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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 253       Email us
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If it is not here, expats and Ticos do not need it. The crowded aisles of the Mercado Central feature everything from cooking utensils to bulk spices and figs in syrup.
Mercado Central view
Here's the place for last-minute Yule purchases
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Last minute shopping before the holidays or shopping for friends back home can be quite stressful, but expats need not fret because in San José the Mercado Central has tons of gifts.
The gift possibilities vary from the creative Costa Rican sunset painted on a feather to the famous colorful oxcart to the more basic, but still popular, Imperial beer glass mug.

The tourist hotspot on San Jose's pedestrian mall turned into Tico go-to-spot is the place to be during the holidays, said a sales vendor at the mercado. She sold shot glasses that varied between 1,400 colons to 2,600 colons (about $2.80 to $5.20). Other stores sold shot glasses at the starting price of 2,400 colons.

Most Costa Rica memorabilia stores carry similar products. There are also some stores that carry one-of-a-kind gifts. But with some time a personal investigation can compare prices and products.

Most stores have the same prices, but haggling is always an option.

It’s not offensive to ask for a lower price, as long as it’s not a ridiculous proposition.  It’s not unheard of to trade either.

A few weeks ago the souvenir vendors inside the marketplace were mostly frequented by tourists, but since the holidays are around the corner and aguinaldos are in hand Ticos are shopping in droves at the Mercado Central.

Throughout the year locals do frequent small restaurants and food stands inside the marketplace for lunch time. But now the main product consumers are the Costa Ricans.

Some of the more popular purchases by the locals are decorations to complete the very Catholic nativity scene. These include a manger, dyed sawdust to represent the ground, a baby Jesus, docile looking animals, the three kings and Mary and Joseph. Other items fancied by Ticos during the season are jewelry, banana leaves for tamales, different nuts for holiday baking, candy made out of preserved fruit, clothes and toys.

These items are the most sought after, according to an unofficial survey of vendors.

Residents of San José regularly frequent the marketplace for the essentials in meat, herbs, and flowers. These regulars are used to unoccupied aisles and a calm shopping experience, but now it’s different. There is traffic similar to Paseo Colon on a Sunday afternoon. It is
Mercado Central flores
A.M. Costa Rica Shahrazad Encinias Vela
A section of the market houses stands that feature an extraordinary selection of plants and flowers.

banana leaves
A.M. Costa Rica Shahrazad Encinias Vela
These banana leaves will end up as the wrapping for a holiday tamal.

elbow-to-elbow. At certain aisle intersections there should be a traffic monitor.

The only proper etiquette for walking is for accidental physical contact, in which a stop and small apology is recommended, a perdon, or “I’m sorry.” Most vendors speak English, either way expats can take advantage of a foreign country and learn a little about the language. Locals are more than happy to help.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Coffee roasters seek
to market finished beans


By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of the national coffee roasters chamber have announced the dedicated goal of exporting a higher percentage of Costa Rican coffee as a roasted ready-to-brew bean rather than as a raw product.

Affiliates of the Cámara de Tostadores de Café report that as part of a development strategy for the industry they would like to export in 2020, out of the total of two million sacks of raw coffee beans cultivated in the country, 600,000 coffee sacks as a finished product to foreign markets.

In other words, the roasters hope to refine and export 30 percent of the coffee crop grown in Costa Rica. Currently the industry roasts 20 percent for internal use primarily, with the coffee beans being shipped elsewhere to be processed.

In a press release, the coffee roasters chamber said one of the primary ways to stay competitive is to refine specialized blends within the country for export. The roasters also listed taxes, limitations placed on expansion of coffee growing lands and limitations on free trade as hindrances to the industry.

The president of the chamber said the country has been exporting raw beans for 200 years and it is about time the industry moved forward with modernization and marketing, exploring its own branding and flavors as well as promoting coffee plantation tours and gourmet renditions of the product.

In fact, some firms already market roasted coffee to the world, but the new strategy proposed to market much more.


