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(506) 223-1327          Published  Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 227                  E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Costa Rica ready to invest $18 million
British experience shows hidden cameras are no cure
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a matter of months, 3,000 electronic eyes will be watching the movements of Costa Rica's residents as they go about their public business.

Close-circuit television cameras, authorized by security minister Fernando Berrocal Soto at a cost of $18 million, will have their lenses trained on everyone from criminals to ordinary citizens.

In the same month that Berrocal was signing the measure and making confident assurances that the money was being well spent on citizen security, the British government and police force were preparing a report that says the vast majority of close circuit footage is no use for catching offenders.

Only two years ago, another report, this time by the British Home Office, concluded that security cameras fail to cut crime or make citizens feel safer.

In Britain, cameras peer at people from rooftops, highways, bins and even the inside of baked-bean cans.

If someone drops an empty crisp packet or indulges an urge to graffiti, close-circuit cameras can bark a sharp rebuke through a tiny microphone attached to a control center.

There is such a proliferation of cameras that the average British citizen can expect to be the star of close-circuit television 300 times every day.

Britain's small amount of soil now plays host to over 20 percent of the world's security cameras, earning it the tagline "the most spied-upon nation in the world," but authorities admit that they have no idea how many cameras are actually in operation.

The last figure tallied in 2002 came in at 4.2 million, one camera for every 14 Britons, but estimates have been as large as 7 million.

Costa Rica is currently far behind Britain with its adoption of a few thousand cameras, but at such early stages officials appear to be investing the same blind faith in these extra eyes that the British government displayed when it authorized a 38 million pound investment in the early 1990s. One system using 23 cameras already is in place on the pedestrian boulevard in downtown San José. That system is run by the municipal police. Cameras also are used to watch crowds at special events like fairs and the annual pilgrimage to Cartago.

Berrocal, officially minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that Costa Rica would take the lead in citizen security in Central America after the cameras are put up at international borders, coasts, tourist attractions and main streets throughout the country.

But in Britain, the frantic installation that started with John Major's government in 1994, and has hardly slowed since, left a legacy of unsatisfactory reports and accusations of human rights infringements, and led experts to call its effectiveness "over-hyped."

When cameras caught the haunting image of toddler James Bulger being led out of a shopping center by two older boys who minutes later became his killers, it was decided that close circuit television was integral to crime fighting and deterrence.

However, the huge increase in close circuit cameras has not been accompanied by a huge reduction in crime. A four-year study in Welsh capital Cardiff found no change in street violence and only one out of 13 systems studied by the 2005 Home Office report showed any reduction in crime levels.

Car parking areas are the only places that systems have had a definitive success, helping to reduce 
downtown camera
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
This camera already was in place on the pedestrian boulevard.

car thefts, but in city centers and residential areas there has been little effect, according to British studies.

Over the years it has become evident that close-circuit television is only good for providing evidence after a crime rather than preventing it, and still the quality of the image means that police can only offer a 2-to-10 chance of a positive identification.

Despite the endless reports that deny close-circuit television's supposed effectiveness, many British  citizens have an unshakable faith in the silver bullet cure for petty crime and public disobedience that the Labour government has spent 500 million pounds on during its decade in office.

A 2 million pound system recently was welcomed in Northern Ireland by the area's policing and justice minister, for the fact that it would "reduce crime and the fear of crime"as well as tackling anti-social behavior.

The minister's comments echo the government mantra "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime," and groups have sprung up that claim a Big-Brother style conspiracy is being exercised over Britons with the government using the public's safety concerns as an excuse to keep a closer eye on its citizens.

The government does not require people to hold a license to operate closed-circuit cameras, an omission that Watching Them, Watching Us, a surveillance regulation campaign group, is quick to point out.

Tampering with evidence, selling images of people without their permission and keeping detailed information about individual appearance and habits are all ways that civil liberties could be abused without public knowledge, the group's Web site claims.

As these cameras do not prevent crime, the group argues, there must be another driving reason that the government continues to eagerly invest vast sums in the technology.

It remains to be seen whether Costa Rica's modest adoption of closed-circuit television as a crime-fighting device will escalate into the same addiction that it has in Britain, and it will be a long time before Costa Ricans have to worry about being reprimanded because a camera caught them putting their trash out on the wrong day.

Closed-circuit identifications could possibly bring up the current low conviction rate, but it is less likely that the crime rate itself will drop.

