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(506) 2223-1327         Publshed Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 207            E-mail us
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mor road problems
Photo by Loren B. Ford
Quick fix,
quicker unfix

Motorists along the Interamericana Norte at Cambronero might be interested to know the road is falling apart again.

This is the site where a chunk of road washed out Sept. 8. Workmen put in a one-lane bailey bridge and refilled the gap caused by heavy rains.

First they had to put in a new concrete culvert using meter-long sections of concrete pipe.

Area resident Loren B. Ford reports that five sections of the new culvert have been undermined by stream discharge and are falling towards the Río Jesús. There is no sign of Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes inspectors or workers form the company that made the emergency repairs, he said.

Autopista environmental damage put at $40 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rocks and mudslides are not the only problems facing the concession holder for the Autopista del Sol.

A specialist in environmental matters said Tuesday that construction of the San José-Caldera highway caused $40 million in damage between Ciudad Colón and Orotina. The principal concern was the Barva aquifer, said the expert, Monserrat Solano López.

The testimony came before the special legislative commission that is investigating concessions awarded by the government to private firms. The autopista is one of these.

The aquifer is in La Guácima, and other environmental damages were claimed by the invasion by road builders of protected zones and mismanagement of trash. The witness testified that builders did not follow environmental plans that had been approved.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones expected to receive today from the concession holder an analysis of problems and ways to solve them.  The highway has been plagued by slides and collapses of the roadway due to the weather, and some say, incorrect engineering.

The problems that will be addressed in the document delivered today is at Kilometer 47. This is where twin bailey bridges have been installed over a section of roadway that slipped downhill. The autopista concession holder estimated that repairs here will take two months, the ministry said. The bridges are creating a perpetual traffic jam.
Next week analyses of three other locations where
damage has taken place are expected, said the ministry. The ministry and the Consejo will be assisted in its evaluations by the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales of the Universidad de Costa Rica. Also involved will be two firms contracted to study the problems.

The ministry also said that it would not accept the finished highway Oct. 28 as had been planned. It said too many problems remain, the ministry said.

Another highway, the Interamericana Norte at Cambronero or Kilometer 87, continues with a single-lane bailey bridge, the ministry noted. There are other problems along the key route from the Central Valley to the Pacific.

There are sections where the road collapsed and places where more culverts have to be installed, the ministry said in a written report.

However, the ministry did not note the erosion of work that had just been done at that point. This problem was noted by a resident, who took photos and sent them to A.M. Costa Rica.

In the same report, the minister, Francisco Jiménez, expressed his condolences and sorrow at the accident that killed a father and child Friday night on Ruta 32, the San José-Limón route. A boulder pancaked the car and critically injured the child's mother. Jiménez said he expected to receive a diagnosis of what has to be done to make the route safer. He said that in some places the highway will be rerouted and in others shelters will be constructed. In addition investments will be made to improve the alternate route to Limón via Turrialba, he said.

Engineers have been studying Ruta 32 for weeks.

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Nation's budget goes
to floor of legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee Tuesday sent to the full Asamblea Legislativa the nation's 2011 budget of 5.5 trillion colons or $10.9 billion. The budget is 16 percent higher than the current one with the bulk of the added expenses to finance social programs.

Most discussion in the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios revolved around motions presented by opposition party members. Most were rejected.

Escazú senior killed
by robbers at his shop

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 81-year-old San Rafael de Escazú soda owner died Sunday night in Hospital México from a bullet wound inflicted by two masked men at his place of business. A soda in Costa Rica is the name for a small eating place.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the men planned to rob the business.  The victim, who has the last name of Umaña suffered a wound in the chest.

Home invasion suspects
caught in Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators in Guanacaste have detained two men believed part of a band that invaded homes there. The bulk of the crimes were in the Cañas vicinity.

They face an allegation that Aug. 20 they invaded a home in Abangares along with two other individuals, threatened an older couple there with a machete and took household goods, a rifle, and chainsaw as well as television sets.

Friday two other suspects were detained, agents said.

Banco Nacional router
causes outage of Internet

By the A. M. Costa Rica staff

The router that handles Internet traffic for Banco Nacional failed Tuesday morning, and customers could not complete online transactions for six hours. Service finally was restored about 4 p.m.

