A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 7          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

A.M. Costa Rica photo/Jesse Froehling
New Orleans
to survive

Costa Rica's major trading partner, New Orleans, is shaking off the worst of Hurricane Katrina, but much will never be the same. Just like this battered home.

If you need an excuse to stay in bed Friday . . .
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday is Friday the 13th, a purportedly unlucky day at least in North America. The tradition has even surfaced in Costa Rica — although for Latins Tuesday the 13th is considered an unlucky day.

No te cases ni te embarques, as the saying goes. Don't get married and don't begin a trip (or, in a larger sense, don't make a mistake).

Those who fear the number 13 might be especially watchful for black cats Friday, although in some Latin lands a white cat is a harbinger of bad luck.

The numeral 13 has certain ill fame all itself, and some contractors skip floor numbers from 12 to 14. Friday, too, has an unlucky reputation, although T.G.I.F. might be a redeeming possibility.

When you combine the 13 with the Friday, the presumed bad luck is doubled.

Of course the whole thing might be made up
by people who just do not want to work on a Tuesday or a Friday. In fact, an amplified Spanish saying adds ni de tu casa te apartes, meaning stay home.

The best guess is that Friday is unlucky because it is the day on which Christ died. Another source says that Tuesday is unlucky because the day in Spanish, martes, is dedicated to the god of war, Mars. The last unlucky Tuesday the 13th was in December.

Friday the 13th has been lucky for Paramount and New Line Cinema. The first film by that name in 1980 spawned at least 13 sequels, all revolving around the supernatural Jason Voorhees, the slasher with the hockey mask.

Jan. 13 itself was not very lucky for composer Stephen Foster, novelist James Joyce, comedian Ernie Kovacs and  former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. All died on Jan. 13, but in different years, said The Associated Press.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Second news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 7

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Visiting congressman
heard about trafficking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, a congressman who has a strong interest in the drug trafficking problem in Central America, will be visiting Costa Rica Tuesday and Wednesday.

The U.S. Embassy gave no reason for his visit but said he would met with the President Abel Pacheco and the ministers of Agricultura y Ganadería and Comercio Exterior.

Burton chaired a much publicized committee hearing Nov. 9 that sought to uncover facts about drug smuggling through Central America. Burton is a member of the U.S. House's Committee on International Relations and chairs the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, which held the hearing.

The committee testimony described Costa Rica as a major transit zone for drugs.

The committee also explored the depletion of naval resources in the drug war because of military commitments elsewhere in the world.

Burton is a Republican, and it is likely he also will be trying to win ground for the Central American Free Trade Treaty, a favorite of President George Bush.  That treaty will be discussed in the Asamblea Legislativa when deputies return after the Feb. 5 elections. Costa Rica is the only party to the treaty that has not ratified it.

Indiana is a major agricultural state, and some agricultural experts from there are conducting a fact-finding effort regarding ornamental plants here now. They seek to set up requirements to help Costa Rica export more healthy plants.

Costa Rican children
back to school Feb. 7

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The school bell rings a week from today for public school students, who are facing 205 days of education until Dec. 20.

The budget for this, according to the Ministerio de Educación Pública, is 536 billion colons, a bit more than $1 billion, up some 13.8 percent from last year.

Manuel Antonio Bolaños, the minister, said that officials expect some 1.53 million students. There are seven new elementary schools and 15 high schools, called colegios here.

Some private schools where many expat children attend also follow the Costa Rican educational calendar. The 43 weeks of the school year will be divided into three parts. The first is from Feb. 7 to May 12. The second is from May 15 to Aug. 25. And the third is from Aug. 28 to Dec. 20.

The Semana Santa vacation will be from April 10 to 14. Another holiday is May 1, the international labor day. July 31 also is a holiday.

Aug. 2 is the Día de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles, another holiday, as is Aug. 21. Oct. 16 is a holiday,

Queen Mary 2 offers
six-figure accommodations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you happen to have a spare $110,989, you and a companion can share the grand duplex on the Queen Mary 2 as it visits, among others, the port of Caldera near Puntarenas.

