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(506) 223-1327              Published Friday, Sept. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 178            E-mail us   
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Youngsters will have giant Día del Ninõ celebration
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers and a foundation are planning a giant party for kids Saturday to mark the Día del Niño.

Organizers said that as many as 13,000 children are expected at the free gathering in the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás. The event is being billed as the biggest Día del Niño event in the country.

Co-sponsors are the Comisión Permanente Especial de Juventud, Niñez y Adolescencia of the Asamblea Legislativa and the Pavas-based  Fundación Panecitos y Peces.

The party begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs to about noon, said a release. Although children of all social levels are invited, this party is specifically aimed at children from low-income families, according to  Mario Núñez Arias, a legislator who heads the commission.

Entertainment will include a puppet theater, clowns and mimes. Sponsors include Big Cola, Alimentos Jack's, Bimbo, Pozuelo and the Instituto
Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, said organizers.

El Día del Niño is a big event in Costa Rica, only slightly less important than Christmas and mother's day. Children are expecting gifts from parents and relatives. That will probably take place in most cases on Sunday, which is the actual day of the event. These events are usually held within the family home.

However, there have been events leading up to the day. The Despacho de Apoyo Social of the Presidencia de la República and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia finished up a four-week art workshop for youngsters up to the age of 12 Thursday.

Some 45 youngsters from various parts of the capital took part in Barrio Lujan at the offices of the Patronato. The event had a sociological dimension as well as one of fine arts. The youth workers analyzed the drawings and paintings produced by the children to get an idea of their dreams, fears and concerns, said Casa Presidencial.


8-month-old's death heightens concern over dengue
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cases of dengue mount up, particularly on the Caribbean coast, and the death of an 8-month-old Wednesday has heightened the concern.

The health minister, María Luisa Ávila, said that there have been more than 10,000 cases of mosquito-born dengue in the country this year, and there have been 169 cases of the potentially fatal hemorrhagic dengue.

The Consejo de Gobierno has moved to release 250 million colons, about $480,000, to continue the fight against the insect carriers. Although there are dengue cases in Guanacaste and the central Pacific coast, the government is focusing its efforts on the Caribbean and the Provincia de Limón.

The health minister said that deaths from dengue historically have been of persons infected in that province. She did not give an exact number, but with the death of the infant, the countrywide toll this year is about four or five.

The child went to a local clinic and was admitted to the Hospital Tony Facio in Limón Tuesday. The condition of the baby worsened, and health
workers used an aircraft to bring the baby to the  Hospital Nacional de Niños in San José Wednesday, but the baby died there.

The child, a member of the Arthur family, lived in Limón centro, officials said.

The problem in Limón is that there are many places for the mosquitos to breed. Minister Ávila said that her department will continue fumigating and also involve itself in the collection of solid wastes and the cleaning of vacant lots. She hopes to get more inspectors to make house-to-house checks.

Health workers also will apply insecticide to drains and apply biological controls to places they cannot drain.

Health workers have run into resistance from Limón residents, in part, because the workers want to enter and fumigate private homes.

Dengue, known as the bone breaking disease because of the intense pain, has cost the country millions in hospital and clinic efforts.

The hemorrhagic dengue can appear the second time a person is infected.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 178

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Leaked strategy memo causes
furor over fear appeal proposal


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They use it to sell deodorant and a number of other products. They call it the fear appeal in advertising textbooks.

But now a vice president of the country and a lawmaker are getting heat because their memo suggesting the use of this tried-and-true technique became public.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana circulated the latest memo Thursday via e-mail. It is from Kevin Casas, the country's second vice president, and Fernando Sánchez, a national deputy from the Partido Liberación Nacional. It was directed to President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

The memo seeks to outline a political campaign to achieve a yes vote in the Oct. 7 referendum on the free trade treaty with the United States.

In one part the two men suggest using the fear appeal to highlight the possible loss of jobs if the treaty is not passed. They also suggest using a fear appeal about attacks on democracy and the participation in the campaign of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Fidel Castro of Cuba.  There is a general belief that the authoritarian countries are bankrolling an effort here to defeat the treaty.

There was no word how proponents of a no vote got ahold of the Casas-Sánchez memo, but the topic sparked heated debate in the Asamblea Legislativa Thursday.

So far the campaign in favor of a yes vote has not used a strong fear appeal in its campaign. The memo bears a July 29 date, and the part about using fear appeals is one of nine sections discussing techniques and organization of a pro-treaty campaign.

Sámara murder victim found
at construction location


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A construction worker found the body of an 18-year-old murder victim in Playa Sámara Thursday.

The woman, identified as Leida Grace Castillo Caravaca, had been buried in a hole that had been dug to accommodate fresh concrete, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Investigators said that the woman was last seen leaving a local bar about 2 a.m. with a man who is believed to be a worker on the same construction site. She appears to have died from a blow to the head.