A bank employee said that computers within banks were working normally and that urgent transactions could be completed if a customer wished to visit a local branch and conduct business through a live teller. Automatic tellers connected to the bank also functioned normally.

The outage took place the day after a legal holiday when many employees of various companies were returning after a three-day weekend.

Internet users will reach
2 billion in 2010, U.N. says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The number of Internet users worldwide has doubled in the past five years and will surpass the 2 billion mark in 2010, with the majority of the 226 million new users this year coming from developing countries, the United Nations telecommunication agency reported Tuesday.

The number of people with Internet access at home has increased from 1.4 billion in 2009 to almost 1.6 billion in 2010, with 65 per cent of these in developed countries and only 13.5 per cent in developing countries, where access in schools, at work and public locations is critical, the International Telecommunication Union said, releasing the new data on the eve of World Statistics Day.

By the end of the year, 71 per cent of the population in developed countries will be online, compared to 21 per cent in developing countries. Regional differences are significant: 65 per cent of Europeans are on the Internet, compared to only 9.6 per cent of Africans.

With the rapidly increasing high-bandwidth content and applications on the Internet, there is a growing demand for higher-speed broadband connections as a catalyst for growth.

Hamadoun Touré has called broadband “the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology,” generating jobs, driving growth and productivity, and underpinning long-term economic competitiveness. he is secretary general of the Telecommunication Union.

Over the past year, there has been strong growth in fixed broadband subscriptions and by the end of 2010, fixed broadband penetration will reach 8 per cent globally, but levels in developing countries remain low at 4.4 subscriptions per 100 people compared to 24.6 in developed countries.

While high-speed Internet is still out of reach for many people in poorer countries, mobile telephony is becoming ubiquitous, with access to networks now available to over 90 per cent of the global population. Data indicate that among the estimated 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2010, 3.8 billion will be in the developing world.

“Mobile phone penetration in developing countries now stands at 68 per cent, higher than any other technology before,” said Sami Al Basheer of the agency. “These countries have been innovative in adapting mobile technology to their particular needs and will be able to draw even greater benefits from broadband once adequate and affordable access is available.”

Overall, the price of services is falling, but high-speed Internet access remains prohibitively expensive, especially in low-income developing countries.

Procuradora reappointed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers reappointed Ana Lorena Brenes Esquivel Tuesday to a six-year term as procuradora general de la república. The job basically is the chief civil lawyer for the state. The decision was not without discussion. Minority party members sought a public vote where lawmakers would stand up. Luis Gerardo Villanueva Monge, assembly president, insisted that rules call for secret ballots. Legislators supported this view 28 to 27.

The vote for Ms. Brenes was 31 to 24, mainly along party lines. Ms. Brenes supervises 76 other lawyers and a staff totalling 264.

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, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 207

Latigo K-9

Tico Times says it is testing a non-profit news model
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The venerable Tico Times has taken a dramatic step to reinvent itself with a non-profit arm.

The weekly newspaper outlined the plan in an editorial this week in which it admitted that it has been forced to make drastic cutbacks due to less income.

"Our readers, to be sure, have also noticed the smaller size of the newspaper, fewer bylines, and reduced coverage. We've been forced to slash expenses at all levels of the organization," the editorial said.

The column announced the formation of The Tico Times Association to "promote inter-American understanding, democratic values and civil liberties — especially freedom of expression and of the press." The association also will do community work and seek money through fundraising and donations from philanthropic foundations. The newspaper did not say in which jurisdiction the association has been incorporated.

"This income will supplement earnings from advertising and the sale of newspaper and online articles and subscriptions, and will be used exclusively to support the newsroom, as well as for educational activities and projects in the community," the editorial said of the association.

Although the concept is believed to be new in Costa Rica, there are precedents up north. In some cases the money goes the other way. Ms. Magazine founded the Ms. Foundation for Women that was supported by magazine profits. However, the magazine cut the foundation loose in 1987. Ms. Magazine is now owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation.

