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(506) 2223-1327           Publsihed Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 164          Email us
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President vetoes flawed bill considered excessive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president has vetoed a proposed law because the measure would generate confusion among citizens, was contradictory and demand excessive requirements, said Casa Presidencial.

The bill, No. 8975, was designed to protect persons who are made ill by gluten in wheat and other flour products. About one out of 100 persons has such a condition, called celiac disease. The legislature frequently produces measures that are contradictory and demand excessive requirements, but this bill would have put a burden on the Ministerio de Salud.

The ministry would have been required to maintain a data base of gluten-free medicines and gluten-free food products, said Casa Presidencial.

In addition the proposed law would have required both the health ministry and the Ministerio de
Economía, Industria y Comercio to each publish such lists.

The proposal also would have required the firms selling food to provide gluten information on labels. President Laura Chinchilla used a law that is supposed to protect citizens from excessive governmental paperwork to issue her partial veto.

As residents know, the legislature is constantly called on to make changes in laws that have been written by the legislative staff. The latest is a new traffic law that has disproportionate fines. However, that law was not vetoed when it passed the previous legislature. Lawmakers then and in the current four-year term have been trying to make some corrections without much success.

The gluten law may be revised and again sent to the president because it passed without any dissent in the legislature.

Agents hope fuel container will lead to murderer
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police have come out with an unusual request. They are seeking persons who can recognize a gas can. Investigators have had some success in displaying photos of criminals and even jewelry and tattoos on unidentified bodies.

This time they are trying to connect the owner of a gas can with the burned body of a woman that was found in Ochomogo west of Cartago Aug. 4.

The woman, eventually identified by the name of Varela, got permission from her employer in Santa Ana to walk to Cartago as a pilgrim Aug. 1. The 21-year-old woman left her Pavas home that day, and agents do not know what happened or where. The body turned up not far from the road that was taken by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for the visit to the Cartago basilica during the week leading up to the Aug. 2 celebration of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.

They are seeking information from anyone who may have seen an individual with a gas can similar to the one for which they provided a photo. That can was found near the body. They also would like to know about anyone who had
fuel can
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
This is the fuel can left by murderer near body.

such a can but does not now, they said.

They are hoping that a store clerk might come forward with information on selling the can. The confidential number of the Judicial Investigating Organization is  800-8000-645, and the telephone number of the Cartago office is 2550-0300.

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Tico Times issues apology
for ads placed by scamsters

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tico Times is apologizing to its readers for running a series of full-page ads offering half-price cell phones and Apple products.

The weekly English-language newspaper credits A.M. Costa Rica for disclosing the scam in the news story posted online Thursday night. Presumably the story also will appear in the printed version that carries today's date. Said the story:

“It appears The Tico Times may have fallen victim to an unsavory ad offering deals that are too good to be true,” said Tico Times Associate Publisher Abby Daniell. “While it is difficult to screen every ad, we apologize to readers who may have responded to the ad.”

The story by the editor, David Boddiger, noted that the ads have been running in the newspaper since July 22. The ad took up the entire back page. The A.M. Costa Rica news story disclosing the scam appeared Tuesday morning. The Tico Times story did not explain the delay in alerting its readers. The newspaper also did not reveal how much the scamsters paid for the ads. The amount probably was in the thousands of dollar, but typically such crooks pay with fake checks or false or stolen credit cards.

The Boddiger story also quotes the presumed scamster, a resident of Nigeria who uses the name Billy Kasht, as planning to sue A.M. Costa Rica.

“If they sue us,” said Jay Brodell, A.M. Costa Rica editor, they can add slander because we call them now despicable subhuman beings who steal from the aged, the uninformed and the naïve.”

“A priority at A.M. Costa Rica is to protect the expats here and readers elsewhere,” Brodell added. “We hope they spend their money with our advertisers who we already know and trust instead of some scamster in a Nigerian Internet cafe.”

So far no one has complained that they sent money to the scamsters and did not get the electronic product they ordered.

More instability reported
in Caribbean and Atlantic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rainy season is back after a brief break in the first two weeks of the month.

Extended forecasts show a 40 to 50 percent chance of thunderstorms in the Central Valley for the next seven days.

Meanwhile, yet another tropical wave has been detected off West Africa. It is headed this way. And a low pressure area off the coast of Honduras and Nicaragua has turned into the eighth tropical depression of the season.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that weather today would be typical for the season with hot mornings turning to thunderstorms in the afternoon on the Pacific coast and the Central Valley. This is the time of year when the Caribbean coast gets less rain, but some storms are predicted in the mountains there.

