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(506) 2223-1327              Published Monday, July 19, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 140        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Heavy-handed judges complicate domestic cases
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The intention of Costa Rica's domestic violence laws is to protect — especially women — in cases of aggression or violence against a mate.

However, the law has been transformed into a law that creates a legal license to steal.  Judges have not helped the situation at all.  There are around 18 different medidas cautelares. This would translate into protective measures or injunctions in English.  Most judges use only the harshest one, six months of complete separation of the parties involved.  This is true even though in many domestic violence cases the charges are complete lies. 

After police eject a husband from his home even if the allegations are fabricated, a court hearing may not take place for months.

The six-month protective measure actually has provoked violence, and a mate thrown out of the house sometimes goes back in violation of the restriction and does bodily harm to the spouse. If nothing else, the law as it is normally applied breaks down a family in direct violation of the Constitution and tears marriages apart.

Actually there is something in the domestic violence law most people do not know.  The law states: El Estado procurará ofrecer alternativas de tratamiento y rehabilitación a las personas agresoras, tomando en cuenta, entre otras, su doble condición de víctimas y de agresoras. 

This means the state shall offer alternatives to people entwined in a domestic violence case and offer assistance to both the victims and aggressors.  This part of the law is hardly ever even offered to the parties of a domestic violence case according to four attorneys when it is an obligation of the state to do so.

The intention of the alimony and child support laws is to provide a source of income for children, spouses, and the elderly.  The law also covers cases where people are incapable of working due to illness or a handicap.  However, this law, too, has been in some many cases been distorted into a way to steal from another.

By filing questionable paperwork and receipts, a woman and her lawyer can convince a judge to set a very high alimony and child support payment, particularly if the husband involved is an expat. One judge in a decree that he felt that based on the receipts and other paperwork the expat could afford to pay the alimony and child support.

This is in direct violation of several key constitutional cases which state a judge cannot set an alimony or child support amount without concrete and factual information because the non-payment of either is an offense that can mean jail time.  If the spouse does not pay the amount set by the judge, he goes to jail. Many times the 
show me the money

amount is ridiculous because the primary source of facts about the husband's income come from the wife and her lawyer.

Some expats caught up in this nightmare who cannot not pay end up leaving the country, even if they have children here.  Others go into hiding or worse.  Most do not have the financial recourses or legal knowledge to fight, especially when they are battling against laws that have been adulterated.

One poor expat was thrown out of his house without notice by a women and her daughter on trumped up charges of domestic violence, and now the wife has filed for alimony using his United States pension as proof he can pay it.

When an experienced legal professional looked at the facts of one case, it appeared more than just the woman was involved in getting what she wanted.  She and her legal team obviously had the right contacts. 

It is important to note that cases against expats flow differently than they do for local Costa Ricans.   Usually, in a case of domestic violence, alimony and child support against a local, the whole family gets involved including the family's pastor or priest.  Normally, most expats do not have a big family support group in Costa Rica and are at a disadvantage.  In an interview with three Costa Ricans caught up in a domestic violence and alimony case, all said that the problems were ultimately worked out inside the family.

This does not mean that Ticos do not get shafted by the laws too. They do.  The primary cases where exorbitant alimonies were set by judges with little or no factual information now set a precedent to change the jurisprudence of the past.

The moral of the story, expats need to understand the domestic violence, alimony and child support laws in Costa Rica.  Most do not.   They need to understand the application of the laws are relentless. In many cases most expats who end up in court lose everything they own.

Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2010, use without permission prohibited.

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Our readers' opinions
Neighbors just will not pay
the small cost of  trash pickup

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

So my question is what does one do when they live in a community with no garbage pickup because "la gente no quiere"?  Will this law make a difference? Time will tell.

Letters of petition by neighbors and numerous requests lead to the same answer.  People in this farming community are used to digging a hole in the backyard and burning their garbage. (There is no mention of the fact that many farms have since been sold and are now replaced with homes.)  No one wants to pay the 1,200 colons a month (less than $2.50)  for twice a week pickup.  One young neighbor suffered second degree burns when the fumes of the gas he used to light the fire ignited his skin and hair. Other neighbors cart their garbage down one kilometer to the neighboring community and dump it in their receptacles or in front of vacant houses only to be spread around by dogs.  Of course, that community has to pay in more ways than one.

