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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 155       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Agents warn about Internet corrupter of children
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigation Organization warned residents Tuesday about a man preying on children via the Internet.

The man, who may be in another country, uses a popular Internet site to meet girls in Costa Rica between the ages of 10 and 14 years old, according to the judicial organization.

The Judicial Investigation Organization in Perez Zeledón is investigating the case, it said. After the man talks with the girl, he asks her to undress in
front of a web cam so he can watch the show and record it on video, said a judicial spokeswoman.

The man also entices underage girls to chat online about sexual or erotic subjects, said the spokeswoman.  The agency did not mention if the man had ever been in personal contact with any of the victims.

The organization is asking parents to warn their daughters about this individual. If anyone  knows a victim of this sort of case, agents ask that they inform the Judicial Investigation Organization or the Ministerio Público, said the spokeswoman.

Something hot is going on under a Cartago home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The house is not exactly haunted, but the owner and the woman who lives there would like to know why there is a hot spot in the earth under the dwelling.

Even experts from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica are puzzled and doubt that the heat comes from a geological source.

The house is on Calle las Vegas in San Rafael de Oreamuno de Cartago. In addition to the geologists, investigators from the local electric utility, the Junta Administrativa de Servicios Eléctricos de Cartago, and members of the national emergency commission checked out the house late last week.

In a written report, scientists from the observatory at the University Nacional in Heredia considered a number of theories but could not come up with a conclusive answer.

The owner of the structure, Miguel Bertozzi, dug three holes about 20 inches deep in the soil. One was in the patio. One was in the front yard. The other was in the living room where devices used to measure volcano gases found a temperature of  61 C or 142 degrees F, said the experts.

The temperature at the bottom of the hole in the front yard also was above normal at 31 degrees C or 88 degrees F, they said. The backyard hole was at air temperature.

A neighbor had reported a warm wall in his house about three doors away, said the geologist, but they reported they could not find the owner and get access to the home.

The electrical crew cut off the power with the theory that an electrical short underground could be producing the heat. But the temperature did not drop with the lack of power, said the
heated house

geologists. The electric meter did not show an excessive use of power. The electrical crewmen were quoted by the geologists as saying that a short circuit would have to have been arcing for years to produce that level of temperature.

The report came from Javier Francisco Pacheco, Jorge Brenes and Juan Segura of the observatory. They discounted a geological source for the heat. The Río Toyogres is just 200 meters (about 650 feet) away and the temperature is normal there, they said. The Irazú volcano is in the distance.

They also noted that the home was constructed about 20 years ago and that any organic material buried beneath would have long since stopped composting and giving off heat. Plus there was no smell of decomposition, they said.Meanwhile, neighbors are becoming more observant over the temperatures of their homes.

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New Zealand residents
against anti-spanking law

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Well, I see Costa Rica has passed the same law as has recently been passed in New Zealand.
I wonder how long it takes before those who passed this law realize the big mistake they have made? This law was going to be the "Be all, end all" law in this country. Guess what? It has not worked from the day it was passed!!
Most young people here know exactly how the law works and hold their parents or guardians to ransom over it. They threaten to report family or their teachers to police if they are disciplined, which will lead to them being arrested and charged in court. If prosecuted, the parents or guardian are fined up to $500 or sent to jail for a short time.
People were assured this would not happen, but in the 12 months since this law has been bought in, 10 people have been charged under this draconian law!!
We have elections here in the next few months, and all the opposition parties are pledging to repeal this law if they win the election. It can not come quick enough!! Surely the people of Costa Rica have more sense than this.
Guy Harris
Invercargill, New Zealand

EDITOR'S NOTE: Costa Rica's law, signed Friday, has not serious penalties, but proponents are expected to try to work stiffer sentences into the law.

He carries a photocopy
and advises others to do so

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Aug. 5, one of your readers wrote in a letter stating that tourists here must carry their passport with them at all times because they may be asked for it by the immigration police.  He states that this is because you need to show a stamp showing your arrival into the country.

Firstly, I would note that at least in the recent past, there are signs in the airport when you arrive telling you to leave your passport in your hotel safe and to only carry a copy with you.

Secondly, I would note that it is very easy to take two photocopies, one of your actual passport page with your photo on it and then another with the page where you have your entry stamp on it.  In fact this is what I would recommend doing.  The nervous may also wish to carry a copy of their plane ticket.    As the earlier reader suggested, it is very important that you do make sure you have your passport stamped when you enter the country.

