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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, June 17, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 119           E-mail us
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Participants in last year's skateboard festival show their boards
Sunday will see an army of young skateboarders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who are offended by those youngsters on skateboards jumping and performing at every wide spot of concrete better stay indoors Sunday.

It is the international day of skateboarding, and an expected 2,000 youngsters and their boards will take to the pavement in what is being called  Emerica Wild In The Streets 2011.

Since 2008 organizers have brought a contingent of skateboarders to the city's streets. Last year 1,500 participated. This year youngsters are trying to rally more participants with social networks and emails.

The thousands of skateboarders will leave the  Polideportivo in Barrio Aranjuez via Calle 23 at 9 a.m. passing in front of the Antigua Aduana to
 Avenida 3, which they will follow west to Parque Morazán. Then they will go south on Calle 9 and then Calle 11 to  Plaza Gonzales Víquez and then to Parque de la Paz where there will be lots of activities and contests.

All the time the army of skateboarders will be accompanied by a mobil disk jockey.  Later Colombian rapper Ephniko will entertain the crowds.

The youthful version of rolling thunder is being sponsored by the energy drink Red Bull.  The participants will travel six kilometers, about 3.7 miles. The event had a charitable dimension, too. Some 15 skateboards will be handed out to youngsters from poor families, and locks, paint and trash containers are being given to the  Polideportivo,

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30-month estimate given
for San Carlos road job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's financial watchdog has approved spending money for a revised San Carlos highway.

The approval allows the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to spend an addition $140 million that has been allocated by the legislature.

Ministry officials estimate that the highway will be finished in 30 months. The project is designed to cut in half the travel time between San José and San Carlos. The estimated time will be about 90 minutes, they said.

The ministry said that 50 percent of the milk production in the country would travel over this route as would about 60 percent of the pineapple production. They said that the new route would open the way for many more tourists. The Arenal volcano and the town of La Fortuna draw many tourists, and they would use the new road.

The two-lane highway now is difficult and frequently dangerous in foggy or rainy weather.

The new route is the one that was being financed by Taiwan until the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration broke diplomatic ties in favor of the People's Republic.

The ministry also noted that the legislature this week authorized spending $200 million to improve secondary roads in the cantons of the country. About 1,500 kilometers (about 930 miles) of roadways are involved.

Dole hosts opinion leaders
to promote its policies here

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Dole Food Company, Inc., has hosted more than 30 academics, researchers, members of non-profit organizations, opinion leaders and Costa Rican officials during a three-day sustainability summit. Participants were given full access to several Dole facilities, where presentations and field demonstrations emphasized the company’s latest innovations and research efforts in water management, soil conservation, carbon footprint reduction and waste handling, the company said.

Included in the trip were site visits to El Muelle pineapple plantation, Rio Frio banana farm and the New Millennium packing plant, a reforestation and conservation project and the Dole Chile Container Vessel at the Port of Moín. The itinerary was constructed to highlight Dole’s efforts in reducing the carbon and water footprints in pineapple and banana production from farm to retailer,the company said.

Police force sweeps barrio
where neighbors attacked

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers returned to Barrio Frey Casiano in force Wednesday in response to an attack by a crowd on officers last week.

Some 350 residents, including women and children pelted eight officers with rocks and one was shot in the mouth by a firearm.

Some 150 officers were involved in the latest sweep. Officials of the Fuerza Pública also met with community leaders and Puntarenas politicians. Officers said they interrogated 400 persons and confiscated 10 knives and small quantities of drugs.

Saturday police were in the area to help a Tránsito officer confiscate a vehicle. That is when the crowd attack took place. The exact reason has not been determined.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 119
Latigo K-9

Murder of inmate is the most serious of current scandals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Laura Chinchilla administration is immersed in scandals today and not all of them are of the sexual variety.

