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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 136                          Email us
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hiker's view
A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
La Cruz de Alajuelita requires hikers to pay with their effort and sweat to reach come great views of the Central Valley. Reporter Aaron Knapp
explains that there really are three crosses on this mountain path that has a dark moment in its history. See our story HERE!

CIMA Guanacaste scheduled to open later this month
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Hospital CIMA Guanacaste will open July 27 with six beds that will gradually grow into 20.  The grand opening comes over a year after the groundbreaking, due to delays with licensing and construction, according to a summary by the man in charge. In addition:

• The facility will have a 24-hour emergency room, operation capabilities and a full-service clinic, complete with a lab, radiology, and computerized tomography scans.

• As doctors become more familiar with the practice and the cliental grows, the hospital will expand into another building.

• All the medical staff will come from Guanacaste.  Since these doctors are specialist, the Hospital CIMA Guanacaste staff will not do complicated procedures such as heart surgeries.  Those patients will be referred to CIMA San José.

“We expect to be busy there, but we will refer a lot of patients here,” said Paul Mouritsen, director general and CEO of the Guanacaste facility. He was speaking at Hospital CIMA in Escazú Monday.

On occasion, to save cost for the patients, elective surgeries that require physicians from San José will be scheduled together, and the doctors will travel to Guanacaste to perform the procedures, he said.

Costa Rica has promoted itself as a tourist destination with a portion of visitors here to get medical attention.  For example, CIMA San José has recently seen an influx of people coming to get bariatric surgery to help with obesity.

“Medical tourism started in Costa Rica with cosmetic procedures and dental procedures — those procedures that are not normally covered by insurance.  Very few people come here just to have something done, then go back.  But I think that's going to change,” said Mouritsen.

“What we think will happen is people will come to
 hotels and visit the surf shops and the beaches. Some will get sick and need attention.  Some will get hurt and need attention.  After visiting our hospital, they will get brochures and information and spread the word,” he added.

As world spreads, the corporation hopes that CIMA hospitals will become a preferred destination to mix in hospital visits with vacations.

“Most of the people who come are retired.  They can come get a hip replacement, spend a week in recovery, then do rehab on a beach for a month.  Why not do that?” said Mouritsen.

The facility is in Pacific Plaza west of the Daniel Oduber international airport in Liberia.

CIMA, which stands for Centro Internacional de Medicina, has locations in Mexico, Central America and Brazil.  It is owned by the International Hospital Corporation headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The hospitals provide privately managed and owned  services in areas that are traditionally underserved, and is recognized for having quality standards, the firm said.

The public hospitals in Costa Rica are operated under the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and are overcrowded with limited resources.  CIMA is another alternative for both tourist and Costa Ricans without insurance with the Caja, said Mouritsen.

Mouritsen took over as CEO for the Costa Rican hospitals five weeks ago.  Before he served as CEO of CIMA Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico.  Since arriving in the country, he said he has worked to maintain the companies values of quality, sustainability and ethics. 

Mouritsen said he has made sure the hospital employees adhere to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He said he fired staff members who were taking bribes from vendors and terminated contracts with companies that weren't being ethical.

American and International insurance such as Metlife, BUPA, and Blue Cross Blue Shield International are accepted by tCIMA

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Three quick quakes rattle
gulf of Nicoya neighbors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That seismic area at the mouth of the gulf of Nicoya was restless again early Monday.  Three moderate quakes took place there within 27 minutes.

The area is between Jacó on the central Pacific coast and the tip of the Nicoya peninsula.

The first quake, estimated at 3.0 took place at 3:20 a.m.  A minute later a second quake took place. It, too, was estimated at 3.0 magnitude.

A quake at 3:47 a.m. in the same area had a magnitude estimated at 3.1.  It was in the middle of the mouth of the gulf of Nicoya some 22.6 kilometers (14 miles) west of Jacó and 27.2 kilometers (17 miles) east of Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula, according to the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The quakes were felt the strongest in Jacó, the Laboratorio said.

The estimated depths were from 17.3 to 9.8 kilometers, some 11 to 6 miles. This is the same area where stronger quakes have taken place in the past.

Two quakes with a magnitude of 4.0 took place in the same area in June. The  Red Sismológica Nacional at the same university said that there were 15 quakes in June that were strong enough to be felt by humans. The country has an average of 12 such quakes a month, the Red Sismológica said.

In June further to the south in Panamá there were quakes with magnitudes of 6.0 and 5.7, the  Red Sismológica noted.

Lawmakers plan contest
for design of new home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Assamblea Legislativa is kicking off a contest for an architect to design a new building for the lawmakers.

The current legislative facilities are in poor shape, and the Ministerio de Salud has threatened to close down the facilities.

This is the first concrete step toward the construction of a new building, which might cost as much as $80 million. The plan is to put up the structure on land already owned by the government.

