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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 156       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Intellectual property bill gets its first approval
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa passed the intellectual property bill Wednesday, 36-14. This is the remaining bill that is part of the implementation agenda for the free trade treaty with the United States.

The measure seeks to tighten the laws involving intellectual property, but it also is a bill containing sections that adjust other free trade measures.

The final bill covers written works, CDs, all types of artistic expression and also seeds. Opponents continued to criticize the bill.

Jose Merino del Río of Frente Amplio said in an earlier debate that the measure favors multinational pharmaceutical companies, CD producers, big editorial houses and large corporations that have profited from knowledge and cultural goods.

The bill does allow the government in times of emergency to suspend patents. That would apply, for example, to the manufacture of proprietary medicines in times of plague.
The measure contains fines as penalties. A proposal to jail intellectual property offenders was thrown out earlier.

The measure also sets up a complex system of registering written intellectual property. The articles, plays and other written creative works have to be deposited in a handful of national and university libraries. That is in contract to the system used in the United States when the rights to a work exist from the moment of creation and registration is only to formalize those rights.

Costa Rica is heavily dependent on stolen works.  Many Web sites steal articles from their creators. Pirated CDs of music and cinema are available at most markets. They are illegal now but the penalties increase under the new legislation. Much of the software used on computers here is pirated. A study several years ago found that this was true even in government agencies. An effort to introduce freeware, like Open Office, has had some success.

The vote Wednesday was the first. A second and final vote is scheduled for Monday.

New book on stone spheres to be presented today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This afternoon  the Museo del Banco Central will formally present the latest books on the stone spheres that are found in the southern Pacific coast.

The book,  "Esferas Precolombinas de Costa Rica," already is out, and today's 5 p.m.  event is mostly a formality. The author is Ifigenia Quintanilla, one of the world's leading experts on the topic. She is an archaeologist with the Museo Nacional. The work and the book are sponsored by the Holcim concrete products firm and the Banco Central.

Participating tonight also will be María Elena Carballo, the minister of culture;  Francisco Corrales, who is in charge of the Paisaje Cultural Delta del Diquís where the spheres are found; and Marco Fernández, general manager of Holcim.

A press release by the bank said that the book responds to the major questions about the stone spheres. However, experts are in general agreement that they do not know the reasons that the spheres were made about 1100 A.D. or the use to which they were put. They were fabricated by the ancestors of who today are the Boruca Indians. They still live in the area.

There is a lot of speculation, and the possibilities suggested by those on the lecture circuit and the authors of popular books and articles include the usual assembly of spacemen, time warps and mythical creatures. The professionals are more subdued. Corrales, for example, said earlier that he thinks the stone spheres were used to mark important buildings and the dwellings of leaders.

Ms.  Quintanilla is on record saying that the production of the spheres was not particularly difficult because the stone material peels off like an onion. The spheres range from baseball size to one with a 2.25-meter diameter, about 88 inches. 

The book is bilingual in Spanish and English with many photos.
stone spheres at court
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Two of the stone spheres ended up as lawn ornaments at the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

The discovery of the spheres began in the last years of the 1930s and for a time the principal use was to decorate the gardens of upper class metro area residents. The Los Diquís project headed by Corrales is an attempt to create a museum and research area  near where the spheres are found. Costa Rica has nominated the area for the U.N. world heritage list.

At one point researchers here believed that the Pacific plains and the Isla de Caño were unique. But researcher Alberto Sibaja Alvarez, who wrote the book "Enigma en el Delta del Diquís," makes a powerful case that such spheres also were created in China, Europe and even in Venezuela. He has a comprehensive monograph posted on the Web in Spanish entitled "Esferas de Piedra en Costa Rica."

An additional summary on his own Web site contains photos from around the world.  Some, of course, are natural concretion that can be almost as big as the man-made spheres. But others obviously are crafted by hand.

The ceremony today is in the Museos de Banco Central under the Plaza de la Cultura.

