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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Jan. 3, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 1           E-mail us
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Holidays conclude with minimal loss of life
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Christmas holidays seem to have been uneventful with no great loss of life.

Even in the bull ring at the Fiestas de San José young men were unsuccessful in trying to kill themselves, although many tried.

The new Autopista de Sol provided easy access for those who vacationed on the Pacific coasts. The Policía de Tránsito made the highway one way Sunday afternoon to accommodate homeward bound travelers.

From Christmas Day to New Year's Eve, the Cruz Roja reported 13 deaths, a figure much lower than the 27 reported in 2009.  At least three of these were gunshot victims.

The bull ring at the Zapote fairgrounds produced 119 cases for the Cruz Roja. That is more than the 116 cases treated from the rest of the fairgrounds. And the cases from the bull ring or rondel were more badly hurt in some cases.  Only 30 persons had to be taken to a hospital.

The Fiestas de San José wrapped up Sunday night with another evening bull baiting and bull riding even in the rondel. One young man successfully rode El Montecristo, a 650-kilo Guanacaste bull. That's 1,430 pounds. He wore a protective vest and helmet with wire face mask.

Other participants were dressed more informally as Robin of Batman fame and a host of television characters. These were the informal bullfighters who crowded the ring and tried to stay out of the reach of a bull's horn.
Most were successful, leaping over the arena fence as a 1,100-pound bull approached.

The men in the ring adopted a technique this year to fall in front of a bull so that the horns pass over their body. There was considerable competition to show bravery.

No one seemed to be hurt seriously Sunday night, although some got a free ride compliments of a bull. Each of those who were were trampled or otherwise mauled by the snorting critters got a few minutes of television time after they left the ring. Nearly all sent wishes to their wife and child or children at home.

Final statistics on accidents and Cruz Roja cases will be available after today.

The Judicial Investigating Organization reported that a 23-year-old man with the last name of Adonis died in a shootout in Las Tablas de San Juan de Dios de Desamparados Wednesday night.

Another man with the last name of Ramírez died in a home in Zetillal de Goicoechea when a gunman crashed a family party the same night and shot him twice in the head.

In Jacó Sunday a man identified as a foreigner died from gunshots delivered by men on a motorcycle while he waited at a bus stop.

At least one statistic is known. Traffic police said Sunday afternoon that they had issued 170 tickets to drivers, mostly vacationers, who had failed to pay their marchamo or road tax by midnight New Year's Eve. Counting taxes, the fine approaches 300,000 colons or about $590.

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Archeological white elephants
offered to Museo Nacional

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Brooklyn Museum is facing a storage problem, and officials there want to unload some of its inventory on Costa Rica, the country where it originated.

The desire to return some of the ceramics and stone artifacts to Costa Rica was reported in The New York Times, but  no one mentioned the growing problem of swelling museum collections.

The archeological material the Brooklyn Museum wishes to return came from Minor Keith, the man who built Costa Rica's Atlantic railway and pioneered banana plantations.

Most of the artifacts that came to the Brooklyn Museum in 1934 do not have what scientists value the most: a precise history and precise record of the point of discovery. These are the key elements that help researchers flesh out an ancient culture.

Of course, some pots, drinking vessels and grinding stones contain small fragments of what they contained or milled. This can be valuable to scientists. A study released over the weekend said that a close study of Neanderthal teeth gave evidence that the culture had a varied diet that was not restricted to just meat.

After discovering starch granules from plant food trapped in the dental calculus on 40,000-year-old teeth, the scientists said they believe that Neanderthals ate a wide variety of plants and included cooked grains as part of a more sophisticated, diverse diet similar to early modern humans. The researchers came from George Washington University and the Smithsonian Institution.

Some scientists had speculated that the Neanderthal became extinct because they suffered dietary deficiency, something that was contradicted by the new study.

Fortunately for researchers, they know exactly from where the ancient teeth originated, and future research might relate to the geography.

