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President Chinchilla seeks to tighten firearms rules
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coincidental with similar announcements in the United States, President Laura Chinchilla Miranda said Wednesday that her administration seeks to tighten up its control on firearms.

The president's staff will present revised legislation to a legislative committee that already is studying changes in the firearms laws.

Obama's plan HERE!

In addition, Casa Presidencial will orchestrate a publicity campaign to prevent armed violence. The campaign will urge mothers to keep firearms out of the house and tell youngsters that firearms do not provide respect, just problems.

Among the legislative proposals is that the holder of a license to carry a firearm will have to obtain and pay for a type of insurance policy to compensate for possible damages.

The campaign is being supported by the Fundación para La Paz y la Democracia, the government of Canada and various private firms.

President Chinchilla's announcement came about the same time that U.S. President Barack Obama was outlining his campaign against firearms.

Ms. Chinchilla, when she was vice president in 2009, crafted gun control measures for then president Óscar Arias Sánchez. The proposals at that time were to prevent the manufacture of any gun parts on Costa Rican soil and to keep weapons out of the hands of anyone under 18 years.

Her proposal also would have limited the number of weapons anyone could possess legally to one.

A year ago,  Celso Gamboa, vice minister of security, issued a directive with the goal of tightening gun restrictions and fixing gaps in the national gun registry. At the time he said that persons with criminal backgrounds were being issued gun permits even though that is against the law.

Casa Presidencial posted campaign videos on You Tube Tuesday. One showed a lineup of youthful figures being hit with bullets. A voiceover said not to permit firearms in the home. It said 172 young people died from firearms last year.

Three viewer comments were negative and one
gun
                        video
A panel from the You Tube video

asked how many of the youngsters killed by firearms were criminals.

"I am announcing that we have a broad consensus to enable us to present a substitute text before the  Comisión de Seguridad that permits us to promote greater regulations for firearms in the country," said the president at a press conference.

The government already is on record promoting a U.N. arm limitation treaty.

The president said that 3,675 firearms were destroyed last year and that officials will continue preventative efforts especially in high-risk communities.

It was Marcela Chacón, a vice minister of Gobernación, who outlined the new proposals.

She said that Costa Rica would abide by legal
stipulations in international treaties it has signed. She said that anyone who seeks to register or seek permission to have a firearm will have to have an insurance policy. In addition, persons with a history of family violence would be prohibited from having a weapon.

It was she who said that one emphasis would be to have mothers keep weapons out of the home. She also said that women who might be murdered by their partner or ex-partner also should keep weapons out of the household.

Youngsters who are the population most affected by armed violence and the group most likely to arm themselves will be urged not to do so, she said.

The publicity campaign will include 200 posters in the metro area, signs on 75 tables at food courts at three commercial centers, 30-second radio spots and three videos in social media. The publicity is being donated. The campaign also will be brought to school children.

Youngsters made up 10.6 percent of murder victims in 2011, said officials. They also said that 55 percent of weapons confiscated are legal, according to the  Dirección General de Armamento. That may be because if a homeowner shoots a burglar, the weapon is confiscated at least for a time.

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Our readers' opinions
This country urgently needs
a real criminal justice system


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Crime in Costa Rica will continue to spiral out of control until the country's leadership understands that hiring more police without the addition of more prison bed space is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I suppose it is politically easier to hire a bunch of low-paid and undertrained "officers,"  as opposed to building a real criminal justice system that can enhance both the safety and the economy of the nation. Too bad, because Costa Rica's citizens deserve much better. 

I toured a police station in Alajuela a few years ago. I was impressed with the individual officers, but not their training or equipment. Even most of their handcuffs were malfunctioning.  Dangerous situation for the officers, the public and even the criminals.

After years of hearing about tourists being car jacked near Juan Santamaría airport, the problem still isn't solved. Tourism police don't seem to know how to conduct even the most basic sting operations. Wouldn't matter if they did. Jails don't have any more space. The current solution? Underreport the crimes.

