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(506) 2223-1327             Published Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, in Vol. 10, No. 4         E-mail us
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Scientists had an idea that something was coming
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials may have had indications that the Volcán Turrialba was about to make a geological statement, but they have little data to predict what will happen now.

That was the admission Wednesday by Rolando Mora, director of the Escuela de Geología of the Universidad de Costa Rica. He told officials at the emergency operation center in Cartago that it is difficult to make predications based on the evidence provided so far. He said that equally difficult would be to predict the short-term behavior of the volcano or the time that the emissions of ashes will continue.

The national emergency commission said it has raised the alert level one step to yellow in the cantons of Turrialba, Alvarado and Oreamuno. The heaviest rain of ash is reported in Santa Cruz de Turrialba and in Alvarado and Oreamuno, the commission said. However, the emissions from the volcano are being blown to the southwest toward the city of Cartago and into the province of San José, mainly into Desamparados and San Pedro de Montes de Oca.

A green preventative alert continued Wednesday in Cartago centro, Paraiso, La Unión, Desamparados, Goicoechea, Coronado, Moravia, Montes de Oca, Tibás, Curridabat and the central canton of San José province, said the commission.

Readers in Curridabat said by e-mail Wednesday that they were experiencing a dusting of ash. In some places the ash mixed with light rain to create a type of mud.

Evacuations already have taken place in El Retiro where 19 persons have been moved, La Esperanza with 12 persons, La Central with six persons and La Silvia with four persons, the commission said. Some ended up in the community center in Santa Cruz. The rest moved in with family members in Paraiso or Pacayas.

Meanwhile, the national emergency commission is setting up 12 more centers for possible evacuees.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is reinforcing its personnel at Hospital William Allen and the local clinics in anticipation of more cases of respiratory problems brought about by the ash in the air. Hospital workers also were
tremors in advance
Experts knew something was coming when they measured this activity at the volcano Monday.


reported to be taking steps to safeguard equipment from the ash.

The concern extends to animals. The Sistema Nacional de Salud de Animal said that there are 123 dairy farms and about 4,000 milk cows within a five kilometer radius of the volcano.

"This situation did not take us by surprise," said Javier Flores Galarza, minister of Agricultura y Ganadería. He noted that agricultural officials had conducted exercises since November to handle such situations. Two specialists were in the area Wednesday taking samples of the ash and to evaluate the possible impact on pasture land and crops.

The three exercises were prompted by an increase in activity by the volcano starting in November, the ministry said. Among other actions, the ministry workers took a census of animals.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica of the Universidad Nacional in Heredia said that the 2:28 p.m. initial eruption of the volcano Tuesday followed a significant increase in seismic activity in the mountain since Monday. The geologists had been measuring low-level quakes since December, they said Wednesday.  Both the observatory and the Red Sismológica Nacional of the Universidad de Costa Rica monitor activity in the mountain with remote sensing stations. Now both have experts at the site.


Where a new plume of ash goes depends on height
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The distribution of volcanic ash depends on the height of the eruption plume, according to experts who study the topic at the University of Alaska branch.

As balloonist know, the wind blows in different directions at various altitudes. The university branch, which is located in Fairbanks, has a computer program and Web pages dedicated to estimating the dispersion of ashes from volcanos. Alaska also has a number of active volcanoes.

For Turrialba, the experts at the university's Alaska Volcano Observatory say that an eruption that shoots skyward up to 8 kms or about 26,000 feet will head west, dumping ash on the Central Valley and points beyond. The ash cloud will pass over the Nicoya peninsula and then out to sea.

With a column of ash higher than that, the prevailing winds carry the ash cloud in two directions. The plume spreads east and west with
disperson graphic
University of Alaska graphic
University ash distribution estimate with a plume height of 14 kms or 46,000 feet. Red and yellow dots are particles at higher altitudes. Blue and light blue are lower.


the higher parts of the ash column headed east over Matina and into the Caribbean Sea. Then the cloud hanging in the air moves north over Costa Rica and into Nicaragua.