I've given up asking.  I've covered up my three-meter-deep hole.  I got tired of fishing out hungry dogs that would fall in and couldn't get out — and this would be after burning the trash.  I also worry about water contamination.  The three natural springs a short distance away feed the Central Valley communities downstream. Yep, you are all drinking the residues of our waste products.  I now recycle what I can and use a barrel for burning and endure the smoke in my lungs, my clothes and in my house.

This is not a political issue but a matter of health and safety. Money is tight for me, too, but I'm willing to sacrifice the 1,200 colons for a cleaner, healthier environment, that is, if I had the choice.
Sandra M. Brooks
San Luis de Grecia

Lack of property fraud action
sends the wrong message

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With regard to the various letters regarding squatting and Herradura in particular what must be addressed is why is the Costa Rican justice system so reluctant to enforce the law? Why is this blight on Costa Rican society allowed to flourish? Is the government so shortsighted or corrupt it fails to understand the consequences of this unrestrained white collar criminal trade?  Who benefits from this seemingly countenanced organized racket?
This convenient lack of action encourages criminal fraud, and the perpetrators are encouraged in the knowledge that the authorities do nothing. A wink and a nod seems to be the prevailing attitude to this cynical and parasitic trade.  Even a major bank clucked pompously that this was a "private matter" involving one of its directors. Such backhanded approval sends a message to fraudsters which is "Go ahead — we won't prosecute, and if we have to, don't worry, it will take years and years!"
In our particular case the Judicial Investigating Organization and fiscal inform us they know who the crooked lawyers, notaries etc. are and that arrests were forthcoming.  That was well over a year ago — and nothing. These individuals (some of whom have criminal records) remain free and continue their trade.  Until the powers that be, realize that they have to clean up this cesspool, this country will remain steeped in the politics of money, influence and selfishness and, in the end, they themselves will become the problem and suffer the consequences.  Until that happens this winked at "Toys for the Boys'' system will continue to flourish.
Jane Henderson

Protecting the waters
should be a priority

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for your excellent article involving the new environmental protection law covering trash and dangerous substance disposal.  I believe that it merits further coverage and encourage you to keep on this important story.
A small group of us have been quietly working to correct the gross pollution that is taking place in the rivers that flow through Cartago.  I personally have investigated many of the major pollution sites downstream from Cartago.  These rivers end up in the Orosi Valley, Navarro River, and finally the reservoir.  This beautiful valley is currently the end disposal site for most of the cities along the way.  It is also one of the bread baskets of Costa Rica.
The local people that I have interviewed have told me that the current situation is the worse it has ever been.  Many of those who live near the rivers fear for their health and the health of their children.  Some of those people that I have interviewed indicate that the hospitals in Cartago dump very hazardous untreated bio waste directly into the river without any treatment whatsoever.  This is a situation that should be of great concern under the new law.
Currently there are groups of young people cleaning these rivers of trash as public service projects.  It is important to inform the public of the risks that these young people are taking if the hospitals are dumping untreated hospital wastes into the local waterways. If this hospital bio waste dumping situation is true, it is a ticking time bomb.
There is also a very large concrete plant that presents the appearance of going through the motions of pollution control.  The final treated water dumped directly into the river appears to be less than clean.  It truly appears to be totally discolored and full of slurry and waste.  To document these claims I have photos that I have taken both near the final disposal area of the plant and at the two electrical generation plants downstream from the concrete plant.
Our group is asking for a national day of prayer to include the health of the rivers during the sacred days honoring La Negrita.  We are asking individuals to include prayers for the healing of the Costa Rican environment with their individual prayers during Aug. 2.  Also we are asking that they obtain containers of water from the Basilica then ask La Negrita to help heal the rivers and the hearts of those polluting the rivers.  Finally asking them to pour the sacred La Negrita water into the rivers, lakes and reservoirs near their homes as an action of commitment.
Together we can change the abuse of our environment.
It is predicted that water will be the next form of gold.  Wealthy individuals and corporations have been quietly buying up water rights in the United States for decades.  If their predictions are correct, then Costa Rica will truly become the Switzerland of the Western Hemisphere as the holder of wealth.  To reach this level we must first learn how to protect one of our most precious assets, our water, by cleaning it and keeping it clean.
John Maisel

Have you seen these stories?

A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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Brenes abogados
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 19, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 140

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll

Additional celestial benefits accrue for pilgrims this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who participate in the pilgrimage to the Cartago Basilica got an incentive Sunday.

The bishop of Cartago, Francisco Ulloa Rojas, consecrated a large door on the south side of the building. In an announcement sanctioned by the Pope in Rome, Ulloa said that any Catholic who confesses sins, takes Communion and then passes through the door will receive what the church says is a plenary indulgence.

