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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 126                          Email us
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Hands-on workshop has a pre-Columbian goal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The love of music predates humanity, and one can guess that even the earliest protohumans and humans had their pickup percussion groups.

Archaeologist have unearthed  a bone flute that is perhaps 40,000 years old. With the advent of ceramics, modern humans had a chance to make even more sophisticated instruments. Now the humans of today can, too.

Those interested in creating a personal ceramic ocarina will have a chance during a workshop at the Museos del Banco Central July 9 to 13. 

The ocarina dates from at least 12,000 years ago and resembles a fat flute. Sound is made by blowing from the mouthpiece into the rotund body. The vibrations are customized at the finger holes on the outside.  Many ocarinas are ceramic, but there are versions of glass, wood, metal and plastic.

In the America the ancient Aztecs, Mayans, Incas and other residents shaped ocarinas after birds and animals and  performed for audiences.   Vendors in the downtown often can be heard playing such an instrument. They even are on sale at the various souvenir stores.

The museum's goal is to educate the public about this historical object, while giving participants a chance to take one home, said a staffer there.

“This work is in relation to the pre-Columbian groups.  We want to show people the pre-Columbian culture,” said Carolina Castillo of the museums' education and culture department.
Museos del Banco Central photo
Workshop participants will create one of these.

Representatives from Compañía Pájaros del Monte, an organization dedicated to collecting native pre-Colombian art of America, will teach the workshop.  Currently the organization works in Costa Rica researching and presenting ceramic instruments like the ocarina.

The museum needs at least 20 people to sign up for the workshop.  Class is from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, and costs $40.  To reserve a spot those interested can call 2243-4202.

As to pre-humans, researchers in Japan showed that even infant chimpanzees appreciate and have a preference to certain types of music.

Strikers today have a variety of causes to promote
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A general strike called for today by teachers has five stated reasons, but some groups are much more focused.

At least 10 unions have said they will participate starting at 9 a.m. But the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados says it will not because leaders did not learn of the strike in time.

One reason for the march is to combat corruption, said organizers, the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza. Perhaps closer to the pocketbook of participants is opposition to the central government's new plan for increased sales taxes on food and opposition to  a proposed law that organizers claim would freeze their salaries.

The marchers, which will include Limón dock workers, also opposes the central government plan to grant a concession to APM Terminals to construct a modern container handling facility at the Caribbean port of Moín. The marchers also have said they are defending the financially troubled Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Teachers are particularly unhappy about what they see as a government plan to raid the fund that provides scholarships for low-income students in the primary and secondary grades. The  Partido Liberación Nacional and the Movimiento Libertario are trying to squeeze 2 billion colons from that fund, said the teachers group.

Although the march is supposed to target corruption, there are varying opinions of what that is. For the ever-militant Costa Rica en Acción, corruption has it tentacles in many aspects of life and is responsible for the free trade treaty with the United States that was approved with fraud, the group said.

The increasing cost of living and the financial squeeze in which the government finds itself contribute to the unhappiness. There also is a visible touch of xenophobia against foreigners, especially the Dutch firm that has been picked to build the container port and the perennial target, the United States.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said that it was not participating for more reasons than the lack of notification. It was not invited, it said. But some of its member unions, such as the dock workers, will be there.
Even though it will not participate, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said it thought the general strike was just and for valid reasons.

Strikers plan to gather at Parque Central and then march down Avenida Secunda to the legislative complex. Naturally there will be traffic problems. And with the teachers on strike, children will have a day off from school or in a class with supervisors.

The country barely has recovered from a taxi and bus strike that snarled traffic all over the country Monday. The complaints were the same: Poor enforcement against unlicensed taxis. That strike was lifted after a meeting with government officials. But there had been blockades and even some confrontations outside the Central Valley.

The teachers also are demonstrating to obtain higher wages for school security personnel. A release noted that one security guard died when he was shot in the head at the  Liceo Deportivo de Limón. The current 220,000-colon monthly salary is too low for such dangerous jobs, the teachers said in a statement.

That's about $500 a month.

There also is a simmering discontent among public employees because the president decreed a 5,000-colon pay raise earlier in the year after negotiations broke down.

