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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 169            E-mail us
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Seven spectacular national parks featured on stamps
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica has come out with another colorful issue this week. The set of stamps are called  Maravillas Naturales — Parques Nacionales 2009.

The postal service made 2,000 first-day illustrated covers for collectors. The stamps were canceled with a special postmark. In all, there are 245,000 stamps, each with a face value of 240 colons, about 42 U.S. cents. A complete set contains seven stamps.

The first issue was Tuesday when the country celebrated the Día de los Parques Nacionales. The seven national parks featured are popular, although perhaps not the most-visited.

Featured are photos of the Reserva Biológica Monteverde, the Cerro Chirripó, Volcán Poás and
Río Celeste, all illustrated with photos taken by Roberto Ramos of the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, said the Correo Nacional. Volcán Arenal is depicted in a photo taken by Fausto Alfaro of the Área de Conservación Huetar Norte. The Canales de Tortuguero photo came from the Área de Conservación Tortuguero. The Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco supplied the photo of that famous island, the postal service said.

The postal service is not shy about producing stamp issues full of color and the natural wonders of the country. The stamps are on sale at the collector's store in the central office in downtown San José or via the online store. A first-day cover is 3,400 colons ($5.86) with all seven stamps. A block of seven stamps without the envelope sells for 1,680 colons ($2.90). Those who visit the downtown office can see many previous issues that still are for sale. They contain historical depictions and also the country's natural wonders.

monteverde
Monteverde
Poás
Volcán Poás
Isla del Coco
Isla del Coco


Search winds down for missing Illinois tourist
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The search is winding down for a missing doctoral student from Illinois. The Cruz Roja was breaking down its temporary emergency center Wednesday at Parque Nacional Ricon de la Vieja. The man, David Gimelfarb, 28, has been missing since Aug. 11.

U.S. helicopters overflew the area for three days, and a number of crews worked on the ground without success. In addition, the park is visited by tourists each day. None has reported anything that might lead to the missing man.

A park ranger saw the man about 10 a.m. Aug.11, friends reported. He left a rented vehicle in a parking lot. Searchers quickly located the car. The man was staying at a hotel in Liberia, which is about 25 kms (15.5 miles) from the park border.

The missing man is a student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

The park is the location of two of Costa Rica's
volcanoes:  Rincon de la Vieja and the Santa Maria.

The 14,083-hectare (34,800-acre) park straddles the continental divide. It is in both Guanacaste and Alajuela provinces. Like most mountains in Costa Rica, the weather can change dramatically in a short period.

Park rangers will keep watch at the park for the grim sight of circling vultures. That is a traditional way of trying to find long-lost individuals in the country. Investigators also have to consider that the man was the victim of a crime, and was not in the park during the search at all. There also is long-standing concern about the mental health of doctoral students because such programs are difficult and some students crack under the strain.

In the case of Gimelfarb, he was close to his parents and called them frequently. No one suspects that he might have simply vanished of his own accord. His parents, Russian immigrants to the United States, came to Costa Rica and participated in the logistics of the search.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 169

Costa Rica Expertise
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Physicians and surgeons

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7Legal services

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Arias renews his campaign
for a citizen assembly


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For President Óscar Arias Sánchez, the answer to reforming Costa Rican political life is an assembly of citizens who will consider the problems of the state and make substantial changes in the political rules.

Arias said that he seeks changes that would keep a minority in the legislature from tying up important bills. He also wants changes that would provide for higher salaries for government officials.

Some of these ideas would require constitutional changes.

Arias was the keynote speaker at the closing of the Primer Ideario Costarricense de Siglo XXI at the legislative complex.

Arias has been promoting a citizen assembly for the last year. He said Wednesday night that he wants the assembly to lay out the road that will permit Costa Rica to become a developed nation.

Arias said that there are too many controls in the current system that hamper public administration. He faced his share of challenges in trying to get the free trade treaty with the United States approved. His party, Liberación Nacional, was able to knit together a two-thirds majority in the unicameral legislature. Still, legislative rules and traditions slowed the passage for much more time than Arias had expected. He had said the treaty would be passed in a few months. Instead it took years.

The Ideario is just that, a series of forums where persons from diverse backgrounds give their points of view. The Universidad Nacional plans to summarize the many forums in a book that will be available when the next president takes office in May.

Air quality annual report
will be presented Thursday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pollution and air quality are the topics Thursday when a number of public officials meet to discuss changes in the metro area air. The meeting is at the auditorium of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones at 9 a.m. Representatives from other ministries will be there.

Some of the topics include the increase of nitrogen dioxide in San José centro and in Heredia. The increase in San José was 10 percent, but the increase in Heredia was 18 percent, officials said.

