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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, June 16, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 117       E-mail us
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European research attacks safe marijuana belief
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For years marijuana users have praised their smoking choice as being far better than tobacco. Up until now it has been hard to prove otherwise.

An article being published this week in a chemical journal weighs heavily in the other direction. The article says that the favorite crop of some expats damages the genetic material DNA in ways that could increase cancer risk.

Marijuana grows wild in Costa Rica, although imported qualities are considered more powerful. Although Costa Rica legislates against marijuana, personal possession almost is never sanctioned. Some expats have had thriving businesses producing the weed on commercial scales.

Researcher Rajinder Singh and European colleagues noted that toxic substances in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and increase the risk of lung and other cancers, according to a summary by the American Chemical Society. There has been uncertainty over whether marijuana smoke has the same effect, it noted. Scientists are especially concerned about the toxicity of acetaldehyde, present in both

marijuana cigarette
Another kind of cancer stick?

tobacco and marijuana. However, it has been difficult to measure DNA damage from acetaldehyde with conventional tests, said the summary. Acetaldehyde has been classified as a possible carcinogen.

The scientists used a modified mass spectrometry method that showed clear indications that marijuana smoke damages DNA, according to the summary.

" . . . these results provide evidence for the DNA damaging potential of cannabis smoke, implying that the consumption of cannabis cigarettes may be detrimental to human health with the possibility to initiate cancer development,” the research article states. The article is being published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.



Tico credit card debt is approaching $1 billion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans have borrowed heavily on their credit cards, and the estimate of total revolving credit debt is just short  of $1 billion: $999,843,679, based on Monday's exchange rate.

In colons, the debt is an astounding 571,910,584,442 or 571 billion. That means every Costa Rican, adult and child owes an average of $222. And that does not count mortgages or other consumer debt like auto loans.

This was the report form the Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio which issued another report on credit cards in the country. Some are charging more than 50 percent annual interest.

The ministry, which tracks consumer issues, reported that there were 401 different types of credit cards in the country and that the interest rates varies by as much as 30 percent per year.
The statistics are based on the 1.4 million credit cards in the country in February. The ministry said that the outstanding credit card dept was enough to build 29,000 homes worth 20 million colons each, about $35,000.

Amazingly, this amount represents just 25 percent of the total credit lines of  the various card holders, according to ministry statistics. About 40 percent of the credit cards have been issued in the last two years, said the ministry. There was no information on arrears.

However, the card that carried the highest interest, some 50.4 percent, was a Visa denominated in colons issued by Tarjetas BCT S.A. Credomatic has six cards that carry a rate of 49.56 percent.

On the other end of the scale, Citi Tarjetas issues a Visa with a 20 percent annual rate, and Banco Nacional is close behind with a series of Visa and Mastercards with 22 percent annual interest rates.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 117

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Yellow 'Cirilo' is tied up at the coast guard docks

Brothers detained on boat
with 20 kilos, cops say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas del Guardacostas  intercepted an 18-foot fishing boat near Golfito Sunday and turned up 20 kilos of cocaine during a search, officials reported. The boat, named the “Cirilo,” was operated by two brothers with the last names of Umaña Álvarez, officials said.

Nearby was a larger boat, the “Mirian III” of some 36 feet,  which is registered to the brothers' sister, said the coast guard. Nothing illegal was found on that boat, although one of the brothers left port on it and somehow transferred to the smaller craft, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The coast guard conducts routine inspections of boats in the Golfo Dulce.

Mid-year raise probably
between 3 and 6 percent


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The haggling over the mid-year raise for employees began Monday with union representatives seeking a 6 percent increase. The increases are to offset a weakening colon, inflation and a higher cost of living.

Employee representatives are expected to counter with an offer of 3 percent when the discussions reconvene Wednesday before the Consejo Nacional de Salarios, which has the last say.

Even at 6 percent, the employees appear to be losing ground because inflation is expected to be higher. The decision becomes a political one because the current economic situation seems to weigh against larger raises.

The increases cover the minimum salaries at which many Costa Ricans work. In January workers got a 7 percent raise.

The current salaries are linked as a .pdf file on the Web site of the Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social. The file is available for downloading. It replaces an online version that took a long time to load on computers. Once the new numbers are set, a revised file will be posted.

Prison escapees given
many more years to serve


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Seven men who killed a guard and broke out of the La Reforma prison in 2006 received sentences ranging from 45 to 65 years in the Tribunal de Juicio de Alajuela Monday.

The convicts also took prison guards hostage. Several were captured in a shootout days later.

The court found no fault with prison guards and said that the convicts planned the escape themselves. The court also vindicated the men's lawyers.

