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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, July 4, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 130           E-mail us
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July 4

Umbrellas are obligatory for July 4 celebration
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The forecast for today's Independence Day activities in Escazú is a little uncertain. The general forecast for all but the Caribbean calls for afternoon downpours and thunderstorms, but there has been little consistence in the weather.

While Juan Santamaría airport got 28.6 millimeters (1.12 inches) of rain Sunday and Pavas reported 53.7 millimeters  (2.27 inches), other areas were dry or nearly so.

A low pressure area lingering in the Pacific off the Guanacaste coast is one good reason for July 4 celebrants to bring umbrellas. The big party today is at Avenida Escazú, the outdoor shopping mall behind Hospital CIMA on the Próspero Fernández highway that recently became the Autopista del Sol.

The celebration is  joint effort by Avenida Escazú and the American Colony Committee. For years, the American Colony Committee picnic was in the  morning to avoid the possible afternoon showers.
This year the celebration begins at 4 p.m., and a parade down Avenida Escazú is planned. A fireworks display provide a climax at 8 p.m.

One colony committee member said that the entire picnic was in jeopardy until Avenida Escazú made overtures. Committee members invested a lot of time and labor in last year's celebration, and they were not sure they could do so again, said the committee member.

The U.S. Embassy and its consular services will be  unavailable today because the day is a U.S. legal holiday. That also means banks and other services expats here use in the United States will be unavailable.

Residents can look for a little better weather during the last two weeks of July. This is the annual canicula period that sees a buildup of high pressure in the Atlantic Ocean that keeps the instability and rain in the Pacific from entering the country.
Until then afternoon thundershowers seem to be inevitable.

Absence of Las Niño/as creates Pacific uncertainty
By the Jet Propulsion Laboratory news staff

Bill Patzert, a climatologist and oceanographer, likes to call the current Pacific weather situation La Nada.  This is the puzzling period between cycles of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean when sea surface heights in the equatorial Pacific are near average.

Patzert works at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The comings and goings of El Niño and La Niña are part of a long-term, evolving state of global climate, for which measurements of sea surface height are a key indicator. For the past three months, since last year's strong La Niña event dissipated, data collected by an oceanography satellite have shown that the equatorial Pacific sea
surface heights have been stable and near average.

Elsewhere, however, the northeastern Pacific Ocean remains quite cool, with sea levels much lower than normal. The presence of cool ocean waters off the U.S. West Coast has also been a factor in this year's cool and foggy spring there.

For oceanographers and climate scientists like Patzert, La Nada conditions can bring with them a high degree of uncertainty. While some forecasters targeting the next couple of seasons have suggested La Nada will bring about normal weather conditions, Patzert cautions that previous protracted La Nadas have often delivered unruly jet stream patterns and wild weather swings.

In addition, some climatologists are pondering whether a warm El Niño pattern, which often follows La Niña, may be lurking over the horizon.

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New Gulf of Nicoya ferry
ready to enter into service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tambor III, the new, Peruvian-built ferry, will be entering into service shortly after administrative details are worked out, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The new ferry will replace the Tambor I and has a capacity of 160 vehicles, four times the number that Tambor I can carry.

The ministry said that the new ferry is now in the Gulf of Nicoya after a trip from  El Callao where it was built.

The boat will be on the Puntarenas-Paquera route bringing tourists and supplies to the southern Nicoya peninsula.
The boat is 82.4 meters long, some 270 feet, and cost $7 million.

The ferries are operated by Naviera Tambor S.A., which is associated with the Hotel Tambor which is south of Paquera.

Midyear gordo lottery
favors No. 47, series 870

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The midyear gordo lottery had slower sales than officials expected, but some folks are very happy today that they purchased a ticket.

The winning number was 47 in series 870. Those who hold a full lottery ticket are richer by 240 million colons or about $480,000. Each of the 10 pieces of the ticket are worth 24 million colons.

Second place was number 19 in series 770.  Third was 61 in series 146.

There are many more winners, and a full list is posted on the Web site of the Junta de Protección Social, which runs the lottery. For example, all tickets except the winner that end with a 7 collect 24,000 colons, about $48.