Not so with many of the stone balls that was the hallmark of prehistoric Costa Rica. After the balls began to be discovered in the 1940s many were transported as trophies to the gardens of upscale Costa Rican homes. There even is one on the lawn of the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

This makes archeologists wince. Says John Hoopes, the University of Kansas expert on Costa Rica's stone balls: "Whatever 'mystery' exists has more to do with loss of information due to the destruction of the balls and their archaeological contexts than lost continents, ancient astronauts, or transoceanic voyages."

Hoopes reports that when the first major study of the balls took place in the 1950s, at least 50 of the objects were in situ, in the place where the prehistoric makers left them. Today only a handful are untouched, he said.

The Museo Nacional in San José has a collection of such balls, but they are more like art objects instead of artifacts to be studied. If Central Valley residents all surrendered their stone balls the museum would be faced with a major storage problem of artifacts that would have minimal research value. A plan exists to move some of the balls to a proposed national park in Palmar Norte. The object would at least have tourist value.

That might not be the case with the Brooklyn Museum holdings. The New York museum plans to keep the best of the lot. The remainder likely would end up in the Museo Nacional's storage facilities in Pavas.

What is lacking is money to pack and ship the artifacts back to Costa Rica. There likely will be fund drives.  So far there has been no detailed assessment of what  actually is being surrendered and its value.

Police make arrests
in crimes against U.S. tourists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have detained suspects in two cases involving tourists.

The first was Friday in Cahuita de Talamanca where a crook stole a strongbox from a tourist cabin.

The second was in Jacó where Fuerza Pública officers quickly nabbed suspects in two robberies, including one involving U.S. citizens.

The Fuerza Pública said that quick action by business people led to the capture of the strongbox theft suspect.

Detained was a man with the last names of Bolaños Garvia.  Allan Muñoz, the regional chief of operations for the Policía Turistica in Limón, said that a thief broke into a building that had been rented by U.S. tourists on Playa Chiquita de Cocles in Cahuita. The crook entered by a window.

The strong box contained $1,600, passports, cell phones, an iPod and other objects of value, he said. Then the crook fled to the nearby mountains.

Local sources said that eight police officers responded and located a suspect. The suspect led police into the thick jungle where the safe was recovered.

In Jacó police learned that three men robbed a woman in the vicinity of a fried chicken outlet there Thursday. As police responded they received another report that U.S. tourists had been robbed in the vicinity of the municipal building, said José Luis Sandoval of the Fuerza Pública there.

The second caller had information on the type of vehicle the robbers used, and police saw a similar car, a white Hyundai, and stopped it. Three suspects were detained. They were identified by the last names of Brenes Montano, Marín Álvarez and Espinoza Juárez.

Improved border system
to be unveiled today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials will be unveiling what they describe as a modern information system to speed up the exit and entrance of persons at the border with Nicaragua.

The event will be this morning at the Peñas Blancas offices of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. No further information was given on the system, but that particular border crossing handles a flood of individuals.

The security ministry said that more than 118,000 Nicaraguans left the country to spend holidays in their home country. The bulk came back over the weekend or will come back in the early days of this week. Immigration and the Fuerza Pública have beefed up their presence at that border crossing to help control security.

Typically individuals who are illegal in Costa Rica try to reenter the country in an informal manner. They will have it tougher this year. Due to the border conflict with Nicaragua at the Isla Calero many border areas that had minimal police presence in past years are now teeming with officers.

In addition, security officials said they were using planes and boats with additional emphasis on the northern Caribbean where illegal immigrants usually just walk across the border unhindered.

U.N. increases its efforts
to provide aid to Colombia

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.N. refugee agency is boosting its efforts to provide emergency assistance to thousands of Colombians affected by recent flooding that has been called the worst natural catastrophe in the country’s history by its leader.

According to government estimates, more than two million people have been affected by the floods, which resulted from the unusually heavy rainfall that has beset the South American nation since the middle of the year.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which runs an operation to assist more than three million people displaced by violence in Colombia, began distributing emergency aid in affected areas two weeks ago.

“We found people isolated in the hills, in places where the roads have been destroyed, and their children were hungry,” said Marlene Mesa, a high commission staff member who took part in an aid distribution in the area of Cantagallo, south of the province of Bolivar on the Caribbean Coast.