The popular beach spots on both the Pacific and Caribbean have been out of control for the last several years. Gringo Gulch is filled with organized crime that could be eradicated within 90 days with the right approach.

I love Costa Rica, but I don't plan on visiting again until I see their government taking a serious and systematic approach to its crime problems.

For those Costa Rican business people worried about the impact my letter and others like it will have on tourism or real estate, don't blame the messenger. I already can imagine the flood of letters coming in talking about how great life is in Pura Vida land, and that we shouldn't focus on the negative. Sorry, but you can put perfume on a pig, but it is still a pig.

Costa Rica is not alone in having serious crime problems, but that is no excuse for its leaders to fail to appropriately address the issue.
Frank Gayaldo
Lodi, California


Attempt to stop money flow
should not hurt expats here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would hope that the Costa Rican government and banking system can find an appropriate response to the influx of dollars into the country.  If there is consideration given to a surcharge, why not place that on the earnings from savings here rather than all income coming from the U.S.  Social Security recipients depend on their small checks to live down here, and I doubt they are contributing to this problem as they use the money for living expenses not investment and savings.

Expats here contribute in many ways to the economy, and we are being asked to pay more every year.  One more hit like a surcharge on income from the U.S., and many will be forced to move.  This would be very unfair and counterproductive for the country.
Bob McDonald
Tambor


Time deposits not considered
speculative in any sense


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

First of all, why is it called speculative capital?  Didn't Costa Rica just issue bonds to pay off the national debt.  Did they tax the people who bought their bonds.  That's just as speculative as a time deposit.

The definition from just about every financial dictionary defines Speculative Capital as

"The funds earmarked by an investor for the sole purpose of speculation. This capital is often associated with extreme volatility and a high probability of loss. Most speculators have short-term investment horizons and often use high degrees of leverage in their efforts to obtain profits."

Does that sound like a time-deposit to you?

Instead of “taxing” the money coming in, why don’t they lower the interest rate offered on time deposits in colons?  Why don't they lower the rate for people borrowing money, too.  People buying time deposits is what allows banks to make loans to build a factory or create a tourism location.  If they are getting too much in and not making enough loans, they should reduce the interest rate paid, and people will stop buying them.  Then they can lower the rate for people borrowing money.  The government already takes their cut right off the top on time deposits.  I didn't hear that mentioned in the article at all.

This is just an excuse to create another tax.  What if the money being sent was to buy a house?  Just one more reason people will opt for Panamá.  There isn’t any kind of money that comes into a country that isn’t productive.
Pat Sullo
San Luis de Tilarán  


Capital makes more jobs
and moves more products


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read today that Casa Presidencial said Tuesday that the president would soon take steps to decrease the flow of dollars into Costa Rica.
 
A statement from Casa Presidencial after the weekly cabinet meeting said that the inflow of dollars puts at risk the financial stability of the country, jeopardizes exports and hurts employment. This is mainly because, as the Banco Central explained in its year-end report, the interest is being paid eventually to foreign entities without any benefit to Costa Rica.
 
Let's think about that. If a bank takes my money and pays me interest it is because they have customers that need the money. The bank makes money on the loan which in turn helps to pay their employees. The person who borrowed the money puts it in his business or a house or whatever and that hires more people. The people that now have jobs because of the loan now can buy products, food and etc., which makes more jobs.

And where are these jobs??? Costa Rica. I believe she needs to rethink this one.
Robert Woodrow
Curridabat

 
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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An unusual visitor shows up at the country's foreign ministry
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A statue of the Virgin Mary got a reception equal to a diplomat at the Costa Rican foreign ministry Wednesday.

The life-size statue represents the mother of Christ in her role at the  Reina de la Paz , "Our Lady Queen of Peace,"  which is how she is described by visionaries in Medugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Virgin is said to have been appearing to six persons there since 1981 in a situation similar to that of Fatima in Portugal where the Virgin is said to have appeared to three youngsters starting in 1917.