The British-registered boat, which is supposed to be the most elegant passenger craft afloat, will embark on a 38-day cruise from New York to Los Angeles by way of Cape Horn. Other more reasonable accommodations are in the $8,000 to $9,000 range.

The boat is scheduled to stop at Caldera Feb. 17  from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The boat will make a return trip from Los Angeles March  8, stopping again at Caldera March 13.

The craft is supposed to stop briefly in Puerto Moín, Limón, Wednesday en route to New York after a Caribbean cruise. The boat carries  2.600 passengers and 1,400 crew members.

The owner, the Cunard Line, says that the Grand Duplex can be had by booking early for a mere $79,999.

Experts on disasters
are meeting here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To carry out an agreement reached at the United Nations conference for the reduction of disasters last year, experts from throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the University of Kyoto in Japan will meet today and Wednesday to develop an international data base that would outline the most effective protocol for dealing with various natural disasters. 

The conference starts at 9 a.m. today in Hotel Corobicí in San José.  Some 50 international experts will study technological, humanitarian and financial possibilities for minimizing the damage in the event of a natural disaster. 

The gathering is the result of the effort by the Japanese government and is the third such meeting the body has organized over disaster relief. 
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Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 7

A.M. Costa Rica photos by Jesse Froehling
Ravaged home
shows X of spray paint, which means the home was searched and crews reported they found no bodies here by marking a 0

Water line is half way up the exterior wall.

X marks the spot of multiple tragedies in New Orleans
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — There was talk about not celebrating Mardi Gras this year.  The whole operation is expensive and with thousands of Louisiana residents still waiting for government trailers and other forms of assistance, officials were worried the annual parade would seem insensitive in the face of Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U. S. history. 

But in New Orleans, the show must always go on.  Bourbon Street is beginning to pop again. The bars are open all night. tourists are beginning to show up, and after some debate, officials have decided that the Mardi Gras celebration will happen.  A local said that it was the cleanest she had ever seen the French Quarter.

Costa Rica has a strong economic relationship with New Orleans.  The city exported $207 million worth of goods to Ticos between January and October 2005.  Shipments of Costa Rican products, mostly agricultural, make the return trip.

That plus tourism from the southern U.S. was reason enough for a reporter to visit the ravaged area around Christmas.

Although Bourbon Street was open, it was empty, locals said.  Pat O'Brian's, the birthplace of the famous Hurricane (the beverage), was at one time empty except for one group.  The locals said this was unusual – the place was usually packed.  But the street is beginning to return to normal.  A couple of days later, officials said the bars on the street could continue to stay open all night again, the first time since looting after the storm forced officials to mandate a city-wide curfew. 

However, there are sections of the city that still lay as Katrina left them.  Near one of the  breached levees sturdy old houses once stood along tree-lined streets.  The trees are dead, the houses are abandoned, a line of mildew reached to the roofs and large spray-painted X's mark the searches of workers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

A number at the bottom of the X tells the number of bodies found in the home.  A passerby can drive down the abandoned street and read the numbers: 0,0,0,1,0,3,0,0, 1 dog, 0, a cat. 

More than 1,000 persons died in Lousiana alone. An estimated 250 persons died in adjacent states.

Other sections of the city were abandoned.  Some car lots had cars, but they were still covered in mildew.  Schools, shopping malls, homes, apartment complexes and entire neighborhoods stood broken and still.  A news report described New Orleans as wracked with the worst case of the chicken or the egg question.  Do businesses open to attract people to return? Or do people have to come first to allow store owners the business they need to reopen their doors? 

Across Lake Pontchartrain in the City of Slidell, the damage is even more extensive.  The eye of the hurricane passed directly over the town Aug. 29.  In a lakeside neighborhood along the outskirts of Slidell, most of the homes are destroyed.  Experts say a storm surge screamed through the neighborhood doing most of the damage. 

