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These stories were published Tuesday, July 19, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 141
Jo Stuart
About us

And there wasn't a dry shoe in the house
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some questions defy quick answers:

Is there life after death?

Why are we here?

Why can't you open a Dos Pinos Tetra Pak without spilling the milk on your shoes?

Like all innovations, the milk carton has an economic advantage over previous packaging methods. But there must be a problem because the local milk company just changed a snip-open spout for a plastic thingamabob.

In either case, the package and milk inside usually win any confrontation.

When the little flap atop the carton could be lifted to become a spout, a quick snip with a scissors would open the package. Then it was just a matter of spilling the milk on your shoes as you returned the one-liter carton to the refrigerator.

The new plastic spout lets you spill milk on your shoes even as you open it.

Tetra Pak is a worldwide company with 20,000 employees, and it has brought sanitary foods to millions. The business is huge with 5 billion packages being used in schools alone in 2004. And hundreds of food products are now marketed in the heavy cardboard packages. They last a long time on the shelf without refrigeration.


The packages used by Dos Pinos are correctly called Tetra Brik, not to be confused with the early pyramidal or tetrahedron-shaped packages that first came on the market in the 1950s.

The trick is a flash sterilization process that eliminated harmful bacteria with no loss in taste or nutritional value.

And the Swedish company is big on recycling. The carton in use here is bilingual and even shows users how to fold up the carton after use for economical disposal.

But watch it. Even as you fold the carton, what little milk remains has eyes for your shoes.

Foreigners and locals victimized by Escazú credit card scam
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a six-month investigation, police have arrested two men who are accused of using fake credit cards to swindle more than $208,000 in at least 50 different incidents, said officials with the Judicial Investigation Organization.

The credit card information was stolen at a restaurant in Escazú, and foreigners were victims as well as Ticos.

Agents said the two suspects, Jorge Alvarado Gonzalez 37, and a man with the last names of López Rosales 30, are facing allegations that  they conducted an elaborate scheme where they would copy the credit card numbers of customers and, after consulting a credit agency, steal the available balance.

Police said the scam worked like this:  A waiter at a restaurant in Escazú would bring customers their bill. The diners generally would pay with a credit card.  He would then ask for identification and copy both the credit card information and the identifications using
a sophisticated credit-card reader he could carry in his pocket. 

He then sent this information to another person who would use a computer to change the name on the credit card, police said. 

The next step was to create all the corresponding documents.  These were usually either a driver's license or a cédula, police said. 

Lastly, they would consult a credit agency to figure out exactly how much was available to steal. Then they would use the credit cards to purchase merchandise.

Alvarado, whom agents are calling the intellectual author of the scheme, was arrested at a raid Monday in La Uruca. López, a waiter by profession, fell into the hands of law enforcement at his home in Heredia, also Monday.

Agents and police also raided a storage facility in Barrio México where they said some of the merchandise was kept.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 19, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 141

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Search to resume today
for young air crash victims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A search for the bodies of two young air crash victims will continue this morning in the Pacific coast community of Flamingo.

Despite efforts by boat owners and police no sign was found of Justin Ruetz and Jack Ruetz, two elementary school students who were on a light plane that crashed into the sea Saturday morning.

Four other bodies, including that of their mother, Cindy Ruetz, have been recovered. The family lived in the area.

Meanwhile, a number of Manhattan Beach, Calif., residents wrote Monday to point out that the relationship of two other victims had been reported incorrectly. Paul Kells was the father, and Connor Kells was his young son. Both had been on the aircraft, too.

The Kells family were neighbors of the Ruetz family in the California community. The Ruetz family moved to Flamingo about a year ago where Don Ruetz operated a fitness center. He survives.
Intel unveils processors
that are 65% quicker

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp. has introduced two Intel Itanium 2 processors which deliver better performance over the current generation for database, business intelligence, enterprise resource planning and technical computing applications, the company said.

The firm has facilities here for the manufacture of computer chips.

For the first time, Itanium 2 processors have a 667 megahertz front side buss which connects and transfers data between the microprocessor, chipset and system's main memory, the firm said. Servers designed to utilize the new buss are expected to deliver more than 65 percent greater performance over servers designed with current Itanium 2 processors with a 400 megahertz front side buss, said the company.

This new capability will help set the stage for the forthcoming dual core Itanium processor, codenamed "Montecito," which will feature the same buss architecture, the company said.

The improved front side buss bandwidth allows for 10.6 gigabits of data per second to pass from the processor to other system components. In contrast, the current generation 400 megahertz buss transfers 6.4 gigabits of data per second. The ability to move more data in a very short period of time is critical to compute intensive applications in the scientific, oil and gas and government industries, said the company.

Readers respond

He wants transplants
to play by the rules

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have enjoyed with great interest some of the letters your paper has received from Americans who either believe it is commendable to be Illegal and give a crash course on how to "Cheat the System" or those who look at how the system works in Costa Rica and prefer Panama or Nicaragua, "they even like us being there."

