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(506) 2223-1327                   Published  Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, in Vol. 9, No. 185               E-mail us
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Despite economy, credit card types keep growing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican shoppers have 13 more types of credit cards, according to a survey by the economics ministry. That brings to 414 the types of credit cards available in the country.

The ministry  said Banco Citi, Bancrédito and Banco Nacional offer the best interest rates on colon-denominated  credit cards. Other lenders have interest rates that go as high as 54 percent per year. That figure is 30 percent higher than the lowest colon credit card.

One also has to be a careful shopper because Citi offers 94 types of credit cards. Credomatic offers 92. Bancrédito offers 42 and Banco Nacional offers 37. All have different rates and regulations.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio studies the credit market four times a year. This study includes the period from June to August. The ministry noted that the highest rate had increased 4 percent since the last study.

The card with the highest rate, 54 percent, is the Compra Facil local brand put out by Medio de Pago MP S.A., said the ministry. Tarjetas BCT S.A. is close behind with its Visa at 50.4 percent. Medio de Pago MP S.A. holds the third and fourth highest rates, 49.82 and 49.41 percent with its Visas.

The fifth highest rate is with Citi Tarjetas at 49.32
percent with some 28 Visa cards and three Mastercards.

Citi Tarjetas also issues the card with the lowest rate, also a Visa called Signature Internacional, at 20 percent.

Other providers with lower rates are Banco Nacional with both Mastercard and Visas at 22 percent, Bancrédito with a Visa at 23 percent, and both Banco Nacional and Bancrédito in fourth place with Visa and Mastercards that have rates of 24 percent.

Banco de Costa Rica has the next lowest rate card, according to the survey. That includes several types of Visa and Mastercards at 25 percent.

Colon-denominated credit cards carry higher rates than dollar cards, which were not included in the study. There also are other types of cards for professional groups and organizations that have restricted access. They were not rated either.

Some of the cards in the survey have a charge to open an account. The ministry said that 325 types of cards did not required an initial fee. Coopegrecia requires a 3,500-colon payment, about $6.  American Express and several prestige cards of Credomatic require an initial payment of 118,000 colons, the ministry said. That's $201 at the current exchange rate. Some cards, but not the majority, require an annual renewal fee, the ministry said.


Belated probe launched in death of motorcyclist
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than seven months after his death, investigators conducted searches of offices connected with X-Knights motorcyclist Jeremy Lusk.

Some 22,000 persons watched at the international free style motorcycle competition last Feb. 7 as one of Lusk’s airborne tricks went awry. Lusk lost control of his motorcycle in the air as he attempted to jump a ramp. The cyclist’s body flipped backwards and he hit the dirt mound becoming unconscious. He died without regaining consciousness in Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The event was in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.

The Poder Judicial said that agents visited the  Federación Costarricense de Motores in Escazú, an office of the Minsterio de Salud and the Tibás municipal building.

A spokeswoman of X-Knights at the time said that doctors at Calderón Guardia performed
Motorcycle accident
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Event workers try to provide first aid to Jeremy Lusk after the flip that proved fatal.

surgery in order to drain the fluid between Lusk’s brain and skull. 

Unclear was if agents were investigating the death as a case of malpractice, as a negligent homicide or as a murder. The complaint in the case came from Lusk's wife, the Poder Judicial said. The couple lived in San Diego.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 185

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Arias off to United Nations
for discussion on Honduras


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez will be in New York next week to speak at the United Nations and to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Honduran politics.

The opening of the U.S. General Assembly is a time when presidents and foreign ministers from all over the world visit New York to make their voices heard. This will be Arias' last visit as president. He leaves office in May.

The United States has been encouragingg Arias in his promotion of his San José accord for restoring the ousted José ManualZelaya RRRosales to the Honduran presidency. The interim government there does not want Zelaya back, so the situation is a stalemate.

Elections in November are expected to restore the country to the good graces of other nations in the hemisphere.

Arias also will participate in a climate change summit. He speaks at the U.N. Security Council Thursday, said Casa Presidencial.

Kayak races are planned
for weekend  in gulf


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The first amateur sea kayak competition will begin Saturday in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Sea kayaking is not very common in Costa Rica although the climate and water around here is perfect for the activity, said organizers, the Bahía Rica Adventures and the Costa Rican triathleteRoberto Machado. They have decided to make an effort to change that.

The organizers said they hope this annual event will contribute to create more awareness and interest in sea kayaking. In addition it will be a boost for the Paquera area where it will originate.

Saturday participants can compete in an individual race around Isla Cedros. The are female and male categories. Sunday a relay for three-person teams is scheduled around Isla Jesusita. Both races are starting at 10 a.m. from Playa Nicoyana at Punta Cuchillo, 1.5 km east of the Paquera ferry landing.

