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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 179          Email us
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Cameras register $1 million in fines in just 16 hours
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has what is commonly known as a cash cow. That's because at least 1,815 motorists do not read the newspapers or quickly forget what they read.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes reported Thursday that by 4:25 p.m. 11,815 motorists had been photographed at five points in the metro area while they exceeded the speed limit by at least 20 kph.

That means each motorist will receive a ticket carrying at least a 306,000 fine, some $600. So in just 16 hours and 45 minutes, the ministry got the rights to issue 555,390,000 in speeding fines. That's $1.1 million if every motorist pays. Many will not, and some will carry the new system of automatic cameras to the Sala IV constitutional court, which may find the fines disproportionate.

The fine increased with the degree of speed violation. Motorists caught going more than 150 kph, some 93 mph can get a three-year prison sentence, according to the traffic law.
The ministry reported a steep reduction in speeders Thursday when compared to two days of trials with the camera system. For example April 7 there were 2,451 violators noted on the General Cañas highway near the Hotel San José Palacio.

There were 1,876 Sept. 1. But there were just 272 captured Thursday morning in an equivalent time period, the ministry said.

In addition to that camera speed trap, there is one near Terra Mall on the Florencio del Castillo highway and another in La Lima, the ministry said.

A second camera is on the General Cañas further west near the Intel Corp. plant. A fifth camera is in place on the Circunvalación between Zapote and the new overpass at Y Griega.

The traffic police are not just relying on the cameras and their radar. Each violation Thursday was verified by a traffic officer at the control center, officials said.

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. is providing the Internet feed for the cameras.

Fuerza Pública begins fight against violence to kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is children's day, but the Fuerza Pública jumped the gun Thursday to bring a message and some celebration to youngsters at the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

The primary goal of the police officers was to promote a culture that prevents violence to children. A campaign to safeguard children was kicked off with a call for adults to call the emergency number for suspected mistreatment of children. The famous children's hospital sees a lot of child abuse. Many youngsters heal there from mistreatment. Some die there.

Rodolfo Hernández, director of the Hospital Nacional de Niños, said that reducing violence against children requires perseverance, education and a fundamental change in the Costa Rican culture. He said that on the average the hospital sees seven new cases of violence against children each day, be it abandonment, physical aggression, psychological damage, sexual assaults or prenatal maltreatment.

The Fuerza Pública is primarily a preventative force, and officers will be carrying their message to Desamparados at Parque Libertad, in Turrubares at Parque Las Delicias and at the Parque Central in Santa Ana.
Fuerza Pública officer
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y
Seguridad Pública/Jorge Alonso Alvarez v

Hospitalized youngster received a face painting from an officer as police distributed gifts and interacted with the young patients.

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Regulating agency cutting
price of petroleum products

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Both super and plus gasoline will take an 8-cent-a-liter drop as the regulatory agency tries to rebate to consumers 63 billion colons over the next six months.

Super gasoline is going from 706 colons ($1.39) per liter to 666 colons ($1.31). That means the gallon price will drop below the $5 mark.

Plus gasoline goes from 683 colons ($1.34) a liter to 641 colons or $1.26. That is a reduction of 41 colons or about 8 U.S. cents.

Super will cost $4.95 a gallon and plus will be $4.77.

Diesel goes from 636 colons a liter ($1.25) to 599 ($1.18) for a reduction of 37 colons or about seven U.S. cents. The gallon price will be $4.45.

The reduction was promoted by the nation's consumers organization, said the agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

There were reductions approved for others petroleum products including aviation gasoline and jet fuel. The regulating agency said it stopped short of refunding the taxes on the higher priced fuels until it gets a legal ruling.

Burglary gang  preferred
homes near vacant lots

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A burglary gang targeted homes that were adjacent to vacant lots, said investigators. They arrested four persons Thursday and said they were the crooks.

