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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 241           E-mail us
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Consumers now have an updated protection law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Whether they know it or not, merchants are working under an updated consumer law that went into effect Nov. 1.

The measure is the first revision in 13 years and was designed to address current trends. In many respects, the requirements are similar to those in existence in the United States and Canada.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio is in charge of enforcing the legislation as well as several agencies within this ministry.

Consumers have faced a number of time-sales problems involving vacations, funerals and other products that are pay now and use later. There also have been high-profile situations when major musical concerts were canceled and not everyone received back their admission.

The new law addresses time-sale situations as well as guarantees, sales in the home and advertising. Among other requirements:

• Used products have to be so labeled and separated from the rest of the merchandise. This includes returned goods or products used as demos.

• Rules for advertising require that testimonials and endorsements be genuine, verifiable and based on actual experience.

• During sales, the merchant has to guarantee that the supply of advertised products will last the length of the promotion.

• Product comparisons in advertising or in sales pitches have to be verifiable and involve similar products.
• Advertisers can only use identifiable scientific information or statistics.

• When customers make a purchase from a salesperson who comes to the home, the buyer has the right to cancel the sale over the next eight days and return the product without using it. The salesperson has to provide in the contract contact information via fax or e-mail.

• Those who put on concerts and other public events have the obligation to return the money paid if the event does not come off or if there are variances in what was promised and what was provided. There are specific rules for notifying the public.

There also are rules that require notification and reimbursement when a product is recalled.

Included are updated disclosure requirements for credit sales.

The new rules cover just intangible time-sales and require the vendor to have sufficient capital.

Once a consumer makes a complaint, the Comisión Nacional de Consumidor has 30 days to determine if the case will be accepted. Then there is a process that has deadlines in which the complaint will be considered.

The ministry held an explanation session for lawyers, chamber of commerce leaders and business operators Monday. The law is No. 7472, and it was published in the La Gaceta official newspaper Nov. 1.

There likely will be a series of private meetings among business people and chambers of commerce members to learn about the new law.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 241

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License agency workers
face bribery allegations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers in the country's driver license agency are accused of faking at least 400 licenses in exchange for money.

In some cases foreigners paid up to a million colons, as much as $2,000, to obtain a license, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Many of the fake licenses went to foreigners.

The judicial police raided the license issuing facility in La Uruca Monday morning, and the agency was forced to stop work. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said issuing licenses resumed at midday.

The ministry said that the investigation began a year and a half ago.

The Poder Judicial said that the chief of the Departamento de Acreditación de Licencias was among those detained. The agency is within the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which is itself within the ministry.

Raids also took place at homes in Hatillo, Guadalupe and Tibás, said the Poder Judicial. The chief of the agency was identified by the last names of Fernández Chacón. The two other persons detained included a man with the last names of Obando López and a woman with the last names of Vega Ballestero. The other two were described as input operators.

The Poder Judicial said that the individuals were involved in providing licenses for foreigners who did not have the proper requirements. Usually this means a valid license from the foreigner's country.

Two other persons from the same department were detained May 22, 2009, said the Poder Judicial.

Those detained Monday face bribery allegations.

The Judicial police said that they found equipment for making licenses in the raids of the dwellings Monday. Agents said that the allegation is that the individuals produced false foreign licenses and then used them to validate the applicants right to drive in Costa Rica.  A foreigner who does not have an active license in his or her home country has to take an academic course on driving and also take a practical test.

Judicial police said they were picking 30 cases from among the 200 to conduct a detailed analysis. There was no information as to whether U.S., Canadian or European expats were involved in the license scam. Judicial agents did say that some Costa Ricans obtained licenses in this manner.

The license-issuing agency also was involved in another wave of arrests last month when six inspectors who administer the driving test were detained for taking bribes. That was in Dos Rios.

Avenidazo  begins Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

 The Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical kicks off the traditional Avenidazo organized by the Municipalidad de San José Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Plaza de la Cultura.

The groups include the Manuel María Gutiérrez orchestra, a percussion and strings group from Limón, and three choruses. The singers will traverse the pedestrian mall that is Avenida Central.