There still area few places available in the competition, said organizers. The have established this Web site in Spanish:.

Tech institute plans courses
to bolster Tico competitivity

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica said it is the first university to become part of the Specialist Costa Rica program which is an initiative to strengthen the competitiveness of the country.

The goal is to develop local talent in technical and scientific careers to meet the demands of employers. The specialist program came out of the union between the  Programa Nacional de Competitividad y Mejora Regulatoria, the  Fondo Nacional de Becas para la Educación and the  Cámara Costarricense de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación

Officials computed that salaries in the technical field were $173 million in 2007.

The university will be offering 13 programs raging from graphic design to administration of companies. Many are in the computer field, but there also is automobile electronics. All students will have access to the extensive network of labs and technical centers at the Cartago-based school.

200 international visitors
seek to promote peace


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 200 persons were at the inaugural Thursday night of the ninth summit for peace. The event is being held in Costa Rica for the first time.

The goal of the group is to construct a system for the resolution of national conflicts without violence. President Óscar Arias Sánchez spoke.

The meeting has representatives from 38 nations. The event will go through Monday. The session Thursday was in the Auditorio Nacional in the Museo de los Niños.

Home invasion suspects
identified by Poder Judicial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial has identified the three persons who are accused of staging a home invasion at the dwelling of a U.S. family in July. They were detained Wednesday.

One is a woman with the last names of Vega Alfaro, said the Poder Judicial. It is she, according to investigators, who established a friendship with the family in order to learn the floor plan and the details of the security system. Also identified were two men who have the last names of Flores Rios and Navarro Maceiro. They are accused of being the gunmen who broke into the San Rafael de Escazú home, tied up the family and sacked the place.

The Juzgado Penal de Pavas  ordered all three to be held for three months for investigation.

10K scheduled for Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Colegio de Periodistas has set Sunday as the day for its 34th 10K race. Runners will go from Sabana Este to Plaza Mayor in Rohrmoser and return. There are a number of classes for sex and age groups, including one for wheelchairs. The race begins at 8 p.m.

There are money prizes. Signups are available at several running stores in the metro area.


Our reader's opinion
Concepts of racism evolved
into a new definition



Dear A. M. Costa Rica:

In response to Bob Piazza's letter of Sept. 17 ("Letters have many slants and promote discussions") you reject his allegation that Garland Baker's column of Aug. 31 ("Underdevelopment and the origins of Pura Vida") is racist.  You base your rejection on the fact that those residing in the United States and Costa Rica are of the same race.  Biologically that is largely true. However, in recent decades, concepts of racism have evolved and today many sociologists describe new racial ideologies with the term "cultural racism".

Quoting from an online source:

"At its core, cultural racism is a form of racism (that is, a structurally unequal practice) that relies on cultural differences rather than on biological markers of racial superiority or inferiority. The cultural differences can be real, imagined, or constructed. Culture, rather than biology, has become a popular, political, and scientific explanatory framework for understanding and rationalizing the unequal status and treatment of various racial groups. Racialized groups are not burdened or blessed by their genetic traits but by their cultural traits."

If one accepts this notion, then Mr. Baker's article clearly is racist because he uses the signature methodology of racism to state his case — stereotyping.  By Mr. Baker's standard, Costa Ricans could easily characterize Gringos as fat, violent, greedy, arrogant and woefully uninformed about anything going on outside the borders of the United States.  We know, of course, that's not true, don't we?

The bigger question for me when I read so many letters in A. M. Costa Rica critical of this country's values and culture, a large number of which are written by expats in residence, is why they choose to live here at all.  If Costa Rica has so many disadvantages compared to their home country — and it must, otherwise there would be little incentive to write such letters — it makes no sense that they would prefer to live here rather than where they came from. 

It couldn't be that they can live a lifestyle in Costa Rica they could never afford in the U.S., could it? Is it all about money?  Are they merely looking for a cheaper version of the U.S. in Costa Rica and are disillusioned when they realize it isn't?  I'm not suggesting people should leave if they don't appreciate the values and culture of Costa Rica."  I'm not suggesting people should leave if they don't appreciate the values and culture of Costa Rica.  I'm just wondering why they aren't living in a place with values and a culture they prefer.
Steven A. Roman
San Antonio de Belén

EDITOR'S NOTE: The same source says: “'Cultural racism' is not yet a standard label in the race and racism literature, especially in the United States. It is virtually absent in the anthropological literature and has only recently appeared in the U.S. sociological literature."


