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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 23           E-mail us
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Another reason to enjoy Costa Rica:
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U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration photo
A visible image captured by the GOES-13 satellite Tuesday morning at 8:01 Costa Rican time shows a low pressure area stretching from the Colorado Rockies and Texas east to New England and a massive area of clouds over the Midwest. The image showed what appeared to
be 'tails' over Texas and the Gulf coast. Those tails are areas where severe thunderstorms were possible today. México's Yucatan and the island of Cuba as well as part of south Florida are visible. For more on what is being called the Monster Storm, see HERE!

Bad driving penalties already cost 2,190 a license
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here's a report that will encourage expats to take a taxi or a bus.

Traffic officials report that 2,190 motorists already have lost their right to drive under the new point system.

Those who accumulate 50 points are grounded for two years, under the current traffic code. Some violations penalize a driver for the entire 50 points. These include driving a vehicle in which a child is not strapped into a special seat. That violation also draws a fine of 316,138 colons, about $634.

Motorists also can be hit with 50 points for driving a motorcycle with a child as a passenger if the tot is not wearing a helmet. Passing on a curve draws the same penalties, as does participating in drag races, planned or improvised.

Driving over 120 kph (74.4 mph) draws the same penalties. If the speed is 150 kph (93 mph) or more the penalty is 50 points, a 316,138 fine, the traffic police take the car and the driver is turned over to prosecutors.

Motorists caught driving under the influence with an alcohol content of from .5 to .74 grams per liter of blood suffer the loss of their car and the same fine. Those caught driving with 75 grams or more
in a liter of blood lose their vehicle and face prosecutors and possible jail time.

These were the warnings issued Tuesday by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The ministry also reported that 35,456 drivers have accumulated between 10 and 19 points. 13,322 have accumulated between 20 and 29. 2,712 drivers have between 30 and 39, and 1,455 drivers have accumulated at least 40 points but not 50.

Those who have their license pulled because of excessive points also must undergo a reeducation course, according to the law.

Earning points is easy. Failing to wear a seat belt costs an adult driver 20 points. Multiple violations uncovered by police during one traffic stop can run the fine total up to $2,000 or more

The point system has been in effect since last March 1. The ministry said that 199 drivers on average lose their right to drive every month. Some have called the law draconian. Lawmakers have said they want to revise the measure passed by the previous Asamblea Legislativa. But the revisions are buried in committee.

The ministry credited the new law with reducing the highway death toll. Some 287 persons died on the highway in 2010. That was the lowest number since 2005, the ministry said.

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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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Legal services

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Core services: real estate due diligence, real estate escrow services, residency status, business corporations, estate planning. English, Spanish, German and French spoken.

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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
business carried out by this company, nor its security, stability or solvency.
Persons contracting its services do so for their own account and at their own risk.

La Fortuna will be a star
of ABC reality program

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A hotel in the La Fortuna area will be the base for the Monday episode of the reality television show "The Bachelor."

This is a series in which a man evaluates a number of women and then selects one to be his bride. The man this season is Brad Womack, who was the lead three years ago. They declined to select one of the finalists and the Web sites and magazines that follow such things were discussing the development for weeks.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo made an agreement with ABC television to have the episode taped here. The location will be the Springs Resort and Spa. Airing is at 7 p.m. local time.

Tourism officials hope that 9 million viewers will get a glimpse at Costa Rica through the show. La Fortuna is adjacent to the Arenal volcano. This is the 15th season for the reality show.

Consul general will speak
at American Legion meeting

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The February meeting of American Legion Post 10 will be held today at Club Cubano in Guachipelin, Escazu. The meeting begins at noon and is followed by a no-host lunch.

The guest speaker will be Paul Birdsall, the counsul general of the U.S. Embassy.  Birdsall will explain what the embassy can and can not do for U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Costa Rica.

All U.S. military veterans are invited to attend post meetings. Information about the post and a map with directions to Club Cubano are available on the post's Web site.

Only five quakes in January

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

January was low on earthquakes strong enough to be felt by humans.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica reported only five quakes during the month. They ranged from 2.5 to 3.9 magnitude. Two were in the Central Valley and were caused by local faults, the observatory said.

Two were in the central Pacific and the fifth was in the southern zone.