Our reader's opinion
Custodial parent says he has
another Yule without Emily

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

To whom it may concern or maybe to who really cares,

Just thought I'd send a reminder of the crime that is still being allowed in our country and Costa Rica. Emily Alina Koyama is still being held in Costa Rica against my wishes as the full custodial parent, Left Behind Parent, and biological father. I realize my email may fall on deaf ears these days, but my pain is still deep and really hurts this time of the year, and especially this year. I just wish our government cared more about the people like they claim to care about, and I wish Costa Rica's government wasn't so extremely corrupt. Maybe there would be more children where they belong, getting the opportunities they deserve with the parents that really have their best interests in mind.

Unless money is involved and there is a risk of losing it, neither country will do more than less that what is expected. I was told some things that got my attention regarding the stand some said they would take and never followed through with it, i.e. having Costa Rica taken off our friend list as now Sen. Roy Blunt in his letter said. If Emily wasn't returned under the Hague Treaty laws our "relationship" with Costa Rica would risk being damaged, he said. Well, Senator, it's been a year since the letter and threat? NOTHING.

Sense a little hostility, naw, it's just me and my boys having to deal with another Christmas without Emily. You know, the little girl who was supposed to be home one year ago today.  One person on this email knows the pain I deal with, and the rest — Have a Merry Christmas!

I don't expect anything to be done because I sent this email, maybe just a few more people that think I am crazy? Show me I am wrong.
Roy Koyama
Green County, Missouri

Editor's Note: The most recent news story on this case is HERE!

 
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.
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 253

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In fighting crime, lawmaker says what country should not do
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Insecurity in Costa Rica has become the main worry to the residents of the country, especially now that drug cartels have invaded the country, said a lawmaker during the legislative session Wednesday.

Mexico has been Colombianized with the infiltration of drug cartels and violence and now Costa Rica should discuss the possibility of Mexicanization of the country, said Carlos Humberto Góngora Fuentes, of Movimiento Libertario.

He said there are 10 things Costa Rica should not do in order to maintain a safe country. One no-no was to fight against corruption but maintain impunity. He said Costa Rica should be a country where if a person commits a crime that person has to pay with all the weight of the law, in other words pay for their mistakes.

Another no-no was to create false panaceas or magical cures, which is easy to do, he said. The legislator referred to the media and the political parties of the country. One day politicians instill fear, so the media report the problem, and it’s all for votes, because somehow the politicians have a
magical fix that is the focus of the platform, he said.

“We are co-responsible for the insecurity of the people in this country,” said Góngora.

One of his last recommendations of what Costa Rica should not do is increase impunity and frustration of citizens and police forces. An alleged criminal is caught and taken through a process by prosecutors at the Ministerio Público, then that person goes to the judge and nothing happens, he said, adding that this is increasing impunity and instilling fear onto the  citizens of the country. It’s not just the citizens that are frustrated, he said, but also the police forces.

“There is police frustration, because in a country where the police feel ridiculed about the job they do, that condemns a country to violence,” said Góngora.

His words were inspired by a book he had read from Mexican author José Antonio Ortega, “Mexico: Route to a Failed State?” or México: ¿Rumbo al Estado Fallido?

Ortega gave a book presentation Dec. 6 in San José, and Góngora was in the audience. He spoke Wednesday during an open discussion during the legislative session.


Aguirre mayor accused of recruiting minors for porn production
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained the mayor of Aguirre and an accomplice Wednesday on allegations of human trafficking and embezzlement following an investigation into sexual exploitation of minors and misuse of government resources.

The mayor, Lutgardo Bolaños Gómez, 45, and his driver, identified by the last names of Ortega Arias, 44, made pornographic videos, filming underage girls and women picked from impoverished sectors of the country, said investigators.

The pair reportedly recruited females from areas such as Los
Guido, Pavas, La Carpio, Desamparados, Coronado, Pérez
Zeledón, Quepos and Golfito. They also allegedly billed the government and used official vehicles to make pornographic videos and conduct tours of those areas to recruit females.

The Ministerio Público reports that a four-month-long investigation has identified thus far five underage females and four adults who were involved in the scheme. Raids conducted Wednesday uncovered 600 compact discs and pornography on the computer belonging to Bolaños, agents said..

The canton of Aguirre contains the community of Quepos on Costa Rica's central Pacific coast.


The Idea of Progress keeps us from learning from the past
Remember the time (or the movies) when a mother or the doctor, at the bedside of a sick child, smiled with relief and said “The fever broke. She’s going to be alright.”  Today most of us presume that fevers are part of the problem, and an aspirin is prescribed to treat the fever. It could be that fevers are not a symptom, but actually part of the solution and reducing them immediately is not a good idea.