A plume height of up to 16 kms (52,500) feet is possible with the same distribution both east and west. The volume, of course would be greater.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 4

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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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Notary agency independent
under new legal setup


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dirección Nacional de Notariado is becoming independent of the judiciary. A law to that effect soon will be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper putting the changes into effect.

Instead of the judiciary, the agency that supervises notaries will be managed by a new Consejo Superior Notarial, which will have members appointed by the Consejo de Gobierno, the president's cabinet.

The current situation will continue until Jan. 18, the expected date that the new law will go into effect, said a spokesman for the Poder Judicial.

The independent agency will be self-supporting through the various tax stamps that are required on official documents.

Notaries have much more power in Costa Rica than in the northern part of the hemisphere. Each has to be a lawyer who has taken months of additional classes and training. Property deeds in Costa Rica do not bear the signature of the seller. Instead, a statement of the transfer signed by the notary is placed in the Registro Nacional.

The Sala IV constitutional court ruled the notary agency's relationship with the judicial unconstitutional in 2006 and gave the legislature three years to make other arrangements. Several government ministries wanted to assume the agency. One was the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz.

The notary agency has been a hotbed of fraud. Because of the way property ownership is listed, a crooked notary can change the ownership of just about any property. Notary submissions are written on special paper and the author is supposed to keep a copy in a protocol book.

When investigators capture a ring of property fraud artists there always seems to be a notary or two involved. But most are not punished either by the Dirección Nacional de Notariado or the courts. Notaries simply report that their protocol book has been stolen, and judges usually let them off the hook.

Country gets U.S. grant

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Department of Energy has allocated $100,000 to Costa Rica to create a center of energy efficiency at the Universidad de Costa Rica. President Óscar Airas Sánchez and U.S. officials signed a memo to that effect Wednesday.

The goal is to help Costa Ricas to become carbon neutral by 2021 and to help researchers exploit alternative energy sources.

Muhammed cartoon creator
escapes attack by Muslim


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Somali man with alleged links to terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaida has been charged with an attempt to kill a Danish cartoonist whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammed sparked outrage in the Muslim world.

Police and medical personnel carried an injured Somali man strapped to a stretcher into a Danish court Saturday, just hours after his alleged attempt to kill Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.  The suspect's face was covered by a blanket and under Danish privacy laws his name has not been revealed.

The 28-year-old man was later charged with two counts of attempted murder for Friday's attack on Westergaard, whose cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban in 2005 ignited riots and outrage among Muslims worldwide.  The suspect denied the charges.

Denmark's intelligence service claimed that the alleged attacker had close ties to the Somali terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaida in eastern Africa. The man apparently broke into Westergaard's home near the town of Aarhus about 200 kilometers northwest of the capital Copenhagen.

Westergaard, 74, fled with his granddaughter to a special safe room in his house where he could call police.

The deputy chief superintendent of the Aarhus police, Fritz Keldsen, confirmed that the man was shot after apparently threatening police with an axe and a knife.
 
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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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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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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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 4


Prayer sessions mark the end of the Christmas season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just as most Costa Rican families construct a portal or nativity scene in the home each holiday season, so, too, do many engage in prayer as the portal is put away for the year.

This is the rezo al Niño that can be a family or neighborhood event. Rezo al Niño is a religious event with a lot of social interaction and even music thrown in. The evening prayer session is not held on a special day but on a convenient day throughout the month.

Many foreigners are surprised that such activities take place all through January.

A typical rezo al niño is an hours-long production with live music, much prayer, food and sometimes even fireworks. The prayer is centered around the rosary, the assembly of 54 beads Catholics use for prayer and meditation. Such an event provides a great way for expats to practice their Spanish by reciting the prayers aloud.

There are rezo specialists, frequently a team and maybe even a husband and wife. One provides the music while
the other leads the group in prayer. They usually are compensated for their efforts. The family and invited guests gather around the nativity scene, sing hymns and recite the rosary. Although the event is called rezo al niño or prayers to the child, Catholics wisely suspect that the easiest way to the Son is through the mother. So the dominant prayer is the "Hail, Mary."