The is the second richest lottery drawing of the year, second only to the Christmas gordo lottery where the top prize can be in excess of $1 million.

Tourist couple becomes
victims of Pacific rip tide

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A couple with Indian nationality became the latest victims of a Pacific rip tide. They died Sunday at Playa Langosta near Tamarindo. The couple, both in their 20s, were guests at the Hotel Barceló and were swept away while wading in the surf.

Friday judicial agents recovered the body of a man with the last name of Bermúdez who had been reported missing. He was found in the sea in Caldera.  He was 51, agents said.

Meanwhile, agents still are trying to identify a man who fell from the cruise ship dock in Puntarenas June 13. The fall appears to have been an accident, but the man had no identification.

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, Monday, July 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 130

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New arrivals helping to free the Internet of its chains
By Daniel Woodall
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Opening of the telecommunications market in Costa Rica is starting to provide real options for Internet consumers in Costa Rica. The biggest change happened earlier this year when Amnet cable decided to drop Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the state-owned Internet provider, in favor of Navega as its Internet backbone provider.

Both companies are subsidiaries of the multinational parent company, Millicom. The relationship with Radiográfica did not make sense strategically as the company is competing head on to lay fiber optic cable in the ground for large businesses in Costa Rica.

The most visible change for residential Internet consumers came last week when a Venezuelan firm announced wireless broadband Internet for San José, Jacó, Quepos, and San Isidro de El General. The service based on WiMax technology competes directly with Radiográfica’s Evoluciona, and offers roughly twice the bandwidth for half of the monthly fee charged by Radiográfica, which is known as RACSA.

On the high end, Metro Wireless offers a package with 4 megabits of downstream bandwidth for $75 a month, which competes with ADSL connections offered by the state-owned telecom company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, for $102 a month plus the cost of a fixed telephone line. On the low end, Metro Wireless has a $23 package, which competes with RACSA at $29 and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad at $14 plus the $7 a month for the fixed phone line.

Calls to Metro Wireless confirmed that service connections are now available for the Central Valley. However service in the central Pacific is not quite ready. The company bought a local wireless provider, Skylynx, in May and plans to expand into Liberia and Guanacaste. A press spokesperson for  RACSA confirmed the company is in the process of reevaluating price structure and service offerings.

WiMax or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access should not be confused with the 3G Internet access provided via a cell phone networks. The WiMax implementation in Costa Rica uses fixed antennas with line of sight to receivers on mountain tops. Cellular Internet access is limited because battery-powered handheld devices receive relatively poor reception, and good service requires a high density of cell phone towers.

Expats in other areas of Costa Rica can also take advantage of broadband Internet delivered through a fixed Wimax antenna from authorized providers. The company CRWIFI serves customers in Alajuela, San Ramon, Grecia, Sarchi, Naranjo, Guacima, Santa Ana, and points along the Pan American highway from Barranca to Alajuela. San Carlos Wireless offers service to Grecia, San Ramón, San Carlos, Los Chiles, Guatuso, Upala, and as far northeast to the Nicaraguan border. Another company, Inasol, provides access primarily to beach areas, including Potrero, Lomas, Liberia, Playa Hermosa, Jacó, Esterillos, and in the southern zone, Matapalo, Puerto Jiménez, Mogos, Golfito, Pavones, Zancudo and Paso Canoas on the border with Panamá.

At present, the best that residential customers can count on in Costa Rica is a 4 megabit Internet connection for the same price that would get a customer on the East Coast of the United States between 20 and 100 megabits. Those U.S. customers who still prefer cable television to Internet movies and high definition broadcast television can order a triple play package with television, phone line and Internet for between $99 and $150 a month. Internet-only packages with 6 megabits of download are available for $50. However, apart from WiMax the Internet without a telephone or cable television subscription is not an option for residential customers in the Costa Rica.

Demand for broadband Internet access in Costa Rica will continue to grow as it has worldwide. However how broadband is defined here is likely to change. Ticos who can afford a broadband subscription rarely spend more than $30 a month for a 1-megabit connection. Costa Rica is preparing to equip schools with access nationwide and build computer centers for low-income people. One of the goals is to provide 6 megabits of bandwidth for every 10 students.