Which brings me to lost knowledge of the past.  The advice from Hippocrates, that everyone remembers and that physicians should consider first, is to do no harm.  He also is recorded as having said, “Fever is half the striving of the organism against the disease.  It purifies the body like fire.”  There is also a quote from Parmenides, “Give me the power to produce a fever, and I will cure any illness.” 

In an article in the Institute of Noetic Sciences Special Report of 1987 “Healing, Remission and Miracle Cure,” there was a section about Doctor William Coley who treated cancer patients from the 1880s and started taking notes of those who contracted an erysipelas infection that brought on a fever, which they spent a few days fighting – “as though,” the doctor said, “the immune system were being activated to fight off the infection.” Later he recorded that 40 percent of the cancers of the infected patients who had fevers, went into remission.  Dr. Coley died in 1935, but his daughter kept his records and gave 1,000 documented cases to Lloyd Old at Sloan-Kettering.  Sloan-Kettering began a study of the erysipelas infection to learn how it triggered the necrosis of the tumor and the possibility of a pill to do the same.

Perhaps the Greeks figured it was the fever, not the infection that was the effective factor.  If cooling a patient can have positive effects, why not test the possibilities of heat? 
 
Yet little has been said by the medical profession about the potential of fever (and possibly heat) as an effective treatment for many diseases, including cancer. 

When I read the article I remembered my own experience in 1977 when I was in the hospital recovering from a mastectomy, I had been told that the cancer was very aggressive, and had invaded my lymph nodes.  I, too, had a high fever for a couple of days before it was treated.  It was discovered that I had an infection where the incision in my chest for a tube had been placed.  Later I learned I probably had erysipelas, a strep infection. My cancer has never returned. 

The Library in Alexandria contained some 40,000 manuscripts and books before it was destroyed by Caesar’s army and later by others.  The Pagan temples, also treasure troves of ancient knowledge, were destroyed around 391 AD by the Coptic Christian Pope, Theophilus, when Paganism was declared illegal.  It is reported to have had 70,000 tomes.  We will never know what those tomes contained.  And although there are many accomplishments of the past that we cannot explain, many doctors as well as others tend to treat
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


them what they knew patronizingly, assuming that they could not be as knowledgeable as civilized and educated humans today.

My opinion is that our unchallenged belief in the Myth of Progress is what keeps us from learning much, if anything from the ancient past.  My friend Sarah corrected me when we were talking at the feria last Saturday.  She said it is the profit motive as well as the Progress motive.  It’s true, if you can’t patent it, you can’t sell it.  Whichever it is, wars, religious and otherwise, destroy the knowledge the world has achieved.

It was another Greek in ancient times — Aeschylus — who said “Truth is the first casualty of war.”  I would like to add, “And Truth continues to be a casualty in post-war eras.”
 
Let’s hope that in the New Year change will come about, not by wars, but by velvet revolutions so there will be no vanquished, no victors to write history and no more books burned.  And maybe Truth will recover.

Jaco Christmas Carol

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fourth news page
renes law firm
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 253
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Bankers issue warning about fraudulent Internet messages
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican bankers are issuing a warning about Nigerian Internet fraud. At the same time, fraudsters have contacted A.M. Costa Rica again with the goal of placing a display advertisement.

The Comisión de Seguridad Bancaria said Wednesday that fraudulent emails have been hitting inboxes of Costa Ricans.

The commission correctly pointed out that highly professional gangs of Internet crooks operate out of the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leon, Benin and South Africa, as well as Nigeria. And, the commission noted, they maintain telephone and fax contacts in major European cities.

The scamsters have a number of fraudulent proposals, but all have the goal of getting the email recipient to send money.

About the same time the country's banking security commission was issuing the warning, an email arrived from a person who identified himself as Mary O'Halloran.

That name is an alias for real Nigerians located in Lagos. They were the subject of an A.M. Costa Rica series of news stories when they tricked The Tico Times into running full page advertisements for electronic gear. Typically the scammers pay for their advertisements with stolen credit cards.

