such statistics must implement shortcuts and do not guarantee optimal learning.

“This doesn't mean that we are bad at tracking statistical information in other realms, only that we do this kind of tracking in situations where there are a limited number of elements that we are associating with each other,” Trueswell said.  “The moment we have to map the words we hear onto the essentially infinite ways we conceive of things in the world, brute-force statistical tracking becomes infeasible. The probability distribution is just too large.”

To demonstrate this, the Penn team conducted three related experiments, all involving short video segments of parents  interacting with their children. Subjects, both adults and preschool-aged children, watched these videos with the sound muted except for when the parent said a particular word which subjects were asked to guess; the target word was replaced with a beep in the first experiment and a nonsense placeholder word in the second and third.

The first experiment was designed to determine how informative the vignettes were in terms of connecting the target word to its meaning. If more than half of the subjects could correctly guess the target word, it was deemed highly informative. If less than a third could, the vignette was deemed low. The latter vastly outnumbered the former. Of the 288 vignettes, 7 percent were high and 90 percent were low, demonstrating that even for highly frequent words, determining the meaning of a word simply from its visual context was quite difficult.

The second experiment involved showing subjects a series of vignettes with multiple target words, all consistently replaced with nonsense placeholders.

By asking the subjects to guess the target word after each vignette, the researcher could get a sense of whether their understanding was cumulative or occurred in a moment. The evidence pointed strongly to the latter. Repeated exposure to the target word did not lead to improved accuracy over time, suggesting that previous associations hypotheses were not coming into play.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 102

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Guatemala says it holds
key figure in beheadings


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom says authorities have caught the suspected local leader of a group of drug gang hitmen accused of killing and beheading nearly 30 field workers on a ranch near Mexico's border.

Colom told reporters Tuesday that the person in custody appears to have been responsible for directing the group that killed the workers.  Authorities have identified the suspect as Elder Estuardo Morales Pineda. 

The massacre took place in Guatemala's Peten province earlier this month.  Officials have blamed Mexico's Zetas drug gang for the incident, which has been described as one of Guatemala's worst mass killings in a generation.  Police have said most of the victims were beheaded.

In response to the massacre, Colom last week declared a state of siege in the Peten region.  The move, which suspends constitutional guarantees, was put into effect to give authorities time to track down the killers.

Authorities have said that of the various Mexican drug gangs operating in Guatemala, the Zetas seem to have made the most inroads.  In Mexico, the Zetas have been hit hard by the military and federal police since President Felipe Calderón took office in late 2006 and began a crackdown on organized crime groups.

In another development, Guatemalan authorities say officials have found the chopped up body of a local prosecutor — a killing also blamed on the Zetas.

Last year, a U.S. State Department report said entire regions of Guatemala are now essentially under the control of the Zetas.

U.N. network monitoring
threat from erupting volcano


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Members of a United Nations network of volcanic ash advisory centers around the world are monitoring a volcano in Iceland that has erupted and spewed ash high into the air, disrupting airline travel over parts of Europe.

The Grímsvötn volcano in south-eastern Iceland, which began erupting on Saturday, has ejected ash to a height of at least 10 kilometers (more than six miles), according to Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the U.N. World Meteorological Organization.

Nine volcanic ash advisory centers – set up by the meteorological organization, the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics – are providing meteorological information as part of a global volcano watch system, she said.

The lead centre for this eruption is based in the United Kingdom, and is responsible for monitoring and reporting the spread of ash over the UK, Iceland and the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ms. Nullis said the advisory centre is also providing forecasts about where and how the ash plume from Grímsvötn might spread in the days ahead, depending on weather patterns and the length of the volcano’s eruption.

The information being provided should help officials make decisions on transport and other areas of planning, the meteorological organization said.

Several hundred flights have already been cancelled due to the ash, but some scientific experts have predicted that the impact will be less severe than the April 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which closed much of European air space for days.

Concert is this Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Teatro Nacional is beginning a program of concerts in its foyer with a presentation by the group Recóndita Armonía Saturday at 5 p.m. The program consists of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. 

The capacity of the area is just 98 spectators, so the theater urged those who wish to attend to obtain their tickets during the week either by telephone to 2221-5341 or online at www.teatronacional.go.cr
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 102

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Mexican drug suspects
faced with new charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prosecutors have filed a second charge against two Mexicans who were seeking to leave prison for house arrest. They are Rubén Martinez Trujillo, and Elvis Mendoza Rivera.

A hearing on the house arrest petition is scheduled for this morning in the Juzgado Penal de Pavas. A judge ordered the men to be placed in house arrest. They have been in La Reforma prison.

Prosecutors will argue today that they cannot follow the judge's order because of the expense. The new charge is supposed to help keep them in prison.

They were seeking to move to Sabana, but the landlord canceled the contract. The neighbors in Moravia successfully protested for several days.

The men are the owners of a drug-laden small plane that crashed on takeoff from Tobias Bolaños airport. They have been in jail since Oct. 11, the day after the crash.

Costa Rican prison officials
tour Nebraska facilities


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nebraska penal officials have hosted a delegation from Costa Rica that was to tour 10 of the state's prisons and receive briefings on the central administration and industries in the correctional facilities.

The visit is the first in a planned series to offer cooperation for the purpose of exchanging best practices on prisons and corrections management and systems, said the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

In the future, other key foreign officials will be selected by the bureau for corrections programs around the world. The purpose of these activities is to enhance the capacity of foreign governments to handle international criminal activities and incarceration, the bureau said.



Ad rates are going up

Consultantes Río Colorado S.A., the parent company of A.M. Costa Rica, announces that it will be increasing advertising rates as of June 1. The increases, between 0 and 9 percent, will affect display as well as some classified rates.

Sales executives will provide existing clients full details. They also will point out that the company will stand behind advertising agreements made between now and June 1 at the current rates for a period of up to one year.

The company last raised rates in 2007 and held the line for the benefit of clients during the recent recession.







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