One round of the rosary is 59 separate prayers. The mistress of ceremonies provides half a prayer, and the assembled faithful respond with the remainder. In the Catholic faith, a full recitation of the rosary is four rounds or 20 decades, but with food waiting and restless children, a single round is the norm in all but the most religious households.

Then within a day the nativity scene is packed away for the coming year.

In Costa Rica there is no separation of church and state, so nativity scenes are found at many public facilities. And a few offices will even have truncated rezos al Niño during the last half hour of a workday. Even large social organizations like the Costa Rican Tennnis Club holds a rezo service for members.



The holiday fiesta moves to Palmares starting Jan. 13
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The round of holiday parties moves to Palmares starting Jan. 13.  The tope, the big gathering of horses and riders, is the next day.

There are many special musical guests invited to perform. The Fiestas Palmares 2010 runs until Jan. 25. The event is basically a carnival much like the Zapote festival that ran from Christmas Day until Jan. 3. There is food, rides, shows. And, of course, there are bulls to entertain spectators in the 1,500-seat arena.
The beer tents are popular, and the Policía de Tránsito makes a big haul each year of drunk drivers trying to return to the Central Valley. There also is bus transportation.

The Fuerza Pública, fresh off a successful event in Zapote, will be sending 250 officers to provide fiesta security.

Officers also will be screening visitors as they enter the carnival grounds to weed out drugs and troublemakers.

Extra police will be on duty for the concerts Jan. 17 and 24, security officials said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 4

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Intel donating $200 million to enhance U.S. education

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

As U.S. students return to school this week, Intel Corp. – in conjunction with President Barack Obama's "Educate to Innovate" Campaign – has announced a 10-year, $200 million commitment to advance education in math and science. The announcement is part of the Obama Administration's most recent effort to stress the importance of science and math education in U.S. schools.

"Intel has worked for decades to improve science and math education, so the president's initiative is exciting and timely," said Shelly Esque, vice president, legal and corporate affairs director. "At Intel, we feel strongly that the real magic to help young minds compete in an innovative society comes from the teachers."

As part of its $200 million commitment, Intel will provide
training to more than 100,000 U.S. math and science teachers over the next three years, including an intensive 80-hour professional development math course for elementary school teachers and new Web-based instruction and collaboration tools including targeted professional development for science teachers of all grades.

Currently, this teacher training is available in just four states. The content and materials will now be available to school districts in all 50 states at no cost. Intel will continue to maintain its support for the Intel Science Talent Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which reach 600,000 American students per year.

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. It has facilities in Belén



Charity fishing contest will be at Carrillo this year

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Presidential Challenge of Costa Rica, scheduled for March 4 to 7, coincides perfectly with the height of the billfishing season off central Costa Rica, offering anglers the ultimate in light-tackle angling in a tournament setting that's highly competitive both on a team and individual angler basis, said organizers.

This year's event is once again in the blue waters off  Carrillo on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. The
tournament entry fee includes nightly cocktail parties in addition to the awards dinner at the completion of the event. All proceeds from the tournament will go to The Billfish Foundation to support its conservation efforts in Costa Rica.

The waters hold sailfish and a large number of blue, black and striped marlin, according to organizers.

This year's event kicks off March 4th with registration and a mandatory angler's meeting.  Fishing begins March 5th.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 4

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Development promoted
to key in U.S. foreign policy


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a Washington policy address Wednesday said the Obama administration intends to put development and foreign aid on the same level as diplomacy and military power in U.S. foreign policy.  She also said empowering women around the world is not just a personal priority but a strategic interest of the United States.

Mrs. Clinton, in office now for nearly a year, has spoken frequently about the need to upgrade and modernize the U.S. foreign aid program. But her speech at a Washington policy institute was the first devoted entirely to the subject and she said it is time to elevate development as a central pillar of foreign policy.

The secretary, speaking at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, said the United States seeks a safer, more prosperous, more democratic and equitable world but it can't be assured of progress toward that goal as long as a third of mankind is mired in poverty.