There were marches at that time, too.

The corruption focus is a result of disclosures of possible bribes in the construction of a northern highway along the Río San Juan. Almost daily there are new disclosures of possible crimes connected with this emergency project. Monday Repretel, the television network, disclosed that contractors put metal shipping containers under the road instead of drainage pipes and that the containers are beginning to collapse. Various investigations have been launched about this project.

The marchers also are unhappy with disclosures that top government officials did not pay the property taxes they were supposed to and that there was apparent sweetheart deals between the Ministerio de Educación Pública and a company run by an advisor to the president, who happened to be the wife of the then-minister of Hacienda. The teachers are calling for jail for those who scam the state.

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Our reader's opinion
Country drowning in plastic,
but a cleanup is possible

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing today in the hope that you will publish this letter. For months now I have noticed the drainage ditches and roadways of Costa Rica are getting worse. Clearly there is a sector of the local community that has no environmental concern whatsoever. It baffles the mind, how someone could simply throw trash out of a moving vehicle, especially when it is not biodegradable. Who are these people? If only we could catch them and subject them to a series of physiological tests to determine how they think, then reprogram them.

The greatest threat to Costa Rica is not the mosquito, it is PLASTIC.  Plastic is quite simply destroying this country. I am often confused by people who write articles about the natural beauty of Costa Rica but completely fail to address the trash on the roads. Of course, when tourists venture into the jungles, away from people, it is beautiful. However the streets and highways are a complete mess, and one must use the roads to get anywhere.

I have been fortunate to have travelled all over this world in my 50-plus years and have never been to a dirtier place. Even the streets of Lebanon, Malaysia and the Philippines were far cleaner than Costa Rica. Worse is when I speak to my friends, about the growing plastic problem, many of whom are Ticos, they do not notice the trash, and are perplexed as to why I am so concerned about the pollution. I guess after decades of being exposed to the mountain of plastic trash, they become blind to the problem.

I have often grabbed a few bags, put on my gloves, and walked my neighborhood to collect the plastic trash along the roadway. The effect has been both substantial and immediate.

Would you consider the possibility of having your reporters write a few articles about the growing plastic trash problem in Costa Rica?  Hopefully this will encourage your readers to band together to organize cleaning events in their respective neighborhoods. Hopefully the locals will see what the expats in Costa Rica are trying to do and lend a helping hand. One plastic bottled removed from the street, means we are one step closer to preventing the oceans and rivers from suffering more destruction, caused by careless humans, who lack the education or willingness to make a difference.

If any of your readers who live close to the zoo in Alajuela are concerned about the trash and want to make a difference, by all means please have them write me ( so that we can organize a cleanup one Saturday morning in that area. Sacrifice a few hours on ones life to help Costa Rica’s environment would be time well spent.
David Lema

EDITOR'S NOTE; An environmental organization with similar concerns had erected a wave of plastic bottles in the traffic island on Avenida 10 just east of Parque la Sabana.

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.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 126
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A 3 percent wage increase approved for private sector workers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Consejo Nacional de Salarios has fixed the pay increase for private employees at 3 percent for the second half of the year. No one seems very happy about the amount.

Some union activists scorned the amount, which means 3,000 more colons or about $6 for every 100,000 of salary (about $200)

Representatives of the private sector said that the government agency and unions bypassed a salary formula that was approved in October. The private sector group, the  Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said that the minimum wages have increased 31 percent in the last 12 years.

The Consejo passed the increased without votes from members representing private business, said the chamber.
The increase takes effect July 1, and most employes will see the raise with the pay of July 15 or of July 31.

Many Costa Ricans work for the minimum wage, which is different for every job category. The Ministerio de Trabajo will do the math and post the new salaries by occupation on its Web site soon.

In addition to the obligatory pay increase, employers will be paying slightly more for social security charges for the Caja Costarricesne de Seguro Social.

Those payments are based on salary received, and the employees pay about 9 percent of their income for these purposes. Employers pay much more, and the amount depends on the size of the company.

The business chamber has argued that obligatory wage increases remove the incentive of performance-based raises.