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Brazil's goal of world power
not supported universally

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A debate is under way in Brazil over the direction of the country's foreign policy. Brazil is seeking out political and trade relationships with developing nations, especially China, not among its traditional allies. Meanwhile, government critics claim the country is weakening its position with long-time friends such as the United States  and Europe.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, and it is known for its sizzling beaches, the sounds of its samba, and the flavor of its coffee. Brazil has experienced a boom in its export industry in recent years, and at the same time it is showing increasing confidence beyond its own shores.

In the country's capital, Brasilia, national leaders say they are working for a new world order, where power is divided more evenly.

"We want a world order that is more democratic, more balanced, in which the asymmetries are progressively done away with," Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said. He adds, the government in Brasilia has made stability in Latin America, and solidarity with other developing nations, a priority. Costa Rica's president, Óscar Arias Sánchez, was a visitor there last week.

Brazil mediated a standoff, earlier this year, between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela and is working with Venezuela on regional energy independence. It leads the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti. This year, the country is chairing the G-20 group of industrialized and emerging-market countries.

Five years ago, Brazil joined India and South Africa in pushing to expand the U.N. Security Council.   This vast nation of nearly 200 million people now is seeking a permanent seat on the Security Council. Minister Amorim says the Council's current five permanent members should share power.

But opposition leaders criticize the government's talk of solidarity with developing nations.  Rodrigo Maia heads the center-right Democratas Party.

"I think Brazil should emphasize first its development and then worry about solidarity with other countries," Maia said. "We can help the others after we become a leading country internationally ourselves."

With a stable economy and steady export growth since 2003, Brazil has clashed with powerful allies on trade.As the world's largest exporter of soybeans, coffee, orange juice, beef, poultry and sugar, Brazil has criticized U.S. and European Union agricultural subsidies.

Brazil now lists China as one of its largest export markets, with trade between the two countries increasing tenfold from 2000 to 2007. Despite growing Chinese demand, official figures show Brazil recorded its first ever trade deficit with the Asian country in 2007.

Opposition leader, Rodrigo Maia, argues Brazil is neglecting more lucrative traditional relationships.

"Brazil has not been emphasizing its relations with the U.S. and Europe," Maia said. "It has not been focusing on countries that are going to generate commercial relationships so that Brazil can grow and develop."

Our reader's opinion
U.S. windfall profits tax
was a failure before

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Nice editorial regarding big oil.  The last time this "windfall profits tax" was tried, the socialist Jimmy Carter, managed to stick his fingers directly into the pockets of the citizens of the U.S.  When will these idiots learn that the American people are smarter than they think we are.

I have no doubt Obama will lose by one of the largest margins in U.S. electoral history. 

This smoke and mirror game the media here is playing is going to blow up in their faces.  The lack of substance on the part of the left wing in this country will be exposed as this election cycle continues to grind along.  This class warfare rhetoric being spewed forth from the democrat party sounds like the same populist B/S that loses them most other major elections. 

McCain may not be the best choice for president of the United States, but, he is still head and shoulders above the presumed democrat/socialist nominee with the silver tongue.  We may not be the most informed electorate on the planet, but we weren't born yesterday.
Al Loria
New York, New York

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Rodrigo Arias to get his day before a legislative commission
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day that Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the brother of the president and the current minister of the Presidencia, goes before a legislative committee to answer questions about the financial scandal that has blemished the Arias administration.

Wednesday there was an effort by some members of the ruling Partido Liberación Nacional to lessen the impact of the financial disclosures. One,  Francisco Marín, argued that it was not the place of the legislature to punish executive branch officials.

There has been a movement to censure  Fernando Zumbado for his financial dealings with a $1.5 million donations from the government of Taiwan. He spent the money on organizations and experts and not the flooded out poor in Rincón de Pavas that was specified by the donor.

But Marín argued that it is the role of the Ministerio Público, the independent prosecutorial agency, to seek punishment. Zumbado resigned Tuesday and had been on leave since July 9. He is likely to face judicial action.

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.

Rodrigo Arias is called behind his back "the cardinal," a
reference to the pragmatic Cardinal Richelieu, who advised Louis XIII, or perhaps the Italian cardinal, Jules Mazarin, who advised Louis XIV.

