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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Dec. 20, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 250           E-mail us
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dancers at lottery event
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Traditional dancing and a composite Banda Nacional performance preceeded lottery drawing
Big winner Sunday was operator of national lottery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Once again, for the 10th straight year, the staff and editors of A.M. Costa Rica were shut out in the Gordo Christmas lottery.

Despite weeks of studying on how to beat the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on taxes from lottery windfalls, editors saw other numbers come up.

The big winner was a ticket with the number 41 and the series 744. Workers for the Junta de Protección Social pulled the numbers early in the evening show at Plaza de la Democracia just east of the Museum Nacional in San José.

There are five duplicate tickets, one for what the junta calls an emision. Each ticket holder will get a billion colons or about $2 million. There are 40 tickets to a sheet or entero. And there is a high probability that a number of persons purchased pieces of the winning tickets. Each ticket or fracción cost 1,250 colons or about $2.50. On the street such tickets are call pedacitos.

The big winner, of course, was the Junta. The lottery nearly sold out, in part thanks to a rush Sunday afternoon.  An estimated 96 percent of the possible 500,000 tickets found buyers. The estimated gross income for the Junta was 24 billion colons or about $48 million. If every winner shows up, the Junta will pay out 14 billion colons in prizes, about $28 million.

Of course there is overhead. Among other expenses, the Junta said it is setting up a pension plan for lottery vendors. What is left after expenses, salaries, promotion and distribution costs
bad lottery ticket
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goes to various charities in Costa Rica.

The Junta always puts on a big show for the Christmas lottery. Television stations cover the event live. This year was special, too, because it is the 165th anniversary of the government lottery in Costa Rica. There are two special lottery drawings scheduled before the year is out.

And there is a drawing every week with lesser prizes.

Editors and staffers have not won any of them either. But if a reader won, he or she has until Feb. 17 to collect. A full list of winning numbers is on the Junta's Web page.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 250

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Border beefed up to keep
eye on possible invaders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Concerned that the government of Nicaragua might enlarge the territory it has invaded in northern Costa Rica, the central government has created a crisis committee to keep an eye on the border.

The committee includes the foreign minister, the security minister and the minister of the Presidencia.

The government said that a base of operations has been established with electronic monitoring at Barra del Colorado, the town nearest the incursion. About 100 police officers are there, it said.

Some 200 more police are distributed all along the northern border in at least 30 locations, and patrols are being stepped up on the Costa Rican rivers that feed the Río San Juan, which is the border between the two countries. The rivers are the Colorado, the Sarapiquí and San Carlos. The patrol is in the water and in the air. Video cameras are being installed.

The central government also is reestablishing the frontier police with 200 members of the Fuerza Pública, it said.

In addition, cables are being strung across key rivers to prevent boat traffic, presumably by invading Nicaraguan forces. The central government also said that new rules will be issued soon about travel on the rivers.

This also is the season when thousands of Nicaraguans leave Costa Rica and head home for the holidays., The central government has ordered an increase in the number of immigration agents at the border crossing points, it said.

The central government was surprised when Nicaraguan troops moved into the Isla Calero in northeastern Costa Rica. The area had been unprotected except for a few farming families there. And the central government took weeks to react.

U.S. tells tourists how
to stay out of trouble


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. State Department has issued a routine warning to tourists that some areas of Costa Rica might be unsafe.

The State Department also urged tourists to make copies of their passport and carry just copies while the original is in a safe place.

The warning contained no revelations for anyone who has been here awhile, but there were some items of value for tourists. For example, the State Department notes that police presence is spotty during the daytime in beach areas and that there may not be any at night.

The warning also urged tourists to avoid wearing expensive jewelry and to avoid areas where drugs are sold and where there is prostitution. The warning also noted that most foreign cell telephones will not work here.

Masked men blast away
at victims near market

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men on a motorcycle fired on pedestrians near a supermarket in Los Guidos late Saturday, and five persons suffered bullet wounds. Three were seriously hurt, said the Cruz Roja.