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RACSA has some trouble
with its Internet server

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. servers failed about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, but the extent of the problem could not be determined because there was no response from the company.

The nation's other Internet provider, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, was not affected.

The servers of the company known as RACSA began operating again briefly about 9 p.m. but only for about five minutes.

Both e-mail and Web surfing was affected. A support employee at Amnet, the cable company, confirmed that the RASCA computers were down. The company provides high-speed connections to RACSA but does not maintain Internet servers itself.

Users of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that the RACSA homepage was being delivered normally to computers that had server access and there was no mention on the page of the server failure.

A.M. Costa Rica uses RACSA servers to connect with its own server in Los Angeles, California. Consequently, e-mail and Web page delivery to the online newspaper was cut off.

If the outage is a general one, much of the country would lack Internet service.

Fixing undermined pipe
might take until Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry said that it may take until Tuesday to fix the main sewer line that was undermined by rain and flooding at the south side of the University Nacional in Heredia.

The pipe belongs to the Servicios Públicos de Heredia, but also damaged are other utility lines.

The undermined pipe has caused a constriction of the lanes on the adjacent highway and blocked passage to San Isidro de Heredia. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that alternate routes should be taken to reach San Isidro. Residents of adjacent communities in Heredia centro are forced to walk to their homes, the ministry said.

The damage took place more than a week ago, but weather conditions have hampered repairs.
Slipping hillside forces
evacuation in Moravia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some residents in La Trinidad de Moravia have been driven from their homes by a shifting hillside. Two people suffered injuries when the land shifted, said the Cruz Roja.

The houses are perched atop a hillside and along the flank for the hillside. When the soil shifted Tuesday and Wednesday, it tossed the houses around like toys and dumped loads of earth on the string of houses that parallel a road at the base of the slope.

At least 20 homes were evacuated in anticipation of more movement of the earth.  At least two homes were destroyed.

This was the latest disaster caused by the wet October and November weather. Saturated topsoil seems to have slid along lubricated subsoil to cause the slide.

Killers on motorcycle shoot
motorist in Goicoechea

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men on a motorcycle fired multiple times at the driver of a sports utility vehicle in Paso Hondo de Goicoechea Wednesday night. The man who was the target died, and the assailants escaped.

The killers fired at least six rounds of 9-mm. ammunition, and police had marked at least that many of the spent cartridges. The Judicial Investigating Organization was trying to make a positive identification of the victim.

The crime seemed to be a planned murder rather than a robbery. The killers sped off after firing on the car and did not make an effort to take the victim's belongings.

Armed man foils robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man tried to hold up a lottery salesman Wednesday not far from the Junta de Protección Social which operates the lottery. The son of the lottery vendor produced a firearm and shot the assailant in the head.

The attempted robbery happened at midday on a busy city street.

Rural guides getting training

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute will offer a course for some 80 local guides next month to help them learn about geography, and natural history. These are guides associated with the rural tourism program.

The Instituto Nacional de Apredezaje will coordinate the course.

Rural tourism is an effort to distribute the income from international visitors to the small towns of the country. The concept is promoted strongly by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

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Workmen chop up the concrete at the Plaza de la Democracia to make way eventually for a western main entrance for the Museo Nacional. The job will remove a number of rows of concrete seats at the plaza. Now visitors enter the museum from the east.
concrete demolition at museum
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Tamarindo residents optimistic over possible sewage plant
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tamarindo residents are now being given the hope that they will see the installation of a sewage treatment plant for the entire community by the end of next year.

A meeting held Friday by the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo saw a high turnout of concerned residents and business people eager to learn what progress is being made to counter the pollution in their sea water.

Federico Amador, the association's executive director, said that he is negotiating with businesses that may make donations towards the installation of a plant.

He added that Grupo Diria, owners of controversial Tamarindo Diria Hotel, has offered to donate the land needed to install a community treatment plant. Many think the hotel is a big part of the pollution problem.

Not yet known is how much land this donation would represent. The association hopes to have full quotes and plans for the plant by the end of December. Initially the business has offered two hectares or about five acres.

Amador stressed that this is a big step forward as land in Tamarindo is a very expensive resource.

