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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 153        E-mail us
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Legislature passes new immigration bill: HERE!


surf shots
International Surfing Association/Fabián Sánchez
Luis Vindas, Natalie Bernold, unidentified fan, Lisbeth Vindas at Playa Hermosa Surf Games
See our story HERE!


Escazú pot production facility raided by police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police, tipped off by neighbors in San Antonio de Escazú, stopped two vehicles Monday afternoon in the vicinity of the Mall Multiplaza traffic circle. They found a van with 42 marijuana plants, some nearly five feet tall.

Two persons were arrested at the traffic circle, a U.S. citizen with the last name of Petit and a Bulgarian with the last name of Bayanov, said officers. Both men are in their mid-30s, they said.

A short time later, police raided two homes in San Antonio to find what they described as hydroponic marijuana production facilities. Two more persons were arrested in the raids. They were identified by the last names of Molina García and Medina Ruíz. A fifth man surrendered a short time later. The homes were just 100 meters from the church of San Antonio de Escazú.

Anti-drug agents said they were following up on the complaints of neighbors and that they believe the men were in the process of moving their operation when they were arrested.

In addition to the marijuana plants, the vehicles and the facilities for hydroponic propagation, agents said they confiscated more plants at the homes and also 1.67 kilos of hashish, a concentrated resin derived from marijuana.

The Policía de Control de Drogas said that since 2001 they have discovered and dismantled seven such hydroponics growth facilities which they called laboratories. Hydroponics is the production of plants without soil. Instead the plants are rooted in some inorganic substance or in water and controlled amounts of nutrients are dispensed by pumps and tubes. In a controlled environment, growers are able to boost the potency of the marijuana, police said.
marijuana arrest
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Segridad Pública photo
Drug officer's face is purposely blurred and that of the suspect is hidden by the leaves of a marijuana plant in San Antonio de Escazú.


Police said they also discovered some plants that appeared to be growing to produce seed.

Police said that Petit, the U.S. citizen, rented one of the properties two months ago and that the Bulgarian entered the country just a month ago.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 153

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Puriscal Properties
sportsmens update
Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Appraiser

BEFORE YOU BUY and OVERPAY
Angela Jiménez
ask Angela Jiménez
Architect/Certified Appraiser
23 years experience
for Costa Rica Banks

• building inspections
•¨property management
• construction management

www.orbitcostarica.com/
certifieda.htm
5302-12/12/09

Insurance brokers

Financial Planning & International Health Insurance
Disney Financial Group
Along with specializing in complete financial / estate planning and transfer, Disney is now offering the Finest
Michael Disney
Michael Disney
in International Health and Travel Insurance to Expats living and traveling worldwide.  International health insurance may now be submitted over the Internet.

We also have annuities offering a 25% up front bonus and 5% guaranteed compounded interest.  We handle life insurance policy buy outs. ** All financial products must be finalized within the boundaries of the United States.
Michael Disney, Disney Financial Group. 001.602.464.3729, 001.602.821.5050
E-mail:  DisneyFinancial@Aol.Com
www.DisneyFinancialGroup.Com
www.JoinDisneyOnline.Com
Disney Financial Group is licensed in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.
5374-10/10/09

Residency experts

Residency in Costa Rica
A full service immigration agency
U.S. and San José offices
Getting and authenticating documents can be a chore —

we know how to do it. Experienced with many nationalities. Up-to-date on
Costa Rica's evolving immigration law.
Pensionado and rentista. Your first stop for smooth, professional service and a positive experience. Javier Zavaleta jzava@pacbell.net
www.residencyincostarica.com
Tel: (323) 255-6116
5055-8/26/09

Business consultant

Vision: Empowering small and medium business to their highest potential by setting The standards.
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Services we offer:
Financial Management, Planning & Development,
Business English, Business Technology, Professional
Networking,
Costa Rica-North America Specialists
 Costa Rica (011-506) 8914-4116 
http://www.rushconsultoria.biz/
5279-12/1/09

Physicians and surgeons

Dr. Marco A. Mora Aguilar, Neurosurgeon
Dr. Mora
Dr. Marco A. Mora
Available for surgery in any of the private hospitals in San José.
                
