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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 215                          Email us
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Workmen have placed the concrete arches on a slotted foundation so they will not slip.
Arches finally put in place under the General Cañas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers managed to put in place giant arches of concrete this weekend under the Autopista General Cañas west of San Jose's downtown.

This is the spillway that replaces a washout under the lanes of the major highway. Each of the arches weighs 20 tons and there are 18 of them.

All the work is being done under bailey bridges that support the traffic flow. Next the project will be backfilled to the level of the highway. The whole job is estimated at $3 million.

But that is not the only problem on the key highway that runs from San José to Alajuela, the international airport and eventually Nicaragua. This is the Interamericana.
The deck of the highway's bridge over the Río Virilla continues to erode, and the metal grid of rebars is exposed to traffic. Each day more concrete is lost and more metal is exposed.

The bridge has so frustrated officials that one suggested just building another bridge parallel to the ailing structure. Engineers have said that the bridge is too flexible to support a concrete deck. This is the so-called platina bridge that at first was a joke and later an embarrassment to the Laura Chinchilla administration.

The bridge was called that because at first a plate or platina became loose. Despite repeated construction jobs, the bridge has gone downhill since.

Officials even closed off the bridge for more than a month to make repairs that lasted just a few days.

Health workers out enforcing new anti-smoking law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Salud is taking the new anti-tobacco law seriously. Officials there said that since Oct. 18, health workers have conducted 2,255 inspections to encourage compliance with the new law.

More than 100 ministry workers are involved.

The new law prohibits smoking in most places
frequented by the public. This is why lately there are groups of smokers gathered at the front door of various establishments. The burden is on the operators of such establishments to enforce the law.

The ministry said that 30 complaints were filed and that these cases were in the process of resolution.

For the most part, the inspections are educational to alert operators of stores and other public establishments as to the requirements of the new law.

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Storm worries switching
to Ticos in United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Costa Rica's emergency commission has canceled the alert that was in force due to the direct effects of Hurricane Sandy. Public shelters have closed, and occupants have returned to their homes.

There still is no report on the cost of the latest string of storms, but there was significant damage in some parts of the central Pacific. The damage was mostly roadways.

Meanwhile, the East Coast of the United States is preparing for what weather forecasters expect to be one of the biggest storms ever to hit the mainland.

Hurricane Sandy is moving up the Atlantic coast and is expected to join with two winter storm systems. Forecasters are calling this a hybrid superstorm, bringing damaging winds, heavy rains, flooding and snow in some areas. They expect it to span some 1,200 kilometers and affect up to 60 million residents starting late today.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who attended a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Sunday, called on affected residents to take the storm very seriously and to listen to orders from state and local authorities.

The hurricane already has winds of 120 kilometers per hour with higher gusts of up to 165 kilometers per hour extending outward from the center.

Authorities are urging citizens to make sure they stock up on drinkable water, canned food and batteries, and be prepared to spend days without power.

The Costa Rican government has expressed concern about the fate of their citizens who live in the United States. One community that is populated heavily by Costa Ricans is Bound Brook, New Jersey. That town has suffered heavy floods in the past, as have all the Jersey communities that are in the foothills of the Wachung Mountains.

Central Jersey appears to be in the anticipated track of the storm.

New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., have declared states of emergency. Authorities in Delaware have ordered some mandatory evacuations. New York City has braced for a near total shutdown of transit systems and schools, the New York Stock Exchange has closed its trading floor for Monday, and the United Nations has canceled meetings and closed its offices.

Obama has told federal emergency workers to get ready to move into action when storm-battered states call for help. He has canceled some campaign stops to remain at the White House and monitor the storm.

His Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, also cancelled campaign events in the critical battleground state of Virginia because of the storm.

Hurricane Sandy tore through the Caribbean region days ago, killing some 60 people in the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti.

The storm still is moving parallel to the U.S. East Coast, but forecasters expect a sharp turn to the west. That would mean a U.S. landfall. The storm has been moving northeast at about 45 degrees Sunday. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center said early today that the track has shifted to due north.

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 215
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Letter on southern Caribbean security was mailed a tad too soon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial republished a glowing letter from the southern Caribbean last week praising police and investigators for ending the insecurity in that area.

The letter went to news people the same day that masked men with machetes robbed and slashed a French couple who had been visiting Playa Punta Uva. In addition, those who follow insecurity in the Puerto Viejo de Talamanca region say that there is a crime wave that appears to have developed after the letter went to officials in San José.

The Poder Judicial appears to have published the letter because the contents reflect favorably on policing. The document is from Luis Videla, identified as a member of the Comité de Seguridad de la Puerto Viejo. Videla states that impunity and insecurity have ended in the region. He praised the work of the prosecutors, the Fuerza Pública and the Judicial Investigating Organization, according to the summary issued by the Poder Judicial.

