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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, June 17, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 118       E-mail us
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Sergio Sandí has  a turn at the new Steinway during a presentation for newspeople Tuesday.
New piano
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Concert Thursday to show off new Teatro piano
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff


The Teatro Nacional has a new $96,000 grand piano, and an inaugural concert is planned for Thursday at 8 p.m.

The piano is a product of the venerable Steinway & Sons in New York. It was purchased through a campaign organized by the Fundación Amigos pro Mejoras del Teatro Nacional.

Representatives of the theater traveled to New York in February and made their selection by testing five similar pianos in a special room at the factory.

Sergio Sandí, the pianist who made the trip, also is in charge of the recital Thursday. He was
accompanied by piano technician Kong Ju Lee. According to officials at the theater, each expert studied the five pianos independently and came to the same conclusion.  Steinway employees said that the piano selected was the newest of the five. 

Each piano of the 150-year-old company is hand-made. Including shipping, insurance and other charges, the piano cost $102,671.50 to get on the stage at the theater. It arrived crated May 14.

The new piano is 480 kilograms (990 pounds) and is 274 centimeters (nearly 9  feet) long.

The program Thursday is designed to show off the new instrument and includes works of Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Prokofiev, said a theater announcement.


Heredia train line is carrying passengers at last
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials seem to want to keep it a secret, but the Heredia branch of the valley rail line is in operation.

The train has been carrying passengers since at least Monday.

An A.M. Costa Rica staffer took the trip Tuesday from a location near the Mercado Central in Heredia to a station in construction just north of Parque Nacional in San José.

The staffer said the trip took about 35 minutes with three stops. A bus ride between the same points took about an hour Monday, thanks to traffic jams
in Heredia, La Uruca and downtown San José, he said.

Passengers can purchase a 350-colon (62-cents) ticket at machines at the several stations.

The ride Tuesday involved two passenger cars. These are the cars just purchased from the Spanish narrow-gauge rail company. The staffer said that the cars were air conditioned, had comfortable seats and had a television screen showing ads.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles has not announced the start of service, although there has been traffic each day, mostly work trains. Rail officials predict there will be 42 trips a day on the 9.67-kilometer (6-mile) route.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 118

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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New fingerprint system
paid for by Plan Merida


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization has received $200,000 to automate its capacity to identify individuals through fingerprints.

The goal is to be able to identify criminals throughout all of Central America. In addition, the system would seem to give the U.S. officials access to the data base of criminals in Central America. Criminals and gang members use false passports and fake names, so fingerprints provide a positive identification, officials said.

The money comes from the Plan Merida initiative. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investing $1.5 million to modernize the system of fingerprint identification in Guatemala and Honduras, two countries that are home to a number of youth gangs. The agency wants to enhance the abilities of police in the remaining countries of Belize, Panamá and Nicaragua, as well as Costa Rica, to check fingerprints.

The agreement with the United States also will provide $742,000 for patrol and police equipment and $200,000 for prison security, said an announcement.

U.S. citizen kills himself
after brief hostage situation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen briefly held his wife hostage at his father's home in Curridabat and then shot himself after letting her go.
The man was identified as Bernal Scott, 54.

The standoff involving police took place about 6 p.m. Tuesday night in an area identified as Hacienda Vieja. Investigators said he was the object of a no-contact order and that her husband was upset about the restrictions against him. They were for domestic violence.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man kept the wife hostage for several hours and threatened to kill himself if officers entered. The Policial de Intervención Inmediata responded but did not enter until they heard a shot from inside the house.

Museo Nacional readies
mid-year vacation workshops


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional already is thinking mid-year vacation. The museum has announced vacation workshops for youngsters.

The workshops begin July 6 and end July 17 to coincide with the public school break.  They cover the full range of topics that are on exhibition at the museum, including butterflies and pre-Columbian pottery.

