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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, June 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 112        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Unions will take to the streets in protest today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employee union members are going on strike today, a day earlier than announced last week.

Workers from the state monopolies are expected to gather at Parque Central for a march around noon. Children will be excused from many schools at 10 a.m. as teachers join the protest.

The strike originally was planned to continue the protest against the free trade treaty with the United States. But now there are other factors. Union members are upset by court decisions nullifying certain benefits provided to workers.

Employees from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, public education and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros will be in the streets, likely supported by students from the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro and the Universidad Nacional in Heredia. The
Heredia institution already has formally rejected the trade treaty.

Strikers are expected to march east to the Corte Suprema de Justicia where the Sala IV constitutional court is located. A statement by the public employees union called the constitutional court the spear point in eliminating the benefits obtained in the past by public workers.

The court has acted on appeals by the Movimiento Libertario to end extensive payoffs to employees and even the right of the national refinery worker's union to get a free vehicle from the company.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said that the court action is an effort to reduce the standard of living of Costa Rican workers to the level of others in Central America.

The unions also say that the free trade treaty jeopardizes public education and would lead to privatization of utilities like water.

Older men may have their defects, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

He may be rich and carry a North American passport. And better still, he may be mature. Nevertheless, he may not be that good a catch for a young family-minded Costa Rican lady.

May-December unions are not unusual here as retired expats seek to capture their youth and young Ticas seek to capture a proven breadwinner.

But now comes the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to spoil it all.

New research indicates that the genetic quality of sperm worsens as men get older, increasing a man’s risk of being infertile, fathering unsuccessful pregnancies and passing along dwarfism and possibly other genetic diseases to his children, the laboratory reports.

Cited is a report of a study just published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Earlier research by the same researchers indicated that male reproductive ability gradually worsens with age, as sperm counts decline and the sperm lose motility and their ability to swim in a straight line. In the current study, the researchers analyzed DNA damage, chromosomal abnormalities and gene mutations in semen samples from the same subjects: 97 healthy, non-smoking Lawrence Livermore employees and retirees between 22 and 80 years old.

The research team found that sperm

motility showed a high correlation with DNA fragmentation, which is associated with increased risk of infertility and a reduced probability of fathering a child.

“This study shows that men who wait until they’re older to have children are not only risking difficulties conceiving, they could also be increasing the risk of having children with genetic problems,” said co-lead author Andrew Wyrobek of Lawrence Livermore.

“We know that women have a biological time clock,” said co-lead author Brenda Eskenazi of the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health. "Our research suggests that men, too, have a biological time clock — only it is different. Men seem to have a gradual rather than an abrupt change in fertility and in the potential ability to produce viable healthy offspring.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 112

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Another tourism fair

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism operators have yet another chance to meet wholesalers. The tourism institute plans the Feria Nacional de Turismo Costa Rica 2006 at the centro comercial Paseo de las Flores, in Heredia June 15 through the 18.

Unlike Expotur in early May, this event is open to the general public. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A release from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said that 80,000  persons visited last year.

June 15 is reserved for tourism vendors to meet with tourism operators here. The public is welcome the other three days, the tourism institute said.

Outlook is more rain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The outlook for today is more rain morning, noon and night all over the country. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the morning will see light rain all over the country followed by rain of varying intensity during the afternoon and evening.

Weather workers blamed a low pressure area camped over the country. They also warned of potential problems due to the five days of sometimes heavy rain, such as slides and flooding.

Trio of suspects caught

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons invaded a home near Paquera on the Nicoya Peninsula Friday night and took $1,000 plus 500,000 colons ($980) from a man identified as a foreigner.

Police managed to capture three suspects — two men and a woman — at a roadblock at the entrance to Paquera.

The robbery happened in Santa Teresita at the home of a man identified by the last name of Riedc. The man was able to advise police after the trio left, officers said. He was identified as a tourist.

The three, men named Morales Cambronero and Calderón Ramírez and a woman with the last names of Chavarría Ortiz, were held.

Mayor faces the public

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a tradition as old as the Spanish viceroys, the mayor of Desamparados will discuss his management of his office in a public hearing Thursday.