A pathologist's report, released Thursday, confirmed that a prisoner who died unexpectedly at La Reforma prison was the victim of a fatal beating. He was Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez, who engineered an abortive breakout from the maximum security facility May 11. A handful of guards have been suspended, and the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization characterizes the death as a murder.

In an unrelated incident, someone in uniform walked into a Fuerza Pública station in Hatillo Wednesday, presented himself as a fellow policeman and walked out with a 9-mm. pistol and an Uzi submachine gun. Officials admit that the rules were not followed.

By comparison, the sex scandals are minor but attract far more readership in the Spanish-language newspapers.

Allen Flores, the new minister of Turismo was revealed as being involved with female staff members. Costa Rica Report said Thursday that a female publicist employed by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has been reinstated to her position by a court following an allegation that she was terminated by Flores for informing his wife by email on a series of affairs that Flores has purportedly maintained with other employees. His wife is an official in the national legislature, and the two women implicated in the text of the lawsuit include a secretary, aged 21 and a 33-year-old lawyer.

The bulk of the incidents appear to have taken place when Flores maintained a lesser role at the institute, which was supervised by then-minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides.

The former minister is among the closest advisers of President Chinchilla and now serves as minister of the Presidencia, which is equivalent to being chief of staff.
On another lesser scandal, Óscar Núñez, president of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the nation's water company, was found to have escorted a 23-year-old institute employee on a trip to México in August. He reported expenses of nearly $3,000. He, too, is a presidential appointee.

Araya, the La Reforma inmate, died May 21, just days after the failed breakout in which two inmates and a prison guard died. The Judicial Investigating Organization said, based on a report the Sección de Patología that Araya suffered an injury eight to 15 days before his death and another, the fatal one, just hours before his death. The report said he suffered an earlier subdural hematoma and a severe cerebral edema that caused his death. He also had bruises on his back.

Araya and others had petitioned the Defensoría de los Habitantes before the breakout attempt about conditions in the prison. The cell where he was found dead early one Sunday morning is supposed to be under 24-hour watch.

Agents are working on two hypotheses. One suggests that Araya was badly beaten in retribution for the death of the guard in the failed attempt. Another theory is that he was killed to avoid implicating guards in the attempted break. Inmates had keys that must have been supplied by an insider. The prisons are within the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz.

The Hatillo case resulted in the suspension of three police officers who were supposed to be in charge at the station when the weapons were taken.  Mario Zamora Cordero, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, characterized the case as one of negligence.

The Uzi is an effective weapon that can shoot hundreds of bullets a minute, and officials are concerned that it is on the street, perhaps about to be used in some crime.

Walter Navarro, vice minister of Seguridad, said that even he is supposed to have a reason if he were to sign out a weapon from a police station.

Expat committee eliminates free beer and hot dogs for July 4
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The expat Independence Day celebration being held in conjunction with Avenida Escazú will not have the free hot dogs and donated beer this year as was the case in other years.

Instead, these holiday staples will be for sale.

The American Colony Committee announced last month the changes for this year. In the past, the celebration was a morning picnic with sponsors paying for the bulk of the expenses. Recently the committee began charging an admission.

The free beer was an attraction, but last year it also attracted Tránsito officers who were checking out picnic goers as they left the Cervercería Costa Rica grounds west of San José.
So organizers said Thursday that hot dogs and beer would be available but for a price. That is in part because Avenida Escazú, a shopping location, is taking the lead and has opened the event to everyone. Free beer and hot dogs were the reasons that the committee restricted access to the picnic in years past to U.S. citizens and close relatives.

The picnics were supposed to be mainly for children to show those growing up in a foreign land what a real July 4 celebration was like. But some expats, mostly unattached men, got a little sloppy with the free beer.

The event this year will start at 3 p.m. Monday, July 4.  The program will continue through 8 p.m. with traditional fireworks, something the committee had not been able to provide during a daylight event. Avenida Escazú is south of the Autopista Próspero Fernández and the Hospital CIMA in Escazú.

