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(506) 2223-1327                Published Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 176                    E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Barber to expats has worked his trade for 60 years
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Imagine a barber who has been cutting hair for more then 60 years.  A Costa Rica native has been doing just that and will be continuing to do so, God permiting, he said.

Roy Black Vasqez is 75 years old and operates a barber shop frequented by many expats in the Dunn Inn parking lot off Avenida 11.  He has been in the business nearly his whole life and will continue cutting hair until he dies, he said.  “I don't want to work myself to death,” said Black. 

“I just want a little bit of money in my pocket to feed myself,” he added.

He picked up the sheers when he was about 15 or 16 years old.  “I started cutting hair to spite my father,” said Black.  “He didn't speak to me for six or seven months after that because he wanted me to be a doctor.  But I was taking in good money, and I was the richest boy in school.”

After working in Costa Rica for some years, Black moved to Panamá where he continued to perfect his trade for 28 years.  According to Black, he was making good money but was having a little too much fun so he moved back.  “I don't regret it one bit,” he said.  “I am very happy with what I'm doing with my life.”

Black is getting ready to receive triple bypass surgery later this month.  He has had chronic heart problems and underwent surgery in 2000. He is not sure what is exactly wrong with his heart, but he said, “all I know is that I have a heart problem.”   
Roy, the expats' barber
A.M. Costa Rica/Melissa Hinkley
Roy Black Vasqez relaxes in his shop

The surgery is a high-risk operation and Black just hopes to make it through it.  But he said that when it is your time, then it is your time. “A lot of people say that I will live to be over 100, but I don't think so,” said Black.

Customers hope the surgery goes smoothly for Black so they can continue visiting his shop.  He charges about $4 for a haircut, but said that he occassionally charges $5 if the customer is ornery.  He no longer cuts women's or children's hair, so the majority of his customers are U.S. expats.  “I used to work with girls, and I got fed up,” he said.  “I don't work with kids anymore because I am too old for that.”

Kids will have a big, public cultural fiesta Tuesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday is the Día del Niño, and a country that already venerates youngsters will be going all out either in private homes or in public events.

Children know about Tuesday, too, and they will be expecting presents and to be the center of family activity.

Some 2,500 youngsters are expected for a free, public event at the downtown Teatro Popular Melico Salazar as guests of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. Culture ministry theaters all over the country also plan similar events.

At the Teatro Melico Salazar there certainly will
 be clowns and a series of other performers. Some short dramatic presentations are planned, too. Many of the youngsters are coming from poor areas.

The national fiesta for youngsters from 40 schools  is sponsored also by Banco Nacional, Walmart and the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, said the ministry.

Additional events are planned for the Museo Nacional and the Museos del Banco Central. The Ministerio de Educación Pública is involved, too. According to María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura, the programs are designed to give the youngsters more exposure to Costa Rican culture.
Programs begin at 9 a.m. in San José.

September also is called the patriotic month because Sept. 15 is the Día de Independencia.

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Our readers' opinions
He rejects general comments
on crimes and real estate

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

[Regarding Garland Baker's article Monday.]

Why the writer of this article would choose to live and do business in Costa Rica is beyond me.  An example of why I say this is the following paragraph out of his "factual article.  My comments are in parentheses after each statement. 

""Today, Costa Rica is at war.  It is at war with crime.  Crime is everywhere (What kind of a fact is this, what does everywhere mean? Yes, of course there is crime, but EVERYWHERE? Great statement when you want to sound like you know everything). 

"It runs the gamut from the highest echelons of government down to petty street crime."  (So EVERYONE is dishonest except the writer of the article) "The problem is the street crime is not so petty any more.  Many robberies are at gunpoint or worse, someone is killed." (Again a blanket statement based on what?)

"The Costa Rican press is full of stories of students being murdered over a cell phone while waiting for the bus." (Another great generalization. Newspapers do not write about anything  good happening. If you always choose to look at the partially empty glass, the world will always be full of doom and gloom.) "The problem is Costa Rica has not declared war on crime.  The country is just too complacent letting the criminals run the show." (Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but facts would be nice, or does he have personal knowledge of criminals who run the show?"

