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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 7           E-mail us
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Costa Rica presents its case today to World Court
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica goes to the International Court of Justice for the first of a two-day session today, and officials are expressing optimism.

But Nicaragua also is prepared to dispute Costa Rica's evidence.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores released satellite photos Monday that will be part of its case at the Hague court hearing. The photos clearly show that Nicaragua is doing construction work and clearing trees on the south side of the Río San Juan. That is supposed to be Costa Rican territory, according to international treaties.

But the La Prensa newspaper in Managua gave a hint of the Nicaraguan case. A news article by Josué Bravo disparaged the Costa Rican evidence and said that the country would rely on evidence that it was working in the river channel that existed in 1858 when the Jerez–Cañas treaty, one of the principal documents defining the international boundary, was signed.

Costa Rica opens the court session today at 10 a.m., which is 3 a.m. Costa Rican time. The country will have three hours to present its case. After lunch, the Nicaraguan delegation will present its case. Wednesday each country will have time to rebut the presentations made today.

The satellite photos came from the U.N. Institute for Training and Research and its satellite program. Said the U.N.:

"A 30-year time series of satellite imagery dating from 1979 was reviewed for significant morphological and environmental changes in Costa Rica along the San Juan River area focusing on the areas of Isla Portillos and Isla Calero. Particular focus was made on identifying and analyzing important morphological and environmental changes since October 2010 over the area between the San Juan River and Laguna Los Portillos. Significant areas of recent tree cover removal, river dredging and new river channel creation were identified as occurring during the period from August to December 2010 between the San Juan River and Laguna Los Portillos; further there is apparently an area of active land removal on a meander bend of the San Juan River approximately 400 meters to the south of the newly created channel. If this meander land removal continues, it could redirect the flow of the San Juan approximately 175 meters to the west, likely increasing river flow velocity downstream; such an increase in water velocity could also have the effect of accelerating erosion
small satellite photo
This is one of the satellite photos released by the U.N. agency. Click HERE for a larger version.

along the newly created river channel to the north."

Costa Rica has argued that Nicaragua is doing major environmental damage in the area. The country seeks that the international court issue what amounts to a stop-work order, although the court's power to do that is open to question.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega disregarded requests to withdraw his troops from the contested Isla Calero when that was sought by the Organization of American States.

There is no guarantee that he will abide by any court ruling.

The Costa Rican controversy is not high on the list of world leaders.  U.N. General Assembly President Joseph Deiss met with Chinese leaders Monday and the topics were world hunger, infant mortality, diseases and lack of access to education and medical care. He also discussed the Sudan, the Ivory Coast and the Korean Peninsula, said the U.N.

President Barack Obama met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Monday, according to a wire service report. They discussed terrorism, kidnapped French citizens in Niger, the global economic recovery, the Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, as well as the referendum in southern Sudan and the situation in Ivory Coast, wire services said.

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Our readers' opinions

Have we been hijacked,
reader asks on life here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Coming to Costa Rica for 20 years and living here full time for six years, a few things stand out. I have gone from tourist to resident and now a citizen of Costa Rica. Married to a Tica now 15 years and have bought sold property, traveled, and lived in San Jose and Liberia.

To all this it comes to mind: "Have we been hijacked here in Costa Rica?" Where to start. The government. It seems the succession of power is in two main parties. Currently the PLN with Oscar Arias, Laura Chinchilla and next in line either Rodrigo Arias or Johnny Ayara. Same old good boys doing the same. Enhancing themselves. Think about it when under Oscar Arias 2 billion colons were withheld in the school lunch program. For some children the only meal of the day. The Cinchona project and housing, the faulty road construction autopista to the beaches, to say the least. Where does all the money go?? In the pocket of family consultants. Poof! Disappears!

Laws that are confusing, poorly written and interpretations of the courts. Driving laws. The extremely high price for infractions. Gives the Transit police power to get pay offs to avoid these tickets. I agree with the reckless driving and the drunks. Get them off the roads please!