Part of the legislative complex, the striking Castillo Azul, was once the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. Lawmakers moved in 60 years ago.

Banco de Costa Rica will participate in organizing the international design contest.

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
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News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 136
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Hikers gather around the first of three crosses on the ascent and enjoy a spectacular view of the Central Valley. Even here, nothing is out of the range of graffiti artists.

First cross

The way of the cross is a challenging hike to some great views
For those with a craving for intense exercise and only a day to spare, a hike up to La Cruz de Alajuelita is one that should not be missed.

As the name implies, the path leads to the top of a large cross at the top of a mountain south of Escazú, affording hikers with a fantastic views of the entire Central Valley.

However, those views of the valley come at a price of walking, and sometimes climbing, a steep, rough and rocky trail that ascends to more than 2,036 meters (6,617 feet) above sea level, about 800 meters above San José. Even the fittest hikers should expect the trail to take at least four hours to complete not including time to drive or bus to and from the trailhead. Less fit but equally adventurous people should factor in extra time.

Text and photos by Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Built in 1933 to commemorate the 1,900th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus, according to Christian tradition, the cross stands 26 feet tall and can be seen on a clear day from most of San José.

Although it was and is a popular hike for locals, it earned a grim reputation when seven women were gunned down there on Palm Sunday 1986 in the debut of the infamous “psychopath” serial killer who is attributed with murders of 12 additional people over the next decade.

However, evidence of this crime has long faded, and the occasional cast-aside pieces of garbage and graffiti serve as evidence that the trail is safe and frequented.

The hike starts in a small town called San Antonio at the base of the mountain, and, unlike some of Costa Rica’s more well-known destinations, there is no parking lot or trail head to indicate that the hike starts.

The easiest way to find the trail is to take the El Llano bus from downtown San José  and ask the driver to announce when he gets to the stop for La Cruz de Alajuelita. Then would-be hikers can ask locals where to go from there.

The bus lets hikers off at a small convenience store, and they can start the ascent immediately, following the intimidatingly steep paved road on the right when getting off the bus.

Once found, the trail is easy to follow if difficult to walk. But the tricky part is following a series of paved, dirt and gravel roads and a few shortcuts between them before the beginning of trail. If possible, expats should go with a local who has braved the trail before or should get thorough, understandable directions.

Passing along farms tucked into the side of the mountains on these roads, the trail is easy to miss. It starts where there is a gap in the barb wire separating two farms, and the ascent begins in earnest.

Although the trail is named for the cross at the top, there are actually three crosses on the path. Twoo crosses were added later on, according to guide Mario Solís, in order to indicate to hikers that they are following the right path.

Solís, who led a group of 20 students from the language school

second cross
Second cross is made of thin pieces of metal and rests atop a concrete bunker.
Hikers on the trail
 Erosion created this canyon that has to be climbed with
 hands and feet.

 where he works along the path last week. He said the main cross was built many decades ago, and it was built more because it is a Latin American tradition to have a large Catholic symbol built over city. Rio de Janeiro  has its white statue of Jesus.

The crosses themselves are basic, unadorned aside from graffiti, and not much to look at, they do mark the best views of the Central Valley, and Solís recommends stopping to take in the view for at least 15 minutes at each cross.

The hike is not long in terms of distance, but the relatively quick ascent on difficult terrain takes a toll. Within minutes, the group led by Solís broke up into a large group of people in shape for the hike and several smaller groups of stragglers.

After a steep walk up over a farm lined with barbed wire and a short climb through a densely wooded hillock, the first cross comes into view. It is about 15 feet tall, made of light-gray concrete adorned with lots of graffiti and surrounded by a meadow of lush and overgrown grass.

After that, the trails routinely winds through small groves of lush rainforest and out into open areas that appeared susceptible
to mud slides if the rain is hard enough. In other areas it seemed like erosion from rain created the path, carving small canyons in red clay that need to be ascended using hands and feet.

After 30 to 40 minutes a hiker comes to second cross, which is made of thin pieces of rusty metal, perched on top of a ziggurat-like concrete bunker, surrounded by a grassy field that is well-groomed by the cows that graze nearby. They might curiously meander up to the hikers  as they take a break. A barbed wire fence separates the trail from the cross to keep the cows from wandering away, but a built-in gap in the fence allows hikers to squeeze through and look more closely at the cross.

Solís led those who could keep up with his pace up the mountain quickly in order to take an even more rustic trail down the other side of the mountain before the rains set in. Stragglers turned back at the second cross also to avoid the rains.

However, even though both crosses offer phenomenal views, Solís insists that the best view is from the third cross, which is much larger than the other two and made of metal beams.

Although Solís prefers sliding down a steep, grassy hill on the other side of the mountain, the quickest way down is to simply backtrack along the trail, which will go by considerably faster the trip up the mountain.