This week, the Ministerio de Salud employees will be going door-to-door to look for the source of the contamination and handing out questionnaires that aim to establish what water treatment methods each business uses.
After they have received the answers, the health ministry intends to visit each property and make an evaluation of the provisions, handing out sanitary orders to any that are not up to standard.

These businesses would then be given a timeline according to their size and extent of the problems within which they must meet the guidelines on water treatment.

Although Amador said he believes that the people who  attended the meeting feel confident about the progress being made, residents have reservations about some of the methodology used.

"They don't want a witch hunt, and in a way I think we should have one," said James Webster, director of Witch's Rock Surf Camp.

"It's a great idea to analyze everyone's provisions, but they told us that the information gathered won't be available to the public," he continued. "A big hotel with problems that would cost a lot to fix might be able to pay a small bribe and no one would ever get visibility of that."

He added that in the four years he has lived in Tamarindo a lot of talk has been heard about installing a treatment plant, but that this time he is positive that the plant will be installed.

"Tamarindo has gone from a sleepy fishing village to what it is today in 20 years, and the people who have made money out of that need to pull together and pay for this plant," he said.

Border agents manage to sniff out bags of contraband garlic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police, customs agents and other law enforcement personnel have swooped down on garlic smugglers.

Believe it or not, the illegal activity at Costa Rica's southern border does not only include cocaine, heroin, marijuana, illegal immigrants, weapons and similar. There also is the steady importation of unapproved foodstuffs, including garlic and eggs, according to the  Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

The ministry maintains the Servicios de Cuarentena Vegetal, or quarantine service at Paseo Canoas. Sunday the quarry was some 5,000 kilos (112,000 pounds) of bagged Chinese garlic.

Agricultural officials said that the garlic contains plant diseases that should not be allowed to come into the country. Chinese garlic had been rejected at the border the week before, but some merchants tried to smuggle in a
bag of garlic
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo
There's no doubt where this bag originated

truckload, said the ministry. Border police also are on the lookout for contraband eggs from Panama, said the ministry.

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L.A. man admits massive Internet scheme to steal bank info
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In the first prosecution of its kind in the nation, a well-known member of the “botnet underground” has been charged with using “botnets” — armies of compromised computers — to steal the identities of victims across the country by extracting information from their personal computers and wiretapping their communications.

The individual, John Schiefer, 26, of Los Angeles, California, has agreed to plead guilty to four felony counts: accessing protected computers to conduct fraud, disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the same city.

Lawyers for the government filed the criminal information and plea agreement last week in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles outlining a series of schemes in which Schiefer and several associates developed malicious computer code and distributed that code to vulnerable computers. Schiefer and the others used the illicitly installed code to assemble armies of up to 250,000 infected computers, which they used to engage in a variety of identity theft schemes. Schiefer also used the compromised computers to defraud a Dutch advertising company, according to the plea agreement.

In his plea agreement, Schiefer acknowledged installing malicious computer code, or “malware,” that acted as a wiretap on compromised computers. Because the users of those compromised computers were unaware that their computers had been turned into zombies, they continued to use their computers to engage in commercial activities.

Schiefer used the malware, which he called a “spybot,” to intercept electronic communications being sent over the Internet from those zombie computers to Pay Pal and other Web sites. Once in possession of those intercepted communications, Schiefer and the others sifted through the data to mine usernames and passwords.
With Pay Pal usernames and passwords, Schiefer and the others accessed bank accounts to make purchases without the consent of the true owners. Schiefer also acknowledged in the plea agreement that he transferred both the wiretapped communications and the stolen Pay Pal information to others. It is the first time in the nation that someone has been charged under the federal wiretap statute for conduct related to botnets.

In another scheme, Schiefer installed malware on zombie computers running Microsoft operating systems, causing them to disgorge usernames and passwords from a secure storage area known as the PStore. Schiefer and his co-schemers caused the zombie computers to send that account access information to computers that Schiefer and his co-schemers controlled. Once again, Schiefer located Pay Pal usernames and passwords among this data and used that authentication information to access victim bank accounts.

Finally, Schiefer acknowledged defrauding an Internet advertising company with his botnets. Schiefer signed up as a consultant with a Dutch Internet advertising company and promised to install the company’s programs on computers only when the owners gave consent.

Instead, Schiefer and two co-schemers installed that program on approximately 150,000 computers that were infected with their malware. To avoid detection by the advertising company, Schiefer instructed his associates to moderate the number of installations so it appeared that the installations were legitimate and not the result of a malicious computer program that was propagating itself. Schiefer was ultimately paid more than $19,128.35 by the advertising company.