The Christmas Avenidazo is, among other reasons, a way to get shoppers downtown. There is entertainment plus the tradition of throwing confetti in the faces of strangers.


Our readers' opinions
Material is stolen goods

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While I agree with the general thoughts from the organization Reporters without Borders regarding transparency, I strongly feel that they have overlooked one main fact. The information was stolen. This is no different than selling stolen goods from the back of a truck. If the information was obtained legally, Wikileaks has all the rights and power to publish the information in any way they want. They didn't obtain the information legally, and that's the problem.
Nancy Bridges
Costa Rica

If the mainstream media
fails, Wikileaks is needed


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My background provides me with the experience to comment on the WikiLeaks situation from two perspectives: that of someone with more than 40 years in magazine and newspaper journalism, and that of a Vietnam combat veteran. As the former, I have been involved in a number of instances where significantly important information was brought out of the dark, even at the expense of angering those in charge. The benefits to those receiving this information was well worth the aggravation caused to the establishment.

As a veteran, I saw first-hand the lies and deceit that led to more than 50,000 Americans being killed needlessly. The WikiLeaks information is no more unpatriotic or an act of treason than the release of the Pentagon Papers was in the 70s. The public needs to know, in fact, has the right to know what the government is doing. Unfortunately, the demise of the mainstream media (free press) has resulted in having to rely on non-journalistic information sources such as WikiLeaks to ferret out such information.

Ken Anderberg
Jacó

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 241
Latigo K-9

U.S. ambassador reported Chávez was bankrolling Ortega
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Spanish newspaper published Wikileaks material Monday that is not yet available online. The material is an indictment of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega drafted by the former U.S. ambassador.

The gist of the material can be summed up in one paragraph:

Though he has not publicly abandoned his post-election commitments to keep the country on a democratic path and
maintain responsible free market policies, there are multiple signs that Ortega seeks only one goal: consolidation of power to perpetuate his rule."

That was from a 2008 cable to the State Department by former U.S. ambassador Paul A. Trivelli.

The cable summarizes the convoluted Nicaraguan political landscape 15 months into the Ortega presidency.

Perhaps the most dramatic allegations in that cable is that the Ortega administration was being financed in part by money from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
"We have first-hand reports that GON officials receive suitcases full of cash from Venezuelan officials during official trips to Caracas, said Trivelli speaking of the government of Nicaragua.  He also called Ortega the "Mini-Me" to Chávez, a reference to a diminutive Austin Powers movie character.

"Several unconfirmed reports indicate that Ortega will have as much as 500 million dollars at his disposal over the course of 2008," the former ambassador added.

Trivelli also said that the embassy had started a $1 million small grant program to provide money to election opponents of Ortega's Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional but that embassy staffers were not impressed with the knowledge opponents had of campaign tactics.

The former ambassador said the most disturbing recent development was Ortega's increasing public support of the Colombian rebel group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, known as the FARC.

"Ortega has come perilously close to declaring open support for the FARC," said the former ambassador.


Water recedes but status of Río San Juan still unknown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Barra del Colorado residents report that the water level in the community has dropped at least eight inches, but plenty still remains.

The community in northeastern Costa Rica was among the places inundated last week when a low pressure area generated heavy rains on the Caribbean and northern zone.

But there still is no word about the status of the ditch Nicaraguan workers dug across Costa Rica's Isla Calero.

Local river-savvy residents expected the flooding Río San Juan to follow the ditch and punch a new channel through Costa Rican territory.

This is the situation that has brought Costa Rica and Nicaragua into the international Court of Justice in The
Hague. This also is why the Organization of American States has convened a meeting for 10 a.m. today of the hemisphere's foreign ministers.
The agenda contains a vague statement that the minsters will agree on appropriate measures to be adopted.

Costa Rica wants Nicaragua to withdraw its military from Tico territory before any discussions are held. Nicaraguans appear to have been hoping that the river will do the work and make moot Costa Rican complaints.

The boundary between the two countries is the south bank of the river. What will happen to the boundary if humans encourage the river to make a new channel is something for lengthy international deliberations.

If the river acted without outside help, the boundary would follow the new south bank.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has said he wants his countrymen to have the right of free travel on the Río Colorado on which Barra del Colorado is located.