No reason was given for the shooting, and the persons on the motorcycle wore masks.

Meanwhile, a family in Limón is mourning the loss of a 12-year-old girl who suffered a bullet wound to the head at her school during a celebration of the end of classes.

The girl, identified by the last name of Sánchez, was in Limoncito de Limón when a gun battle broke out nearby. She was hit with a stray bullet.

Four persons were detained by police and a 40-caliber weapon was confiscated. Two of those detained were in a house, and two were in a car, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Cell networks disrupted
over the weekend


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Telephone users lived through another cellular moment Saturday as the GSM and G3 networks behaved irregularly.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad does not know how many users were affected, but calls were not going through from 10 a.m. Saturday.

Although the company said the problem had been cleared up, there also seemed to be some problems in the GSM system, the so-called second generation, Sunday.


Our reader's opinion
Tico rejects characterization
of coward and spineless


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am not in the habit of responding to the senseless hegemony and belligerence proposed by contributors that this "newspaper" is in the habit of publishing. However, when you allow someone to express an insulting blanket opinion that “It is seeming like Costa Rica isn’t the land of Pura Vida but a land of cowards with no backbone at all,” I am compelled to respond.

I recognize that in some cultures, if a neighbor encroaches on your private property, it is considered an act of heroism to take out a Colt 45 and kill him. More civilized persons will go to court and resolve the situation in a restrained and measured way.

Those that hold to the Old West method of dispute resolution and frontier justice would have us “cowards and no backbone” Ticos pick up firearms and go take back by force a meaningless patch of dirt that just a few weeks ago, no one knew existed and practically no one wanted or cared about.

I am certain that if you asked civilized, average Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans if they believe that that patch of God-forsaken land is worth the life of one single person on either side, they would respond with a resounding NO! Costa Ricans don’t go to war at the drop of a hat, not because we are “cowards with no backbone,” but because we are smart and educated. And we have nothing to prove. Nicaraguans are our friends and neighbors and the fact that they are temporarily being governed by a Mini-Me of Hugo Chavez does not and should not change that fact.

Perhaps people with warmongering attitudes like Mr. Sulenski should be encouraged to move to Panama; although he might reconsider that notion if he actually did some research before starting to peck at a keyboard to insult an entire country.

I invite you and your readers to visit http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_994.html#crime where it states: “Crime in Panama City is increasing and the Department of State recently increased its evaluation to “High”” and “Crimes are typical of those that plague metropolitan areas and include shootings, rapes, armed robberies, muggings, purse-snatchings, thefts from autos, thefts of unsecured items, petty theft, and "express kidnappings" from ATM banking facilities. Or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Panama  and http://thepanamapages.com/archives/51.

Mr. Sulenski’s characterization on Costa Ricans as cowardly and spineless continues to remind us that Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s "Ugly American" is alive and well and walking among us.
Joaquin Aguilar
San Isidro, Heredia
Redwood City, California

 
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, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 250
Latigo K-9

eclipse track
Fred Espenak/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center              
Path of the Moon through Earth's shadow during the total lunar eclipse
Early Tuesday is the time for another eclipse of the moon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans and expats will get a sky show just after midnight tonight when the earth's shadow darkens the full moon.

Tuesday also happens to be the Winter Solstice. The solstice marks the time when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, so the moon will be high in the sky, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its Goddard Space Flight Center.

However the total eclipse taking place on the solstice is coincidental, scientists say.

The eclipse begins Tuesday 33 minutes after midnight, according to NASA. Of course readers elsewhere will have to adjust to local time. Viewers in the western United States will see the eclipse start late tonight.

European readers will see the start of the eclipse but not the end because the moon will set from their perspective. Asian readers may see the end but not the beginning.
NASA points out that a lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the moon. As the moon moves deeper and deeper into the Earth's shadow, the moon changes color, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red.

