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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 201                          Email us
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Lawmakers seek new tax — this one's for the movies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

First there was the tax on corporations for security. Then there was the tax for the wildlife. And then there was a tax on air travelers to support projects against human trafficking.

Now a handful of lawmakers has floated a new tax that would be dedicated to strengthening the Costa Rican movie industry.

These dedicated taxes are directed to specific institutions and agencies by the law that created them. That is similar to the new tax on corporations that will be due again by Jan. 15.

The money goes to the security ministry and a few other agencies involved in law enforcement.

Meanwhile, lawmakers Monday gave a second and final favorable vote to bill No. 17.594 that is supposed to fight trafficking in persons. This is the measure that assesses a $1 tax on air travelers. There is some confusion on exactly how the tax would be applied. Available texts of the measure on file at the legislature say that the tax will be $1 for each air traveler exit from the country. But Annie Saborío Mora, a lawmaker who has been involved in drafting the law, was quoted Monday saying that the tax would apply to the entry and exits just for tourists.

To some extent her view is consistent with the Costa Rican attitude that sex trafficking is foisted on the
country by North American and European male tourists. The law also covers trafficking for forced labor.

The wildlife tax is being examined for constitutionality by the Sala IV. The bill already got one favorable vote in the legislature. The measure assesses a $7 charge on payments of municipal taxes, payment of the annual road tax and on construction permits. The bill creates a special agency to handle the fund and use the money for projects against human trafficking, such as the banners at Juan Santamaría airport.

The text of the movie tax bill was not available online Monday night. But a release from the legislature said that the new tax on the price of admission to entertainment events would go into a fund that would either give loans or subsidies to moviemakers. Costa Rica already has a Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica under the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

Alicia Fournier Vargas, a lawmaker, made a presentation but a summary of her talk did not say how much the tax would be.

The Centro de Producción needs a reform to respond to the needs and expectations of the creative sector, she was quoted as saying. The new measure is No. 18.601. There already are taxes on admission fees to entertainment events, so this would be in addition. Seven other lawmakers were listed in support.


Chinese supermarket owners held in child labor case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested two Chinese nationals, a man and a woman, on suspicion of exploiting the woman's 16-year-old half-sister as a worker. The arrests took place during an early morning raid Monday, according to a judicial bulletin.

The two people arrested are the man, Li Li Jian Feng, 26, and the woman, He Qui Ayan, 23. They both own a supermarket in the vicinity of San Juan de Santa Barbara in Heredia, and police had been investigating the two for four months, according to a spokesperson from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The bulletin says that the girl worked 19 hours per day at the store for seven days a week and was given just one meal every day. The report says that someone her age may only work 36 hours per week. The girl is now in the custody of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, said agents.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the raid took place at 5 a.m. and that the suspects were found at the rear of the store. The teen was found in unhealthy conditions, the agency said. Agents also reported finding boxes of alcoholic beverages that may be contraband, they said.
Chines
                        woman
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
One of two Chinese store owners goes into custody.


Immigration extends period for foreigners to be legal
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration authorities have agreed to postpone the collection of fines from those who overstay their visas and those who hire illegal workers until April 23, 2013.

This decision is under the executive decree No. 37327-G, and will serve as a transition into the new rules that will take effect after this time.

Immigration officials started a campaign to make more residents legal May 17. The effort is called  “Tiempo de Oportunidad para poner sus papales al día.”

Changes include a fine of $100 for persons who exceed the period of authorized stay or, if the
foreigner does not pay, a prohibition of entry into the country triple the amount of time the individual remained here illegally.

The other is a section of the law that now says employers who hire foreigners without immigration's permission or who are not otherwise legally able to work will be fined between two and 12 times the amount of a base salary. 

The exact amount depends on the severity of the facts and the number of illegal people hired.

Kathya Rodríguez, the directora general of Migración y Extranjería, noted that the campaign to make foreigners legal generated response from many people. The Nicaragua Embassy and the offices of the security ministry where required fingerprints are taken have been flooded.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 201
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Costa Rica Expertise

Clinica Vizuliza

Halloween

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Man who robbed liquor
killed by shop owner


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man suspected of robbing alcohol from a small supermarket was killed Sunday after the owner of the store shot him three times, according to a judicial police bulletin.