I have lived in Costa Rica for the past seven years, and have been stopped a number of times by police and asked for my identification, I have never had a problem using a photocopy, be it of my passport or of my cédula.  Occasionally I will be asked for the original, and I just say I don't carry it with me because of thieves.  The questions have always stopped there.

Shaun Dolan
Santa Ana

Journalistic priorities
questions in car crash

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Wow, it appears that alot of journalists in Costa Rica have things backwards or just have too much time on their hands. They ignore the news last Friday of a "famous" person was driving drunk and could have easily killed somebody. While only two newspapers called her out (Prensa Libre and Al Día), others make it look like we should feel sorry for her:

How about we boot her off the show and make an example out of her so she remembers that not only was she lucky that she didn't kill somebody (I could care less if she kills herself in the process of driving drunk as long as no one else gets hurt).

Instead, what is the big news on Costa Rican news: A few players having a beer AFTER the game causes a frenzy in the national press corp.

Priority mix up or is our society so screwed up that we will protect someone attempting to commit murder (manslaughter is murder for those legal eagles) while throwing others under the bus when they are doing something that most everyone does and where at least these guys had the common sense approach to have a designated driver with them.
Jason Terry
Waco, Texas

EDITOR'S NOTE: The famous person is  Melissa Mora, who appears on "Bailando por un Sueño." Tránsito police said she had 0.51 milligrams of alcohol per liter of blood. That is a state called pre-drunk. The legal limit for driving is 0.49 milligrams of alcohol per liter.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 155

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You can find the face of Big Oil in the bathroom mirror
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

This morning the face of Big Oil revealed itself. You know, the sinister exploiter who is strangling the world.

The face was in the bathroom mirror. I didn't know I was Big Oil until Monday when the mail arrived.

As Walt Kelly's creation Pogo says: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

What arrived in the mail was the annual report from a U.S. pension fund. It turns out that 171,541 other public employees and ex-public employees in the State of Colorado also are Big Oil. That includes the school teachers, the local town clerk, the judges and the guys who fix the highways. Probably many expat retirees in Costa Rica are beneficiaries of this or similar pension plans. That makes many Big Oil, too. More than 80 percent of the U.S. population has some kind of investment account.

This public employee pension fund uses its investment returns to pay up to 70 percent of the benefits to its retired members. After years of collecting money from state agencies and employees, the fund has $51 billion invested. The biggest investment is with a company called Exxon Mobil Corp., the mothership of Big Oil.

The pension fund managed a 10 percent return in 2007, not bad by financial standards.

The only trouble is that there is this leftist politician seeking the presidency who wants to apply a windfall tax on Big Oil. Basically that means taxing a segment
the face of big oil

of the economy because it is highly successful. Then he wants to distribute the money in $1,000 checks to the people who were not smart enough or capable enough to buy Big Oil stock or otherwise succeed in the world's freest economy.

This is the old class warfare strategy of buying the people with their own money.

There are 54 billion shares of Exxon Mobil in private hands. That makes them Big Oil, too. Each share will get a 40-cent quarterly dividend in September. Dividends are paid after income taxes.

Exxon Mobil paid $29.8 billion in U.S. taxes in 2007. Some windfall for politicians.

Investigators raid home of ex-security minister's brothers
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents raided the house of a former security minister's family members Tuesday morning, said a judicial spokeswoman.

The former security minister is Juan Diego Castro Fernández, who is now a prominent lawyer and director of the firm Jurisis Abogados.

Judicial agents raided a house in Paraíso de Cartago where at least two, perhaps three of Castro's brothers live, said Maricel Rodríguez, a spokeswoman for the Ministerio Público.

The brothers, who also have the last names Castro Fernández are under investigation for fraudulent administration, said Rodríguez. Agents did not detain any of  the Castro Fernández brothers, said Rodríguez. “The purpose of the raid was to gather more evidence for the investigation,” she said.
Juan Diego Castro still plays a strong role in pointing out what he believes are errors in the current security ministry, keeping statistics, and analyzing crime.

He was not in his office for comment Tuesday afternoon and did not respond to a message a reporter left for him.

A secretary at the Jursis law firm stated that Castro owns the firm but that none of his brothers works there. His brothers have another business, said the secretary, Silvia Rojas, who did not say what that business was.

Castro was minster of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública from 1994 to 1996. He was also minister of Justicia y Gracia from 1996 to 1997 and president of the Colegio de Abogados from 2000 to 2001.

The raid was conducted in part by the Fiscalía Adjunta de Cartago and the Juzgado Penal in Cartago.

The house is in the section of Dulce Nombre, according to Ministerio Público.

