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(506) 223-1327          Published Friday, Nov. 10, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 224        E-mail us    
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Four lanes coming in 2007 for bottleneck route in Sabana Sur
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists should figure on avoiding Sabana Sur for at least nine months in 2007.

Highway officials said Thursday that they are almost ready to begin work on changing the Carretera Viaja al Escazú to four lanes.

The 1.3 km. stretch (.8 miles) is the road that runs from the El Universal store parallel with the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles rail tracks to the traffic light at the Ministerio de Producción, the former agricultural ministry. There are two lanes now, and the road is slow going at peak traffic periods.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad has announced that the road would be widened. The news Thursday was the Santa Fe-Holcim S.A. has been selected and is poised to get the 3.5 billion colon contract. That's $6.4 million.

Construction is supposed to start in the first months of 2007, said Karla González, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes.

All that remains now is to publish the contract award in the official La Gaceta newspaper and submit the deal to the Contraloría General de la República for approval.

This is a complex stretch, and utility companies will have to relocate posts, lines and water pipes as well as sewer lines.

This job is considered important for the eventual improvement of traffic flow on the west side of San José. Four lanes will reduce the delays, said Minister González.

The new stretch will have a center island and four places pedestrians can cross with traffic lights. There will be turn lanes to eliminate one of the big reasons for tieups now.

To the north of the east-west road now is a passenger stop for the urban train. North of that is the Autopista Próspero Fernández and Parque la Sabana. Eventually the autopista will run to Caldera on the Pacific, cutting down travel time considerably. Another highway will connect with San Ramón.

The Arias administration is hoping to get the Caldera highway west of Ciudad Colón under way soon. Bridges already have been installed but right-of-way needs to be purchased and the roadbed needs to be installed. The government already owns additional land to the south of the existing Carretera Viaja, and this land will be used in the widening.



Lawmakers move to protect professionals from free trade treaty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislative committee studying the free trade treaty took another step Thursday to defuse opposition.

This time the critics were academics and professionals who said that the free trade treaty with the United States would damage the current system of professional associations and force the country to accept unqualified professionals.

The committee is the Comisión Permanente Especial de Relaciones Internacionales y Comercio Exterior. It does not have the power to edit the free trade treaty. But this is another time when members have passed an amendment to the law adopting the treaty that reflects the committee's interpretation.

In this case the committee said that the treaty does not impose on the state or on the professional colegios an obligation that would mean the modification of national legislation. The colegios are the self-governing organizations of professionals enshrined in the law, such as the Colegio de Abogados, the lawyer's organization.

In Costa Rica certain types of professionals are required to belong to their colegio, which sometimes sets fees and disciplines members. In the United States much of the licensing is handled by individual states.
The Colegio de Periodistas here does not just include reporters and editors but also public relations practitioners and press officers for government agencies. The colegio establishes educational requirements and sometimes seeks criminal action against those who are not members. Under current conditions a foreign public relations expert would find linking up with the colegio to be very difficult because the rules are specific.

Professionals in Costa Rica are concerned by the prospect of a flood of professionals relocating from the United States. The concerns have been voiced by teachers, professors, engineers, accountants, physicians, land surveyors, nurses and similar.

The treaty now forbids discrimination: "No Party may accord recognition in a manner that would constitute a means of discrimination between countries in the application of its standards or criteria for the authorization, licensing, or certification of services suppliers, or a disguised restriction on trade in services."

Eventually arbitration cases will define what countries can and cannot do. And the sense of the committee in its implementation law will represent evidence.

The legislative commission is expected to report out the treaty and accompanying legislation by mid-December.


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Arias cites, war, wall
as reason GOP took fall


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez said Wednesday that the victory of the Democratic Party in the United States elections Tuesday was a condemnation of President George Bush.

Arias said that the loss by the Republican Senate and House candidates was caused by the war in Iraq and the decision to build a wall along the border with México.

Arias said that the Iraq war has resulted in an enormous cost to the U.S. image in the world. He said he was against the war and that the previous Abel Pacheco government had included the country in the coalition of the willing in support of the war.

Arias said this was a unilateral invasion and a violation of the charter of the United Nations and international law.

The North America people are indignant with the deaths of so many innocent fellow citizens in Iraq and are preoccupied by the possibility of civil war due to the death penalty handed out to Saddam Hussein, said Arias.

Arias said that the Hispanic population voted for the Democrats because of the decision to construct the wall at the border with México. He said the foreign policy of the United States is going to change not only in Iraq but in other parts of the world.

The Democratic victory Tuesday included the election of nine new senators. Six of them defeated incumbent Republicans.