The statue is making a tour of Latin America in the care of a Mexican priest.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that staffers there conducted a prayer session before the statue.

The Vatican is expected to make known soon a report of a commission that was empaneled to study the case.

So far Rome has not taken a position on the visitations.

The statue will make visits to local churches in Costa Rica.

The town of Medugorje was in the middle of the Bosnian war for years, but now with peace in the area, some 1
Virgin
                          Mary
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
 Life-size statue is said to resemble what is seen by
 visionaries in Medugorje.

million  pilgrims visit the hillside site of the apparition each year.

Carlos Roverssi Rojas, who was the acting minister Tuesday, participated in the ceremony. He also received Wednesday new ambassadors from the People's Republic and Italy. From China came Song Yanbin. The Italian diplomat is Francesco Calogero. The pair are expected to be presented to President Laura Chinchilla Friday.



Local Atenas gathering turns into a regional charity tradition
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When persons envision Costa Rican cuisine, they seldom think of spicy stewed meat dishes like chili.  While it may not be an everyday soda item, a group in Atenas works every year to share this dish with the community through a quest for the best recipe that, in turn, helps charity.

The origin of chili con carne is often argued.  Some trace it to México as a planned victory dish of tomatoes, salt and chiles prepared by the Cholutan Indians before their big fight with the Spanish conquistadors.  The carne was expected to come from the flesh of the defeated conquistadors.

Another myth equates it to the scribbles of a nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. Others disagree and say it was a survival dish made by women settlers of the Spanish colony in San Antonio, Texas.  Later it was said that Chili Queens sold the dish around San Antonio to make money. 

Today Texas holds on to this claim to fame by calling Chili it's state dish.

Although the chili story is debated, the Atenas cook off history takes the spiced meat stew to 21st century Kay's Gringo Postres, a popular expat hangout spot, said one event organizer, Judy Timson.  Owners Kay and Tom Costello, who are originally from South Dakota, turned the community members small talk about the best chili recipes into a Texas-sized battle in the version of a cook off.

“It started with 'I have the best chili' and turned into 'Let's put our money where our mouth is' and was made into a small fundraiser,” said Ms. Timson.

The fundraiser has grown from a small town gathering in a café for a cause in 2006 to persons from different parts of the country and world six years later assembling in the park Quinta Romavista to lend a hand. 

Last year 1,000 persons attended the event and organizers raised around $5,000.  This year 25 teams of both locals and expats have registered to partake in the 6th Annual Atenas Charity Cook Off, and organizers are expecting to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 through sponsorships, donations and a day of event sales, said Ms. Timson.

Costa Ricans such as the local fire department even bring their own chili fire to the mix.

“We purposely outreached to both parts of the fence because everyone wants to come together, have fun and make a difference,” said Ms. Timson.

All the proceeds will go to Hogar de Vida, a children's home in the area.

“By raising our spoons and tasting various chilis’ at our Chili
chili

Cook Off, we couldn’t have created a more fun way in
making a significant difference for Hogar de Vida, where approximately 35 children live, ages birth to 10 years old,” said a release.

According to Ms. Timson, this fundraiser is especially important because Hogar de Vida was recently burglarized of $10,000 worth of electronic equipment and money.  As a result, the home is undergoing a phased process to better secure the premise.  Currently in the works is a new wall on the east border, the entry point of the most recent burglary.

“It's really sad what happened, but what came of it is a community coming together to ensure the safety of these children,” she said.

One new feature of this year's chili cook off will be raffles of gift packages worth between $600- to $800.  The packages contain services and trips. Also on the schedule is a People's Choice Award.

“That means anyone who attends will be able to vote for their favorite chili,” said Ms. Timson.

Other prizes will be given to the most decorated and entertaining teams.  Also, those with vegetarian chili recipes will be given the opportunity to showcase their skills.