It appears to me that it is this TYPE of Gringo that makes it difficult for the rest of us not to be stereotyped. These refugees who come here from the "I" or the "Only ME" is important tribe, seem to forget there are rules to follow to live in someone's elses homeland and sometimes things don't go your way, even though you want it to, which may be why some have fled their trailer courts to begin with and moved here?

One of the best things about being an American is most foreign governments allow you into their country. They allow you to establish a residency if you wish to follow THEIR rules and regulations and if we choose to go somewhere else because your telephone or Internet, the cost for electricity or water service is not up to YOUR standards " EVEN IN ROHRMOSER", these country's don't care if the "DOOR HITS THEM ON THE WAY OUT"

Steve Golden
He's offended by note
from man in Panamá

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm a regular reader of A.M. Costa Rica and just read  the article "He Prefers Panama after 4 years here." What is the point of this article? Is that a warning about how horrible life in C.R. is to all "innocent" foreigners? What kind of journalism this is?

Let's see how this "William S."  will handle the crazy nonsense traffic, smell and disgusting heat of Panama. It's NOT as wonderland as he thinks!.

I'm sure with this negative attitude we'll read in four years at the A.M. PANAMA something like . . . . "He prefers Colombia after 4 years here"

Sadly to say, but I found this article very tacky and offensive.

Randall Valverde
Atlanta, Ga.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rather than an article, the writing in question was a reader's letter.
Soccer terms incorrect,
this reader declares

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Two of Garret Olneys' translations on Spanish fútbol terms are incorrect.

1.) Arbitrar is a verb. Arbitro [referee], is a noun.

2.) Derrota means defeat, period.  The noun does not refer to a 'rout' in proper Spanish, [Castellano] or any other type of loss, including  "serious defeat."  Poner en fuga, or huida is more precise for "rout".

Hank Franz,
Las Vegas, Nev.

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Enrique Rosales, a local soda owner, finds he has time to read the paper these days.

Business might be picking up at the parking garage opposite the hospital. Cristian Brenes is on duty.

Businesses near hospital struggle with fire aftermath
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A week after the fire at Calderón Guardia that killed 19 people and damaged $20 million in property, surrounding businesses struggle to recover.

In the evenings following the fire, the edifice stood deserted against the night sky.  Without the foot traffic of doctors, nurses, visitors and workers, the streets were empty.  Even taxis were hard to find.  With nobody around, businesses closed early and the whole neighborhood felt eerie. 

Now that the hospital is slowly reopening, merchants are starting to recover, but the recovery is slow as well.

“If the hospital is running at 20 percent, we run at 20 percent,” said Dimos, a worker at Pizza Akropolis.  “All the other businesses around here are doing the same.” 

Many other owners echoed Dimos' sentiment but those numbers fluctuated.  Helena Morales and Enrique Rosales, the husband and wife team who own the Soda Snack, said that after the fire, their business was earning 10 percent of what it normally makes.  They were forced to start relying heavily on their sales of hamburgers and hot dogs because those products don't spoil as easily as the roasted chicken they normally serve, they said.

“On Sundays we generally sell at least 12 chickens,” said Doña Helena, “Last Sunday, we sold three.”

Dimos' proportions were similar.  He said Pizza Akropolis used to sell about 50 pizzas a day.  Now, that number is 10, he said.    

The Parqueo Publico Aranjuez is across the street from the Pizza Acropolis.  It served as a temporary ward the night of the fire as patients too ill to walk waited on mattresses slung out among the parking stalls. 

Lot attendants Oscar Pérez and Cristian Brenes say that they weren't there that night but still feel the after-effects.  The parking lot was getting about half the cars it used to, they said.

José Santos Méndez Vargas also said that his business earns 20 percent of what it used to.  He runs the snack kiosk on the northeast side of Calderón Guardia and said that the loss doesn't

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Jesse Froehling
José Santos Méndez Vargas says his snack business took a real hit.

worry him.  People will come back when the hospital runs again, he said, and most of his products don't spoil easily. 

Even though their businesses had been hit hard, many workers reflected the optimism of Méndez. 

“After the fire, our sales were at 50 percent,” said Juan González, owner of the Distribuida Selectiva on the south side of the hospital.  His business sells chips and snacks and the like, mostly to workers at the hospital. 

For this reason, he said, he had anticipated that his sales would crash until the hospital opened back up.  But business hasn't been so bad, he said.  Monday, he was only down 20 percent.   

Pérez and Brenes, the workers at the parqueo, said that 250 cars had trickled into their lot that same day (Monday).  That's only 50 less than normal.

“Before today, it was really bad,” said Dimos.  “But it's getting better.  I'm sure of it.”      

Someone dumped an AK-47 arsenal in a vacant lot in Puntarenas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said they found an arsenal of 48 AK-47s and a 30-30 carbine in a lot in Puntarenas Monday.

The arms were concealed under plastic bags in a vacant lot a little over half a mile away from Doña Ana beach, police said. 
Juan José Andrade, regional director of the Puntarenas Fuerza Pública, said that even though no one was arrested, he is sure that the guns were being stored for someone in the underworld.