A spokesperson at the Judicial Investigating Organization confirmed that the dead man, Gravin Calderón Elizondo, 27, who robbed and tried to rob the Minisuper de Ligueron in Parceles de Quebrada Azul de Tilarán twice within the span of a day. The first time he took two bottles of liquor and told store employees that he had a gun and was not paying, the agency said.

According to the bulletin, he came back six hours later with the same purpose, but store owner Alonso Jiménez Murillo responded with a gun of his own and shot Calderón once in the jaw and twice in the chest.

Calderón escaped the store, but was later found dead 25 meters from the store, judicial agents said.

A spokesperson said that Jiménez had a permit for his gun, acted in self-defense and is not facing any charges.


Cousins are gunned down
in San Antonio de Coronado


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two cousins were shot and killed in a presumed drive-by shooting in San Antonio de Coronado Sunday night while they were visiting family there, according to a judicial bulletin.

The two men were Jeffrey Segura Arroyo, 28, and Stanley Alvarado Vega, 34, said a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization. The two men had come to the area to visit family, but had stepped outside the house at 8:30 p.m. that night.

The bulletin says that Segura was in his car and Alvarado was standing beside it. Police assume that two men on a motorcycle drove past and shot at the two cousins and fled.

Both men suffered head injuries and died on the scene, the bulletin says.


Our reader's opinion
Wildlife bill prohibition
lacks specificity for humans


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Beware of the collateral damage such lack of specificity in a law can cause!

So let me get this straight.  Take down the hummingbird feeders. OK.

What about the attraction of butterflies to over-ripened fruit? And the planting (artificially locating of non-indigenous species legally purchased at local nurseries) to specifically attract butterflies. Or the tree in my neighbors yard that was planted because the parrots love to alight there and eat the seed pods.

And the use of water features in landscaping of private property that attracts all manner of species, ie. amphibian, avian, aquatic, insect, etc.,  that without the feature would NOT be inclined to visit.

This is Pandora box revisited.
Bill Wilden
Bejuco

 
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!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 201
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From left: Yoset Fuentes Novoa of Puerto Limón, Cicely Norman Brown of Puerto Limón, Katherine Sharpe Pasmore of Puerto Limón, Génesis Diaz Brown of Cocales, Puerto Viejo, Lidianeth Lewis Romero of Puerto Limón, Jennyfer Almengor Smith of Amubri, Talamanca, Flor Blanco Pereira of Amubri, Talamanca and Wendy Bonilla Garcia of Sixola.

queen candidates
Carnavales del Caribe 2012 photo
Permit confusion delays selection of Carnaval queen in Limón
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The coronation and election of the 2012 Carnaval Queen in Limón was rescheduled from last Friday to Thursday due to problems with permits.

“We didn't get the permit in time,” said a commission spokesperson. “We had the permit for the rest of Carnaval, but didn't know we needed a different one for the queen contest.  We decided to make it the same day as the start of Carnaval, Oct. 11.”

The announcement was made last Thursday on the Facebook page for the event formally called Carnavales del Caribe 2012.  It was followed the next day by a message that said the commission had received the last permit necessary to host the event over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, the eight contestants have been together participating in photo shoots and receiving final fittings in preparation for their day of beauty and glamor.

Each of the young women want the opportunity to represent
their home providence of Limón.   The candidates are Yoset Fuentes Novoa of Puerto Limón, Cicely Norman Brown of Puerto Limón, Katherine Sharpe Pasmore of Puerto Limón, Génesis Diaz Brown of Cocales, Puerto Viejo, Lidianeth Lewis Romero of Puerto Limón, Jennyfer Almengor Smith of Amubri, Talamanca, Flor Blanco Pereira of Amubri, Talamanca and Wendy Bonilla Garcia of Sixola.

At 7 p.m. Thursday the annual beauty pageant will begin in Parque Vargas.  It will require these ladies to go through a whirlwind of rounds that consists of swimsuits, African headdresses and evening gowns. 

The contest ends with the traditional question of how each candidate can better their world and home.  Most call for peace in Limón, a place many locals caution tourists not to even visit because of the growing violence and drug epidemic.