The agency noted that dozens of towns in the hard-hit north of the country remain under water. Thousands of people are living in shelters, and others have moved to less affected areas.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 1
Latigo K-9

A guest editorial
Commerical practices threaten future of sport fishing

By Ken Anderberg*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The charter boat captain was patiently filleting a large corvina when I asked him about inshore fishing. He rattled off several species likely to be caught off the coast of Playa Jacó, including roosterfish. Out of curiosity, I asked if roosterfish were edible. I had already been told they weren't but wanted an expert's opinion. The reaction was immediate and very defensive.

“We like to catch and release them,” he said emphatically. “We put it back to be caught another day.”

As a longtime proponent of catch and release, I was not surprised. What was surprising is how this one fisherman's desire to preserve the ocean's bounty flies directly in the face of Costa Rican reality. You see, two weeks earlier, I was on the fishing boat docks in Puntarenas as the morning catch came in. Here, men were doing what they and their fathers and grandfathers have been doing for generations — tapping the ocean's bounty. Except these commercial fishermen were not so much concerned with catch and release as they were with putting food on the table.

In Puntarenas, I saw boats loaded with under-sized trout, snook, redfish and a dozen other varieties of fish, some of
which would have grown into the trophy-sized tourist  attractions that the charter captain covets. These young fish are being taken out of the Costa Rican inshore waters and mangrove areas (where they are born and grow to maturity) in such volumes as to potentially have serious long-term detrimental effects on the fishery.

An example of such overfishing occurred in the United States two decades ago when redfish (red drum) became a restaurant favorite. Pretty soon, commercial fishermen almost wiped out the population. Finally, redfish were protected from commercial fishing and the population has recovered – and charter boat captains are glad to see large, and numerous, redfish for their customers to fight.

In the U.S. Gulf Coast, fishermen are not allowed to kill any redfish under 18 inches. Sea trout are also protected, as are snook, in order to ensure their numbers as adolescents will result in suitable numbers of adults for further reproduction.

In Costa Rica, however, the need for food overwhelms the need to protect fishery resources. The end result will be that charter boat captains will begin to see fewer large fish in the open seas.

 * Mr. Anderberg lives in Jacó.

A.M. Costa Rica reports 2010 readership increase of 5.9%
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This online daily newspaper hosted 3.6 million Internet visitors in 2010, according to an independent statistical program.

Despite the financial crisis and other problems that have affected world interest in Costa Rica, Internet readers were up 5.9 percent in 2010.

The statistics come from, a service based in Europe that measures every time an Internet visitor opens a page on the A.M. Costa Rica server. The action triggers a small code that is embedded in the page.

Both figures are slightly lower than the actual number of visits because A.M. Costa Rica subscribed to Statcounter only two years ago, so many editions that are searched and read from the 10-year-old archives were not counted.

Despite the increased number of visitors, the number of pages delivered declined. In 2010, the newspaper served up 9.4 million pages to visitors. That was less than the 10.4 million pages served in 2009, based on the statistical program.

The newspaper achieved an increase in readers even as traditional printed newspapers are experiencing a drop in readership.

There was more bad news for print papers over the holidays as an industry source said that newsprint would  
go up from 25 to 30 percent in 2011. The price of paper is reflected in the cost of advertising and newsstand prices. Already advertisers are paying up to 70 percent for the paper on which their ads are printed.

Advertisers generally find that the instant delivery, free color and interactivity of online ads increases customer responses. However, some recent studies report that some readers disregard online advertising unless it is creative and targeted to their interests.

A.M. Costa Rica continues to be in the top 100,000 most-visited Web sites in the world, according to Alexa, a monitoring service operated by Alexa usually places the online daily between 73,000th and 78,000th place in world ranking. U.S. and Canadian rankings are higher and the Costa Rican estimates says the newspaper is in 91st place in readership in this country.

Alexa results are not scientific because they are based on electronic reports from a toolbar Internet users self-install on their Web browser. Consequently the numbers can be subject to manipulation. However, the numbers do provide a broad indication. No other English-language Costa Rican news source is in the top 100,000.