This is the fifth annual report for the area. A principal presenter will be Jorge Herrera Murillo, coordinator of the Laboratorio de Análisis Ambiental of the Escuela de Ciencias Ambientales at Universidad Nacional.

Defensoría to ask Sala IV
to protect older bus riders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes will ask the Sala IV constitutional court to order transport officials to devise a plan of action to keep seniors from being humiliated when they seek to ride public buses for free.

Seniors have the right to do so, but the Defensoría said they have been subject to embarrassment and harassment. Among the allegations is that bus drivers would require the seniors to leave their cédulas de identidad with them during the time of the trip. Some drivers also note down the name and cédula number of those taking advantage of the free ride that has been mandated by officials.

In some cases, according to the Defensoría, seniors have lost documents while they were in the care of the bus driver.

Seniors used to receive discount tickets from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. But now all their are required to do is show a cédula or other document proving they are older than 65. The problem is that bus drivers have no way of documenting how many seniors have ridden on a bus. Most buses have electronic controls that count the number of passengers. So bus drivers get in trouble with their supervisors.

The Sala IV already has addressed the issue of seniors riding buses and has established this benefit as a right. The court issued an order on this point earlier this year to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and the Consejo de Transporte Público.

The Defensoría suggested in a summary of its actions that some of the problems encountered by seniors were company policies. The agency, which is the nation's ombudsman, also seeks effective ways seniors can file complaints, it said.

Danny's winds won't visit
here but new storm grows

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. weather forecasters say a new tropical storm named Danny has formed in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas and could become stronger in the coming days.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its latest report Wednesday that Danny was about 1,090 kms or 625 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The storm was moving northwest.  It was expected to dump as much as 10 centimeters of rain over the central and northwestern Bahamas.   Heavy rains also were expected in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Danny is the fourth named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Danny is too far north to have an effect in Costa Rica, but hurricane experts also have their eye now on a growing low pressure area off the coast of Africa. That possible storm seems to be closer to the equator.

Televised debate centers
on expropriating park land

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas is the subject of a debate Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on the Universidad de Costa Rica's channel, 15. On Cable Tica, the channel number is 58.

The park is the subject of a bill that seeks to downgrade it to a national refuge.  The park just north of Playa Grande on the far Pacific coast was created in the 1990s, but the park boundaries were drawn to include the private properties. So inside the park today are tourist hotels, luxury houses and property being developed. The government failed to purchase the properties at that time, and the values have gone up. The area is a key nesting site for marine turtles.

In setting the stage for the debate, the university said that to purchase the 46 hectares (114 acres) the government would have to spend an amount equal to eight hospitals like the new one going up in Heredia or two highways like the San José-Caldera autopista.

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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 weekday.

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.

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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.

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The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

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But Internet is best.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 169

another great month
Your Costa Rica

Amnet says it really will pull the cable plug this weekend
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amnet, the cable television and Internet provider, said Wednesday that its customers in the center of San José would lose service for a prolonged period Saturday. The outage may be permanent.

Amnet, the trade name of Dodona SRL, has customer service representatives calling subscribers to avoid the public relations disaster that happened two weeks ago when a small section of the downtown lost service. There was no advanced notice then, and customers received high-handed treatment when they complained. They were told to visit the office and collect the money they had paid in advance. That area seemed to be between avenidas 5 and 11 and west of calle 9 and east at least to Calle 0.

The news came Wednesday from a man who identified himself as Manfred Franceschi. He blamed the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, which, he said, was taking down the utility poles in the downtown area.

The electric company has placed its lines underground. Still on the poles are telephone lines and cable television lines. There was no word what would happen to telephone service. Contractors who put the electrical service underground in a job that ended in 2005, also provided conduits for telephone and cable lines. But these have been unused.

Amnet has been engaged in a long-running battle with the electric utility. Last December it told subscribers in the greater downtown area that they would lose service, but then the company continued to provide cable television and
an Internet hookup to the servers of Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. without further explanation.

Franceschi said he did not know the exact boundaries of the Internet and cable blackout. Amnet has a concession that covers certain areas of the city. There is no direct competition, although another company, Cable Tica, provides a similar service throughout Costa Rica. The current plan for a blackout probably covers the entire area where electrical service is underground and Amnet is the provider.

Amnet continued to solicit customers in the central area through the end of last month. A representative said that Amnet was trying to start its own Internet service. The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones has approved the company as an Internet provider that would bypass the Radiográfica servers. However, Amnet backed off the plan early in the month and left some customers hanging.
Franceschi said that downtown customers who lose their service should call the company at 2210-2929 so that they receive no further charges on their bill.

