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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, June 12, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 115       E-mail us
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Cartago will show off the complexities of its cusine June 27
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a lot more to the Provincia de Cartago than potatoes, and cooks of the communities will be out to prove this June 27.

The event is another of the culture ministry's efforts to capture the nation's traditions.

When most Costa Ricans think of Cartago, the words chilly and potatoes leap to their minds. The province, centered around the Canton of Cartago is generally higher than communities in the Central Valley. Cartago itself at 1,435 meters is 274 meters (about 900 feet) higher than the bulk of San José.

That may be bad for sunbathing, but the weather is great for temperate vegetable crops, including the potato, carrot, onions and even the chayote. And these work their way into the area's traditional menus.

There are seven other cantons, La Unión, Jiménez, Turrialba, Oreamuno, Alvarado, El Guarco and Paraíso. Each has developed their own variations on food. After all, they have had plenty of time. Cartago was founded in the middle of the 16th century, and Spanish settled in the region due to the healthy climate. The city was the nation's capital until 1823.

The region is also known for its conservatism, so one can expect that the Spanish tradition will be a strong influence on the local foods.

The culture ministry's Centro de Investigación 
cardiologist does not recommend
Cardiologists do not recommend the editor's bacon and garlic Cartago potato medley.

y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural is putting on the contest in the Club Social de Cartago starting at 9 a.m.

The good part is that only a portion of the food contestants bring goes to the judges. The rest is offered to the public. Eventually the recipes will be compiled into a book as the centro has done with other sections of Costa Rica.

A similar event seven years ago did have representative dishes of potatoes, including stuffed potatoes (papa rellena) and potato and cheese bread (pan de papa y queso).

But certainly there also will be pozol, that stick-to-the-ribs corn and pork soup or stew.

Contestants will compete in three areas, the main dish, dessert and drinks. There are money prizes for winners.



Another Cruz Roja ambulance and crew attacked
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Once again the crew of a Cruz Roja ambulance has become the victim of aggression. This time the incident was in Tirrases de Curridabat.

Miguel Carmona Jiménez, president of the aid organization said that the ambulance and crew were responding Thursday to an emergency call to attend to an individual who had fallen and a separate case of another ill individual. Unlike a previous attack in Desamparados, these appeared to be real emergencies. The time was about 2:30 p.m.

A group of individuals began throwing rocks at the ambulance and approached as if to attack the crew inside, said the Cruz Roja. But the ambulance crew was able to get away with just physical damage to the sides and roof of the vehicle.
 
Caramona said that Cruz Roja officials in Curridabat said they would suspend ambulance 
responses into this area, Those needing emergency service will have to make their way to the entrance of the neighborhood, he said.

The Cruz Roja said that on previous trips the crew of ambulances had received threats in Tirrases, but this was the most serious incident.

Earlier May 25 an ambulance and crew in Desamparados responded to an emergency call from the La Capri section. The two crewmen, identified as Antonio Solano and Pablo Mora, arrived to find a young man who told them that his mother was gravely ill.

When the two ambulance attendants got out of the vehicle, they were held at gunpoint, beaten and pistol whipped, the Cruz Roja said.

Robbers sacked the ambulance and took personal property of the two men, said William Guzmán, the local administrator, at the time.


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Pair trafficked to México
will get official assistance


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local officials are offering support for two Costa Rican women, both in their 20s, who appear to have been lured to México with promises of a modeling career. They were forced to work as prostitutes, according to accounts from the Mexican police provided by officials here.

The two women still are in the Yucatan where they have been for about a month. According to reports from México, one of the women managed to leave the building where they were staying this week and ran shoeless to a policeman.  A subsequent police visit to the building identified the other Costa Rican woman.

Both appear to have been lured to México by promises on an Internet site that offered $200 a day for modeling work. Both said they had been threatened.

Officials here are trying to unravel the Costa Rican end of the trafficking operation. They believe that persons running the prostitution ring make visits here to secure recruits.

Ana Durán Salvatierra, a vice minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that the women are now under the protection of Costa Rican diplomats in México and that officials here would offer aid to the women and their families when they return.

Our readers' opinions
Transparency for benefit
of U.S. tax collectors


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I read your response to Tessa Borner from Grecia on expat taxes and transparency. Perhaps we can clear up some misinformation. The U.S.A. is one of only a handful of countries in the world which tax citizenship, not residency. Therefore they take great care and attention to where you live out your life and what you declare back to them as income. Now we see that the “need for transparency”  is born to keep its Americans living abroad paying their taxes to the IRS.
 