Stroke, Brain Surgery, Spine Surgery, Scalp and Skull Repair, Craniotomy
 
http://www.drmarcomora.com
E-mail: info@drmarcomora.com
Or use our Contact Form on the site
Emergency tel: 8879-1818, 8395-1818
Accepting VA's Foreign Medical Program
5267-6/28/09

Psychiatrist

Dr. Luis Carlos Sancho Torres
  bilingual psychiatrist (UCR)
Dr. Sancho
• consulting • depression  • schizophrenia 
• psychiatric disability VA Affairs

• evaluations for gun permits 
 
• bipolar disorders  • addictions 

• methadone

• Transmagnetic stimulation
for depression and stroke

Available 24-hour a day

office: 2246-3458 or 2246-3459
soon: www.psiquiatriacostarica.com
 lucasancho@yahoo.com
5128-7/14/09


Dentists and dental surgery

Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica
Our office offers a wide variety of cosmetic and restorative treatments at very affordable prices. Fillings,
Dental Cosmetics
crowns, bridges, veneers, tooth whitening, implants, smile makeover orthognatic surgery, scalling and polishing.
www.dentalcosmeticscr.com
5372-10/9/09


Marco Cavallini & Associates
Dental Implants $500, Crowns $250

Dr. Marco A. Muñoz Cavallini has placed and restored
Dr. cavallini
Dr. Marco A. Muñoz Cavallini
over 10,000 dental implants since 1980. The Dr. Marco Muñoz Cavallini Dental Clinic, is recognized as one of the best practices in Dental Reconstruction,
Dental Implant placement and Cosmetic Dentistry in Costa Rica and the World. 
For more information,
visit us today at: www.aestheticdentistrycr.com
5346-8/26/09

Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant
We can professionally evaluate your hearing problem at Clinica Dinamarca off Paseo Colón or at Hospital CIMA.
• Natural sound
• Lowest prices
• No more background noise, feedback or echoing
• American hearing consultant from D.C. & Atlanta
• Nine clinics including Hospital CIMA
• Authorized provider  to the U.S. veterans
• The worlds leading provider of hearing aids
      Widex hearing aids since 1956

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Allan Weinberg
We service the U.S. veterans/Foreign Medical Program. Please contact me, Allan, at allan9000@gmail.com or at 8891-8989.
5403-8/23/09

Acupuncture physician

Acupuncture (disposable needles),
& Auriculotherapy (without needles) 

Immediate results guaranteed
for sport and all injuries; Back, neck, shoulder, elbow, carpal tunnel, knees, sciatica, 
Eugene McDonald
Eugene Mc Donald A.P.
migraine, T.M.J., kidney stones, intercostal neuralgia, and all painfull conditions  without drugs. Excellent results for stress, tension, anxiety, depression; and many other medical conditions and health maintenance.  Acupuncture works even if other therapies had little or no results. Free consultation, U.S. license, 19 years experience, Eugene Mc Donald, A.P (acupuncture physician) Escazú, 8352-0661. acutherapy0@hotmail.com
http://acupuncturecr.blogspot.com/
5073-9/20/09

Accountants

James Brohl, C.P.A. & M.B.A.
US Income Tax,  US GAAP Accounting
& Business Consulting

• US Tax return preparation  for
individuals and businesses
• eFile returns: secure with faster refunds
• Assist with back reporting and other filing issues
• Take advantage of the Foreign
Income Tax Exclusion (up to $
87,600 in 2008)
• Business Consulting to facilitate working in Costa Rica
• Accounting for US and International Financial Reporting


Telephone 8305-3149 or 2256-8620
E-mail jrtb_1999@racsa.co.cr
5097-3/30/10

U.S. Tax International

Plus Costa Rican taxes, accounting, and legal services
Over 15 years in Costa Rica
(English Spoken)
C.R. 2288-2201   U.S 786-206-9473
FAX: 2289-8235
E-mail: ustax@lawyer.com
Web page with vital U.S. tax info HERE!
5422-8/13/09