All other events will continue as scheduled with the big parade Oct. 20 starting at 1 p.m. in Barrio Jamaica Town and ending in Parque Vargas, spokespersons said.

For more information about Carnaval del Caribe visit the Web page HERE!


U.S. lawmakers say cell phone provider here is a security risk
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

U.S. members of Congress say that Huawei, one of Costa Rica's major telecom suppliers, is a security risk.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has awarded a major 3G telephone line contract to the Chinese Huawei Technologies, which was the low bidder.

The U.S. lawmakers also warned about ZTE Corp., which was an unsuccessful bidder on the same cell telephone contract in 2009.

Both firms are linked closely with the Chinese government. A U.S. House of Representatives report said the companies pose a long-term corporate and national security threat.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, said the committee began investigating concerns about the telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE a year ago, interviewing former Huawei employees, industry experts and intelligence officials.  He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Rogers said the panel was disappointed by the incomplete, contradictory and evasive answers provided by Huawei and ZTE during the investigation.

An Intelligence Committee report recommends U.S. government systems, especially sensitive systems, exclude Huawei and ZTE equipment and component parts.  The report pointed out critical infrastructure, everything from electric-power grids to banking and finance systems to water systems, is extremely inter-connected, and said the risk is high that a failure or disruption in one system could have a devastating ripple effect.

U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland, warned of a heightened risk of cyber-espionage or cyber-attack from the two firms.
"We already know the Chinese are aggressively hacking into our nation's networks, threatening our critical infrastructure, and stealing millions of dollars worth of trade secrets and other sensitive information from American companies," he said.

Ruppersberger said $300 billion worth of U.S. trade secrets are stolen every year, and that most of the cases prosecuted involve China.

William Plummer, Huawei vice president for external affairs, attended the news conference and spoke to reporters afterwards.  Plummer strongly rejected the conclusions of the investigation and said it was motivated by political suspicions of China during an election year in the United States.

"There are politics and then there are facts," said Plummer. "The facts are that this company is globally trusted, and that our product is world proven in terms of its security and integrity."

Plummer said Huawei has too much to lose to collaborate with Chinese cyber-espionage.  He said it is an independently-owned company that has been operating in the United States for years. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also rejected the report, saying Chinese companies do not pose a national security threat to the United States. 

He said he hopes the U.S. Congress will, in his words, "set aside prejudices and respect the facts."

U.S. national security policy officials say Huawei works closely with the Chinese military on research and development projects.  Huawei is looking to expand in the U.S. telecommunications market, and its cellphones and 4G networks are popular worldwide.

One industry source said that Huawei was poised for a push into the U.S. market, something that upsets U.S. lawmakers in an election year.

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Commercial chambers unite in support of photocopying veto
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four business chambers called on legislators to uphold President Laura Chinchilla's veto of a revised copyright law.

Students and photocopiers have been some of the most zealous proponents of the bill because they say it would allow greater freedom for copying textbooks for academic purposes.

However, the directors of the chambers said that academic copying is not what concerns them. They fear a particular amendment in the bill that takes away prison sentences as punishment for copying books, movies and music for resale.

“Our big issue was with eliminating jail time,” said Catherine Reuben, executive director of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce. “We support the academic exception.”

“The student movement is saying that they want the protection of academic exception, and what we are saying is that already exists and that is already protected in current Costa Rican legislation.”

However, a student movement called Fotocopiando para Estudiar announced last week that it would hold a march in defense of the bill today. The march will start at 10 a.m. at the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro and go to the Asamblea Legislativa building.

The chambers urging legislators to sustain the veto of the bill were the Cámara Costarricense del Libro, the Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación, the Asociación de Profesionales en Propiedad Intelectual de Costa Rica and the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce.

This bill, Reform of several articles of the law on procedures for enforcement of intellectual property rights, passed through two votes in the Asamblea Legislativa with overwhelming support and was sent to Ms. Chinchilla for approval in July.

However, under pressure from the chamber of information technology and the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Chinchilla vetoed the bill Sept. 25.
Enacting stiffer copyright infringement penalties is something that Costa Rica agreed to when it became part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Even though these revisions to Costa Rica's intellectual property protections meet the standards of the agreement, enforcement of the regulations already in place is rare compared to the United States.