The workshops are free but the number of participants is limited, the museum said. The offerings are available on the museum Web page

Seven adults go to jail
in Tres Ríos beating death


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Seven men who are suspects in the berating death of a man in Tres Ríos, La Unión, Sunday night have been remanded to jail for three months investigation. This is the case where  Eduardo Zamora Rivera, 48, was mistaken for a robber and set upon by a mob.

The men were identified by the last names of Villarreal Vargas, Cedeño Martínez, Otárola Víquez, Vega Badilla, Vargas Arroyo, Nájera Serrano and Fernández Vegas. A juvenile also is a suspect, but he was not jailed. Instead he was ordered home and told to stay out of Tres Ríos.

The killing happened at the central park when Zamora was pulled from a taxi by three men. In self defense he pulled a knife and stabbed the three, but those loitering in the park at 11:30 p.m. thought he was a criminal and beat him to death, according to police.

Our reader's opinion
Marijuana study needs
some perspective with data


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Undoubtedly marijuana smoke contains nasties (what smoke doesn't), but the item on the American Chemical Society DNA study isn't very helpful - without some quantifying data.

Say my friend Bud smokes 1/2 of a rather thin "stiffy" a day (he does), so are his genes in the same danger as Nick's, my pack-a-day pal? Maybe, if his weed (by weight) contains about 100 times the amount of acetaldehyde as exists in Ralph's tobacco, but the article doesn't help us here. So since the study uses the comparison, I'm still left with the impression that super addictive mass killer tobacco is the real drug emergency, while non-addictive marijuana, which (evidently) kills no one, should be legalized.

While they're at it, perhaps the American Chemical Society should compare breathing San Jose air with the negative health effects of Bud's shady little habit. I bet you a Pilsen that he's safer in Quepos with his joint. How about another cool one on whether the DEA shamelessly trots out this study as more war-on-drugs "evidence" in favour of continued criminalization, narco-war mayhem, mass imprisonment of Americans, wasted $billions, etc.
R. Martin
Quepos/Toronto

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 118

Republic of Panama
Red Mango Real estate
Noda's newest


Government minister says he will propose new taxes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government will seek new taxes to offset a sharp drop in income this year.

That was the word Tuesday from Guillermo Zuñiga, the minister of Hacienda, who declined to be more specific about the new taxes except to say that they would not affect most people.

There are several tax proposals in the hopper at the Asamblea Legislative, but Zuñiga seemed to be suggesting new taxes. Among proposals already advanced is one to tax bank transactions and a value-added tax in place of the current sales tax. Lawmakers are slow to pass new taxes.
Creating a capital gains tax would seem to be one option.

The government already has passed a tax on so-called luxury homes, those costing $150,000 or more, but the impact has not yet been felt.

The Óscar Arias Sánchez administration has increased its spending, in part via long-term loans provided by international development banks. The estimates are that government income has fallen from 10 to 20 percent when compared to past years due to the current economic contractions.

Zuñiga also said that he would present revised budgets to the legislature. 


Ambitious rainforest music festival opens Friday on the Osa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ambitious project known as Rainforest Aid 2009 begins its three-day run Friday, and sponsors are promising more than 35 bands at the location near Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula.

The proceeds will go to reducing the number of polluting plastic grocery bags locally, to school children and their rainforest education and to help construct monkey bridges, according to Michael H. Cranford, the local organizer.

Also involved is Bruce LaPierre of Boston, who produced Costa-Bazooka in Quepos in January 2008.

The logistics are enormous. Cranford said that shuttle buses are scheduled to leave from Alajuela or the well-heeled are being offered discount air tickets. At the site itself shuttle buses will take spectators from Puerto Jiménez to the concert site nearby. Many of the guests will be camping.

"RainforestAid09 is a 5-year work in progress to create a 
sustainable landfill for the Osa Peninsula," said Cranford.
"We must become better stewards for the rainforests in the areas of health, education and rainforest preservation." He said that various non-profits will be handling the donation funds.

The bands listed are from Costa Rica, the United States and elsewhere.