How about the following article using the same generalizations and broad brush writing as Mr. Baker:

Beware of dishonest professional advisors seeking business by writing stories telling you how bad a country is yet willing to sell you advice on why they are "bullish" on a place that has crime everywhere and where people are killed all the time for a cell phone. Invest in a country that has criminals "run the show."  There are stories in the newspapers "all the time" about advisors with selfish interest that will help you make a great deal in a country full of problems and crime like Costa Rica.  Be careful if you want to make money in this crooked and crime-filled country. Contact me and I will show you how!
Well enough I think I made my point. We are all allowed to have "opinions"  but when we claim to be experts yet make broad statements that paint all with the same brush, I have no respect for the quality of the opinion and the value of the article.   Costa Rica is NOT perfect, but if I thought it was as bad as painted by the writer of the article I would not choose to be naturalized or to live here. Why not return to your original home where maybe all is perfect?
Thank you for letting me express my personal opinion on this article.
Luis Alfaro
Vuelta de Jorco
EDITOR'S NOTE: Personal opinions always are welcome. But we stand behind the article by Garland Baker and would not have published it if we did not believe his statements on crime were supported by incontrovertible facts available daily in the Spanish-language newspapers and sometimes here.

Murder figures were old
and were apples vs. oranges

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In Allen Mcdonald's recent letter entitled "Costa Rica murder rate reported higher than U.S.," he purports to cite the "most recent murder rate for Costa Rica" and reports it as "0.061005 per 1,000 people, making them number 19 in worldwide statistics. The U.S.A. shows 0.042802 per 1,000 people and is ranked number 24 in the same report."

Well, yes, that's true as far as it goes.

But when statistics are cited, we should all be wary, as anyone who has read Mark Twain's admonitions knows.

First, Mr. Mcdonald is comparing apples to oranges in comparing the murder rate in one of the world's richest countries (U.S.) to a relatively poor one.

Compare the U.S. to any other G8 country, or any country in its general class, and see how it rates. (Why is it we always insist on comparing ourselves only to poorer, less-developed countries anyway?)

Mr. Mcdonald also does not point out that his so-called "most recent murder rate" is based on statistics at least eight years old. Not that this might change the results, but it does not make his statistics all that recent.

And he overlooks the fact that his link to the murder rate chart takes you to an incomplete listing of countries — only 82 of them. His chart does not even include the country where he claims to be writing from — Panama (Boquete). Which, according to this much more up-to-date chart, has a murder rate about 50% greater than Costa Rica (11.3 vs 7.68 per 100,000).

By Mr. Mcdonald's reckoning, that would make him 50 percent "more likely to be murdered or to murder someone" (try figuring that claim out) in Panamá than if he were living in Costa Rica.

I can only repeat the concluding sentence from his letter, and let readers draw their own conclusions: "All of which goes to affirm the universal truth that figures never lie, but liars do sometime figure."
John Law
Guanacaste and Akron, Ohio

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 176

animal art
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Two-tone anteater of Guayacán real and other free-standing animals sculpted from wood.
Animals emerge from wood for new Museo Nacional exhibit
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Animals of all kinds invaded the Museo Nacional last week and they will make themselves cozy until Dec. 14. 

The animals are part of a wooden art exhibit constructed by José Sancho called Flora y Fauna.”
The exhibit contains 18 animal sculptures carved from the Guayacán real, a species of tree originating from the dry tropical areas.  The wood is known to have a two tone color which Sancho creatively incorporates into his work. 

His purposeful strokes are evident on the intricately designed sculptures of snakes, bats, owls and other various animals. His animal sculptures are not quite abstract, but they are sculpted in a way that caters to the viewers imagination. 
The wood is not overly detailed, but rather is characterized by simple, stylized lines.  

Sancho was born in Puntarenas in 1935 and has been dedicated to his work with sculptures since 1982.  He studied economy and visited locations which most likely affected his style, including México, Perú, India, Italy, Argentina, China, the Galapagos, Antarctica and Africa. 