A new U.S. survey reports that the average individual spends as much time online as watching television, but that includes time spent with social-networking sites like Facebook. That statistic probably is lower for Internet use in Costa Rica, but over the holidays Facebook confirmed that the country has at least a million users here.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 1

Readers respond pro and con to criticism of country

EDITOR'S NOTE: All of the following relate in some way to a letter written by Tom Colborn of Alajuela and published Thursday. The letter is HERE!

Paradise is not external

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is in response to the scorching article by Tom Colborn Thursday.

Paradise is not external.  I believe we create our own paradise by how we choose to see our surroundings  – and I would argue that Costa Rica has quite a lot going for it – in its beauty, people and comfortable climate.  I am pretty sure that you, Mr. Colborn, would have a difficult time finding paradise anywhere.  Clearly you hate everything about Costa Rica and I just have one question.  Why are you here?  Just go back to the United States – and see if you can create your paradise there.

Jan Hart,
San Isidro de El General

Can he return to States?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Mr. Colborn would live in such a place as he describes. Is he being forced to live under such conditions, or is there some reason he cannot return to the United States?

Tony Waddell

He appreciates letter

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks for printing Tom Colborn´s letter. I appreciate you having the integrity to show this side of things. It ain´t pretty, but it needs to be told.

Hari Singh Khalsa

No one is forcing him

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With reference to the article written by Tom Colborn.  I do not know the gentleman, and, certainly understand and respect his right to speak what is on his mind.  What he must also realize that there are certain freedoms that he has.  I agree, there are many problems in Costa Rica, but, he also has the freedom to pickup and move!  It is a short trip to Panamá, Nicaragua, Belize or the United States.  If you are in an unhappy marriage, you can get a divorce.  If you are not happy in Costa Rica, no one is standing there with their fingers on a trigger forcing you to stay.  Personally, I am glad my pensionado application is filed, and cannot wait to make my move to Costa Rica.
Bruce Jacobs
Park Ridge, New Jersey

Right on, Tom

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
He tells it like is. Right on, Tom.
Bob Woodrow

We have to face reality

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr Colborn's article regarding Pura Vida screams for comment.  Although it was a bit of overkill, underneath it all, there are excellent points.  I have lived in Costa Rica, and a lot of what he said is what drove me out.  I have since realized no place is perfect.  Costa Rica definitely has its weather, beauty and wonderful people that draws one to live there.  I keep thinking I want to come back,

But, this article and others I read in A.M. Costa Rica force me to face reality.  Your article of all the sewage going into the rivers and eventually to the alligator bay and the post office new requirement of searching your outgoing mail are other confirmations of why I left. 

The straw that broke my back is the overkill on some of their issues like check through to a flight. 

My last visit in August, was the final blow.  I am 77 years old, well groomed and educated. Nothing against any of the other passengers, but why am I always singled out???  After the very efficient screening going to the gate, you are just beginning.  I was impressed with their new system and it was very well organized.  What totally upset me was, as I was going through the gate giving my boarding pass and headed for the gangway, I am flagged out for checking, AGAIN! 

Full body search, removal of shoes, everything in my pockets and spread eagle for scanning.  Went through my carry on and found my five-ounce can of jalapeno pieces, and they decided this was definitely dangerous!  They made me check my carry-on bag, and I had to grab my passport, tickets and other paperwork to carry loose. 

There is no discretion allowed, and they are smothered with blinders.  The additional tables of agents checking baggage as they enter the plane is absolutely ridiculous, at that stage!!  Yet, on the other side they have all the crime that they cannot seem to control or do anything about.  I will not go into the other stories such as punctured tires on rental cars to assist in robbery on down the road.  This has been going on for the 17 years I have been going to and living in  Costa Rica.

One can always find fault, but I think most of the criticism of Costa Rica comes from people who sincerely love the country and want to live there, but the culture will not let them do that comfortably.  I think I will always want to return, but all this harassment will keep me from doing it.  Makes me sad.  

Ralph Simonson
Leesburg, Florida

Embrace Tico culture

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Responding to the most negative comments, I believe, I have ever read in A.M. Costa Rica:  My question to Tom Colborn, Why the hell are you still here? The same airplane can take you back to the U.S. on any given day.