Cranford said there would be over 20 educational exhibits and dozens of educational tours. The Osa is mainly the unspoiled Parque Nacional Corcovado. Puerto Jiménez is on the east side on the Gulfo Dulce. He said he expects visitors to take water tours on the gulf and elsewhere.

As an example of how remote the area is, Cranford said that there are no automatic teller machines available, and guests have to bring cash.

The festival has a number of local environmental groups as partners. There is a colorful Web site with details on the festival.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 118

Rahab founder honored as U.S. releases trafficking report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.,S. secretary of State honored Mariliana Morales Barrios, the founder of the Fundación Rahab that cares for former prostitutes, in a Washington, D.C. ceremony Tuesday.

The event was the release of the ninth annual Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report. Ms. Morales and activists Vera Lesko of Albania represented the nine activists hailed in the 2009 report as anti-trafficking heroes.

Since Rahab's creation in 1997, it has provided over 600 former prostitutes with group therapy, personal counseling and other support services. Ms. Morales said in an A.M. Costa Rica interview last year that while it is usually assumed that women go into prostitution because of socioeconomic reasons, the reality is more complicated.

“There are three factors of vulnerability here,” she said at the time. “Poverty, domestic violence and lack of education and self-esteem. When these three are mixed, you have a time bomb.”

The faith-based organization has set up branches in Limón and Jacó.  The Jacó branch was the recipient of a $100,000 grant to run the project involving prostitutes in Jacó. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and was met with some hostility by those in the sex trade in that central Pacific community.

Each year the U.S. State Department puts out a congressionally mandated report summarizing what is called human trafficking in countries around the world. Officials in Costa Rica Tuesday said they were happy that the U.S. government took the country off the so-called tier 2 watch list and put it in tier 2, where it has been for most of the years.

The United States applied pressure last year to encourage the country to pass legislation. Said the report:

"The government of Costa Rica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the past year, the government of Costa Rica approved national legislation to prohibit and punish all forms of human trafficking, and improved victim assistance and prevention efforts.

"However, effective law enforcement efforts to ensure that trafficking offenders are held accountable for their crimes remained lacking. Recommendations for Costa Rica: Implement and enforce the new anti-trafficking law; intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; provide greater assistance for victims; increase efforts to reduce consumer demand for commercial sex acts; and improve data collection for trafficking crimes."

The Costa Rican part of the report addresses the problem in broad strokes. It says with out giving examples "Foreign women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Russia, and Eastern Europe have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of forced prostitution. The government recognizes child sex tourism as a serious problem, particularly in the provinces of Guanacaste, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José."

No mention was made of Costa Rica's legal prostitution that appears to encourage international traffic in prostitution.

The report covers all sorts of trafficking, including forced labor and actual slavery. It did note that in Costa Rica some 240 tour operators had signed a conduct code against the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Hillary Clinton said in presenting the report that the fight against human trafficking, abroad and in the United States, is a critical part of the Obama administration's agenda.

To underscore the priority the administration puts on the issue, Mrs. Clinton made the release of the report a major event that included bipartisan congressional leaders. Mrs.
Rahab founder
U.S. State Department photo
Mrs. Clinton congratulates Mariliana Morales Barrios, the founder of the Fundación Rahab.

Clinton called the trafficking of persons for forced labor, sexual exploitation and other illicit purposes "modern-day" slavery that spans the globe and affects every country including the United States.

She said the annual reports, mandated by an act of Congress in 2000, are intended to encourage nations to act where necessary with criticism and the threat of possible U.S. sanctions.

"We hope to shine the light brightly on the scope and scale of modern slavery so all governments can see where progress has been made and where more is needed," said Mrs. Clinton. "Trafficking thrives in the shadows. And it can be easy to dismiss it as something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. But that is not the case. Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on earth, and that includes our own."

The report based on information from U.S. embassies, international organizations and non-governmental groups assessed 175 countries and gave 17 of them the lowest possible rating for anti-trafficking efforts.

The so-called tier 3 countries included 10 holdovers from last year: Burma, Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Kuwait, North Korea, Papua-New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria.

