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These stories were published Friday, Nov. 4, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 219
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Stuck
truck
A delivery van driver did not see the height limitation on a railway bridge near the Biblioteca Nacional Thursday, so his vehicle got stuck under the span until he let the air from the tires.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas


Ox cart parade celebrates birthday of Desamparados Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Desamparados turns 143 Sunday.  To celebrate, organizers are planning an ox cart parade 80 boyeros strong. 

The ox cart is a cultural symbol in Costa Rica.  It symbolizes peace, work, humility, patience, sacrifice and a consistency in an effort to reach the end.  It was officially declared a national symbol of work March 22, 1988, the municipalidad de Desamparados said. 

The ox cart has been used since the 19th century to carry coffee, much of it grown in steep, muddy fields.  During harvest months, boyeros preferred carts with solid wheels to keep the mud from accumulating, the municipalidad said.
When Costa Rica became heavily involved in the coffee industry, the use of the cart became more popular as well. 

By 1935, the use of the ox-cart was beginning to decline as motorized vehicles became more available, said the municipalidad.  However, ox-carts are still used in some parts of Costa Rica and Central America today.

In addition there is a large contingent of hobbyist who keep the tradition alive, sometimes spending tens of thousands of dollars for carts and the matched, trained pair of oxen to pull them.

The parade starts at 11 a.m. in Frailes de Desamparados, 20 miles south of the city of San José in the Provincia de Desamparados.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 4, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 219


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Regulators cut price
of petroleum fuels


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Regulators have approved a cut in the price of gasoline, some 9.13 percent for super and 5.83 percent for regular.

Kerosene also will drop 6.49 percent, and aviation fuel will decrease between 7.73 and 14 percent.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos announced the cuts Thursday, and said that the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the government petroleum monopoly, had sought the reductions. The reductions reflect the world price of petroleum, the devalutaion of the colon against the dollar and other variables for the period Oct. 14 to 28.

The lower prices will show up at the gas pump after the notice is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper. The pump price will not be reduced as much because a slight increase in fuel tax will go into effect shortly.  Super, now 504 colons will retail about 461 colons, Regular, now 463 colons a liter will retail for about 440.

Bus lurches off road
and passengers hurt


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
  
A Cartago-San José bus suffered a mechinical failure Thursday and eventually lurched to a stop off the highway in a field. The bus remained upright, but at least a dozen persons required medical attention. The scene was near La Unión de Cartago on a grade.

The bus was on Route 300 of the SACSA company. The vehicle, #1416, was traveling west on the Autopista Florencio del Castillo about 6:30 a.m. when the driver said he began to experience an abnormal acceleration. He is being credited with keeping the bus from a more serious mishap. He drove the vehicle onto an exit ramp and then through a T-intersection and into a field.

Eduardo Montero Gonzáles, vice mininster of Obras Públicas y Trasnportes, said that results of an inspection of the bus will be available in 48 hours. The vehicle had passed the madatory inspection program but did not do so the first time, officials said.

The Consejo Nacional de Transporte Publico, which is part of the ministry, has been making inspections of buses, and 15 of the company's buses have been taken out of service for mechanical problems, Montero said.

Raffle today will determine
February ballot positions


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The political parties of Costa Rica are assembling this morning for a big raffle. This is the time when the ballot positions are determined for the Feb. 5 general elections.

The event is being conducted by the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, the country's fourth branch of government. The event will take place in the tribunal building just west of Parque Nacional at 10 a.m.

Some political activists say that ballot position can be a major factor in the final results of an election. Others dispute that view and claim that the voters make up their mind before voting and are influenced little by the arrangement of the candidates and parties on the ballot.

Some 50 political parties have asked to be enrolled for the election as of Oct. 21, according to the tribunal. Not all of these are national parties, but each probaby will have a representative present today.

Each representative of a political party will select a sealed envelope. Each envelope contains a number from 1 to 50. After the envelopes are opened, the representative with No. 1 will spin a gambling device to determine the place on the ballot. If a party does not have a representative, a tribunal official will do the spin.