The St. Petersburg, Florida, newspaper also is owned by a foundation set up by Nelson Poynter, owner of the St. Petersburg Times, who at his death left his stock to the foundation. The Nation magazine also is run on a non-profit model. Hearst Corp. is considering converting the San Francisco Chronicle into a non-profit, online sources said.

A recent entry is the The Marin Media Institute in California, which purchased the weekly Point Reyes Light. Among the principals is a former publisher of Mother Jones magazine, also a non-profit.

Many newspeople who do not understand the relationship between news and advertising have long sought a viable way to publish articles without accepting advertising. Most journalism programs fail to provide training in the economic value of advertising.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is actively sponsoring many small mostly online community publishing efforts, but the organization says it is not interested in covering operating deficits. The foundation also is supporting a master's program at City University of New York that will train managers in both journalism and entrepreneurship.

The question of foundation support for a newspaper is the same for the advertising-supported model: Will the foundation influence news coverage. Commentators come down on both sides of this question.

Another good reason for a foundation is to convert any outside money used to cover current losses into tax-deductible donations. The Tico Times Association probably will begin the lengthy process to obtain non-profit status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
newsman begging

Costa Rican laws, too, are complex. Having the status of a U.S. 501(c)3, non-profit is vital for obtaining outside, mostly U.S., funding.

The Tico Times did not release any financial data in the editorial. It recently announced that it was charging for some but not all online content. It also dramatically redesigned its Web site, which carries minimal advertising.

The major problem for print-based newspapers, including The Tico Times, is the cost of newsprint. For delivering the news nothing is quicker than the Internet. Internet readers also usually are higher income, too, and are much favored by advertisers. Delivery is expensive for print-based newspapers, a cost not shared by Internet publications.

With the arrival of e-readers and various hand-held telephones and computers, even the portability of printed newspapers is being challenged.

In the United States there is an effort to create a non-profit status for income-producing newspapers. A bill has been submitted in Congress to do that. The topic is much debated in journalistic circles as supporters of print-based publications seek to find a way to salvage them. Despite a constitutional bar to special laws about newspapers, there is precedence in the so-called failing newspaper act that allows endangered dailies to circumvent antitrust laws. The law actually has led to the elimination of daily newspapers in St. Louis, Missouri, and more recently Denver, Colorado.

Another challenge to the non-profit concept or the hybrid model being adopted by The Tico Times is the availability of charitable money. The economy is not what it used to be, and a host of journalistic enterprises have sprung up seeking charity.

Consultantes Río Colorado S.A., the parent firm of A.M. Costa Rica, will report to Costa Rican tax authorities this year income about 7 percent greater than for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The online daily newspaper also is publishing more pages and has new pioneering efforts in 12 Latin American countries as well as a medical tourism Web site and a Web site based on exportations and international trade. The newspaper is free online Monday through Friday and receives income only from the sale of advertising.

The Costa Rican corporation does not accept donations or sell its privately held stock.

Modest increase proposed for readjusted minimum wages
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An employer group is proposing a 2.63 per cent increase in the minimum salaries when the government adjusts the numbers for Jan. 1.

The group is the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado. Labor representatives are expected to come up with a figure, too. Both sides will argue their positions before the Consejo Nacional de Salarios, which will make the final decision.

The organization said that it supported a raise despite the slowdown of the economy and the increase in joblessness.
There is no excuse to transfer the costs of the economic crisis to employees, said Manuel H. Rodríguez, organization president. He noted that in the last five months some 5,500 jobs were lost in the private sector.

He said his organization based the proposal on the inflation between July and September, which was .44 percent, less than a half percent. He said the inflation projected for the rest of the year is 2.69 percent.

The minimum salaries are adjusted every six months. Many Costa Ricans work at the minimum wage, which is different for each job title. The Ministerio de Trabajo maintains a data base with the salaries.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 207

Concern grows about effects of Nicaraguan projects in river

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is beginning to awake to plans by Nicaragua to build a hydroelectric project on the Río San Juan. The Spanish-language daily La Nación editorialized Tuesday that Costa Rica must make sure it defends the rights of its citizens.

A political quirk sets the border between the two countries at the south bank of the river instead of in the middle, as usually is the case. Consequently, Nicaragua owns the river, but Costa Rica has gone to the World Court in the Hague several times to defend its right of passage and navigation, which is contained in various treaties.

