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Kids at play
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Some outside help
benefits children

Youngsters at the  Escuela Cristiana Linda Vista de Rio Azul are benefitting from assistance from foreign missionaries who come to Costa Rica to work with residents of some of the country's rougher neighborhoods. The visitors complement the continual efforts by organizations here. Our story is  HERE!

Anti-drug agency to campaign against young drinkers
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's anti-drug institute plans to confront drinking and drug use among minors, especially those who use buses to go to what officials call barres libres, which translates to “open bars.”

Young people are the main customers of these weekend excursions where drinkers go by bus to various locations.

While the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas listed numerous commercial centers and specific bars that these buses go to, a Power Point display with photographs demonstrated that parties often are on private property and that the bus itself is usually the primary venue for substance abuse.

In its latest awareness campaign, the institute is targeting students at private high schools, who come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and are more likely to have the money to arrange for these buses and parties. These students are also more attractive to drug dealers.

“Our concern about private centers of education is that young people at these schools have high levels of economic capacity, and drug dealers want the best deal,” said Carlos Alvarado, director of the institute.

Alvarado said that instead of trying to get students to not consume drugs, the objective of this campaign is to keep students from getting involved in dealing and transporting drugs.

At the conference, the institute showed a film it had developed to show in schools showing the consequences of becoming involved in drug trafficking in a high school setting.

Slightly grittier than such films shown in schools in the United States, the film followed drugs from an outside dealer through three students passing the drugs along. One student ends up being kidnapped at gunpoint and never heard from again, the second one goes to prison, and the last student at the end of the chain flushes the drugs down a toilet and succeeds in school.
After the presentation and a short discussion on the film with the audience Tuesday afternoon, Alvarado gave a presentation documenting what the institute has learned in its undercover investigation, which began last year.

In the presentation, Alvarado outlined where the details of these buses, parties and open bars, and showed dozens of photographs of minors and abusing substances and engaging in lascivious activities. Some pictures showed teens drinking liquor from the bottle, a couple dancing while the young woman placed her partner's hand under her skirt, and showing women dancing only in undergarments, implying that there may be underage prostitution at these parties.

The Alvarado said that the institute has been cooperating and that the mission of the organization is to cooperate with other governmental groups compile the information of all of these groups into usable data.

“Our role in Costa Rica is to coordinate all people and institutions that have different competencies about drugs,” said Alvarado.

In the spirit of cooperation, members of several other governmental organizations came to give presentations, including Pablo Bertozzi, subdirector of the Fuerza Publica, and Minor Villalobos, director of the department of private centers in the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

This was the first such presentation in a month-long series, and the same presentation will be given at private school's in Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago.

Last October a massive display of police and representatives from other agencies ended a bar tour in which participants filled three buses for trips to four drinking spots. Police ended the excursion at a Pavas bar where they made three arrests. They also found underage women who had entered the bar with someone else's identification cards.

The event, called Mica Tours, consisted mostly of university students who paid 6,000 colons or about $12 to drink as much as they wanted

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Autopsy awaited in death
that may be mercy killing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The death of a patient in Hospital San Juan de Dios Tuesday may have been a mercy killing.

Hospital security workers detained a former nurse after a 55-year-old patient died. The Fuerza Pública said that the women who was dressed as a nurse, gave the victim some type of injection.

The two women are believed to have been neighbors in Desamparados.

Investigators identified the dead woman as Lilliam Arias Prendas. The woman in custody has the last names of  Barrantes Moreno and is 63 years old, said police.

Investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death, although they suspect that the injection at least hastened the death.

The former nurse, who is retired, made her way to the fourth floor of the hospital on the strength of an identification card, said police.

Tuesday morning quake
was in the 4.7-5.0 range

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.7 to 5.0 magnitude quake took place Tuesday morning in the center of the country.

The Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica estimated the location of the epicenter at about 2.8 kilometers east southeast of Buenavista de San Carlos and about 10.4 kilometers north northwest of Zarcero. The quake sent moderate tremors from Puntarenas to Cartago and from Sarapiquí south to San Isidro de El General, said the Laboratorio, which is based at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Sensors registered the quake at 10:11 a.m.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico at Univrsidad Nacional estimated the magnitude at 5.0. The Laboratorio said 4.7

The Laboratorio said that the quake was felt strongest in Jacó and in Paquera on the Nicoya peninsula, perhaps due to the composition of the soil.

