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(506) 2223-1327                    Published Monday, Dec. 24, 2012,  in Vol. 12, No. 255                   Email us
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A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Wise men bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus make their way across the lawn of the court building.
Church-state bond may be weaker as culture changes
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country where one may wish anyone a Merry Christmas (in Spanish, of course) without fear of committing a social sin.

The patrols of the American Civil Liberties Union have yet to visit here. And the Costa Rica Constitution both defines Catholicism as the state religion and defends the freedom to practice other religions.

During seasons like Christmas there are outward displays of faith all over, including on government property.

Few homes would be complete without a portal or nativity scene. Neither would a government office. There is a life-size nativity scene on the small lawn in front of the Tribunales de Justicia, the courts, in San José.

The Municipalidad de San José has invested money in Christmas lights, and there was a big event when the portal at the front door of the Teatro Nacional was inaugurated with choirs, fireworks and other displays.

All year long there are obvious displays of faith. Taxi drivers hang rosary beads from the rear view mirror or perhaps put a photo of a saint on the dashboard. More than one public bus bears the name of a saint, and some even have "Jesus Christ is my savior" painted across the rear.

Jesús is a common name for a male, and María is much used as both a female name and male second name.

Of course, the Christmas season is marked with a vacation that might be as much as 10 days. Easter means about a week off for many workers, including government ones.

Still the beaches call at Christmas and at Easter. Today San José approaches a ghost town because many families are already on vacation.

In late July and the first day of August each year perhaps a million pilgrims make the trek to Cartago to honor the Virgin de los Ángeles there and seek special favors. Even during the year small statues of
 the Virgin, known as the Negrita, can be seen in the most unexpected places, such as above a fast food firm's cash register.

Yet with all the outward display, the culture is changing.

The U.S. State Department in its religious freedom report for 2011 estimates that there are approximately 47 percent of the population identified as practicing Roman Catholics, 23 percent as non-practicing Catholic, 16 percent as evangelical Protestant, 6 percent as belonging to other religions, and 8 percent as having no religious affiliation. The report cites a Universidad de Costa Rica survey.

There are about  2,800 Jews in Costa Rica, it said.

Despite the preponderance of Catholics, there are proposals for a lay state, an estado laico, The topic usually comes up during presidential election campaigns, but there is a bill in the legislative hopper that would remove the designation of Catholicism as the official religion for the Constitution.

The Catholic Church also seems to be on the short end of demographics and modern culture. Even Archibishop Hugo Barrantes admits that his successor has the job of attracting more young persons to the church. He retires shortly at age 75.

Barrantes and the other bishops of the nation have opposed sex education in the public schools and in-vitro fertilization. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights just ordered Costa Rica to legalize in-vitro fertilization within the next six months and to regulate all aspects of in-vitro fertilization to ensure implementation. It also ordered the country to implement continuing education courses and training on reproductive rights for judicial officials throughout the country, according to an assessment by an advocacy group, the Center for Reproductive Rights. The church has vowed to fight this ruling.

The church also opposes sex education in the public schools despite the fact that Catholicism also is taught in the schools on an opt-out basis.

But it may be economics and creeping commercialism that have the biggest impact on the Costa Rica culture. Retailer giant Walmart said that its stores will be open Christmas Day this year.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 255
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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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Our readers' opinions
Consumer price index fix
may affect U.S. expats here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your staff article and David G Housman, who is cited in Friday's article about impacts to U.S. expats here of the fiscal cliff disaster, are incorrect in stating that most expats here are unlikely to be very impacted by whatever resolution is found to the "fiscal cliff." 