Democrats managed to increase their total in the U.S. Senate to 51 out of 100 seats. In the U.S. House, Republicans had 229 of the 435 seats and lost about 33.

Some 55 percent of voters, interviewed in exit polls, said they disapproved of the war in Iraq. However other exit polls showed voters also were upset by scandals that enveloped the Congress for the last year, such as that with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Republicans did well in border states of Texas and Arizona. Both Arizona senate candidates supported the fence. In California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican was re-elected. A Time magazine poll said that 56 percent of U.S. respondents wanted a wall the entire length of the Mexican border.

Ohio agricultural group
will visit to make deals


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A delegation from the U.S. State of Ohio is supposed to visit starting Saturday.

The 17 persons are involved in agricultural production and sales, including certified cattle, corn and other grains. U.S. agro industries expect to cash in on the free trade treaty, if it is signed. The delegation will visit farms and make business contacts, said a spokesperson from the U.S. Embassy.

Key roads being repaired
in time for high season


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Key roads are going to get badly needed makeovers.

Workers already have started putting a new asphalt road surface on highway 142 that runs along the northeast side on Lake Arenal. This is a road that has been the terror of tourists for years.

In addition, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said it will make direct contract awards and get jobs going within a week on some 852 kilometers of gravel roads in the country. Many of the roads have taken a big hit from heavy rains and flooding. The jobs are to be completed in 120 days.

This will be the first time, too, that technicians working for the government will make compaction studies of the work to make sure it is done correctly, the highway agency said.

The total bill for the gravel work will be 2.6 billion colons or some $5 million.

The jobs include highway 245 from Rincón through Puerto Jiménez to about Carate on the Osa Peninsula. Nearly $544,000 will be spent here.

Another job is planned for highway 160 centered in Sámara on the Nicoya Peninsula. There also will be work on the opposite side of the peninsula between Playa Naranjo to Paquera. Another job will be on highway 138 from Los Chiles to south of Upala.

On the Pacific coast workmen will improve highway 239 from the Costanera to Valle Vasconia and highway 301 from Parrita to San Ignacio.

Three jobs are planned in the Provincia de Limón. One from Bribri to Shiroles and another from La Bomba to Aguas Zarcas. The third is north of the Municipalidad de Limón from Cruce San Alberto to Puerto Caño Blanco.

Driver survives ambush
on Rohrmoser highway


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The hit men probably should not give up their real job. Four of them tried to kill a motorist in Rohrmoser Thursday about 4 p.m.

Four men in a car pulled up alongside a car being driven by a 33-year-old Colombian and started shooting. They missed him nearly a dozen times

The driver responded with his pistol.

Shortly, his car sported bullet holes in the windshield and in the driver side door.

But the driver suffered only a wound to his ear, officials said.  He was being treated at Hospital San Juan de Dios. Those rescue workers who responded called the case a miracle.

Man collapse at sentencing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 63-year-old man being sentenced for sexual abuse collapsed and had to be hospitalized Thursday.

The man, Rafael Arguedas, was in the Tribunales de Justicia de San José when he heard the decision of the three-judge panel: Eight years in prison. He had been convicted of abuse of two young family members.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 224







Ping pong game turns out to be really hard on the wrist
Doug, my upstairs neighbor bought a ping pong table.  This was a great idea because there is room in his apartment for it. We both love to play, and now we will have an exercise we both enjoy.

Ping pong is one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve been playing since high school.  When I worked for Polaroid Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there was a ping pong room just off the Personnel Office where I worked.  I could and did play almost every lunch hour in high heels.  My one big embarrassment relating to ping pong had nothing to do with heels or the game.

Polaroid was a young company — sort of the Apple of the 50s.  And I, too, was very young.  As yet they had no conference room.  When there was a meeting of all the department heads, they held it around the ping pong table (minus the net).

Not long after I began working, my boss asked if I would stay late because there was going to be a meeting and Dr. Land was expecting a call from the company lawyer, Julian Silver, in New York.  He said when the call came through to just knock on the door and tell Dr. Land. (Land actually, like other brilliant entrepreneurs, quit college before graduating, and his title was honorary.  I was in awe of him.)

So I was nervous, but eager to please, and my duty was easy enough.  I rehearsed to myself, “Dr. Land, Julian Silver is on the phone.”  When the call came at 6  p.m., I told Mr. Silver to please hold a moment.  I knocked on the door, and to Dr. Land’s “Come in” I opened it and stood looking at all of the important people of the company sitting around the ping pong table.  I zeroed in on Dr. Land and said in a loud, firm voice:

“Dr. Land, Julius Caesar is on the phone!”  ---

“Amazing!” I think is what he said.  “Tell him I’ll be right there.”