Another railroad problem

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

Thank you for your recent articles on dangers with the railroad. There is also a very dangerous blind spot going into Heredia.  The big "Rotary" sign, apparently on railroad land, obligates drivers to pull onto the rails before  they can see. I predict another accident there sooner or later. And we need lights that are active only when the train comes, like we had years ago.
Ray Schlabach
Heredia

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 185

Rectification


New Web site seeks to promote Costa Rican musical works
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new Web site has gone live with the idea of promoting Costa Rican music.

The Web site, vibratica.com, has been declared in the cultural interest by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Originator  Gabriel Weirnik said his goal was to offer Costa Rican artists the technological tools to promote their own music.

The Web site offers videos and blogs in which musical artists can promote their works. There also are forums and ways in which users can produce their own radio feed. Another section features classifieds of a musical nature, such as the sale of instruments.
Another section is  calendar of when local artists perform and profiles of the musical producers of Costa Rica.

Weirnik launched the site with a concert this week in Parque Morazán with local artist. The music featured on the site ranges from the Banda Nacional de San José to more cutting-edge efforts posted by users.

Weirnik said that the development of music in Costa Rica is jeopardized by pirate copies of works violating the rights of artists. He said that he hopes to sell songs for $1 each on the site with half that amount going to the artist.

The songs are in MP3 format.

There are several entertainment Web sites that seek to keep track of the musical events in Costa Rica. But none appears to have compositions by local artists posted for site visitors.


Esparza woman held as author of contract killing of nurse
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When gunmen killed a nurse Sunday in Puntarenas investigators realized almost immediately that they were dealing with some sort of personal revenge and not a street crime.

The dead woman was a nurse who worked for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for 13 years. She was Grace Alexandra Gómez Matarrita, 38. She lived in El Roble de Puntarenas.

The nurse left her car to be washed in Barranca de Puntarenas, and returned there to pick up the vehicle Sunday night. The gunmen were waiting, hidden behind a nearby truck.

The killing was obviously a contract job. The two men surprised the woman as she was getting into her car and shot her multiple times. There was no effort to take her belongings or the vehicle.

Investigators said the gunmen were two Nicaraguans, 27 and 29, who accepted about 1.5 million colons, a bit more than $2,500 to do the job. Agents of the Judicial investigating Organization detained the two men Thursday as they were about to get on a northbound bus, perhaps heading to Nicaragua.
Agents said the two men were working for a 43-year-old woman from Esparza who ordered the killing.

Agents were not talking about the motive, but did say that the killing was one of  problemas  pasionales. More of the story will come out at trial.

The two men were carrying pistols when they were detained as well as the 1.5 million in colons, said agents.

The woman was detained in her home where agents said they found evidence.

The dead woman left two children.


Jo Stuart is on vacation

Jo Stuart is on vacation this week, so her column, which normally is in this space Fridays, does not appear.

Ms. Stuart is extraordinarily conscientious in writing her weekly column for eight years.  She has even managed in the past to produce a column from a hospital bed.

But everyone needs a break once in awhile, and Ms. Stuart will be back next week.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 185


Climate research links El Niño and 1918 flu epidemic

By the Texas A&M news service

Research casts doubts on the notion that El Niño has been getting stronger because of global warming and raises interesting questions about the relationship between El Niño and a severe flu pandemic 91 years ago. The findings are based on analysis of the 1918 El Niño, which the new research shows to be one of the strongest of the 20th century.

El Niño occurs when unusually warm surface waters form over vast stretches of the eastern Pacific Ocean and can affect weather systems worldwide. Using advanced computer models, Benjamin Giese, a professor of oceanography at who specializes in ocean modeling at Texas A&M University, and his co-authors conducted a simulation of the global oceans for the first half of the 20th century and they find that, in contrast with prior descriptions, the 1918-19 El Niño was one of the strongest of the century.

Giese’s work is being published in the current "Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society," and the research project was funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.

Giese says there were few measurements of the tropical Pacific Ocean in 1918, the last year of World War I, and the few observations that are available from 1918 are mostly along the coast of South America. “But the model results show that the El Niño  of 1918 was stronger in the central Pacific, with a weaker signature near the coast,” Giese explained. “Thus the limited measurements likely missed detecting the 1918 El Niño.”

Giese adds, “The most commonly used indicator of El Niño is the ocean temperature anomaly in the central Pacific Ocean. By that standard, the 1918-19 El Niño is as strong as the events in 1982-83 and 1997-98, considered to be two of the strongest events on record, causing some researchers to conclude that El Niño has been getting stronger because of global warming. Since the 1918-19 El Niño occurred before significant warming from greenhouse gasses, it makes it difficult to argue that El Niño s have been getting stronger.”

