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(506) 223-1327                 San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 170              E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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You can blame the unusual rainy weather on la Niña
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you don't like rain you won't like La Niña, the cooling of the waters in the central Pacific. This developing weather phenomenon, coupled with higher water temperatures in the Caribbean means that much of Costa Rica and its Pacific coast will get a lot more rain this year.

The prediction for the Caribbean coast is less than normal precipitation particularly in the central and southern parts.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said in a report issued Friday that up through July, the Pacific slope and Guanacaste has been hit with 25 percent more rain than normal. The central Pacific got 15 percent more and the south Pacific is up 5 percent above normal, based on the institute's measurements.

That was before the skies in the Central Valley opened up Monday and dumped an unusually heavy rain on the area. The weather station at Juan Santamaría in Alajuela reported that 70.6 mms. (2.78 inches) of rain fell there during a short period around 3:30 p.m.

Santa Bárbara de Heredia got hit with 51.9 mms. (2.04 inches) an hour later. The storm dumped 43 mms. on downtown San José. That's 1.69 inches. And all of it fell during a short period around 2 p.m. The Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas registered 59.6 mms or 2.35 inches between 2 and 3 p.m.

The storm caused flooding in houses in La Uruca and there are reports of flooding in far south Costa Rica.

According to the weather prediction more of the same can be expected, thanks to La Niña. The weather institute report said that the phenomenon appears to be strengthening and consolidating and probably will be around for awhile. It is the reverse development, El Niño, which is a warming of the surface waters of the central Pacific Ocean. 

This can cause dry spells in Costa Rica.

The temperature change in the Pacific is less than 1 degree C. In the Caribbean, the change is between a half and 1 degree C. But that is enough to cause far-reaching weather changes.

Heavier rains than normal can be expected through November, the weather institute said. The report also blamed the developing La Niña and the warmer Caribbean for creating Hurricane Dean which briefly peaked to a category 5 storm this month as it hit the Yucatan Peninsula of México.
More such storms are likely, the weather institute said.

International assessments say that the Atlantic will see from 10 to 16 tropicals storms. Of these, some seven or eight will develop into full-blown hurricanes. Locally the weather institute predicts an intense and constantly active rainy season.

Although hurricanes never hit Costa Rica, the long arms of the storms bring damaging rains that easily become landslides and raging rivers.

For today the weather institute predicts more of the same with the rain increasing in intensity through Friday for the Central Valley and the Pacific Coast.

Raid on cock fighting arena was partly a health measure, officials say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The raid on a cock fighting arena in Rincon Grande de Pavas Sunday was, in part, a health measure because some of the birds had entered the country illegally, said agricultural officials who participated in the operation.

The birds were confiscated, turned over to the  Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal, gassed and then incinerated, officials said Monday.
The raid resulted in the detention of five person and drugs, illegal alcohol and pistols were confiscated, said police. The 42 birds were subjected to carbon dioxide gas, which officials said was a humane way of killing them.

Officials said one of their concerns was to eliminate areas of concentration of illegal birds in anticipation of the arrival of bird flu. Birds brought into the country legally have to pass certain sanitary examinations.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 170

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License facility now open
at new location in La Uruca

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new driver's license facility in La Uruca will also be where would-be motorists take their theoretical exam. And the exams may soon be on computer with more than 1,000 versions of the test available to fight corruption.

Transport officials toured the facility on its first day of operation Monday. The more than $484,000 project also is designed to eliminate those unofficial helpers who congregate around places of official business.

Transport officials also said that a number of new locations have been opened in the country to provide regional offices for driver license issuance and testing. Liberia and Limón have new locations in construction.

The new facility is on the grounds of the Consejo de Seguridad Vial in La Uruca. The bulk of the licenses will be issued on the first floor. But the second floor is for what officials call special licenses. These include licenses for foreigners, senior citizens and pregnant women.