Some critics have called the Arias administration a joint presidency because Rodrigo Arias has been the more visible figure.

He will be asked about the administration's relationship with the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

The bank has served as trustee for the $1.5 million from Taiwan and another trust of $2.5 million. Both sums were dispensed in part without public knowledge to friends and even enemies of the Arias administration.

One such person is an alternate magistrate of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. Critics argue that the magistrate, Federico Sosto López, crossed the line when he accepted money from Arias while serving on the court. He was cleared by the other magistrates. Sosto is one of 82 individuals who are being investigated by the Comisión de Ingreso y Gasto Público for receiving consulting salaries from the Arias administration from a secret slush fund that was exposed by La Nación June 30.

Rodrigo Arias made public a letter he sent in support of the magistrate.

The scandal confirms in the minds of critics that some free trade treaty votes were encouraged by the payment of cash.

Increases approved in the fares for long-distance public buses
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rate regulating agency Wednesday said it had approved an increase averaging 12.87 percent for the nation's long-distance buses.

The rate increase covered all types of rising costs for bus operators, including the price of fuel, salaries, maintenance and repairs, said the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos. The main contributor was the increase in the price of diesel, said the agency.

The fares increased and average of 59.5 colons (about 11 U.S. cents), but the biggest increase was 770 colons (about $1.41).


San José

01    San José Barrio México               
08    Periférica                            
13     Sabana Estadio/Cementerio         
14   Pavas                                         
50        San Pedro ramales                  
70-73 Desamparados                          
20-21 Tibás                                       
100    San José-San Isidro El General   
200 MB    San José-Alajuela      
201    San José-Grecia     
204    San José-San Ramón 
202    San José-Palmares                      1239   San José-Naranjo     
205    San José-Ciudad Quesada

300    San José-Cartago
301 A    San José-Tres Ríos
307 A    San José-Volcán Irazú              
400     San José-Heredia         
401    San José-Sto. Domingo-Sto.
400 BS    San José-Heredia
Old      new

100    115
260    295
140    160
200    225
165    185
170    190
155    175
1.935    2.185

370    420           720    815  
865    975   
800    835
600    675
1.275    1.440

385    435
180    205
1.705    1.925

280    295
190    215

365    410

The last time the rates were increased was in February, the agency noted.

The new rates will go into effect a week from today when the resolution is published in the La Gaceta official government newspaper.

The Óscar Arias Sánchez administration has taken note of the fuel squeeze for public transportation and proposed a complex plan of dropping the tax on diesel but increasing the road tax for private vehicles that use diesel.

The Asamblea Legislativa pronounced that plan dead on arrival, but lawmakers are considering exempting all public transport from the diesel fuel tax.



500    San José-Liberia
570    San José-Playa Panamá              
503 A    San José-Santa Cruz
505    San José-Peñas Blancas
503     San José-Nicoya                             


600    San José-Puntarenas
612 SD    San José-Golfito 
613    San José-Quepos
via Puriscal             
655    San José-Playa Jacó
601 SD    San José-Ciudad Neilly
601    San José-Paso Canoas  


703    San José-Limón
via Braulio Carrillo    
700    San José-Valle La Estrella
via autopista)      
750    San José-Puerto Viejo
750    San José-Cahuita
735    San José-Guápiles
via autopista   
Old      new

2.575    2.905
2.915    3.290
2.935    3.315

3.380    3.815
2.930    3.305

1.610    1.815
5.430    6.130
2.155    2.430

1.510    1.705
5.430    6.130
5.705    6.440

2.180   2.460

3.685   4.160

4.020   4.535
3.455   3.900
1.005  1.135

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Mexico conference highlights discrimination facings gays
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City this week, there has been a great deal of discussion about violence and discrimination directed at homosexuals and lesbians, often based on the mistaken assumption that they are responsible for the disease. Participants in the conference also see improvements in attitudes as a result of education and government actions to protect people from discrimination.

Public health officials and organizations working to diminish the impact of AIDS around the world agree that more tolerant societies have better programs to combat AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. But, they say, discrimination against those whose sexual orientation differs from the norm, whether official, cultural or religious, often works against efforts to control the spread of the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

One nation that has taken steps in recent years to address the problem of discrimination against gays is the conference host nation, Mexico.