Keeping pace with the rest of the world will require that the definition of high-speed Internet in Costa Rica takes a leap forward. In the past, the private cable television providers have been reluctant to offer affordable broadband. Their business risk is that streaming video and Internet content in general reduces demand for cable television. Also, business and high-end users have been willing to pay the premium for higher bandwidth.

The biggest competitor for the cable companies has been the state-owned telephone company, which has an ADSL network limited to 4 megabits of download per connection. Over the years the rates and level of bandwidth provided by ADSL has set the market for Internet access in Costa Rica with the cable companies playing catch up. That system may now be near its end of life, especially given the worldwide trend is to replace traditional telephone wire with coaxial or fiber optic cable.

Experience in other countries shows that cable companies despite reluctance do offer robust broadband when sufficiently pressured by competition. Representatives for both Amnet and Cable Tica confirmed they have the capability and are currently evaluating plans to offer connections that exceed 4 megabits over their coaxial cable networks. Competition via WiMax and the possibility of a 4G network from a private cell phone provider may soon replace the market standard set by the state-owned telephone company.

15-year-old mom slain with a brick in San Rafael de Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 15-year-old mother died early Sunday when someone smashed in her head with a brick. The early morning murder happened in San Rafael de Escazú.

Fuerza Pública officers quickly detained four young men, but one may be the boyfriend of the dead girl. Judicial agents are trying to figure out what happened.

The scene of the crime is in a place called  Parque Los Conejos
Only one of the four persons held is an adult. He is 20. The other three are 16 years old, said the Fuerza Pública. Three of the individuals were found near the body. A fourth tried to flee, and police chased him and captured him along a nearby river.

Police said they found the body nude with obvious signs of having been beaten, so police believe they may be involved in a sex crime.

Informal sources said that the girl was the mother of an infant.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 130

CR Home

Readers respond to previous news articles and letters


Some facts about Canada

attack those misconceptions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You are absolutely correct. Canada is not pine trees, lumberjacks, igloos, Eskimos or freezing cold.  Are these not all items you can find in the U.S. and the state of Alaska?

Thank you for remembering us.

As a Canadian, residing in Costa Rica, it still amazes me how little is known (by Canada's neighbours to the south) about a country as vast as Canada.

Geographically Canada is larger than the U.S. Yes we have only 10 percent of the population of the U.S.  France has a larger population than Canada and is smaller than most of Canada's 10 provinces; i.e. France is less than half the size of Ontario.

Not sure what a typical Canadian breakfast is. However, as a first generation Canadian, I have NEVER eaten bread fried in bacon grease. The thought makes my stomach queasy. YUK!!!  Mostly, I think, it is usually the breakfast prepared by your mother, based on her heritage.  Mine was Danish and that special breakfast would have been pancakes. (full pan size and thin like a crepe). My grandchildren now call them Bestemor pancakes, [using the Danish work for grandmother]. Canada is inhabited by many regular, kind and good people as is the U.S. and like our neighbours in the U.S., we all came from somewhere else, unless we are of native (aboriginal) descent.

Canada is a beautiful country encompassing all weather types. There are snow-capped mountains and sandy beaches.  For instance, last winter, while the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. was hammered with storms, the Toronto area had no snow and moderate temperatures.

This is information that our neighbours to the south would probably know, if weather maps on U.S. television didn't stop at the border. In all fairness, they cut out Mexico also. The only time, Canada is ever mentioned is when "There is a cold front coming down from Canada." Makes me crazy, people in the U.S. seem to know more about Iran, or a small island in the Caribbean, than they know about Canada!

The most southerly portion of Canada is Pelee Island in Lake Erie, which is on the same latitude as the northern border of California. Some parts of California have more snow than many parts of Canada.

There are even a few deserts in Canada!

Yes, Canada is getting much press this Canada Day, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge being guests at our 144th Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. What a cool couple!

My family along with hundreds of thousands of other Canadians were on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, July 1, 1967, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canada's Confederation. This is what we celebrate on July 1st.

