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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 154       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Chinese firm is sole bidder for third generation cells
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There could be a Chinese-produced advanced cell phone network in the cards for Costa Rica.

A consortium composed of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Costa Rica, S.A. was the sole bidder Monday when the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad opened a proposal for a new third generation 3G wireless service.

There was a problem with the bid. The telecom monopoly estimated the job at $225 million. The Chinese bid is for $583 million. The specifications call for 1.5 million cell lines and more than 500 cell towers. The third generation phones are  capable of video and video conferencing as well as messaging and Internet access.

The Chinese firm Huawei is 20 years old and is the biggest supplier of such services in China. Also involved in the project is the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

The telecom company hopes that the new network will begin operation sometime toward the middle of 2009. Under terms of the specifications the company that wins the contract will have 15 months to get the job done, according to the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.
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The contract will be awarded directly, meaning that a lot of paperwork and oversight will be sidestepped.

Western cell phone suppliers told the telecom company last month that they did not like the specifications for the job. The Chinese firm did, too, but appears to have changed its mind.

The telecom monopoly has two months to accept the bid, reject it or accept parts of it, a news release said.

Officials hope to have Interamericana open today
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The good news is that transport workers are supposed to reopen the Río Guacimal bridge on the Guanacaste stretch of the Interamericana highway this morning.

The bad news is that many of the nation's bridges are in terrible shape, according to Karla González, the transport minister.

Officials shut down the bridge and the nation's main route to and from the north Saturday after a tractor trailer driver reported that part of the bridge fell when he passed over it. What happened was that a steel support under the 500-ton bridge collapsed. The bridge deck dropped about 45 centimeters, about 18 inches, at a joint with another concrete section. Consequently there was a curb of sorts in the middle of the bridge.

Because officials closed it, no traffic crossed. Bus riders had to walk across the 69-meter (226-foot) 
bridge to waiting vehicles on the other side. Truckers just waited.

Workmen used hydraulic jacks to bring the fallen section up to level, and officials were confident that they would have one lane in operation today.

Minister Gonzalez blamed previous administrations for the state of the bridges, She noted that there are some 1,350 bridge in the country, most built in the 1950s, but there have been no plans for maintenance. The Interamericana bridge was last worked on in 1999 and made ready to carry 40 tons and resist earthquakes, said the ministry.

A Japanese team surveyed many of the nation's bridges last year and filed a report, but there has been no action. Ms.González said that the estimated 60 bridges on the Interamericana will be examined.

Minister González said that the Óscar Arias administration budgeted funds for 2007 to fix up the worst of the bridges. She is minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes.

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Our readers' opinions

Children are the losers
in parental custody fight

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

The Chere Tomayko case and the Garland Baker article on the Costa Rican court system brings back many memories to me.

I was the president of a divorce reform group (some say fathers rights, but there were many women in our organization) for many years in the Seattle, Washington, area. I was the member of a governor's task force on child
support, have been on TV and had several newspaper articles written about my organization. I only state these facts to show I know something about the problem.

I, of course, was involved in my own custody battles. I was never accused of physical or sexual abuse, but as the president of my organization I am very aware of this strategy in child custody cases. I am also very aware of the problems that arise from removing the children from the court's jurisdiction. Many problems exist with just moving them to
another state in the U.S., much less to a foreign country.

I will not take sides on this particular case, but wish to state a few of my opinions on this matter.

1. The court system in the U.S. (and probably Costa Rica) is not the right place to decide child custody.

2. The parties on both sides have been known to "distort" the facts in their favor. Not always intentionally, they just see the same thing differently.

3. The children are generally the biggest losers, but deserve access to both their father and mother unless sexual or physical abuse can be proven.

4. The use of sexual or physical abuse charges against the father (or the mother) unless they really occur, destroys the family. Sometimes these charges originate with the lawyers.

5. Nobody "wins" a child custody battle, there are only losers. The mother and father need to be encouraged to come to their own solution (we did). That is the only one that really works.
Guy Moats
Superior, Montana
and Coco, Costa Rica

Tourists need a passport
when behind the wheel

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Make sure your passport gets stamped when entering Costa Rica

Recently a friend of mine discovered he could not rent a car here because immigration failed to stamp his passport at the airport when he arrived. 