The special benefit to the faithful comes on the 375th anniversary of the finding of the black rock that is venerated as the Vírgen de los Ángeles. The door will remain open for a year.

Indulgences point up a knotty problem in Catholic teachings. Although at Confession a priest is empowered to forgive sins on behalf of God, the indulgence are said to eliminate the vestiges of sin.

The practice has been controversial. One of the first products of the new printing press were indulgences that
were sold in the Middle Ages. St. Peter's in Rome was
built on the sale of indulgences. The widespread selling of indulgences infuriated Martin Luther and led, in part, to the Protestant Reformation.

Local church leaders said they had received permission from the Holy See to establish what is being called a sacred door. There is no direct charge.

The pilgrimage to Cartago usually takes place in the last days of July and the first day of August. A Mass and other ceremonies take place at the basilica Aug. 2. Perhaps 2 million persons will participate in the pilgrimage. Traffic will be diverted, and hundreds of police will guard the routes. Aug. 2 is a holiday.

Many Catholics here consider the Vírgen de los Ángeles, also known as the Black Virgin or La Negrita, to be the Costa Rican manifestation of the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe. A youngster in 1635 found the dark stone statue said to be of the Virgin Mary. The statue mysteriously kept returning by unknown means, according to legend, to the site where the basilica stands now in Cartago some 23 kms. (about 14 miles) east of San José.

Returning vacation traffic fails to jam the  highways
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The anticipated crush of returning vacationers failed to materialize Sunday, in part because some had returned home early due to rains on the Caribbean and northern Pacific coasts.

The mid-year vacation ended Sunday, and public schools are back in operation, as are government offices. Lawmakers who took office just on May 1 also had a week off. It was the 11th week of their term. They are expected to be back today, too.

Vacationers had both major highways open. Both the Autopista del Sol and Ruta 32, the San José-Guápiles-Limon route were in service. Both have had their problems with falling rocks.

There were storms in many parts of the country, but the
Central Valley remained relatively dry. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that tropical wave no. 26 passed over the country during the weekend.

Tragedies were minimal over the holidays. There only were three water deaths. The Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta said Sunday that it had saved a North American, identified only as Thomas Smith, who had been swept away by a current in Manuel Antonio.

There were at least six traffic deaths over the weekend but none seemed to involve vacationers returning home or expats.

A man engaged police in a shootout near the Parque la Merced Sunday afternoon. He died from a police bullet. An officer suffered a wound in his hand. The man produced a gun and threatened patrons of the Bar La Nena. He had been drinking.

July 12 news story specified incorrect condo project
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Condominio El Cortijo in Los Laureles is not the project that is having problems with its sewage plant, Eduardo Camacho of the condominium project said Friday.

Camacho was referring to a July 12 news story which said that a condominium project in Escazú was under court order to fix the sewer treatment plant or remove the occupants.

Camacho said that the condominium project in question has a similar name but is located in Guachipelín near the Centro Comercial Paco.
The news story was based on a decision by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo del Segundo Circuito Judicial de San José and a news release from the Municipalidad de Escazú.

The Poder Judicial identified the project as Condominio El Cortijo.

Because of the judicial holiday and the weekend, obtaining a specific location for the condominium actually involved in the legal action was not possible.

A.M. Costa Rica regrets the incorrect association of  Condominio El Cortijo in Los Laureles with the news story.

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A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Republicans abroad
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 19, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 140

Mayan grave goods
Brown University photos by Arturo Godoy
These are some of the grave goods recovered by archaeologists at El Zolz.

Untouched tomb of apparent Maya king discovered

By the Brown University news service

A well-preserved tomb of an ancient Mayan king has been discovered in Guatemala by a team of archaeologists led by Brown University’s Stephen Houston. The tomb is packed with carvings, ceramics, textiles, and the bones of six children, who may have been sacrificed at the time of the king’s death.

The team uncovered the tomb, which dates from about 350 to 400 A.D., beneath the El Diablo pyramid in the city of El Zotz in May. The news was made public during a press conference in Guatemala City, hosted by the ministry of culture and sports, which authorized the work.

Before making the actual discovery, Houston said the team thought something odd was happening in the deposit they were digging. They knew a small temple had been built in front of a sprawling structure dedicated to the sun god, an emblem of Maya rulership. “When we sunk a pit into the small chamber of the temple, we hit almost immediately a series of ‘caches’ — blood-red bowls containing human fingers and teeth, all wrapped in some kind of organic substance that left an impression in the plaster.