Alternate services to a cable Internet connection are either a service provided by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad that distributes a signal through telephone lines or wireless services provided by Radiográfica.

Television service can be provided by a satellite dish or by an external antenna that would capture location stations.

The situation arises at the same time that the Superintendencia has issued proposed regulations for the placement of cable and telephone lines on utility poles.


Judicial morgue confirms death of fraud suspect Tom Jafek
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial morgue has confirmed the death of Tom Jafek,
Tom Jafek
Tom Jafek
the leading figure in the Green Fund, a high-interest operation that may have cost investors $10 million when it folded.

No cause of death has been established for Jafek, who died in custody. He was in his early 70s and had been extradited from the United States to stand trial here.

He is believed to have died sometime last week. The results of an autopsy are not yet
available, morgue workers said.

U.S. marshals detained Jafek July 28, 2008, on the strength of a Costa Rican arrest warrant.

The Green Fund investment operation was in the Mercedes Tower on Paseo Colón. Lawyers involved with investors said that their clients were promised 3 percent per month but that
payments stopped about the beginning of 2003.

Jafek gave an interview via e-mail after the warrants were issued in October 2004. He said that he faced intimidation, stalking and extortion from unhappy investors but that he had no money and denied he lied or cheated.

He said that earlier in 2004 manhunters tried to extort some $1.2 million from him, presumably at the request of unhappy customers. He was believed to be in Panamá at that time.

Jafek repeatedly had said he was trying to make arrangements so he could pay off customers.

His was one of the smaller operations during the heyday of the Villalobos brothers investment scheme, the Vault operated by the late Roy Taylor and Savings Unlimited, whose owner, Luis Milanes, has returned to make a deal with prosecutors. All three collapsed, too.

Jafek said in June 2003 that he was about to sue Taylor because The Vault owed him and his investors $800,000. Not long afterwards, Taylor killed himself while in police custody during a raid on his headquarters.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 169

Professional and amateur dancers will inaugurate new home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite tight budgets and difficult economic times, the culture ministry will inaugurate the Taller Nacional de Danza and the Conservatorio El Barco Friday.

The project, seven years in the making, is a complex that will provide professional training to young dancers and also take the art to non-professionals through the country.

The inauguration will be accompanied by a cultural fiesta at the Edificio El Barco, according to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The El Barco building has been remodeled extensively and tripled in space, said the ministry. It is in Barrio Escalante near the Museo Calderón Guardia and 75 meters southeast
of the local landmark called the el Farolito.

The ministry credited former culture minister Guido Sáenz with naming Jimmy Ortiz to be director general of the Taller Nacional de Danza in 2002. Ortiz took the project from conception to the final product.

He is a director, choreographer, teacher and dancer. He founded a dance company in 1988.

When he took over, the ministry said he created a plan that established networks for artists and different interest groups. Now there are 35 distinct groups of dance workshops offered at the center.

In addition, he headed up the fund-raising effort that managed to raise the money for the project.


Interim Honduran government rejects Arias plan again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

For those anxious to see an end to the Honduran political crisis, the date Jan. 27 is a key one.  That is the day the current president's term expires and a new individual takes office. Elections will be in late November.

That also is the date that the interim government awaits as they create one delay after another to avoid serious foreign pressure.

The latest play was receiving a visit by a delegation from the Organization of American States. The delegation ended a two-day mission to Honduras without negotiating an end to the political impasse over President José Manuel Zelaya's ouster June 28.

The Organization of American States issued a statement Tuesday saying the delegation failed to persuade the caretaker government to accept a Costa Rica-brokered plan that would bring back the deposed president. Foreign ministers from seven member states, including Costa Rica, traveled to Honduras, accompanied by Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza.

Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said he does not fear international sanctions aimed at restoring Zelaya to the presidency. Micheletti said his government is not afraid of an embargo by anyone and that Honduras can get by without international support. Earlier, the U.S. State Department said it is temporarily suspending some visa services in Honduras as part of its review of policy toward the caretaker government.

Spokesman Ian Kelly says starting Wednesday, officials
will stop granting visas at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras except for potential immigrants and emergency cases, because of the interim government's refusal to bring back Zelaya. 

The State Department says the United States considers the deal, sponsored by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias the best solution to Honduras's political crisis.

The caretaker government refuses any proposal allowing the return of Zelaya. Interim leaders say Zelaya was ousted because he was trying to change the constitution illegally to extend his term in office. 

Micheletti says Honduras will hold elections in November, even if other countries do not recognize the result.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says a recent report regarding widespread abuses in Honduras should compel the international community to take steps to resolve the political crisis. It says these could include imposing targeted sanctions.