While there has been no final agreement, President Obama has already agreed to implement the "chained Consumer Price Index" to government programs, and, because this will impact the poor and middle class most, this federal spending-saving measure is highly unlikely to be opposed by the Republicans.  Chained CPI would affect cost-of-living adjustments in response to inflation for Social Security, Medicare, and federal government pensions, among other programs.  While the impact of chained CPI would be modest at first, they would increase over time.  Such effects over time are described in a CNN analysis:

"For Social Security beneficiaries, the effect would barely be felt in a one-year period. In most years, chained CPI differs from the other inflation measure very little -- only by about 0.3 percentage points, according to the Social Security Administration's chief actuary.

"This year, for example, that would shave about $4 a month off the cost of living increase for the average Social Security recipient. Currently slated for a $21-dollar-a-month increase, the average Social Security recipient would instead receive a boost of only $17 a month....

"But over time, the effect is compounded, and that has advocates for retirees up in arms.

"Consider a person who retired at age 65 in 2000. If chained CPI had been used to calculate his annual cost of living adjustments, his monthly Social Security checks would total around $1,880 now, $106 less than under current law.

"The longer a person lives, the larger the effect becomes. According to AARP, retirees lucky enough to live to 92 would lose a month's worth of benefits."

Effects would be similar for federal pensioners such as myself.

Loren B. Ford
Grecia

Meat production consumes
grain and creates pollution


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Despite future need, food harvests are not keeping pace, study finds
 
The article mentioned; "The demand for food crops is growing, but experts say the world’s harvests are not keeping pace. People are becoming richer and eating more meat, which takes more grain to produce"
 
The ultimate problem is over population but that is not what this article is discussing.  Unfortunately, the richer First World countries and advancing Third World countries, will eat us into oblivion because of their need to consume so much meat.  

Here are a few stats from the U.S. Department of the Interior's USGS.  One pound of chicken requires 500 gallons of water,  one hamburger OVER 4,000 gallons, one egg 400 gallons, one pound of wheat 110 gallons, one pound of corn 110 gallons. Water is also becoming a precious resource to consider.  The Food and Agricultural Organization states in 1998;  "About 60 per cent of the world's agricultural land is used for grazing some 360 million cattle and more than 600 million sheep and goats."  That figure has grown since then.  

"If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million," according to the Ecology Department at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  It takes seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.
 
Remember the entire cattle industry, throughout the world, produces more global warming effects then all the planes, trains, cars, trucks and ships on this planet.  The pollution run off from factory farms in the United States causes more waterway (river) pollution in the United States then all the other industries combined.

There are always solutions.  We just need to change some habits.

Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona
 
 
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, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 255
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Carnival in Zapote will begin with bulls Christmas Day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday, Christmas Day, marks the beginning of the Festejos Populares de Zapote and the Costa Rican-style bullfights.

The Zapote festival runs until Jan. 6 with rides, food, beer halls and other amusements.

A new arrival this year is supposed to be something called  Super Shot, a tower that lets participants experience a short dose of free fall. The Festival said that the company is setting up that and 17 other attractions. Some are for youngsters.

The biggest attraction is at the rondel where a few or many Costa Ricans put themselves at risk in the ring with a fighting bull. That is if final approval comes form the health agency.

The Cruz Roja said that it would have 50 of its rescue workers and six ambulances standing by when the bull fighting is taking place. The rondel has a clinic built into a wall, and injured bull fighters are passed on a stretcher through a small window. The bull events are televised internationally.

The admission paid by spectators covers the bull events.

Elsewhere there are all types of diversion, and the Fuerza Pública will be out in force.

Wednesday is the day of the Tope Nacional, when thousands of horses and riders parade through the streets of San José, starting at 10 a.m.. This year the riders begin at Plaza Víquez and head west on Paseo Colón. Again, the Cruz Roja will have at least 15 aid stations set up along the route. The Fuerza Pública will be on the trail of heavy drinkers and petty crooks.
super shot
Fiestas de Zapote photo
 A good health tip would be to avoid lunch before trying out
 this carnival ride.