The $600 million hydro project is close to Lake Nicaragua, and environmentalists fear that the dam associated with the project will reduce the amount of water coming east down the San Juan.

Others have expressed concern for the many fish that travel
the river, including tarpon, snook and bull sharks.

Costa Rica has the right to be informed about this project, including the impact of flora and fauna, said La Nación. It noted that a recent court case in the Hague reaffirmed Nicaragua's right to build in the river, but it should do so without impeding the flow of water, the newspaper said.

Others are not so sedate, Freddy Pacheco, a professor at Universidad Nacional, called the proposal, the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Brito, a flagrant violation of international treaties and lack of respect to natural resources.
Meanwhile, a Nicaragua effort to dredge the mouth of the Río San Juan where it enters the Caribbean also is drawing notice from Costa Rica.

Fishermen in Barra del Colorado in northeast Costa Rica are concerned about the effect on the Río Colorado, which really is an alternate mouth of the river but completely within Costa Rica. The area is known for its tarpon fishing.

U.N. agency outlines threats to world fisheries and oceans

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Pollution, over-fishing and climate change are having an increasingly damaging impact on the world’s oceans, threatening a growing extinction of native marine species across all regions, a new United Nations report warned Tuesday.

Productivity, and with it fish catches, is projected to decrease in nearly all areas by 2050 and worldwide, fisheries will be heavily dominated by smaller species lower down the food chain, according to the U.N. Environment Programme report, "Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook: Global Synthesis."

Climate change, if unchecked, could see surface sea temperatures rise by 2100 with important implications for coral reefs and other temperature-sensitive marine organisms, while other predicted changes include a continued and widespread increase in nitrogen levels due to discharges of wastewaters and agricultural run-off from land and emissions from vehicles and shipping.

Nitrogen can trigger algal blooms which in turn can poison fish and other marine creatures as well as contribute to the
 development of so-called dead zones — areas of sea with low oxygen concentrations. 

The report also flags concerns over the rise in marine invasive species, transported to regions from elsewhere, often in ballast water of ships or attached to its hull, highlighting that the cumulative impacts of all of these factors will have serious consequences in the rise of extinctions of native marine species across all regions.

The continuing decline in marine biodiversity will compromise the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems to the impacts of climate change, as well as their ability to mitigate the effects of climate change, the report said.

“Decoupling growth from rising levels of pollution is the number one challenge facing this generation,” Achim Steiner said. “This is nowhere more starkly spotlighted than in the current and future health of the world’s sea and oceans. Multi-trillion dollar services, including fisheries, climate-control and ones underpinning industries such as tourism are at risk if impacts on the marine environment continue unchecked and unabated." He is executive director of the  U.N. Environment Programme.

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Chávez in Iran for talks
with Ahmadinejad

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in talks aimed at furthering ties between the two U.S. adversaries.

Ahmadinejad welcomed the Venezuelan leader to the presidential palace Tuesday for his ninth visit.  Iranian state-run media said the two leaders hope to "boost bilateral cooperation in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors."  The visit is the latest stop on a 10-day international tour by the Venezuelan leader.

Joel Hirst, Council on Foreign Relations, comments on Venezuela President's visit to Iran: Chávez has been a strong supporter of Iran in its dispute with Western nations over its nuclear program.  The U.S. and other countries accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear technology to produce weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Both Iran and Venezuela also have been proponents of a so-called Southern Hemisphere alliance, to counterbalance northern nations, such as the United States and Britain.

Chávez already has visited Russia as part of his trip.  Russia on Friday agreed to help Venezuela build its first nuclear power plant.  Russia recently helped Iran complete construction on Tehran's first nuclear power plant.

Chavez's tour of the Middle East also includes a stop in Syria.

Two gold miners remain
trapped in Ecuador

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Emergency teams in Ecuador are still searching for two men trapped in a gold mine since late Friday.

Some 20 miners were at the scene Tuesday assisting in the search effort for their colleagues.

The two miners were with two other workers in the mine late Friday when a cave-in occurred, trapping the men about 150 meters below the surface.

The bodies of two miners were recovered Saturday.  While there has been no contact with the two remaining workers, officials are holding out hope they have survived.