All tourists need to know that it is very, very important to make sure their passport gets stamped at the airport when they arrive and that the stamp is clearly legible in their passport.  Also, you need to carry your stamped passport with you at all times everywhere you go in Costa Rica, A PHOTOCOPY WILL NOT WORK HERE.

If you are using a foreign driver’s license, all traffic cops will ask for your passport, because you can only drive on a foreign driver’s license for three months after you enter the country.  The date stamp is required in your passport to prove this.

You need a date stamp in your passport to avoid spending the night in jail, if you are stopped by the immigration police.  Immigration sweeps are becoming more common in Limón, Jacó Beach and San José.

I was just in Limón with some tourists and my son.  We decided to take a short drive from Cahuita to go visit Puerto Viejo.  We encountered a special immigration unit guarding the entrance to Puerto Viejo.  These special police were stopping every car and demanding all passenger’s passports.

I recommend a poster on every immigration booth in the airport, with a poster stating “make sure your passport gets stamped” and then list all of the trouble you can have in Costa Rica if you don’t carry your stamped passport with you.  And photocopies DO NOT WORK with the immigration police or traffic cops, since photocopies don’t have stamps.  Tourist professionals and hotels should tell tourists to carry their stamped passport with them everywhere in Costa Rica.
Edward Bridges

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 154

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Murder on Indian reserve might not prompt an investigation
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bad man wrapped a rope around the child's neck and strangled him. That's how Blanca Rose described the murder of the 5-year old who couldn't walk, according to a mission director.

Blanca Rose isn't the only mother who sought refuge because of her child's condition. Filemón, who has cerebral palsy, and Victorino, who fell from a tree when he was a young, both live in the Chirripó mission, said a director there. They are there because some people in their Cabécar villages thought they would be better off dead.

The claims of murders and other violence represent a challenge for local police agencies. Although Indians in Costa Rica are presumed to live under the sames laws as the rest of the citizens, distance, tradition and fear of outsiders frequently keeps police from knowing what takes place.

In some of the Cabécar villages there are people who think those who are mentally or physically disabled should be killed, said Daniel Montoya Salas, co-director of Voz Que Calma mission in Chirripó. “Not everyone is the same,” said Montoya. Many Cebécar people come to visit the mission, and they say it brings happiness to their hearts to see Victorino and Filemón doing well, said Montoya.

Some of Victornio's family members tried to beat him to death with sticks after he fell from the tree and was left paraplegic, said Montoya. “The scars on his head are incredible,” said Montoya. And women advised Filemón's mother, Cela, to stop giving him food so he would die faster, added the director.

Blanca Rose, her daughter Priscilla, and her mother Roxana are still awaiting the baby's journey to Hospital Nacional de Niños, said Montoya. At this point the mission and others helping want to make sure Roxana, who has a mental illness, understands that the only family she has will not abandon her and that they will come back after their trip to San José, said Montoya.

Last week the two women and the baby traveled to the mission for a visit and to share lunch, said Montoya. He said this was a sign that the mother and grandmother were gaining their trust. “The grandmother knows my name now,” he said.

The three family members arrived at the mission last month asking for  help. They left in fear after the murder of the 5-year-old boy who couldn't walk. 2-year-old Priscilla is weak on the left side and still doesn't walk. Priscilla, her mother and grandmother are not from Sinoli, the community the mission works with, said Montoya. They are from Sitio Hilda, a community which is a four days walk away, said Montoya. The mission director said these kinds of superstitious cases are more common in the farthest away villages, not in places like Sinoli. 

In the case of the boy who was murdered in Sitio Hilda, the perpetrator is unidentified and no one has pressed charges to his knowledge, said Montoya. No charges were pressed in the cases of Filemón and Victorino either, said Montoya. In fact Victorino forgave the parents who had beaten him, and now they have a good relationship, said Montoya.

Many times members of the community don't want to talk to officials about crimes, said Montoya. Investigators from the regional Judicial Investigation Organization offices in Turrialba, Limón, and Bribri said they'd never encountered any case in which an Indian was murdered due to a physical or mental disability.

Although Limón and Bribri offices work mainly with the Bribri people, they have encountered similar problems as agents in the Turrialba region who work with the Cabécar people, said investigators.