No change in ballot position is permitted after today's raffle, the tribunal said in an announcement, citing a 2001 law.

Limón and Guanacaste
closer to getting museums


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Both Guanacaste and Limón moved closer Thursday to having provincial historical museums.

The Comisión Especial de Turismo reported out two proposed laws, each for a museum. The laws, if passed by the full Asamblea Legislativa, would create an ethnohistorial museum for Limón and a museum with an archaeological emphasis for Guanacaste.

Limón is rich in cultural diversity, ranging from Indian  tribes in the south and north to English-speaking residents with roots in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. The legislative committee noted a litany of other cultures who have settled in the area, including Chinese, Turks, Arabs and Lebanese.

Although no mention was made of the idea in the legislature Thursday, Limón is seeking additional tourist destinations to attract the estimated 300,000 persons who arrive each season on cruise ships. The museum would be financed by a 2 percent allocation from the budget of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica, the government agency that controls the ports.

The Guanacaste museum would be an educational institution but also a way to safeguard the existing collections of pre-Columbian artifacts and colonial documents. After the arrival of Europeans, Guanacaste developed its own cowboy culture, removed in distance and attitude from the Central Valley.

Lightning bolt kills player

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A soccer player at the Estadio La Fortuna in San Carlos was struck by lightning Tuesday evening as he played in a match, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.   The man, identified by the last name Alvarado, died on the scene, agents said. 
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.

Real estate agents and services

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samargo@gmail.com
samargo@racsa.co.cr
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 4, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 219










The past and the future of Costa Rica's health service
I have written a lot about Costa Rica’s governmental health insurance plan.  The other day I was at a meeting where the speaker, Leonardo Garnier, a professor of Economics and sometime columnist, gave us a history and possible future of the institution known as the Caja. 

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social was not created full-blown from the onset.  Before 1940, there was little public-sponsored social welfare in Costa Rica.  It was President Rafael Ángel Calderón  (1940-44), a paternalistic representative of the elite of Costa Rica who first enacted a social security program that would insure the workers of the banana and coffee industries in the Central Valley.  That was approximately 10 per cent of the population.  This act stunned his supporters, but social security survived the 1948 Civil War. 

By 1961 that number of people covered had grown to only18 percent of the population.  But after 1961 new laws and constitutional reforms included independent workers, as well.  By 1973 Costa Rica became a country whose citizens did not have to fear catastrophic medical expenses.  By 1975 health coverage was expanded to include marginal and indigent peoples. (The government would pay their monthly fees.)  By 2004 the percentage of Costa Ricans covered by government health insurance reached 88 percent.  Those not covered were mainly the rich, who chose not to belong to the system.

Charts comparing various countries with respect to their health coverage costs and their life expectancy showed that the United States spends more every year on health care than any other country (over $5,000 per person). Costa Rica spends $700 per person. Life expectancy in Costa Rica has increased from 47 in 1948 to 80 today.  That is currently higher than in the U.S.  Part of the success of the program here is due to the decision of the government to include preventive measures —  improvements in sanitation, prenatal care, infant nutrition, potable water and education of the public. These measures are responsible for an infant mortality rate that is also better than that in the U.S.  However, although $700 seems little, 9.3 percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product is spent on health.

There are problems that threaten the continued success of one of the most successful health programs in the world. Among them are questions like what are the limitations of what it covers?  Does
it deplete its budget on one case that must get
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


medical attention abroad?  Does it cover plastic surgery?  What are the rules it should stick to?

Costs have increased, in part because of the new technology that is constantly becoming available and because the population is becoming more demanding in what it feels it has a right to.  Who is going to finance this increase?  Now many of the elite and rich of the country do not belong to the Caja.  However, if one of them suddenly finds he needs an expensive operation, it is not unheard of that his doctor will tell him to join the Caja and within a month he gets his operation in a Caja hospital,

And then there is the problem of internal reform.  There is waste and inefficiency within the system, and, as we know, unscrupulous people who benefit. Once private patients could use the facilities of a Caja hospital, getting private rooms, better food, faster attention.  But they paid for it.  Unfortunately, said Professor Garnier, this practice has been discontinued, which has encouraged the competition of private hospitals. The health business is a very profitable one.