Witnesses said they saw a car pull up to the lot, unload the weapons, and speed off, but were unable to provide investigators with any better descriptions.

Very simply . . .  your choices here in Costa Rica of finding your dream home are limited to:

1. a Tico home:  claustrophobic, cold water, and postage stamp land size.

2.  a rare American-style home . . . normally at a VERY inflated price . . . in Grecia, a town of 50,000 less than an hour from San José  there are MAYBE five existing homes for resale suitable for most "gringos."

3.  a renovation;  problem here is that it typically costs more to remodel than to build from scratch.
And of course, we have all heard the horror stories about building in Costa Rica: the builders that absconded with the money —  the five-year wait until completion — the shoddy workmanship . . . and so on.

BUT... think for a minute:  "what do Ticos do when in the market for a new home?"  ANSWER:  "they BUILD" So...just maybe...the horror stories are an exaggeration... or....

The simple fact is this:    BUILDING IN COSTA RICA IS SAFER AND LESS RISKY THAN BUILDING IN THE UNITED STATES.... and obviously the cost is less.

If you are having problems finding your dream home... talk to us.  We work with a small group of very talented and very honest builders who guarantee their work... honor their contracts... and live in the areas in which they build. 

Call us... and come and visit... and see for yourselves .

Call today or e-mail for an appointment:    011-506-444-1695 or 011-506-841-5782  

Murder of abducted Haitian editor draws outrage
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The global community has reacted with outrage to the murder of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche, with the United Nations calling the killing an attack on freedom of expression and a crime against Haitian society as a whole.

Roche's handcuffed body was found in a chair Thursday on a street in Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince, four days after he was kidnapped.  He had been shot several times and his body bore the signs of torture.

Roche was cultural editor with the Haitian daily Le Matin.

In a statement, the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti pledged its full support for efforts to track down those who committed the "brutal and vile" murder of Roche.

"Assassination and kidnapping are always cowardly and abominable crimes," said the U.N. Mission, adding that it will not tolerate any attack against freedom of the press, an essential element in any democratic society.

The U.S.-backed stabilization mission has been stationed in the impoverished Caribbean nation since former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned from his office in February 2004.
The United States, one of a number of countries from the Western Hemisphere with personnel in the stabilization contingent, is providing some of the civilian police and military personnel.

Meanwhile, a New York-based press advocacy group called the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Roche's kidnappers had demanded $250,000.

In a statement mourning Roche's death, the group said the Haitian's abduction and murder do not appear to be directly related to his work, but noted that journalists have limited their movements in Haiti in response to the country's "pervasive climate of lawlessness."

The group’s statement noted that journalist Nancy Roc, who hosted a weekly show for Haiti's Radio Métropole, fled the country June 16 after she was threatened with abduction.

South African-based ActionAID International also issued a statement "fervently denounc[ing] Jacques Roche's cowardly execution," adding: "We firmly state our outrage [at] all attacks on all journalists and citizens."

ActionAID, a nonprofit international development group, said it implores "all components of Haitian society to band together to build an effective force that is working towards bringing an end to human suffering."

Emily heads for landfall in northern México or southern Texas today
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hurricane Emily, one of the most powerful storms ever seen this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, ripped through Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Monday, but it began to weaken as it moved onshore from the Caribbean Sea.

The storm passed directly over Cozumel, a low-lying island with a worldwide reputation among diving enthusiasts, but it appeared the much larger Cancun resort region may have escaped the worst damage. Tens of thousands of tourists and residents fled inland or left the Cancun area before the storm hit.

Late Monday the hurricane was 365 miles (590 kms.) east of La Pesca, México, and about 400 miles (640 kms.) east southeast of Brownsville, Texas.
Earlier Monday the hurricane's maximum sustained winds had slowed from 215 to 175 kilometers per hour. Forecasters expect Emily to strengthen again within hours, however, as it moves across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The hurricane brushed past the island of Jamaica Sunday, killing four people, and two Mexican pilots died when their helicopter went down at sea while heading toward an oil rig.

Emily, once a powerful category 4 hurricane, has diminished to category 1, but the latest reports said winds had increased to 90 mph (150 kph).

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami predicts that from 5 to 10 inches of rain will hit the lower Rio Grand Valley.

Venezuela's Chavez angry with cardinal who says he's dictator
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez has called a Roman Catholic cardinal a "bandit and coup-mongerer" after the cardinal said in a newspaper interview that Chavez was running a dictatorship.

In a speech aired on state-run television Sunday, Chavez waved a newspaper copy of the interview in the air and said Venezuelan Cardinal Rosalio Castillo "has the Devil inside him."
In the interview published Sunday, the retired cardinal urged Venezuelan's to oppose the president.

Recent polls, however, suggest Chavez enjoys popular support because he has used national oil wealth to provide free health and education programs and inexpensive food for the poor.

President Chavez has forged numerous agreements with Communist Cuba, and opponents fear that he is leading Venezuela toward communism.
Jo Stuart
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