That is a river well within Costa Rica and the one providing the current flood.


New opinion page will feature readers' letters from archive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During the first year that A.M. Costa Rica was published, reader letters were printed on a special page. That gave less than adequate exposure to some interesting thoughts and ideas that readers have.

Since then, reader letters have been published on a news page, frequently Page 2. Although those pages were archived and the reader letters are available with a search, they are hard to locate.

So beginning Monday reader letters were archived in a news feed that appears on A.M. Costa Rica's new opinion page.
The page also is being constructed to provide room for the newspaper's opinion and outside opinion that is designed to promote discussion and thought.

Also on the page, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders launches a strong defense of Wikileaks, the Web site that is publishing the formerly confidential or secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Please find it HERE!

And those who wish to comment on the guest editorial or on any other aspect of Costa Rican life are invited to send their letters to:


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 241


pot arrests
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública
Those accused as pot smokers are detained under the eye of police.

Fuerza Pública sends a message to La Unión pot smokers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in La Unión did not get the message that the nation's chief prosecutor wanted to overlook the possession of small quantities of marijuana. They detained nine persons Sunday and confiscated 94.3 grams of marijuana, about 3.3 ounces.

Police said they got a call and found a group of youngsters, and some of them had small amounts of marijuana on their
person. One girl tried to discard a small baggie, they said.
Among the group was a 12 year old. The boy said his parents were working. Police took the nine to the local station where the adults were turned over to prosecutors. The minors got a warning and had their parents called, police said.

Jorge Chavarria, the nation's chief prosecutor, told reporters last month that persons having small quantities of drugs would not be prosecuted.



More than 100 may be buried in Colombian mudslide

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rescue officials say at least 12 bodies have been recovered from a mudslide in northern Colombia that may have buried 145 more.

Torrential rains caused the mudslide that engulfed dozens of homes Sunday outside Colombia's second-largest city, Medellin.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the unusually heavy rainfalls could leave more than 2 million people homeless. Before Sunday's disaster, heavy rains had killed around 170 people this year in Colombia.

In neighboring Venezuela, driving rains have triggered flooding and cave-ins that have killed 34 people and left an
 estimated 90,000 people homeless.

Officials blame the downpours on the La Nina weather phenomenon, during which cooler-than-normal water temperatures exist in the Tropical Pacific Ocean.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says the government will seize private land and tourist resorts to house the thousands of people made homeless by the worst flooding in 40 years.

Chavez ordered the government to seize nearly 36 hectares of privately owned land near the national airport and authorized the building of thousands of housing units.

He also authorized officials to take over unused hotel rooms and tourist resorts.

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For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba      News of Venezuela
News of Colombia    
News of Panamá
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 241

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Long-term look at El Niño
confirms solar influences

By the Kent State news services

Better understanding of the long-term history of El Niño will help enhance short-term prediction of this global climate phenomenon and help mitigate associated natural disasters. That's the theory of new research.

For more than a decade, Joseph Ortiz, associate professor of geology at Kent State University in Ohio and part of an international team of National Science Foundation-funded researchers, has been studying long-term climate variability associated with El Niño. The researchers’ goal is to help climatologists better understand this global climate phenomenon that happens every two to eight years, impacting much of the world.

El Niño is the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters. The last El Niño occurred in 2009, Ortiz said, and its impact was felt in the United States with flooding in the south and wildfires in California. Climate in Costa Rica also was affected. The research team looked at El Niño-Southern Oscillation (which is often just called “El Niño”), reconstructing sea surface temperature of the equatorial Pacific over the past 14,000 years.

“If we understand how El Niño changes over thousands of years, we can better predict climate changes on societal time-scales of years to decades,” Ortiz explained. “El Niño variations lead to drought, famine, landslides, fires and other natural disasters, depending on where in the world you happen to be. Our findings can help lead to better ways to predict El Niño-Southern Oscillations, mitigating the natural disasters associated with it.”

The findings will appear in Science, the prestigious journal published of the world’s largest science society. The paper, “Dynamical Response of the Tropical Pacific Ocean to Solar Forcing During the Early Holocene,” helps to establish the linkage between changes in solar intensity and the strength of El Niño on millennial time scales. The work was funded by the Marine Geology Subdivision of the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Sciences Division.