Thursday is the day for the Carnival de Desamparados in that canton south of San José. The carnival parade begins at the  Escuela Joaquín García Monge and ends at the Villa Olímpica, starting at 10 a.m. Each year the Desamparados carnival is bigger. The residents there picked up the activity when the San José carnival was canceled.


High court declines to adjudicate flap over Christmas lottery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal against the nation's lottery commission.

The appeal was lodged by the Federación Nacional de Asociaciones de Consumidores, which was unhappy because there was no winner in the Christmas lottery.

The federation brought the complaint against the Junta de Protección Social de San José, which runs the lottery.

When the winning lottery number was pulled Dec. 16, the Junta had to admit that the five tickets had not been sold. In
fact, only 80 percent of the available lottery tickets were sold.

So the Junta quickly declared itself the winner and said that prize money, some $2.4 million a ticket, would be used for its social work.

Not just the federation was unhappy. The action was a major public relations disaster for the Junta, if grumbles on the street can be trusted. And a lottery that took place Sunday had a lot fewer sold tickets than expected.

Most figured the Junta should have rolled over the prize money for a future lottery. However, the Sala IV decided not to address the issue, said the Poder Judicial.


Here's what's open and what's closed for the Christmas holidays
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is a list of what is open and what is closed for the holidays.

Museo de Jade
The country's jade museum will be closed to Jan. 2.  For more information call 2287-6034.

Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica
The central bank museums located underneath Plaza de la Cultura will be closed today, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  The museums will be open normal hours from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. the other days.

Museo Nacional
Museo Nacional will be closed today, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's day.  It will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Teatro Nacional
Teatro Nacional is closed until New Year's Eve.  It will reopen New Year's day.

Museo de Arte Costarricense
Museo de Arte Costarricense will be closed until New Year's Day.  It will reopen Jan. 2.

Poder Judicial
The administrative offices of Poder Judicial  are closed until  Jan. 7.  All other offices are open during this time with the exception of Christmas, which is Tuesday, and New Year's Day, Jan. 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.   However, today and New Year's Eve the offices will only open in the mornings. 

Municipalidad de San José
The administrative offices for the San José municipality will be closed until Jan. 7.  Special sections such as business licensing, construction, Policia Municipal, cobros, cemetery services, street cleaning and park guards will only close Christmas and New Year's Day.   For more information, call 2547-6000.

Municipalidad de Escazú
The Escazú municipality will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Curridabat
The Curridabat municipality will close today, Christmas, New Year's Eve and Jan. 1.  For more information, call 2272-0126.

Municipalidad de Liberia, Guanacaste
The Liberia municipality will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Santa Cruz
The Santa Cruz municipality will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Carrillo, Guanacaste
The Carrillo municipality in Guanacaste will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Montes de Oca (including San Pedro)
The Montes de Oca municipality will close today, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  For more information, call 2280-5589.

Banco Nacional
Banco Nacional will be closed Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's day.  The Desamparados branch will be closed Dec. 27 for the carnival in that canton.  For more information, call 2212-2000.

Banco de Costa Rica
Bank employees will work today until 4 p.m. Normal hours will be maintained from Wednesday to Dec. 29. The bank will be closed Christmas Day, Dec, 31 and Jan. 1.

Pricesmart
Pricesmart will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  For the holiday week it will have revised hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A.M. Costa Rica
The country's most successful English-language newspaper will publish every day except Christmas and New Year's Day and will update readers on the Web site and by email in case of emergencies. The Barrio Otoya offices are closed and will reopen Jan. 2. In case of emergencies, the number 8832-5564 will be available the entire vacation.

Despite the office being closed, advertising will be accepted as well as news items and tips. All emails will be monitored, but the preferred address is editor@amcostarica.com.


U.S. Embassy
The American Embassy will be close today, Christmas and New Year's Day.  For the rest of the holiday season the embassy will be open its regular hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Instituto Nacional de Seguros
The Instituto Nacional de Seguros will be closed until New Year's Day.  Health services will be closed New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.  However the services for Casa de Salud and call centers will not close.  Services will return to the regular hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 2.