Thunderbird increases its holding of Fiesta Casino stock and will seek more
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thunderbird Resorts Inc. said it has purchase 11 percent of the stock in the Fiesta Casino bringing its ownership to 53 percent, a majority. The price was $1.5 million, it said in a news release Tuesday.

The Fiesta is associated with the Garden Court Hotel near Juan Santamaría airport. Thunderbird said it will seek to buy 5.5 percent more from other minority owners.

The Fiesta has 339 slot machines, 133 positions at gaming
tables, a card room and bar and restaurant. The casino has live entertainment and styles itself as a night spot similar to those in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The company announcement said nothing about its strategy in light of a government decree that will restrict the hours of casino operations.

Thunderbird also said it was buying more stock of International Thunderbird Corp in Panamá, which operates six casinos in that country. the $3.4 million deal will bring its ownership up to more than 63 percent.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 155

Housing minister resigns under fire over use of money
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The housing minister, who went on leave July 9 over the Arias administration  financial scandal, finally resigned Tuesday.

He is Fernando Zumbado, and his resignation comes just a day after a subordinate appeared before a legislative committee and said that Zumbado was totally in charge of the accounts that are involved in the controversy.

This is the case of the $1.5 million donation from the government of Taiwan to help those poor families flooded out in Pavas. Taiwan was supposed to donate $2.5 million, but President Óscar Arias Sánchez pulled the plug on diplomatic relations in favor of the People's Republic.

Like other monies involved in the scandal, the donation was managed in a trust by the  Banco Centroamericano de
Integración Económica. Zumbado said that he turned over  all the documentation involved in the case to the Contraloría de la República, the government's ethics committee and the Ministerio Pública, the prosecutorial agency.

The allegation against Zumbado is that he used the money to hire a series of consultants and paid for a contract with the  Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos, an organization that he founded and used to head.

No money went to the people in Pavas.

In his resignation letter, Zumbado said his job was not complete and that he would meet with residents of Rincón Grande de Pavas to give them the explanation that they deserve.

His letter was released by Casa Presidencial after Zumbado met with Arias in the late afternoon.

Another increase in gasoline and diesel fuel approved
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The world price of petroleum is going down, but fuel prices are behind the curve here and are going up again. The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said it had approved a 16-colon increase in a liter super and diesel and a 17-colon increase in a liter of regular gasoline.

The new prices will be 732 colons a liter for super. With 3.785 liters in a U.S. gallon, the gallon price is 2,771 colons or about $4.97 at a conversion rate of 559 colons to the dollar.
Regular will be 721 colons per liter and diesel will be 726 once the decree is published in the official La Gaceta.

The prices are based on the world price of petroleum between June 11 and July 10, so they do not reflect a drop in the world price this week.

Petroleum closed under $120 a barrel Tuesday.

Jet fuel, aviation gasoline and liquid natural gas will have similar increases. High prices have hit Costa Rica hard because all petroleum is imported.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 155

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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 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.


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.

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A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

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

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

Transport officials close
toll booths to save gas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government is shutting down toll booths to eliminate congestion and to save motorists fuel.

On the Autopista General Cañas that runs from San José to Juan Santamaría airport, toll booths will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to1:30 p.m. Officials announced this Tuesday. The edict follows the publication of a decree in the official La Gaceta newspaper.

The Autopista Próspero Fernández between La Sabana and Escazú will have free passage from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Saturdays.

The metro area's other major highways, which have less traffic will not be affected, transport officials said.

Toll booths, when in operation, usually generate long lines even where motorists have the chance to pay automatically.
Germany provides money
for environment, border

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica and the government of Germany entered into an agreement Tuesday that will provide 4.5 million euros, some $6.96 million, for the metro area's solid waste program, hosting German experts and development along the border with Nicaragua.

The agreement came at the end of a two-day meeting between Costa Rican and German diplomats, including Wolf Daerr, the German ambassador who signed the agreement for his country.

The general reasons for the agreement are competitivity and the environment. Some of the money will allow Costa Rican experts to participate elsewhere in projects, said Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry.

Fed holds interest rate steady

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, decided Tuesday to hold short-term interest rates steady at 2 percent. Stock markets rallied after the Fed statement suggested that there may be no interest rate increases until after the November presidential election.

The Fed statement suggested that economic growth is likely to be slow over the next few months. Accordingly, the central bank said it was holding rates steady despite increasing inflationary pressure.

Stock markets, which were rallying before the mid-afternoon announcement, considerably accelerated their gains late in the sesssion with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up over 300 points.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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