Swine flu up to 149
but most cases light


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health officials now say 149 residents here have swine flu. There are 20 probable cases for which officials are awaiting the results of lab tests.

Most of those who have been infected have recovered from the illness without the need of hospitalization, the health officials said.

Some 689 of the patients studied had other types of seasonal flu, said the health officials. About 164 cases are still under study.

Health officials said that the current group of flu sufferers did not take foreign trips and caught the illness in Costa Rica.

Our reader's opinion
Spend money on roads
and use to fight crime

Re: your article on tourism.

"The tourism institute has not been very successful with advertising. A $4.5 million effort in Germany during the last World Cup match hardly caused a blip in European tourism." What a waste.
 
I have said it before and will say it again. No matter how much Costa Rica spends on advertising it will never work. The only way to boost the tourism is to spend the money on roads and to stop the crime.
Robert Woodrow
Curridabat / Perry, Missouri

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 117

Republic of Panama
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Investigators seek Tica in case of two trafficked women
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials are surprised to find that the principal suspect in a sexual exploitation and trafficking organization is a Costa Rican woman. 

They are seeking the woman in connection with the case of two Costa Ricans who said they were lured to México and enslaved as prostitutes.

The two young women returned to Costa Rica over the weekend and are under police protection. The pair said they were tricked by offers of modeling jobs where they could earn $200 a day.

The two women are being treated as victims while the hunt is on for the Costa Rican woman who set up their trip.

The women spent several days in México where they identified members of the Yucatan-based operation for the benefit of Mexican police. Both are in their 20s.

One of the women sought help from a policeman a week ago and said she was being held captive. A police raid a short time later found the second Costa Rican woman.
Costa Rica usually is considered a nation to which women are trafficked for sexual purposes.

Although some foreign prostitutes live in confined quarters and sometimes several dozen to a home, there have been no claims of captivity.

Most leaders of such organizations rule by fear with the help of bodyguards. Someone executed a young Russian prostitute in Jacó four years ago, and friends said she angered her handlers because she wanted to return home.

The Russian operation was well organized and brought women from Eastern Europe as purported Spanish language students. Many ended up working in luxury sex resorts in Guanacaste.

The bulk of the other foreign prostitutes, Colombians, Dominicans and Nicaraguans, are mainly free lance, attracted by the money in Costa Rica and the lack of prosecution for their trade.

Spanish-language newspapers and online pages contain many ads offering jobs as models and escorts. Investigators generally do not follow up unless there is a complaint.


Crowd kills man mistaken as an armed robber in La Unión
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man mistaken for a robber met his death at the hands of a mob in La Unión Sunday night.

Dead is Eduardo Ventura Zamora, 49, of Hatillo.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that Ventura was in the company of a woman in a taxi near the central park of the Cartago community. Three men pulled him from the taxi and started a fight.

Ventura produced a knife in self defense and stabbed the three men, agents said. Individuals in the park mistook the events as a robbery and descended on Ventura, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.
There is a Costa Rican tradition of members of the public giving a beating to those caught in the act of a crime.

Two individuals in the original fight were taken to Hospital Max Peralta in Cartago, said the Fuerza Pública. A third man was treated at Hospital Calderón Guardia in San José and then jailed.

In all, the Judicial Investigating Organization said that 10 persons were detained as a result of the fight, including the three injured men.  The incident happened around 11 p.m.

Death appears to have been caused by injuries to the head, stomach and torso. The man was dead at the scene. One officer said that a member of the crowd dislodged a Cruz Roja sign and used it to beat the fallen man.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 117

World Bank predicts greater 2009 economic contraction
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world economy is set to contract this year by more than previously estimated, and poor countries will continue to be hit hard by multiple waves of economic stress, said Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank Group president.

Even with the stabilization of financial markets in many developed economies, unemployment and under-utilization of capacity continue to rise, putting downward pressure on the global economy, he said

According to the latest World Bank estimates, the global economy will decline this year by close to 3 percent, a significant revision from a previous estimate of 1.7 percent. Most developing country economies will contract this year and face increasingly bleak prospects unless the slump in their exports, remittances, and foreign direct investment is reversed by the end of 2010, the bank said.

“Although growth is expected to revive during the course of 2010, the pace of the recovery is uncertain and the poor in many developing countries will continue to be buffeted by the aftershocks,” Zoellick said. “Waves of economic pain continue to hurt the developing world’s poor, who have less cushion to protect themselves. There is much more we need to do in the coming months to mobilize resources to ensure that the poor do not pay for a crisis that is not of their making.”

Zoellick noted that, according to revised bank estimates, the overall financing gap for developing countries will be between $350 billion to $635 billion in 2009.
 