The moon takes on this new color because indirect sunlight is still able to pass through Earth's atmosphere and cast a glow on the moon, said NASA. Earth's atmosphere filters out most of the blue colored light, leaving the red and orange hues that are seen during a lunar eclipse, the agency said.

NASA has set up a special Web site for the eclipse.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts partly cloudy skies and wind for the Central Valley tonight with clear skies in the north Pacific. The rest of the country will see partly cloudy skies, the institute said.

Moon set is at 6 a.m., so the entire eclipse should be able to be observed here if the skies are clear.


President greets kids
at Christmas fiesta

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla was swamped by children Sunday at a fiesta put on by the Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo, a Catholic organization that works in low-income communities. The name translated to works of the Holy Spirit.

The association has grown since its founding in 2000 and now includes 31 separate ministries with the goal of giving low-income children a chance. The organization is supported by the Junta de Protección Social, the Catholic archdiocese and various government organizations including the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia.

"The best that we can give human beings in moments like this is precisely our love and our affection," said the president. She noted that the association provides services to 10,000 youngsters.
Ms. Chinchilla and kids
Casa Presidencial photo


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 250


Security officials still seeking an effective anti-crime policy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officials and prosecutors met Friday in an effort to map out a way to fight crime.

Leading the session was Jorge Chavarría Gúzman, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor. He proposed forming a committee that would be called a national commission. It would include heads of police agencies as well as the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization. He also would be a member.

The head of the judicial police, Jorge Rojas, urged better communications among prosecutors, the Fuerza Pública and his agency.

Chavarría said he will outline a series of policies and strategies to tackle crimes

The session pointed out that there is conflict among the various police agencies and that the Fuerza Pública can be used to better advantage.

Under the Costa Rican system, the Fuerza Pública, the police officers in blue, are the first responders. They also have the role of preventing crime. That is why the central government believes that more police officers on the street will reduce crime.

Once a crime has been committed, the Judicial Investigating Organization takes over.

The judicial police seek to maintain a monopoly on investigation. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública supervises the Fuerza Pública. In 2003 the ministry created the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas that specialized in the sex trade, car thefts, copyright infringement and juvenile gangs.

The U.S. government supported the effort with a $250,000 grant, and the 40 members of the unit began making arrests. Some 46 individuals were detained between April
2003 and November 2005. Some were sex offenders who had been fugitives for years.

The activities proved to be an embarrassment to the judicial police, and Rojas moved to have the special unit downgraded. He was successful, getting the support of prosecutors.

Generally prosecutors feel that street police are not competent to provide investigations that will stand up in court. Considering the complexity of the Costa Rican judicial process, that may be a correct assessment.

Even before José María Tijerino Pacheco took over as security minister, there had been sweeps of the central business district. Street crime was reduced, but criminals sought out greener pastures for their activities.

President Laura Chinchilla ran successfully for office on a law-and-order platform, but there has been no new proposals coming from Casa Presidencial. A local United Nations agency was asked to sound out public opinion, but there has been no report on the findings.  The president continues to seek higher taxes for more Fuerza Pública officers.

Meanwhile, security officials are conducting drug operations at the consumer level and against international transportation. The consumer level approach has resulted in the arrest of more than 100 individuals or groups that anti-drug police in the security ministry detained this year. The drug police are one of the few agencies in the ministry that do investigations.

The judicial police also have a series of drug units that also have been active.

Tijerino bemoans the decision by the Sala IV constitutional court that cut down on the number of police roadblocks. However, the ministry seems to have been able to circumvent the ruling. The minster said that roadblocks and searches of vehicles are crucial to crime fighting.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 250

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Neutral Internet facing
commercial call for control


In the occasional rough-and-tumble of where business, politics and the Internet meet, the phrase net neutrality has become fighting words. It's an easy bet that most people have no idea what net neutrality means, let alone what the fight's about. At stake, however, may be the future shape and cost of the Internet.