“The climate system is very sensitive to subtle external forcing,” Ortiz said. “We determined that the sun has an impact but is not the sole factor driving changes on these millennial time scales. Other studies have tried to show a solar linkage to El Niño-related climate variability, but our study indicates a convincing linkage due to the continuity of our record. This paper confirms the ‘ocean dynamical thermostat’ theory, showing that solar-forced changes in ocean circulation have an impact on El Niño.”

U.N. report predicts
major climate impact


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The number of people in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by extreme weather events, including high temperatures, forest fires, droughts, storms and floods grew from 5 million in the 1970s to more than 40 million between 2000 and 2009, the United Nations said Monday in a report that graphically details the effects of climate change in those regions.

Using charts, graphs and maps, the report entitled “Vital Climate Change Graphics for Latin America and the Caribbean,” produced by the U.N. Environment Programme, depicts the major signs of climate change in the region, its physical impacts and calculates current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and possibilities for mitigation.

Adverse weather conditions have cost the region more than $40 billion over the past decade, according to the report, which was unveiled at the U.N. climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico.

Produced in collaboration with the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Programme’s Polar Research Centre, the report also forecasts future climate scenarios for the region.

Graphics show that by 2050, rises in the temperature of ocean surfaces will result in more frequent bleaching of coral reefs, with a negative impact on tourism and fishing. In 1970, only a small number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were home to mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria. However, by 2002, the vast majority of the region was affected by these tropical diseases, the report says.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 241


Latin American news
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Professors document peaks
at computer Web histories


By the University of California-San Diego
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The Web surfing history saved in your Web browser can be accessed without your permission. JavaScript code deployed by real websites and online advertising providers use browser vulnerabilities to determine which sites you have and have not visited, according to new research from computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego.

“JavaScript is a great thing, it allows things like Gmail and Google Maps and a whole bunch of Web 2.0 applications; but it also opens up a lot of security vulnerabilities. We want to let the broad public know that history sniffing is possible, it actually happens out there, and that there are a lot of people vulnerable to this attack,” said Sorin Lerner, a University of California-San Diego computer science professor

The researchers documented JavaScript code secretly collecting browsing histories of Web users through “history sniffing” and sending that information across the network. While history sniffing and its potential implications for privacy violation have been discussed and demonstrated, the new work provides the first empirical analysis of history sniffing on the real Web.

“Nobody knew if anyone on the Internet was using history sniffing to get at users’ private browsing history. What we were able to show is that the answer is yes,” said Hovav Shacham, another professor.

The computer scientists from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering presented this work in October at a conference on computer and communications security in a paper entitled, “An Empirical Study of Privacy —Violating Information Flows in JavaScript Web Applications”.

History sniffing takes place without the computer users knowledge or permission and relies on the fact that browsers display links to sites they have visited differently than ones they have not: by default, visited links are purple, unvisited links blue. History sniffing JavaScript code running on a Web page checks to see if a browser displays links to specific URLs as blue or purple.

History sniffing can be used by Web site owners to learn which competitor sites visitors have or have not been to. History sniffing can also be deployed by advertising companies looking to build user profiles, or by online criminals collecting information for future phishing attacks. Learning what banking site a user visits, for example, suggests which fake banking page to serve up during a phishing attack aimed at collecting bank account login information.

The latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Safari now block the history sniffing attacks the computer scientists monitored. Internet Explorer, however, does not currently defend against history sniffing. In addition, anyone using anything but the latest versions of the patched browsers is also vulnerable, they said.

The computer scientists looked for history sniffing on the front pages of the top 50,000 websites, according to Alexa global website rankings. They found that 485 of the top 50,000 sites inspect style properties that can be used to infer the browser's history. Out of 485 sites, 63 transferred the browser's history to the network. “We confirmed that 46 of them are actually doing history sniffing, one of these sites being in the Alexa global top 100,” the computer scientists write in their paper.

EDITOR'S NOTE; A.M. Costa Rica does not collect information on those who visit its Web site.




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