The weather institute expects the storms to continue into the night in the central and south Pacific coast.

Guatemala has declared a tropical storm watch due to the depression headed towards its Caribbean coast. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that tropical storm force winds are likely along the coast of Honduras and its bay islands.

The Weather Underground, the meteorological service associated with A.M. Costa Rica, predicts thunderstorms for the next seven days in the Central Valley. In addition to the tropical depression northeast of Costa Rica, there are two separate tropical waves bringing low pressure into the Atlantic.

The country is moving into the wetter months of September, October and November.

Hail accompanied storms Thursday in San Pedro and other parts of the Central Valley.

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 HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 164

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New book will mark 15 years of the country's juvenile law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The juvenile criminal code is 15 years old, and those involved in defending it will launch a book giving the history and lessons learned from the law, they said. The event will be at 2 p.m. today in the Sala de Debates #3, Third Floor of the II Circuito Judicial de San José, Guadalupe de Goicoechea,

The book is “15 años de Justicia Penal Juvenil en Costa Rica: Lecciones Aprendidas.”

Álvaro Burgos was identified as the coordinator of the work. He is a law professor and coordinator of the country's only Tribunal Superior Penal Juvenil.

Promoting the event is the Costa Rican branch of the Defensa de Niñas y Niños-International. The organization strongly favors the existing law and opposes any efforts to bring youth under 18 into the adult penal system.

The book comes as a crucial time in juvenile justice as many minors are detained each week for participation in major crimes, including murder.
The organization said that among its challenges is that it sees the tendency to stigmatize the young criminal population, to toughen penalties and to increase the juvenile prison population.

Criminals under the age of 18 are treated much differently than adults with most penalties less than seven years, even for murder. And they are not jailed but placed in a more friendly environment.

The Dutch Embassy is a sponsor of the event.

A roundtable discussion also is planned with experts who submitted articles for the book. Defense de Niñas y Niños also said that those who attend would get a copy of the book.

The juvenile criminal justice system developed from the child saving movement at the end of the 19th century, mainly in Chicago, Illinois.

These reformers were anxious to adapt immigration children to American ways and believed that environment was the key factor in criminal behavior.

It's time to trade in the old assumptions for some new ones
The people of Costa Rica get generous vacations and numerous long weekends, thanks to national holidays and fiestas.  This past Monday was mother’s day, the third most important holiday in this country — which meant another three-day weekend.

There are dance festivals and music festivals and sports festivals that entertain people. And some time ago a program started that made it possible to enjoy musical entertainment during lunch hour and right after work.  The Teatro Nacional holds music events at noon on Tuesdays and at 5 p.m. on Thursdays.

I have yet to make it to the noon program, which costs just 500 colons (about $1).  But I did attend a recent Thursday program (cost: 1,000 colons) that featured a five-piece jazz group from Julliard.  The evening was a pleasure, and my favorite instrument is the saxophone, so I enjoyed the saxophonist, who was very good.   But that evening I also noticed the bass player.  I spent some time wondering why anyone would take up the bass as the instrument of choice, especially with a group that goes on the road.  The instrument is heavy and awkward, and all a bass player does is strum the beat.  How monotonous.

That’s what I was thinking and how wrong I was!  When it came time for his lick, this bass player made that instrument dance with music.  We could have danced to his music.  I was delighted that my assumption had been proven wrong so quickly.

That was not the only misconception I had this past week.  A.M. Costa Rica celebrated its 10th anniversary of its publication, and being their longest running columnist, I was invited to the party.  Jay and Sharon always make it clear that children are welcome.  After a horrendously long and expensive taxi ride from downtown in stand-still Friday-before-a holiday weekend traffic to their house, which is just about three miles away, I girded myself for the onslaught of screaming, running, attention-getting children. I have a dear friend who has grandchildren in the States, and I was using her description of child behavior as my model.

There were probably eight children there, all under the age
Butterfly in the City
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By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

of 10.  I am not sure actually how many were there because they didn’t make any noise. Not one cried. No one had a tantrum. When one ran from one room to another, it was carefully and quietly.  I fell in love with a year-old tot, Arón, who sat on his haunches for probably half an hour in the middle of the floor (but not in the way), carefully choosing and eating what looked like M&Ms or whatever they’re called, smiling at anyone who caught his attention.  So I was wrong again with my assumption.