The mayor is Carlos Padilla Corella, and the event is called in Spanish rendir cuentas or giving accounts. This is a tradition for almost all officeholders. But frequently the summary is made to the legislature or an official body.

Padilla said that developing the canton is something that requires the participation of development associations, unions, churches and cultural groups.  His report will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Clínica Marcial Fallas in Desamparados.

Two died in crash with bus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two persons died in a crash with a bus late Monday on the Rancho Guanacaste traffic circle on the southern bypass highway. The accident happened about 11 p.m. when the bus was being transported to overnight storage.

A car containing five persons collided with the bus. The 23-year-old driver of the car, identified by the name of Rodríguez, was trapped in the wreckage and died. Another 23-year-old named Esteller also died. The bus driver faces an investigation.

Paraguay's Macchi convicted

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — Former president Luis González Macchi has been sentenced to six years in prison on corruption charges.

A Paraguayan court Monday found Gonzalez Macchi guilty of embezzling $16 million from two collapsed banks. The sentence was read live on television. Prosecutors had sought a 10-year term. Gonzalez Macchi's lawyers say they will appeal the decision.

Gonzalez Macchi assumed power in 1999 after the assassination of vice president Luis Argana. He served until 2003. 

Bird flu on agenda

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials were among those who gathered Tuesday to plan a response to a possible bird flu outbreak in Central America.  Also attending were representatives of the Federación Avícola de Centroamérica and the Consejo Agropecuario Centroamericano.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 112


Two insiders held in San Pedro cell phone frauds
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Phone company employees were creating fake accounts so that foreigners could run up high toll charges and then stick unsuspecting citizens with the bill, agents said Tuesday.

Agents detained an employee of the San Pedro agency of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad Tuesday and conducted six raids including one at the branch telephone office.

A second man facing allegations stemming from the same scam already is in custody, agents said. They said the loss to the phone company may be as much as 8 million colons, some $15,000 or $16,000.

Agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization said the operation worked this way:

A phone company employee used fake documents to create an account for a cellular telephone. The employee gathered facturas and utility bills that are required for establishing a cell phone account, and in some cases the employees even paid the 12,500-colon security deposit.

Once the account was established in the name of an innocent third party, the cell telephone was marketed to foreigners, mainly from Colombia, Panamá and the
Dominican Republic. The foreigners would use the telephone until it was cut off by the company for non-payment.

The innocent third parties only became aware of the scam when the phone company contacted them to try
and collect the overdue bill. In most cases, the persons whose names appeared on the accounts could show that they had never even been in the San Pedro facility.

Agents said they had been working on the case for a year and a half. They said they found that facturas or sales slips showing the purchase of cell telephones could be traced to a store that is in this business. In fact, some of the phones used in the scam had been stolen and reworked with a new chip provided by the telephone company customer service workers, agents said.

Two cell phone sales outlets were among the places raided Tuesday. Also raided were three homes, two in La Unión de Cartago and one in Hatillo, as well as the San Pedro telephone company agency.

Agents, who are working the Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization, said they found more cell telephones of suspicious origin in the raids as well as documents.

But where do you go Friday Shhhh! if you want the Germans to win?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you are a fan of the Costa Rican national team, you will not have a problem Friday morning finding a place to cheer on the players.

Every bar, every restaurant and even in front of the giant screen at Avenida Central and Calle Central will be friendly territory.

But suppose you are for the Germans?

It might be a good idea to confine your cheering to a place hosting like-minded fans.

One such place is Colegio Humbolt in Pavas near the U.S. Embassy.  The Institución Cultural Germano Costarricense has invited present and former students, faculty and the entire German community to watch the game on a big screen. Information: 232-1455 Ext. 223
At the Club Alemán in Los Yoses, Volker Fink, the German ambassador, has invited diplomatic corps members and other special guests to come early at 9 a.m. for a  ceremony.

The German Embassy also reports that in Ciudad Colón the Asociación de Desarrollo Específica para el Rescate Histórico, Arquitectónico y Cultural del Cantón de Mora will host a Tico breakfast and a German lunch after showing the game. Information: 249-3124.