“We want you to give us your advert rate for half page of your paper for 1 week in your newspaper and website. We await the advert rate. Asap,” said the email.
The  Mary O'Halloran name turned up repeatedly in fake employment ads placed all over the world during the course of A.M. Costa Rica's August investigation of The Tico Times ad.

Eventually the weekly newspaper issued an apology to readers and credited A.M. Costa Rica for alerting the public to the scam that probably cost the print publication thousands of lost advertising dollars.

A.M. Costa Rica was able to track down the scamster, self identified as  Billy Kasht, because the Internet numbers on emails led directly back to Lagos, Nigeria. The scamsters had tried to place an ad in this publication too.

But the latest email uses either a private Internet address or a fake one. This particular group of scammers simply accepts money from would-be purchasers and never delivers the goods.

They give the impression that they are located in London, England.

The Costa Rican banking security commission did not say what had prompted the warning, but there has been a flood of scam emails during the last month, perhaps due to world economic pressures hurting the scamsters.

The bankers note that the emails offer inheritances, money laundering schemes and the long-successful lottery winnings.

The bankers suggested that individuals simply delete the scamster messages.


Chicago insurance firm OKs deal with U.S. on foreign bribes
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Securities and Exchange Commission this week filed a settled enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Aon Corp., a Chicago, Illinois,-based global provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, alleging violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The case involves bribes paid to Costa Rican officials as well as similar activities in other countries.

Aon will pay a total of approximately $14.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a related action, Aon will pay a $1.8 million criminal fine to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Commission’s complaint alleges that Aon’s subsidiaries made over $3.6 million in improper payments to various parties between 1983 and 2007 as a means of obtaining or retaining insurance business in those countries. The complaint alleges that some of the improper payments were made directly or indirectly to foreign government officials who could award business directly to Aon subsidiaries, who were in position to influence others who could award business to Aon subsidiaries, or who could otherwise provide favorable business treatment for the company’s interests.

The complaint alleges that these payments were not accurately reflected in Aon’s books and records, and that Aon failed to
 maintain an adequate internal control system reasonably designed to detect and prevent the improper payments.

According to the Commission’s complaint, the improper payments made by Aon’s subsidiaries fall into two general categories: (i) training, travel, and entertainment provided to employees of foreign government-owned clients and third parties; and (ii) payments made to third-party facilitators. Aon subsidiaries made these payments in various countries around the world, including Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, as well as Costa Rica. The complaint alleges that Aon realized over $11.4 million in profits from these improper payments.

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the commission’s complaint, Aon consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from future violations of the Exchange Act and ordering the company to pay $11,416,814 in profits, together with prejudgment interest of $3,128,206, for a total of $14,545,020.

Aon’s proposed settlement offer has been submitted to the court for its consideration.

In a related criminal proceeding, the Department of Justice announced today that Aon has entered into a non-prosecution agreement under which the company will pay a $1.8 million criminal fine for the misconduct. Aon cooperated with the commission’s and the Justice Department's investigations and implemented remedial measures during the course of the investigations, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 253
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Cold war era films showed
changing view of Russians

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In a 1946 speech, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill coined the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the physical and symbolic wall separating East and West across Europe. Churchill's speech signaled the beginning of the Cold War.

It ended 20 years ago, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, during the Cold War, American films reflected the changing mood of the United States towards the USSR.

Few movies have captured the history of early Communist Russia as well as David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago.” The film was an epic love story between Yuri Zhivago and Lara, the wife of a Communist leader. But it was also a bleak treatise on Communist Russia.

Peter Rollberg, professor of film studies at George Washington University, says David Lean’s human treatment of Russians in "Doctor Zhivago" was the exception rather than the rule in Cold War films. “The Cold War created a field of tension that made for well-motivated good stories."

Some of these films, such as “The Manchurian Candidate,” explored the Communist threat on American soil. In the film, war hero Raymond Shaw is brainwashed into assassinating the president of the United States.

At the time, Rollberg says, the film served as a warning to Americans. “The possibility of brainwashing, of the total manipulation of human beings, who will carry out whatever you charge them with, that was a warning that went beyond just the actual political situation. It meant, ‘society beware.'”

Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove" was released in 1964, two years after the Cuban missile crisis. A demented American Air Force general orders an unwarranted nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The political satire reflected the nationwide terror of the nuclear holocaust.