Coke haul now at 660 kilos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials now say they have fished some 660 kilos (1,452 pounds) out of the Pacific where it was dumped by fleeing cocaine smugglers. Five men, later identified as Colombians, were caught Sunday after the crew of the fastboat set it afire and took to the woods.

Costa Rican officials found 120 kilos of the drug packages, but a crew from an unidentified U.S. Coast Guard vessel found 540 kilos more, officials said.

The drug is contained in 20-kilo packages. Costa Rican police units in the cantons of Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Hojancha, Carrillo, Liberia and Nandayure has been put on alert.

Our readers' opinions
A crime victim checks in
with anger toward policemen

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've had the unfortunate experience of having my car broken into and all my contents taken (computer, etc.). My car was directly in front of the restaurant, but of course, there were no Tico witnesses. I did report the crime, which took six hours in the police station. The policeman were unhelpful and could care less. They had no idea that I could understand their Spanish because they were joking and laughing about the "stupid Gringo."

After telling them that I had over $3,000 stolen, they seemed to shut down. They actually said that they wished they could find the car so they could sell my stuff.

I love Costa Rica, but this is the situation. Even when reporting the crime . . .  nothing is done. I left the station feeling as though they were in league with the criminals because they did nothing to help.

Why report the crime when we are treated as though we are guilty for traveling in a country with articles that have value? The police actually asked me if my stuff was important to me, because I shouldn't feel bad that someone poor had stolen it. These thieves had a car, which meant they weren't poor.

The problem that I am finding is that the police could care less for the meaning of their job. There is very little integrity or honesty.

A good example is my recent travels to Puerto Viejo. There were so many drug sellers on the street, selling every type of conceivable contraband, with police standing near them and saying nothing. In the five minutes while I watched, I saw six dealers go to one home near the beach and come out with drugs.

Police were standing nearby, watching them but did nothing. I figured that these officers made more in a month from drug bribes than their own salary, so they were not about to jail their meal ticket. Where's the integrity in this?

Here's a good question to ask your readers. Have you heard of anyone getting their stuff back once it has been stolen?

Dennis J. Peterson
Santa Monica, California

He's for legalizing drugs
because of violent crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

When is Costa Rica gonna sever the cords with failed policies emanating from the U.S.?

The violent crime resulting from the illicit drug trade is threatening to stanch the tourist industry here, the county's #1 source of income, and has virtually turned once tranquil neighborhoods throughout the country into barbed wire encampments!

Even if the war on drugs "succeeds," it will only mean a greater burden on the health care system in the country because desperate users will turn to more dangerous substances and end up hospitalized more frequently. Legalize products derived from nature, and tax them!

Just as Vietnam didn't teach the U.S. to avoid getting involved in Iraq, neither did they learn from the prohibition experiment, which gave rise to organized crime and violence in the U.S., to avoid the costly war on drugs, which has been going on for over 40 years!

People who  want to use drugs are going to use drugs. Its that simple.
Hari Khalsa
St. Teresa

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 170

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Wireless 'parasites' can destroy net security, researcher says
By the University of Maryland news service

Coffee shop customers do it too. Travelers do it. The neighbor in Apartment 3C is probably doing it right now.

Many computer users search for an available wireless network to tap into — whether at the mall, at school or at home — and whether they have permission to use that network or not. Knowingly or unknowingly, these wireless "parasites" may be doing more than filching a signal. When they connect, they can open up the network — and all the computers on it — to an array of security breaches.

These problems are compounded when someone allowed to use an organization's wireless network adds an unauthorized wireless signal to increase the main network's signal strength. These unauthorized access points are especially vulnerable, often unprotected by any security measures that may exist on the main network.

At home, people usually use passwords to protect their wireless network from unauthorized access. But a new study by Michel Cukier at the University of Maryland indicates passwords alone may not provide enough protection for home wireless networks and are particularly inadequate for the wireless networks of larger organizations.
Cukier is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and affiliate of the Clark School's Center for Risk and Reliability and Institute for Systems Research.