Farmacia Sucre
Farmacia Sucre will be closed Christmas and New Year's Day. The rest of the holiday season the pharmacy will follow its normal schedule of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Walmart
Walmart will not close for the holidays but will have special hours. Today it will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m, and Christmas it will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. From Wednesday to Dec. 30, the store will operate its normal hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Finally on New Year's Eve, the store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m and on New Year's Day the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Multiplaza
The Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  On New Year's Eve the Multiplaza will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad
The 112 agencies of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will have normal hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except that they will be closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Another exception is the the agency in Sabana Norte will be closed from Friday to Jan. 7. Agencies in commercial centers, such as Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be open during the times established by the mall management. The bulk of the telephone services like international calls, electrical outages and other services will be in operation 24 hours a day.


Episcopal Parish of The Good Shepherd
Anglican/Episcopal services:
Today, Christmas Eve. Bilingual service at 6 p.m. with pageant
         presented by the children of the Sunday School.
Christmas Day. 9 a.m. English and Español 9 p.m.
Wednesday, St. Stephen’s Day, 9 a.m. bilingual service.
Friday, Holy Innocents 2 p.m. bilingual service.
Sunday, Dec. 30, first Sunday of Christmas: English 8:30 a.m.
         and Español 11 a.m.
Monday, Dec. 31, New Year's Eve: Bilingual 6 p.m.
The Church of the Good Shepherd is on Avenida 4 between Calles 3 and 5 opposite the Colegio Superior de Señoritas. Further information is available via e-mail to pbuenpastor@hotmail.com or by calling 2222-1560.

International Baptist Church
The Guachipelín, Escazú, church will hold at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve candlelight Service and a concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 31.

Del Rey nightlife

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 255
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Medical
                vacation promo

Penas blacas
                crowd
Ministerio de Gobernación. Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
A flood of travelers can be seen at the border crossing station each day
New facilities help to speed crossing border at Peñas Blancas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 15,000 persons a day are crossing from Costa Rica into Nicaragua as many residents here head to their homeland for the holidays. That is about 9,000 more persons a day than normal.

Costa Rican officials are working from 6 a.m. to midnight most days to accommodate the crush. They have new facilities and 14 separate windows from which they can attend travelers.

The Fuerza Pública has the Unidad Canina at the border crossing and also the Policía de Control de Drogas, as well as the Policía de Fronteras. Saturday officers encountered a man who is wanted to answer a charge of homicide. He was detained until police were able to confirm that the warrant no longer was active, officers said.

Hours today are different: From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Christmas and New Year's Day when the hours will be from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Otherwise, the 6 a.m. to midnight rule is in effect.

Officials are preparing for a similar crowd at the end of the holidays when travelers are returning to Costa Rica.

Generally during the last two weeks of December each year
bundles
Ministerio de Gobernación. Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
 A lot of baggage also has to be checked by police and
 customs agents.

some 60,000 persons make the trip to Nicaragua. The  Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería confronts a similar crush each Semana Santa.


Prosecutors will appeal decision in Rodríguez bribery case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prosecutors will appeal the case of former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and others convicted in the Alcatel bribery case to the Sala I high criminal court.

That was the report late Friday after a criminal appeals court threw out the conviction of Rodríguez and six others. Also beneficiaries of the decision were Guido Sibaja Fonseca, Joaquín Alberto Fernández Alfaro, Eduardo Fonseca García, Luis Adrián Quirós Carmona, Édgar Valverde Acosta and Eliseo Vargas García.

Rodríguez faced a five-year prison term.

The Poder Judicial distributed the conclusions of the appeals court Friday, but the full decision is awaited. The Tribunal de Apelaciones de Goicoechea has been studying the case for more than a year.