Guillermo Bermúdez, judicial director in Limón, said many of the Bribri people do not feel that they can trust outsiders and don't file complaints. In cases of homicides, it is hard to conduct forensic exams because the victim usually is buried immediately, and the communities are located far away, said Bermúdez.

Bermúdez, who worked as the judicial chief in Talamanca
playing at mission
Two men who escaped death: Victorino with ball and Filemón.

for 17 years, said he received reports of malnutrition and medical emergencies from the Bribri communities. He also worked on many domestic violence cases and some cases of violent fights breaking out due to affects of chicha de maiz, a fermented corn alcohol. Bermúdez said the same laws applied to Indian reserves as in the rest of the country.

Hugo Lascarez Montero, an investigator in Turrialba said he had worked on numerous sexual abuse cases and domestic violence cases with the Cabécar people. “Women don't have much voice,” he said. He added that cultural differences made investigations more complicated, but that the law always applies.

Abel Mora an investigator in Bribri agreed that cultural differences played a role in Bribri investigations. He said he was mainly familiar with medical problems being reported.

All of the investigators agreed that cases were difficult to investigate due to the distant locations of the communities, the lack of trust between outsiders and the indigenous people, and the fact that most people in the communities don't file complaints to judicial officials.

The Cabécar live in the mountains along the Caribbean coast south of Limón. Elsewhere in other reserves on the Pacific there have been crimes linked to supposed witchcraft.

As for baby Priscilla and her family, things are going well, said Montoya. Priscilla and Montoya played a game passing a flower back and forth, he said. “It was a little sad because she only used her right hand,” said Montoya.

Right now the mission directors and other volunteers are using donations, many of which are from readers of A.M. Costa Rica, to buy milk for Priscilla and food for the family, said Montoya. A doctor in Turrialba saw Priscilla and told Montoya the visit would be free. “You help these people. I want to help you,” said the doctor, Roy Arias Leiua, Montoya said.

No one can be sure how long Priscilla will stay in the hospital but she will need to see specialist, said Montoya. If she needs physical therapy she may have to stay for months, said Montoya, it all depends on the diagnosis.

Last month two visitors traveled to the mission to get an idea of  how things were run. Although neither were doctors, visitor Ray Reynolds is a nurse and said Priscilla has an obvious  weakness on the left side. “She follows movement with her eyes and seemed fascinated by my friend´s watch,” said Reynolds, who is interested in starting a foundation to assist people here who have special needs.

Representatives at Hospital Nacional de Niños have said that Blanca Rose would have permission to stay at the hospital, said Montoya. If the mother decided to stay somewhere else or receive outside help that would be her decision, he added.

Worldwide there are still people in certain cultures who believe it is best for those who are disabled to be killed. The Telegraph in Britain reported last year about Amazon tribes in Brazil that buried babies alive if they were born with any sort of deformity. An anthropology professor supported the practice as a cultural value, according to the  Telegraph.

“The tradition is based on beliefs that babies with any sort of physical defect have no souls and that others, such as twins or triplets, are also 'cursed'. . .Infanticide has claimed the lives of dozens of babies each year, say campaigners fighting to end the practice,” stated the article.

Constitutional court rejects appeal against restrictions on vehicles in metro area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The constitutional court rejected an appeal against the metropolitan area vehicle restrictions, Monday.
The appeal was filed in Sala IV against the decree released on June 26. the decree that restricts a percentage San José drivers from entering the metropolitan area during certain hours on weekdays. Access is prohibited based on the last digit of the  vehicle license plate.
The complaint filed to the court said that the executive branch had not taken real actions in the last decades to improve public transportation or the public bus system.

Many citizens find the service unusable and obsolete, stated the appeal. The appeal also stated that the restrictions are not rational time wise as they do not allow sufficient time for drivers to move through the city.

Magistrates voted and by majority the appeal was rejected.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 154

Tiny tropical flies have a unique relationship with bees
By the  University of Washington
Office of News and Information

Strange things are happening in the lowland tropical forests of Panamá and Costa Rica. A tiny parasitic fly is affecting the social behavior of a nocturnal bee, helping to determine which individuals become queens and which become workers.

