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(506) 2223-1327                        Published  Friday, June 22, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 124                          Email us
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Mushroom one
poisonous and hallucinogenic
mushroom two
waxy caps
mushroom three
Aleuria aurantia
The mushroooms are having their own weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad plans a festival for mushrooms this weekend at its Santa Domingo de Heredia location.

The emphasis seems to be for those who like to eat mushrooms, although there are some academic-style programs.

The facility, known as InBio, begins with a demonstration on how to grow mushrooms at 11 a.m. Saturday with a session on how to prepare ostra and shiitake mushrooms at 1 p.m. At 3 p.m.
there is a session on how to know the various mushrooms and enjoy them.

That theme continues with displays with sales of mushroom growing kits, books, mushroom dishes prepared onsite and even presentation by the country's mushroom producers. The also are activities for kids.

Sunday features an 11 a.m. demonstration on cultivation of shiitake mushrooms and a 1 p.m. demonstration on making sauces and dips with mushrooms. There also are expositions Sunday. There is an admission.

Lawmakers finally give initial OK to traffic law draft
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature gave initial approval to a revised traffic law Thursday and reduced significantly the amount of fines.

The new draft also created a novice, professional and standard classes of licenses. A novice is someone driving for the first three years after obtaining an initial license.

Professional drivers and new drivers are held to a higher standard in terms of blood alcohol content.

The average passenger vehicle driver is considered drunk with a a blood alcohol content of from 0.50 to 0.75 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. More than 0.75 grams of .75 blood alcohol level as expressed in the United States results in a criminal offense punishable by a term in jail.

Professional drivers and new drivers are drunk with a level of 0.20 to 0.50 grams per liter of blood.  For these two categories, an alcohol level higher than -.50 grams per liter of blood also is a criminal offense.

The current law makes it a crime for anyone to have more than a level of 0.50 grams per liter of blood.

Carlos Avendaño, the sole representative of a Christian political party in the legislature moved to lower the application of criminal penalties to 0.60 grams per litter of blood. It unclear if that amendment passed.

The fine for drunk driving in the current law is 468,780 colons (abut $940)  for 0.05 grams per liter of blood. The proposed law established a fine of 289,000 colons, about $578.

The current law has had an impact on the income of bars and restaurants, which is why there was a push to loosen the alcohol limit.

The proposed law passed with 37 votes with some lawmakers boycotting the proceeding. The measure had received  prolonged discussion.

The text is likely to go to the Sala IV constitutional court for a review before final action is taken. That may take a month or more.

The previous legislature passed the current law and then almost immediately lawmakers determined that some fines were disproportionate and there were other glitches. The current legislature took office in May  2010. Almost immediately the new lawmakers took up the chore that the previous group left undone. Still, the effort took more than two years to come to a vote.

The new law also makes illegal right-hand-driver
Categories of fines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

 The traffic law passed on initial reading Thursday contains the following representative fines:

Category A: A fine of 280,000 colons ($560) for speed in excess of 120 kilometers (74.4 miles) per hour, driving while license is expired or suspended, passing illegally, driving into the oncoming lane, making a U-turn or making an illegal left turn.

Category B: A fine of 189,000 colons ($378) for failing to have a security seat for children under 12 who measure less than 1.45 meters (57 inches) in height, going through a stop sign or red light, having altered or false license plates or driving more than 40 kph (25 mph) over the established speed limit.

Category C: A fine of 94,000 colons ($188) for driving a truck in zones where they are not authorized, taxis drivers who do not use the meter, driving without a license or with and expired driving permit and driving more than 25 kph (15.5 mph) than the established limit.

Category D: A fine of 47,000 colons ($94)  for ignoring traffic signs, driving a motorcycle without the reflective vest or clothing or driving 20 kph (12.4 mph) more than the established speed limit.

Category E: A fine of 20,000 colons ($40) for advertising drivers who use a loudspeaker between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or less than 100 meters from a clinic, a hospital, school or church, having license plates in a spot other than stated by law or for driving an unauthorized vehicles on the public right-of-way.

The fines are keyed to inflation and can be increased up to 14 percent a year.

vehicles as used in countries like England. Owners
have six months to change the location of the steering wheel, if that is possible.