The El Niño of 1918 coincided with one of the worst
droughts in India, he adds. “It is well known that there is a connection between El Niño and the failure of the Indian monsoon, just as there is a well-established connection between El Niño and Atlantic hurricane intensity,” Giese says. In addition to drought in India and Australia, 1918 was also a year in which there were few Atlantic hurricanes.

The research also raises questions about El Niño and mortality from the influenza pandemic of 1918.  By mid-1918, a flu outbreak – which we now know was the H1N1 strain that is of great concern today – was sweeping the world, and the resulting fatalities were catastrophic: At least 25 million people died worldwide, with some estimates as high as 100 million deaths. India was particularly hard hit by the influenza.

“We know that there is a connection between El Niño and drought in India,” Giese notes.

“It seems probable that mortality from influenza was high in India because of famine associated with drought, so it is likely that El Niño contributed to the high mortality from influenza in India.”

The flu epidemic of 1918, commonly called the Spanish Flu, is believed to be the greatest medical holocaust in history. It lasted from March of 1918 to June of 1920, and about 500 million people worldwide became infected, with the disease killing between 25 million to 100 million, most of them young adults. An estimated 17 million died in India, between 500,000 to 675,000 died in the U.S. and another 400,000 died in Japan.

Could the events of 1918 be a harbinger of what might occur in 2009?

Giese says there are some interesting parallels. The winter and spring in 1918 were unusually cold throughout North America, just at the time influenza started to spread in the central U.S. That was followed by a strengthening El Niño and subsequent drought in India. As the El Niño matured in the fall of 1918, the influenza became a pandemic.

With a moderate to strong El Niño now forming in the Pacific and the H1N1 flu strain apparently making a vigorous comeback, the concerns today are obvious, Giese added



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 185

Casa Alfi Hotel

Argentine lawmakers vote
to restrict media ownership


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentina's lower house of congress has approved a controversial media reform bill being pushed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Critics accuse the president of supporting the bill in order to increase her control over the media. The measure would place further limits on the number of broadcast licenses that one organization can have.

An overwhelming number of lawmakers voted in favor of the measure Thursday, but only after more than 100 opposition members walked out in protest.

Some say the bill is an effort to crush the influential Clarin Group media conglomerate, which has been critical of the government. If the bill is approved, the company would be forced to get rid of some of its radio and television outlets.

The bill will now be sent to the senate, though the opposition lawmakers who boycotted the lower house vote say it has not been properly reviewed. They vow to try and block the measure in December, when lawmakers who were elected in June mid-term elections are seated. President Fernández lost her majority in the June elections.


Cuba and U.S. will talk
about direct mail service


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States and Cuba have begun talks on resuming direct mail service, which has been suspended since 1963.

Bisa Williams , U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, is leading the delegation to the negotiations in Havana. She is the highest-level representative of the Obama administration to travel to Cuba.

Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service also are taking part in the talks, which were agreed to in May.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly described the talks Thursday as exploratory. He said they are part of the administration's efforts to improve communication with the Cuban people.

The direct mail link between the U.S. and Cuba was terminated just four years after the Cuban revolution brought Fidel Castro to power. Since then, mail between the U.S. and Cuba has had to go through a third country. 

Despite some changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, President Obama has refused to lift the 47-year-old trade embargo against the Communist state and on Monday, extended it for a year.

The administration says the embargo will remain in place as a way to push for democratic change on the island.

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez told a news conference Wednesday the embargo should be lifted. He said the other measures President Obama has taken have been insufficient.

Rodríguez also dismissed Washington's calls for reforms, saying Cuba is unwilling to negotiate its internal issues with other governments.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 185

Latin American news
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Unions will put off strike
while negotiations continue


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The unions representing the non-professional employees of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said they would hold off on a general strike for three weeks while negotiations mediated by a vice minister of Trabajo take place.

The sessions are supposed to begin Wednesday with Eugenio Solano mediating between union negotiators and Eduardo Doryan, executive president of the Caja, said the unions.

The unions staged a walkout Sept. 10 and had planned a major strike starting today. The strike is on hold while negotiations continue through Oct. 12, the  unions said.

The issues include working conditions, work in dangerous areas, more pay upon retirement and a number of other issues.

The unions claimed that the Caja cut off negotiations three months ago.


Traffic law delay OK'd
for second and final time

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, lawmakers approved on second reading a measure that will postpone new, larger fines for traffic law violations until March 1.  The measure also makes  corrections to misnumbered paragraphs in the original law passed in December.

The measure is expected to be signed and published before the majority of the traffic law goes into effect Wednesday.


Job fair in San José today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José is hosting a job fair today from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the fifth floor of the municipal building.

At least eight companies have said they will send representatives. There may be as many as 300 permanent positions and 100 temporary positions being made available. Most of the jobs are in retail, restaurants, security and customer service, said the municipality.








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