The gang picked homes in the vicinity of Carmen de Goicoechea with a preference for those that could be entered through the back door from a lot, said investigators.

The three men and a woman detained Thursday had been detained on similar charges in March. The four just completed preventative detention Aug. 19, investigators said. Agents attributed to them three burglaries Aug. 21. They live in  Urbanización Ticoblock in Carmen, said the Poder Judicial.

The Poder Judicial identified the men by the last names of  Camacho, Barquero and Calderón. They face aggravated robbery allegations. The woman, who also has the last name of Calderón, faces an allegation of receiving stolen property.

Prosecutors are seeking preventative detention for the men. The Poder Judicial said that during the arrest agents discovered a packet containing white powder.

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, Sept. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 179

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Million students will participate in independence events
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Education officials expect students to receive the torch of independence Tuesday at the Peñas Blancas border crossing. The torch will be received from Nicaraguan students by Costa Rican youngsters in the presence of officials and others.

After an 8:30 a.m. ceremony, the torch itself is expected to cross the border at 11 a.m. And additional torches will be ignited to carry the flame to all parts of the country, said the education ministry.

The torch will make its way toward Cartago with stopovers at many locations along the way. These include the Parque Tumba Marcelino García Flamenco in La Cruz, Guanacaste, and in the central parks of Liberia, Bagaces, Cañas, Esparza, San Ramón, Palmares, Naranjo, Grecia, Alajuela and Heredia.

The torch is expected at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Parque Central in San José where another ceremony will be held. Then teams of students will carry it to Tres Ríos for another ceremony and then on to Cartago where the central government will be in session. The relay from the border involves thousands of students. Relay teams carry the torch short distances.
The events are great tourism and photography attractions.

In all, the education ministry said it expects more than a million students to be involved in Día de Independencia activities next week. Most schools will have a parade of faroles, the homemade street lanterns.

Also planned are bands, mascaradas, traditional foods and other civic activities, depending on the school.

Students all over will march Thursday at many parades around the country. That is why there has been drum practice throughout the country for the last month.

This is the 190th anniversary of independence. Today at school there are special ceremonies to mark the day. That goes along with other activities to mark El Día de la Ninez or children's day, which also is today.

Cartago is the site of the governmental meeting that takes place about 8 p.m. Wednesday because that city was the country's capital when citizens received word of independence. They did not actually hear about it for nearly a month after it was declared because of the distances involved. But Sept. 15 is the day independence from Spain was declared in the governmental seat of Guatemala City, which also is where the flame originates.

Stormy weather all around does not affect Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country appears to be bracketed by storms.

To the north, Tropical Storm Nate is causing heavy rains and high winds on the coast of México. To the east, Tropical Storm María is moving westward. Forecasters at the U.S. Hurricane Center said that strengthening is likely over the next few days, but that the storm is expected to turn slightly to the north. This is the typical route for such storms.

Further north off the east coast of the United States is Hurricane Katia. It is accelerating to the northeast over the Atlantic. The center said that the storm will lose considerable force and probably be downgraded to a tropical storm over the weekend.

In Pennsylvania, New York and the New England States the remnants of Lee are persisting, and there still are flash flood warnings in effect. Some locations in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania have received up to 15 inches of rain. There is a low pressure area that has captured the storm over eastern Indiana, and the circulation is drawing rain to the north over much of the Middle Atlantic U.S. states, said the hurricane center.

Meanwhile, the Central Valley enjoyed a peaceful
tropical storms
U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic
Hurricane Center graphic shows three storm systems

day Thursday with little rain.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that partly cloudy skies in the Central Valley and along the Pacific this morning will give way to clouds and some rain later today.

There is a chance for some thunderstorms along the Pacific, the agency said. Moderate rain was predicted for the northern zone and the Caribbean coast.

The ends are the same, but the journeys there are different
You know the saying: “The more things change . . . . ”  Looking through the past, remembering the days following 9/11 and the attack on the U.S. by people labeled terrorists, I came across something I had written in 2003. 