Drag racing would continue to be a crime with a penalty of up to three years in prison. The same penalty faces someone convicted of driving in excess of 150 kph, about 93 mph. In some cases those convicted would be allowed to pay a larger fine or to community service instead of going to prison.

Those convicted a second time can receive harsher sentences.

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Our reader's opinion
Another safe house planned
for sex exploitation victims

Dear A.M. Costa Rica staff:

We write in reply to the June 21 article about Seeds of Hope, entitled “Women's vision is a safe house for youngsters in sex trade”. The importance of their work to support adolescent victims of sexual exploitation is difficult to understate.

The article did not mention the magnitude of the problem that Seeds of Hope is working to combat. What many expats living in Costa Rica do not realize is that this country is a major transit and destination point for international sex trafficking. INTERPOL called Costa Rica the fastest rising capital of sex tourism in Latin America, and Costa Rica’s Child Welfare Office estimates that 35,000 children and adolescents are victims of human trafficking here each year.

We at Salvando Corazones are also in the process of opening a safe house for young female victims of coerced prostitution. It is anticipated that within a month we will have all the necessary licensing to begin accepting girls aged 8 to 18 into our 12-bed facility, located in the Lake Arenal area. Our safe house will rely on funding from private individuals and foundations.

In addition to creating safe houses for rescued children, we need to make the climate in Costa Rica less amenable to criminals who buy and sell children like chattel. Part of the mission of Salvando Corazones is to do just that, primarily by raising awareness of the problem among public officials, law enforcement, and the general public. We applaud Seeds of Hope for the work it is doing, we thank A.M. Costa Rica for publicizing it, and we hope others will join the cause.

Salvando Corazones

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 124
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This is a scene from last year's event
Thousands of skateboarders will cross the city this Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rolling thunder again hits the streets of San José Sunday when an estimated 2,000 skateboarders will travel a 6-kilometer course through the city to the Parque de la Paz on the south side.

The event is the fifth year of Wild in the Streets commemorating the international day of skateboarding.

 The youngsters start in Barrio Aranjuez about 9 a.m. on the north side of the city and travel through Parque Morazán and  Plaza Gonzales Víquez.
Youngsters come from all over the Central Valley to participate. Some are expected to come from the Pacific coast town of Playas del Coco.

At Parque de la Paz there are contests, demonstrations and prizes.

 The event has official recognition form 11 municipalities. The sponsor is the Red Bull energy drink.

The youngsters always seem to be on their best behavior, and one of the final projects Sunday is to clean up any trash.

Please stand in line and wait to read this column
One of my pen pals who goes by the name Delphic Oracle, has a quote at the bottom of his e-mails that says: “Most of the things people worry about never happen.”

Yeah, sure, Oracle.

This week the showdown began and buoyed by Carol’s pleasant experience, I was off to the American Embassy to renew my passport. 

I haven’t been to the embassy since I had to replace my stolen passport.  In 2002 I went to a relatively small waiting room and had something to read while I waited, and was soon explaining my situation and getting a new passport.

This time entering the embassy involved a checkpoint where they took most of my possessions and sent them along while I went around the detector arbor.  They kept my keys and cell phone. I got a ticket to retrieve them on my way out.

Next step was to get my picture taken, then go through a door that was labeled for U.S. citizens.  Inside was a large room with more than a dozen windows.  The room was filled with men, women and children, a confused me and not enough chairs for me to sit.

 “I have a 9:30 appointment,” I said, and was directed to take a number and wait near Window 5, which I did.  My number was D14.  D6 was being served.  I looked at the picture they had taken.  I looked like Jimmy Durante’s mother.  “Can I go through the rest of my life without ever showing this passport,” I asked myself.  The answer was “Probably not.”  So I asked to be released to get another picture taken.  This move did not seem to surprise the doorkeeper, nor the “photographer” who was about to make 1,000 more colons. 

Re-armed with a barely better photo, I reentered the room.  Still standing room only.  The D numbers had disappeared.  So I asked the door keeper.

“Just wait by window 5,” she said.  I did so.  Five young people were at the window.  I could only guess that one was getting served and the others were moral support.  After they left, I said to the man in the window, “I have a 9:30 appointment to renew my passport.” 