Quote, 'Canada Day marks the 1982 legislation that made the country independent', end quote.  NO, it does not.  July 1, 1982 was the day the name, 'Dominion Day' was changed to 'Canada Day'.  On that date we repatriated our constitution and, therefore, no longer required Britain to ratify any changes to our Constitution. It was not Independence Day. The major benefactors, of this change, was the huge influx of lawyers who now have lucrative careers fighting constitutional law!

July 1, 1867, saw the enactment of the British North America Act of 1867. The BNA united Canada into a country with four provinces. There are now 10 provinces and 3 territories stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans.

Ellen van Dyk
Grecia,  Alajuela
California's problem stems
from millions of illegals

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Henry Kantrowitz states: “Proposition 13, in 1978, drained the California school system of money. Since 1978 California's test scores have gone from near the top of all the states to near the bottom.” Henry asserts this is due to the decline in funding to the California public school unionistas. Hogwash!

Victor Davis Hanson wrote this Friday: "California elites swear that a multimillion-person community of illegal aliens has nothing to do with our near-bottom ranking in public-school math and science scores, but privately even the most die-hard unionist teachers confess that it does."
Ignoring reality that doesn’t fit the liberal paradigm renders opinion pieces penned by progressive “Henrys” pathetic braying, worthy of ridicule.
And by the way, big corporations are owned by stockholders, regular people with retirement funds in 401k’s, IRA’s and SEP’s. Are these everyday Americans possessing a self-serving mindset (a decent return on their investment) that you assign blame?
Jim Barbian
Waterford, Wisconsin

Portable operating system
can protect computer data

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to your article Thursday on cyber counterattack defense, thank you again for publishing articles on this subject.

Over a year ago (March 5, 2010) I responded to a similar article you published regarding issues with online banking. A solution I mentioned then was to use "Puppy Linux" on a "Live USB" memory stick as the best defense to malware-based crime.

Many of your readers responded with interest and initial offers of help with that project, but the follow up was slight, likely because Puppy was difficult to use. It was different from the Windows experience, and it did not run on Mac computers. Back then, Macs were almost completely free of malware problems, but this is no longer true today.

At that time I predicted banks would soon change their security practices to help deter online fraud. I could not have been more mistaken. Instead, banks took to the courts to make it more difficult for customers to sue them for not providing better online security. U.S. banking regulators just updated their recommendations to banks for electronic banking security practices, but the new guidelines fall short of what many had hoped for.

Recently I've been working on a better solution. Ubuntu Linux is a popular, complete, and professional operating system that will seem familiar to both Windows and Mac users, and it also runs on Macs. In fact, the same tiny "Live USB" memory stick can be used to run Ubuntu on both a PC and a Mac, and you can carry your "portable computer" around on the ring with your car keys.

This version can be started in either English or Spanish, and works with either a U.S. or Spanish keyboard. Starting it from a USB memory stick makes it possible to run Ubuntu without in any way altering your computer for "normal" use. Once running, you will find a "Getting Started" document on the desktop to help explain the basics.

By now some readers are likely asking, "Hmmmm, why would he do this?" and "Has he added his own malware?" Those are very good questions and the answers are, "It's a good project for a retired software engineer" and "No, I did not." However, for those readers who won't take my word for it, I provide a step-by-step explanation of how you can do this yourself, starting with a good, clean copy of Ubuntu.

I am confident that using this makes it safe for banking from any computer, and really would use this in an Internet café or hotel lobby, for example. If you are interested in more information, would like to try a copy of this version of Ubuntu, or would like to create your own custom version, visit this link.

Your questions and feedback are appreciated. If anyone can assist me in translating some help pages into Spanish, I would enjoy your help with that.

Christopher Cobb
Hills of Portalón

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 130

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

11 Mexican deaths attributed
to Tropical Storm Arlene

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican officials say at least 11 people have died as a result of river flooding and mudslides after Tropical Storm Arlene.

A civil protection official says five deaths are confirmed in Hidalgo state where river flooding forced evacuations.

The dead also include two children in Mexico state, a woman in Puebla, and another victim in nearby Veracruz. Authorities says some of the victims were buried by mudslides or drowned crossing flooded rivers.

The storm-related deaths also include two people killed in Tamaulipas Friday.

The first Atlantic storm of the season dumped considerable rain on central Mexico and the Gulf region Thursday through Saturday.  