The allegation was that Rodríguez orchestrated a scheme to
 extort money from Alcatel in exchange for granting the firm a contract for 400,000 cell telephone lines. An Alcatel executive in the United States had been convicted in the scheme under U.S. law and provided testimony in the trial here.

The decision by the appeals court appears to be based on technicalities of how evidence about bank accounts was gathered by prosecutors in Panamá. Apparently some of the suspect accounts became known while prosecutors were investigating an unrelated case against former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier.

The evidence shows that money from Alcatel flowed into accounts in Panamá and then to Costa Rica.

Rodríguez had to step down as secretary general of the Organization of American States when the case became know.

He has maintained his innocence and even wrote a book about the case. He claims he was the victim of a vendetta by prosecutors.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 255
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Kerry is familiar face
to many world leaders


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of State, is a familiar face to world leaders, an elder statesman of the Democratic Party and current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The son of a military veteran, Kerry graduated from Yale University in 1966 and served an abbreviated tour of duty in Vietnam, where he was awarded two combat medals and three Purple Hearts, which are earned by those who are wounded in combat. Shortly after returning home, he became a nationally recognized anti-war spokesman, and in 1971 famously asked a congressional committee on the Vietnam war, "How do you ask the last man to die for a mistake?"

A Massachusetts Democrat, Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1982 and has earned a reputation as a left-center lawmaker who backs free trade, environmental protection and an expansive U.S. foreign policy.

He won the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, spending much of his campaign criticizing his incumbent opponent, George W. Bush, for his administration's handling of the Iraq war. While initially voting to support the 2003 Iraq invasion, he later voted against $87 billion in aid for the country, saying Bush misused the trust of the American people and diminished U.S. standing across the world. Kerry lost the election by a 2-percent margin.

If confirmed, Kerry would succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and take over a department under intense public scrutiny for failing to provide effective security in September at a diplomatic compound in Libya. 

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel were killed on Sept. 11 in Benghazi when terrorists overran the facility.


After almost three years
pirate captives rescued


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in central Somalia say they have rescued 22 hostages who were held captive by pirates for nearly three years.

The government of Somalia's Puntland region says the hostages were freed Sunday after a 13-day siege against the ship the pirates had captured, the "MV Iceberg 1."

The vessel was near the coastal village of Gara'ad.

Somali pirates captured the "MV Iceberg 1" off the coast of Yemen in March 2010 as it headed to the United Arab Emirates.

Puntland says after two years and nine months in captivity, the hostages show signs of physical torture and illness.  It says they are now receiving nutrition and medical care.

The crew includes people from Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan and The Philippines.

In 2010, Somali pirates hijacked nearly 50 ships and received tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments.  Hijackings have dropped sharply over the past 18 months, after most ships adopted stronger security, and foreign navies increased their patrols off the Somali coast.


Street crowds demand death
for rape suspects in India

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police in India's capital Sunday used tear gas and water cannons for a second day on demonstrators who are demanding speedy action against the six detainees accused of a gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old female student.

Sonia Gandhi, chief of the ruling Congress Party, emerged from her residence after midnight to talk to the protesters.  She went out again later Sunday with her son, Rahul, who is widely seen as a future prime minister.

Police said they had banned protests in the area of New Delhi where the protesters have been staging massive demonstrations about the rape.  Police said the areas near the president's residence and parliament have been declared off-limits to protesters.

Saturday thousands of protesters marched in New Delhi, shouting "we want justice," as police struggled to control the crowd.

Protests have taken place across the country for several days.  Many protesters are demanding the death penalty for the six men now in detention.

The rape victim was attacked last Sunday after she and a male friend were given a ride on a bus in New Delhi.  She remains hospitalized with severe injuries. Despite her condition, she was able to give a statement to police Saturday.

More than 600 cases of rape have been reported in New Delhi so far this year, one of the highest rates in the country.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 255
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Armored car trio fall
for punctured tire trick

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three guards on an armored car fell for the old punctured-tire trick, Saturday and bandits made off with some 200,000 colons, some $400,000.