Sámara, a tourist destination, is on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula west of the city of Nicoya.

Chamber of commerce idea
on the table in Tamarindo


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tamarindo betterment organization meets today at 4 p.m. in the Hotel Pasatiempo with a full agenda. Among other topics, the group will explore the possibility of forming a chamber of commerce for the tourist town, according to a summary.

Also on the agenda is how to save the town's lifeguard program. The organization, the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo, has said it cannot afford to keep the lifeguard program going without additional financial help.

Also on the agenda is discussion of a private security company to augment the local police force. The group also is running an anti-dengue spray and clean up program each Saturday. Also on the agenda for today is a proposal to designate some areas of the main roads as hiking and bike trails.

Hotel school will begin
with first class Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday the Hotel Estrella del Sur in Pérez Zeledón will be inaugurated as the nation's first hotel school.

The year-long program is being set up by the Centro de Estudios y Capacitación Cooperativa and financed by the  Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The hotel is a pilot project for similar schools around the country. Students will live on the premises and be exposed to a real-world atmosphere. The first class starts Monday.

Curridabat inserts its toe
in digital government waters


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Curridabat is now the first local government that offers real estate declarations via the Internet.

A resident who has registered can access an account on the Web site of the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio to declare the value of the real estate. This is the first step in getting many permits and applications approved via Internet.

According to Edgar Mora, mayor of Curridabat, this is a pilot project. The effort is part of the digital government program. He hopes that eventually procedures that normally take a month can be done in a week by Internet.

The municipality has 18,000 properties, 70 companies and 3,000 business licenses in effect. Owners of each have to pay taxes and make reports each year.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 178

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Municipal policeman detained as informant to crack gang
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents arrested a San José municipal policeman Thursday and said that he gave inside information to a band of local drug dealers who specialized in crack cocaine.

The policeman was identified by the last names of Umaña González. The arrest comes a day after a force of some 130 officers from various departments conducted 13 raids to detain nine persons, mostly members of the same family, of whom they said were members of a crack ring.

Agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas said that Umaña is a member of the canine detachment of the Policía
Municipal de San José, The man was arrested on the city street of San José by a detachment that included members of his own force.
Agents say that he used his position to obtain information about drug raids and strategies and provided this information to the crack gang that is known by the names of the supposed leaders, the Hermanos Corella gang. This information is believed to have come from an informant who helped agents get evidence to make the initial arrests.

Meanwhile, the Poder Judicial said that a judge has authorized three months of preventative detention of the nine detained Wednesday. They are seven men with the last names of Benavides Corella, Benavides Corrales, Rodríguez Cárdenas, Ramírez Valverde, Ruiz Sánchez, Hernández Zamora and Ruiz Castillo and two women with the names of Corella Benavides and Sotela Calderón.

Six of those arrested have at least two criminal convictions and prison terms on their records.


Culture ministry announces creation of a new fund to subsidize artistic efforts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The culture ministry has set up a fund to support artistic projects and related efforts. The initial amount is 175 million colons, or about $336,000.

The fund, which carries the name PROARTES, will be under the supervision of the Teatro Melico Salazar, and a selection committee will be impaneled to pick the recipients, according to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The initial announcement specified artists efforts in audio
 visual production, dance, theater and music. The awards will target independent producers.

The three areas that the awards will cover include that of creation. But cultural management or development of community institutions or seminars or workshops or conferences also is included. The awards also are open to those in artistic research of the reaction of audiences and cultural policies, said the ministry.

The fund is one of 10 steps the ministry is taking to comply with its national development plan. 


Sickbed or no sickbed, she gets out her weekly column
Sandy was commenting the other day, that I always got my column out, even when I was in the hospital.  She said that she took my handwritten one and typed it up and sent it in for me.  I don’t remember.  There is not much I remember about the time, except the horrors of New Orleans.

This is the second anniversary of Katrina’s attack on New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf coast. I remember it well, because at the time I was in the hospital and had nothing much to do but watch the devastation on the television in my room.  I was feeling pretty miserable myself, but looking at the suffering of others, put things into perspective for me. 

I am thinking about this because I am once again in bed with some undefined malady, watching television and occasionally reading, and Felix, another hurricane, is molesting the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras.  I probably won’t remember writing this column, either.

We are pretty safe here and it hasn’t even started to rain.  I think Costa Rica is protected from storms from the east by the way it is situated.  We are sort of around the corner when it comes to Caribbean hurricanes.  Check a map. 

Two other bits of news caught my attention. A woman artist in Australia has painted Osama bin Ladin in a Jesus pose, or some say, to resemble Jesus. (Those who say that, have a clearer picture of what Jesus looked like than I do and must have been born a long time ago.) Actually, they had to be referring to pictures of Jesus done by painters, who had no better idea than they what Jesus looked like.