Regardless of how far up the mountain a hiker goes, a day trip to La Cruz de Alajuelita is rewarding for anyone in need of a moderately strenuous hike that is not too far from home. They just need to bring water and lunch, expect to get dirty and carry a camera.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 136
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Two chambers ask president to reject weakening author rights
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two business chambers are calling on President Laura Chinchilla to reject a bill passed by the legislature that waters down protection of intellectual property.

They are the  Cámara Costarricense Norteamericana de Comercio, known as AmCham, and the Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación

The bill,  No. 17342, would eliminate criminal penalties from violations of authors' rights and leave unprotected the falsification of pirating of software, music and movie CDs, architectural plans or paintings, said the chambers.

The bill also allows students to photocopy textbooks, but both chambers said they approve of this.

Lawmakers passed the bill June 20. Current law specifies prison for from one to six years for violating the rights of authors or creators, noted the chambers. These sanctions will cease to exist if Ms.Chinchilla approved the proposed law, they said.

The recourse for authors who have seen their work pirated would be Costa Rica's civil court system, and those bringing the case would have to collect their own evidence, said the chambers.
Costa Rica, of course, is awash with counterfeit products. Copied CDs are sold openly in public places. Fake designer jeans sometimes are intercepted at the docks or at warehouses. The raids usually are sparked by private organizations representing the interests of international publishers or designers.

Most who operate in this black market are low-level members of international criminal organizations. They re unlikely to be around for any civil trials.

The two chambers said in a release that they support copying of materials, including sound and video recordings for academic purposes.

Operators of photocopying stores at one point stopped reproducing copyrighted books for fear of criminal action.

Costa Rica has a mixed history on the protection of authors rights. President Óscar Arias Sánchez moved to have the country opt out of a section of an international treaty that required public places like bars and restaurants to pay royalties on songs that they played.

AmCham is involved because many of its members are foreign firms doing business here. The technology chamber is involved because products like software require extensive investment.

Pilgrimage to Cartago already under way during this vacation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During this mid-year vacation that ends Sunday many Costa Ricans have gone to the beaches or mountains., But others are getting a head start on the annual visit to Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, la Negrita.

The Virgen de los Ángeles has a feast day Aug. 2. This is a national holiday because this manifestation of the mother of Christ is the patroness of the country.

That will be a big day in Cartago with highly placed clergymen and politicians attending a Mass and series of speeches.

But before Aug. 2 perhaps 2 million persons will hike to  Cartago, and some will come on foot from other Central American countries. The pilgrimage climaxes Aug. 1 with a
flood of pilgrims or romeros, as they are called, taking over the plaza in front of the Cartago basilica. Streets will be closed and special lanes for pilgrims will be installed on major highways.

The crowds area good reason some prefer to get a head start. There were pilgrims on the highways in small groups over the weekend. There is a trickle each weekday.

At the basilica, the faithful are supposed to enter the center aisle on their knees to show reverence to the small, black statue that is said to represent the Virgin and her child.

The color of the stone generates the name La Negrita.

Aug. 2 is a Thursday this year. That means that nearly the entire week is dedicated to the pilgrimage and the outdoor Mass. Friday will be a day of recuperation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 136
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Last 12 months called hottest
in history of United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Weather officials say the past 12 months represent the hottest period on record in the United States.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Monday said that every month starting from June 2011 and ending in June of this year ranked among the warmest since record-taking started in 1895. And this does not take into account the blistering heat of this past week, with high temperatures breaking or tying records in many communities across the country.

Th agency also says the warmest March ever recorded in the United States and the extreme heat in June helped make the first half of this year the warmest recorded for any January-June period.

Scientists and activists have been warning that atmospheric pollution would lead to extreme weather conditions. They now say that “this is what global warning looks like.”

Five years ago, former U.S. vice president Al Gore won a Nobel Prize and an Oscar for his book, movie and other efforts to reduce pollution, which is blamed by many scientists for global warming. In one of many lectures he gave at the time, he warned of the danger of the accelerated melting of glaciers.

“In the Himalayas, there's a particular problem because 40 percent of all the people in the world get their drinking water from rivers and spring systems that are fed more than half by the melted water coming off the glaciers. And within this next half century, those 40 percent of the people on earth are going to face very serious shortage because of this melting.”

U.S. television weather forecaster John Coleman has been one of many opponents of the science behind Mr. Gore's lectures. He called global warming a myth and claimed that human activity has almost no influence on the atmosphere.

“People are going hysterical about it. It's amazing to me how upset so many people are and how many billions of dollars, apparently, our governments are going to spend to combat something that isn't real.”

Such discussions still go on. The global climate conference in Copenhagen, \Denmark, in 2012 failed to produce a binding international agreement on reducing carbon emissions that are believed to contribute to the problem. The previous agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, expires at the end of this year. But many countries, including the biggest polluters like Australia and China, are taking steps to reduce so-called greenhouse gas emissions at home.