Turrialba quake Monday night estimated between 4.0 and 4.1
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake north and east of  Turrialba gave a sharp jolt to residents of that area at 9:17 p.m. Monday.

The Red Sismológica Nacional said that the depth, just 15 kilometers (a bit more than 9 miles), suggested the quake was the result of movement in a local fault. The Red estimated the magnitude at 4.1

The  Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería, also at the Universidad de Costa Rica, said the magnitude was 4.0. Either estimate makes the quake among the strongest in recent weeks.

The Laboratorio said that sensing devices at the university's facility in Turrialba and the Hospital William Allen there registered an intensity of IV on the 12-point Mercalli scale.  That means the quake was moderate with widows rattling and some ground movement and some small objects falling.

The epicenter was listed as four kilometers (2.5 miles) north northwest of Tres Equis de Turrialba. The quake was felt just barely in San José, but some points in the province of Limón
epicenter location
Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica/A.M.Costa Rica
 Star shows estimated epicenter. Red lines are known faults
 and the white line is the boundary between Cartago and
 Limón provinces.

experienced a jolt just a bit less than that in Turrialba. Sensors said that the quake was felt as far south as San Isidro de El General.

Amnet Internet connection crashes for about 90 minutes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amnet, the cable television and Internet company, had another outage Monday that prevented subscribers from accessing the Web.

A customer service representative said that the outage covered all over Costa Rica. The system failed about 1:40 p.m. shortly after business users had returned to work after lunch. The company posted a voice message on its automatic telephone system, but that said little more than there was no service. Service was restored about 90 minutes later.

The problem appears to be where the Amnet servers connect
with the rest of the world because the Amnet Web page continued to be available . There was no notice of the outage on the Web page.

Amnet experiences periodic crashes for which the company offers no explanation. Recently the wait after a user selects an Internet address has increased, suggesting that either the company's internal routers are overloaded or that there are experiencing troubles.

The company recently installed new equipment and increased the velocity available to subscribers. Of course, usage has skyrocketed with YouTube, Facebook and movies on demand being available here.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 126
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Sea Shepherd reports that a bluefin tuna case was dismissed
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Sea Shepherd, Sea Shepherd U.K. and Capt. Paul Watson have prevailed in a lawsuit filed by a Maltese fish brokerage firm, Fish & Fish, that was filed in response to the release of 800 bluefin tuna in June 2010 off the coast of Libya, the organizations reported Tuesday..

An Admiralty Court judge in Britain dismissed the case.  His ruling was that the British courts were not the proper place to file the suit against Sea Shepherd and ordered the case against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Sea Shepherd U.K. and Capt. Paul Watson dismissed.

Fish & Fish requested an appeal, which the Judge refused. Fish & Fish may still appeal the ruling to a higher court, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said..

Pending a possible appeal, Sea Shepherd said it will have the bond of 520,000 pounds (approximately $780,000 plus interest) returned. The judge ruled that Fish & Fish must pay a percentage of Sea Shepherd’s legal fees in the case, which could amount to more than 200,000 additional pounds, the organization said.
This is the case that led to the vessel “Steve Irwin” detained in Scotland and released only after the bond was posted. The bond was raised in only 10 days from Sea Shepherd supporters worldwide.

"What we did in 2010 we have no apologies for," said Watson. "We freed 800 large, endangered bluefin tuna illegally caught by poachers off the coast of Libya. We cut the nets, and when the Maltese company that claimed ownership of these liberated fish sued us, we stood our ground in court and we won, the tuna won, and the poachers lost. Our British lawyers did an excellent job. I am confident that if an appeal is granted, we will see the appeal court upholding this ruling. Bottom line and most importantly, the fish were freed and the company failed to recover their requested losses for their illegal catch."

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said it will continue to aggressively oppose the illegal exploitation of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.

Watson, of course, is in German on bail awaiting resolution of a request by Costa Rica to extradited him to Central America to stand trial on charges stemming from a confrontation at sea with shark finners.