Real estate agents and services

Latitude Nine real estate graphic
Latitude 9
Real estate, development, Investments.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
506 2777-1197

Over 25 years experience in Costa Rica

www.latitude9.com
5349-11/25/09


MARGARET SOHN
with Great Estates of Costa Rica

20 years Costa Rican
real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce

samargo@racsa.co.cr
info@realtorcostarica.com
www.realtorcostarica.com
(506)  2220-3729 &  (506) 8382-7399 cell
(506)  2232-5016 (phone/fax)
5406-1/6/10

CENTURY 21 Jacó Beach Realty
A Name You Trust & Professional Service


Buying? Selling?
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1 (877) 746-3868
  Tom Ghormley - Owner/Broker - in CR since '79

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www.c21jaco.com
2643-3356
Info@c21jaco.com
4401-6/9/09v


7Legal services

CONSULTORIA JURIDICA EMPRESARIAL CA, S.A.
Attorneys & Notaries
 Tel.  2280-9692 / 2225-9322      
e-mail: info@conjuridica.com  Web:  www.conjuridica.com
       We offer the highest professional standards with very competitive rates. All our official documentation and Notary deeds are always translated in English for better comprehension, client satisfaction and safety.
consultoria logo
• Immigration Law.
• Real Estate Law.
• Corporations, Foundations
       and Associations. 
• Trademarks & Intellectual
       Property.  
• Notary public services
• Criminal Law
•Civil & Commercial 
       Litigation
Our Law Office is conveniently located near Mall San Pedro,  350 meters south from the Subaru dealer, Los Yoses, San José.
5290-12/2/09

KEARNEY-LAWSON & Asoc.
Lic.Gregory Kearney Lawson.
Attorneys at Law and real estate brokers
Relocation services, Wedding Planning
Greg Kearney
*Investments  *Corporations
*Tax Shelters *Immigration
*Real Estate Sales in Costa Rica
*Name & Product registration
*Business procedures 
*Family and Labor Law
*Locate People   *Private Investigations
Phone/Fax: 2290-8117, 8841-0007
New location on Rohrmoser Blvd.
 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

State wants to get $89 million
from Calderón defendants


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The lawyer representing the government of Costa Rica has asked a trial panel to order defendants in the so-called Finlandia trial to reimburse the nation some $89 million.  The sum represents what the state had computed to be the cost of the alleged corruption committed by the defendants, who include Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier and others.

Calderón is a former president who seeks to run again in 2010.

The procurador de la ética pública is Gilbert Calderón. He spoke Monday and Tuesday to make the state's case. Earlier the prosecutor in the case asked the court to sentence Calderón to 24 years and to give his fellow defendants lesser terms. In Costa Rican criminal cases it is possible to carry on a civil complaint at the same time.

The case is winding down, and defense lawyers are expected to be able to summarize their case toward the end of the week and next week.

Monday, lawyer Calderón suggested that he might file a case against the company in Finland that also was involved in the case. He suggested an amount of $39 million, which is the same amount that Costa Rica owes the government of Finland which loaned the money so the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social could buy hospital equipment from Finnish firms.

Prosecutors say that a lot of the equipment was unneeded and that Calderón and his associates took $9 million of the proceeds as a commission. On trial is the former head of Corporación Fischel, the drug company that handled the loan, and Eliseo Vargas, a former lawmaker who headed the Caja at the time the scandal broke.

Among the money sought is some $8 million for damage to Costa Rican democracy, said the state's lawyer. Throughout the trial prosecutors have displayed elaborate charts showing how money was routed through Panamá and the United States. Tuesday lawyer Calderón had a chart to show the various costs of the corruption. Included was an amount for equipment the Caja and its hospitals did not need.

Curiously a defense lawyer said Tuesday that Rafael Calderón has no property in his own name. He lives in a sprawling home in Curridabat.