The letter originally went to José Manuel Arroyo Gutiérrez, a magistrate and president of the high criminal court, the Sala III.
Videla said that when a crime happens, authorities act rapidly and quickly so that in the majority of cases, suspects are detained quickly.

The Poder Judicial said that Videla would be meeting soon with court officials in San José to strengthen actions that will
permit maintaining the security environment that has been reached up until now. Arroyo Gutiérrez , the magistrate, praised the result as an inter institutional effort that is very important for tourism in southern Costa Rica.

The Puerto Viejo area is a study in opposites. For many tourists, it is paradise with all that Costa Rica is supposed to be. But as A.M. Costa Rica has reported, drug use is rampant and frequently promoted, and a September 2010 murder of a tourist shocked the community.

That masked men would attack and hack at a tourist couple on the beach in the afternoon is not the kind of public relations business people there are seeking on the eve of high tourist season. The unidentified couple remains hospitalized, although there has been no official police report issued about the crime. There also appeasr to have been other victims of the same robbers.

Ironically, Videla and his wife were among those who offered aid to the French couple on the same day that his letter was released in San José.

There is an informal report that arrests have been made in the cases, but that could not be confirmed by officials Sunday.

Manuel Pinto, a local real estate broker, is the authority on crimes in the area. He is a member of several committees. He told a reporter Friday that what was contained in the Poder Judicial letter may have been true two months ago, but not now. He also said that crimes are not always reported by victims.

Satellite firm criticized U.S. and Costa Rican trade officials
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Last week a small Internet service provider was able to get permission from the Costa Rican government to enter the local market after years of fighting.

That small company is DatZap and, with the support of its parent company VSAT Systems, it is the first company to enter Costa Rica without using the infrastructure of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE.

However, that process took the better part of four years. During that entire time, the Central American Free Trade Agreement guaranteed the company the right to enter and compete in the Costa Rican market.

While the major free trade issues for this company have been resolved, the overall issues between the two economies remain.

These issues include Costa Rican policies that implicitly protect government-owned players that used to be national monopolies, U.S. companies investing millions of dollars in costly struggles to get into the market, and the weakness of the U.S. government’s ability or will to protect its businesses.

“To the shame and embarrassment of the U.S., Costa Rica has given every U.S. trading partner the blueprint for avoiding its obligations under an FTA,” says one VSAT document, using FTA for free trade agreement.

Earlier this year, the companies published documents telling of the roadblocks to entering the market thrown up by numerous parts of the Costa Rican government and the lack of action taken by the United States government to help.

DatZap is a small company that resells Internet service from its closely tied affiliate, VSAT Systems. The business is to sell Internet access to Costa Rica through satellites. This Internet connects directly back to the United States and does not use the wires of ICE or the undersea cables.

These documents were published in March of this year. At that time, DatZap’s application for a license to operate had just been rejected by the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energia y Telecomunicaciones after more than three years of seeking the license.

“Costa Rica to this day still refuses to comply with CAFTA, while further solidifying its government telecommunications monopoly,” said one of these documents. “Even worse, the USTR has failed to take action to enforce the protections and guarantees supposedly ensured by CAFTA.” CAFTA is the Central American Free Trade Agreement and USTR is the U.S. Trade Representative.

These issues were addressed in the past couple weeks when President Laura Chinchilla signed an executive order giving DatZap a license to operate in Costa Rica. A story about this company gaining access to the market appeared in A.M. Costa Rica last week. That story is HERE!

One of the two documents gives an account of the experiences of both companies, principally those of DatZap president Donald Wayne Jacobs. This document chronologically explains
the three-year process up until March that DatZap went through to get a license. That document is HERE!

The second document is a seven page executive summary, which includes the most pointed critiques on both Costa Rican and U.S. government agencies. That document is HERE!

In these documents, company spokespeople attacked the Costa Rican government for not complying with CAFTA. Officials from the company say that this is accomplished by simply telling the United States that progress is being made without actually achieving any meaningful progress.

The documents say that DatZap was passed back and forth between the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones and the ministry in charge of telecommunications. To start out, both groups lacked regulatory procedure for newcomers into the industry. Then both groups moved slowly to establish rules, procedures and forms, tried to convince DatZap to just resell ICE’s service and gave valuable time to ICE and its subsidiary, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., to set up satellite Internet.

The documents do not go so far as to accuse these government agencies of protecting ICE, but they do say that the Costa Rican government ignored its duties under CAFTA.

“Despite Costa Rica clearly, undisputedly and consistently refusing to comply with its CAFTA obligations for more than three years, Costa Rican officials have straight out lied to U.S. officials contending that the country has taken all required actions necessary under CAFTA,” said the executive summary.