Schiefer has agreed to make an initial appearance in Los Angeles Nov. 28. Once he pleads guilty to the four counts, Schiefer will face a statutory maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison and a fine of $1.75 million.

Major quake at 7.7 magnitude kills at least two in Chile
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Chile say at least two people have been killed and more than 100 injured after a powerful earthquake struck in the north, sending terrified residents into the streets and cutting power to some of the country's copper mines.

Officials said two women were killed Wednesday when their houses in the town of Tocopilla collapsed during the 7.7 magnitude earthquake. They also said another person may have died in a tunnel collapse there.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered west of the town of Calama. It was felt as far away as the
Chilean capital, Santiago, and neighboring Peru and Bolivia.

Television images showed cars crushed under the concrete awning of a hotel in Antofagasta, 170 kms (105 miles) south of the epicenter.

The quake was followed by six aftershocks with magnitudes of up to 5.7. Additionally, the quake triggered a tsunami warning which was later lifted.

In August, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck Peru, killing about 540 people and injuring more than 1,000 others. The southern port city of Pisco was one of the areas devastated by the powerful quake, which lasted two minutes.

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Contemporary dance festival here will promote experimentation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ballet-dancers may despise it, disco-lovers may be baffled by it, but contemporary dance has been a firm part of the theatrical agenda in San José for almost 25 years, and the finalists for this year's weekend dedicated to the art have now been announced.

Ten Costa Rican acts have been chosen by a national board of judges for the XXIV Festival de Coreografos “Graciela Morena,” to take place in the Teatro Nacional from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.

Contemporary dance is known for its mixing of genres, its ability to incorporate any kind of music no matter how obscure and the fluid body movements that dancers developed in rejection of ballet's strict forms.

According to the judges who picked this year's competitors, the festival was born through the need for an "open space for experimentation, investigation and the search for new languages of dance."
Last year's winners, Henrietta Borbon, Luis Piedra, Andrea Catania and Rogelio Lopez, will open the festival Nov. 29 to warm up the stage for their successors.

Three to four acts will take to the stage on each night of the festival, presenting colorful, original compositions of up to 30 minutes in length.

For the first time, international judges from México, Spain and the United States will make up the panel in front of which the dancers will perform in the hopes that they will be pronounced winner at the end of the weekend.

One of the competitors, Nandayure Harley, who will present his composition "Mil Kilometros"  Dec. 2, sasid this new dimension will give an opportunity to situate Costa Rican dance in an international context.

The festival will also include a homage to the dancer and choreographer Cristina Gigirey, who died last year on Dec. 5, and was considered one of the pioneers of Costa Rican contemporary dance.

Try an unexpected move to always keep them guessing
This topic originated from an interesting post in the forum section of my Web site:

There was a long discussion about one particular hand that a supposedly solid player had been in.  Several posters suggested that this hotshot player made a critical error that had to be a losing play in the long run.  They saw this apparent lapse of judgment, on one isolated hand, as proof that he simply wasn’t the strong player he was purported to be.

My response was somewhat controversial.  I wrote something like, “If you never attempt non-fundamental plays --— plays that might be considered ill-advised in the short-run --— you’ll actually limit the amount you can win at poker.” 
It’s obvious that every player makes mistakes.  Sometimes, though, what seems to be a mistake is really just a marginal play.  Here’s the thing:  These plays can actually yield more profit in the long-run than a textbook move. 

And that’s especially true when these moves are intentionally designed to deceive opponents who wrongly assume that your play is easy to predict. 
You see, every poker decision can be broken down into two categories: those with positive expected value and those with negative expected value.  A play that has positive EV is one that will make you money in the long-run.  The opposite occurs with negative EV.  These plays will ultimately cost you chips.

There’s a wrinkle, however.  Sometimes a play that appears to have negative EV on paper, when used sporadically, can actually deliver positive EV.  That can only happen, however, if you own an unpredictable table image and can cause your opponents to misjudge your skill level.
It’s important to note that attempting a controversial negative EV play will likely be effective only in higher-limit games.  That’s where you’ll find skilled players who pay close attention to betting patterns, take notes on their opponents, and have a solid understanding of fundamental poker strategy.  In these games, there’s a real opportunity to win by using deception. 