Professor Garnier does not feel that the passage here of the Central American Free Trade Act will affect the Caja and its services greatly. One concern, he said, is the ruling that drug companies must show that their prescription drugs have been tested for efficacy and safety to get approval and then would be free from any competition from generic or competitive drugs for five years.  The Caja uses many generic drugs so this would be a hardship (but Garnier said that it would mainly affect local drug companies.)  The positive side of that, to my mind, is that perhaps there will be fewer drugs prescribed.  I think Costa Ricans, along with most of the rest of the world, are over-medicated as it is.

As for Costa Ricans demanding some changes in the free trade agreement before accepting it, Professor Garnier said that knowing the loud voices of the influential in Costa Rica and the president of the U.S. and the people he would listen to, any changes would probably make the agreement worse rather than better for the little guy.



Old food, new food, cheered food, boo’d food
It’s time once again to empty the in-box and respond to you enlightened readers.
 
Split personality. Let’s begin with mysterious controversy. My wife and I had two very pleasant visits to the Greek taverna up the road from the Costa Rican Country Club. I described them glowingly in a review. In short order, one reader complained to the editor that I had badly missed the mark and the food was awful and service indifferent. A dear friend heard from another that his visit was also without redemption. “What’s with Karpman?” he asked. Three others thought it was great.

The answer came from correspondence No. 6. He and his wife went there several times including one of the same occasions as my wife and I. They had fine food and service the first few times, then lackluster everything on a few occasions. I am relieved to know that I haven’t had a silent stroke that robbed me of taste and/or judgment. Inconsistency is apparently the culprit. Best wishes, Bouzouki, on regaining your status and consistency.
 

Mea gulpa. In an attempt to make amends and unruffle reader feathers, I went with three companions to the only other Greek game in town, Jimmy the Greek, on the main road in Pavas, a few blocks before the American Embassy, across from the modern looking large gas station. In comparison to the competition, its interior was a little more upscale with nice murals from mythology, the feta was a little higher quality, the absence of oregano flavor was a minus, the moussaka was a little better and contained nice little lamb chunks, the Greek lasagna in white sauce was good, the chicken souvlaki was very good, the mystery meat green bean stew was far too salty and the cheesecake was pleasant, but not like any Greek cheesecake or pie I have ever tasted. It was more like Sarah Lee frozen.

Finally, the prices were much higher. The moussaka was about ¢ 5,000 MORE and, in the nearly two hours we lingered over three courses, they had no other patrons. Up and down the street, other restaurants were packed. I think I’ll reserve judgment for another three or four months and try one or both places again.
 
Reuben and God. Moe from Yonkers suggested that I read Leviticus for the formal reasons for Kosher laws, but conceded that for “secular mythology,” my explanatory words were not too bad. Fred shared a bit of nostalgia about racing around Philadelphia, looking for a Reuben for his pregnant wife. She recently passed on. Our sympathy goes out to him. Charles bought a double meat corned beef sandwich to go from New York Deli, sliced the pickle atop the meat and added sauerkraut and Swiss cheese from Auto Mercado and “felt like I died and went to heaven.” Amen.
 
M & M’s. Marta and her family go to La Garita every Sunday afternoon along with a few hundred other family diners. She is tired of the crowds, corn  
Dr. Lenny Karpman

On 
the 
food
we eat

 
  
  
everything, casados with the same meats and side dishes and roast chicken a la Lena. “ Any other choices in La Garita?” Martin spent some happy years in El Salvador during his misspent youth and craves good pupusas. In San José, he has been to a few places that either offer no seating or are seedy. Parking also plagues him. To you both, let me recommend Pupusas El Barrio, a kilometer west of La Iglesia de San Jose on the same road as the overcrowded La Garita places that have grown tiresome for Marta. Pupusas are crispy griddle fried Salvadorian stuffed pancakes, traditionally served with vinagered coleslaw and hot sauce.

