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(506) 2223-1327              Published Tuesday, June 22, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 121        E-mail us
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Magistrates try to set rules on Internet use at work
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial branch is trying to confront the issue of employees using the Internet for social interaction instead of work.

The president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Luis Paulino Mora Mora, said that judicial officials are discussing the issue and seek to establish limitations on Internet use during work hours and justify the use for judicial purposes.

The judiciary's Consejo Asesor de Informática is studying the situation, said the court president. He said magistrates have asked the Consejo to come up with ideas that establish clear rules that avoid abuse and do not cut down on the services provided to the public.

The judiciary appears to be the first of the four government branches to go public with concerns about Internet use and social networking by employees.

Nevertheless, the problem is certainly significant in
 the executive branch, the Tribunal de Supremo de Elecciones and the legislature. Some public employees brag that they do nothing all day but interact with friends on the Internet or play computer games. Such activity can be noted by  Web masters who read the logs of their Internet servers, but there have been no publicized cases of employees being penalized.

The judiciary said it has suspended the use of social network activity in the entire branch until there are firm rules established.

Mora said that in some cases access to social networks is justified and that authorization will be granted to legitimate users. He said that new technologies should not be treated with fear but the time devoted to social networking and other Internet uses during working hours can keep people from working.

In addition to computer use, public and private employees sometimes waste work time with cell telephone calls. That is an issue that has not been addressed clearly in Costa Rica law either.


Highway to Caribbean being closed for evaluation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry is closing the San José-Limón highway this morning, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday for five and a half hours while scientists study the slipping hillsides.

The evaluation is being done by Spanish experts under the direction of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad and several departments of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The ministry said that the equipment being used is so sensitive that passing vehicles would disrupt the readings. Traffic is barred from 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on each of those days, the ministry said.

This is the section in Parque Nacional Braulio
Carrillo some 25 kilometers north of San José where the hillside has been sliding. The road has been closed off and on because of the danger. For a time traffic only was permitted during the daylight hours. The ministry has observers stationed at the locations to warn motorists of any movement of the earth.

This is the critical route from the Central Valley to the Limón docks, but officials have said the roadway is badly engineered and needs to be redesigned. Basically the highway is a shelf road with towering cliffs to the west and a steep drop to the east. Unlike the Autopista del Sol near Atenas, there have been no deaths on the highway, Ruta 32.
 
But there have been dramatic landslides.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 121

Costa Rica Expertise
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weather map
U.S. Nationoal Hurricane Center graphic  
Orange area outlines the vigorous tropical wave

Strong tropical wave
continues moving west

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What is being called a vigorous tropical wave continues to head west with about a 50 percent potential of turning into a tropical cyclone, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The weather system already is bringing rain over much of the central and eastern Caribbean, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and northern Venezuela, said the center.

There is a potential for a tropical depression to form during the next couple of days, it said. That is the first step toward a hurricane.

The system continues to move west-northwest at from 10 to 15 mph, the center said.

Rain in Costa Rica Monday was highly localized.

Desamparados received 36.8 mm of rain from 7 a.m. Monday. That's 1.45 of an inch. Santa Rosa in Guanacaste got 22.9 mm, about nine-tenths of an inch. Turrialba got 31.7 mm, about 1.23 of an inch.

But there was only a sprinkling on the Caribbean coast and in other parts of the country.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional gave the usual rainy season prediction: Partly cloudy skies in the morning with growing cloudiness and variable afternoon precipitation, particularly in the mountains.


Autopista rapist turns
 to rape and murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement are seeking a rape murderer who seems to prey on lone women walking along a major highway.

Passers-by found the body of a dead victim, identified by the last names of Esquivel Zúñiga, in a grassy area off the Autopista General Cañas Monday afternoon. She had been missing since early Sunday.

The case is similar to the rape of a university student along the same highway but closer to San José Thursday. That woman was forced at knife point from a path along the highway to a secluded spot, but she managed to get free. An intensive search failed to find the man or men.

Ms. Esquivel died in Barreal de Heredia near where she worked in a store.