On the other hand, if you’re playing in a low-limit game with novice players, avoid negative EV plays altogether.  Instead, profit from your opponents’ inevitable fundamental mistakes -— mistakes that skilled high-limit players rarely make.

Here’s a hand that illustrates why it’s so problematic to be

perceived as a predictable player who always seems to play by the book. 

In a big money short-handed no limit hold’em game, you raise to $600 with Kh-5h.  The button re-raises to $2,100.

The textbook play would be to fold your hand.  Advanced players understand positional disadvantage and wouldn’t attempt to play such a marginal hand out of position.  Calling a raise with Kh-5h, hoping to catch a miracle on the flop, would be a long-term loser.

The problem is simple:  On those occasions when you do call a raise, your opponents would be able to narrow down your range of hands.  They’d sense that you wouldn’t call a raise unless you had some sort of strength.  And because they would always retain position, they’d likely continue to re-raise to better define your hand. 
But by occasionally calling with weaker hands and sometimes even re-raising, you would add valuable unpredictability to your game.  It would become more difficult for opponents to get a read on your hand and could even translate into positive EV in future hands. 

So, when you look at the Kh-5h example on its own, it’s clear that the play has negative short-term EV, but over the long-term, it can produce positive results.
Poker isn’t about one isolated hand. It’s a long-term game.  If you face the same players every week, you’ll need to occasionally step over the line of fundamental play.  That will surely keep your opponents guessing. 

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2007 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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Readers respond to listing
of top-10 restaurants

A list of restaurants
recommended by readers

Prescription for good steak: Just visit Hospital CIMA

If you wondered where all
the pigs go at Christmas . . .


All about fish

For an example of the Comeback Kid, visit Mangiamo

Yes, a lobster without claws
is pretty good, too

Old food, new food,
cheered food, boo’d food


For the frugal, there are
some decent places to eat

The guide you need
for cooking a turkey locally

Halloween yuckies
for the kids

With the marinated steaks
you also get a horse show

Imaginative fusions invite fine tuning in Escazú

Hidden behind national library sits a jewel

A chance to add a little zip
to munchies with dip

Soda Tapia's western branch
is drawing throngs

Fine Spanish food
with a Catalan emphasis

Cuban restaurant calls up
images of the past

Surprise: Brazilian meats
and a great salad bar

Yes, there is a place
for solid German cooking HERE!

A report on some nice people who are doing well

It may not be Portugal,
but Oporto offers solid fare

An answer to the question:
'Who are the great chefs?'

The Caribbean is just 
a short drive away

There is a long-standing barrier to a kosher Reuben

Bacchus continues
to be something special

This food columnist 
just might get you in a jam!

All the reviews are right: 
This is a great place to eat

After nine months, our food critic summarizes opinions

Here are ways to handle 
our abundances of Nature

Spartan surroundings 
with fantastic Mexican food

A discovery of Greek cuisine 
around corner in Escazú

Places where you can find 
a gaggle of Gringos

Argentine steakhouse 
in Escazú offers other options

Fellini has given way 
to the restaurant 'Voulez Vous?'

One of the world's staples 
is also one of its treats

Not much to beef about
at Donde Carlos in Los Yoses

Off to Heredia in search 
of an authentic paella

A really long drive to sample authentic German food

Shogun is the first choice 
among Japanese restaurants

So what are you going 
to have for breakfast today?

A delightful sampling 
of the Middle East

The lowdown on soy protein
and natural estrogen

A road show of great places 
to eat when on the run

The contest between 
  the area's Italian restaurants 

The mango can be 
an international delight

Four-star French restaurant
with no surprises

All you ever wanted to know
about wursts and more

The No. 1 Italian restaurant
in the Central Valley

A bit of the 1960s
in Ciudad Colón

Heart concern and 
good finger foods

Some less pricey charmers

French cooking in the clouds 
sans pretensions

The many uses of squash

Friends' favorite foods

The Restaurant Del Mar

Cook that turkey!

The crazy apple: eggplant

Dim sum = Chinese smorgasbord

A very good fish restaurant

Some general concepts 
for reviewing restaurants

A guide to stalking 
the many guavas found here


Which breakfast delight is 
the real food bomb?


New food writer will try 
to focus on the different

Every culture seems 
to have a meat dumpling


Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

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