He has won many awards including the Áncora award presented by La Nación, the  Nacional de Escultura award in 1985 and the Bienal de Escultura award in 1997.  He has also had many exhibitions around the country.   

The exhibition at the Museo Nacional can be seen during normal hours of the museum, from Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  His sculptures are permanently displayed in his workshop, gallery and garden in Escazú.     

Banco Nacional has a string of security devices on the way
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 335,000 customers of Banco Nacional de Costa Rica will have different online security systems in the next weeks.

These include a "digital keyboard," “token” key ring,  “token” card and the software in a cell phone. The bank has developed these systems to frustrate online thieves who have been pillaging customers' accounts. Use of the systems are options.

First step is Friday when online users will find the new “digital keyboard” in the Web page of the national bank. This is a tool where the user can submit a password in two parts, numerical and alphabetic. Half goes through the keyboard and half is submitted by clicking on numbers on the computer screen.

The digital keyboard will work with all systems because it is Java-based, said officials. That includes Macintosh and Linux systems, said Cilliam Cuadra, boss of the bank's seguridad informatica.
Cuadra said that the digital keyboard is the principal tool to circumvent hackers who use keylogger, virus and Trojan systems to steal information from personal computers.

The digital keyboard changes the position of the number on the computer screen and the password is encrypted.

Cuadra said that in Costa Rica some banks give first version or first generation tools to protect accounts, but that hackers can read all the codes of the online session.

“The people need real tools to protect their accounts because there are different ways to obtain access," said Cuadra. He said the problems are with the user's computer and not with the bank.

Cuadra added that almost all the Internet fraud is because the hackers can somehow install the software in the user's computer because personal computers do not have security for use in Internet banking. Frequently the keyloggers come disguised as e-mail attachments.

As a second step, in 30 or 40 days the national bank will give a “token key ring” and  “token card” as a security measure.  The various tokens are devices that produce dynamic passwords that always are changing. Banco de Costa Rica has a card system now.

Also in some weeks, Cuadra added that the Internet banking user can have software in a cell phone that is
computer expert
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Jose Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Cilliam Cuadra demonstrates screen access

pasword generator
This device generates unique password for one-time use.

token card
This card also can generate a one-time password

very similar to a token.  The user makes a call and gets a dynamic password to use in the computer just one time.
Cuadra said the ideal is that people use all the available systems.

Cuadra said that these systems are very safe, and that in the United States banks use these defenses for VIP or corporative users.

Escazú Christian Fellowship

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 176

Scientists find that a tiny ocean creature fights red tide
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and the Georgia Institute of Technology news service

Red tide, that toxic bloom of ocean algae, can deliver a major blow to the Costa Rican fishing industry and sicken those foolish enough to eat shellfish exposed to the phenomenon.

The last serious Pacific red tide was in November 2005 and affected Nicaragua and El Salvador. One woman was said to have died. Officials in El Salvador prohibited the collection and sale of shellfish from Nov. 18, 2005, to March 24, 2006. The economic impact was severe.

Smaller versions periodically affect areas of Costa Rica's Pacific coast and the Gulf of Nicoya.

Off the Florida coast alone, scientists estimate that the red tide algae, Karenia brevis, costs approximately $20 million per bloom in economic damage.

Now scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found that a diatom can reduce the levels of the red tide’s toxicity to animals and that the same diatom can reduce its toxicity to other algae as well. A diatom is a tiny single-celled sea creature usually encased in a silica wall. Frequently they cluster in colonies.

Scientists said that if they can learn to use this process to reduce the toxicity of red tide, they could reduce the vast amount of economic damage done to the seafood and tourism industries. The research appears as articles in press for the Web sites of the journals Harmful Algae and the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
Red tide is a dramatic case of an ecosystem that’s out of control. In normal seawater, Karenia brevis makes up about 1 percent or less of the species, but during a red tide, that share increases to more than 90 percent. Oysters, mussels and clams ingest the algae and become unsafe to eat. Fish killed by the red tide wash on the shore, which can be contaminated and essentially unusable to tourists for months at a time.

