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(506) 223-1327            Published Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 3             E-mail us    
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New weather Web page can even speak some English
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, the unit of the government responsible for Costa Rican weather and climate reports, relaunched a new Web site Wednesday,  The site is now available in both English and Spanish.

The new site features better graphics, tables, graphs, satellite and weather images, and an overall improvement in content, said officials. The new design was up briefly last year, but workers took it down for technical reasons.

The layout is certainly better designed, and the Web site has more easy to find options than the older version that has endured for years.  Forecasts now come in regional as well as per-city representations which are easy to understand.  The site is hosting a large amount of graphic and background content which seems to slow it down quite a bit, but is likely worth it for anyone using the site for research.

The Spanish version seems to be well developed, with only a couple links still under construction.  The  English version, however, does not appear to be finished. There are many

The new Web site

broken links on the page, and others simply lead to Spanish content pages that have not yet been translated. 

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, founded in 1888, is a division of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the energy and environment ministry.  Other responsibilities of the department include air navigation security, studies of water consumption, irrigation and hydroelectric energy production, as well as research in the areas of air pollution, climate change and ocean/atmospheric interaction.




San José street painter says he's been doing the work for 50 years

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Sallas and his painting on glass
 By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who goes only by the name Sallas said that he has been painting in the streets of Costa Rica for over 50 years. Probably every visitor to the capital has seen him.

Sallas uses a method of oil-based paint on glass to produce classic Costa Rican scenery, pictures that he said are the most attractive to passers-by. 

He said he learned this method of painting from his grandfather when he was just a child.  While there is generally a mix of clientel, Sallas said that most of his business comes from tourists looking to bring home some authentic Costa Rican art. 

His paintings generally cost around $10, and he sells anywhere between zero and 10 a day.  One painting takes him around 20 minutes to complete.

Sallas can be found sitting on his bucket working away in the streets of San Jose,  usually on or near Avenida Central. 



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 3  

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Happy inflation news
collides with pay raises


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration is gleeful that the estimated inflation in Costa Rica for 2006 was just 9.43 percent instead of the 14 percent of the year before.

But for employers, even those with just household help, minimum salaries went up Jan. 1. For more the full effect will not be felt until Jan. 16, which is pay day.

Workers for private companies got a 4.95 percent raise. Public employees got a flat 4 percent raise decreed by the government.

Since many employees here work at the government mandated minimums, the increases mean a real hike in salaries.

The Ministerio de Trabajo maintains a list of occupations and their minimum wages on its Web site.


Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia, said Wednesday that the lower inflation rate was a direct benefit to the Costa Rican people and that bank interests will be reduced for home purchases.

What the government has not stressed is that the depreciation of the colon was just 4.1 percent in 2006. The rate was 495.65 colons to the U.S. dollar on Jan. 1, 2006. This year the rate was 515.84, according to the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

Of course, the figures can be distorted by the new way the central bank is listing the exchange rate and because the U.S. dollar also has depreciated.

Education ministry figure
quits over ethics lapse


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José Lino Rodríguez, the education vice minister whose wife got four raises in a single day, has left the Arias administration.

His departure was announced Wednesday at the same time that an ethics board ruled he had violated the administration's code. He also had hired his brother as a driver.

Rodríguez, a retired teacher, helped develop the educational strategies of the Óscar Arias presidential campaign. His wife has been returned to the ministry office job she held before being shuffled around. That goal appears to have been to get her a teaching job in Heredia where they live. To achieve that she held a teaching appointment in Paquera for a day.

Campground owner dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Sámara camping ground owner died when he was stabbed multiple times during an argument in the Nicoya Peninsula beach town Tuesday. He was José Fulvio Jirón López. He was well-know to tourists. Police are seeking his killer.

A.M. Costa Rica
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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.

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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.

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Professional Directory
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.

Real estate agents and services

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 3     






Video game lets researchers fly with ancient Costa Ricans
By the University of Colorado News Service

Satellite imagery meshed with video-game technology is allowing University of Colorado at Boulder and NASA researchers to virtually fly along footpaths used by Central Americans 2,000 years ago on spiritual pilgrimages to ancestral cemeteries.

The effort has allowed researchers to trace the movements of ancient people in the Arenal region of present-day Costa Rica, who used single-file paths to navigate rugged terrain between small villages and cemeteries over the centuries, said CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets. The repeated use of the footpaths caused erosion resulting in narrow trenches in the landscape up to 10 feet deep.

The routes, discovered via satellite images and have been well publicized.