Once most expats leave their country of origin, pay their departing year's taxes, they are on the most part are left alone and are of no interest to their own country. In some countries after death their can be another attempt to get more taxes, but for the most part that can be avoided with careful planning.
 
So truthfully “transparency” is likely 99 percent for the benefit of U.S.A. and the IRS, as most other countries truly have no interest in the affairs of their citizens living abroad. This is another example of how issues which are for U.S. tax interest are brushed and published as needed and good for all despite your country of origin.
Tony McCreath
San Ramón

Just hurry up and wait
is philosophy in
la Uruca

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Had to laugh yesterday morning (mostly, to keep from crying) at reading the article about how residents can renew their cédulas at various BCR branches instead of having to request appointments in La Uruca….

We just lost another day on Monday, after traveling down from Arenal over the weekend, trying to obtain a certificate of migratory status from immigration, since they still haven’t processed our applications (we formally applied at the Houston, Texas, Consulate on Nov. 15, 2007), and still have not received our cédulas, despite three trips, with hotel stays, to La Uruca, since that time.

After waiting all day Monday, and after having jumped through all their hoops and paid for all the timbres and stamps and fees that they have required, only to find that they have now lost my file, so we can’t even get proof of status (which ‘solicitude’ of said proof required the payment of some more timbres/stamps, waiting an extra day in San Jose because the proof could only be requested during certain hours) from these people.

Now we have been told to go home and wait for a phone call or a fax . . . . So, good luck to all those current holders of cédulas.  I hope things work out better for them than they are working out for us applicants.
John G. Dungan, RN
Aguacate, Guanacaste

Absence of law allows
problems in Herradura


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Lowther, a writer Thursday, is ignoring the state of the law. Of course there are unprincipled individuals motivated by greed and a quick buck. As a lawyer he knows that law is blind. 

He should be castigating the cause of all this which is that there appears to be no law.  It is this which allows these manipulators to take advantage of the poor who perhaps in good faith bought possessions without title. They are suffering because they may not have realized there was no title.

The original owners suffered the loss of their legitimate purchase. If he lives in Herradura he must know that this is for the most part an organized racket taking advantage of a system that encourages land theft with little risk of punishment. No wonder people are getting hurt and as usual it is often just the little guy.

Until the law is clear and enforced, there will always be opportunities for carpet baggers.  Greed and amoral exploitation are always about. While I sympathize with his sentiments, he should address the root problem which is the attitude of the authorities that allow this atmosphere of rampant illegality to proliferate.
Mario Chacon
Santa Teresa

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 115

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Drivers and students detained after street riot in Turrialba
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A street riot between taxi drivers and their porteador competitors resulted in the arrest of 17 persons Thursday. Two of those arrested were minors, presumed to be among a group of students who joined the melee.

One building was damaged heavily, and passing cars and two police vehicles also suffered damage. Two Fuerza Pública officers also were hurt, officials said.

At the center of the Turrialba riot was a garage and office structure that investigators said last month figured in a drug
distribution operation. The business was that of porteador. These are drivers who compete with licensed taxis and transport individuals on contract. There has been a   long-running feud between taxi drivers and the porteadores.
The Fuerza Pública said that at least two groups of  porteadores were involved in the street fight and riot. There also was a group of taxi drivers, they said.

Rioters invaded some commercial establishments and even set fire to some trash cans there.

As the incident continued, young people, presumed to be local students arrived, and took up sticks plus whatever weapons they could find close at hand and directed their efforts at the porteador building, passing cars and police, officials said.

The Unidad de Intervención Policial of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública came to the scene. This is the ministry's riot squad. It was the unit's bus that suffered window damage.


Tibás cell telephone monitoring service under investigation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Tibás company that eavesdrops on cell phones with the permission of the owner is under investigation. Agents raided the business Thursday evening after a television show disclosed how the business works.

An estimated 800 individuals had given the company the right to monitor calls for their cell phones. The problem is that the phones, although listed in the owner's name, might be in use by a spouse or another person in the household.

The company advertised that it could find out about unfaithful spouses.

The electronics make it possible to tap cell phones without the knowledge of the person making the call. The company provided tapes and transcripts of telephone calls to those who hired it.

The company also said the system was a good way to keep track of possible drug use by children.
Police officials have the right to tap phones lines with the permission of a judge. Several major cases have been made that way. Legislation now being considered would broaden that right.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the company tapped phones without the permission of the owner, although that has not been established.

The case is in a murky area of Costa Rican law, which is one obstacle to prosecution.

As of now the company is effectively out of business. Agents took computers and other electronic devices.

Other companies do the same thing, but they do not advertise on the Internet, which is what attracted journalistic attention to this firm in the first place.