Government proposes
4.2% hike in salaries


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government Monday proposed a 4.2 percent raise in the minimum salaries of private employees. The Consejo Nacional de Salarios took the proposal under advisement. The agency is expected to issue the final word on the topic Thursday.

Employer groups proposed 3.8 percent, which they said was equivalent to six months of inflation. Employee groups proposed 7.2 percent.

The increases will be for the minimum salaries from July 1 to Dec. 31. The list of salaries is extensive and even includes unclassified university graduates who must be paid one of the higher minimums regardless of the work they do.


Overseas voting planned
for Costa Ricans abroad

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Election officials are setting up procedures so that Costa Ricans abroad can vote in major elections. In the past, they had to return to Costa Rica to cast a ballot.

The agency, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, said that it has made arrangements so that 44 consulates will be polling places for the next presidential election in 2014 or for any referendums. The Costa Rican consulates are in 36 countries around the world. They include the United States and nearby Panamá and Nicaragua.

Costa Ricans abroad have until Aug. 5 to register with the appropriate consulate so they can vote on the proposed Dec. 5 referendum on civil unions.


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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 weekday.

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.

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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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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 121

Rapid Respose
Rock and Roll


This is the YouTube page that is hosting the video by Laura Chinchilla. She is not the first head of state to address the public in this way. The adjacent column contains links to talks by at least four Latin presidents, including Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
President on YouTube
A.M. Costa Rica graphic

President takes to social networks to strengthen her image
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla has turned to the social networks to tell Costa Ricans about her successes in the first 45 days in office and also to counter opinions that her administration is overwhelmed by problems.

Ms. Chinchilla said that she would make the difficult decisions and lead with character and firmness. She took credit for arrests last week of a drug smuggling ring linked to the Familia Michoacana Mexican cartel. She referred to at least three major problems confronting her administration, which she pointed out predated her inauguration.

The first, she noted is the conflict between taxi drivers and the so-called porteadores who act very much like taxi drivers. Porteadores have threatened a nationwide strike that would bring transportation to a halt if the legislature changes a law that favors them.

The second major problem is a conflict between medical residents and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The residents, physicians in training, are on strike because they say the Caja is demanding too much money and time after they finish the programs. Meanwhile medical appointments for citizens are being canceled.

The third looming crisis, as mentioned by the president, is the university budgets. The public universities are pressing for major increases in the public funds allocated to them. There already has been one demonstration and march.
Ms. Chinchilla can be seen on YouTube, on the Casa Presidencial Web site and also on facebook. Each Internet location hosts the same 3:07 minute speech. On both YouTube and facebook, the president leaves herself open to critical comments from viewers, and there are some.

After being on facebook for two hours, the video attracted 111 viewers. Casa Presidencial sent out a message directing reporters to the site.

The social network videos appear to take the place of the weekly appearances other presidents made on the television and radio.

Ms. Chinchilla noted that her administration is conducting soundings on current problems and even has enlisted the aid of the U.N. Programme for Development to find out what citizens think and what solutions they may have. At Casa Presidencial, she has created four councils to advise her on environment, social programs, citizen security and competitivity.

What Ms. Chinchilla did not mention are the problems with failing bridges and the two major highways that are raining rocks and dirt down on the roadway.

The overall impression of the first 45 days is that Ms. Chinchilla has inherited many serious problems, and some commentators are expressing doubt that she can move rapidly and directly without forming another committee. The speech released Monday night appears to be an effort to counter that point of view.


Magistrates order Internet connection despite high crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not having access to the Internet is a violation of the fundamental rights of communication and information, the Sala IV constitutional court ruled in a decision released Monday.

So the court ordered the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to provide a customer wide band connection via ADSL or some other means even if the customer was living in Ciudadela León XIII in Tibás, a place where even the police prefer not to go except in large groups.
The person who filed the appeal with the court, identified by the last names of Castillo Chavarría, said that he made multiple requests of the former telecom monopoly and that in January he was told that the service was not available because of where he lived. The institute, known as ICE, is a public entity.