The guards got out of the vehicle after they realized a tire had blown out. This is the same trick that crooks play on rental car operators. The victims are mostly tourists.

The armored vehicle was en route to Guanacaste. The tire blew about 4:45 a.m. near the bridge over the Río Virilla on Route 27 in San Rafael de Alajuela, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

When the guards began to change the tire, two vehicles containing armed men pulled up and began to fire, agents said the men told them.

The bandits pistol-whipped the guards and locked the men in the rear of the vehicle, agents recounted.

Typically, at least one guard remains in the locked compartment containing money and valuables. There was no explanation why all three of the guards were outside or why they did not return fire on the bandits. The vehicle belongs to the VMA firm.


Another home invaded
by masked, armed men


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Home invaders have struck again in Escazú.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that masked, armed men invaded a dwelling in San Rafael de Escazú. about 10 p.m. Saturday and stuck up those there. The intruders took jewels, portable computers, and cash, said agents.

This was the second home invasion in the area in a week. A group of robbers invaded a home in Bello Horizonte de Escazú Tuesday night and attacked three men who were there.


Three disputes result
in stabbing injuries

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was no peace and good will this weekend as personal disputes graduated into stabbing.

Police held a woman in La Luchita, Potrero Grande de Buenos Aires de Puntarenas. She was accused of stabbing two male neighbors during a dispute on a public street late Saturday. The men were hospitalized.

In Larel, Corredores, early Sunday another dispute in the street escalated to a stabbing, and a man was hospitalized in critical condition.

In Heredia Saturday night, two men were set upon by a group in a bar and suffered serious knife wounds. Fuerza Pública officers detained five persons in this case.







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NRA seems on defensive in gun debate

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The National Rifle Association, which promotes gun ownership and the constitutional American right to bear arms, is a powerful voice against gun control in the United States.

Friday, in response to last week's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the organization known as the NRA urged the government to put armed guards at all U.S. schools, rejecting renewed calls for stricter gun control laws.

With about four million paying members, the NRA is a major political force. The group has promoted gun ownership for more than 141 years. 

"The National Rifle Association is what we call a heavy hitter," says Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that tracks political contributions made by the NRA. "They are powerful both because they have a wide membership base across the country and because they raise money and use it in politically savvy ways."

Through television ads and campaign contributions, analysts say the NRA spends millions of dollars every year to lobby members of Congress. It has successfully opposed efforts to reinstate a ban on assault weapons which expired in 2004.

The group is generous toward candidates who support its positions, and actively opposes those it sees as adversaries.

"Gun owners vote and its bad politics to be anti-Second Amendment in an election year," says Wayne LaPierre, NRA's outspoken executive vice president.

The NRA also gives grades to lawmakers who support its causes, which means the NRA is often feared among politicians.

"They are feared because they can turn out the vote," says Ms. Kiely,"and they can turn out lots and lots of campaign contributions either to support a politician or oppose a politician."

This month's Connecticut school shooting where 20 young children and six adults were killed renewed the gun control debate.

It has also put the NRA on the defensive.

Now, some longtime allies of the gun lobby are calling on the NRA to work with Congress to enact sensible gun control laws.

"The NRA and other gun rights advocates groups, they are not wrong about everything in this issue," said Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky. "I don't believe they are wrong, but they have never been willing to participate in addressing reasonable approaches to gun violence. They've never been able to sit down at the table."

Even gun sellers question the NRA's ability to push back against calls for a ban on military-style assault weapons.

"When you got 20 dead kids who are massacred it doesn't matter how much power the NRA has," says Andrew Raymond, a gun dealer in Maryland. "It is almost a foregone conclusion that we are going to see some sort of legislation that will severely restrict these guns."

The growing anger over senseless mass shootings may be a tipping point, perhaps altering the strength of the NRA's political power to fight back against stronger gun control laws.