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found that red tide toxins can be metabolized by other species of phytoplankton and one, Skeletonema costatum, has been found to reduce the toxicity to both animals and other algae.

One of the researchers is Julia Kubanek, an associate professor with a joint appointment in Georgia Tech’s School of Biology and School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Professor Kubanek and her researchers found in previous work that the growth of the diatom Skeletonema costatum was only moderately suppressed by the toxins released by the red tide. So, they figured that the diatom might have a way to deal with the toxins. According to their study, they were right.

If scientists such as Professor Kubanek and her team can learn more about the strategies that microscopic algae use to reduce the toxicity of red tide, they might be able to use that knowledge to help reduce the poisonous effects the tide has on the animal kingdom, not to mention the damage it does to the seafood and tourism industries, said a release from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Escazú church will emphasize environmental concerns with 'Season of Creation'
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Escazú Christian Fellowship will kick off a month-long "Season of Creation" Sunday at 5 p.m. with "forest Sunday," followed on subsequent Sundays with themes of land, wilderness, river, and human community. During September's emphasis, the fellowship will "celebrate God's creation, reflect on our role as stewards and servants of it, and take concrete actions to demonstrate our care for the gift we have received," said Stacey Steck, pastor.

The Season of Creation was first developed by churches in Australia and has been adopted in other countries. According to the Season's founders, "There is growing concern in Christian communities about the ecological crisis and the way human beings are treating God's Earth.
Planet Earth is in peril. All creation is suffering. An effective way to focus these concerns is through worship. By concentrating our worship on God's creation and our relationship with creation, we can seek ways to heal rather than exploit creation. The Season of Creation helps us care for our planet home rather than destroy it."

Escazú Christian Fellowship will be the first Costa Rican church to celebrate the Season of Creation.

Escazú Christian Fellowship is an international, multi-denominational church dedicated to being the heart, hands, and voice of Jesus Christ in Costa Rica's English-speaking community. For more information on the church or the Season of Creation, or for directions, those interested may call 8395-9653 or browse

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Journalists killed, beaten
in Russian Muslim areas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A second journalist is dead of gunshot wounds fired under suspicious circumstances in Russia's volatile Caucasus region this week. The death of the first journalist sparked an anti-government demonstration in one of the republics of southern Russia.

Police in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan in the northern Caucasus region of Russia, say Islamic TV journalist Abdulla Alishayev died early Wednesday following an attack by two unknown assailants the previous evening. A police spokesman said the victim was shot in the shoulder and head as he sat in his car and died in a local hospital. Officials say Alishayev was a proponent of radical Wahhabi Islam. Human rights activists say authorities falsely accuse devout and independent Muslims of being Wahhabi extremists.

The Associated Press reported that another journalist was left with a fractured skull after a beating in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, also in the Caucasus.

Sunday in Nazran, the main city of Ingushetiya, yet another journalist was shot and killed while in police custody. The victim, Mahomet Yevloyev, owner of the independent Web site was detained by police at the city's Magas Airport. He had been critical of Ingush authorities, including President Murat Zyazikov who is reported to have been on a flight from Moscow with Yevloyev.

Both men reportedly got into a heated argument on board, and police were waiting for the journalist as he got off the plane.  Officials say the victim was accidentally shot after he tried to grab a gun from an officer. Opposition activists say a number of armed men, including the interior minister, met Yevloyev, who was allegedly shot in a police car and his body was simply thrown onto a street near a hospital.

Ingush opposition activist Mahomet Khazbiyev said the journalist published accounts of everything in Ingushetiya: that Zyazikov lies, that no factories or homes are being built, that authorities kill five or six people every day.

Tourist will face drug charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A European tourist was found carrying 3.4 kilos of cocaine Wednesday in the Juan Santamaria airport, said the Policia de Control de Drogas. 

The 22-year-old man, with the last names of Krasinir Metodiev, was originally from Bulgaria and is the first Bulgarian detained by the drug police this year, said a press release.  He was traveling to Madrid, Spain, and later to Amsterdam, Holland, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. 

The man could face up to 12 years in prison,the ministry said.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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