The quake took place at a depth of 86.6 kilometers, about 54 miles.

Typically quakes that deep do not produce strong movement on the surface. But this one did. The Laboratorio in a summary of the quake said that this is not the first time that a deep quake was felt in the Central Valley. It cited the May 13, 2011, quake near  Turrúcares that was about 73 kilometers deep, some 45 miles. There also was a similar event Oct. 9, 2010, that took place near the Tuesday epicenter.

Editor's note: Part of this story comes from an article in the Tuesday edition.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
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Florida resident Blanca Morales jumps rope with girls at the Escuela Cristiana Linda Vista de Rio Azul. She and her group from Brandon, Florida, are among the hundreds of foreigners who come here each year as missionaries to do good works.

jump rope
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

Kids in tough areas benefit from foreign missionaries
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the middle of Linda Vista in Tres Rios, amid the gangs and crime infestation, is a safe house for youth called Escuela Cristiana Linda Vista de Rio Azul.

This Christian school is one of six in Costa Rica.  The others are located in equally challenged neighborhoods in Los Guido, Torremolinos, Limón, Barranca and Los Cuadros.

All the schools are made possible through the Fundación PIEDAD and U.S. Latin America Childcare.  The children who attend come from poverty.  Many live in broken homes where the mother or father is absent due to death, drug abuse or incarceration, said representatives. 

During chapel, one student described how his only family was his grandmother and that he is grateful for the support that comes from the school because it gives him hope.

School days are broken into two sessions, and approximately 500 children from preschool to sixth grade attend each day.  Students learn regular subjects but also have Bible lessons.  They sing and pray during chapel everyday.  Everything, including a breakfast on Monday and a daily lunch, is free.

For many children, this is the only meal they eat.  The school used to only offer lunch, but the smaller children were coming in famished from not eating over the weekend, so the school began serving breakfast at the start of the week, said Josh Amoit from the Assembly of God's mission organization.

To supplement the cost, the organization gets sponsorships from U. S. citizens.  A person donates $32 a month to go towards education, food and medical care.

“We really believe in education and Christian values to change the lives of the children here,” said Mary Mahon, a missionary at the six schools.

The early childhood program is sponsored by the government through the Red de Cuido.  It is a network of care for mothers who are in extreme poverty and are going back to school or back to work.

“We don't babysit, we form lives,” said Ms. Mahon.

However, the credit for the atmosphere goes to the professionals who work everyday with these youth, said staff.

“The teacher and director are the real heros.  They work hard, and they just do miracles with these kids.  Some of their stories are incredible,” said Ms. Mahon.

According to Ms. Mohon, many of the young girls who attend have been abused and molested in their home.  She described a day when the director of the school, Coralia Bonilla, told her of three students who confessed they had been molested in just one week. Only one of these students sought out help from the police, she said.

“Moms usually talk them out of reporting.  A lot of times the mother has been through the same thing, and they think they got through it,” said Ms. Mahon.

“The mother feels powerless because the man is a financial contributer to the home,” she added.

The California native has been doing missionary work for 24 years.  She started a school like Escuela Cristiana in El Pauji, Venezuela, called Unidad Educativa Arnoldo Gabaldon.

For two years, she has operated a girl empowerment club called Chicas de Promisa across the street from the school.  It is a house that is open a few days out of the week, and close to 60 young ladies in fifth and sixth grades come to play .
Pastor Simpson
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
 Brent Simpson, pastor of a Brandon, Florida, Assembly of
 God congregation, passes out candy to students as they leave

games, study, and do crafts until their mothers come to pick them up, she said

“About 70 girls have gone through the program, and they are welcome to come back.  My thought is as long as they stay in school, they can keep visiting.  I want to help them stay in school and not get pregnant.  Those are my two goals,” said Ms. Mahon.

So far the program has had a positive impact.

“It used to be twice a week that girls were coming and saying they had been molested, but now not as many.  Something is helping them not be victims,” said Ms. Mahon.

She is working toward having the school open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This way it will be a safe place available for girls before and after school, while their caregiver is at work.

“Right now we work with a lot of projects.  My goal is to raise enough to hire staff full-time and buy our house,” she said.

Latin American Child Care has three concepts: compassion, education and transformation.  It was founded in 1963 and is present in 21 countries, and the mission is to spread the gospel while providing life skills for the future.

Every year missionaries come through to help with projects.  According to Amiot, his organization has had eight groups visit between May and August of this year.  Most of the teams come from universities to help with a ministry at the Universidad de Costa Rica and other schools.