Being invaded by Nicaragua and only doing talks. We as a country are held hostage by Ortega and his thugs. China, while building a stadium, what is in it for them and for Oscar Arias? The Spanish consortium who built and collects the tolls. When the government paid millions for the bailey bridge because of faulty construction. And they still collect the money. Why?

They must think we are sheep. Now as reported we have the Mexican Cartel in bedded here. The drug trade. What kind of influence do they extent? Our judges are weak and intimidated. Bribery and running their business. The Taxes not being paid mount up to over one billion colons! That seems Outrages. Avoiding taxes and getting away with it. Attorneys here who take advantage of everyone, foreigners and locals alike.

In a country of 4.5 million and having over 600,000 foreigners living here. That seems a bit high percentagewise.

Laws of spousal abuse are well intended. Except for the women who knows crying wolf gets her the house and the property. It is all slanted one way.

Well, have we been hijacked or not?

Dwayne Egelund
La Uruca


Butler's academic rigor
questioned by reader


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In today’s paper the publicity given  “Escazu man's new book finds faults with major religions” by Escazú resident Sam Butler.  I was expecting to find a well researched document by a learned professional.  When I went to his Web site as directed I found that though he was probably successful in his business endeavors in real estate, that his research existed of quoting wiki answers which may or may not be someone else opinion.  Lacking any credentials other than be able to type and put thoughts on paper, I don’t understand the space given in your newspaper to herald his accomplishment.

To me it has the same effect as a Hollywood actor voicing his opinion on world affairs,  So what.

For an example, he points out that there were other crucifixions before Christ.  Not sure the point he was trying to make.  But amazingly in Christianity the method of death was prophesied centuries before it actually took place.  The importance of the crucifixion is not the method of death but that Jesus, who is God, chose to take the punishment for the sins of mankind and sacrificed his life for us, was buried and rose again.  Based upon reading his biography (Butler’s) I feel that as a high school champion pole vaulter that he missed the bar with his opinion.

Tom Branham
San Francisco de Dos Rios


Atheist appreciated story
of Butler's new book

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for publishing that review. That's gutsy and I appreciate it.
 
Mr. Butler, thank you for proclaiming "The emperor has no clothes!" loud and clear. As an atheist since 1970 and having lived for three years in a Muslim country, a total of five years in Catholic countries and been raised a Protestant, I see the hypocrisy in all religions. And by "religions" I exclude more humanistic ideas such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
 
Regarding Judaism I didn't live in their country but I've certainly dealt with them. They're extremely egotistical, greedy and put their love of money and its power above fellow human beings. I admire their drive and ambition but it's basically always about themselves.
 
If you don't mind, a couple of thoughts and opinions:

1. Religion will fade away within eight to 10 generations (@ 20 per) thanks to the spread of information/knowledge via the Internet or its successor.

2. MOST top top level religious leaders eventually realize there is no such thing as god, miracles, etc. but will not give up their power and position. They just play political games.

3. The same people (especially Muslims) also realize that secular education and female emancipation is their death knell and will fight both until the end.

4. First in the developed world and then spread out, religion will be replaced by social media and digital connections but not involve going to traditional meeting houses at regular intervals. Those cathedrals and mosques and temples will become museums showing how NOT to treat people if they don't bow down, pray for miracles and tithe.
 
However, in the short term it's gonna get much worse. The Muslim world's OVERALL education level (with many disparities) is low enough that they can be lead like sheep. Their leaders constantly invoke the Crusades to inflame people which shows they will use that 1,200-year-old history forever. The Muslims men also like togetherness, big crowds, close bodily contact and really love shouting slogans until hoarse. That makes them ALL feel like brothers. So, with that mentality, when you kill one man all his brothers will avenge that killing. In other words, killing one actually multiplies your enemies. In English the words for friend and brother are very different. In Turkish, they are almost identical so "my friend" can quickly become "my brother," and if you do something bad to my new brother, I will avenge him.
 