It is common to see vendors along Avenida Central openly selling pirated music and movies in front of police. Additionally, Costa Rica does little to restrict access to Web sites that allow people to download copyrighted content.

As for students copying textbooks, Ms. Reuben explained that short of copying an entire book, the existing law already allows students and professors to copy any part of a literary text that they require as long as it is for academic use. However, photocopiers worry that they will be prosecuted for fulfilling the requests of students and professors.

She said that the chambers have no complaints with this academic exception. Their only complaint is that removing prison sentences for violating intellectual property makes it even more difficult to control organized piracy, or groups that sell large amounts of copies.

“It's not that anything you do you go to jail,” said Ms. Reuben. “If it's a very small infringement in monetary numbers, then you may just have to pay a fine, you won't go to jail.”

Current law gives jail sentences from one to six years for copyright infringement. Members of the chambers said that these are necessary, because organized crime can factor fines into their overhead costs.

A spokesperson at the chamber explained that the vetoed bill must be published in La Gaceta, before it returns to the legislative assembly. In the assembly it will first go to the commission on legal affairs and then to the general assembly. Two-thirds of its members must vote to affirm the bill in order for it to override President Chinchilla's veto. Although the group has 30 days to complete this process, lawmakers can ask for additional 30-day periods indefinitely.


Lucky turtle hooked by longliner saved by Cocos rangers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rangers were able to free a hooked green sea turtle that happened to be one of 17 that carried sensing devices.

The Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said that the incident happened Sept. 24 inside the zone around the Isla de Cocos where fishing is prohibited. The endangered green sea turtle had been snagged by a hook on a longline fishing rig, said the environmental organization. Rangers were able to free the turtle, although the creature was injured. Usually turtles hooked in this way drown.

The Programa is known as Pretoma, and it is working with a U.S. organization to protect turtles and hammerhead sharks around the island. Researchers had tagged the turtle's external flipper and also attached satellite and acoustic devices during an earlier expedition to the island in April 2012. They arrived coincidentally at the island to continue the research the following day, the Programa said.

The hooked turtle was one of 17 tagged with a satellite transmitter to understand the movements of the species to determine if the marine protected area is large enough to keep the turtle safe during its long residency at Cocos Island, Pretoma said. The satellite tag sends daily signals into space, which are captured and sent to researchers computers.
hooked turtle
Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas photo
 As an illustration, the environmental group provided a
 photo of an Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) being
 released from a circle hook.



Two-day cricket tourney planned for school-age players
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica Cricket Federation will host two full days of cricket matches for youth teams in the city of Limón Wednesday and Thursday.

The two days are the final rounds of the 2012 National Inter-Schools Cricket Tournament. The tournament began with two days of competitions last Thursday and Friday in Siquirres and Limón.
The first day will consist of the final matches of the season for teams of both boys and girls from Costa Rican elementary schools.

The second day will be the finals for men at the high school level.

The competitions will start at 9 a.m. and conclude at 3 p.m. both days. Additionally, both finals will take place in the Polideportivo Stadium.  

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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World economic figures
meet to study current woes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Monetary Fund is warning that global economic growth is slowing at the same time the World Bank says hundreds of millions of new jobs are needed around the world. Top financial and political leaders are gathering in Tokyo to discuss these and other major economic issues.

Many Europeans have been angered by government efforts to slash pensions and salaries, while raising taxes in an effort to balance battered budgets.

Public anger is one of many things limiting what leaders can do to solve economic problems in Europe and elsewhere.

As leaders head for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, many economists say Europe’s problems are the biggest threat to the global economy.

Christine Lagarde, the fund's managing director, said the budget cuts must be made gradually and need to be balanced with spending that's designed to boost growth and jobs.

"There should be clearly a focus on austerity, but also on growth as we believe that the two are not mutually exclusive,” said Lagarde.

A World Bank study says 600 million new jobs are needed by 2020 to accommodate new entrants to the workforce. The study says private enterprise creates most new jobs, but World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said government can help by providing good infrastructure and smart regulation.