This past week, thanks to a broken elevator, I got to know one of my downstairs neighbors new to the building.  Climbing the stairs, Carolina and I introduced ourselves.  She and her husband are Latin Americans, but not Costa Rican, and as yet know almost no one here. The day after we met, Carolina asked if I would help her son prepare for his upcoming test in English, which she does not speak.  I was not thrilled at the idea of trying to drill English into a 7 year old who had just spent seven hours at school and probably wanted to do anything but study English with me.  But I said yes.
His mother introduced us, Adolfo, shy and tense. Me, doubtful, but trying not to be forbidding.  After a short while Carolina left us to ourselves.  We worked on the present and past tense of four verbs. He filled out his three workbooks, never complaining or even yawning.  He repeated until he got it right, the “t” sound at the end of some past tense verbs.  After two intensive hours without a single break except for a glass of water for both of us, I called it quits because, I said, I had something else I had to do (like take a nap).  I have taught adults, teenagers and college students, and never have I worked with such a diligent, eager-to-learn cooperative child.

What a week it has been. It’s a brand new world out there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 164

This just in: It's OK to be fat, Canadian university study says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There's good news for fatties, and expats might want to restrict their exercise to jogging over to the panadería.

Being fat can actually be good for you, according to a report from York University in Toronto. The study found that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as their slim counterparts and are less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.

That also is good news for Costa Ricans, who usually have a diet that seems designed to put on an average of about three kilos a year. Some 18-year-old thin-as-a-rail Ticas are ready to try out as a sumo wrestler by the time they are 35 and after four kids.

The university team looked at 6,000 obese Americans over a 16-year span, comparing their mortality risk with that of lean individuals, said a report on the study, which was published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Shakespeare appeared to have it right years ago when his Caesar said: Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Expats in Costa Rica, particularly retirees, frequently gravitate to what has been considered an unhealthy diet and demon rum. For some the only exercise is aerobic beer drinking: Knocking down the cans of beer until the breath is coming short and the face is red. And then there are special temptations.

The report is sure to be a benefit for those pastry outlets in Central Valley shopping malls where extra greasy donuts mingle with chocolate eclairs. And then there is Spoon, which knows how to pack about 5,000 calories in a tiny, delicious bite.

Based on the York University study, expats no longer have to drool past the eclairs and can binge at Spoon. Oh, and La Pops where some of the best ice cream in the world can be found. Then. Too, there are the fast food joints that are universally condemned by those skinny folks who know what is best for everyone.

Excess weight seems to be related to political beliefs, too. York University did not study this, but it's not the 
fat guy

Republicans who want to fight global warming by cutting down the food intake of U.S. citizens to 500 calories a day.

The York study is unlikely to have much effect on those folks.

There also is a statistical relationship between thin people and wealth. The general theory is that the wealthy can obtain more nutritious foods and live in a culture where thin is good.  An alternate view might be that the wealthy are thin because they spend so much time worrying about others stealing their money.

Of course the downside of being a fattie in Costa Rica is the general unavailability of large size clothing. Chubby expats are reduced to shopping at the Ropa American used clothing stores to find XXXL discards from the U.S.

The York study also used data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, consisting of 29,533 individuals, and assessed their mortality 16 years later. They found no difference in death risks between normal-weight individuals and obese individuals.

Researcher Jennifer Kuk, assistant professor in York, said that it is possible that trying – and failing – to lose weight may be more detrimental than simply staying at an elevated body weight and engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Editor's Note: Wine is made from fruit. So is cider. And chocolate grows on a tree. Whipped cream is in the milk food group along with Baileys Irish Cream. Beer and whiskeys are just processed grain. Guaro is just processed sugar cane.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 164

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Brazilian president said
uncertain about new term

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's communications minister says President Dilma Rousseff has not decided whether she or her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will be their party's candidate in the 2014 election.

In an interview published Wednesday in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Paulo Bernardo said Rousseff would be the likely candidate if she desires to run.

But Bernardo said Rousseff and her very popular predecessor must first talk to decide which one will be the 2014 presidential candidate for the ruling Workers' Party.

Rousseff took office Jan. 1.  Her government has since confronted political scandals and economic issues.  Last week, police arrested the deputy tourism minister, Frederico da Costa, and at least 34 other people in a corruption sweep linked to funding for major sports events. 

A recent poll showed that her personal approval rating has declined since March.

Earlier this year, Brazil's government announced $30 billion in budget cuts to curb rising inflation.  Brazil is Latin America's biggest economy and is considered one of the world's major emerging economies.