"We then dug through layer after layer of flat stones, alternating with mud, which probably is what kept the tomb so intact and airtight.”

Then on May 29 Houston was with a worker who came to a final earthen layer. “I told him to remove it, and then, a flat stone. We’d been using a small stick to probe for cavities. And, on this try, the stick went in, and in, and in. After chipping away at the stone, I saw nothing but a small hole leading into darkness.”

They lowered a bare light bulb into the hole, and suddenly Houston saw “an explosion of color in all directions — reds, greens, yellows.” It was a royal tomb filled with organics Houston says he’d never seen before: pieces of wood, textiles, thin layers of painted stucco, cord.

“When we opened the tomb, I poked my head in and there was still, to my astonishment, a smell of putrification and a
chill that went to my bones,” Houston said. “The chamber had been so well sealed, for over 1600 years, that no air and little water had entered.”

The tomb itself is about 6 feet high, 12 feet long, and four feet wide. “I can lie down comfortably in it,” Houston said, “although I wouldn’t want to stay there.”

It appears the tomb held an adult male, but the bone analyst, Andrew Scherer, assistant professor of anthropology at Brown, has not yet confirmed the finding. So far, it seems likely that there are six children in the tomb, some with whole bodies and probably two solely with skulls.

And who was this man? Though the findings are still very new, the group believes the tomb is likely from a king they only know about from other hieroglyphic texts, one of Houston’s specialties in Maya archaeology. “These items are artistic riches, extraordinarily preserved from a key time in Maya history,” said Houston. “From the tomb’s position, time, richness, and repeated constructions atop the tomb, we believe this is very likely the founder of a dynasty.”

Houston says the tomb shows that the ruler is going into the tomb as a ritual dancer. He has all the attributes of this role, including many small bells of shell with, probably, dog canines as clappers. There is a chance too, that his body, which rested on a raised bier that collapsed to the floor, had an elaborate headdress with small glyphs on them. One of his hands may have held a sacrificial blade.

The stone expert on site, Zachary Hruby, suspects the blade was used for cutting and grinding through bone or some other hard material. Its surface seems to be covered with red organic residue. Though the substance still needs to be tested, “it doesn’t take too much imagination to think that this is blood,” Houston said.

“We still have a great deal of work to do,” Houston said. “Remember, we’ve only been out of the field for a few weeks and we’re still catching our breath after a very difficult, technical excavation. Royal tombs are hugely dense with information and require years of study to understand. No other deposits come close.”

New theory explains movement of tectonic plates

By the  Scripps Institution of Oceanography
news service and staff reports

A team of researchers including Scripps Institution of Oceanography geophysicist Dave Stegman has developed a new theory to explain the global motions of tectonic plates on the earth's surface.

Many earthquakes in Costa Rica are caused by the interaction of three such tectonic plates.

The new theory extends the theory of plate tectonics — a kinematic description of plate motion without reference to the forces behind it — with a dynamical theory that provides a physical explanation for both the motions of tectonic plates as well as motion of plate boundaries. The new findings have implications for how scientists understand the geological evolution of Earth.

The research, led by Monash University's Wouter Schellart, is published in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

These findings provide a new explanation as to why tectonic plates move along the Earth's surface at the speeds that are observed, the details of which were previously not well-understood.

"The earth's surface is covered with tectonic plates that move with respect to one another at centimeters per year,"
Schellart said. "These plates converge at deep-sea trenches, plate boundaries where one plate sinks (subducts) below the other at so-called subduction zones. The velocities of these plates and the velocities of the boundaries between these plates vary significantly on earth."
Schellart and his team, including Stegman and Rebecca Farrington, Justin Freeman and Louis Moresi from Monash University, used observational data and advanced computer models to develop a new mathematical scaling theory, which demonstrates that the velocities of the plates and the plate boundaries depend on the size of subduction zones and the presence of subduction zone edges.

"The scalings for how subducted plates sink in the earth's mantle are based on essentially the same fluid dynamics that describe how a penny sinks through a jar of honey," said Stegman, who developed the computer models that helped the team reenact tens of millions of years of tectonic movement. "The computer models demonstrate that the subducted portion of a tectonic plate pulls on the portion of the plate that remains on the earth's surface. This pull results in either the motion of the plate, or the motion of the plate boundary, with the size of the subduction zone determining how much of each."