This last was a mixed adult and youth group from Brandon, Florida.  It was the church's second mission trip.  They were lead by their pastor, Brent Simpson, and prepared skits, testimonies and a video drama to present to the children in Linda Vista.

“As a teacher, I was overwhelmed, but I was very happy to be with kids less fortunate than us,” said visitor Blanca Morales.  It was a great experience and this afternoon it was awesome to minister to girls.  They are trying their best to protect them from sex trafficking and other evils.  We just wanted to bring energy and share our love for Christ.  There are great things out there for them.”

High court says woman's word strong evidence in harassment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala Secunda of the Corte Suprema de Justicia has upheld the firing of an unidentified male nurse in a sexual harassment case.

The Sala is the final word on labor cases. In its ruling, the court said that the word of a victim is strong evidence in such cases.

Rarely, the court said in a summary issued by the Poder Judicial, are there direct proofs in such cases that show the actions of an aggressor.

In the case at hand, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social fired the nurse after an investigation as to treatment of a female subordinate. The agency did so without what is known
as responsibilidad patronal or without paying a sum of money for the dismissal. The nurse sued to win back his job and to get severance pay. A court in Alajuela agreed. Then the state took the case to an appeals court, which also ruled for the nurse.
The lower courts appear to have been influenced by the lack of direct evidence.

The Sala Secunda said that there were elements of proof in the time, place and the description of the acts. The woman repeated her story without contradictions or modifications, said the court. A telling fact also was a telephone call made by the male nurse to the employee early in the morning at a time the court decided there was no business reason for the contact.

The employee also had support for her story from what was described as a health professional, presumably a psychologist.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 157
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Former road boss denies responsibility for troubled highway
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The former director of the nation's road agency denied responsibility for the scandal-ridden Ruta 1856 in northern Costa Rica when he appeared at the legislature Tuesday.

He is Carlos Acosta Monge, an engineer by profession, who was in charge of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which oversaw the construction of the troubled road.

The 99-mile road parallels the Río San Juan and is less than a year old. But bridges are collapsing and there are all sorts of irregularities that are coming to light there.

Acosta told the Comisión Permanente Especial de Control de Ingreso y Gasto Público that he accepted no bribes and that he did nothing of which he is ashamed.

Two inspectors are objects of a criminal investigation. The road was built without bidding as an emergency measure by the Laura Chinchilla administration. The idea was to provide access to the northern area in the face of invasions and threats from Nicaragua.
Before the road, the main method of travel was by boat on the river controlled by Nicaragua.

The daily newspaper La Nación has led the reporting on the roadway. The reporting launched the investigations.

Various agencies, including the Tribunal Administrativo Ambiental, have studied the route and reported on excessive cutting of trees and poor grading.

The Tribunal, an environmental enforcement agency, gave the government a short timetable to outline remedial actions. Other reports have said that firms that never did road construction were called in to do the jobs.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has taken over the job now. The Consejo is an agency within the ministry.

Acosta said that his family was affected by the fallout from the road project and that the road was not a Consejo job.

Lawmakers said the job of the committee is to find out who is responsible for the troubled project.

Some slight effect reported here from Hurricane Ernesto
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ernesto has moved to Hurricane status and is moving inland over the southern portion of the Yucatan peninsula, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that there is rain of variable intensities and electrical storms on the Pacific coast that are being attributed to the hurricane. Some rivers, such as the Savegre, Cotón, Corredores and Cañas, are showing some slight increase in flow, said the institute Tuesday evening.
Any influence from the hurricane is expected to dissipate today.

Ernesto quickly grew to hurricane status from a tropical storm as it crossed the open water south of the Yucatan.

The hurricane is expected to move into the Bay of Campeche this afternoon.

Meanwhile, there are two suspicious low pressure areas in the central Atlantic that are heading west. Forecasters are keeping an eye on them.  Most hurricanes start as such systems.

Opponents study ruling that favored new terminal in Moín
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of the proposed $1 billion new container terminal at Moín still are studying the 182-page decision emitted by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo to see if they should appeal.

The primary opponent is the Sindicato de Trabajadores of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica.  These are the dock workers employed by the public agency who fear their jobs will be in jeopardy.

The Tribunal basically found that the government had awarded a contract to a Dutch firm correctly and legally. Defendants in the action were a host of agencies that participated in the concession process.
Banana growers also expressed their opposition. They mainly fear higher shipping costs.