The mine is near the town of Portovelo, about 400 kilometers southwest of the capital, Quito.

A government mining official, Jorge Espinosa, said he believes water levels in the mine contributed to the collapse.

Relatives of the trapped miners have been gathering at the site, waiting for any news on the rescue effort.

The accident follows international attention on mining after last week's dramatic rescue of all 33 miners in Chile who were trapped underground for more than two months.

Hamas killing suspect
believed held in Canada

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Dubai's police chief says a suspect in the killing of a Hamas operative in the United Arab Emirates has been arrested in Canada.

Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim told Arab media Tuesday that Canada has asked United Arab Emirates authorities to keep the arrests secret. He did not name the suspect.

Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed Jan. 19 by a hit squad Dubai police believe was sent by Israel's Mossad spy agency.

Dubai's police chief said earlier that an unnamed country has arrested a key suspect.

More than 30 people were allegedly involved in the killing. Many of them were traveling on fake passports.

Dubai police have repeatedly accused Israel's spy agency of involvement. Israel neither confirms nor denies a role in the case.

Mabhouh was a founding member of the Hamas military wing, which has been responsible for hundreds of attacks and suicide bombings against Israel.
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Recycled pacemakers
sought for Third World

By the University of Michigan news service

Millions worldwide die each year because they can’t afford a pacemaker. Meanwhile heart patients in the United States say they’d be willing to donate theirs after death to someone in need.

In the Oct. 19 issue of Circulation, experts at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center examine the legality and logistics of collecting pacemakers, after they are removed for burial or cremation, for sterilization and reuse across the globe. 

Small humanitarian efforts have shown reusing pacemakers is safe and effective with little risk of infection and patients live as long, and as well, with a recycled pacemaker as those who get new ones, authors say. 

It’s a novel approach for treating cardiovascular disease which remains the world’s leading cause of death. 

“Establishing a validated pacemaker reutilization program could transform a currently wasted resource into an opportunity for a new life for many citizens in the world,” says study senior author Kim A. Eagle, cardiologist and a director of the Cardiovascular Center. 

Each year 1 million to 2 million people worldwide die due to lack of access to pacemakers. But 84 percent of patients surveyed at the University of Michigan would donate their pacemaker for reuse.

Through partnerships, the university hopes to make the concept of recycling pacemakers a life-saving reality for those who cannot afford them.

Pacemakers are implanted to correct a slow heartbeat which can alleviate fatigue and fainting that can come with having an irregular heartbeat. A slow heart rate can be caused by heart attacks, conductive diseases or old age. 

Some foreign manufacturers have reduced the cost of pacemakers to as little as $800, a price that still makes it out of reach in poor nations.

“Despite the substantial cost reduction, a new pacemaker is often more than the annual income of the average worker in underdeveloped nations,” Dr. Eagle said.

Poor nations have not been able to afford the electrophysiology technology that has reduced cardiac deaths in industrialized nations, while unhealthy lifestyle, as well as infectious diseases, contribute to escalating rates of heart disease worldwide. 

In recent decades, industrialized nations have seen a drop in deaths from heart attacks and strokes, but those in low- and middle-income nations continue to experience an epidemic of cardiovascular disease.  

For instance, in South America and Central America, the parasitic infection chagas disease can disrupt connections in the heart. Chagas can affect 20 million people, and a study revealed that 72 percent of pacemaker recipients in Brazil had been infected at some point in their lives. 

Growing evidence and support laid the groundwork for Project My Heart —Your Heart, a collaborative between citizens, physicians and funeral directors of Michigan, the university's Cardiovascular Center and World Medical Relief, Inc., a Detroit-based non-profit organization that specializes in the delivery of used medical equipment.

Pacemakers removed before burial or cremations are rarely returned to the manufacturer and instead are stored at funeral homes with no apparent use. In a survey of Michigan funeral home directors 89 percent said they were willing to donate devices to charitable organizations if given the opportunity. 

According to study authors, after families consent, donated devices will be sent by the funeral home in a free postage-paid envelope to the university for assessment of battery longevity. Funeral directors can request packages.

Information about donating pacemakers is available online at

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