Yes, I absolutely call Costa Rica paradise.  I’ve lived here almost four years. Every  morning I wake up to the sounds of parrots, the river rushing and the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.  The people here are very nice.  Of course, we have met a few rude people, but rudeness is worldwide. 

No country is like Emerald City.  Too many people come to this country and want to change it.  They want to come here and exploit the low wage labor and low cost of living.  They come here and don’t understand that cultures are different.  Embrace the culture of Costa Rica, the importance of family and friends, and not stressing out over the little things.  I see many Americans here frustrated because, “it’s not like that in the States.”  “In the States, the people are more professional.”  “In the States things get done faster and better.” “In the States…” blah, blah, blah.  

When you are a guest in someone’s house, you follow their rules.  Anything less is just rude and arrogant, not to mention, it doesn’t do the rest of us, who are guests, any favors.

I hear the jake brakes, the car alarms, loud motorcycles, and such.  When I do, I remember a friend’s advice when I first moved here. He said, “The first words you need to know here is "Asi es.” Believe me, knowing those words and accepting those words helped me tremendously adjusting to the cultural differences.

My message to Tom is two parts.  First, change your attitude.  No one, in any country, likes a person with a negative attitude or one who presents himself as superior.  And second, change your location.  There are other sounds in Costa Rica – monkeys, macaws, parrots, oceans, rivers and waterfalls.  Costa Rica is no different than other countries.  All countries have their areas of crime, noise and traffic.  You choose to live where you are.  Stop being the lazy hound dog lying on the front porch whining about the nail sticking him in the ribs.  Get up, and move.

Pamela Cohen
I am rewarded every day

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am amused at Tom Colborn's rant and wonder why he doesn't book the first flight out of the country.  I've lived here for 16 years; have never been assaulted or robbed, never had police dogs going through my car, never seen police with their guns drawn.  I do not have bars on my windows, a guard dog, or anything with the exception of a house alarm that has never gone off.  I have been stopped on the road, but after showing my documents, I'm back on my way without incident.
Of course, maybe  I just had the good luck of building in a small pueblo where the neighbors are exemplary, and I feel I do live in paradise.  Two examples:  After building my house and contractor returned $1,500 saying he overestimated costs. Secondly, I had a botched surgery in the U.S. and a neighbor took me to a specialist here twice a week, for six weeks, and I fully recovered.  And now at Christmas many neighbors show up at my door bringing tamales, which I devour with gusto.
The roads are bad, Ticos are animals behind the wheel, but I can live with those minor problems.  I lead a quiet life, don't bother anyone, and don't fret about the little things.  I don't regret a day since I left Colorado in 1986, and I am rewarded every day with the kindness of my neighbors, content knowing we don't have an army, and are not seeing our young men and women being killed every day in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I won't tell you where I found my paradise, cause I don't think I would want you as a neighbor.  You sound like a bitter, angry old man who probably will never be satisfied.
Daniel Forster 

You have to learn Spanish.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I like letters like this. It’s obvious Mr. Colborn is very unhappy here and will probably either leave for another country or return to his own. One less expat living in Costa Rica who does nothing but complain about everything. I guess I’m deaf, dumb, and blind because Costa Rica has been very good to me. I’m a white guy (Irish descent) and have received nothing but respect and friendship from all Ticos and Ticas, including the police. I live in San José (no, not in Escazú or Santa Ana), I’ve been earning a paycheck since I received residency in the 1990s. I ride the bus like everyone else, walk thru San José centro, drive my car (I’ve accepted the fact that owning a car here is expensive).  The noise doesn’t bother me, it’s all part of living in San José.

I’ve never been robbed, assaulted, or had any place where I've lived broken into. I hope (like everyone living in any city) that it never happens.  I have razor wire and an electric fence in my backyard. This is common in all countries in Latin America, again part of life that one must accept.

People come here, spend their time in a 4-star hotel where everyone speaks English and think that this is paradise. They move here without learning the language or making good connections, then find out that life is very different than when vacationing here.

If you’re going to live here you have to learn to speak Spanish. Not just the menu at Taco Bell, I’m talking about really learning to speak and understand the language, and you have to make connections with the locals. Not the English-speaking ones whose goal is to remove as much money from you as possible. I’m talking about the real Ticos and Ticas who are great people and welcome any foreigner who brings a smile and not some attitude problem. Some are bilingual, many are not.  They will help you with everything.