I fled the room, not wanting ever to see these people again.  I thought I would never recover from my embarrassment, but no one ever said anything — to my face.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Eventually I left Polaroid but I am still playing ping pong.  Or was.

Doug and I have been trying to get in a couple a of sessions every day.  Monday I went up before lunch wondering if the rubber flickies that I was wearing were a good idea.  They weren’t. As I lunged to my left to return a slice across the table, my rubber-soled sandals remained stuck to the floor while my upper body kept going.  It was a crash landing, broken only by my wrist.  When I rolled over and looked at my aching side, my hand was at a 60 degree angle to my wrist and I knew I was not going to get away with just a sprain.  This was also embarrassing because I had finally flunked what I have called my "bone density tests."

I had never once fallen in my three-inch heels.

And, of course, this meant, with the help of Alexis and Doug, that I would go to and spend the rest of the day at Hospital México.  Looking at my x-rays, the doctor said, “Una fractura muy fea.”  And I wondered about the gathering of 15 people I was expecting the next evening, the 7th. 

Canceling seemed more of a chore than having the party for which I was already prepared, and besides, the people who were coming are used to cooperating, making do, and helping the less fortunate, one of whom I was feeling like. 

Everyone came bearing food and drink and it was a good party, a celebration, really, and although I retired early, the others stayed long enough so that in the morning all evidence had been removed, except that my fridge is full of good things to eat and drink.  

Which is very nice because I am going to be out of commission for a while.



U.N. development index can be a bit misleading
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the United Nations releases its Human Development Report, the media usually jumps upon the Human Development Index which provides a per country ranking.  In the current report, released this week, the statistics are from 2004. 

The Human Development Index, as explained by the U.N., is “a composite index that measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools, and a decent standard of living, as measured by gross domestic product per capita in purchasing power parity U.S. dollars.”

One of the goals is to offer an alternative to income as a summary measure of human well-being.  As with most index reports, the numbers can often be deceiving, and the U.N. acknowledges this.  For instance, the organization acknowledges that averages may obscure large disparities within countries.

One such example is the case of Canada that in the past decade has ranked within the top 10, usually placing close to or in the top spot.  This year the country ranked sixth.  What the rating does not reveal is that the native Canadian reserves, if placed on the Human Development Index, would be somewhere in the high 60s, as noted by Scott Fogden on mapleleafweb.com.  This would place them somewhat worse off by the index standards than countries such as Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Malaysia.
The United States this year ranked in the eighth position while France ranked eight spots back in 16.  In the year 2000, as posted by the CIA Factbook, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population was living below the poverty line, almost doubling the percent in France.

So, either the United States made strong human development progress in comparison to France between 2000 and 2004, or the more developed nations' poverty statistics are not taken into account too strongly.  For the average person, it is hard to tell.  Within the document the U.N. acknowledges that the indicators chosen are not necessarily those that best differentiate between rich countries.

After all of the numbers are calculated, each represented country is given a value based on 1.000.  Norway, which had the strongest rating this year, had a value of .965.  Trying to follow this number, however, may also be misleading.  For example, while some say that the current situation in Sudan is tantamount to genocide, its Human Development Index value (not ranking) has consistently been on the rise since 1975. 

The United Nations has been clear about these deficiencies in its document, and it is important that those writing about the report outline the weaknesses to the public. There is a wealth of information in the report beyond the Human Development Index, but it is not easy to interpret like a developmental horse race. 

So what does it mean for a country like Costa Rica, which ranked 48th of 175 countries this year?  Nothing that was not already known. It's richer and better educated than some and less so than others. 







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Ortega criticizes Iraq war but hopes for increased U.S. trade
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nicaraguan president-elect Daniel Ortega said he hopes for increased trade with all countries, including the United States, despite his criticism of some of Washington's policies.

The leftist leader told supporters during a victory rally in Managua Wednesday that President Bush's Republican Party has lost power because of the Iraq occupation, which has been rejected by the entire world. He said he hopes the U.S. government listens to its people and pulls its troops out of Iraq.

Ortega met with business leaders Wednesday to assure them he will not repeat the radical Marxist policies, such as land
seizures, that left Nicaragua in economic ruin during his presidency in the late 1980s. But he has also promised to maintain close ties with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Some U.S. lawmakers warned that an election victory by Ortega would damage relations with Washington. In his campaign, however, the former Marxist guerrilla leader suggested he had turned away from his Marxist policies and promised to promote reconciliation and peace.