The phrase net neutrality is relatively new, coming into popular use as recently as 2003, as noted by the scholarly article Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination by Tim Wu of Columbia Law School.  But the issues at play are as old as last century's technology battles over telephones and telegraphs.

The concept is fairly simple: net neutrality guarantees that every user of the Internet — no matter how large or small, rich or poor, and regardless of purpose — will be treated equally in terms of access, bandwidth, and inter-connectivity.  The analogy is made to the nation's telephone network: the customer can choose his or her equipment, service, or purpose of the call, but once connected to the "common carrier" network of phone lines is to be considered equal to everyone else.

In this view the Internet — like networks of phone, gas or civic water systems — is a public good that everyone has an equal right to use.

In the early days of the Web there was little debate about this principle, largely because there was very little need: online traffic was limited and commerce non-existent.  But as the Internet grew more complex and commercialized, a growing number of interests began calling for greater traffic regulation.

Industry network heavyweights like Comcast, AT&T and others say they need to be able to control network traffic, allowing users and providers varying degrees of bandwidth — at varying costs — to keep the Internet running smoothly and profitably.  These firms have spent millions trying to convince regulators and the public that without these tools and controls, the web may lose any competitive advantages it has.

Content providers, like Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and others warn that such control would be tantamount to a shut-off valve that networks could use to slow or speed traffic at their choice.  That, they say, would end the essential openness of the Internet and kill innovation, and they, too, have spent freely in the battle.   Both sides have sought to bolster their message by partnering with a cross-section of political interest groups from across the ideological spectrum.

Net neutrality has also pitted Congress against the Federal Communications Commission to some degree, with Washington watching closely to see which side comes out on top.  Under the Constitution, the Legislative Branch - Congress — has the right to shape policy through the "power of the purse" — the sole branch of government with the authority to tax and spend.  However the FCC, as part of the Executive Branch, has the responsibility of executing public laws — in their case, protecting the public airwaves from dispute or disruption.

Tuesday the FCC is scheduled to vote on a series of net neutrality rules and principles put forward by Chairman Julius Genachowski.  Lawmakers, business and interests groups have all been weighing in on the proposed rule-making, calling for its passage or defeat.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 250

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Latin American news
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Thieves blamed in blast
at Mexican oil pipeline


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A state-owned oil pipeline has exploded in Mexico's Puebla state, killing at least 22 people and destroying more than 30 homes.

The Pemex oil company said Sunday's explosion in the community of San Martin Texmelucan occurred at a duct where thieves were trying to steal fuel. At least 32 people were injured.

Fire crews have managed to bring the fire under control. But photos from the area show a thick cloud of black smoke hanging over the accident site, and a number of people have evacuated their homes.


Cháves says he'll reject
Obama's new ambassador


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's president has vowed to reject the U.S. nominee for ambassador to the South American country.

Hugo Chávez said Saturday in a televised speech that Larry Palmer will not be allowed to take up his post because the diplomat has been critical of Caracas.

Palmer upset the Chávez administration when he told a U.S. senator that morale was low in the Venezuelan military.  Palmer also expressed concern about Colombian rebels finding refuge in Venezuela. 

President Chávez says he has told Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro to detain Palmer if he tries to enter Venezuela.

The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm Palmer's appointment soon.

Friday Venezuelan lawmakers voted to allow Chávez to bypass parliament and rule by decree for 18 months.  That move was denounced by opposition rivals and the U.S. government.

Europe is in ice box
and many are stranded


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Blizzards and freezing temperatures shut down airport runways, train tracks and highways across Europe Sunday, stranding thousands of holiday travelers.

Airports in Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and other countries reported cancellations or delays in hundreds of flights.

Runways at both of Britain's busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick in London, were closed to allow snow to be cleared.  Frankfurt airport in Germany canceled around 500 flights Sunday. Police were called in on Saturday to calm angry passengers.

In addition to airports in the United Kingdom, roads and railways were affected in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. Severe weather warnings have been issued for many areas.






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