“We are expecting to see a lot of color, a lot of festivities and a lot of decorations,” said Ms. Timson.  “Whatever it takes to win.”

The Atenas Chili Cook Off will be Feb. 10, the Sunday after the Super Bowl,  from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Quinta Romavista of Barrio Mercedes in Atenas.  The park is located two kilometers off the old Alajuela to Orotina, Highway 3. 

Organizers are still accepting chili teams and are looking for volunteers.  For more information, those interested can visit http://www.atenaschilicookoff.com/.

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Researchers in Quebec think they have vaccine for Alzheimer's
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Researchers at a university in Quebec say they have found a way to stimulate the brain's defenses against Alzheimer's disease. The discovery could mean a treatment for the disease and even a vaccine to prevent it.

Alzheimer's is something that presents a continual fear among seniors because it attacks memory, clear thinking and eventually least to dementia. The symptoms usually begin to appear after age 65 although there is also the possibility of an early onset version.

Ronald Reagan was a victim of  Alzheimer's.

The 10 years of research also involved GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical firm.

One of the main characteristics of Alzheimer's disease is the production in the brain of a toxic molecule known as amyloid beta, said the university. Microglial cells, the nervous system's defenders, are unable to eliminate this substance, which forms deposits called senile plaques, it added.

The team led by Serge Rivest, a professor at Université Laval's Faculty of Medicine, identified a molecule that stimulates the
 activity of the brain's immune cells. The molecule, known as monophosphoryl lipid A, has been used extensively as a vaccine by GlaxoSmithKline for many years, and its safety is well established, the university said, adding:

In mice with Alzheimer's symptoms, weekly injections of monophosphoryl lipid A over a 12-week period eliminated up to 80 percent of senile plaques. In addition, tests measuring the mice's ability to learn new tasks showed significant improvement in cognitive function over the same period.

The researchers see two potential uses for monophosphoryl lipid A. It could be administered by intramuscular injection to people with Alzheimer's disease to slow the progression of the illness. It could also be incorporated into a vaccine designed to stimulate the production of antibodies against amyloid beta.

"The vaccine could be given to people who already have the disease to stimulate their natural immunity," said Rivest. "It could also be administered as a preventive measure to people with risk factors for Alzheimer's disease."

"When our team started working on Alzheimer's disease a decade ago, our goal was to develop better treatment for Alzheimer's patients," explained Rivest. "With the discovery announced today, I think we're close to our objective."


U.N. health agency warns about spread of dengue in urban areas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

World health officials say they have some 17 neglected tropical diseases on the run, but that does not include dengue.

Dengue fever is increasing because of urbanization, the rapid movement of people in groups and climate change, said the World Health Organization.  Last year, it notes, dengue ranked as the fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease, with an epidemic potential in the world.

The World Health Organization, says the world needs to move away from reacting after the fact.  It must implement sustainable preventive measures to blunt the threats posed by this disease, it said.

Dengue is common in Costa Rica, mainly on both coasts. The disease is carried by a mosquito, and the country's control efforts mainly are focused on eliminating places where mosquitoes breed and spraying.  The mosquito larva grow in standing water.
Several organizations are involved in campaigns to collect old tires, which make a perfect breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes.

The World Health Organization said it is targeting the global eradication of guinea worm disease in 2015 and yaws in 2020.  The report outlines six targets set for the elimination of five diseases in 2015 and another 10 targets for nine diseases for 2020, either globally or in selected geographical areas. 

The U.N. agency estimates that up to 200 million people are infected with schistosomiasis, a major parasitic disease, in parts of South America, Asia and Africa.  It kills about 280,000 people every year in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the next five years, the agency projects treatment for schistosomiasis will reach 235 million people. 

The United Nations health agency says increasing the availability of donated medicines and improving distribution at the country level will make this possible.

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Joining Barack Obama Wednesday were children from around the country who wrote him in the wake of the Newtown tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety, and their parents.