At many organizations and locations around the country, thousands of users access widespread wireless network legitimately at any given time. But in turn, some of these users set up their own wireless networks, linked to the official network, to increase the signal in their office or home — what computer experts call an unmanaged wireless access point.

"If these secondary connections are not secure, they open up the entire network to trouble," Cukier said. "Unsecured wireless access points pose problems for businesses, cities and other organizations that make wireless access available to customers, employees, and residents. Unsecured connections are an open invitation to hackers seeking access to vulnerable computers."

Cukier recommends that wireless network owners and administrators take precautions to better secure wireless networks from "parasites" trolling for access and unsecured connections set up by legitimate users. Among other actions they should limit the strength of your wireless network so it cannot be detected outside the bounds of the home or office. He also promotes the use of encryption.

Health minister cancels Limón carnival because of dengue
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected the minister of health Monday said she would not grant a permit for the Carnival de Limón in October because of the rapid increases in cases of dengue there.
As A.M. Costa Rica reported Thursday, dengue has reached epidemic proportions in the Provincia de Limón and in Guanacaste.

Through the 29th week of the year, the latest for which data are available, there were 9,741 cases countrywide of dengue. Some 3,514 cases were reported on the Caribbean slope. In the canton of Limón alone, there have been 1,675 cases already this year. That's 19.5 percent of the total.

There have been 101 cases of hemorrhagic dengue with the
Caribbean coast contributing 43 cases or 42.6 percent. Some 36 cases were in the canton of Limón alone.

The carnival attracts many tourists, and health officials worry about exposing the visitors to the mosquitoes that carry the disease.

The health minister, María Luisa Ávila, said in July that she would cancel the week-long carnival if conditions did not improve. Health workers were unhappy because they were meeting resistance from Limón residents who would not let them spray effectively for the mosquitoes.

Control of dengue means eliminating the water where mosquitoes breed. Limón in particular has garbage problems and trash can host mosquito larva.

Arias to go to Panamá to help inaugurate work on new, wider lane for canal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez is going to Panamá Monday to participate in ceremonies initiating construction of a third lane for the Panama Canal.

The president will meet with Martín Torrijos, the Panamanian president, and with Jimmy Carter, the U.S. president who engineered the transfer of the canal from U.S. to Panamanian hands.

The $5.3 billion canal expansion has been criticized on
environmental and archaeological grounds. However, the
country voted to do the job. Proponents say that the larger ships need more room to transit the isthmus.

Arias has never suggested that Costa Rica should be the location of a dry canal that moved shipment containers en mass from one coast to the other. And that project is not an administration priority.

Arias will arrive at a time of transition for the Panamanian government. The Panama News reported Monday that  Torrijos has fired his entire cabinet, perhaps because it was dominated by former officials in the government of ex-dictator Manuel Noriega.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 170

There seems to be no middle ground in arguments on treaty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The debate over the free trade treaty with the United States is reaching a level found frequently in discussions over abortion or homosexuality. The opposing sides are firm and there is no giving of ground.

An example is a 16-page insert distributed by El Diario Extra Monday. The insert was prepared by the Universidad Estatal a Distancia and is supposed to inform the public about the effects of the free trade treaty. The university is one of the four public universities in Costa Rica, and the Consejo Universitario put out the insert.

An analysis

The pages contain two columns of arguments. The for side is on the left and the anti side is on the right. The small margin in the middle is about as close as the two sides will get.

The treaty is know in Spanish as the TLC after its name in that language. The first section is about education, and the for side states early that the treaty does not contain any norms for education in the signatory countries and does not oblige any country to privatize its education.

But the anti side is not impressed. It says:

"The TLC obliges us to decide between an education based in the values of solidarity, social justice, respect and participation in democracy that forms productive individuals but, above all, generous persons, sensible and socially and environmentally responsible as opposed to a type of education turned into a commercial business that will form persons hardly sensible and integrated.