Elena, a teacher of linguistics at a university in Russia, wrote to me.  She was teaching a language and culture course on the relevancy of Russia and Latin America to each other and to the rest of the world.  Her class was focusing on Costa Rica, and she asked me to write about my first and then later impressions of the country.  I sent her my book and the students were intrigued with the chapter on Costa Ricans’ pet peeves.  In their discussion they agreed that Russians have pretty much the same complaints, which ranged from overweight doctors telling them to diet to people taking out their cell phones in a restaurant.  In short, these two seemingly very different people were annoyed by the same bad habits of others.  The students seemed rather surprised at how similar they were.

That same year a poll of what Costa Ricans considered the main problems facing them and the country and their sense of well being showed that their primary concern was unemployment, next came crime and violence, then the high cost of living and resulting poverty.  They were also worried about corruption and drug addiction, both of which are probably related to the other problems.  There was very little dissatisfaction with the quality of education on their list of concerns, and neither good health care nor terrorism made the list at all.

Thinking about the Russian students’ responses to Costa Rican pet peeves made me wonder if their concerns would also resemble those in the poll.  I believe that feeling secure and free, having a decent job that pays enough to live, and decent medical care when one needs it are the main concerns of people throughout the world, no matter what their nationality, culture or political structure.

When I worked at the International House, a residence for university students from around the world, I would sometimes overhear my assistant telling students who came into her office that, in fact, we all are really the same the world over.  We all want the same things in life and therefore should get along.  Sometimes I couldn’t resist joining the conversation and saying that although I agreed
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

that we all may want the same things in this life, and a
happy afterlife, if it exists, we have different ways of getting them or there.  And therein lies the problem.  It is the different journeys we choose to take, not the hoped for destination, that causes most of the problems between people and nations.

It would be nice if we all could just take a leap of faith in ourselves and follow our own paths with confidence without harming others and without the need to coerce others to do the same.  (If you want to change somebody, be the example they want to emulate, was always my advice to proselytizing students.)  But that seems too much to ask of human beings or countries in this day and age – or any age for that matter.

Costa Rica, both the country and its people, do try to live and let live and lead only by example.  I sometimes think of it as a blue jean revolution.

Today, no matter where you go in the world you will see people wearing blue jeans – people of all nationalities, income, class and religion (or almost all).

You seldom see repetitive advertising of jeans, and no coercing.  Jeans just proved to be a versatile piece of clothing and as more people wore them, more followed suit (or should I say “followed pants”?)  And by now they are accepted as appropriate wear for almost all occasions.
All I am saying is wouldn’t it be nice if we could just agree to disagree about trying to live a good life without harming others to do it or insisting that my way must be your way.  If it feels comfortable and worth imitating, others will follow.  We don’t need to destroy in order to convince others or show our objection to their way of life, nor do we need to invade them.

That was 2003.  Now . . ."the more they remain the same."

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 179

Casino access provision violates rights, supreme court says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's highest court has told lawmakers that they cannot construct a law that allows unrestricted access to private papers by law enforcement officers.

The assessment came on a review of a law that would regulate casinos, sportsbooks and games of chance. The Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios sent the proposed law to the Corte Suprema de Justicia for review. This is customary when lawmakers are seeking to avoid constitutional pitfalls.

The court found fault with the fourth article of the proposed law which would allow the Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera
 of the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas access to the financial papers of firms regulated by the law. The intent of lawmakers is to track down money laundering.

But the court said that only a judge can order access to private documents. To do otherwise violates the rights of the individual or firm that is involved in the effort to search its records, it added.

The decision would seem to have impact outside the world of casinos. Other agencies are seeking access to private financial documents for tax or other reasons. The court suggested to the legislative commission that it should either restructure the offending section or junk it all together.