“It’s only 9:25,” he said.  Right.  While I waited I walked over to the Window 3, the cashier’s window, to read the sign next to it.  It said, “To begin the process of obtaining a passport start at Window 3” So I asked the woman behind the window if I should start there.  “No,” she said, smiling.  I pointed to the sign and said the obvious. She smiled again and shook her head.

At 9:45 a loudspeaker voice said “Nine-thirty appointment go to Window 7.”  I staggered past Window 7 until a young man stopped me, and said, “It’s back there, sweetie.”  I swear he did.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

By now, I realized I had totally lost my smile, and I know a smile can help you get things done, but I just couldn’t find it.

“I had a meaningless 9:30 appointment,” I muttered, not smiling.  The man behind the window said, “Don’t worry; we will take care of you here.” 

Then I noticed a sign that said I needed to have filled out the correct form. 

“Do I have to do that?”

“Yes. And we need another I.D.”

I read the description of the different forms.  None applied to me, but the light blue one was the closest, so he gave me a light blue one.  It was front and back of those squares to fill out with your name and everything else they could think of.  There was no flat surface on which to write except an empty window shelf or my knee.

Form completed, sort of, I waited behind a big gentleman.  He seemed unreasonably grateful and happy. Then I was sent to Window 3 to pay my $110 and back to Window 7 to get my old passport.

I left the room and walked to the final exit. (There is an exit, Jean Paul). On the wall next to the exit door were sheaves of light blue, tan, and brown forms with a notice that one should accompany a passport renewal request.  As I turned in my ticket to get my keys and cell phone, I said to the man, “It not very smart to put those forms next to the exit when the only way a person can get an appointment is via Internet.”  He said he would see about that, and I nodded, solemnly, not believing him.

Outside an alert taxista across the street honked and gave me a lift to Plaza Mayor.  As I got out of the taxi, I found my smile thinking about the good news I had received the day before.  My friend Ann had called and said in her very British accent, “Jo, I have found your cédula!” 

It was under the passenger seat in her car.  It must have fallen the day we went to lunch.  This meant my governmental tramites were done!!

Well, Oracle, you just may be right.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 124
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Safety fair
A.M. Costa Rica photos.Kayla Pearson
The downtown was filled with characters promoting highway safety
Officials sell road safety with jesters, and other characters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A stroll down Avenidad Central yesterday afforded both Ticos and Gringos the opportunity to be entertained by young adults dressed as jesters while learning about safety at the same time.
This week is security week in Costa Rica, and different organizations came together to set up booths themed after
safety.  Workers from the Consejo de Seguridad Vial, the Fuerza Pública, and Florida Bebidas united to inform the public about how to be safe when driving and walking the streets.

The fair also featured music courtesy of the local radio station, trivia for prizes, magic tricks for children and jesters on stilts, unicycles and skates.

U.N. announces billions in support for sustainability programs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday announced that more than 100 commitments and actions have been already mobilized in support of the U.N.’s global sustainable energy initiative. He was speaking at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Achieving sustainable energy for all is not only possible, but necessary – it is the golden thread that connects development, social inclusion and environmental protection,” Ban said at a press conference.

Launched in September 2011, the Sustainable Energy for All initiative brings together governments, businesses and civil society groups in an unprecedented effort to help make the world’s energy systems more accessible, efficient and cleaner, said the U.N.. It is designed to catalyze global action in support of three, interlinked and complimentary objectives, all to be achieved by 2030 – ensure universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

“This initiative is already mobilizing significant action from all sectors of society. Working together, we can provide solutions that drive economic growth, expand equity and reduce the risks of climate change,” Ban said.

The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.3 billion people – one in five globally – lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Twice that number – nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population – rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook food, resulting in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and death, said the U.N.

More than 40,000 people – including heads of state and government, parliamentarians, mayors, U.N. officials, business and civil society leaders – are attending Rio+20, which ends today The conferencet seeks to shape new policies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection, according to the U.N..

“Sustainable Energy for All provides a powerful model for the future,” Ban said. “The U.N. is bringing all key stakeholders to the table to work in common cause for the common good. This initiative shows the power of partnership and ability of the United Nations to spearhead transformational change.”