"In some ways, plate tectonics is the surface expression of dynamics in the earth's interior but now we understand the plates themselves are controlling the process more than the mantle underneath. It means earth is really more of a top-down system than the predominantly held view that plate motion is being driven from the bottom-up."

This discovery explains why the Australian, Nazca and Pacific plates move up to four times faster than the smaller African, Eurasian and Juan de Fuca plates.

The Scripps Institution is at the University of California in San Diego. Monash is based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

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fifth news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 19, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 140

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Colombia takes rebel issue
to hemispheric level

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Colombia has asked the Organization of American States to hold a meeting of its permanent council to address Bogota's accusation that leftist guerrillas are hiding in neighboring Venezuela.

Colombian officials made the request Friday after Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Bogota to protest the allegations. 

The Venezuelan foreign ministry, in rejecting Bogota's claims, called them a new attempt by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to destroy relations between the two countries. The ministry accused Colombia of "lies, aggression and disrespect" against Venezuela, and said Venezuela will take firm political and diplomatic measures if the situation continues.

Uribe's office said Thursday it had proof that four leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, and one leader from the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional, or ELN, were in Venezuela.  Fuerzas Armadas leader Ivan Marquez was among those named.

The dispute comes as President Uribe prepares to step down next month after two terms in office.  Uribe has had tense relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for years, but his elected successor, Juan Manuel Santos, has recently sought to improve relations with neighboring countries.

In 2008, Venezuela and Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after Colombian troops raided a Fuerzas Armadas rebel camp in Ecuador and killed commander Raul Reyes and at least 20 other people.

Colombia previously has accused Venezuela of financing and supporting the Fuerzas Armadas, a charge Venezuela denies.

Grenades used by cartels
terrorize México, paper says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A prominent U.S. newspaper reports that U.S.-made grenades shipped to friendly regimes in Central America during the Cold War era have become the newest weapons in the arsenal of Mexico's drug cartels.

The newspaper, The Washington Post, says there were 72 grenade attacks in Mexico last year, including what the newspaper describes as spectacular assaults on police convoys and public officials, as well as attacks on brothels, a military barracks, a television station and a U.S. consulate.

The newspaper reports the grenades' psychological impact may be just as spectacular, intimidating the outgunned soldiers and police, and reminding everyday Mexicans that the country is "literally at war."

The grenades are being stolen from what the paper says are dusty old armories.

The newspaper reports Mexican forces have seized more than 5,800 live grenades since 2007, representing just a small fraction of the cartels' inventory.

The Washington Post says 300,000 hand grenades were sent to Central America during the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  That count does not include the grenades sent to the region from Asia or Soviet and Eastern European manufacturers.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 19, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 140

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Steve Jobs takes initiative
over iPhone problems

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs addressed problems with the company's new iPhone 4 in an emergency news conference Friday.  The device has suffered from technical glitches since its release June 24, casting a shadow on a company known for its quality.  The Apple founder insists the problems are minor and are easily corrected.

iPhone 4 users have been complaining about dropped calls when they hold their hand on the device in a certain position, and of inaccurate readings on the phone's signal strength indicator. 

Consumer groups have criticized the company as complaints about the phone have grown in recent weeks, chiding Apple for not addressing the phone's problems quickly and openly.

iPhones account for 40 percent of Apple's revenue, so for the company, the bad publicity was a challenge.

Steve Jobs began the news conference with an apology, of sorts. "We're not perfect.  We know that, you know that.  And phones aren't perfect," he said.

Jobs said the smart-phones of some Apple competitors have similar reception problems, and that fewer than 1 percent of users of the new iPhone 4 had complained of antenna issues.  He said the company knew about the antenna problem but did not consider it major. 

Jobs said the issue has been blown out of proportion, and can be solved through use of a rubberized bumper, or case, to cover the iPhone and the metal antenna on its rim. He says Apple will provide a case for new iPhone 4s that are bought through the end of September, and will reimburse users who have bought one themselves. "Every iPhone user is going to get a free case.  One for every iPhone 4.  If you've already bought one, we'll give you a full refund," he said.

Jobs said Apple will also reimburse users who want to return the phone, but that fewer than 2 percent of buyers have returned them so far. 

Thursday, the company issued a software upgrade to correct the inaccurate readings on the phone's signal indicator.

Despite the negative news reports, Apple stores have had trouble keeping the iPhone 4 in stock, and more than three million have been sold since its release three weeks ago. The publication Consumer Reports this week withdrew its recommendation to buy the iPhone 4, yet still rates it the best smart-phone on the market.

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