Tropical Storm Debbie holds its position and drenches Florida
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tropical Storm Debby has brought steady rain to parts of the southern U.S. state of Florida, flooding low-lying areas and raising the threat of tornadoes. Debbie weakened somewhat Monday, but it remained nearly stationary over the northeast Gulf of Mexico, dumping nearly continuous rain on Florida's Gulf Coast.  The U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 2 a.m. today that maximum sustained winds are near 45 mph, (75 kph) with higher gusts.

The storm has spawned isolated tornadoes that killed at least one person in Florida, and forecasters are warning about the possibility of more tornadoes.

Rescuers in the neighboring state of Alabama are continuing to search for a swimmer who went missing in rough surf.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday, saying the declaration will help allow all resources across the state to be used to aid the affected areas.   ''I think we've done the right thing. This is the right time to respond when we saw where this tropical storm was headed. When we saw what emergency teams might need.  We're prepared,'' Scott said.

The U.S. National Weather Service says the storm is
Debbie over Florida
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration GOES Project
 A photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
 Administration GOES-13 satellite shows that the storm's
 clouds continued to blanket all of Florida late Monday

expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 25 to 51 centimeters across much of northern and central Florida. That's about 10 to 20 inches.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 126
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. Supreme Court issues
mixed Arizona decision

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down several key portions of a tough immigration law enacted by the state of Arizona in 2010 to help police crackdown on illegal immigrants. The most controversial part of the law, however, which allows state police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons was allowed to remain.

Although the Supreme Court's decision on Monday struck down three key parts of the law, the high court noted that its decision to uphold the so-called "show me your papers'' provision will likely lead to more legal challenges as it is implemented.

Based on what opponents of the law had to say on the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday, it is clear the fight is still far from over.

"This is a dark day for civil rights in America," said Deepak Bhargava. He is from  the Center for Community Change says the upholding of the "show me your papers" clause would make many, including U.S. citizens, a target of Arizona's immigration crackdown efforts.

"The Supreme Court today upheld racial profiling by states that will have the impact of U.S. citizens being profiled and persecuted for no reason other than their race or the color of their skin," he said. "This is a disastrous decision for civil rights and civil liberties in America."

​​But Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an outspoken proponent of the Arizona law, says local authorities have received thorough training on carrying out the identification checks.  After the Supreme Court ruling, he spoke in support of the state's need to carry out the "show me your papers" clause.

"It's to determine whether if you're in the country illegally and when you have suspicion," said Arpaio. "I think that's important, we've been doing it for four years.  I think it's a good ruling."

President Barack Obama says he is pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling, adding that what is clear from the decision is that the U.S. Congress must act on immigration reform.  But he voiced concern that the "show me your papers" provision of the law was not struck down.

​​Currently five other states have variations of the law similar to Arizona's and were waiting the Supreme Court ruling to begin applying their own solutions to the issue of immigration.

In a statement on the ruling Obama argued that a patchwork of state laws is not the solution to the country's broken immigration system.

Immigration is a hotly debated topic in this year's presidential election campaign.  Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the likely Republican challenger, are courting Hispanic voters, who are deeply concerned about the issue.

Romney used the ruling to denounce Obama for the lack of an immigration plan. He said every state "has the duty - and the right  - to secure our borders when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.

Supporters of the Arizona law say it was the federal government's inability to enforce national immigration laws that forced the state to adopt the legislation.

The Supreme Court expressed empathy for the state's concerns about immigration, but noted that it had overstepped its legal bounds with key portions of the law.

In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that although Arizona may have understandable frustrations with its illegal immigration problems, the state could not pursue policies that undermine federal law.

The justices rejected three provisions of the Arizona law  - ones that make it a crime for immigrants without work permits to seek employment, make it a crime for immigrants to fail to carry registration documents, and authorize the police to arrest any immigrant they believe to be deportable.

Five of the Supreme Court's justices voted to strike down the three provisions; while the dissenting justices argued that the entire law or key parts of it should have been upheld.

Obama expresses concern
about ID provision in law

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama Monday welcomed the ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States striking down key provisions of an immigration law in the state of Arizona.  But Obama says he is concerned about a remaining provision upheld by the high court.

The court struck down three key provisions of the law the Arizona legislature approved in 2010 as part of a series of measures to stem illegal immigration in the state.