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by
 governments, Ghana, one of the first countries to join the initiative, has developed a national energy action plan to support capacity-development and innovative financing mechanisms. Countries initiating or completing similar assessments include Bangladesh, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Tajikistan, Uruguay and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Brazil, the host country for Rio+20, has committed to investing a further $4.3 billion to achieve universal energy access at a national level by 2014.

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by private sector corporations, small and medium-scale enterprises, Microsoft has committed to going carbon neutral and will be rolling out an internal carbon fee that will apply to Microsoft’s business operations in over 100 countries. Italian energy company Eni has earmarked approximately $5 billion to achieve its gas flaring and carbon intensity reduction goals and the Renault-Nissan Alliance has committed approximately $5 billion to commercialize affordable zero-emission vehicles.

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by financial institutions, donors and development banks, the Bank of America has set a 10-year $50 billion environmental business goal, while the World Bank Group has committed to doubling the leverage of its energy portfolio by mobilizing private, donor and public contributions to World Bank-supported projects, as well as supportive policies to expand energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by non-governmental organizations, artists, academia, and individuals, members of the rock band Linkin Park have launched a campaign urging world leaders at Rio+20 to end energy poverty, while India’s Energy and Resources Institute has committed to expanding lighting services to households in several developing countries, using solar and other clean energy technologies, by 2018. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, along with 40 other professional associations, has pledged to mobilize their two million members worldwide in support of the  initiative.

Since the Sustainable Energy for All  initiative’s launch last year, more than 50 governments from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the small islands developing states have engaged with the initiative and are developing energy plans and programs. The majority are from developing countries that have initiated or completed energy sector assessments and gap analyses, thus laying the groundwork to scale up action in priority areas, undertake strategic reforms where needed, and attract new investments and financial support.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 124
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Romney woos Hispanics
but is mum on the details

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney on Thursday made an appeal to Hispanic voters, a constituency that opinion surveys suggest remains strongly committed to President Barack Obama ahead of this year’s U.S. election.  Romney spoke to a group of Latino elected officials meeting in Florida and the president is expected to address the same group on Friday.

In his speech, Romney focused on the domestic economy, arguing that Hispanic families have suffered along with the rest of the country during Mr. Obama’s time in office.

“I’d ask each of you to honestly look at the last three and one-half years and ask whether we can do better," he said. "Is the America of 11 percent Hispanic unemployment the America of our dreams?  We can do better.”

The former Massachusetts governor has been on the defensive in recent days, following the recent announcement by President Obama to end the deportation of many children of illegal aliens, a move popular with the nation's immigrant community.

Romney said he would take a different approach, but offered no specifics.

“I will put in place my own long term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure," he said. "As president I won’t settle for stopgap measures.”

Romney said he would address the issue of illegal immigration in a civil, but resolute manner and restated his support for a border fence between the United States and Mexico.

Romney and his rivals for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination took a hard line on illegal immigration during this year’s primary campaign, and some Hispanic voters were offended by some of the harsh rhetoric.

Last week, President Obama announced a change in policy that will let many young people brought to the United States illegally to remain in the country to study and pursue careers.

U.S. Senate passes bill
to revamp ag policies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A bill extending and reforming U.S. agricultural programs cleared a key legislative hurdle Thursday as the Senate approved a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill by a vote of 64 to 35.
The Senate appeared to cast aside partisan politics to pass bill, which will help low-income Americans buy food and compensate U.S. farmers for crop losses.

“The Agriculture Reform Bill is about standing up for our nation’s farmers, our small businesses, our manufacturers, our exporters and others, whose livelihood depends on us getting the policy right," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, who spoke moments before the vote. "This represents significant reform. It cuts subsidies. It cuts the deficit. It creates jobs."

​​The bill, which seeks to trim costs from an $80 billion-a-year program that helps 46 million poor Americans buy food, also replaces a subsidy program that pays some farmers — regardless of whether they plant crops — with a new initiative designed to assist farmers who suffer losses on crops actually planted.

U.S. farm subsidies have been a persistent irritant to many other agriculture-exporting nations, such as Brazil, that argue the payments are an unfair trade barrier and harm developing economies.