Another gigantic problem they have is the idea of Inshalla/Mashalla or "if Allah wills it." You ask Mustafa if he's going to the bread store, and he'll reply "Inshalla." They do not have a sense of self determination like we have. Everything is in Allah's hands. All they have to do is count their worry beads and wait, which they're good at.

Martyrdom is another idea we don't have but is normal in their mentality. We can understand their mentality but they cannot understand ours. That means reform and education must happen WITHIN their countries and we cannot impose it. The harder we try the more they resist. The more we kill the more we have to kill. It's a vicious cycle that will worsen.

Currently, the Palestine problem will probably not be solved in our lifetime and until it is the Muslims will fight for their cause.

Religion, which creates both fear of death and rewards for after death, uses that carrot and stick to control people. Freedom of religion is simple: You're born.  You live. You die.

There's nothing wrong with that. What is there to fear? Living life without fear is what I've experienced for over 40 years, and I'm thankful for that. I just wish more people could experience freedom from religion.

Doug Hicks
Tampa, Florida

 
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.
Click a story for the summary






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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 7
Latigo K-9

The Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas provided this photo of shark fins drying in the sun. This is just part of the fins that were being dried in this location. Environmentalists say that sharks are an important predator in the oceans and that mass killings disturb the natural balance.
shark fins
William Flores photo

Environmentalist says shark finners chased, threatened him
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmentalist who is an opponent of shark finning said he was approached by a mob, threatened and then had a run-in with police who responded.

The man is Jorge Ballestero, and the report is being circulated by the Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, an organization that also has an interest in stopping shark finning.

Ballestero said he was checking out a report of a great quantity of shark fins being dried at a dock on the east side of the Puntarenas municipal market. He said there did not appear to be any regard for health and no operation permits.

He said when he tried to take video of the shark fins he was approached by a mob and was forced to flee into the market. He said he was pushed, threatened and told to give up his camera.

Policemen in a passing car intervened, Ballestero said, but "incredibly, the officers sided with the aggressors and told him to present his ID and explain what he was doing in the area," said the organization in a press release.

“Incredibly, the police treated me like I was the perpetrator,” said Ballestero.  “We only ask that the law be
respected, one that’s based on the best scientific information available to foment the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources, and we will never accept these aggressions and abuses against our work to get shark finners to comply with the public’s interest.”

The Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas provided photos it said were taken by another person the day before.

“Recently, the famous chef Gordon Ramsay from the United Kingdom suffered a similar attack in Puntarenas while trying to document shark finning activities at a private dock,” said Randall Arauz a principal in the Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.  “The message is clear – if you approach a dock with your camera in Puntarenas where shark finning happens, it’s likely you’ll be attacked and your camera violently taken from you.”

Shark finning is removing the dorsal and other fins from sharks for use in the Asian markets.

Environmentalists say that many times the shark, relieved of its fins, is dumped back into the ocean to die.

Costa Rica has a number of regulations related to the docking and handling of fish and fish products. Shark finners seem to be able to avoid most of the rules.


Jan. 17 is deadline for another round of paying luxury tax
By the A.M Costa Rica staff

This is the month when the so-called luxury tax is due on dwellings.

A home minus the property on which it stand worth more than $197,000 is subject to the tax. Technically they are homes valued at 100 million colons or more.

Tributación Directa, despite threats to the contrary, is having trouble collecting the tax, which is supposed to be used for building homes for the poor. In the previous year, only about a third of what was anticipated came in.

The tax collecting agency was going to send out squads to check on properties, but nothing has been heard of this plan for months.

The techniques involved in determining value are complex  and unique to Costa Rica. Consequently many persons
living in luxury homes have reported that their home did not fall into the taxable category.

Theoretically Tributacion can assess a fine of 10 times the tax. But lawmakers are not happy with this idea and there is a movement afoot in the legislature to reduce drastically the fines.

This year the tax is due Monday. The deadline usually is Jan. 15, but that day is a Saturday this year.