AutoStar Vehículos S.A., the Mercedes dealership, has constructed what is being called a virtual stadium at its La Uruca facilities. The company says it has room for 400 persons, but there is a 10,000-colon ($19.50) entrance fee which will be donated to Aldeas S.O.S. Santa Ana. The company promises a party atmosphere with models, drinks, food and even raffles for air tickets to the United States. Information: 295-0004.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 112

World Cup visitors at risk
Health officials warn about measles in Germany
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Football fans following their national teams to Germany for the World Cup ought to make sure their measles immunizations are up to date, according to warnings issued by the Pan American Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recent outbreaks in Germany and other European nations could be a health threat to travelers from the Western Hemisphere, where circulation of the measles virus has been extremely limited since 2001.

More than 1,100 cases of measles have been reported in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region since the first of the year, the largest measles outbreak since 2001. Three cities in that region — Cologne, Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen — will host World Cup matches, according to a health organization news release, and six of the eight teams from the Americas will play in those cities. Costa Rica's team is one of the two not playing in that region.

“We are telling country health officials,” said Dr. Jon K. Andrus, senior adviser of Pan American Health Organization’s immunization program, “that any resident of the Americas traveling outside the Western Hemisphere should be immune to measles before departure, and health care workers in the public and private sectors should be alerted to the possibility of measles importations.
Western Hemisphere nations adopted a goal to eliminate measles in 1994, and the occurrence of the disease has declined 99 percent since that time. Only a handful of countries throughout North and South America have reported measles over the last few years, and, in those instances, only a smattering of cases has been reported.

A 2002 outbreak in Venezuela is considered the last instance of widespread endemic transmission of the measles virus in the Americas. In early 2006, 49 measles cases were detected in Venezuela, but they were traced to a case of the disease from Spain.

“As long as measles eradication is not pursued globally,” Andrus said, “imported or import-related measles cases will continue to occur in the Americas.”

Teams — and the fans who love them — from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States will have games in North Rhine-Westphalia after the global football tournament begins June 9.

Despite Western Hemisphere success in controlling measles, both it and mumps remain common diseases in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control, so Americans face a high risk of exposure when traveling. The centers recommends that travelers be fully immunized and carry documentation of their immunizations among their documents.

Human rights and budget are main concerns for OAS
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Human rights concerns were the focus of talks on the final day of a meeting of the Organization of American States. Some human rights groups say the organization should do more to address terrorist threats, racism and violence against women. There is also concern that a funding shortfall may threaten the organization's human rights activities.

Delegates gathered on the third and final day of the general assembly for an assessment of human rights conditions in the Americas. The president of the group's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Evelio Fernandez, noted several improvements in the region, including measures to prevent violence against women in Jamaica and Chile. And he praised Honduras and Colombia for ratifying a treaty to combat political killings.

But Fernandez told delegates there is still much room for improvement. He says there are still serious obstacles to human rights in the hemisphere, especially because of weak legal systems in several countries. He adds that poor living conditions prevent residents of many nations from enjoying their social and economic rights. Fernandez also noted ongoing violence by leftist rebels in Colombia, lack of security in Haiti and the jailing of political dissidents in Cuba.

The U. S. ambassador to OAS, John Maisto, took note of conditions in Cuba, such as as continued restrictions on freedom of expression and failures in the justice system.
Maisto also drew comparisons between Cuba and the current government in Venezuela, which frequently has been at odds with Washington. He criticized Caracas for failing to respond to a request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit the country.

Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza told delegates that funding problems remain a concern, and officials are studying a possible increase in dues from member states to avoid cuts in organization activities.

Sergio Widder, Latin America representative for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that possible financial cuts are a serious worry.

Widder said his group was calling on the Organization of American States to create a list of terrorist groups for the Americas, and said the Palestinian group Hamas should be included.  He said Venezuela's government has invited Hamas members to visit the South American nation.

He said allowing terrorist group members into Latin America is a threat, and should be opposed before it's too late, especially following terrorist attacks in Argentina, such as the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994.

The final task for delegates from the 34 nations of the OAS was the signing of a declaration in support of expanding technology and communication systems across the region. The next general assembly is set to take place in Panamá next year.


Jo Stuart
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