Researchers report an advance in hunt for malaria vaccine
By the National Institutes of Health news service

Using live but weakened malaria parasites as the basis of a vaccine represents a potentially encouraging anti-malaria strategy, according to results of follow-up animal studies performed after the conclusion of a recent clinical trial in humans.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, working in concert with a large team of collaborators. The findings were published online Thursday in Science Express.

The parasite that causes malaria, a disease that kills nearly one million people each year, is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected mosquito. After the bite occurs, infectious malaria parasites in the immature, sporozoite stage of their life cycle travel to the liver, where they multiply and then spread to the rest of the body through the bloodstream.

Researchers led by Stephen L. Hoffman of Sanaria Inc. in Rockville, Maryland created a prototype malaria vaccine
 against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of the malaria parasites, by purifying these sporozoites and then weakening them with radiation. In a clinical trial involving 80 healthy adult volunteers, the vaccine, called PfSPZ, was found to be safe and to induce a small immune response when given either into the skin or under the skin.

In a subgroup of 40 study volunteers who were given varying doses of the vaccine and then challenged with malaria, PfSPZ protected only two volunteers against infection. However, results of follow-up studies in rhesus monkeys and in mice suggest that changing the method of vaccine delivery might improve protection in the liver, the first site of malaria infection.

The results of the animal studies indicate that delivering PfSPZ intravenously, or directly into the bloodstream, may induce a significantly stronger immune response in the liver than administration through the skin and thus may have a much greater effect in actually preventing malaria.

Investigators will be launching a human clinical trial with intravenous PfSPZ this fall. 

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New York takes steps
to thwart terrorism strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city is heightening security in response to information about a credible but so far unconfirmed threat of a specific attack planned to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism.

Speaking at the same press conference Thursday night, police commissioner Ray Kelly said the extra security measures would include vehicle checkpoints around New York City, bag checks at the subway, and teams equipped with bomb-sniffing dogs and radiation-monitoring equipment posted around the city. He said police were especially focusing their attention on tunnels, bridges and other major infrastructure, as well as landmarks, government buildings, and houses of worship.

Kelly said there would also be more police on duty in the next several days, which they will accomplish by extending shifts by four hours,

Mayor Bloomberg said New Yorkers should continue to be vigilant and report anything suspicious or apparently dangerous to the proper authorities. But the mayor said despite the threat, New Yorkers should continue their lives as usual. He said he expected to take the subway to work Friday morning feeling just as safe as he had Thursday morning.

U.S. officials said Thursday they had discovered information about the credible threat suggesting it may focus on Washington, D.C., or New York City. Officials say they suspect three individuals, one a U.S. citizen, entered the U.S. in August intending to attack with a bomb-laden vehicle.

The White House said President Barack Obama was updated on the threat information throughout the day. A White House official told reporters the government had already “significantly enhanced” security and readiness efforts in advance of the Sept. 11 anniversary, but the President Thursday called on counterterrorism authorities to redouble their efforts to protect the U.S. from any attacks.

Officials say the threat is unconfirmed and that they are continuing to investigate. They say they are considering whether to brief local police about what to look for and whether to make the information public. The government is also considering whether to raise the country's terrorist alert level.

Earlier Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said intelligence officials have lately picked up more chatter on terrorist websites. She said the U.S. is taking all of the talk seriously.

Earlier this week, the United States raised the alert level at its domestic military bases as a precaution.

Meanwhile, the U.S. says terrorists are now struggling to secure steady financing.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a symposium in Washington Thursday that al-Qaida can "no longer rely on a thick Rolodex and a simple bank transfer."

Geithner said that the struggle to secure cash is the result of ongoing U.S. and international efforts to identify terror donors and hit them with sanctions.  He also said that the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has also hurt the group's fundraising efforts. 

The Treasury Department chief says al-Qaida's current financial struggles contrast greatly with the terror group's financial standing 10 years ago, when it carried out attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.  Still, he warned the terror group is resilient and will continue to find ways to access money.