Concepción Guadrón, the ebullient chef from El Salvador prepares the real thing with chicharron (pork), queso fresco (fresh white cheese) and beans for the filling in any combination you like for all of ¢ 600 each. They come with a bowl of authentic flavored pupusa slaw and a mildly picante red sauce.

** $.

For the rest of Marta’s family, Concepción also makes chicken, fish, beef and pork cutlet casados, the usual array of rice dishes, bocas, tacos, hamburgers, chicken burgers, grilled chicken breast and steak with onions, all for less than ¢ 2000.
 
Francie in the mall (I’ll have to use a disguise) says that Bokaos is not changing chefs anymore and is consistently very good. Since then it has closed for “remodeling.”  Pat and Roger, independently feel that Il Ritorno has once again become the best Italian restaurant in town. We’ll check and get back to you.
 
I received two e-mails about the new best place for dim sum, but my computer was stolen before I backed it up. Please let me know its name and where it is again, whoever you are and thanks for the e-mails. I also lost a message that raved about brunches at Earthly Delights, but the details went with the burglars. Please send again.
 
Since the unfortunate abrupt closure of Tico Mex, I continue to hunt for good Mexican food a cut above the half dozen taco and burrito joints. Help.
 
Buen provecho.









Police beef up ranks in fear of violence at summit
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina — This Argentine resort town is in a virtual lock-down as the 34-nation Summit of the Americas opens today to examine ways to boost employment and fight poverty in the hemisphere. Security forces and local residents are bracing for massive protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators vociferously opposed to the presence of President George Bush, who arrived late Thursday.

Normally bustling with vacationers, Mar del Plata's expansive beaches are deserted as tourists and many residents alike departed well in advance of the fourth Summit of the Americas.

More than 7,000 security personnel have blocked public access to a total of 220 square blocks of prime beach-front territory where President Bush and his counterparts from the hemisphere will be gathered for two days.

"We are not worried, but we are busy -- working to prevent any situation that might arise," said Daniel Rodríguez, a spokesman for Argentina's federal police.

But many merchants outside the security zone are taking no chances. Leonardo Fernandez boarded up his furniture shop Thursday, and says he won't open again until Monday. "No one knows, no one has any information about whether there will be incidents, and given that uncertainty we are closing to guard against broken windows or arson," he said.

Some 55,000 or more protesters are expected to overwhelm the streets surrounding the security zone. On the eve of the summit, many had already taken over Mar del Plata's many plazas.

Socialist activist Marta Rossi says she hopes the demonstrations will remain peaceful, but admits there is no way to know for sure. "In reality we came to protest against Bush, not to harm businesses or the residents here. What is more, we want all the local people to join the protest. But of course there could always be some sort of disturbance by some group," she said.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, Tom Shannon, the assistant U.S. secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, said demonstrations are to be expected, but that President Bush will be dealing with counterparts from the Americas who were elected and therefore reflect the aspirations of the people
Chávez plans to speak
at opposition summit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina — Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is set to attend the Summit of the Americas, but will also speak today at the opposition Summit of the People.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to participate in the opposition rally, which has scheduled a march today to protest President George Bush's presence in Argentina. Some activists say they are participating because they oppose the Iraq war and President Bush's proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Chavez, a a self-proclaimed socialist, is trying to position himself as the leftist leader of the hemisphere and ideological successor to the aging Fidel Castro. He also seeks to reduce the influence of the United States in Latin Aemrica.

Venezuelan ally Cuba is sending a delegation to the opposition summit. Cuba was not allowed to participate in the Summit of the Americas because it is a Communist country.

Argentine soccer hero Diego Maradona has also announced he will participate in the protests.

As many as 8,000 security officers have been deployed around the summit site in case violence occurs.