"What we have done is, first, an amendment to the constitution," said Jorge Saavedra, director of the Mexican national HIV/AIDS program. "It was done in 2001. It states that no one can be discriminated against because of his or her preferences and then the national law was approved. It is a national law against discrimination, and it addresses specifically sexual orientation," he said.

Saavedra says anti-gay discrimination and occasional violence continue in Mexico and other Latin American nations in spite of laws against such actions and that public education is still needed to change attitudes.

He says that Mexico, Brazil and Argentina are the leading nations in Latin America in terms of protecting gay rights. Globally, he says the countries that are most advanced in their non-discrimination policies are The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain and South Africa, all of which allow people of the same sex to marry.
Joel Nana, a native of Cameroon who works with a gay rights group in South Africa, says efforts by outsiders to influence governments in Africa have sometimes been counterproductive because of the impression many Africans have that gay sex is something being imposed from outside.

"The behavior has existed in Africa since the world was the world. But the language we now use to call the behavior is new and it is the language that freaks people, and it is the language that makes people feel this is an imposition from the West. So what I would tell our European and American brothers would be to be wary of the way they introduce the issue to various governments. They should build on the issue of the behavior rather than the language," he said.

The situation for gays in the Middle East and Asia is especially difficult.  Shivananda Khan, Chair of the Asia-Pacific Coalition on Male Sex Health and a resident of India, said, "We are trying to find ways of creating dialogue with Islamic leaders and Hindu leaders and Buddhist leaders to enable them to understand the diversity of sexuality in human cultures. Right now, if I were to speak about issues of sexuality in Iran, I could potentially get hanged. In India I could be arrested, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan I could also be arrested."

Khan says he sees signs of hope because of recent inter-faith dialogues between Christian leaders and Muslim leaders on the issue of ending violence against gays. He also notes that many of the discriminatory laws in his part of the world originated from the British and were based on their Christian values.

Delegates from other parts of the world say religion has often played a role in anti-gay discrimination and acts of intolerance, but they note that some religious leaders, like Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, have been champions of anti-discrimination. Some Christian leaders have encouraged more tolerance, citing the call to love thy neighbor.

Members of some gay organizations say they see real opportunities for dialogue with religious leaders.

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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.


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Supreme Court rejects plea,
and Texas inmate dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Texas have executed a Mexican-born inmate over the objections of an international court and the Mexican government.

Theinmate, Jose Medellin, convicted of the rape and murders of two teenage girls 15 years ago, was put to death late Tuesday by lethal injection. The execution was delayed more than three hours while the U.S. Supreme Court debated a stay of execution. The court rejected the move in a five-to-four vote.

The Mexican government says it sent a note to the U.S. State Department saying Mexico was concerned about the precedent that the execution may create for the rights of Mexicans who may be detained in the U.S.

Medellin's attorneys had argued their client was not told he could seek legal help from the Mexican consulate after his arrest. They said this was in violation of a United Nations convention on consular relations.

Last month, the International Court of Justice ordered the U.S. government to grant a stay of execution to Medellin and four other Mexicans on death row in the U.S. Tuesday, U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the U.S. to halt Medellin's execution.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that Medellin and at least 50 other Mexican inmates should have new hearings to determine whether the 1963 Vienna Convention was violated during their arrests.

U.S. President George Bush ordered Texas to comply with the international court's ruling and reopen the Medellin case. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year Bush overstepped his authority.

Disabled have to drive
 to Heredia for a permit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government is exempting the disabled from the vehicle restrictions in the Metro area core.

If a handicapped person is stopped driving a vehicle with the final license plate number that is forbidden that day, they will not get a ticket.

There is a big but.

The disabled individual has to present a document from the Consejo Nacional de Rehabilitación y Enseñanza Especial located in la Valencia de Heredia, according to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.  The motorist will have to travel there to apply. Then once their permit is approved, the handicapped motorist has to retrieve the permit at the Dirección General de Ingeniería de Tránsito east of  Y Griega.

Jo Stuart
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