Obama's top anti-terror advisor also addressed the symposium.  John Brennan said even though "virtually every major al-Qaida affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander," the terror group continues to plot against the U.S.

Separately, the former cochairman of the bipartisan 9-11 commission told U.S. lawmakers Thursday the country is still not as secure or as safe as it should be.

Former congressman Lee Hamilton told the House of Representative's Homeland Security Committee the country's various anti-terror agencies still suffer from a lack of unified leadership.  He called for additional improvement in sharing critical intelligence across anti-terror agencies.

The very first secretary of Homeland Security also appeared before the House panel. Former secretary Tom Ridge cautioned that no matter how hard anti-terror officials work, another attack is likely.

Food prices remained
stable during August

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World food prices remained virtually unchanged during the month of August, with only slight increases observed in the prices of cereals and meat, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported Thursday.
The organization's monthly Food Price Index averaged 231 points in August compared to 232 points in July, the Rome-based agency stated in a news release.

It was 26 per cent higher than in August 2010 but seven points below its all-time high of 238 points in February 2011.

The price indexes for oils/fats, dairy and sugar all saw declines last month, the agency added.

The prices of cereals rose reflecting the fact that although cereal production is expected to increase, it will not do so by enough to offset the additional demand, so that stocks continue to be low and prices continue to be high and volatile, according to Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Cereal price rises stem from a supply and demand balance that remains tight despite the anticipated increase in production,” it stated, adding that world cereal production is now forecast to reach 2,307 million tons this year, 3 per cent higher than in 2010.

Among the major cereals, the maize supply situation is a cause for concern following downward revisions to maize crop prospects in the United States, the world’s largest producer, because of continued hot weather in July and August, it said.

Average wheat prices were also up 9 per cent in August given the strong demand for feed wheat and shrinking supplies of high quality wheat. Rice also saw an increase, with the price of Thai rice rising 5 per cent from July, driven by a policy change in Thailand, the world’s largest exporter.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 179

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Latin America news
Festival promotes watching
whales and dolphin in Uvita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Uvita is hosting its third annual whale festival this weekend and next. It is called the III Festival de Ballenas y Delfines 2011.

The event is at the Parque Marino Ballena. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is promoting the event. Residents have an opportunity to see the whales and dolphin that visit those waters each year, the institute said.

In addition there are the usual activities associated with a local festival: Parades, children's workshops, artistic exhibitions, face painting and tours at a reasonable price, said the institute.

The inauguration is today at 8 a.m. in the Salón Comunal Bahía. The event continues through Sept. 17 and 18. The organizer is the Cámara de Turismo de Costa Ballena.

Benefit art exhibit and sale
opens at Aduana in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Valoarte, an exhibition of some 150 artists opened Thursday night at the Centro de Arte y Tecnología La Aduana in east San José.

Appropriately because today is children's day, the event opens to the public. It benefits Hogar Siembra, a 25-year-old organization dedicated to caring for youngsters at risk. The art works are for sale, and there is an admission. There are supposed to be some 250 different works. All have been juried for inclusion in the exhibition. The event runs through Sept. 29.

Home invaders took
two victims for a ride

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An armed band broke into a San Antonio de Belén home Wednesday night and took computers, televisions, jewelry and other articles, said the Judicial Investigating Organization, which set the monetary value of the stolen goods at 20 million colons, about $39,250.

Judicial agents said that the gunmen found the owners of the home in the company of a friend, and the bandits took them in the victim's car to Guácima where they were abandoned in a field.

Food handling teacher
was a fake, agents say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that a nutritionist who gave food handling courses in downtown San José was a fake.

Detained Thursday was the man. He operated in a small storefront near Parque Central, said agents. The man was not authorized to give such courses and he was working under the name of a nutritionist who was unaware of the operation, agents said. That amounts to fraud and the use of false documents, said agents.

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