Google fights Spanish law
over mentions on Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In a Madrid court, the technology giant Google is fighting a Spanish order to remove some data from search queries. The case centers on a principle of Spanish law known as "the right to be forgotten," and it's Google's latest clash with European privacy laws.

Let's say someone accuses somone of a crime. The local newspaper picks up the accusation, but then the accused defends him or herself, and is proven innocent. Years later, that newspaper report may still exist somewhere on the Internet. Do the people involved have a right to have it omitted?

That's the question a Madrid court is debating, in a case between the tech giant Google and Spain's data protection agency. Spanish authorities filed 90 court orders against Google, on behalf of Spanish citizens who want links to libelous information about them dropped from Google searches. Here in Spain, their desire is enshrined in law, and called "the right to be forgotten."

"The general argument is what we call derecho al olvido, the kind of right to be forgotten, and it's based on the right of every single individual and citizen to claim for his or her data to be used in a proper manner,” said Paloma Llaneza, a data protection lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs. “Just to explain it in a very simple way, when you are Googling someone and you are finding some information, what we ask is to delete, or to make not available that information through Google."

Google did not respond to requests for an interview. But the company has issued previous statements saying it's not its job to censor the Internet. Google says it's your local newspaper's responsibility to eliminate any false reports — not Google's. The tech company refused the Spanish orders, and it's all being argued now in court.

Llaneza says it's an issue of respecting Spanish law, if Google wants to do business here.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 23
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Police officers will honor their captain general today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most expats do not know that the captain general of the Fuerza Pública is the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In this manifestation she is called the Nuestra Señora de la Pura y Limpia Concepción del Rescate de Ujarrás.

Ujarrás is a location on the Río Reventazón perhaps best known today for the ruins of an ancient church and a small park supported by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The Virgin de Ujarrás is in the news because today she will be the centerpiece of a procession at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública and a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated by Hugo Barrantes, the archbishop of San José.

The story is a long and complex one populated by pirates, natives and early Spanish settlers. Former journalist and writer Rosa Maria Fonseca Morales has given this account that is found in the A.M. Costa Rica archives:

The statue of the Virgin was one of three aboard a boat menaced by pirates in 1535. The Franciscans in charge of the statues decided to cast them into the sea to avoid letting pirates get their hands on such precious objects.  It was the will of God, according to devotees, that brought one of the statues to Ujarrás on the Río Reventazón where it was found floating by a native.

Another statue ended up in Nicaragua and the third became the Virgen de Lujan in Argentina.

In the same way that the Virgen de Los Ángeles in Cartago made known her desire to stay there by returning mysteriously to the same spot, the Virgen de Ujarrás mysteriously became so heavy that the natives and the Franciscans could not carry her away to Cartago.

Miracles have been attributed to the Virgen de Ujarrás. During a flood on the Río Paz, villagers threw the statue of Baby Jesus that was carried by the Virgin into the angry river. And this quieted the river but with the loss of the statue.

Another account said that the Virgin made the church bells ring, thus alerting villagers to the rising river.

Virgen de Ujarrás
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
The Virgen de Ujarrás is prepared for a procession.

Less creative narrators say that the statue was carried tothe Paraíso de Cartago area by a priest toward the end of the 16th century. But the statue still is the focus of a pilgrimage every April 16 or the following Sunday.

The second encounter with pirates was on April 16 when about 600 pirates who included the famous Morgan showed up off the coast of Limón to sack the province.

Amid the panic a few days later on April 23, residents held a procession that included the statue and asked for her help against the threat. Local officials managed to raise a force of about 300, but the story says that the pirates turned and fled when confronted with the smaller force. That is why the Virgin is named rescate or rescue.

From time to time the Fuerza Pública brings the statue to the ministry complex in southern San José for religious observances.

13 policemen face allegations of shaking down drug dealers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police made 15 raids Tuesday to detain 13 policemen and a civilian suspected of robbing and blackmailing drug dealers.

The investigation had been going on since June, agents said.
The policemen are members of the Fuerza Pública, and they have been on the force from four to 19 years.

The initial investigation involved three policemen in the Goicoechea station. The raids ranged as far east as Cartago.

The allegations include the claim that the police made
 illegal raids to steal drugs and other valuables.