The evidence now indicates people re-used the same processional routes for more than 1,000 years, returning to them despite periodic abandonment of villages caused by recurring violent eruptions of the nearby Arenal Volcano, Sheets said. He gave a presentation on the subject at the Second International Conference on Remote Sensing in Archaeology held in Rome last month

The researchers have traced one processional path from a village on the Caribbean side of northern Costa Rica over the Continental Divide to a cemetery about 10 miles away using infrared satellite images that indicated characteristic signatures of plant growth, he said. The eroded footpaths — some invisible to observers on the ground — collect water that stimulates increased root growth in the vegetation that appears in the images as reddish lines, said Sheets.

"This project has been a huge surprise," said Sheets. "Modern technology has allowed for the discovery and study of 2,000-year-old footpaths in the tropics where the ground is covered by thick vegetation and multiple layers of ash from prehistoric volcanic eruptions."

Software originally developed for video games lets the researchers fly along the footpaths at various altitudes, directions and tilt angles and zoom in on particular landscape features, said Sheets. The team has been able to pinpoint sources of stone used to construct elaborate graves and to confirm springs used for water during ritualistic feasting ceremonies at the cemeteries that lasted for days on end.

"We now know some villages adapted to volcanic eruptions at least four times, retracing the same footpaths to their cemeteries," he said. "We would never have known this without the imagery, and it indicates to me they had a deep need to contact and re-contact spirits of dead ancestors by attempting to access the supernatural."

Sheets has been collaborating with NASA archaeologist Tom Sever — who earned his doctorate in anthropology at CU-Boulder in 1990 — as well as a number of CU-Boulder undergraduate and graduate students during the past several years. The project has been supported primarily by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Images of the footpaths were made by various NASA satellites and aircraft and by a commercial satellite known as IKONOS. Built by Space Imaging of Denver, IKONOS has a resolution of less than one meter and is equipped with infrared sensors that can peer through deep jungle foliage. The team used computer software known as TerraBuilder, a 3-D terrain construction application created by Skyline Software Corp. of Reston, Va., and provided free to the researchers, Sheets said.

The footpaths lead from villages occupied from roughly 500 B.C. to 600 A.D to dozens of small cemeteries in the

Photo by Payson Sheets
A researcher retraces an ancient Costa Rican footpath under study by CU-Boulder and NASA researchers using satellite and video-game technology.

region, where archaeological evidence indicates visitors cooked, ate, drank, slept and ritually smashed pots on the stone slab-covered graves to commemorate the deceased, he said.

The 3-D visualization project allows users to experience the viewpoint of villagers as they strode out of narrow, subterranean footpaths into the graveyards, a process he likened to "emerging from a tunnel," he said. Subsequently, more complex prehistoric cultures in the region took the concept a step further by developing massive, sunken pathways with entryways wider than soccer fields that connected satellite communities with regional centers as a way to "magnify monumentality," he said.

"Architecture, economics and political structure have traditionally been the brick and mortar of archaeologists," said Sheets. "But here we are using sophisticated technology to probe religion and cosmology of an ancient people, and have found the spiritual aspects of the paths were more important than their practical aspects."

While prehistoric volcanic eruptions in Mesoamerica caused huge social disruption in highly structured societies like the Maya and Aztec, simpler societies like those in the Arenal region were much more resilient, Sheets said. Low population densities, refuge areas safe from volcanic activity, a reliance on wild food and a family and village-level political system rather than a highly centralized authority probably helped ensure their survival, he said.

The footpaths leading to the cemeteries seem to have been viewed by the ancient villagers as living entities and may have been a primary reason they reoccupied the same villages time after time following devastating eruptions of Arenal, said Sheets.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 3         




U.S. intelligence chief Negroponte getting No. 2 job at State
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

John Negroponte, the man U.S. and Latin liberals love to hate, has resigned his post to become deputy secretary of State. He had been U.S. national intelligence director.

From the Contra wars in the 1980s when he was U.S. ambassador to Honduras to recently predicting Fidel Castro's imminent death, Negroponte has been outspoken against those who might be critical of the United States.

He has agreed to return to the U.S. State Department to be No. 2 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the last two years of the George Bush administration.

Negroponte became the first director of national intelligence in 2005. The post oversees all U.S. federal intelligence agencies. He had been expected to remain in that post until the end of the Bush presidency in 2008.
The position of deputy secretary of State has been vacant six months since Robert Zoellick left to join a New York investment bank.

In August Negroponte, who speaks Spanish, created a new position to lead U.S. intelligence efforts regarding Cuba and Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chávez, is an outspoken critic of U.S. leadership.