Interior of frame home was under water for days after the levees broke.

Stately brick home weathered the hurricane, but owners still had to flee.

The wreckage is chaotic, like the remnants of a child's playtime.  Most of the homes stood on stilts to provide them protection from flooding.  On one foundation, the concrete pillars lay spewed on top of one another.  Residents who had picked through the wreckage had begun stacking up the few intact items on one corner of the foundation.  There was a ladle, a casserole dish, some silverware, a vase, a ruined fishing reel. 

Though the region will take years to recover, people were still celebrating the holidays with gusto.  The jambalaya and gumbo were spicy and delicious and there was a sense that families were especially thankful for each other's company this year.  Two older ladies greeted each other in a supermarket: “Still waiting on the trailer?” one asked.  “Yeah, but you know, the Lord provides.  Merry Christmas to ya.”

Regardless of Katrina's effect on the New Orleans – and  by extension – on Costa Rica's economy, Costa Ricans also felt the effects of the storm.  It was part of a record-breaking hurricane season that did some of the worst damage to Costa Rica's roads in recent history and will more than likely leave a deep stain on the memory of President Abel Pacheco's administration.

Wrecked shrimp boat
wallows in  the Pearl River near the Gulf of Mexico.

A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

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Are you still spending 70 percent 
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You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 7

Meeting today starts plans toward tsunami warning system in Caribbean
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The first meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the tsunami warning system for the Caribbean begins this morning in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Representatives of 30 countries, including the United States, will take part in the meeting, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a press release.

Participants at the three-day meeting will determine a plan of action for risk assessment, data collection and sharing and emergency management. They also will review progress in implementing warning systems elsewhere in the world, UNESCO said.
Such a system will be a component of the Global Strategy for the Establishment of a tsunami early warning system, which is being put in place in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Ten major tsunamis have been recorded in the northern Caribbean since 1492. The most recent, in 1946, claimed 1,800 lives.

Thirty-five million people live in the region.

The 1946 tsunami was triggered by an earthquake in the Dominican Republic. Recent studies point to risks linked to shifts in the North America and Caribbean tectonic plates and to major undersea landslides off the northern shore of Puerto Rico, UNESCO said.

Foreign students are still welcome in U. S., State Department aide says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The welcome mat is out for foreign students and the visa process should not be perceived as an impediment for people interested in studying in the United States, says Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.

Vibrant international participation is one of the foundations of the U.S. academic and scientific communities and the United States is dedicated to ensuring that the visa application process is as transparent and efficient as possible, she told the U.S. University Presidents Summit on International Education Friday.

The two-day summit, designed to strengthen international education partnerships, included participation from more than 100 college and university presidents from all 50 U.S. states.  The
summit is focusing on how to attract foreign students and scholars to the United States.

During a session on facilitating student travel, Ms. Harty said there continue to be “outdated perceptions” in many parts of the world about U.S. visa policies and procedures — a perception that since September 11, 2001, it has become more difficult to get a student visa.

While security-related delays were having an unintended consequence of discouraging visa applicants when Ms. Harty assumed her post in November 2002, the assistant secretary said the State Department has made improvements.

The previous day at the summit, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reported that almost all visa applications — some 97 percent — are processed within two days. 

George Soros turns bearish on U.S. economy and predicts a recession
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SINGAPORE — George Soros says the U.S. economy could fall into recession in 2007.

He spoke here Monday, and said the U.S. central bank could spark the downturn by raising interest rates too high, crimping the U.S. housing market. High U.S. housing prices are a key reason that rising energy prices did not derail economic growth last year.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has been boosting interest
rates steadily in a bid to fend off inflation, but Soros expects that campaign to end after two more quarter-point rate hikes (at 4.75 percent).

The U.S. economy is the world's largest, and Soros says a U.S. recession could slow global economic growth.

He also said future global growth could come from Asia, and urged Asian governments to encourage domestic demand to reduce their dependence on exports.

Jo Stuart
About us

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