The document also criticizes the U.S. Trade Representative for not taking any action to intervene on DatZap’s behalf. This agency is responsible for working on behalf of U.S. businesses that fall into situations like this, while enforcing terms of trade agreements.

“In particular, Datzap’s situation has been a colossal failure for everyone with the ability and opportunity to help, mainly the USTR, who is required to take action when U.S. rights under an FTA are being denied or violated,” says the executive summary.

This agency’s aid to DatZap was at least unapparent for about one year, for which the company directors criticized the government, it said.

For these failures on the part of both the U.S. government and the Costa Rican government, DatZap and VSAT Systems’ documents said that U.S. businesses were losing money from the treaty and it was particularly hard on small- and medium-sized businesses.

The executive summary calls on the United States, particularly the trade representative to take a tougher stance with countries with which it has treaties in order to protect the interests of U.S. businesses and keep the agreement beneficial for the United States.

“The U.S. must truly commit to take action against Costa Rica and force the nation to pay for the damage to U.S. businesses caused by its blatant failure to comply with CAFTA. Without full support by the USTR in these cases, the protections and guarantees contained in CAFTA and other FTAs are simply pipe dreams,” said the executive summary.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 215
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Police make major haul of bootlegged alcohol in Tibás
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police and tax agents have traced a truck load of bootlegged alcohol to its source and confiscated some 60,000 liters of what officials say is adulterated liquid.

The factory for the illegal alcohol is in Tibás, a community where other smaller operations have been located.

In addition to evading taxes, police said the factory infringed on trademarks by labeling bottles with the names of national and international alcoholic beverages. No arrests were reported.

Participating in the enforcement effort were representatives of the Fábrica Nacional de Licores, the government alcohol monopoly.

A.M. Costa Rica has warned in the past of the prevalence of fake bottles of alcohol. The Fuerza Pública said that the alcohol in this operation was kept in unsanitary conditions and was being mixed with water that also had not been treated correctly.

Police said they confiscated 1,000 boxes, each containing 24 bottles of liquor, mostly guaro, a cheap sugar cane liquor. The bottles were in the factory and in the truck that was making deliveries.

Other lots of alcohol were in tanks.

Tax agents said that the loss to the government would have been 150 million colons if the alcohol had reached the retail market. That's about $300,000.

Agents also found containers of colorant that would be used to make clear alcohol appear as if it were rum. Among the fake brands were several types of rum. In all there were 24 different types of labels. Most of the bottles were 365 milliliters, the smaller size preferred by low-income drinkers.
bad booze
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Jorge Alonso Alvarez V
Police officer inspects bottles of fake guaro, the cane liquor.

The fake alcohol is sold to legitimate merchants who mix it on their store shelves with authentic products. Or the bottles are sold in those illegal bars that are found in many neighborhoods.  Bootlegged alcohol like this is a major health hazard.

A.M. Costa Rica announces an adjustement in advertising rates
A.M. Costa Rica announces a small increase in display advertising rates as of Nov. 1.

The increase will be from 6 to 9 percent to compensate for additional expenses in salaries, rents, utilities, government fees and the estimated 6 percent increase in the cost of living. Current advertising contracts will not be affected.

As has always been the case, the newspaper will continue to place advertising at the current rates until Nov. 1, and
advertising executives have been instructed to contact their
clients with this information. Classified rates remain unchanged.

Advertising with A.M. Costa Rica still is a great deal because the company does not have to buy paper and the pages are in at least 90 countries every day. Every weekday the newspaper serves up about 32,000 pages to readers. Independent statistical monitors report that there are about 10,000 to 12,000 unique visitors a day. Advertising executives are authorized to display the latest statistics to customers and potential customers. Most sophisticated business operators want to see those statistics.
– originally published Oct. 16, 2012

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 215
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BBC facing allegations
connected to pedophilia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, is coming under harsh scrutiny following an avalanche of sexual abuse allegations against one of its best-known TV hosts.
The allegations involving as many as 300 victims of pedophilia or sexual abuse have been made against former TV entertainer Jimmy Savile, who died last year at age 84 after a long career in the British spotlight. He was popular on light entertainment programs for the BBC and a special favorite of young children.

Fallout from the BBC's handling of the scandal has spread as far as the United States, where the publisher of The New York Times felt it necessary to defend the newspaper’s incoming chief executive officer who headed the BBC until last month.

Early this month ITV, a commercial British broadcaster, aired a TV program investigating claims that Savile had sexually abused under-aged girls. In the weeks since then, investigations have been launched internally by the BBC and also by the police. The scope of allegations have far exceeded the initial claims.
"We have now been able to identify 300 victims and it's those victims, primarily women, there are one or two men involved so far. We've now been able to speak to 130 of them and from that 130 we have recorded about 114 allegations of sexual assault or serious sexual assault," said police commander Peter Spindler, chief of the Scotland Yard unit investigating the allegations.