Obama outlines his plans
to reduce firearm violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

​​President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have introduced new gun-control proposals, saying the nation has an obligation to do everything possible to prevent mass shootings.

​​In announcing the gun-control proposals Vice President Joe Biden invoked the memory of the 20 children and six adults killed last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

"No one will know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented, but we all know we have a moral obligation, a moral obligation, to diminish the prospect that something like this could ever happen again," Biden said.

​Obama and Biden, who headed the gun-violence task force that researched the proposals, spoke to a packed auditorium in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House.

In the audience were family members of victims of the Connecticut shooting. Behind Obama and Biden were four children who wrote letters to the president after the tragedy.

Obama said protecting children should not be a divisive challenge. 

"In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun - 900 in the past month.  And every day we wait that number will keep growing," he said.
 
​​Obama wants Congress to approve universal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, and to ban assault-style weapons.

He signed 23 executive orders aimed at strengthening the background check system, developing emergency response plans for schools and religious institutions and addressing mental health issues linked to gun violence.

The president said he respects the Second Amendment right to own guns and appealed to Americans, including responsible gun owners, to support effective action.

"There are millions of responsible law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or collection," Obama said. "I also believe that most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale."

​​The National Rifle Association has accused Obama of attacking the Second Amendment and vows to fight gun control legislation on Capitol Hill.

Monday the group issued a video criticizing the president's opposition to putting more armed guards in schools, and noting that the president's daughters receive Secret Service protection.

The NRA video asked, "Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?"

White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned the ad, saying making "the safety of the president's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly."

City and police officials from Philadelphia and New York, representatives of gun control groups, and family members of gun violence victims spoke with reporters.

Annette Nance-Holt lost her son to gun violence in Chicago, President Obama's hometown.

"We need the American public to speak up about this issue and speak to the legislators to change their minds and change their hearts to do the right thing, because you too can be me and you can lose your only child," she said.

"In order for change to happen on this issue the American public is going to need to make its voice heard," said Dan Gross, who heads the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Obama said he knows the gun violence battle will be difficult, predicting that opponents will warn of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty and try to block common sense reform.

He said change will come only if Americans, including those in areas where there is a strong tradition of gun ownership, push representatives in Congress and say "this time must be different."


Service dogs and handlers
will march at inaugural

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After the public swearing-in of President Barack Obama Monday, thousands of people will line a 2.5 kilometer route through downtown Washington to enjoy the inaugural parade.  Besides bands and dance troupes, some four-legged marchers will also take part.
 
Caroline Elgin in The Plains, Virginia, got her service dog, Sajen, when she was almost 10 years old.  Ms. Elgin has cerebral palsy, which has affected her speech and motor skills, but not her intelligence.  Now 19, she says Sajen makes her happy.
 
Sajen knows more than 60 commands and helps Ms. Elgin by picking up items and giving them to her, pulling off her socks, and retrieving his leash.  He can also shut a door.
 
Ms. Elgin’s mother, Carina, says Sajen has given her daughter more confidence.
 
“Since Caroline has had Sajen, her personality has really been able to blossom.  She was very shy.  But once she got the dog she was proud to have him sitting next to her and more comfortable going into public settings, and it’s just really changed her life completely I think," she said.
 
Caroline Elgin says people are more at ease approaching her when Sajen is next to her. 
 
In nearby Middleburg, Virginia, 11-year-old Bobby Slater is teaching basic commands to Shiloh, in hopes she will become a service dog to help people like Ms. Elgin.  These dogs are especially bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit group that provides service dogs to people with disabilities for free.  When they are two months old, they are sent to live with volunteer puppy raisers, like Slater. 
 
He brings Shiloh to school to teach her socialization skills. “When I tell her to sit, she’ll sit halfway and see if you’ll give her a treat, but I tell her to sit all the way, and then she’ll sit," he said.
 
When puppies are a year and a half, they leave the volunteers for advanced training at the organization’s regional centers.  Only 40 percent pass and become service dogs.  The rest are often adopted by their puppy raisers. 
 