Earlier Wednesday, the State Department said it looked to establish positive relations with the Ortega government. But Tuesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that ultimately the platform of the incoming Nicaraguan government will determine bilateral ties.


U.S. not happy about Bolivia's expansion of coca use into consumer products
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States firmly opposes Bolivia's commercializing of the country's coca crop by allowing the prime ingredient for cocaine to be sold for use on the consumer market for such coca-based goods as medicine, toothpaste, shampoo, liquors and food, said Christy McCampbell. She is the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

In an interview, Ms. McCampbell said Bolivia is doing some work on eradicating illegal drugs, and doing good work on the interdiction of those drugs.  But she added that the United States does not support any kind of commercialization of coca and never will because "if you grow coca, that means there's more cocaine on the streets.  You need only one specific thing to make cocaine and that's the coca leaf."

Ms. McCampbell will lead a State Department delegation to an anti-drug meeting Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 of the Organization of American States in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She said the United States respects the Bolivian people's cultural and religious traditions for using coca and has accepted what is called the cato exemption in which the Bolivian president allows certain small areas of the country to be used for legal coca growing.  A cato equals about one-sixth of a hectare, Ms. McCampbell said. That's a bit less than a half acre.
That cato exemption, she said, amounts to allowing less than 12,000 hectares (29,650 acres) in the country for growing coca for traditional use, such as in teas and for indigenous rituals. 

She added that the United States and Bolivia are in negotiations over eliminating the exemption "but this is not set in stone yet.  We're still trying to have a meeting of the minds where both countries can work together."

The United States, she said, respects Bolivian cultural traditions regarding coca use.
 
Ms. McCampbell said the United States believes that coca, when processed, "equals cocaine and we cannot condone more cocaine on the streets.  This traditional use that we've agreed to with the Bolivians is a very, very small portion."

The official said that based on visits to a number of countries in Latin America, she can say that Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Colombia are very concerned about Bolivia's growing of coca. 

Bolivia, she said, was once the world's No. 1 coca-producing nation, but U.S.-Bolivian counterdrug cooperation helped drop Bolivia to the third-ranking coca-growing country, which she said was a significant improvement.


Former Iranian president and associates targeted in Jewish center bombing
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A judge in Argentina has ordered an international arrest warrant for Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight other people in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires.

Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba issued the warrants after
Argentine prosecutors accused the Iranian government of masterminding the attack.

The attack killed 85 people and wounded about 300 and is considered the worst terrorist attack ever in Argentina.

Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in the bombing. No one has ever been convicted of the attack.


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Sports figures contribute in battle against world hunger
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The England and Wales cricket team is now batting and bowling against global hunger in the latest partnership between sports players and the United Nations World Food Programme to draw attention to the plight of the 400 million chronically hungry children around the world.

Under the terms of the “Cricket Against Hunger” partnership, when the England team is on tour, the World Food Programme will arrange meetings between the cricketers and young children who depend on food aid to meet their nutritional requirements at school or in the communities where they live, making the sports stars advocates for the poor and the hungry.

“This is a splendid example of how sport can shine a light on a problem that takes the lives of tens of thousands of children in some of the world’s poorest countries,” John Powell said. “Despite all the technological and medical progress we have made in the world, hunger takes more lives each day than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.”  He is the  World Food Programme deputy executive director responsible for global fundraising

The World Food Programme already has a long-standing relationship with the International Rugby Board, which helped to raise funds for the agency’s work. A number of leading stars, including Brazilian World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho, Kenyan world marathon record holder
Paul Tergat, and the Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah
Muralitharan, are celebrity partners and advocate on behalf of the world’s hungry.

The agency even recruited Italian Formula One auto racing star Jarno Trulli in a public service television announcement to show the speed at which malnourished children are dying around the world and the minimal amount it costs to slow the rate down. He said:

“In five seconds, my Formula One racing car can go from 0-200 kilometres per hour. Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger — That's 720 children an hour, all day, every day. We can’t stop time, but we can stop the dying.” 

And during emergency relief operations after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, US football stars, including New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, Kansas City Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson and former Australian rugby captain Nick Farr-Jones toured the worst hit areas to highlight the program's efforts to deliver food to survivors.

“Cricket Against Hunger” has already made its mark in a practical way. Last month, during the International Cricket Council Champions Trophy tournament in India, four England internationals took time out from their training in Jaipur to visit children who receive food aid as part of a school feeding program.

The players then played a quick game with the children before touring a factory that produces a highly nutritious food blend that is distributed to vulnerable groups in India.


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