Another allegation is that the policemen arrested drug dealers, took most of the drugs for themselves and then turned the suspect and a smaller amount of drugs over to the prosecutors.

The disclosure comes at a bad time for the security ministry. The top uniformed officials are facing allegations that they allowed sexual harassment to take place and in one case, a top police official sent a text message full of sexual innuendos to a female vice minister.

She resigned in a huff.

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Monster storm
U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration photo and graphic
This is a montage of three satellilte images taken Monday. U.S. state boundaries are overlaid.

Much of U.S. staggers under what is called a monster storm

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thousands of flights have been canceled across the United States, as ice, snow and hail from a winter storm is affecting nearly half of the country.

The weather system forced the international airport in the southwestern city of Dallas to close for two hours, and caused major delays and cancellations in Chicago. More than 6,400 flights throughout the country were canceled.

The National Weather Service is urging people to stay inside, calling travel impossible and conditions life threatening.  The storm is expected to be one of the largest in recent years.

The U.S. National Weather Service said that this winter storm could easily be "one of the worst this season with blizzard conditions throughout much of the Midwest states, severe ice accretion from the middle Mississippi River valley eastward through parts of the Ohio Valley and into southern New England and heavy rain and severe thunderstorms over the deep south."

The midwestern cities of Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago braced for the biggest impact, with more than 46 centimeters of snow and wind gusts of up to 64 kph (40 mph) expected. The University of Missouri closed through Wednesday.

Continental Airlines said that flights from Newark, New Jersey, had been suspended until at least noon today. Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela reported the normal arrival of flights from Texas and Atlanta Tuesday night.

President Barack Obama was briefed Tuesday by the heads of two government agencies on federal preparations for the storm. The White House was urging citizens to monitor the news for updates and take steps needed to be prepared for the storm.

The weather conditions forced Obama to reschedule a trip
planned for Wednesday to a university in Pennsylvania. He instead travels on Thursday.

In a region that rarely slows down in winter conditions, Midwesterners are preparing to stay home and are stocking up on emergency supplies.

Several governors have already declared a state of emergency. In Missouri, nearly 600 National Guard troops have been mobilized.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began Monday sending emergency personnel, water, food, bedding and generators to areas expected to be hit.

Nine states were under blizzard warnings Tuesday, and Chicago is expecting two feet of snow by the Tuesday evening commute and overnight. Residents of Oklahoma City were experiencing snow and gusty winds and expecting up to one and a half feet of snow. On the southern end of this system, severe storms moved through Texas Tuesday morning, while areas from Birmingham to Memphis and Atlanta were expected to receive between 1 and 2 inches of heavy rainfall.

The U.S. northeast is expecting snow, sleet and rain. Some northeastern U.S. cities have already recorded record snowfall and more is expected from this storm. Philadelphia has already recorded 37 inches of snow and New York City has received 56 inches. Philadelphia expected freezing rain Tuesday while New York City was forecast to receive between 3 and 6 inches of snow and sleet and between a quarter to 4 tenths of an inch of ice accumulation by late Wednesday.

As the system continues east, the National Weather Service is forecasting a large snowfall for New England. Boston is forecast to receive between 8 and 18 inches of snow and Portland, Maine, is expected to receive between 11 and 17 inches. It has already been a long winter in the U.S. northeast and today is the first day of February, a month known to be the snowiest of the season.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 23

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Haitians await ballot results
expected to come today

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian officials say definitive results from November's disputed presidential election will be announced today ahead of a runoff scheduled for March 20.

Preliminary results put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate in first place and Jude Celestin in second place.  The publication of the preliminary results in December triggered days of violent protests by opposition supporters angered by what they saw as vote rigging by the government in Port-au-Prince.

A recent report by the Organization of American States recommended that Celestin withdraw from the runoff, citing irregularities and fraud in the balloting.  The ruling party asked Celestin to pull out of the contest, but the candidate has not confirmed that he will.

Popular singer Michel Martelly, who placed third according to preliminary results, has threatened to call his supporters into the streets if his name is not included in the runoff.

Tensions were further heightened in Haiti by the surprise return last month of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier after 25 years in exile.  Haitian officials have charged him with corruption and embezzlement of public funds.  Several Haitians have filed lawsuits accusing him of human rights violations during his 15-year-rule, which ended in 1986.