Many of the attacks Savile is alleged to have made were against young participants in BBC programs and on BBC premises. That has raised questions about what type of checks the BBC had in place to protect vulnerable individuals.

​​BBC management is also under scrutiny over how much it knew about Savile’s alleged pedophilia.

​​Over the past few weeks, it has emerged that rumors of Savile’s alleged pedophilia were widespread inside the BBC for many years. Following Savile’s death, the BBC was due to address the subject on its evening news program, "Newsnight." But the program was shelved and instead the BBC aired tributes to the former host.
Now executives at the highest level of the BBC are under scrutiny over their handling of the Savile case.
​​The BBC’s new director general, George Entwistle, has faced questioning by British lawmakers, and Mark Thompson, the former BBC director general and incoming chief executive at The New York Times, has had to give his own account of what he knew about the Savile case.

The New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., issued a letter to the newspaper’s staff saying he was confident Thompson had no role in canceling the BBC’s "Newsnight"  program that was to deal with the sexual abuse allegations against Savile.
Some industry analysts, however, doubt that one scandal, though serious, will cause permanent damage to the BBC’s reputation.
“Trust in the BBC is bigger than one individual. It's bigger than one scandal,” said  Ben Page, chief executive of market researcher Ipsos MORI. “It would take a successive series of scandals to ultimately really damage trust in the BBC. So undoubtedly it will be wobbly but it has a lot of resilience in its reputation.”

In addition to Jimmy Savile, the BBC says it’s now investigating claims of sexual abuse and harassment against nine staff members and contributors.

Way to divert an asteroid
involves lots of paint

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. scientist has proposed a novel way of deflecting a possible asteroid from hitting Earth: pelting it with paintballs.

A graduate student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposed the idea, winning this year's annual "Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition" sponsored by the United Nations.

Sung Wook Paek says launching paintballs from space would not only cause a force that could push an asteroid slightly off course, but would also coat the asteroid's surface with light paint.  The light color would change the amount of sunlight the asteroid reflects, helping to nudge it further off course.

Scientists have proposed a wide variety of methods to avoid an asteroid collision with Earth, including detonating a nuclear bomb near an asteroid or launching a projectile to collide with it.

In his proposal, Paek uses as a test case the asteroid Apophis, which is due to come close to Earth in 2029 and again in 2036.  He says five tons of paint would be required to cover the 27-gigaton rock with a fine coat.

Paek's proposal would require a lengthy planning process, as he estimates it would take up to 20 years for the cumulative effect of solar radiation pressure to significantly knock an asteroid off its course.

He also suggests another use for painting asteroids, saying it could help scientists to more easily track them with telescopes on Earth.
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Trial starting Thursday
in murder of Lisa Artz

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Suspects in the murder of a U.S. woman who ran a hotel on the Osa peninsula tried to sell electronic equipment that had been stolen after the murder. That is one of the major allegations that prosecutors will introduce Thursday when the four suspects go on trial, according to the Poder Judicial.

This is the murder of Lisa Artz, who was killed July 29, 2011, in Matapalo, some 12 miles south of Puerto Jiménez. She was resident manager of Casa Tres Palmas.

The suspects are three men with the last names of González Granados, Chaves Barquero and Cedeño Montero. The fourth suspect is a woman with the last names of Sánchez Núñez. The case will be in the Tribunal de Juicio de Golfito.

Casa Tres Palmas is known as the most luxurious property in the area with a commanding view of the point where the waters of the Gulfo Dulce meet those of the Pacific. The sprawling main house features a Tiki-style villa with a palm thatched roof.

Ms. Artz died in a separate living quarters where she was believed to have been confronted by robbers. She was about to make a trip to the United States, and investigators surmised that the robbers thought she had a large amount of cash in her living quarters.

The Sánchez woman is believed to be the relative of a person who worked at the hotel.

Investigators said they found an iPod and power cords for other electronic articles when they conducted searches of the dwellings where the detained individuals lived. These were identified as belonging to the victim, they said.

Water rates fixed again
to promote conservation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's price regulating agency said that it has revived the concept of higher rates for higher water use after the national water company appealed an August hike.

Last Aug 6, the Authoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos approved a rate hike of 25 percent for water and 77 percent for sewers. The sewage is not actually measured but estimated based on water use.

To encourage saving water, the agency said that it readjusted the rates for the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados by setting up a system for both domestic water use and water use by businesses.

The increases based on usage for businesses range from 26 percent to 53 percent with sewage increasing topping out at 120 percent.

The net result is that homeowners will be paying 16,685 colons monthly (about $33.90) for using 30 cubic meters of water. That is about 8,000 gallons. Businesses will be paying 44,790 colons (about $90.94) for the same amount

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