There are several high-crime areas in the Central Valley where even the Cruz Roja declined to provide ambulance services. Persons who enter these areas, from repairmen to television crews, frequently are stripped of their possessions by armed robbers.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 121


New device could chop that @3!$#% air conditioning bill

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

There may be relief in sight for beach dwellers who are facing ever-increasing electrical bills due to air conditioning.

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has invented a new air conditioning process with the potential of using 50 percent to 90 percent less energy than top-of-the-line units. It uses membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants in a way that has never been done before in the centuries-old science of removing heat from the air.

"The idea is to revolutionize cooling, while removing millions of metric tons of carbon from the air," said Eric Kozubal, co-inventor of the eVaporative air conditioner.

"We'd been working with membranes, evaporative coolers and desiccants. We saw an opportunity to combine them into a single device for a product with unique capabilities," the mechanical engineer said

Evaporative coolers are a lower-cost alternative to air conditioning in dry climates that don't get too hot or humid, such as  Denver, but not Miami. Water flows over a mesh, and a fan blows air through the wet mesh to create humid, cool air.

In humid climes like the Pacific and Caribbean beaches, adding water to the air creates a hot and sticky building environment. Furthermore, the air cannot absorb enough water to become cold.

So, for most humid areas refrigeration-based air conditioning is the preferred way of keeping cool.

The eVaporative air conditioner relies on the desiccants to create dry air using heat and evaporative coolers' capacity to take dry air and make cold air.
"By no means is the concept novel, the idea of combining the two," Kozubal said. "But no one has been able to come up with a practical and cost-effective way to do it."

Engineers have known for decades the value of desiccants to air conditioning.  Most people know of desiccants as the pebble-sized handfuls that come with new shoes to keep them dry.

The kind the research lab uses are syrupy liquids — highly concentrated salt solutions of lithium chloride or calcium chloride. They have a high affinity for water vapor, and can thus create very dry air.

The new device uses thin membranes that simplify the process of integrating air flow, desiccants, and evaporative cooling.

These result in an air conditioning system that provides superior comfort and humidity control, the lab said.

The air is cooled and dried from a hot-humid condition to a cold and dry condition all in one step. This all happens in a fraction of a second as air flows through the eVaporative air conditioner. The device  uses 50 percent to 90 percent less energy than refrigeration-based air conditioning.

Traditional air conditioners use a lot of electricity to run the refrigeration cycle, but the eVaporative air conditioner replaces that refrigeration cycle with an absorption cycle that is thermally activated. It can be powered by natural gas or solar energy and uses very little electricity.

The energy lab has patented the concept, and Kozubal expects that over the next couple of years he will be working on making the device smaller and simpler and perfecting the heat transfer to make it more cost effective.
Eventually, the lab, a government agency, will license the technology to industry.



Florida expats starting Orosi church for English speakers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new church in Orosi begins services in English July 4.

The pastor is Robert Melton, who with his wife, Lorita, have a home in Paraiso.

When looking for an English-speaking church, they said that they found there was none anywhere near Paraiso or the Orosi Valley.  God put it on their hearts to start one, which will provide a place where English-speaking people can come together in a church family, an announcement said.

The pair are missionaries with Missionary Ventures International. They have made short-term mission trips to Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru in the past and became full-time in June 2009, Melton said. The church will be called Highest Praise Church of Orosi

The couple is from Clearwater, Florida.  "We also had a nursing home ministry, where we had church in a nursing home for the residents," Melton said. 

Before becoming full-time missionaries, Melton, a certified public accountant, said he was audit director for Pinellas County, Florida, government, where he audited government operations to ensure they were using taxpayer funds appropriately and efficiently.
 
The church, which will be non-denominational, is
Orosi pastor and wife
Robert and Lorita Melton

located in the heart of Orosi, 200 meters east of Coto's
Restaurant on the road toward the swinging bridge, the pastor said.  Those interested can call 8859-0574 for more information, he added. Service is at 9 a.m. with fellowship and Bible study an hour earlier at 8 a.m.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 121

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Toronto gathering hosts
world's richest nations


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leaders from the world's 20 most important economies gather in Toronto next weekend to discuss the best ways to guide the global economy into a stronger recovery.