The firm APM Terminals is to build the modern port and eventually turn it over to the state.

The three-judge panel issued a detailed ruling that addressed the claims of the opponents.

The court case attacked the legitimacy of the actions by the Contraloría General de la República and the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, but the tribunal said it could find no major fault.

The case is likely to go to the Corte Suprema de Justicia and there is the chance other cases will be filed citing other grounds.

Costa Rica renews its demand for arrest of Paul Watson
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Interpol has issued a red notice to its member nations for Capt. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  This action occurred after Costa Rica renewed its request in the form of revised paperwork to the International Police Agency seeking Watson’s detention or arrest with the intent of extradition to Costa Rica, Sea Shepherd said.

Watson was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, May 13th on a 10-year-old warrant from Costa Rica while en route to Cannes, France.

He forfeited his bail and departed Germany
approximately July 22 after being held there under house arrest for 70 days, and is now in an unknown location.  Watson was being detained in Germany for extradition to Costa Rica for a previously alleged violation of ship traffic, which reportedly
occurred during the 2002 filming of the award-winning documentary, “Sharkwater.”

According to Interpol, the revised charge is now “causing a danger of drowning or of an air disaster in connection with the use of a water cannon in the April 2002 incident.”

“Today’s elevation of the attack against our organization and our founder, Captain Watson, is not unexpected,” said Susan Hartland, administrative director of Sea Shepherd. “Costa Rica has been acting as a puppet for Japan throughout this case and we expect that to continue,” she said.  “Japan is driving this effort in retaliation for our successful campaigns to stop them from whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  We’ve cost them millions of dollars and exposed their shame to the world because of their refusal to stop the slaughter of whales in an established sanctuary under the lie and loophole of research.”

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Obama authorizes more aid
for drought-stricken states

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama is authorizing an additional $30 million in federal government help for drought-stricken U.S. farmers and ranchers. America’s continued dry weather will likely affect food and fuel prices worldwide.

The president met Tuesday with officials from several government departments to find ways to help U.S. food producers, who have been hit by a drought he calls devastating and historic.

Among the steps he is taking is to direct the Agriculture Department to spend $30 million to help provide more water to livestock and to restore land affected by the drought. Obama is also allowing more emergency low-interest loans to crop and livestock producers, and more lending to related small businesses.  He also ordered a program to help commercial truck drivers deliver supplies to the stricken areas.

The president said further steps are likely.

“We are going to continue to solicit ideas from state and local organizations, faith-based organizations, not-for-profit groups, the private sector, and most of all, the farmers and ranchers that are directly impacted, to find additional ways that we can help.  Because when there is a disaster like this, everyone needs to pull together,” Obama said.

Obama said he has already declared disaster areas in parts of 32 states.

The president also called on Congress to pass the five-year, $500 billion comprehensive farm bill that has passed the Senate, but not the House of Representatives.

“Congress needs to pass a farm bill that will not only provide important disaster relief tools, but also make necessary reforms and give farmers the certainty that they deserve,” Obama said.

Officials say this is one of America’s worst droughts in decades.

Agricultural economist Chris Hurt of Purdue University in Indiana says parched Midwestern cornfields are suffering one of their worst years since the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.

“Corn yield is one we can track very far back, that we have already passed 1988 as one of the worst droughts in more modern history.  Then we really go back to 1934 and 1936,” Hurt said.

Hurt says the shortage of corn and other U.S. farm exports will be felt around the world.

“Since the United States is the largest exporter of basic agricultural goods to the world, that means these higher prices and higher costs for food and fuel will be exported to the world as well,” Hurt said.

Experts say rain and cooler temperatures forecast for this week in parts of the Midwest could help soybean crops, but are too late for the corn.

McDonald's has marathon
of feeding Olympic crowd

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

When Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won the men's 100-meter gold at the London Olympics, he told reporters he had eaten a McDonald's wrap earlier in the day.  It was a publicity coup for the fast-food chain that built a temporary restaurant just for the Olympic Games.

The company says it is the biggest and busiest McDonald's in the world.  The two-story restaurant inside the Olympic Park is around 300 meters from the Olympic Stadium and has been flooded with visitors to the games.

With a capacity to seat about 1,500 people and hundreds of staff on hand, it is churning out its trademark fast food for the duration of the Games.

At the busiest times the staff serves 1,000 customers in just an hour. Before the end of the games, McDonald's says it will have served around 50,000 Big Macs. 