Four countries with poor ratings last year were downgraded to the lowest category:  Chad, Malaysia, Niger and Zimbabwe. Three that were not covered in the 2008 report, Eritrea, Mauritania and Swaziland, were also listed in tier 3.

At the same time, four tier 3 countries from last year were upgraded in recognition of their anti-trafficking efforts: Algeria, Moldova, Oman and Qatar.

The State Department's new anti-trafficking coordinator, Luis de Baca, stressed that encouraging improvement is the main point of the exercise.

"It has become a diagnostic tool that informs and guides our efforts as we seek to build a global partnership to combat modern slavery," said de Baca. "The successes are clear. Some former tier 2 watch list countries are now tier 1. They have become models through their efforts for their regions and for the world. In this vein, I am particularly heartened for instance to see how Nigeria started a dedicated anti-trafficking police and prosecution unit."

Ms. Morales made an emotional appeal for governments to finance organizations like hers, urging remembrance she said, "for all victims who have died without a voice to speak for them."


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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.

Complexities of river dams
addressed in La Paz confab


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An international group of scientists has called for more studies into the impacts of large hydro-energy projects in the Amazon and other tropical regions.

A symposium held in the Bolivian government seat of La Paz looked at multiple studies, focusing on the Madeira river watershed, to assess required and prudent levels of environmental, social and economic evaluation of tropical dam projects.

The main objective of the studies supported by World Wildlife Fund is to contribute to the Bolivian Amazon development to be reached in a sound manner, especially considering enough elements not to jeopardize the ecosystem and its use irreversibly for future generations,” said Marcela Añez, a fund representative in Bolivia.

The Madeira river is the Amazon’s main tributary and supplies the greatest quantity of water and sediments to the river. Research presented at the symposium showed that the Brazilian dams of Jirau and Santo Antonio would cause hydraulic and hydrological impacts in Bolivia, including an increased risk of floods.

The symposium, attended by scientists from Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and France, also heard an estimate that 80 percent of fish in the Bolivian Amazon are migratory, and some of the species with an important value from a commercial and subsistence point of view could be affected.

“Within the possible impacts are the gradual reduction in fishing, which could affect at least 16,000 Bolivian families whose livelihood depends on this activity,” said Paul Van Damme, from the FaunAgua Association.

Other impacts that have been observed in dams that are constructed in tropical areas is the increase in mercury in fish (in the reservoir and mainly down river), deforestation in the area along the power lines, contamination with herbicides to maintain these power lines, retention of sediments and erosion on river banks, according to Jean Remy Davée Guimaraes, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

In terms of socioeconomic impacts, Manuel Antonio Valdés from the Rondonia Federal University added that, in the case of Brazil, 65 percent of the population that was visited in the area of the Madeira river (close to 1,100 families) as part of the research will very likely have the need to move, leaving behind their animals, crops, customs and ways of life in harmony with the river.

Of these, only 30 percent have land property titles, which would make social compensation efforts difficult.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 118


Latin American news digest
robot
Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica photo
Commerical robot will be the base for multiple projects.

Program helps youngsters
create from their trash


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Cartago educational institution is trying to conduct outreach programs with recyclable materials, showing youngsters that inventions can be created from the most common materials.

The school is the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. The philosophy of the 7-year-old program is to adapt to the needs of the communities, according to Milton Villegas, who directs the effort.

The program is called luthiers de la tecnología from the French word for someone who repairs stringed musical instruments. Those in the program see themselves as constructing their own instruments of innovation, said the professor.

The institute is one of the major Costa Rican public universities.

The program involves youngsters in a camping atmosphere where they experiment during two days with low-cost technology to design and develop proposals that lead to useful solutions. Programs have been held in Moín de Limón, San Joaquín de Cutris, El Triunfo de Liberia, Tejar del Guarco and Palmares.

The students use milk cartons, bottles, plastic caps and other wastes to produce items for daily use, said the school.

One program that the organizers say still is in diapers, is to create robotic modules that are constructed with a commercial device as a base but with recyclable materials defining the use, said Villegas.



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