People who can’t accept the life here should go somewhere else. Life is too short to be unhappy. Me, I’m staying as long as God permits.

Stuart Dunbar

Just make the country better

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm laughing so hard that it's difficult for me to write this response to Tom Colburn's denouncing of Costa Rica. It's just another example of a disgruntled Gringo looking for something for nothing from this country while at the same time contributing nothing to make it better.

Mr. Colborn obviously thinks that the money he spends here, on himself of course, makes him privileged. I doubt whether he has a single Tico friend. There are far too many ex-Gringos here, who couldn't make it in the States and think they can make a killing and/or live like kings here,but on the cheap of course. 

They delight in underpaying workers.  I overheard a Gringa bragging to her friends that she pays her "maid" $35/week — for eight hours/day, five days/week.!! How disgusting.  

Since I arrived here, almost seven years ago, I have involved myself in helping make this a better country rather than complaining about what's obviously wrong with it and doing nothing. When my local police need a car or moto fixed, they come to me and others like me.

When the need for a day-care center or medical clinic arises, my good friend Gail Nystrom, Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation, and I, along with a few good Gringos, get it done.

What do you do to make the country better, Mr. Colborn? When a neighbor had a problem with an alarm, I simply went over and talked with him. Problem solved. I have every need taken care of, from an expert mechanic fixing my cars in my driveway to an incredible gardner/ handyman who can do everything. I get service and loyalty far and away better than i ever had in the States.   Why? Because i pay them extremely well and always treat them with respect.

Of course the government is corrupt. What country's government isn't? That's why so many want government jobs where they can do nothing and get paid, It's welfare called "work." As far as the police are concerned, they are paid chump-change, not enough to support a family, while other government employees are paid for doing nothing.

How much of a risk-taking cop would you be for $500/month? You see, I also do not excuse greedy, rich Ticos and their greedy government-leader friends for their attitude, wanting to maintain the feudal system, handing down businesses, land and wealth to their lazy offspring for generations without having to pay an inheritance tax, little or no income taxes, and paying their workers slave wages.

Gee, how different is that from the States and most other countries anyway?

So, good luck in your next country, Mr. Colborn. I think we can squeak by without you.    
Barry Schwartz  

Another paperwork tragedy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica;
Just to alert you to yet another example of the gross incompetence with which this country operates:
We imported a car from Canada in July and dutifully paid all the taxes, got the marchamo and riteve, etc. Upon going to get the marchamo renewed for 2011, we are now being advised that they have no record of it being registered! We paid all the import taxes and duties, and we have all the receipts and the stickers, etc.
The explanation we are now being given is that it was registered near to closing time back in July and the clerk who did so probably forgot to enter in all the information as it was late in the day and they were hurrying to shut down and leave.
Suzanne Brazao

Are all Latin lands the same?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks to Tom Colborn for telling it like it is regarding life in Costa Rica, and thanks to A.M. Costa Rica for publishing his viewpoint. I can hardly wait for the response letters saying "Love it or leave it" from the crowd that has their blinders firmly in place. My question is, aren't all countries south of the U.S. border about the same? All the way down to Tierra del Fuego??? It's a question not a statement of fact.

Daryl Hartman

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 1

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Airport pat downs offend
those of certain faiths

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Many religious people — including Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sikhs — are upset about the increasingly invasive security procedures at American airports. Although some are refusing to fly, others say they have no option but to endure the full body scans and frisking.

The departure terminal at Washington DC's Dulles International Airport teems with people from many lands and cultures.

Lila al-Hayek is about to travel back to Saudi Arabia with her family, but she seems worried. Her entire body except for her eyes is concealed by a niqab, the black veil worn by woman in her country.  "We went like three or four weeks ago to (Las) Vegas and someone chose us to pat down."

"And this was two different flights," said Jenan Sharrofna, a friend of the family who also went on the trip to Las Vegas. She believes she was selected for the full body frisking known as a pat down, because she wears a hijab, another kind of headscarf that leaves only her face visible. "They say it's random. But I went with my sister and we both had to go through that security and we didn't want it, we didn't like it."