The 1966 film “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” makes fun of the uncontrolled panic about the Soviets.

Meanwhile, the James Bond films gave espionage a Hollywood twist. Her majesty’s spy, 007, was a debonair playboy while the enemy was a fearless killing machine. 

In the 1970s, films took a more conciliatory approach towards the Soviet Union, reflecting the era of détente. Two production companies, one American and one Soviet, worked together to produce the 1975 fantasy, “The Blue Bird," starring Elizabeth Taylor.

But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and Ronald Reagan’s election as president the following year marked the end of détente.

Anti-Soviet rhetoric in film made a comeback. In the film "Rocky IV," the U.S.-Soviet antagonism is reduced to the lowest common denominator — blood and brawn.

Rocky, played by Silvester Stalone, delivers the knock-out punch.

Soviet defections were also a popular theme in 1980s American filmography.  In “Moscow on the Hudson,” Vladimir Ivanoff, a Russian  musician played by Robin Williams, arrives in New York with a visiting circus troupe. He defects in Bloomingdale’s, an icon of capitalism. 

The attitude toward the Soviets changes again in the 1990 action film, “The Hunt for Red October,” made as the Soviet Union was in collapse. Sean Connery, as a Soviet submarine captain, turns his nuclear vessel towards American waters. The Americans need to decide whether he intends to defect or attack.    

The Soviet captain is no longer a caricature; he's an intelligent human being.

Rollberg says the U.S. audience had varied reactions to Cold War films. "On the commercial level, for many audiences, just as entertainment. On a more intellectual level, just looking at the consequences, and in a way at us, at humanity and what we are capable of.”

Robert Altman's film "Ready to Wear," showcases a post-Soviet Moscow as a fashionable place where people live life open to the world and all its possibilities.
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Latin America news
Latin growth slowdown
predicted by U.N. agency


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean will slow down next year due to the sluggish performance of the world economy and uncertainty and volatility of financial markets, warns a United Nations report released this week.

The report estimates that growth in the region will drop to 3.7 per cent in 2012, compared to 4.3 per cent this year.

Although growth had already slowed down from 5.9 per cent in 2010, the report states that most of the region showed “a positive performance thanks to a favorable external situation.” However, an increase in volatility and uncertainty during the second half of the year significantly complicated the global economic environment.

In particular, the report, which was produced by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, points to the current state of the euro as a key factor that could contribute to economic uncertainty in the region.

“There is a great possibility of a deep crisis in the Eurozone, which would significantly affect the global economy overall and would impact our region primarily through the real channel – exports, prices, foreign investment, remittances and tourism – and the financial channel, greater volatility, possible capital outflows and difficulties in accessing credit,” said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the commission, while presenting the report.

The report also stresses that future growth will be intricately tied to the economic performance of developed countries, and a drop in their level of activities would result in a fall in demand for goods, negatively affecting regional exports and the prices of principal export products.

The region’s high level of reserves and low levels of public debt – except for a few Caribbean countries – are strengths that would enable it to better face the economic downturn next year, says the report.

The reserves would allow countries to finance a deficit in the current account, and the relatively low debt would make room for countercyclical fiscal policies, allowing an expansionary monetary policy.

However, not all countries face the same economic or political circumstances. In many, there are fewer opportunities for anti-crisis policies than before the crisis three years ago, and measures would not be as powerful as they were then, according to the report.

Growth also varies within the region with South American countries showing the most growth this year at 4.6 per cent, followed by Central America with 4.1 per cent. However, the Caribbean nations grew only 0.7 per cent.


Packages of coke plucked
from Caribbean Sea


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are packets of cocaine floating in the ocean around Costa Rica, according to the Costa Rican coast guard.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas reported that two separate patrols this week found packets of the substance in the Carribean Sea off the coast of Límón. One package was located 18 miles off the coast Monday when it was spotted by officials. After testing the substance in a lab, it was determined that the plastic-wrapped, floating substance was a kilogram of cocaine.

Two more packages were located by patrols at Caño Penitencia near Barra del Colorado Tuesday, the coast guard said.  They were tested and determined to contain just over two kilograms of cocaine. The illicit substance was handed over to prosecutors in Limón. Subsequently, aerial surveillance patrol of the waters were conducted Wednesday but yielded no further results.






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