The Partido Unidad Cristiana of which Rafael Calderón is the presidential candidate has embarked an aggressive public relations campaign to show that he is innocent.

Contraloría criticizes delays
in Costanera Sur projects


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's budgetary watchdog has issued a scathing criticism of the public works ministry because of extensive delays in the Costanera Sur. The highway project is being done south of Quepos and north of Dominical.

The watchdog, the Contraloría de la República said that expropriation of land vital to road construction and bridge work continues at a slow pace and that 45 properties still are not in the hands of the state.

In addition the Contraloría was critical of the speed with which bridges are being constructed. A report Tuesday said that there were delays in the construction of bridges over the ríos Hatillo Nuevo and Hatillo Viejo as well as the bridge over the Río Savegre. The delays were so prolonged that the Contraloría authorized the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to issue direct contracts to companies.  That was in 2005, but by 2007 the jobs had not yet been awarded.

The Contraloría urged the ministry to open up an administrative process to determine who was at fault. Now, 18 months later, the investigation still is not concluded, the Contraloría said.

The agency said that work on the Savegre bridge is still minimal. It said that the ministry was using officials involved in the project on other jobs, thereby slowing down the work.

The Contraloría ordered the ministry to correct the deficiencies and to take action to determine responsibility.

The highway is getting a final coat of asphalt now. The route, 30 years in the planning stages, is considered a main one for trucks and other vehicles headed from Panamá to Nicaragua and in the opposite direction. The coastal route eliminates the need to pass through the central mountains, Cartago and San José. It also is seen as a major boost to tourism.

Our reader's opinions
Battle of sexes is not
all one way now


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Beware the Guy with 1950s in his heart.

Many men from other countries, most notably the U.S., come to Costa Rica looking for a quiet, pliant, stay-at-home girlfriend or wife after being unsuccessful with what they perceive to be strident and aggressive women from the U.S.  Unfortunately, this does not always turn out well for the Tica.  When her boyfriend or husband becomes her sole means of support, often forbidding her to work, she becomes completely dependent on him.  He expects compliance in all areas of life, much like women from the U.S. in the 1950s - picture "Leave It To Beaver."  " June!  I'm home!"  A wife or girlfriend who will dress well, keep the house neat, cook whatever and whenever he wants and otherwise just be available to fulfill his every need and want.  There is no thought of her needs or wants.  Essentially, she becomes a live-in servant.  He may or may not learn to speak Spanish and expects her to learn English and to also be his "facilitator," turning over all responsibility for dealing with the Costa Rican bureaucracy or neighbors or travel to her. 

I know of one case of a Tica marrying a Gringo (who refused to learn Spanish) where he forbad her to work. She had worked and supported herself and her children for many years.  When a man "forbids" his wife to work, it is for one of two reasons:  Because he genuinely cares for her and wants her to have a break from working or to have power over her.  In this case, it was the latter.  He even became furious when she would go and visit her old workplace, which is where most of her friends were.  He insisted on many changes in her life without regard to her wishes.  Because he was in control of the money, she had no choice but to go along.  When he became emotionally and verbally abusive of her children, there was a confrontation, and he got angry and left.  He emptied their bank account and even took money out of her wallet and returned to the U.S.  She was left high and dry with no money, no job and no recourse.  We chipped in and helped her until she could go back to work and get paid and start taking care of herself again.   It's not all one way.

Harriet Smith
Bijagua

Drug war is now faltering
as economy stays in crisis


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Good job with the article on the abuses committed by the Colombian military.

Our "conservative" partners in Colombia who manage the military charged with carrying out the  U.S.-led failed policy vis a vis the  "War on Drugs" are now trying to clean up the mess from the inevitable abuses and corruption involving low paid, highly armed police/military and illegal drugs.

A policy the U.S. has unsuccessfully perpetrated for 40 years now with the front lines in Third World countries and out of bounds dangerous inner city streets, well hidden from the view of the average U.S. citizen.