Da Silva served two terms as Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010.  He left office with approval ratings of about 80 percent.  He picked Rousseff, a former government minister, to be his successor.

Brazilian law prohibits presidents from running for a third straight term.

Body of Venzuela president
will be returned home

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Relatives of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Pérez have agreed that he will be buried in Venezuela, ending a bitter family dispute.

Lawyers for both sides in the dispute said in a joint statement Wednesday that the remains of Pérez will return to Venezuela for burial as soon as the proper arrangements are made. It is not clear how long that will take.

The agreement ends months of litigation involving the burial of Pérez, who died late last year at age 88. His wife, Blanca Pérez, wanted him buried in Venezuela, where one of his daughters, Thais, died several years ago. Pérez and his wife never divorced.

His longtime companion, Cecelia Matos, and their two daughters, wanted the body buried in Florida. Ms. Matos and her daughters live there. They had said they would not return the remains to Venezuela until current President Hugo Chávez left office. Pérez survived a 1992 coup attempt by Chávez, who at the time was an army lieutenant colonel.

In later years, Pérez became a strong critic of Chávez.

Pérez was elected president of Venezuela in 1974 after a long career in politics. Among his first major acts was nationalizing the country's oil industry at a time when global prices were soaring.

Pérez lost re-election in 1978, but returned to the presidency in 1989.

Although he survived two coup attempts, including the one led by Chávez, Pérez was later brought down when Venezuela's Congress impeached him on corruption charges.

Feds looking into history
of Standard & Poor's ratings

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A major American newspaper says the U.S. is investigating the financial services company that downgraded the U.S. credit rating for its faulty rating of mortgage securities that played a major role in the country's 2008 recession.

The New York Times reported that the Justice Department is looking at dozens of securities that Standard & Poor's rated as safe investments that later turned out to include mortgages that were not repaid by borrowers. The failure of the investments has been partly blamed for the sharp downturn in the U.S. economy three years ago, a recession from which it is still struggling to recover.

The newspaper said the investigation began before Standard & Poor's recently cut the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA-plus. The credit downgrade was an indication the firm's analysts viewed the U.S. as a slightly riskier bet to repay its debts in the aftermath of a contentious political debate over raising the country's borrowing limit. The two other major credit rating firms, Moody's Investor Services and Fitch Ratings, have continued to give the U.S. their top ratings.

Some lawmakers in the U.S. have grown increasingly wary about the role of the financial services firms in setting credit ratings on the safety of investing in government and corporate bonds. With the unprecedented U.S. credit downgrade, some government officials have been looking for ways to lessen the impact of such ratings, which investors rely on to decide which securities to buy.

The Times reported that Justice Department investigators have been looking at whether some S & P analysts wanted to set lower ratings on the mortgage securities before the recession started, but were overruled by the company's business managers. Companies selling securities pay the ratings agencies to provide a rating, and the newspaper said that some security sellers shopped around among the ratings agencies to make sure they would receive a favorable rating before agreeing to do business with them.

Standard & Poor's said it is cooperating with all investigators looking at its operations.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 164

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Father sets son afire

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A father, fed up with the actions of his son, doused him with flammable liquid and then set him afire, said judicial agents.

The burn victim survived but is hospitalized with burns over 60 percent of his body, said agents. Both men have the last name of Vesco.

Agents said that the elder Vesco found his son, 38, using drugs, and that triggered the violent response. The older man is in his 70s.

The incident happened in San Isidro de El General late Wednesday night.

Grecia firm to hire 500

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Panduit in Costa Rica inaugurated a new 14,000 square meter facility at its Grecia location Thursday. The firm said it will put on 500 new employees. The size is about 151,000 square feet.

The plant opened in that location in 1996 and has since made three additions. The plant produces electronic cables and other electronic components. Headquarters are in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Agrochemical registry sought

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The economics ministry wants to establish a registry of  products to keep track of chemicals and other materials entering the country and their prices.

That was one suggestion that grew out of a study of fertilizer and pesticide ingredients that were being shipped into Costa Rica.

The study basically found that a few companies control nearly the entire market. The ministry turned over its report to the Comisión para Promover la Competencia.

Agricultural chemicals have an indirect effect on the price of foodstuffs and also the price of exported crops.

President going to Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla will be among those today who celebrate the 35th anniversary of the utility provider the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia. The 10 a.m. event is at the Centro de Cultura Popular de Heredia near the Parque Central de Heredia.

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