In Honduras Negroponte faced criticism that he turned a blind eye to the CIA-trained death squads that were active then. He also worked with William Casey, then-CIA director in the Ronald Reagan administration, to wage the Contra war against the Sandinista regime in adjacent Nicaragua.

Negroponte also was U.S. ambassador to México in 1989 to 1993, U.S. ambassador to The Philippines from 1993 to 1996, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2001 to 2004 and U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004 and 2005.


British meteorologists predict that 2007 will be warmest year on record
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

British meteorologists say that 2007 is likely to be the hottest year on record worldwide.

Britain's Meteorological Office today said that a combination of global warming and the climatic phenomenon known as El Niño will make the next 12 months exceptionally warm.

El Niño is an occasional warming of the Pacific Ocean which has an effect on weather worldwide. The last El Niño made 1998 the warmest year on record.
Meteorologists predict this year could be warmer than 1998.

Weather experts fear that the predicted weather conditions could spark such anomalies as droughts in tropical countries and deluges in areas with dry climates. Many European ski resorts had to postpone their ski season this winter due to  warm weather. Much of the American Midwest and East Coast is also going through an unusually warm winter.

Typically El Niño reduces rainfall in the already dry northwestern Costa Rica and in the northern zone by as much as 30 percent.


Argentina unhappy because Britain will not negotiate fate of Falkland Islands
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Argentina has issued a statement reasserting its claim to the British-controlled Falkland Islands.

The statement from the government came late Tuesday. It said it is incomprehensible that Britain refuses to discuss the islands, known in Argentina as "the Malvinas," despite urging by the United Nations to renew negotiations
Wednesday is the anniversary of the day Britain took control of the islands from Argentina in 1833. The two countries fought a two-month war over the territory in 1982. The two governments re-established diplomatic relations in 1990.

Argentine president Nestor Kirchner made a similar statement last year, saying the nation's claim to the islands is a permanent objective.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 3     


Quiznos race driver reports a bumpy but successful year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Race car driver Richard Eisenberg, pilot of the #3 Quiznos Lotus Exige, won the GT3 Central America Championship, and finished second in the Costa Rica National Championship, after a season filled with roadblocks.

The Quiznos team's first challenge of 2006 was during the inaugural race of the season, when the newly aquired Lotus Exige was not released from Costa Rican customs in time for the race.  Instead, the team raced their older Toyota Yaris in the faster GT3 class in order to gain driver points.

The Lotus Exige was released just days before the second race, but not in time to change it from a street-legal car to  normal race conditions.  The team was forced to race the car 300 pounds over the regular weight because of extra parts such as the passenger seat.  Eisenberg, racing the street-legal car, was still able to capture second place against all of the race-ready cars.
The Quiznos team made some mid-season line up changes and joined forces with the Toyota Racing Team, who they battled for the rest of the season. 

For the sixth race, Javier Quiros, one of Costa Rica's better known race car drivers, joined Eisenberg as co-pilot and the two went on to take three first place finishes.

Throughout the remainder of the races, the Quizno team's crew had to borrow a gear box after complications with their own, fix damages caused by a crash during a trial-run, and replace a broken shock and lost tire during the final race.

After all of the trials and tribulations, the team still managed a third place finish in the final race, which moved them into a three-way leadership tie for the year.  Because of prior finishes, they were crowned sub-champions of the Costa Rica National Championship and Central American Champions for GT3 class, said Eisenberg.


Seeded players continue to advance in the Copa de Cafe matches in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The top-seeded players are having little trouble advancing in the Copa de Cafe tennis tournament.

The No. 1 girl's seed, Julia Cohen of the United States, beat Valeriya Solovieva of Russia Wednesday 7-5, 6-3.

The No. 2 seed Anastasia Pivovarona won her match, too. It was against Chen Astrugo of Israel. The match went to three sets, but Ms. Pivovarona prevailed 6-0, 1-6 and 6-3.
Seven of the eight women who are in the quarterfinal round at the Costa Rican Country Club in Escazú are seeded players.

That seems to be the situation on the boy's side, too. With one match still being played Wednesday night, five of the seven quarterfinal players are seeded. The favorite, the No. 1 seed, is Fernando Rombli of Brazil.

The matches go until Saturday. The tournament is for young tennis players under 18.



Sporting Event Needs Assistance
FlagMag.com Flag Football magazine will be hosting an International Flag Football Tournament, Jan. 26-29th in Santa Ana. Men and women teams from Canada, U.S.A., Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras and Panamá will take part. We are seeking host families and volunteers for the event. Anyone interested, please contact
Jim Zimolka at 506-336-3437 or e-mail at JimZimolka@Flagmag.com



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