The finding by researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is the first documented example of a parasite having a positive affect on the social behavior of its host. This is accomplished by cleptoparasitism — in this case fly larvae stealing food from the developing immature bees. The researchers found that smaller bees that emerge in a nest are dominated by their mothers. These small bees are more likely to stay and act as helping workers, while larger bees tend to depart and start new nests as egg-laying queens. Bees that emerge from cells, or brood chambers, that also house flies are smaller than their nest mates from fly-free cells. The flies may encourage worker behavior in some bees.

"We often think of parasitism in terms of it affecting an animal's fitness, its survival or its ability to reproduce," said Sean O'Donnell, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology and co-author of the paper appearing in the current issue of the Journal of Insect Behavior. "Here the parasite is not living inside another animal, but is still stealing resources from the host.

"We think these fly parasites are not affecting the lifespan of the bees, and the bees' mothers benefit by having a helper, or worker, stay around to protect the nest, increasing survivability."

O'Donnell and his colleagues studied two closely related tropical social bees, Megalopta genalis and Megalopta
ecuadoria, and a family of very small parasitic flies called Chloropidae.

The bees are important pollinators of night-blooming plants, and the female bees can nest alone or live in small colonies. A colony is typically made up of two to four individuals — a queen and her offspring.

Behavioral observations showed that non-reproductive foragers and guards are significantly smaller than the queen bee in a nest, although the relative size of individual bees varied from nest to nest. Here's where the flies apparently fit in and are affecting the bees' behavior.

The bees nest in hollowed twigs and sticks hanging in the tropical understory and the flies flick their eggs into the entrance to the bee nests. Some of these eggs randomly fall into cells, or chambers, prepared by the bees, each to hold a larva and pollen that the larva eats. The cells are then sealed, so if a cell does contain fly eggs the young flies are competing with the bee larva for a limited amount of food.

"There is a natural size variation in bees and this is based in part on the amount of food available in the cell," said O'Donnell. "A fly or flies in a cell reducing the amount of food could be a potentially important factor. It seems that the more flies in a cell the smaller the bee is. The key here is relative body size compared to nest mates. The larger individuals become queens because they are not dominated."

The researchers were able to culture the bees and flies from individual cells and counted as many as 15 of the tiny flies in a single cell. Some cells did not contain flies.

"This study is a counterintuitive take on parasitic infection. It encourages us to look for complicated ecological relationships between different species. Parasitism may encourage sociality in some situations. Here it is promoting social behavior," O'Donnell said.

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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 week day.

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.


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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.


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U.S. June inflation index
registers a major jump

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A key measure of U.S. inflation rose .8 percent in June, the fastest rate in nearly three decades.

Soaring energy costs boosted prices and reduced the benefit of the tax rebate checks Washington sent out to spur economic growth.

Monday's report from the Commerce Department says June's consumer spending growth slowed to .6 percent from the prior month. Consumer spending drives about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

Inflation worries top the agenda as leaders of the U.S. central bank gather in Washington to consider interest rates. Federal Reserve officials are caught between the need to keep rates low to maintain economic growth and the urge to raise rates to fend off inflation.

Most economists expect the Fed to keep rates steady at 2 percent when they announce their decision Tuesday.

Chávez says Russian jets
have been delivered

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says 24 Russian Sukhoi fighter jets have been delivered to Venezuela.

Chávez made the announcement Sunday on his weekly radio program.

The president said the jets are for defensive purposes only against imperialist aggressions.

Chávez has warned the recently reactivated U.S. Fourth Fleet to stay out of Venezuelan waters. U.S. officials deny Washington has designs on Venezuela.

Rape suspect still free
on Carribean coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man investigators suspect is the Puerto Viejo rapist still isn't in jail, said a court spokeswoman Monday.

The man, Rolando Brown Humphreys, said by judicial investigators to be a suspect in seven rape cases, is still walking free, said a court spokeswoman. A judge in Bribri sentenced Brown to preventative measures about three months ago. Brown has to sign in to the court every two weeks and can't leave the country. The measures were due to expire in August but were extended until September, said the judicial spokeswoman.

A judge at the Juzgado Penal de Bribri ordered more time because besides being investigated on one rape charge, Brown is suspected of violating the drug law, said the spokeswoman.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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