The human rights organization was referring to the report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which accuses the interim government of using excessive force and arbitrary detentions to contain pro-Zelaya demonstrations. 

I don’t consider the negotiation closed," said Insulza when he returned to Washington. "President Zelaya is coming next week, the delegation designated by Mr. Micheletti to negotiate is also coming, there will probably be a new meeting of the Permanent Council on this issue, and I will speak to several presidents in the coming days. There is still room for agreement, albeit increasingly narrow.”


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 169

Casa Alfi Hotel

Runners confront demons
in an uphill race from Hell

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Each summer, scores of runners from around the world compete in a grueling 200-km (135-mile) race in scorching temperatures across the western U.S. state of California. Nearly 90 competitors begin in Death Valley, nearly 90 meters below sea level. Over a period of one, two or even three days, they run uphill, finishing more than 2,500 meters high on Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada. The race is produced by AdventureCorps, Inc., a company that produces what it calls extreme sports events.

Charlie Engle is about to take on an amazing challenge. He and dozens of other athletes from around the world have come here to run a race called Badwater. They were selected to tackle over 200 kilometers of intense temperatures up to 55 C (130 F), fierce blisters, and extreme exhaustion.

Engle was a 10-year cocaine addict who was headed for self-destruction but his life was transformed when he found another addiction. This time, a healthier one — running.

This is Charlie's sixth time running "Badwater." His drug addiction behind him, he's here not just to compete but to win. "I said a couple of months ago that I am here, to win this race," he said.

At 46-years-old, Engle believes that to take on a challenge like "Badwater," you must have lived long enough to have suffered properly.

Nickademus Hollon has no such checkered past. He's only 19, but has his own reasons for taking on this grueling event. "Feels like I'm on top of the world and looks like it too," Hollon states.

He is the youngest competitor to ever take on "Badwater." When he entered the race, few thought he would finish, much less have the physical and emotional ability to compete. "I knew since I entered in the race in February I was going to finish," he said. Some 87 percent of the races finished this July.

To prepare for "Badwater," Nick ran the entire course twice. Although such training can get you to the starting line, it doesn't guarantee you'll finish.

There are many issues that can get in the way of that. Upset stomachs and blisters are a common part of "Badwater."

Engle threw up repeatedly during the first half of the race and lost over five kilos (11 pounds) in just a few hours.  Chuck Dale, a member of his crew, says, "I'm surprised he did not puke when he was running, he actually stopped, puked, and kept going."

By contrast, Nick got off to a fast start but his pace slowed considerably after 140 km (87 miles).
Why would anyone put themselves through such torture? 

Engle welcomes the pain because he sees it as a metaphor for his life. It reminds him of the progress he has made from his drug addiction to this success.

In the end, Engle didn't win the race but achieved a personal best — a milestone for anyone who believes drug addiction cannot be overcome. While Engle looks for his next athletic fix, he has shown that at 46, he has no plans to slow down.

Meanwhile for Nick, this is just the beginning of his running addiction, and his desire to explore the depths of his abilities. He promises to be back next year and will no doubt be joined by other competitors determined to either chase their demons or test their limits.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 169

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Big tomato-smashing fiesta
has its 64th messy run


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tens of thousands of people from around the world gathered Wednesday in an eastern Spanish town to hurl tons of ripe tomatoes at one another in a battle that painted the town red. 

Participants in the annual Tomatina food fight marked the town of Bunol's 64th annual festival. Town officials estimated that more than 40,000 people took up arms with more than 100 tons of ripe tomatoes for the hour-long battle. 

The event, thought to have its roots in a food fight between childhood friends, takes place each year on the last Wednesday in August.  Tomatina cost the town of about 10,000 residents $40,000 to stage. Bunol is located in a fertile region about 40 kms (25 miles) north of Valencia.

History not good predictor
of climate, U.N. chief said


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

With the onset of climate change, relying on history is no longer an accurate way of predicting weather patterns, the head of the U. N. World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday.

In the past, forecasts were made by taking statistics of past decades into account, but “now with climate change, these statistics are changing,” said Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a radio interview.

In some areas, global warming will make rainfall less frequent, making the past an unreliable predictor for future precipitation levels, he said, while heat waves, on the scale of the massive and deadly one which engulfed Western Europe in 2003, might occur more frequently.

But Jarraud stressed that there are many lessons to be learned from the past, highlighting the value of climate statistics.

The World Meteorological Organization is organizing a week-long conference in Geneva, Switzerland, kicking off on Monday on how to best use climate predictions to adapt to climate change.

Next week’s meeting, Jarraud said, seeks to bridge the gap between those who possess this kind of information with decision-makers around the world.



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