"We cannot stop terrorism or defeat the ideologies of violent extremism when hundreds of millions of young people see a future with no jobs, no hope and no way ever to catch up to the developed world," said Mrs. Clinton. "We cannot build a stable global economy when hundreds of millions of workers and families find themselves on the wrong side of globalization, cut off from markets and out of reach of modern technologies."

The Obama administration has already promised to double the non-military U.S. foreign aid budget to $50 billion a year by 2012 and Mrs. Clinton's speech offered no new commitments.

But she said the U.S. Agency for International Development, which in the process of doubling its overseas staff, must be rebuilt into the world's premier development agency. She also said the U.S. aid community must have the courage to rethink its strategies and must not simply add up the dollars spent, but assure that the programs achieve lasting change in recipient nations.

"In countries that are incubators of extremism like Yemen, or are ravaged by poverty and natural disasters like Haiti, the odds are long," she said. "But the cost of doing nothing is potentially far greater. We must accept that our development model cannot be formulaic, that which works in Pakistan may not work in Peru. So our approach must be case-by-case and country-by-country, region-by-region."

Mrs. Clinton paid tribute to two aid initiatives of the Bush administration — the Millennium Challenge Corp, which makes grants to countries with concrete plans for good governance and fighting corruption, and PEPFAR, the anti HIV-AIDS program, which has provided millions of Africans and others with anti-viral medications while stressing AIDS prevention.

She also said the administration intends to better coordinate traditional aid programs with others aimed at boosting foreign trade and investment like the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

And she said the United States is moving to put women at the front and center of U.S. development work, saying women and girls are one of the world's greatest untapped resources.

"This is not only a strategic interest of the United States, it is an issue of personal importance to me, and one I have worked on for almost four decades," said Mrs. Clinton. "I will not accept words without deeds when it comes to women's progress. I will hold our agencies accountable for ensuring that our government and our foreign policy support the world's women and achieve lasting, meaningful progress on these issues."

The secretary of State said she is working to integrate U.S. aid efforts more closely with diplomacy and defense operations abroad without politicizing aid programs, saying the 3-D's, development, diplomacy and defense, must be mutually-reinforcing.  She also said that advancing human rights is an integral part of the U.S. development agenda. 
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Three Africans face trial
as terrorist drug couriers


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Three citizens of the West African country of Mali will soon go on trial in the United States on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of narco-terrorism and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

The three, Oumar Issa, Harouna Toure, and Idriss Abelrahman, were arrested Dec. 16 in Ghana after they allegedly agreed to transport cocaine through West and North Africa to Europe for al-Qaida, al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

The three organizations have been designated by the U.S. State Department as foreign terrorist groups.

Lou Milione, supervisory special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said the arrests were made after a series of undercover meetings.

“In the complaint, it lays out that there were a series of undercover meetings where there were audio and video recordings, And during those negotiations, our undercovers, one of them presented himself as a member of the FARC. And the other undercover presented themselves as a Lebanese sympathizer or Islamic sympathizer and also anti-American,” he said.

Milione said that during undercover negotiations, Oumar Issa, Harouna Toure, and Idriss Abelrahman admitted to being supporters of al-Qaida in the Islamic Margreb.

U.S. official in Honduras
seeking stalemate's end


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A senior U.S. diplomat is in Honduras for more talks on reuniting the parties involved in the long-running stalemate over Manuel Zelaya's ouster last year.

U.S. officials say Craig Kelly, the deputy assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, arrived in the Central American nation Tuesday to meet with the deposed president and his rival, interim President Roberto Micheletti.

Kelly is also expected to see president-elect Porfirio Lobo, who takes office Jan. 27.  Kelly was also in Honduras in November to discuss the stalemate.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says the United States is continuing efforts to help the parties move forward in implementing the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord on ending the turmoil over Zelaya's removal. The deal calls for the creation of a national unity government and a truth commission to look into the circumstances of the coup.

Zelaya was ousted in a military-backed coup June 28 and sent into exile.  He returned to Honduras in September and has been holed up at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa under the threat of arrest.  Zelaya's opponents say he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his term in office.




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