Of course the U.S. until Vietnam, had never lost a war. To this day the military doesn't speak in those terms. Let's face it, our arrogance doesn't permit us to believe that all our expensive efforts in military style pursuits on foreign soil, don't result in "victory". One need only take note of the entrenched gang warfare and murder rates on the streets of all our own inner-cities to see that something isn't working here.

It took half a million casualties, and over 50,000 U.S. deaths to finally bring the Vietnam war to an abrupt end.

Since the foreign theater of the drug "war" involves conscripted foreign soldiers, incurring no home-grown loss of life, it has largely gone beneath the radar of mainstream America. But where's the connection with the huge numbers of casualties on our own streets? Is it because for the most part they are disenfranchised uneducated, non-voting people of color, that therefor they are acceptable casualties as well? What about all the rich kid addicts, victims of a culture more adept at throwing money and weaponry at problems than getting at the root causes.
 
This "war" with a trillion or more of taxpayer dollars gone for naught, may have finally hit it's "waterloo," since at this point in time with the treasury at empty, and the actual dollar itself teetering on the verge of valuelessness with of our once-endless ability to borrow now in serious doubt.

Our misguided imperialist endeavors in molding the rest of the world in our own image, have had mixed results at best.
Our inability to learn from the mistakes is obvious in recent history with the roaring 20s failed experiment of illegitimizing alcohol giving rise to organized crime, and increased corruption at all levels of society.

This should have shown us that trying to legislate issues of "morality" doesn't work. It appears that the corruption spawned in those years has reached to the highest levels of the U.S. government, and dictates corruption breeding policy to this day.

Never mind that according to most constitutional scholars and experts the policy goes against some of the most basic principles laid out in our own Constitution and Bill of Rights!

It mainly speaks of our government having gone astray in its pursuit of a policy doomed to promote and promulgate corruption, instead of achieving the results our so-called leaders assured us it would.

We are rapidly approaching melt-down regarding our ability to fund costly ideologically driven, ineffective foreign military jaunts through out the once powerless isolated parts of a wild and woolly Third World. Peace, in spite of our past and present imperialist and militarist endeavors, will soon be our only option. Perish the thought.
Hari Singh Khalsa
Cóbano

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 153

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Your Costa Rica



New, broader immigration bill finally passed in legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers passed for the second and final time Tuesday a new immigration law that seeks to integrate foreigners into the Costa Rican culture.

Although the primary concern is for the Central American immigrants, First World expats also will have to join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social as a condition of their residency. Visitors will be able to seek residency without leaving the country as is the requirement now.

Lawmakers were universally laudatory of the measure, which now goes to President Óscar Arias Sánchez.  Lesvia Villalobos of the Partido Acción Ciudadana said that the new law seeks to improve the conditions of immigrants with respect for their human rights.

The broad law creates an immigration police that is composed of Fuerza Pública officers. It criminalizes trafficking in persons. It creates an immigration council to issue visas to citizens of restricted countries. And it makes hotel and operators of other lodging businesses responsible
for maintaining a registry of their customers. The measure also gives the president the power to grant residency by decree. A.M. Costa Rica has reported that this creates the possibility of immigration amnesties of the type that were mandated twice in the 1990s.

The law will not take effect until six months after it is signed and published, so expats seeking residency will have options. The new law raises the monthly financial requirement for pensionados to $1,000 from $600, but it is not retroactive. A retroactive clause was deleted.  Rentistas will have to show a steady monthly income of $2,500 but close family members are included in that requirement.

Answers to many of the questions expats have on how the law will be applied will be contained in the regulations that have not yet been published.

With a requirement that residents join the Caja and a beefed up police force, the possibility of a crackdown on so-called perpetual tourists is a possibility. Some in government seek to restrict tourists to two 90-day visits a year.


Slight dip ordered in prices of both grades of gasoline
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gasoline prices are going down, but there's no reason to celebrate with the top-shelf liquids.

Super gasoline is going down 3 colons and plus is dropping 2 colons, according to the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos which established the prices every month.