Since a failed attempt to bomb an airplane a year ago in Detroit, Michigan, by a Nigerian man who hid explosives in his underwear, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has installed full-body scanners at scores of airports across the country, including Dulles.

The administration says anyone who refuses to go through one will be subject to alternative measures — including pat downs by someone of the same sex. The agency says less than 3 percent of travelers receive a pat down.

But Ameena Qazi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says some groups are singled out. "We are deeply concerned that there is some sort of profiling going on in regard to women who wear the scarf, the headscarf, or Sikh men who wear the turban, in their constant and almost 100 percent hit rate in their being referred to secondary screening," she said.

The Transportation Security Administration declined an interview for this story.  But an official did say that while the agency does not racially profile passengers, it does implement security measures based on intelligence and current threats.

In a written statement, the Transportation Security Administration said its agents are sensitive to religious and cultural needs of passengers, and are trained to treat each passenger with respect and dignity.

Hardayal Singh is the director of international and community affairs for United Sikhs. He says the turban is a source of pride for Sikh men and yet he has heard many complaints about the behavior of Transportation Security Administration agents. "A turban can be touched only by yourself, but it's at your will and only when you want to be touched not that someone is dictating to you that 'I want you to touch the turban now,'" he said.

Other religious groups including conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews have expressed concerns about the body scans — which have been likened to a digital strip search.

Rabbi Saul Zucker of the Orthodox Union says a pat down can violate the Jewish principle of tzniut, or modesty, even if it is carried out by a member of the same gender. "An extensive pat down, a whole body pat down itself, is something that lacks a certain dignity and propriety and modesty, and particularly if the procedure itself is visible to other people, because these things are not always 100 percent private. I do a lot of air travel myself and I know this — it's uncomfortable, it's undignified and again it's an issue of modesty," he said.

Back at Dulles airport, al-Hayek's family recalls that she was in tears over the pat down, which caused them to miss their flight to Las Vegas.

Still, Sharrofna says her displeasure with the procedure will not keep her from flying. "I want to travel the world. I want to see places. So I don't see why it has to be me and not the lady without a scarf next to me or behind me," she said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 1

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New president of Brazil
vows to honor women

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A freedom fighter who was tortured by her country's dictatorship has become the first female president of Brazil.

Thousands of people lined the streets of the capital, Brasilia, despite heavy rains to cheer Dilma Rousseff as she made her way to her historical inauguration ceremony Saturday in a Rolls Royce, flanked by an all-female security team.

The 63-year-old Ms. Rousseff said her presidency marks the beginning of a new era. She vowed to honor women and protect the most fragile, but said she will govern for all.

The new Brazilian head of state — the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant — joined a leftist guerrilla group in the 1960s that resisted Brazil's military dictatorship of that era.  She was imprisoned for three years, during which she said she was tortured. 

President Rousseff inherits the presidency from Luiz Inacio da Silva, her political mentor who used his enormous popularity to help propel her to Brazil's highest office.

Upon Ms. Rousseff's release from prison in the early 1970s, she continued her political path and eventually joined da Silva's Worker's Party.

He hands over a nation on the rise.  Under his leadership, Brazil emerged as one of the world's major economies.  It is estimated that 30 million people joined the middle class during his 8-year presidency.

During her speech Saturday, Ms. Rousseff promised to continue da Silva's legacy, while also working to reform Brazil's complex tax system and address other challenges.

Ms. Rousseff will lead Brazil as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016.

Earthquake jolts Chile
but little damage reported

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake has shaken central Chile, but there are no reports of casualties or serious damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey says Sunday's quake was centered in the Pacific Ocean, about 70 kilometers northwest of the town of Temuco, in Chile's Araucania region.

Officials say thousands of panicked residents, remembering last year's 8.8 magnitude quake, fled for higher ground, fearing a possible tsunami.

Sunday's quake also knocked out electricity and telephone service to parts of the region.

The 8.8 quake in Araucania last Feb. 27 triggered a tsunami and killed more than 500 people.

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