In defense of trees and Costa Rica's sustainable policies
I happened to pick up an envelope I’ve had since my son brought it from California a few weeks ago.  It was a plea from UNICEF for a check to help feed the starving children of Ethiopia.  My first response was “Are Ethiopian children starving again…or still?”

A quarter of the world’s population is either starving, fleeing from wars or fighting them, trying to save themselves from floods, fire, the fallout from nuclear or oil disasters, evil dictators, terrorists or the war on drugs.  They are dying from incurable diseases or suffering from preventable ones. They are being sexually or physically abused by a family member or a stranger, going bankrupt or watching their country go bankrupt, looking for a job or living on the streets.  Some are old and alone, others young and alone, and almost to a person, they are scared silly of the future.  Generally speaking, the world is filled with horrors and folly. Even dutifully sending my $40 to UNICEF is not really going to be even a finger in the dike. The hole has become too huge.

I have been talking to some good friends and commenting that it is no wonder that some people become control freaks. They are simply trying to keep chaos at bay and protect their own little worlds and their loved ones from the dangers of an unknowable future. That we live in the best place possible in an impossible world gives us a responsibility to do whatever we can to keep this niche protected from the threats that plague so much of the world.  And in our efforts, may even be an example to others.

In last week’s substitute column, my editor, Jay Brodell, chided Costa Rica for naming the protection of trees rather than fiercely defending its national sovereignty, and choosing trees over open pit gold mining.  And for not allowing oil exploration in the Caribbean.

I have to defend the defenseless tree and Costa Rican choices.  A tree does nothing but good during its life, providing medicine, food, a house for kids, a haven for birds and animals alike. It absorbs carbon, furnishes medicines, food and shade, saves water and makes the world more beautiful.

Yes, when they die, trees give off carbon, but the emission as they rot is benign compared to that from a dead animal
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

(which, of course, includes us) who has had to work hard during life to do half the good a tree has done.

In the territorial conflict with Nicaragua, Costa Rica has chosen to focus on protecting its trees rather than starting a war.  I think even this small decision helps create a more sustainable world. As for gold mining and oil exploration, the government of Costa Rica is probably aware that, unlike richer countries, it does not have the wherewithal to handle the catastrophes that can result from mining cave-ins on land or oil leaks in the sea.  And may I just comment, in passing, that oil rich countries don’t seem to have benefited their general populace much so far.  The main use for gold seems to be (other than pretty fillings and jewelry) the ability to exchange it for goods, if someone will take it

There are many ways to sustain ourselves locally, the most obvious being cutting down on the amount of energy from oil. We have all seen the increase in the number of small cars and disappearance of the SUVs and other gas guzzlers over recent years. In this country, with its multiple growing seasons, it is possible to eat well all year round if one chooses healthy fruits and vegetables.

As for Ms. Sarah Palin, Jay can certainly go to bat for her, but I am afraid that she has been replaced as Queen of the Right Wing Fundamentalists by Michele Bachman, who can talk a lot faster and more articulately.

Right now I am feeling inordinately blessed because this past week I have had a chance to spend time with nearly all of my closest friends. To be able to tend this garden of friendships in a country that values trees more than political power is a gift I wish I could share with the rest of the world.   Life is so much easier when I concentrate on tending this garden of friendships, instead of worrying about the rest of the not so “best of all possible worlds.” But that is not easy for me.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 119

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New Liberia exhibition inspired by post-impressionism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Donald Voelker will have his ninth exhibition in Costa Rica with the opening of "Desde El Caribe Hasta Guanacaste" Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery in Liberia.

The artist, mostly self-taught, admits that he has been labeled a primitivist. His works are mostly of Costa Rica, and all have been done this year.

"With an interest in art history, and inspired by the post-impressionist artists of the late 1880s, my arrival to Costa Rica several years ago was the catalyst for my paintings," Voelker said. "Studying under Beatriz Gomez, a licenciatura fine arts, for many years has enabled me to develop my vibrant landscapes with their scenic beauty, and dynamic portraits of the Latin American native inhabitants.