Bobby Slater’s older sister, Meg Ann, has also trained puppies. “It’s really hard knowing you have to give them up, but it’s also great knowing that they’re going to go and change someone’s life and make their life a lot easier," she said.
 
Her brother and Shiloh will be in the inaugural parade.
 
It is an experience that will be shared by Caroline Elgin and Sajen, and 135 other people and 50 dogs.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 12
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Scotiabank customers join
ranks of crooks' targets


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Customers of more than just Banco de Costa Rica have to be on guard over online scams.

A fake message made the rounds Tuesday in the name of ScotiaBank. The email message asked bank customers to sign in because "the recent anti-fraud measures we are carrying out require you to follow the link below and fill out the form in order to secure your account."

Of course, the email came from crooks, and the actual location of the false Web page appeared to be somewhere in Germany. The page had been blocked by the Internet provider by late Wednesday.

The Scotia scam is just one of many being sent via emails. But the Banco de Costa Rica scam was a little different. There crooks had managed to construct a fake Web page to steal passwords, but they also managed to get a link to the fake Web page included in search engines.

So if a customer searched for Banco de Costa Rica, there was a chance that the fake Web page and link would appear.

Judicial investigators warned about this last week and urged bank customers to refrain from using search engines to obtain links to their banks. The links should be saved as bookmarks or favorite, they said.


Tax firm adds new expert
and now accepts new clients

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Florida lawyer and U.S. tax expert has joined U.S. Tax and Accounting Services, S.A., an Escazú-based firm.
Lustman
Ross D. Lustman
The firm's principal, Randall J. Lindner, said the new arrival was Ross D. Lustman, who has a degree in business from the University of New Hampshire and a degree in accounting from the University of South Florida.

Lustman was graduated cum laude from Stetson University College of Law in 2009 and passed the Florida State bar exam that same year. In 2012, Lustman passed the special enrollment examination of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Lindner said that the arrival of Lustman means that the company
can resume accepting new clients  and expects to continue to grow.

U.S. Tax and Accounting Services, S.A., specializes in and prepares tax returns for U.S. citizens who live abroad.


Palmares arrests total at 208

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have detained 208 persons at the Palmares festival in the first week of the event. The bulk of the arrests, 175, involved small quantities of drugs.














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Chili cookoff
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 12
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Twin studies show 2012 was warm one

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The year 2012 was the ninth hottest on record, according to a new global temperature report from NASA, the United States space agency.

A twin analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranked 2012 as the 10th warmest year.

The agencies' findings show that, with the exception of 1988, the nine warmest years in the 132-year global weather record have all occurred since the year 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranked as the hottest years ever.

While the globe experienced relatively warm temperatures last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that the continental United States endured its warmest year ever in 2012.

Average global temperatures fluctuate from year to year. But the new reports, published jointly on Tuesday, provide the latest evidence that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from factory, automobile and building emissions, is causing a long-term rise in global temperatures.

"The planet is out of balance," says  James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "There is more energy coming in than going out. And, therefore, we can predict with confidence that the next decade is going to be warmer than the last one."

The NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports put the average global temperature in 2012 about 14.6 degrees Celsius, which is six-tenths of a degree warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

The global temperature has risen by eight-tenths of a degree Celsius since 1880, according to the new analysis.

The two reports are based on data from more than 1,000 land-based meteorological stations and from satellite measurements of sea-surface temperatures.

Thomas Karl, director of the National Climate Data Center, says the two agencies approached the data differently, but came up with essentially the same picture.

"If you want to compare the differences and anomalies between the NASA and the NOAA data sets, they are quite close, within a few hundredths of a degree Celsius each season," Karl says.

The twin global analyses show that 2010 and 2011 were the wettest years on record.

Precipitation in 2012, however, varied greatly across the planet, with major drought gripping important agricultural regions in eastern Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and central North America.