“There is a lot that governments can do to create an environment where especially small and medium enterprises can create the kind of good jobs that people need and people want," he said.

Top financial officials from around the world have met frequently over the past few years to deal with difficult issues. Some economists blame blunders by financial companies for sparking the economic crisis that threw millions of people out of work.

Many experts say regulation has improved, by for example, requiring banks to keep larger cash reserves.

Daniel Hanson of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington said, however, that Europe’s debt woes slow the process.

“Europe is making a lot of progress in safeguarding their system, but they are doing so in the midst of their largest credit crunch on record,” said Hanson.

One expert said that easing Europe’s troubles will be challenging new territory for the fund, which has experience helping poor nations.


Language learning creates
bigger brains, study says

By the Lund University news service

At the Swedish armed forces interpreter academy, young recruits learn a new language at a very fast pace. By measuring their brains before and after the language training, a group of researchers have had an opportunity to observe what happens to the brain when humans learn a new language in a short period of time.

At the Swedish academy in the city of Uppsala, young people with a flair for languages go from having no knowledge of a language such as Arabic, Russian or Dari to speaking it fluently in the space of 13 months. From morning to evening, weekdays and weekends, the recruits study at a pace unlike on any other language course.

As a control group, the researchers used medicine and cognitive science students at Umeå University. These students also study hard, but not languages. Both groups were given magnetic resonance scans before and after a three-month period of intensive study. While the brain structure of the control group remained unchanged, specific parts of the brain of the language students grew. The parts that developed in size were the hippocampus, a deep-lying brain structure that is involved in learning new material and spatial navigation, and three areas in the cerebral cortex.

“We were surprised that different parts of the brain developed to different degrees depending on how well the students performed and how much effort they had had to put in to keep up with the course”, says Johan Mårtensson, a researcher in psychology at Lund University in  Sweden.

Students with greater growth in the hippocampus and areas of the cerebral cortex related to language learning (superior temporal gyrus) had better language skills than the other students. In students who had to put more effort into their learning, greater growth was seen in an area of the motor region of the cerebral cortex (middle frontal gyrus). The areas of the brain in which the changes take place are thus linked to how easy one finds it to learn a language and development varies according to performance.

Previous research from other groups has indicated that Alzheimer’s disease has a later onset in bilingual or multilingual groups.

“Even if we cannot compare three months of intensive language study with a lifetime of being bilingual, there is a lot to suggest that learning languages is a good way to keep the brain in shape,” said Mårtensson.

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Lawmaker seeks to impose
minimum age for shooting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elibeth Venegas, a lawmaker with the Partido Liberación Nacional, is seeking a change in the laws controlling firearms so that there will be a minimum age for youngsters who learn how to shoot.

She told her fellow lawmakers that the Spanish-language press reported on children from 6 to 10 years firing weapons at local ranges.

She said that someone using a weapon needs a certain maturity and that instructing children opens up the possibility of a dangerous game and teaches children that firearms serve to defend oneself and to solve conflicts.

A child lacks the mental ability to use a firearm even if they are accompanied by an adult, she said.


License plate restrictions
suspended for Monday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friday may be the Día de las Culturas, but the traffic police say they will ticket drivers in the metro area who are in vehicles with plates ending in 9 or 0. This is the usual practice on Fridays.

The holiday is being moved in most cases to Monday. That day is a holiday for most employees, and public offices will be closed.

And motorists with vehicles with plates ending in 1 or 2 can travel the streets of San José without getting a ticket, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.


Ex-lawmaker Merino dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José Merino del Río, the Spanish-born president of the partido Frente Amplio and a former legislator, died late Sunday in Cuba where he was undergoing medical treatment.

The left-wing Merino is best known for fiery speeches at the legislature.

President Laura Chinchilla expressed her sympathy to his family on her Twitter account. She said he was an example of confrontation in a democracy.


New school in poor shape

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Colegio Ítalo-Costarricense in San Vito, Coto Brus, in southern Costa Rica is in poor shape, according to a report by the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos, whose representatives studied the structure.

The report lists exposed pipes, fallen sinks, peeling paint and water collecting in pools. This is a public institution that went into service in February. The report also said that the school lacks some permits and is too close to a bar.







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