"Sometimes labeled a primitivist, a costumbrista, or a genre artist, my travels throughout Central and South Americas have inspired me to depict and symbolize these cultures in my art, with strong lines and complimentary colors typically found in the style of post-impressionism and the German expressionists."

He said his hope with the exhibition was to interpret the local scenery and people of Costa Rica through the artistic European styles of the late 19th and 20th centuries.
There are 15 works in the exhibit. They are oil on canvas
Hidden Garden
One of the works in the exhibition

of medium and large format. The show closes July 14. The gallery is 5 kilometers west of the Daniel Oduber ariport in Liberia on the road to Playas del Coco.

Unlocked Apple iPhones give international travelers an edge

By Daniel Woodall
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Apple Inc. Monday officially launched the sale of the iPhone independent of any cell phone contract. The phones come unlocked for any carrier worldwide, and prices for the iPhone 4 start at $649. The same model is available for $199 with either a two-year service plan on AT&T or Verizon in the United States. However the phones come locked into these carriers.

The local cell phone carrier in Costa Rica, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, is offering a similar deal, and offering the iPhone 4 at no charge or for as much as $332 depending on the particular two-year service plan. Any contract requires income from a legal source in Costa Rica or documentation from a certified accountant. The deal has been popular with Ticos who in the past would spend hundreds of dollars on hacked iPhones in order to function on the local cell phone network.

Predictably the iPhone is in short supply at institute agencies. However the new unlocked option helps expats who are unable to deal with the documentation requirements or unwilling to wait. The iPhone 4 comes equipped with dual cameras, which makes possible high definition photos and video from one side while using the forward camera for face-to-face video calls, either on the Apple Facetime network or via Skype. Not only is it possible to surf the web via the 3G Internet in Costa Rica, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad distributes an official application that turns the iPhone into a WiFi hotspot so it can provide Internet access to computers and other devices via the cellular network.

Another benefit to a legal iPhone, purchased either through
the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad or the unlocked version on the Apple Web site is that customers can forward complaints about their cell phone network to Apple. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is obligated under its contract with Apple to provide good customer service, and complaints would put that contract in jeopardy. Given the popularity of iPhone sales in Costa Rica it’s unlikely that the institute would neglect Apple’s customers.

The unlocked iPhone is not viewed as having much impact at this time in the United States because only AT&T and Verizon offer a network that is fully compatible with Internet access on the iPhone. The unlocked iPhone is fully compatible for phone calls and text messages on any GSM network.

However, there are much cheaper handsets on the market.

The benefit is mostly for international exports of the iPhone and for people who travel internationally and want to swap out their U.S. based SIM chip for a prepaid plan in another country. Costa Rica withdrew Internet access as an option for the prepaid network in March.

However residency is no longer required in order to obtain a post-paid line with Internet access.

Post-paid plans in Costa Rica also do not require a contract obligation when the customer brings their own phone. Plans come with a $7-a-month charge and provide 60 minutes of included talk time. Internet access via the 3G cell phone network starts at $30 per month.

Local calls at 10 cents a minute and text messages for under a penny are far cheaper than using a cell phone in Costa Rica under a global roaming plan from AT&T.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 119

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Some jet crash bodies
arrive for ID in France

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The remains of 104 people recovered from the wreckage of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic two years ago have been brought to France for identification.

The bodies and wreckage from the Airbus 330 plane arrived by ship on Thursday at the port of Bayonne in southwestern France. 

Police officials say the human remains are being sent to Paris for dental and DNA tests to establish the victims' identities, and will then be returned to the families for burial.

Some of the relatives have said they would have preferred for their loved ones to have remained on the ocean floor.