In another development Tuesday, Switzerland used a new law to block money held by the former dictator in Swiss bank accounts.

The law was prompted in part by the legal battle against Duvalier and is designed to make it easier for Swiss authorities to return illegally obtained funds to their country of origin.

Duvalier has about $6 million in Swiss bank accounts. The money was frozen after he was ousted in a popular uprising in Haiti 25 years ago.

Swedish firm starts paper
in capital of Guatemala

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with wire service reports

Today when newspaper publishers are desperately trying to move to the Internet and dump their expensive paper products, a Swedish company is starting a new print newspaper in Guatemala.

Metro International S.A., the international newspaper group, announced Tuesday that it has entered into a joint venture and franchise agreement in Guatemala with Grupo de Emisoras Unidas, one of the leading media groups in Guatemala. A new edition of Metro, under the brand name Publinews was launched in Guatemala City, the capital. Guatemala is the first step in Central America and will be used as a hub for future expansions in the region, Metro said.

Guatemala City has approximately 3 million people. It is home to the Central American headquarters of many media agencies and international clients, the firm said. The local advertising market is about 66 million euros, making it the largest market in the Central American region. The new edition will be the first free print newspaper in Guatemala. It will have an initial distribution of 84,000 daily copies and will be hand delivered Monday to Friday by distributors at strategic locations to reach the target audience, Metro said.

“Metro Guatemala will be Metro’s fifth country in Latin America in addition to Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador – consolidating our position as the largest newspaper in the fast growing Latin American region," said Per Mikael Jensen, president and CEO of Metro International. "Guatemala is one of the most attractive markets in Central America and can become a platform to develop future investments in Central America. Launching in new markets through franchise agreements with local partners has proven to be a very efficient way for Metro to penetrate new markets and to quickly establish a strong market position."

“Publinews is an important step in consolidating GEU’s vision to form a strong media group with operation in radio, outdoor advertising, cable TV, interactive media and print," said Rolando Archila, CEO of Grupo de Emisoras Unidas. "We are very pleased to have been chosen by Metro International as their partner to develop this project, which will be the first free print newspaper in Central America.”

Metro is published in over 100 major cities in 19 countries across Europe, North and South America and Asia. Metro said it has a unique global reach attracting a young, active, well-educated metropolitan audience of 17 million daily readers.
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Bilinguals show advantage
in learning a third language

By the University of Haifa news services

Bilingual children show greater cognitive flexibility and have an advantage over kids who speak only one language, according to University of Haifa researchers.

The study found that children who speak two languages can easily learn a third, and can raise their IQ while doing so. Researchers also showed that those with Russian as a first language are more fluent in Hebrew compared to those who speak Hebrew as a mother tongue.

"Learning a mother tongue and preserving it do not come at the expense of learning another language," said  Salim Abu Rabiya and Ektarina Sanitzki of the special education department at the University of Haifa. "The opposite is true. Speaking Russian only strengthens one's Hebrew, and fluency in these two languages improves one's ability to speak English."

The research confirms what bilingualism supporters have long believed: that learning two or more languages at a young age does not cram the brains of children with too many words but rather gives them an edge.

The study showed that children who spoke both Hebrew and Russian found it easier to learn English, compared to pupils who knew only Hebrew.

The researchers showed that knowing a number of languages improves fluency in one's native tongue because speaking several languages bolsters a person's language skills. Abu Rabiya said that the younger one learns languages, the better. He also pointed out that skill in language is an important cognitive function that makes it easier to learn in general.

The University of Haifa study based its findings on two groups of sixth grade students learning English as a foreign language. The first group had 40 pupils, all immigrants from the former Soviet Union, whose native tongue was Russian and who learned Hebrew afterwards. The second group included 42 Hebrew speakers studying English as a second language in school.

The results showed that native Russian speakers had significantly better control than the native Hebrew speakers not only of the English they learned, but also of the Hebrew they had previously learned as a second tongue.

Moreover, the Russian speakers, who had the same average IQ as the Hebrew speakers before they started learning English, raised their IQ scores by an average of 7 percent after studying the additional tongue. And this, summarized the researchers, proved that the more languages one learns, the higher one's IQ.

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