It also is possibler to hear telephone conversations with a radio scanner, although maintaining contact with a moving cell telephone is a complex procedure.


Skipping breakfast can lead to a day-long hospital stay
One place I have not wanted to go recently is the Hospital San Juan de Dios.  The papers have been reporting a number of bacterial infections of the kind that usually are caught in hospitals — even hospitals in industrialized countries.  I just don’t like to risk something like that.  But my new cardiologist managed to secure me an appointment for a special exam.  He had said that it was not a pleasant exam. 

That was an understatement.  Thinking I might be woozy after the procedure, I asked my friend Doug if he would go with me.

In preparation I had to be en ayunas (without breakfast).  My appointment was for 10 a.m., and we arrived early, I, thinking about my morning cup of cappuccino that I had missed — not to mention anything at all to drink or eat.  I didn’t get into the examining room until well after 11, and the preparation took about a half-hour.  When I asked the doctor how long the exam would take, he said, “About five minutes.”

Another understatement.  The procedure was to help them see, with the help of a tube, via my throat, get a closer look at my heart. 

Sometime around noon the nurse, helped a very woozy me off the table and down the hall to a chair next to Doug.  That is all I recall until I was sitting in a wheelchair being pushed into emergency.  I had made the mistake of passing out. 

They put me in a bed – there was actually an empty bed for me — and thus began my marathon.  First a young intern took my total medical history.  I know that every Caja hospital, including San Juan de Dios,  has a file of exactly the same history, but I guess it is lost somewhere.  Maybe if we get computerized information, we won’t have to go through this again, but then, the young male interns are very handsome and sweet. 

Sometime in the afternoon we were brought coffee and a snack.  I couldn’t recognize the snack and gave it to the woman in the bed next to me because she had been asking for something to eat for an hour.  The coffee had milk and was sweet.

It wasn’t really hot (which I insist upon at home), but I found it delicious.  Which has made me wonder about the relationship between hunger or desire and taste.  Maybe that cappuccino in that train station in Naples so many      
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 
years ago wasn’t as absolutely great as I recall it.

Then they put me through every test I could imagine, including a brain scan that they called a TAC.  I really dread these tests because I am sure there is radiation involved.  But it seems very difficult to take control once you are in the system.

By 8:30 in the evening the results of all but one test were done and showed that everything was normal, including the brain scan (about which I was a bit nervous) and I was insisting that I was well enough to go home – puleese! Especially since I had spent the past five hours on a gurney in the hall (easier than getting me in and out of bed for my various trips).

The last test showed that my potassium was low.  I felt that I probably could have told them that.  After all, I had not had anything to eat or drink all day except for a bit of water and the coffee (which I remember as being delicious). With assurances to the doctor now attending me that I would fill the prescription for potassium, I was released.   She also said that a blood test showed a “possible infection,” and I should keep an eye on it.  With that, Doug who had been waiting with me all day, called a taxi and we left.

Two days later, still feeling weak and with a very sore throat, I noted a paragraph in the Washington Post.  It was in an article by Cici Connolly about the Obama administration’s attempt to lower costs and improve medical care in the U.S.  This was regarding older patients:

“Much of the evidence suggests that the more doctors, more drugs, more tests and more therapies given to patients, the worse they fare — and the unhappier they become, said Donald Berwick, president of the independent research group Institute of Quality Improvement.”

I certainly am unhappy about the tests I had and have decided that if I can help it, the most invasive test I am going to allow in the future is what can be done with a stethoscope.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 115


Young adults seem to be harder hit by pandemic swine flu
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
and staff reports

The swine influenza outbreak has officially reached global pandemic levels, the public health arm of the United Nations announced Thursday, as it raised its warning system to Phase 6.

In addition, international and Costa Rican health officials said that young adults seem to be getting more than their fair share of the illness.

The World Health Organization stressed that Phase 6, the highest level on its pandemic alert scale, refers to the spread of the virus and not its severity.

The upgrade to Phase 6 means that sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus has spread beyond North America, where it was concentrated, with the organization reporting 28,774 verified cases of the infection in 74 countries, including 144 deaths, as of Thursday.

“The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic,” said Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization. She talked to reporters in Geneva, adding that the spread of the virus is unstoppable.

“On present evidence, the overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms,” said Dr. Chan, and the World Health Organization does not expect to see a dramatic jump in the number of severe or fatal infections.

She noted that the virus tends to infect younger people with the majority of cases, in areas with widespread outbreaks, occurring in people under 25 years of age, and around 2 per cent of cases have suffered very severe symptoms, such as life-threatening pneumonia.