That means super will be 567 a liter (87.5 U.S. cents) and plus will be 549 colons (about 94.4 U.S. cents) a liter.
There are 3.79 liters in a U.S. gallons, so the gallon price of super will be 2,146 colons or about $3.69.
Gasoline in Costa Rica is sold by a government monopoly which imports all its petroleum.

The bad news is that diesel is going up 10 colons a liter to 472 colons. Jet fuel had the biggest jump, some 34 colons, to 448. Aviation gasoline will be 752 colons a liter, a decrease of 5 colons.

The prices become valid in the marketplace when the agency's order is published in the official newspaper.

The Authoridad uses a complex formula that includes the world price of petroleum and the value of the colons against the U.S. dollar.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 153



Munoz
International Surfing Association/Fabián Sánchez                       
Carlos Muñoz shows the style that kept him in the competition

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Despite a competitive run by dark horse Venezuela, host country Costa Rica's Carlos Muñoz vaulted into contention for a world title at the World Surfing Games in Playa Hermosa Tuesday.

With conditions ranging from blazing sunshine to pouring rain, and tides at both high and low extremes, the 16-year-old Muñoz managed to have an interference called in two consecutive heats — and still win both of them, a feat that in most cases is considered almost impossible.

“When you lose your leash three times, get two interference calls, and still take the highest scores, that's beyond just great surfing” said former U.S. champion team member Jimmy Hogan, who now lives in Costa Rica. “That's pure entertainment!”

The young Tico has brought huge crowds to their feet and electrified his teammates as he blazed through heats that eliminated world tour pros. Only a handful of other teams have qualified more than two team members into the next qualifying round and Muñoz' performances are a big factor in keeping the Costa Ricans in the race.

Big surf powerhouses South Africa, Hawaii Australia, France and the United States have all placed several team members in the next round as well as some underdogs. But each of them took heavy hits Tuesday, losing some of their very best performers to underdogs like Venezuela, Argentina, and an unexpected last minute charge from unlikely Italy.

The Cinderella story of the moment is Venezuela, which has battled its way into repercharge after repercharge and
now stands ready to enter several members into the next round and a shot at the title.

“Three years ago we thought it was impossible to even get through the qualifying rounds,” said Jesús Chacón. “Now we have a shot!”

“We have a lot of momentum going into today,” added another team member Rafael Pereyra, who won two repercharge heats Tuesday. “The local Venezuelan people really gave us support, which made us work even harder.
We feel like the second locals here!” The repercharges are for surfers who have not finished in top spots in the regular heats. They get a second change to stay in the competition.

“For months and months we have been working together as a team.” Chacon explained through his coach how hard they had worked to prepare for the dames. “We trained physically, psychologically, technically, philosophically, and tactically to do our best.”

With five repercharge rounds being held Tuesday, the United States and Australia are tied for first place with 19,080 points. Costa Rica is unexpectedly in third place with 16,970 points.

With half of the event over, all the participating nations have lost at least one of their team members. Only 24 surfers remain from the original 128 competitors in the open men division. Costa Rica has two, the second being on the ladies side, only 12 surfers out of the 64 remain. These surfers represent only 14 teams out of the 35 competing in the event. 

Costa Rican surfers Luis Vindas, Natalie Bernold and Lisbeth Vindas have been eliminated.


Ministry of sports in the works by the Arias administration
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration plans to create a ministry of sports in a proposed law that will be sent to the legislature.

The correct title will be the Ministerio del Deporte y la  Recreación and it will be known by its initials in the Spanish fashion as MIDEPOR.

A statement from Casa Presidencial said that sports authorities in the country favored the idea. When President Óscar Arias Sánchez began his presidency, the culture ministry, known as the Ministerio de Cultura,
Juventud y Deportes, dropped the word deportes from the title.

The professional sports scene already is populated with a number of official agencies, including a national Olympic committee. Amateur sports also generally have a regulating authority.

The ministry likely will be a way to channel money to these various agencies. Considering the speed at which the legislature works, Arias probably will not be able to name an individual to head this ministry before he leaves office in early May.