Mexico's weather service says more heavy downpours are expected for the next few days in the central and northern areas of the country.

World tourism arrivals
on rise in most regions

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International tourism continues to rise around the world, with only the Middle East and North Africa lagging, and even those regions are expected to improve later this year, according to the latest United Nations figures.

The World Tourism Barometer, released by the UN World Tourism Organization at its headquarters in Madrid, shows that international tourist arrivals rose by 4.5 per cent in the first four months of this year compared to the same period of 2010.

About 268 million tourists travelled between January and April, up from 256 million last year, which was affected by the closure of much of European airspace because of the ash cloud resulting from the eruption of an Icelandic volcano.

Regions around the world recorded strong year-on-year growth, led by South America (up 17 per cent), South Asia (up 14 per cent) and Southeast Asia (up 10 per cent).

But the political and social unrest in the Middle East and North Africa led to falls of 7 per cent and 11 per cent in those regions.

Taleb Rifai, tourism organization secretary general, said those regions, and other destinations facing difficulties, such as Japan in the wake of the deadly earthquake and tsunami in March, should see demand recover towards the end of the year.

“It is time to support those destinations and help their tourism sectors to rebound, contributing to overall economic and social stability and progress,” Rifai said.

He warned that high rates of unemployment and the introduction of austerity measures in some countries could have a dampening effect on international tourism.

Rifai said that tourist operators and industry experts were nevertheless upbeat about the short-term outlook for international tourism, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, where the peak summer season has started.

20 youth gang suspects
jailed for two months each

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A juvenile court judge has remanded 20 minors to two months each of provisional detention while their cases are investigated.

These are suspected members of youth gangs that terrorize much of the  La Carpio area in La Uruca. Judicial agents entered the area in strength Thursday and conducted a number of raids to capture the suspects. More than 300 agents entered and searched 26 dwellings in the low-income area.

The Poder Judicial said that the youngsters are suspected of aggravated threats, threats with weapons, aggravated robbery and attempted murder. The arrests came after a six-month investigation, officials said.

Two minors were not jailed. instead they were told to continue working and to avoid contact with the jailed individuals. Another youngster was freed without conditions.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 130

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Latin American news
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U.N. seeks delay in case
of Texas murder defendant

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The top United Nations human rights official has appealed to a state governor in the United States to commute the death sentence of a Mexican national scheduled to be executed for murder next week, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported Friday.

The plea from Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, is also supported by two U.N. rights experts who have urged the U.S. government to stop the execution for the same reason: the convicted murderer was not granted access to a Mexican consular official at the time of his arrest.

Ms. Pillay wrote directly to Texas Gov. Rick Perry asking him to order a life sentence for Humberto Leal Garcia, who was condemned to death for the 1994 rape and torture murder of a 16-year-old girl, according to Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the human right office.

“Over and above the normal U.N. position opposing the death penalty, this case raises particular concerns, as Mr. Leal Garcia was not granted consular access, which, as a foreign national, is his right under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” Mr. Colville said.

“The lack of consular assistance and advice raises concerns about whether or not Mr. Leal Garcia’s right to a fair trial was fully upheld,” he said.

“We understand that Mr. Leal Garcia is due to be executed next Thursday, 7 July, but that the governor of Texas has the power to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. The high commissioner has written to him directly requesting him to do so.”

The spokesperson said that the case also “raises questions” regarding compliance with a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling that the U.S. breached its obligations under an international convention to 51 Mexicans on death row in US jails when it did not inform them of their right to contact their consular representatives “without delay” after their arrests.

In that judgment the court ruled that, as a remedy for the violations of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the U.S. must provide “review and reconsideration” of Leal Garcia’s conviction and sentence, Colville said.

Meanwhile, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, called on the U.S. government to cancel the execution. 

“If the scheduled execution of Mr. Leal García goes ahead, the United States Government will have implemented a death penalty after a trial that did not comply with due process rights,” Heyns said. “This will be tantamount to an arbitrary deprivation of life.”

“Conditions in death row during those 17 years are such that they amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment according to well-established standards in international law,” Méndez said.

Heyns and Méndez are independent, non-paid specialist reporting to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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