A total of 228 people were aboard the Airbus jet when it plunged into the ocean on June 1, 2009, killing everyone on board.  According to information from the flight data recorders recovered last month with the bodies, the pilots saw conflicting speeds on their instruments as the plane stalled and fell into the sea. 

Analysis of the flight data information shows the plane dropped at a speed of more than 3,000 meters a minute before crashing into the water. France's aviation safety agency is expected to issue a full report on the crash in July.

A preliminary inquiry conducted prior to recovering the data recorders pointed to a possible icing problem with the probes measuring air speed.  But there has been no definitive conclusion as to the cause of the crash.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported that Airbus had registered 32 instances of problems involving ice buildup on similar aircraft between 2003 and 2009.  It also reported that preliminary findings pointed to pilot error in the deadly crash.

In March, a French judge placed Airbus under investigation for possible involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2009 crash.

U.N. adopts new standards
for all domestic workers

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Government representatives and delegates representing worker and employer organizations attending a United Nations conference Thursday adopted a set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of millions of domestic workers worldwide.

The new Convention on Domestic Workers adopted at the annual conference of the U.N. International Labour Organization in Geneva states that workers around the world who care for families and households must have the same basic labor rights as those available to other employees.

It calls for reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect of the rights associated with employment, including the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

“We are moving the standards system of the ILO into the informal economy for the first time, and this is a breakthrough of great significance,” said Juan Somavia, the director general of the labor organization. “History is being made.”

Recent estimates based on national surveys or census in 117 countries place the number of domestic workers at a minimum of 53 million, but experts say they could be as many as 100 million across the world.

In developing countries, they make up at least 4 to 12 per cent of those in wage employment. Around 83 per cent of domestic workers are women or girls. Many are migrant workers.

“Bringing the domestic workers into the fold of our values is a strong move, for them and for all workers who aspire to decent work, but it also has strong implications for migration and of course for gender equality,” said Somavia.

The convention will come into force after it has been ratified by two states.
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European project boosted
Internet capacity 10-fold

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

European experts have pushed the capacity of a 10 gigabit ethernet to 100 gigabits. The purpose of the project is to insure sufficient bandwidth for the future.

As bandwidth requirements increase due to greater numbers of users, social networking, video on demand and more, advancements in delivery are needed and laying more and more optic cables has been seen as the only solution.

The 100GET project involves some of the largest networking and telecommunication companies in Europe.  100GET stands for 100 Gigabits Ethernet.

By focusing on both the data transfer and networking aspects, efficiencies have been found that ensure bandwidth capacity for the Internet can be increased dramatically, the project reported.

The effort was supported by EUREKA, an intergovernmental network launched in 1985 to support market-oriented research and development and innovation projects by industry, research centers and universities across all technological sectors.

Traffic growth across the existing infrastructure of the Internet in Europe reaches 40 percent annually. Growth is so strong that when new bandwidth becomes available it is used almost immediately. Use of on-demand video and photo sharing services accounts for much of this.
“At the outset, we discussed this project with researchers and our business division. We thought that 40GET was possible but the future lay in a much bigger number like 100GET. That was a big target,” said Kurt Loesch of Alcatel-Lucent Deutschland AG, Germany

Rainer H. Derksen, a senior research scientist at Nokia Siemens Networks, one of the lead partners in the project, said “Just increasing the amount of optical fiber will not be enough to cope with the current growth in the Internet traffic. We needed to find remedies that allowed us to use the available bandwidth of optical fiber more efficiently.”
The total budget of the project was 65 million euros which was funded partly by the companies themselves and partly by national governments. In total, the project has resulted in 56 patent applications, the creation of 21 new products and the improvement of 15 existing products.

Beating kills businessman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A merchant from San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados has died in Hospital San Juan de Dios from injuries received in a severe beating, and agents said they believe the incident took place in the man's business.

The 47-year-old man who had the last name of Lung arrived at the hospital Wednesday night and died Thursday morning, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The agency said the man may have been the victim of a robbery.

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