There are a number of exemptions to the tax. For example, persons living in dwellings certified as being historic by the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud do not have to pay the tax. Religious structures are exempt, too. In fact there are 10 broad categories of dwellings that are not subject to the tax.

Full details are available in Spanish on the Tributación Web site.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 7


Scientist thinks world is in middle of mass extinction

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The most recent mass extinction was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared. That was one of five mass extinctions in earth's history — when the number of species dramatically declines. Scientists are eyeing the next mass extinction, which might be triggered by an invasive species.

According to Ohio University paleo-geologist Alycia Stigall, the sixth era of mass extinction is already under way. It began about a million years ago when big animals like wholly mammoths and saber tooth cats went extinct.

Ms. Stigall sees clues to a modern apocalypse in the fossil record from the Devonian period 360 million years ago.

The Devonian was an era of mass extinction, when marine ecosystems completely collapsed, and reefs disappeared from the world's oceans. Sea levels rose and fell. Continents moved closer together. The stage was set for safe passage of invasive species. The invaders captured resources and adapted to their new living conditions, overwhelming native species. 

Ms. Stigall says it was a huge change in how the ecosystem was structured. "What you realize is that the main organisms that are dominant in the rocks suddenly change. So the major groups of organisms, the major types of corals, the major type of shell fish, that we see beneath the 'biodiversity crisis interval' are completely different from the major groups of organisms that we see afterwards."

Species go extinct at regular intervals in earth's history, but the mass extinction during the late-Devonian was unlike any other in the planet's history. The formation of new species came to a halt. Ms. Stigall calls it a "bio-diversity crisis."  "These new groups that are trying to become a new species, rather than to be able to expand their population and be successful, they get out-competed for resources and just go extinct." 

Ms. Stigall sees parallels with today's world, in which human activities - agriculture, industry, population growth and urbanization - are promoting invasives,
scientist at Ohio University
Ohio University/Rick Fatica
Alycia Stigall and some of the fossils on which she bases her conclusions.

accelerating habitat loss and pushing species toward extinction.

"Evolution of new species or speciation is harder to see because the process of speciation takes between 10,000 and 50,000 years. Whereas you could drive a species extinct in a decade."

Ms. Stigall adds that if invasive species could trigger a mass extinction 360 million years ago, similar forces could be at work today. "What we can see from this is that things that are very limited or specialized in their ecology are the types of species that are both more likely to go extinct and less likely to have successful speciation down the line. So we may want to focus resources on species that are a little more broadly adapted that are still in their natural local habitats." 

According to Ms. Stigall, the rate of species loss today is higher than anything documented in the fossil record. "We are looking at basically a whole series of potential effects that line up very well with the worst mass extinctions that occurred, which was 250 million years ago where 96 percent of the earth's species went extinct." 

Ms. Stigall says her study underscores the long-term impact of invasive species.  "The more we know about this process," she says, "the more we will understand how best to preserve bio-diversity."  The work is published in PloS ONE.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 7

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Author links rock 'n' roll
to ancient mystery cults


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rock and roll evolved in the United States and gained popularity in the post World War II era. However, a new book by Christopher Knowles proposes that this genre of music is part of the wider human story, dating back to ancient cultures, 2,000, 4,000 even 10,000 years ago. 

Rock 'n' roll, says Knowles, has its roots in the mystery cults of the ancient world. His new book is "The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll."

"The mystery cults were really a reaction to the coldness and almost the inhumane nature of the official state cults," Knowles says. "In Greece, of course, it was Zeus. In Rome, we had Jupiter, and in Egypt, we had Amon-Ra. These official state cults were sort of alienating to the general public because the official state cults had become formalized and so rigid. So the mystery cults started around, usually, a god of fertility and it all stems around the idea of fertility, and the seasons and the cycles of life. People really felt a very strong need to connect with something greater than themselves."

The music played during the rituals and ceremonies of these cults was fast, loud, and wild — very similar to rock and roll.