“It has been a long journey,” said the chief executive of McDonald's UK, Jill McDonald, at a press conference in the Olympic Park. "So we first started working on the Olympics in the UK five years ago.  So it is really exciting to walk into restaurants, see our crew who are really buzzy, see athletes and the media and customers buying food from us and enjoying it.   It is great to see it finally come to life.”

McDonald’s has been sponsoring the Olympics for almost 40 years.  Activists and nutrition experts have said it is not the right company to promote health and sport.

They say the food is high in fat, sugar and salt, and low in nutrients.

The company disagrees. “I do not think it is a valid criticism, because we offer a breadth of menu that people can enjoy as part of a balanced lifestyle so we have more indulgent options but we also have lighter options,” said McDonald's.

But on the streets of the city, many Londoners said they were not too happy about McDonald's sponsoring their games.

“It is a bit of a contradiction in terms to think of a fast food giant as a sponsor for high-class athletes that probably would not touch McDonald's,” said a Londoner.

“It does not sit too comfortably with me, having big organizations - especially ones which are not that conducive to healthy living - being involved in sponsoring big sporting events like the Olympics,” said a man.

Others look at it differently.

“In all honesty they are such a large corporation, they are able to fund and sponsor such a large amount of money, so I can understand why it would upset people that an unhealthy brand sponsors sport, but unfortunately that is the way of the world," said another man.

The McDonald's in the Olympic Park was built just for the games, to feed the tens of thousands of people there every day.  It will be torn down when the games are over and McDonald's says 75 percent of the materials will be re-used at other company restaurants in Britain.

The fast food chain has already extended its Olympic Sponsorship until 2020.

Press freedom is linked
to national happiness

By the University of Missouri news staff

Freedom of the press is viewed by many as a cornerstone of democracy. But can it actually help improve people’s lives and make them happy? Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that citizens of countries with press freedom tend to be much happier than citizens of countries without free presses.

Edson Tandoc, Jr., a doctoral student in the MU School of Journalism, says that press freedom directly predicts life satisfaction across the world.

“We already know that having reliable, objective news sources can benefit democracy, but in this study, we found that press freedom also benefits communities by helping improve the overall quality of life of citizens and, in the process, by also making them happier,” Tandoc said. “People enjoy having an element of choice about where they get their news. Citizens of countries without a free press are forced to rely on the government for information, when what people really want is diversity in content where they are free to get the information they want from the source of their choosing.”

Tandoc and his co-author, Bruno Takahashi from Michigan State University, analyzed data from 161 countries using a 2010 Gallup Poll evaluating happiness levels around the world. Tandoc and Takahashi compared those happiness levels with Freedom House’s press freedom index which rates the level of each country’s press freedom.

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Police plan major sweep
of city sidewalk vendors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police agencies were poised earlier today to sweep down on Avenida Central and Avenida Cuatro in San José at 7 a.m. in an effort to eliminate sidewalk vendors.

The Fuerza Pública said that its officers would be working under a court decision that ordered the sweep. The decision also was against the Ministerio de Salud and the Municipalidad de San José.

Other agencies will be involved, too, although the Fuerza Pública was the only one to announce plans.

Sidewalk sellers frequently block passage, and nearly all pay no taxes. However, they have been aggressive in defending their turf in the past and have battled municipal police.

Officers said they also would look elsewhere for street vendors. Municipal officers confiscate goods when they clear an area of street vendors.

Suspect in death of boy
will go to court today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who is accused of killing a 9-year-old neighbor will have his day in court today.

He is a man with the last names of Álvarez Ortega. The crime happened Monday evening in the Los Ángeles condominiums in the San José barrio of the same name.

Police said that Álvarez emerged from his apartment and fired several times. The boy appears to have been hit by accident because the man was threatening other neighbors.

The suspect spent more than an hour in his apartment refusing to come out to see police.

Lawmaker seeking a divorce
from wife, a YouTube star

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The husband of former vice minister Karina Bolaños said that he has filed for divorce.

The husband is Víctor Hugo Víquez Chaverri, one of Costa Rica's 57 legislators. Ms. Bolaños, who was fired as vice minister of Juventud, showed up in underwear in a YouTube video presumably made for a man who is not her husband.

There still is a question over who posted the video to YouTube.

The couple have a 14 year old.

Víquez confirmed the divorce action at the legislature Tuesday and said the divorce will be by mutual accord.

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