Dr. Chan added that the most severe and fatal infections have been in adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years, a
significantly different pattern to epidemics of regular seasonal flu which generally claims frail, elderly people.

Maria Luisa Ávila, the Costa Rican minister of Salud, in an interview in San José said that young people here also have been hit harder. She speculated that older individuals had confronted a similar type of virus in the past, perhaps in the 1950s or 1960s and had developed some resistance.

Costa Rican officials continue to report 104 confirmed cases of swine flu.

“Of greatest concern,” said Dr. Chan. “We do not know how this virus will behave under conditions typically found in the developing world.”

People in the developing world are particularly vulnerable to severe reactions to the infection, as more than 99 per cent of maternal deaths occur in poor countries, and around 85 per cent of the burden of chronic diseases is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, said Dr. Chan.

“It is prudent to anticipate a bleaker picture as the virus spreads to areas with limited resources, poor health care and high prevalence of underlying medical problems.”

Countries where outbreaks appear to have peaked should prepare for a second wave of infection, warned Dr. Chan, adding that countries with no reported cases or only a few infections should remain vigilant.

“I understand that production of vaccines for seasonal influenza will be completed soon, and that full capacity will be available to ensure the largest possible supply of pandemic vaccine in the months to come.” 

The World Health Organization recommends no restrictions on travel or border closures, said Dr. Chan. “We are all in this together, and we will all get through this together,” she stated.

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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.

Searching

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.

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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.

Classifieds

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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Statistics

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


Substitute civil union text
gets committee approval


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee approved Thursday as substitute text of a bill that would provide for civil unions between members of the same sex.

Ana Helena Chacón, a lawmaker who is a proponent of the bill, said that the new text is enriched by testimony that the committee, the Comisión de Derechos Humanos, received during various hearings.

She said proponents are considering the measure one of public health and human rights.

The measure recognizes rights involving inheritance, residency, labor rights and dissolution of the union, among others, she said.

Guyón Massey, another member of the committee, called the rewrite the same monkey with the same tail. He opposes civil unions.

Survey supports effort
to restrict tobacco


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heath officials have come up with the results of a survey to support their efforts to enact strict controls on tobacco.

Among other findings, only 8 percent of those interviewed have a problem with prohibiting cigarette advertising, according to the summary of the survey.

The survey was sponsored by the Red Nacional Antitabaco. According to the summary, 94 percent of the 1,800 Costa Ricans interviewed believed that second-hand smoke is a serious problem. Some 65 percent said they are directly exposed to second-hand smoke.

Some 55 percent of the respondents said that they smoked with nearly all preferring cigarettes.

Another finding is that more than half (53 percent) think that officials never punish store owners who sell cigarette to minors, said the summary. One provision in a proposed law would be the elimination of cigarette vending machines.

The legislation being considered in the Asamblea Legislativa would implement the World Convention for the control of Tobacco in Costa Rica. Among other prohibitions, the convention forbids sponsorship, promotion and advertising of tobacco products. It also forbids smoking at work or in public places.

As an international agreement, which Costa Rica has passed, the anti-tobacco treaty has precedence over other Costa Rican laws.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 115

Latin American news digest
Positive economic signs
spark optimism in U.S.


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. markets posted early gains Thursday after modestly encouraging signs concerning employment and retail sales. 

The U.S. Labor Department says 24,000 fewer Americans filed initial jobless claims last week than the previous week.  The number of newly idled workers, 601,000, was below most analysts' expectations.  The four-week average of initial unemployment claims is also down from a month ago, although well above the levels seen in May and June of last year.

The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits now exceeds 6.8 million, the highest number ever recorded.

PNC Financial Services Group chief-economist Stuart Hoffman says the U.S. labor market continues to deteriorate, but at a slower pace than a few months ago:

"I do not think it means we are going to see job growth in June or July," said Hoffman. "I think it means the rate of decline in the economy, which during late last year and the first quarter of this year was like a free-fall, is definitely slowing down."

Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales rose 0.5 percent in May, fueled by increasing traffic at auto dealerships and gasoline stations.  It was the first retail sales boost in the last three months.  The Commerce Department also reports businesses continued to cut inventories for an eighth consecutive month to match soft demand for products.

No one is predicting an immediate end to America's protracted recession, which began in late 2007.  But Hoffman said he thinks a turnaround could occur by the end of 2009.

"We are looking at the end of this recession, probably, by the fourth quarter of this year," he said. "So, to me, these  are the signs that say the end is near."

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters an eventual economic recovery will be slow to build momentum with the likelihood that job losses will linger after the economy begins to grow.  




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