Uruguay's government may
go into drug sales business

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Uruguay's national government could become the first in the world to directly sell marijuana to the general public.

President Jose Mujica will send a bill to lawmakers calling for the government to sell the drug only to people who are registered on an official database. 

Defense Minister Fernández Huidobro told reporters Wednesday the bill is aimed at fighting rising crime in the South American nation, by removing illegal drug profits from dealers and diverting users from harder drugs such as cocaine. 

Government figures show there were 133 homicides in Uruguay between January and May, an increase of 70 percent from the same period in 2011.

It is not illegal in Uruguay to either use or possess marijuana.

U.N. expert wants world
to pay victims of terrorism

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The special U.N. investigator on terrorism is calling for an international legally binding instrument to provide compensation, reparation, and support to all victims of terrorism. The investigator says terrorists cannot compensate for the massive damage they cause, so it is up to world governments to right a wrong and pay up.
Since Saturday, the expert, Ben Emmerson reports 125 people have been killed and 334 have been seriously wounded in 14 terrorist attacks around the world, including Pakistan, Iraq, northern Nigeria, and Yemen.

He says to most of the world, these deaths are just statistics and very little, or nothing at all, is known about the human tragedies that lie behind them.
Despite the brutal physical and psychological consequences of terrorist attacks on the victims and their families, he says little is being done to compensate them. He says this is unjust and must not continue.

Emmerson says he has received wide support from organizations representing victims of terrorism around the world for his proposals to compensate the victims for their loss and suffering.
He says none of these people are calling for revenge. They are calling for justice. He says they are not calling for more torture or for more human-rights abuse in countering terrorism.   

“The victims are saying that is not being done in their name, do not use their names as a justification," said Emmerson. "What they are asking for is a normative framework.  And, the aim of this report is to nail the lie that the way to protect victims is to abuse the human rights of those suspected of involvement in terrorism. That is not what they are calling for.  It is quite the reverse of what they are calling for. And, it is a strange world where government officials are prepared to stand up and say we are torturing on behalf of the victims, but we are not prepared to pay them compensation.”

Emmerson says the Council of Europe, as well as many countries and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, support his efforts to secure the human rights of victims of terrorism.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 124
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Jo Stuart

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Latin America news
Platina bridges returns
to haunt highway officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The so-called platina bridge over the  Río Virilla is continuing to frustrate officials.

The bridge deck is deteriorating, and the public works ministry is expected to have a detailed report on the span starting in the middle of July.

This is the famous or infamous bridge over the  Río Virilla on the General Cañas highway. The bridge is so flexible that any concrete on the bridge deck cracks easily. The situation is so frustrating that a former minster announced that a new bridge would be constructed parallel to the offending span. That plan may be shelved. The highway connects San José with Juan Santamaría airport, Alajuela and points west.

The current minister Luis Llach Cordero said his agency, the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes, is awaiting the engineering report that was ordered by the previous minister.

Workers have been trying to fix the bridge three times this year. This is the same span that once caused officials to close down the highway to rebuild completely certain components.

Problems started three years ago when a plate on an expansion joint simply would not lay flat. That is where the name platina originated. The situation was a joke for awhile. El Diario Extra even sent scantily clad models to the site to pose as workmen for photographers. The humor evaporated when a highway official died when a Canadian motorist failed to see him during one of those night repairs.

Engineers say that the four-lane bridge is just not stiff enough to support the concrete and flexed under the weight of traffic. The bridge is back in the news because television stations have been reporting on the deterioration of the deck again.

Train kills man on track
in  María Agüero de Batán

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 34-year-old man died early Thursday after being hospitalized when he was hit by a train.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the man has the last name of Villegas and that he sat down on a track in the section known as  María Agüero de Batán and did not realize the cargo train was coming.

That was about 12:10 Thursday. The man died an hour later in  Hospital Tony Facio. Limón.

The train was carrying a load of sheet metal to  Siquirres.

Outages delay publication

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Friday edition of A.M. Costa Rica was published late early today due to a pair of electrical outages at the editorial office. The bulk of the paper was online by 2:15 a.m. instead of the usual 2 a.m., but several stories were not posted until 45 minutes later. The cause of the outages could not be determined immediately. They happened at 6 and 10:30 p.m.

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