“Low-income countries that have limited borrowing capacity due to low reserves and drained national budgets  
will face particular difficulties in getting sufficient finance in the next few years,” Zoellick said. “Because of this, lending from the World Bank, the IMF and other sources will become increasingly important as the crisis rolls across low-income countries.” Zoellick added: “There is not enough public sector money to solve the global crisis, so the recovery strategy needs to encourage private business and financing too.” The IMF is the International Monetary Fund.

The crisis implications for poor countries are stark, and driving expanded use of World Bank resources.  Requests for assistance are up at the International Development Association, part of the World Bank Group that focuses on the 78 poorest countries, the bank said. For fiscal year 2009, which ends on June 30, International Development grants and interest-free loans are expected to total more than $13 billion, a record high, and an increase on last year’s $11.2 billion. Anticipating the needs of the poorest countries, the World Bank created a fast track facility in December to provide rapid funding for social safety nets, infrastructure, education, and health.

Demand has also grown rapidly at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the part of the World Bank Group that supports credit worthy low- and middle-income countries, the bank said.

Loan volume is expected to increase to around $33 billion this fiscal year, compared to $13.2 billion last year.

Zoellick said some of the main risks still remaining included the need to clean up the balance sheets and recapitalize banks, address the unique financial risks in Central and Eastern Europe, guard against a rise in protectionism, and roll over large amounts of private sector debt in developing countries.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 117


A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

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.

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.

Newspages

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.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics

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.

Visiting us

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


U.S. Cyber Command soon
will defend military nets


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Defense Department is in the final stages of creating a new military command to defend against attacks on the nation's military computer systems. It is the U.S. Cyber Command.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn said senior military officers are in the final stages of working out the command's structure and responsibilities, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates is evaluating proposals. Experts say the long-planned command is expected to be created soon.

Deputy Secretary Lynn says the need is urgent.

"This is not an emerging threat," said William Lynn. "This is not some future threat. The cyber threat is here today. It is here now."

Lynn says the threat of cyber attacks is an "unprecedented challenge" due to the variety of potential attackers, the speed with which network attacks happen and the impact they can have.

He says the U.S. Defense Department has 15,000 computer networks, seven million computers and other network devices, and more than three million log-ons to its systems each day, making it what he calls a "tempting target" for malicious attacks. He says the systems receive millions of scans and thousands of potentially damaging probes every day.

The deputy secretary says that so far the attacks have not cost any lives by disabling computer systems at a critical moment. But he says they do cost billions of dollars in computer and network security programs every year, and require the attention of some 90,000 Defense Department employees.

One successful attack last year infected thousands of defense department computers and forced procedural changes designed to improve security. Lynn says such an attack could have been devastating.

"There is simply no exaggerating our military dependency on our information networks," he said. "The command and control of our forces, the intelligence and logistics upon which they depend, the weapons technologies we develop and field, they all depend on our computer systems and networks. Indeed, our 21st century military simply can not function without them."

As a result, Lynn says the U.S. military now considers cyberspace an operational domain, just like land, sea, air and outer space. He says officials are working to develop military doctrine and procedures for cyberspace operations and to increase the department's expertise in cyber security. He declined to say what, if any, offensive actions the United States is taking, or might take, in cyberspace.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 117


Latin American news digest
Clinton arrives at U.N.
to serve as envoy to Haiti


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton made his debut at United Nations headquarters Monday as the world body's new special envoy for Haiti.  Clinton has a long-time interest in the Caribbean island nation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he chose former president Clinton as his special envoy for Haiti because of the efforts Clinton made on behalf of the Haitian people during his presidency and through his foundation.  The former president was also chosen because of his success in mobilizing support for people in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami in East Asia in 2004.

"No one is better placed for this mission," said Ban. "He knows the country.  He loves the people.  They love him.  This is the strong wish of the Haitian people and the Haitian government and myself as secretary-general."

Ban and Clinton made a joint visit to Haiti in March.  It was a prelude to a U.N. sponsored international donors conference in Washington that raised $353 million for Haiti's reconstruction.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and suffered further setbacks last year, after being devastated by a series of tropical storms and hurricanes.

Clinton said he hopes to help Haitians take control of their own destiny.

"I think that Haiti, not withstanding the total devastation wracked by the four storms last year, has the best chance to escape the darker aspects of its history in the 35 years I have been going there," said Clinton.

Clinton said his priorities as envoy are to support the Haitian government's efforts to generate new jobs and the delivery of basic services as well as to develop better storm preparedness plans and encourage the private sector not only to invest in Haiti, but also to honor previous commitments to the island nation.



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