"The ancient Egyptians, they had temples where they had pop divas who became the pop stars of their time," he explains. "They would have these festivals where they would get together. They would drink beer and they would have music. They would have their own heavy metal bands. They had these guys who would come out dressed on leather armor and would bang time with their swords and shields and scream at the top of their lungs."

And just like modern rock and roll, Knowles says, ancient cult music provided a much needed escape for people.

"Human beings need excitement," he says. "They need relief. They need a sense of catharsis. We see this all around the world. It's not only rock and roll; it's not only the ancient mystery cults. We see this in cultures everywhere. It is really necessary and very badly needed part of human existence, to break the rules for a while, to break out of our ordinary consensus reality. So culture might change on the surface, but there are all these lines of continuity that stretch over time because they speak to basic human needs."

In both ancient and modern times, he adds, new trends started as a counter to mainstream culture.

"At first, it was not very well received," Knowles says. "The mystery cults were seen as counter-culture at best, and a challenge to authority at worst, particularly in Rome. So people met in secret, often out of necessity because they were not approved officially. So this is a process where it starts off being counter-cultural and rebellious, but over time it becomes more acceptable. The greatest parallel, of course, is rock and roll. When rock and roll starts off, we have record burnings, we have all sorts of controversies in the media, but eventually it's accepted. So I think it is an interesting process that repeats itself throughout history."

In his book, "The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll," Knowles also follows the evolution of rock 'n' roll from an expression of youthful rebellion to a symbol of American culture.

"It's really an amazing process because it all starts off as rhythm and blues," he adds.  "R&B is combined with country swing and then it becomes rock-a-billy, which becomes rock and roll. Then, we see soul music. We see psychedelic rock in the 1960. That sort of opens this Pandora's box where things began to multiply. We see heavy metal. We see punk. We see art rock. We see progressive rock, and we see glam rock.And the interesting thing is that when you look back in the ancient world, they had their own glam rockers. They had their own heavy metal bands. They had their own punk rock bands."

But are modern rock stars aware of the resemblance between themselves and ancient rockers?

"We've got to start with Elvis and the interesting thing about Elvis is that he really was very conscious of this process," Knowles said. "He presented himself looking like Apollo, dressing like a superhero with the cape. The Beatles have become gods into themselves. John Lennon is sort of a rock and roll martyr. Every religion sort of needs a martyr."
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 7

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Latin American news
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Walking the dog to help
animal welfare organization


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Domestic Animal Welfare Group in Dominical de Osa wants you to walk your dog. They have a 5K fun walk and a 10K run scheduled for March 20.

Registration begins Feb. 1. There is a registration fee and portions go to various charities. In order for the Domestic Animal Welfare Group to get proceeds, racers must register by sending an e-mail.
dawgfostermom@gmail.com


Three-digit phone numbers
have become four-digit


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is changing those three digit short phone numbers to four digits to make way for additional companies to supply telephone service. The changes take place today.

For example, the number to report telephone and Internet outages changes from 119 to 1119.

However, the 911 emergency number remains the same. A full list of changes is on the company's Web site.


Women's Club book sale
will be held on Jan. 22


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The women's Club of Costa Rica plans a used book sale Jan. 22 at the Pan-American School in San Antonio de Belén.  The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The organization also promises DVDs, CDs, board games and current magazines in addition to books. The sale is a fund-raiser for the club, which supports education, primarily through scholarships and development of school libraries for children in Costa Rica.

The organization also seeks donations of items to sell. A list of drop-off points is available by calling  2589-2037, the club said.


Student missing at Chirripó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Universidad de Costa Rica student is missing in the vicinity of Parque Nacional Chirripó.

He is Nelson Alvarado Montoya who last was seen Thursday. Park temperatures have dipped below freezing at night.

Rescue teams are covering most of the park area. The Chirripó peak is the highest in Costa Rica at 3,820 meters or 12,533 feet.





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