Meanwhile, an international team that includes scientists from Germany, Finland, Scotland, and Switzerland reported that the long-term trend for the last 2,000 years has been climate cooling. They used tree-ring measurements from dead pines in Lapland to reconstruct the summer climate back to 138 B.C.

The scientists said that there has been an average cooling of -0.3 degrees C per each 1,000 years due to changes in the position of the sun.

U.N. agency creates plan
for safety of journalists

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations says an alarming number of journalists around the world are killed every year and very few of the perpetrators are ever brought to justice.  The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has drafted a plan for the safety of journalists.

American war correspondent, Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in Syria on Feb. 22.  They are among 65 journalists killed in the first five months of 2012.  According to the Swiss news agency ATS this is 50 percent more than last year.   At least 15 of the victims were in Syria, seven in Mexico and six in Somalia.

The latest report from Reporters Without Borders says 163 journalists are imprisoned in 2012.

"If we look at the record so far this year, it seems to be that both on the level of imprisonment of journalists and in terms of the lives lost of journalists that we are indeed facing a serious problem," said Christof Heyns, U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

This year, Heyns focused his annual report on the protection of the right to life of journalists.

"It is also clear from looking at the statistics that one may have the picture of the most common threat to journalists is the foreign journalist who is killed in armed conflict.  But two-thirds of the deaths are outside of armed conflict and a typical situation is the local journalist who is killed, who works for a radio station, who works for a newspaper, and increasingly also the Internet and others as well," he said.

Frank La Rue, U.N. special investigator on freedom of expression,  says there has to be a commitment to investigate and prosecute those who attack, kill, and imprison journalists. "I do believe there should be in a specific level of crimes defined as persecution or acts of violence against journalists.  This for me is very important because this would guarantee in a better way the protection of journalists," La Rue said. "There are journalists who are in grave danger in non-conflict situations, but in situations of extreme violence like organized crime or authoritarian regimes." 

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports almost half of the 179 journalists imprisoned in 2011 were bloggers whose work appears online.

Heyns notes international laws regarding protection for journalists already exist.  Governments just have to implement them. "I think one of the dangers of a new legally binding instrument is . . .  that one could have all kinds of issues such as registration and new limitations being discussed as well . . . and if one spends too much time on negotiating a new binding instrument, one may take the eye off the implementation," he said.

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Tax scammer sentenced
to 60 months in prison

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Ellen Meredith Stubenhaus, previously of Lake Worth, Florida., and later an expatriate living in Costa Rica, has been sentenced to 60 months in prison  by U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in Tallahassee, Florida., the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service announced.

Ms. Stubenhaus, who was extradited from Costa Rica to the United States in September 2011, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. In addition to her jail sentence, Ms. Stubenhaus was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $373,549 to the IRS, saaid the U.S. Justice Department.

According to the plea agreement and court records, Ms. Stubenhaus was a salesperson with Pinnacle Quest International (also known as PQI or Quest International). PQI was a multi-level marketing organization that operated a marketplace for a variety of vendors. Trial evidence in related cases showed that over six years between 2002 and 2008, PQI had over 11,000 members throughout the United States.

Ms. Stubenhaus admitted in court records that several PQI vendors sold bogus theories and strategies for tax evasion. She utilized the services and schemes of these fraudulent vendors to conceal her own income from selling PQI vendor products and PQI memberships. She also admitted to helping the principals of PQI conceal PQI’s income.

As Ms. Stubenhaus admitted in the statement of facts, one of the vendors operating under the PQI umbrella was the Southern Oregon Resource Center for Education, called  SORCE, which assisted its customers in the creation of a series of  business entities in the United States and Panamá. The CEO of SORCE, Eugene  Casternovia, is serving a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted at trial of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. His case is currently on appeal.

Court documents also showed that another PQI vendor was MYICIS, a computerized “warehouse bank.” MYICIS was a single bank account in which customers secretly pooled their money under the control of a single individual, Wayne Hicks. MYICIS had 3,000 clients and approximately $100 million in deposits over a three-year period. MYICIS was promoted to PQI’s clients as a method to hide their assets from the IRS as a result of the secret, pooled nature of the account. Wayne Hicks is currently serving a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

After being arrested in Costa Rica, Ms.  Stubenhaus waged an unsuccessful campaign to avoid being extradited.

School burglary ends
with two suspects shot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two 17 year olds broke into a school early Monday in Desamparados. One carried a firearm. But so did the guard inside the school.

In the subsequent firefight both burglary suspects suffered bullet wounds. The youths ended up in guarded condition in Hospital San Juan de Dios, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The location was the Escuela  Juan Monge Guillén in Patarrá de Desamparados. The stduents and staff are on vacation.

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