At the poles, the Arctic experienced a record-breaking ice-melt season in 2012, while the opposite was happening in Antarctica, where ice-sheet extension into the ocean was above-average last year.


Study ranks soot as big air pollutant

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A four-year international study has found the soot produced by diesel engines and wood-burning stoves is the second-greatest human contributor to climate change. That assessment of its effect, by a multinational team of 31 experts, is nearly twice what the United Nations estimated five years ago.
 
Known as black carbon, soot now ranks ahead of methane gas, behind carbon dioxide as a cause of atmospheric warming, especially over the Arctic.
 
Unlike carbon dioxide, which can endure in the atmosphere for centuries, black carbon only lasts for a few days. The new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, suggests that focusing on its sources could be an efficient approach to curbing global warming.
 
The authors say the polluting effect from diesel engines and possibly residential biofuels is strong enough that eliminating all emissions from these sources would actually produce a cooling effect.
 
The tiny particles are also a major component of urban air pollution, associated with respiratory illnesses. Recognizing that, last month, the United States tightened limits on soot pollution from power plants, diesel engines and burning wood.


World economy still considered fragile

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Bank says four years after the start of the financial crisis that the global economy remains fragile. Growth in high-income countries remains weak. The bank recommends that developing countries not wait for rich nations to rebound but take their own measures to ensure economic growth.

The latest Global Economic Prospects report says economic recovery is not just fragile, it’s uncertain. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says that “clouds the prospect for rapid improvement and a return to more robust economic growth.”

Senior economist Allen Dennis, who helped write the report, said, “In 2012, growth was still at about 2.3-percent. And that is relatively subdued compared to its pre-crisis average.”

The World Bank does not expect a surge in economic growth this year.

“We still have somewhat modest and subdued growth even for 2013 at about 2.4 percent. So, we certainly are in a period of both volatile and subdued growth. And in part that is because of the economic challenges that several of the high-income countries are facing,” said Dennis.

The economic decisions made in the United States and Europe could easily affect the world recovery. Debates and negotiations continue over debt and spending cuts and whether reductions could cause another recession.

“The greatest drag to the global economy is actually coming from the Euro area and, in part, it’s having to do with necessary and important fiscal adjustment issues there,” he said.

But Dennis said that heated debate over whether to raise the U.S. debt ceiling has already affected economic growth in the United States and developing countries. The debt ceiling must be raised for the U.S. government to pay its bills. If it’s not, the U.S. defaults and that can deal a major blow to its financial standing and credit rating. Nevertheless, it’s a bargaining chip in budget talks.

“Our assumption is that the authorities will come to some settlement of some sort. Within our baseline projections we don’t assume a severe fiscal adjustment or contraction in the United States. So, in other words, we assume that it’s going to be extended over a longer period of time, rather than everything being done within a short period,” he said.

During the last four years, developing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, have been the economic bright spot. They’ve demonstrated resilience to much of the turmoil. The World Bank says it’s because of the fiscal and monetary policies they’ve put in place.

However, those policies are short-term solutions. Dennis said that certain structural policies must be implemented for the long-term. They’re needed, he said, to sustain growth and make developing countries more competitive in a global economy.

“By structural policies I’m referring to investments in education and their citizens – referring to continued opening of trade and investment linkages both among themselves – that is, developing countries – but also with the high-income countries,” said Dennis.

While Europe remains Africa’s largest trading partner, African countries have started to expand their reach.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, sub-Saharan Africa was exporting over 40 percent of its goods to Europe. Now it’s probably exporting less than 25-percent. So, that makes it less vulnerable,” he said.

The World Bank expects an overall 5 percent economic growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa this year. However, not all countries in the region will see such growth. Those affected by political instability, conflict, labor disputes or major weather-related problems could see much less.

Also, the World Bank says, “While economic output of developing countries has accelerated,” it is still being “held back by weak investment and industrial activity in advanced economies.”


Useful links
Foreign Embassies
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Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
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