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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 153

Casa Alfi Hotel

Economic crises reduces
demand for wood products


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations reports markets in forest products have been dealt a serious blow by the economic crisis. A new report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe says the housing crisis in the United States and Europe is largely responsible for one of the biggest drops ever in the consumption of forest products in the 56-country region.

About 42 percent of the world's forests are in the Economic Commission for Europe region, which comprises countries in Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel. The region is the world's largest producer, consumer, exporter and importer of wood and paper products. And markets for these products were running at record levels in 2006.

But, the global financial meltdown has resulted in a disquieting turnabout from these highs.  Ed Pepke, the forest products marketing specialist for the commission, said total consumption of forest products in the region fell by 8.5 percent last year, the sharpest decline since the first oil shock of 1973.

"Much of this has to do with the housing crisis in the United States first and secondly in Europe because what happened was there was almost 2.2 million houses built in the United States as recent ago as 2006," said Pepke. "However, that dropped to under half a million this year. This is about a 75 percent drop in housing construction and housing construction is the demand for wood and paper products." 

The report notes most of the drop was in North America where consumption fell by nearly 12.7 percent, followed by Europe with a nearly 6 percent decline. But, the report notes, consumption of forest products grew by more than 3 percent in the Commonwealth of Independent States, including Russia.

The U.N. economists say production, which is linked with demand, also has fallen, resulting in mill closures and job losses throughout the region. But, they say the outlook for the industry is promising. They say early indicators in the United States show an upturn in new housing construction.

On another positive note, the report finds the wood energy sector has been immune to the global economic crisis. It says demand for renewable energy sources, including wood biomass, continues to grow steadily. This is due to government incentive policies aimed at mitigating climate change and creating energy security.

Pepke says there is greater focus these days on creating bio-fuels from non-food crops rather than from crops such as corn or soy that are used for human or animal consumption.

"We are very fortunate, actually, in our sector that you people cannot eat wood or if you do, you cannot digest it," he said. "So, therefore, we feel that this is absolutely a good resource for using bio-fuels. And, we really think that there is great potential for not only accomplishing the needs of the wood industry, the wood and paper industries, but also for the energy industry." 

The report also covers China even though it is not a part of the commission region. That is because China is the world's largest exporter of furniture and a major importer of wooden raw material. 

The report says China's forest products output continued rising strongly in 2008. It rose by 23 percent driven by economic growth and a multi-billion-dollar investment plan in the forest sector launched by the government to stimulate domestic demand.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 153

Latin American news digest
Swine flu death toll now 25,
health ministry reports


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The death toll from swine flu has risen to 25, according to the health ministry.

Three women between 20 and 35 have died, but all suffered from conditions that made them vulnerable. One had downs syndrome, one was overweight and one had asthma, said officials.

There may be more deaths. In many cases swine flu is a contributory factor to a death, and health officials attribute the death to the virus.

The Ministerio de Salud asked expectant and nursing mothers to take special precautions Tuesday. Among these are to avoid mingling in crowds and to continue frequent hand-washing. the ministry said that because of changes in the body such women are of elevated risk.


'TOFEL Official Guide' has
full-length English test


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Educational Testing Service, creator of the Test of English as a Foreign Language, has added a new full-length test to the hundreds of real test questions and essay topics in the latest edition of “The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test.”

“The Official Guide to the TOEFL(R) Test” is the only guide specially created by the non-profit Educational Testing Service. It shows test takers exactly what to expect on the test, reveals precisely how the test is scored, and offers two previously administered full-length tests to study for practice.

“We want test takers to do their very best on the TOEFL test,” said Yuwei Li, product manager for “The Official Guide.” “That’s why we not only reveal actual test questions and give explanations of correct and incorrect answers, but also provide real raters’ comments on sample responses to speaking and writing test questions.

For more than 45 years the TOEFL test has been the world’s most highly regarded academic English-language assessment, accepted at more than 7,000 institutions in over 130 countries. It measures English skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is also the largest globally deployed test of its kind administered on the Internet, making it conveniently available at more than 4,500 test centers around the world.



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