But that is little consolation to Pedro Gomez whose pizza shop in Mar del Plata was bereft of customers. "If there were no summit, there would be many customers. We do not know why the summit was organized with so much fear. It should be a party. But since everyone is afraid, they are staying at home," he said.

But not everyone is disgruntled. Retiree Ana Maria Velez says all the leaders -- including President Bush -- are welcome in her city and she hopes the summit will be a success. "I think it is wonderful. God blessed me in allowing me to see this summit. As an Argentine, I am proud," she said.


U.S. says California man recruited computer armies
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In the first prosecution of its kind in the nation, a well-known member of the "botmaster underground" has been indicted on federal charges for profiting from the use of "botnets" — armies of computers that are under the control of the botmaster and are used to launch destructive attacks or to send huge quantities of spam across the Internet.

The man, Jeanson James Ancheta, 20, of Downey, Calif., was arrested Thursday morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ancheta was indicted Wednesday in two separate conspiracies, as well as allegations of attempting to cause damage to protected computers, causing damage to computers used by the federal government in national defense, accessing protected computers without authorization to commit fraud and money laundering.

The 17-count indictment alleges that Ancheta wrote malicious computer code, spread that code to assemble armies of infected computers, and sold access to the infected computers for the purpose of launching distributed denial of service attacks and sending spam. Ancheta also allegedly used the botnets to generate income from the surreptitious installation of adware on the infected computers.

The first conspiracy alleged in the indictment accuses Ancheta of modifying and disseminating the Trojan horse program "rxbot," which allowed him to create botnets, each with thousands of Internet-connected computers reporting to an Internet Relay Chat channel that Ancheta controlled. In a separate chat channel, Ancheta advertised the sale of his botnets to those interested in launching denial of service attacks or distributing spam without detection.

After receiving payment from customers, according to the indictment, Ancheta would give customers control of enough botnets to accomplish their specified task. Ancheta would also provide an instructional manual that included the commands needed to instruct the botnets to launch attacks or send spam. The manual would also include the malicious code that would allow the botnets to spread or propagate. As part of his fee, Ancheta allegedly set up and tested the purchased botnet to ensure that the denial of service attacks or spamming could be successfully carried out. A denial of service attack floods and overwhelms a specific e-mail service or Web page server intil the computer crashes or is taken off line


The second conspiracy outlined in the indictment alleges that Ancheta caused adware to be downloaded onto the infected computers that were part of his
botnet armies. To do this, Ancheta allegedly directed the compromised computers to other computer servers he controlled where adware he had modified would surreptitiously install onto the infected computers. The government also said:

Ancheta had become an affiliate of several different advertising service companies, and those companies paid him a commission based upon the number of installations. To avoid detection by network administrators, security analysts and law enforcement, Ancheta would vary the download times and rates of the adware installations. When companies hosting Ancheta's adware servers discovered the malicious activity, Ancheta redirected his botnet armies to a different server he controlled to pick up adware.

To generate the roughly $60,000 he received in advertising affiliate proceeds, Ancheta caused the surreptitious installation of adware on approximately 400,000 compromised computers. Ancheta used the advertising affiliate proceeds he earned to pay for, among other things, the multiple servers used to conduct his schemes.

Ancheta used programs powerful enough to cause the infection of computers at the Weapons Division of the U. S. Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, as well as computers belonging to the Defense Information Systems Agency, a component of the Department of Defense. Both networks are used exclusively by the federal government in furtherance of national defense.

After being arrested Thursday morning at the FBI Field Office in Los Angeles, Ancheta was transported to U. S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Ancheta is charged with two counts of conspiracy, two counts of attempted transmission of code to a protected computer, two counts of transmission of code to a government computer, five counts of accessing a protected computer to commit fraud and five counts of money laundering. Count 17 of the indictment seeks the forfeiture of more than $60,000 in cash, a BMW automobile and computer equipment that the indictment alleges are the proceeds of Ancheta's illegal activity.

If convicted of all charges in the indictment, Ancheta faces a statutory maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.


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