"At the same time the TLC puts us in a position to choose between a public eduction of high quality within the reach of all people regardless of social level as opposed to a system of education cut in two: On one side an impoverished public education and on the other a very
expensive private education out of reach of the needs of our people and reserved only for well off people." The writers seem to have forgotten that the country now has expensive private schools for the elite.

Intellectual property is another area where the arguments against the treaty are highly emotional. Intellectual property means the right of authors, investors, composers, producers and business people. It gives them for a time exclusive use of their work, invention or trademark, and this right already is found in the Costa Rican Constitution, Article 47.

The side against the treaty argues that these rights are quickly converted into monopolies by giant corporations. But there also is a hint of an inferiority complex.

"In this case to speak of monopolies is something very real. The truth is that the greater part of the scientific and technological advances take place in the richest countries (more than 70 percent of the applications for patents correspond to only five developed countries) and a big part of these advances is controlled by the big companies and transnational corporations.

"Intellectual property simply responds to the interests of these countries and these companies. Not considered are the needs of countries like ours that for being less developed or very poor, require a wide access to science and technology. In another way, the quality of our education and the services of health and the advance of our economy are made poorer."

Curiously, the university-produced document fails to draw a line between scientific research and the commercial application of discoveries. Most scientists engage in publication of their efforts and peer review panels. The treaty foes think that protection of patent rights will somehow prevent research.

More importantly than the arguments, is the strident tone of the arguments against the treaty. They approach dogma, and suggest that no matter what happens Oct. 7 when Costa Ricans go to a referendum on the treaty the country will continue to be a divided one.

Global piracy costs U.S. $200 billion a year, producers say
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. business leaders say counterfeiting and piracy of copyrighted and patent-protected products have cost the U. S. economy more than $200 billion a year and 750,000 jobs.

Pirated batteries and brake pads, counterfeit watches and DVDs. They are easily found in Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities. A recent Gallup Poll showed that one in four residents bought pirated goods last year, in places like Santee Alley, a lively downtown bazaar for bargain hunters.

The narrow lane is filled with stalls where vendors sell cheap clothes, handbags, athletic shoes, sunglasses and electronics. Some carry labels or logos of Chanel, Coach, Rolex or other high-end companies, but they are counterfeit.

Another study found that global counterfeiting and piracy have cost this city, home to the entertainment business, more than 100,000 jobs a year, and billions of dollars in lost revenue. Frequent raids at Costa Rican flea markets turn up thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs.

Movie industry losses account for more than half of the Los Angeles' lost income.

Jack Kyser, an economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said piracy has an impact beyond the entertainment sector.

"And it hits almost everybody. The motion picture and TV production industry, of course, is the largest one, but you have sound recording, which means music, the apparel industry, pharmaceuticals, aircraft parts. It is a whole long list," he said.
In a large warehouse near the Los Angeles port, Customs and Border Protection agents search incoming cargo for suspected fakes, which come mostly from Asia.

Officer Susan Ponce says they often find counterfeits.
"It can be from shoes to wearing apparel, to toys, to handbags," she said.

Officials say enforcement is part of the solution. In a recent raid of Santee Alley, police confiscated fake brand-name goods that would have been worth $10 million if they had been genuine.

Authorities must also convince consumers that buying counterfeit products and downloading pirated music and movies from the Internet are a form of theft.

Technology is also reducing digital piracy. New devices such as night-vision scopes help the movie industry locate people who tape movies in theaters.

But Andy Lamprey of the security firm Andrews International says miniature recorders and cell phones with movie cameras make that job difficult.

Congresswoman Diane Watson, who chairs the entertainment industry caucus in Congress, said this is a global problem affecting many industries, in every country.

"And so we need to join in a global partnership to protect our products, and we need to have you in all the other countries of the world help us in this endeavor," she said.
She says piracy and counterfeiting hurt business and consumers, and reduce competitiveness in the global marketplace.

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