Participant summarized in-vitro case

A summary by the Center for Reproductive Rights*
 
Costa Rica’s longstanding ban on in-vitro fertilization — which has barred countless individuals from building their families for almost 12 years — is set to come to an end. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled Friday that Costa Rica’s ban of the reproductive health technology violated the right to privacy, the right to liberty, the right to personal integrity, and the right to form a family, as recognized under international law.

The court also found that obstructing access to reproductive health services violated the right to be free from discrimination.
 
With this decision, the court has reaffirmed that all individuals, not only in Costa Rica but throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, cannot be barred from having access to in-vitro fertilization. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is the highest human rights court in the Americas, and the ruling in this case is final and binding for all 22 countries that have accepted the jurisdiction of the court.
 
“We commend the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for upholding the right of individuals to make their own decisions about their reproductive health and future,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “With this decision, the court sends the strong message that assaults on reproductive rights will not be tolerated.”
 
In its judgment, the court concluded that embryos cannot be given absolute rights and that, while embryos are protected, such protection must be gradual and incremental following their development. The court also stressed that this protection must always be proportional to the protection of human rights.
 
The court ordered Costa Rica to legalize in-vitro fertilization within the next 6 months, to regulate all aspects of in-vitro fertilization to ensure implementation and provide free mental health services for the victims in this case. It also ordered the state to implement continuing education courses and training on reproductive rights for judicial officials throughout the country.
 
In 2000, the Costa Rican Constitutional Chamber ruled that in-vitro fertilization was unconstitutional. Interpreting the right to life provision in Costa Rica’s constitution as beginning at the moment of conception, it granted personhood — full legal rights and protections — to fertilized eggs. Given that not all fertilized eggs fully develop, those eggs are never transferred. The chamber understood the act as discarding human beings, and it banned the reproductive health technology. As a result, 10 Costa Rican couples and a fertility clinic filed a petition against the absolute ban before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2004.
 
The Center for Reproductive Rights has been involved in this case from the start. The Center filed two amicus briefs in support of the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and another two before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, asserting that the ban conflicts with the country’s obligation to protect and respect women’s human rights. In the latter stages of the case, the center also worked closely with one of the petitioners’ lawyers — providing key ongoing technical assistance — and led international support efforts by encouraging national and international human rights organizations and experts to file additional amicus briefs for the case.
 
In Latin America, court decisions granting personhood to fertilized eggs have been responsible for extreme restrictions on access to emergency contraception, which have been widely recognized by international and regional human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as violations of a woman’s ability to exercise her fundamental rights. Personhood laws have also been responsible in countries like Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, for absolute bans on abortion, even when a woman’s health or life is at risk.
 
"The Inter-American Court of Human Rights reaffirmed today that every person has a right to choose whether to have children or not, as well as the number and spacing of their offspring, and that states must not ever interfere with that right,” said Alejandra Cárdenas, legal advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
 

•The Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, is a global legal advocacy organization that fights to ensure reproductive rights are treated as fundamental human rights. For more information about the Center for Reproductive Rights’ work in Latin America and the Caribbean, please visit: http://reproductiverights.org/en/our-regions/latin-america-caribbean.


Gas drops, but ICE power increases

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Consumers got a break Friday when the nation's price regulating agency ordered cuts in the cost of gasoline.

Super will go down 14 colons a liter. Plus will decline 22 colons a liter and diesel will drop 8 colons per liter.

At the same time, the agency the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, said that the cost of electricity for customers of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad would increase.

In addition to generating nearly all the power used in the country, the state company known as ICE has retail customers.

They will see an increase of around 14 percent.  For the average home, the amount would be about 1,702 per month, the Authoridad estimated. That is about $3.40.

ICE sought increases in part to compensate it for the cost of petroleum fuel for thermal generators because there has been less rain and less capacity for hydro projects.
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