The law made it a crime for immigrants without work permits to seek employment, required immigrants to carry registration documents, and authorized police to arrest any immigrant they believe to be deportable — all three provisions struck down by the Supreme Court.

But the nation's highest court upheld the so-called stop-and-check provision of the law that requires authorities to ask people they detain and reasonably suspect of being illegal aliens to produce identification papers.

In a written statement, President Obama expressed concern about what he called the practical impact of the provision.  "No American," he said, "should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like." 

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, said her state was vindicated by the court's decision on the provision.  Arizona, she said, was forced to act in 2010 because the federal government failed to act aggressively against illegal immigration.

"Arizona had no other choice but to act and Arizona did so by following, not changing, federal law.  Instead of devoting resources to suing states likes Arizona, the federal government should have spent time, money and energy on fixing the problem," Gov. Brewer said.

Gov. Brewer and state officials say they will ensure that the stop-and-check provision of the law is not used for racial profiling.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government will be watching closely to ensure that the law is not being implemented "in a manner that has the purpose or effect of discriminating against the Latino or any other community.”

Arizona along with Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have adopted laws to stem the tide of illegal aliens and control crime seen as directly linked to illegal immigration.

The National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the United States, expressed concern that the upholding of the stop-and-check provision will open the floodgates to the harassment, abuse, and intimidation of Hispanics.

In a written statement, presumed Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney reiterated his support for the Arizona law and asserted that President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration.  Speaking to donors in Arizona, Romney said he would have preferred that the Supreme Court "give more latitude to the states."

Romney has criticized President Obama's executive order issued earlier this month blocking the deportations of thousands of young illegal aliens.  Public opinion surveys show Obama's decision was highly popular among Hispanics, and with voters in general.

Obama, a Democrat, blames Republicans in Congress for blocking progress on achieving comprehensive immigration reform.  In his statement Monday, the president renewed his call for Congress to work with him on immigration reform.

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Seminar to weight switch
from landline to Internet calls

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With land-line telephones in decline and Web sites like Skype that offer internet calling on the rise, the Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación has planned to devote its latest biweekly lecture and forum on how this communication evolution can effect businesses and organizations.

The event, Conventional telephony vs. IP telephony: the benefits of migration,” will take place at the chamber's offices in San Pedro Friday morning.

Speaking is Marianela Lemaitre, a teacher of telecommunications at Academy In Site, a co-sponsor of the event. The firm also  specializes in training youth to use telephone technology.

“The phone is a valuable tool in our digitized world and many companies and institutions are wondering how to move from conventional telephony to Internet-based telephony,” said a press release from the chamber. “Reducing costs and the possibility of using voice, data and video represent extremely attractive elements to making the change.”

The lecture will from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., Friday, at on the first floor in the Edificio Colina Hermanos in San Pedro, six blocks south and one block west of the San Pedro de Montes de Oca church.

The event costs 5,000 colons per person, but included in the event is a digital participation certificate and refreshments.

Although only three people have registered so far, according to David Rivera, a service affiliate at the chamber, but he also said the event can only accommodate 30 people.

Shootings in Límón blamed
on rivalry among gangs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators in Limón believe that gang rivalry is behind the wave of shootings in that canton.

The latest drive-by shooting was Sunday just four minutes before midnight. Judicial agents said that two men, identified by the last name and ages of Hernandez, 36, and Duarte, 22, were outside when a vehicle containing four persons drove by and shot them several times. The men in the car were wearing ski masks, agents said.

Duarte received two shots in the chest, and died at Hospital Tony Facio in Limón. Hernández was hit in the pelvis, and remains at the same hospital in stable condition. This was the third shooting incident in the community in the last two weeks.

A Guadalupe man also died Sunday after being taken to Hospital Calderón Guardia June 14 with gunshot wounds in the chest, right arm, legs and buttock.  The man, identified by the last name of Méndez. He was 38. He, too, was  outside early that day when two persons in a vehicle shot at him several times. 

Judge being investigated

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prosecutors are investigating a judge in Alajuela in a sexual harassment case involved a worker at the court building.

The Poder Judicial said little about the case and has not named the judge formally. However, the man was taken into custody for questioning at the courts building Monday morning. 

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