The leaders gathering in Toronto are from nations that account for 90 percent of global economic output, 80 percent of world trade, and two-thirds of the world's population.

Many of these leaders agree that the global financial crisis made it clear there is a need for better ways to regulate financial firms, but they disagree on how to go about it.

Some finance ministers are calling for banks to lend a smaller portion of their money and to keep more on hand in case a loan or investment goes bad.

Other ideas would limit the amount of borrowed money, or leverage, financial firms can use and seek ways to cope with failing financial companies that minimizes the damage to the rest of the economy.

Jose Vinals of the International Monetary Fund expects leaders in Toronto to decide whether to tax banks to pay the cost of future financial problems.  But he says they will put off making decisions on other issues.

"Toronto will be a crucial time to examine where is progress in order to continue moving the regulatory agenda forward for the final decisions to be taken in Seoul.  This is the expectation," Vinals stated, speaking of a meeting in South Korea in November.

Sebastian Mallaby of the Council on Foreign Relations, says it is crucial for the diverse nations of the G-20 to work together to govern their financial firms. "Financial institutions are cross-border; they are multi-national; they are global — so you ought to have global rules to try and deal with them.  But that is not the way the Congress is dealing with them in the United States and that is not the way I expect European regulators will go either," he said.

Mallaby is the author of a book on financial issues called "More Money Than God" and says international cooperation might fade as trade resumes and many economies continue recovering from the 2008 financial crisis.

Another kind of crisis erupted in Greece as that nation's high levels of debt raised doubts among lenders that they might be repaid.  Efforts to reduce the deficit by slashing government spending sparked riots in Athens.

Europe's stronger economies, especially Germany, gave Greece little choice. They insisted that Greece institute a strict austerity plan as a condition for aid.  G-20 nations also are expected to discuss targets for cutting deficits.

Economist Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute for International Economics says the European debt crisis is high on the G-20 agenda and that it is a warning to other nations. "The United States and other countries face similar risks, albeit so far on a smaller scale," he said.  "But if the problems are not corrected, they could be just as big here, just as big in other deficit countries around the world."

The leaders will also talk about global trade imbalances, including the huge trade deficit run by the United States and the massive trade surplus earned by China.  The imbalance is a source of political friction between the two countries.

About a week before the summit, Chinese officials said they would allow trading in their currency to be more flexible, meaning it would probably become stronger.  A stronger Chinese yuan means Chinese-made goods would be more expensive on world markets, which would reduce what Beijing's critics say is an unfair price advantage that contributes to trade imbalances.  Strengthening China's currency would also make goods made elsewhere less expensive for Chinese consumers, drive up imports, and ease trade tensions.  One key question on this issue is how much and how quickly Beijing will allow its currency to change.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 121


Latin American news
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Heredia motorist is held
2nd time on drunk count


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A motorist in Heredia is about to become the poster boy for drunk driving penalties.

He was identified by the Heredia prosecutor by the last names of Castillo Alvarado. He is being prosecuted for drunk driving, reckless driving and driving a vehicle without license plates.

The Poder Judicial said that he was nabbed by the Fuerza Pública who gave him a roadside alcohol test that measured .84 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. 

He had been driving at a high speed, they said.

The Poder Judicial said this is the second time that the man is facing such a charge under the new traffic law. Conviction probably means prison.

The prosecutor's office asked a judge to schedule an immediate hearing to see if the man's license should be suspended.

There are two versions of reforms to the new traffic law pending in the legislature. But in either case, a reading of .84 is drunk. Lawmakers are considering levels of .50 and .75.

Reforms to the traffic law mainly are in reducing the minimum fines, that run from 120,000 to 230,000 colons for routine infractions. That's $229 to $440.


Guanacaste man, 70, dies
in early morning fire


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 70-year-old man in Guanacaste died early Monday when flames engulfed his home in Paraiso, some 45 kilometers from Santa Cruz.

Firemen got the call at 1:29 a.m. but when they arrived the wooden home already was fully involved in the blaze.

The dead man was Pedro Rosales Valladares, firemen said. The cause was blamed on a cigarette, and firemen said that the victim was a smoker.

He became the 12th person to die in a fire this year.


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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details