Not to be outdone by the Muslims who were out to kill Salman Rushdie for writing "Satanic Verses," these Christians have threatened the artist’s life and she has gone into hiding. Perhaps some philanthropist who loves the arts could open a safe house for threatened artists.

The other bit of news is from Brooklyn, New York, where a public charter school has decided that the Arabic language and Middle Eastern culture will be part of their curricula. Arabic is the official language of 25 countries and the second language for many predominantly Muslim countries.  It is also one of the U.N. official languages.               
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Since suddenly many government departments are in great need of Arabic speakers, and it looks like the U.S. is going to be in the Middle East for some time, it seems like a pretty good idea to know the language and the cultures (certainly better than the idea of outsourcing those jobs). However, some parents are strongly objecting because they are convinced that the hidden agenda of the school is to teach narrow, if not radical, Muslim ideology.  And the children will be converted?

In my high school days it was the Communists who were our enemy and Marx was forbidden reading in the school.  Anything about communism was forbidden.  I thought it was either because they thought communism was contagious or, in spite of all of the terrible adjectives they used to describe it, they were afraid we would all become instant converts if we read about it. 

Actually, this thinking derives from the same philosophy that surrounds the teaching of sex — the less you know about it, the safer you are. 

I don’t think that the argument that all the languages spoken in New York should have equal representation is valid.  The fact is some languages are going to be more useful than others are when one grows up.  As much as I loved my French classes, Spanish has been far more useful to me.  This, even though French is spoken in more countries than Spanish is.  But not by more people nor in countries I am likely to visit.  

I do find it a little strange that the school cannot locate any of its teaching materials to show the objecting parents in order to reassure them.  Maybe the person who wrote the outline for the courses, was sick in bed at the time.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 178


Death toll from Hurricane Felix in Nicaragua put at 60
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nicaraguan officials say at least 60 people have been killed by Hurricane Felix, which hit the nation's Caribbean coast on Tuesday.

Nicaragua's northeastern coast suffered the worst damage from Hurricane Felix when it came ashore Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and winds of up to 260 kph (160 mph). The category-five storm destroyed thousands of homes and ripped off roofs in and around the city of Puerto Cabezas, which is home to many Miskito Indians.

Security officials said thousands of people were left homeless by the storm and said rescue crews were searching for scores of people who may have been swept out to sea by powerful waves. Wednesday, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega toured areas hit by the hurricane, and said relief aid had begun arriving from abroad.

Ortega said international aid was coming from several nations that are sending airplanes with supplies, including Venezuela and Honduras.
U.S. military officials said they are working with Nicaraguan officials to provide assistance. The Pentagon said an assessment team had arrived in Puerto Cabezas, and two naval ships were standing by to provide any emergency aid the country needs.

U.S.-based relief group CARE International said it has a team in Puerto Cabezas to distribute food and clean water to 20,000 people in the area. CARE spokesman Rick Perera said aid supplies are needed to prevent serious health problems among survivors.

Hurricane Felix also hit parts of Honduras, causing floods and mudslides, but officials expressed relief that the storm did not cause more serious damage. The latest storm triggered memories of Hurricane Mitch, which killed at least 10,000 people in Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998.

In Mexico, officials were beginning to assess damage from Hurricane Henriette, which hit the nation's Pacific coast on Wednesday for the second time in two days. Weather forecasters said Henriette had been downgraded from a hurricane as it moved across mainland Mexico.


World Bank faces questions over lending to richer countries
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Washington-based World Bank Thursday said its lending to middle income developing countries over the past decade has been helpful in alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth. A noted bank critic disagrees.

In the past decade, 66 percent of World Bank lending, some $163 billion, has gone to 86 so-called middle-income countries. This disparate group includes China, Russia, Turkey and Brazil, countries where per-capita incomes range from $1,000 to $10,000 per year. Vinod Thomas, the head of the bank's evaluation unit, says the bank should continue to lend to middle-income countries.

"This group has raised average incomes — per capita incomes — by 4 percent in the last decade, which is almost twice the increase of high-income countries," said Thomas.

But a growing number of critics say the World Bank should concentrate its lending not on successful middle-income countries but on the poorest countries, which are mainly in Africa. Adam Lerrick is a former investment banker now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
"There's no justification whatever for the Bank to continue to lend to these countries," said Lerrick. "These countries have easy access to the capital markets, private capital.

"There's no project in these countries that the bank would fund that the private sector would not be willing to fund."

The bank's evaluation unit disagrees, saying that even though several middle income countries have moved up the income ladder, they still have millions of poor people who need World Bank assistance.

In defending its record, the bank says that 400 million people in middle-income countries, 70 percent of them in China — have emerged from poverty in the past decade.

But Lerrick says bank lending has not been a major factor in China, India and Indonesia-the great anti-poverty success stories.

"In those countries, the Bank has had minimal if any role in the progress those countries have made," he said. "These countries have developed sound economic policies and grown their way out of poverty."


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